Monday, March 31, 2014

A Note of Gratitude to You




                                                       Celebrating--my 100th blog post today!


I thank you, for visiting, stopping in and sharing my thoughts and yours--nearly 30,000 times, and from so many countries!





                                             A virtual toast--to you!
                                                                                           Cheers!

The Beautiful and Gifted Goddess Lakshmi


Would you shun abundance and financial prosperity? For a long time, I did. Why? Two words, 'starving' 'artist'. Need I say more?

Lately I have been consorting with numerous gods, goddesses and spirits across cultures, time and space, as I write "Mama Nature's Spiritual Guide to Weight Loss."

Enter Lakshmi.


Few engagements with the gods, goddesses and spirits make me as joyful, complete or fulfilled, as invoking Lakshmi. Some of the a fore mentioned deities and spirits can be fickle or even down right temperamental. Lakshmi, on the other hand, always comes through.

Yesterday, I gently coaxed her out of her space, and into mine with a soft oil-based candle and sandalwood incense. Light and the scents she prefers draw her out. She appeared, resplendent; charming and friendly, yet in possession of breathtaking, glowing beauty.

I posted previously about luck charms, and this is a further engagement with good fortune work. Lakshmi is the very embodiment of luck and good fortune. With so many underemployed and unemployed people, unable to make ends meet, we could all benefit from a shower of Lakshmi's coins, as you can see her tossing, in the picture above, out of her left hand.

She comes as a vision. At first she is hard to make out. That is because she beams with brightness--golden light makes her skin glow.

I could go on and on for pages about Lakshmi. Who knows, maybe I will. This post will be continued. I think we all need to focus on Lakshmi and maintain that focus so that she is inclined to stick around. She is capable of bringing enlightenment, self-actualization and all different kinds of prosperity that are very much needed.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Charms and Well Being

By Land
               “Lord give me strength.” How many times have you heard someone say that? Implicit in that statement, we are reaching to the Divine Spirit for reinforcements. When you think of strength there are few things stronger than metal. So for our first charm let’s consider metal’s role in spirituality.
               Metal and metalsmithing play are important in traditional West African society, culture and spirituality.  The idea of transforming a mundane, stiff material into something useful, is an act of alchemy that is 
treasured—it is nothing short of magic(k)al.  The admiration for the transformative properties the metal-smith and all that goes into the process, led to a wealth of traditions within Hoodoo.  Two of the objects that are 
the subject of the most lore are horseshoes and nails.

               I am devoting this week’s Natural Healing Corner to strengthening and lucky charms because they promote well-being. Through greater strength and better luck, you will feel more capable, hopeful and able in your body, mind and spirit, to face any challenge that arises. 
Here are some of the ways to utilize horseshoes:
  • If you are lucky enough to live in such an area or country where you can find a horseshoe, pick it up and carry it with the prongs upwards.  Otherwise, you can purchase one from a farmers market, antique shop or farm, holding it in the same manner or propping it up in the car, this way until you get it home.
  • It should also be hung up with the u-shape at the bottom--prongs at the top; this manner of hanging allows the horseshoe to become a symbolic vessel that attracts, holds, and contains luck. 
               In the past horseshoes were hung outdoors on a property either on trees or fences.  When the horse was a primary form of transportation, you could walk around and find horse shoes.  Horse shoes, with the nails still intact, were thought to be especially lucky.  Some practitioners would work with the nails to draw good fortune, but for the most part it was considered unlucky to remove the nails.

               Nails were also important fasteners both in a practical carpentry sense and a metaphysical sense.  It was believed that you could drive nails into someone’s tracks at the heel to make them stay close to you.  To keep a lover close by his/her shoes were buried under the front step or porch and a simple pine plank was nailed down. Nails are a binding tool on several different planes of existence.


 
Draw from Mother Earth
Prosperity and Money Drawing Magic(k) works best started on a waxing moon on the day of Jupiter. (Thursday)
 
Press a Five-Leaf (not Four-Leaf) Clover (Trifolium spp.) between two heavy books.  After a few days take the clover out and laminate it.  I suggest taking two pieces of waxed paper of about 2” square.  Sandwiching the clover between the wax paper.  Ironing the paper with an iron set on low. Once it cools off, place the pressed clover in a locket and wear it every day or carry it in your wallet pressed between your paper money to draw more.


 
Charm of the Sea
    As humans we were first nurtured in a saline solution--the sea of our mother’s belly.  The sea as mother has many manifestations in diverse cultures.  Sea represents the Cosmic Womb, The Ifa Orishas of Life--Yemaya-Ologun and the Fon/Ewe Serpentine Goddess, Mami Wata are all powerful sea deities, orisha, and spirits.  Isis, the great Egyptian Earth Mother is also a goddess of the sea, as is Inanna an earlier incarnation of Isis, hailing from Assyria.  The Virgin Mary is closely associated with the sea and her colors like Isis and Yemaya-Ologun are silver, blue and white.  Aphrodite and Venus, goddesses of love and compassion sprung forth from the sea foam of the ocean--their home.  The sea is the place of origin--the genesis of life itself.  Using elements from the sea brings compassion, care, friendship, love, luck and prosperity. So I will end this charm post with ways to use a charming gift from the sea, so popular in Jamaican healing—Irish Moss.
 
