Wednesday, December 29, 2010

What is wearable art?

As someone who has always made things, whether paintings or objects, art for me is in the details. When I remember that "every part, and every part between the part is whole," I realize that anything created with complete focus is art. Usually for me that focus comes in the form of a limitation. By this I mean something in the work's materials or construction takes on the status of a requirement; everything in the creation of the piece must be a result of conforming to this requirement. This coat, commissioned by a member of the Klahoose First Nation here on Cortes Island, became more than performance regalia, it transformed into wearable art.

The coat is made from three smoke tanned deer skins, embellished with hawk and one eagle feather, plus tuffs of mountain goat hair. As I began working on the basic construction, I understood to use no knots. This became the focus that transformed the coat into wearable art, into a medicine coat whose art could protect the wearer from any negative projections. Tangling, heavy energy--such as envy or jealousy--can stick to knots because these stop the flow of the vibrations constantly moving around and through us. From the moment I realized this limitation, the coat became a mysterious puzzle: How to fasten the skins, and also the ornaments to the skins, without knots? I discovered the Solomon Bar knot, a decorative square that isn't really a knot, because if the central cord is pulled through, the entire length just unravels itself. This, combined with a running X stitch and the use of rabbit skin glue created my art-filled focus.

The Journey Oracle cards that I created are a kind of "wearable art." The cards and stories had mysterious spirit world limitations for how they were painted and written, and learning how to read oracle cards for revelation creates protection from the vagaries of time and personal fate.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Spiritual meaning of winter solstice

Although for many years I have celebrated winter solstice as the returning of the light with the rebirth of the solar king, this year I had a profound experience that revealed another aspect to the spiritual meaning of winter solstice. The stoy began with a buck deer that entangled his antlers in our garden net fence. I could not imagine how I could rescue him by myself and so I went looking for some "man help." When I asked my nearest neighbor if her man was at home and explained my need, she replied with, "Is he really necessary?"

We decided not and so armed with wire cutters and scissors we approached the frightened and understandably aggressive two year old deer. As we tried to get close enough to cut the fencing, and he tried more frantically to escape, he became more horribly tangled in wire and net. My neighbor did manage to get one side of the fencing cut free, which gave the buck much more mobility--making it impossible for us to get close enough to cut the other side. After he charged me while I was holding a piece of plywood as a shield for my wire cutting attempt, and fortunately hit the wood before knocking me several feet back into the salal, we decided release was not going to work. There has been increased wolf activity in our Cortes neighborhood again, and leaving him snarled to become easy wolf food seemed unacceptably cruel.

Thank Goddess for young country women who have guns and know how to use them. My neighbor returned with a 22 and after exhausting, again, all the other versions we could think of, killed the deer with one shot. What tragic and intensly spiritual moments passed as we witnessed his death. With great care we cut him free in death from what we could not help him escape in life. We skinned and field dressed the body, proceeding slowly and offering gifts of sweetgrass and hand-made beads to his spirit to please forgive us for not being able to save him. I held his still warm heart in my hands and offered prayers of thankyou for this opportunity to receive this understanding of sacrifice as the deeper meaning of winter solstice.

It seemed inappropriate for us to take any part of the deer as food for ourselves and so yesterday, on the solstice, we took the carcass by boat to one of the islands outside Gorge Harbour so that the eagles and vultures could have a winter feast--maybe the wolves would also swim over from Cortes and Marina Island and be able to eat well without being drawn near human habitation. As my neighbor and I stood on that rocky outcropping, looking back into the now unseeing eyes of the young deer, its forehead covered with unbraided strands of sweetgrass and tears, I thought about how the deer's death was useful sacrifice, so that like the sun, it will be reborn in many life forms.

The three days of winter solstice 2010 also encompassed the three days of the December full moon. This experience happened on the first, or Maiden day. The full moon day of the Mother was the time of taking the deer to all the wild creatures trying to find food in this dark time. This third day of the Crone belongs to the Oracle, and here I tell this story as an oracle speaking of the sacrifice of death that feeds life--the spiritual meaning of winter solstice.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Meaning of winter solstice decorations

It usually takes me some time to get the holiday decorations underway; yet when I do I especially love watching the birds feeding outside, seen through the lights circling the window. This year I spent some time researching the meaning of my winter solstice decorations and discovered many interesting correspondences.

