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?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Minoan Three

Another one in the series, this one of I think a palm tree surrounded by seaweed, which I guess makes it underwater. Not something one might normally assume to find in nature, until, that is, one considers that palm wood does not float.

Though it's the last day of the month I won't be done with Art Every Day Month until next week, as I started late and would like to do it for thirty days. So I'll keep on keepin' on, I guess.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Goddess of the Week

This week's Goddess is Blodeuwedd.

She is from Welsh legend, though by the time it was written down She was no longer called a Goddess; and She is generally considered a Maiden aspect of the Goddess, though I always think of Her as Crone.

Maiden, probably, because in the legend She was created out of three (or nine, if you're Robert Graves) blossoms, oak, meadowsweet, and broom, to be the wife of Lleu Llaw Gyffes, Who was cursed by His mother Arianrhod to never find a wife of any race of the earth. So Lleu's kin, the magicians Gwydion and Math, who had always looked after Him (Gwydion may well have been His father) created Blodeuwedd from magic and flowers; and they gave Her to Lleu for His wife.

Not too long into the marriage Lleu went away for a time; and a passing hunter caught Blodeuwedd's eye. Together they plotted Lleu's death, which given the protections placed on Him could only be of a highly unusual kind; but in due time all the conditions were met and Lleu was killed, or rather, He was injured and transformed into an eagle.

He was later found and brought back to health by Gwydion and Math; and Blodeuwedd was punished by being transformed into an owl.

Her name means "Face of Flowers," which is also a Welsh term for the owl.

Now, Blodeuwedd's tale is usually seen as one of betrayal, and She is characterized as fickle and untrustworthy; but I've always seen Her as simply asserting Her own agency and acting as Her own person. Remember, She was created as a wife, a doll, a pretty face; and no one bothered to consider if She might, after all, have an opinion on the situation.

I tend to read this card, then, as a call for each of us to acknowledge our true desires and needs, and then look at our surroundings and circumstances with open eyes. Are our needs truly being met? How have we fit ourselves into other people's ideas of us? In what ways have others decided the course of our lives?

The holiday season is unfortunately a time of great stress for many people; and it can be especially stressful visiting with family if one doesn't really get along with them, or if they trigger old unhealthy patterns.

You know what, though? Seriously, honestly, you don't have to. You have the right to say no to the whole thing. Your sanity and health are your call, and you have the right to avoid stressful situations. You can stay home and create your own tradition. Really. I give you permission.

When I asked Her what She had to say, She said:

I am ancient and I am myself. I am the young face of the ancient Goddess, and no one created me but me. Though my age always shows itself in the end. If you respect me and honor the cycles of the year, you shall have nothing to fear from me, not at all, we are allies; but should you seek to diminish or control me, or dismiss my strength and power, we shall be enemies. And you shall not win.

My advice? Pay attention. Give respect where it is due. We crones do not like the disrespectful, and will make no bones about showing our displeasure. So take heed. Treat all beings with respect, old women and pretty young girls alike. We are powerful, though we are not thought of as such.

Remember: you also are both young and ancient, and no one created you but you.

What does She say to you this week?

To read more about Her, go here; to read Her tale, here.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Minoan Two

Another in the same style, this time taking a few different elements from various Minoan jars and combining them. I'm really liking the colors.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Labyrinth Four

I've been on a bit of a Minoan/Mykenaean kick lately, and have been working my way through my local library's copies of Arthur Evan's The Palace of Minos at Knossos, which is in like a million volumes; I'm on the second one (part two). So I have been looking at these really lovely, crisp pen-and-ink drawings of artifacts, as well as the artifacts themselves a lot lately. This design, the bull's head and double axe, is straight from a Late Minoan jar. I rather like it, and the colors, which I chose in imitation of Minoan frescoes; though next time I think I'll use different paper. It's this matboard I have that is fine for watercolor or colored pencil, but a little too fibrous and linty for pen and ink, which scratches up the surface a bit too much.

In the process of doing this I had to clean out my pens, and for a while there could not find the special ink that goes in them; but in looking, I found a whole bunch of little teeny canvases I bought once upon a time, and pulled them out. Seriously, they're itty-bitty, four by five inches (though not as small as that drawing above, the original of which is two by three inches).

But I'm not that happy with what I came up with:

I think the proper word is meh. It started out quite promising, but the more I worked on it the less I liked it, and ended up painting over it with some white.

So though I liked that first one, altogether I'd say it was kind of a frustrating experience. I'm in some kind of transitional phase, art-wise, I think right now; and though I know the old way of doing things isn't really serving me anymore, I've no idea what the new way will be like, and I really feel like I am blundering about in the dark. More reason, I suppose, to keep at the Labyrinth imagery.

Also, and I hadn't applied this to my situation, both labrys (double axe) and bull's head are symbols of rebirth.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Labyrinth Three

This entry for Art Every Day Month is a more interactive sort than usual. I had this idea the other day, sparked by something Pietra said in one of the earlier comments about using the labyrinth as a meditative image. So I did up a simple outline, in a couple sizes to share with everyone.

The idea being that you, the readers of this blog, can print out the jpg version, or download the psd version; then color it in as a meditation, either with physical media of your choice or through an art program like Photoshop. When I did that first labyrinth, I found the idea of starting at the beginning and coloring my way in, of approaching it in a conscious manner as a path or journey, while at the same time letting the path reveal itself in an unconscious manner in the choices of colors and patterns to be quite revealing. Though you wouldn't have to do it starting from the outside and going in--if you were feeling lost, or looking to find your way out of a situation, you could start at the center and work your way out. (Or, you could do whatever feels right to you at the time, too.) Whichever way, when you finish it, you can then look at the journey as a whole, and name it as a process, and see where you have been and where, maybe, you are headed.

The linked versions should be about the right size to be useful (if you print out the jpg version you may want to turn the image itself 90 degrees or set the paper orientation to landscape as it's slightly wider than tall). And if anyone needs a different format let me know.

If you give this a try and feel like sharing, I'd love to hear about what you come up with, and if you have a picture and would like to show it, you can leave a link to it in the comments here.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Goddess of the Week

This week's Goddess is Green Tara. She is of Tantric origins, but was taken into Buddhism, especially Tibetan Buddhism. Her name in Sanskrit means "Star," or "Saviouress," or "She Who Leads Across," referring to Her role as a Bodhisattva and guide through the world of illusion and suffering.

She represents compassion, and in one tale is said to have been born from the tears of Avalokitesvara, He of the thousand hands; and like Him, She is a Bodhisattva, meaning one Who has forsaken Nirvana in order to help others reach enlightenment. As such She has committed Herself to remaining within the cycle of life, death, and rebirth, which, in Buddhism, is an experience of suffering to be transcended; but unlike most Bodhisattvas, She took a vow to remain specifically female through Her rebirths. She did this as, well, a deliberate raspberry to the established teachings, which held that women could not possibly attain the highest forms of enlightenment.