Irish Moss (Chondrus crispus) is a natural seaweed that can be carried on the person, placed in a dream pillow or powdered and spread under rugs to attract good fortune. 
 
To infuse: 
1. Pour water that has been boiled (and cooled for a few minutes) over it.  Cover.  
2. Steep 20-30 minutes.  Strain.  

You can use this in your hair, it is a great styling gel, yet it also brings the spiritual aspects of the sea close to your head for meditation and inspiration.

Be healthy, well, magic(k)al and lucky, until we meet again in the Natural Healing Corner, next Friday. I have written much more on this topic in "Sticks, Stones, Roots and Bones: Hoodoo, Mojo and Conjuring with Herbs"

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Inclined Towards Dessert

Last night I happened upon the PBS Front Line program “All of Me” by Independent Lens. I was fascinated by the sociological and psychological implications of losing weight, particularly of obese and morbidly obese women that were featured.

An important part of the conversation was about acceptance of fat. One of the women said something to the effect of, “We came together as fat girls/fat women.” But then the documentary goes on to show how the women changed towards each other after weight loss surgery and the challenging effects of shifting perceptions of the self on the group.

                                                                  (Venus of Willendorf)

One of my close relatives is into the BBW (Big Beautiful Women) scene. He prefers his women super-sized. He came to where I live to be with a woman that had to be in the mid 400 pound range. She was not a happy camper but he certainly was.

The women in the PBS documentary talk about their relationship to men, the power fat has over certain men and the fetishes some men have for having very large women sit on them, dance with them and even eat in front of them. These men, like my relative, are willing to travel great distances and spend a lot of cash, to meet up with and hook up with BBWs.

The documentary centers on the Austin Chapter of the National Association for the Acceptance of Fat Association (NAAFA). This is both a fun organization with local chapters and national conventions, and a form of activism, as its name implies.

I was fascinated by the program and the particular group of women in it, on many levels. I observed some people that were comfortable in their skin, some who seemed to struggle with deep-seated depression and one woman named Cathy that was so ill physically and mentally that she died during the filming of the show. 
Then too, there is former plus-sized model, Dawn, who had the persona of Bridget in some kinky publications who reveled in her past.

The statements said or shown that struck me the most, besides the title of this post were:
  • Losing lots of weight would take me into a new area I've never been since childhood, decades ago.
  • People think those that are overweight have character flaws; we all do, ours are just more apparent. (Judy)
  • People think we are slobs, dirty and lazy.
  • Losing weight means losing the image you and the people you associate with love.
  • Accept me for who I am.
  • And finally, just because you have a lap band, doesn't mean you can’t gain weight again.
                                                            (Mujer Obesa by Botero)


I saw Szalynn from this documentary before. I believe it was on “My 600 Pound Life” but it may have also been on Dr. Oz, talking about her acceptance of her super-size. Her story makes me the saddest because she has a young child that loves her so much and an abusive, enabling husband, from all appearances, if memory serves me correctly. While planning for her weight loss surgery, she actually gained quite a bit of weight—I've been there (in terms of planning a diet) and done that (gained weight in the process).

I am not judging these women that are in BBW groups like NAAFA. A while back, I was approved for weight loss surgery but decided to lose it myself without surgery. I have also spent decades in self-acceptance mode, loving my food while at the same time accepting how fat it made me.

What I keyed into the most was the spiritual and mental implications of being overweight. For me, that always trumps the body in the weight loss conversation. I can’t speak for being morbidly obese because I haven’t been there but I just officially went under the BMI that is called obese, so I do know something about that.

What happened people may ask? Something gets broken inside. I know this all too well. It is often, but not always, caused by childhood trauma of one sort or another.


Rather than simply cutting, whether it is calories or surgery, there needs to be some mending of those broken bits. The mending that would make someone broken whole again, is what I find mind, body, and spiritual, connection provides. That is why I'm writing the book I am working on.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Goddess and Prince of Flowers

While teaching painting and drawing at the School of the Art Institute, I was always drawn to the Codex Borgia. Sadly, seldom did I actually find ways of incorporating that gorgeous, ancient, illustrated manuscript into my lesson plans. I would just go through the book of images and savor them on my own.

Now I understand why it was calling out to me. It is the tool of healers, diviners and scribes--it contains prophesies. It is going to take a while, still, but some day I will understand the lessons it seeks to teach me.


