……..when silence speaks to us, why break silence……
……..its voice is more eloquant than a thousand poets, and, more filled with meaning, heart and the presence of soul….than all the words we cast about it…..
…..our bodies too speak, have their language, and their silence, forged in the greater silence of being…..what greater poetry is there than the body of Life!? Yet, it, like the voice of silence, is oft drowned out by the cacophony of worldly life…..
‘We have fallen into the place where everything is music.
The strumming and the flute notes rise into the atmosphere, and if the whole world’s harp should burn up,
there will still be hidden instruments playing, playing
This singing art is sea foam.
The graceful movements come from a pearl somewhere on the ocean floor.
Poems reach up like spindrift and the edge of driftwood along the beach wanting, wanting
They derive from a slow and powerful root that we cannot see.
Stop the words now.
Open the window in the center of your chest, and let the spirits fly in and out!’ (1)
It has been said that we arrive here forgetful, of our path, the one we have come to find and make, its destination and meaning, and the one we have trod in coming here. Yet, forgetting, we forget again. And, the world is filled with noise…..
You would think, we must be in shock, as, we learned, long ago, if the voice of our heart be true to the origin of memories we carry, that we are children, that we are at play, forever at the onset of our road, finding the voice of its story, and forgetting…….in that moment the story of our life is the gift we have come to deliver, and, how close to our true voice we are as children……cast around, and listen….do you hear that voice, present in the world, amidst the hubbub…..it is there….if the heart is open to hearing it, once again……
Yet, we have shod our hearts in ill-fitting shoes of lives forgotten, poorly remembered, as yet unlived…..shoes that we would have the soles of our souls protected by, out of the hope that we might in wearing them walk the extra mile, and in doing so, recollect and remember our soul roads……
Our shoes filled with earth, with the legacy of stars, with blood and ancestry, our hearts filled with long memories walking the soul road, this body is more than ourselves, borrowed from the wind, the fire, the ocean, the bodies of those who have gone before us, all birthed from the one womb we call Life, and her daughter, Earth…….
…..it were better we cast off our shoes and let the silent beauty of the breathing Earth speak once more the magic every child knows in their heart to be our guide, as we travel the remembering pathways of our own soul road……
Let there be silence and let its fullness flow from the heart of all things into our hearts, if only for the blessed moment in which the voice of the Beloved is heard, and we are held, in the ecstacy, the delicious perfume of Its song….
and find the Soul Road, the path we came to here to travel…….once more.
(1) ‘Where Everything is Music’ – Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī (Jalalu’ddin Rumi, Maulana), 13th century Persian poet, founder of Mevlevi order / Whirling Dervishes of Sufi tradition – tanslation by Coleman Barks.
“When priests are more in word than matter;
When brewers mar their malt with water;
When nobles are their tailors’ tutors,
No heretics burn’d, but wenches’ suitors;
When every case in law is right,
No squire in debt nor no poor knight;
When slanders do not live in tongues,
Nor cutpurses come not to throngs;
When usurers tell their gold i’ th’ field,
And bawds and whores do churches build:
Then shall the realm of Albion
Come to great confusion.
Then comes the time, who lives to see’t,
That going shall be us’d with feet.
This prophecy Merlin shall make, for I live before his time.”
….and with this line King Lear’s Fool makes of himself Merlin’s prophet, one foot in and one outside of Time, as he and Lear cower amidst the storm battered heath. A curious thing to begin with here perhaps, but, a fools wisdom were ever the more curious for its anomolous madness……..
This Taurus Moon just before Samhain is a curious one, no mistaking – and yet, this full moon dynamic, the madness thing…well, there is something here we are all familiar with, no matter our mental state, predilictions or upbringing. It is a dynamic that draws deeply on inherited memories and on a folkloric quality associated with a kind of infectious madness and heightened sensitivity, an energy that pushes our buttons and drives us towards extreme behaviour and emotional outbursts.
Folklore it may have become, but, experience bears out the truth of this – full moons are well documented as the time at which more people check in at A&E than any other, policing is on alert as crime is at an hightened level, particularly that involving ‘disturbance of the peace’ and intoxication – such is the manifestation of this energy at an unconscious level, even, and perhaps especially, within an ostensibly a-spiritual culture.
Yet, even now there are people, in circles and small off-grid communities, arranging regular celebrations and gatherings on the full moon simply to throw off the shackles of everyday concerns, to let their hair down and let loose. Here, if allowed to follow its natural course without hindrance or cencorship, embracing the full moon can inculcate the ecstatic almost orgiastic quality of its energy, an energy with a transformational edge that speaks of an ancient power of anarchic and tribal origins. I came across such a gathering on the cycladic island of Naxos where one of its crescents of sand was home and host to celebrations under the full moon of its bamboo hut dwelling inhabitants – Naxos itself is largely mountainous and much of its interior and eastern coast accessible only by foot and donkey, or all terrain vehicles, where the earthen rough tracks allow. The island retains a memory, the hidden aura of Dionysus, secluded in vestiges of sylvan valleys and groves, and in a root of ‘knowing’ amongst people…..
…..the Moons power has never sat easily with the clergy or the Church, for obvious reasons, but, the ‘religion’ of Dionysus has been compared to that of Jesus, most often through the ‘wine’ connection – if spiritual ecstacy has become castrated within the western tradition of organised religion, religion itself nevertheless is not immune to its Dionysian shadow……there are traditions yet alive capable of holding the energies of this antagonistic meeting in balance…..
……these too are archaic and ancestral in their origins, carrying a pagan charge of meaningfulness and benefiting an artistic expression drawn on a long continuous thread through time. One of the most memorable of these that I have witnessed was a community ritualistic parade through the streets of a mountain village in the Basque in northern Spain. It was a celebration of Easter that brought the whole village out and coincided with the Full Moon; the night was torchlit, the air shimmering with cold and the smell of woodsmoke, the people conspiring with tradition to weave together a wry and virile mix of pagan and christian symbolism. The Moon’s spirit was represented by the Maiden, enthroned in an open egg, carried in a boat mounted on a cart, the boat being the vessel of the Moon herself – she was birthed on this night, initiated into womanhood and the fulling power of the womens mysteries, her essence infusing the whole community and raising a spirit of earthy independance and archaic anarchy. The clergy were lambasted, their role played by villagers dressed in the black robes of the priest whose poius pomposity became the target of virulant egg, rotten fruit and cake throwing, and, meanwhile, little angels, cherubim, devils and magical folk intermingled with the people, goading them on, sanctioning and inviting them to cross the usual boundaries of propriety and break with the religious dictates of the social mores. These rooted traditions hold, balance and awaken the moon’s power within an informed cultural structure of ritual, both healing, celebratory of lifes fecundity, enabling the integration of the lunar energy. The Moons energy becomes liberating, transformative, giving the festivities a numinous quality that connects the people with their deep roots. In these rites the pregnant moon lives through the essence of living memory, alive with a powerful bonding agent of creativity, and this energy carries an intensity that has truly magical qualities.
And the birth death cycle of the moon is in so deep a harmonic with the cycles of ovulation, of fertility and blood wisdom, of Maiden, Mother, Crone, it is no surprise that the dogmatic Church patriarchy appears so fearful, making of the mother lode of tradition the object of its own shadow projections. With this lunation and the Full Moon’s proximity to Samhain that shadow is, equal with its luminousity, deeply manifest and, equally, open to redressing – perhaps we should take the opportunity…..we might not be able to resist….