Her main form is depicted as green, symbolizing that She is a Goddess of Action, Who quickly comes to the aid of those who call on Her. She has many other forms, though, including white, golden, and red, and can be gentle or fierce depending on those forms.

The message I'm getting this week is both a general and an individual one. It is one of compassion, but there is a certain order to it: that one must first have compassion for oneself before one can expect to have compassion for others. Practice being compassionate towards yourself this week, if you can; for your own sake, primarily, but also because that is what is needed in the world at this time.

Not that it ever isn't needed, I suppose. But I'm getting a very clear image of a rooted tree: compassion for yourself is the strong root system, which allows one to be nourished and grow strong and tall; and the tree itself, the visible part, the compassion we have for others, can only flourish if the roots are healthy.

The way to do this, I think, or the way that has made some headway in me, anyway, is to look at your own actions and feelings as non-judgementally as possible. Treat yourself gently, as you would a frightened child. Be very, very kind to yourself.

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

Be gentle with yourself. Treat yourself with kindness; let the tears of compassion flow for yourself, let it all flow, and, as many streams form a river, so the compassion of the world will all flow together, strong and swift and healing.

And if you become lost, know that you will be found. If you fear, I will comfort you. I am already here. Do not despair! I will guide you!

It occurs to me She is also one Who can help when we are feeling directionless, as that is just what Her name means, The Guiding Star, the one we navigate by; and this week, I think, we are all being asked to focus some of our energy inward, and to think about what direction we are headed as individuals.

What do you think?

To learn more about Green Tara, go here. For White Tara, here; and for Avalokitesvara, here.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Cat and Cauldron Featured at Spiritual Market Reviews!

The lovely Darcy Pedersen at Spiritual Market Reviews has reviewed my Cat and Cauldron store, even digging up an old interview I did (and yeah, I'll totally cop to being a "purist" when it comes to my art). She also has another blog called Spiritual Blog Reviews, which is a wonderful place to learn about blogs of a spiritual nature. Check it out!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Labyrinth Two

Well, I guess it's officially a series, then. This one was done by coloring in a sheet of watercolor paper with the Inktense pencils at random, then going over it with a wet brush to blend the colors. When that was dry I flipped it over and marked it off in a grid, then cut it up into one inch squares. Then I glued them on a red-colored piece of paper in a labyrinth pattern. I couldn't follow the path in order this time, though, as I was lazy and didn't mark a grid on the background paper, and I know if I were to have wung it it would have gotten very out of whack by the time I got to the middle, due to the principle of entropy. My original thought was that it was a paper version of making a quilt, and I thought myself quite clever; then I realized there was already a word for this sort of thing, mosaic, and I was a little disappointed. Ah well. There is really nothing new under the sun, is there?

I quite like how it came out. Also, the sheer hands-on craftiness of it (cutting and gluing paper) reminded me of stuff we'd do at art school. Stuff that was never quite up my alley, but I did anyway as they were assignments; and I realized that when left to my own devices I really do stick to what I know, and don't ever really just sit down and make something for the sake of making something. But my art, by which I mean the stuff I normally choose to do, the Goddesses and such, has been I felt in a bit of a rut lately, and it needs some shaking up.

Another thing I realized was that I didn't have to try to get something done every day for this Art Every Day Month thing. Because I usually do do something artsy each day; but my method of working has always tended towards a little here and a little there of several projects, not towards starting something and going at it until it's done. So instead of feeling I have to have something to show every day, I've given myself permission to post things when they're done. And as it is, since I'm usually doing a bunch of things at once things do tend to finish at the same time, for example:

This is the tie-dyed skein I started the other day, after having sat in the pokeberry and vinegar solution for a couple days, then hanging up to dry for another couple, then finally getting rinsed and unwrapped to show the lovely patterning. I don't know what I'm going to do with it yet but I love the colors!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Labyrinth One

I don't know why I didn't hit on this idea earlier, given that a major theme in my life lately has been the Labyrinth. I did this by first sketching out the basic shape, then filling in the color and designs starting at the entrance, and following along the path, letting myself draw or choose whatever theme/color came to mind. It is interesting to me to see how the path makes a story.

I suspect, also, this may be the start of a series, hence the ambitious title of Labyrinth One.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Fiber Stuff

Catching up a bit here for Art Every Day Month, with several days' worth of stuff:

I went to a craft store on Saturday and got myself some fun stuff, including some of the yarn for this version of the knitty-kitty. I like the lavender claws; it makes it look like something from out of Where The Wild Things Are.

Also, a couple photos of some ongoing dyeing projects. The first one is of my silk/wool yarn I've been dipping in indigo (yes, it's hanging up to dry in my kind of scary cellar):

The second is of some wool/soy stuff I'm tie-dyeing for a variegated effect. Here it's been tied and gone through a couple indigo dips; the original reserved white was then untied, and the blue tied off for a bath in some vinegar and pokeberry. It's probably a little hard to visualize the finished result, but it should end up with sections of blue (the indigo) and magenta (the pokeberry) with purple (indigo + pokeberry) between the two colors. It will come out of the pokeberry tomorrow, as it needs to sit for a couple days, so we'll see how it does.

And yes, those two black things at the top of the shot are in fact Miss Maude's paws. There is, after all, a tangled pile of yarn sitting there, and that sort of thing attracts cats without fail.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Goddess of the Week

This week's Goddess is Melaina, a dark form of Demeter, the Greek Goddess of the Grain, as the angry, grieving and injured Mother. She took this name, which means "the Black One," as the result of a trauma; though as an Earth Goddess, Her realm naturally includes the dark and the chthonic.

Demeter had a much beloved young daughter named Kore, Whose name simply means "Maiden." But Haides, the God of the Underworld, took it upon Himself to rape Kore and abduct Her to the Underworld, all with the tacit approval of Zeus, King of the Gods. When Demeter discovered to Her horror that Her daughter had vanished, She frantically searched the Earth. But She received little help, as few wanted to anger Zeus by turning Haides in.

To make matters worse, in the midst of Her search Poseidon, the Sea-God, conceived a "lust" of His own, and pursued Her. She would have none of it, unsurprisingly, and told Him so. But He ignored Her No! and hunted after Her, until in desperation She transformed Herself into a mare and hid among a herd of wild horses. He found Her out, however, and taking the form of a stallion He then raped Her.

Faced with Her own assault in the middle of an already very bad situation, Demeter withdrew from the world, donning black and shutting Herself in a dark cave.

Due to the rape She conceived two children; the horse Areion, and a daughter, Whose name was considered so holy and secret that it was never shared. All we know to call the daughter now is Her title Despoina, which means "Mistress."

