Friday, July 25, 2014

The Talking Trees

 "Speak to the Earth and it shall teach you."

Job 12:8

I've so many times spoken about "the Great Conversation", and asked myself how we can learn once again to "speak with the land".  Here's a short video I was forwarded by a forester that talks about that in another way.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Lady Loreon of Isis Oasis Passes

Photo by Thor Of'Isis
Photo by Thor

I was so saddened to learn that Lady Loreon Vigne, founder of Isis Oasis in Geyserville, California, had passed away on July 15 at the age of 82.  Lady Loreon created a true sanctuary - for the Fellowship of Isis, for the Goddess, for her beloved endangered animals, and especially her Ocelots, for beauty, and for many, many artists, seekers, healers, friends, and wanderers.  I count myself privileged to be among them.  She was one of those who did so much, in her life, generosity, and vision, to help create and re-claim  Goddess Culture.  She will be sorely missed.

It was my pleasure to visit Isis Oasis on my trip to California in 2012.  I visited the sanctuary and retreat center  many times in the past when  lived in California.  Reverend Loreon Vigne founded Isis Oasis in the beautiful wine country of northern  in 1978. Before that time Loreon was an artist living in San Francisco. She created a line of gift ware and jewelry called Noir Enamelcraft and as her work became popular she needed a workshop. Answering a newspaper ad, she was delighted to discover that the building was on Isis Street  ....this synchronicity was the first  "go ahead" for her.

Another reason Loreon moved  was because of her love for ocelots (and later for  servals, the "hunting cats" of ancient Egypt as well).  Both animals are endangered species.  On my visit in 2012 I was delighted when Loreon let me visit with several of the big cats.  Ocelots can purr, but they don't "meow", they  just growl their pleasure or dislike.  It was quite a treat to sit with a gorgeous cat the size of a good sized dog who growled convincingly like a tiger to let me know he wanted his ears rubbed.

"While in the city of Saint Francis, patron saint of all living creatures, I discovered my passion for one of the most beautiful cats on the planet - The Ocelot. I have been working with Ocelots since the mid-1960’s and have created a vibrant family tree of Ocelots. To my knowledge I am the only one at this time to have bred a seventh generation domestic born Ocelot, and it is my hope to continue to create more of this highly endangered feline species of North America for future generations to enjoy.

There are some that believe that Ocelots should stay purely in the wild to live or to die. Commonly held knowledge shows the difficulties that this amazing species faces in the wild - Poachers who hunt them for their beautiful fur, although it is an illegal practice, and the deforestation of their habitats.  Therefore I believe that a population of Ocelots kept in captivity is the only way to ensure their continued survival, for in ten years there may no longer be any Ocelots left in the wild in North America".

Loreon Vigne

Hymn to Isis

Bestower of Wealth, Queen of the Gods,
Speaker of Wisdom, Omnipotent Lady,
Agathe Tyche, greatly renowned Isis
through you, Heaven and Earth have their being;
and the gusts of winds and the sun with its sweet light
All who live on the boundless earth  invoke  your fair name,
honored among all
Syrians honor you as Astarte, Artemis, Nanaia; Lycians as Leto, the Lady;
Thracians name you Mother of the Gods;
and the Greeks Hera of the Great Throne, Aphrodite,
noble Hestia, Rhea and Demeter.
But the Egyptians call you ‘The Goddess’;
for you are all other goddesses invoked by humankind.

 –Isidorus, ca. 100 BCE. Adapted from Vera Frederika Vanderlip (1972) in The Four Greek Hymns of Isidorus and The Cult of Isis. Toronto: Hakkert.
 White Peacock at Isis Oasis

Mana Youngbear  sweeping before the Temple of Isis

"Dirt Sculpture" fire pit
I can't write about Loreon and Isis Oasis without including Lady Olivia.  Lady Olivia, who co-founded the Fellowship of Isis with her brother in Ireland (and now around the world)  passed away in 2013.   Recently a movie has been made about the Fellowship and Lady Olivia  - She  came to Isis Oasis for Convocation and initiation of priestesses for many years from her home in Ireland.  If you have met any of the Fellowship, you immediately are struck by what a wonderful, warm, life-affirming and creative group of people they are. 

