Monday, August 14, 2017

Return to Spider Woman...........and a "Webbed Vision"



“What might we see, how might we act, if  we saw with a webbed vision?
The world seen through a web of relationships…as delicate as spider’s silk,
yet strong enough to hang a bridge on.”
 
Catherine Keller, Theologian
 From a Broken Web 

It's almost my birthday, and I find that my thoughts keep going backwards, following the threads of this journal to where it began in 2007.  And it began with my long time "calling" from "Spider Woman", the Native American Goddess who weaves the great web, who instructs the young and the uninitiated when they are ready to hear and see, whose hand weaves patterns along with the great rug weavers, who as "Thought Woman" creates the world with the stories She tells about the world.  It's time to revisit this work, because for me Spider Woman continually speaks of what we need to re-member.  **

So for any who may so generously find my journal of interest, bear with me as I trace  back some of Spider Woman's threads, seeking  pattern.  The ubiquitous Spider Woman archetype  touched me in many ways for years before I was given an Aldon B. Dow Fellowship at Northwood University in the summer of 2007, rendering an opportunity to more fully pursue my fascination.  Ultimately that fascination became three community arts projects, the first at the Midland Arts Center in Michigan.  

In the ancient stories of the Spider Woman I see a very contemporary vision  of ultimate unity,  on our planet, in our human experience, and in the unfathomable vastness of the universe.**  And just as "Spider Woman" sits in her room "thinking up good stories",  so has she endowed  us as well with the same imaginal creative gifts.  We also create the world with the stories we tell,  we are also the artists whose telling can become manifest.  So what stories are we telling, and why is it crucial to understand those stories?
"Tse Che Nako, Thought Woman the Spider  is sitting in her room thinking up a good story:  I'm telling you the story  She is thinking.".............Keresan Pueblo proverb  

When I began to work with Spider Woman, I tend to think She also began to work with me!  As I pursued my private investigation, trying not to disrespect or co-opt traditions of the Native Peoples of America where She is found in so many places,......I began to find that synchronicities continually followed my fascination. Synchronicities are perhaps the ultimate personal experience of the mysterious entanglement of consciousness.........and for me, they became touchstones along with way. 




Spiders would do strange things, like when a tiny spider dropped a thread from the ceiling and hung over my computer as I was working on my book about the project.  I would meet people who would tell me stories about magical spiders.  People would send me emails out of the blue, or offer me materials unsolicited,  that somehow were perfect for what I was envisioning. 

For example, when I hit the road to travel to Michigan I camped at a hot spring in New Mexico, and visited a nearby petroglyph site with  a man who told me about it  there.  He gave me photographs of spider petroglyphs he had taken there and elsewhere.   I stopped in Winslow, Arizona and noticed a little jewelry shop - and there saw an amazing Navajo necklace depicting Spider Woman as a Dine` weaver with a web behind her.  I stopped in Taos at the Laughing Horse Inn, and discovered a framed photograph of a Dine` weaver beside my door.  I took a photo of it, and later was surprised by the thread-like reflections on the glass of the picture as well, something that inspired me to name this Blog "threads of Spider Woman".

One of the funniest (and I am  certain Spider Woman has a great sense of humor) occurred when I stopped for coffee on my way to the second Community Arts Project at the Creative Spirit Center in Midland in 2008 (in collaboration with artist  Kathy Space).  She had created a wall of "Icons" with some 30 participants, each holding a "thread" representing inter-dependancy that went around the walls and finally out the door, representing the "threads" that connect us to everything.  It was only when I was pulling away that I noticed where I had parked!




