FRIDAY, JULY 10, 1942
Dearest Kitty, I’ve probably bored you with my long description of our house, but I
still think you should know where I’ve ended up! how I ended up here is something
you’ll figure out from my next letters.
The diary of Anne Frank is possibly one of the most famous World War 2 diaries. Anne Frank recorded daily events, her personal experiences and her feelings in her diary for the next two years. Cut off from the outside world, she and her family faced hunger, boredom, claustrophobia at living in confined quarters, and the ever-present threat of discovery and death. One day, she and her family were betrayed and taken away to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where she eventually died.
It is very important that our narratives are recorded. This poem, whose author remains unknown, provides another record. It resonates at a time when we are urged to stay safe and stay at home during the Corvid 19 pandemic.
And the people stayed home.
And read books, and listened, and rested,
and exercised, and made art, and played games,
and learned new ways of being, and were still.
And listened more deeply.
Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows.
And the people began to think differently. And the people healed.
And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways,
the earth began to heal. And when the danger passed,
and the people joined together again,
they grieved their losses, and made new choices,
and dreamed new images,
and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully,
as they had been healed.
Begin a Stay Home Stay Safe Journal or Diary today. Alternatively, set up an Instagram account and keep a record there.
Last week in the Great Escape – Intensive Journal Writing session we invited a Goddess to step forward to support and guide us. We used a deck of cards that feature the exquisite work of Susan Seddon Boulet.
Since then I have been exploring further and I have been pulling out a selection of resources to help expand our work with the Goddess in our journals.
This week we will be working with the Katharina Rapp’s Everyday Goddess Cards a friend lent me. With a delicious and slightly wicked sense of humour Rapp’s paintings take a light-hearted, yet compassionate look at the lives of everyday women. While her cards are out of production you can visit Studio Rapp in Castlemaine and immerse yourself in the world of this talented artist.
Mother, mother, what ill-bred aunt
Of what disfigured and unsightly
Cousin did you unwisely keep
Unasked to my christening, that she Sent these ladies in her stead
With heads like darning-eggs to nod
And nod and not at foot and head
And at the left side of my crib?
-Disquieting Muses 1957 Sylvia Plath
Back in the day, when I first began running writing classes, I used to invoke the Muse by setting up an altar, burning sage and having everyone actually imagine they could hear the rustling of gowns as the muses came to join us. Ask anyone who participated at that time and they will leave you in no doubt that the Muses were responsive. These wild women were overjoyed to be invited, having felt that they had been all but forgotten for centuries.
At this same time, I was establishing the Soul Food Cafe and one of the early sections I built was The House of the Muse. As a part of this feature, I gathered a collection of hymns to the muse. Then, when my late husband and I travelled throughout Europe for six months the absolute highlight was finally reaching Delphi, Mount Olympus and other sanctuaries in Greece. At Delphi, I called upon the Delphic Oracle and all but plunged myself in the famed waters of Castalia. I bought back bottles filled with water from the Castalian Spring, decanted the magical water into smaller bottles and gave these to those willing to anoint themselves and experience a heightened sense of creativity.
Time has passed and I have never forgotten these big-hearted muses who were so responsive to my call for support. Perhaps it was these heavenly spirits who gently reminded me that there is a whole cast of female mystics who would willingly give their time to massage the creativity of those who feel that it has waned a bit.
Little wonder that, seemingly by chance, I came into possession of Mirabai Starr’s ‘Wild Mercy – Living the Fierce and Tender Wisdom of the Female Mystics’. It is the perfect text to introduce early in my Great Escape – Intensive Journal Writing Class.
To learn more about what we did in this class and to engage online you need to subscribe to Trains of Thought. To get the key to Trains of Thought choose the amount you are able to afford (no more than $40 in your currency), pay heatherblakey@fastmail dot fm via PayPal and contact her with details of your WordPress account. It is very easy to acquire an account with WordPress and you may choose to keep your intensive journal online in a private blog. Once you have subscribed, email me your WordPress account email and I will add you to the site. This is intended to become a collaborative blog and you will be able to post and comment.
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.
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.
It was Grand Final Day and crowds were packing the MCG. This is the day everything seems to stop in Melbourne and the city takes on the feeling of being a ghost town as people gather in venues to watch the match. It is the day of bar-b-ques and general partying.
Not being vaguely interested in football, the big match or for that matter being in a crowd, I was feeling a little restless.