I use golden garlands twined around colored lights because this holiday is originally the birth of the solar king, who brings the growing light to a new year. In the Greek Myths the present year king must die to make way for the new, and the Moon-Queen offers him an apple, which is his passport to Paradise. And also present as a counter-charm to the apple is the holy egg of rebirth. Therefore I hang in the upper space of my solstice decorations the red apples of death in life, and place bird nests containing the eggs of life in death in the lower space.

Hanging in the center of my solstice decorations is a silver coated pine cone. I discovered that the pine is dedicated to Dionysus / Bacchus and its cone is a phallic symbol of the god's fecundity. I also found that in Europe druids burned great fires of pine at the Winter Solstice to draw back the sun. It also interests me that the Bach flower Remedies recommend pine to treat despondency and despair--which often seem to be associated with the winter and Christmas season.

In the left corner of my winter solstice decorations is my Genius Loci, or spirit of place. This is my beaded representation of the year king who grows and fruits and sacrifices himself for our well being, and knowingly serves the Moon Queen in life and death and life again. So from the home of the Journey Oracle, every blessing to you as the light grows into life, again.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Finding a balance between work and play

The wind has been roaring all morning and I am not working on the oyster rafts but inside cleaning house. No matter how much I try to think of vacuuming and dusting as Buddhist meditations or energy repairs, I still don't like doing them. I want to be in that right brain trance I so enjoy when I create shamanistic paintings, or musing about how to expand the Journey Oracle deck instructions into a larger book of correspondences for deepening oracle card readings, or just watching the juncos outside the window scratching for seeds.

I know that "naming it makes it so," and when I resent the time spent keeping my space orderly, this spills over into resentment about all kinds of things that keep me from having what I think I want. Certainly many spiritual paths teach the importance of letting go of wanting, but maybe my Mother's advice, from many years ago, is the most practical--"Make time for what you do not want to do, instead of the other way around, this way you will always have time for doing what you do want."

I decided to draw an oracle card to show me what's most important to consider in my complaint about housework. This card fell from the deck. I find the image looks quite like my mind feels when I am telling myself grumpy stories about having to do something less than magical. Lots of blurry, aggressive thought forms that feel like a weight against my forehead. The question seems right on the mark as well. I'm understanding to stop complaining about the results of my choices. If I don't like what I'm doing, I'm blessed in my life with the ability to choose something else, and that's maybe the most magical state of all: having choices.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Finding truth in an Oracle

I recently purchased a small book by Colin Mallard titled Something to Ponder: Reflections from Lao Tzu's 'Tao Te Ching'. It contains many beautiful passages to contemplate which speak into the quiet stillness of heart knowing, rather than to the chattering mind. I have also recently been puzzling about next steps for bringing the Journey Oracle into prosperity;about how to create the links that bring those who are curious and the oracle cards together. And the book opened to this page titled Truth:

A bowl filled to the brim soon spills
An over sharpened knife soon dulls.

When money and security are sought
The heart is ill at ease.

When wealth and strength are flaunted
Disaster soon follows.

Care for the approval of others
And you become their prisoner.

When work is done without concern for results
Peace of mind is at hand.

What amazing truth there often is in a spontaneous oracle found in a casually opened book. I suspect we have all had the experience of working and reworking something precious until Mystery escaped out through the last polished detail and only something overdone and dull remained. When I try to detail the many layers of possible insight found between the cards and their elemental and calendar correspondences, there is no room for the reader to research and construct her own correspondences.

I also believe that when we listen for others approval, instead of hear our inner guidance--we dampen our creative fires with the ashes of uncertainty. Creating something never before seen--like the Journey Oracle--means being able to let go of what is already known, and find certainty in what is at hand.

Perhaps the better question is not "Can I take my fire to the group" but "Am I dressed for the weather?" Can I wear courage and perseverance like a good coat with a hood that keeps out the winds of doubt.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Thanksgiving prayer

Several years ago, when I was a student in Bolad's Kitchen, I heard a beautiful prayer offered in thanksgiving, and I want to share the story of how it touched all of us who were present. About twenty of us students had gathered for a potluck one night during the school session. Most of us were new to studying with Martin Prechtel and only knew a few of our fellow students. Martin had been shocking many of us awake by requiring eloquence as well as attention in our responses in class.

