Category Archives: Expressive Arts

A Not So Silent Partner

This is the image that is on the front of a card I am using to promote my Creative Health workshops. In sessions I have run I have asked participants to spend some meditative time gazing at this masterpiece. I remind them to focus simultaneously on breathing and to simply notice the colours, faces, forms and shapes: to let everything go in and out of their mind like clouds passing through the sky.

It is only after doing this that we spend time interpreting and I explain the link between the image and my perception that I am not only working with each of them but with their silent and not so silent internal partners.

Quite a crowd of not so silent partners work with me. In the heydays of the Soul Food Cafe, it was the Enchantress, Sibyl Riversleigh, Ebony Wilder and the Lemurian Abbess who impacted on my creative work. Now it is Georgina McClure, the matron who presides over Bancroft Manor and the Bancroft Estate.

If you are interested in protecting your creative spirit you may be interested in joining the creative collective that is slowly growing in numbers.

The Uninvited Guests

I am currently working with children from the Castlemaine area at the Castlemaine Community House. The course is called ‘Stories by Me’ and runs for eight weeks. I posted the activity to the Bancroft Manor Collective, suggesting that they might like to work alongside the children. I will be sharing this response to the activity they also did tomorrow night.

At The Crossroads

The Beach was gone, the sky was gone, the guy with the Frisbee and no one to toss it to was gone and the bad tempered lady who had snapped at my dog when he ran up to her wagging his tail  was gone too.

I hope a shark got her.

Right now, at this very second it was just me and my dog and we were standing in the hallway of a dusty  house  and I hoped an empty house. I was hoping it was empty because it looked exactly like my Grandmother’s house.

Nobody went into Grand’s house without an invitation, not even her family

My Grandmother’s house was not a normal house, which made sense because my Grandmother was not normal. Her house was haunted and cursed and she was the reason for all of those things.

My Grandmother is a Witch, you see. And she’s not…

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Writing for Wellness

Are you interested in writing for self-exploration? Would you like to enhance your own personal or professional development through creative writing?

This 8-week course, led by Heather Blakey, guides students in creating a mindful writing practice, exploring therapeutic and reflective writing, through a variety of techniques.

A minimum deposit of 25% must be paid before Thursday April 18th to secure a place in this course.

Date: Wednesdays, April 24th – June 12th (8 weeks)
Time:
6.30pm-8.30pm
Where:
Castlemaine Community House, 30 Templeton Street.
Cost:
$200 (full) or $180 (Early Bird Discount, available until March 27th)

 

After a highly successful inaugural class, I am also offering Drilling Down: Writing For Wellness 2. Experienced writers seeking to ignite the creative flame, or those who engaged in my Travels with A Donkey Course may also enjoy this group.

The other class I am offering is Stories by Me, a course specifically designed with children in mind. But it would be fun to have some adults and children engaging simultaneously.

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

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.

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.

Places for Quiet Meditation – Prague

 

Throughout most recorded history, human societies have used various types of cemeteries for burial purposes; this theme points to humanity’s need to construct a meaning behind death and reflect life into the places where the dead are interred. Whether the bodies of the deceased are placed in the ground, within elaborate tombs, or simply in the presence of ancient or contemporary monuments, their location holds symbolic meaning as well as practical historical meaning for the surrounding living community. 

At the beginning of November, Mexicans celebrate Día de los Muertos, Day of the Dead. People wash and sweep their family’s grave-houses, decorate them with flowers, bring their loved ones’ favourite dishes, and eat the meal by the graves.

Up until the early 20th century, cemeteries in America were a popular place to relax, picnic and get together near a loved one’s grave.

In Prague, the old Jewish Cemetery is a popular place of pilgrimage, particularly by Jewish people who come to pray and leave small coins on tombstones. While I was in Prague I visited this famed cemetery but I managed to find my way to the Old Jewish Cemetery in Zizkov and the sprawling, beautiful Olsany Cemetery which is also in Zizkov.

The challenge, this November, is to think of a ritualistic way that I can honour my ancestors.

The Art of Overseas Gift Shopping

1950’s Bohemian Crystal Beads and Brooch

Wiki How, which claims to explain how to do almost anything, actually has an interesting page about how to buy Souveniers and Gifts Overseas! Needless to say, I only found this page as I prepared to write this post.

Happily, I only intended to buy a couple of gifts while away, but I must admit that, as I walked up along the streets towards the Old Town Square in Prague, I felt despondent! I was not impressed with the tacky tourist offerings. I was looking for posters but instead saw cheap teatowels, postcards, magnets and assorted junk that I wouldn’t even buy for our ‘who can choose the tackiest, ugliest Christmas present’ contest.

