Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Spider Woman Icon

 I seem to be getting a "hello" from Grandmother Spider Woman of late, in the form of synchronicities, visioning, and a visit by a friend who unexpectedly wanted to buy one of my Spider Woman Icons from 2009, as well as the only copy of my ten year old book "Spider Woman's Hands".  All of this led me to envision a new Spider Woman Icon developed around the style of my "Our Lady of the Shards" series (which I am proud to say was just published as an article in Feminism and Religion online magazine).  

And then, of course, because I no longer had a single copy of my (limited edition) book SPIDER WOMAN'S HANDS, I had to go back into the program and revise and add to the book so I can re-publish a new, better, updated copy!  Which, I am also proud to say, is almost finished.  It's not exactly a best seller, but the book is important to me, and archives and tells the story of my 5 year journey on the "Trail of Spider Woman".  I think some of the stories (and art) in there is beautiful.

So much so that I am taking the liberty of copying below the article I did on Spider Woman from my website.  I think I wrote it back in 2010 or so.  Below also is a photo from a performance called "Spider Woman Speaks" in which Morgana Canady wove Spider Woman's Web with an audience of about 300.  One of the most magical performances I have ever been privileged to participate in, from "Restoring the Balance" (2004).  

Why is the Great Web, and this rather obscure but very ubiquitous Native American  Deity important, especially for our time?  Because She represents the interdependency, the essential Oneness of everything! She is timeless, a great archetypal Presence.   This is the paradigm we, as a global humanity, need to evolve to.  

Sometimes I feel like one of those crazy prophets, wandering around repeating myself over and over.  Well, that's the problem with Visions and Visitations in a very fast paced world.......... you have to keep repeating yourself over and over, because they won't just go away.  So any who may read this, forgive me for being repetitious. But it is my continuing truth and inspiration.................

 A Metaphor for Our Time

“What might we see, how might we act, if we saw with a webbed vision?   The world seen through a web of relationships…as delicate as spider’s silk,  yet strong enough to hang a bridge on. "       Catherine Keller, From a Broken Web   (1989)
Years ago I was enjoying a panoramic view of the Sonoran desert.   I happened to be sitting near a spider web, stretched between two dry branches.  I realized, by shifting my point of view, I could view the entire landscape through the web’s intricate, transparent pattern......a  landscape  seen through the ineffable strands of a  web, a web that was an overlay of the landscape, the sky, of everything united in a great Weaving.  Seen, and then, depending on how I shifted my point of view, not seen, invisible again.   Spider Woman's Web.

Pueblo mythology tells that when each of the 3 previous  worlds ended, it was Spider Woman who led the people through the sipapu,  the kiva (or birth canal)  into the next world.   Now, according to the Hopi calendar,  a new  age has once again begun.  And surely, once again,  Spider Womanthe  midwife/creatrix   has returned to point the way. 
"We do not need to invent a ground of connectedness, but only to realize it.  Inter-relatedness has been experientially grasped in myriad cultural contexts -  yet the force of modernity continually denies and degrades it."
Charlene Spretnak, The Politics of Women's Spirituality  (1993)
We have entered the "5th Age" indeed, the astonishing, fast paced, technological age of a  global humanity with unimagined promise, and also unimagined evolutionary crisis - the greatest being climate change.   I like to think that  the World Wide Web is Spider Woman's latest appearance.  Certainly she is making  increasingly  visible the inter-dependency of all life,  whether we speak of  ecology, quantum physics,  synchronicity and metaphysics, or the new frontier of integral psychology.   In Pueblo mythology, Spider Woman is also called Tse Che Nako”Thought Woman. Thought Woman is a Creatrix who  creates the world  with what she imagines, the stories she tells about the world.  We also participate in this imaginal power.   

