Friday, September 30, 2011
Snaky necks black
Be-In of clans,
High blue above,
Walking, chatting, resting.
Some fly in,
Dump speed for landing.
Some fly out,
On their way to
As it is,
So it was.
Faithful through eons,
Through cataclysms of
And our slaughter,
Man's stunted senses,
Oh Brave Children
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Streetskin moist with rain
And you are working your dark dance
in my soul this morning
The sidewalk splays a single pine quill in my path
like a sensual challenge
reminding me of porcupines,
and wolves coursing through
I know where you run
washing into me, pulling me,
like an ocean on long forgotten tides
and how we both fear damage
But my world turns autumn in your presence
lush and full of burgundy stillness
It is fruition we offer one another
So range with me,
and we will leap burning peaks
where they raise themselves
from ancient waters
Monday, September 26, 2011
"I salute you, Black Virgin, each day that I see you and that I live."
----chant in honor of the Black Virgin of Biarritz
She’s here and there all across Europe. There are many explanations of what brings her shining black face to the West. Is she Isis come out of Roman North Africa? The religion of Isis was widespread in the later days of the Empire and it was carried by the army into the new northern territories. Many European Isis shrines are sited at ancient holy sites, by sacred wells and springs, all of which once belonged to Brigit, the Celtic Triple Goddess. It’s perhaps a case of one religion supplanting another, and then, in its turn, being supplanted by the militant tide of Christianity. So, instead of Isis carrying her son Horus, these dark ladies were viewed as an African Mary carrying her son Jesus.
An alternate explanation may be that today’s Black Madonna is yesterday’s Goddess of the Dark Moon. After all, in the old religions, the Triple Goddess who ruled the earth was symbolized by the moon, and the moon has phases. New Moon represented the maiden, Full Moon, the Mother, while the Dark of the Moon represented the Crone, the original version of a divinity which was “three in one and one in three.”
Southern Italy was colonized early on by Greeks, named by them Magna Graecia. Intermarrying with the Etruscan people, they worshipped the Goddess, Demeter, or Cybele—the earth mother who regenerates every spring—in their temples. Sometimes, this lady is known as “The Ancient Spider.” This goddess weaves and spins, as do the Fates, and many powerful goddesses in many different traditions, from Athena to. She also possesses her devotees with the bite of her creature, the tarantula, and then frees them in a restorative dance which is sacred to her, and which still survives: Tarantella.
In later societies where men ruled, women were deprived of all rights and of their ancient sacred status as givers of life. Then Tarantella provided a form of emotional release for the frustrated, depressed and frequently abused “lesser sex.” Perhaps this explains its survival and practice into the present.
In Puglia, in the Basque region of Biarritz, in Barcelona, in France,in Calabria, and in Montserrat in Spain, all ancient bastions of the Roman empire, Black Virgins are still found. Their festivals are devoutly celebrated, for each Virgin has been the object of veneration, longing and pilgrimage for well over a thousand years.
“I come a long way to salute you, Maria. I come to ask for a miracle, and I won’t leave until you grant it to me. Perform this miracle, Maria! Perform it out of your mercy.” –Canto della Madonna Di Montserrato as sung by Alessandra Belloni in her CD, Dance of the Ancient Spider.
Sunday, September 18, 2011
My mother is dead now, though she still angrily haunts my dreams. Difficult as our life together was, as time passes, I find myself wishing I’d listened more attentively to her stories of old times.
My mother, Dorothy, was born in 1920, which is getting to be a long time ago. She had many every day experiences with a kind of life that’s shadowy hearsay for my grandchildren. When Dorothy came into consciousness, Albert, her father, was working toward his PhD. His father, an upstate NY dairyman had land and a little money , but also, unlike many of his peers, he ardently believed in the value of a good education. My grandpa was not the only one of his children he sent to Cornell. He even sent a daughter there, and despite the prejudices of the time, she too ended with a doctorate. My grandfather, Albert, then earned a scholarship to Princeton, and was filling in the inevitable gaps in his income as a graduate assistant and tutoring the less-motivated sons of the rich. In summers, though, he brought his young family back to the farm. There he worked as he had as a boy, and his wife helped in the kitchen and house and took care of their small daughter.