Two men from the eastern US were last to arrive, and as we all stood awkwardly about the dining table, one of the men turned to the other, named Joseph, and asked him to say a prayer before we began eating. Joseph began, "I am thankful that for now my body is without pain or illness. I am thankful I am wearing these shoes that fit my feet, and keep out the water. I am grateful to be wearing these clothes that keep me dry and warm. I am thankful I am under a roof tonight, and have a place inside to sleep where I can relax and not be fearful. I am grateful I have this food to eat this evening, and that it is cooked and warm...."

Joseph continued on for some moments, offering thanks on behalf of all of us for having what really matters: warm food, safe shelter, dry clothing, health. I know that for myself, before he began, I was expecting something filled with lofty thoughts and beautiful phrasing. I was startled and then deeply moved by his profound gratitude for the most simple of his needs being met.

Throughout the Pacific Northwest, many people have been struggling with snow and cold, power outages and roadway nightmares. As you read this, if you are warm and fed and safe at home--please say Joseph's prayer. May your gratitude for your good fortune bless those who are without tonight.

These two images are the cards of fate in the Journey Oracle deck, the only two cards that have no phrases or questions and are not numbered. Drawing either of these two cards stops the oracle reading--we see either that our situation is filled with food, as reflected in the seasons of spring and summer, or that our situation has no food, reflected in the seasons of fall and winter. May you always have the blessings of enough food.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Receiving a drum honoring ceremony

While I was in Edmonton this last week to present a Journey Oracle card workshop I had an opportunity to meet Jay Saka, a man of Japanese ancestry who has been building drums and teaching others how to make and honor the drum. He first telephoned me some months ago because he saw my segment on the Vision TV series Guides and Gurus. At first we spoke tentatively because I am uncomfortable sharing my drum making experience in a 'pick your brain' request. I have spent many years gathering my direct experience with drums and drum making, and feel that effort is dishonored when given away with no corresponding effort from the person making the request. However, Jay offered to send me a gift for my knowing, and began calling me periodically to share stories and experiences from his drum making workshops. Just before I left for Edmonton I received a large box of prairie sage bundles from him, one tied with prayer flags to honor my teaching.

Jay and I almost missed each other, since I was calling and calling a telephone number that I had copied incorrectly. We connected just one night before my leaving. Jay brought drums and beaters, smudge, tobacco, photos of his ceremonies at several Alberta medicine wheels, and a workbook of his teachings that he shares with his students. He began by offering me a smudge and praying with tobacco to the four directions, then by singing an honor song for the Directions. He sang me many songs from the Cherokee, Blackfoot and Ute Nations, and finished our time by asking me to autograph his copy of the Journey Oracle cards.

I felt very honored to receive such a blessing from someone who considers me their teacher. I I found myself thinking about special teachers I have had, and wondering if I ever thanked them for shaping the directions my life has taken. The Journey Oracle has been such a teacher, so thanks to the Oracle, and thanks to you, Jay, for reminding me to always be grateful for learning.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The history of Oracles

I have recently been reading The Greek Myths, collected and commented upon by Robert Graves. I had previously known Graves' work from reading The White Goddess, and it has been a revelation to discover his commentary on the stories of my deep cultural past. I was delighted to discover a chapter titled The Oracles, which presents myths about how the Oracles of Greece began and came to be taken over by the patriarchal invaders.

All oracles were originally delivered by the Earth Goddess, whose authority was so great that successive waves of invasion make a practice of seizing the shrines and either appointing priests or retaining the priestesses in their own service. Thus Zeus took over at Dodona, and King Ammon took over the Oasis of Siwa, both oracles sacred to the dove and oak cult of Dia or Dione. Later Apollo captured the oracle at Delphi. Besides these, there were numerous other oracular shrines: those in the Lycaeum and on the Acropolis at Argos, at Boeotian Ismenium, at Clarus and at Telmessus. The sick received oracles at Pharae, Hera was consulted near Pagae, and Mother Earth spoke through her priestesses at Aegeira in Achaea. Dice were thrown at the oracle of Heracles at Achaean Bura; dreams were consulted at the oracles of Asclepius and Laconian Thalamae.

