makeshiftmoon

"To me it seems as if when God conceived the world, that was Poetry; She formed it, and that was Sculpture; She coloured it, and that was Painting; She peopled it with living beings, and that was the grand, divine, eternal Drama." - Charlotte Cushman
Curse
So I have had someone curse me.  At least I think I have.  It’s a long story and I don’t think the terror of the atmosphere comes across well in the retelling, so I won’t recount it here, but terrified I was.  Basically, I felt quite certain that a stranger had directed focused negative energy at me because I did not do something he wanted me to do, and I physically felt this energy enter my body.  
Although this encounter was only a few minutes in duration, afterwards I felt very frightened - short of breath, tense, and tingling all over.  It didn’t help that it was nighttime and I was in a small, unfamilar town, very far away from home.  I was with my husband, but he could not calm or reassure me, so convinced was I that black magic had occurred.  This was a number of years ago, before I started practising magic of my own, but it’s interesting to me that I already had a strong enough belief in the existence of magic to be scared of it.  I think I have always had a stronger-than-normal connection to the subtle realities - I believe this trait is what attracts people to paganism.
Anyhow, I felt the aftereffects of this experience for quite a long time afterwards, and went through a number of stages in interpreting what had happened.  At first, I was convinced that unless I could personally convince this stranger to recant the curse, I would suffer terribly.  I imagined all sorts of horrible fates, from brain tumours to the death of my firstborn child.  I had completely given over my power to this person, and it was terrifying.  I even expected my cats to be afraid  of me when I got home, as if they could sense the shard of evil that had been thrust into my soul.  But at the same time, part of my brain started to look at things a little more objectively.  This incident occurred near the end of a very long and stressful road trip and music tour, which I never really wanted to go on in the first place, and during which I was constantly sleep deprived and usually totally stressed out.  I wondered if I had created this terrifying experience because my body needed an out, an excuse to completely lose it and release this buildup of extreme tension.
After being back home for a while and still feeling strong anxiety, I sought the help of a naturopath whom my friend recommended.  Dr. W was a very “talky” naturopath, her sessions feeling more like a visit to the therapist, except that she would give me homeopathic remedies at the end.  She talked me through the experience, which invariably led to talking about other things that were going on in my life, and it was pretty interesting to see the connections.  I began to realize how unusual it was that I felt like I deserved this curse I felt had been laid upon me.  Because I had not given this stranger what he wanted, I thought he was perfectly justified in harming me, and I cursed myself for not just giving in to his wishes.  Hmmmm, bit of a life pattern?
I started to see that there is always both negative and positive energy being directed at us - usually not in the concentrated form of either a curse or a blessing - but constant low intensity beams.  We only let in what we think we deserve, either good or bad - this goes for compliments as well as criticisms.  Besides, the number of times I had been intentionally blessed clearly outweighed this one curse, so why didn’t I take the blessings as seriously?
Three or four visits to Dr. W later, I felt a lot better, and then suddenly I felt a lot worse.  The anxiety came back full force and I could not keep it at bay.  Luckily this happened right around the time of my next visit, and I showed up to her office clearly upset.  We talked for a while, but I just kept getting more agitated.  Finally she pointed to her massage table and asked me to get on.  This was new!  She started doing reiki on me.  My eyes were closed, but I think she started down around my hips or belly and slowly moved up my torso.  I started to feel this pressure or energy building around my throat.  It grew stonger and I struggled against it, not sure what to do.  Dr. W noticed what was going on and quietly told me to let it out.  I started to yell really loud.  Not a scream, but a solid mid-range toning that felt really good.  It felt like I was finally coming to my own defence and saying “NO” to whoever it was, whatever it was that was attacking me - even if it was myself.
I felt much better after that, even though I sometimes still feel scared or paranoid about what may or may not have happened.  I usually consider myself a strong woman, but this experience sensitized me to the thousand little ways I injure myself by allowing negativity - inner or outer - to penetrate me.  I also see this trait in family members and see how and where I might have learned to do so, how it can get passed down through generations.  I think this gets at the essence of magic for me: developing an ever stronger relationship with our own will so that we can deeply decide what to keep in and what to keep out - and also to be in control of what we project!  And even though I may forget sometimes, I now truly believe that no one can hurt us unless we allow it on some level.  And if we stumble, as is our wont, and do get hurt, I believe that healing is always available to us, that we can lay down the burden of our curses if we choose to.
Blessed Be.

