The Soul Road

……..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…..

Rumi said…….

‘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.

Creating with Gravity Waves – Saturn trine Neptune

…..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.

owlmirror arts

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

A Ring of Apples

…….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…..

“….from somewhere in the forest the kindly voice of the old woman whispered,

‘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……

 

Passion and the Art of Getting Lost

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…..

‘Recommendation’

Promise me,
Promise me this day,
Promise me now,
While the Sun is overhead
Exactly at its zenith,
Promise me.

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
Remember, brother,
Remember:
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,
Untroubled
(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……

‘Wickerman’

“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

The Fire of Renewal

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

Sila’s Song

 This carving in Green New Zealand Soapstone honours the spirit energy and quality that fills all things – the pneuma or breath of Life. Here she takes on singing feminine form, but, it was almost by accident that this came about – as she emerged, working with her brought a diverse array of challenges, responsibilities and gifts. Even in stillness the spirit moves…..and, sometimes, it speaks to us….

When I began shaping this sumptious stone, I simply had it in mind that there was a kind of flowing energy within it, both corporial and ethereal, but, as the work progressed I began to uncover elements of this energy that I could not have fore-seen.

At the outset the image that came up suggested a wind or water being – but I could also see a face, so that is where I began. As the shaping developed I was surprised to find a vein of white and gold quartz crystals emerging from within the matrix, manifesting a lightning streak across her face, one crystal in particular sitting magically within the pupil of her left eye (you can just see it in the pic) – she tested me with this, for, while this particular piece of soapstone is actually quite hard for its type, the quartz was much harder, and brought in a tension that slowed things down – the risk of making a mistake within the process increased significantly – one slip could change everything…..and slip I did!

Being a reductive process, there is no going back in carving and mistakes have to be capitalised upon – this can be a challenge, but, is often very helpful in finding the form that works best – its as though something intervenes, as if to say, “no mate, your going in the wrong direction – try this!”

Nevertheless, the carving of the quartz went well and, perhaps, thinking I had gotten past the challenge, the energy of the process began to build up again – thats when it happened! It was when I came to shape her mouth – the carving tool glanced off a hidden chip of quartz and, unintentionally on my part, her mouth opened – she ended up singing……..but, looking back, I am glad of this…..as it also became very clear that she wanted to be seen in this particular way – through her animated singing expression, her song, the rest of her began to come more into focus.

I’d checked the whole stone closely by this time for colouration that might reveal other hidden surprises. Her flowing energy became more visible and, appearing within the rippled and dappled colouring of the stone, became wind blown hair – within this there were other distinct shapes also visible, feathers on the one side and fingers on the other, and yet she seemed to have no body. This was intriguing. Around that time, I was also given a book on the Inuit carving traditions as part payment for a commission and as I fell under the spell of these wonderfull carvings I came across representations of shamans in spirit flight, bodyless, except for a hand, representing their humanity and sole (or soul) link to the physical worlds as they journey through the spirit realms. This was helpful, but, it was not quite right – I did not want to copy or re-interpret; this carving had an identity of its own. I did however find one carving that spoke louder than the rest – it showed Sedna, her long partly braided hair assuming flowing, rippling forms around her. There was something in this….

I knew of Sedna’s story, filled with a confrontational and difficult energy, tragedy arising from the clash between the young Sedna’s power of choice, paternal will and supernatural power. It is a strong story and there is much sadness in Sedna; having refused to bend to her father’s will in his choice of suitor he takes her out to sea, the supernatural intervenes and she not only becomes the victim of that confrontation, but, is exiled as a result – where have we heard that particular thread before?! However, in some tellings, hers is also a creation story – in the struggle to save herself, she looses her fingers and these become the Whale, Dolphin and Seal families. There is a radical give-away, an exchange at work in this – through it she becomes very powerful, assimilated into the oceanic worlds as a mistress of the sea creatures, protecting their spirits from exploitation. Sedna’s original right to choose her own soul path merges with the world of soul that the ocean represents, but, she looses the ability to use her hands in the process.

