Yemaya, Goddess of the New Year

Ready to plunge into the New Year, Sisters?

Yemaya, Yoruba goddess of the ocean, is one of my favorite goddesses. She is Mama Wata, Star of the Sea, Stella Maris, a Mother Creator goddess who gives birth to us in the New Year as we give birth to ourselves, with new skin, fresh eyes, and an open heart.

She grants wishes, midwifes our dreams into reality, buoys us to dance in the creative waters, helps us flow through life and swim in the liquid pools of our being. She encourages us to dive deep and find the essence of our soul's yearnings and bring them up to the surface. She invites us to play like little seals and otters, allowing our creative juices to spill out and over the canvas of our lives.

There is no right or wrong, she says, when it comes to creating. Follow your intuition, let it flow! It doesn't matter whether you step in and slowly find your footing, wading further and further out, or jump in feet first. She opens her arms to you. The water's fine.

I accidentally brought this goddess into being three years ago before I knew much about her and before I started working with her intentionally. When I was creating my SoulCollage® card for my sacral chakra, center of creativity and emotions, sensuality and sexuality, I journeyed to meet my animal ally of this place.

There I was met by a manatee, a great, soft, gentle creature, which can be found in both salt and fresh waters. Manatees were once mistaken for mermaids because of their feminine, cowlike form. In the image I created, I included a mermaid queen who fed the manatee of my creative chakra. Behind her danced the goddess, Thetis, a Greek sea nymph, who like Yemaya, represents fertility, as well as pleasures found in dancing and singing. Only later, as I actively explored the mythology of the mermaid goddess Yemaya, did I realize that I had already met her and cast her in the important role of feeding my creative soul.

I started actively working with her in 2010 and got to know her well, calling upon her by literally sending a message in a bottle to her by dropping it into the ocean. She heard my call and helped me give birth to my SoulWork book, In the Lap of the Goddess: Connecting With the Divine Feminine in 2011. I kept the SoulCollage® card I made of her archetype (below) next to my computer as I worked. I thought sometimes of my creative work as the steady drip, drip, drip of water until it forms a pool. At times I imagined myself swimming around in the murky depths until I found clarity. I saw myself opening shells and finding pearls. I honored her with a chapter in the book about working with this creator goddess. With Yemaya's help, I persistently kept moving through, diving deep and resurfacing, again and again.

And I call upon her now as I take another leap in 2012. My dreams include:

  • adding another chapter to my book on Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty. This chapter will be on self-love and self-care.
  • launching Goddess Temple, where I will offer 2 e-courses based on my book, the first of which will run from March 4 - 31, and will explore The Triple Goddess, the maiden, mother and crone within each of us.
  • sending my workbook to publishers to secure a book deal, which I envision in an expanded form with more goddess goodness to work and play with
  • traveling to Greece to visit the sacred goddess sites, temples and caves, and soak in the Mediterranean beauty

Remember, Sisters, Dream Big. Size Matters.

What are your wishes and dreams for the New Year? Yemaya is waiting to hear your call.

Go here to register for the Goddess Temple e-course, a 4-week exploration of The Triple Goddess, Persephone, the maiden, Demeter, the Mother, and Hecate, the crone using my SoulWork book, In the Lap of the Goddess (discount available if you've already purchased the book):  Goddess Temple

Mother Mary Comes to Me

Mother Mary and Mary Magdalene have been with me as spiritual guides for a long time now and lately, Mother Mary has been coming to me in unexpected places. I bought two statues of Mary that caught my eye at a couple of vintage stores I recently stopped into. One is of her face, which I am decoupaging, and the other is a full figure with chipped paint and a little angel peeking out from beneath her robes. The two Marys came to me again recently after my annual exam since having thyroid cancer and my thyroid removed in 1997. A lymph node lit up on a PET scan in my lung area. I called in the two Marys, who had helped me though my healing process before, and after 3 months of probing and questioning by doctors and talk of removing it, the lymph node disappeared without medical intervention. Through this, I was reminded of the healing power of these two goddesses once more. They have guided me through some dark times.

I'm feeling the need for Mary's protection and guidance now as I step into somewhat new territory of leading goddess workshops based on the goddesses in my workbook. I am feeling a bit tender and vulnerable and even a little overwhelmed as I prepare for this new leadership role. It is times like these that I seem to need her most.

I think there is a part of me that has resisted the mother, Mary, because of the way she has been sanctified and even made a bit saccharine in Christian tradition, so I have been trying to meet her--the Christian version of her--and see her in her full depth and meaning.

I find her more approachable and accessible in her old, chthonic forms. I've found that her spirit lives in every culture, going back to the images of the Great Mother from Neolithic and Paleolithic times. In the round, full-figured Venuses that have been dug up throughout Europe and Asia.

She is Stella Maris, mother of the sea, personified as Yemaya in West Africa. She is Artemis of Ephesus, the ancient many-breasted goddess before she became the Greek goddess of the forest and its creatures. She is Kwan Yin, the Buddhist goddess of mercy.  She is Brigid, the Celtic earth goddess. She is Isis, the Egyptian goddess who gives birth to a divine child. She is even Kali Ma, the blue-faced Hindu mother goddess. All of these goddesses are considered midwives who watch over women during childbirth, where life and death hover at the crossroads.

The Christian mother of God could be said to be one of the later incarnations of this powerful, earthy archetype. Except, in Christian tradition her earthiness and sexuality were split off and given to the other Mary, of Magdalene. Both she and Lilith, goddess of Jewish tradition, were cast in the role of prostitute by Judeo-Christian patriarchy because in that dualistic worldview, the feminine was not to be sexual unless she was "bad." Only the feminine divorced from her earthiness, fecundity and sexuality, was "good." That put women in quite a bind.

This is also why I have struggled with Mother Mary, a supposed virgin mother. She represents only part of the feminine whole, an exalted part, an idealized version that is hard, if not impossible, to reach. Only by embracing the two Marys have I felt that there is completion and a mirror in which I can see myself.

Mary Magdalene, the human Mary, carries the energy of the error-prone, often misunderstood wife/mother, who must find her way in the world. Only recently has the Catholic Church admitted that there is no evidence she was a prostitute and allowed that she was, in fact, a disciple, although many believe she was more than that. They're not ready to admit that she may have been the wife of Jesus and the mother of their child, Sarah, a girl -- what was cryptically referred to as the Holy Grail -- a cup, a feminine holder of Wisdom, the missing part to the masculine divinity that took hold and has prevailed ever since. In many ways, we're still searching for the Holy Grail, the feminine divine.

Mother Mary comes to me, perhaps asking to be understood, accepted, allowed in, as she is. After all, she has survived the patriarchal attempts to mute and transform her. Now when I look at her I can't help but see the hidden layers, knowing there is a deep, dark goddess at her heart, a timeless being that cannot be thwarted.

There is no question that the Madonna and child is beautiful in art, but in most paintings I find her remote. I am drawn to the black Madonna, which seems to hold more of her down-to-earth nature: dark, black, warm, moist, like the soil.

On my altar, I have both the light and the dark Mary to remind me of the riches to be found in both places, above and below, in the shadow and in the light, in the labor of birth and in the release of death, in her humanness and in her glory. Symbolically, we are giving birth over and over again as we create every new permutation of our lives. And, so, too, are we dying many little deaths throughout the spiral dance of life. We need our mother, the Great Mother, to see us through these often cataclysmic changes.

I have found that when working with the energy of whatever goddess is making herself known, it is important to bring her into the world, to find or create images, symbols, and totems to see and touch, to work with on a daily basis. It is through images and symbols that we can create a dialog with our soul, and thus find the deeper meaning of our existence.

I offer here the Gnostic prayer to Mary Magdalene:

I am first, I am last,

I am loved and I am scorned.

I am life, I am death.

I am pure and I am soiled.

I am the knowledge

that hides within all questions.

I am what is sought, and I

am the seeking itself.

I am all that is within you

and all that is outside you.

I am the garment that shows you

the secret shape of your soul.

