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Showing posts from April, 2014

Pushing through Zilch

Oh, the places I've been this month. Never in my life, have I visited so many different blogs and left so many comments nor have I received so many. I have also signed up for the Pagan Blog Challenge, a little late in the alphabet, as we are on "I" there but thankfully, our posts are once a month, not every day of the week, like the A to Z challenge. So stay tuned for that.

I love blogging but am a rebel and free thinker so I was not altogether happy about having to stick with a particular letter of the alphabet as my topic or concept. To be honest, I thought I would have given up on this A to Z challenge long ago--actually I first thought about quitting after "B" and then I thought for sure the end had come after "W" but here I am, still blogging, making it to this day's Z post.

I picked zilch for Z. I thought I had zilch left for you, and would take off Z day, enjoying taking some zzzz's of my own but I have a bit more left to say. This chal…

Saying No to Being a Yes Woman

Oh, how I loved the movie "Yes Man." Jim Carey is always hilarious as it is, and he was especially funny as "Yes Man." He decided not to really decide about things but to see where fate took him by saying "yes" and agreeing to everything put before him, in that film.

"Y" is quite a beautiful letter when you examine it closely and if you have good penmanship. It seems like the start of great things. I can think of many words to write about that start with Y but chose to write about being a Yes Woman.

I am reasonably well educated, and know the different between the words no and yes, even if I wasn't. The trouble is, when I mean and hear "no" in my head, knowing the particular thing is not right for me, the word yes comes flying out of my mouth.

This conundrum has come quite keenly to the fore in two arenas, with solicitors and in my job hunt. I know I can't afford to give my money away, however good the cause is but often end u…

Xochitl--Flower

                                     (Winter Poinsettia by Stephanie Rose Bird, oil on wood)

One of my Facebook friends does daily posts and shares called "I love Flowers." I love flowers too, in real life, in my garden, in paintings and as they are related to the gods and goddesses, in healing, as well as their use in folklore like Hoodoo. Not long ago I posted about Xochipelli (Sho-CHEE-pee-lee) prince of flowers and Xochiquetzal (Sho-CHEE-ket-zul) goddess of flowers in anticipation of April's blooming season. The Goddess and Prince of Flowers post is here.

Today, I want to focus in on the root word of their names and it's symbolism. This word is Xochitl (Show-CHEE-tul) in the Nahuatl language of the Aztecs. This word means flower.

                                           ( Frida Kahlo "Self Portrait Dedicated to Dr. Eloesser)

In many different belief systems there are nature gods and goddesses connected with flowers. Flowers possess symbolism, including se…

Modern Day Witches

Witches have captured the popular imagination through television, films and books. People say: Witches are ugly Witches have warts Witches sign pacts with the devil Witches are sorcerers And then, we all know, Witches must be stupid because they fly on their brooms on Halloween, straight into trees.
In reality, the word witch stems from the Anglo Saxon language and means wise one or wisdom. In days of old, witches were considered founts of wisdom and were sought out for curing diseases of the mind, body and spirit. Often outcasts from the villages in which they lived, they were nevertheless brought into the fold in times of trial and tribulation.
Witches can be green witches, meaning they practice herbalism, possibly magickal herbalism and work on healing. Witches are sometimes solitary. Solitary practitioners as it sounds, practice alone rather than with a group. Witches can be a part of a larger community of practitioners and practice with a coven. There are people involved with wh…

Speaking Your Truth

A little while back, a good friend gave me a book as a gift called “Giving Voice to Bear.” Bears are my power animal and totems. I shape shift into a bear. My first blog was in the voice of the bear. I wrote about what my inner bear was thinking and what she would have said if she could speak in our language.
                                 ("Shapeshifting to Bear" by Stephanie Rose Bird, chalk pastel)
I have a very vocal household of animals. Two parrots, one African Grey and one Nanday Conure both vocalize all day long. If you know anything about Nanday Conure’s you know that they have a very high pitched screech that they make when they are feeling joy or are upset. It takes time to learn to read which is which. Meanwhile yours ears are assaulted. They are beautiful birds however, very smart, playful and they talk. Ours says “who is it” when anyone comes to the front door and it sounds very sweet coming from his tiny vocal chords. The conure is also a watch bird, lettin…

Upcycling and the Spirit in Materiality

This piece looks so funny to me this small. In reality it is quite monumental, especially considering the materials from which it is made. It is about 4.5' x 6.5' and it is made from humble chicken wire, newspaper and wall paper paste. Yup, you guessed it, this painting is on a papier mache base.

Upcycling is a very interesting concept in terms of using materials that sounds new but really isn't. For hundreds of years artists have been taking simple materials like used paper and making it into fine art and crafts. If you are unfamiliar with the term upcycling, it means taking ordinary materials that could have been viewed as rubbish and making something unique and artistic with them. Some people use upcycling to make functional pieces for their home. It is a transformative process.