Map of Zizkov

As my day for departure drew closer and I had no more success in the villages we visited,  I had all but given up! Then, as if by magic, (well Google actually) I found out about Bohemian Retro. Even with a map in hand, I had trouble navigating my way to this small vintage store which turned out to be only a few streets away from my Airbnb! Believe it or not, when I staggered into Palac Acropolis Retro (which includes a bar and restaurant) to ask for directions, I found the owners of Bohemian Retro having their lunch. I decided that lunch was actually a very good idea and enjoyed an authentic Czech meal served with the most amazing mashed potato of all things – all for little more than five Australian dollars.

On their web page, Bohemian Retro include snippets from the press that they have clearly enjoyed. One fan writes that

If you want to be cheered up, feel welcomed, find something unique and totally in your price range, and walk out feeling better than you did when you arrived – then definitely come here and visit Becky

In fact I don’t even know why I’m raving about this place because it just means you might go and buy something that I’ve been eyeing .. But there are always some surprises waiting so be sure to visit and take a look!

As a Buy Nothing New, vintage shop, charity shop fan, I was certainly cheered up as I rummaged through the piles of goodies. Bohemian Retro is the kind of place I take people on mystery writing tours because the goods have so many stories to tell.

Ultimately it was the 1950’s  Bohemian Crystal bead necklaces that were affordable and not from the heavily branded company with stores up and down the alleyways of popular tourist villages, which caught my eye – along with some delightful brooches.

Completely satisfied with my selections, carefully placed into lovely old jewellery boxes at no extra expense, I treated myself to a tiny hand-stitched wall hanging to pin with a host of other things I have on pinboards, located, believe it or not, in my toilet. Ask my friends! Complete with fairy lights it is quite a gallery there now!

On my final day in Prague, inspired by my success at Bohemian Retro, I intended to visit a charity store I discovered was within walking distance from my apartment.  Alas, it was closed, as was the Poster studio I had found out about. But back at the market, I managed to pick up some cool second-hand books! Another time I will be better prepared and I will have researched and identified precisely where to go.

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.

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.

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!

Actively seeking that which fulfils my needs

It is no accident that Parrot has flown into my world, encouraging me to keep seeking what nourishes me. Like the parrot, we are each wonderful beings, each gifted with special skills. The parrot’s resplendent colours speak of wearing one’s beauty on the sleeve. The parrot is a gregarious bird who enjoys the interaction with others. After so long tucked up inside my burrow I am happy to be interacting with others.

The parrot also has a great ability to satisfy its needs by foraging for food and nesting places. It is known to eat fruit and seeds and builds nests in all manner of places. Like the parrot, I am actively seeking that which meets my personal needs and the really good news is that a vision is, like a jigsaw puzzle, falling into place.

Life is for the enjoyment of living

It is not surprising that Kookaburra has flown back into my life to remind me to lighten up. Working at Winters Flat Primary for my Masters of Social Work placement feels like I have come full circle. It is a little like a final jigsaw piece falling seamlessly into place. Nonetheless, I have expended more energy than usual and I am tired and emotionally more vulnerable.

Kookaburra has flown in, not only to remind me to treat myself over this weekend but to suggest that everyone have a good look at this article about using your senses to reduce stress! 

Hearing Kookaburra’s laugh reminds me to remember that life is for the enjoyment of living. Since it is so cold and wet here in Castlemaine today I think I will treat my senses to another hot bath in a room filled with some rose incense I picked up.

 

Letting Go

The frilled lizard grows to around 45-90cm in length, about two-thirds of which is tail. It has a vivid yellow mouth and a large extendible frill gathered about the neck and under throat. The combination of the gaping mouth and the wide, brightly coloured frill provide an intimidating sight to any potential predator. It frequently runs at speed on two legs to escape danger, quickly climbing the nearest tree to safety. Their colour can be brown or grey with the frill being lighter and often tinged with orange or reddish-brown. Males are bigger than females and have a more robust appearance. There are two long, pointed canine-like teeth present in the lower jaw, which can inflict a painful bite.

There is so much that we forget to remember. One thing that Lizard has not forgotten is how to let go. Lizard when under threat will let go of its tail as a defence mechanism thereby ensuring his survival, yet we find it hard to let go of the past issues. Remembering these will always be a part of our undoing. If we could only remember to trust and let go our enlightenment would be ensured?

What needs to go! Call on your ability to let go!

Being Honest About Everything

Numbat’s focus on detail leads to an inevitable scrutiny focusing on whether we are being satisfied by life at this current time. Ask yourself if there are things you can change in your life, and things that you want to change.

Be honest about what is right as well as what you want to achieve and who you want to become. Be honest with every aspect of your life because you are the one person you can forever count on. Search your soul, for the truth, so that you truly know who you are. Once you do, you’ll have a better understanding of where you are now and how you got here, and you’ll be better equipped to identify where you want to go and how to get there.

Numbat gives you the power to focus, and dissect the things that are no longer helping you from the things that are.

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