Posted in Ancestral Medicine, Apothecary for the Creative Spirit, Art and Healing, Artistic Almshouse, Artistic Midwife, Contemplative Practice, Epigenetic Inheritance, Heather Blakey, Purveyor of Creative Stimuli, Resilience

Breaking Open a Lock

This is a lock on a door at the old Castlemaine Gaol, a building which certainly holds many secrets.

Just as Adam and Eve ignored God’s command in the Garden of Eden it was inevitable that Blue Beard’s bride would disobey him and use the one key he explicitly instructed her not to use. From the outset, we knew that she was going to go through a door into a room containing a terrible truth.

Apart from the secrets, we, as individuals, keep under lock and key, families have secrets which have been carefully locked away.

Sometimes it is best to keep those safely stored in lock proof places.  Entering lock proof places can end in tears. Just as Blue Beards bride came to grief for violating a lock proof place one of my ancestors was transported to Australia from Scotland for having had nimble fingers. The punishment was so severe that after being freed he left Tasmania and settled in Victoria under a new name. It took over a hundred years for this truth to be revealed. Happily, most living Australian relatives were more than a little excited to have genuine convict roots.

The Old Castlemaine Gaol

Revealing secrets does not always go so well! It can be painful to choose to unlock some of the secrets that have been carefully hidden from view. However, there are very real benefits from uncovering truths. By taking a close look at a family secret an individual may just be freed from the impact that secret has actually had on their life. Most importantly, some genuine healing may take place.

Bring a family secret to the surface and give it some air. Take it out and carefully interrogate it. Be honest and consider the impact of concealing the truth, of keeping the secret under lock and key. Remember, you can always choose to lock it away again!

Lock and Keys – Real and Imaginary Travelling in Lemuria by Imogen Crest

Posted in Apothecary for the Creative Spirit, Art and Healing, Artistic Almshouse, Artistic Midwife, Expressive Arts, Lemurian Adventures, Purveyor of Creative Stimuli

Lemuralia – Banishing Malevolent Ancestral Spirits

Patrons of the Soul Food Cafe who found their way through the back tunnels into the fantasy world of Lemuria will appreciate material describing this festival!

Lemuralia, also called Lemuria, was a festival observed in ancient Rome to banish malevolent spirits of one’s ancestors from one’s house.

To cleanse the house, the head of the household had to wake at midnight and wash his hands three times. Then, while walking barefoot throughout the house, he would throw black beans over his shoulder nine times while chanting, “haec ego mitto; his redimo meque meosque fabis.” This translates to, “I send these; with these beans I redeem me and mine.”

The ritual was said to have been started by Romulus to appease the spirit of the twin brother Remus that he had killed for jumping over a wall. Because of this annual exorcism of the noxious spirits of the dead, the whole month of May was rendered unlucky for marriages, whence the proverb Mense Maio malae nubent (“They wed ill who wed in May”).

The Japanese have a similar ceremony for driving out demons. On February 3, the head of the householdputs on his best clothes and goes through all the rooms at midnight, scattering roasted beans and saying,“Out, demons! In, luck!”

Look carefully at the family tree and see if there are any negative spirits who have been impacting on you that need to be removed. Consider having a dialogue with them and talk about why they need to be doing something else now.

An article about the festival

Posted in Ancestral Medicine, Apothecary for the Creative Spirit, Art and Healing, Artistic Almshouse, Artistic Midwife, Epigenetic Inheritance, Expressive Arts, Heather Blakey, Purveyor of Creative Stimuli, Resilience, Romancing the Creative Spirit

Bon Odori Festival Japan

“Old fathers, great-grandfathers,
Rise as kindred should …”
(Yeats)

Bon Odori is a Buddhist custom that lasts for three days, most commonly celebrated on the fifteenth of August. The Bon Odori Festival has been celebrated in Japan for over 500 years and is meant to honour and commemorate dead ancestors. The festival originates from a legend in which a man asked Buddha for help when, while meditating, he saw that his deceased mother was trapped and suffering in the realm of Hungry Ghosts. Buddha advised the man to pay homage to the monks who had just finished their summer meditation. The man did so and he saw the release of his mother. Overjoyed with the outcome he (naturally) broke into dance.

