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Gathering the tribes

Here I am, emerging from a long silence in this blog, to bring you some news. During the late fall and winter, I have been consumed with my devotional work with the Morrigan, and with bringing the vision I received from Her over the past year into being. I needed for a time to focus on articulating the vision and beginning to share it with my kin and community. Now I am feeling the need to share it a little more broadly.

What we are engaged in is beginning the formation of a resilience network based on strengthening ties of kinship and community, on developing self-reliance and survival skills, and skills for self defense: the Raven Kin. You can read the vision statement here: http://www.ravenkin.net/. Since this network is intended to be kinship and affinity-based, the details on meetings of the network are not posted publicly. If you’re drawn to this work based on what you read in the vision statement, you can contact me for more information. We will also be holding an open meetup at PantheaCon, coming up February 17-20 in San Jose, in the Stone City suite.

I’m also driven to continue sharing my devotional work with the Morrigan, to help others connect with and serve Her, and to bring Her priesthood and devotees together. Toward that end, I’m establishing regular dates for devotional practice and work on the shrine, open to any interested folks, here at Stone City. These devotional days will be a time for us to engage in shared worship, connect with others who are drawn to Her service, learn from one another, and help build Her shrine. Second Sunday every other month, beginning February 12. The full calendar of devotional days is up on my website, as well as the Stone City page.

I hope to be writing more regularly in this blog, and I look forward to seeing some of you soon.

Morrigan cloaked, and the cost in blood.

This weekend I started a new phase of the statue: building the cloak. Here is where I begin to depart from the pre-formed structure of the mannequin. I formed the cloak from sheets of metal lath, cut to size, wired on and formed to shape. Then began the long process of layering fiber cloth and resin on to the metal. I make this sound simple, maybe, but it’s tricky and awkward and took me most of a day just to get as far as laying on the fiber cloth.

I am inspired to see Her beginning to take shape. I can begin to see a slow convergence between the image in my mind and the object before me; maybe there is a chance that I’ll pull this off and manage to create an image that is potent enough to be a vessel for Her presence here.

S. tells me She looks like Lady Gaga now, between the shiny black material on the body giving it a fetish-suit look, and the white fibrous material on the cloak getting a bit feathery. I am amused by this. Also, determined that by the time I’m done, She will be distinguishable from Lady Gaga. My Queen, I give you my word.

The day was unseasonably warm for January and the hours slipped by me while I steadily wrestled the metal into shape onto the statue. It’s hard on the hands; the cut lath is very sharp along the edges like a comb of tiny razors. My hands are nicked and sliced; at one point I have to lean against the edge of the cloak to reach around both sides and wire the parts together. I feel a couple points of the cut lath start to sink in to the surface skin on the side of my neck. I smile a bit when a cut on my fingertip wells up with a few drops of blood that find their way on to the statue. She takes Her offering, and I am glad to give it.

The blood gets me thinking, and I find myself flashing on the quote from Dante that Michelangelo wrote on his sketch for the Pieta: “One does not think how much blood it costs.”

How much blood does it cost? Your life’s work – the destiny that pulls your heartbeat onward like the current of a river. The task that is before you. How much blood will it cost you to bring forth what is in you? Do we dare to find out?

Here is what the Morrigan told me, and what the heroes of my ancestors tell: It may cost everything. It may cost you your life. The battle that you have before you – whatever that is – the birth struggle of that world that can not come to be except through your unique effort – this will not be achieved without blood. The price of your destiny is your life. To achieve the greatness that is in you requires you to give yourself to that purpose, and this giving will transform you. There will be no turning back. This is how heroes are made; in the simple choice to give. Sacrifice: to make sacred. That which is given in dedication to a greater force is made sacred by the giving. And it does mean giving something up. There is only so much time in a life, so many heartbeats. Giving yourself to the pursuit of your great Work will cost you in opportunities to spend your life more frivolously. And it may cost you much more than that.

Is this why we often shy away from success, from the fullness of our capabilities? Do we sense intuitively that the pursuit of greatness requires the death of the small, safe creature we were accustomed to being? Are we not sure we are ready to spill that blood?

Perhaps, I thought. And then came Her next answer: It doesn’t matter. Because willing or no, death will come to you. There is nothing to fear when the end of the story is known. Your blood will be spilled one day and will flow back into the river that birthed you. The only question will be when, and whether you had enough time yet to pour that blood into something meaningful while it was still yours. Being small will not save you.

