Thursday, January 31, 2013

Spirit art - part two

I have been painting for two weeks now - and there appears to be no end in sight. I had bought a large load of sweaters to turn into art of some kind - I was inspired by an artist named Katwise and her amazing sweater coats on Etsy. The newly purchased sweaters are still in their bags, in the garage. I will get to them eventually.

My muse is taking a turn for me. I had originally thought of doing a series of sea motifs. I love the ocean, shells, water, beaches - I was born near the shore, so it runs in my blood I suppose. I married another water baby, a true Agwe. But now, as my inner eye opens and the creatures I call friend proliferate in my house, I find their whispers are taking my work in another direction.

The recent square bottles are all Simbis - red, blue and green.  Serpent motifs entwine them, forked tongues just out in silent criticism of the world, and the solo eyes I craft stare impertinently back at me. I laugh at them, and they turn a head, laughing silently along with me.

I've been buying angels of late. Soaring creatures with splayed wings and pious faces. I spent the afternoon cutting off their heads and hands, impaling them on the fronts of my bottles, giving them skeleton heads and hands, to replace their pious gestures and faces. They look better to me, more real and in touch with the world. The creatures egg me on, whispering new ideas.

I just purchased a Nativity set. I am damned, I know it, but I keep cutting, plastering, painting and gilding. New ideas, new forms keep arising. Old religions die off, giving rise to new ones. Old gods fade away, only to be replaced by new ones. The latest incarnation is Santa Muerte, and her cult is growing by leaps and bounds. Death reigns supreme in a world of atomic weapons, nuclear fuel and idiot leaders who think they will save their own butts first, before helping anyone else.

Am I mad? I will keep painting, it feels right and I will enjoy the journey that I tell so many others to do. So be it. Right now, I have a saint to behead.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Inspiration and Vodou art

The Lwa are severe task masters. Let me explain.

I have been meaning to create a series of 'something's for the Lwa for some time now. I have been collecting bottles, boxes, odd bits of this and that, with a vague idea of what to do with them. Although art may seem to flow from the artist, it is in reality a long process of gathering, meditating and then doing. As a new friend said to me this week, sometimes, you just gotta push through to the other side of creativity. So this week, I decided I would do just that - push through until the art engine came on line.

Well, I should have know there'd be a few stalls and hiccups along the way. Art really IS a process, one that can't always be jumped started - even by pots of coffee and sugary pastries. But then, the Lwa step in and the mystery, the magic happens.

I've had this very cool group of bottles for a year. I've washed, them, I've taken them out, I've stared at them. I've put them back. I think about them later, I take them out again. I stare at them. I put them back. You get the picture. This week though, I became obsessed by the bottles. I kept thinking about them, drawing them, staring at them.  When I dreamt of them, I took them out and left them out. I dug out all my stuff, I even went so far as to unearth my "toy" box -- a collection of cool things I've been adding to for over two decades now. It's got angel wings, Harry Houndini dolls, bits of clocks and old eyeglasses.

And I dove in head first.

So here are my bottles five days later. I am on a roll. I've dug out the next series of bottles (all square) and making them siblings. And I found my figure shaped bottles. They'll be the Maitresse series (of course). But I thought you'd like to see the bottles in process.

This is the square set - not sure who they are - they tend to speak to me as I work, and define themselves as we go along. I had thought they'd be Simbis, but they are not sure who they are as yet. I am still creating the underwork as I call it. The sub-textures and surfaces that will later be embellished. I study with an artist named Michael Demeng. He is an assemblage artist, working in rusty metal and the discard detritus of the world. His blog and web site can be found here. He has motivated me mightily with his painting techniques, otherworldly vision and macabre sense of humor. One day when I have extra money to burn, I'd love to take a class with him. But alas, its out of my price range at the moment. So I satiate myself with online offerings and stalking him on Facebook.

And what I do in the meantime, is listen to the Lwa, as they direct me to do their work. This piece began as a white Danbala offering. But the mighty creator serpent had other ideas. And so I allow Him to guide my hand as I dig and search and attach, remove and reattach things, until the vision is complete and Dan is satisfied. I am always amazed at what The Lwa love and want as their image in the world. It's really nothing like what we think it is.  The collective zeitgeist of their "offerings and colors" is really a decision reached by a multitude of people over many years.

Yet each spirit speaks to us individually about their own likes and dislikes. It is a collaborative effort between Them and us. We put forth our own ideas of what they look like, what they want and accept. Yet, when you take the time to speak to them as individuals, on an intimate level, their desires are far from the universally held "truths" that so many are slavishly devoted to.

