Friday, April 30, 2010

Symbolism of colors

When I paint a journey drum with raw earth pigments, I choose the colors according to their meanings as well as for their appropriateness to the image. In this way each painted drum has a hidden message threaded into the colors of its painted deer skin. These symbolic meanings of natural colors came to me many years ago when I first started building and painting shamanic drums in Nova Scotia at NSCAD.

Yellow Oxide . . . spirit manifest
Mexico Yellow . . . power to remember
Raw Sienna . . . power to know
Red Ochre . . . power to will
Burnt Sienna . . . power to act
Van Dyke Brown . . . power to dare
Raw Umber . . . that which supports
Burnt Umber . . . strength
Cassel Earth . . . power to create
Vegetable Black . . . ancient ancient
Black Iron Oxide . . .power to keep silent
Chromium Oxide . . . life force manifest
Veridian Green . . . power to move
Ultramarine Blue . . . power to change
Cobalt Blue . . . deep knowing
Cobalt Violet . . . precious one
(fire clay) Cobalt . . . power to go
Magnesium Zirconium Silicate . . . desire attained
Zinc White . . . power to protect
Silver Pearl . . . knowing the Mystery
Copper Metallic . . . original wisdom
Gold Metallic . . . power of happiness

This drum painting was made using Mexico yellow and burnt sienna for the seals' bodies and black iron oxide for their eyes. These spirit creatures are swimming in ultramarine blue, among bubble-like areas of natural white on the drum hide, which have been highlighted with silver pearl. How do you understand the message woven from these earth pigments? How would the message of this painted drum be an oracle to guide your journey drumming?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Oracle from a spiny oyster

I had the opportunity yesterday to give a gift to the Chief of the Klahoose First Nation here on Cortes Island. Included within the hand made pouch was a spiny oyster shell, and as I described something about this unusual oyster-like scallop found in the Sea of Cortez, I realized that it is an oracle for all of us who are trying to repair damage from past practices between our communities, and wanting to go forward with positive regard for each other. The inner lip of the spiny oyster is variously colored in red, purple, or orange. The color changes according to the depth at which the oyster is growing. I presented an orange rimed oyster, which is found at depths of more than 90 feet. This means to me that the giving and receiving of this gift is from a very deep place. Like the scallop, the spiny oyster has a rim of eyes along the mantle of the shell, which means to me that this exchange is to honor our seeing with many different views. A spiny oyster fresh from the sea has long spines growing from the outer shell. These are part of the worth of the shell for making bead jewelry. The spines of this gift oyster had all been broken off, which is an oracle of both loss and hope. Something beautiful and complete has been damaged, yet something new and also beautiful can be made with skillful work and attention.

When I read the Journey Oracle cards I do something similar with the images and colors as these make connections to my reason for drawing a card. I start looking for metaphors and analogies, not expecting an answer to obviously and immediately present itself. I asked the Journey Oracle deck, "What is the teaching of this spiny oyster gift?" This is the card I drew. The white-skinned figure is diving down into blue swirls of deep water. Although she is wearing some covering for modesty, she is also vulnerable in her nakedness. A dramatically foreshortened arm holds a hand palm up, as if waiting to receive something into its grasp. Or maybe the hand has just opened to release a gift of movement. The question is provoking. For all my valuing of new friendships and appreciation of the positive change economic growth has brought to the First Nations, "Am I willing to trade places?"

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Find balance with nature

Do you carefully carry a spider outside in a cup for mutual protection, and then throw dirty water on the ferns outside the back door? Do you care about how puppies are raised before coming to pet stores, but not care about how the mussels you had for dinner are raised before coming to market? We seem more and more out of balance with nature. We want to save the forest but don’t ponder our actions when nailing a tree house into living branches. How can we begin to re-tune our awareness to all of life, and not just to those forms of it that impinge or promote our wants?

Everything wants to live. Even when the circumstances are challenging and the potential is minimal. When we remember this deep truth: that everything that is, is alive, then we begin to wake up to finding balance with nature. When we realize that all matter feels we recognize everything is sharing one core consciousness, yet expressing that consciousness each in its own way. Now it becomes easy to acknowledge the rock before sitting on it, or to make an offering to the tree before limbing it to open the view.

The Journey Oracle cards are a door into conscious nature for me, and I often ask to be shown about how or if my actions in the world are in balance with nature. I drew this card when I asked, "How can we get to this other way of seeing that everything is alive?" The card image feels like clarity is emerging after passing through an area of tangled confusion. The phrase is perfect. We know this with our inner truth.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Understanding messages from spirit

There's a significant moment in a phone call and suddenly a bird swoops into the window, narrowly missing a collision. A difficult decision is being pondered while driving and just when you think, “What am I going to do about this?" a cat runs from left to right in front of the car. At the moment an insight is realized, a favorite bowl is knocked from its shelf and breaks.
How do I know if these are messages from the more-than-human world, or just startling coincidences?

When these moments happen to me, there is a fraction of time within the experience when I know with utter certainty that these connections are true and purposeful. I can see with altered awareness, for just a moment, the goodness of fit of the bird or cat or bowl to the situation I am experiencing. To keep this awareness clear, I work at training myself to next ask immediately, "How is this an answer?" I take a deep cleansing breath, without analysis, judgment or doubt, and hold it for a few counts as I ask the answer to come.

There are two ways I practice the skill of being prepared to receive the message. I meditate regularly. My intention is not particularly to follow a Buddhist path, so much as it is to train my awareness to be present without words. I also read the Journey Oracle cards to heighten my ability to be conscious of my first impressions. In this way of using the cards, I am not answering a question so much as I am training my attention. I draw a card with my eyes closed, allow my mind to become quiet, and then look at the card--noticing what first attracts me--without analysis, judgment and doubt. What did you first notice about this card? How is this an answer to what just happened before you began to read these words?