Friday 29 January 2010

Goddess of the Northern Lights

This stunning shot of northern lights was a past National Geographic Photo of the Year (and deservedly so!) I don't know where it was taken, but I suspect it must have been the High Arctic somewhere. To see northern lights of this calibre is a rare blessing, indeed. I wrote previously of my encounters with northern lights (here and here) and just had to update the topic by posting this amazing photo. Anyone else see the beautiful vulva and clitoral imagery in the folds of these aurora borealis?

Thursday 28 January 2010

Hail Mary, Full of Eggs, Blessed Be Thy Cholesterol

Oksana Mas, a Ukrainian artist, has created a stunning mosaic portrait of the Virgin Mary using 15,000 Ukrainian Easter eggs. It is currently on display at the Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kiev. The mosaic is 7 x 7 meters in size, weighs 2.5 tons and took nine months to create. The wooden eggs were painted by the artist and by children from all across the country. Here is Oksana Mas in front of her masterpiece:

A closer view of the Virgin's face:

You can really see the individual eggs in this extreme close-up of Her eye:

I love how the Sacred Mother seems to be rising up out of the depths -- She is the Goddess Returning! The Virgin who births the Divine, She is comprised of the ultimate fertility symbol -- eggs. And is it simply a coincidence that She is being displayed at a cathedral sacred to the female saint, Sophia -- She who is Holy Wisdom?

And what an affirmation of traditional Ukrainian culture with all those gorgeous, painted eggs! I'm sure there is a political message as well -- that an independent Ukraine rises from the bottomless black pit that was Soviet Russia.

Tuesday 26 January 2010

Miss Zoe's Furry Little Bunny Paw . . .

. . . reached out across the blogosphere last week and gave me a lovely Kreativ Blogger Award. Many thanks for this honour, Miss Zoe and Marcy Hall at Ordinary Enchantment!

Seven Rules
1. Thank the person giving the award (or, in this case, the person and rabbit giving the award).

2. Copy the award to your blog.

3. Place a link to their blog.

4. Name seven things people don't know about you.

5. Nominate seven other bloggers who you admire.

6. Place a link to these bloggers.

7. Leave a comment on their blog notifying them of the award.

Seven Unknown Facts
As you will see, I am in a distinctly musical frame of mind at the moment:

1. I adore bagpipes. Anytime. Anywhere.

2. My favourite composers are Bach, Handel, Mozart and Beethoven. None of them ever wrote a bad note in their entire friggin' lives.

3. There's nothing I like better than a good hurtin' country song. The more steel guitar, the better.

4. Actually, I enjoy all types of music. And yes, that includes rap once in a while, provided that the lyrics are not violent, sexist or homophobic.

5. The only musical instrument I play is the recorder (badly). But I have been playing it (badly) for 40 years. I am nothing if not persistent.

6. I also do soul drumming at my drumming circle. Like the priestesses of old, we drum to the Great Goddess.

7. I like to serenade my cat, Her Royal Highness, by singing the Meow Mix Song (her personal fave). Don't worry, I don't do it in public. At least not yet.

Seven Nominations
Now I must reach across the blogosphere with my own furry little paw to pass on this Kreativ Blogger Award to seven other creative bloggers! Participation is, of course and as always, strictly voluntary!

1. faerwillow at ~serendipity~

2. turquoisemoon at Daily Om

3. Zedral Z at Witchin' in the Kitchen

4. Witch by Nature and Bitch by Choice at Antics of a Tameran Witch

5. Laura Hegfield at Shine the Divine: Creativity as a Spiritual Practice

6. Albertamama at What Happy Is

7. Sara at Mama Craft

Monday 25 January 2010

Robbie Burns Day

Today is the birthday of Robbie Burns, the 18th century radical Scottish ploughman poet. All over the world, people of Scottish descent are celebrating with Burns Suppers, poetry readings and much playing of bagpipes. I've been a fan of Robbie Burns' poetry and songs since I was a teenager. My favourite Burns poem is "To a Mouse." My favourite Burns lyrics are for those lovely songs "Ye Banks and Braes o' Bonnie Doon" and "My Luve is Like a Red, Red Rose."

Her Royal Highness is also celebrating Robbie Burns Day. She absolutely insists on having haggis for supper tonight instead of Tender Vittles.

Friday 22 January 2010

The Blue Bowl of Glastonbury

Because of Mara Freeman's connections to the Chalice Well Trust, our tour group was able to enjoy a rather unique experience. In the beautiful meditation room of Little St. Michael's Retreat House, we had the opportunity to sit in silent meditation with the Blue Bowl of Glastonbury.

