Monday, February 25, 2008

The Gaian Conspiracy

I am a tree, in a seed, in the earth,
I am a river, I flow through the earth,
I am a thought in the mind of this planet,
I am a dream in the mind of the goddess.

Hey ya'na hey, weave away,
we are all a part of this,
hey ya'na hey, find a way,
the song returns my soul to this.

I am a tree, in a seed, in the earth,
Winter is sleeping, dreaming rebirth,
I am of flesh, giving form to the spirit,
I share this song, that the goddess may hear it.

Hey'ya hey, weave away,
we are all a part of this,
hey ya'na hey, find a way,
this song connects my soul to bliss.

Two Sides of Winter

The winter solstice divides the year and divides the winter as well. On the far side of the axis is winter dark and on this side is the secret spring. Winter dark is time for dreaming who to be, whereas secret spring is the root-work that allows these dreams to manifest.

When most people speak of winter they describe a day like today. Snow fell in the early morning, then puddles upon puddles of rain. The yard is a bog of mud and wet leaves. Everyone thinks its cold, but when I put my eye to the ground, I discovered the earth preparing for warm days. Bright tiny shoots gazed back from the water. They are the children of secret spring

Life begins underground. Before the crocus lifts his head, before the birds choose their mates, the seeds germinate. They send their roots down through the warming, wet February soil, protected from nighttime frost by the last leaves of autumn.

In secret spring the sky is a million shades of grey. The clouds are heavy, but moving fast. The geese complain as they drift among the clouds, buoyed up by the same hurrying wind. In a few weeks the birds will make their long flights back north and end their winter pilgrimage. They gather in massive flocks, chattering and pecking the first green food of the season.

Scientists believe that migrating creatures react to the changing angle of the sun, not the weather, as was once thought. In winter the sun travels south and lingers, pale and solitary, at the horizon while the earth turns cold. Only humans seem unaware of the change. We roar across a sentinel planet with the help of our heaters and gas guzzling machines. Meanwhile, bear sleeps and monarchs gather by the drowsy thousands in the hilltop forests of Sierra Chincua. In February the butterflies will follow the geese north, lay their larva on milkweed pods, and die.

Back in Missouri, I enjoy winter dark with a walk beneath the cold night moon. The earth is still and frozen solid; the air is sharp and clear as glass. My thoughts follow my feet across the glittering reality as my dog and I follow the moon. I marvel at the shape of the naked trees that, without their leaves, appear like tall, patient men waiting in the snow. This is the winter everyone recognizes. It’s the season of three hundred dollar electric bills and family celebrations, of snow and silence.

If I were to mark winter dark on a calendar, I think it would begin in November. The ancient Celts believed that the boundary between life and death was thin this time of year. Romantically, the belief invokes thoughts of fireside conversations with the family ghost. In reality, cold nights and hunger drew many across the Veil unwilling. On the night of the winter solstice our ancestors kept vigil, praying for the sun to return. Different cultures gave the sun different names, but even modern Christmas remembers the awe inspiring birth of light from darkness with song and prayers.

However, by January the sun has visibly begun his journey home. The seeds begin their underground work and modern humans calm down long enough to file their taxes and pack up the Christmas tree. Secret spring marks the weeks between darkness and the vernal equinox and contains the ancient festival of Imbolc. This early-spring holiday celebrates the birth of season’s first lambs and calves. It also acknowledges the return of the earth as a maiden goddess. The ancient Celts dedicated these days to the goddess Brigid and medieval Catholics held a feast to honor the purification of the Virgin Mary.

Today, few people celebrate the green touch of secret spring or experience the clarity of winter dark. Both seasons are beautiful, but cold. They last only a handful of weeks and tend to blur into a conglomerate season called sweater weather. Their details are microscopic, like the structure of a snowflake or the root of a newborn seed, too small to notice when I’m in a hurry. Yet when I slow down I see secret spring as the promise of color and tiny life stirring underground. Winter dark is a moment rest as the seeds and butterflies wait the time of rebirth. Both are a gift to those who observe the journey of the sun and the metamorphosis of the earth through her many seasons.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Featured Artist: Beadfreaky

Tell us about yourself: your interests, family, ect : I have a big family, 5 kids, and I think that's one reason I love goddesses so much. They symbolize all that is important in Mothering, which is something I really need to reaffirm to myself. I also have always loved making things. Ceramics is something I've been doing for about 15 years. I also love to paint and am planning on learning glass.