I find that working with upcycling, in the form of papier mache is a spiritual. I must gather my materials, sometimes huge craft paper flour bags from bakeries or grocers, and go to the hardwar…

Seeing the Forest for the Trees

Today for the letter T, I am writing about my relationship to trees, as part of the A to Z Challenge, by sharing the Preface to my book "A Healing Grove: African Tree Remedies and Rituals for Body and Spirit."

Seeing the Forest for the Trees I owe my early camaraderie with the woods to my patience, my willingness to search, and my love of mystery. The trees became my friends after my family moved from an urban suburb near New York to the desolate Pine Barrens of New Jersey. My father’s logic for moving from the city to the country seemed counter-intuitive. Most African Americans had begun the sojourn from the South and rural areas to cities in the early decades of the twentieth century, but in the late 1960's we moved to a rural community in the DelawareValley. Whereas both sets of my ancestors had lived in Virginia, my father’s people having lived in the original shires of that state since the mid-1700's, our families left those rural communities to seek opportunitie…

Soul, Singing and Sirens

At the very heart of soul, is the activity or shall I say art form, of singing. I never was much of a singer, though much of my youth was spent in choirs. I was lucky they let me into them, to tell you the truth. Every now and then I could actual reach up and stay in the first soprano range but that was ever so fleeting. The nice thing about choirs is there is a community and communal atmosphere that is welcoming and forgiving.

Singing has always been relaxing, whether my notes were correct or not. It brings you into another realm. You can enter a realm were your troubles temporarily melt away and you feel free. Singing is most definitely spiritual.


                                                                     (Billy Holiday)

I have always admired the old fashioned prison songs and work chants. They bring to mind Negro Spirituals which we sung on the road to freedom and then again, they paved our way through the tumultuous Civil Rights Movement. I like:

Oh, freedom
Oh, freedom

Some Notes on Realism

As a painter I was never overly interested in realism. I liked a few realist artist’s works and was always sure to include them in my slide lectures, in case students in my class had a preference for working that way. My first love was impressionism, followed by post-impressionism and then the fauves and abstract expressionists. I prefer contemporary surrealism, where elements of the fantastic are allowed into the picture or even classical surrealism, such as the work of Magritte.

                                                 (Magritte, Oil on Canvas - The Donor)
As a writer my fiction novels have never been urban realism or any other type of straight forward narrative set in our world, as people generally understand it. I remember first being moved by the work of Carlos Castaneda in art school. He was a controversial figure, particularly prolific in the 70’s and 80’s, who wrote about his experiences with shamanism. His stories changed my world view, twisting, bending and melting …

Forgiveness

Yesterday one of my email accounts was hacked and the hackers attempted to send out viruses in my name as an attachment. That account is not connected to my blog, so you don't have to worry about communicating with me here. I never had that happen to me before. It feels like digital rape. Hacking is an intrusive, vile invasion of ones privacy. I am so ashamed and sorry to the people that I communicate with, in integrity, that this has happened. I don't know if this has happened to you before but it is truly an invasive and violating experience. If it has happened to you, please send your comments below. Sharing information on this activity is a way to overcome it but if we keep it to ourselves they win. When I first discovered that it had happened, it temporarily took all the air out of my body.

My blog is a respite. It is a virtual studio of creativity and spirituality, where I share almost daily inspirations. Hackers, I will not let you disturb the positive vibration I am p…

Query Burn Out

Last year I finished the manuscript for my first novel. Through the process of writing it  I had several readers and hired an editor. Things didn't work out with the editor so I trudged onward on my own. I also workshopped the book several times in professional writer's groups.I read the manuscript and re-read it, editing all the while. Finally, I was ready to send out queries. I had read that if you don't query at least 100 places, whether that is agents or publishers that allow queries from authors, that you haven't really tried hard enough. So, query and query some more, is what I did.I had highs and lows. I had a very prestigious literary agent in New York immediately request to see the whole manuscript, after receiving the first chapter. I had several niche small publishers ask to read the whole manuscript. Two of which, took months to reply back after receiving it, raising my hopes.I got some nice rejections from that effort. Saying they loved the book; thought i…

Pagans and Prayer

A lot of people don’t understand who Pagans are or what we do in terms of prayer. As part of the A to Z blogger’s challenge, I decided to blog about Pagan Prayer for the letter P.
Pagans believe in many gods and goddesses. Many Pagans pay tribute and invoke deities connected to their ethnicity and heritage. Others like myself, who consider themselves eclectics, work with deities both connected to their ethnicity and their identity.
We are spiritual, and pay homage to spirits as well as deities. These spirits are generally of the earth but may also be creation beings who helped form the universe. I am particularly fond of the Australian Aboriginal creation beings of the dreamtime, for example. These creation ancestors are timeless. They were here in the beginning of time and continue to work their wonders to this day. Many different types of traditional indigenous people pay tribute to spirits. Some religions, such as Vodou and Shintoism, also pay homage to various spirits that help o…