  "The question is not so much  "What do I learn from stories" as "What stories do I want to live?"   
            David R. Loy, "The World is Made of Stories" 
As cultural anthropologist Carol Patterson-Rudolph eloquently wrote in her book On the Trail of Spider Woman - Petroglyphs, Pictographs, and Myths of the Southwest  (1998)   to the Navajo (Dine`)   Grandmother Spider Woman ((NA ASHJE’II ’ASDZÁÁ) represents  initiation into a mature, integrated way of being.     Spider Woman thus  is a bridge between the mundane,  the mythic, and the sacred dimensions of life.  Like a spider web, her transparent, circular strands exist on multiple levels of  meaning.    Spider Woman is revered by the Navajo because she taught them how to weave, a sacred art to them, as it is to the Pueblo peoples,  that embodies important spiritual teachings.   In Navajo rugs, “Spider Woman’s Cross represents balance.  To  this day, a bit of spider web is rubbed into the palms of infant girls, so she will become a good weaver.   Spider Woman is about initiation into wisdom - She is able to bridge the sacred and prosaic dimensions of life.  But for those who are not ready,  Grandmother Spider Woman will be invisible, appearing as nothing more than a tiny insect.  And yet, for those with eyes to see, her Web is everywhere.   The "Web" becomes visible within an integral, relational paradigm:   a "webbed vision"

 Spider Woman is ubiquitous throughout the Americas, found among the Maya,  Pueblo and Navajo  mythology,  and  among the pre-historic "Mound builders", the  Mississippian cultures as well.  There is evidence that the earliest Spider Woman was found among the Maya, where she is identified as the Earth Mother.    I find this ancient myth a profound metaphor for our time,  a symbol that   can encompass ecology, community, theology, integral conciousness studies, and quantum physics.   

In his book on Hopi religion, anthropologist John Loftin writes that: 

“Spider Woman was the first to weave.  Her techniques and patterns have stood the test of time,  or more properly, the test of timelessness  – because  they have always been present.  It makes sense that one would follow the instructions of a deity who helped form the underlying  structure of the  world  in which one lives...........Weaving is, from that perspective,  not an act in which one creates something oneself  – it is an act in which one uncovers a pattern that was already there.” 

 From her very being, the Spider  spins silken, transparent threads that she organizes into the patterned symmetry of an ever-expanding Web.   Tse Che Nako weaves, sharing this precious  creative power with all of her Relations.   With contemporary resonance, science now  suggests that we live in a “thought universe” in which all forms of consciousness and living beings, as well as phenomena,  are infinitely interconnected, interdependent,  entangled, and responsive. 
“Tse Che Nako, Thought-Woman, the Spider,
is sitting in her room thinking of a story now -
I'm telling you the story  she is thinking. “   
Keresan Pueblo proverb**
 Among the pre-historic Mississippian culture many decorations and amulets have been found  of a spider, with the solar or 4 directions cross  on its back.     Some are surrounded by a circle of hands.  Another ubiquitous image is the Hand and Eye.   While we cannot know the exact meanings of this prehistoric iconography, they speak to my  imagination as metaphors for our time as well.   Like the Spider Woman, we conceive with our minds.  But we manifest the stories we tell about our lives, individually and collectively,  with the works of our hands -   Spider Woman’s hands are also our hands, all of us inter-dependant within the great ecology of the planet and each other.   Spider Woman offers an opportunity to remember that we are co-creators with that which is ineffable and ultimately  One.    

 A spiritual paradigm is founded upon mythic roots.  Following the metaphor theologian Katherine Keller has provided:   if we can find models that allow us to vision our world as it really is – a shimmering web of interconnected relationships – if we can see truly the world  "with a webbed vision”…….then how, indeed, might   we act? 

 Some Navajos still rub a bit of spider web into the hands of newborn female babies so the they will be blessed by Spider Woman and become good weavers.   May we all "rub a bit of Spider Web" into the palms of our hands as  well as we set to the tasks before us.

