Archive for June, 2010

The Gypsies and the Mother Goddess

June 30, 2010
Saint Sarah

Saint Sarah

Once a year, gypsies from all over the world head to Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer in the South of France, to pay homage to Saint Sarah. According to tradition, Sarah was a gypsy who lived in a small seaside town when Jesus’ aunt, Mary Salome, arrived with other refugees trying to escape from persecution by the Romans.

The statue of Sarah, dressed in beautiful robes, is taken from somewhere near the church (since the Vatican has never canonized her) and carried in procession as far as the sea, through narrow streets strewn with roses. Four gypsies dressed in their traditional clothes place the relics in a boat filled with flowers and repeated the arrival of the fugitives and their meeting with Sarah. From that moment on, everything involved music, feasting, singing and showing one’s courage in front of a bull.

It is easy to identify Sarah as another of the many black Madonnas to be found in the world. Sara-la-Kali, says the tradition, came from noble lineage and knew the secrets of the world. In my mind, she is one of the many manifestations of what they call the Mother Goddess, the Goddess of Creation.

Every year the festival at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer attracts more and more people who have nothing to do with the gypsy community. Why is that? The reason is because God the Father is always associated with the rigor and discipline of religion. On the contrary, the Mother Goddess shows the importance of love above all the prohibitions and taboos that we know so well.

The phenomenon is no novelty; whenever religion makes its rules tougher, a significant group of people tends to seek for more freedom in spiritual contact. This happened during the Middle Ages, when the Catholic Church confined itself to imposing taxes and building luxury-filled convents; the reaction was the appearance of a phenomenon called “witchcraft”, which, despite being repressed on account of its revolutionary character, left roots and traditions that have managed to survive across all these centuries.

In earlier traditions, the cult of nature is more important than reverence for the holy books; the Goddess is in everything, and everything is part of the Goddess. The world is just an expression of her goodness. There exists many philosophical systems, such as Taoism and Buddhism, that do away with the distinction between creator and creature. People no longer try to decipher the mystery of life, but rather, take part in it.

In the cult of the Great Mother, what we call “sin”, generally a transgression of arbitrary moral codes, is far more flexible. Customs are freer, because they are part of nature and cannot be considered the fruits of evil. If God is a mother, then all that is necessary is to join together and worship her through rites that try to satisfy her feminine soul, such as dancing, fire, water, air, earth, singing, music, flowers and beauty.

The tendency has grown enormously over the last few years. Perhaps we are witnessing a very important moment in the history of the world, when at last Spirit integrates with Matter, and they unify and change.

Posted by Paulo Coelho on his blog.

Also see

What is wrong with the church?

God is

By the River Piedra I sat Down and Wept

The Witch of Portobello

Brida

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Why do I not see you more often?

June 30, 2010

A man said to a Dervish: “Why do I not see you more often?”

The Dervish replied, “Because the words ‘Why have you not been to see me?’ are sweeter to my ear than the words ‘Why have you come again?”’

— Sufi tradition

God is not always silent

June 30, 2010

God is not alway silent, and man is not always blind. In every man’s life there are moments when there is a lifting of the veil at the horizon of the known, opening a sight of the eternal … But such experiences are rare events. To some people they are like shooting stars, passing and unremembered. In others they kindle a light that is never quenched. … The remembrance of that experience and the loyalty to the response of that moment are the forces that sustain our faith. In this sense, faith is faithfulness, loyalty to an event, and loyalty to our response.

— Rabbi Abraham Heschel

From Tree of the Art of the Mind a very moving article by Tom Weidlinger. A lovely example of synchronicity.

For my lovely friend Sian who brings much joy and happiness into my life and sadness too and without who my life would be the poorer.

Also see

Crossing the transition zone

Eden People demonstrating use of Jesus Cards

June 29, 2010
Eden People – shuffling the deck

Eden People – shuffling the deck

I was pleased to see the Eden People at the Ambient Picnic (this year part of Celebrating Surrey Festival). Ambient Picnic regulars, they were all that remained from when the Ambient Picnic was a free festival, a festival once worth attending.

It was a very hot day and I was very grateful for the fresh pineapple they were handing out. They were also the only people handing out free drinks in bio-degradable cups!