Perhaps Graves' most provocative statement, for me, is his comment that prophesy was the only skill not taken from women in the transition from a Goddess-centered to a God-centered culture. This first card I painted for the Journey Oracle seems in its image and phrase to be an echo of this unbroken tradition of women as soothsayers.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

How to interpret fairy tales using oracle cards

I use my Journey Oracle deck for many more tasks than seeking advice about troubling or unclear situations. Interpreting fairy tales becomes a journey into layers of personal meaning and insight when I ask the cards to make connections between the story and my personal situation. Here's an example of what I do.

Last week I chose a fairy tale from the Red Fairy Book to help me gain insight about a group of new shamanic students with whom I am going to be working. I opened the book to the tale: the Death of Koshchei the Deathless. Here is my brief summary. Prince Ivan, on the instruction of his dying parents, helps his three sisters each marry a bird and then fly away to their kingdoms. The Prince then finds his own beloved, who tells him he can do anything but open the locked closet. Of course Prince Ivan does and discovers Koshchei the Deathless who is begging for a drink of water. After he drinks three buckets full he bursts his chains and carries away the beloved of Ivan. The Prince goes after her and is met by the Falcon, the Eagle and the Raven brothers-in-law and his sisters. Each couple asks for a token of silver by which to remember Ivan, and after these meetings at last he comes to his beloved. The royal couple flee three times from Koshchei who forgives the first two but on the third escape cuts Prince Ivan into pieces and seals these in a barrel flung into the sea. The bird relatives rescue Ivan and rebuild him, telling him to find out where Koshchei obtained such a fine horse that is always able to catch the runaway lovers. The beloved Marya finds out that the horse came from a Baba Yaga as a reward for caring for her mares. On his way to the Baba Yaga, Prince Ivan meets and agrees not to eat a chicken, honey from a bee hive, or a lion cub. The Baba Yaga tries to trick Prince Ivan for three days into losing some of her mares, but each day one of the animals he spared rounds up the wayward mares and drives them home. The prince then steals from the Baba Yaga a sorry colt who becomes a wondrous steed. He returns to his beloved Marya and carries her off. When Koshchei catches up to the pair, Ivan's magical horse smotes Koshchei with a kick from his hoof. The Prince then makes an end of him with a club, then burns him on a pyre, and then scatters his ashes to the wind. And of course at the death of the Deathless the couple live happily ever after.

I am naming myself Ivan, the three sisters my new students, and the bird husbands are the shamanic paths each must choose. But who is Koshchei? In the Russian fairytale Koshchei cannot be killed by conventional means because his soul lives outside his body. I drew this card number 47 to show me who is this deathless energy in my own story. What a surprise to see the card that most represents to me the Mystery; the card that represents the deepest water of Spirit. Certainly the water that brings Koshchei back to strength is the most fundamental of food. Is what I struggle against, and my love of the Mystery, the same thing? Perhaps my struggle against what I think keeps me from what I love will die with the help of those I help. Maybe this means that my new students are with me because it is I that must receive from them. Prince Ivan seems to have a kind heart, and doesn't give up trying to be with what he loves . I'm hoping naming it makes it so.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The path of effort as shamanic initiation

I enjoy reading back issues of Shaman's Drum, reading articles that did not hold my attention initially, but now give me new learning, because I have changed in my spiritual awareness since my first meeting of their authors and ideas. An article called Beautiful Painted Arrow's Sun Moon Dance, by Marsha Scarbrough, in number 79, 2009, contained such a teaching. I came upon this quote:

[Joseph Rael] talked about the importance of the path of effort. To achieve supernatural power,
you must choose to do things the most difficult way. Once you've achieved it, Spirit takes care of you, and things become effortless.
I think I am very good at choosing the path of effort. I do not think this means choosing difficulty with human relationships, or indulging in the drama that makes situations difficult; I think this means choosing to do what one is told by spiritual guidance, no matter how arduous or cumbersome the task. Creating the Journey Oracle was such a path of effort. Painting the cards , writing the stories, and determining how to use the two together for revelation took 16 years. And of course such a statement says very little about the frustration, and elation, and determination involved in such an enterprise.