Can you describe your studio/work area? Right now it's just half of a two car garage :) My work doesn't really require much space. I have a small electric kiln for the bisque firings and for the porcelain beads. I usually just use one table to work at, whether I am formimg beads, making plaster stamps, cleaning pieces, or applying glazes. I just clean up in between :)

Tell us about the creative process. What inspires you and how do you turn those inspirations into art? I am simply drawn to ancient symbols. I feel they represent all that is missing in modern life: our connection to nature, our bodies, our families, the cycle of the seasons. Sometimes I make a model of what I want and then make a plaster mold. Other times I carve into plaster to make a stamp. I also like to use found objects and textures for a more abstract, less representational piece.

What do you enjoy most about crafting/creating? For me the most fun is the firing process. I love taking a item made of clay and changing it through the heat of the fire. Wheter it is in the pit outside with salt, copper, and leaves or in the kiln with glazes, the transformation is magical.

What inspired you to fire pendants in your backyard instead of a traditional kiln?
About 15 years ago, I had a friend who worked with pit-firing. At the time I lived near the Pacific Ocean, and it was wonderful to do the firings by the ocean. Adding seaweed was a great way to get cool salt effects. I was making small pendants and beads, and they seemed perfect for pit firing, actually much easier, because breakage due to thermal shock is less likely with the smaller pieces. The random, stone-like effects were a perfect fit with the natural subjects of the beads.

Why do you think ancient symbols, like the labyrinth and Kokopelli, continue to speak to people today? Well as much as we like to pretend that we are not part of nature, we are natural beings who are dependent on and affected by nature. We know that deep inside, and that awareness attracts us to these symbols.

Well... I really love the moon goddess in my avatar because she is such a big, bold goddess. I also like the moon reference in that piece. She looks a bit like me :) which also endears her to me.

Visit beadfreaky's Etsy store

Monday, February 18, 2008

Pattern of a Goddess

Some patterns are life-patterns; some patterns live in our hands. This pattern was inspired by the goddess who inhabits its center and the rest of me had to learn the knots as it unfolded. That makes for a long night hunched over 20 yards of hemp, tying and retying knots, trying to keep faith that the pattern exists even when I can’t see it.

The beautiful goddess who inspired this design was crafted by beadfreaky, an artist I met through Etsy. Her pendants speak of the earth’s raw power, a power that sleeps within women, even today. In a world dominated by stick thin models with haughty expressions, beadfreaky recreates the goddesses who watched over our ancestors as they gathered, planted, and birthed.

I’m honestly still unsure of the name of this goddess. The square, volcanic beads told me she is Pele, but the weather is singing the name of Brigid. I know she is the heath/fire goddess. What do you think?

Show, Arlo

Saturday, February 16, 2008


Today I’m singing connections
And the shape of a blog, like a sphere.
Today I decided to wander, type, listen, and hear.
If you, like the mind, choose to wander,
And read what I'm writing while here,
Then down with that strange, thirsty empire,
Singing commercials into my ear.

(1st published under the title "qassai" because the chaos that site created at Etsy inspired me to contemplate the power of blog advertising. However, I worried that qassai would be interpreted as the "strange empire" when I was actually refering to the octopus of consumerism)

Winter to Spring (a meditation)

The energy around our house is strange this month. Both my husband and I are busy, busy with our projects. He’s building a Playstation 2 mod and I’m crafting like mad, working on this blog, and immersing myself in a number of on-line networking endeavors…in addition to school and raising children. I’m happy and proud of my work, but beneath this feeling of well being is a layer of tension that explodes into directionless anger or drops into despair when things go wrong.

I feel the specter of self doubt warning me to beware beginning so many projects at once. He argues that I’m notorious for abandoning my work, not to be trusted. Yet I feel that’s changing. Maybe I say that because of the moon or the momentary prosperity granted by a sizable tax refund. Maybe it’s true.

I look back at the woman of last winter. She and her husband were at war over feelings neither fully understood. She took off her wedding ring and vowed to make a new life for herself, only to discover herself pregnant with a second child. She cried a lot that winter and sketched sad-eyed woman with round bellies, gazing thoughtfully into space. She constructed a belief system that allowed her to place all the blame for sadness and wrongdoings on someone else. “Reality is made of a multitude of perspectives,” she told herself, “Some people have more passionate perspectives than others. These domineering, strong willed people overpower the stories of passive people like me. Passive people are bullied into living lives that fulfill the stories of others instead of their own.”