Now in "Mama Nature's Spiritual Guide to Weight-loss" as I write, I am finding my book is being fleshed out by Aztec and Mayan deities. They just showed up and wanted in. I find myself questioning their appearance and loving it all at the same time. Pictured above is Aztec Goddess, Xochiquetzal, pronounced Sho-chi-ket-sal. Her name is in the language Nahuatl. The first part Xochitl (flower or to flower) and the second Quetzal (bird of splendid feathers).

As you know, I am Stephanie Bird and I do love my last name, spelled as it is. I also companion birds indoors and feed wild birds outside. I love flowers, the arts, crafts, weaving and sensuality--much like Xochiquetzal. While she travels with a posse of butterflies and birds, she is also a fierce goddess that turned one of her lovers into a scorpion. It is my understanding that she was the first to menstruate, after being bitten on the vagina by a bat. Apparently the bite didn't phase her.


This is her playful twin brother, Flower Prince (quite literally) Xochipilli, pronounced shok-el-Peel-eh. Xochipilli loves all the pleasures in life--art, games, beauty, dancing, flowers and singing. He caters to creativity and soul. This god is a free spirit.

Followers of Xochiquetzal and Xochipilli typically get flower tattoos.

These two have arrived in my life and I will continue to explore our relationship. I admire that Xochiquetzal stayed in full bloom her entire life. She never looked old. She has a tendency, so some say, of leaning towards excess but I wonder if that is a Christian judgement. She believes in sex for pleasure not just to result in pregnancy, an idea seemingly before her time in terms of being accepted practice.

Xochipilli was a bit of a dabbler in the hallucinogenic flowers and he is also considered a god of fertility, farming, beauty, dancing, flowers, singing, art and homosexuals.

Just like with the Codex Borgia, I was a little stumped, as to why these two deities have presented themselves in my life and work. I am coming to understand and enjoy their presence and wisdom.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

An Egg Story



As I prepare to poach my eggs for my husband and I, for breakfast, I stop and take a look at them. Examining the egg, I notice, it is a perfect and magical object. I think about Easter Eggs, since that holiday is approaching and my previous post about the Tale of the Easter Bunny.

People not involved with paganism or alternative/earth-based spirituality's diverse paths might be more concerned with the egg's nutritional benefits. Those of us on these diverse spiritual paths, see eggs quite a bit differently.

A week or so ago, I was at my son's apartment, reminiscing with my family about past events. One story that reoccurs in our conversation, was that particular son's first exposure to Santeria through an experience with an egg. He was about 2.

I was in my late twenties, so this was a long time ago. My son, I believe he had separation anxiety as a toddler. I was a full-time professor. He spent long periods of time with his brother and the babysitter. We were living in a Mexican American community on the southeast side of Chicago.



When very young, your children are your eggs. They are precious, full of potential and need to be handled with great care. Like any good mama bear, I was highly protective of my young sons at that time.

I came home from work one day to find out that the babysitter had been using what I now understand was either egg magic(k) or egg divination on my son. He would not stop crying and she wanted to either cure him of the spiritual ill he had or she wanted to figure out why he was crying. Maybe she was doing both. I was not there.

In Santeria (Lukumi), the tradition she is involved with, eggs are used magic(k)ally and spiritually. They are also sometimes used in an age-old divination practice that is traced back to Africa called diloggun. I didn't know about any of that, at that time.

I was worried for my son. If anyone was to do magic(k) on him, I felt it should have been me. Now, with time, I question my reaction on many levels. The babysitter was doing her best with what she had. That is the way of many ethnic minorities here and people with an indigenous ancestry. Furthermore, she opened us up to the magic(k)al and curative properties of eggs and for that, I am grateful.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Banishing Fears



Fear is irrational. It creeps up on you when you last expect and can leave you paralyzed. When I first moved from the city to the country I was afraid of the outdoors—more specifically, what you could find there, and by that I mean snakes. I happened up on them on the ground. Water Moccasins are one of the poisonous types found in South Jersey’s Pine Barrens where I lived. I remember bounding down to the lake and then turning around to return to the house, only to see one of the black terrifying creatures staring straight in my direction. I was about 8.

I love swimming, especially in natural bodies of water. There was a lake right in our front yard so of course I spent plenty of time swimming and playing around in the water. On more than one occasion a snake would appear. Swimmers par excellence, they would tear through the water effortlessly and I’m afraid to say, at times one would head in my direction. Being away from the land as I was, all I can say is terror would strike but then I couldn't let it get the best of me since I had to swim ashore. Necessity teaches us lessons and for me it was to keep cool even when faced with my greatest fear at the time--snakes.

Some of my children were frightened by spiders. They fascinated, scared and repulsed them. I have used folklore and mythology of the Caribbean to ease their fear. It’s just Anansi the trickster I would tell them when they were little. Pay no mind at all to Anansi. He just wants attention.