Bon Odori has evolved into a family reunion holiday during which people return to ancestral family places and visit and clean their ancestors’ graves, and when the spirits of ancestors are supposed to revisit the household altars.

The Bon festival is not a solemn time. It often involves fireworks, games, feasts, and dances, including the Bon Odori, which is danced to welcome spirits. Buddhist temples in cities around the world host Obon festivals: vendors offer tantalizing Japanese cuisine, temples fill with visitors and an Asian cultural influence is in full force. Originally a Buddhist-Confucian custom, the Japanese have been visiting ancestors’ graves and honoring the spirits of deceased loved ones during Obon for more than 500 years.

We do not need a specific festival to pay homage to the dead. The story of the man releasing his trapped mother will inspire me to meditate upon ancestral lines and consider those who need a kind word of rememberance, who need to feel loved! There are plenty of ways to pay homage to such spirits. We can either write a letter, visit a grave, make an altar or simply light a candle in the place where ashes were scattered.

I plan, amongst other things, to get a lantern to hang from the branch of the tree in my front yard where I scattered the remaining ashes of my father, mother, husband and much loved companion animals.

Posted in Ancestral Medicine, Apothecary for the Creative Spirit, Art and Healing, Artistic Almshouse, Artistic Midwife, Epigenetic Inheritance, Heather Blakey, Purveyor of Creative Stimuli, Resilience, Romancing the Creative Spirit, Self Compassion, Soul Food Cafe

Make Descansos to Honour Ancestors

Traditionally Descansos (Spanish for ‘place of rest’) marked
the place of loss. Often we pray that the one who has died will rest in peace. In truth, it is those that are left behind that face the challenge of resting peacefully. Descansos is also a way to mark a loss and a space to find peace.

I first learned about the concept of Descansos when I read Clarissa Pinkola Estes ‘Women Who Run With Wolves’. Estés writes that there is a time in our lives, usually in midlife when a woman has to make a decision – possibly the most the important psychic decision of her future life – about whether to be bitter or not”. 

Estes describes how when you travel in Old Mexico, New Mexico, southern Colorado, Arizona, or parts of the South, you will see little white crosses by the roadside. These are descansos, resting places. The concept of marking resting places is not confined to the United States or Mexico. They may be found in Greece, Italy and many other countries, including Australia.

When I photographed these wayside memorials I was actually thinking about other ways to mark and lay to rest other important moments in our life. Over eleven years ago I applied the concept of Descansos to mark the loss of my husband to cancer.

Now I am thinking that making visual maps and marking the moments that changed lives, be they major or relatively minor events, has a lot of potential as a part of a project to honour ancestors. Clearly, if we have lived a long time our bodies have accumulated a lot of debris but the science of epigenetics also suggests that we are also carrying ‘the sins of our’ forebears. We can make descansos by taking a look, not only within our lives but in the lives of our ancestors. We can take the time to carefully mark the small deaths and the big deaths.

On a big sheet mark with crosses the places where even before infancy events impacted on your life. For example, the premature death of my maternal grandmother impacted not only on my mother but reverberated and significantly affected my life. Mark the roads not taken, the ambushes, betrayals and deaths. Mark the places which should have been mourned and consider spending time noting what has seemingly been forgotten, but which like the spirit of Joan of Arc lives on.

Making Descansos:

Imogen Crest

Posted in Ancestral Medicine, Apothecary for the Creative Spirit, Art and Healing, Artistic Almshouse, Artistic Midwife, Epigenetic Inheritance, Expressive Arts, Heather Blakey, Purveyor of Creative Stimuli, Resilience, Soul Food Cafe

Visit the Isle of Ancestors Tonight

I come to the island
tonight to remember
blood that runs in my blood
all those whose footsteps marked their passing
sailors who travelled far
and brought their stories
teachers who told the tale
babes who listened cuddled safe in strong arms
young wives who became grandmothers
grandmothers whose young lives
were cut short
for tonight the pibroch rings through the mountains
and in far away places
young lovers dance once more
to the mellow tones
of a saxophone
and the children’s piping voices
remind me that I too was young
once
Fran

Writing letters to ancestors is an activity many have worked with. High school English teachers give it as a writing assignment, websites have cropped up offering a place to publish them, and books are written about them. Sometimes they are written to famous people. Other times we write them to those we loved who have died or even to those with whom we have a troubled relationship.