My eye was caught by Jesus Cards (aka Jesus Deck), lovely gilt-edge cards in a box, used in a similar way to Tarot cards. Each card had a simple quote taken from one of the gospels.

I was shown how the cards were used, plus we engaged in a very interesting discussion. Ironic that we had lengthy discussion on the biblical context of each card. Why ironic? Although I was being shown how the cards are used as one would use Tarot cards, the cards were originally designed to illustrate and promote discussion on aspects of the life of Jesus.

The Jesus Deck was designed as a set of playing cards by the Rev Ralph Moore in consultation with various Scripture and Theology Consultants. With the pack is a set of instructions for games and a description of each card. The cards themselves are an attractive set of playing cards well presented in a black box with the words Jesus Deck in gold block writing on the cover. They are divided into suits according to the gospels and contain pictures of events or stories form the life of Jesus.

Eden People also had Angel Cards which I guess would be something similar.

If the Catholic Church is at one end of the religious spectrum, then Eden People are at the other. An informal collective of free-thinking followers of Jesus. Like Santiago in The Alchemist by Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho, they listen to their heart, follow the signs, are in contact with the Soul of the World.

Synchronicity: I walked to the festival along the River Wey then along the North Downs Way, dropping down to Loseley Park. On my way there the lovely scent of elderflower, on my way back in the gathering dusk the lovely scent of honeysuckle. As I passed St Nicholas Church I saw they were to have two talks on The Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela (7-30pm in the evening on Tuesday 6 and 13 of July 2010), a medieval pilgrims route. A route that had fallen into disuse until Paulo Coelho wrote of his pilgrimage in The Pilgrimage.

Synchronicity: One of the stalls had a copy of The Valkyries on display!

Also see

Narcissus and the lake

Summer Solstice at Stonehenge

The Cross

Pilgrimage to Aylesford Priory with the Knights of St Columba

The Jesus Deck

Prayer is something that happens to you

The Grand Inquisitor

Gospel of Thomas

Celebrating Surrey Festival 2010

June 29, 2010
Celebrating Surrey Festival at Loseley Park

Celebrating Surrey Festival at Loseley Park

This was the first of this event, a county-wide initiative celebrating culture in Surrey. It was held at Loseley Park, in the grounds of an Elizabethan manor house built from stones looted from Waverley Abbey.

Loseley Park is located halfway between Compton and Guildford. Out of the way if you lack a car. I got there by walking along the River Way, along the North Downs Way, then dropping down to Losely Park. Quite a trek, but a very pleasant walk.

I was actually there for the Ambient Picnic, normally held in Shalford Park in Guildford.

The Ambient Green Picnic in Guildford was once a fantastic free festival, well worth attending. And attend they did, down from London, up from Brighton. Then the last few years has seen a sorry decline, entrance fee for what was a free festival, security fencing, over-the-top heavy-handed security, smelly burger vans, local brewery beer tent, too commercialised. Last year was an unmitigated disaster, a small fenced-off corner of Shalford Park. It lacked atmosphere. The festival had lost its way, if not its soul, necessitating a complete rethink. At least that is what should have happened

This year they occupied a small sliver on the edge of the site, and that was it. Eden People were there, but where were all the stalls? I did not think it could get any worse than last year, but sadly it had got a whole lot worse.

But it was just a small part of the Celebrating Surrey Festival. The overall impression I got was a festival organized by the local Womens Institute, though no jam. The surrey Middle Class having a day out. Nothing wrong with that, but it lacked the atmosphere of past Ambient Picnics.

Highlight of the day was in the evening Big Bands playing at two of the stages.

It was quite a mixed bag. Brass bands playing, dance and theatre, Mongolian wrestling and a Mongolian Ger. I loved the Mongolian book of calligraphy and poetry. I was reminded of Zen poetry. I liked the wood turner using a foot-powered lathe. The Chinese Loving Hut vegan food stall was very good, especially their spring rolls. They told me they have a vegetarian restaurant in Brighton, but in an area of Brighton with which I was not familiar. They were giving away free DVDs on going green. At the top of the site a labyrinth had been cut into the grass.