Goddess Lore and Goddess Spirituality cross-culturally is filled with snake imagery, goddesses, gods and spirits. As I do research for “Mama Nature’s Spiritual Guide to Weight Loss,” once again I am encountering snakes. I must admit, I kind of just peek at them when I come across stories of their embodiment or symbolism and then close the book or page if it's on the Internet. I am almost half way through the book and still no mention of the powerful and alluring snake goddesses or spirits.




Witches can do many things. We can banish--a useful tool for this situation. This week will be one of facing up to my fears and standing them down in the creative space of art and writing. I will put a snake goddess in an illustration and they must be included in a particular, upcoming chapter.

I work with someone and am good friends with someone else that struggle with serious phobias. I encourage any of you reading this that struggle in that way to utilize art, writing, mythology, folklore and spirituality to overcome, if not banish your fears.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Facing Addiction (Natural Healing Corner)

                                                                          (Billy Holiday)

I have known many people in my family to be addicted to different substances and activities, as well, as artist and writer friends. These addictions include gambling, shopping, alcohol, tobacco, drugs, sugar and food. Sad to say, the two dearest people, who were related to me, that were addicted to drugs, fell into IV drug use and died from the complications of AIDS. Alcohol is an ugly disease that consumes many creative, sensitive and emotional people. It is a nervous system depressant and people with that affliction often also suffer from depression. Right along with alcohol comes sugar which also effects the emotions and can lead to sudden blood sugar level drops, that verge on making one depressed. And then, there is food.

Back in the 90's I took my weight so seriously that I enrolled in a hospital-supervised super low calorie liquid diet. We consumed about 800 calories a day, for months. I know those diets are not highly thought of today but I did lose 55 pounds and kept it off for three years until I got pregnant. We had weekly group counseling sessions around our food issues. I developed a platonic friendship with a young man there. He was over 500 pounds. He had a shining spirit that came through, despite his addiction. The last time I saw him though, he had just had weight-loss surgery but he was at Walgreens telling me how to ‘game the system’ so to speak. He was buying chocolate and candies for himself to feed his addiction. I haven’t seen him in a while. He is my neighbor but seldom comes outside the house.

Alcoholism is something I consider a familial trait that has luckily passed over me. I have never had a problem with the stuff. That may be as a result of watching people I love dearly suffer with it. It can be a battle right to the death and it ruins relationships, your looks and health. A lot of people have found solace and some hope through Alcoholics Anonymous. Recently, I have heard of a new approach to addictions of all kinds called Harm Reduction. Whereas in the A’s (anonymous groups) you are advised to abstain completely, harm reduction advocates encourage moderation. I say, whatever floats your boat—the key is just facing up to what you have and then working at overcoming.

No one likes to admit they are addicted. It has a sort of ugly way of rolling off the tongue. My battle with weight and food issues has led me to try several different alternative approaches, one of which includes joining Overeaters Anonymous. Before going to the group, I had to wrestle with the concept of being an over-eater or in other words, a food addict. Like I said, it doesn't roll off the tongue or the mind easy, in fact as you say it out loud it sort of burns the tongue. It is hard to admit.  I have tried EFT (emotional freedom technique) or tapping and hypnosis, both of which are also used for smoking cessation.

Lately, I have leaned on abstinence from triggers, such as gum chewing, added sugars, artificial sugars, simple carbohydrates and processed foods. All of these substances leave me wanting more, more, more! Gum keeps your intestines in digestion mode but your stomach rebels because it is not receiving any food—leading to gastrointestinal distress. I’ll tell you what, abstinence is no fun at all, especially when it means abstaining from chocolate—my favorite food group!

I almost hate writing this post however because I haven’t really thought about missing sugar or chocolate lately. With abstinence, slowly but surely your addiction devil seems to fade and then it disappears for hours, days and then weeks at a time. Getting back to how I started this post, mentioning some of the various types of addiction, I don’t think one is more serious than the other. They all have the capacity to have a very negative impact on all aspects of your life.

In the anonymous groups, Gambling Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous, Overeater Anonymous spirituality plays an important role. While I am not in OA these days, I utilize my earth-based spirituality and Goddess Spirituality to offer support, encouragement and strength. I most definitely look to a higher power, which in my case is divinely feminine.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Tale of the Easter Bunny

I wrote this a few years back and wanted to share it here today, on this very special day of Spring Equinox and Ostara.