I’ve written before at Owlmirror about the Moon Mother, the ancient spirit who cares for and mentors incoming souls, whose vessel is the pre-time antichamber to incarnation – this was in relation to eclipses, of which two will be coming up within the next lunation. The soul Moon connection has a special significance at such times, but, this is not the time to go into the nodal aspects of the Moon, this post being more in train with the spirit of the fulling moon than an analysis of its chart through the ecliptic. We will revisit this at next new moon with an exploration of its own story, the tone it is setting for the upcoming times.
For the astrologer working the craft as a medicine path and practice within the spirit traditions, the full moon can reveal a spirit of its own, the energy mixed and manifest within a dionysian cauldron of psycho-active planetary elixir that has the power to bring great healing and re-membering, bringing back together. There is a dynamic at play that affects the magnetic fields of our emotional spectrum, a swelling energy within the ocean of archetypes, a tidal force that arcs between the poles of the Moon/Sun opposition with numinous luminousity – one feels connected with the cosmos through the symbolic valencies of its energetic matrix at full moon perhaps more than at any other time. It is no accident that astrological readings of the Moon’s phases are so prevelant and popular. While pagan and magical traditions have found a rich vein via this marraige of paths and practices, through this revival we have also begun to tangibly re-integrate our knowledge of the extent to which we are naturally endowed with an innate sense of these energies and their values. At root everyone is pagan, of the Earth.
This sense has a resonance in which the full moon’s effects are a medicine, a power that opens gateways to spirit. To the esoterically minded, this is also where the Full Moon’s etheric catalyst induces shape-shifting metamorphosis. Equally a stimulous to the skin walker’s and shape-shifter’s medicine, that can drive us beyond the bounds of conscious volition and containment and also liberate us from the yoke of logic and rationality, if we trace the folkloric root from this perspective we come to familiar territory……..the wilde forest and moon bleached moor. The full moon is no less the druid’s than the witches celestial heartbeat and field generator in magical workings.
These are also the environs of the ancient traditions of hunting which are deeply connected into the fulling moon, as are the poachers wiley pathways, both of which have their roots in the same magical realms. And, in the fairy realms the fulling Moon is also the nocturnal celebrants steed and the lunar light a talismanic key that opens doorways to other worlds, into enchantment, across the thinly veiled boundaries of other times and orders of time, truly magical…..and, with a Taurean Moon, luminous with earth magic, perhaps this is how it should be, the perfect expression of the energies of Samhain…….
……which brings us back to the moment and its astrological values and qualities, for, as with all Full Moons, its lunar light has its source and complimentary aspect rooted in its opposite sign, also known as the shadow sign – to the Taurus moon this sign is Scorpio. Every sign has its shadow, but, if ever there was a sign worthy of association with the ‘shadow’…….
….when the sign occupied by the Sun at Full Moon is Scorpio it is possible that we can become tossed about on some very stormy waters and feel the need for having our feet on solid ground with more intensity – there is a felt need here to stop the motion of the ocean of our emotions, to yearn the solid ground and safe harbour, to be still, be supported, cared for and embraced by love. And, Love, as we know, has many faces, and wears a tragi-comic mask that symbolises the polarity of this drama very well.
Scorpio is enigmatic in this……..a point of opposition in which the light source is submerged within a symbolic field which itself carries deep valencies of numinousity. We might think that a Taurus Full Moon was very earth oriented, but, this year its gifts are in the seed carried by its shadow. It is always so when the Sun is in Scorpio, that the qualities of the sign are given an injection of virile life force, but, this time the source of light has been given a gravitas and depth charge from the presence in Scorpio of Saturn, close to the Sun and still reverberating with the Saturn/Sun conjunction of the 25th. With this conjunction Scorpio became the deep well whose waters are rich with truth and memory. With this alignment at work, in this sector, whatever emerges from within its submersive environs speaks in the tongue of the Grandmother lode, becomes cut and crafted with primal symbolism into a mirror of our innermost soul secrets – as a precursor to Samhain, Saturn’s meeting with the Sun has called forth ‘presence’ and germinated the Scorpionic shadow, congealing it in seed form, a living germ of penetrating intensity carried within the womb of the Moon’s belly as it journeys towards full-ness. We can expect a powerful presence of the otherworlds this coming All Hallows.
That journey sees the Moon transit Uranus, thunderbolts at the ready, before reaching fullness. We should be careful with our own fire and not let it inflame our hearts into lightning strikes of rage – Mars also opposes Jupiter, just as Venus is coming into opposition with Uranus – the T square with Pluto looming. This heady cocktail of incendiary luminaries conjures a hair-trigger sensitivity in a matrix already loaded with tensions.
I stepped outside on the night of the 25th to taste the air and see if I could find an answer on the wind to working with this energy. I heard drums on the turbulent air, very deep and pulsed with subterranean power, and voices in the rising wind. I asked how to proceed….’with awareness’ was all the answer that I heard, or rather felt, somewhere in the solar plexus and at the back of the skull. This may well be the only answer…..why would we expect otherwise on such a full moon. There may be an astrological answer to this too…..
…..as with all magical workings, astrology carries the potential to change our perceptions, and, consequently, our drives and the course we plot for them. I am of the opinion that every astrologer has a responsibility to consider around this. Words carry power. And, when these words are sourced in the archetypal, that power has the numinous edge that allows them, or a the transformative potential they embody, to slip beneath the rational radar and past the eye of discernment. Astrology too can cast an enchantment upon us. Perhaps this is why there is a preponderance of certificating and authorising facilities, training establishments and professional bodies within the craft. Orthodoxy can serve to contain the magic – the Church has given example enough of this. But, it does not kill it off….it never will, which makes of that imperative to respond wisely to the council of the planets and the stars a necessity. Here, the diviners ability to respond becomes a point of regular appraisal and discernement. There is an uncanny echo in this of the Saturn Sun conjunction in Scorpio – and with the zodiac primed to deliver its potential energy through a network of hard aspects at Full Moon, if I were to relay any council of value in relation to this it too would be to ‘be aware’…..the rest is largely down to the individual.
If the shadow is emergent, the same phonemes might re-organise themselves to become ‘beware’, which also means ‘get real’, and which could well be the positive upside of the same potential energies. Taurus assists us in getting real, lending its natural appreciation for beauty and value to us in the measure of reality, its weighing in the balance; the Moon at its height of luminousity pulls this into the human perspective, the shadow side becomes a guide to where the emotive power behind our experiences is most in need of integration and the Suns presence in Scorpio tells us that we have the quality of deeply penetrative awareness at our service to sharpen our senses and flex our discerning muscles. We need the Basque example to bring out Venusian creativity and healing of relationships, to raise the spirits and cleanse us of the stigmas that hold us back from recieving Uranus unconventionality – we need to break the social mores and allow the subversive humour of the moment to carry the charge, and trust – trust in the ancestral inherited wealth of our deeper selves and in the irrepressible creativity innate to human nature. And Chiron is the bridge-maker between Saturn and Uranus’ realms.
