Blog - Art, Music, Magic

Full Harvest Moon

Mary Lou Richardson - Sunday, October 08, 2017
Full Harvest Moon
Autumn Harvest Ritual

Smoke hangs like haze over harvested fields, 
The gold of stubble, the brown of turned earth
And you walk under the red light of fall.

The scent of fallen apples, the dust of threshed grain
The sharp, gentle chill of fall.

Here as we move into the shadows of autumn
The night that brings the morning of spring
Come to us, Lord of Harvest,

Teach us to be thankful for the gifts you bring us.



Blessing of the Animals

Mary Lou Richardson - Sunday, October 01, 2017
Blessing of the Animals

"Until the 14th Century, people’s pets and other animals went to church regularly with them," writes Christopher Manes, author of Other Creations: Rediscovering the Spirituality of Animals. “The great cathedrals featured not just stone animals, but live ones wandering in and out."


To recapture this more relaxed alliance between humans and animals, the Blessing of the Animals is celebrated each year on the first Sunday of October to honor St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals.


St. Francis believed all of nature is God’s creation and equally to be cherished. Extending hospitality of all creatures, he saved doves from the az, communicated with birds, even brought about peace between the “wild wolf of Gubbio” and his townspeople. It is believed that animals responded to his kindness by listening to his sermons. 


Check out your local church, synagogue or or other place of worship - or animal organizations and pet shops - to find out about festivals near you? 



Be a Wonderful Weirdo

Ann Richardson - Saturday, September 09, 2017
Be a Wonderful Weirdo
I like weird.

Conformity bores but is inescapable for the most part.

We all follow something, even if it is following the goal of wanting to stand apart.

We are a sea of ordinary people; it is always the quirk, the flaw or the ingenuity that stands out.

Donna Lynn Hope

Weirdo: Strange, Eccentric, Bizarre, Quirky, Outlandish, Unconventional, Unorthodox, Surreal, Crazy, Peculiar, Odd, Strange, Zany, Bizarro, Wacky, Way-out, Offbeat, Alternative

Celebrate the weirdo in yourself and others. Color outside the lines, think outside the box. Be the biggest, baddest, kickass, outrageous self you can be!

Tango Dancer Selfie, Paper Mache By Ann Richardson



World Elephant Day

Ann Richardson - Saturday, August 12, 2017
How Elephant Got Her Trunk - A South African Folk Tale
In The Beginning, Elephant used to have a small snout. She was rather proud of her small nose because it never got in the way of feeding and drinking. Because of her great size, mealtimes were very important to Elephant, and she had to eat and drink a great deal in order to keep her strength up. However, she did find it uncomfortable, because she had to go down on bended knees to reach anything.

One day, Elephant was at the river, and was kneeling down drinking from the fresh water. Crocodile swam past and, feeling particularly hungry, saw an opportunity for a good meal. He swam stealthily up to where Elephant was, and suddenly lunged out of the water and grabbed her by the nose. Elephant was startled, and tried to pull away, but Crocodile had a firm grip on her nose and used all his strength to try to pull Elephant into the water.

However, Elephant was also very strong, and she dug her feet into the bank and fought back. The 2 battled for hours, and with every pull and tug, Elephant's nose stretched a little more. Eventually, Crocodile became too tired to pull any more, and let go of Elephant. She ran off with her now very long nose hanging down in front of her and went to hide in the bush as she was too embarrassed to face the other animals.

Soon, Elephant realized that her new stretched nose was more useful than her small snout. She was able to reach food and drink without kneeling any more, and could even reach high branches and pull them down to eat the fruit and leaves. All the other Elephants soon wanted a long trunk too, and they too visited the river and dared the Crocodile to try and pull them into the water.

The Elephants always won these tug-of-wars and ended up with stretched snouts while Crocodile remained hungry. To this day, all Elephants have long trunks rather than a small snout, and Crocodiles know it is a waste of time attacking Elephants when they drink at the water's edge.

Image: Dancing Elephant gouache painting by Ann Richardson.


