Wednesday, June 24, 2009

My Shamanic Painting

I do not easily visualize images in my mind.  I make my art in order to see this world with the veils removed. I make my art in order to see that world beyond the veils. I ask my work to teach me, knowing that nothing is only what it seems but also something else.

One of my oldest guides is this piece of writing that came to me in 1972 during a lecture about the book Pattern Language, by Christopher Alexander. As I was walking to the front of the classroom to meet the speaker, I stopped and scribbled these words:

 In a painting of life and light, you paint to be alive.

Every part, and every part between the part, is whole.

And you are artist enough to call forth its riches.

For you there will be no past indifferent moment,

there will be no forgotten place.

 I have remembered these phrases across the years of my art making.  They remain the ground upon which my choices for painting are made.  The titles of my pieces are lessons for me.  Usually a title finds me before I find the painted image to which it belongs, and so I must hunt in this world for the picture to understand the words of that world.

 I give art lessons and shamanic mentoring to small groups and individuals, teaching that the world answers back. You can’t see them unless you expect to.  You put your mind in a certain state—confident and relaxed at the same time. This takes long practice.  You have to work.  Did you think you could snap your fingers, and have it as a gift?  What is worth having is worth working for.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

An Oracle Card Workshop

Wow! I just returned from Edmonton, Alberta where I and nine women went on a powerful journey with the Oracle.  We began by asking a group question so each of us could receive both individual as well as collective guidance: How is the Journey Oracle coming to help me?   Each woman drew a card and described what she saw in the picture, and what she understood of its phrase or question. This was followed by the rest of us each describing that card as if it was our own.  In this way we each collected nine additional comments about our card, and so enriched our connections and insights with it, as well as gained experience with the deck by reading a total of ten cards!

The big experience was during day two when I drummed a trance journey so each woman could travel into the alternative realities to visit her personal Oracle.  My first experience with journeywork was in 1984 with a woman who had trained with Michael Harner.  Since I also began making drums at that time, I have spent years helping others travel on vibration into other realms.  Some women went under the ocean; others rode swirling smoke into the sky.  Several crossed wide meadows to arrive at distant temples, while some dove into fire or the earth itself.  Some women were greeted by human figures; others were met by animals, birds or sea creatures.  Before returning, each woman asked her Oracle: “What do you eat?”

 Once back in this reality, we helped each other translate the process of finding and meeting the Oracle into an individual procedure for laying out and reading the cards. Some women discovered they were to read only one side of several cards and then draw a story not belonging to any of these.  Others were shown to name cards as part of a journey, such as “Where I am now,” and “where I am going.”  One woman was given a circular layout that involved 10 cards!  We finished our workshop by translating the food each Oracle ate into something we could bring as an offering each time we went to the Oracle.  We understood our gifts of water, sweet smoke, dance and song, drawings to be eaten by fire and poems to spin in the wind--would carry our requests into the realms of spirit. What a joy it was to learn how to give food to the Oracle, as well as to receive it.

 Let me help you discover the unique presence of your own Oracle during a workshop gathering with your friends, and together we will ride a good horse into the spiritworld with our hands full of gifts.  

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Being a drum maker

The drum is art-full; an object whose beauty is a reflection of the goodness of fit of every part, and every part between the parts. In my understanding the wood, skin, pigments, stones and embellishments are seen as beautiful because they have spiritual significance.  We apprehend that something is going on in the subtlety of the design, in the pattern and number of thongs, in the choices of construction, besides the design and number and pattern.  It is this opening into Mystery that touches us; that we name as "beautiful."

 I have drawn from many sacred stories when learning to make my drums, especially those telling of the women's drumming traditions in old European Goddess cultures. My experience watching Layne Redmond play and teach frame drumming led me into a slow process of detective work to re-member from the ashes of white history, the legacy of women as drum makers and players.

 The paintings on my drums come from gazing, while in a light trance, at the surface of the drum until creatures and beings appear.   I understand as I paint that I am bringing their images from another reality into this one. My skill is in being true to the appearance they show me, and not to my 'artistic' training.

 I totally know there is a spirit of the drum.  This is not a belief for me; in the sense that a belief is something I can only trust to be so.  I can feel and especially hear each drum's living voice.  From my earliest experiences with them drums have been living beings to me.



Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Dream interpretation

Let’s imagine that you have just woken up from this dream image, and then you remember the rest of the story.

 You see that when the tide begins to recede the surface of the water flattens slightly, as if the earth were holding these messages of coming loss close to her heart.   Forms become distinct first as watery hummocks and then as shells and stones spangled with liquid shimmer.  Periwinkles and crabs trail lines of wanderlust in the slowly drying sand.  In high summer you feel like the beach becomes abandoned to torture by a sun that is no longer a guardian in this place.  In the raking light of a moon bright night in deepest winter the whole surface of the beach is moving.  The tiniest of creatures have their power sparkling like the largest, glittering with a longing of memory for the water that had been there before, but now is gone.

 You see that when the tide begins to turn there is a swelling along the leading edge, as if the water has grown plump with waiting.  In the sullen heat of a golden-edged afternoon, the returning water hisses slightly as it bubbles around pebbles and fills up the depressions that are the front doors to the hideouts of ghost shrimp and clams.  What was a mottled grey strip of sand suddenly becomes a sculpin, flashing out to meet the flowing in tide.  Starfish clinging in the shadowed underside of beach rocks seem to soften their grip slightly when the water meets their pitted purple skins, as if the rising tide were a signal to let go a little—in a life whose main skill is holding on.  Only when the tide is several inches deep will the barnacles venture out with their feathered arms beckoning, only when the certainty of deep water arrives will the oysters open their frilly edged homes to greet what is coming to be the break in their fast.  

You see that no creature on the beach expects delays; waiting for the tide to turn is not empty hoping, but inner certainty.

 If this were your dream, in what part of your life right now is the tide receding, in what part is the tide turning?  What part of you are the sculpin and starfish, and why is your last image one of returning salmon?

 When writing the stories of the Journey Oracle divination cards, I asked dreams to help me interpret their spirit messages.  I found hidden teachings in their shamanic journeys, and learned through the books of Jeremy Taylor how to understand dream language.