Curse

So I have had someone curse me.  At least I think I have.  It’s a long story and I don’t think the terror of the atmosphere comes across well in the retelling, so I won’t recount it here, but terrified I was.  Basically, I felt quite certain that a stranger had directed focused negative energy at me because I did not do something he wanted me to do, and I physically felt this energy enter my body.  

Although this encounter was only a few minutes in duration, afterwards I felt very frightened - short of breath, tense, and tingling all over.  It didn’t help that it was nighttime and I was in a small, unfamilar town, very far away from home.  I was with my husband, but he could not calm or reassure me, so convinced was I that black magic had occurred.  This was a number of years ago, before I started practising magic of my own, but it’s interesting to me that I already had a strong enough belief in the existence of magic to be scared of it.  I think I have always had a stronger-than-normal connection to the subtle realities - I believe this trait is what attracts people to paganism.

Anyhow, I felt the aftereffects of this experience for quite a long time afterwards, and went through a number of stages in interpreting what had happened.  At first, I was convinced that unless I could personally convince this stranger to recant the curse, I would suffer terribly.  I imagined all sorts of horrible fates, from brain tumours to the death of my firstborn child.  I had completely given over my power to this person, and it was terrifying.  I even expected my cats to be afraid  of me when I got home, as if they could sense the shard of evil that had been thrust into my soul.  But at the same time, part of my brain started to look at things a little more objectively.  This incident occurred near the end of a very long and stressful road trip and music tour, which I never really wanted to go on in the first place, and during which I was constantly sleep deprived and usually totally stressed out.  I wondered if I had created this terrifying experience because my body needed an out, an excuse to completely lose it and release this buildup of extreme tension.

After being back home for a while and still feeling strong anxiety, I sought the help of a naturopath whom my friend recommended.  Dr. W was a very “talky” naturopath, her sessions feeling more like a visit to the therapist, except that she would give me homeopathic remedies at the end.  She talked me through the experience, which invariably led to talking about other things that were going on in my life, and it was pretty interesting to see the connections.  I began to realize how unusual it was that I felt like I deserved this curse I felt had been laid upon me.  Because I had not given this stranger what he wanted, I thought he was perfectly justified in harming me, and I cursed myself for not just giving in to his wishes.  Hmmmm, bit of a life pattern?

I started to see that there is always both negative and positive energy being directed at us - usually not in the concentrated form of either a curse or a blessing - but constant low intensity beams.  We only let in what we think we deserve, either good or bad - this goes for compliments as well as criticisms.  Besides, the number of times I had been intentionally blessed clearly outweighed this one curse, so why didn’t I take the blessings as seriously?

Three or four visits to Dr. W later, I felt a lot better, and then suddenly I felt a lot worse.  The anxiety came back full force and I could not keep it at bay.  Luckily this happened right around the time of my next visit, and I showed up to her office clearly upset.  We talked for a while, but I just kept getting more agitated.  Finally she pointed to her massage table and asked me to get on.  This was new!  She started doing reiki on me.  My eyes were closed, but I think she started down around my hips or belly and slowly moved up my torso.  I started to feel this pressure or energy building around my throat.  It grew stonger and I struggled against it, not sure what to do.  Dr. W noticed what was going on and quietly told me to let it out.  I started to yell really loud.  Not a scream, but a solid mid-range toning that felt really good.  It felt like I was finally coming to my own defence and saying “NO” to whoever it was, whatever it was that was attacking me - even if it was myself.

