Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Creative Every Day Challenge 2009

Well, I've decided to join in on this one, too, over at Leah's Creative Every Day blog. This one is a little looser than the Art Every Day Month challenge which I participated in during November, with creativity being defined pretty broadly. I am, however, going to attempt to be fairly literal about it (though I will of course sooner or later succumb to the inevitable head cold or bout of flu) and try to make something every day.

I suspect at times I will be scrounging for something to call "creative;" which, it occurs to me, might actually be a good thing. I discount so much of what I do, and if I have to start acknowledging the odd doodle, or sewing project, or Sims' little dresses, or God forbid, writing, as creative, as Art, I may just one of these days get it through my fool head that it is all good, all worthwhile, and all has meaning.

I've been working on the One Hundred Toys Project again since the holidays have slowed down a bit, though I still don't have anything finished enough to post just yet. The toys will be a big part of being Creative Every Day, I'm sure.

I plan to post about this (with pictures, hopefully) a couple times a week rather than every single day (because that is just too much of a pain in the a*s); so stay tuned. Anyone who'd like to join in, you can sign up at Leah's blog.

New Fulgora Article at OGOD

I've just uploaded a new article about Fulgora, the Roman Lightning Goddess. It's really quite remarkably long for a Goddess for Whom we only have Her name; I guess I do tend to natter on. But it does take a fun side-track into the Etruscan origins of haruspicy and how lightning was read as an omen.

I wrote this because I got an email from someone lamenting the fact that they could only find a single sentence about Fulgora anywhere, and wondering if I might know more information; and I was happy to oblige. So, as I said on the OGOD Roman index page, I'd like to remind folks that if you have a request for an article about an obscure Roman Goddess, just ask. For now, remember, obscure, (i.e. not Diana or Venus) and Roman (not Romano-Celtic, as I haven't gotten that far.)

Oh, and one more thing. Here's sending a big fat raspberry to Saint Augustine!


Saturday, December 27, 2008

Goddess of the Week

This week's Goddess is Kamrusepas, the Hittite Goddess of Magic and Healing.

Which struck me as funny, as I'd just received a book called Hittite Myths, by Harry A. Hoffner, Jr. for that holiday the other day; and so I'd just been reading about Her and Her role in Hittite mythology.

The Hittite Empire ruled central Anatolia (roughly modern-day Turkey) from about 1600 to 1200 B.C.E., their capital Hattusa finally being destroyed around 1170 B.C.E. in that wave of unrest commonly blamed on the so-called Sea Peoples (said unrest including the fall of Troy).

The Hittite religion was one that had no problem at all incorporating the Deities of surrounding cultures into its own, which means Goddesses like the Babylonian Ereshkigal and Ishtar (called Shauska by the Hittites) found their way into Hittite mythology. The Hittites called their Deities "The Thousand Gods," which sounds about right considering that we presently know more than eight hundred of Their names. (The Hittite chapter promises to be a long one in the Obscure Goddess Online Directory).

The best known tale of Kamrusepas involves Her role in helping the agriculture God Telipinu to cheer up and be brought back into the fold.

One morning Telipinu got up on the wrong side of the bed, the Hittite version of that being literally that He put His right shoe on His left foot, and His left shoe on His right. Telpinu stormed off to the moors, leaving the steppes barren. Without Him, nothing grew, neither woman nor animal became pregnant, those who were already pregnant were not able to give birth, and the land was gripped in a famine.

Faced with this terrible situation, the Gods searched for Telipinu but could not find Him. Then the Sun God sent an eagle; no luck. The Storm God Himself looked; but He had no luck either. Finally Hannahanna, the old Mother Goddess (Her name means "Grandmother Grandmother") sent a bee, though the Storm God didn't think much of the idea and told Her so. The little bee, however, did locate Telipinu, who was deep in sleep; the bee's method of waking the God, however, by stinging Him on His hands and feet, shockingly did not much improve Telipinu's mood. When He returned to the Gods then He was even angrier than before, and scattered thunder and lightning before Him.