World Lion Day

Mary Lou Richardson - Thursday, August 10, 2017
World Lion Day
World Lion Day is the first global campaign to celebrate the importance of the lion worldwide. Since the dawn of man the lion has played an integral role in our lives: symbolically, religiously, culturally, economically and biologically. To lose the lion from our world is to lose part of our global heritage.

It is the cave lion that adorns the walls of the Chauvet cave and evidence of its wide range has been found elsewhere in modern day Europe, most famously in central London. In 1957 the fossilized toe bone of a lion was unearthed close to Trafalgar Square, dating back to 125,000 years ago. 

From the cave lion emerged the modern day lion and it is thought a single population in Sub-Saharan Africa around 320,000 – 190,000 years ago gave rise to the present African lion population.  Today there are two recognised sub species of the lion, the African lion (P. leo) and the Asiatic lion (P. leo persica) with very little genetic difference between the two (1.1%).

Our prehistoric coexistence with the lion across the globe saw the beginning of our fascination with the species. Their image dominates all forms of modern day symbology and their presence resonates throughout cultural history worldwide. The lion has been an icon for humanity for thousands of years, appearing in cultures across Europe, Asia, and Africa.  A common depiction is their representation as "king of the jungle" or "king of beasts"; hence, the lion has been a popular symbol of royalty and stateliness as well as a symbol of bravery; it is featured in several fables of the sixth century BC Greek storyteller Aesop. 

Image: Lion Roar, Oil Pastel by Ann Richardson


The Pleasures of First Harvest

Mary Lou Richardson - Wednesday, August 02, 2017
The Pleasures of First Harvest

In early August, we begin our preparations for harvest, a period observed as Feast of the Green Corn in Native American traditions, and First Harvest, The Celebration of the Bread, or Lammas in pagan cultures. Though the theme of reproduction continues throughout these festivities to ensure the completion of a successful harvest, the Sun King - symbol of heat, day, light, all radiant energy - is now reaching the autumn of his years. 


We notice the light starting to fade and whispers of fall in the long after­noon shadows. We discover more russet and golden leaves sprinkled among the greens. As plants begin dropping their seeds, we are reminded of the sun's significance in the natural cycle, its imprint now embodied in grains, nuts, fruits and seeds and in our own spirits - available to be called upon later, in darker, colder hours.

We see the sun's energy in the yellows and golds of wheat, sunflowers and corn, and in the reds of berries, grapes and plums. As we reflect on the coming harvest and all we have accomplished during the past year, we come to understand the value of delaying gratification and the importance of sowing, as well as reaping.

You can also celebrate another traditional holiday associated with early har­vest: Lughnasadh (LOO-Nu-suh), which honored Lugh, the god of crafts and skills. Agriculturalists would have blessed their farming implements at this time so they would serve them well during the next growing cycle. You and your family can bless the tools of your trades too - toys, school supplies, arts and crafts materials, computers, anything that assists you in your work. This is also a good time to honor the spirit of the mentor, who helps us learn the skills we need.

As we anticipate autumn, we often think about paring down to life's essentials. You can do this by giving away things you no longer need, by donat­ing some of last year's gains to charity, or by throwing symbols of unwanted beliefs or attitudes into a celebratory fire. For example you can write whatever you'd like to release on pieces of paper and watch them transform in the flames.

Image: Fire Scrying, Image by Mary Lou Richardson



Granny's Luck

Mary Lou Richardson - Wednesday, July 26, 2017
Granny's Luck

We are delighted by this custom, which we originally learned about from the enchanting book Granny's Luck, by Kris Kisser, which contains ideas for creating everyday magic, such as making gris-gris, special charms or amulets to manifest the love in your heart.  


"Whenever you turn on a light, use it as a reminder to send a good thought or prayer to someone - someone you know, a public figure, the entire earth. Remember lamps, porch lights, your car headlights, candles, matches, campfires, barbecues, flashlights, nightlights - anything that produces light. Since we are constantly turning on lights, think of all the good thoughts we'll be spreading around!"


Image: Amber Dust, Image by Ann Richardson



What are Your Favorite Dance Moves?