I felt much better after that, even though I sometimes still feel scared or paranoid about what may or may not have happened.  I usually consider myself a strong woman, but this experience sensitized me to the thousand little ways I injure myself by allowing negativity - inner or outer - to penetrate me.  I also see this trait in family members and see how and where I might have learned to do so, how it can get passed down through generations.  I think this gets at the essence of magic for me: developing an ever stronger relationship with our own will so that we can deeply decide what to keep in and what to keep out - and also to be in control of what we project!  And even though I may forget sometimes, I now truly believe that no one can hurt us unless we allow it on some level.  And if we stumble, as is our wont, and do get hurt, I believe that healing is always available to us, that we can lay down the burden of our curses if we choose to.

Blessed Be.

Craft

When I say that I’m an artist, I don’t mean that I have work hanging in galleries or that I hang out in my studio all day, smoking Gitanes.   After years of internal struggle I have come to realize that classifying myself with this term simply means that I was born to love making things with my hands.  It’s super deep inside of me and as much as I have tried to ignore or get away from that tendency all my life, it persists in making itself known.  So no matter what I end up doing for a living, or what style of clothes I wear or whatever, I will always have that yearning to create that must be satisfied biweekly.  Maybe that definition is to broad for the word “artist”, but that’s what I mean when I say it.  I’ve heard some people use “maker”, and I like that one too.

To stray even further from the traditional definition of “artist”, I have found that my urge to make stuff can be satisfied in all manner of ways that have nothing to do with the usual artists’ media of painting, drawing, and sculpture.  I realized this when I started to get into paganism.  I was blown away by how much of my practice of devotion involved making stuff!  I still attend a christian church from time to time and value it deeply in many ways, but I was never inspired or invited to get my hands dirty and get crafty in the name of Christ.

In the above photos are just a few of the things I have made in my pagan adventures: a Brighid’s cross made of reeds from a favourite beach, elderberry tincture to guard against flu, incense of vervain, lavender, and pearly everlasting from the river, and cherry bark in brandy and honey for a cough suppressant.  

The making of these objects was just as satisfying as any drawing or sculpture I have done in the name of art - but slightly different too.  The wonderful thing about being crafty in the Craft is how it brings me into greater intimacy with creation.  If I were to prepare to start an “art” project, I might go to a fabric store or an art supplies store, or even a thrift store if I were feeling particularly adventurous.  But usually when I am planning a witchy craft project, there’s only one place to go, and that is OUTSIDE.  And it always becomes this crazy mission into the unknown because I’m so unfamiliar with my natural environment that I’m not totally sure where to find what I need.  But that’s kind of the point - to get out there and explore.  Even if I don’t find what I set out for, I always find something I can get my hands dirty with.

This post is part of the Pagan Blog Project, yeah!

"The Midwife" by Adrian Baker ~ www.adrianbakerart.com
Babies & Brighid
On New Year’s Day I found out that I am pregnant.  This being my first pregnancy, the feelings were pretty overwhelming.  As the fears and worries started to build up in my head, I found myself wanting to turn to Brighid.  Goddess of midwifery in the Celtic pagan tradition, and midwife to Mary at Christ’s birth in the Christian, she seemed like an obvious choice when I got scared enough to start to pray.
Also, Brighid is still the deity that has spoken to me the most since I consciously began to explore the pagan pantheon.  Last January, sensing the subtle shift toward Spring and simultaneously anticipating Imbolc, the celebration of Brighid breathing life into the land, I felt for the first time the deep satisfaction of having access to a spiritual system that is completely enmeshed in what actually, really happens in the physical world.  What a concept!
But as real and tangible as Brighid became to me - in the snowdrops on the boulevard and the reeds gathered from the beach to make her cross - she still remains maddeningly unreachable and distant, as deities are wont to be.  And in the acute fear and uncertainty of those first days of my pregnancy, that was not enough.  I will trust, however, that if I seek her in the coming months I will find all that I need in due time, that I can call on her to be my midwife, and she will come. 
After all, if there is one lesson I have learned in my journey from the atheistic mind to the spiritual, the gods are only as real as I make them.  I mean, sure, they’re real, but if I don’t pay attention to them, in whatever form that payment takes, I can expect to get what I pay for.
This post is part of the Pagan Blog Project 2012.