I love  "on the road" synchronicities,  those that occur in that most liminal space of "being neither here nor there" but in transit. I guess that is my own kind of "moving meditation".   The story below is one of those synchronicities,   and occurred a few weeks after I completed my "Spider Woman's Hands" Show and community project at the Midland Arts Center in Michigan.  I went to Paducah, Kentucky on my way back home, because I was curious about the arts community developing there, and chanced to notice that there was a Native American historical site very close to Paducah, which inspired me to stop there on the way out of town.   And this is what I was doing a decade ago

August 15, 2007

"Sun Circle" and "Spider Woman's Cross" on gourd
(and "the threads" reflections  the glass case seems to have also created in the picture)

I have always felt that my imagination is most open to the ubiquitous, syncronistic voice of the Divine when I'm on the road. In other words, like many Americans who grew up in cars (and were probably conceived in one as well), I do my best thinking when I'm behind the wheelrr. Travelling puts me into the creative liminal state of "between"- free from all the demands and paradigms that "destinations" impose ( the people, duties, reality tunnels, and potent unconscious imprints that "fix" the mind into "place"). Travelling is one of the ways I can hear the "conversation" ...... it turns down the noise for me.

I went to Paducah, Kentucky, on a lovely bright day full of vast green oaks, and later, heading south, decided to take a detour and visit Wicklife Mounds, an archaeological site that was once the home of a tribe of prehistoric Mississippian Native Americans. Going back as far as 1,000 years, these people built ceremonial areas, chief's houses, and burial houses on earth pyramids and stepped rectangular mounds. Over time, the mounds grew in elevation as houses were destroyed and rebuilt. Art, pottery, and religious and tribal iconography belonging to these diverse peoples are found throughout the Southeast, with iconic associations as far as Central Mexico, the Southwest and the Gulf of California, and as far north as Canada.

I didn't expect to find Spider Woman everywhere! But there She was!  I guess I'm not really surprised though - the first thing I encountered as I walked into the little visitor's center was the "Spider Gorget" above. Later, I thought of my "Spider Woman's Hands" piece when I saw the ubiquitous "Hand with Eye", also found on ceremonial jewelry (gorgets made from shells), and pottery.


No one really knows the specific meanings of these symbols to the peoples who once lived, warred and traded throughout the Southeast. Yet within them, I personally find a continuing beauty, a familiarity, a continuing trail. The cross is ubiquitous, the symbol of the balance and ultimate unity of the the 4 directions. The Sun Circle is also completely ubiquitous. I find it interesting that the cross is found on the back of Spider in their (presumably) ceremonial gorgets - perhaps why, when it occurs in Navajo rugs (much later and among a very different people who migrated into the South West) it's still called "Spider Woman's Cross". Yet here as well as in the religious symbolism of the peoples of the South West, it seems that Spider is associated with the Earth Mother, and with creation.


To me, the "Spider Gorget" will always be profound. At the center is the weaver "Tse Che Nako", "Thought Woman" to the Keresan Pueblo peoples. Spider, spinning the world into being with her imagination, in partnership with the illumination of the Sun, spinning and weaving all things together with her "silky essence". From her very own body, from her own substance, she spins and creates.

The cross represents (to me) divine balance within an ever expanding and infinitely interconnected web of life. The Hand with Eye may represent the Divine manifestation, as well as consciousness itself.

I was amazed to see objects with this Hand in circles (and I think of my own obsession with "Spider Woman's Hands". Here is a quote from an anthropologist who studied Zuni petroglyphs in the South West, among them the occurrence of "hand" symbols. (I apologize for the use of "primitives" in the description. A more ethnocentric era.).

".......when hands were so at one with the mind that they really formed a part of it.......to reconstitute the primitives' mentality, he (Cushing, in the 1880's) had to rediscover the movements of their hands, movements in which their language and their thought were inseparably united.......the Zuni who did not speak without his hands did not think without them either." 1And so the Hand with Eye is a symbol of active consciousness (?) Perhaps, to create (weave) with active intention.  Here's another little synchronicity I found in the course of following this thread, one that is a kind of personal poetic, as I am always fascinated with words and their origins. "Wickliffe" might become "Wick - life", which I have little doubt is it's origin. "Wick", from which we get "wicker ware", "wicca", "witch" and "wick" as in the wick of a candle (this association is with an English word that meant both "weave" and "alive").. ...... so, I'll take WICKLIFFE to mean "Weaving Life" with a double affirmative!

