Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas witterings...and music!

I wrote this a few years ago (long before I had any way to inflict it upon hapless readers!) and thought, well, now is an appropriate time to post it.  Just a few witterings about Christmas, Jesus, the Green Man, Herne the Hunter and other odd things floating around in my odd little brain!

When I think about Christ these days, I see him as a much more accessible figure than I did a few years ago, and oddly enough, this is because some time ago I finally admitted to myself that I simply am not, and have never been, a Christian. My idea of Jesus merges with my ideas of the pagan figure of the Green Man, the two seem immensely compatible to me, and this has allowed me to engage with the idea of Christ in a way I never thought possible. He has entered my pantheon, so to speak, as one of the manifestations of the divine masculine, now that I’ve finally stopped worrying about the claims of Christianity that he is the only one.

I didn’t grow up in a religious household, about the only time I ever saw the inside of a church was at family weddings. But, like most Australians, I grew up in a Christian Culture, I even had RI (Religious Instruction) at school. So I knew all about Adam and Eve, Noah and his ark, Moses, the three Wise Men, the crucifixion, and all that other stuff that we seem to learn by osmosis. But none of it ever ‘spoke’ to me, and quite early on I developed a distinct dislike for the whole ‘Lord, Father, Obey, Fear, One-True-God’ deal, to the point where I actively refused to even mouth the words to the prayers we were supposed to be saying at those weddings!

Perhaps even back then, I was aware that, as a female, there wasn’t really a place for me in all this. I felt excluded. But as a young child I was not aware of any alternatives, and it’s not as if finding my true spiritual calling was on the top of my priority list at age ten or so. It was more just a sense that it wasn’t right for me, I didn’t fit. But something was calling me, I just didn’t have a name for it. It called me through the books I read, and perhaps most influential at the time was Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series. It was most likely here that I first encountered the idea of a Goddess, ‘The Lady’. Or at least, the idea of a Goddess still active and immanent in the world. And it was here too that I first came across a very different image of the divine masculine, an image that most definitely did speak to me, so much so that I felt I was not discovering it for the first time, but rather rediscovering, remembering something I’d always known. And that image was Herne the Hunter.

I cannot now remember where or when I first became aware of the Green Man, but it must have been around the same time, and it too came with a powerful feeling of recognition, the rediscovery of something so familiar, so right, that I wondered how I could ever have forgotten. These two images entwined themselves together in my pre-teen mind, and remain connected, like two faces of a coin, even today.

So where did this leave Christianity? I think I’ve always known that I’m not a Christian, but to actually decide for sure, rather than prevaricating and just calling myself an ‘agnostic’, was a big step. To finally reject it all, instead of trying either to make me fit it, or it fit me, was quite a ‘leap of faith’. But an interesting thing happened. I rediscovered Jesus. Not in that ‘born again’ manner, it was just that I suddenly realised that I didn’t have to be a ‘follower’ to appreciate good advice when I heard it. I’d always thought that Jesus himself was quite a cool dude who said some pretty important stuff. But the two thousand years of baggage that Christianity brought with it just seemed to me to be a barrier to an appreciation of his teachings. I felt that if I agreed with some of what he said, I’d have to take on all that other Christian stuff and give myself the ‘Christian’ label. And I knew I just couldn’t, because I disagreed emphatically with a great deal of it. But when I finally decided, OK I’m not a Christian, I’m a Pagan and I always have been, it suddenly dawned on me that I didn’t have to throw baby Jesus out with the bath water. Just as I can appreciate the teachings of Buddha without being a Buddhist, I can take on all the good stuff Jesus said, without having to take with it all that other stuff. And for me, two thousand years of accumulated junk dropped away, and I discovered two distinct Jesus images that I could engage with.

Firstly, the man. ‘Just a man’, just like the song from Jesus Christ Superstar tells us. Not always perfect, so I don’t have to agree with everything he said, but a guy who shook up the establishment, dared people to take a long hard look at themselves, right into their hearts, and to change themselves for the better and change the world at the same time. And what better teaching can we have in today’s world of fear and ignorance, hate and violence, than “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”? There are a few so-called Christians who could do with a refresher course on that one.  It recently occurred to me too, that Gandhi's quote, "be the change you wish to see in the world", means essentially the same always starts with ourselves.