"The Midwife" by Adrian Baker ~ www.adrianbakerart.com

Babies & Brighid

On New Year’s Day I found out that I am pregnant.  This being my first pregnancy, the feelings were pretty overwhelming.  As the fears and worries started to build up in my head, I found myself wanting to turn to Brighid.  Goddess of midwifery in the Celtic pagan tradition, and midwife to Mary at Christ’s birth in the Christian, she seemed like an obvious choice when I got scared enough to start to pray.

Also, Brighid is still the deity that has spoken to me the most since I consciously began to explore the pagan pantheon.  Last January, sensing the subtle shift toward Spring and simultaneously anticipating Imbolc, the celebration of Brighid breathing life into the land, I felt for the first time the deep satisfaction of having access to a spiritual system that is completely enmeshed in what actually, really happens in the physical world.  What a concept!

But as real and tangible as Brighid became to me - in the snowdrops on the boulevard and the reeds gathered from the beach to make her cross - she still remains maddeningly unreachable and distant, as deities are wont to be.  And in the acute fear and uncertainty of those first days of my pregnancy, that was not enough.  I will trust, however, that if I seek her in the coming months I will find all that I need in due time, that I can call on her to be my midwife, and she will come. 

After all, if there is one lesson I have learned in my journey from the atheistic mind to the spiritual, the gods are only as real as I make them.  I mean, sure, they’re real, but if I don’t pay attention to them, in whatever form that payment takes, I can expect to get what I pay for.

This post is part of the Pagan Blog Project 2012.

Pagan Blog Project

A quick snap of one of the circus tents I made for the Ghost Train this year.  Super fun project.  Especially doing the math (geometry) to figure out the dimensions of the top panels!  The sides flare out but in the photo they haven’t been pegged yet.

A quick snap of one of the circus tents I made for the Ghost Train this year.  Super fun project.  Especially doing the math (geometry) to figure out the dimensions of the top panels!  The sides flare out but in the photo they haven’t been pegged yet.

Proud moment!  Myself and my masks exhibiting at the East Side Culture Crawl this year.  Full on people for two and a half days!  It was an unforgettable experience, and it didn’t hurt that I sold a couple pieces ;)

Proud moment!  Myself and my masks exhibiting at the East Side Culture Crawl this year.  Full on people for two and a half days!  It was an unforgettable experience, and it didn’t hurt that I sold a couple pieces ;)

CHARLOTTE  ~ Photo by Chara Berk
The inspiration for this mask is the simplest: doilies.
I collect doilies like some people bring home stray dogs.  They are irresistible to me, perhaps because they have a stray-dog quality: they used to be valued members of the household, and now they are unwanted cast-offs at the Sally Ann.  Well, I said to myself, if I am going to accumulate so many of the darn things, I better find a use for them.  And … voila!
Again the Stiffen Stuff made an appearance, although they never got quite as stiff as I would have liked - hanging this piece is still a going concern!  Then I had a ball blanketing the plaster form with a field of those embroidered flowers from Dressew - awesome!  But the funnnnnest part of this piece was making the teensy-tiny red spiders that you can just barely see in the above photo.  Here is a close up of one of the little darlings:

SO PRECIOUS.  I must profusely thank Alison Woodward and Brianne Tweddle for passing on crucial technique learned in their after school fly-tying class.  I had gone to many craft stores looking for just the right spider, which informed me how much the crafting world is prejudiced against our arachnid friends!  The only spidery things close to the right size were all goofy and cartoony.  LAME.  Behold the regal, red, rad, ruby-bodied spirit spider.  And then all I could think of was the hero spider mama from Charlotte’s web.  And … voila! 

CHARLOTTE  ~ Photo by Chara Berk

The inspiration for this mask is the simplest: doilies.

I collect doilies like some people bring home stray dogs.  They are irresistible to me, perhaps because they have a stray-dog quality: they used to be valued members of the household, and now they are unwanted cast-offs at the Sally Ann.  Well, I said to myself, if I am going to accumulate so many of the darn things, I better find a use for them.  And … voila!