There is within many indigenous traditions the understanding that the spirits do not have thumbs! and are reliant upon us humans to work the physical – and while that may be our human power, theirs is in the inspirational and animating force that makes it possible for us to work creatively, through use our hands for example. Within indigenous wisdom it is a symbiotic relationship that requires us to feed the spirits so that they may fund our world with their nourishing and inspirational powers, that the world will remain animated. When we neglect this relationship the world falls into disarray and decay (look around!). The spirits and divinities seem to particularly like it when we make give-aways or offerings to them through our creativity. With Sedna this symbiosis with the spirit worlds also takes shape, but, she must be negotiated with, her hair combed and washed as an offering that is made in the hope that she will release the souls of the animals through the hunt – so that the people may live.

As Sedna’s story came alive in the Inuit carving many things seemed to be speaking together, to be in conversation with the emerging carving – but it was not her story itself, it was an essence within her story, that was coming through – her element is water; the carving continually spoke of the air – so, I decided to dig deeper. I felt that behind Sedna’s story as a creation myth there might be another layer and thats where I found Sila.

Amongst northern peoples of the arctic in particular, Sila has the power to shape the weather, the wind and the sky – along with other traditions, Inuit peoples have portrayed Sila as male, calling this spirit Silap Inua amongst other honorific names – however, Sila is also very ancient, considered formless. While Sedna is sometimes thought of as the daughter of the great spirit who created all Life, Sila is translated as ‘universal’, associated with the great spirit itself, animating all Life. But, the strongest scent came from the fact that Sila is found across the northern latitudes, in the Siberian as well as the northern Canadian and Greenland indigenous traditions. Sedna is considered more contemporary, allied with the animals that provide the Inuit with their primary food sources – Sila too is connected with the hunt, as well as the observance of the customs and rites between the people and the spirits, but, she embraces the animating spirit that fills all, on land, sea and in air – she appears to be an ancestor of Sedna. And like Sedna, Sila’s story has a shadow side too…..

Magical power is not to be toyed with, it demands respect and aquiring it has its risks and responsibilities – we can be very easily overcome by its ‘glamour’. It is one of the traditional dangers of ‘glamour’ that it can entice us into the vast interior of the wilds, perhaps never to be seen again – perhaps this shows a common expression of parental and communal fear, much the same as that associated with the magical enticement of the faerie realms, a place in which a different order of time exists from whose enchantment we may never return. The faerie realms spin their glamour around us continuously, and, for the most part remain hidden behind the appearance of things – once the veil is parted and we are touched by the ‘glamour’ our lives are never the same – Sedna herself has some of this quality – through hard won lessons in survival she is both mediator and protector of this power.

So too, for the shaman – amongst the Copper Inuit of the Northwest territories of Canada, Sila as ‘wind in-dweller’ has the tradition of empowering the shaman with the ability to shamanise on behalf of the community. For the initiate too the challenge is in the return – it is through transformation, burning off the old personality and complete inner re-structuring through initiation, that s/he can deliver the promise of the calling. If the ego or independant personal will are out of balance within, the use of that magical power becomes an issue and potential for ‘shadow’ to manifest remains….perhaps there is a lesson for us all in this.

The more I learned of Sila the more her qualities, the better her story seemed to fit….there was no attempt on my part to portray Sila, but, the story of Sedna and Sila had opened up a deeper resonance within the carving and, working with this, the whole form fell into place and the carving quickly came to completion.

I cannot help wondering how much the usurping of the divine feminine, of her rightful powers, is also present within Sila’s story. There was never any doubt in my mind that the spirit in the stone had a woman’s face and it felt wholly fitting to honour both Sedna and Sila through this….but, it was a difficult journey in many ways, intense, uncertain and mystifying.

Sila’s challenge is not only to pay attention to the calling of spirit – she also requires us to do our inner work and to maintain the balance we find through this, within our personal empowerment – Sila’s challenge also symbolises a return to the original unity of matter and spirit and she reminds us that we have to be willing to enter the wilderness, the wild raw nature of our unknowing, before we can reclaim something of our original state – it is perhaps no wonder that Sila is also regarded as the substance out of which soul is made!

