Brushwood 2016 by Theresa Guzman
Tuesday, September 19, 2017
Monday, September 18, 2017
Recently I re-discovered the New Mexico poet and photographer Nancy Wood, who passed away in 2013. Nancy Wood found a deep sense of spiritual belonging in nature among the natives peoples of New Mexico, and much of her poetry is a celebration of that belonging. I've always found comfort and a return to Balance when when I return to her poems, and copy a few here for my own great pleasure.
Hold on to what is good
even if it is
a handful of earth.
Hold on to what you believe
even if it is
a tree which stands by itself.
Hold on to what you must do
even if it is
a long way from here.
Hold on to life even when
it is easier letting go.
Hold on to my hand even when
I have gone away from you.
From Hollering Sun (1972)
Blue lake of life from which flows everything good.
We rejoice with the spirits beneath your waters.
The lake and the earth and the sky
Are all around us.
The voices of many gods
Are all within us.
We are now as one with rock and tree
As one with eagle and crow
As one with deer and coyote
As one with all things
That have been placed here by the Great Spirit.
The sun that shines upon us
The wind that wipes our faces clean of fear
The stars that guide us on this journey
To our blue lake of life
We rejoice with you.
In beauty it is begun.
In beauty it is begun.
In peace it is finished.
In peace it shall never end.
My help is in the mountain
Where I take myself to heal
The earthly wounds
That people give to me.
I find a rock with sun on it
And a stream where the water runs gentle
And the trees which one by one
give me company.
So must I stay for a long time
Until I have grown from the rock
And the stream is running through me
And I cannot tell myself from one tall tree.
Then I know that nothing touches me
Nor makes me run away.
My help is in the mountain
That I take away with me.
From War Cry on a Prayer Feather, 1979
Earth teach me stillness
As the grasses are stilled with light.
Earth teach me suffering
As old stones suffer with memory.
Earth teach me humility
As blossoms are humble with beginning.
Earth teach me caring
As the mother who secures her young.
Earth teach me courage
As the tree which stands all alone.
Earth teach me limitation
As the ant who crawls on the ground.
Earth teach me freedom
As the eagle who soars in the sky.
Earth teach me resignation
As the leaves which die in the fall.
Earth teach me regeneration
As the seed which rises in spring.
Earth teach me to forget myself
As melted snow forgets its life.
Earth teach me to remember kindness
As dry fields weep with rain.
from Hollering Sun, 1972
Saturday, September 16, 2017
There's a big difference between the intelligent existentialism of a cat like, say, Henri below, and the mysterious minds of dogs. I'm definately a cat person, but I have to admit, Jesse the Jack Russell Terrier would come in handy. Jesse lives to serve. Henri, on the other hand, would consider running for office, were he not so disillusioned by life.
Thursday, September 14, 2017
Tuesday, September 12, 2017
"Medicine Basket" is such a wonderful term, and embodies the archetypes of WEAVING, VESSELS FOR HEALING created from many threads. I return to the work of Cherokee artist Shan Goshorn, as she is a weaver of contemporary medicine baskets which she makes in traditional designs and techniques. They are woven from the words of broken contracts, and the names and photos of children taken from their families and forced to attend boarding schools. “Educational Genocide – The Legacy of the Carlisle Indian Boarding School” was created with a Cherokee-style double weave, and was made from splints of paper that had student’s names and historical documents and photographs. The artist weaves together the broken threads of the past to create healing baskets that re-member and re-join.
When I made the mask for my friend Mana Youngbear, she told me that she had dreamed it! My friend saw in her dream a woman wearing a mask that was a basket, the face emerging from the fibers of the basket. This image had meaning for me on many levels. A Medicine Basket is a container, woven of many strands, meant to store or provide forces for healing, understanding, consensus, and offering to the divine, the "greater pattern". We can create baskets, sacred containers for healing or empowerment or memory - the "medicine" that is needed at a given time, place, for a particular person, or a collective "weaving of the energies" . We are also "baskets" ourselves, our intentions and histories woven into the container of our lives, and those threads have been woven into the lives of everyone else we've ever known as well.
|"Tse Che Nako, Thought Woman, Weaving the World with the Stories She Dreams" (2008)|
Now, as everything seems to be unravelling in a world we've made the mistake of taking for granted, I feel the compulsion to make a new "Medicine Basket Mask". The mask I have in mind has an open mouth - it will be less passive and in "dreamtime" as the one above. This one will speak the weaving, the medicine. The time for being merely receptive is past, now is the time for us to act, to become "the medicine".
|"Basket Mask" by Ilana Stein (2008)|
May each of us, in these crucial times, make strong Baskets with all our communities, our friends, our inner sanctuaries. May we Become strong Baskets.