The second Jesus is a little more complex. And a little more ambiguous too, because he is hard to pin down. He is not a single idea, with a clear beginning and end, he is rather an accumulation of millennia of spiritual and religious ideas. He is a mythological figure, the divine solar child born at the winter solstice, born not as a physical child, but as a promise. A promise that the wheel of the year will keep turning, that rebirth will come, a promise of hope and renewal for the future. He is one of many similar deities, dying and reborn Gods who remind us that the cycle of life continues, that death is temporary, and must be followed by rebirth, just as in the depths of the harshest winter, my northern hemisphere ancestors were given the promise that spring will come. So many traditions accepted now as important aspects of Christmas, as well as other ‘Christian’ festivals like Easter, have been grafted on from these other sources, these older myths, from many different parts of Europe and the Middle East too. We can see the parallels between the Jesus myth, and those of Horus, Tammuz, Apollo, even Odin hanging on the Tree Yggdrasil to gain knowledge, or Prometheus paying the ultimate price to bring light (or perhaps enlightenment) to humans. He wears the mantles of many.

Of course, in the southern hemisphere, the ‘birth’ of this deity is celebrated in the middle of summer, which perhaps doesn’t make much sense if we think of him only as a dying and reborn seasonal God. Many down-under pagans prefer to celebrate this in June at our Winter Solstice. But for me, Christmas has developed a richer meaning than it had previously. Because really, the celebration of the birth of a divine child who carries all our hopes for the future of the world, for peace, for renewal and replenishing, for rebirth on a spiritual and emotional level, could happen anytime. What more perfect image could there be for the flame of hope we all carry within us for a better world, than a tiny, vulnerable baby? A baby who must be loved, cherished, nurtured and protected. A tiny ray of light, a spark of divinity held within the so very fragile body of a newborn. This tiny child, whatever he (or indeed she) is called, touches a huge number of people, and if that large number of people are all thinking about this on the 25th of December, what better time to chime in with my own feelings of love and compassion and hope?

Now perhaps it’s just my own peculiar brain, but I tend to see concepts as colours, and for me, Hope is green. It makes a kind of sense, if you think about the tiny green plants pushing their way to the surface of the soil, reaching towards the sun, growing, telling us that the ‘dead’ time of the year is over and the world is full of burgeoning life again. Of course, the Green Man is a part of this, he is the guardian of the natural world, the wild world that humans have tried so hard to control, or failing that, to destroy. At Christmas, we hang up our plastic Holly and Ivy, mostly unaware that these evergreens were part of that promise of rebirth, the promise that the ‘Green’ time would come again. I see them in part as the Green Man’s promise that he has not abandoned us, though he may have ‘died’, he is still with us and this is his promise that he will return. Now you’re probably thinking that I’ve gotten myself mightily confused and don’t know whether I’m talking about summer or winter, Christmas or Winter solstice, birth or death, and maybe you’re right…but it works for me. The tiny child whose birth is celebrated on the 25th of December is the symbol of hope in a world that desperately needs it. The adult Jesus who sacrifices his life for the greater good, and who, according to a story as old as time, dies and rises again, is the Green Man, promising us that the cycle goes on, the winter will end and spring will come.  Darkness will not prevail and light will return.  Whatever we choose to call him, he still holds out his hand and says “do not be afraid, death is not the end, I will always return.”

*       *       *

And now for some appropriately Christmassy music...just in case you haven't yet been driven screaming up the wall by endless renditions of 'Frosty the @#$$&% Snowman' and 'Rudolph' in the shops and malls...I think I barely escaped with my brain intact this morning, and needed a cup of coffee and and a lie down when I got home!

First...Tim Minchin again.  Yes, I know, a Christmas song by an avowed atheist.  But it says a lot about Christmas that I like, and agree with.  And it's sweet and funny.

I learnt this one as a kid, so probably an acquired vegemite!