But then Kamrusepas came, and removed His anger, wrath, and sullenness by performing an elaborate ritual of banishing and cleansing. She commanded Telipinu's anger to become sterile, like malt; to be extinguished, as fire; to be let go, as water drains out a pipe and does not flow back uphill; to be pulled from Him, as the hawthorn tree pulls tufts of fur from oxen and sheep who pass under it; and finally, to descend into the Dark Earth and never come back, just as the Dead do not return.

This worked and Telipinu came back to His senses; and the world returned to fruitfulness.

In another (fragmentary) myth, Kamrusepas removed illness by performing the "spell of the fire," apparently by transferring the illness to some wheat, then burning it so the illness is "overcome" by both heaven and the Dark Earth.

In the myths Kamrusupas is a powerful Goddess Who heals Telipinu after the efforts of the other Gods' fail. When I first heard about Her, it was through one line in Goddesses in World Mythology (by Martha Ann and Dorothy Myers Imel), which states that She is a healing Goddess Who "can cure paralysis by 'loosening that which is bound.'" Hence my depiction of Her teasing out Her braid, in parallel with the way Witches are said to be more powerful when our hair is unbound. I have not been able to find the original reference to this power, though I suspect it has something to do with the myth of Hahhimas, or Frost personified, Who goes through the land inflicting paralysis and causing things to stop or become stuck. (The version in my new Hittite Myths book does not mention Her in the context of this story.)

At any rate Kamrusepas is a healer and powerful worker of magic. If indeed it is She Who loosens the paralysis of winter, Who thaws Frost out of existence with Her warmth, Her appearance just after the Winter Solstice would seem to be a little early, in this part of the world anyway where Winter has just begun. But perhaps She is part of the message that though the northern part of the Earth is gripped in cold and will be for some time, the Sun is now daily strengthening.

In many cultures this week marks the last week of the year, a natural time to take stock of where we have been in the past and where we wish to go in the future. She may also be calling for us to banish old grudges or old anger, or to prepare and purify ourselves for the new year, so that we truly can make a fresh start.

When I asked Her what She had to say to the world She said:

Focus on healing yourselves. You cannot expect to be able to heal others if you are not yourself healthy. You have a duty to attend to yourself first. Find the root of true health for yourself, what it looks like to you; do not get caught up in superficial aspects of "health." Take care of yourself now, and take care of yourself well.

I'd be tempted to interpret that as a warning against the superficial nature of most New Year's resolutions: I think She is saying that it is not healthy to, for example, resolve to lose weight while ignoring that one is not eating properly. A holistic approach to the foundations of our own health and our own healing is what is necessary.

What do you think?

For more information on Kamrusepas, go here.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Happy Holidays

I suppose I should have warned y'all that I was going to be away for several days last week, hence no Goddess of the Week last Saturday. I do apologize, and the feature will resume tomorrow night.

In the meantime, though, Happy Yule, Winter Solstice, Summer Solstice, Litha, Opalia, Saturnalia, Holy Day of Epona, Birthday of Mithras/Sol Invictus, Alban Arthan, Alban Heruin/Hefin/Hefyn, Holy Day of Dionysos, Midsummer and its Eve, Angeronalia or Divalia, Modranicht, and/or Larentalia, and anything else I may have left out.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Minoan Designs Up at Cat and Cauldron

Here's the link. I've uploaded all five (so far) of the new Minoan designs onto journals, tile products, prints, t-shirts, sweatshirts, and a whole lot more I know I'm not remembering. (I sat down the other night trying to figure out how many products I carry in my store, by multiplying the number of designs times the number of products, and came up with nearly a thousand. Except, as it was shortly pointed out to me, I did the math wrong and forgot to carry a zero: actually, it's around ten thousand products. Eeek! And no wonder it's taking me a while to organize!)

Anyway, enjoy! They look really good, especially on the journals, if I do say so myself.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Saturday Cat-Goddess Blogging

After looking up the Sekhmet entry in The Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt (edited by Helen Strudwick), as research for this week's Goddess of the Week column, I flipped to the next page, that of the Cat-Goddess Bastet, Who is associated with Sekhmet, I assume by way of Them both being cats.