Mary Lou Richardson - Wednesday, July 19, 2017
What are Your Favorite Dance Moves?

Recently some friends and I played our ukuleles and sang Hawaiian tunes at an ice cream social. We had a wonderful time leading the sing-a-longs, but the party really got rollicking when we invited folks to bust out their hula moves to the Hukilau Song, swaying like palms trees, casting and reeling in the fishing nets and gathering up their ama'ama.   

 

Dancing is liberating and contagious, and no matter our physical abilities, each of us contains the seeds for expressing ourselves this way through dance. Dance is accessible to us any time, day or night, inside or out, alone or with others. By integrating our breathing and movements with music and rhythm, we are lifted to a higher plane, making it possible to rediscover the wholeness of life.

 

Historically, dance has been used as a language of celebration, thanksgiving and healing - performed to invoke the gods, to illustrate tribal legends and to represent  cosmic  processes. Though most dances are performed on foot, some dances of Asia and the Pacific Islands use only the hands, arms and upper body while seated. In contrast, classical Indian dances incorporate every part of the body in an elaborate swirl, each move­ment of the arms and hands (mudras) representing a mood, action, object or living crea­ture.

 

Eliza Cushman Miller, dancer and author, observes: "Dance also expresses a spirit of exploration and play. In many ways what I do in the dance studio recalls what children do on play­grounds and in parks everywhere. I run and jump and urge others to do so... I invent things, pretend things, imagine things. In its purest form, dance is a gesture of love.” 


Image: Prepare to Dance, photograph by Ann Richardson



Making your own paper

Mary Lou Richardson - Friday, July 14, 2017
Making your own paper
Paper  can  be  made  from  any vegetable fiber. To  make  your  own, recycling found paper is the easiest, but fibers harvested from your garden will also yield fascinat­ing results. (Cabbage and iris leaves work particularly well.) For the beginner, try a combination of recycled and plant material:

Chop or tear into 1/2 inch pieces. Put 1/2 c. water in a blender and fill with fibers. Blend in short bursts. Drain pulp onto a screen (a window screen will do). Press with a sponge to remove water and promote hydrogen bonding. Let dry. Remove dried paper from screen. 

Use the paper to write love letters, address invitations, pen a  poem or use as a canvas for drawing or painting. With just a little more effort, you can scent your paper by adding fragrant herbs during the blending phase. Mint, rosemary and bayleaf are especially nice. Incorpo­rating color and texture into your paper is a bit more complex; find out how by consulting one of dozens of papermaking books now available.



Papermaking

Mary Lou Richardson - Wednesday, July 12, 2017
Papermaking
The earliest papermaking process used a suspension made of hemp waste and water, which was soaked and beaten to a pulp with a mallet. A paper mold created from a sieve of coarsely-woven cloth stretched over a bamboo frame was utilized  to dip the fiber "slurry" from the vat and hold for drying. It is believed paper was invented in 105 AD by Ts'ai-Lun, an official of the Imperial Court of China. Although some histories suggest it was invented two cen­turies earlier, Ts'ai-Lun deserves credit, at least, for his revolutionary role in refin­ing and popularizing paper for his country. 

After a few hundred years, papermaking arrived in Korea - where fibers of hemp, rattan, mulberry, bamboo, rice straw and  seaweed  were used. A Buddhist monk from  Korea introduced papermaking to Japan by sharing his secrets at the Imperial Palace in 610 AD, some 60 years after Buddhism was introduced into Japan. Used only for official records and documents at first, the demand for paper rose quickly with the spread of Buddhism. In both  Korea and Japan, papermaking would reach very refined levels. Paper spread along silk and other trade routes and arrived in Samarkand, where it is thought that Chinese papermakers taken in battle were forced to share their trade secrets with  their captors. Soon, knowledge of papermaking extended throughout the Arab regions - into Damascus, Egypt and Morocco. 

It would be almost 500 more years before this craft would arrive in Europe. At first rejected by the Christian world because it was the product of a Muslim culture and because it competed with parch­ment and vellum "industries," paper gained popularity with the rise of the printing press in the 1400s.       



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