Tag Archives: Artistic Almshouse

Wild Food for the Creative Spirit

The bodhisattvas are beings who have realized enlightenment but who remain active in the world, appearing in many forms to help others and lead them to enlightenment. They are venerated and called upon for help in time of need. Creative people  are known to suffer from periods where they feel that the  spirit of creativity has gone walkabout and abandoned them. At such time Quan Yin may be just the deity to turn to.

One of the deities most frequently seen on altars in China’s temples is Quan Yin (also spelled Kwan Yin, Kuanyin; in pinyin, Guanyin). In Sanskrit, her name is Padma-pâni, or “Born of the Lotus.” Quan Yin, alone among Buddhist gods, is loved rather than feared and is the model of Chinese beauty. Regarded by the Chinese as the goddess of mercy, she was originally male until the early part of the 12th century and has evolved since that time from her prototype, Avalokiteshvara, “the merciful lord of utter enlightenment,” an Indian bodhisattva who chose to remain on earth to bring relief to the suffering rather than enjoy for himself the ecstasies of Nirvana. One of the several stories surrounding Quan Yin is that she was a Buddhist who through great love and sacrifice during life, had earned the right to enter Nirvana after death. However, like Avlokiteshvara, while standing before the gates of Paradise she heard a cry of anguish from the earth below. Turning back to earth, she renounced her reward of bliss eternal but in its place found immortality in the hearts of the suffering. (Read More)

One of the challenges of keeping a journal is deciding what to write about. In my Great Escape – Intensive Journal Writing course I provide stimuli which will induce a flow of words. I have a collection of oracle cards which I encourage participants to draw from. The Wild Kuan Yin Oracle set by Alana Fairchild is one pack that I have found feeds the creative spirit.

In a journal writing class, I remind you that within you beats a wild and compassionate heart, alive with fierce optimism. You have the courage to walk a path of transformation. You will not be tamed by convention. You are not afraid to be different, to take risks for what you love, and most of all, to keep hope in your heart. You are one of the wild ones.

Drawing a card from this deck can help when the Spirit of Creativity appears to be distracted and wandered off. This oracle deck channels the energy of the Divine Mother to bring you comfort. She’ll remind you of your fire, your boldness, your unique beauty, your passion, your courage. She’ll guide you through even the darkest trials into the blessing of new life. She’ll open your heart and mind to untold possibilities and assist you to live your highest destiny with fearlessness and joy.

Intensive Journal Writing – Give Voice to the Sacred Fool

It is time for play. The more bizarre, left field, unexpected and apparently ridiculous the better. This may not feel safe or appropriate at first. That is okay. That is good actually. It is a sign that you are breaking with your self-imposed conventions. It is time to move beyond them now because a bigger life adventure is calling you.
Sacred Rebels – Alana Fairchild

The Great Escape – An Intensive Journal Writing Course begins on Wednesday the 16th of October at the Castlemaine Community House.

This is a time when we can unleash and play with the Sacred Fool. The fool is a great rebel, able to thwart conventions and tell the truth without restraint.

Our journals provide a safe space to let the fool, who does not give a hoot about what the mind is saying, have free reign. In an intensive journal writing class, we do not have to worry about being socially acceptable or what others may think of us when we sit outside reading children’s books to the trees.

The day time class provides the opportunity for us to sling our creative medicine bags, filled with supplies, over our shoulders and wander around Castlemaine. For example, in order to position ourselves in the now, we may take time to visit the nearby collectible place and see what items demand to be given a voice within our journals. We may sit outside the nearby coffee house, visit the art gallery and step inside artwork, check out what is going on at the Railway Station or just wander down some streets and see what endless variety of nothing turns out to provide a rich vein of gold.

For details check out the Castlemaine Community House. Alternatively, if you are interested in joining a small evening group in a private home, contact me for details.

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 can now be found in the archives of the Wayback Machine. 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.

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.

Shedding Light on Aspects of the Lives of Ancestors

According to ‘Wisdom of the Australian Animals’ when a saltwater crocodile silently watches you he is not only thinking of tonight’s dinner but this powerful creature is also asking you to look at family secrets and to allow aspects of the lives of ancestors to provide some illumination.

At a time when I have been looking at ancestral wisdom and actively working with life stories, I was a little taken aback when a woman, researching the life of my great-great-grandfather, George Watson, and his brother John who were prominent mercantile shipping personalities in Hobart in the early 1800’s, contacted me.

Her enquiry, along with the crocodile’s nudge, inspired me to take another look at the lives of these ancestors. Given that I do not have a seafaring bone in my body I cannot even imagine life as the captain of whaling ships.

However, I do live in a house in George Street which has glass doors with images of Blue Gum Clippers of the kind they built in the Battery Point Ship Yards in Hobart.

Clearly, I am on notice to look at these ancestors again. Perhaps there is something, not only in my great-great-grandfather’s spirit of adventure but in his work with convict lads, that will guide future work and creative projects.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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