Dorothy loved her grandfather’s farm, even though there were things that scared her. Behind the big red brick farmhouse was a large kitchen garden. At certain times of year the chickens were allowed in to clean up bugs and help themselves, though they were generally banned from that area. Still, the time of year would come, after the peas and beans and when the lettuce has gone to seed, that is time for a bit of clean-up. They were loosed to peck and scratch before the second crop went in.
These were times of trial for Dorothy, because along with the hens came the rooster. He didn’t limit his displays of dominance to other chickens, but always lurked along the path that led across the garden to the backhouse, hoping to ambush people on their way there. On the first summer there that she clearly remembered, her own mother had bronchitis and was upstairs in bed, leaving the woman’s share of the work shorthanded. She told me of having to pee mightily, but not daring to go, and finally weeping. Spanking was in order for children who wet their pants in those days, even when they were caught between a rock and a hard place. Her grandmother, busy canning, or laboring to cook for the family and hired help at the big wood stove, didn’t have an extra minute to escort her across the garden. Mom says she remembers her grandmother saying with exasperation, “Just pick up a stick of kindling and hit him!” before turning back to the bubbling pots.
My mother was small for her age and the rooster seemed a monster, tall enough to look her in the eye. She said she did as she was told, but could still recall the terror when that big old red rooster came charging out of the berry bushes at her. She threw lots of kindling that summer, and sometimes she hit the feathered bully, but it only gave him a moment’s pause. She’d have to take to her heels and run. Next there’d be those awful seconds of struggling with the heavy door before slamming it shut. Chest heaving, heart pounding, she pant'd in the odorous interior, lit only by the moon and star carved in the door. One day, while her mother was sick, she waited too long and peed herself as the rooster chased her. She had to hide her underwear under her pinafore before taking an even more circuitous route back inside.
Friday, September 16, 2011
For those who are unfamiliar with the story, Mary Surratt is the alleged lone female conspirator among eight who were charged with the assassination of President Lincoln. Along with four others, she was hung in July 1865 and was the first woman to have been executed by the U.S. government. In the movie, young attorney, Frederick Aiken, represents her against his better judgment. The movie casts doubt on Mary's guilt, and Aiken tries to uncover the truth.
For the most part, costuming and historical sets were excellent. I have quite a bit of knowledge about military trials of the era, and the movie puzzled me in that regard. It came across as a mix of a military and civilian trial, but the average viewer isn't going to notice that detail. There were many more individuals involved in the actual trial than the movie portrayed, but too many characters would have made the story confusing.
I have read criticisms from historians that Mary Surratt led to her own downfall with lies (since I haven't researched the subject myself, I can't make any conclusion), nor did she defend herself. A defendant wasn't allowed to take the stand in their own defense in military trials during the 1860s. They could bring in as many witnesses as necessary in order to attempt to prove their innocence, but they were only allowed statements to the court.
The biggest criticism I've read about the movie from other reviewers is that slavery was never mentioned. Those reviewers show their ignorance. While slavery was certainly an important aspect of the Civil War, it was much more complex than any single issue. Mary Surratt had owned slaves, but the movie had nothing to do with slavery. In fact, apparently one of her former slaves testified in her defense. This was never mentioned, nor were statements from a co-conspirator, who insisted several times that she was innocent.
Whether Mary Surratt was guilty or innocent is a question that may never be answered. What is clear is that she never received a fair trial, and in that regard, the movie was accurate. But then, even if she had received a trial by her peers, with the judicial system of the time only allowing white males as judge and jury, could she have ever received a fair trial?