I shall miss Lady Loreon, and it is my hope that the Sanctuary for the Goddess that she dedicated herself to will continue.  

Thank you, Loreon.   We will all miss you.

Lady Loreon Vigne dies at age 82

Friday, July 18th, 2014  by

Vigne started a program welcoming classrooms of children from Sonoma County and beyond to teach them about the once endangered animals and their unique home at the Geyserville sanctuary.  Last month, Vigne hosted the Geyserville Chamber of Commerce’s end of year dinner with a surprise guest, a snake dancer wrapped in a 20-foot live snake.

Lady Loreon Vigne was married to the late San Francisco beat era film maker, Dion Vigne who died in 1970.  Lady Loreon Vigne’s artistic career started in San Francisco where she was an artist and crafts person. Vigne created a line of giftware and jewelry called Noir Enamelcraft. Her gallery specialized in enamels and stained glass was located in downtown San Francisco.Isis Oasis

Lady Loreon had a collection of exotic Ocelot cats at her home and workshop on Isis Street in San Francisco. When the regulations against owning exotic cats in San Francisco  were imposed, Lady Loreon moved to Geyserville to provide a new home for her exotic cats.

Isis Street was one more thread in the woven cloth of  the Isis Oasis beginning.  Lady Loreon had a series of  encounters with the Goddess Isis, and decided to transform the property into an Egyptian themed retreat center.  Vigne personally created  stained glass pieces all over the property, and built enclosures for her cats and exotic birds she began to acquire. Over time the animal sanctuary was born.  34 years later Isis Oasis has provided a place for artists to be creative and groups to use the space for  retreats, workshops, weddings, concerts, and myriad other activities.

Vigne was an author and poet, with past speaking engagements at the Wells Fargo Center, local bookstores and Isis Oasis. Lady Loreon leaves a living legacy in Geyserville, Isis Oasis.

LL.3 stained glass

Monday, July 21, 2014

Aphrodite (Pt. 2)

Mask of Aphrodite (1999)

 "Today, I would describe a priestess as a woman who lives in two worlds at once, who perceives earthly life against the backdrop of a vast, timeless, reality."

"In the Western traditions, spirituality has been so drained of Eros, it has vitually been removed from what most people consider a spiritual life.  And there is a deep hunger to heal that wound."
In my earlier post I shared a performance piece I wrote for Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess of Erotic love.  I also wanted to re-post also some information about  Jalaja Bonheim,  psychologist, temple dancer, and creator of the Institute for Circle Work in Ithaca, New York who has devoted much of her life to re-sacralizing and healing  the wounds of feminine Eros.   She is the author of Aphrodite's Daughters: Women's Sexual Stories and the Journey of the Soul.  After spending her childhood in Austria and Germany, Jalaja studied classical temple dance in India before coming to the United States in 1982. She is the author of three other books as well, which were inspired by her passion for integrating sexuality and spirituality in our world. 
"I think that every woman should have the opportunity, at some point in her life, to set down her sexual baggage among people who respect and support her, and to unpack it with them.  Our isolation has reinforced the assumption that nobody shares our feelings, or cares about our story, or wants to know.  But our individual baggage is never just ours alone.  Rather it belongs to the collective.  Other women have their own piece to carry.  The time has come to speak of what we know.  In the Temple we now sit in silence, a circle of priestesses.  One by one, each of us has stepped forward to make her offering.  Each one has given her gift, revealing through her story a beauty that made us catch our breath, a courage that renewed our own.  Around us we sense the spirits of many others - mothers and grandmothers, lovers and husbands, teachers and guides, the spirits of the ancestors and the spirits of those who are yet to come."

(from Aphrodite's Daughters)

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Shamans Among Us..........

Thanks to Janie Rezner and    for this story about a remarkable woman...............


