I finished another spirit doll yesterday. Her message is simple yet powerful: “When facing the dark shine your light.”
This weeks The Lens Artists Challenge asks us to post photos about something different – https://travelsandtrifles.wordpress.com/2019/04/06/lens-artists-challenge-40-something-different/
A while ago I found some leather offcuts at a recycling depot. I purchased some but it wasn’t until I got back home that I noticed one thick piece of hide had the words “Crazy Horse” written in thick black marker pen on the back.
One thought led to another until I searched for information about Crazy Horse, the Native American Chief, online. I found this prophecy he made four days before he was killed.
“Upon suffering beyond suffering, the red nation shall rise again and it shall be a blessing for the sick world. A world filed with broken promises, selfishness and separations. A world longing for light again. I see a time of seven generations, when all the colors of mankind will gather under the sacred tree of life and the whole earth will become one circle again. In that day, those among the Lakota who will carry knowledge and understanding of unity among all living things, and the young white ones will come, to those of my people to ask for wisdom. I salute the light within their eyes where the whole universe dwells, for when you are at the center within you and I am at the at place within me, we are as one.” http://www.earthwisdomfoundation.net/Crazy_Horse_s_Message.html
Here’s what I made with the leather:-
photo by Sue Vincent
The search had take so long – most of her life really. Born in tumultuous times to passionate and volatile parents, upheaval and dissonance had been Christine’s story since earliest childhood. Searching for a some place to call home – some place that offered her a sense of security and stability – had taken her across the globe and deep into the mysteries, legends and stories of other cultures.
Now, as the years added up and her hair greyed at the temples, Christine retreated behind the closed door of the little flat she rented downtown. Her forays out were of an essential nature. Going to work, buying food and supplies, getting out for a walk in nature when she could – these events marked the passage of her days. Beyond this she did not bother with going out and about as she had once done. No, she told concerned friends, she was not depressed. She just needed to be alone for a bit.
Sitting in her flat mulling over her life she came to see that what she was looking for was an inner centredness. She’d called it a quest for a home and a sense of belonging during those years when she’d looked here, there and everywhere in the outer world but really, what she was looking for was a sense of belonging inside herself – a sense of coming home to herself. What she was seeking was an inner foundation – a place where she could stand strong and secure within herself regardless of outer events.
Some of the things she’d learnt on her travels assumed a greater significance to her now. Certain meditations and visualizations carried her into inner realms that nourished and sustained. Some of the sacred objects she’d crafted in workshops with other women embodied spiritual energies she sought to integrate within herself. Although the objects – the wands, drums, medicine bundles and spirit dolls – had their origins in other cultures, the women had fashioned their own meanings and contemporary applications into these ancient tools. Looking at them now as they sat on her altar she saw they were still potent receptacles of ancestral, archetypal and spiritual energies. These days too she often turned to the spiritual books she’d acquired and, increasingly, the online blogs and websites of contemporary spiritual practitioners. These sources offered her guidance and reassurance that the inner journey she was undertaking was both profound and necessary.
Using these diverse spiritual tools drawn from many faiths and cultures she shifted through her personal memories and plunged into an investigation of her bloodline inheritances. As time went by she found too that she began to unpick the cultural stories she’d assumed to be unassailable facts but now saw to be constructs erected to promote conformity to capitalist agendas and limited social structures.
As the months went by Christine began to wrestle some kind of treasure from her inner dross and darkness. Her state of mind shifted and she began to experience extended periods where she felt illuminated by an inner lightness of being. She had occasioned upon these feelings before for brief moments during the drug highs and sexual bliss of youthful experiences then later, in deep mindfulness meditations. Sometimes at sacred sites or sitting in circle with indigenous teachers similar states of consciousness had uplifted her temporarily.
Now as her mental and emotional landscape cleared the lightness of being became stronger and more stable. Uncanny synchronicities and intuitive flashes of understanding occurred more frequently as she began to circle around an inner locus of being that was unassailable and immutable.
It was at this point that Christine realized integrating this new sense of self was, in fact, her life’s work. Everything of any value flowed from that. Even while she was still in the process of building this new inner structure she felt she needed to go back out into the world. While there was a part of her that was quietly appalled by this idea (some people were so damn scary these days) she came to understand that it was only in interactions with others that she could test her new found way of being. Any places where she still needed to do some inner work would quickly become apparent that way. On a deeper level there was too the emerging knowing that knowledge gained meant little if it was not applied to real life situations.
photo by Sue Vincent. prompt: https://scvincent.com/2019/03/28/thursday-photo-prompt-bright-writephoto/
As the sun rose over the rooftops like a searing ball of flame another day of excessive heat was born.
The couple out for an early morning fitness walk stopped in their tracks and viewed the spectacle.
“I feel so impotent,” said the man.
