Blog - Art, Music, Magic

Fire - Expression of Self

Mary Lou Richardson - Monday, December 04, 2017
Fire - Expression of Self
Expression of Self
Our bodies harness sun’s fire through stored energies in the plants and animals we eat and from its direct heat or the heat stored in fossil fuels. We use and expel this energy through familiar body processes and the unique ways we express ourselves in the world. Alchemists recognized the physical and metaphysical nature of fire by using a triangular shape to symbolize rising flames and rising aspirations.

Wonderwerk Cave
Evidence of the human use of fire dating back more than a million years has been found in the Wonderwerk Cave, an archeological site near the edge of the Kalahari Desert in South Africa which has been explored since the 1940s. Translating as “miracle” in the Afrikaans language, Wonderwerk reveals how fire touched all aspects of society, leading to the belief that socializing around a campfire played an essential part in what made us human.

Fire Creation
Numerous creation myths explore how native peoples first harnessed fire. The Cherokees tell how water spider retrieves fire from the land of the Thunders who live beyond the sky arch. According to legend she spins a web across a pool which separates her from a smoldering fire in a giant sycamore, then takes it to her people in a basket on her back.
In the playful Apache story, Fox brazenly steals fire from a firefly village, lighting a piece of bark with his burning tail and giving it to hawk who carries it to crane, who scatters sparks across the land.

Fire Spirits
Salamander’s connection to fire likely originates from the behavior of many species of salamander: hibernating among rotting logs. When wood was brought indoors and set on fire, the creatures "mysteriously" appeared from the flames.


Trekking with Fellow Lovers, Dreamers and Explorers

Ann Richardson - Monday, November 27, 2017
Trekking with Fellow Lovers, Dreamers and Explorers
We choose fellow travelers who are curious, playful, creative, appreciative, independent, respectful, honest and loving -folks who, like us, are also fallible, complicated, unpredictable, imperfect, and sometimes annoying.

By expanding our purview beyond conventional wisdom: historical traditions/customs, familial associations, religious dogma, organizational rules or the status quo - we have increased the fullness of our life experiences eight-fold and created a tribe steeped in a rich tapestry of dignity, respect and love.

Finding your Tribe
To find amicable people to share your life travels with:
• Set the intention for the kinds of energies you wish to attract.
• Call your tribe by setting up an altar displaying sacred objects symbolizing qualities you admire/desire in your friends/circle.
• Release any self-limiting beliefs and affiliations that could be tying you down.
• Keep an eye out for anyone who loves doing what you love -in your community, on-line or wherever you travel (in body, mind, spirit).
• Approach them: Waiting to be chosen isn’t more legitimate than doing your own choosing.
• Present your most open, honest self and express clearly your desires, interests and needs.
• Decide which folks you want to spend more time with, try them on for size and be okay if the fit isn’t right.
• Remember, at best, about a third of the people you cross paths will “get” you – enjoy/delight in these and forget about the rest.

Lovers, Dreamers, Explorers
Galileo Galilei, Amelia Earhart, Leonard Cohen, Story Musgrave, Bill Nye, Diana Nyad, Nellie Bly, Sally Ride, Julia Butterfly Hill, Jane Goodall, Maya Angelou, Natasha Trethewey, Nikki Giovanni

Image: Two by Canoe, by Mary Lou Richardson


Celebrating Things We Love Most

Ann Richardson - Saturday, November 25, 2017
Celebrating Things We Love Most

Has your heart begun palpitating at the thought of the approaching holiday season? Are visions of to-do lists already dancing in your head?


Simplifying our celebrations doesn't mean taking the anticipation, joy and beauty out of the season but, rather, shortening the list of things we have to do, to make more room for the things we want to do. Though it may have once been meaningful to bestow extravagant gifts, many of us now have so much stuff that we don't get as excited about it as we used to.


Counter holiday frenzy by talking with family and friends to determine how to observe the holidays, deciding on favorite foods, rituals, activities and gifts. Consider what would you like more of - music, walks in the woods, peace and quiet, pleasing aromas, special foods, love and appreciation, laughter, reading by the fire, prayer, being of service?