In 2007 I received an Alden Dow Fellowship at Northwood University to pursue Spider Woman’s Hands” as a Community Art Project at the Midland Art Center.  In 2008 the project was  continued with the Creative Spirit Center  and artist Kathy Space in Midland, Michigan.  In 2009  "Weavers" was a continuation of the Project when I was resident artist at the Henry Luce Center for the Arts at  Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.   I continue the weaving.                                                   

To hear " SPIDER WOMAN SPEAKS"  a Spoken Word Performance (2015) on Sound Cloud:                                                     
 Keller,   Catherine  Ph.D.:  From a Broken Web: Separation, Sexism and Self  (1989), Thames & Hudson

 Loftin, John D.;        Religion and Hopi Life,  Second Edition,  Indiana University  Press, 2003

 Loy, David:    The World is Made of Stories,   Wisdom Publications, 2010   

 Patterson-Rudolph, Carol:  On the Trail of Spider Woman: Petroglyphs, Pictographs, and Myths of the Southwest,   1998,  Ancient City Press  (** quote from her book)

 Spretnak,  Charlene:  The Politics of Women's Spirituality:  Essays by Founding Mothers of the    Movement, 
 Edited by Charlene Spretnak,   Anchor Books, 1982

Saturday, December 24, 2022



What I remember best of Winter, when I lived back East in New York state and in Vermont, was the deep quiet of winter nights that came with the snows.  That physical and psychic quietude is something I crave now,  as so many layers of the lives I led - life passages - fall away in the advent of old age.  Leaving increasingly the room needed for Silence.

by Pablo Neruda
Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.
For once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.
It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.
Fisherman in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.
Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.
What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.
If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.
Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

*  A personal note:  I found all these photos from a visit in 2012 of some of the places I loved, and lived by, in California.  For some reason,  I took photos of my shadow.  Sometimes it occurs to me that I am always waving  both Hello and Goodbye, to the beauty of World.  Or perhaps they are gestures of gratitude.............yes, I think that is what they were.  Sometimes it takes aloneness, and quietude, to allow your shadow to speak to the World for you.

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Again, at Last........the Winter Solstice!


luminaria on Serpent Mound in Ohio

You, Darkness


You, darkness, that I come from
I love you more than all the fires
that fence in the world,
for the fire makes a circle of light for everyone
and then no one outside learns of you.


 But the darkness pulls in everything –
shapes and fires, animals and myself,
how easily it gathers them! –
powers and people –
and it is possible 
a great presence is moving near me.
I have faith in nights.


Rainer Maria Rilke

December Moon


Before going to bed
After a fall of snow
I look out on the field
Shining there in the moonlight
So calm, untouched and white
Snow silence fills my head
After I leave the window.
Hours later near dawn
When I look down again
The whole landscape has changed
The perfect surface gone
Criss-crossed and written on
Where the wild creatures ranged
While the moon rose and shone.
Why did my dog not bark?
Why did I hear no sound
There on the snow-locked ground
In the tumultuous dark?
How much can come, how much can go
When the December moon is bright,
What worlds of play we'll never know
Sleeping away the cold white night
After a fall of snow.


May Sarton

Pledge of Allegiance


I pledge allegiance to the soil
      of Turtle Island,
and to the beings who thereon dwell
      one ecosystem
      in diversity
      under the sun
With joyful interpenetration for all.


Gary Snyder

Sunday, December 4, 2022

Doris Lessing and Synchronicity

"Past Desire, Hope or Time, I rest in You, a Seed" (November, 1993)

  November, for me, is the month of Going-Into-The-Dark,  of Gestation, Incubation, and spinning the Cocoon of winter, down there among the roots. One is not thinking now about whatever kind of winged creature may ultimately emerge in the Spring.  One just stops, and lets the cocoon develop.  At the Roots. 

I love November, although it is, for most, the least desireable of months. No brilliant chorales of leaves and apple harvests or pumpkins, and no Solstice Holy Days either, wreathes and lights and gifts, the beauty of deep snow.  Just the Ides of November, the intensity of increasing Darkness, the approach of winter.

 For me, it's that long awaited  time of inner quietude that the soul can receed into, like roots that go down into the dark dirt, like fallen leaves, brown and composting now, joining the secret life of the soil.

Having made this poetic introduction, I wanted to share again this reflection and story from a decade ago, which I re-membered as I lay in the dark in my blankets this morning.  I still think it was a great gift, a  page from my personal "book of common miracles".  Worth recalling, maybe worth re-telling as well.

