Monday, January 25, 2010

Goddess of the Week

Well all right then. Something is definitely up. Last week was Danu, Mother of the Faeries; and just three weeks ago on January 4th we got Faerie for the first time. I admit I am a bit baffled, though the message looks to be urgent; and the sledgehammer approach is starting to make me a little nervous. The faeries have a reputation for tricksiness, after all, and for finding clever and ignominious ways to make us listen.

So, let's see. It could be as simple as urging us to be more playful, more creative, more silly. Good advice, especially given the political situation here in the US which has had me for one feeling pretty crummy all week. And it's true, I did a particularly silly bit of art the other night (this year's Groundhog Day card) and felt immensely better about things in general afterwards.

Imbolc, Brigit's Day, is nearly upon us. (Brigit, incidentally, Who is one of the Tuatha Dé Danann, one of the People or Children of Danu, though Her mother is not usually named). Perhaps it is tied in to that. Imbolc is a marker of quickening, of sap rising and milk dropping, of the fire flaming within us in anticipation of spring. Daffodils are starting to poke through, even here in grey old New England, and the growing light is becoming apparent. The Wheel turns and we begin to noticeably ascend. How can we align ourselves onto that path, enter in with harmony and good timing, like joining a game of double dutch jump-rope?

Though I think 'anticipation' is not quite the right word. So much of the prepartory work of Spring goes on in the dark; those daffodil shoots have six or more inches of growth to put on before even breaking the surface. Perhaps it is about acknowledging the work done in the dark, and acknowledging and appreciating the hidden foundations of things.

Look into the dark this week. What work have you already begun? What is there in there that you aren't acknowledging or seeing as groundwork? Imbolc is all about the light at the end of the tunnel. Do you see it? Who is with you now, in that tunnel and the dark?

With this card it's always a plurality of voices, and They say:

OOOOOoooooo can't you feel it, the pull? We are being pulled out into the light, all of us more and more, yes we are here now, something is breaking through. Don't you know the veil has to thin a little to let the shoots out? They come from the dark, don't they? You think it is all metaphor. It is all real. Where does this idea come from anyway? What is resurrection but what seeds do? Does that not mean out of death comes life, and the veil must part? It is all around you, secrets hidden in plain sight. Look! Silly, stupid, humans. You are not outside of this!

We know this. We are telling you! Listen! Look! It is there in plain sight!

Yes, I'm silly and stupid. I'm not seeing it, plain sight or no. So I ask, What is it? Have I guessed already?

Yes! Feel the sap rise in your veins. Coax it out! Sing it into being! Celebrate! Dance with us, dance the flowers out of the earth. You can move this along, too. It is not just our job. Make it happen!


Dance! Sing! Move! Breathe air! Make things, love and bread and pretty pictures! Clean the yard! Make room for Spring!

Really? The Faeries want me to clean? *That* doesn't sound right.

The way is blocked. Clear it!

I get an image of a river swollen and swirling with melted snow. But there is also a lot of debris that has washed into the river, sticks and branches and leaves; and they have piled up against the narrow opening of an old arched bridge, making it harder for the river to flow. It's that sort of thing that needs cleaning, I think.

How can you help this along? What needs to be cleared away, cleaned out, tidied up, to let things flow for you? How can you make room for Spring?

Monday, January 18, 2010


I love researching Goddesses and the sacred; I love tracing things back and back to their origins (or as close as I can get, anyway; there is always further). And so often the roots of a thing come down to place. I love following the strands, finding that one line about an obscure Goddess, the one town in which She had a concrete presence, then tracking the modern name of that town down if I can, and figuring where it was, where was Her temple, Her spring, Her wood; and then if I'm very lucky, finding a photograph someone has posted somewhere, or even, looking down on it through the medium of that wonderful modern phenomenon, satellite photography.

For example, tonight, in writing about Danu, I came across this picture of the origins of Her river, the Danube. It is a simple thing, a place where two smaller rivers come together to form a third. And though the picture looks perfectly ordinary, as if it is just some nice little picturesque scene in Germany somewhere, still, it gave me a chill:

(Picture by Drombalan, posted on Wikipedia, here.)

There is something quite numinous about it.

Last week, in researching the Magdalene, I found myself looking at this glorious photo:

(Picture by Wolfgang Staudt, posted on Flickr, here.)

It is the church of Notre Dame de la Mer, in the town of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, where Mary Magdalene is said to have come ashore; in the crypt is the famous statue of Ste. Sara.

And then that led to this, the satellite picture of the same church, out there in the ordinary and numinous old world:

(Image from Google Maps, here.)

And then by dragging the map a bit to the east, I find this:

It is hard to be sure, but I think those little white spots are some of the famous wild horses of the Camargue, standing there in shallow waters. You can see some of their tracks in the upper left.