Ariadne

I've been thinking about Ariadne, who, the story goes, was a princess whose father was the King Minos of Crete. She was the one who helped the hero, Theseus, who came to slay the Minotaur -- half-man, half-bull -- by giving him a ball of red thread so that he could find his way out of the labyrinth, where the minotaur lay in wait. She struck a deal with Theseus that if he returned, they would marry and he would take her away with him, from her father's kingdom to a new life. But here's the interesting thing about Ariadne and the myth that has been told so many times in this way: it's not the real story. The true story is that Ariadne wasn't a princess, she was a goddess, the Mother Goddess, the primal Snake Goddess of Crete, the Great Goddess. That's the way she was seen and celebrated long before the Judeo-Christian religion took over and demoted her to the role of a princess, a daughter of the patriarchy.

But perhaps it is the later version that we can most relate to today: a maiden who must face the authority of the father, the culture, the patriarchy, and forge her own path, gain experience, until she can find the roots of her own power and divinity deep within. Until she can discover the true goddess that has been buried deep inside and almost forgotten by history, and, indeed, by Herself.

In Sue Monk Kidd's awakening and transformation beautifully told in her book, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter: A Woman's Journey From Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine, she grapples with the minotaur as she casts off the role of the dutiful daughter in both the practice of her religion and in her way of writing. She describes the half-man, half-bull monster who lives at the center of the underground labyrinth as carrying the spirit of the Old King, the negative animus, the inner critic. We each have to slay our own minotaur, the self-hatred, the self-doubt, the self-destruction that would eat our own soul if it had its way, that would gladly devour the sacrificial lamb of our dreams and desires if we allowed it.

When I was working to birth my book, In the Lap of the Goddess, I was very much aware of this inner voice that tried to waylay me and tell me I couldn't do it, who, when I encountered obstacles, and didn't know where I was going, suggested I give up. I still hear that voice when I contemplate the task of marketing my book and finding an audience and a publisher. The road seems daunting, much like the long, labyrinthine tunnels Theseus had to find his way through.

But he did it with the help of the feminine, Ariadne, who provided a way back: a red thread. Red, like the color of blood, thread, like the umbilical cord that connects the newly-growing fetus to the mother, like the one the Fates spun and wove into the warp and woof of each person's life. It's important to hold onto that thread, that lifeblood, when we are in the midst of it, when we don't know our way.

It's important to have something to hold onto, to remind us of what we wanted when we started, so we can feel our way through the uncertainty, the unknown, and to help us return home, to ourselves. And so it was for me. I held onto a thread that I started with, and it became a lifeline I dared not let go of, that allowed me to move into uncharted territory and find my way back.

It took the inner masculine and inner feminine working together to set the course, kill the beast, and complete the journey. The feminine provides the inspiration, the vision, and charts the creative path. The masculine does the hard work of getting it done, manifesting it in the world, and slaying dragons. Both must work together and help each other. Without the feminine muse spinning the dreams, the masculine has little to work with. Without the masculine energy to get through the day-to-day and put the ideas into form, the inspiration dissipates like a will o' the wisp.

And so each of us becomes Ariadne, a mortal princess who must leave the known, safe world on the sacred journey to reach the goddess. And to borrow a quote from Monk Kidd's book, "When I speak of Goddess I am in no way referring to an entity 'out there,' who appears miraculously as a fairy godmother and turns the pumpkin into a carriage. I am in no way referring to a Goddess 'back there,' as if I participate in resurrecting an ancient religion. In the sense that I am woman I see the Goddess in myself." - Nelle Morton

On my odyssey I have been meeting many wonderful women who are writing blogs that tell of their own journeys. I have been honored to provide guest blogs for the soulful Aja Blanc at Moon Woman Rising on the Beauty of the Crone (yes, I declare myself a beautiful crone) and on the bright and beautiful blog of Jo Crawford, Crafting the Sacred, where I talk about my Soul Work. Please visit and become acquainted with these women of wisdom and join us in the Goddess Circle.

Corn Mother

Corn Mother is a Native American goddess from the Seminole tradition. In this time of bountiful plenty, abundance and fertility, the Corn Mother reminds us to be grateful for all the gifts Grandmother Earth has to share with us. My garden is healthy and happy and it gives me pleasure to go out and water the tomato plants, squash, cucumbers, basil, peppers, and herbs that are  growing there in the hot July sun.

Corn Mother is a grounding influence and right now after a two and a half week whirlwind with my sister, Lynn, visiting for the first time in North Carolina, I'm ready to enjoy being back down to earth.

We went to Asheville in the mountains of North Carolina one weekend and Williamsburg, Virginia the next. That's us at the Indian village in Jamestown, imagining what life would have been like if we were Powhatan. They gave the Colonists a lot of help when they got to the new land and prevented many from starving, although the first winter in Jamestown is known as the Starving Time.

It's something to imagine what life would have been like stepping foot on land that had never been tamed with no amenities except what little you brought with you on the ship from England. It really does give you pause to look around and see all that we now enjoy as a result of these courageous men and women who came here with next to nothing and made lives for themselves and a legacy for all of us to enjoy.

Speaking of bounty, I went to the Farmer's Market today, my Saturday morning ritual, and found such wonderful goodies as pecan peanut butter and Blue Ridge Mountain sour cherry preserves. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches never tasted so good.

Fresh corn, green bean and tomato salad, Southern squash casserole, and fresh pesto potatoes made a lavish summer feast for dinner tonight.

I haven't talked about our new girls in the family, but they deserve mention here, because we enjoy them so much. We have 6 pet chickens, who will be laying eggs in about another month. You can see some of the girls here: Kali, Chipmonk, Ginalolabrigida, Charlotte, Thelma and Louise are as cute as can be and come out clucking to greet me when I let them out into the yard to eat up the bugs, especially those ticks. These girls will always be egg layers and will never end up on anyone's dinner plate.

While my sister was here, we were able to join a powerful circle of women in Hillsborough (like last year, a coven of 13 magically convened) and make dolls with Outsider artist and Cherokee storyteller Cher Shaffer. This year we made dolls out of clay, healing dolls or soul dolls to remind us of our own feminine power, divinity, and healing abilities. It's always a rich experience hearing Cher's stories and sharing food and comraderie with interesting, creative, and soulful women.

May we all enjoy the fruits of summer and bask in the providence and nurture of the Corn Mother.

Ostara and The Miracle of a Rabbit

As Easter approaches, the Anglo-Saxon goddess, Ostara, fills our days with spring blossoms, colored eggs, and bunny sightings. Like all spring goddesses, she brings with her new ideas, new beginnings, rebirth, and hope. In the Christian tradition, Easter celebrates the resurrection of Christ, but in ancient times spring festivals celebrated the arrival of the goddess who ushered in the new dawn, the imminent return of the sun. Following these time-honored traditions, today Easter is always celebrated on the Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. This full moon, known in April as the Egg or Pink Moon, appears on April 17.

As a fertility goddess, Ostara reminds us of what we are birthing. Her totem animal is the hare or rabbit, a symbol of fecundity. It is a time to make great leaps, to start bringing that idea that's been brewing into fruition or to take the leap into the unknown. Because who knows what magic will come when you do?

Today, I am giving birth to two chapters of my SoulWork book, In the Lap of the Goddess: Connecting to the Divine Feminine available here. The two goddesses featured in these chapters, Kali, Goddess of Destruction, and Yemaya, Goddess of Creation, are timely as they help us through the process of death and rebirth.

In May, I will present three more chapters on the Triple Goddess of Greek myth: Persephone, the Maiden, Demeter, the Mother, and Hecate, the Crone. At that time you will also be able to purchase the entire SoulWork book, which celebrates these five goddesses from different traditions, either as a download or in printed form.

And to tell us about another great leap into the unknown is my guest today, the beautiful Goddess Leonie from Down Under, whose Creating My Goddess Year inspired me to create my own e-book. And without further ado, here she is to tell us a tale about...

The Miracle of a Rabbit

Many moons ago, a rabbit came to live in our front yard for a while. She would sit there, hovering beneath the pines, watching us with calm eyes and a dignified kind of grace.

I would laugh about it each morning as we set off to work together.

"Rabbit! I wonder what that means! I must look up its medicine!" I'd tell my love.

Then we'd bundle into our blue jeep and head out into the turquoise day, and I'd promptly forget about it.

Each night we'd return home just on dusk.

And there Rabbit would be. Hovering just beneath the pines, just out of arm's reach.

I worried about her at first. Worried that she would be sniffed out by the neighborhood dogs that roamed.