Demeter was eventually convinced to come out of Her cave, as with the Earth Goddess in hiding nothing would grow; and the Moirai, or Fates, those old, old Goddesses of Mother Right and Justice were the ones to do it.

The cave in which She hid Herself was said to be on Mount Elaios, and the people there kept a statue of Melaina within it. She was shown holding a dove and a dolphin; but Her head was that of a horse, and serpents and monsters were tangled in Her mane.

Melaina's is a very dark story, though I suspect one that has been somewhat twisted; there is evidence that Poseiden and Demeter were considered consorts at one time. Though usually thought of as a Sea-God, Poseidon has deep ties with the Earth, and was believed to cause earthquakes; and His name means "Husband of Earth," which complements the meaning of Demeter's name, "Earth Mother."

Be that as it may, this is a dark card, for a dark time. True, the year is getting darker as we head towards Yule in the north; but I think this has more to do with a backlash against the recent election of Barack Obama. Already there is a reported rise in racially motivated hate crimes, at least in this country; and I think this week will see a dark underbelly exposed. Looking at events with a keen eye, and calling out injustice when we see it will I think help steady the situation.

On an individual level, this card calls us to examine where we have been hurt or traumatized ourselves, and what we need to do to heal from those experiences. Taking note of anger or fear when it arises, and acknowledging it as valid, will help to see the situation as it is now, so we can all move towards healing, and help invoke its presence in the world.

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

I see darkness, death, destruction. I see the deep dark; it is soothing not to look, to refuse to see. For one can't look at it straight, sometimes, or perhaps, not yet. But there is healing in that dark, if you will live it for a time.

Here there is deep hurt; but the darkness will come to light. Keep your eye on it, the anger and the fear and the justification for it; and sort the truth from the lies that the liars believe is truth.

Your nightmare stands before you in broad daylight. What will you do? Hide, or face it? Which is it? Ha! The wise will answer, both. Are you wise?

I know, that is somewhat contradictory. Perhaps that is part of Her lesson for this week, too. For Demeter is both the bright Grain Mother as well as the dark Nightmare; and I think She is asking us to discern between anger motivated by fear or hate, and anger that grows from trauma or injustice. Seeing the difference between the two is important now.

What do you think?

To read more about Her, go here.

Friday, November 14, 2008


This is a thirteen point mandala made from a photo I took the other day of an autumnal barberry bush in my yard.

I have made probably hundreds of these photo mandalas since the springtime; seriously, I have a couple metric tonnes of the things on my hard drive. They are meditative to make, somewhat.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


I did this last night while lying in bed. I went into it with the intent of making a self-portrait, although I wasn't looking in a mirror. I was probably already half-asleep and I think it looks remarkably coherent for that; but also, it does not at all look like me. Aside from having dark hair about that length and the two eyes a nose and a mouth thing, it is very definitely someone else. But I also know it's a self portrait, so I'm finding it all quite intriguing.

Past life, maybe? She looks kind of Native American to me.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

On The Nature of Inspiration

Today's entry, this time a cat made in calico, to the same pattern as the knit ones; basically it's a couple of cylinders joined together. As you can see, it works rather better in knit than cloth, as knit is stretchier. The print with the Japanese on it was chosen because their word for cat, miu-miu, is a homonym for the word for inspiration, niu-niu,* and I needed all the help I could get today.

I was almost completely unwilling and uninspired to make this. It didn't help that my room (I usually sew or knit sitting on my bed) was freezing cold, since I'd forgotten I'd left the window open, and my hands did not really want to do fine work.

But as Leah said in the comments to the last one, it is good to notice these things, to observe judgment and resistance; for when you can see something you can acknowledge it, and then, get past it. And it seems to me that these sort of inner judgments are a large part of artist's block, a way to keep things from flowing.

That judgmental voice keeps saying this doesn't count, that it's not Art, capital A; and that voice also tells me I'm an uninspired loser for choosing to do something so easy, something I knew I could get done quickly even though I was unwilling.

I've been out of the painting loop for so long now I don't know how to get back into it. I've got paintings that have sat there half-finished for so long I no longer work in the medium I started them in; and I keep thinking that this is supposed to be a blog about my Goddess work, not this other stuff, and so who wants to hear about this anyway?

And so I work myself into a bind (I am really, really good at this) and don't know where to start or how to tease anything out; yet I know that feeling like I should! now! is not helping at all but making things worse.

Inspiration is kind of like intuitive eating, I think. Finding out what you want, when you want, and listening to the cues your soul/body are giving you, and not doing/eating something just because you "should;" these are tricky skills to learn.

And it is, after all, all the same thing, despite what I've been taught about High Art and low art, or the supposed difference between Art and craft. After all, inspiration to create is borne of our link to the Divine, or at least I believe it is; and at the soul level, there is no distinction made, no judgment passed on the results of that inspiration. And anyway, I should take my own name, Thalia, as evidence: for Thalia is the name of one of the Greek Goddesses of Inspiration, the Muses, and Her realm, Her sacred Art, is, of all things to our modern ears, the Art of Comedy. Which, if you know your Greek plays, is of an especially bawdy, earthy kind. Yet it is just as sacred, just as much a proper offering to Dionysos as any tragedy.

*I totally made that up.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

One Of Those Days

Today was just one of those impossible days. I was so pleased with myself last night, as I sat down to do some art, thinking I was all ahead of the game and everything, by doing today's entry then. I started out blacking in a clayboard, then scratching off a bunch; then I decided I didn't like it and scrubbed it off under the faucet, leaving a textured thing which I then colored in with ink and watercolor pencil, then I scratched some more off, and painted on top of the thing, and this and that, but I was never particularly satisfied with it. I spent two or three hours on it and ended up scrubbing it all off again, and I have nothing to show for it.

Today wasn't a whole lot better. It really was just one of those days, I think. I mean, not that one can really think with an antihistamine hangover; I spent most of the day feeling incredibly frustrated at just about everything. I never did think of something of a painterly/drawing type to do, though that had been my intent.

So I fell back on knitting. Though why I chose to start this particular project is beyond me, given the lack of coordination and spaceyness and twitchiness from the meds (though, hey, at least I wasn't sneezing!); and I was so frustrated I seriously considered poking my eyes out with the damned needles not once but twice. But anyway, here it is, the beginnings of a scarf:

You will note that it is a particularly idiot thing to start on a day when one has no patience--it's in sand stitch, which requires a fair bit of concentration to keep straight when you're just doing it in one color and with only one "right" side, never mind when you've got two colors and you want to make it reversable. But then I had to do it in intarsia, which is why it's got six balls of yarn, as you switch off each color for each vertical stripe. Oy.

The yarn though is this nice wool I hand-dyed; the dark blue-black is logwood, the deep purple pokeberry.

