Friday, 31 October 2008

Samhain (Halloween)

Today is Samhain, the last day of the pagan year. The night is dark, the leaves are gone, the veil is thin. The Crone beckons, the wheel turns. A day for remembering those who have gone before. Ghosts and spirits will visit us tonight in the form of trick-or-treaters and we will appease them with candy. Our pumpkins are carved and sit on the front step with our rubber rats, Cardinal Ratzinger and Archbishop Fang. Samhain blessings to everyone.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Il Gatti d'Italia (Part 3)

We saw a couple of cats in the charming Tuscan town of Vinci, where Leonardo da Vinci was born and raised. The first cat, a tabby, was sunning himself on a piazza. He was obviously a well-fed pet who was friendly to us, but not to the point of letting himself be petted.

The second cat was pure black and sunning himself on a car in a front yard. I didn't even attempt to disturb him. This is one of my favourite pictures from our entire trip!

Friday, 24 October 2008

Il Gatti d'Italia (Part 2)

This charming scruffball lives at the Coliseum in Rome. Apparently many Italian historical sites are full of feral cats who keep down the rodent population on behalf of the Tourism Department. These feline civil servants manage on their own for survival but if times get lean, they are fed by special volunteers called "Gattare" (cat ladies). The cat we saw at the Coliseum was obviously used to being a celebrity. He would not let anyone touch him, but he posed quite deliberately for photos by his adoring public. In the gift shop, you can buy little brass figurines of the Coliseum Cats in various poses, that's how famous they are.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Il Gatti d'Italia (Part 1)

Okay, so enough with Michelangelo, Renaissance art and goddess hi-jinks at the Vatican. Now I'll blog about what you really want to know, namely, what are cats like in Italy? There seem to be many feral or half-feral cats, so it was hard to get close to them. Even those which were clearly pets were stand-offish. None would let me pet them. I called "kitty, kitty, kitty" but no response. Then it struck me that, of course, these cats don't speak English. So I called "gatto, gatto, gatto." Still no response. They did, however, snicker at my English accent.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Birthday Tribute

I'm thinking today of my old friend, Silver Warrior Woman, who died this spring in a Winnipeg nursing home. Today would have been her 92nd birthday. She was such a wonderful woman. We were friends for nearly 20 years.

A special treat that she and I enjoyed often was going to various public gardens around Winnipeg -- the English Formal Gardens in Assiniboine Park, the rock gardens at Captain Kennedy's Tea House, the rose gardens at Kingsway Park and, in the winter, the Conservatory at Assiniboine Park.

Silver Warrior Woman was always feisty and independent. It was her idea that we should regularly attend a Winnipeg women's drumming circle many years ago, an activity that is still an important part of my life and spiritual practice now in Edmonton. I thank her for that gift. We had many good laughs together and also shared a love of cats. I know that she is now reunited at last with her beloved Russian Blue cat, who was undoubtedly waiting for her at the Rainbow Bridge.

Monday, 20 October 2008

In Which We Honour Magna Mater

I had brought with me from Canada two tiny replicas of the Great Goddess of Willendorf, the oldest representation ever found of the Divine Feminine. To honour the continuing presence of the Great Mother in this sacred site, we each placed a replica behind two columns at the very centre of St. Peter's Basilica, near the statues of St. Helena and St. Veronica. I placed my offering to the Goddess with this thought in mind:

Magna Mater,
Great Mother,
I honour you and
I remember you,
even here.

How long these offerings to the Divine Feminine remain in the heart of St. Peter's depends, I suppose, on the thoroughness of the Vatican cleaning staff. There is, of course, a good chance that the cleaning staff are women. I would like to think that when they find the Goddesses, they will simply smile and put them back!

Sunday, 19 October 2008

In Which We Infiltrate the Vatican

I read that St. Peter's Basilica in Rome was built on what was once the site of the Temple of Magna Mater, the Great Mother. In fact, some of the stone from that pagan temple was used to build the huge church that was the first centre of triumphant Christian religion and power. At St. Peter's, the Divine Feminine's place was appropriated, both literally and symbolically, by the Patriarchal Male God.

The simple fact that there is a Christian church squatting over top of a Goddess temple does not mean that the site cannot be used for its original purpose. So following our guided tour of the Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museums, my Rare One and I slipped back into St. Peter's Basilica by ourselves. At the centre of this overwhelmingly opulent church is a sculptured bronze canopy surrounded by huge statues of saints. Under the floor beneath this canopy are the tombs of all the popes from St. Peter onwards. My co-conspirator and I decided that this was the perfect spot in which to honour the original tenant of this site, the Great Goddess. Details of our ritual tomorrow!

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Our Michelangelo Road Tour

I admit that I deliberately got my Rare One hooked. It started innocently enough when I slipped her a copy of The Agony and The Ecstacy, Irving Stone's wonderful novel about the life of Michelangelo. After she finished with that, though, she needed a bigger fix -- the movie with Charlton Heston and Rex Harrison. From then on she was hardcore, man, a full-fledged Michelangelo junkie. Just like me (*sob*).

So our trip to Italy became the Michelangelo Road Tour. In Florence, we saw his painting of the Holy Family in the Uffizi Gallery, then his magnificent David in the Accademia Gallery, along with the "Prisoners" statues. We visited Michelangelo's tomb in Santa Croce church. Leaving Tuscany, we went on a special trip to Rome just to see the Sistine Chapel ceiling, the Last Judgment, the Pieta and the dome of St. Peter's. But still it was not enough to satisfy our Michelangelo cravings! We took another day trip to Carrara, the Tuscan mountain town where Michelangelo obtained the pure white marble for his sculptures. We toured a marble mine and saw the house Michelangelo lived in while supervising the quarrying of his marble.

Now we're back in Canada, in Michelangelo rehab. But it was worth it!

Friday, 17 October 2008

Me 'n Mike

When I was a teenager, I was absolutely nuts for Renaissance art and history (*cough* nerd *cough*). I worshipped Michelangelo. The fact that I lived in a small one horse prairie town in the middle of nowhere did not deter me from my improbable fascination. One day while browsing in a bookstore located in the small city next to our town, I found a slender paperback of beautiful colour photos of Michelangelo's paintings and sculptures. Yea, verily, I coveted that book mightily. It took me weeks to save up the money in order to buy it. Every Friday night when my family went into the city to get groceries at the mall, I would anxiously check at the bookstore to see if the book was still there. It was one of the happiest days in my life when I was finally able to buy it and take it home with me. I still have it. I always will. In one corner of the inside front cover is the original price written in pencil: $2.49. A dollar was worth a lot more 35 years ago. It was harder to come by, too.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Under the Tuscan Sun

It has been a dream of mine, ever since I was a teenager, to visit Florence, Italy. It only took 35 years, but the dream has finally come true! My Rare One and I rented a villa just outside Florence with three other friends and we have just spent two wonderful weeks exploring Tuscany. It was harvest time when we were there. I feel like I have also reached harvest time in my own life, when finally I can reap some of the rewards that I spent so many years working to attain. Over the next little while, I'll blog about a few of our experiences and adventures in Tuscany.