Back in the day when I was overseeing the Soul Food Cafe patrons who found their way through the cavernous tunnels into Lemuria visited the Isle of Ancestors. After completing an Ancestral Isle Meditation they posted moving accounts on a collaborative blog.

This Samhain I am returning to the Isle of Ancestors, but before I go I will light some candles beside a photo of my parents and hope that I may spend some precious time with them simply remembering and letting them know what I have been doing lately. Perhaps you will make the journey too!

A Card from Dad

The other day
while searching
for something unrelated,
I stopped to look at pictures
made so long ago,
and there I found,
a postcard from Dad.

Among long forgotten images
of Mum and Dad,
and me
when I was small,
eight as I recall,
was
a sepia picture postcard
from Dad.
On the front,
a picture of
the First and Last House
on that glorious British Isle.

On the back,
the writing faded,
was the message.
Dear Vi, it read,
I’m sending this inside Mum’s letter
because I do not want it spoiled.
Keep it for a souvenir of me,
Love, Dad.

Seeing,
holding,
and reading its message now
after so many years have passed,
means more to me, I think,
than it did
when I was eight.

My Dad … he was my pal,
and though he never said
he loved me,
never hugged me,
I knew I was his buddy,
but was I not his daughter, too?

Those simple words
across the years
tell me that,
despite his silence,
he loved this child,
but couldn’t voice the words
that would have meant so much.

Two years later
and far too young,
he was taken,
ravaged by
the cancer that took his mind
and made him crazy.

Now that I am old,
his words are strong
and clear.
I am his daughter,
always was—
Love from Dad

Vi Jones
©February 5, 2006

Another Suggestion:

At one time the Family Tree Magazine suggested writing thank you notes to ancestors and they include samples of some that appeared.

Posted in Ancestral Medicine, Apothecary for the Creative Spirit, Art and Healing, Artistic Almshouse, Artistic Midwife, Contemplative Practice, Epigenetic Inheritance, Heather Blakey, Purveyor of Creative Stimuli, Resilience, Self Compassion

Honouring Ancestors

Many of these contemplative practices provide a doorway to connecting with our ancestors.

All Souls’ Day was first instituted at the monastery in Cluny in 993 CE and quickly spread throughout the Christian world. People held festivals for the dead long before Christianity. It was Saint Odilo, the abbot of Cluny in France, who in the 10th century, proposed that the day after All Saints’ Day be set aside to honour the departed, particularly those whose souls were still in purgatory. Today the souls of the faithful departed are commemorated. Although All Souls’ Day is observed informally by some Protestants, it is primarily a Roman Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox holy day.

All Souls’ Day in Mexico is a national holiday called Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). Many people believe that the spirits of the dead return to enjoy a visit to their friends and relatives on this day. Long before sunrise, people stream into the cemeteries laden with candles, flowers and food that is often shaped and decorated to resemble the symbols of death. Children eat tiny chocolate hearse, sugar funeral wreaths, and candy skulls and coffins. But the atmosphere is festive.

While there are ritual ways to honour ancestors at Samhain, Ancestral Medicine provides some timely advice. Their article offering five ways to honour your ancestors includes some great suggestions such as fulfilling one’s life purpose, staying open to direct communication with them and establishing a physical place to honour them.

This November I am committing to spending twelve months learning more about contemplative practices, epigenetics and to finding ways to actively honour those who walked before me.

Posted in Apothecary for the Creative Spirit, Artistic Almshouse, Bohemia, Czech Republic, Expressive Arts, Heather Blakey, Interpreting Spaces, Kuta Hora Sedlec Ossuary, Prague 2018, Purveyor of Creative Stimuli, Romancing the Creative Spirit, Travelling Solo

Solo Traveller – iPhone Story Starters

During my seven days in the Czech Republic, to quote Thoreau, I chose to ‘live deliberately’, mindfully and with intention. For most of the time in Prague, I stayed clear of the primary tourist haunts. However, I took the advice dispensed by sites like Solo Traveller and booked two tours that took me out to villages in the Bohemian countryside.