I suspect that the Lwa are very particular about their appearances, their dress codes, their wants and desires. How frustrating for them, not to be able to impart to the greater public what it is that motivates them into action. And how fortunate for the few of us who do take the time to listen to Them, because we are given the ultimate gift. Individualized ashe, inspiration of a spiritual dimension, and  a broadening of our own internal spiritual konnesans.

Ayibobo Papa Danbala, I give thanks for this gift, this energy and this insight.

Now back to the painting table. The Lwa are calling me.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

January is Legba's Month

A new year - seems we did not succumb to the Mayan Apocalypse (nor the dire predictions of one either). So now we are off to a new start and new beginnings. We serve Legba this month, and I thought I should write a little about Him -- He is an important part of my life and we give honor where we can.

Legba is the first lwa called in the Vodou ceremonial order. Some houses do their Reglemen differently - I have a dear friend who hails from the Artibonite Valley and in his reglemen, they call the Marasa first.  But by and large, you will find Legba called first in most houses.  Legba is the lwa who opens the doorway between the spiritual and material worlds, and permits communication between human beings and the lwa. He is like Mercury and Janus all rolled into one.  Legba is usually envisioned as an old, old man, so old that he is bent over. Sometimes he is said to have a broken leg.  He is also called "Legba Do Miwa", Legba on the Back of the Mirror, and mirror symbology is important with Legba, so we will be talking about this more as we go along.  Legba carries a stick, and a straw bag called a djakout.  Sometimes people say he is accompanied by a dog.  For this reason he is identified with Key 0, The Fool, in the Tarot.  Legba is a tricky lwa, he will make things happen in unexpected ways.  When he appears through possession, other lwa usually follow in short order.  

Legba's number is three. Anything we do for Legba, we do three times, anything we give him, we give him in threes.  Here is an invocation for Legba a lot of people already know:

Papa Legba ouvri baye pou mwen, ago e!
Atibon Legba ouvri baye pou mwen.
Ouvri baye pou mwen, Papa, pou m pase,
Le m retounen, map remesi lwa yo.

Papa Legba open the gate for me, open!
Atibon Legba open the gate for me.
Open the gate for me, Papa, for me to pass,
When I return, I will thank the lwa.

Notice that Legba is asked three times to open the gate?  There are echoes of the power of three in other traditions too - the Holy Trinity composed of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, for example.  In European neo-pagan traditions, there is an invocation:  By the power of three times three, As I will, so mote it be.  I am sure that other people can come up with more examples.  To represent "three" in our service for Legba we will do a variety of things.  We sing all his songs in multiples of threes -- nine songs three, six or nine times.  We pour water three times at all the important places in the temple.  And we always make all his offerings in triplicate. (Think three huge cakes, triples of cookies, rum, coffee, everything!)

Legba in our house also loves coins.  I keep a huge jar full of them, so when He comes in service, we can offer them to Him. He divines with them, gives them out as blessings and creates amazing pwen with them.  I 'd like to offer you this short pwen, by teaching you how to charge three coins with power.

Our Legba loves pennies, so find or obtain three pennies with odd dates of minting. Leap year pennies  are perfect. Cleanse them however you see fit (wash them, scrub with salt, clean with perfume...) Once a day, take them in your hand, blow on them, and then present them to the four cardinal directions -- East, West, North and South. Speak the invocation above daily. Keep them in a container of some kind, where they won't get lost. Do this for three days, ending on Monday. At the end of the day on Monday, instead of putting the coins in the container, place them with your money -- in your wallet, in your bank or in your pocket where you carry your money.

Money in the Bible was called "mammon" and Jason Miller has written some excellent articles on money magic. I suggest carrying "Mammon" on you. Mammon likes to move around, go in and out. It's a well know fact that money spent always returns in triple (Legba again). Ask any Wall Street trader and he will tell you that its magic, the way money going out always comes back over and over again. So don't let these little Mammons sit in your house. Cart them around on your person, allowing the moving energy of Legba to fly forth.  Remember legba is the wandering Lwa moving about in the world.  YOu have ensouled these coins with a little bit of Legba's magic.  Allow them to roam and soon they will return to you ten fold.

Honor Legba this month with a triple candle, some black coffee and a handful of popped corn. He is humble and will thank you for the offer by bringing something to you. It is the Feast of the Epiphany, the gifts of the Magi being gold, frankincense and myrrh. Three kings, three gifts. Legba again. Ayibobo.