She didn't want to be caught though. She led us on a wild hopping goose chase until we relinquished the fact: she was safe. She was happy. She was where she needed to be.

Then we'd go inside our cottage, and I'd forget about it.

And each morning, the same dance would happen again.

There Rabbit would be.

We'd drive and I'd dream out loud to my love:

"What does Rabbit mean? New hope? Spring time?"

It was winter here in the southern hemisphere. Spring was still months away, and it just didn't feel like the answer that fit.

And I'd say "I should look deeper into this. Find out her medicine!"

And then…

I'd forget.

I was too busy eating everything in sight. And forgetting everything moments after they happened.

Can you guess Rabbit's medicine yet?

One Sunday, my love and I ate falafels for lunch.

I pushed the rest of mine away.

Ugh. I feel nauseous. What did we eat last night?

My love looked at me. They crinkled around the edges, and his right eyebrow raised just a millimetre.

After knowing and loving this man for ten years, I know the movements of his face as whole conversations.

WHAAAAAAT? WHAT'S WITH THE EYEBROW, MISTER?

And he smiled a secret smile.

My love, he said.

Do you think it's time for a pregnancy test?

I was adamant I wasn't.

I would KNOW if I was. Me - the one who is so in tune with her body. I would KNOW if a baby's energy had come to stay!

But the smile and the crinkle of his eye and that glow of his --

they suggested otherwise.

And as he so often is, he was right.

I was.

Nine moons later, a cyclone blew over my tropical hometown paradise -- Proserpine, the only town in the world named after the Goddess Persephone. A deep energy cleansing.

My waters burst with a rush of ocean the next day.

Three days later, a week or so after the equinox, a week or so before Easter,

a baby girl was born.

She rushes in one swoop into her father's hands, and he gifts her to me.

She echoes one birth cry, then is quiet, wide blue eyes open to the world, taking it in peacefully.

And true to the spirit of the Rabbit, to Spring, to miracles, to hope, to Easter,

her name emerged:

My goddess daughter. Filled with the light.

Of the goddess that Easter was named for.

Of Morgaine Le Fay.

Of all the ways the blessings of our ancestors make our days anew now.

The time is drawing near again.

The marketplaces become filled again with soft, fluffy totems of rabbits, and chocolate odes to the beginning egg.

And my heart lights up with the joy of it all.

It is that sacred time again: the spring time in our souls.

The rabbit is hopping.