Participating in Art Every Day Month is really making me realize how judgmental I am about what I count as art, or what I think is "good enough" to post where the world can see it. Even in spite of my aggravated mood, I also put in a good hour on the Goddess Oracle Deck book, and I dipped these two gorgeous wool/silk skeins of yarn in my fledgling indigo vat (making it three dips so far). The color is just amazing, this unbelievable complicated blue/green/indigo, with a lovely sheen to it from the silk. Ooooo, yummy. But my brain doesn't want to count either as "art," and has a hard enough time even with the scarf I started as it's a work in progress.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Second Try

Well, here's the next version of my knit-kitty idea, this time in a mohair yarn wound up with this cottony sort of stuff with sparkley bits. This looks rather more like I was picturing.

Here it is, shown with Miss Maude, so you can see just how much it doesn't resemble an actual cat:

(And why yes, she is curled up on all my little naturally-dyed wool skeins. How very surprising.)

I actually made this yesterday, still enthused with the idea despite not liking my first attempt. So I don't know if that's cheating or what. I'm only getting around to doing some art today now, and I'm still not sure what I want to do. Something different, hands-on, and experimental, I think.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Good God

All right then. In the spirit of little-kid-creativity, here, dear God, is my first attempt:

It's a decent enough idea: knit a critter (in this case a cat, honest) from leftover black eyelash yarn, so it makes its own fur as you go, then stuff it and add some details like eyes to it.

Well, it's a nice idea. The result, though, is, I fear, properly called an abomination. Ooooh-hooo baby, that thing is ugly!! Yoiks.

But it was fun, even if it looks like a miniature black Yeti that's been stepped on. One must keep in mind that failures are often more instructive than successes; and the whole idea of Art Every Day Month is that you keep plugging away at it, failures and all.

Though perhaps I will try it again, this time in a less fuzzy yarn, so you can actually see what the thing looks like. Hmmm.

Art Every Day Month

Puttering about the internet last night I happened upon a blog by Leah Piken Kolidas, Creative Every Day, via Sacred Circle Mandalas. And there I got the details on Art Every Day Month, an idea Leah came up with which is now in its fifth year.

The basics are that participants do some art every day, and then post the results on their blog. Now, I know it's already the ninth, but it's never too late to join in, and so I thought I might just.

But then I couldn't decide what, or how, to do it. At first I thought it would be a great way to get me back into drawing and painting (as I have not done a Goddess painting in more than a year), but then I wasn't sure that would work, making myself draw every day. Because I know that that's probably the surest fastest way to get me to hate (and I mean hate) something, by forcing myself to do it.

So I hemmed and hawed about joining in, figuring it was probably too good for me to be fun.

But then I remembered when I was a kid.

I learned to sew at the age of five. The first thing I ever sewed was, unbelievably, a stuffed toy cat, of a design and pattern (if you can call it that) I made myself. He was made of bright blue fur (since that's what we had around) and his name was (is, actually, as he's still around somewhere) Scottie. Unbelievably, I say, because said design actually made use of a gusset for his belly and the inside of his legs. He was no flat pillow-type silhouette of a cat, oh no--Scottie was a four-legged thing with a separate tail and head.

I should dig him out and post a picture; he is quite hilarious to grown-up eyes.

And every day when I was a kid, just about, I would make something. Usually it was another toy or animal, or a doll or doll's clothes. Every day, nearly. And I wouldn't plan anything; I'd just do it. And finish it, too, that day. There were a lot of homemade critters kicking around the house when I was a kid (including a dozen or so corduroy rabbits--why corduroy? you ask. Because it was kind of fuzzy, sort of. No, it wasn't fur, but it had some pile to it. The first one was named, of course, Flopsy. She was turquoise blue!)

My mom (also an artist) even had a name for it, the mood we kids would get in when we were feeling creative: the Makey-Makey Feeling. "Do you have the Makey-Makey Feeling?" she would ask.

Anyhow, so I decided after all I would join in Art Every Day Month, or at least give it a shot. We'll see how I do. But I thought I'd start off, at least, with the emphasis on fun things, little things I could start and finish in a couple hours. I can't promise how well I'll do; I've never been much good with discipline, preferring to lean on inspiration more. But we shall see.

I figured, also, that since I'm starting late, on the ninth of November, that I'd go on till the eighth of December, you know, to get the full benefits of doing it for thirty days. Stay tuned!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Goddess of the Week

This week's card is Ho Hsien-Ku (also transliterated as Heh Xian-gu), one of the Taoist Eight Immortals (Pa Hsien or Ba Xien), Whose name means "Immortal Maiden Ho." The eight Immortals are a group of diverse Deities Who travel together, and have come to represent fortune and prosperity, much like the Seven Lucky Gods of Japan, Who count among them Benzaiten. Like Benzaiten, Ho Hsien-Ku is the only one of the group to be female (which apparently, is supposed to count as equal representation). Well, the only female of the group, that is, if you don't count Lan Ts'ai-Ho (Lan Caihe); you never can tell with Her/Him.

Ho Hsien-Ku was born a mortal (the daughter of a shopkeeper, by some accounts) who at the age of fifteen had a dream telling her that if she ground up a certain stone (mother-of-pearl or mica) and ate the powder she would become immortal. This she did, and spent Her days floating from mountaintop to mountaintop, collecting fruit to give to Her mother, eventually finding that She had no need of food Herself. In the end She disappeared entirely into the world of the Immortals, though She has been known to appear now and again to devotees on a cloud colorful as the sunset.

She is usually shown with the lotus, the flower representing an open heart; or She can be shown holding a peach, in Chinese myth the fruit of immortality.

As far as this week's reading goes, whatever your political views, this week America, at least, seems to have turned some kind of corner and a new spirit of hope and calmness has swept in. One, I think, that the entire world shares in to some extent now, since so much of what the US does has major repercussions for the rest of the planet. At least, I think I heard a collective sigh of relief, the gist of which was, Oh, thank Whoever! Maybe the US won't be such an @$$#*!& anymore! (To the world: I sincerely apologize for the behavior of the leaders of my country for the past eight years.)

The appearance of Ho Hsien-Ku accords with a time of openness and generosity, of hope and tolerance and a celebration of who we all are. Remember also that part of an open heart is an honest heart. Now, I think, is the time to both look around at where we are and how far we have come, and to appreciate and celebrate that, as well as to take an honest and non-judgmental look at the work that still needs to be done.

As one of the Eight Immortals, Ho Hsien-Ku is also a Goddess of prosperity and good fortune. May it be that we are entering into the beginning of a new time of good luck; though I don't think the economic woes of the nation and world will be turned around quickly, as the mess is a rather extensive one. At least now we have a new set of leaders, with a new set of tools, to try and fix things. I have hope.

So what does She say?

Open your hearts. Remember we are all Immortals. This is a time of joy and celebration; remember we are all close kin, all Immortals living as mortals. We are all of God. Treat each other as if you know this in your bones. Wisdom and kindness are hand in hand, twins in the womb together. Live this.