November 29, 2011

Writers are often asked "How do you write?" But the essential question is: "Have you found a space, that empty space, which should surround you when you write?" Into that space, which is like a form of listening, of attention, will come the words, the words your characters will speak, ideas - inspiration. If a writer cannot find this space, then poems and stories may be stillborn. When writers talk to each other, what they discuss is always to do with this imaginative space, this other time. "Have you found it? Are you holding it fast?"

Doris Lessing, Nobel Prize Speech, 2007

Since I've been writing about Ursula Leguin in the previous post, I felt like re-reading what I wrote  on the occasion of finding a signed copy of "The Habit of Loving" by another author who has had profound influence on me, Doris Lessing.  I found the book, signed with a note from the author, in a pile of cast out books on the street, in  2007,  the same year Lessing received the Nobel Prize at the age of 88. __

Since I tend to think of synchronicities as a form of grace and message, this was an important one that I've pondered on often.   I've been reflecting that the habit of loving is the only truly necessary habit to cultivate.  

We're often "tapped on the shoulder" by angels, and pre-occupied with daily concerns, we fail to notice miracles fluttering like their translucent wings under our very noses.

Ecologist and philosopher David Abram  has commented that perception is "a reciprocal phenomenon organized as much by the surrounding world as by oneself". He suggests that a two-way dynamic of energy exchange may be going on. In contrast to our idea of a non-living world we simply observe or act upon, Abram asserts that "the psyche is a property of the ecosystem as a whole", suggesting that we move beyond the notion that "one's mind is nothing other than the body itself".  Another way of putting it might be that we are "ensouled" in the whole world, a Conversant and Responsive World.

As writer Alice Walker has said, "the Universe responds."

Lessing's visionary books, most significantly her SHIKASTA series, have  inspired me for 30 years.  I continue to feel honored to have what is for me a talisman - infused with energy from the living hand of this prolific and visionary writer, who like Ursula Leguin, has been a "guide of soul" for me.  Looking backwards, I noticed this entry from my own blog in the winter of 2007:
"I've been depressed this winter, which led me to go into therapy to tell some of the stories of my personal life, and hopefully untangle them so I can move through the bardo of transition I've been mired in........the Habit of Loving is the discipline from which creativity arises, and without it's hopeful window, the river dries up. I've been blessed to find a wise counselor to listen to me. And in the "unmasking process" (as she puts it) I've often felt like a ghost within the "legend" of my former self.......therapy is rather a painful process!" 

I reflect again, being at the end of my therapy, the message of the title of that little book.  The habit of loving, especially in the dark times of ones life, is a discipline to hold to.  A way to live.   

In her  Nobel  speech, Lessing remembers her life early life in Africa, in Zimbabwe, formerly Rhodesia. She urges us to remember how precious the gifts of literacy really are, remembering how desperately important it is to those who live without schools, or books in her former homeland.  Here is the speech, from the Nobel Prize site.

And here's something she says about Story:

"We have a bequest of stories, tales from the old storytellers, some of whose names we know, but some not. The storytellers go back and back, to a clearing in the forest where a great fire burns, and the old shamans dance and sing, for our heritage of stories began in fire, magic, the spirit world. And that is where it is held, today. 

Ask any modern storyteller and they will say there is always a moment when they are touched with fire, with what we like to call inspiration, and this goes back and back to the beginning of our race, to fire and ice and the great winds that shaped us and our world.  The storyteller is deep inside everyone of us. The story-maker is always with us. Let us suppose our world is attacked by war, by the horrors that we all of us easily imagine. Let us suppose floods wash through our cities, the seas rise . . . but the storyteller will be there, for it is our imaginations which shape us, keep us, create us - for good and for ill.

It is our stories that will recreate us, when we are torn, hurt, even destroyed. It is the storyteller, the dream-maker, the myth-maker, that is our phoenix, that represents us at our best, and at our most creative."**


*"The Perceptual Implications of Gaia", David Abram, THE ECOLOGIST (1985)

**© The Nobel Foundation 2007

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Video for "A Shrine for the Sixth Extinction"


I am very pleased that my Project "A SHRINE FOR THE LOST:  The Sixth Extinction" , which was funded by the Puffin Foundation, is finally completed with a video by Tucson artist Kathy Keler.