Note: Ostara just turned one in March.

~~~~ Goddess Leonie is the creator of the popular creativity and spirituality blog, www.GoddessGuidebook.com and the online Goddess Circle.

Butterfly Maiden

A springtime goddess in the Hopi tradition, she flutters into our hearts to remind us to taste life--butterflies taste flowers by walking on them--and to connect with nature. Butterfly Maiden is a kachina spirit of fertility and spiritual growth. Kachinas carry the prayers of the people to the ancestors in the spirit world. For the Hopis, the butterfly is a symbol of everlasting life and joy.

This maiden spirit helps us open our heart chakra of love and compassion, not only for others, but for ourselves. As I await word about whether or not I have a tumor in my chest, I am sending love and light to this area. I go to the doctor on the 5th to find out more. It's something that has shown up on scans since 2003, so logic, as well as my heart, tells me it's not cancer. But it may need to come out.

I have pictured a moth, beating its wings against my chest cavity, trying to find its way out of this darkness so it can fly towards the light--blue healing light and freedom.

I have been going through a different sort of metamorphosis, having completed my Soul Work book, In the Lap of the Goddess: Connecting With the Divine Feminine. It will be available for download and in printed form I hope with my next post. That is when the lovely Goddess Leonie will be showing up to tell us about the harbinger of Ostara, her own beautiful, tiny goddess named after the feminine deity of Easter. Stay tuned!

The Subject Tonight Is Love

The subject tonight is Love

And for tomorrow night as well,

As a matter of fact I know of no better topic

For us to discuss

Until we all

Die!

- Hafiz

On this Valentine's weekend, Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty reminds us that we are most beautiful when we are shining our love and compassion for ourselves out into the world. If we cannot love ourselves with our flaws and failings, how can we hope to love another with theirs? It's so much easier to see the flaws in others and not our own, which we hide and protect and attempt to disown. We relegate these parts into the shadowy depths. Yet when we dare to look at our shadow parts, we find gold. For only then is there hope for integration, and ultimately, wholeness.

When Aphrodite is activated in us, we feel sensual and powerful in our feminine bodies. Indeed, we are charismatic and attract others like moths to flame. Aphrodite is an alchemical goddess who brings consciousness to relationship, and thus, change. She teaches us to be independent, yet vulnerable.

These words, by the poet, David Whyte, remind us that it is not power, control, and perfection that bring us love, but exposing our beating heart, our frailties, and vulnerability:

“We have the strange idea, unsupported by any evidence, that we are loved and admired only for our superb strength, our far-reaching powers, and our all-knowing competency. Yet in the real world, no matter how many relationships may have been initiated by strength and power, no marriage or friendship has ever been deepened by these qualities. After a short, erotic honeymoon, power and omnipotence expose their shadow underbellies and threaten real intimacy, which is based on mutual vulnerability. After the bows have been made to the brass god of power, we find in the privacy of relationship that same god suddenly immobile and inimitable to conversation. As brass gods ourselves, we wonder why we are no longer loved in the same way we were at our first appearance. Our partners have begun to find our infallibility boring and, after long months or years, to find us false, frightening, and imprisoning.

We have the same strange idea in work as we do in love: that we will engender love, loyalty and admiration in others by exhibiting a great sense of power and competency. We are surprised to find that we garner fear and respect but forgo the other, more intimate magic. Real, undying loyalty in work can never be legislated or coerced; it is based on a courageous vulnerability that invites others by our example to a frontier conversation whose outcome is yet in doubt.

We have an even stranger idea: that we will finally fall in love with ourselves only when we have become the totally efficient organized organism we have always wanted to be and left all of bumbling ineptness behind. Yet in exactly the way we come to find love and intimacy with others through vulnerability, we come to those same qualities in ourselves through living out the awkwardness of not knowing, of not being in charge.

We try to construct a life in which we will be perfect, in which we will eliminate awkwardness, pass by vulnerability, ignore ineptness, only to pass through the gate of our lives and find, strangely, that the gateway is vulnerability itself. The very place we are open to the world whether we like it or not.”

I'm looking forward to celebrating 14 years of marriage to Rob this weekend in Asheville.  Here's to love... At Last... Happy Valentine's Day!

Gratitude

Goddess and guides that have been with me since I was a wee little girl, always knowing that I was being watched over and cared for

Rob and Chloe, my sweet little family of three, we nurture and care for each other and find ways to play (and the larger circle of family who are always there)

Allie, Jasper and Maggie, our four-legged, furry companions, who delight us on a daily basis, and all my other pets that have gone before

Trust, the word I chose this year, and what I have gained by surrendering to it

Intimate friendships with so many deep, soul-steeped women in my life, including my sisters, Lynn and Judy, and my shaman sisters--you know who you are (Each of You!)

Therapy, the work that I do that allows me to connect with so many people, to teach what I know, and to learn from them in so many ways

Understanding and the thirst for more, for all of us on this great, blue, spinning planet

Daddy, sweet man of mutual admiration, who wasn't afraid to be emotional, who gave me unconditional love and made me laugh

Elizabeth, my mom, who gave me the gift of imagination and spiritual seeking. The circle goes unbroken. Thank you, all, my dear peeps.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Help from the Guides and Goddesses

Embarking on a creative journey brings up a lot of fear and resistance in me. First I am bubbling and bursting with ideas, and then I start to create and manifest them, and then often I find the downpour becomes a drizzle until it fizzles out, another project not completed. So I have been working with a creative coach who is helping me dig down and connect with my Conscious Core, find my blocks and limiting beliefs, and turn them around.

I am finding this takes a lot of practice and discipline. As my teacher, Laurece, reminds me, my ego wants to keep me doing what its always done, traipsing down the same neural pathways, while my soul is striving to clear decades-old beliefs. And as Eckhart Tolle says, "the more you make your thoughts (beliefs) into your identity, the more cut off you are from the spiritual dimension within yourself."

I also like what Seena B. Frost says in an interview with Catherine Anderson, on her blog, Listening for the Whisperings. When talking about the right brain process of selecting images (or letting the images select you) when doing SoulCollage®, she says, "Images are sneaky! Somehow they can sneak around our ego defense system better than words can. Imagine this:  all your ego parts (those Neters that want to keep the status quo,) are standing arm in arm around the entrance to your unconscious. They will allow no trouble or surprise or change to come up from down there where your half-formed juicy parts are churning around, eager to leap out and manifest into form.

"These energies may have been sent below because when you were a child, they were too out of line. Or they may be energies that never were allowed to emerge, to be named and recognized because they were judged, by ego Neters, to have too much Shadow. However these are energies that Jung would call our ‘hidden gold’, despite their Shadow. Also down there are the Archetypal Energies that guide our Souls, urging us towards certain life paths. They may be unrecognized thus far, and their guidance so strange and powerful that we fear and resist their urgings."

Thus the age-old struggle of the artist to emerge is a difficult birth when confronted with the power of the ego. I realize I needed help in this birthing process and I think of my coach, Laurece, as my mid-wife.

I have been creating a goddess book, a way to journey and connect with the divine feminine in her many forms. But first I am finding I need to play with these goddesses and emerging energies myself, and find their power through living with them, dialoging with them, and learning from them.

Yemaya is a creator goddess who has been with me for much of 2010. She is a watery sea goddess who is helping me create flow -- of energy, of creativity, of ideas and a sense of  ease and playfulness as I manifest my dreams.

I have long known that the whale is my totem animal that I came in with. I know this because I had a magical experience when I was 5 years old and living in California.

My parents took me out on the ocean for a whale-watching tour and as everyone's eyes were focused on one side of the boat, I saw a whale rise from the water on the other side of the boat. It was as if she wanted me to know she saw me and recognized me. I looked directly into her large, soulful eye and for a moment was held in a suspended moment of magic, knowing I was experiencing something numinous. Before I could exclaim what I'd seen to the others on board, she disappeared from sight. Everyone pointed and shouted when they saw her tail flip up as she swam away, but I could only stand quietly in awe at what I, alone, had been privileged to experience just moments before. I consider her one of my spirit guides.

A sister spirit of the whale, the manatee, is the guardian of my sacral chakra, the center of creativity, feeling, sexuality and sensuality. When I created the SoulCollage® card for this chakra after moving to North Carolina, I was just beginning to forge a new creative path for myself and learn how important it was for me to feed my soul and not neglect it. Little did I know when I made the card how important this image, this totem, and this energy would come to mean a year later. I didn't know then that the mermaid I included is symbolic of the goddess, Yemaya. It is here that I have begun in earnest to connect with the sacred feminine in her many manifestations. I turn to the goddesses for nurturing when I feel most alone and unsure of myself. I am getting to know them better and forming relationships with them through images, rituals, and words.

Just a couple of weeks ago we went to the beach for the weekend where I planned to commune more deeply with Yemaya, goddess of the Oceans and Seas -- Mama Watta, as she is known in West Africa. She is a fertility goddess who brings about birth, grants wishes, and transforms dreams into reality. I needed her help, so I put a message in a bottle and with my daughter, Chloe, we dropped it into the glistening sea.

The Veil Between

On Saturday night I took part in an ancient tradition, the autumn bonfire, which we Americans associate with fall, hot apple cider, and possibly football games. But it is a tradition that goes back to ancient times and the Celtic celebration of Samhain (pronounced Sow-wen), the end of summer on earth and the beginning of it in the Underworld.