Chiron trines the Sun from Pisces this full Moon. Extending that trust into the trauma of seperation from spirit itself, funding the Moon in sextile with the energy of the mentor who says ‘this is why you came here’, and this is very healing. As a mentor once said of healing, ‘the juice is in the tragedy’…..all healing that is lasting comes from getting real, from being prepared to enter the arena, as well as the drama, knowing the part we are playing. We have to get to the truth of it. Uranus forms a quincunx with the Sun on full Moon – the truth may out at any moment, liberation is at hand, never more than an eye blink away, ‘be aware’….but, also be ready to play the fool – its all a game of comedy and tragedy….
….and then theres Mercury, ready to play the fool as he stands in the wings of Sagittarius stage, sextiling Venus, squaring Neptune and closing to trine Uranus – if ever that gave the lad a cloak of mysterious beauty speckled with spectral light, looking for all the world the weird-master of the lunatic fringe – his absurd wand in hand, made of human funny bone crowned with an inflated pigs bladder, bells and owl feathers, ready to sneak up on us and do Uranus bidding with a healthy bash over the head…….
‘lunacy, lunacy, the worlds on fire, dance and dance for all your worth,
the kings a fool, the fools a king, the priest is drunk and the people laugh,
the Moon is full and the buns in the oven, lunacy, lunacy, come to the coven,
‘break a leg’ and throw of the yolk, for we are all stars in this Cosmic Joke’…..
…..what would you do if your computer started printing out your innermost thoughts and feelings……
If images sometimes say what cannot be said in words then the sculpture pictured below is perfect for the reflections and intimations that it brings up at this time. It is both ancient and contemporary, has a philosophical edge and embodies an harmonious marraige between technology and poetry, between rigorous process and unremitting humour – qualities that may well be our saving grace as things progress in the coming times. It has an edge that allows the frisson of paradox to energise rather than confound our sensibilities, and it oozes beauty and charisma…..this is the sign of a living symbolism at work and, for me at least, Joshua Harker’s ‘Crania Anatomica Filigre’ (1) achieves all of this and is a powerful, poigniant and provocative symbol well and truly belonging to our times…..
When I first became aware of this image it had an immediate impact, instantly spoke to these qualities and, serendipitously, captures the essence of a very intriguing astrological alignment that has been building for some weeks now, and which is exact as this article is published – Saturn trine Neptune. It is an alignment that, like the sculpture, I feel, brings an underlying flavour of our current paradoxical nature into much needed focus.
The link above will take you to Joshua’s website where you can find out more about his work and how this piece in particular came into being – it has been made through computer generated 3D printing and this makes it reproducable. Infact, the process itself, could also be the perfect exemplar for the alliance between Saturn and Neptune. In this article we’ll look more at the personal aspects of these planets and their current influence………but, first, lets put this in context.
The current planetary climate tells us there will be plenty of time and opportunities to dive down the particularly interesting rabbit hole that is opening up in our patch of the universe…..watch this space. And, we’ll come to that part soon enough!…..all in good time, all in good time……
…..which is very much the positive spin on the message from Saturn and Neptune right now. The planet Saturn has been slowly turning the amplitude up on the trine with Neptune over the last couple months.
They are now both in the first degree of Scorpio and Pisces respectively…..and they will be revisiting this aspect in six months time, so, not only does this meeting effectively frame the upcoming eclipses, the cross-quarter fire festival of Samhain as well as the December solstice, but, whatever is set in motion now will revisit us around Beltain, by way of these two great planets influence. All the more reason to get real about whats happening now…..
….the question is, ‘who’s to say whats real?’. If it seems like this is a time when ‘the reality principle’ itself in the dock and, no matter how much we agree or disagree, no matter how emotional our testimonies are likely to become, and by all acounts, they will, every individual’s testimony counts. But, how to speak of such things?!
Where Neptune dissolves and diffuses Saturn concretises and defines. Poetic licence rules with an iron fist when they unite their energies. ‘Holding it all together’ and ‘going with the flow’ are no longer hippy mantras but mutualy bound neccessities that must find a synthesis. For us the computer screen world has become a worm-hole into the universes of the imagination and these in turn become real by virtue of the underlying force of their emotional impact – every IT savvy advertising executive knows how this one works.
In their current relationship and positions within the tropical zodiac these two great planets are holding court behind the scenes as the world becomes synthesised within liquid crystal manifestations of constant change awash with emotionally charged gravity waves emanating from deep within the ocean of primal consciousness…..Neptune is, at time of writing, stationed in the first degree of tropical Pisces and is about to go direct just as the ringed planet has entered Scorpio. Saturn will be residing in Scorpio for a little over two years, so we are sure to be hearing more about his presence in the eighth sign as time progresses, especially in the coming months. The trine may well have already shown signs of its influence – its something hard to pin down, not least for the polarised nature of the two planetary influences, and I have been wondering just how the trine would become manifest.
The relationship between these two powerful planets is often flagged up as difficult and fraught with an underlying emotional intensity, but, it can also be incredibly creative, with the necessary awareness, intuition and resources to hand in negotiating the undercurrents – and there are plenty of those around at the moment.
The meeting of their seemingly polarised energies has complexity, in a psychological as well as an intrinsic sense, and, while its qualities may well evolve slowly enough to become tangible in the mundane world, Saturn and Neptune’s collaboration is often one that ‘defies the definitive’ and operates through psychological and emotional dynamics. It can, if not registered consciously invoke a kind of archetypal torque that manifests as a feeling of creeping inner overwhelm, but, there is a positive spin to this as it is also a feeling that benefits by expressive release, as it is essentially a root force of creative energy. The predominance of one planet over the other will determine how this manifests, so how they fall in your charts is key to how you will experience this phase of planetary evolution. Either way, it is bound to be an emotional experience, especially with both planets in water signs now.
Whether focusing on inner work, world work, letting off steam or channeling the archetypal into creative work, care must be taken in how we respond to the pull of the emotional charge and how we translate it into our thoughts and actions. Neptune can stimulate the former and induce powerful sea-changes in our lives, Saturn can provide the latter by contextualising and bringing these changes into focus. Collectively, the combined energy could see concrete expression of powerful emotions en-masse, and this would benefit most from the discipline and focus that Saturn can bring – but, thats often a hard call and requires strong leadership.
The symbols thrown up from the deeper areas of consciousness throw an arc of numinous life force between the personal and the transpersonal realms, and these carry the charge safely, providing a live container that shields and translates where otherwise we might become swamped, over-identify or become contaminated with the archetypal force and its numinous influence. Many artists work naturally with this connectivity, especially where their work is both deeply expressive and symbolic by nature, but, being connected with the transpersonal realms and how they shape up in the personal, a true test of our boundaries and psychological integrity, with Saturn and Neptune at work in unison the simple answer is to lighten up and play – as the old saying has it, ‘kiss the Devil on the mouth and he turns into the Sun’.