Sensing my need for broad open spaces on land where there is a whole lot of nothing, Akari (my beloved Mazda 3) rattled her wheels and said she was up for one of our mystery tours. So, without stopping to gather any supplies, the Lappies (my two Finnish Laphaunds) and I set off on one of our expeditions.
The area around Bealiba was originally known as Cochrane’s, after John and James Cochrane, who took up a pastoral run in 1853. When gold was discovered in 1855-56 the area was known as Cochrane’s Diggings, but the surveyor who laid out the township in 1862 adopted the name of the pastoral run, ‘Bealaba’, later Bealiba. It is thought that the name is derived from Aboriginal words meaning red gum creek.
Once a hub for those seeking gold today Bealiba is a quiet little town. With nothing open to visit, I was content to go to the historic cemetery where one is inevitably confronted with the grief that people who lived in this harsh place endured. As the headstone I photographed testifies, the mortality rate amongst infants was very high. The loss endured by John and Mary Jones is hard to imagine.
Glancing at the petrol gauge Akari and I agreed that it was best to head towards St Arnaud. The drive from Bealiba to this gracious old town seemed to take forever and Akari and I muttered to one another about the folly of deciding to wander about in a part of the world where there is hardly a car to be seen. But we pressed on, relieved to finally reach our destination and stop to refuel, for me to savour coffee and a packet of mixed sandwiches. As I looked at the beautifully manicured park across the road I did think that next time we spontaneously decided to head bush I might pack my picnic basket.
Logan, with its endless variety of absolutely nothing, represents outstanding paucity of value for the tourist dollar. Situated in an area that boasts some superb scenic, high speed, touring roads with extremely low traffic density this is a shabby scrap of dying history
So journey to Logan and relive the shocking hardship of those wretched souls who opened up this land for reasons that no historian has ever been able to fathom.
All roads lead to the Logan Pub.
Sourced from Logan Pub Website – a delightful must read.
As we left St Arnaud I contemplated how far it was to get back to Castlemaine. It was a pleasant surprise to stumble upon the Logan Pub in The Scrub a hotel which promotes itself as offering old fashioned hospitality. The hotel’s quirky website informs us that Logan, a rustic and historically significant hamlet in North Central Victoria, offers the genuine tourist a wealth of valuable experiences.
The perfect place to wait and meet Godot I wondered?
Over a lemon-lime and bitters and a bag of potato crisps, I stopped to chat with the bartender (look carefully you will find him in the photo I took) and took in my surroundings. I mentally noted the assorted items that were hanging from the roof and adorning the shelves. Nearby the huge screen revealed that the big match had started and an array of country folk began to materialize to watch it. I was happy to slip quietly away and head home via Tarnagulla.
A day spent in a land where there is supposedly nothing revealed that there is always something. There never was nothing in the beginning and it turns out that there is something very special in a part of the world that proclaims to be a place where there is a whole lot of nothing.
Footnote: This post is taken from a journal entry. I am offering an intensive journal writing course at the Castlemaine Community House beginning on October 16th. An online version is available at Trains of Thought but only subscribers can view this. Feel free to contact me for more details.
Trains of Thought is the private blog that subscribers who want to engage in The Great Escape – Intensive Journal Writing course can join. This site will house resources and prompts. This is one sample post. Members of Bancroft Manor are eligible to participate. You do not have to join the Manor House. To engage simply choose what you can afford to pay ($20, $30 or $40) using your own currency. Payment can be made via Paypal using the address heatherblakey@fastmail dot fm (obviously you need to insert a dot to use this address)
“As the oak tree lies hidden in the depths of the acorn, so the wholeness of the human personality with its fullness of spiritual and creative capacities lies hidden in the depths of the human being silently waiting for its opportunity to emerge.” — Ira Progoff, Depth Psychology and Modern Man
I have had my copy of At A Journal Workshop for over twenty years and regularly turned to it when I am working with people who have signed up for the writing courses I regularly offer. Although I have a well-marked copy of this classic book about journal writing I have never undertaken the course. However, I am tempted to go to Eremos in Sydney in November to complete a two-day course.
After writing about the atmosphere of a journal workshop Progoff introduces what he calls the Period Log as a way to begin the work of drawing our life into focus. He talks about beginning with the Now but explains that the Now is not limited to an immediate instant.
When I consider the Now I am reminded of a session with my ‘therapist’ (journal) where we discussed my perception of how much the landscape of the internet has changed since I ran the Soul Food Cafe. I went on to explore, in stream-of-consciousness, how I am no longer sure where or whether I fit in. My period log provides the space where I can record these insights in a succinct, objective entry. I also included a sketch of myself looking from the outside, in wonder at the overcrowded urban cities that have sprung up in cyber-space. I also note aspects of a recurring dream where I cannot find my way in an urban environment.