Samhain is the Celtic New Year, time when the veil between the world of the living and dead is thinnest and it is said we can see across the maw, a time to honor our ancestors and get rid of that which no longer serves us, by throwing it into the fire. It is celebrated on the eve of October 31 and the day of November 1, the same day the Catholic church calls All Saints Day. They appropriated the day from the traditional pagan worship and made it a grab-bag Christian holiday. (Clever Catholics.)

I've always loved Halloween and as I've gotten older it seems I have found fewer and fewer opportunities to dress up and change my persona. This year with hubby and daughter out of town, I decided to dress up in goddess garb and commune with other women who celebrate the divine feminine.

This night, we chose to celebrate Hecate, my favorite triple goddess, known as the Old One, the Wise One, the one we can turn to when we are at the crossroads, seeking counsel, wondering which way to turn. This is her season. She leads us into the darkness that is now beginning, with her lantern lighting the way. She can see into past, present, and future, the crossroads in which we all find ourselves, at all times.

In the circle, we each let go of something that we no longer wanted in our life. Mine was fear of completing my creative project. We brought in the qualities we wished to bring in or hold onto. Mine was play. We also gave a gift to our ancestors (mine was healing the feminine wound in our family), and we named the ones we wished to remember. On that night, I honored my father, Cliff, and my grandparents, Mamie Marie and Walter Valentine Reichard, Lillian and Charlie Anderson, and my Auntie Drue. Their gifts to me are laughter, speaking from the heart, divining the soul, appreciating the beauty of nature, treasuring the gift of life, and intelligence. I felt the ancestors were with us that night of honoring and healing beneath the full Hunter's moon.

What do you want to let go of?

What qualities do you want to bring in to your life?

What is your gift to your ancestors?

What is their gift to you?

Thank you, Goddess sisters, for gathering to honor ourselves and those who have gone before us.

It is the feminine spirit that is needed to bring balance and healing to this planet and to all creatures who suffer.

Happy Autumn Equinox

Thursday, September 23rd is the first day of fall that coincides with the full Harvest Moon in Aries, the ram, the first sign of the zodiac, corresponding to the Materia Prima, the first work of alchemy.

I sometimes feel impatient in the time between, when the great wheel turns from one season to another, seeming to take its own sweet time to dial in to fall. It's been a lingering summer here in North Carolina and dry of late, but it looks like this Sunday may be the turning point when the weather cools and we get some rain on Monday at long last. On a recent trip to the mountains -- Boone and Grandfather Mountain -- the leaves were just starting to shift into their golden hues, but it was still mostly green and the air not yet crisp and cool, which I long for. We're heading up to Black Mountain in mid-October where I expect the eruption of colors to be in full swing.

The full moon closest to the fall equinox is called the Harvest Moon because it was usually the last chance for farmers to pull in their second harvest and work late by the light of the big orange moon. Take a look at how big and bright it looks tonight and tomorrow.  It seems like its closer and bigger than usual because of the seasonal tilt of the earth and because the light from the moon is passing through a greater amount of atmospheric particles than when the moon is overhead. Also, since the time between moonrises on successive nights is shorter in autumn than at any other time of year, there is less darkness between sunset and moonrise.

In ancient Greek mythology, autumn was the time the goddess, Persephone, the maiden, returned to the underworld to live with her husband, the god, Hades, and welcome those crossing over into the land of the dead. Persephone spent half the year presiding over the underworld and the other half--arising in the spring--with her mother, Demeter.

In Celtic tradition this time is known as Mabon, when the feast of Avalon -- the mystical place also known as the land of apples -- was celebrated. Avalon was also a place where the dead resided, and a place where people could be reunited with their loved ones, like the underworld ruled by Hades and Persephone in the Greek tradition. Mabon was the "son of mother," and is often seen as a male counterpart to Persephone. While Persephone is associated with the moon, Mabon is associated with the sun.

In ancient Egypt, the god, Osiris, ruler of the underworld, was dismembered and buried by his jealous brother, Set, the personification of darkness. The goddess, Isis, found his remains and put him back together inside of a tree. Osiris is associated with the fall equinox and the death and rebirth cycle. He was symbolized by the rising sun.

In the Christian tradition, the story of Lazarus rising from the dead with the help of Jesus, the "son of God," is also associated with this time of year. The raising of the "Sun" from the dead was celebrated on the winter solstice, near the date now associated with Christ's birthday.

Notice any similarities? Throughout time, our religions, myths and traditions have associated the beginning of fall with the time when the last crops are brought in and the ground lies fallow for winter, a time of darkness, when the days are shorter, and we move inward. This time, leading to winter, was associated with death, the end of growth and new life for a while. But like the gods and goddesses of old, rebirth occurred when the green sprouts that have lain dormant under the earth burst forth in the spring. This resurrection story has been told over and over again throughout time. It is the story of our own transformation as we journey through life, from season to season, year to year. Is it no wonder that we feel the stirrings of change when the seasons turn?

Fall reminds us to harvest our own creative ideas, thoughts and yearnings. To consider what we have accomplished and have brought to fruition in the months preceding. To prepare for the winter of hibernation, for going down into our own underworld -- to explore and sift through the dark matter of our own soul -- where old habits and the things that no longer serve us can be left behind and new beginnings, the rumblings of our future Self, can be nurtured and brought forth.

Speaking of the wheel turning, as we are move closer to the end of this year and the beginning of 2011, it's a good time to think about new plans and dreams for the coming year. I have contributed a page to a 2011 calendar/diary with pages created from artists around the world. It will have a plain brown cardboard cover you can collage or decorate and make your own, lots of imaginative images inside, and places to write notes and doodles. If you're interested in ordering it, you can get it here:  http://www.fantazya.ca/diary2011.html

Get the party started...

Welcome to the SoulCollage® blog party where you can see what SoulCollagers have been assembling. Thanks, Kathryn Antyr at True North Arts for hosting! I had a great time putting my SoulCollage® cards together--some old, some new--and creating a story of Heartwork... Work of the eyes is done now. Go and do heartwork On all the images imprisoned within you: For you overpowered them: But even now you don’t know them…

~ Rainer Rilke

“When you look back on a lifetime and think of what has been given to the world by your presence, your fugitive presence, inevitably you think of your art, whatever it may be, as the gift you have made to the world in acknowledgment of the gift you have been given, which is the life itself… That work is not an expression of the desire for praise or recognition, or prizes, but the deepest manifestation of your gratitude for the gift of life.”

~ Stanley Kunitz

(Thanks Mili Dillard for making these poems available.) [aslideshow]

[/aslideshow] Let the blog roll begin...

The Girl Who Fears Scarcity and the Golden Warrior

I created this shadow box -- which was meant to be literally about an aspect of our own shadow; that part of ourselves that we don't want to look at, let alone own -- and I feel that in making it I have unlocked a fearful part of me that I have been struggling with for some time: The little girl who is afraid of not having enough, who lives with a sense of lack and thinks it's all she deserves, and who struggles to create and feel abundance as her right. In pondering when this little shadow sub-personality may have been born, I recalled a year in my life that is full of memories both dark and vibrant, a time when my consciousness awoke and I became much more acutely aware of other people's feelings and yearnings, as well as my own.

When I was a little girl about 5 years old, we lived in a small apartment at the beach in California for a year. It was lean times in our family as my father took a temporary job while continuing to look for something more permanent in his line of work in the aerospace industry. I was a whirligig of motion at that age, always running, skipping, and flitting from place to place. Thus I earned the nickname "Butterfly" from one of my mother's friends. During this time my mother got a job, the only time in my childhood when she worked outside the home, so I was left to my own devices a little more than would probably be encouraged these days. I remember being invited to another girl's birthday party and I had some cheap, paltry gift that I was ashamed to bring to her. I walked by myself down the strand to the girl's house and on the way I stopped at a neighbor's and burst into tears about my pathetic gift. My neighbor somehow magically was able to give me some items that made my offering seem much more bountiful--I seem to recall a big box of new crayons and a brand new set of paper dolls to add to what I remember as a single, thin coloring book. It rounded out the gift I had nicely, I thought, and not too proud to accept these gifts from my neighbor, I went to the party with my head held high. I don't remember how my gifts were received or much else about the party, but the feeling of not having enough and perhaps not being enough lingered.

As I placed the figure of the little girl inside my shadow box I felt her vulnerability as she stood before an image of a great swath of pavement with a single penny in the middle of it. There were also two empty fishing baskets hanging on a post in front of the vast ocean.  The instructions for making the shadow box included bringing in a warrior spirit to help the shadow part transform. I was excited when I heard about this element because in marvelous synchronicity, just the day before, I had received in the mail my beautiful warrior guardian doll as part of the paper doll swap I took part in at True North Arts. She was the perfect goddess of abundance with her golden sash, boots, and sword (created by Tana Vaughan, Thank You again, Tana!), and I knew she was to be part of my shadow box.

I was drawn to her butterfly/moth headdress, and with the theme of transformation in mind, I began to bring butterflies into my shadow box, the magical creatures who shape shift from creeping caterpillars to winged gossamers of beauty, and recalled the peripatetic child I once was. As I draped the little girl in tiny butterflies and added three-dimensional butterflies to my once barren shadow box, I began to feel the relief that transformation brings when we allow ourselves to see things from a different perspective, when we change our thoughts. I now saw a shiny penny on a dark, empty surface -- a glimmer of hope, a beginning. I saw the empty baskets next to the wide expanse of ocean, teeming with fish (symbols of spirituality), as vessels of rich possibility, waiting to be filled. I saw the little girl, who before had seemed so alone and bereft, as now cloaked in butterflies before a girl meditating, serene in her own knowing about the world, protected by a magnificent golden warrior of abundance who will always guide her to knowing she has nothing to fear. The Universe has always provided and will continue to provide all that she needs.