Connecting Through Animals

Mary Lou Richardson - Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Connecting Through Animals

Some people are able to find their wilder, truer and more spontaneous natures through linking - either actually or symbolically - with animals.

From the wisdom of the owl to the cleverness of the fox to the grace of the antelope, Native American tribes and other aboriginal peoples have long known that animals embody qualities and talents that can help humans better understand themselves and the spirit world. (The Nez Perce believed that "every animal knows more than we do.")

Many cultures have chosen to revere these animals as "totems." To select an animal as your totem , it's best to find one that piques your curiosity, one whose path you tend to cross or one that appears frequently in your dreams or meditations. 

Choosing an animal that frightens you is a way to explore your fears or shadow. Many people are drawn to a pet or other domesticated animal as their first totem, eventually moving up to wild or " power" animals.

Working with your totem means honoring it and malting an opening in your life for its wisdom. You can do this by discovering as much as you can about its qualities, by purchasing (or making) a figurine or "fetish " to represent it, and by learning to mimic and incorporate its essence. Using your imagination to find ways to deeply connect with your totem animal will aid you in drawing upon its powers.

Image: My Red Velvet Cape Deer



Calling All Spirit Guides

Mary Lou Richardson - Sunday, November 19, 2017
Calling All Spirit Guides
Spirit guides make their presence known in a variety of ways, through little synchronicities in your life, distinctive voices, changes in light intensity or air temperature, a smell, a tingling on the back of your neck ...

As we travel a path which offers few guideposts, some of us are returning to spirit guides or angels for inspiration and support. The Greeks believed each person had an individual guardian angel or daemon, which would appear in animal form. This idea evolved into the "familiar spirit" under Christianity and the guardian angel of the Catholic faith.

Many people interpret the imagi­nary friends or playmates of childhood to be manifestations of this type of spiritual energy. Whether ancestral spirits, deceased relatives or close friends, or as yet unborn spirits, you can call upon spirit guides in your daily life and use their answers to assist you.

As wise teachers, they can help you to resolve such questions as "Why am I here?" or "What do I need to be doing?" Though few people know how to effectively communicate with spirit guides, it is possible to learn by re-educating your perceptions (activating your intuitive brain), keeping an open mind and giving yourself permission to see them ("Believing is seeing") - and by practicing diligently, which includes malting a commitment to learning their "lan­guage."

Spirit guides make their presence known in a variety of ways, through little synchronicities in your life, distinctive voices, changes in light intensity or air temperature, a smell, a tingling on the back of your neck, or in the symbols of your dreams or creative work.


Spirits of our Ancestors

Mary Lou Richardson - Monday, October 30, 2017
Spirits of our Ancestors
My great-grandmama told my grandmama the part she lived through that my grandmama didn't live through and my grandmama told my mama what they both lived through and my mama told me what they all lived through and we were supposed to pass it down like that from generation to generation so we'd never forget.  - Gayle Jones, Corregidora
 
To welcome the spirits of ancestors into our own lives, we might consider spending time with an older person, or preparing and setting out special foods or other gifts for a deceased relative - perhaps even holding a dinner in their honor on October 31.

We may wish to write about or share with others favorite stories and memories of those who have died during the past year. Prayers can be offered up to all our ancestors, thanking each one for qualities we have inherited that have supported us. We can find out more about cultures we come from by learning folk customs, crafts and herbal remedies. We might wish to explore our family tree, or have a picnic or ritual in a cemetery. Or perhaps write a poem or song commemorating the life of a loved one, or assemble a book of the dead, featuring pictures and favorite stories about those who have passed on.
 
Reflecting on the virtues of remembering our ancestors, Sobonfu Some of Burkina Faso, West Africa writes in The Fabric of the Future "The Ancestors have the ability to see past, present and future… the more we stay connected to them, the more we will live our lives wired, connected to our original source. They will help us create the kind of bond we need between the human and spirit world.”



Day of the Dead

Mary Lou Richardson - Friday, October 27, 2017
Day of the Dead
The most elaborate holiday to honor the dead – El Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is still celebrated today in Mexico and other Latin American countries.
 
