Posted in Art and Healing, Artistic Almshouse, Artistic Midwife, Aussie Birds and Animal Wisdom, Purveyor of Creative Stimuli, Resilience, Romancing the Creative Spirit

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.

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, 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 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 Bohemia, Czech Republic, Heather Blakey, Kuta Hora Sedlec Ossuary, Prague 2018, Purveyor of Creative Stimuli, Wild Play

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.

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 Art and Healing, Artistic Almshouse, Artistic Midwife, Aussie Birds and Animal Wisdom, Contemplative Practice, Heather Blakey, Purveyor of Creative Stimuli, Resilience, Romancing the Creative Spirit, Wild Play

Strengthening our Artist’s Eye

One of the oldest art forms on the planet is the artwork of the satin bowerbird. If we take the time to observe we can learn from this bird. We can learn and strengthen our artist’s eye.

The male bowerbird creates what is called his bower. It’s not a nest, but an artwork he builds in the hope he can attract a female to visit it, observe his performance in and around the bower, and then—if he’s lucky—mating just might occur!” In parts of Northern Australia, the bowerbird collects colourful rocks, leaves or other trinkets and patiently places them in an artistic formation. When the shrine is complete they wait patiently for females to approach to judge their creativity. If the females like what they see the pair will breed.

Take the time to go out and gather some special pieces to make a bower, or altar of your own.
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.

Posted in Heather Blakey, Soul Food Cafe

The Act of Letting Go

A couple of weeks ago Lizard entered my life, reminding me of being able to let go! This week, when I was quoted over $5000 to keep Soul Food online for another five years I was challenged! After personally sponsoring this site for over eighteen years, letting go of Soul Food felt like letting go of a part of myself.

When under threat the Lizard will let go of its tail as a defence mechanism thereby ensuring his survival. Choosing to let go of Soul Food quite clearly is not a question of surviving. However, this aside, Lizard is calling upon me to demonstrate that I have the ability to let go.

As it happens, although the site will not be as accessible to the visitors who have benefited from it, Soul Food gets to live on as a part of internet history. It can live, in its entirety, in the Wayback Machine, waiting for internet archaeologists to dig and explore. The work of this web archive is amazing! I am grateful that they are the caretakers now! I will be donating to them https://archive.org/donate/. You will find links, that take you into the Wayback Machine, to favourite Soul Food features, such as the Advent Calendars, ABC of Alchemy and Chocolate Box on the sidebar of this site

Somehow it is very appropriate that Soul Food now lives ‘way back’, representing a part of who I was. Especially as I approach the finishing line, ready to graduate after four years of study, it is time to carve a new niche for myself and find new directions.

Tips for Letting Go

Mind Body Green

Turn to Gratitude for the Present

 

Posted in Art and Healing, Artistic Almshouse, Artistic Midwife, Aussie Birds and Animal Wisdom, Heather Blakey

Drawn by the Light

Potoroos belong to a small family called the Potoroidae (rat-kangaroos), within the large superfamily Macropodoidea. The rat-kangaroos are small marsupials which hop on their hind feet, dig for much of their food with well-developed forefeet, and have a complex stomach that allows them to extract nutrition very efficiently from their diet. The Potoroidae contains several small genera, including Bettongia, (the bettongs, such as the burrowing bettong and the brush-tailed bettong) and Potorous, containing the potoroos.

The Potoroo has a habit of spending their time in damp pockets of forests, hiding from the eyes of humanity. They nest during the day and at times during the night in bowl-shaped depressions beneath the spreading sedges, generally well hidden beneath the shrub canopy. They come out to feed, at night when most humans have gone to bed. After an extended period of accumulated losses I abandoned much that I did and, while I have not exactly been hiding from humanity, I have kept a low profile.

Life is a discovery of self and, as I complete the last subject of a Masters of Social Work  I have been gifted with fresh insight. I have been affirmed! I have been shown the benefit of the skills I acquired along the way and I can see that it is time to resurface! As I tentatively resurface I am welcoming the fresh insight that comes when you emerge from the darkness into the light and when you can what you have been blind to.