I would also like to invite you all to take part in a SoulCollage® blog party that Kathryn Antyr of Collage Diva and True North Arts is hosting. On Saturday, July 31st, the unveiling of SoulCollage® cards will take place on many sites, including this one. (If you come here, you will be able to see the others from here.) So if you have some SoulCollage® cards and a blog or Flickr page on which to show them off, please join the party! There are lots of great ideas on Kathryn's site for how to present your cards and your story.

Solar Eclipse Energy

I don't know about you, but I have been feeling some strong energy shifts since the summer solstice on June 21, the full moon lunar eclipse on June 26, and the solar eclipse/new moon in Cancer that's coming up on July 11. For me it's stirred up creative energy and fiery passion to get things done and take some leaps in my work both as a therapist and an artist and writer. I have always been interested in astrology and the psychological understanding that going into the depths can bring. I seem to approach it on more of an intuitive level and don't always understand the mechanics or details of it. I think that's typical of my psychological type (INFP or Intuitive/Feeling type) as well as my Aquarian sun, Scorpio rising, and Sagittarius moon. All I know is I'm feeling something and I'm noticing bubbling and rumblings. I have so much creative energy I don't know what to do with it--so many ideas and projects, not enough time--because I also crave rest, a need to feel grounded and balanced. I'm not quite sure what to make of it all yet.

A week ago I went to a SoulCollage® facilitator gathering of 12 wonderful women (and one soulful man) in Charlotte that allowed me to play and make cards that had been percolating inside and needed to be birthed into being. The two solar eclipse cards seen here came out of that. Since learning about all of this cosmic movement taking place -- a grand cardinal cross of 7 planets on or about July 14 -- and the effects of this energy apparently lasting several weeks, I noticed some fear coming up. This is going to be a big planetary shift, I'm hearing, so fasten your seat belts.

The first image I gravitated to when I saw it was of Green Tara, a Buddhist protector goddess. Once I combined her with solar eclipse images and was able to see or sense the bigger picture, I felt the fear melt away. I saw this fear as shadow material that I was feeling on a deep level, but did not need or want to stay in. Fear rarely serves us.

Connecting with the divine feminine that Tara represents helped me feel centered again, enveloped in her good graces and compassion. The message to me was: What do I need to know? Both awareness/knowledge and love are the antidotes to fear. Just creating the image made me feel that I was loving and caring for myself by invoking her protection for all of us. So what do I need to know about this time?

Here's what I've gleaned from reading and listening to others speak about this Big Cosmic Event that starts with the Solar Eclipse on the 11th:

Eclipses, in general, allow us to see what has been hidden from us (Me and My Shadow), to review what has come before (our lessons, what is coming to fruition), and to let go of what no longer serves us so that the alchemical change and rebirth can occur.

As Astrologer Steve Nelson puts it, "A solar eclipse is positively transformative as we learn to detach from what is breaking down and shift attention to what is breaking through... The more shadow patterns are transformed the more energy is freed for new creation. So continues the cycle of death and rebirth, destruction and recreation. The world is ready for change. A total eclipse of the Sun is an opportunity to change whatever we wish at the deepest level. All that's needed is to be still, slow down, and go within to the creative source of transformation in this special time."

Astrologer Rhea Wolf says: "Eclipse cycles happen on the Full and New Moons approximately every six months and act as a kind of energetic bridge through time. We may find ourselves coming to terms with actions we took six months ago, and can even find resolution or illumination about events in our lives from 19 years ago - the last time these specific eclipses would have occurred. Eclipses always heighten and intensify our world. They are like super-charged Full and New Moons. This month, we have the opportunity to create intentions related to the energy of Cancer and Capricorn, setting the stage for the coming six months and beyond. Some general advice for the eclipse season is to leave some open space in your schedule. Eclipse periods are full of the unexpected - projects, people, opportunities and ideas show up suddenly. If you already have a packed calendar, you will definitely get exhausted by the extra attention these surprises require."

And finally, Astrologer Jessica Murray explains, "The key configuration in the sky this summer is the Grand Cross, the most stressful configuration in astrology. With Saturn, Uranus and Pluto in a T-square, and the quickly moving lights in Cancer supplying the fourth piece of the puzzle, the energy we are feeling is tense and insistent. We may miss the mellowness of previous summers; we may feel nostalgic for years past, when the world wasn’t being blindsided by critical issues peaking all at once, as it is now. But this summer’s stresses are exactly what humanity needs to motivate phenomenal bursts of growth.

The solar eclipse on July 11 puts the spotlight on Cancer, the sign of mothering, empathy, caring, and connectedness. On a personal level, it highlights the importance of simple kindness in our life. High-level Cancer inspires us to treat every sentient creature as if it was a treasured child of the universe. To relate in a Cancerian style is, at its best, to open our hearts towards every being as if they were as bonded to us as a treasured family member.

On a global level, the Cancer archetype is putting the emphasis on our connectedness with Mother Earth whose ongoing defilement by the oil industry raises many troubling questions. Blaming the rapacious profiteers of Big Oil (Pluto in Capricorn is one corner of the Cross) is easy enough to do; as is pointing the finger at the corrupt government officials whose failure to protect our environment can be traced to deep-pocket corporations (Saturn square Pluto).

But the deeper we look at this spring and summer’s transits, the more likely we are to find our own oily footprints in the sand. There are many stories hidden within the chart of the Deep Water rig explosion on April 20, 2010, as well as the charts of the transits during June, July and August, that suggest how ordinary people have accepted and maintained the ecological mess we find ourselves in."

And so that brings us back to who we are, where we are, and what responsibility we take for what we have, if not created, certainly allowed. It seems that Mother Earth has been shaking and quaking this year, starting with the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile and other places, the volcanic eruption in Iceland, and then the BP spill in the gulf, which continues to pollute and contaminate our precious resources with no end in sight. How do we turn this around and start to heal ourselves and our planet and do so in a compassionate way?

I believe it starts with a 180 degree shift from the masculine principle of domination, control and plundering to the feminine principle described above in which we work together, treat each other and ourselves as precious beings, and become whole. We are all responsible for making this shift in our own lives. Like Green Tara we can offer empathy for all beings as a mother does for her children, seek to provide protection from the unfortunate circumstances we encounter in the world, and provide healing. As such, we become the World Dancer, the final archetypal figure in the Major Arcana of the Tarot, who has reached a state of conscious awareness that allows us to do the Dance of Creation and both redeem ourselves and our beautiful planet. The question is: What are we each willing to do to bring about this change and redemption?

The Enchantment of Making Time Cage Dolls

Saturday I had the privilege and joy of getting together with a group of soulful women and a wonderful spirit-filled teacher, storyteller, and outsider artist, Cher Shaffer, who guided us through the process of making what she calls "time cage dolls." Our somewhat cryptic message from Cher in advance of the workshop was this: "Be thinking about the women who have influenced your life. Bring a pen, and paper to write a message to them... Time is convergent. Past, present, and future, all merge in all of us. We become Time Cages. We are the embodiment of all that has gone before us, all that is, and all that will be. We are part of the great circle of life. Please contemplate this, and be mindful of any messages or words you get before coming to our gathering." I was intrigued as I have been contemplating my place on the wheel lately, the past, present and future converging, being a mother in the middle between a teenage daughter and my own 92-year old mother. I just knew I really needed to make a time cage doll.

One of the first things Cher talked about when we met at the charming Hillsborough home of Margaret, tucked in the woods on the Eno River, was the existence of the Little People. Cher was very matter-of-fact about this and talked about their presence in the forest and the likelihood that they were watching us right now: We might not be able to see them, but they could surely see us. As she spoke, distant rumblings of thunder could be heard and the weather changed from a hot, humid, sunny day almost instantly to a darkening sky that eventually erupted with cleansing rain, enlivening us as we sat in circle, our imaginations awakened. Cher's mother was Cherokee and the stories of the Little People who lived deep in the forest were a part of her heritage.  I felt time collapse as I sat listening to her tell stories about how as a little girl she grew up playing in the Appalachian woods and catching glimpses of the little creatures. I felt a thrill as she spoke, as if I had come home. For that was my childhood, too, in Kansas, where I spent many hours alone, roaming through the woods on fairy hunts, conversing with the invisible ones, of whom I occasionally caught glimmerings and shimmerings, rustlings and murmurings.  There, my imagination and intuition were nurtured and my love for all things mystical, magical, natural and sacred took form.

My mother encouraged these sightings and endless talk about the creatures I built houses and left offerings for. Once I pointed to the door-shaped bottom of a giant tree in our yard and my mother went out and painted it red so the fairies could find it. Now I could watch from my window and perhaps catch their comings and goings through this portal from their world to ours and back again. Since childhood, I have felt the deep need to be surrounded by big trees and lots of green and gravitated to these settings. It feeds my soul and keeps me close to the nature spirits I feel are like guardian angels to me. Now I have a 14-year-old daughter who thinks it's funny that my computer screen saver photo is of a wise tree spirit -- a wizened face in a tree that is there for everyone to see if you truly look.