And lastly, this is 'Taladh Chriosda', the Christ Child's Lullaby, by the group I used to sing with years ago.  No, that's not me hitting the high notes (though I can... in the shower!), I'm singing down in my boots on this one, replacing the tenor who left for greener fields (or Byron Bay actually)!

Merry Christmas, Happy Midwinter, or whatever you might be celebrating, I wish you all a wonderful time, good food, good friends and family, peace and goodwill to all.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Another view of Beauty...

A few months ago, Beloved and I watched the live broadcast of Tim Minchin's concert at the Sydney Opera House, 'Tim Minchin vs The Sydney Symphony Orchestra'.  It was repeated on saturday evening and so we watched again, and again I marvelled at the intelligence, skill and talent of a local Perth boy who's made good.  I know Tim isn't everyone's cup of tea, I suspect he falls into the either-love-him-or-hate-him category, but he's not only a consummate performer, he also has a unique ability to make you laugh, while you're thinking 'that's awful, I shouldn't be laughing at that', while at the same time, you're thinking, 'God, he's absolutely right, I do that too, I never thought of it that way before.'  I like all of his material, but this song stopped me in my tracks and almost made me cry the first time I heard it, and I felt the same way hearing it again the other night.  Typically of Tim, his song is a masterpiece of contradiction.  I won't try and explain it, just listen and read the lyrics.  And I think it is a great song for those of us who try and create beauty in what we do, to remember that beauty alone is not enough.  There must be heart and soul as well.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Etsy Shop Update: New Prints etc

This is me attempting to sound organised, as if I do regular shop updates at precisely 10.58pm every Thursday evening...ha, ha, ha...oh dear!  But it SOUNDS lovely and organised and businesslike, doesn't it?!  But I'm not really kidding any of you, am I?!

Anyway...well yes, I have listed a bunch of new things in my Etsy shop, and there are several that have never even appeared here on my blog, so I'll be interested to see what people think of them.  Here are some of the new ones.

Shell 2, from the 'Journal Collection' (there are 4 in the set, and are now all available as A4 prints)

The Elements.  It's 'Fire' that started everything off actually, you can thank her for my deciding to give the 'professional artist' gig a go.

Babel-On.  Witterings and wafflings on the inadequacy of language...and a girl with a castle for a hat!

La Belle Dame Sans Merci.  Because I've loved John Keats' poem since I first read it as a teenager.

If you haven't yet checked out the Magic4Terri auctions, pop over there now, as it all ends in about 10 hours and there are wonderful things to be found.  I've got two offerings there, and the set of 4 A4 prints of your choice (with lots more to choose from now) is still sitting at the bargain price of $40.  The A3 print of 'Beauty Remembers' has shot up to $65, so I'll be adding in lots of extra goodies to that one.
And given that I've once again failed to be organised enough to have lots of Christmas goodies in my Etsy shop actually in time for Christmas, I'm considering getting in early and having a Pre-Post-Christmas sale.  What do you reckon!!?

Of course, that would mean getting it done before Christmas.............

Ooops!!  I forgot to mention that I've also listed these tea bag and vintage book paintings in my shop as well!  All are mounted with plain white mount, as the 2nd and 3rd photos show.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I've never won a Beauty Contest before! And more things for Magic4Terri!

WELL!  THIS was the news that greeted me on Saturday!  How wonderful, I'm amazed and excited and jumpy-up-and-downy!  It seems this little chap will be making his way down-under, to find a new home in the attic (well, actually, more likely the hallway or the lounge room, I wouldn't want to hide him away!)

 Thank you so much to Jackie Morris, I'm humbled and chuffed by her wonderful comments.  She understands my 'Beauty' completely.

And speaking of 'Beauty', I've had several people asking about larger prints of her, so I've been experimenting trying to get an A3 print that I'm happy with quality-wise.  I thought I'd offer the first one to the Magic4Terri auction, so pop over and put a bid on, I've set an opening bid of $20 and I'll pay for postage, or $35 and I pay postage as a 'Buy It Now' option (only available on the first bid).  These will be $40 normal price I think, plus postage of course, so get in early to get a bargain, and help Terri out.  And my earlier offering is sitting at $30 now, for the 4 A4 prints of the winner's choice, so still a bargain too (normally would be $80 total, plus postage for 4 prints).