What do you think of this reading?

To read more about Ho Hsien-Ku, go here.

Another Book Update

Well I officially finished Ceres; and though I probably ought to move ahead with the next Roman Goddess, Diana, I think I will allow myself to be distracted by the Japanese Goddesses. There are only three of them in my deck, Amaterasu, Benzaiten, and Sengen, and I'm in the mood.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Book Update

I am nearly done with the entry for Ceres, but somewhere in the last week I got distracted by Amaterasu and the Japanese Goddesses and began assembling and researching their entries for the Goddess Oracle Deck book. This, I think, is one of the reasons it's taking me so long to write this book; my brain just does not work in a linear fashion (yeah, yeah, quelle surprise). So, while I exceeded my writing quota by rather a lot this past week I don't have a finished page to show for it yet.

Hopefully soon I will.

One thing I did learn which is very interesting but probably too much detail to get into in the book is that several of the Goddess Benzaiten's shrines in Japan are located within caves. Benzaiten, or Benten, the Japanese Goddess of Luck, Love, Eloquence, and Music, is an odd one: She is a version of the Hindu Sarasvati who was syncretized with various local Shinto Kami (roughly, Deities) and adopted into Buddhism when that came by; so She has elements of all three. Lucky, indeed!

Two of Her cave-shrines are located in the city of Kamakura. One of them, the Zeniarai Benten Shrine, is home to an unusual custom: it is believed that money washed in the underground spring there will double, so there are baskets and ladles provided for doing just that. (The Wikipedia article is here, though I do apologize for linking to Wikipedia; as a lover of obscure Goddesses, I find Wikipedia generally disappointing, but in this case it is a decent starting point). Another of Her shrines in Kamakura is the Benten-kutsu cave, which has several figures carved into the living rock of the cave wall.

She also, for whatever reason, tends to get depicted nude (perhaps it's those Hindu origins) unlike a lot of Japanese sculpture; here is a collection of images of Her. Check out that modern metal one that has Her pulling a Jimi Hendrix on the biwa!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Sometime today I realized that my shoulders were no longer up around my ears and were in fact relaxed and down where they should be.

For, pretty much, the first time in eight years.

While there were some definite WTF? moments in the American election results last night (Proposition 8 of California passing, and little to no mention anywhere of how did women candidates do, um, hello?) overall I am most relieved.

So, so, relieved. I don't think I could have handled another four years of the same old same old.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Goddess of the Week

This week's card is Amaterasu, the Shinto (Japanese) Goddess of the Sun, shown rising in brilliance. Her name means "Great Shining Goddess Who Illuminates Heaven;" and I can't see Her presence here as anything but a hopeful sign, even though we just passed Samhain, the entrance into the dark half of the year.

Amaterasu is a bringer of order to the world: She invented weaving and rice cultivation, and She is of a compassionate nature.

The usual legend about Her tells of Her conflict with Her boorish brother, the Storm God Susano-o. His was an impetuous nature and the siblings frequently quarreled; but the last straw for Amaterasu was when He destroyed Her rice fields and Her weaving, and killed one of Her maidens. In despair and grief She shut Herself in a cave, resolving to have nothing more to do with the world. But without the sun all the world was plunged into darkness and nothing grew; and the other Gods and Goddesses decided to lure Her out. This they did by staging a drunken party, complete with the merry Goddess Uzume performing a striptease on an overturned barrel; and surprised by the laughter Amaterasu could not resist peeking out from the cave for a look-see. When She did, She saw a wondrous brilliance shining back at Her, and, amazed, stepped out of the cave for a closer look. As soon as She did the other Deities shut up the cave with a rock; and the brilliance She had been fascinated by was Her own, for the other Gods had simply hung a mirror in a tree.

She represents the return of hope and light through merriment and warmth; and Her story is about a community coming together in compassion for the benefit of all.

That might sound like an odd thing, in this time of the beginning of the dark (at least in the north, anyway, and I do apologize for being so... is there a word for it? "Northern-hemisphere-centric"?); again, I am tempted to interpret it as sign of hope, specifically pertaining to the American elections, which are not just the concern of Americans, given the US's power in the world; and I suppose I can't really hide my political bias here. But it really does seem to me that the past eight years have been ones in which we have all been dug deeper and deeper into a dark hole, until we can no longer even see the light of the sky. And I know that I, personally, need in my bones for this to be over. It has been a dark, dark, time. But that's just my take on it. So I ask Her:

What do You have to say to the world?

Celebrate, live in joy. The joy, the celebration will call the light to you. Dare to hope. The light always returns; the light returns now. Even if it seems dark, you can make the light; your own light. And anyway, hope cannot be contained once it reaches a tipping point. Abide in me, abide with me. Reach out to your community; you are all interconnected with strands of light.

So, again, that certainly sounds hopeful. And I suppose, in the dark we need that little bit of light the most--what do we all do around the time of the winter solstice? Light lights, thousands of them, to keep away the dark; and though this is the Samhain season still, right now does in a lot of ways feel like the dark before the dawn.

What is your take on this?

For more information on Her, go here; for Her tale, here.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Blessed Samhain

Samhain, when the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest, and the Dead are within arm's length, as it were, is traditionally an excellent time for divination; and so I thought I'd post this particular card layout of mine, as it's appropriate for readings done tonight.

Death Spread

This spread is for dealing with change and recognizing your initial reactions to it.

Shuffle the deck and lay out the cards per the diagram above.

Card 1: This card is the change, the Death. This is the sun setting, the inevitable force that cannot be stopped or slowed.

Cards 2, 3 and 4: These cards represent things that have died, aspects of yourself that are gone or have been cut off. They can represent your innocence, ignorance, blind faith, control, or something in its bloom. Name them.

Card 5: This card represents the person you were before, that which you no longer are.

Card 6: This card represents you in response to the change, ways to mourn or sorrow to acknowledge before you can go on. Also acceptance or ways toward acceptance.

Now, if you're below the equator and actually celebrating Beltaine today, (lucky you! It's my very favoritest holiday ever, O yes it is!) you'll probably want this spread instead; and for those of you who are curious, here's the link to my Tarot page, where you'll find plenty of other card layouts, including one for each Major Arcana card. You're bound to find something that fits your situation on this night of introspection and retrospection.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Goddess of the Week

This week's Goddess card is Fatima, daughter of the Prophet Mohammed in Islamic legend. She is, properly, a historic figure around Whom a certain amount of saintly or divine qualities have accrued; and She is much revered in Islam, especially in Shi'ite tradition.

She was the only one of Mohammed's children to have surviving offspring; and the Fatimid Dynasty of the 10th-12th centuries claimed descent from Her (there are now, by some accounts, millions of people who trace their lineage back to Her). She is famous for passionately fighting for both Her husband's claim to the caliphate, and for Her own right to inherit Her father's property after his death. She died young, after suffering a miscarriage, a few months after Her father.