Tale of the Easter Bunny

 “Mama, how does the Easter Bunny lay eggs and then bring them to all of our houses?” I asked circa late 1960’s early 1970’s. "I don’t know Sweetie … he just does,” was the tentative and unsatisfying reply.
Somewhere along the way between Walgreens, Walmart, and Super Target, we forgot. We had an event called Massive Cultural Amnesia or MCA for short. Hey, sounds catchy. Maybe I can get a spot on the Today Show. Maybe not … okay, back to the story.
"Once upon a time, long, long ago in a distant land called Europe, there were witches. Witches were not all ugly and green and covered with warts, smashed against a tree, as we see them today at All Hallow’s Eve or Halloween as some like to call it. Those early witches blended in with townsfolk. There were pretty ones—still maidens; fat ones in their motherhood stage; bossy, strange, smart, and ugly and yes, even gifted witches called Crones, my dear."

 “Gifted at what Mama?” 
“All sorts of things,” she said in her understated way. “Shape-shifting for one thing,” said Mama in my candlelit room. 
"Now these days, just like those “stupid” smashed-up witches we see who ride their brooms straight into a tree at Hallow’s Eve, we also see witch with one animal. Witch with cat; cat with witch; black most likely," she said with a touch of sadness.
“Why is that Mama?” I asked. “Easier to sell my dear; easier to sell,” was the simple reply.
"But, once upon a time, long, long ago, just like there were all different kinds of witches, the witch also had different animals by her side." 

“Did she have all kinds of animals, Mama?” 
"Yes, dear … all kinds."



"She did have a favorite though and it was sometimes a rabbit and sometimes a hare. Hares and rabbits were closest to witches and they had the same types of magical powers. Hares could fly; they could be tiny or huge; they could shape-shift from human to different animals—they could do all sorts of magical things, like lay beautiful pastel colored and complex patterned eggs."




"With time, that MCA helped the men and women, boys and girls forget many, many things. One was that Easter used to be spelled Eostre and it honored the fair goddess from far, far away. Ostara was the goddess of the Teutonic people from up north. Teutonic people loved the advent of spring, something called Vernal Equinox."

"This Ostara would show up mysteriously, arising from the blustery winds of March to usher in spring. She had bunnies—her power animals—at her feet because they symbolize fertility, life cycles and renewal. Bunnies help keep life going."

"As large as her, at her side was her royal consort. He was a gigantic Hare. He could do many magical things as is typical of his kind, including laying the most beautiful eggs in the world and bringing sweets to good children in all the villages for Ostara’s day. He came to be known as the Easter Bunny. But with MCA clouding up the minds of the people the fair spring goddess Ostara was forgotten. Through it all, they remember her special day and the magical hare. They clung on to a memory of a day now called Easter."




Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall



Mirror, Mirror was a blog post, written not long ago that you all seemed to enjoy. Personally, I was so inspired by thinking about mirrors and image that I have developed a new workshop called Mirror, Mirror on the Wall.

So far, this will be offered as an art & spirituality workshop with the theme of new beginnings and vision quest into the dreamed image of the self, in January 2015 and March 2015. The January workshop will be the first weekend after the New Year and will tie into New Years Resolutions. It will be held at Life Force Arts Foundation in Chicago on January 3, 2015 from 1 pm - 6 pm. The second one will take place the weekend of Spring Equinox '15 at Aquarius Bookstore in Kansas City, Missouri. I anticipate that these workshops will be fun and motivational. I may offer them in other cities as well. This will be a part of my new book tour for "Mama Nature's Spiritual Guide to Weight Loss."

Here is a description of the Spring Equinox rendition:

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall


A workshop offered by Artist, Healer and Author Stephanie Rose Bird 

10 a.m. until 3 p.m. Saturday, March 28, 2015 Aquarius Bookstore, Kansas City, Missouri



Overview



Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall invites students to engage with the Goddesses and other helpful spirits such as orishas and lwas, in the journey toward metamorphosis and self-transformation. Inspired by Stephanie Rose Bird’s newest book: Mama Nature’s Spiritual Guide to Weight Loss: How Earth Rituals, Goddess Invocations, Incantations, Affirmations and Natural Remedies Enhance Any Weight Loss Plan” this workshop asks attendees to take a deep look at their self, with an eye towards how they want to be in the near future. Spring is a time of transformation and we embrace the beauty around and within us. This workshop encourages students to get in touch with their inner self to inspire their outward being. By the end of this all day workshop, students will have set a new goal and vision of themselves, creatively and visually in 2-d and 3-d through sculpture, crafting, scrying, vision quest and drawing. 

Hope to work with some of you in these workshops!
More information will be posted online soon and I will keep you posted as things develop.


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Voice of the Goddess

                                         (Sandro Botticelli Reproduction "The Birth of Venus")


Sexuality, sensuality, conception, birth, transitions, the hearth and home, beauty, destruction, change, crops, protection, inspiration, harvesting, the sun and moon, water, fire, creating and death.

What do they all have in common?

There are goddesses intimately connected to these important aspects of our lives.

Yesterday I had an inspiration in relation to the goddesses. I decided that every chapter of my new weight loss book will begin with a tribute to a goddess appropriate to carrying out the work of that specific chapter. Each will have her own altar, correspondences and a creative project such as an amulet, that can be made in her honor.