Sunday, September 10, 2017
Not easy to listen to, but brilliant observation of where we may be heading, by one of America's most significant intellectuals. These days I am unable to separate the political from the personal, or for that matter, from the spiritual. They are all interconnected.
Sunday, September 3, 2017
One of the great things about making art, one discovers, is that it's a way of "writing down" one's inner "iconography". Most of the time, it's a way of just beginning to see (literally) what that iconography of the inner self actually is. And then the conversation can begin, because the language is being translated............
For many years I've made "tree of life" images. I'm not sure where I got the image from originally. In early lithographs there was always a woman within the tree form, or the Tree was a backdrop to everything else in the painting (not unlike the Web motif I also became fascinated by in later "Spider Woman" pieces). In my 1993 "Lovers" card from the Tarot, or the 1986 lithograph "Axis Mundi" the "tree" is ubiquitious, and later I started making sculptural torsos, the Mother within the Tree.
Recently I had reason to learn about Asherah, the ancient Mother Goddess associated with the early Hebrews and early (pre-monotheistic) Judaism, with the neighboring Canaanites, and even earlier origins. I have not studied this Goddess much, being only vaguely aware of the name. Asherah was often represented as a tree, among them the ubiquitous "Asherah poles" (ashirim) associated with Her worship in early (pre-monotheistic) Judaism. *** There is evidence that these wooden icons, and possibly, actual trees intentionally planted as icons or shrines) were meant to be representations of Asherah. Asherah is sometimes referred to as the wife of Yahweh, whose name became something that could not be uttered, only represented as "the Lord". The Asherah poles, and eventually the name of Asherah, were banned from worship as Judaism became monotheistic and established the sole deity as male.
Interestingly, with the early advent of Gnostic Christianity, Asherah is perhaps re-born in the form of Sophia, the feminine face of deity, often called the "mother" or sometimes "wife" of Yaweh. The emblem for Sophia was often a dove.
I never would have associated the Tree of Life archetype, which has been a part of my spiritual vocabulary for more years than I remember, with Asherah had I not investigated just recently because of a visionary experience during a healing session.
I had some energy work done last week with an alternative healer. Not unlike Reiki practitioners, although her system had a different name, she worked with me for over an hour, helping me to enter into an altered state of consciousness, kind of like a meditation, while she, in channelling energy to work with me, also entered into an open, meditative state. As I closed my eyes, the session began for me with the appearance of a white dove that visually manifested right before my (closed) eyes. But not a literal kind of bird, more like a sacred emblem, what one might see in a church. I immediately thought of the "Dove of Sophia", which is of course associated with Peace to this day. And as a Christian icon representing the Holy Spirit, it may very well be that the origins of the Dove go all the way back to Gnosticism and Sophia.
Who, like Asherah, was removed from patriarchal monotheistic theology, Her symbols often co-opted to support the later mythos of a strictly male deity without a wife, mother, or, for that matter, a daughter either.
The healer, after the session was over, told me that she clearly saw a Goddess form present during the healing. She said that the Lady put a kind of crown or headpiece on my head that was "light filled", and she also cast a kind of "net of stars" over me (which perhaps means protection (?) The healer, who is not much familiar with Goddess archetypes, said that the name she got was "Ashara". She also mentioned that somehow trees or wood were associated. I couldn't think of what that meant, until I looked it up on the Internet later, and then (of course!) discovered the Hebrew Goddess "Asherah".