Using the "N" word

Over the years, we have been called by so many different names. I find it interesting the phrase, “I won’t call you outside of your name,” that I hear people saying to one another. I always wonder what they mean exactly. There are many names you can call a person, and that’s just being proper. The other sorts of names…well, we won’t go there.
 What’s in a name? Is it power or is it simply identification?
                You know the worse name for us. The “N” word. I heard it as a child, directed at me and my brother, when we first moved to a predominately White area. I hear it now in rap songs and on the Boondocks cartoon. It is still jarring. It still gets my attention. Inside…it still hurts. We should have never empowered that “N” word.
                We have been Negroes too, for quite a long time. Where did the Negroes go off to? Was it too close to the “N” word? I am unsure. I have returned to the days of the Negro in my new novel. Set in 1947, in rural Alabama. In that space …

Mixed Media for the Soul

When I was in art school my main stay as an artist was oil on canvas. As I have matured as an artist, I have found myself gravitating towards mixed media. I find it fulfilling in many ways. It allows for experimentation and it is always full of surprises. This piece was created using kitchen vegetable and fruit scraps from the juicer to make handmade paper. Materials were added to make it able to achieve archival quality and to be permanent. Then twigs were added in and found paper scraps. I call this "Ghost in the Frame."


This next piece was created in much the same way as the one above it but it does not have the prominent element of assemblage through twigs, instead it is more of a painted collage. It combines the same type of handmade paper and found paper with water-based paints like gouache and plaka with natural inks. It is an abstraction with landscape elements and its title is "Mixed media Landscape."


I am an eclectic in my pagan, earth-based spirituality…

When Lucid Dreams Turn Dark

Lucid Dreaming is when you are aware that you are dreaming. In this lucid state, you can control your dreams. Knowing the state you are in, enables you to play with reality within the dream structure and do otherwise impossible things. Usually it is a pleasant experience but sometimes, if your mind is so inclined, it can be a dark and frightening experience.


I don't know for sure why I had a series of lucid dreaming experiences last night from 1 a.m. until 5 a.m. I am unsure if it is a result of my post yesterday, "Dreaming the Dreamer's Dream." It could well be.

I have done some fantastic things as a lucid dreamer, including flying and shape-shifting which I mentioned yesterday. As I said, usually it is pleasant, though implausible, though I do believe in the flying and shape-shifting dreams.

If you are a lucid dreamer I'd love to hear about your experiences. If you have not done it but want to lucid dream, look for sign posts in the dream that tell you that it …

Dreaming the Dreamer's Dream

I enjoy waking up and writing. Either I work on my books or I blog before anyone else is awake. I like the clean quality of this writing. It is untroubled or mussed from the day's activities. It comes from a fresh place. The art journaling and artmaking comes later in the day. I find that being sharper is more helpful to those endeavors.

When I was a girl, dreams were big business. My grandmother was a prophetic dreamer and used her dreams in numerology to try to hit the numbers and often she did.

Back then, people had dream books and there were number runners. Numbers were played in the streets not in stores or gas stations. People would match up the theme or prominent feature of their dream with particular numbers in the dream book and then play these in what were called The Numbers but what is now the organized Lottery. My grandmother was psychic and did really well with dreams and numbers. My mother and father, well...sometimes they got lucky and that luck fueled many more eff…

The Mysterious Kokopelli

Popular culture has a way of finding an image, watering it down to the components it finds useful and then marketing it. It saddens me to see that happen to Kokopelli, one of our ancient American spirits. Perhaps because he is such a mystery, relatively undefined in a sharply delineated way, some have thought they could do with him what they desire.

I am quite partial however to this artistic, site specific, earth art depicting Kokopelli, shown above. Here he is honored as the primordial, primal, earthy, evasive though playful spirit that is fitting.

I doubt that you are unfamiliar with the image of Kokopelli. You see him on decals, souvenirs, pottery and as jewelry supposedly representing the Southwest. Far beyond being a marketing tool, the spirit or deity, however you chose to think of him, has much more to offer.


Clearly he is a trickster. We can't quite make out his original iconography in his earliest renditions which are petroglyphs. Does he carry a bag or sack on his back…

The Art of Journaling

Journaling can take many forms. I find it to be relaxing. It also feels safe. Some other art forms can seem formidable. There is the huge expanse of a freshly gessoed stark white stretched canvas or even a large sheet of 24" x 36" of paper. However, within the small book-like, intimacy of a journal,the confined spaces make artmaking more approachable. Shown above this text, is a cover of an altered book I did that incorporates sewing, collage, handmade paper, paint, papyrus and found objects such as screening. This piece is quite fragile. the fragility is part of it's visual statement.