And not a moment later, the inevitable:

We humans are never to forget that cats were once worshiped as Gods.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Goddess of the Week

This week's Goddess is Sekhmet, the powerful Egyptian Fire and Sun Goddess. She is the bringer of plague and illness, and is associated with war and battle, helping the King to overthrow his enemies. She is generally shown as a woman with the head of a lioness, Who wears the Sun-disk as headdress.

The usual story told of Sekhmet is rather a dark one. The Sun-God Re, the elderly King of the Gods, discovered that humankind was plotting to overthrow Him. In anger at our ingratitude, He sent His daughter Sekhmet, described as His Eye, to punish us. But Sekhmet brought a little too much enthusiasm to Her job, and ended up on a killing spree which threatened to wipe out the entire human race. Seeing this Re regretted His anger, but Sekhmet would not stop. So He and the other Gods caused a vast quantity of beer to be brewed, which was then colored with red ochre (or pomegranate juice, depending on the version), and used to flood a field. Sekhmet, on seeing this, mistook it for blood, and drank it all down in Her frenzy. But it was beer, after all, and soon enough She passed out, dead drunk.

When She woke She was in a much better mood, and was no longer interested in killing. We humans were saved.

Her name means "She Who is Powerful," and She is considered ferocious and fierce, even sometimes being said to breathe fire. She was associated in time with many other Goddesses including Bastet the Cat-Goddess, Wadjet the Cobra-Goddess and protector of the Pharoah, Mut the Vulture and Mother Goddess, as well as the Great Goddess Hathor. In some versions of the above tale it is Hathor Who goes on the killing spree to wipe out humankind; or She starts out as Hathor, Who then becomes Sekhmet in Her wrath (much like Parvati's anger gives rise to Kali in Hindu myth).

But in Her role as bringer of plague and illness (presumably through the association of heat and fever), Sekhmet could also be regarded as a healer. A lot of times books on mythology will call both roles "paradoxical," though it has always made intuitive sense to me. A Goddess Who can bring illness is naturally an expert on it, I'd think, and therefore knows how to cure it as well, if, that is, one is able to get Her on your side. So the ancient Egyptians crafted many rituals with the idea of appeasing Her and petitioning Her for healing, and in time the title "Priest of Sekhmet" came to mean "doctor."

This week, wherever you are on the globe, we are headed towards a Solstice, the time when the sun "stands still" at either its highest or lowest position on the horizon. Since Sekhmet represents the heat and height of the Sun I'm going to assume primarily we are talking about the Summer Solstice which is less than two weeks away for those south of the equator, when the Sun is at its greatest glory. But this is also the time when the possibility of damage from the Sun is greatest, and given Sekhmet's murderous purity of intent, perhaps this is a bit of a warning about the kind of dangers such single-minded focus can bring.

For those of us in the north, this could be a reminder to have faith that the Sun will return, and will in its proper time and season once again appear strong and hot. But remember that both Solstices happen simultaneously on this Earth, both the height and the depth, the zenith and the nadir, and that there is always the seed of one within the other: even within the dark there is always light.

As there is always dark within the light, as the bloodthirsty aspects of Sekhmet's tale show.

As for what She thinks, I'm a little afraid to ask, honestly. But here goes: Lady, what do You have to say to us at this time, we humans You once tried to destroy?

Destruction is necessary. Sometimes too much light will take the place of "dark." It is not correct to assume that death is always dark. For one can die of too much light.

I am anger and wrath, taken far. Too far? I do not think so, still, though I was persuaded to desist. What have humans been on this earth but a plague? And I know how to cure plagues, or staunch the bleeding. Cauterize the wound, with fire.

Well now, I have to admit I don't much like the sound of that, and feel rather like the mouse before the lioness. We had best prove ourselves useful, and quick.

But then something else occurs to me. What else is the idea that there is light within the dark as there is dark within the light? Wholeness. And that is the root of healing, no?

What do you think?

To read more about Sekhmet, go here.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Well Would You Look At That?