I stepped on to the tour buses with an open mind, prepared to relinquish my abhorrence of guided tours for two single day trips. Needless to say, I found kindred spirits on board and we shared many laughs, sat over lunch and had fascinating conversations that I will not forget. One of my companions was with a group of architects who had been given a ‘Victoria and Albert’ style ticket to Prague to enrich their understanding of architecture. Martha, like me, was taking photographs of details rather than broad sweeping vistas!

Each photograph here tells a story, brings back memories of day trips I will never forget, largely because I mindfully planned and navigated them by myself.

Posted in A Retrospective View of Soul Food, Apothecary for the Creative Spirit, Art and Healing, Artistic Almshouse, Artistic Midwife, Expressive Arts, Heather Blakey, Soul Food Cafe

Beginning of a Retrospective

Imagine my surprise when I passed through the door to see a little girl waiting. At first, I noticed her beautiful friendly smile. Her hair hung loosely around her shoulders, and her dress, which was a beautiful red colour, hung in tatters around her knees.

As I walked towards my room she skipped along beside me, chattering all the while. Her spark and enthusiasm rubbed off onto me and I suddenly knew that I was going to enjoy this time away in the Grotto.

I walked into my room and felt a cosy warm feeling. Through the french windows, I could see the beautiful gardens, overlooking the lake. The sun was gently sinking to the west and I knew that I was going to sleep well this night.
by Leonie Bryant
Responding to the call to join the Enchantress!


The basic theory of evolution is surprisingly simple. It has three essential parts:

  • It is possible for the DNA of an organism to occasionally change, or mutate. A mutation changes the DNA of an organism in a way that affects its offspring, either immediately or several generations down the line.
  • The change brought about by a mutation is either beneficial, harmful or neutral. If the change is harmful, then it is unlikely that the offspring will survive to reproduce, so the mutation dies out and goes nowhere. If the change is beneficial, then it is likely that the offspring will do better than other offspring and so will reproduce more. Through reproduction, the beneficial mutation spreads. The process of culling bad mutations and spreading good mutations is called natural selection.
  • As mutations occur and spread over long periods of time, they cause new species to form. Over the course of many millions of years, the processes of mutation and natural selection have created every species of life that we see in the world today, from the simplest bacteria to humans and everything in between.

Billions of years ago, according to the theory of evolution, chemicals randomly organized themselves into a self-replicating molecule. This spark of life was the seed of every living thing we see today (as well as those we no longer see, like dinosaurs). That simplest life form, through the processes of mutation and natural selection, has been shaped into every living species on the planet.

Can such a simple theory explain all of life as we know it, explain the creative process?

The Soul Food Cafe is just one example of the truth of this simple theory. Explaining the evolution of Soul Food is a bit like explaining how one species could transform and become another.

Soul Food came into being when computers around the world began to talk to one another. It began as a simple writing directory run by one person and evolved, transformed into the complex site, still run by one person with the support of volunteers. The Soul Food Cafe spread over thousands of pages and was added to by hundreds of people.

In the early days, when the site was primarily a directory, students were encouraged to use Bravenet Forum as a place to publish responses to stimuli directly online. They delighted in seeing their work go into a public arena and enjoyed being able to show family and friends just how computer savvy they were.

As Soul Food began to house and preserve the work of students it began to morph into another shape. Prior to the advent of intuitive programs that removed the need to write HTML it, quite literally, took many hours to code pages and publish student work. Once we began using Bravenet Forums it was possible to copy work from this container and paste it into Student Folio pages within what was named the Student Lounge. Copying and pasting work onto templates dramatically reduced the workload and revealed new possibilities.

As the word about the nature and style of Soul Food spread via Yahoo Groups and email, artists were drawn to the site from all over the world and the site began to mutate and take on a life of its own. It became a place to inhabit rather than just a place to visit and then leave. The first shifts were subtle but with communication channels open and operating the whole thing began to take a new shape.

