Sunday, August 31, 2008

That's Amore

Ahhhh, Tuscany. Honestly, what's not to love?

On Friday, I returned from my adventures in Italy, where I spent a week with the incredible Alessandra Belloni, a world-renowned percussion artist, Italian folklorist and incredible spiritual healer. She's so inspiring, and her week-long workshop on the sacred dances, songs and rhythms of Southern Italy was easily one of the most joyful and fulfilling weeks of my life.

The beauty of the land itself is just remarkable, and the comments I'd heard about the light of Tuscany were all true. The sun casts its remarkable golden glow over the landscape, and as it nears the horizon in the evening, the color deepens into amber, setting olive groves and vineyards alight in ways that were breathtaking.

The villa where we stayed for the week, La Chiara di Prumiano, was an hour outside of Florence. (Can I just say America needs to take a page from Italy's public transit system? Not only was the hour-long bus ride only about $5, but it was on what was essentially a charter bus - big seats, slightly tinted windows, curtains on the windows and space below the bus to store your bags.)

Surrounded by olive groves, vineyards, and gardens full of fennel, zucchini, pumpkins (a wonderful green-skinned variety), eggplant and, of course, tomatoes, the land was like something out of a fairytale.

Every day, I ate fresh figs straight from the trees behind the villa, and for those who know me, this was a huge treat. I am downright addicted to figs, eating dried ones nearly every day (as well as stuffing them with walnuts and baking them in the Italian dessert wine Vin Santo and honey), but pulling them off the tree and slowly eating them was one of the great sensual pleasures of my week.

In the mornings, I would walk amongs the olive trees, marvel at the sky, sing a traditional Southern Italian song to the sun (Jesce Sole) and feel the pulse of the Great Earth Mother Cybele below my feet and in the very air I breathed.

One of the greatest impressions I had from the week was the sense of deep joy with which we lived every day. There were times when many of us dove into some of our greatest griefs through ritual and dance, and yet, that was never the end point. We continued to dance, sing, drum and release our pains, disappointments and fears, until we pulsed with the vibrancy of life that was ecstatic, full of laughter and tears of what I can only call bliss. Then with arms around one another, we made our way back up to an outdoor dining spot amid roses, grape arbors and herbs, and ate, drank wine and laughed loud and long.

More to come on the the food (my goddess, the food!), a trip to Siena and, of course, some of my spiritual experiences along the way.

(Above is a picture of me, standing on a balcony above the villa's main entrance - click on it for a closer view. I'm dressed in the traditional colors of the tarantata, red and white. More on what a tarantata is another day. Also above are some of the figs - there were two varieties, green and a purplish-brown - both wonderful! Olive branches against a blue, Tuscan sky. Also some sunflowers in the gardens of the villa.)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Between Fire and Water

The Hawaiian islands are obviously marked with fire and water, and perhaps nowhere more actively so than on the Big Island.

When we went to Maui last year, I deepened my connection to a Mysterious One I call the Ocean Mother, and during this trip, she and I took it further.

Every morning, I would get up right around dawn and head out to the beach, walking in the surf as the sun came up, often singing a Southern Italian traditional devotional song to the sun. Blossoms scented the air and, often, I would see turtles either in the water or waking up from their nighttime slumber.

Large, black bees zoomed from flower to flower, birds chriped merrily away and crabs peeked out from their lava rock perches. I would then greet the Ocean Mother and bathe in her waters, making sure to get wet from head to toe. I came upon a great lava outcropping in the water where I would dance to the music of the waves while the they washed over my feet, rooted to the remnants of Pele's flowing eruptions.

Our spot at the Waikoloa Marriott was fairly calm compared to many of the glorious beaches elsewhere on the island. The Pololu Valley is one of many black sand beaches, but this one had flecks of gold in it. We hiked down a fairly precipitous, rocky path to the beach below where I did some spirit mapping spells for Queer Mystery with rocks and drawing in the sand, marveling at how the gold shone on the beach. (This is a photo of us on the way down to the site.)

Another favorite spot was on the southern side of the island, where the lava hadn't yet been pounded down to grains of sand. Here, the rock was irridescent with indigo, purples and reds reflecting in the sunlight. The waters shifted color, too, from deep blue to a brilliant turquoise as the waves pulled back and then crashed into the hardened lava, sending spray everywhere.

This magickal interplay between rock and water gave me the impression that Pele's lands are hotspots (no pun intended) of creation and opportunity. There's some major earth magick going on here that I don't quite understand yet, but hopefully, with repeated visits I'll get more of an idea. All I can verablize at this point is that major creation magick is taking place that is a model (and reminder?) of a balanced way of living for humans and other elements of our world. I've never so clearly felt just a part of the living fabric of the environment as I did in Hawai'i, partly because in the face of a volcano and crashing waves, it's hard to forget that we're just as delicate a part of the ecosystem as any other creature.

I also think that Pele (and the Ocean Mother, too) is all about non-attachment. People on the islands can build up their lives and villages, but with an eruption, a lava flow, an earthquake, a tsunami (which has twice destroyed the town of Hilo), all is gone and things must start anew. When tromping over rocky lava cliffs, I saw Ohi'a Lehua plants staking their claim on a seemingly inhospitable environment, demonstrating the rich opportunity provided by Pele. Constant newness and fecundity abounds.

This is the smoke pouring out of the Halema'uma'u Crater, which is part of the larger active caldera of Kilauea, Pele's longtime home. On the rim of Kilauea, people still leave floral offerings to the goddess of the islands, who is everywhere in art, ranger talks and even the names of dishes at restaurants.