She spent Her last days mourning both Her father and Her two sons, who had been killed by a rival faction. She is known for Her tears and Her compassion, and it is said She will intercede on the behalf of women sinners on the Day of Judgment.

The hamsa, which in Arabic means "five" is a hand-shaped charm common to both Jewish and Islamic culture which is associated with Her, and so sometimes called "the Hand of Fatima." It is said to protect against the evil eye and likely predates both religions.

She has many titles, especially among the Shi'ites; and some of them are more than a little suspicious when viewed through a, hmm, Goddessy lens, shall we say. She is called the Mistress of Waters, and is said to have been able to perform miracles, one of which involved the use of Her "luminous veil" which resulted in the conversion to Islam of an entire clan of Jewish people. One of Her most common titles is al-Zahra, "The Luminous One;" another is Umm Abiha, "Mother of Her Father," both of which point towards Divinity; and reverence of Her may have ties with worship of an earlier Moon Goddess, though it is hard to say.

Now, this week is the week that includes Samhain, the end of one cycle and the beginning of another; and after all the darkness of the past few readings I thought this card offered some real hope. I have depicted Fatima here as a compassionate healer, about to use those famous hands of Hers. And in researching this post I found out that the hamsa (chamsa in Hebrew) amulet has been adopted by some Middle Eastern peace activists as a symbol of common ground between Muslims and Jews.

So with that as theme, I'd like to think this coming week will see calmness and understanding settling among people; or, given that the US elections are very close now and that now is not usually the time for the campaigns to be ratcheting down the rhetoric, perhaps She is calling for us to be voices of peace, healing and understanding, especially towards our Muslim compatriots, who have been directly and indirectly dissed an awful lot recently, what with the pot-shots being taken at Barack Obama of the middle name Hussein.

When I asked Her What do You have to say to the world at this time? She said:

Remember peace and understanding. The wheel is heavy, and turned by Fate now; events are large. You will be in need of cool heads and voices of reason and understanding; be that voice.

Well, that sounds to me like things are not necessarily going to get any calmer in the near future, unfortunately (though I am not surprised); the best we can do now I guess is try to be a calming influence.

What do you think?

On the Twenty-Seventh Day of Hallowe'en

I've up and donated a framed tile, much like the one shown here, to be given away as part of Mrs. B's Thirty One Days of Hallowe'en Contest. It's slated to be given away on the 27th, Monday. So get on over there and enter on Monday! For that matter get on over there and enter today; she gives away a couple of sweet things every day, up until Hallowe'en.

The tile is from my Cat and Cauldron store, and the thing measures six inches square; the tile inside is just over four inches square. If you win, I'll send you the tile in whatever design you like; it doesn't have to be Athena. There are plenty of Goddesses and Gods to choose from; still, if you don't see the one you like on a tile (as they require different graphics than most of the other products I haven't done all of them yet), just let me know and I'll Photoshop it up.

Good luck!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Forwarding Kindness

From Confessions of a Pagan Soccer Mom, Mrs. B (of the famous 31 Days of Hallowe'en contest, in which she gives away a prize or two a day; there are still nine days left to win something, so get on over there and play!) is participating in a Pay it Forward meme. This one is a bit different from the "Random Six Things" meme, or the "Something You Don't Know About Me" meme or the "What's Your Soap-Opera Name" meme in that the condition is forwarding acts of kindness to others. Which is, in general, a good thing to be doing anyway, but if we can all give the Wheel a little bit of an extra spin in that direction perhaps we can get a kind of "kindness momentum" going.

Now, first of all, you have to have a blog to participate in this. The rules, or guidelines for those of us who dislike rules (that would include me):

Three people sign up in comments, and those three receive some sort of kindness from me. Those three people then blog about it at their place and offer the same to the first three people who sign up, who blog about it at their place, and offer kindnesses to the next three, &c., &c., &c., until the Kindness Revolution is unstoppable due to Newton's Second Law, where f=ma.

Now the act of kindness can be whatever you like; it can be a little gift you mail to someone, or it can be something more intangible; whatever fits your circumstances, budget, or personality. It doesn't have to be anything extravagant, certainly; just something to put a smile on a stranger's face.

So what I'm going to give to the first three people who sign up below is a three-card reading with my Goddess Oracle Deck. Leave your email and a link to your blog; I will give the reading via email after your own Pay It Forward post is up at your place. Oh and in your blog post link back to this post, if you could.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Ravings of a Frustrated Wannabe Scholar

I was a scholar in a past life, I really think I was; but in this one I'm just an artist. I make no bones (I think) about not being a proper expert in any of this Goddess stuff, by which I mean, one with degrees and a dissertation behind her; really, I am just a (very) interested amateur when you come down to it.

So this week, in researching the Goddess Ceres for The Book To Go With The Goddess Oracle Deck (for which I really should attempt to come up with a catchier title), I came across Barbette Stanley Spaeth's book The Roman Goddess Ceres. Which book, alas, is not available at my famously crappy local university library (and, as I am not a student there I do not have access to inter-library loan); so I've been reading what I can of it on Google Books. And I only got to page two before I hit this passage:

Ceres’ name also links her with several ancient Italic divinities, such as Kerrí, Keri Arentikai, Regina Pia Cerria Iovia, and Anceta Ceria. These divinities were worshipped by the Osco-Umbrians or Sabellian-Umbrians, peoples of the central and southern regions of Italy.

And my head just about exploded. These are Goddesses, obscure Goddesses, about Whom I've only ever found a diabolically mysterious mention there and here; and I am fiercely, fiercely jealous of the access to material proper scholars have. I mean, it's true, I have to rely on others' work, and that in English to boot, as I can't read things for myself in Latin or Greek, or even French or the German that every freakin' work on the Etruscans seems to have been written in; so I have a few limitations. But damn. She just tosses these names around like it's the Red Sox lineup for the year.

Yeah, jealous, a bit.

But excited too, in a way I suppose only a fanatic, or a Goddess worshipper who leans towards the nerdy side of things can get; because, OhmyGod! more Obscure Goddesses for the collection, as it were. And I find myself in an odd state, one that I've been in a lot lately for some reason: a kind of blocked or unfocused inspiration.

It's very strange. I have been quite inspired, I mean on fire! about my various projects; yet the way it's playing out in me is that I am so inspired and so excited I can't actually sit still long enough to get anything done. I am full of plans and dreams and ideas but am having a terrible time just doing the damned stuff. I'm not usually like this; not, I mean, that I've ever been any good with discipline, I suppose.

It's not even quite a question of not knowing where to start; I've had that problem all my life and have some ways around that by now. It's that when I sit down to do one thing, I find myself passionately thinking about something else I'd like to do; but if I start on that something else comes up. It's like my inspiration is misfiring, or isn't timed correctly. I need the psychic equivalent of one of those strobe light thingies for your car engine.