The strangest of bed-fellows at the best of times, there is always that uneasy tension between Saturn and Neptune – their’s is a fertile paradox of a relationship. Astrologers, I have noticed, tend to come down on the negative side when describing the qualities and effects at work here. But, the positive side, if emphasised with the trine, is one that embues reality with a transmutational numinousity and requires direct encounter with symbolic power to become graspable – in other words its perfect for engaging in some in-depth therapeutic artwork! The effects can be both powerfully and beautifully creative, not to mention a little surreal…..but, lets see if we can further flesh out Saturn first, without breaking into too disrespectful a smirk……
……no, Seriously! Saturn is serious business. He is a kind of hardened patriarchal chief exec. amongst the planets, not necessarily top of the heap, even if he’d like you to think otherwise, but, to extract the goodness of a smile from his dour demeanour requires work, hard work, of the kind that delivers never to be forgotten experience; there are no free lunches at Saturn’s boardroom table and we should never expect there to be – no matter where you sit at that table, no matter whether you are faced with questions of your own mortality, the residue of your own past actions or the challenge of building something of consequence in this lifetime, you are there to learn……..Saturn holds the key that winds up this mortal coil and, as guardian and arbiter of the incarnate branch of its sacred laws, is the disaffected mentor of soul making experience. Standing at the threshold, between the personal and transpersonal realms, the incarnate and dis-incarnate, Saturn does not suffer fools gladly, which is a challenge here because……
……Neptune, by contrast appears the complete anathema of Saturn – defying containment and holding court at the edge of our solar system to galactic energies and interstellar space, Neptune is really ‘out there’, almost recklessly affected to the point of being without substance. This planet, attributed the heart of the mystic and the eye of the dreamer whose reach knows no boundaries, is wayout beyond the personal homelands of the inner planets – this is a planet of the greater community of spirit, by effect on earth ‘the holy ghost of the Great Mother’, which may surprise some – Neptune is, not in effect alone, but, by all accounts and without a doubt, predominantly a feminine planet, and we’ll expand more on this symbolism another time as it is such a commonly held misconception.
There are, of course, masculine and feminine attributes to all the planets, however, astrologically, its the effects that matter. Where Saturn concretises, Neptune pervades and, as such, Neptune’s power resides in the numinous realms out of which the power within symbolism itself has its roots…..oceanic, atmospheric, archetypal, relating to the sub or unconsciousness, Neptunian influences, being transpersonal by nature, bring us into contact with qualities, values and experiences that wash away boundaries and allow a flow of both undercurrents and rip-tides to pull and push on our emotional bodies, operating beyond the physical realms that are Saturn’s domain of manifest power. Where Neptune and Saturn meet though is in their fundamental nature. Where power wells up, connecting us with the primal matrix of creative energy and processes, both of their attributes apply……and, within the individual, both planets offer the keys to individual freedom, delivering through their own dissimilar archetypal qualities and the manner in which these give access to greater wisdom through experience and self reflection. And theres something of the universal and the personal melded in the symbolic valency of the skull.
The skull, in true Saturnian manner, delineates our physical frame in a manner afforded by no other bone in the body. While our brain, the immensely powerful processor it houses, impresses its shape and volume from within the matrix of bone, the mind that percieves and thinks by virtue of its ‘in-house’ processes is by no means either defined or de-limited by the skull’s physical boundaries, far from it – and, likewise, the fluid imaginative patterning of the skull in this sculpture is true to Neptune’s qualities. Our personality too may well have its physical countenance molded and present to the world for all to see by virtue of the underlying bone structure of our face, yet, it is the flesh that ages and changes with the vissisitudes of life, is the expressive map of our life journey – Neptune reveals the illusiory nature of appearances through the metaphysics of Saturnian time. Yet, even with the most vivid imagination, stripped back to the bleached and stark ‘death’s head’ reality of the skull, we are hard put to ‘envisage’ the countenance it might have supported. That is nominally a physiological skill reserved for the pathologist sculptor (an astonishing example of which you will also find on Joshua’s website) – a typically Saturnian application of Neptunian attributes.
……look more closely at this image and you will notice an inner level at work, suggesting the embodyment of this skill at another level – within the skull is yet another smaller one, suggesting an in-dweller, one who observes the observer, who ‘sees with other eyes’ and this is also a skill afforded the shaman and seer, whose inner eye is alive to the world beyond the world…..but, well be taking that particular route next time…….this is a great time for otherworldy art to be birthed, and given that it is also a time in which life may well be seen to be imitating art, also gives us much food for thought…..what would you do if your computer started printing out your innermost thoughts and feelings……
For now, dwell on this image – it has much to say that cannot be said by words alone……
(1) Many thanks to the artist Joshua Harker for the photo of Crania Anatomica Filigre which was supplied by him and is reproduced here with his kind permission.
A few months ago I decided to begin putting together an arts blog and online portfolio – I am happy to announce this is now up and running and can be accessed via the ‘Artwork’ tab in the crossbar above. Also, if you click on the images below they will take you directly to the relevant articles and pages about the artwork in each image. These range from sculpture and image making, including antler carving, healing tools and ‘power-objects’, to digital and conventional illustration, and mixed media work – there will also be pieces about site specific artwork, a line of healing work that can be both nature and community orientated that I have not documented before and I will be covering some of this particular kind of work here at Owlmirror too. Infact, as well as some of the familiar images already seen at Owlmirror there will be a lot of new work, as it arises, and, some of this will be personal work, as well as including some archive pieces never seen before. Its still in the early stages at this time of writing, but, there are already ten articles and pages to visit and read, looking at many of the above subjects.
Although I have had a conventional arts training, as well as a long apprenticeship in medicine work, these twin rivers have found a deepening confluence in time. Infact, my divining and artwork have always gone hand in hand – much of the creative work I do is commissioned by healers these days, creating a strand of work now going back 20 years or more. I also want to provide a space at the arts site for articles and images touching upon some of the specialist techniques I use – I do a lot of work in antler for example, which ties into the shamanic traditions and carries a very long history amongst indigenous healers. I’ve been lucky enough to be commissioned by people from every continent and from many diverse traditions, including practitioners and teachers from Indonesian Silat and Siberian Buddhist shamanism to European Druids, Taoists and medicine people from Africa and the Americas to the Antipodes. Examples of some of this work will be found at the new site, but, what I really wanted to do is begin talking about the experiences I have in making things. This is an opportunity to look into how these twin paths cross-over and intertwine, especially where the work is spirit led and belonging to ‘medicine work’, but, also simply exploring the twists and turns in finding a creative path in the world….there’s much to talk about, so watch out for upcoming articles on these subjects and more.
You’ll also find details of how you can contact me – whether its to ask about having something made for yourself or as a gift, or to explore the work and its possibilities at another level, you’ll be most welcome – Owlmirror will be continuing as usual, in the meantime, enjoy the first fruits of the new sister site…..
……in peace, Rob
……long, long time ago there lived ol’ man Coyote and his wife – they were perfectly happy until, one day, Coyote’s wife became ill and died. Coyote wept and wept and wept, he was besides himself with grief. And it seemed like, in Coyotes world at that time, the whole world was awash with chaos!
