“Chalice of the Red Moon” – 11″x14″ pastel on velour paper
I once picked up a book to read entitled Red Man’s Religion. After I read a few pages, it hit me that I should have realized from the prejudicial title that I would get only a distorted view of Native American beliefs. As an example, the author, R. M. Underhill relates, “Fear of the menstruating woman is widespread throughout the world. Female catamenia, related to childbearing, indicated a power impossible to males. In time, there grew up a feeling that it was harmful to all male activity, including ceremony.” What the author fails to understand is that in many nature religions menstruation is considered a hugely powerful time for women. The Native Americans refer to it as a woman’s “moon time” since just like the moon influences the tides, it tends to influence a woman’s period.
When the perspective is looked at by a Shaman trained in the native ways, such as Nicholas Noble Wolf it is recorded very differently. “We traditional people do not see it this way [harmful], as moon-time is a place of honor and beauty.” He goes on to explain, “… when a woman is embodying the moon, she is embodying a huge reservoir of power—all that is contained within her sister, Grandmother Moon. This means that lesser amounts of power around her will inherently flow into her. That would include power charged with negative emotion. This can make a woman sick… Those cramps are but the negative emotions that surround a woman through whomever she comes in contact with.” During her moon time a woman is prevented from touching sacred objects; not because she will “contaminate” the item, but because these medicine objects are seen are living, empowered beings and the woman holding so much energy could draw the life-force out of them. What a different perspective!
In Native American beliefs, a totem animal is a spirit that takes the form of a familiar animal and embodies the symbolic qualities of that animal. It can also be held in a sacred object, or be a symbol of a tribe, or clan. The word “totem” comes from the Native American Ojibwe culture, but concept of the spirit animal is common throughout many cultures and times. In Wicca, it is commonly thought of as a teacher spirit that can take any form, or a symbol that can help in our personal development.
I had a dream some years ago, where a gecko was guiding me into my life’s path. When I awoke, I looked up the qualities that “gecko” embodies. Unsurprising to me, a gecko can symbolize “life change” because they can change color, since they are often night creatures they have the title of “dream keepers” and they symbolize “mystical awakening.” All of which was taking place in my life in a powerful way.
Last year I traveled to the Amazon jungle and took part in a native shaman’s ceremony. During the ceremony, just outside our palm-roofed hut, an owl began to call. It felt like he was speaking directly to me. It was the call of the Spectacled Owl. The totem of Owl is often viewed as the messenger of the spirit world, he is a seer of souls, and a guide to the spirit world. This has been misinterpreted as a harbinger of death, but just like the Death Card in the Tarot deck, it usually does not mean physical death, but freedom from the restraints of the physical world and guidance into the teachings of the spirit. Of course Owl is often seen as a symbol of wisdom and knowledge.
I feel that I am being encouraged on my spiritual path. My book, The Call of the Spectacled Owl; An Artist’s Journey thru History, the Amazon, and Spirit (with Travel Tips) chronicles part of that journey. All the writing, re-writing and illustrations are done, and it is going through its final editing. I look forward to sharing this with you soon.
Shamaness 11″x14″ pastel on velour paper by Patricia Robin Woodruff
“Artists are the shamans of our time.” – Will Bason
One definition of a shaman by Brendan McGuigan is, “… a person who interacts with both the normal world and the world of spirits, usually acting as a sort of intermediary between the two.” The more I learn, the more I feel that this is my role in creating art, poetry and prose. I often feel that when I am writing “in the zone”, the story flows through me. It’s like I am watching it unfold before me and my job is simply to write it down. The same goes for my art. Often when drawing a live model different animals, insects or plants may suggest themselves and I weave it into the composition. When I get done, I am no longer surprised when the model tells me that they have always identified with that imagery. I had a very vivid and powerful dream some years ago, where I was perched on a high mountainside with an ancient Native American man. He told me solemnly that my name was “Listens To The Wind.” When I awoke, that made sense to me, since my ideas seem to come from an invisible force. I can’t see it, but I can sense Spirit by its movement in my mind and its creation through my hands. So here’s a good affirmation for the week: “I am open to Spirit and the infinite inspiration it provides.” – Patricia Robin Woodruff