The invisible becoming visible


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A while ago I made a spirit doll of a female shaman with horns.   This morning she caught my eye as I walked past the shelf she stands on.

Questioning me,
the antlered spirit doll
becomes archetypal

Why has she manifested in my life?

Going online I did some research.   Horned goddesses appeared in several ancient cultures but most, like the Egyptian goddesses Hathor and Isis, had cow horn headdresses.   These days images of magical females with similar horns are turning up in contemporary art and popular culture.   The Disney fairy, Maleficent is one.   Online I read a Jungian analysis of Maleficent.

“So this story of the Sleeping Beauty deals with what happens to our feminine feeling consciousness when it is repressed, ravaged and rejected by both our society and our own ego-consciousness.  When we reject this feeling and imaginative aspect of life, it gets twisted and becomes the negative mother—the witch who wants to kill us or curse us.  And we are left cursed with our masculine, left-brain thinking that cuts off our feminine wings and power, grounding us in a masculine reality that hates and fears the Divine Feminine’s beauty, freedom and power.   

But the negative mother doesn’t just make our lives miserable: she pushes us to become more conscious. Her curse ultimately becomes a blessing, since it makes each of us face our fate and live our purpose.  That’s the purpose of archetypal stories—they show us a path to travel that will bring us to greater consciousness.”  emerging archetypal themes

Maleficent is the 13th fairy – the forgotten one.   She represents the connection of women to nature.   In our patriarchal cultural this connection has been ignored – it has become invisible.

Re-appearing now
rewriting Sleeping Beauty
– magical healing

Maleficent is healed by love and the natural world around her is restored to health.    In this way the movie becomes a metaphor for reclaiming our forgotten relationship with nature – a sacred relationship of interconnectedness.

Ancient stories 
of goddesses and fairies
finding new forms

As fascinating as these ideas are they still don’t answer my question as to why the doll I made has antlers.    Following link after link online I eventually found an article about the deer goddesses and female shamans  deer mother  While I am familiar with the ancient horned god, Cernunnos, I didn’t know that there is archaeological evidence of horned females deities and shamanic figures that date to neolithic times.

Landesmuseum Halle (artist reconstruction of neolithic headdress found in Germany – image source here

These ancient female shaman are associated with the deer and reindeer of the far north.  Their sacred significance was about connection to the tree of life, motherhood, fertility, birth and rebirth

Returning to us
images of the sacred
spirit of nature


prompt:  Today’s d’verse prompt gave me a way into writing about something that’s been on my mind all morning.  My response stretches the idea of poetry and of haibun  so I hope that’s ok with Merrill – the creator of the prompt (and with the rest of the poets who write for d’verse).



Moving On – Part 2 – Coming Unstuck

Once the initial sting from the incident with the Aboriginal man in Visitor Centre subsided the woman could see that the situation had its funny side. An question about glue making had led to her coming unstuck on all kinds of levels.

Beyond that wry humour though were some difficult realizations.

Googling cultural appropriation had bought up a lot of interesting articles written from an indigenous perspective. Reading them she could understand their anger.   Of course Native Americans would be disturbed by the sight of fashion models wearing traditional War Bonnets on the catwalk.  Of course Asians had the right to be offended when a pop star painted her face yellow and pretended she knew what it was like to be Asian in a predominately white country.  Of course Aboriginal people were grieving over the loss of their country and the way their culture was constantly appropriated by others.

Online she searched for a definition of cultural appropriation. Opinions varied as to what it actually was but through careful reading she came up with her own understanding  – cultural appropriation occurred when the ideas, beliefs and/or artifacts of a minority group were taken out of context and used for the material gain of others.  In other words it was a kind of theft.

One thing that bothered many indigenous people was the way their ideas and sacred objects were taught in New Age workshops by people who had no cultural connection to those ideas and objects.  Reading that the woman found herself in a very grey area – a place where some of the values and objects she cherished began to come unstuck.  Did that mean she should dispense with them and cherish only values and objects that came from her own ancestral cultural heritage?