What really matters is the necessity, profoundly so now, to understand that we are all intimately interconnected, entrained, entangled, and woven together into World, interconnected within the processes of manifestation. We absolutely must develop a webbed vision now. And that's what artists can do, provide potent and lasting vision.


Great Mother
Thank you for this day, My life,
My strand on the Web,
The vibration it makes.
Keep me in tune, In harmony
With your purpose.
Let me serve.
Xia

*Here's a lovely article I found by an astrologer about Spider Woman - 
http://wisewomaninwoods.blog.ca/2008/03/05/spirituality-love-spider-woman-s-web-3819808


1 Levy-Bruhl 1985: from ROCK ART SYMBOLS OF THE GREATER SOUTHWEST, Alex Patterson, Johnson Books, Boulder, Colorado.

**
http://www.filmsforaction.org/watch/planetary-2015/

"We are in the midst of a global crisis of perspective. We have forgotten the undeniable truth that everything is connected. PLANETARY is a provocative and breathtaking wakeup call, a cross continental, cinematic journey, that explores our cosmic origins and our future as a species."



Thursday, August 3, 2017

Remembering "The Waters of the World Ritual" at the Goddess Conference


"We welcome you to Avalon
Thank you for bringing the Waters of your lands.
Together we'll make a great medicine of love."

I felt like looking back to my 2011 Pilgrimage to Avalon, to the Sacred Wells, and participation in the Goddess Conference there.   I shall never forget that time. 

August 3, 2011:

The Goddess Conference here at Glastonbury ended yesterday with some beautiful rituals, and I find myself feeling at a loss to write it all, but I'll try.  Having done week long ritual cycles in the past, as well as leading a few around the work of the mask, I've experienced the kind of "group mind" or entrainment that happens when one works together in sacred space and "mythic mind".  That sounds pretty lame and academic - forgive me.

https://youtu.be/Z_HnxtoaWXo



Imagine gathering the first day in groups of people who come from different parts of the world - in my case, from the "west".   We have all brought water from our homes, and speaking of this, we pour our water into a vessel, which later will become added to a vessel for all participants. As an opening ceremony, each group approaches the Priestesses of Avalon in a barge, "rowing" to share our waters to the magic isle.  This water will be joined with rituals at the "holy wells of Avalon", the Chalice Well and the White Spring.  Later small vials of this charged, healing, universal "water of the well, water of the world" are given to each of us to carry back, and we will all make a procession with our banners through the streets of Glastonbury to the river (which once was a great lake, the legendary home of the Lady of the Lake) to pour some of this water into the flowing waters.

Quite a wonderful sight, to see so many blue clad, singing women and men gathered waist high in the stream, with our vessels of water, and a woven mermaid!  Then a sharing of fruit, to remind all that the Goddess gives to us the fruits of the Earth, always, to share, and to receive.

The closing ceremony included a "give away" where all present exchanged gifts.  And I leave with my heart open, and my vials of water to share with other waters, and to remember.

You know, I honestly feel rather speechless - moved, changed by this experience, the ceremony, the people, the place.   The work is about the Goddess, and it is collective, and a field opens that is also deeply personal and transformative.  A "mystery".  One sees with mythic eyes, with archetypal vision, and waking life becomes a revelation.  For example,  at the river yesterday, I picked a branch of elderberries, finding them beautiful, and wanting to add them to the "fruits" being shared, but decided it wasn't a good idea.  I wasn't even sure they were edible.  Some seeing me with them in my hand told me that they were very magical, connected to the Crone and the Goddesses of the underworld.  That's why they were called "elderberry".  She also said they made medicine from them, and Elderberry wine.

I carried those darkly beautiful berries all the way back, thinking as I returned (wet) from the river, and pouring our waters into the worlds waters thus, about my soon to be 62nd birthday.  I'll be eligible for early retirement now.  I'm entering old age, and I don't know what it means - it's this cycle of my life now.  Sometimes, to be honest, I feel very sad and lonely in the midst of it all.  Elderberries, bearing elderberries from the river...............  Crone medicine.