What I realize now, about this path of effort that leads to effortlessness, is that it mostly requires trust and perserverance. This is just like the fairy tale: The Death of Koschei the Deathless, in the Red Fairy Book, edited by Andrew Lang. Prince Ivan keeps returning to steal away his sweetheart, the Princess Marya Morevna, even though he knows Koschei intends to cut him to pieces, and the Baba Yaga intends to put his head on a spike. It only matters to be with his beloved, now that he has found her. This is the path of effort: to choose the most difficult way. And so to be initiated into beauty.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Becoming a shamanic student

When I first asked to become a student of the spirit world, I was given a sort of a riddle to answer. I was on a high plateau looking out at an immense sweep of land stretching away into blue haze; I called out to everything, saying, "Please teach me. Please be my teacher. " I received this answer in a dream: "You must ask three times." The full story of this experience became the story corresponding to card #39 in my Journey Oracle card deck.

This was very puzzling to me. It felt then just like the experience I had today trying to see through fog as we returned to Gorge Harbour from a sailing trip. I knew the presence of land, of spirit, was all around me, I could feel it but I could not see it.
And so like many of us who are impatient and also not paying close attention--when I awoke I immediately asked again, "Please be my teacher." The next night I woke up remembering someone saying to me, "This time the answer is no."

Of course I did not notice the significance of the phrase 'this time.' I only heard the no. I first felt dismayed and then abandoned. Was I not worthy? Was I not a child of this spirit world also? And then I remembered the first answer. The sensation was just like seeing a form in the fog, and for a moment not understanding it, and then suddenly recognizing where you are.
Then, and today, I felt courage was the ability to keep moving forward on faith. I am remembering a quote in The Very Air, by Douglas Bauer: "Now Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Hebrews 11:1. And so I asked a third time, "Will you be my teacher?" I brought humility and respect instead of self-centered impatience, and the answer was yes. This entire asking of spirit was a first lesson--pay attention, listen, remember. And just like today, the fog cleared, and I knew where I was.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Making a shamanic drum

This new shamanic drum is called many families. It is a clear deep gold, so transparent that whatever is near the drum becomes part of its face--part of its family. This 14" hoop drum was recently made at a drum workshop here on Cortes Island where two deer hides from a local hunter and several hoops made from local spruce were equally prepared by everyone. It is interesting to me that as all of us worked on both skins without having preferences or prejudices for what hide would eventually belong to which drum maker--the two hides became more and more clear, as if not claiming ownership caused the drum skins to keep releasing what would muffle the voices that were coming.

Throughout the three days it took us to prepare the skins to be stretched across the frames we were each careful to keep taking turns with every task on each skin. When it was time to cut out the drum heads we let the hides choose the drums they would become, because of course each drum pattern fit best in one area of the skin but not in others. In this way we never imposed our desires on the process of making the drum, but let the process reveal each drum's best fit to us. I feel this is why this shamanic drum has such a generosity of clarity. It has only ever had to be itself, and therefore we can each see ourselves in its face.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Why make art?

In all the writings about why artists make art--to create commentary, documentation, revolution, revelation, truth and beauty--it seems to me that a core reason is not often mentioned: to work with our hands.

In our modern world, hand work is both reviled and revered. Those of us who value mass production and expanding growth view hand work as unreasonable and inefficient. Those of us that equate value with what is original and effort-full see hand work as precious. In a strange spiral, at the very core of mass production are copies of what was once unique. Much of our resistance to hand work comes from our dependence on machinery that helps us worship what David Suzuki called the Great God Relief From Inconvenience: relief from the inconvenience of giving our time and effort to what keeps us alive.

Martin Prechtel teaches that the two most significant gifts we can make to the Gods, to the Spirits, are the eloquence made with our words and the work made with our hands. He said that art first belongs to the Holy, and I believe that when we sit within that timeless, wordless right-brain knowing as we create with our hands, we know this to be true. When I help someone make a drum, we both are giving our effort to feed a voice that can carry our prayers. I believe that it is our hands that are able to lift the voice of a drum to true eloquence.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The meaning of death in drum making

Every drum begins with a death. Something must stop moving, in order for something else to begin moving. The hide and hoop from the deer and tree must pass through formlessness before they come together as the skin and bones of the drum. The sound of the drum must pass through stillness before it has a voice.