Now, Death had been circling around and, seeing how it was with Coyote, Death set his spirit down beside the ol’man and said – ‘its alright Coyote, I can take you to the place that your wife’s gone to, but, there are rules…..’. Coyote was somewhat consoled by this proposition and said, ‘oh man, I will do anything….’, so Death’s spirit said back, ‘well, you must do everything that I tell you, no matter what, right down to the last whisker – godit?!’ and ol’man Coyote was beside himself with longing, so he said, ‘yeh, man, anything, just say it and I’ll do it……’
…….So, that was it and off they set and, and as they were going along, the death spirit made sure Coyote had got it – ‘….everything, mind…’ said Death to Coyote, and ol’Coyote, dragging his tongue in the dirt with grief said ‘….yeh, yeh, just say what you want me to do and I’ll do it’. But, the trouble was, Coyote himself was not sure just what he was following right then, as all he could see was a shadow, but, Coyote longed to be with his wife again and so he followed along behind the shadow and out into the prairie they went……
…the path was long with many strange sights, taking them up the rise of the plain and down the rise of the plain and up again – and, on they went, until Death pointed ahead and said ‘hey, you see there Coyote, hundreds of horses – looks like a big round-up down there’. Squinting his eyes and looking where Death was pointing Coyote said, ‘oh yeh, hundreds of ‘em…’, but, he could see none, ‘…..you’re right, a big round-up!’ So, this is how it was as they were coming nearer to the land of the dead…..and on they went……
….until, Death said, ‘hey, look Coyote, great bunches of serviceberries hanging there…..’, and ol Coyote squinting up his eyes said, ‘oh yeh….’, but, his belly was telling him what his eyes could not, and the spirit, knowing Coyote could see nothing, said, ‘now, lets eat – when you see me reach up, you reach up too, and when I pull down the branch, you pull down the branch…’, and Coyote said, ‘yes, yes, I will do it….’. So, Death reached up, pulled down the branch and, even tho Coyote could not see the berries going into the spirit’s mouth, Coyote did just the same and they both sat there eating……ol’man Coyote watched that spirit’s every move and imitated it. ‘Uhhuh, these are real good serviceberries’ said the spirit – ‘Yeh man,’ said Coyote, ‘good job we found ‘em’,. And thats how it was when they were nearly at the land of the dead, and, when when they’d had their fill, off they set again……
….until, the spirit stopped again and said, ‘Well, we’re about there – look here, theres a great lodge here, and your wife is sitting somewhere in there, but, its so very very long I’d better go in ahead and ask after her’. So, Coyote waited, and eventually Death came back and said, ‘ ok…..they told me where your wife is’, and ol’man Coyote listened intently to everything Death told him. ‘Just here is a door through which we’ll enter the lodge, so, do everything as I tell you, exactly as you see me do it, godit?’ – ‘Uhhuh….’ said Coyote, and so, Death said, ‘I will lift up the door flap, bend down low, and enter…..then, you do exactly the same…’ and so Death entered and Coyote followed him, doing exactly the same things as the Death spirit….
Now, it happened that ol’man Coyote’s wife was sitting right there, near to the entrance, so, the spirit said to Coyote, ‘sit right here, next to your wife’, and they both sat right there. Then the spirit added, ‘your wife will now go and prepare food for us….’, and all this while Coyote could see nothing, except that he was sitting right there in the open prairie with nothing in sight, and yet, he could feel the presence of the shadow next to him…..
So Coyote’s wife prepared the food and Death said, ‘now, lets eat…’, and the shadow reached down and brought hand to mouth and ate. Ol’man Coyote could see only prairie dust, but, there they sat and ate…..Coyote imitated everything, just as his companion had said……until, after a while it seemed Coyote’s wife had put away the food and Death said, ‘you stay put here, I’ve got some people to see’, and out went the spirit……..
Soon enough the spirit returned, saying, ‘things here are different from the way things are in the land of the living. When the dusk comes down here the dawn has come up in your land and when it dawns for us the darkness is growing for you’. So, by this time it had grown dark, and Coyote could hear voices whispering, talking in faint half-tones, all around him. And darkness set in, real dark. Well, oh boy, Coyote saw many fires in a long house, and there they all were, in a very very large lodge where many fires were burning. And, he saw all the various people, looking like shadow forms, but, he could recognise some of them. And, he saw that his wife was sitting by his side…….
You can imagine, but, ol’man Coyote was overjoyed! And, he joyfully greeted many of his old friends who he could see there too! That ol’man Coyote, how happy he was!! Up he lept and up and down the ailse between the fires he marched, going from side to side, stopping to talk with people. All through the night he did this. And, he could see the door through which he and death had entered too…..
….until, at last, the dawn started coming up, and death came to Coyote and said, ‘well, our darkness is falling here, and pretty soon you will not see us, but, you must stay right here. Do not go anywhere, at all. Just stay right here and in the evening you’ll see all the people here again, godit?!’ – so, Coyote said, ‘oh, yes, friend, why would I possibly want to go……’
…so, up came the dawn and Coyote found himself sitting in the midst of the prairie. And he spent the whole day there. Well, phewee! It was hot, and he was dying from the heat, parched and dry, thirsting from the heat all day long. And yet, ol’man Coyote stayed there several days, suffering in the day, but, when the night came, making merry in the great lodge with his wife and friends……
Coyote lost track of the days, but, one day the spirit of Death came up to him and said, ‘tomorrow you will go home, Coyote. And, you will take your wife with you…..’ – ‘oh friend, thats wonderful’ said Coyote, ‘…but, I’m having such a good time here with my wife and all my old friends, I’d like to stay here….’ – ‘uhhuh’, said Death, ‘but, tomorrow is the day you must return and so do as I tell you, remember, and don’t do anything foolish , nothing foolish at all, godit?!’ Ol’man Coyote was shuffling his feet when he said ‘Ok’, so Death went on…’don’t yield to any urges or queer notions now, follow exactly what I tell you.”
Coyote listened as the Death spirit told him…….’there are five mountains, and you will travel for five days. Your wife will be with you, but, you must never ever touch her. At all. No yielding to strange impulses now – talk to her, yes, but never touch her. Only after you have crossed and descended from the fifth mountain may you do whatever you like……’ – and, ol’man Coyote took it all in and said ‘yes, friend’.
So, when the dawn came up again, ol’man Coyote and his wife set off, left that place……
At first it seemed that he was travelling alone, yet, he was dimly aware of his wife’s presence walking along there behind him. And, after the first mountain came up and they had crossed it, Coyote could feel her presence some more – she was definitely there, if only a shadow. On they went, and on crossing the second mountain, they set camp, as they did each night at the foot of each mountain. Coyote would build a little conical lodge with a fire at its center and there they would sit, he on one side of the fire, she on the other. And, each day her form appeared clearer and clearer.
Well, the Death spirit was counting the days since Coyote and his wife had left the land of the dead and, figuring the distance they had travelled, said ‘I hope that ol’ Coyote does everything right, as I told him, and takes his wife through to the world beyond’.
So it was that Coyote and his wife were spending their last night, their fourth in the little conical lodge, and on the morrow she would again assume the character of a living person. Being as it was the last night they were camping Coyote could see his wife very clearly now, as if she were a real person sitting opposite him. He could see her face and body very clearly now, but, he only looked and dared not touch her.
But, suddenly a joyous impulse seized Coyote; the joy of having his wife back again overwhelmed him. He jumped to his feet and rushed over to embrace her! His wife cried out, ‘Stop! Stop! Coyote! Do not touch me! Stop!’ – her warning had no effect. Coyote rushed over to his wife and just as he touched her body, she vanished. She disappeared – returned to the land of the dead, the shadowland.
When the Death spirit learned of Coyote’s folly he became deeply angry. ‘You inveterate doer of this kind of thing!’, Death said, for he knew Coyote all too well, ‘I told you to do everything I told you, not to do anything foolish. You Coyote, were about to establish the practice of returning from death. Only a short time away the human race is coming, but you have spoiled everything and established for them death as it is…….’