When I got to the cafe at the Assembly Hall, gathering for the closing rituals, the cook was saying to someone "Oh, someone left a nice bottle of elderberry wine here last night.  Potent stuff.  "(!) 

I was amazed. since I was standing there with the same berries in my hand - so I asked her if I could try it!

And so I sat, waiting for the "gifting ceremony", with a nice glass of (like she said, potent stuff!) elderberry wine in my hand, feeling awed, and as if, on top if it all, I had some very magical "medicine" that had just been gifted to me, even before the "gifting ceremony" had begun.  Elderberry wine.  Healing tonic....... gifts of the crone goddess, potency.


It works that way. The huge generosity of world, and when people come together in love and ritual.........when we forgive, love, and join the waters.........

At the closing, white veils were drawn, the "mists of Avalon", and we left for homelands, bearing our vials of love, and "holy-wholly" water. From the Well of the Lady, the Well of becoming...........

Speechless.

Lammas blessings to all.







Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Saga


…the word saga has been translated out of its original meaning, which was ‘She-Who-Speaks,’ that is, an oracular priestess, such as were formerly associated with sacred poetry. The literal meaning of saga was ‘female sage.’ The written sagas of Scandinavia were originally sacred histories kept by female sagas or ‘sayers,’ who knew how to write them in runic script."
”Barbara G. Walker, The Crone: Woman of Age, Wisdom, and Power  **
Travelling across the country this summer gave me a lot of time to think about things as the road rolled ahead of me, the terrain changing as I went.  Sometimes I think of my life like that, a road that unfolds before me and behind me, with various pit stops along the way.  As I age I increasingly find there is no longer anywhere to "get to", no where I am particularly rushing toward or away from.  The road has all kinds of eddies and side roads and chance encounters, and increasingly, that's what I notice and savor.   This summer I did, inspite of many difficulties that came up, a lot of internal healing, an intention I see I began the trip with.  Ask and ye shall receive.....but that's another story........what I did do this summer was give myself a personal "rite of passage".  I am a Saga now.

I've never liked the term "Crone" as it's used to speak of women in the third phase of life, although I like, of course, the meanings that have been re-associated with it as women seek to reclaim feminine power  (Maiden, Mother, Crone).  But part of my dislike of the word has to do with the meanings that were associated with it in the past. 

Here's what wikipedia has to say about the word:
"The crone is a stock character in folklore and fairy tale, an old woman who is usually disagreeable, malicious, or sinister in manner, often with magical or supernatural associations that can make her either helpful or obstructing. She is marginalized by her exclusion from the reproductive cycle, and her proximity to death places her in contact with occult wisdom. As a character type, the crone shares characteristics with the hag.  The word "crone" is a less common synonym for "old woman," and is more likely to appear in reference to traditional narratives than in contemporary everyday usage.The word became further specialized as the third aspect of the Triple Goddess popularized by Robert Graves and subsequently in some forms of neopaganism."  
Wikipedia/Crone
"Saga" is a Scandinavian word that means "a long, ancestral or heroic story".  I've been thinking that I prefer to use this word to "crone".  A long, wise story, woven into the threads of many stories.  I like that much better.  It re-empowers the grandmothers, the old women who, in a patriarchal and monetary culture that defines a woman's worth by her beauty and sexual appeal...........it defines old women for what their real value really is:  people who've lived long lives,  who know things, who have accomplished things, who have wisdom and depth.  

According to mythologist Barbara Walker, Saga also means "She Who Speaks". Similar to the masculine "Sage", a Saga is a wise old woman, a female mentor and teacher. Similar, but not, to my mind, quite the same in it's meanings, and that is because of the context of "story" that imbues the word and its origins.   She-Who-Speaks is the potent teller of story, because she embodies a long, interwoven, generational, story - a Saga.  In pre-literate cultures, the Saga and the Sage held a thread that was woven through many lives into the past, and her/his long  memory was the precious gift that kept the stories and myths that comprised the knowledge of a people  alive.  

So the next time I attend a "croning"  party for a woman, I'll say:  "You've become a Saga".