I enjoyed The Conspirator. It kept me captivated, and it's message is as relevant today as it was in the 1860s.Kim Murphy
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Dancing with the Shadow Beings
I became a Dolphin
leaping in the Ocean
leaping in the Sea
twisting and flying in the air
Fast, fast, past reefs of colours
bursting red, yellow, blue
Hauled back to dance again
on the white sand
to dance at the feet of
the Black Madonna
to be welcome inside Her mantle
to swallow a silver key in the darkness
that I may gather tears of all those who bring them
and lay them at Her dusky feet
For She has the Power to transform sorrow
into a purple veil dance
Dance of brown feet
on the timeless white sands
of the Lower World
White shore, sand and ocean
day becomes night
in the purple veil dance of the Madonna,
Who sees and knows all things
I am drained of my sorrows
and all my dark teachers come
dancing with me upon the sands
There is healing in the darkness
All pain is bearable
All pain is transformed here
to dance and stars and sand
Where God is Bhairava
and Goddess every Dark Mother
compassion is deep and violet
He is here and She is here
And as I reluctantly go
the shadow stretches out in farewell;
I kiss its graceful fingers
As they recede down the passage of dark joy
Monday, September 12, 2011
There have been a dozen full years of changes since my Croning Celebration when I turned 50. My Goddess circle, The Laughing Yonis, celebrated with a party filled to the brim with chocolate, laughter, wine and wisdom. I have been trying ever since to grow into the Wise Woman role they envisioned and personified so well.
Today, preparing for a trip to Kelowna I found myself in Sears, equipped with list and measuring tape, comparing sizes, weights, and handle lengths. A fellow shopper, also a woman-of-age was there on a similar quest and we entered into a brief but satisfying friendship of information sharing and wry laughter about our diminished mobility.
On my brighter days I know the wisdom I am seeking is not found in knowing the answers but in asking the thoughtful questions, and taking delight in shared laughter. The more I can remember these simple truths, the closer I become to being a wise woman crone and not the nasty witch of Menopause Hell. Now where did I put that list?
Monday, September 5, 2011
David Tennant as The Doctor
I was living in England with my mother, going to The School of St. Claire in Penzance as a day student. We lived in the end unit of a stone row house, just as you imagine a British working class neighborhood. We had just moved out of an artsy Mousehole hotel to less expensive Newlyn, to the last building on the top of the hill above the harbor. Behind us was a field with dairy cows and a stubby, well-worn stone circle, through which I walked every morning, taking the back way over the headland into PZ. We rented our telly and paid license fees, like everyone else on the street, and I began watching my first regular doses of English entertainment. It was black and white in those days, rather different from what I’d been accustomed to back in the States.
I only saw two shows containing the original Doctor, William Hartnell. Although I remember keenly enjoying Dr. Who, it was never completely clear to me what the heck was going on. I remember being thrilled to realize that this show was not only about history—and with costumes which were actually period correct (astonishing in and of itself as this was the early sixties)—but also about the science fiction notion of time travel. The Doctor and his two companions eventually escaped from trouble inside their odd little time machine—in this case, a blue police call box, the kind I’d seen standing, by the sixties dusty and unused, on street corners here and there in London. They called this handy device the TARDIS*.
Well, wow! Stories about history and time travel all in one show! The main character was not only mysterious, aged and professorial, but a little sinister, too, as if he was not entirely to be trusted. As someone who liked fantasy and science fiction but who was also loved to read about famous characters in history, I couldn’t help but be intrigued. Unfortunately, I never saw any more than those two shows. Soon Mom and I pulled up stakes again and headed for Barbados. In those days, the West Indies had no television.
Years later, The Doctor and I reconnected. My kids and I were sitting on the floor together watching public television on our Zenith, also parked on the floor. (In those days furniture was something of a luxury.) A British import began. Lo and behold--there was my time traveler and his blue box—again! Of course, the original doctor had gone. The new one was still domineering and mysterious, but far less of a stuffy old professor. Instead he now appeared to be in his forties, with a gorgeous head of wavy hair and Victorian get-ups by way of Carnaby Street. John Pertwee might have just stepped out of the Yellow Submarine.
Okay, I thought, I’ll go with the flow. My brief, earlier acquaintance with that absent-minded elderly Doctor was a pleasant memory. This, I realized, would be a great show for the kids to watch while I made dinner. (In those days 30 Minute Meals was not a “marketable idea,” just the way everybody cooked.)