Now Coyote wept and wept…..and eventually decided, ‘Tomorrow I shall return to see them again’, and, the following morning he started back for the land of the dead. As he went along he began to recognise the places where he and his spirit friend had passed before. He found the place where the spirit had seen the great round-up of horses and began to do all the things that they had done on their journey to the shadowland. ‘Oh, look at the horses; it looks like a great round-up’ he said…..and, on he went until, he came to the place where the spirit had pointed out all the serviceberries – ‘Oh, such serviceberries, lets pick and eat some of them’, he said……and he went through all the motions of picking and eating berries.
On he went, and, finally, Coyote came to the place where the great long lodge had stood. He said to himself, ‘Now, when I hold up the doorflap and enter, you must do the same’. In fact, he remembered all the little things his friend the Death spirit had said and done. So, when he saw the spot where he had sat before, he went and sat there, and as he sat down said, ‘Now, your wife has brought us food. Let us eat.’ And, he went through the motions of eating again….
….eventually darkness fell, and the full moon rose – Coyote listened for voices, and he looked around for the fires and everything else, but, nothing appreared. Ol’ Coyote sat there in the middle of the prairie, in the dark. He sat there all night, but, the lodge did not appear again, nor did the spirit ever return to him………and so it was with death, when humans came to the world.
“There is a theory which states that if ever anybody discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.” Douglas Adams
…..er…………..perhaps Douglas is simply stirring the pot, dunking the crouton of absurdity in the soup of creation, after all, hasn’t this all happened many times over, given rise to the complexity and mystery of life, and, oh yes, isn’t this happening all the time?! Questions, questions…..seems Life is made up of them, and perhaps, its this that Douglas is nudging us into realising….with a nod and a wink.
Which seems like perfect sense in a world where most of the (ahem) ‘democratic’ governments look like zoos full of traumatised animals making decisions about the nature of reality on the other side of the bars…..
We are always looking for answers, fixated on them in fact, at the expense of those delicious questions, especially the more tasty ones. (Aah, getting serious are we now – ed.) Yes, ed…..and when we think we’ve found them what happens? Collectively, we are constantly re-inventing the world based on the answers we find, our perceptions interwoven, creating a field of resonance within which ‘concensus realities’ correspond to shared values and world views most common to us. And yet, while we live within varying and even conflicting concensus realities, our personal reality is and remains at heart, unique. Batty…..(perleeze! – ed.)
I like Douglas Adams humour, his healthy sense of the ludicrous anarchy of it all, and the laughable nature of our mental gymnastics that it spotlights, that helps us lighten up in the midst of pondering Life’s deeper questions – as he has famously pointed out on many occasions, its all very well having the answer, and ’42’ is the answer to Everything according to the ‘Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’, but, what use is it if you don’t know what the question was, or the ‘right’ question to ask…..(I sense there’s more – ed.)
……or understand it and why we are asking it, (and how many of us do!) Don’t we spend an inordinate amount of time asking ourselves the ‘wrong’ questions, those pesky ‘other’ ones in which we become sidetracked into a soup of petty distraction, swimming in a viscous slurry of everyday detail and personal concerns that make blinkers of our struggles – and what happens when these coalesce into their own tasteless concensus, born of domestic dramas that spill over into the collective and generate magnetic fields of influence out of which mass tragedies seem to manifest? As if thats all that matters. The ‘Media’ love this kinda instant cuppa-soup….its big business, etc etc etc…..convenience food?
No answers here dear reader (quelle surprise – ed)…..better to live within what Alan Watts called ‘the wisdom of insecurity’ and scoop up another spoonful, just to make sure and adjust the seasoning. And then, eventually, perhaps, we can get down to enjoying the spaghetti soup that is Life, and learn how to transform it into a more delicious Minestrone…….lucky for some, who can?!….
…….but, oh how we love those crunchy bits of baked and fried bread (that we are) – soggy anomolies in the consome of creation…….Stone Soup, anyone……a side dish of distasteful absurdity that is specially prepared by our chefs to meet European standards – indigestion guaranteed…..
…….as I was searching through the hoard of clutter in my cellar at home I found a book from my childhood – a small hardback tome with a red cloth cover and a beautiful embossed border, its design weaving tendrils around the spine and onto the back – in the centre of the front cover was a ring of five circles with five-point stars at the centre of each of them, but, no title! I recognised the book, felt that uncanny wave of excitement you get when a long lost heirloom of your innocent years returns to you, brings its utter star blessing magic back to the child within – the adult child exalted, but, no title on the spine either….
…..this is one of those moments that everything seems to wheel around – I opened the book at random and read…..
‘the ring of apples – its called ‘The Ring of Apples’ – now why do you suppose it has that name?’
‘….it is because it is about the soul’s journey….and where starlight comes from’, and, wrapping my black speckled shawl around my shoulders, I set off on the mossy forest path, silent of footfall.
All was still, with a soft luminous glow of moon-light filtering through the listening trees, showing the way ahead….”
The chapter ended with this mysterious scene – I quickly turned the page
“The Book of Stones and Bones” a new title page announced – strange, I don’t recall this at all, a book within a book, and yet….
over the page is an illustration in rich but faded watercolours showing the cover of a book that is bound in carved bone with leather thongs for the binding. It bears the title announced on the previous page, but, nothing else – the book is resting on a bed of leaves into which are woven subtle patterns and, yes, there are small faces in there, and words, or the fragments of words – …oodbin…., thornber…, honeysu…, dogrose, these seem to be flower names or perhaps
….laughter echoes across a timeless star spangled field of frost covered clover, a crescent moon winks from between the dark twisting branches of circling oaks – and there is music, silvery and otherworldly….
Is that it – they’re names of the forest folk, the woodland spirits – what is this book…..?
Quickly turning to the front of the book something falls from between the pages – I bend down and pick up an apple seed – and then the dream dissolves into daylight……
How far can our passion take us beyond the current condition of the world, beyond the current dominance of the western mindset and its self perpetuating fall-out – as Venus crosses the July 1st eclipse point, Mars trines up with Saturn and we approach the Capricorn Full Moon here are a few quotes and questions to challenge and invite beyond the known….wasteland or wilderness? Which would you choose…
“I have been part of a circle for many years. It is one of the most important connections of my life. One reason the circle is so powerful is that it is informed, in fact shaped by, the Grandmother Spirit. The spirit of impartiality, equality, equanimity. Of nurturing but also of fierceness. It has no use for heirarchy. Or patriarchy. Tolerates violence against itself for a while, but will sooner or later rise to defend itself. This is the spirit of the Earth itself.”
Alice Walker (1)
Where is the Earth not bucking, and have we seen her really rise to defend herself, yet – where is her spirit within you…..
Promise me this day,
Promise me now,
While the Sun is overhead
Exactly at its zenith,
Even as they
Strike you down
With the mountain of hatred and violence;
Even as they step on you and crush you
Like a worm,
Even as they dismember and disembowl you
Man is not your enemy.
The only thing worthy of you is compassion –
Invincible, limitless, unconditional.
Hatred will never let you face
The beast in man.
One day when you face this beast alone,
With your courage intact, your eyes kind,
(even as no one sees them)
Out of your smile
Will bloom a flower.
And those who you love
Will behold you
Across ten thousand worlds of birth and dying
Thich Nhat Hanh (2)
Do you have the courage, truly, and what gives you that courage – have you or are you facing the beast alone, truly, and can you do so ‘untroubled’…..