It was a very hot day, possibly 30C or higher. I spent most of the day in the shade of the trees at the edge of the site. It was good to be able to wander around the site barefoot all day. Water pipes around the site were welcome.

Celebrating Surrey Festival was billed as a celebration of local food and drink. I saw nothing. At the very least I would have expected to see Hunts Hill Farm who run an excellent barbecue at the Guildford Farmers Market (Guildford High Street first Tuesday of the month), Matt from The Deli in North Camp with his Hog Roast.

Loseley Park, or at least the house, is an Elizabethan Manor House built from stone looted from the ruins of Waverley Abbey. It is where the somewhat overrated and overpriced Loseley ice cream come from. It is located half way between Compton and Guildford, just south of the North Downs Way, and if you are going there on foot, that is the best way, along the North Downs Way, then drop down to Loseley Park.

Celebrating Surrey is a county-wide celebration of the best in art, music, culture, food and drink.

Celebrating Surrey Festival was part of the Guildford Summer Festival running from 18 June to 1 August 2010.

Mike Dawes and Amy Turk at the Farnham Carnival

June 28, 2010

One of the highlights of the Farnham Carnival was Mike Dawes and Amy Turk, Mike Dawes on acoustic guitar and Amy Turk on concert harp.

My friend Sian and I had seen Mike Dawes and Amy Turk perform earlier in the month at the West End Centre in nearby Aldershot and were looking forward to seeing them again. And yes, it was worth the trip to Farnham. Basically the set was the same as at the West End Centre, only shorter. It was a pity they only played for half an hour as they went down very well with a very appreciative audience.

We had a chat afterwards and I picked up signed copies of their limited edition album Reflections.

Mike Dawes and Amy Turk will be performing at Talking Heads in Southampton on 6 July 201) and the Phoenix Arts Centre on 8 July 2010.

Note: Two of their gigs next month, Alton College in Alton (9 July 2010) and Fahrenheit 55 in Guildford (28 July 2010), have been cancelled.

Farnham Carnival is an annual event on the last Saturday of June. The theme this year was fashion through the ages.

Farnham is a small market town in Surrey at the start of the North Downs Way, roughly half way between London and Winchester.

Also see

Mike Dawes and Amy Turk at Farnham Carnival

Farnham Carnival 2010

June 28, 2010
Farnham Carnival

Farnham Carnival

It is that time of year of summer fetes, festivals and carnivals.

The Farnham Carnival takes place on the last Saturday in June, which is where I happened to be. Last June it was the Washingborough Church Fete.

I was there with my friend Sian, though strictly speaking we were not actually there for the Carnival, we were there for the music in the evening, or more specifically Mike Dawes and Amy Turk who we had seen and enjoyed earlier in the month in concert at the West End Centre, a little cultural oasis in Aldershot. But having never been to the Carnival before, not even known of its existence, we thought we’d make the day of it as Farnham is a pleasant market town to visit.

The theme of the Carnival was fashion through the ages.

We arrived around lunchtime as stalls were being set up in Castle Street. We walked up into Farnham Park and ate lunch on the grass under the shade of a tree. By the time we walked back down the carnival was in full swing.

For us, highlight of the carnival was an invite to look inside the local Masonic Lodge and performance by Mike Dawes and Amy Turk early evening.

The invite into the Masonic Lodge was fascinating and we had a long and very interesting discussion with the Masons we met. As it was pointed out to us, the Masons is not a secret society, it is a society with secrets. The same quote or something very similar can be found within The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown (paperback edition due out shortly).

What surprised us was a Masonic stall at the carnival to recruit new members. It used to be by personal invite only. The times they are a changing.

Late afternoon there was a fly past by the Red Arrows.

Organization of the carnival left much to be desired. There may have been programmes saying what was on, but we did not see any. No fresh drinking water. Two sound stages but nothing to say who was on or when, not even anything to say who the acts were who were on stage. We were very lucky that we did not miss Mike Dawes and Amy Turk as we were at the wrong sound stage and we only caught them because we took a walk to the other sound stage to see who was on.

There was a carnival procession, most of which we missed as like a couple of Muppets we remained in Castle Street expecting the procession to pass by.