The Blue Bowl is a small antique dish purchased in Italy in 1885 by Dr. Goodchild of Bath, England. A vision convinced him that it was the Holy Grail. Another vision instructed him to bury the bowl at Bride's Mound in Glastonbury. This was reputed to be the site of an ancient chapel honouring the Goddess/Saint Brigid. In 1906, three women (!) found the bowl and gave it to their spiritual mentor, Wellesley Tudor Pole. Many years of archaeological examination ensued in an unsuccessful effort to date the bowl back to Biblical times. In the 1960s, Wellesley Tudor Pole entrusted the Blue Bowl to the care of the Chalice Well Trust.

The Blue Bowl has become quite the sacred object in Glastonbury. Silent meditation in its presence is a discretionary honour conferred by the trustees of the Chalice Well Trust. Meditation with the Blue Bowl sometimes yields profound visions, it is said . . . or at the very least, a sense of profound peace.

I must admit that I was a bit bemused by all this hoopla about a little dish. But silent meditation is a nice, pleasant activity and besides, what the hell, eh? When in Rome . . . .

I'm actually quite surprised by the impact that the experience had on me. The Blue Bowl meditation has become one of my favourite memories from Glastonbury. Being in the presence of the Blue Bowl truly did impart an abiding sense of peace and beauty. I think of it often.

[The top picture represents the Blue Bowl as the Ace of Chalices in the Glastonbury Tarot, copyright 1999 by Lisa Tenzin-Dolma. The bottom picture is a photo taken by my Rare One of a lovely watercolour of the Blue Bowl. The original painting hangs in Little St. Michael's Retreat Centre.]

Thursday 21 January 2010

The Druid Trees

About a mile or so from Glastonbury Tor, there are two huge, ancient oak trees known as Gog and Magog. They are reputed to be Druid trees of great antiquity -- perhaps as much as 1500 years of age. At one time, it is said, they were part of a great Druid Oak Grove where rituals and worship occurred. Now only they survive.

Well, technically only Magog survives (pictured above). Gnarled and scarred by lightning, the old tree nevertheless has an abundance of green leaves. Unfortunately, Gog just recently gave up the ghost and no longer produces any green foliage (pictured below). But both are nevertheless magnificent trees.

In British mythology, Gog and Magog were stern but brave and benevolent giants. They fought for honour, liberty and country. Together, they are the traditional guardians of the city of London. (Check out a fabulous post about them at The Violet Hour!) The Old Testament also mentions mythological beings named Gog and Magog, but they were different characters altogether -- much more frightening figures who were often mixed up with apocalyptic predictions.

We were able to visit the Druid trees because our guide, Mara Freeman, is an expert in Celtic and Druid lore and knew their exact location in the Glastonbury countryside. But it was admittedly a bit of an ordeal getting to the trees and back. Up hill, down dale, through farmer's fields, over farmer's stiles, dodging cow shit and sheep shit, braving slippery mud and trying (unsuccessfully) to avoid barbed wire, thorn hedges and stinging nettles. An adventure in and of itself!

Wednesday 20 January 2010

Glastonbury's Goddess Temple

Glastonbury has a very active Goddess community. For the past 14 summers, a Goddess Conference has been held in Glastonbury. This fun and creative festival draws people from around the world. And since 2002, Glastonbury has had its very own Goddess Temple. Tucked away among charming shops in a tiny square off the High Street, it is found up on the second floor of a building. That's it with the open door and purple sign in the top picture.

The Goddess Temple is run by volunteer priestesses called -- of course -- melissas. The interior is a peaceful space, full of beautiful and artistic shrines to the various Goddesses sacred to Avalon. You can light small tea light candles as votive offerings. A circle of wicker Goddesses provides another space where you can sit and meditate on cushions and throws. The air is redolent with incense and soft music plays in the background.

I enjoyed visiting the Goddess Temple very much. It operates on donations and sales from its tiny gift shop. I made sure to spend a fair bit of money to help encourage the melissas in their devotion and service to the Goddess!

Tuesday 19 January 2010

Glastonbury Abbey

Glastonbury Abbey was an ancient Catholic monastery founded, according to legend, by St. Joseph of Arimathea. It was a major pilgrimage site and over the centuries grew very large and very wealthy on donations. When pilgrims started to slack off at the end of the 12th century, the Glastonbury monks rather fortuitously discovered the grave of King Arthur and Queen Guenevere on the monastery grounds. Business picked right up again.