Here's a little something else on the nature of inspiration.

I did this set of little bitty paintings a couple months ago, just for myself, and purely for fun. They are, in fact, meant to be used in a game--The Sims, that game where you play God/dess and make little people with little lives, though the part I like best is making the little houses with the little furniture. See, I have this dream of making a completely furnished Labyrinth, with frescoes and Horns of Consecration and chairs and dining room tables all in the ancient style. (Oh, what fun!)

But I had just thought of it all as fluff, though it did look nice in the game (though I'm still having problems converting my watercolors to wallpapers):

And this led me to do the Minoan series of little artworks, in the same style, and really, the same color scheme and technique. See how that works?

It is all important. It is all art.

The One Hundred Somethings Project

Last night, after I left a comment over on Leah's Creative Every Day site updating my last two Art Every Day Month entries, I followed some of the links other participants had posted and ended up at mousetales, home of the lovely Miss Rosie Posie; and from there to the marvelous Tollipop, where I came across an open invitation to Make One Hundred Somethings.

Hmmmm, I thought. That is my kind of project.

But what clinched it was going from there to FairieMoon's version of it, in which she is making one hundred dresses for her doll Hitty Dauphine.

And when I saw those doll's dresses my heart just leapt. Oh what fun that would be! O wouldn't that be wonderful! And so I contemplated what one hundred Somethings I could make.

But then the tedious, overly serious Grown Up, the Artist, capital A, in me, the judgemental-yet-defensive Critic started in; and she subtly, and ever-so-reasonably started swapping out the idea of one hundred dolls' dresses for more serious, Artsy, Religious things, saying things like, Well, how about something like writing one hundred meditations? Oh and hint, one hundred Somethings should fit a Tarot deck inside of it quite nicely actually; then there are one hundred Gods you should be drawing, or, really, one hundred descriptions of Goddesses, since aren't you supposed to be writing a Book you useless procrastinator, you shiftless dreamer you? You should be doing one hundred Useful Somethings, one hundred High Art Somethings; why don't you take this as an opportunity to get your sad, sorry butt in gear?

And so I felt rather bad, and guilty, and all those other useless, harmful, judgemental things that actively stop creativity; but then I remembered something.

When your heart leaps at an idea, when you are so taken with something you longingly exclaim What fun! O! How I wish I could do that! That would be so marvelous!

That is the surest sign you must. For that is your soul speaking.

So, I will honor Inspiration, and the Muse.

Though it won't be one hundred dresses, I don't think. I have too many ideas for things, fun things, like the things I made when I was a child, to restrict it to that. So I'll open it up a bit more: I will make one hundred toys. That will include dolls, dolls' dresses, critters, and who knows what else; perhaps I shall even be inspired to make something in wood. (This may, also, indicate the beginning of an Etsy shop, so stay tuned.)

I don't know how long it will take me, probably some time, at least a year. But it is my kind of project. You may have noticed that I work well on long projects made up of small individual parts; my brain is wired in series, I guess (har har). Goddess Oracle cards, God cards, Tarot, even the Obscure Goddess Online Directory are all of that ilk.

I don't know where it will take me, and this is a good thing. I expect it will evolve and do its own thing. That is another wonderful thing about doing art in a series: through repetition of a theme one works through habits and prejudices about what one thinks things should look like, if only because one simply gets bored.

At any rate, by this time next year I should be more than qualified for a job at the North Pole with the Elves.

(Though, you don't think Santa would have a problem with my being Pagan, do you? I mean he is Saint Klaus, after all. I would assume, given his reputation for being the generous sort, and his (His?) ancient ties to Yule customs, he'd be an equal opportunity employer, right?)

Anyway, I do know that I have felt stuck in a rut lately, artistically. And perhaps I have forgotten how to have fun with my art. Before I fell into painting Goddesses, I was focussed on children's books, mostly of the fairy-tale princess sort. Not, really, that big a leap, stylistically, or thematically, when you think about it. But a lot more fun. I think that is what I really need now.