To the left is a photo of the vent at Kilauea Iki, one of the side craters of the main caldera. I can't describe how large this vent is, but the part in the small mountain that looks like it's caved in is actually a large vent that spewed enormous amounts of lava in the mid-20th century - so much so that it created (from what I recall from the pamphlet) a 400-foot deep lake of lava in this sub-crater. Amazing! We did a hike across this crater, which had cracks in the lava from which steam poured, and olivine crystals (the beginnings of peridot) glittered from the black surface despite a mist and rain the pounded down on us the entire time.

Visiting the home of Pele and hanging out with the Ocean Mother were some of the highlight experiences of my life so far. I am so grateful to both of these amazing Mysterious Ones for sharing their magick with me.

Tomorrow, I'm off to Tuscany for a week-long workshop on the sacred dances, songs and goddess worship of Southern Italy with Alessanda Belloni. Here's a link to the villa I'm staying at.

I hope everyone has a great week and I'll blog about my Italian adventures when I return.

May our every gesture,
May our every movement,
May our every step,
May our every action,
May our every word,
May our every thought,
Be ones of
and Compassion.

Monday, August 18, 2008

A Journey Through Time

While visiting Hawai'i, we went to two sites which feature extensive examples of petroglyhps (and I would suggest spirit mapping).

The first site we visited was at Puako, north of the Kona airport and located on the grounds of the Mauna Lani resort. During a walk through a beautiful forest of gnarled kiawe trees, we passed small examples of lone petroglyhps, including the one pictured above. I was struck by the expression of the figure and what seems to be the yonic symbology between her/his(?) legs.

This next image was also one of the ones along the route to the site's main viewing platform. I got the impression that this was one of "the ancient Mysterious Ones" of Hawai'i - this is what I heard from the spirit of the place and Pele. When viewing other petroglyhps on the island and doing some reading upon returning home in "Spirit of Place: Petroglyhps of Hawi'i" by Georgia Leee and Edward Stasack, I realized there are a number of representations of composite beings - those who appear as combinations of human and animal. I (and researchers) take these to mean that they are representations of shamans, priestesses, Mysterious Ones, spirits, etc. - something related to mystery.

Of course, the turtle is prominent among the petroglyhps, and it's no wonder. These lovely creatures are everywhere around the island, and in the petroglyhps, there are examples of the composite images I mention above - a melding of turtle and human. (Interestingly, while dancing one morning on the beach, I met what I realized was a Queer Mysterious One who was part turtle and part human. Most lovely...) However, Lee and Stasack note that turtle petroglyhps aren't a common element in Hawaiian rock art - still, I saw them with some regularity - perhaps it was just the spots I visited.

At the end of the path is a very large slab of lava with carvings all over it. Taking pictures of this area was not only impossible but seemed rude somehow, given the power emanating from the spot. I experienced lots of visions going on in this place and incredible ancestral power bumps here. I got the impression that there was a gret deal of spirit mapping happening on this spot - the life of a people writ in the remnants of an ancient eruption. Lee and Stasack suggest that many of the figures are dancing here, and many are strongly female, with carved vulvas being very clear.

The second site we visited was Pu'uoloa in Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, and it features over 20,000 petroglyphs. Looking at these images, I couldn't help but remember the spirit mapping work I've done with Donald Engstrom-Reese and how we've often discussed tha this type of expression can be found where-ever humans dwell. For me, this site reflected some of the maps I've done with various groups - people overlapping and adding to each other's images.

Most prominent at this site are small concave shapes dug into the rock. It is believed that at least some of these were used (and are still used) by Hawaiians to place their babies' umbilical cords in.

This image is one that I was particularly struck by. There really seems to be a story here of some sort.

I felt great ancestral power in this place, and as with much of the island (and on Maui last year), I had the impression from the spirit peoples of this land that there is a longing for Queer Priestesses of all stripes to return to their traditional roles. We have various vital functions that are going unfulfilled at this time, and of all times, the planet could really use it now. (See an interview with Malidoma Some for one idea about all this.)

That's it for today. More about the Ocean Mother and the glorious beaches of Hawai'i coming soon!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

I Love Hawai'i

Philip and I returned from the Big Island, Hawai'i, late on Thursday, and the trip was just as glorious as I hoped.

It's a magnificent spot, full of stunning beauty, incredible power and some incredible experiences that I don't think I'll ever forget.

After leaving the Blade, I found that escaping into a completely alternate reality was just what I needed. We arrived at the Kona airport, which is on the side of the island that is very desert-like, covered over by a large lava flow (I believe from Mauna Kea, or perhaps Mauna Loa). The land is completely blackened by lava, and along the road, people have used coral to create messages for passers-by.

All the words were of the friendly, loving variety - never once was there a crass "fuck you" to an ex-lover. Just symbols, including sea turtles, names and hearts. It was a sweet welcome to the island.

We stayed at the glamorous Waikoloa Marriott for the first five days, and the hotel butted up against the glorious, warm and loving Pacific. Every morning, I went out and walked along the beach as the sun rose, bathing myself in the waters of the ocean, dancing to the music of the waves on a lava outcropping and inhaling the deep scent of flowers blooming next to the waters. Most amazing.

At the hotel were groups of Green Sea Turtles who beached themselves at night and headed out in the dawn hours back to their feeding haunts. What gracious and beautiful creatures! We saw them in a few places, including swimming in the water. The island is also home to the endangered Hawksbill Turtle.

Tomorrow, I'll write about our trips to petroglyph spots on the island - so amazing!

(The first photo of me was taken near the Holei Sea Arch on the lava fields near Kilauea, home of the goddess Pele. We took photos quietly of the turtles who seemed oblivous to our presence, exhausted from a long day's swim. The final picture is one of the petroglyphs on the Waikoloa side of the island. More to come!)