Again the Stiffen Stuff made an appearance, although they never got quite as stiff as I would have liked - hanging this piece is still a going concern!  Then I had a ball blanketing the plaster form with a field of those embroidered flowers from Dressew - awesome!  But the funnnnnest part of this piece was making the teensy-tiny red spiders that you can just barely see in the above photo.  Here is a close up of one of the little darlings:

SO PRECIOUS.  I must profusely thank Alison Woodward and Brianne Tweddle for passing on crucial technique learned in their after school fly-tying class.  I had gone to many craft stores looking for just the right spider, which informed me how much the crafting world is prejudiced against our arachnid friends!  The only spidery things close to the right size were all goofy and cartoony.  LAME.  Behold the regal, red, rad, ruby-bodied spirit spider.  And then all I could think of was the hero spider mama from Charlotte’s web.  And … voila! 

BLODEUWEDD ~ photo by Chara Berk
Blodeuwedd (say bluh-DIE-weth) was a figure from the collection of medieval Welsh prose known as the Mabinogion: a woman made out of flowers who gets turned into an owl for murdering her husband - look it up!  She is also the Lover aspect of the Welsh goddess triad along with Arianrhod (Maiden) and Cerridwen (Crone).  
I had always heard the triple goddess aspects set out as Maiden, Mother, and Crone, and it BLEW MY MIND to see it set out as Maiden, Lover, and Crone.  To me, this is much more subversive and feminist, and, I like to think, a lot closer to how society envisioned women in a matriarchal paradigm.  This version of the triad seems much more powerful and dangerous to me.  Seeing a woman as a Lover, one who is sexually mature and in a relationship based on mutual attraction and love, is much more empowering than seeing her as being defined by the fact that she has given birth.  (Not that being defined as a mother is not empowering, but it is very specific, and I sniff the subtle reek of oppression in the limits that specificity imposes on women.)  She may in fact become a Mother through her actions as a Lover, but then again she may not, and I feel strength and freedom in that ambiguity.  This triad also allows for non-heterosexual versions of the Goddess and, indeed, for the possibility that she who loves may be loving without having a specific person or thing as the object of her affection.  She is simply the one who loves, who births love into creation as a result of achieving mature consciousness.  In fact, now that I think about it, I see the two branches, rising out of the same trunk, as two arms locked in an embrace of the self!
So, as you can see, it blew my mind.
I’m interested in how I use the word “dangerous” in my description of the Lover archetype above, because the character of Blodeuwedd did strike me as dangerous, in that she is more or less amoral.  She is created out of flowers to be a wife for this guy - having no say of her own in the matter - and ends up falling in love with another guy and plotting with him to kill her husband so they can be together.  Cheating, murdering bitch!  But somehow the narrative doesn’t fully condemn her actions.  The very matter-of-factness with which she goes through these events absolves her of being classified as malicious.  She gets dropped into a bad situation as a result of the conjuring of several (not-entirely-blameless) individuals, ends up loving someone she isn’t supposed to (who hasn’t!), and does some fancy footwork of her own to get out of obligations she never agreed to take on.  Also, she does have to face the consequences.  But she is not condemned to burn for all eternity in a fiery pit, but merely to be forever an owl.  This sort of thing is why I love old mythology; so much more complex and ambiguous than more modern morality fables.  And way more juicy.
When I came across the character of Blodeuwedd I immediately knew that I wanted to make an owl face out of silk flowers.  Bam!  Okay, so executing it was actually pretty challenging.  Not being the sort of person who likes to plan out what I am doing beforehand, I was forced a wee bit out of my comfort zone with this one.  Planning was required if it was not going to be a total mess.  I had lots of fun pulling apart all manner of fake flowers and ferns - cutting up petals and trying all sorts of combos to see which would work best.  I love the colour scheme that emerged, especially that pale green, what a spooky colour!
I took a cue from my studio mate, Colin, and shaped some leather with water and glue to form the beak.  I had to carve a mold out of insulation foam to stretch the leather over, which was awesome.  I have not used leather this way before, but I have seen many rad things done this way and was stoked to try it out. 
The wood veneer was a score from the dumpster outside my studio, which is always a treasure trove.  I have never seen veneer like this, although have been assured that it is fairly common.  But where do you get it???  Can’t find it anywhere.  But I had enough of the dumpstered stuff to realize my vision, which was also quite challenging and involved more of the dreaded “planning ahead”.  It’s good for me, I know.  