Any ideas?


Tag! I'm It!

Oh, well, okay. Les règles (the rules, for those of you not amused by my mildly pretentious use of French):

1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Write six random things about yourself.
4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them.
5. Let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

The person who ran up behind me, slapped me on the shoulder, and said, "Tag!": shamrockwitch, in the last post.

Six random things about me? Well, let's see, since I'm choosing them they are inherently not random, really, but I'll try to make them interesting:

1. I am allergic to pigs. Not pork, pigs. They make me all kinds of sneezy and itchy. I found out about this my freshman year of Art School, when someone brought in a cute li'l piglet in a rather heavy-handed (and typically freshman) statement on the virtues of vegetarianism; I had to go home early because my eyes almost swole shut. I've been an avowed carnivore ever since, damned things.

2. I have an awful lot of hobbies, which I suppose is neither random nor particularly surprising for an artsy sort such as myself; the one that has taken hold of me right now in a grievously fierce way is natural dyeing, to wit:

That's a shot of the pile of little skeins of wool I've dyed since this hobby swooped down upon me at the end of the summer; I wanted to see how many colors I could come up with, so opted for a whole bunch of little skeins that didn't require a lot of dyestuff but would still give me a useful amount. So they are about the size of what you'd get for crewel-work. That's only about half of them, though, as the other half are reserved for being overdyed with indigo, when I get the vat going, which I will start on when the stuff I ordered comes in.

I can sit for hours, really, and rearrange the little skeins. I'm not sure quite what I'm going to do with them all yet, maybe weave something. But they are so beautiful, and really, are purely about making color right now, which is fascinating me.

Oh, and as an example of just how crazy I am about dyeing, I have a pan of dried black beans soaking right now. I mean, yes, I am going to make chili with them later; but the real reason I got them was to see if the rumors are true and the soaking water (which turns a nice violet-black) can be used as dye.

3. I long, long, long, to relocate to the UK someday. When I was in England and Wales a couple years ago I felt pulled to the land almost overwhelmingly; perhaps it's something to do with living in New England that makes Old England feel like home, I don't know. But I have to be there, eventually. Not that I know just how to make that happen, yet, and there are rather a lot of things I am in the middle of right now. But someday.

4. I consistently pin out at 98-100% introverted when I take those Myers-Brigg style personality tests. I'm not surprised, I suppose, as it makes sense to me, but, according to most people, shouldn't I be living in a cave or something?

5. I went through a wicked Duran Duran phase in my High School years, even though I knew that Led Zeppelin was the One True Band. Do not fear, I have come to my senses since then, though my guilty pleasure of late is the Monkees and I am not ashamed to admit it.

6. I send Groundhog Day cards every year, to the bafflement of my friends and relatives (yes, apparently even the artsy ones on my mother's side). It started because I felt really, really stupid going and buying Yule/Christmas cards when I knew I could make my own really pretty ones (never mind the fact that I'd want specifically Pagan cards to send out); but who has time in early December to be doing that? So after several years of not getting around to it I hit on the idea of Groundhog Day cards. I have the whole month of January to come up with the art, it's ridiculously silly, and by February 2nd we could all use a mid-winter pick-me-up. And it confuses the Hel out of the relatives, heh heh. What's not to love?

Okay, those are my six. Now it's my turn to tag six people, and I will do so in a moment, but I am going to change the rules a bit: out of your six things, one of them must have something to do with your dreams, and another must describe a way you have been kind to yourself recently. The other four, go to town!

So, Tag! You're It:

Mama Kelly of Two Witches Blog (though Lady Rose is welcome to participate if she likes); beweaver over at Weaving the Web; Inanna at At The End Of Desire; Evn (of course; you didn't seriously think I wouldn't, did you?) at Lover of Strife; Anne at The Gods Are Bored (though I imagine she has long since been tagged with this, what is it called, a meme, I want to hear her talk about her dreams); and Angela-Eloise over at Blogickal.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Goddess of the Week

So I shuffled the cards, as thoroughly and as obsessively as usual, while asking, What do You Goddesses have to say to the world this week? And Ariadne came up.

After I stopped laughing, I very nearly made myself pick another card. I had quite specifically asked, What do You have to say to the world? But picking Ariadne was just so obvious and perfect a reading for me. And I mean obvious as in dope-slap in the back of the head obvious. The short version being that in my dreams and visions lately the theme of the Labyrinth has been coming up over and over; and I know I've just set one foot over the threshold of the place and am beginning some kind of major journey deep within. I am aware of this, quite consciously.

So when I pulled Ariadne, Who is after all the Mistress of the Labyrinth in Greek myth, I had to stop and ask the cards, Really? Are you sure? For the world, not just for me, right?

But they said yes.

So then.

I suppose that one way to look at it is that I, like everyone else, am influenced by the seasons and the themes of the world; and it's true, the season of the beginning of the journey into the dark is upon us (well, if you're in the north, anyway). Because that's what I had been thinking, that Samhain was the point mythologically when one first enters the Labyrinth; while Yule was that dark, still centerpoint, and Imbolc in early February when we step back out into the light.

I should probably start with some information about Ariadne Herself, eh? She's of Minoan Cretan origins, though the legends are Greek. In them, She is a mortal princess, the daughter of King Minos of Crete, who gives aid to the hero Theseus, (though he doesn't deserve it, really) by giving him a magical ball of thread that helps him to navigate his way through the Labyrinth. He and a group of Athenian maidens and youths (i.e., children) have been condemned to be eaten alive by the Minotaur, who lives somewhere inside it. Theseus, being the hero, finds the Minotaur and kills him; and Ariadne escapes with him to Sea.

Where he abandons Her first chance he gets, though She had helped him out of love; in some stories then, the God Dionysos comes upon Her and marries Her, and She becomes immortal.

Now, really, these stories point to an older layer, one of underlying divinity for Ariadne; and She may in fact be a form of a Minoan Great Goddess. She is old, certainly.

So getting this card at this time may simply be a statement of the time of the year, of endings and beginnings and the journey into the dark. But what I'm also getting, quite strongly, is the idea of loving someone who does not deserve it, and coming to the realization that one deserves better. On a personal scale I suspect we are all too familiar with that dynamic; but this is a reading for the world. Perhaps, just perhaps, we humans are on the verge of waking up and realizing we can do better by each other, or that greed and intolerance do not deserve our love; though my cynical side of course wonders if it's not the Earth Herself making the realization. If so, oh ho are we in trouble. Either way, I suspect it will be a long journey, one requiring a lot of soul-searching and attention to details, and a bit of Divine Guidance.

What does She say?