It's a miraculous world.

Goddess of the Week

This week's Goddess is Danu, thought to be the Mother Goddess of the Continental Celts. Her name is not quite attested, nor does She have any mythology under that name; however there is plenty of indirect evidence that a Goddess by that name existed in the Celtic mythos.

The Danube River, that great river of central and eastern Europe, located in the area from which the Celtic peoples are thought to have emerged, is probably named for Her. Though it is likely Her origins are even older--there is a Vedic Goddess also called Danu, Who was the mother of the Davanas, Asuras (roughly 'demons') Who rebelled but were defeated by the Devas (approximately 'gods' or 'angels'). Upon defeat, the Davanas were cast into the oceans. The word danu in Sanskrit means 'rain,' 'liquid', or 'waters of heaven,' and is related to the names for several other famous rivers, such as the Don and Dneiper rivers of Russia, and the Dniester of eastern Europe. So She would appear to have origins in a river Goddess.

She probably found Her way into Irish myth under the name Ana, which is occasionally spelled with a D affixed to the front; as such She is the mother of the Tuatha Dé Danann, the name used for the family of the old Pagan deities of Ireland. The name means 'the people or tribe of the Goddess Ana or Danu', and Their numbers include Deities like the Dagda, Brigid, Macha, Manannán, the Morrigan, Ogma, and Flidais. Her Welsh equivalent is Dôn, also a Mother of Deities, including Arianrhod. Ireland is sometimes called for Her 'the land of Ana,' and She can grant or withhold the prosperity of the land.

Though the Tuatha Dé started out as Deities, according to legend They were later driven underground, literally, to live in the sídhe, the hollow hills; They were then called the aes síde, or 'the people of the mounds.' In time They became the fairy folk, who in modern Irish are still called the sídh, after the fairy mounds. Here I have drawn Danu in that role, as Mother of the Fairies.

The strands making up Danu are nearly lost, though we have some good guesses; and I was wondering how I was going to interpret this card in light of that. But in doing the research, I came across this line in the entry under 'Ana,' in The Dictionary of Celtic Mythology by James MacKillop (an excellent and thorough book): "Despite these pagan associations, her name is borne by the virgin St. Ana whose feast day is 18th January." Now then. That's a funny coincidence.

So then, what have we got? A Deity Who was considered central and primary to a people, Who was once the mother or leader of the Gods, though She has been much forgotten and reduced; and the startling 'coincidence' of this day, this moment right now.

Something has been brought sharply into focus. Something that touches on ancient, profound ideas. There is a connection with this moment right now and the patterns of the past. What do you see? What can you make out? It's as if two lenses have momentarily overlapped and are allowing us to see, in great detail, something we had thought lost.

Then of course there is the fairy aspect of it. It was only the week before last, in fact, that I drew the Faerie card. Though we've had the Magdalene in-between, I think this is probably in some ways a continuation of the theme of wildness and paying attention to magic; I said at the time that "[s]ome strand has looped close to the surface this week;" I think this week it has actually broken through.

I don't even really know what that means, but it feels like a rare opportunity of some sort. I would say, look around at the world of the hidden, the wild places around and within us, with clear sight (of as many kinds as you can manage), and above all pay attention.

I wonder if She can clarify.

Danu says:

Wheel, spin, watch the change. The sap is rising. Things are being born. Things are slipping through. Be ware. Be wary. Be aware. It cannot be stopped.

It must run its course. Yes, like a river--you are so clever!--a great river, that which is central to a people. No, I know nothing about that. Why would I?

Oh, yes, the veil, as you call it, it is so thin right now. I know! Now? In the middle of winter, when We should all be sleeping? But yes.

The forgotten will find you. But be aware. It cannot be stopped.

Well, I'm not sure that exactly sheds much light on anything. What do you think?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Groundhog Day Cards!

It's that time of year! That's right, it's time to send out Groundhog Day Cards! I started doing these years ago as the solution to a particular holiday dilemma I kept having. As an artist, I'd always felt kind of pathetic buying Christmas cards to send out (never mind the bit about not actually being Christian), since I knew I could make lovely ones myself; but, December being December, somehow the idea never got off the ground in the seasonal rush. So I decided to do Groundhog Day cards instead. It gives me the entire, non-rushed month of January to do the art, and they provide a patently ridiculous pick-me-up to my friends and family just when they could really use it, right when the reality of winter's long grey trudge is setting in. It's win-win!

And I've been putting up past year's offerings at my Cat and Cauldron shop, if you'd like to participate yourself.

Just a note: if you wish to go whole (ground) hog and decorate the house, the official Groundhog Day color scheme is white or silver (for snow and clouds), yellow or gold (for the sun), sky blue (for the sky, duh), and that sort of medium drab tan, the color of a groundhog's fur. You know, just in case.