Very soon after she was completed this carving found a new home, also through a chance encounter, but, thats a story for another time. As it happens I am about to embark on a new carving to celebrate this spirit – this time in wood. The piece is Ash wood from a tree that was first struck by lightning and subsequently blown down in a hurricane! I have a seat carved from the same tree – its actually very comfortable….but, I have it in mind to do something with this carving that I have not done before – to record the whole process of its making, and I hope to make this the subject of a future article at ‘owlmirror’……..we will see!

…..a certain magic brings us into the world, often forgotten and overlooked once we begin our adult years – but, it never dies – we only need to keep our hearts open to the messages and signs that it sends us, and Sila exemplifies this magic. Sometimes you may even hear her singing on the wind……

ACT II SCENE I

SKELETON WOMAN EMERGES

“I must have hooked a big one – enough to feed everyone for the whole winter…..now, if I can just……..”

In honour of ALL BRAVE SOULS as Mars Pluto and Mercury meet at the critical juncture of the 5th degree of Capricorn the Sabian symbol for which says : “mobilisation of physical and emotional energies in a spirit of conquest” – the key word is “Aggression”

When the hunter started pulling in the line his own greed and vanity surfaced – when the Head of Skeleton Woman broke the waves the hunter’s greed vanished and he fled – but, now there was no escape – the truth had come alive again – the story has it that she had been cast into the sea by her father for some undisclosed ‘crime’ against the community – she survived in the depths and her spirit held firm – it was through the ignorance of man and his aggression that she was rejected – but nothing ever dies, it just changes shape – and it was through the ignorance of man and his vanity that she re-emerged – the tale goes on, but, for now, nothing further need be said……..

OWLWOMAN

owl goddess owlmirrorThis lady has been a great guide and talisman over the years – one of the very few pieces of antler work I have made for myself, she came through into the physical with real purpose, beyond the sheer joy of making and dreaming from which she emerged……

Fact is, ironically, Owlwoman has spent more time with other people than with myself, and, in the course of time I have come to see how that purpose of hers is working in the world.

Being a figure of only 18cm, she is intimate and tactile and is carved in Pere David deer antler, a material that is a good ivory substitute. Pere David is a-typically solid through to the center so this kind of antler can be carved in deep relief and in the round. Owlwoman also represents the kind of work that I am most commonly commissioned to undertake as a carver.

On reflection, Owlwoman’s role, her particular medicine, carries a call to find powerful centering and to get in touch with the inner stories, the ones that we have come here to tell, that only we can tell – I guess thats why she came to me as, after I had finally set aside the carving tools, I felt protected and ‘on track’…….she also helped me to understand, on a more personal level, that it is the story in the art that pushes it into manifestation. It needs to be told……

The whole idea that stories might need us so that they too may have their life helps to deepen the connection between medicine path and arts practice – within this is an honouring of the duende, the living spirit within the story being told through the art – the artists role is that of the carrier and courier, functioning as a gatekeeper.

With spending so much time out there in the world, Owlwoman has always brought back stories to accompany her return – people with whom she has spent time tell of re-finding their center, their power, and of renewal – she has brought courage and calmness in the face of adversity, the feeling that we are never so far from home as our challenges might have us to believe – others have said she has brought a wild wisdom, a spur to move forward with energy and dignity, trusting in their own vision, a powerful and steady wind in their sails.

Owlwoman does have a deeper level too – woven into her are symbols that have their own story, that connect to navigation and orientation on the earth plane – these tie-in to ancient methods of keeping track with natural cycles, angling to the directions and the stars in time and space – they also connect with the tracks of ancestral knowledge that reach back more than 10k years into Eurasian indigenous culture, with the seeds of dreaming that they have sown in our times.

She is enigmatic for all this – a gate keeper at the portal of death/re-birth and a magical envoy carrying a pilot light for the soul. She is still out there in the world…….

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