And that was the message of making the cage dolls. To truly look at nature and be with it and create from it, bringing you close to Spirit and the ancestors, who speak this language of knowing, of seeing, of being.  The women who had gathered here were all open to seeing with new eyes, it seemed, open to creating a nature spirit, a soul doll, a reflection of themselves that captured time in the cage of her body, connecting each of us in a personal way to our own ancestors, and in a universal way to Spirit and to one another. Together we made a coven of 13 (tee-hee), a magical number of magical women whom I had never met before but who all seemed like long lost friends. In no time we were laughing and sharing our stories of marriages, divorces, children, grandchildren, maidenhood and menopause, and what one of us heard as "sinning" instead of singing--both had meaning depending on how you looked at it.

My cage doll hummed to life for me when I put little paper scrolls with the names of the women in my family written upon them inside her rib cage of twigs and grapevines. She was now a sacred vessel of remembrance, of childhood memories of playing in the woods with the invisible ones, creating worlds I would revisit later in my adulthood and introduce to my own daughter, memories of my grandmothers who read to me and told me stories of their childhood, of my mother who knew how to laugh and who gave me the gift of Believing, of my big sisters, guiding spirits throughout my life, and of my own daughter, who was a little baby girl just a few blinks ago and is now a young maiden who teaches me as much about myself as about her own unique way of being in the world, both innocent and wise at the same time -- all converging in a time cage of my own creation, showing me the way to the sacred feminine, the great circle of life.

Thank you, Cher, and Margaret, and all the women and the Little People who showed up on a certain day, at a certain time, at a certain place, to share precious time together.

Wish I May, Wish I Might

...Have this wish I wish tonight.

My book club group of fab femmes from Carrboro got together and made shrines after reading The Wishing Year, sub-titled "A House, A Man, My Soul," a memoir by Noelle Oxenhandler. If you haven't read it, it's a great read and tres inspirant, even as the author grapples with her fears and skepticism. I have been making goddess shrines, but taking a page, literally, from Oxenhandler's book, I thought it was time to put it out there, a concept she learns from the maven of wishing, the artist,  Carole Watanabe, who practices and extols the virtues of living life as an art form. She believes that if there's something you want to manifest, you make a shrine to it, or of it, and believe.

While there are many lofty things I wish for, such as world peace, healing of our selves and our planet, and the greater empowerment of women worldwide (for we are the mother-healers), I felt the need to make a shrine to manifest something tangible, something for me (and my family) to enjoy... a beach house. My whimsical beach house has wings so it can fly anywhere in the world, meaning I'm not that picky about which beach at the moment. It could be North Carolina, New York, Hawaii, the south of France--It could be a one-story cottage or a 2-story villa--I'm open! There is a portion of a map of France as well as lots of money collaged as part of the horizon behind it. For me having more money means freedom to travel and to live in an idyllic spot of my choosing. I've lived in the mountains of California, which was wonderful, and now I'll take the beach, thank you. It says "Happy Girl" right on the roof top and that is what I'll name it when it becomes mine. And you're welcome to come visit.

Along the same lines, I took part in a paper doll swap over at True North Arts, where we created guardian or healing art dolls. I chose to make Stella Maris, Star of the Sea, which is just another name for one of my favorite goddesses--the West African creator goddess, Yemaya. Ever since my husband, Rob, brought me back a handmade Yemaya doll (see Mother's Day blog below) from New Orleans some years ago, I have been taken by her mother-creator powers. She is a moon goddess of dreams and secrets, childbirth, and the collective unconscious. She is known as Mama Watta in Africa, where it is believed that all of the oceans, seas, lakes and rivers were formed when the waters from her womb broke and spilled out across the earth. She is a fitting goddess for this time of year, as she is celebrated on the eve of the summer solstice (June 21st), when offerings are made of flowers, blessings, and messages in bottles asking her to grant wishes and fulfill dreams, and then cast into the sea.

The Stella Maris guardian doll I made has felted hair woven with tiny sea shells, wings that say "desire," a girdle made of shells, her head and torso from a National geographic photo of a sunken ship's figurehead found at the bottom of the sea, blue acetate, foil and textured papers, and mermaid paper doll form from The Enchanted Gallery (yes, you too, can get free paper doll forms to play with there). On her back it says, "Dreams really do come true." If you do create a guardian doll, please post a comment here with a link so we can share our creations.

Kathryn Antyr at True North Arts will be offering a paper doll e-book of guardian art dolls made by those of us who took part in the swap.

And so I ask you, what do you wish for? Be bold, be brazen, be unapologetic, be daring, even selfish in your dreams and wishes. It's okay. I am embracing the idea that the universe is abundant and expansive and that there is more than enough for everyone.

Dream big.

Motherlines

I'm just resurfacing after a 5-day trip back to see my mother, who is 92 years old and suffering from dementia. She got pneumonia and was released home from the hospital the day I arrived in Oklahoma to see her. I went to visit her two years ago, thinking it might be the last time I saw her and here I was back again, two years later, thinking the same thing.  My mother had to be on oxygen at home and take antibiotics, something she is not used to doing. My mother was a Christian Scientist and barely took an aspirin her entire life. Having dementia makes deviating from the norm worse. She was very confused and kept angrily asking why she had to "do all this crap" and wondering if she got pneumonia from something she ate. Needless to say, I explained things to her many times and found my best bet was to try and change the subject. Sometimes it worked and other times it was like Groundhog Day, the Sonny and Cher song starting the day, and everything repeating, conversations and all. One of the ways I tried to stay centered (did I mention there was also dysfunctional family drama going on around me as well?) was to read a book I brought with me called The Motherline by Naomi Ruth Lowinsky, Ph.D.

This book caught me in just the right place. Before I left for Oklahoma, my 13-year-old daughter went on her first week-long trip away from us with a friend to the beach. I have a lot of faith in my daughter and know that she is strong and capable and has good sense, but she's also 13 and my only child. After I gave birth to her I was surprised to notice that I had intense and somewhat morbid fears of her being hurt or dying. As I would hold her and walk past our swimming pool I would clutch her tighter and walk as far away from the water as possible as if some unknown force would pull us both in and I would be unable to save her. It was the awesome power of motherhood, of the mother goddess Demeter, that had me in her grip. I knew I was responsible for not just keeping her alive, but caring for her and raising her with care and attention and the kind of nurturing I felt I didn't get when I was a little girl. I was getting the chance to do it differently, to give my daughter what I felt deprived of: a mother who truly saw me and tended to my needs and feelings with tender loving care.

But I grew up feeling emotionally abandoned. My mother was an artist, a former dancer, and her head was in the clouds much of the time. Many times she would forget to pick me up at the time she had said she would be there; she would tell me my feelings of anger were too upsetting to her and I needed to stop being angry or sad--negative emotions were to be replaced by positive ones in her religion. I grew up stuffing my feelings, trying to please her, yearning for her attention, until I stopped caring and turned all my anger on her.

Many years and much therapy and healing work later, I finally got to raise my own daughter with the love and care and nurturing I knew I once needed and craved. But it's never perfect, and as my daughter began the process of individuation and pushing away, I was shocked at this turn of events. I was not ready. I was unprepared. What happened to the little girl I poured so much love into--why didn't she want me anymore?

Then I remembered. It slowly dawned on me: the story of Persephone and Demeter was playing out. The daughter is snatched from the mother and the mother grieves until she is reunited, but she only gets her daughter back part time, for during the other part she must carry on her own life. Only now I am not Persephone, the daughter, with whom I had related for so long; I am now Demeter, the mother. And as my daughter left for the beach on spring break, I worried what would happen to her out in the ocean without me, the mother goddess, to watch over her. What if a riptide pulled her out to sea as happened once when she was seven years old in the very same waters she would be swimming in now. She cried for me and I swallowed my panic and struggled with the elements, feeling the adrenaline pulsing through my body, reached her, and pulled her in with me to safe waters.

All these watery symbols of emotion, of the feelings I was denied, I am now swimming in, caught between the young daughter who is becoming a woman and my own mother who is like a child, near death. And I can't help but see my mother differently, now that I have forgiven her for not being the perfect mother I needed, now that I understand how I can't be the prefect mother to my daughter. Now that I can see how my mother was orphaned, too, and her mother was orphaned, and back it goes, this generational pattern that I have not played out in the same way. I have not orphaned my daughter, but in some ways I have orphaned myself. For many years I denied myself the artistic soul that my mother lived out because I was afraid I would sacrifice my daughter the way I felt I had been sacrificed by my mother. Only recently, since my daughter has started the individuation and separation process have I allowed myself to consider that it is a part of me, just as it was a part of my mother, and to deny it would be to allow a vibrant part of me to wither and die.

As Ruth Lowinsky says in The Motherline, "a daughter longs to be mothered by a mother like the potential woman in her... there will always be mourning for the mother we didn't have... Further difficulties arise because we mothers also have great expectations of ourselves. Most of us are determined to differentiate from our own mothers by being better mothers. We raise our children as we wish we had been raised; we bring to them the values of the generation that formed our consciousness. We pour our love and our passion into this work, and therein lies the rub. Our children are not impressed. No child is grateful to her mother for not visiting upon her the sins of the mother's mother. The young one simply suffers the empty places left unmothered in her own childhood. " As I read these words I felt their truth as much as I wanted to wish it wasn't so. But, of course, it was so. My daughter will have her own wounds, will see me through her own eyes.