Friday, December 9, 2011

Some rough music (as opposed to 'rough magic') for Beauty, and a Beauty contest!

I know you've all seen this before, but there IS something new, honestly...I just wanted to keep all the bits together in one post.  I've been wanting to set 'Beauty Remembers' to music for a while, but I'm always better with a deadline (otherwise I can go on faffing about forever) and I wanted to record something in time for Jackie Morris' 'Contest of Beauty' (though her NEW blog can be found HERE).  I did a VERY rushed version this morning, while Beloved was dropping the girls off at school.  My window of opportunity was small, about 15 minutes before he was back and needing to get onto the computer (he is FLAT OUT with work at the moment!).  So this is me sitting slightly squashed in at the computer desk, reading the words off the computer as I sing into the dodgy little mic on it.  So there are more than likely a few 'ambient' sound effects in the mix, like cars, planes...Flynn going off at something (she's a strange dog, she prefers to bark at nothing!).  Warning, it is VERY rough...even scratchier than my previous attempts, but oh well, it's done...for now.  I will probably try and recored a better version sometime in the future, but of course, it won't sound quite the same, because it's not a 'song' as such, more me playing around and making it up as I go along, so difficult to repeat myself, and anyway, I would always want to 'improve'.  Hope you can hear through the dodgyness something that is actually not bad!

And the poem is HERE (though I have added, or rather added back in) a line for the painting and the song.

Note: Edited 25 October 2016, to add a Soundcloud link, because Divshare seems to have swallowed all my old recordings! :(

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Magic4Terri...a very quick post!

Just to let you know that there is an online auction happening HERE to raise funds for writer, editor, artist and faery godmother to countless up and coming fantasy writers and artists, Terri Windling.  She is going through a very difficult time at the moment, and the fantasy world (yes, it does exist) is pulling together to help her out.  There is some AMAZING stuff up for auction, like original Froud and Lee works, so pop over and have a look.  My own humble offering is  the winning bidder's choice of any 4 of my A4 prints (normally $20 each) and I've set the bidding to start at $10.  Or you can 'buy now' for $70, and get $10 off the normal price, plus I'll pay postage.  You've seen him before, but I'm rather fond of him, so here's one of the prints on offer.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

'Photo Essay'...or, why I haven't been blogging lately!

Hmmm, it's been a month since my last post, oh dear.  I find that the longer there is between posts, the harder it is to write anything.  There's so much I've got lined up I want to talk about, it just gets to be TOO much and it all becomes too hard and I give up and go and watch something dumb on TV instead...a bad habit I really must give the flick to!  So just so you know I have been doing something while I haven't been waxing lyrical (aka waffling pompously!) in the's a list of stuff I've done.  Which I've decided to give the very undeserved, but terribly professional sounding, name of 'photo essay'.

Sooooooo...during the school holidays, munchkins and I made a 'spring goddess' scarecrow for the vegie garden out the front.

Her head has seen a LOT of history!  An old polystyrene foam wig/hat stand, which I swiped from the wardrobe department in the theatre at uni about 14 years ago (well, ok, I asked first), and used for a life-size (and very basic) puppet 'Miranda' for the one act reworking of "The Tempest" that I wrote and directed there.  Hands were courtesy of Beloved who made them for me back then.  She's been knocking around in old boxes and upside down in crates since then, so I decided it was time to give her a new lease of life.  So munchkins were given one side of her face each to paint, on strict instructions that there would be NO FIGHTING OR MUMMY WILL DO IT!

Then we decorated!

They seem pretty pleased with their work!

Munchkins in the foyer of the Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, after the two day puppet-making workshop. Smallest made a 3-eyed alien, and biggest made a dragonfly (with a touch of Dame Edna Everage I think).  I was volunteering, and had a great time and learnt lots.  Particularly the wonder that is the HOT GLUE GUN, which I have never used before...I now own my very own.
Can you tell which are their favourite t-shirts?  And hats for that matter!

I bought THIS book (re-worked for the Australian market), and tried out the simple cheese recipe.  And it worked!  Even munchkins declared the fresh herb cheese to be yum
Equipment laid out.