“Anyone who has laboured to release the Goddess from the darkness of centuries of abuse has returned from the excavation with a paradox. She who is dead is alive. All we have to do is open our eyes an extra sixteenth of an inch, and there she is, dancing in every apple blossom, in the song of every purple finch, as well as in the flames of passion that we call life.” Marion Woodman (3)
Is there a ‘fire in your head’, in your heart, and does it speak to you with the language of the world, of nature and spirit….can you ‘see’ life, and if so, what is this seeing telling you……
“Yeah, a river flows underneath this city
I’d like to go there with you now my pretty and follow it on
for miles and miles, below other people’s ordinary lives.
Occasionally catching a gimpse of the moon,
thru’ man-hole covers along the route.
Yeah, its sometimes dark but if you hold my hand,
I think I know the way.
Oh, this is as far as we got last time
But if we go just another mile we will surface surrounded
by grass & trees & and the fly-over that takes the cars to the cities.
Buds that explode at the slightest touch,
nettles that sting – but not too much,
I’ve never been past this point, what lies ahead
I really could not say.
I used to live just by the river, in a disused factory
just off the Wicker
The river flowed by day after day
“one day” I thought, “One day I will follow it”
but that day never came
I moved away & lost track but tonight I am thinking
about making my way back.
I may find you there & float on wherever the river may take me.
Wherever the river may take me.
Wherever the river may take us.
Wherever it wants us to go.
Wherever it wants us to go.”
Jarvis Cocker (4)
How many of us are deaf to the river? Does the roar of the log-jam, of the power-dam of the city drown you out? Can you find its voice within and has the river spoken to you, inviting you to return, to let it take you wherever…..
“To lose yourself: a voluptuous surrender, lost in your arms, lost to the world, utterly immersed in what is present so that its surroundings fade away…..to be lost is to be fully present, and to be fully present is to be capable of being in uncertainty and mystery. And one does not get lost but loses ones-self, with the implication that it is a conscious choice, a chosen surrender, a psychic state achievable [literally and metaphorically] through geography.
That thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you is usually what you need to find, and finding it is a matter of getting lost.”
Rebecca Solnit (5)
Freedom from the known, the ability to surrender, what have we surrendered in the name of choice…..how do you navigate the unknown…..
“In the Fifth World, Illumination will be the central theme. Spiritual awareness will be common. Illumination radiates from the center. The focus is on truth; all the knowledge in the world is useless without faith. We humans have to willing to take a chance. What is wisdom? It’s an inner knowing of truth, without a shadow of a doubt. But, it can’t stand alone – its tied to the other qualities on the Medicine Wheel. This life is not a game, but is based on the wisdom of the trees, the grass, the stones, and all of life. Wisdom is also having a dream. If you have no dream, you can’t tap into wisdom. If a person has an idea that flashes into their mind, thats the beginning of a dream, But, they must bring life into the idea and develop the dream, or it will pass on.
Nothing works without the focus on truth, wisdom and faith. If we don’t have faith in ourselves, nothings going to work. You can have all the wisdom in the world, but if you don’t have faith and aren’t willing to step out and do something about it, nothing is going to happen.
Illumination is coming in the Fifth World…..”
Grandmother Twylah Nitsch (6)
I once got lost in the city of Lisbon, at least momentarily, deliciously….coming down on foot from the Moorish castle on one of the seven hills next the Tagus, I entered a small square surrounded by tiled houses, old folk at the doorways, chatting, a fountain beneath the tree at its center, and was washed through by the enchanting sound of a zither playing the Harry Lime theme from Orson Welles ‘The Third Man’ – all time stood still and I forgot where I was, and yet, came fully home to that place, flooded with an eternal moment…..how long it was before the road beckoned me on I do not know…..
(1) ‘We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For’ – Alice Walker; Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2007
(2) ‘Recommendation’ – from ‘Call Me By My True Names: The Collected Poems of Thich Nhat Hanh’ – Thich Nhat Hanh; Parallax Press, 1999 (quoted in ‘We Are the Ones…’)
(3) ‘Dancing in the Flames’ – Marion Woodman & Elinor Dickson; Shambhala Publications Inc. 1996
(4) ‘Wickerman’ from ‘Acrylic Afternoons’ in ‘ Caught By The River’ – Cassell Illustrated, Octopus Publishing Group, 2009
(5) ‘A Field Guide To Getting Lost’ – Rebecca Solnit; Viking Penguin 2005
(6) ‘She Whose Voice Rides On The Wind – Grandmother Twylah Nitsch’ from ‘Profiles in Wisdom’ – Steven McFadden; Bear & Company Inc., 1991
Fire – the energy of radical change. What do you see when you gaze on the picture below? Is it a scene of destruction, of accident and loss, that suggests war and the eradication of security? Would this be a true mirror for our own inner state, our traumas and fears? Do we feel distraught and upset in the face of this power, its wanton use – or does it speak to us of a people in harmony with the elements, with life and her cycles? We associate it with destructive energy, passions and a volatile temperament, fuel for our machine age and the heat of the Sun. It is feared and revered, sought after as power, as well as the source of comfort within our homes. It is the element that changes food for our consumption, inculcates culture, is at the root and development of our industrial revolution and, through this, furthered the enslavement of the populace to production, commodity and profit. Those that control it have, in our eyes, power to both determine and destroy, as well as suppress. We burn in fever, burn off the calories, burn our bridges…..in so many ways we have fallen out of balanced relationship with Fire and we have shaped our relationship with this essential elemental force in ways that would be unrecognisable to our ancestors. But, thanks to our ancestors we also know how to work creatively with fire, feel it burning in our hearts, feeding the revolutionary passion that brings freedom and release. Take a moment to ‘see’….perhaps there is here more to this scene than meets the eye……and then, lets take a journey to meet with the ancestors and find out!
It is the cusp between astrological Ages – the Age of Gemini is giving way to the Age of Taurus. We are journeying back some 6.5 thousand years, and arriving in the land to the south and east of the Carpathians, closer on the shores of the Black Sea. The scene is night time, under a rising full Harvest Moon, and a bristling mantle of stars is spreading over us from horizon to horizon as the daylight fades. Yet, the air is rippling with heat and great clouds of sparks fly heavenwards in swirling plumes of intense fiery energy…..a whole village stands ablaze atop the low hill before us! Powerful cracks of exploding clay, thatch timbers and supporting posts resound against the constant roar of the inferno – hold fast to the vision for a moment though, for gathered around us below the scene are hundreds of people, chanting, singing and drumming, feasting and sharing the fruits of the Earth. Some hold beautiful small clay figures in their hands, out-stretched towards the flames, others letting their babies and children play with clay animals and simple versions of the little sacred dolls.