Male deity will also play a role in these chapter headings. With several gods and male spirits leading off chapters, though the main emphasis will be on the goddesses.

I will be drawing each god and goddess in pen and ink.


                                                             (inside cover of my art journal)


The goddess has spoken and I must listen.

Her voice can be soft and muted. Sometimes her whispers are so ethereal that they get caught up in the wind and you wonder if she is still speaking to you at all. When she does, it is time to sit up and take notice.

She will guide you fearlessly into the unknown.

                                                                           (ATC)

Monday, March 17, 2014

Tappin' the Inner Irish



I’m not one to go on and on about my admixtures though it has proved to be a fascinating hobby. I’m talking about Deep Ancestry through DNA studies. In reality, I don’t have to go back so far and deep, to find that my Grandfather’s father’s ancestry is Irish. My Grandmother, on the other side of the family, had her fair share of Irish blood. From what I can make out, she was about half.

Like most Americans, many African Americans have mixed ancestry. I have African American friends that are part Swedish, Indian, Native American, Cuban, Middle Eastern, and more. The further you go back in your history, the more mixtures you are likely to find. I’m from what I’d consider a fine kettle of fish; people that call home parts of Europe, the Americas, the Middle East and Africa.

I explored my ancestry and the notion of the biracial and tri-racial identity in my book "Light, Bright and Damned Near White". I have been fortunate to have a friend that is very involved in her Irish heritage, even going there to live and work for a time. We have hung out quite a bit over the years, and a while ago, we went to an Irish pub and heritage center in Chicago. While filled with a certain type of secret dread, by the prospect of an evening out at the pub, because I certainly don’t look like the stereotypical Irish lass, it ended up being a whole lot of fun.




I hope someday to go to Ireland and like many people, including President Obama, meet my ancestors there or visit their graves. Meanwhile, this St. Patrick’s Day, I will be reflecting on my hidden ancestry, listening for the lessons that my inner Irish has to teach.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Stephanie’s Sunday News


In a previous blog post, I told you some new developments were in the air but also said they weren't resolved. Today I want to share some news of upcoming events that are a cause for celebration.

New Book Deal

I am so happy to announce my 6th nonfiction book has found a wonderful publisher to call home. 

"Mama Nature’s Spiritual Guide to Weight Loss: How Earth Rituals, Goddess Invocations, Incantations, Affirmations and Natural Remedies Enhance Any Weight Loss Plan,” 
will be published in late 2014 by Punkin House.

Punkin House is an author-centered publishing house that will be moving more into publishing the types of spiritual and metaphysical titles I write. The publisher has a personal business style that includes being approachable while remaining a hands-on business woman. She is also a deeply spiritual Shaman and Yogi. From what I understand, Punkin House picked three authors to work with during this submission season. I am honored to be among them. I am hoping this is only the beginning of a long association with Punkin House.

“Mama Nature’s Spiritual Guide to Weight Loss” will be the third book that I not only write but also illustrate. I will share some of the illustrations at this Virtual Studio blog. In this guide book, you will find prayers based on Earth-based Spirituality, invocations to helpful goddesses, spells and magical incantations, daily affirmations and numerous natural remedies such as: herbs, natural waters, hydrosols, essential oils, bath soaks, crystals, incense, to assist your weight loss work from the more spiritual side. Even exercise activities, more attuned to earth-based spirituality, like Yoga, Tai Chi and Belly Dancing, will be included.


                                                           (Woman Making Shea Butter)


A Summer Workshop

I am also pleased to announce here that I am offering an herbal healer’s workshop in New York this summer.  Here is a description:

African American Healer’s Medicine Kit

When enslaved Africans were brought to the Americas and Caribbean, they transported a rich stock pile of plant wisdom with them. Africans of various tribal groups, who specialized in planting, cultivation, processing and the medicinal applications of specific plants were eagerly sought out. As people of African descent continue to settle in the United States, our understanding and use of a plethora of herbs from the Motherland, and their healing medicines, continues to expand. African American herbalist and author, Stephanie Rose Bird, shares historical through contemporary African healing treasures from the diaspora in this hands-on workshop. Healing balms, brews and elixirs will be created to soothe the body, mind and spirit.
Herbs used include: pine, cocoa butter, shea butter, hibiscus flowers, rooibos, aloe vera, cayenne, mullein, frankincense, myrrh and more.



                                                                    (Aloe Vera)


This workshop will be offered July 19, 2014 at New York Open Center. For more information check the New York Open Center Website for summer course offerings when they are announced. I will also write more about this workshop as the time comes closer here and on my author website. You can call to register here: 212-210-2527 extension 2.