Early Aztecs dedicated an entire month during the summer to festivities presided over by the goddess Mictecacihuatl, Lady of the Dead. After the Spaniards conquered Mexico they changed the celebration to coincide with All Saints Day and All Souls Day. The dead are welcomed during this time of feasting, remembrance, and great happiness. Elders say “the path back to the living world must not be made slippery by tears.”
 
Souls of children (los angelitos) are thought to return first, beginning on Oct. 31, and the souls of those who died in adulthood soon follow. Home alters are laden with flowers, fruits, vegetables, candles, copal (a type of incense), statues of saints, and photographs of the dead.
 
Preferred foods and other favorites of the deceased in life are lovingly prepared for them. Mounds of yellow zempazuchtl, a type of marigold, are on wide display. Known as the flower with 400 lives, its petals form a path for the spirits – to guide them to their banquets. 
 
To cater to the dead’s love of sweets, delicious pan de los muertos and calaveras, sugar skulls representing the playfulness of the dead, are offered. (In Mexico, children are often given skeleton toys, as a representation of death, so their first encounter with death isn't a fearful one.)  Celebrants share stories about the deceased – not just milestones, but about everyday things such as food or jokes. They also write funny poems, or calaveritas, which speak about death coming for each of us. 



Jack-ma-Lanterns

Mary Lou Richardson - Wednesday, October 25, 2017
Jack-ma-Lanterns
"So if a body had to go somewhere at night and didn' want to be led off by a Jack-ma-Lantern, he'd turn his pockets wrong side out. That'd keep 'em away, they said."

I used to know a lot of that stuff you axin' about, but I reckon I done forgot most of it, or jist can't rek'lect it offhand. I remem­ber how the ol' folks used to tell 'bout Jack-ma-Lanterns that 'ud lead you off at night.

You know, back in those days there wasn't lights ever'where to guide a body like 'tis today. If you started out to go somewhere at night, you'd try to spot a light in some neighbor's house and foller that.

On real dark, foggy nights one of them Jack­ ma-Lanterns would appear in front of someone trav'lin' along a lonely road or path, a-lookin' jist lak a light way off in somebody's winder, so as to make that person foller it. Then it'd lead him off into the thickets or swamps somewhere.

Why, I've heard of folks bein' lost all night follerin' one of them Jack-ma-Lanterns. So if a body had to go somewhere at night and didn' want to be led off by a Jack-ma-Lantern, he'd turn his pockets wrong side out. That'd keep 'em away, they said.

As told by Catherine Newman, interviewed by Laura Virginia Hale, in Front Royal Virginia on June 29, 1942



Enjoying Olden Times Halloween Practices

Mary Lou Richardson - Tuesday, October 24, 2017
Enjoying Olden Times Halloween Practices
It’s fun to add traditional rituals and practices to your modern day Halloween masquerading and trick-or-treating.

Halloween is a holiday derived from the ancient Celtic festival Samhain (which is pronounced Sah-wen in Gaelic and means Summer’s End).
 
The Celtic equivalent of our New Year’s, Samhain was a 3 day celebration, a time suspended between last year and next, when the veil between worlds was thought to be very thin, making foretelling the future easier.

Pagan Celts were unafraid of the spirits of the dead, calling them the beloved dead and inviting them into their homes. They believed that, although our bodies died and were returned to earth, our spirits live on in the elements sustaining other lives.
 
Historically Samhain was a time for feasting on crops just harvested and herds slaughtered, and was likely the last time farming families would be well fed until spring. For us, it can be a favorable time to thank the animals in our lives, those who have died so we may eat and those who have enlightened us or given us love.

We can also reflect upon relatives and friends who have passed on during year, perhaps setting a place at the table or outdoors for them.
 
Tables or altars can be laden with seasonal fruits and vegetables to remind us of our abundance and candles illuminated in windows to help any wandering spirits find their way.

We might share our thoughts with the deceased by writing notes to them on bits of paper and burning over an open flame to carry their messages.
 
Samhain celebrations always end with an affirmation of life: Take a moment to bring to mind new lives, pets, relationships and projects that have come into your life this year. Open a pomegranate to reveal its star-shaped chamber, a symbol of rebirth, and eat its ruby seeds.

 Autumn Animal Spirit Prayer Flag, by Mary Lou Richardson


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.




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