Shamans Among Us

When I say the word “shaman”, what imagery immediately comes to mind? Is it a male or female? Old or young? What nationality?

There is an interesting phenomenon that most experienced ethnobotanists and anthropologists are well aware of, and it’s this: most shamans don’t like to attract much attention to themselves. They tend to dress and act exactly like the rest of the community. Only family, friends, and local villagers who at one time needed their services are usually in on the secret.

A few months ago, my colleague Shannon and I had the great honor of meeting with well-known ethnobotanist, Dr. Rosita Arvigo down in Central America. She shared some poignant plant wisdom with us (which we will be sharing with you in the coming months), but the biggest teaching I received that day came from a story about a legendary midwife that Dr. Arvigo befriended decades ago in Belize.

This woman was Ms. Hortense Roberts, known by locals as “mil secretos”, or a thousand secrets.  Born on the Island of Cozumel, which happens to be the mythical sanctuary of the Maya moon goddess of medicine and midwifery, Ixchel, Hortense came from a long line of midwives, her mother and grandmother included. When she was thirteen she had to be hospitalized after a severe asthma attack and it was here that the legend of Ms. Hortense began.

One afternoon during her stay at the hospital, a group of chicleros (gum factory workers) raced into the room with a pregnant woman on a stretcher. She was in the middle of hard labor and there were no doctors or nurses in sight, only little Hortense. Desperate, the woman on the stretcher yelled to Hortense, “Come here, child, and catch this baby!”
Instinctively, young Hortense knelt down knowing exactly what to do, guided the little baby’s head out of the birth canal, and caught the little one as it came out. She did exactly what she had watched her mother and grandmother do many times and massaged the belly until the placenta came out. Next, she removed her hospital gown and used it to wrap the baby and placenta up snug, then sat down to wait for the doctor.

The nurses frantically rushed into the room, saw what had occurred, and pleaded with Hortense to not tell the doctors what had just happened. Forgetting that she was a child, they handed her her first cigarette. For some, adulthood starts well before age 18.
Thus began a life of perhaps the most important work there is, delivering babies into the world. Not only that, Ms. Hortense had 8 children of her own AND adopted 14 unwanted babies, raising them all to adulthood!

In Dr. Arvigo’s words, “If she delivered a baby that a woman didn’t want, Hortense wrapped it up, put it in the crib, and took care of it. Sent them all to school. So she raised 22 kids, most of the time as a single mother.”  That was just a peek into the depths of Ms. Hortense.

According to Dr. Arvigo, everywhere they went together, someone would say, “That’s Ms. Hortense and she delivered me!”, or “She delivered all of my babies!”

Rosita told us a story that gives me goosebumps as I write this:

“Hortense was a female shaman. She had such a connection with animals. All the time that she was staying with me, animals, and birds, and creatures that I never see would come up on the porch and just walk in front of you. Armadillos, all kinds of animals. 

Hortense was with me one winter for about four months. She was sleeping in the downstairs bedroom and I was in the upstairs bedroom. One morning I heard a strange noise. It sounded like something scratching. So I got up out of bed and I looked down to the first floor veranda and there’s a jaguar walking across the downstairs porch. And off it goes, over my deck and jumps into the bush. When Hortense got up , I said, ‘Hortense, you won’t believe it! I saw a jaguar this morning and it was right on the porch by your bedroom!’

She said, ‘SHHH! Don’t you dare say a word. That jaguar comes every night to sleep.’ She said, ‘You didn’t notice that it’s injured?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, as a matter of fact it was limping. It was kind of walking on three legs.’ And she said, ‘That jaguar knows this is a safe place and it comes every night for protection and as soon as dawn comes, off it goes. And it will be there until that leg is healed, so don’t you dare tell a soul.’”

Rosita said that she saw that jaguar about 10 more times. If you were careful, you could get up in the early morning and as soon as the sun came up, off it went.  One night, Rosita asked her if she could sleep with her and wait for the jaguar to come. And it did. Almost exactly at 10 o’clock at night. The animal came limping in and it layed down. The door was open, but there was a screen door. In bed she could see the cat’s back. It was about 6 feet long. A big, big animal and all night long you could hear it breathing.