After completing an exercise like this in a class setting I often ask participants to identify a character and, using material from their entry, write a scene in the first person. After completing an exercise which involved going inside a sea shell Jannali used her observations to complete a piece.
When searching the internet I found Ed Levin sharing entries from his period log. It is worth exploring Levin’s blog to see how he has been working in an online setting.
A book I strongly recommend that participants examine is ‘A Life Of One’s Own’ by Joanna Field (Marion Milner). In my mind, this is like the Period Log Progoff speaks of. Check out the review at Brain Pickings to learn more about this amazing existential experiment, much beloved by W.H. Auden. After writing this Milner went on to fill her ninety-eight years with a life of uncommon contentment, informed by her learnings from this intensive seven-year self-examination.
Remember that the Present Period will vary with each individual. It may:
Before beginning to undertake an entry in your journal learn about Entrance Meditations.
“I looked at other journals, notably those of Dostoevsky and Anaïs Nin, and I could see that, for them, the journal was a vehicle that led to greater creativity. But I found that a good many other journals were just diaries: without a project to be done, people’s diaries just went around in circles.”
Everyone has a life and that life must be his or her great work of art. There’s an underground stream of images and recollections within each of us. The stream is nothing more or less than our interior life. When we enter it, we ride it to a place where it wants to go. It is within this interior world that we can come to identify who we really are and what our big project is to be.
Cast aside any preconceived ideas you may have about journal writing. Take the quantum leap! Select a journal, pack a creative medicine bag and prepare to go deep within.
Intensive journal writing is quite different from diary writing. There are many good reasons to make the commitment to find sanctuary and to work within a journal. Keeping a journal provides you with the opportunity to
This journalling course will help almost anyone who wishes to go deep within and explore his or her life as a work of art. Everyone ends up with a journal full of stories and recollections and often surprising new insights about the most fascinating mystery of all: themselves and their relation to the world around them. To engage you don’t need to be a mystic or perceive yourself to be incredibly creative. All you need is a life!
Check some samples of Intensive Journal Writing activities.
If you are interested in engaging in this course you can make enquiries at the Castlemaine Community House. Alternatively, you can contact heatherblakey@fastmail dot fm to subscribe and join Trains of Thought, a site containing resources and prompts. Contact Heather Blakey for details.
ah, the tambourine
rattle snake enchantment,
rhythm beat of blood and soul
and call to dance –
all in flirtation yet more
as life and pledge and doing
weave in the fire’s blending
swirl skirt and jangle coins,
tempt me with dreams enchanting –
and then be close at dawning
when the dew
must be taught
from the Lemurian Gypsy Camp
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.
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
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.
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.
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…
View original post 287 more words
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)
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.
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.
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.
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, 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.
“Old fathers, great-grandfathers,
Rise as kindred should …”
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.
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.
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
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
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,
when I was small,
eight as I recall,
a sepia picture postcard
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,
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,
the cancer that took his mind
and made him crazy.
Now that I am old,
his words are strong
I am his daughter,
Love from Dad
©February 5, 2006
At one time the Family Tree Magazine suggested writing thank you notes to ancestors and they include samples of some that appeared.
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.
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.
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!
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.
I discovered that a Prague market really is authentic, genuine and very popular among the locals. Prague markets are on throughout the year, most typically on Saturday mornings, but I first visited the Jirak market on a Wednesday. This market presented what is in season and what you should expect – and demand – on the menu in the best restaurants in Prague.
The Jirak market is at the Jiriho z Podebrad square in what is if the number of designer stores is any indication, the affluent and swanky Vinohrady district.
Going to Jirak not only introduces you to a local market but it also enables you to see a residential area of Prague outside of the centre. It is smaller than the popular Naplavka Market but the atmosphere is less busy and easier going. While you can enjoy some traditional Czech food without the madness of the more central Prague markets I opted for some hot Pizza and a juice.
Another bonus of this market is that there are a lot of benches around the market so you can just enjoy the moment, listening to local musicians, watching the local crowd, in the shade of the TV Tower and the Church of the Most Sacred Heart of our Lord which dominates the square.
Personally, a highlight was finding the Boho Cafe, store and eclectic purveyor of vintage goods just around the corner. I sat and enjoyed coffee from fine china and water served in Bohemian crystal glass that one might expect to be presented with at high tea in a very swanky hotel.
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:
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
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.
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.