I must credit this amazing artist, Emily Brunner, for the inspiration for the intertwined branches.

BLODEUWEDD ~ photo by Chara Berk

Blodeuwedd (say bluh-DIE-weth) was a figure from the collection of medieval Welsh prose known as the Mabinogion: a woman made out of flowers who gets turned into an owl for murdering her husband - look it up!  She is also the Lover aspect of the Welsh goddess triad along with Arianrhod (Maiden) and Cerridwen (Crone).  

I had always heard the triple goddess aspects set out as Maiden, Mother, and Crone, and it BLEW MY MIND to see it set out as Maiden, Lover, and Crone.  To me, this is much more subversive and feminist, and, I like to think, a lot closer to how society envisioned women in a matriarchal paradigm.  This version of the triad seems much more powerful and dangerous to me.  Seeing a woman as a Lover, one who is sexually mature and in a relationship based on mutual attraction and love, is much more empowering than seeing her as being defined by the fact that she has given birth.  (Not that being defined as a mother is not empowering, but it is very specific, and I sniff the subtle reek of oppression in the limits that specificity imposes on women.)  She may in fact become a Mother through her actions as a Lover, but then again she may not, and I feel strength and freedom in that ambiguity.  This triad also allows for non-heterosexual versions of the Goddess and, indeed, for the possibility that she who loves may be loving without having a specific person or thing as the object of her affection.  She is simply the one who loves, who births love into creation as a result of achieving mature consciousness.  In fact, now that I think about it, I see the two branches, rising out of the same trunk, as two arms locked in an embrace of the self!

So, as you can see, it blew my mind.

I’m interested in how I use the word “dangerous” in my description of the Lover archetype above, because the character of Blodeuwedd did strike me as dangerous, in that she is more or less amoral.  She is created out of flowers to be a wife for this guy - having no say of her own in the matter - and ends up falling in love with another guy and plotting with him to kill her husband so they can be together.  Cheating, murdering bitch!  But somehow the narrative doesn’t fully condemn her actions.  The very matter-of-factness with which she goes through these events absolves her of being classified as malicious.  She gets dropped into a bad situation as a result of the conjuring of several (not-entirely-blameless) individuals, ends up loving someone she isn’t supposed to (who hasn’t!), and does some fancy footwork of her own to get out of obligations she never agreed to take on.  Also, she does have to face the consequences.  But she is not condemned to burn for all eternity in a fiery pit, but merely to be forever an owl.  This sort of thing is why I love old mythology; so much more complex and ambiguous than more modern morality fables.  And way more juicy.

When I came across the character of Blodeuwedd I immediately knew that I wanted to make an owl face out of silk flowers.  Bam!  Okay, so executing it was actually pretty challenging.  Not being the sort of person who likes to plan out what I am doing beforehand, I was forced a wee bit out of my comfort zone with this one.  Planning was required if it was not going to be a total mess.  I had lots of fun pulling apart all manner of fake flowers and ferns - cutting up petals and trying all sorts of combos to see which would work best.  I love the colour scheme that emerged, especially that pale green, what a spooky colour!

I took a cue from my studio mate, Colin, and shaped some leather with water and glue to form the beak.  I had to carve a mold out of insulation foam to stretch the leather over, which was awesome.  I have not used leather this way before, but I have seen many rad things done this way and was stoked to try it out. 

The wood veneer was a score from the dumpster outside my studio, which is always a treasure trove.  I have never seen veneer like this, although have been assured that it is fairly common.  But where do you get it???  Can’t find it anywhere.  But I had enough of the dumpstered stuff to realize my vision, which was also quite challenging and involved more of the dreaded “planning ahead”.  It’s good for me, I know.  