Alone in the light of the full moon she walked around the Medicine Wheel she had created in her garden. Was it wrong of to her to that?  Sure she’d originally learnt the about the Four Directions from other white women in New Age workshops.  Since creating the Wheel though she had spent time exploring the deeper significance of the ideas surrounding it.  Then there was the time-out-of-time she spent sitting and standing in the Wheel holding her own private rituals where she acknowledged her connection to the Earth and the Cosmos.  The experiential insights she had gained then about the sacred nature of all life could not be forgotten.  They had become the cornerstone of her being.

The Medicine Wheel was just one example. There were the objects she made intuitively with natural materials – feathers, sticks, leather, string and gemstones. The private things she made in ceremony and rarely showed to others. Her own version of sacred objects.

Sometimes after the making she would discover in an old book or during some random online surfing that the objects she made were similar to sacred objects used by indigenous people, particularly the Lakota Indians.  Attempting to understand herself she had come to think that maybe the desire to make these objects came to her because of past life connections with the Lakota. Alternatively her Western mind reflected on Jung’s ideas of the Universal Unconscious and Joseph Campbell’s ideas about sacred symbols and objects that endured across time, space and cultures.


It was the making of these objects that had led her to ask about making glue in the first place. For years she had thought that it would be better to use natural glues for the making rather than the chemical stuff that gave her headaches.  All of that had been too much to try and explain to the angry Aboriginal man though. When he’d demanded to know why she had wanted to make the glue she’d stuttered out some vague response about making dream catchers.  No doubt she’d come across as a ditz.  The man  may have thought she wanted to make them to sell.  And to be honest there were times when she’d considered making more accessible objects like Dream Catchers and selling them at markets.

The desire to do anything like had utterly deserted her now though.

Looking around at the objects she had created or purchased from others she could easily see the ones that had some kind of spiritual and sacred resonance and those which were merely decorative objects.   Those she had bought from others she bundled up and gave away a charity shop.

The ones she had made herself she dismantled systematically.   As she worked she explored her ideas and intuitions surrounding them.   It came to her that were two ways of making these things – two ways of being really.

One was grounded in the material world and often the reason for making the objects was the desire for material gain or simply to make a pretty object to hang on the wall.   The other way was  intuitive and spiritual – the world where Jung’s Universal Unconscious flowed through time, space and cultures – the Sacred Space of Ceremony and Ritual.

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In that space Bunjil the Aboriginal Creator Being flew in his eagle form flew alongside the Sky Dakini of the Tibetan Buddhists and the Angels of the Christianity.

In that space the sticks and stones she glued together to make wands and prayer sticks had the same significance as similar objects made in a sacred way by indigenous people.

In that space the Black Madonna of her own cultural traditions walked alongside the Lakota White Buffalo Woman and the countless other manifestations of the Earth Goddess.

In that space the feeling of connection to life that she found in the Australian bush or on a mountain top in Ireland or in the silence of  meditation was not something she appropriated from anyone.   It was free for all to connect to.   Maybe in fact it was that energy would eventually connect all who had eyes to see it, ears to hear it and a heart to feel it.



Marking the Earth #Photowrite

The urge to mark the Earth and ground the spiritual into the physical seems to be as old as humanity.    I once saw a program on TV which tracked the journeys of the earliest people out of Africa.    Their routes could be discovered by the traces they have left behind –  paintings on rocks, carvings  and curious configurations of rocks upon the ground.

Rock art near the Grampians in Western Victoria, Australia depicting the creator being Bunjil with two red dingo.  

Sometimes the significance of symbols and constructions of earlier peoples has been lost in the mists of times.   Other times it has been obscured by those who came afterwards.

DSCF0007-01Remains of a Celtic Christian construction in Western Ireland that has been tidied up and reconstructed by over-zealous  20th century archaeologists.   

Medicine Wheels, some of which date back thousands of years, have been discovered across the Americas.   There is also evidence that the aboriginal people of Australia also constructed similar Wheels at some distant time the past.  The Celtic Cross can also been seen as having a similar significance for, in it’s original form it predates Christianity.