It was guarding, but was also there for its own healing. It felt safe because of Hortense. It was there because she was there.”  In addition to her gifts as a midwife, Ms. Hortense had an innate connection with the natural and spiritual world. Her knowledge of medicinal plants, home remedies, and spiritual healing was enough to fill a library, and she had a lifetime of hands-on experience with patients, big and small. She healed thousands of sick people, using only traditional methods and prayer, and welcomed everyone into her home without prejudice.

According to Ms. Hortense, much of her knowledge came through dreams in which she was shown which herb to use for a particular patient and how to prepare it. In a beautiful essay that Dr. Arvigo wrote to honor Ms. Hortense after her passing, she says:  “She had humility, and would never big-up herself – in her own words, ‘you could never be too humble.’”

She wore no special garb, had no elaborate ceremony or entourage of devotees. Ms. Hortense lived a life of loving service to others and revered nature like few others do. If you asked her if she was a shaman, she would probably smile to herself and tell you no.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Aphrodite (Part 1)

"Dance me to the children who are asking to be born
Dance me through the curtains that our kisses have outworn
Raise a tent of shelter now, though every thread is torn
Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic till I'm gathered safely in
Touch me with your naked hand or touch me with your glove
Dance me to the end of love "
Leonard Cohen, "Dance Me To The End Of Love"
Aphrodite was "born from the sea", and without writing about the many sources of the mythic Aphrodite, it seems fitting that the Goddess of love should have her power and source in the vast depths of the ocean.  I also have to say that I believe Aphrodite ........ very, very  wounded in our world, and I don't need to go very far to demonstrate my claim. 

As I wrote earlier, I seem to be needing to re-make the Masks of the Goddess, and doing that means re-visiting the Goddesses.  Or, perhaps, they are re-visiting me.....  I have not yet made a new mask for Aphrodite/Venus, but I did find a performance I wrote  some 20 years ago, and felt like sharing it on this blog.  Funny how  it is with much more difficulty  that I write about the domain of Venus,  than it is for me to talk about Kali, or Hecate, or many others. 

I've been unpartnered and unmarried for a long time, and I like it that way.  I cannot say, to be honest with myself, that I've been very good at marriage, although I've loved  men, and treasure many memories.  But at 65 romantic love seems thankfully a long way in the past.  And yet, I remember a few years ago when I was at a conference in England.  There was a presenter there who was a scholar of ancient music.  In his late 60's, he had that tall, elegant, aristocratic English  face and gesture,  and I remember watching him with fascination, admiring both his knowledge, and his beauty.

The following morning, as I sat down to breakfast at the B and B I was staying at, he walked down the stairs and joined us!  And suddenly, I found myself a girl again, animated, shy, vulnerable, longing,  and quite disturbed by all the emotions that arose.  Aphrodite........

(from "The Goddess Suite" 1998)

The stage consists of three levels;  to the upper right is the Archetypal  Realm.  Here is posed the masked Aphrodite, spotlighted. 

The second level,  middle left, has a raised platform on which is a table and chair.  Nadine is seated at the table, with a glass of wine, photos to the side of her  notebook, a pen holder.   She examines several, plays with pen. 

Below the stage, and to the lower left, not always visible, is the Realm of Uncertainty, and the Heyoka, in black and white, is occasionally seen.  And she/he will always be unpredictable. 

Men.   Why do I always have to deitize  or demonize them, and then obsess, obsess, obsess,  little pieces of me lost bit by bit.....where?  Where do all those little pieces of self, little pieces of soul,  go? Where they somehow stolen from me?  Or do they wander in the dark like lost children, the shy little soul parts,  always trying to find their way home?

I've never really been very good at it.  Why can't we just reproduce by some kind of cell division?  You know, you look in the mirror and notice a few weird bulges.  So you pack a bag and check into the local mitosis center for a "birth of self" retreat?