Blodeuwedd - Emily Brunner

I must credit this amazing artist, Emily Brunner, for the inspiration for the intertwined branches.

MRS. GRIEVE ~ photo by Chara Berk

This spring I took a series of educational walks hosted by Garliq, a herbal practitioner from East Van.  In five locations around the city, such as Jericho Beach and Pacific Spirit Park, Garliq led a group of about 15 of us around, telling us about the local edible and medicinal plants.  In my post about FLORALIA I talk about how meaningful acquiring this knowledge was to me, and this mask is another expression of that event in my life.
About a year before taking this course, I was browsing in Abraham’s Books on the Drive, and came across a book called A Modern Herbal by a Mrs. Maud Grieve.  I was drawn to buy the book, even though it was expensive and I had not had a previous interest in herbalism.  A year later, after taking Garliq’s course, however, I was very glad that I had bought it and became quite intrigued by this extensive compilation of herbal knowledge.  
When I looked up the author I was even more intrigued.  Maud Grieve was an early 20th century herbalist in England.  During the first World War she began teaching people how to collect and prepare useful medicinal herbs as a response to the shortage of medicines caused by the war.  I was so moved by this act because I feel that we are at a similar crisis in public health today.  It isn’t so much that medicines are in short supply; they are everywhere!  But more and more I feel that the medicines being sold to us are not substances that contribute to the health of our bodies and minds, and moreover, they are expensive.  So actually what we have is a shortage of access to truly healing substances, and the knowledge of how to use them.
Therefore, I felt an homage to Mrs. Grieve and her generous act of teaching herb lore was in order!  The banner across the bottom reads We Defend the Precious Jewel of Freedom - an actual propaganda slogan from the British government during WWI.  This is my tribute to people like Mrs. Grieve and Garliq who fight battles against the ignorance and complacency that threaten the public health - allows for imbalances of power like the one currently occurring with the pharmaceutical industry’s domination of the public health sphere.
The illustrations on unbleached cotton on either side of the face are Woad on the left, and Yarrow on the right.  They are both plants with a very long history of usage by Europeans.  I think of them therefore as old friends, with whom we have fallen out of touch; however, all we need to do is have the desire make contact with them again to begin to enjoy the richness of those lost relationships.

MRS. GRIEVE ~ photo by Chara Berk

This spring I took a series of educational walks hosted by Garliq, a herbal practitioner from East Van.  In five locations around the city, such as Jericho Beach and Pacific Spirit Park, Garliq led a group of about 15 of us around, telling us about the local edible and medicinal plants.  In my post about FLORALIA I talk about how meaningful acquiring this knowledge was to me, and this mask is another expression of that event in my life.

About a year before taking this course, I was browsing in Abraham’s Books on the Drive, and came across a book called A Modern Herbal by a Mrs. Maud Grieve.  I was drawn to buy the book, even though it was expensive and I had not had a previous interest in herbalism.  A year later, after taking Garliq’s course, however, I was very glad that I had bought it and became quite intrigued by this extensive compilation of herbal knowledge.  

When I looked up the author I was even more intrigued.  Maud Grieve was an early 20th century herbalist in England.  During the first World War she began teaching people how to collect and prepare useful medicinal herbs as a response to the shortage of medicines caused by the war.  I was so moved by this act because I feel that we are at a similar crisis in public health today.  It isn’t so much that medicines are in short supply; they are everywhere!  But more and more I feel that the medicines being sold to us are not substances that contribute to the health of our bodies and minds, and moreover, they are expensive.  So actually what we have is a shortage of access to truly healing substances, and the knowledge of how to use them.

Therefore, I felt an homage to Mrs. Grieve and her generous act of teaching herb lore was in order!  The banner across the bottom reads We Defend the Precious Jewel of Freedom - an actual propaganda slogan from the British government during WWI.  This is my tribute to people like Mrs. Grieve and Garliq who fight battles against the ignorance and complacency that threaten the public health - allows for imbalances of power like the one currently occurring with the pharmaceutical industry’s domination of the public health sphere.