Everything wants to live. No matter how seemingly insignificant to us humans, the smallest speck of crawling, creeping, flying life wants to keep living, to keep moving. This force that keeps wanting to move is the consciousness of vibration. This consciousness of vibration accumulates layers of harmonics and dissonances; layers of joy and grief. All the sound stays present. Everything moving is a song.

The wood holds the pressure of clamps and the stretch of it's fibre as sound. The hide holds the memory of the lime water soak and the pull of the knife as sound. We hold the sound of our many lives in the vibration of our voices and movement of our gestures. All these songs stay present.I recently had a dream in which I was running along a wide white sand delta with ribbons of sparking turquoise water on every side. The sparkles turned into wheeling white birds and suddenly I flew with them high above the figure of a woman walking away, far below me in this vast woven land of white and blue. I was singing a beautiful song, and kept singing it over and over until I awoke, saying to myself, this is a karma song.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Dreams about past lives

Several nights ago I had a dream in which a phychic offered me a reading about my past lives. She only glanced at me before announcing that I had caused suffering for others, apparently able to do so because I did not have feelings for their misery. I'm sure most of us think we were the ones being killed and sacrificed in the mayhem of ancient cultures--but what if we were the ones wielding the sword and the knife?

How do we believe our dreams about past lives? What signals their truth in our waking moments? Jeremy Taylor teaches about the Aha! moment in dream reflection, the sensation of feeling rather than knowing the truth about a dream's meaning or symbolism. Robert Moss suggests returning to the location and feeling of a dream image in order to re-enter its story with conscious intent. Certainly when I woke from this dream my feelings told me there was something to pay attention to in the psychic's appraisal.

I went into my dreams the next night asking for help about what to do next with this knowing. I received a dream in which one of my meditation teachers appears and asks me to his house for dinner. Once there I meet other people as I pass from room to room, moving ever deeper into the spaces of the house. Since this teacher was himself a student of Ken McLeod, who has written much about releasing karmic patterns, I believe this dream is giving me a clear next step to begin a meditation practice specific to this topic.

I also drew a Journey Oracle card, asking what the Oracle had to tell me and show me of my beginning focus in this work of karmic repair. I saw card # 34, which represents this time of year: the autumn equinox. The phrase Called to witness feels very strong. The image seems to really be seeing me, not as I would like to appear but as I really am. I understand that I must truly witness the pain of others in order to begin to connect with my own.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Why exhibit art?

Some weeks ago I had a show of my painted shamanic drums and journey art on Cortes Island. It was not until yesterday that I understood why I exhibited this particular kind of my art. It was not, I discovered, for the more obvious reasons of sharing my work, or making sales, or finding new connections--however valuable these reasons are. It was so I could show myself the collected history of this work and by so doing, see the meaning embedded in their context and effort.
When I returned to the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design from a one year sabbatical spent in the Canadian Rockies and west coast of BC, I attended a weekend workshop held by a recent participant in a session at the Institute for Shamanic Studies in New York. I was very frustrated by that experience because I could not visualize an entrance to the Spirit world and therefore did not 'journey.' During the second day I was told by another participant who was journeying to his helpers on my behalf that "it's the wrong drum, she has to make her own."

This story is known by all who visit my website and read about my journey drums, but what is not known is that for the next four years I conducted 5 stone divinations--talking with stones by asking a question and then gazing into their patterned surfaces to see creatures whose presences are an answer to the question. From these divinations I made journey sketches which later became wheels of spirit-filled drawings.

These five questions were: How can I journey to the Spirit world if I cannot find the entrance? How will I recover missing sight? How can I follow this way? Who are my people? and How will dreams come true? What I realized during the drum exhibit is that these five questions tracked my transition from being a university teacher oriented to urban life and values--to a person living away from the art scene on a remote island where everything is alive and always talking. I discovered that what I was presenting through my art to my community was how, 22 years ago, I came here as the result of a spiritual journey with stones.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

New Shamanic Drums for sale

The Night Drum
This 14" hoop drum of Cortes Island deer and spruce wood was made during a demonstration at my recent shamanic journey art and drum exhibition: Staying Awake in the Spirit World. Although I thought I had several skins to choose from, only this one, with both the bullet entry and exit holes, was available to me. A drum containing the hole of death for the deer, and the hole of life as food for the hunter, is destined for special work. I do not try and arrange such magic--it naturally happens when the drum head can only be fitted onto the skin in such a way that includes this.