                                                                            (Cocoa)




This workshop echoes my previously published books that center around wellness, mind, body, spirit and African American herbalism including: A Healing Grove Four Seasons of Mojo and The Big Book of Soul. I will be signing my books in New York Open Center Bookstore, after the workshop.

I am hoping to see some of you that have shared my journey through this blog at the workshop. It is easy to get to, being just a few blocks away from Grand Central Station in New York.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Full Moon and the Back Body

In Yoga, it was one of few places, you hear talk about the “back body.” Yesterday at Yoga, I became quite fixated on that topic. How could I soothe and heal my back body? What does back body want and what does it know?



We do mention people talking behind our backs and we talk of people with eyes in the back of their heads. Also a very high percent of adults have back problems, so maybe it would be good if we all spent more time reflecting on the back and on making it stronger.

Apparently, as a culture, we are in agreement that we gain a lot of our overall strength from our back and our legs which are rooted in the earth. Saying someone has “a lot of backbone” is an indication that they are strong and courageous. But why have our backs become so weak these days?



Computers and screens, as much as I love them, play an important part in this weakening of the back and spine. We sit hunched over for hours on end. Just sitting all day to do our work is a part of the problem. We are built to be active and physically engaged. Yesterday, in Restorative Yoga, we did the opposite of this hunched over sitting posture so in vogue today. We develop, especially when it is cold, a hunched posture that tenses up the back muscles. In class, we leaned back, stretching out the back, repeatedly. We also stretched out into a soft back-bend using the bolster and blankets. Our practice was built around feeding and mending back body. It felt very opening.

I know as someone with a highly developed sense of intuition that I can literally feel what is going on behind my back. Sometimes, particularly after scrubbing the floors, my back tweaks and aches in an excruciating fashion. We’ve heard a lot of talk lately about the sensitivity and intelligence of the belly but the back is equally important.




I am going forward, into the full Worm/Crow/Seed Moon tomorrow (March 16th) drawing on the wisdom of my back body. I invite you to tune into your back, spine and back body. Just being aware of it, what is feels, how it feels, what it tells you, is the first step. This is a time of the month that we are open and receptive. This is also a time for making, doing and changing. Listen and let your back body speak.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Tibetan Singing Bowls & Yoga


Sound is playing an important role in my writing, as my new YA novel centers around sirens and the blues. It occurred to me in thinking about this week's Natural Healing Corner, while working on my manuscript, that sound can not only be a powerful creative inspiration but also an incredible soul healer. Think about the lullaby sung to soothe an upset baby or how humming makes your work time just zip by. Birds singing outside your home can made your hear soar.

As I have mentioned previously, I have restarted my Restorative Yoga practice. Our teacher is a Reiki Master and Certified Aromatherapist. At the Friday class I go to, she uses both scent and sound to create a magickal healing experience through yoga practice. When she places the bowl on me and hits it, especially if it is placed on my back body, near my root chakra, I get a tremendous feeling of centering. I feel firm in myself and rooted in the earth.

When placed on my chest, on or near the heart chakra, a warm feeling rushes through my center. I reverberate with love and courage. I am inspired by the Tibetan Bowl's vibrations spreading throughout my body, stemming from my heart center.


I am eager to return to this healing experience today. I know that people that visit this blog live all around the world and in many different parts of this country. No matter. You can recreate this type of healing experience, using a combination of Tibetan Singing Bowls and Restorative Yoga, doing a few simple and gentle asanas in your own space, in a way that works best for you. I have seen these bowls sold in various healing centers around the country and they are widely available on the Internet. If you feel at a loss, for how to begin with Restorative-styled Yoga and don't have a class near year, go to amazon.com or your favorite bookseller and investigate. There are many books and DVDs available to get you started.

Namaste!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Viral Infection of the Spirit


    
    
   Toxic people and situations are like the many mysterious viruses we pick up during cold and flu season.  You can never be quite sure how you caught them and really the most important issue is simply, how do you get rid of them?  How much effort does it require and what are the repercussions for your brain, emotions, psyche, spirit and indeed your soul to banish or purge?  One of the first causes of action is analysis—a good shaman will do this analysis—examining every aspect of the environmental situation and that includes the mental, spiritual and physical.


            Toxic people and situations may or may not have spiritual entity attachment.  Needy spirits, bad spirits, playful and mischievous spirits may inhabit the toxic source.  You always need to be aware of such potential and you need prophylactics—daily ones and in this case I’m not talking condoms.  Spiritual prophylactics can be charms, amulets, chants, affirmations, prayers—but, don’t let these things become distractions; always trust your instincts. Prophylactics may stem from the power of an altar—your mastery of candlemancy (candle magick)—your ability to negotiate spirit world through trance, assisted by dance, movement or sound of djembe drums and rattles.  