The woman glanced sharply at him wondering if her long term partner and father of her children was about to reveal some emergent sexual problem.
The man, oblivious to how his words had been misconstrued, continued on: “I mean, what can I do? Out there across the country bushfires are burning out of control while record breaking floods swamp the north east. Millions of fish have died in the extreme weather affecting the inland river systems. Across the world beneficial insects and bees are dying.”
The woman shifted uncomfortably. These thoughts had been on her mind too. “And still governments refuse to act on climate change,” she muttered.
“I could volunteer for the emergency services,” the man reflected, “but I doubt I’d be much use. I’m a scrawny artist guy not a macho fire fighter.”
“And I’m a writer and poet,” said the woman.
“Make art then,” said a lilting voice beside them. “Write stories. Sing. Dance. Take photos. Create, create, create.”
The couple looked around in confusion. They had thought they were alone. Both gaped as their eyes fell upon a small ethereal being dancing in the sun beams.
“Oh good, you can see and hear me,” the being sang/spoke. “I’ve been working at making myself visible to you. I have a message for you.”
“A message?” the man queried. His tone hovered between aggression and disbelief. Seeing fairies was not something he was accustomed to.
“Yes, yes. Don’t argue. Just listen. I don’t know how long I can hold this form.” The being appeared to flicker in and out of manifestation in the bright sunlight. “This isn’t my natural state you know.”
“Well who’s the message from,” the man demanded in a practical, no nonsense tone.
“Oh the fairies and all the elementals,” the being said impatiently. “We’re worried. The Earth’s in trouble. We’re trying to contact all the artists, musicians, writers and creatives who are open to new inspiration. It’s time for you all to get busy.”
“I know,” the woman murmured, “but I’ve been feeling so blocked lately. My last book sunk like a stone and I haven’t felt like trying again. I seem to have run out of stories.”
“Put all that aside,” the being advised. Its voice was more kindly now. “There’s no time for all that creative angst any more. After all those creative blocks are really just personal personal obstacles. They are negative by-products of the wounded ego so many of you creatives are afflicted with. Now is the time to heal your wounds and see the bigger picture. Your creative talents are a gift you can use to help heal the world. You can take whatever raw materials you choose to work with – paint, words, musical notation, wood, stone – even food or garden plants – whatever motivates you to create. Take those base materials and transform them into new forms that offer, healing and beauty to you as the creators and to those your work reaches.”
The being dancing in front of the couple blazed in the light like a beacon. “Creativity expressed with intention can make the invisible realms of the imagination visible to others. It can operate as a portal to worlds of expanded consciousness. Shifting hearts and minds in this way allows room for healing.”
The man and woman nodded slowly. The words echoed heart callings they both felt deep down but hardly dared express even to each other.
“The creatives amongst you all are the voice of the time you live in. Creativity is a gift that moves through you. It’s not something you own. It’s greater than you.” The being’s voice rang like a bell in the morning air. “Sure it can bring you undone. It can consume you if you let it. But, if you use the energy in a trans-personal way, it can uplift you and the world around you. It’s time now to heal yourselves and step into your greater role as creative healers.”
As the sun climbed higher in the sky the temperature rose further. The elemental being seemed to dissipate and become part of the white light that beat down upon the dry ground. At the same time the memory of the encounter shifted into the mythic and neither the man nor the woman was entirely what sure what had just occurred.
“Ooh, it’s so hot,” said the woman. “I’ve got to get out the sun. I want to go to my study. I’ve got a feeling those notes I made a while ago might form the basis of new story after all.”
“Yes,” the man mused. “I feel like painting today. I have an urge to express all this.” He flung his arms out wide as if to embrace the world. A faraway expression graced his face. The woman left him to it. She knew him well enough to know some new creative impulse was brewing within him. Talking now would only dilute it. Besides, she had to get home. She had work to do.
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.
the antlered spirit doll
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.
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.
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.
(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. https://dversepoets.com/2019/02/05/poetics-invisible/ 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).
Six years ago, almost to the day, I came to live in this area. I signed my first lease on a rental property down here on August 14. I hand the keys back on this last rental on August 18.
This morning I took a carload of possessions I no longer want to a second hand shop out of town. I’m getting to that stage of packing and sorting where panic is hovering just below the surface – Will I be able to pull this off? Will I find the money I need? Will my energy levels hold up? etc. etc.
On my way back from dumping today’s load I stopped at the Tower Hill lookout to get a bit of perspective on things. Tower Hill has been a place of major significance for me while I’ve lived here. I could not count the number of times I’ve had experiences there that have had a profound effect on me.
Today when I stopped my car at the lookout a cold wind blew in off the sea and rain threatened. As I stood there shivering a large bird erupted from the cover of the trees honking loudly. It flew in circles over the lake for a while then, as it glided down to earth, another took the air. Once again it circled across the lake several times until another took flight from a different spot. The honking was continuous now. This pattern of flight continued until the cold wind drove me back to my car.