For, this is no accident or act of agression…..beneath the hill the people have set up a hearth with a healthy fire burning in a mound of glowing embers, set on a bed of old charcoal gathered from previous fires. Arranged in a circle around this are more small clay figures, just like the ones the people are holding, images of the Earth Mother. Some of this little Mothers are seated on minature thrones, others with their pointed legs stuck in the hot Earth, each casting a dancing shadow around the fire, echoing the people’s movements. The pungent aroma of fresh herbs fills the air as the elders, those blessed with a deeper understanding and memory, feed the fire – it is a time of both celebration and preparation, before the onset of the cold seasons, and the energy is high….within the fire are new images, figurines moulded during the day from fine river clay, the Earth mother’s body, blessed with the living waters, and brought to life through the people and the sacred fire. (1)
The people have initaited the sacred fire around which they now stand, taken a burning splint and, having banked up hay bales and logs around and within their earth houses, each at their own threshold they set their homes alight. The elders have overseen the whole ritual; for we are witnessing a sacred rite, repeated every 70 years or so, at Moonrise and marking the passing of the old ones, the key elders, bringing a renewal and cleansing to the land upon which they have made their homes……from here, once the flames have subsided, they will be re-building their village on the foundations of the old, using the fire hardened clay, of which the floors and walls of their thatched homes are made, to provide solid materials that connect them with the past while freeing them to live a new cycle. Generations will follow this sacred rite and it will give the anthropologists and archaeologists something quite extra-ordinary to puzzle over when their villages are unearthed in millenia to come. We have come to call the area within which rite was enacted the Burning House Horizon. But, by the time we bring this objective label to bear its connection with the Earth Mother will be mere speculation……..
We have given these people identities that correspond to the particular hallmarks of their culture, the places in which we have unearthed them, but, amongst many similar peoples they are one people, spread out over a vast region, tribal afiliations united by a common flowering cultural impulse. They are also known to us as the Danilo, the Vinca, the Karanovo, the Hamangia, the Gumelnita, the Petresti, the Tisza, the Lengyel, and the Cucuteni……
The Cucuteni were a people finding new ways of bringing the old forward and blending it with the new – rooted within the land, holding to their ancient knowledge from the Mesolithic while embracing the new Neolithic farming ways. They now know, with the many other tribal peoples who inhabit this region, that the world is changing through human ingenuity. A revolution has been spreading far and wide, carried on their stories, encouraged through connections from afar, through journeying by land, river and sea – more will come with the arrival of visitors. The hunting and gathering ways are ‘pastoralising’, technology and culture summoning the widespread advent of ‘settlement’ as a way of living with the Earth in Old Europe. They are creating clearings in the great forests, they cultivate grains, keep pigs and cattle, herd sheep and goats, and are both ahead of their time in developing peaceful ‘conurbations’, as well as retaining the most practical knowledge of the land, the vestiges of their intimate relationship with the Earth.
There are many stages of this human revolution and transition from the old to the new happening simultaneously across the land to the north of the inland seas, the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. Infact it was a global revolution, spread across time and continents. Those who have adopted the new ways in Old Europe are renowned crafts people, using metalwork, weaving, pottery, construction blended with an appreciation of aesthetic beauty and spirituality. This is a culture that has its roots in the times following the retreat of the ice, and even further back to the interglacial times, when the imagination of Earth and people were one. The influences within this culture can also be traced back to peoples who migrated from the south and east and, being close to some of the major inland water routes, as well as the Black Sea, the Cucuteni and their contemporaries would have seen the influx of those influences coming in from the ‘Europian’, ‘Asian’ and ‘Mediterranean’ peoples as being a sign of the expanding growth of human learning in the ways of the world.
The halmarks of these evolving Neolithic communities that have been identified by archaeologists and anthropologists include non-heirarchical social structures, carried over from hunter-gatherer communities. They were experiencing the first flowerings of communal self-determination, harnessing the power of the natural world through their inventive technologies. As archaeologist Steven Mithen suggests in his brilliant book ‘After the Ice’ (2), these were a people of ‘choice’, able to adapt within a stablising process – they also had the ‘pioneer’ spirit of their ancestors in their blood. Through the gathering of animals and humans in rooted communities they would experience the growth of affluence and the challenge of disease – they were sowing the seeds of our own experiences within the world.
The heart of the Cucuteni culture would beat strong for a thousand years, but, they were not the last of their kind. The stone houses, sacred buriel chambers and megalithic circles that emerged out of this time kept the sacred covenant with the Earth alive. They knew a balance in life that would eventually be swept away. With the advent of nomadic warrior people from the east, the new ‘People of the Horse’ would change everything. In the end the riders would bring warring and overturn the old ways, replacing them with a fearsome blend of warrior heirarchies and spirituality and chieftain led forces that had different affiliations, fed off of the land where-ever they went. These new people were strong of will, free to impose the will of their gods and spirits upon all whom they met with as they travelled. This would in turn see the onset of ‘masculine’ force as an increasingly martial, spiritual and ‘political’ power, the birth of our politic. The Old European ways would over millenia be swept away and the images of the Earth Mother would divide, her dark side, split away, becoming subverted, a source of deep misunderstanding that marks us still – yet, She will live on, ever deeper within us. (3)
The scars of these old wounds, still present within our instinctive memory, are deeply overlayed within the cultural psyche of European and Mediterranean peoples, kept alive even as the Age of Taurus began to give way to Aries, and Aries to Pisces through our emergent myths and stories. They found inner form amongst the divided, fractured and anthropomorphised inhabitants of the spiritual realms. These wounds have become embedded and keep the dynamic alive, remaining sore and sensitive even now. Under this influence our tribalism has become nationalistic and religious. And, while no direct connection is drawn here between this and the fate of the Cucuteni and their neighbours, the foundations of their culture offer us a glimpse of something even deeper within. We sense our roots with the Earth Mother – through them Fire can be seen as a healing and creative power within the circle of life – the severence and recovery of the covenant speaks to us. But, suddenly a shout resounds and pulls us out of our historical revery and back to the now smouldering foundations of the ‘cremated’ village……
The people are busy clearing and re-storing their village – in this there is no grief or remorse; Life and Death are understood as cyclical, implicit and integral to the ways and teachings of the world. Earth turns with the seasons and the Moon holds her rhythm, counted within the sky realms, held within the waters and womb cycles of both Earth and women. We do not know their personal names, but can hear the echoes of their speech within our own, within our place names, and, we know that they were able to express a profound sense of place within the greater whole – their art and artfulness speaks of this, and this itself is of great value to us, enshrining earthy appreciation and a sense of aesthetic beauty, the budding spirit of the Neolithic Taurean Age. It also offers a mirror for reflection upon our times, how far we have come, and from where….
Our times will see great change, and we now have the opportunity to learn something of value from our links with the past while we are ourselves transitioning forward – we can burn off the old structures that harbour dis-ease and decay, the wounds and errors of our past, and clearing away the ash that clouds our vision, re-birth our connection with Earth into new forms……
This article combines documented archaeological research and theories with the results of divinations, dreaming and imagination upon these, and, while it is speculative and goes well beyond established ‘scientific fact’, it is also equally plausible and offers a view of our ancestry that will hopefully inspire further dreamings and exploration…….it opens a thread that will look at some of the ancient connections we have with the elements in future articles.
(1) The visionary archaeologist Maria Gimbutas contributed greatly to our understanding of the importance of ‘the Goddess’ in the late Mesolithic and Neolithic, her seminal books ‘The Language of the Goddess’, Thames and Hudson, 1990 and ‘Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe’, Thames and Hudson, 1974 being recommended to all interested in exploring these inspirational connections further.
(2) Steven Mithen, ‘After the Ice : A Global Human History, 20,000 – 5,000 BC’, Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 2003 – another superb example of imaginative archaeology; a balanced and well grounded view of our human journey beyond the late Palaeolithic exploring how we adapted to deep global climate change, with profound implications for our times.
(3)’Earth-home’ illustration © Rob Purday 2000