Category Archives: Heather Blakey

Down Memory Lane

ah, the tambourine
rattle snake enchantment,
rhythm beat of blood and soul
and call to dance –
tiny footsteps
all in flirtation yet more
as life and pledge and doing
weave in the fire’s blending
of all
and nothing
evermore.

swirl skirt and jangle coins,
tempt me with dreams enchanting –
and then be close at dawning
when the dew
must be taught
to sing.
from the Lemurian Gypsy Camp

Bancroft Manor is a Virtual Residence for Creatives

After enjoying a cup of Red Bush tea with Mma ‘Precious’ Ramotswe of No 1 Ladies Detective Series fame I decided to camp under a tree in the grounds of Bancroft Manor. It bought back memories of joining a Gypsy Caravan Camp back in the days when Soul Food Cafe travellers gathered and travelled Lemurian roads together.

As I lay sipping more red tea I realised that I had found another project to undertake while I am in residence at Bancroft and ‘Waiting for Godot’.

The Soul Food Cafe, which I built and ran between 2000-2010 still exists online. A series of life’s challenges took me away from the Cafe and I stopped growing it in 2010. However, it is still all there and I have decided to wander back through the labyrinthine corridors and create a Bumper Catalogue of Creativity to honour a site which impacted on the lives of so many early internet explorers.

Lived Experience Narrative

During these sessions, we will work collaboratively in a safe, supportive environment. We will pursue the idea that everyone has an important story to tell. We will spend time yarning with one another, extend our reach and interview people from diverse walks of life. We will also build up personal dossiers of our lived experiences and explore how to share our stories safely, for the benefit of ourselves and others.

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

Date: Thursdays, 25th July – 12th September (8 weeks)
Time: 6.00pm – 8.00pm
Where: Castlemaine Community House, 30 Templeton Street.
Cost: $200 (Full) or $180 (Conc. or Early Bird Discount. EDB available until 4th July)

Tutor: Heather Blakey

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.

Mah Meri Tribe Celebrate Ancestors

The Mah Meri tribe in Malaysia, is a small minority of the country’s population, where people celebrate the death festival by remembering their ancestors. It’s a day of dancing that’s steeped in tradition. The photographs are spectacular!  Such a rich tradition!

Malaysian villagers give thanks in an ancestor-worship ceremony.

Members of the Mah Meri tribe don their intricately-carved masks and perform the historic Main Jo-oh dance for the annual Ari Muyang festival in Pulau Carey, 90 miles from the capital Kuala Lumpur.

The local people use the festival as an opportunity to offer prayers and blessings to their forebears, as well as thanking ancestors for good fortune in the past and hoping for future prosperity.

Each family will have built their own altar, or panga, to their ancestors not far from their house, which is loaded with flowers, incense and food the night before.

The mixture is then burned, the smell of which is believed to alert the ancestral spirits to the gift.

The date of the festival changes every year and is influenced by the lunar cycle. It is also thought by some the date of the ceremony is delivered to a village elder in a dream by the spirits of his ancestors.

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

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

A Touch of the Macabre in Kutna Hora

If I should die,
And you should live,
And time should gurgle on,
And morn should beam,
And noon should burn,
As it has usual done;

‘Tis sweet to know….
That commerce will continue,
And trades as briskly fly.
It make the parting tranquil
And keeps the soul serene,
That gentlemen so sprightly
Conduct the pleasing scene!

Emily Dickinson

Once I learned about the Sedlec Ossuary I knew that I would be making a visit to Kutna Hora during my time in the Czech Republic. It was by sheer chance that I stumbled upon Prague Bus Tours as I scurried away, fled from the milling masses in the Old Town Square in the centre of Prague. There was little to hold me there!  Overpriced cafes, endless shops selling piles of tacky souvenirs, horse and cart rides and the usual get on, get off bus tours. There may well have been better deals available but this company, true to their word, picked me up at my Airbnb and even went out of their way to drop me at another address on the return journey.

The only downside was that our charming guide never had volume button so we could not lower the sound as we drove through the Bohemian countryside. When two American women and I tumbled off the bus all I could mutter was that “I only came to see the bones!”. As we distanced ourselves from the very loud commentary I teased others and asked why they were not taking notes. Much to fellow travellers amusement, I remarked that there would be a test at the end and if we failed we would have to do it all again, with him, tomorrow.

That aside, nothing prepares you for the awe-inspiring Sedlec Ossuary. For once I was speechless! It is magnificent and I was taken by what I perceived to be ‘reverence’ for those fallen whose bones lie here.

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