The honking made me think the birds were a type of goose but back at home I identified them as Australian Shelducks – a large colourful duck that makes a honking sound.
Because the birds were behaving in such an unusual manner I looked up the symbolic meanings of ducks. Apparently a flying duck is associated with spiritual freedom. Here’s one interpretation that really spoke to me today –
Duck spirit animal reminds us that we have webbed feet and, even better, we have wings. We have the power to lift out of the watery emotions that threaten to drown us. We can swim into the depths and find inner silence.
We may be rendered physically powerless to do anything in a situation and feel like the victim. Nevertheless, we always have power in our interior. We can always lift off in our view. https://www.wildgratitude.com/duck-symbolism/
The woman was stuck. She knew it. Her life was going nowhere. Struggling to accept that she wondered if going nowhere was what happened when you reached a certain age. Maybe after the post retirement trips overseas (almost a rite of passage for newly retired Australians in these days of global tourism) the next step was to settle for a life in the shadows – a gradual fading into the background – into invisibility.
Thinking these things she drove to a local bushland re serve. It was one of the few local places in the area where she felt a connection to the wild – the wild of nature and, more importantly, the wildness that still burned within her heart and mind despite outward appearances.
When the aboriginal man in the Visitor Centre accused of her trying to take his stories when she’d expressed an interest in making glue from tree resin like the aboriginals did she was taken aback.
While he made the coffee she’d ordered the man ranted that he could teach her to make the glue if she proved to him that she wasn’t going to misuse the knowledge. Disturbed by his aggressive manner the woman had submissively taken the coffee and retreated outside to a table under the trees.
There she felt her own anger mounting. She attempted to rationalise it away by thinking that perhaps the sight of her had awoken some old anger in the man – maybe some older white woman had once acted in a racist way towards him. Even so, that woman was not her. She had simply read about the glue on a notice board in the Visitor Centre and wondered out loud how it was made because synthetic chemical glues gave her a headache.
The coffee was lousy, she realised. As bitter and unpleasant as the man. She tipped it out on the ground then wondered what to do with the empty takeaway cup. There were no rubbish bins in sight. She had a choice, she then realised. She could take the coffee cup home and dispose of it there while nursing her unexpressed anger or she could go back in the Centre and attempt to have it out with the man.
After a moment’s reflection she chose the latter.
The man looked disconcerted by the sight of her re-entering the shop. She held out the empty coffee cup and he curtly told her where the bin was. She disposed of the cup then politely told the man she had no interest in taking his stories. She asked him how on earth she was supposed to prove to him that her intentions were honourable. He said he would know where she was coming from by seeing it in her heart. She drew herself up straight and replied: “Well if you can’t tell where my heart is by talking to me there’s nothing I can do to prove to you that I’m on the level.” There was a flicker of doubt in the man’s face as he computed what she’d said but he quickly resorted to his angry stance. “How am I supposed to know where you mob are coming from? I’ve never met you before,” he snarled.
Resisting the urge to look behind herself and see this mob she was supposed to represent or to argue with the man further the woman made a dignified retreat.
Driving away she found she was shaking. For days afterwards she kept replaying the incident in her mind. The man obviously had anger issues but something of what he had said got to her. Was she unconsciously appropriating aboriginal stuff that didn’t belong to her in an effort to give her life meaning?
Googling cultural appropriation she bought articles written by indigenous people about how cultural stories and artifacts had been taken out of context and turned in commodity items. She cringed when she read some of it. That dreamcatcher hanging on the verandah suddenly looked more like cultural appropriation than a boho decoration. The more she looked at certain items in her house, the more she came to question herself. Just what was she on about?
She went on a kind of purge of both her house and her own beliefs. She looked at her own cultural heritage. Raised a Christian but having left that faith long ago she taken on a hodgepodge of ideas and beliefs from other cultures and traditions. How much of it really resonated though? How much of it was hers to take? To find the answers to those questions she had to dismantle more than the décor she surrounded herself with. She had to look long and hard at the person she’d become.
In the process the feeling of being stuck dislodged. Somewhere along the line she began to thank the man. He’d set her free. She’d been under a kind of spell. A spell of her own making in many ways but a spell nonetheless. That scrap of bush had been a place where she could hide. Now she no longer felt like going there. Finally, and at last, she was ready to move on to some other new way of being. It was time to let that wild woman come out of hiding. There was nothing to lose but stuckness.
This post was inspired by Cathy of https://wanderessence.com/
Cathy has written in the third person in her recent prose piece https://wanderessence.com/2018/07/24/chapter-2-missouri-as-it-seemed-part-2/. Following her lead I have used the device in this post. I find it gives writing a more objective slant.