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.