While a lot information about the original purpose of these stone constructions has been lost there is something about them that still resonates today.    About a year ago I got an overpowering urge to make a Medicine Wheel in my backyard.   I knew very little about them but felt compelled to learn more and construct some kind of 21st century version.



I went to a short Workshop which introduced me to the basic principles.   The Native American Medicine Wheel can be seen both a physical embodiment of spiritual energy and as a method of charting inner psychological realities.   The Four Directions on the Wheel have correspondences to physical conditions and to aspects of the human experience.  For example, the direction of East can be seen as the place of the physical dawn and also as the direction which signifies illumination and mental clarity.


Since I made the Wheel in my garden my understanding of it has grown a great deal.  Some of my understanding comes through reading online articles about contemporary Native American interpretations of the Wheel.    One thing that really confused me at first was how to apply the Wheel to the southern hemisphere.   It was only when I realised that the polarities of north and south reverse in the southern hemisphere (e.g  water goes down a plug hole in a different direction north and south of the equator) that I was able to figure out how the Wheel could have personal significance for me.   In the northern hemisphere the direction of north is the place of winter but here in the south the sun swings to the north during our summer months.   For us the north is the place of heat and the mid-day sun.  Once I understood that I could adjust my understanding accordingly.

A lot of my understanding of the Wheel is experiential and comes from the time I spend sitting in contemplation.  Sometimes my meditations are deep and trance like, other times they are consist of a short ritualistic walk around the Wheel acknowledging  its significance.  Other times I simply place a garden chair in or near the wheel and sit in a reflective state for a period of time.

While reflections on the attributes of the Four Directions are intriguing it is the centre of the Wheel that holds the most fascination for me.   For me, this central point is a symbolic marking of the Axis Mundi – the vertical axis where the energies of the spiritual realms of the heaven flow into deep in the Earth and connect with the fecund, creative energies of the natural world.  It is  a metaphysical point but it is also a physical one where the energies of the sun and the greater cosmos impregnate the fertile soils of the Earth.   The energies of both realms then unite to produce the abundance and diversity of our physical world.

I find it hard to put these concepts into words but as my intuitive understanding grows I feel myself to inwardly enriched by making a daily connection to the sacred through the Medicine Wheel I have constructed in the physical world of my backyard.



Fire Farming

The grass fires that occurred over the weekend around here have caused a great deal of devastation.  ABC news – fires in s.w. Victoria  Many homes have been lost along with farm buildings and animals.   The bushfire in the pretty coastal town of Tathra on NSW’s south coast sound terrible.    It must have been especially terrifying because there are very few roads out of that town. ABC News – Tathra fires, NSW, Australia

Coincidentally I spent this weekend going to talks about the farming techniques the local aboriginal tribe, the Gunditjmara, used in the days before white settlement.    Using fire to control the growth on the grasslands was one of their main methods.  Similar fire farming methods have  been used by indigenous people across the globe for millennia.

When white people first arrived in south west Victoria they were excited to discover open grasslands that would be perfect for grazing sheep and cattle.   What they didn’t realise that was the land had been carefully cultivated by the aboriginal people for thousands of years.    The settlers removed the aboriginal people from the land by whatever means were the most expedient (massacres, forced removal of children, introduced diseases etc.).   They let their  livestock graze freely over the grasslands, replaced the native grasses with exotic grasses and replaced the local tree species with Cyprus pines.   The ecology of the environment was completely changed.


I’m a white person and my ancestors arrived in Australia in 1840s.  They were townsfolk and, as far as I know, weren’t directly involved in the racial genocide that was taking place in this country at that time but the town they lived in was built on aboriginal land.  I don’t buy into the notion that I am supposed to feel guilty for the deeds of my forebears but I do feel that the actions of the early settlers in this country, and other countries where white people have usurped  indigenous populations, need to be acknowledged and bought out into the open.  We can have no true healing within ourselves, our communities and across the globe otherwise.  One way we can promote this healing is by listening to the indigenous peoples and learning about traditional ways of caring for the Earth.