This is the other side of the same altered book. I re-purposed and upcycled an old book cover, book pages, jeans, paper scraps and then added the sewing and collage pieces. The aging is from natural inks, such as walnut ink with some tea staining as well.


Then a few years ago, inspired by one of my students at the School of the Art Institute, I decided to fill an entire hardbound sketchbo…

Trust your Guts

Not long ago I was diagnosed with one of the Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD) called Ulcerative Colitis. Ulcerative Colitis is a painful disorder that has to be watched pretty carefully. It causes acute pains in the stomach and other alarming symptoms because your intestines are ulcerated.

For several years I was in and out of the doctors offices, seeing a gastroenterologist and other specialists. I had to undergo painful diagnostic tests as well. I missed work days. It caused a fuss. I accepted the diagnosis. It made sense because one of my cousins has Crohn's Disease which is an IBD. Some of her nieces and nephews (my second cousins) suffer from IBD's as well, and it is known as being inherited or familial. This particular cousin did let me know that over the years doctors have not been able to quite decide on a definitive diagnosis for her. I empathized with her but thought it was a quirk that she had run in to. Her treatments however, were much more aggressive and intrus…

A Healer's Journey

Well, obviously, I'm not taking my own medicine, at least not as diligently as I should be. I have continued to blog and work on my novel, though I have the flu. Healers are ornery--many are their own worse patients. Be that what it may, I woke up this morning thinking about the A to Z April Blogger's Challenge and knew that for the letter "H" I wanted to write about health, healing and happiness.

I thought about my journey. How did I get here and what inspired me to take on healing? I recognize that the most outstanding inspiration was my environment, where I grew up, immersed in nature. It was also the people around me--relatives and family friends who were self-determined, doing things for themselves, and by hand. As a teenager we lived very close to the land. My Dad hunted and fished, my mother, aunts and us kids gardened, harvested, canned and then cooked those home grown foods all winter, taking them out little by little from the deep freezer. Then too, there …

Gran Bwa

Gran Bwais a lwa that helps you connect to ancestral roots or the spiritual home of Vodou. A friend of mine, who is an expert on Haitian Vodou, who has spent a lot of time in Haiti with the artists there, told me I had painted Gran Bwa when I made this spontaneous work out of walnut ink and sumi-ink on handmade paper. I had considered this painting a self-portrait. She now holds this piece in her private collection:

Quite a few people are afraid of Vodou but it is an awe-inspiring tradition of bringing together plant energy with divinity, spiritual and personal energy. My friend who is very involved with Vodou, especially the art that surrounds it, is from European ancestry. She is light in spirit and bubbly, with a close relationship to nature and her garden.  Vodou affirms the relationships between cycles of life, trees of knowledge and spirit.  The Vodou vision of lwa, understands them as the intelligence of energy present in humans, nature and thoughts.  Mysteries can be understo…

For the Love of Food

Ever since I was in art school, in my junior and senior year, when I had my own studio at Tyler, I have been fascinated with still life. That fascination carried on when I went to graduate school at UCSD and ended up being the topic of my thesis. Implicit in the depiction of still life is food.

                                    (Edouard Manet, 1866, "Still Life with Melon and Peaches)

Shown above is a reproduction of one of Edouard Manet's still life paintings. Manet is one of my favorite painters to this day. He imbues his food with such a luscious quality through his brush strokes and the oil-laden paint he uses, that you literally want to reach out and into the painting to eat the food within them. His facility with paint and the love that he seemingly has for his subject matter is a continual source of awe and inspiration.


                                                      (Henri Fantin-Latour, 1866, "Still Life")

Another of my favorites is Henri Fantin-Lat…

Let the Healing Begin

I find that I am out of commission. I have contracted the flu. It is fairly bad. I will be taking off some time from blogging for rest and healing, and will be taking in plenty of this:


made from these dried hibiscus flowers:


...and then, when I can tolerate more of it, I will have quite a lot of this herb. The allicin within it does make you feel better, at least for a while. I believe in the Old Wise Women ways from the Days of Old. Taking two large cloves minced and raw per day. I am convinced this will lessen my time being sick:

By opening my palms and turning them up to Father Sky, I am saying that I am open to good health and healing from the Great Mother and the Universe:


While healing, I'll be making some time for working on these:


I will be back to blogging soon! Meanwhile, I'm off to make a cup of rooibos tea:

If you find yourself with a really bad cold or the flu, try some of these herbal medicines shown. They have remarkable healing properties! Henna too.