Minoans Four And Five

Well here are my last couple entries for Art Every Day Month, two more in the Minoan style. I like the bottom one, of stylised ivy, better than the top one, I think, which is a little too heavy on the narrative, as I'm leaning a little more towards the abstract on these, which is uncharacteristic of me, and probably A Good Sign. That second one looks fairly Dr. Seussian, with the red-and-black stripey bits and the eyeball-on-a-stalk, don't you think?

I had meant to do them the first week of December, but I was away for a few days, and when I got back the Cat needed attention (she is fine now, no worries), so I'm just getting to it now.

I really like these; I'd be interested to see just how far I can go with such a limited palette. And I have to say, conventional wisdom is correct, at least in this experience, when they say it takes three weeks to break (or make) a habit; for I seem to have gotten the hang of making some art, if not every day, at least more frequently than I used to. So for that I am profoundly grateful. Thank you, Leah.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

And The Winner Is...


She has won the little black fuzzy knit-and-calico squashed-Yeti-cat-thing. Congrats! (Or rather, I'm so sorry, please accept my most sincere condolences.)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Goddess of the Week

I shuffled, honest!

It would seem that last week's energy is sticking around for another week, and that we are being called upon to dig deeper into Blodeuwedd's myth.

As I said in last week's post, in the Welsh tale, Blodeuwedd was created from flowers to be the wife of Lleu after His mother Arianrhod set a curse on Him, saying He would never have a wife from any race of the earth. But Blodeuwedd betrayed Him, and helped to cause His death (or His rebirth, anyway); and as punishment She was changed into an owl.

Now, that She was transformed into an owl means the owl was Hers anyway; and a Welsh name for the owl is Her name, blodeuwedd, which means "Face Like A Flower." In another Welsh legend, Culhwch and Olwen, King Arthur asks various old animals for help, in seeking the lost youth Mabon son of Modron; but none of the animals know his whereabouts, and so each brings him to an animal who is older and wiser still. The Owl of Cwn Calwyd is the third of the animals Arthur asks for information, and she refers him to the Eagle of Gwernabwy, "the oldest creature in the world." (Not that he knows either; in the end it is the Salmon of Llyn Llyw, who had once dragged the Eagle "down into the depths" who does know where Mabon is.)

So the owl is associated in Welsh legend with great age as well as great knowledge, both of which link it with the Crone; and in Scotland, another Celtic country, the owl is known as cailleach oidhche, the Old Hag of the Night. This is the wisdom of the dark, the night; and of winter, too, as the Cailleach is also the name of a constellation of Celtic Goddesses Who personify that season.

Perhaps we are being asked to look into the darkness, now, into the winter and the cold, and to see the wisdom and the beauty there. This is the time that the darkness gets deeper and deeper (in the northern lands, anyway). This is the time also that it is traditional to celebrate, with great festivals, joy, mirth, and the hanging of lights; but the last couple of years these traditions have felt to me to be based, somewhat, in denial of the dark. (Or faith, perhaps, in the light returning.) I think what this card is saying is that we do need to sit with this dark and acknowledge it, for a spell, at least. It will turn soon enough.

So I asked Her, What do we have to learn from You this week? And She said:

I am the turning of the earth. I am the moving balance. I am the force of spring which follows autumn which follows spring which follows autumn. I am the balance and the contrast. I am the in-between. The realms of neither this nor that, or both this and that, are mine. The black night and the white snow both. I am the black in the white and the white in the black; nothing is purely one or the other, ever. Winter descends. You descend. All is white.

And rebirth also is mine, though the circumstances may seem unlikely.

Why am I here again this week?

Because I have not yet left.

Well, what do you think?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Win The Little Black Fuzzy Yeti, er, Cat, er, Thing Contest

Remember this guy? I'm making it official. Enter your name in comments with some way to contact you (if you don't have a blog I can reach you through) if you'd like a chance to win him, er, her, er, it. (Evn and ked'a you're already entered, since you said so earlier. Unless you were kidding, or humoring me, or something; if so let me know.)

I'll run it for a week, so I'll close the entries on the ninth or so and draw on the tenth. Sound good?