As our Earth heats up with climate change and wild fires become more common it becomes increasingly clear that modern farming and environmental management methods aren’t ecologically sound.   Indigenous methods of land management can teach us lot about sustainable land care.

In this part of the world the aboriginal people farmed the land with fire.  In late spring and early summer grass fires would be deliberately lit late in the day.   As the grasses were not yet tinder dry these fires gave off white smoke rather than the acrid black smoke we see coming from the wild fires of late summer.  As the night time temperatures cooled the air dew would form.   This moist air then put out the fires.

These cool burn fires created a soft ash which is now known as bio-char (biological charcoal).   This ash is rich in trace elements and fertilizes the soil.   Strong new grass shoots can then emerge.   In this part of the world one of the first grasses to grow after a fire is Kangaroo Grass.   As the name suggests, the kangaroos are attracted to this grass.  The plentiful feed ensured that there were high numbers of kangaroos across the land and ensured a bountiful hunting for the coming year.

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Because the fires burn slowly for short periods of time the big old trees aren’t damaged by the fire but weaker  under-story plants that dry out and provide fuel for fires in late summer are removed.

seed pods

It’s easy to dismiss Governments as uncaring and detached from the people but at a local level there are many people quietly changing the way things are done in their area.   This weekend I have met some really impressive men and women working with the Gunditjmara people to bring about real change in the way the land is cared for here.  I’m sure these kinds of grassroots activities are going on across this country.

Change is possible and it starts with all of us.   No matter where we are placed we can all find ways we change our own ways of living so that become more sustainable.   One of my current quests is to find out how to make bio-char myself and use it in my own vegie patch.    I don’t know if it’s possible but I’m curious to find out.





Weird Weather

While people in the Northern Hemisphere are watching out for the green shoots of new spring growth I’m looking forward to the autumn rains.  The grass is tinder dry down here and the ground is parched and cracked.   Rain will green things up again.


The weather yesterday was crazy.   A searingly hot north wind from the desert blew furiously all day.  The howling wind, the crashes of the trees behind my house  shedding dead branches and the heat made it difficult to sleep.   Around 11 pm I smelt a whiff of smoke and looked out to see a bright orange glow on the horizon.   It could only mean one thing –  wild fire!

Having lived through some extremely frightening bush fires I looked online to see where it was.   Following links I found myself on the emergency services site.   I’ve never been on this site before.    It was quite fascinating in a ghoulish way.  A map of my area was being updated as I watched.   Every few seconds another grass fire or fallen tree was listed.   Emergency crews were shown to be attending and everything seemed to be under control.   I said a prayer of gratitude for the brave men and women who were out on such a wild night keeping us all safe.

I figured out the glow I could see was from a small grass fire about 10 k away in farmland.   By the time I shut down the computer the orange had dimmed and  I could no longer smell smoke.   The fire crew obviously had things under control.

This morning I woke up to learn there are major grass fires to the north and east of here.  While I am in no danger here I feel for the people out there battling these blazes.   Grass fires burn low and fast in the wind.    A lot of ground can burn very quickly.   Farmers have a very limited amount of time to move animals that are in the fire path.

While all this drama is going I have been attending information sessions about sustainable land use.    On Friday I went to a talk about the ways the aboriginal people cared for the land before white settlement.  A major technique for working with the land around here was controlled burns during the cooler months.   This type of fire management is known as ‘cold burns’.   Burning the dry summer grasses produces bio-char (organic charcoal).   This nourishes the soil and feeds the new grass growth that comes with the rains in late autumn.

In an interesting aside I also learned that healthy soil, mangroves, kelp and sea grass beds are all carbon sinks.    That means that if we can halt the burning of fossil fuels and start caring for the environment in more holistic ways we can begin to turn climate change around.

Using restraint
tending to nature’s health
hope flourishes

 There is so much knowledge we white people can gain from listening to the ancient wisdom of indigenous people.