The illustrations on unbleached cotton on either side of the face are Woad on the left, and Yarrow on the right.  They are both plants with a very long history of usage by Europeans.  I think of them therefore as old friends, with whom we have fallen out of touch; however, all we need to do is have the desire make contact with them again to begin to enjoy the richness of those lost relationships.

MAEVE ~ photo by Chara Berk

I am a stag: of seven tines,
I am a flood: across a plain,
I am a wind: on a deep lake,
I am a tear: the Sun lets fall,
I am a hawk: above the cliff,
I am a thorn: beneath the nail,
I am a wonder: among flowers,
I am a wizard: who but I 
Sets the cool head aflame with smoke?

I am a spear: that roars for blood,
I am a salmon: in a pool,
I am a lure: from paradise,
I am a hill: where poets walk,
I am a boar: ruthless and red,
I am a breaker: threatening doom,
I am a tide: that drags to death,
I am an infant: who but I
Peeps from the unhewn dolmen arch?

I am the womb: of every holt,
I am the blaze: on every hill,
I am the queen: of every hive,
I am the shield: for every head,
I am the tomb: of every hope.
 ~ Song of Amergin translated by Robert Graves

MAEVE ~ photo by Chara Berk

I am a stag: of seven tines,

I am a flood: across a plain,

I am a wind: on a deep lake,

I am a tear: the Sun lets fall,

I am a hawk: above the cliff,

I am a thorn: beneath the nail,

I am a wonder: among flowers,

I am a wizard: who but I 

Sets the cool head aflame with smoke?

I am a spear: that roars for blood,

I am a salmon: in a pool,

I am a lure: from paradise,

I am a hill: where poets walk,

I am a boar: ruthless and red,

I am a breaker: threatening doom,

I am a tide: that drags to death,

I am an infant: who but I

Peeps from the unhewn dolmen arch?

I am the womb: of every holt,

I am the blaze: on every hill,

I am the queen: of every hive,

I am the shield: for every head,

I am the tomb: of every hope.

~ Song of Amergin translated by Robert Graves

GILLES ~ photo by Chara Berk

This crazy guy is inspired by a photo I saw in a book of masks from all over the world.  Actually, I first saw his face on a beer bottle while I was on tour with Hank & Lily in Belgium, and when I saw it again in the book I knew I had to make him.  Green glasses!!! What???
I have no idea where the origins of this image lie, but the “Gilles” are characters that can be seen every year at the Carnival of Binche.  Hundreds of (usually) men dress up in a sort of medieval costume topped off by a mask like this and dance and march and beat evil spirits away with sticks and throw oranges and generally behave like old school pagan crazies, which I love.  I was also very intrigued by the fact that this carnival has been proclaimed as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.  What???  That is the kind of sad bullshit that marks the death of a tradition, if you ask me.  Although I guess it’s important to protect it or whatever…  
Anyhow, the face still has power obviously.  So here I am, bringing it into the living tradition and ritual of My Artwork.  Tadaa!

GILLES ~ photo by Chara Berk

This crazy guy is inspired by a photo I saw in a book of masks from all over the world.  Actually, I first saw his face on a beer bottle while I was on tour with Hank & Lily in Belgium, and when I saw it again in the book I knew I had to make him.  Green glasses!!! What???

I have no idea where the origins of this image lie, but the “Gilles” are characters that can be seen every year at the Carnival of Binche.  Hundreds of (usually) men dress up in a sort of medieval costume topped off by a mask like this and dance and march and beat evil spirits away with sticks and throw oranges and generally behave like old school pagan crazies, which I love.  I was also very intrigued by the fact that this carnival has been proclaimed as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.  What???  That is the kind of sad bullshit that marks the death of a tradition, if you ask me.  Although I guess it’s important to protect it or whatever…  

Anyhow, the face still has power obviously.  So here I am, bringing it into the living tradition and ritual of My Artwork.  Tadaa!