All was well until King Henry VIII rejected the Catholic religion which refused to allow his divorce. After making England a Protestant country, he systematically destroyed and looted every Catholic monastery in his kingdom. In 1539, Glastonbury was utterly destroyed by the King's men. Its last Abbot was hanged, drawn and quartered on the Tor. Its immense wealth went straight into the King's coffers.

Since then, Glastonbury Abbey has been a magnificent ruin, as seen in the top photo. But it still draws many tourists and pilgrims. The bottom photos are of the ruined Lady Chapel (devoted to the Virgin Mary) and the alleged gravesite of King Arthur.

Monday 18 January 2010

More Glastonbury Tales

Well, now that the holidays and general craziness of December are over, it's time to get back to recounting the tales of our recent pilgrimage to various sacred pagan spots in England.

So far the stories have all been about Glastonbury -- the Tor, Chalice Well Garden with its sacred spring and pools devoted to the Divine Feminine, Wearyall Hill and the Sacred Thorn, etc. But before we move on to other places in England, there are two sacred spots left to describe in Glastonbury -- one Christian and one pagan -- Glastonbury Abbey and the Goddess Temple.

Oh wait! There's another pagan spot, too -- the ancient Druid trees called Gog and Magog. Hmm, yes, can't skip Gog and Magog.

And now that I think of it, I really should tell you about the Blue Bowl of Glastonbury also.

So in actual fact, there's still quite a few Glastonbury Tales left after all. Stay tuned!

Friday 15 January 2010

Olympic Mittens MADNESS And Other Fashion Notes

Behold the hottest fashion accessory in Canada right now! These Olympic Mittens, worn by all the Torchbearers, are also being sold to the general public to raise money for Canadian athletes. They are staggeringly popular and the stores can't keep them on the shelves. They are very reasonably priced at $10 -- probably because they're made in China, not in Canada (and yes, that caused a bit of a ruckus) -- and so are an affordable souvenir for most people. They sold out here in Edmonton long ago. The only reason my Rare One and I each have a pair is because we have a friend in Vancouver who was at the Hudson's Bay Company when a big box of mittens was brought out. The whole boxful was gone in less than a minute. Someone aggressively grabbed mittens right out of her hands -- tsk, tsk, where has our legendary Canadian politeness gone?!

Along with our mittens, my Rare One and I wear our 2010 Olympic scarves that were a promotional item last year from Coca-Cola. And yes, we may very well be walking, talking, patriotic, corporate-shill billboards but DAHLING, WE LOOK FABULOUS!

Thursday 14 January 2010

The Flame! The Flame!

I have never in my life seen as many police vehicles in one spot as I did last night at the Olympic Torch Relay Run in Edmonton. The Torchbearer was preceded by at least 25 police vehicles, all with their blue-and-red lights flashing -- marked police cars, unmarked police cars, police trucks, police vans, a police helicopter in the air and two police officers riding bicycles. Dotted in among all the police vehicles were a few 2010 Olympic vehicles, the shuttle buses carrying the other Torchbearers, a tow-truck (in case anyone had ignored the "No Parking" signs that were all along the route), a City of Edmonton van and various advertising vehicles from official Olympic sponsors like the Royal Bank and Coca-Cola.

And finally, after all that hoopla -- the Torchbearer! The flame was gorgeous against the falling darkness as the Torchbearer ran by. There were lots of people on the street and everyone cheered and waved flags. My Rare One and I did too, all decked out in our red Olympic mittens and Olympic scarves (more on that, tomorrow). The whole thing was marvelous, of course.

What surprised me was that the Torchbearer was accompanied by eight security personnel who ran along with him, four on each side. They were in dark track suits with reflective Olympic rings on the back. Once I thought about it some more, though, it made sense as a precautionary measure. Sadly, the world is not what it once was.

Wednesday 13 January 2010

Sacred Fire

In October 2009, priestesses gathered on the slopes of Mount Olympus, home of all the Greek Gods and Goddesses. A sacred fire was kindled directly from the rays of the sun, a ritual which has been done since time immemorial. But Hestia's sacred flame was not destined for use in an ancient temple or ritual . . .

. . . this time it was destined for a modern, secular purpose. The priestess transferred the sacred fire to a Torchbearer of the upcoming 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia . . . . Canadian, eh? How can you tell? Bet that toque and those mitts were pretty hot under the Grecian sun.

The sacred flame was then brought to Canada in a miner's lamp. The mayor of Vancouver carried it off the plane.

So is the Olympic Flame tucked away in a safe spot until the opening of the Olympic Games in February, 2010? Oh no -- it's being used instead to light an endless series of Olympic torches that thousands of Canadians are carrying in a huge cross-country relay run. The miner's lamp rides along in a camper van accompanying them.