Once the blogging revolution took hold things really began to evolve and change. The advent of blogs, facilitating multiple users bought a whole new direction. Members of the Yahoo Group who were invited to slip through the portal and meet an Enchantress in The Cave of the Enchantress willingly came knocking on the door

I’ve walked the pathways
lost an hour dreaming by the waterway
launched my winged canoe
and floated past the great white mountain
flown across the sea
and painted a few dolphins during flight
but
when this morning I reached the silence of Umbria
I knew I could not go
into the cavern, or any place beneath the ground
unless I was allowed to take the sunshine with me

Now I have made my gate
and posted it twice
I can press its magic bell
and hope that the enchantress will let me in
with my box and hope that she will let me keep the light
as I wander the strange labyrinth
and seek direction from strangers

by Fran Sbrocchi

This Cave of the Enchantress was one of the first of Soul Food’s collaborative blogs. By 2010 The Soul Food Cafe had almost two hundred collaborative blogs, catering to different genres and concepts.

Posted in Anticlinal Fold, Apothecary for the Creative Spirit, Art and Healing, Artistic Almshouse, Artistic Midwife, Aussie Birds and Animal Wisdom, Heather Blakey, Purveyor of Creative Stimuli, Romancing the Creative Spirit

Time to apply some mettle

Emu is a powerful teacher and guide. It promotes spiritual excellence and achievement by encouraging diligence, hard work, respect and humility in the lives of those it visits. Emu demands the great application of time, energy and love to all spiritual pursuits and can guide those who seek knowledge down paths of wisdom.

Emu is an excellent guide for those interested in shamanic pursuits and techniques. It is one of a few animal guides that is very powerful for shamanists, or those who simply strive for brilliance in all that they do. Emu guide can be quite stern and is a custodian of societal law. When emu appears in your life, it is time to apply some mettle and hard work to your situation. Emu doesn’t permit laziness, and emu energy is not very relaxing or soothing.

The energy of emu tends to come about at a time when rapid movement can be nourishing. Many animals teach us to slow down and take our time, but emu comes into our lives to say ‘speed up, work hard.’ Rapid movement can also be applied physically, through exercises like jogging and physically demanding cardiovascular movement. It can be applied spiritually, by drastically increasing how often your journey, make offerings or rituals, pray etc. Look at what you are doing to serve yourself, your spirituality, or others, and multiply it.

On a personal level, I sense, as I work with children at Winters Flat Primary School, that it is time to apply some mettle and grow a fresh very wild garden.

Posted in Apothecary for the Creative Spirit, Art and Healing, Artistic Almshouse, Artistic Midwife, Aussie Birds and Animals, Heather Blakey

Making space for intuition

You only need to be silent and look into the eyes of the frogmouth owl to know that this wise creature is reminding you that great wisdom comes from within silence.

Artists talk about the negative space. Negative space is, quite simply, the space that surrounds an object in an image. Just as important as that object itself, negative space helps to define the boundaries of positive space and brings balance to a composition. As I have worked with primary school students they have come to truly understand what can be drawn from the negative space that silence creates.

Spirit echoes through the silence, sending us messages. It is important to follow the visions that rise up from the time spent in silence.

Posted in Akari Write Your Own Adventure, Apothecary for the Creative Spirit, Art and Healing, Artistic Almshouse, Artistic Midwife, Contemplative Practice, Expressive Arts, Heather Blakey, Resilience, Romancing the Creative Spirit, Soul Food Cafe, Wild Play

Romancing the Creative Spirit

Archie Hair’s precious box of wonderment

I have been romancing the creative spirit by wandering back into Soul Food and using tried and true idea generators with children in years 4-6 at Winters Flat Primary School. We have used guided imagery to wander deep within a seashell, through a pearly door to an alternative world. We have chosen fragments from my box of wonder and within seconds of holding it in our hand told stories to one another. We have sat drawing Prince Prospero’s (Edgar Allen Poe Masque of the Red Death) castle and given Red Death a face, written ballads and news reports about the Masque of the Red Death and marvelled at the wisdom of Australian birds and animals.