Why junk food? Why burger and hot dog vans? Why not invite Matt from The Deli in North Camp to set up a hog roast? Why not invite Hunts Hill Farm in Normandy to run a barbecue? Food does not have to be junk.

After Mike Dawes and Amy Turk had finished we wandered back to the main sound stage where a very good rock n roll group were playing, but no idea who they were. Sadly we did not stay for them as we were hungry, tired and thirsty and wandered up the street to Nelson Arms where luckily a table was vacated. We sat outside and had an excellent smoked salmon and avocado salad.

After our excellent smoked salmon and avocado salad at the Nelson Arms we sat outside drinking until late, then began our long trek home, tired but happy after a very enjoyable day out. The next day we were off to the Ambient Picnic at Losely Park near Guildford, part of the Celebrating Surrey Festival.

A hot day, probably reached 28C.

Farnham is a small market town in Surrey, roughly half way between London and Winchester.

Amr Diab

June 25, 2010

Sitting on a beach in the Middle East I would be entranced by haunting music from the Lebanon.

Amr Diab is different, a fusion of Arabic music with Western rhythms. What has been dubbed ‘Mediterranean music’ whatever that means.

Be a little more flexible

June 24, 2010

Though you might enjoy this. It made me check my actions of late.. Be A Little More Flexible by Anon..

Too many people put off something that brings them joy just because they haven’t thought about it, don’t have it on their schedule, didn’t know it was coming or are too rigid to depart from their routine.

I got to thinking one day about all those people on the Titanic who passed up dessert at dinner that fateful night in an effort to cut back. … From then on, I’ve tried to be a little more flexible.

How many women out there will eat at home because their husband didn’t suggest going out to dinner until after something had been thawed? Does the word ‘refrigeration’ mean nothing to you?

How often have your kids dropped in to talk and sat in silence while you watched ‘ Jeopardy ‘ on television?

I cannot count the times I called my sister and said , ‘How about going to lunch in a half hour?’ She would gas up and stammer, ‘I can’t. I have clothes on the line. My hair is dirty. I wish I had known yesterday, I had a late breakfast, It looks like rain’ And my personal favorite: ‘It’s Monday.’ She died a few years ago. We never did have lunch together.

Because People cram so much into their lives, we tend to schedule our headaches.. We live on a sparse diet of promises we make to ourselves when all the conditions are perfect!

We’ll go back and visit the grandparents when we get Steve toilet-trained. We’ll entertain when we replace the living-room carpet. We’ll go on a second honeymoon when we get two more kids out of college.

Life has a way of accelerating as we get older. The days get shorter, and the list of promises to ourselves gets longer. One morning, we awaken, and all we have to show for our lives is a litany of ‘I’m going to,’ ‘I plan on,’ and ‘Someday, when things are settled down a bit.’

When anyone calls my ‘seize the moment’ friend, she is open to adventure and available for trips. She keeps an open mind on new ideas. Her enthusiasm for life is contagious. You talk with her for five minutes, and you’re ready to trade your bad feet for a pair of Rollerblades and skip an elevator for a bungee cord.

My lips have not touched ice cream in 10 years. I love ice cream. It’s just that I might as well apply it directly to my stomach with a spatula and eliminate the digestive process. The other day, I stopped the car and bought a triple-decker. If my car had hit an iceberg on the way home, I would have died happy.

Now…go on and have a nice day. Do something you WANT to…not something on your SHOULD DO list. If you were going to die soon and had only one phone call you could make, who would you call and what would you say? And why are you waiting?

— Elaine Breinholt Street

Thanks Elaine for sharing these thoughts. We have to learn to be like Santiago in The Alchemist by Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho, take risks, overcome our fears, climb out of our rut, follow our dreams, learn to read the signs, listen to and heed the Soul of the World.

Also see

The Alchemist the movie

‘I want my life back’

June 24, 2010
BP Gulf oil spill

BP Gulf oil spill

“I want my life back” he said and we say “We want the Oil Free beaches back”!

Also see

15 BP Oil Spill Cartoons

A hole in the world

The Soul of the Earth is Hurting