Torchbearers started running in the Maritimes on the East Coast and are making their way westward through every province and territory. The Olympic Flame is being carried through large cities, small cities and innumerable towns . . .

. . . and through more remote areas of Canada as well.

It even showed up in the federal House of Commons in Ottawa, carried by Barbara Ann Scott. She won figure skating gold in the 1948 Olympics and, at 81, is still a national icon in Canada.

All along the route, Canadians have been enthusiastic, no matter what the weather conditions . . .

. . . and today the Olympic Flame arrives in Edmonton! After work, my Rare One and I are going to watch the Torchrunners go past the University of Alberta. After all, how often do you get to behold Hestia's sacred fire? It's a once in a lifetime opportunity!

Tuesday 12 January 2010

Yeah, Baby, Yeah!

Want to be the centre of attention? Have everyone look your way? Just wear one of these scarves! Available in small, medium and large. Also, tattoo and non-tattoo styles.

"We don't stop laughing because we grow old;
we grow old because we stop laughing."

Monday 11 January 2010

Yay Portugal!

The same sex marriage club has a new member -- Portugal! On Friday its parliament passed the necessary legislation. This now makes same sex marriage legal in eight countries in the world -- Belgium, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Norway, Canada, South Africa and Portugal.

Onwards and upwards! Who will be next?

Saturday 9 January 2010

Ukrainian Feast Details

The traditional Christmas Eve Feast at Taste of Ukraine was fabulous! The restaurant's decor recreates a Ukrainian village using murals, thatch, wattle, trees full of lights like innumerable stars, traditional embroidered clothing hung on clotheslines and other colourful touches. There was also a large, beautifully decorated Christmas tree. A braided loaf of bread (kolach) with a white candle in it sat at the centre of each table on top of a handful of straw (representing the Christ child in the manger).

On Christmas Eve day, Ukrainian Catholics fast to commemorate the hardships suffered by the pregnant Virgin Mary en route to Bethlehem. Then in the evening, the fast is broken by the Holy Supper of 12 meatless and dairy-free dishes, symbolizing the 12 Apostles. Each dish comes either from the field, the garden, the orchard or the sea and symbolizes that all creation welcomes the Christ child.

The first thing eaten is a small dish of kutya -- cooked whole wheat sweetened with honey and poppy seeds. It symbolizes fertility and family. (Delicious!)

Next was a lovely bowl of beet borsch containing an ushka (a perogy stuffed with garlic and mushrooms). Sliced kolach (braided bread) was served with garlic spread.

The third course was a plate of cold appetizers: pickled herring, beet vinaigrette, and cod/salmon studynetz (headcheese). I'm not a big fish eater but I tried everything.

The fourth course was the hot entree: a large plate of fried sole, varenyky (perogies) stuffed with potato and onion (yum!), holubtsi (cabbage rolls), mashed beans with garlic, baked sauerkraut and garlic mushrooms to die for! During this course, a small group of young men and women in traditional costumes sang Christmas carols in Ukrainian.

Finally, a delicious dessert plate: uzvar (stewed apricots and prunes), pampushky (jam donuts), makivnyk (poppy seed roll) and khrustyky (pastry strips with icing sugar). I don't believe the dessert items are counted as part of the 12 traditional dishes, since they contain dairy products. But still, a nice conclusion to the meal!

Oh, we had a fabulous time -- good food and good company! It took an unrushed couple of hours to eat all the courses and everyone went home stuffed. My Rare One and I just loved it!

[Photos are from Taste of Ukraine's website]

Thursday 7 January 2010

Happy Ukrainian Christmas!

Under the old Julian calendar still used by Ukrainian Catholics, today is Christmas. My Rare One and I are going tonight with a group of friends to a local restaurant called Taste of Ukraine. There we will enjoy the traditional feast of 12 meatless dishes. Usually this feast is eaten on Ukrainian Christmas Eve, but the restaurant booked up right away for that night. Luckily they offer the feast on two other evenings as well. I had to reserve our tickets way back at the beginning of November -- this is a popular feast here in Edmonchuk!

Wednesday 6 January 2010

Ice Fishing in Canada

Canadians are tough, eh? That's how I caught my cold, too.

Sunday 3 January 2010

Godda Tewwible Code

Hi everyone! I'm back now, but my souvenir from Manitoba is a terrible cold. So unfortunately, it will be a few days until regular blogging resumes. Maybe even a week, if symptoms carry on that long. *cough, hack, snort*