Now is a time to get to the root of things; this time is unlike any other. It is an opportunity; use it. It will take care, patience, and will be hard work, but understanding must be thorough. Ask for guidance; you will receive it. And when others ask you for it, give it. The bee dances before the hive; She instructs others. Tell others, help others, and be as specific as you can.

Sounds like preparation for a journey into the Labyrinth to me. What do you think?

To read more about Her go here; to read Her tale, here.

Edited to add: here, this will help. It's a link to the World Wide Labyrinth Locater. Type in where you are, and it will come up with a list of labyrinths in your locale that you can visit and walk if you're so inclined.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Writing Update

Well I finished up the Sibyl entry just now, which was a little tricky as she's not really a Goddess, and not really a single person, more a type or title; but that sews up the Greeks. Now, on to the Romans, starting with Ceres.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Goddess of the Week

This week after shuffling and asking of the Goddesses, What do You have to say to the world at this time? the Cailleach came up.

She is Celtic, and is known as the Blue-Faced Hag; Her name means "the Veiled One." She is a Goddess of winter and the cold earth, and there are many variations to Her in the British Isles, usually with strong ties to the land and to the season of winter. As Samhain is the beginning of the dark half of the year in Celtic tradition, picking Her at this time seemed appropriate, if a little early.

She is commonly called a "hag", though the word cailleach is used in both modern Irish and Scots Gaelic to mean "old woman;" but the word itself has connotations of widow and nun as well. So She is someone drawn into Herself, celibate.

It is sometimes said that She starts the winter as an old woman and slowly becomes younger until by springtime She is a beautiful maiden; or that She imprisons a young woman in a mountainside over the winter, and releases her in the spring. Unsurprisingly as a Celtic Goddess of Winter She is connected with ancestors and the dead, and the descendants of the Cailleach Bheirre were peoples and races.

But She is also associated with the preparations for winter; and the last sheaf of grain harvested was traditionally called the cailleach, the old woman of the fields. This sheaf was saved over the winter, and in the spring it was fed to the horses or cattle, or shaken over the fields in hope for an abundant harvest. In the Isle of Lewis the cailleach was dressed as a woman whose apron pockets were filled with cheese and bread and a sickle.

The economic situation this past week has been fairly dark; and it is hard not to see this card as predicting a rather bleak outcome. And, sure enough, when I asked Her what She had to say She said:

Old, old bones. Old, old cold. Ice and cold and fear; the cold wind howls from the north. A time of leanness and starvation. The reindeer digs beneath the snow to find the lichen; the fox starves; no meat on anyone's bones. The veil is thin, thinner, thinnest. Winter comes. Save your seeds.

And I am reminded of this phrase: the conservation of energy. There is a time of leanness coming, one that parallels the winter. Draw in your harvest, and do what it takes to preserve it and make it last. Hard times are coming.

Though as this is a card for the next week, perhaps it simply speaks of how the future will look in that week. This card may represent our fears of hard times more than actual coming hard times. It is hard to tell, as I, too, am caught in that fear. I think calmness and patience, and preparation, just in case, are advised.

For more information on the Cailleach, go here.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


Evn over at Lover of Strife, inspired by Anne Johnson at The Gods Are Bored, is holding a casting contest:

Strifemongers, pick your favorite myth, choose the most appropriate actors to play the Gods who appear in it, and post your submissions in the comments section. Entries will be accepted until next Tuesday, at which time I'll announce my top three casting directors (assuming more than three people enter), each of whom will win an actual prize.

Why am I mentioning this here? Because Evn has decided that the prizes are to be products from my Cat and Cauldron store: third prize is the Goddess magnet of your choice, second place the Goddess mug of your choice, and first prize whichever organic Goddess tee-shirt you choose.

So go on over there and enter!

UPDATE: Winners announced here. Congrats!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Three Card Reading Idea

I had an inspiration for a variation on the standard three card reading today. Rather than reading the positions as, say, Past, Present, Future, or, Maiden, Mother, Crone, one could string them together as if in a sentence: Subject, Verb, Object.

I tried this with my deck and came up with some interesting results:

Uma, Erzulie, White Tara: Loss desires compassion.

Oya, Gaea, al-'Uzza: Change grows from strife.

Hel, Aida-Wedo, the Virgin Mary: Balance encompasses wonder.

Gwenhwyfer, Danu, Sibyl: Beauty thrives on mystery.

Athene, Sophia, Tlazolteotl: Wisdom knows temptation.

Faerie, Ganga, Inanna: The seasons dance seductively.

Laverna, Sif, Sunna: Time thieves beauty and glory.

Ho Hsien-Ku, Kali, Isis: Openness destroys sorrow.

The Cailleach, Nut, Pomona: Every winter is pregnant with autumn.

Sengen, Chalchiuhtlicue, Kelaeno: Water and wind will wear down the mountain.

These were all off-the-cuff, saying pretty much the first thing to come to mind; it would be interesting to take the same three cards and see how many different sentences you could come up with. You could also switch them around into different positions to explore their meanings further.

I am definitely a fan of the Mary Greer method of exhausting a reading by combining and recombining the cards in as many ways as you can come up with. It's a good way to get to the depths of the thing.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Goddess of the Week

So a week has passed already, and it is time to pick another Goddess for a reading from my Goddess Oracle Deck.

This time Kirke came up.

She's Greek and accounted a sorceress; the famous wanderer Odysseus had a bit of a run-in with Her, in which She transformed his sailor-men into swine, as it was Her habit to change any men who set foot on Her island into beasts. Her knowledge of herbs was legendary, and She was versed in many of the more powerful forms of magic, including necromancy, for She gave Odysseus detailed instructions on how to contact the late seer Tiresias.

So this is a card of transformation; all the legends of Kirke, even the Roman ones (where She is called Circe and is usually standing in for a local sorceress-type Goddess), have Her changing people into animals or birds. So it's transformation of a primal kind, one that goes back to the root of things.

It would seem that this week some kind of powerful magic is swirling about; and change is in the air. Now, that's not very surprising given that it's autumn, a season that brings quite dramatic change; but I'm tempted to interpret this in light of the political situation with the US elections coming up, and the possibility of change it brings.

Kirke's magic, though, does tend towards, if not the chaotic, then the amoral at least; but power is power, and it is up to the holder of it to choose what to make with it.

So I asked what She had to tell the world now, and this is what She said:

Fight for change. Stand your ground. You have the power. Now! Now is the time. Change everything you touch. Let it happen. Make it happen! The balance can be tipped, but the time is now. You have the power.

Now is the time. It would seem to be a good week for magic, then, or casting spells, especially of a transformative kind; either for yourself, or for the greater community. It is said the job of a Witch is to turn the Wheel; this week especially there is a good deal of movement already underway, which can be both fueled and ridden. Make the most of it.

What do you think of Kirke's appearance this week?

For more information about Kirke, go here; for Her Tale, here. For the article on Dea Marica, a Roman Goddess associated with Kirke, here.