Lowinsky says, "we must be able to face the ways in which we failed them. We must release them from our yearning to be affirmed as good mothers and let them be people living in a time we [may] find difficult to comprehend. The wrestling between mother and daughter takes place in many arenas. Among them are the struggles to differentiate bodies, to differentiate style in clothing, lifestyle choice of career and mate, to sort through differences in temperament, and to sort out what has been the mother's responsibility for the child's pain. Both mother and daughter must wrestle with the cultural prejudice that at once devalues female experience and projects impossible power on mothers. And they both must wrestle with the real archetypal power of the mother: the power to give birth, to nurture, and to destroy.... But because every mother is also a daughter, the wrestling goes on and on."

And so the motherline appears to go full circle and connect back again, perhaps it is the symbol of infinity. As I sat with my mother and allowed her anger over what she was powerless to comprehend, much less control, the tears rolled down my face. I understood her feelings. Despite her confusion, my mother was able to comfort me when she saw my tears. She said, "Everyone has to go some time." I asked her if she was ready. "As ready as I'll ever be," she spontaneously answered, but then took it back, "but I'm not sure I'm quite ready just yet." Yeah, I know, Mom, it's hard to let go.

What Are You Giving Birth To?

Ostara by Helena Nelson ReedNow that spring is here, the time of birth and rebirth, it's a good time to consider what new ideas, projects, aspects or changes we want to bring about. And as we ask that question, we may want to consider what do we want to throw out? What no longer serves us and needs to be cast into the fire to be transformed through the alchemy of consciousness? For me, I want to birth a more playful artist aspect as I embark on a project about goddesses that I will be giving birth to soon. I have enjoyed working with goddess energy and reading up on it so much that I want to create a guide that everyone can use to access the goddess archetype, explore the inner goddess aspects, connect with the divine feminine, and manifest this in the world. To do this, I feel I need to enter into this creative world playfully and have fun with it. I am calling forth my inner Magician as well, the archetype that has come up for me most in the past year. So I have made SoulCollage® cards for both, as you can see below.

Ostara is a spring goddess from the Anglo Saxon/Germanic tradition from whence the word Easter comes. Ostara is a fertility goddess and a moon goddess, and her totem is the March hare. She symbolizes a fresh start, new birth, or rebirth. The maiden in us comes forth now (Catch you later, Crone). She is also associated with the Spring Equinox, when the length of days and nights are equal. I love this shamanic depiction of her by artist Helena Nelson-Reed. She is not a goddess we hear much about but she evokes springtime ritual, love of nature, and rolling in the grass. All things I want to revel in right now.

If you live in the Raleigh area, and want to learn about SoulCollage®, I'm teaching a "playshop" on April 11 from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. See tab above for more details. Come celebrate spring and join me in giving birth to (or rebirthing) the playful, inner child artist.

Embracing the Crone

How do you feel about the word, crone? How you feel about it may determine how you live it. It's important to develop a relationship with this stage of life and embrace it.

For many of us crone conjures up an image of a hag, a witch, a bent-over, wizened old woman who spends most of her time in a rocking chair or hobbling around with a cane or a crook. She may be that, but she's much, much more than that. There are many stages of cronedom, just as there are many stages of maidenhood and motherhood. (Some of us have one foot in two realms. I can't help but think the crone wisdom helps me be a better mother to my 13-year-old maiden.)

The word crone, which is the third aspect of the triple goddess, often represented by the Greek goddess, Hecate, derives from the word "crown." As in the queen who wears the crown, the crowning of a life. We enter the crone years at about the age of 50 or when menopause occurs. In ancient times and in many indigenous cultures today, that is when women held their greatest power, because the blood did not flow anymore, and the "wise blood" of life was contained within. The word witch comes from the word for "wise" and the word hag from haggia or "holy." So, you see, at one time, before the patriarchal religions took hold, the female elders, the women past childbearing years, were considered the wise ones, the healers, La Que Sabe -- the one who knows.

It is time we re-appropriated the word crone that was bastardized and demonized by the patriarchy and elevated it to its former status as a good word, a name to be proud of since it represents a stage of life denoting wisdom, experience, power, a place of seeing, knowing, intuiting, understanding. We, who are crones, got here through hard knocks, suffering, loss, pain, as well as through life's pleasures, joys, creating life and art and words and experiences; by being maidens and mothers (even if we didn't give birth literally, all women give birth figuratively).

I had the pleasure of leading a group of women on retreat last weekend through a workshop called, "Embracing the Crone -- the Crowning of a Life." These women -- now all in their crone years -- have been meeting in circle for some 30 years, witnessing births, deaths, divorces, children growing up, graduating, marrying, births of grandchildren -- the cycle of life. And through it all they have been meeting monthly, going to the beach together, and going on yearly retreats together, where they laugh, cry, sing, dance, tell stories, play games, share their lives, and support one another through thick and thin.

During this retreat, we gathered and shared our stories, journeyed, made SoulCollage® cards to honor the Crone, danced the NIA Dance of the Crone under a full moon, beat drums and rattled, sang and chanted, made crowns, declared our power and purpose, let go of what no longer served us into the fire, and crowned ourselves with a naming ceremony honoring the Crone within.

This is the poem we created together:

Women Are

Women are creators… We make families and string generations together.

Women are weavers… We weave the tapestry of life from the plain cloth of daily existence into glorious brocades of heartfelt expressions.

Women are protectors… We can be fierce in the face of adversity.

Women are healers… We accept and support each other.

Women are lovers… We embrace, nurture, and accept all mankind and Mother Earth.

Women are journeyers… We explore our inner and outer realities.

Women are alchemists… We hold the space for change and carry the story forward.

Women are singers, dancers, prophets, poets… We sing our songs, dance our dreams, intuit what lies beneath the surface, and make poetry of life.

I am grateful for the opportunity to have met these strong, wonderful women and to have shared their journey for a weekend. And I am grateful to all of the women in my life with whom I have sat in circle and who have allowed me to be Me no matter where I was on the wheel -- Maiden, Mother, Crone -- the full circle of a woman's life, full of beauty and mystery, ever unfolding.

2010 Vision Board: The Wheel

Lauri Maerov, my friend, writer, and co-facilitator for the Create Your Vision 2010 Playshop, and I were so pleased with the way we combined the process of making SoulCollage cards and vision boards that we are wanting to collaborate again in the future. (She will soon have a blog with her own creative visions and musings.) Seven wonderful women came to the playshop and spun their magic, dreaming and manifesting powerful, soulful visions, and making a beautiful web of connections between us  by the fire--creative alchemy.

I spent the snowed-in weekend before it making my vision board for 2010 a little different, with elements of SoulCollage--light on words and text, heavier on signs and symbols--creating an interactive mandala or wheel.

The first tarot card I drew on the New Year's Eve full moon was the Wheel of Fortune, so I decided to fashion a multi-layered circle, with the 12 tarot cards I drew for each of the full moons placed in each of the 12 houses of the zodiac, with their attendant meanings. I am also viewing this as a medicine wheel, with the animals placed in the four directions: Eagle in the east, the place of Spirit, discovery and enlightenment (the eternal); Coyote in the south, the place of the warrior, protector of the children and innocence (the past); Bear in the west, the place of death and rebirth and the sacred feminine (the present); Buffalo in the north, the place of  wisdom, manifestation and the Creator (the future). The three-phase moon wheel in the center can be rotated to show my progression around the wheel with each month's full moon (coming up on Feb. 27, the weekend I am facilitating a weekend retreat for women called "Crowning the Crone--Embracing the Inner Wise Woman").

I plan to use my vision board in an interactive way throughout the year. The tags in the envelope in the right hand corner have written on them the meanings of each of the 12 astrological houses as well as the reading for the individual tarot card I drew for each month. At the same time, I placed images or symbols of what I want to manifest in each of the 12 sections of the wheel and will add more during the year as I continue to create and envision what I want to manifest, month by month.

My word for the year is TRUST, but as you can see, I have also added three other important words for this year: love, gratitude and transform. In a year that started out with a devastating earthquake in Haiti in which people with very little have experienced so much loss, I feel such love for humanity, and what we are capable of when we see others in need. At the same time, I feel intense gratitude for what I have, especially my family and friends, and I want to remain in this state throughout the year, an antidote to these often depressing economic times. "Transform" is what I hope to do with regard to my work, bringing in more feminine consciousness and creative expression.  And, there is a little message on my board from Eckhart Tolle: If peace is really what you want, then you will choose peace. So simple, and yet so profound. How do I choose peace each day in every situation in which potential conflict or unease arises? And there are a few hidden messages for myself under the buffalo card flap made by my dear friend, Pixie, she of the magical Animama totem art (she also created the coyote card at the bottom).

Blogging sister, Dee Mallon, asked, "What methods do YOU use to investigate and release negative patterns?" and references Byron Katie, another favorite Truth Seeker and Truth Teller like Eckhart Tolle. This vision board is going to be one of my methods as I chart my progress around the wheel this year, looking for the lessons and learning from my mistakes. I also love making shrines to the Sacred Feminine and creating SoulCollage. I'm going to be delving more into the wisdom of the goddesses and the divine feminine this year. I want to connect more with the triple goddess within--the maiden, mother and crone--whom we can all call upon at any time to help us understand a problem and arrive at a new perspective--ancient feminine wisdom. Just how we can go about doing that will be what my new project is all about. More to be revealed.

Hence my latest SoulCollage card, "The Mystery": I am one who enjoys the mystery, what lies beneath the surface, soon to be revealed, tantalizing us with possibilities, tempting us with fate, awakening us with dreams. I walk fearlessly through the door into the light of discovery, into the Unknown. I am safe. All will be revealed."

And I ask you: How will you manifest your dreams and visions for 2010? I'd love to see your vision boards. Send links!