The Singing Child Drum
This large drum of island deer hide and spruce wood has a remarkable voice. The beat has a deep, resonant tone, while the drone--the continuous sound upon which one journeys to the Spirit world or does healing work, is a clear high tone like a bell. I have never heard anything quite like it. I imagine this is because the drum is a rare combination of a very thin skin from a young deer stretched onto a large frame, giving an unusual amount of surface to support the drum's harmonics.

Read more about these two new drums for sale by going to purchase a journey drum on my website:

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What is the Spirit world?

My art exhibition at the Old School House Gallery here on Cortes Island opened last weekend to lots of interest and questions, but oddly to my view, no one asked me "What is the Spirit world?" I think this would be a most important question to ponder, since how can we be awake in someplace we cannot find? Maybe everyone already knows what this is...certainly I did not when I first experienced shamanic journeying in a Michael Harner style workshop in 1984.
I have come to understand the the Spirit world is this world--nature--with the veils removed--our veils that is. The stones still speak, and do so to us, if only we could hear beyond the noise of our thinking; beyond our veils of science and religion and culture. This drawing is a stone divination; a conversation with an oracle even older than our history with divination cards.

In this Spirit world I have learned that everything is made of vibration. Sometimes I take a drum out into nature, and sit upon the ground, and hum and sing into the painted deer hide while ever so lightly passing my fingertips over the surface. Birds come near, a snake might pause to taste the moving air with its tongue, a breeze ripples the surface of the pond in the same rhythm as my breathing...we are all made of the same sound.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Meaning of the full moon in August

The full moon in August is a special time that feels like the early beginnings of rest and renewal for the earth, and for ourselves. Of course, the beginning of something usually happens because something else has just ended, and this time in August feels the most full of intense activity, which must slow to quiet, even if the slowing is from exhaustion.

The card readings at my Journey Oracle table at the Market here on Cortes Island have reached the peak when no more will fit into the allotted time, the planning for my art show of shamanic journey art and painted drums have gone as far as preparations and setting up will allow, there is no more time to take on art commissions until the leaves are turning color, and harvesting and canning are beginning to reach the limit of freezer space and jars. It must be time to go sailing.

We came back last night from a holiday on the water--where it is very difficult to be in intense activity of the earth-based sort. We participated instead in a Full Moon Regatta which gave us the opportunity to watch sunsets and join in cruising races, visit over potluck suppers,and especially, lie in our bunks in the shimmer of moon light on water and feel the slow rise and fall of Mother Ocean. Even now--if I close my eyes and go very still, I can feel her breathing echo through my water body.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Preparing an art show

I am preparing for an art show of my shamanic drums and journey art, to open at the Old School House Gallery here on Cortes Island August 27th. Almost a year ago, during the Gallery selection process to determine the 2010 calender, the exhibition offer was a compliment and also felt easy to envision. Of course I would have lots of drums by then--or certainly I would have plenty of time to make them. And I remembered that I had a number of graphite and watercolour images in my shamanic journey notebooks that had not yet been seen on the island. This would be easy.

Now the exhibition of my shamanic art is little more than a week away, and I have a sore back and feet from standing over the cutting table, reformatting and mounting pages of journal sketches. There is a line of drums on the swing chair in the living room, hoping for the attention of my altered gaze as I seek their paintings, and a number of half dressed drum sticks that look like soldiers fallen out of dicipline for want of receiving the rest of their uniforms.

I did make a list this morning, because I read somewhere that this helps you feel better, and I do, I think. I managed to cross off five items in the two colums of tasks, so maybe the list is just helping me focus on the details of the tidal wave overwhelming me. I remember Martin Prechtel teaching about how our relationship with spirit is in the details, and this certianly is true. When the idea was general...just an idea--everything seemed easy. Now that it's physical action...effort following effort--everything must be constantly negotiated and adjusted then renegotiated. Just like life. Just like art. Still, it did feel better to make a list.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Where to find shamanic teachings

For me, shamanism means having a direct experience with the more-than-human world. It is being awake to messages coming all our teachers, whether they an oracle speaking through divination cards , the flash of a bird swooping close by that accents a sudden insight, or a shift in the wind just as we are thinking about changing the direction of our thinking.