So she lived a story that she told herself belonged to someone else, only to realize a year later that she is the one who wrote the tale of mix-matches realities. Winter melted into spring and she found herself a tiny place among the stone circles up top Cumberland Church Hill where the old witches live. She asked the Hill how a woman might best live. She asked the Hill how to balance Motherhood with Self, Wife with Woman, and the Hill answered her with wind moving among the dappled sycamore branches.

I don’t fully understand how the thoughts of last winter and my thoughts on today connect, other than an observation of February. February is Brigit’s month and tells the story of secret spring.

I’ll tell you a story Brigit told me...tomorrow.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Switch Knot Tutorial

Today we’re tying a switch knot. This exotic looking knot is it’s really just the space between two square knots…with a twist.

To tie this knot you need to be working with an even number of cords, usually four.Tie a square knot with two fillers and two knotting cords.

As you pull your knotters to the middle make sure they lay over the original fillers. This is important, because it wraps one set of cords around the other, holding them in place.

Now bring the original fillers, which are now the knotters, around and leave a little space before tying a second square knot. You should have a groovy hourglass shape where the cords crossed one another.

Since a switch knot has open space it has a tendency to slide. I usually clusters of 2-4 square knots for every 2 switches to give the design more stability.

You can also adjust the length of the switch by tugging the knotting cords as you make the first half of the square knot. The second half holds knot in place. You can even out the hourglass by tugging at the filler cords.

If you add beads and tie a few-dozen more knots you'll have created your own unique piece of jewelry.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Crafty Connections

These days have been wild, crafty days. I knotted a chakra necklace for Rainbowmom, one of the Earthpath Artisans on Etsy. She’s the first to take advantage of my offer to resize/customize designs. It really surprises me how many customers order without asking questions or even taking the time to say hello. In my mind crafting is about connections. I love knowing where a design is traveling. I love knowing that its future owner is mindfully interested in receiving the perfect item.

As both a maker and buyer of handmade crafts, I hope that one day that desire for personal connections will save our culture from Wal-Mart. It also inspired me to seek out other artists to feature on this blog. Next week I will be sharing an interview with the woman who created the goddess pendants featured in my ritual photographs.

Hamsa Healing Hands: by Rainbowmom

Beadfreaky's Shop on Etsy

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Conversation with a Box

I discovered a box among the rules of English composition. The lid is a proclamation of purpose, the thesis. He gives his companions direction and structure. Around him are clustered of loyal trio of supporting details and inevitable, persuasive conclusion. They form the sides and bottom of the box.

This box allows me to focus my mind. It keeps me from rambling from topic to topic. Since today it has no content, other than an observation of its own existence, the box feels awkward and strange. It’s accustomed to displaying the best of others, not being described itself.

“Give me a research paper and I’ll show you my strengths,” the box told me. “I’ll help you compare Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, but please don’t analyze me!” For a box, this one is rather neurotic, a type-A personality. It kept begging me to draw an outline, but I refused.

“Today,” I explained, “I’m meditating on you, so stop doing your work and be yourself.” I forgot that a box made of rules is defined by its work. Like a verb, its boring while being; it would rather do and that is why I’m packed this box-thought up and shared it with you. It isn’t very talkative, but the lid will declare its purpose, “I discovered a box among the rules of English composition”.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Bead Blessing Ritual

Macramé is magical and beads collect energy. Therefore a witch must periodically cleanse and bless her collection. Last night I arranged my bead boxes, hemp, crystals, pendants, necklaces, and pouches to form an altar. Around this glittering, candlelight chaos, I cast circle and chanted. A simple ritual, yes, but the best kind, because it inspired and captured a unique moment, independent of moon phases and coven schedules. It distilled an instant of my creative life, which in my reality, is the most powerful cycle of all.

Like the moon, creativity waxes and wanes. Like the sun it creates its own light, illuminating the darkest corners of our being. The creative process allows me to transform raw emotion into something beautiful…or strange. Whatever forms the Art takes; it’s concrete and conceivable and helps me understand the feelings that inspired it.

I think that’s why the work of a witch is called the Craft of the Wise. Magick is a unique, powerful Art, but all crafts are wise and magical. Acknowledging the connection between the work of my hands and the power of the Divine was the heart of last night’s ritual.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Knot Me!

This tiny pouch is knotted with 60-some cords. That's four cords per knot, 8 knots per row, per side and 10 rows down, until the pouch starts to narrow. At that point I drop two knots per row until I'm down to one at the very bottom. Then I turn the pouch inside out to knot the two sides together and glue the ends. Madness. Did I mention I tie these crazy things by hand?