(picks up glass, takes a drink)

Sex. That's what they call it now, or words somewhat more course.  Long gone is the clinical "intercourse", which manages to imply, nevertheless, some kind of mutual exchange of energy.  To make love....... you don't hear that either.  

Sex.  Reduced to a commodity. We "have sex".  It sounds like "having a beer" . We have each other.  We have cornflakes, we have Cheerios.   Names.  Labels.   Sex surrogates, swing parties, single bars.  Maximize your orgasmic potential.    Consumable.  Buyable. Disposable........O Brave New World!

And beneath the skin, beneath it all,  there is ......

 (sets down glass, looks at audience)

something so vast, so rich and so deep,  spilling out like a super nova through the cracks of every kiss, every stupid, heartbreaking,  hilarious drama, every tear streaked parting, every breathless beginning.  You look back; what was that all about?

And then we rush around looking for therapy,  for why, after the fact,  immersion in Aphrodite's tide pool made us .....crazy, mad, projective, dysfunctional.  Co-dependant. Delusional, temporarily insane............

(soft) Listen to Her laugh like thunder, like silk, like rose petals on a tsunami. 

(louder) Listen to Her laugh like thunder, like silk, like rose petals on a tsunami.......
No answers.  Oh, you'll come up with a few of them later. Ha!  Fit  the ocean into a bottle if you can.  Tame Aphrodite?  Make Her safe?  She'll rip you apart.  In Her waters.

And there, in that other realm,  where no one grows old, where lips are always ripe to be kissed, she lives,  with Her Lovers,  locked in one eternal embrace,   spewing flowers and butterflies and little Gods and Demons from their ferocious heat, their cosmic creativity,
 their immaculate pleasure, their effortless separateness and merging.

While WE just get old,  haunted by old ghosts that chase you around the house like dust balls.  You sweep and sweep, but they always come back.  Old ghosts with eyes like leaves, lips like flowers.  There's a face in the crowd,  your breath stops, "It's you, you haven't aged a bit, you're still so lovely......." but the face is gone, and that was 30 years ago.
I loved them all. Their potbellies and sweat and bad jokes,  all the Gods that possessed them.
(Aphrodite tinkles laughter)

 I remember candlelight.  Moonlight, beaches, whiskey bars,  kissing goodbye at airports and somehow, never, ever to meet again.........all those breaks and  losses and tears and memories and kisses.  Rivers.

The river. 

I erase all my regrets from the storyline.  I remember when everything ignited, when all of Your waters flowed from me, Aphrodite.  And  they rippled out like waves to all the world.

And we made love.  And we made love.  And we remade  all of  Your creation. 

And those, those are moments worth remembering.

Ah, Aphrodite.  I am unmade in your waters. 

Lights dim, fade out on Nadine.  Heyoka appears, disappears.    Aphrodite steps into floodlight,  throws roses into audience as she leaves stage.

Music is "Dance me to the end of love" by Leonard Cohen.)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Net Neutrality - a Funny Video About A Serious Concern.........

I remember when FM was all about alternative radio - that's gone.   I also remember when Cable TV was an innovation.  We all know that's gone too, and if you watch cable, be prepared to watch more commerials than program.  Is the Internet about to go the same way?  We just can't let them do it.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Photo by Kristy Thomas

Chubasco means storm, squall, monsoon.  And that's what it is right now, the Monsoon Season that takes place in the great Sonoran Desert during July and August.  Last night mighty crashes of thunder accompanied lightning, and sheets of rain as Chubasco moved in fast, right on schedule in the afternoon, the streets ran like a river, the trees groaned.  And two hours later it was all gone, and everything in the desert sighed in delight, rich, rich, rich with water.......................and then also the life of the desert comes up, overnight, the ground begins to green.  Morning glories are everywhere, and wild flowers, all in a hurry, all knowing that this wealth will not last, will not be forever, they have to blossum and seed now, now is the time.

My name came from this phenomenon, the summer storms, the wonderful, vast energies of the Thunder Beings, the blessings of the Rain Katchinas.   Chubasco!