Featured above, Marcel Duchamp's visionary Modernist work, Marmotte d'Amérique Montant un Terrier, in English, Groundhog Ascending a Burrow. It caused quite a stir at the Salon, so they say.


Monday, January 11, 2010

Goddess of the Week

This week's 'Goddess' card is Mary Magdalene of the Christian mythos; as I've said before, when I did these cards I was using a pretty loose definition of 'Goddess,' and included deified humans like Bodhisattvas and Saints.

Mary Magdalene (or just 'the Magdalene', i.e. 'the woman from Magdala') was a disciple to Jesus, one of a number of (largely unidentified) women who went with Jesus on His teaching rounds and supported Him and His disciples financially. She witnessed Jesus's crucifixion and His resurrection, or rather saw Jesus after He was resurrected (i.e. She did not see the actual act of His being resurrected) according to all the Gospels (though She is not mentioned by name in Luke as witness to the crucifixion).

Her legend is quite confused, tangled with the myriad Marys of the New Testament, the Church being to blame for much of the confusion as it has changed its opinion of Her over the years, several times. (Infallibly, of course. If you want a headache, just you try and parse the Wikipedia article on the Infallibility of the Church. Ow, ow, ow.)

Though She was considered a prostitute for well over a thousand years (probably the fault of Pope Gregory in the 6th century), the Church now maintains She was not and never had been; and depending on the sect, Mary Magdalene may or may not be the woman Who anointed Jesus and washed His feet, drying them with Her hair. That's said to be Mary of Bethany; many Protestant denominations consider Them two different Marys, but the Catholic Church considers them the same person (i.e. that the name refers to Mary Magdalene while She was in Bethany, not a different Mary from Bethany).

It's hard to say; there have been an awful lot of revisions of that Book, and there are several Gnostic writings that were expunged from the 'official' version in early times, such as the Gospel of Philip and the Gospel of Mary, generally thought to refer to Mary Magdalene Herself. In the Gospel of Philip, Mary is said to have quite a close relationship with Jesus, such that the other apostles would whine about how come Jesus liked her best? (shades of Tommy Smothers there); She is even called His 'companion,' a description that has caused a bit of speculation to whether that might mean 'lover' or 'wife.'

A later, extra-Biblical legend of the Magdalene is that She ended up in the Camargue in the south of France, with two other Marys, Joseph of Arimathea (the man Who lent His tomb to Jesus, and yes, 'lent' is the correct word, as Jesus only used it a couple of days) and some others including a servant-girl from Upper Egypt named Sarah (sometimes considered Mary Magdalene's daughter, with the obvious question then of well then who is the father? Hmmm). In later times a church to the three Marys was built there, and the town at which They landed was renamed Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, or 'Saint Marys of the Sea.' The church has also been the locus for certain rituals of the Romani who especially worship Saint Sarah, calling Her Sara e Kali, or Sarah the Black. As the Romani are believed to have originated in India, there may very well be some vestiges of Durga or Kali worship in this ritual, which includes taking the statue of Saint Sarah from the crypt and processing with it down to the sea (just a block or two away), and then ritually 'bathing' it in the ocean (actually just getting the hem Her skirt wet), similar to rituals to Kali and Durga in India.

I think the theme then this week given this card is one of confusion, of meanderings about; and it may be a little tricky to trace the origins of what is going on. It can be figured out, though, and maybe it isn't really all that important in the end, meaning, the echoes we are hearing right now might be the important part. Which isn't to say there isn't value in trying to sort through the different strands; but don't lose sight of the later accumulations, for they are important here too.

Or it could be about the process of meandering itself; how one thing leads to another, and another, which leads eventually to something quite marvelous. Do not be too quick to accuse your mind of wandering this week; at this time I think letting it do its thing without judgement is the best course. Even if, especially if, you normally would rein things in or dismiss them as 'frivolous.'

There is also, of course, the more traditional theme of compassion, of Mary Magdalene weeping for Jesus and His sufferings (She was considered so hysterically weepy Her name has become the word 'maudlin' in English); consider that, this week, too, and the importance of tears in the process of healing.

So, what does She make of all this?

But I went from sad to celebratory; that is my story. And of the work left unfinished after 'the end' is proclaimed; women's work, this is, the reality of tying up loose ends. Stories never really end.

Yes, kindness and compassion, for others and for yourself. Do you think I had no part in casting out those demons from me? He could not have done it were I not willing, and kind myself.

Old stories, too, remember them, wonder on how they are not finished, how they echo down to the day you have now. No, you do not have to go back into them if it is painful, certainly not; but marvel at how it has changed you. It is all a wonder.

What do you think?