Pouches embody the frustration of trying to sell macramé. It's a time consuming hobby and projects like these just don't seem to pay off. I try to price according to the value of a piece, what I feel it's worth. That usually doesn't measure up with the hours spent hunched over a chaos of hemp. However, in the end the time is irrelevant. Aren't we work-at-home mamas living proof that time doesn't equal money? We do our work because the goddess needs us to, be that work raising babies or tying knots.

Saturday, February 2, 2008


I navigate the cluttered floor by touch, placing each foot carefully, and trace the edge of the bed with one hand, until I reach the far wall. In darkness I fumble for the lamp, whose time yellowed shade once stood on my father’s bedside table. It fills the room with earthy, mellow light. Near evening’s end, one door removed from the chaos and noise of the rest of the house, this room is a sanctuary of stillness.

I slide a drowsy Arlo from my arms to the bed. He twists his round baby-body to stare, mesmerized, at the wind chime dangling behind my left shoulder. I jingle the chimes as I turn away and survey the work to be done.

Throughout the day I spend much of my time cleaning up behind a two year old and she spends much of her time messing up behind me. My bedroom is the one place where cleaning isn’t entirely futile. You see, this room is mine. Unlike the kitchen or living room, whose domains are the hurried tasks of maintaining a family in action, my bedroom is a place of sleep. Neither the toddler nor husband is particularly interested in sleep. They both play, play, play until flinging themselves, exhausted, into bed. I, on the other hand, love to sleep, almost as much as I love preparing for sleep.

I begin by gathering the discarded laundry into a big pile in the corner. It fills a large, wicker basket, and most of the space between Arlo’s crib and the wall. Blankets, jeans, shirts, and two dozen single baby socks, all evidence of tasks completed and games played, shoved into one place, held in queue till the afternoon I decide to brave the laundry room and wash it all. I pull another handful of socks from beneath the bed.

Abby cuddles books like stuffed animals when the family lays down for afternoon naps. They get tangled in the blankets and make their way to the floor, in much the same fashion as socks. I discover a cache of these forgotten friends beneath the bed, as well. They should go on the end table, but it’s too crowded there. A flock of jelly jars congregate beneath the lamp. In the light I see dust particles floating in the water, so I gather a few and whisk them off to the kitchen. The remaining jar I don’t even bother to dump or refill. I know that around midnight I’ll wake up parched and take a drink of that stale, warm bedside water. There’s something magical about water that’s gathered and filtered two days worth of house-energy and dust. Drinking it is a kind of spiritual cannibalism, like the snake who devours herself to recreate the universe.

I’m grinning at my lunatic housework when Chris walks in. He’s still wearing his jacket and shoes, both of which will re-clutter my floor before morning. Arlo hears his dad’s heavy-footed entrance and flips back over onto his back. There’s a puddle of baby drool where he’d been gumming the blankets.

“Will you pick him up for a moment?” I ask. While the boy-folk coo at one another, I pull the sheet back over the bed. It’s old and yellow, like the lampshade, with two holes the size our dog, back when he was a puppy with bed privileges. I shake out the pillows and flip the drool side down, then begin hunting around for fresh blankets. That’s another trip to the living room, where I gather Arlo’s baby blanket, a snuggle blanket for me, and another pillow. I flip these across the bed with a sense of achievement.

I’ve never understood why people make their beds in the morning. To me a tidy, comfy bed is the promise of sleep. Seeing the pillows neatly pilled and Arlo’s blanket folded near the foot, says that the day’s work is nearly done. I shuffle off to the bathroom to wash up.

Returning, I light candles and turn off the lamp. Arlo and Chris are both lying in bed, so join them and pull the baby close so he can nurse. As the ancient endorphins of motherhood, wash away the last of my worries, I long for the skill to draw the curve of his small face nuzzled against my skin. Tiny hands hold tight the fabric of my shirt and my hands are curled around his back, supporting the spine. Chris looks awkward and envious so I give him a smile. “You should stay and cuddle with us,” I suggest, but he’s already shaking his head. He still has a video game boss to defeat and cigarettes to smoke and probably twelve other important tasks I’m utterly oblivious of. He lingers long enough for Arlo to fall asleep and takes the snoring infant over to the crib.

I stretch out across the big, empty bed, breathing smoke and the scent of paraffin. My mind spirals outward, taking in the details of the moment, weaving impressions into memorable words. I’m half dreaming when Chris slips back into bed and we drift off together into the stillness of sleep.