Children have loved contemplating how to build up their artistic eyes and they have written with speed and passion that is a joy to watch. Words literally fall on to the page within just ten minutes! Ballads, lyrics, complex drawings, news reports, fiction and folklore have emerged on their pages and the excitement, as they share their work and cheer one another on is palpable.

Over the coming weeks, I will be featuring some of their work. It feels good to be romancing the creative spirit again!

Posted in Apothecary for the Creative Spirit, Art and Healing, Artistic Almshouse, Artistic Midwife, Aussie Birds and Animal Wisdom, Heather Blakey, Purveyor of Creative Stimuli, Resilience, Romancing the Creative Spirit, Self Compassion, Wild Play

Hear the song of your soul

To hear the song of your soul

The whale is renowned for its soul songs, songs that enrich and nurture the soul. Carl Sagan taught that one of the truly magical things about whales was the importance of their songs. Whales, quite literally, have a catalogue of songs that they remember and sing. Apparently, they have a different song for each month of the year. They will also have a special song that they sing in a certain location, leave, come back and pick up the song again. These soul songs travel far and wide throughout the oceans.

Since I have been on placement at Winters Flat primary I have remembered the song of my soul. I am back in the classroom as a specialist teacher of writing working with children of all ages and plan to feature the activities and responses of students, parents and teachers in a special Advent Calendar at the end of this year.

Here are some words that are associated with the whale. Think of them as fridge leftovers and make something out of them. Sing a song, be it a ballad, some hip hop, a hymn or a rhapsody and share it today.

  • Abundance
  • Awakening
  • Awareness
  • Balance
  • Beauty
  • Communication
  • Community
  • Consciousness
  • Conversation
  • Creation
  • Creativity
  • Devotion
  • Emotion
  • Experience
  • Family
  • Imagination
  • Inspiration
  • Knowledge
  • Language
  • Movement
  • Navigation
  • Nurturance
  • Psychic
  • Rebirth
  • Record Keeper
  • Rhythm
  • Song
  • Speed
  • Strength
  • Telepathy
  • Understanding
Posted in Apothecary for the Creative Spirit, Art and Healing, Artistic Almshouse, Artistic Midwife, Aussie Birds and Animal Wisdom, Aussie Birds and Animals, Heather Blakey, Purveyor of Creative Stimuli, Resilience, Still-observing, Wild Play

Give With An Open Heart

Because the turkey is closely associated with the spirit of the Earth, it is also symbolic of feminine energies at work in our lives. This animal has been revered in ancient traditions as a symbol of fertility and abundance.

The turkey is a useful guide to unlocking the fullness of life. It invites those who have it as a totem to cultivate the balance between giving and receiving and find contentment in what they have.

The spirit of the Turkey totem puts an emphasis on community and the importance of sharing and generosity. The wisdom of this spirit animal is about paying attention to the people who are part of our life, whether it’s our family members, coworkers, classmates, or society at large.

When the turkey shows up as a spirit guide, it encourages us to see beyond our immediate personal needs and foster a sustainable relationship with others. Those who have the turkey as a power animal or totem may be inclined to be generous and giving without expecting anything in return.

Turkey comes to remind us to share our gifts with those around us, without any expectation of receiving. The only way to receive is to give with an open heart.

Posted in Apothecary for the Creative Spirit, Art and Healing, Artistic Almshouse, Artistic Midwife, Aussie Birds and Animal Wisdom, Contemplative Practice, Heather Blakey

Raven’s Magical Thinking

Hold still and be yourself! Be borne up upon the wings of power. Taste the frontier! Wander along the boundary fence and feel its special power.

When you meet Raven, he could be telling you that there will be changes in your life and that possibly you should step by the usual way you view reality and look into the inner realms …walk your talk…be prepared to let go of your old thinking and embrace a new way of viewing yourself and the world.

Given that I have just let go of Soul Food it is no accident that my totem bird, the Raven, has appeared to remind me to embrace a new way of identifying myself. Raven’s appearance is reassuring! He uses his adaptability to magically be present when least expected.