         To cure this affliction on your own takes hard work and deep introspection. Ultimately you will need to employ sharp vision and a warrior's spirit. Build up your spiritual artillery (human and spiritual realm assistants) and get ready for the battle to restore your life to where it should be.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Just be Still

Remember as a child, being told, “Now, just be still?” I do. Mother’s and caretakers are sages. They know things that we as a child couldn’t even imagine. Stilling your mind, can lead to a steely resolve needed to make critical changes in your life. Changes you may have lacked the focus to carry out because your mind was in such fast motion. Stillness can lead to greater creativity and even productivity. Are you wondering what this crazy post is about? I can just imagine that because everything in our 2014 world says to stay constantly in motion. There is the subliminal message that if you don’t keep moving you will die.

No, I’m not being dramatic. That is the latest wisdom. Being sedentary, sitting around for hours on end can lead to an early death. Sitting around for hours isn’t what I’m advocating. We are all so accustomed now to sound bites. You hear a little something on the news or read it and then go with it. The kind of stillness I’m advocating is found through doing yoga and meditation.



Yoga invites us to notice and not judge. A form of practice like Restorative Yoga is very calculated in its movements. It is a rather a still time and can last well over an hour. You might find yourself wondering about calls you missed on your silenced cell phone or even start glancing at the clock, if one is available. Where does this busyness of the mind come from? Is it our society or is it some message we’ve internalized?

At the meditation place where I use to go, sometimes there were only two of us. On rare occasions there were three. It was a free class, so why so few? Meditation often gets canceled at other facilities.  This particular place I’m talking about, which I use to love, has closed down. Why the hating on meditation? It is probably because it asks us to do something incongruous with what the rest of society tells us. We must do, build, go, network, work, run, talk…anything but be still and quiet within ourselves.



As a part of my spiritual journey towards weight-loss I am noticing the benefits of stillness. Being still within myself has enabled me to slow down my thoughts and really concentrate. Concentration has led me into believing I could achieve rather large, long term goals, like losing almost 100 pounds. We are no longer the chatty children, bopping each other over the heads in the backseat of our cars. Are we? We can continue to benefit from wise words of our parents/caretakers and just be still.

For more on this topic see the following posts:



Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Ollie Opu and Bast



About five months ago we rescued a cat from a shelter. It was interesting because we went to get a kitten. We thought a kitten would work best in our home, with our small dog and birds. I was holding the kitten we chose only to be sidetracked by a very still cat that was about 5 months old, sitting a midst an amazing frenzy of kitty activity. There were cats pooping, leaping about and wrestling each other in a makeshift tent, and then this solitary cat just sitting there looking very regal. The cat reminded me of the modern Egyptian cats and he ended up being the one to come home with us.

Right away he took to me. He had an amazing demeanor for a 5 month old. He liked getting right on my chest and then would then extend his arms upwards towards my neck and caress my face before falling asleep. This cat, who we call Ollie Opu has a majestic spirit. As I said he is regal, self-possessed and very calm. Doglike, he greets you at the door when you come home. He also runs and plays with the small dog throughout the house. Then when he’s tired he enjoys sleeping atop the bird’s cage.
He seems protective. All of the attributes and attitudes of Ollie Opu brings to mind the Egyptian Goddess Bast. Bast is a loving protectress, goddess of healing and health but she can also be ferocious in her desire to protect her charge.




I believe our Ollie Opu came to my family for a specific reason. He is of a very ancient spirit; this isn’t his first time around, you can just feel it. I enjoy carefully observing this creature that has come in to visit with us for a while, from the Goddess only knows where. I look forward to sharing and learning from this noble and adventurous being, we are currently calling our cat.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Celebrating Poetic Genius: T.S. Elliot

This poem, the first time I learned of it and studied it, was back in high school in an English class with a brilliant and inspired teacher, so in love with poetry that he infected us all with his passion. T.S. Elliot--this guy was a true genius.

“The Love Song of J. Alfred Pufrock,” by T.S. Elliot leaves me speechless. It is complete and well resolved in a way that leaves me fully satisfied.  I love the pace, the atmosphere he creates and his incredible use of personification. Elliot asks us to look at the world through unfiltered eyes. He dares us to take an honest look at our surroundings, the places we go and ultimately at ourselves as we evolve, change and age. 


                                 (Vincent Van Gogh - "Self Portrait" 1889)

This is the anthem of artists and writers.

Here is an excerpt for you to enjoy on what seems to be a promising Sunday morning:

The Love Song of J. Alfred Pufrock
T.S. Elliot (1888 – 1965)

LET us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question ...
Oh, do not ask, "What is it?"

Let us go and make our visit.
In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes,
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, "Do I dare?" and, "Do I dare?"
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair--
(They will say: 'How his hair is growing thin!")
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin--
(They will say: "But how his arms and legs are thin!")
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.


Read more of this poem here

                            (Claude Monet - "Waterloo Bridge, London at Sunset")