My boys became fans, but almost immediately there came a change in Doctors, as reported to me by my oldest son. He was about equally disturbed and fascinated by the fact that the main character in a series might abruptly “regenerate” into someone else, all while essentially playing (more or less) the same character. Tom Baker immediately captured our fancy, perhaps because his clothes were utterly Boho- trippy. The hat, the scarf, the manic manner, the comic timing, his diction, and his “funny walks”—Baker was like a speaking, Oxford-educated Harpo Marx . The kids, and their Mom too, adored Baker, and we watched the show faithfully during the years of his reign. My youngest son begged his aunt to knit him a floor-sweeping Whovian scarf for Christmas, and we hunted used clothing stores for a cool old hat to go with it.
Time passed for us, as it never quite does in the TARDIS. The kids got older and began to lose interest when the Doctor "regenerated" again. We never entirely warmed to the handsome, dapper Peter Davidson with his question marks and 1890s university cricketer’s garb. We drifted away.
Years went by. The kids grew up and had kids of their own. I became a senior. Time Lords (the Doctor's species), however, regenerate with some regularity. And although I hadn't been paying attention, he’d done it again.
One day I was channel surfing and happened upon BBC America. And Wa-Hoo KA-ZAM! There he was, a brand new Doctor. This incarnation had a budget and enjoyed all the benefits of the CG revolution. Somewhere in the hiatus, the hoary old Doctor had become a “valuable property.” Forty-seven years after our first meeting, I’d found him again.
You might think I'd be too old now for a "kid's show," because I'm wrinkly and gray, but I'm still turned on by Doctor Who's fizzy cocktail combo of history and space/time travel. It's been great fun to be a fan at the same time my grandgirls--21and 12. Not only monsters, but more ordinary human problems are regularly explored here, such as the inevitably of change and the blessing of friendship. Rarified concepts like immortality, the persistence of evil, and the--let's face it--scariness of eternity are also pondered. There are many reasons why this series, conceived in the early days of television, is still going strong. I may myself soon vanish out of Time, but it seems there will always be another Doctor.
Doctor Who, Greatest Show in the Galaxy.
* TARDIS= Time and Relativity Dimensions in Space. Sort of silly, but there you are. ;)
Sunday, September 4, 2011
It is traditional for First Nation’s people to give thanks, and acknowledge our relations, to the plants, animals, birds and creatures from the water, to show respect for their giving their spirits in order for others to survive. Traditionally elders say prayers to commemorate this sacrifice at a feast gathering. During these gatherings the people shared their recipes and often demonstrated the preparation and cooking of food. Elders would pass on ancient food gathering and preparation guides to the younger members of the tribe. Because of this tradition of passing on the wisdom of the tribe from generation to generation, First Nation’s people became increasingly skilled in the art of drying and preparing foods, herbs and berries with each passing generation. The Medicine men and women of the tribes were gifted healers trained by generations of ancestors in the art of using the gifts of Mother Earth to heal the people of their tribes.
Friday, September 2, 2011
Convents are popular retreat spots these days. As orders shrink and income grows scarce, the sisters tidy up the rooms and allow paying guests. A private setting with dining services and meeting rooms is an ideal place for a weekend of contemplation and personal growth. The Catholic icons can help to set a divine overtone, if the statues aren’t too graphic. (There is one retreat center I will never visit again because of the “art.”) The sisters are generally elderly and kind – even when they boss people around. There is always a gift shop filled with Catholic gifts and a sister who takes a turn running the register.
Tradition holds that women have three stages of life: virgin, mother and crone. Our Lady of the Not So Barren Tree envisions a fourth stage, the potentially productive years between mid-life and extreme old age. In a middle space slightly above the earth but below the heavens, insights and ideas flourish. Calm and reflective, she produces many fruits of feminine creativity.” - Elizabeth Kay, (www.pytheaproductions.com)
I have done some research on the crone and the three-person goddess currently mythologized in neo-paganism, and she seems to be a modern creation with a theoretically ancient history. I would like to propose a sisterhood of the not-so-barren tree. We can call ourselves crones, but keep our true identities secret. Where others see us as old and wise, we can see ourselves as creative, fruitful, and mature. What the outsiders don’t know won’t hurt them.