Friday, January 8, 2010

A Bit of Silliness

I admit it. I'm a relentlessly au courant type. If it's new, I have to have it. Gadgets, gizmos, iPhones, whatever, I'm always up to date and in style.

This is blatent (and probably not very funny) sarcasm. In reality I am an aspiring troglodyte, and I tell people in all seriousness that if I had any faith in my bean-growing skills I would totally pull a Thoreau. In a heartbeat.

So, it won't surprise you then to learn that I have a land-line phone. One of which, in fact, is not only permanently affixed to the wall but even has a dial. I don't watch TV; the computer I have is a centuries-old Mac, I lean towards the simple and straightforward in my blog and website design, and don't even like to post videos since that tends to muck stuff up.

So I'm not exactly up-to-date with things. So then when I say I am one of the shrinking number of people who play the Sims old school (meaning not Sims 2 or Sims 3) you are not shocked, correct? And when I say I have a new site dedicated to things I've made (and am making) for an old game, you will think, Yeah, that's about right.

I mean, it's a hobby, you know. But I've been having way too much fun making little things and outfits for what is basically a virtual way of playing with dolls. Mostly ancient cultures, though there are a few fantasy sorts of things. And mostly Minoan stuff, so that I can play with creating a perfect matriarchy in the Labyrinth.

That's right, MA-TRI-AR-CHY. Take that, patriarchy!

Anyway, it's called Magnolia Sims. Enjoy!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Goddess of the Week

This week's Goddess isn't exactly a Goddess, is She? She is Faerie, meaning, representative of all of the magical wild ones of this earth; though I was thinking specifically of the Celtic tradition, which is rich in fairy lore. Per that tradition, She has leaves of the oak, ash and (haw)thorn in Her hair; and She is green, representing the thriving and flourishing forces of Nature.

The word 'fairy' ultimately derives from the Latin fata, the Fates; interestingly enough it seems the word was used first to describe a land of magic and enchantment, in other words Elfland, before it was used on the inhabitants of that land.

This land, this Otherworld, is commonly said to have different rules than the human world; and while it seems that way on a surface level, I have always found (from what I've read, anyway) that their rules make perfect sense, on the level of dreams and intuition. Maybe, that level is the level that is wilder, closer to the land and an 'uncivilized' way of being, one we humans have nearly forgotten; I think we are being reminded to remember it now.

I think this is a call, one that invites us off the boring, beaten path, both the broad broad road and the one beset with thorns and briars, to that bonny bonny road, as they say, the one deep in ferns and bracken.

Did you make any New Year's resolutions this week? How many of them are far too sensible and stifling? This card warns against the, well, not exactly the practical things, but the little dreams, the things you think you have to get in order before you allow yourself to get to the real dreams, the magnificent, wild, gorgeous and startling ones.

We are wild, underneath it all, we humans; we are after all just another kind of animal. We think we are not. This will probably be our downfall; this hubris, and this Othering of a world we are not separate from.

I think we are being advised to shake things up; and it comes with a not-so-subtle warning that if we don't, things will be shaken up for us. This is how faeries operate, or so I've heard.

Take time this week to listen, and to be; pay especial attention to both day dreams and night dreams, and look into the shadows and uncertain places for the little faces peering out. There is something rich to be found there. Some strand has looped close to the surface this week, though it is not the traditional time (in the North, anyway; in the South it absolutely is, having just passed Midsummer's Day); pay attention. A gift is being offered, I think. Not that I can be sure; and anyway it is for you to judge. Keep your wits about you, but think from the heart and that deep dreaming place, and always, always, remember compassion.

I don't know what I shall get if I ask for Her, Their, advice this week, but let's see:

We love you. You are beautiful, and good. You are in alignment already; you do not have to try so hard. You know. You are taking the iron away; we would love you for that alone. But you are lovely too, and make such pretty things!

Plant flowers. Plant a garden, and do not weed it too much. Let it all thrive, the invited and the uninvited. Now? Look at seed catalogs and dream. Now is the time to plant the seeds in your soul; you know this already. So what? Do we have to tell you? Listen to us, don't listen, yes we are the butterfly, you know it, read that book again, read the books that make the child of you happy, the magical ones, the in-between ones. We love in-between. Dig out the old, the forgotten, the magical, find that space again, that twilight realm, the numinous, liminal, all those fancy Roman words, the spirits in the trees and the grass and the nematodes in the soil. Find them, imagine them into being in this dark time, this time just perfect for dreaming.

And make merry. Always make merry.

I think They are right; I've certainly been hankering to read The Last Unicorn again recently (I always had such a crush on Schmendrick, with those long green eyes of his). Find a memory of yours of a magical time, and see if you can't find a way to, if not inhabit that place again, to look in on it a little.

What do you think?