I had just finished wrapping a shaman drum for mailing and had left the room for a moment. When I returned my cat Meisa had found a perfect new place from which to survey the room, and suddenly, I saw the shamanic teaching she was giving me. Us humans try and control most everything--especially those forces and events we cannot keep within our sight. When we instead let go and surrender to trust, we are given an opportunity to experience what the natural world is constantly showing us: that all will be well when we are able to stay awake to its messages of support and warning.

The interesting thing about these shamanic teachings is that they do not respond to the scientific demand to "show the evidence." They only respond to the felt experience of revelation in the moment. Like this moment of insight from my cat: everything can stand a little weight on top.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

When is art finished?

Sometimes it seems we need an oracle to tell us when to stop working on a piece of art. Whether this be a painted drum or a special sauce for our salad, when do we stop adding and adjusting?

My paintings on deer hide
are created much like I painted the images on the Journey Oracle cards--I gaze into the surface of the dried drum skin and wait for something to appear. I usually look first for the eyes, and suddenly, out of a mottled but unmarked surface, someone is looking back at me. And yet the greatest skill seems to be knowing when to stop working.

Before I painted this drum I call "Keeper," the creature I saw was quite haunting and undefinable. Maybe it was a bear but also maybe a wolf or dog. Each of these has its own power and as I painted the creature came to be a bear to my eyes. And yet I was never satisfied with the eyes in the drum painting. They actually seemed to not be there. As if what I was seeing couldn't see me. This drum was even sold and then came back to me--as I have written about several of my other blogs. So I tried painting the eyes again and the creature became a wolf, yet this didn't fit either. And so in a moment of inspired risk, I took a damp cloth and started wiping off everything. Of course these raw earth pigments stain into the deer skin like a tattoo so only a little of the color moved--and suddenly there was that haunting, undefinable creature again--appearing when I stopped trying to make it appear. I believe all our work with the spirit world has this quality. When we stop trying to make something appear according to our vision--we are able to see with different eyes.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

go on holiday

Sometimes it's good to just take some time away from the Oracle cards and shamanic paintings and journey drums. Let's connect next Wednesday August 4th.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The meaning of rose quartz

I recently mounted a rose quartz inside the cedar ring of this beautiful 14" drum. The delicacy of the mounting seemed to enhance the soft pink crystal structure of the stone and I wondered about the meaning, uses and history of rose quartz. The entry for rose quartz in Love is in the Earth, by Melody, describes its emitting a "calming, cooling energy which can work on all the chakras to gently remove negativity and to reinstate the loving, gentle forces of self-love." This sounds good of course, but how did such qualities come to be associated with this stone? Is this something in its crystal structure or mineral composition?

This search became more interesting as I explored the physical properities of rose quartz and found
that how rose quartz becomes pink is a bit of a mystery. I read that the possibility of a totally new and as yet unknown fibrous mineral could be causing the color in massive rose quartz. I also discovered that "some rose quartz contains microscopic rutile crystals which are oriented at right angles to the c-axis of the rose quartz in three directions, each 120 degrees apart. When viewed at a specific angle with a source of light a star-effect is visible. This is known as asterism. I further discovered that "masks cut from rose quartz were used to beautify skin in ancient Egypt."
I wondered if this use was in any way connected to the finds of crystal skulls; there has even been a rose quartz skull found on the border between Honduras and Guatemala.

And then I discovered this mystery. "Scientifically, there is no reason why Rose Quartz does not occur more commonly in crystals. This remains a scientific mystery. Because quartz crystallizes into well formed crystals in all its other macroscopic varieties. Brazil is also the only source of true well formed crystals of rose quartz. Rose Quartz crystals are thus extremely valuable. I think maybe the metaphysical uses of rose quartz should emphasize its association with mystery. And maybe the new owner of this drum holds a bigger mystery than she realizes, when she plays her new rose quartz drum.