All that it required was supermarket bought full-cream milk, and some lemon juice!  

Lemon juice added to the hot milk.

Curds put into the muslin to strain.

Knotted up and left to drip overnight.

This was my actually second attempt.  The first went so well, I made a double batch this time because I wanted to see if I could make a 'baked ricotta' style as well.  So half was mixed up with some salt and fresh herbs from the garden, and the other half mixed just with salt, and put into the muslin lined mould (the middle of a yoghurt container with top and bottom cut off) and weighed down with a can (which very conveniently fitted perfectly into said yoghurt container!), and left to drain overnight again.

Very carefully wrapped in baking paper and popped into the oven.

Crikey!  It actually worked.  And it tasted alright too!

A cuppa out under the apricot, which now is in full leaf (and is covered in apricots...we've already started 'jamming').  Me looking slightly rumpled (ok, it's how I usually look!), with my painting apron on...well, it's a painting apron now!

The garden looking at about its best I think, everything blooming and green and lovely!

The Lavender and those lovely poppies.

Some small feral creature spotted on the back lawn.

And California poppies too!

On the last weekend of the October school holidays, we went camping up in the hills, in the Darling Ranges out past Gidgegannup to the Avon National Park.  And trying out our new Pentax DSLR.  Looking north westish.

Fairly impressed with the zoom!

Sunrise on the granite outcrops that overlook the valley below.

Looking back over to the north west, to see the moon going down.

The way the granite splits naturally fascinated me, it looks for all the world like some ancient human cut monument, old standing stones perhaps, that have fallen in the aeons since they were built.

Munchkins in matching hats scarpering over the escarpment!

Dinner on the Barbie.  Grandad cooks!  Our tent in the background.

Ahhh, now you could have knocked me down with a feather when beloved said "you know, we need something to hang up here, some kind of a family decoration or hanging, something we can put up every time we go camping."  Because, well, I'M the hippy, tree-hugging, rainbow-kombi-wishing member of the family, and beloved...well, he likes motorbikes...and stuff like that.  So, after I picked myself up out of the dust, I suggested some prayer flags.  And because I just happened to have brought my little green handy sewing case with various scraps of fabric with me...I set about making some straightaway.  And here they are!

View from the big rock which munchkins insisted on climbing without PG!

 Then back to school, and I put my hand up to help out in biggest munchkin's art class again.  They're looking at mythical creatures this term, so this was my idea for an art project, junk monsters.  This was the first prototype to show the teacher to see what she thought.  Of course, I was only half an hour into it and I realised that this one was perhaps a bit complicated for 2 adults to supervise 27 small children to make, so I made a simpler version as well.  But I had so much fun making this (adults really should do stuff like this more often, pure silly fun is so good for you), I decided to finish it and show the class anyway.  They were pretty excited, and I've seen some lovely monsters being created in the last three weeks since they started working on them.

And so, back to the garden!  This is what the vegie garden is looking like now.  
The triffid on the right was once a Cos lettuce.  The triffid on the left is a Beetroot.  I have never seen beetroot run up to seed before! And spring isn't even over yet!

And this is my cherished Elder plant.  Well, that's what it says in the label.  And it looks like the pictures I've seen.  But aren't Elder flowers supposed to have a lovely scent?  And aren't they tasty enough to actually make fritters out of?  These, however, have no smell that I can discern, and after having a nibble on a couple of blossoms, no taste either.  Anyone know what's up with it?  I had utterly implausible romantic dreams of making my own Elderflower wine and Elderberry cordial, and they have been dashed to pieces by the utter inodorousness of my Elder plant...sigh!

And finally (this must surely be the most photos I've ever put in one blog post), I was asked by the school if I would run a little art club on Friday afternoons for Years 4-7.  And for reasons unfathomable to shy and never-taught-anything-to-anybody me, I said yes.  I decided to make some simple hangers with the kids, and here is a sample of finished work after the first 4 week block.
They're rather lovely, aren't they!

Phew!  So, I haven't been spending ALL that time watching Big Bang Theory!

Related Posts with Thumbnails