I've felt this year is about healing for me, healing the family karma which means understanding familial wounds and changing them into (hopefully) wisdom instead of re-action. I think this year, with so much chaos and divisiveness in the world as well, has been about the difficult and disturbing rite of passage of becoming a Saga, an old woman. A hopeful thought is that, perhaps, this is what is also going on a bit collectively. Rites of passage, in my experience, are never particularly easy or comfortable, cozy or even predictable. They are thresholds.
And how is it possible to talk of healing the wounds that are "personal" without seeing that they are also interwoven with what is universal? Familial abuse is about social abuse as well as the long reach of ancestors, going back, going forward. Roots. And beyond that....... the Tree of Life, the roots beneath, the leaves above. All things woven.
Visions, like dreams, have multiple layers of meaning, and like dreams, exist outside of time. In my experience Spirit communicates in visionary, symbolic, mythic ways. This visioning was a blessing for me, and something I will continue to contemplate and ask to understand.
|"Asherah" (Artist unknown)|
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
An "Asherah pole" is a sacred tree or pole that stood near Canaanite religious locations to honor the Ugaritic mother-goddess Asherah, consort of El. The relation of the literary references to an asherah and archaeological finds of Judaean pillar-figurines has engendered a literature of debate. The asherim were objects related to the worship of the fertility goddess Asherah, the consort of either Ba'al or, as inscriptions from Kuntillet ‘Ajrud and Khirbet el-Qom attest, Yahweh, and thus objects of contention among competing cults.
In translations that render the Hebrew asherim into English as "Asherah poles," the insertion of "pole" begs the question by setting up unwarranted expectations for such a wooden object: "we are never told exactly what it was", observes John Day.
Though there was certainly a movement against goddess-worship at the Jerusalem Temple in the time of King Josiah, (2 Chronicles 34:3) it did not long survive his reign, as the following four kings "did what was evil in the eyes of Yahweh" (2 Kings 23:32, 37; 24:9, 19). Further exhortations came from Jeremiah. The traditional interpretation of the Biblical text is that the Israelites imported pagan elements such as the Asherah poles from the surrounding Canaanites. In light of archeological finds, however, modern scholars now theorize that the Israelite folk religion was Canaanite in its inception and always polytheistic, and it was the prophets and priests who denounced the Asherah poles who were the innovators (of monotheism with an exclusive male god).
Asherim are mentioned in the Hebrew Bible in the books of Exodus, Deuteronomy, Judges, the Books of Kings, the second Book of Chronicles, and the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Micah. The term often appears as merely אשרה, (Asherah) referred to as "groves" in the King James Version, which follows the Septuagint rendering as ἄλσος, pl. ἄλση, and the Vulgate lucus, and "poles" in the New Revised Standard Version; no word that may be translated as "poles" appears in the text. Scholars have indicated, however, that the plural use of the term (English "Asherahs", translating Hebrew Asherim or Asherot) provides ample evidence that reference is being made to objects of worship rather than a transcendent figure.
The Hebrew Bible suggests that the poles were made of wood. In the sixth chapter of the Book of Judges, God is recorded as instructing the Israelite judge Gideon to cut down an Asherah pole that was next to an altar to Baal. The wood was to be used for a burnt offering.
Deuteronomy 16:21 states that YHWH (rendered as "the Lord") hated Asherim whether rendered as poles: "Do not set up any [wooden] Asherah [pole] beside the altar you build to the Lord your God" or as living trees: "You shall not plant any tree as an Asherah beside the altar of the Lord your God which you shall make". That Asherahs were not always living trees is shown in 1 Kings 14:23: "their asherim, beside every luxuriant tree". However, the record indicates that the Jewish people often departed from this ideal. For example, King Manasseh placed an Asherah pole in the Holy Temple (2 Kings 21:7). King Josiah's reforms in the late 7th century BC included the destruction of many Asherah poles (2 Kings 23:14).
Exodus 34:13 states: "Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and cut down their Asherim [Asherah poles]." Some biblical archaeologists have suggested that until the 6th century BC the Israelite peoples had household shrines, or at least figurines, of Asherah, which are strikingly common in the archaeological remains.
Raphael Patai identified the pillar figurines with Asherah in The Hebrew Goddess.