Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The meaning of "shamanic"

I am not a shaman.  I am not related by blood or adoption to the indigenous people from Siberia, Manchuria  and central Asia.  I am not a "medicine woman" initiated and acknowledged by tribal elders of Native American descent nor of First Nations people in Canada.  Yet I work with medicine objects, and frequently write about my shamanic drums and shamanic paintings.  So what do I mean by "shamanic?" I can say what this word means to me using these four chalk pastel images, and their titles, that I made during my time studying with Martin Prechtel in the New Mexico desert.


It is shamanic to be taught by Nature.  Nature is alive.  All natural phenomena exists in both the physical and spiritual dimensions and is waiting for us to learn from it. 


 It is shamanic to be intimate with Nature and know the names, characteristics and stories associated with where I live and travel. It is shamanic to communicate with the four Sacred winds, the Directions, and the other than human creatures I meet. 


It is shamanic to have courage.  It is shamanic to be a person of honesty, humility and integrity , and to inspire others with my attempts to live a life of meaning and purpose. 


It is shamanic to be food for the Holy.  It is shamanic to send prayers at the beginning and end of each day that all may have a place to belong, that all may have good food provided, and that all may have a safe place to sleep at night.  

The inspiration for these thoughts has come from reading Honoring the Medicine by Kenneth Cohen

Friday, September 20, 2013

New drum with help from Coyote spirit

I am working on a new shaman drum, and although I don't usually like to show my shamanic art before it is finished, I just couldn't wait to share what I'm making and seeing.  This interlacement pattern is called the Star of the Muses and is a triple trinity created from three interlaced triangles.  But unlike a true interlacement pattern that is made from a continuous line, this one is in three parts.  And here is where Coyote came in.

In a way I will probably not be able to replicate again, I found that if I also wrapped the hoop at the same time that I wrapped the pattern, I could keep making the triangles with one thong.  I have been reading the books of Bobby Lake-Thom and in Spirits of the Earth, he shares many coyote stories in which this most ancient creator and trickster animal is full of magic, special powers and teachings.

 Also very powerful is the Mannaz symbol formed by wrapping the intersecting lines with smoke-tan deer skin to make a comfortable hand-hold.  This is a runic sign of creation that joins the male and female principles together, therefore standing for the "togetherness" of humanity. 

My favorite discovery was seeing Coyote himself in the face of this new journey drum.  I find this quite amazing as I have not yet begun to paint the hide and yet there he is, his face looking straight out from the upper center of the drum, with the long curve of his neck to the left, as if he were just looking back over his shoulder at me, to see if I was following the path of magic he was revealing.  Can you see Coyote?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Meaning of animals painted on drums

I have recently been reading the books of Bobby Lake-Thom, and enjoying looking at the meaning of animals painted on my journey drums from the view of his teaching. Since I both paint a drum for a specific person who has already purchased the frame drum, and also paint unsold drums when a creature shows itself, I realize that my drums are signs and symbols carrying messages in an ancient language for the folks that are attracted to them.

This drum, painted for a young woman asking to recenter her life in her family more than in her schooling, is perhaps working with the vulture's skill at warning of interruptions or problems forthcoming in order to make more clear and confident decisions.  

This quite amazing drum painting called "water sister" was painted by enhancing with a few marks of color the figure and fish already strongly in the drum skin.  Water is the symbol of the West and is the sign of our physical aspect.  These fish are abundant and varied and are a sign of physical plenty. In fact, the man who purchased this drum also bought a second one!

The fox in this drum painting is both a good power and a bad sign according to Lake-Thom.  The fox is clever, intelligent and a wise friend whose power and spirit can be used to reverse the message of danger and sickness it brings.  

I wonder if the seal is an animal power whose spirit is related to the otter, dolphin and porpoise. These other water creatures bring wealth, playfulness and happiness.  Certainly the seal adds a love of community and time spent just 'hanging out' with family and friends.  

Some drums come with stories as big as the creatures that come to be painted on them.  The bear on this elk hide drum, with the later addition of a very few marks from me, was fully present as the drum dried. Shortly after its making, a good friend who was part of the drum making died, and the special power of this animal brought insight, protection and healing to all of us left behind.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Find Altars in nature

I love to find altars in nature, as if Gaia herself were making little rituals of beach logs and salal twigs where I can sit in wonder and meditate on the play of light and shadow in patterns of wood grain.

Sometimes I see that other than human creatures emerge in the shadow play of these altars in nature.  Here a child climbs toward me, there someone calls out strongly.

In my shamanic paintings of nature, I paint to remember each part, and every part between the parts.  I want there to be no past indifferent moment, no forgotten place.

acrylic on matte board
27 " x 36.5 " (68 cm x 92.7 cm) framed

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