So this is the heroic ethos; this is what Cu Chulainn knew. That a life is best measured in meaning, not in length or comfort. ‘Little care I,’ said Cu Chulainn, ‘nor though I were but one day or one night in being, so long as after me the history of myself and doings may endure.’ And though he was younger than a warrior should be, and people did not think him ready, he took up arms on that day and went to seek his destiny. We have this choice: to wait for an easy moment, staying within the comfort of our ordinary life, and keep the illusion of safety. Or to make the sacrifice, the gift of our very life, to achieve the greatness that is within us.


I would love to kiss you.
The price of kissing is your life.

Now my loving is running toward my life shouting,
What a bargain, let’s buy it.


-Jelaluddin Rumi

Morrigan statue with cloak structure. Not Lady Gaga.

Morrigan, armed and disarmed

After the deep journey of the Samhain gathering, I went out to work on the Morrigan statue today. She was with us in the ritual and through the haunted night, and still very present while I worked, layering resin onto the torso to strengthen it. I listened to the cool November wind in the pines and the calling of ravens, the ting-ting-ting of the hammer on the anvil and thought about ancestors.
All the things our ancestors made, things we either cherish or forget. Old tools handed down or lost in a junk store somewhere. That tired quilt your mother kept. Old books, houses, handkerchiefs, weapons. Your very bones. The work of our ancestors’ hands. You and I, each of us came from a line of ancestors. What did their hands, their minds make? Even if these things were not handed down to you, they are somewhere, whispering a story of the lives that shaped them. That story, and those works, are your inheritance.
I thought about the work of my hands, this big work of devotional art that I am driven to create. I thought about the work of my husband’s hands as he hammered down in the smithy. I thought, I am an ancestor. You, each of us is an ancestor. Even if you never have children yourself, you are part of a generation, and to those who come after, you will be an ancestor. What are the works of our hands? What are we building? Would your ancestors take pride in the works you are creating? Will your descendants?
In a little while, Shannon came up from the forge with a spear for the Morrigan, iron hafted on a long copper shaft. I fitted it on to the statue; She was armed.
Then while I bent down to clean my brushes before laying on the next layer of resin, the wind came up and knocked the statue over. She fell backwards against a pile of bricks. The right shoulder cracked open just before the join, and the left shoulder was crushed in where it impacted. I sat down, frustrated. I suppose the statue is getting a bit top-heavy and poorly balanced because of the arms and now an iron spearhead poised out in front; the little base the mannequin came with is no longer adequate to hold it up. I considered stopping work for the day. Eventually I  took a long metal stake and pounded it in to the ground in my yard, and slid the hollow leg of the statue down over it. Now She was pretty firmly in place and I could keep working.
Start again, just like on day one, reinforcing the shoulder joins. They were the weakest part of the statue to begin with, and I don’t know if I can make them strong enough to hold the weight they need to when I start adding the framework for the cloak. I don’t really know what I’m doing, but I’m doing it anyway. You build, working toward something; sometimes it falls down, or you fall down. You breathe, get up, you keep on working. Our ancestors worked their way through glaciations, famines, wars, emigrations, always moving forward. If anyone in your ancestral line gave up on their journey, that line might not have been carried forward to your hands. We are the inheritors of a heroic legacy. No matter who you are, there are heroes in your line. Human beings who worked, suffered, sacrificed, quietly building your inheritance. Now it’s your turn.
Statue as of November 1. Spear crafted for me by my awesome husband Shannon.

Morrigan statue, stage two

The last two sessions of work on the statue have been armoring the skin of the mannequin with layers of fiber-matting and fiberglass resin, to give more strength and structural integrity to the statue before I start adding metal structures to it. Before I started this step, I also sanded the whole surface of the mannequin. That’s the reason for the creepy zombie-eyed look as some of the paint was sanded off the eyes. If you are thinking to yourself, “That does not look anything like a goddess, yet,” you are correct. I’m keeping the faith that it will eventually!
Armoring the skin of the mannequin.

Morrigan Statue, day one.

Today I started work on the Morrigan statue. This will be a life-size sculpture in fiberglass, metal, and metal filler. When She’s finished She will be installed at the shrine site that we have dedicated to the Morrigan here at Stone City, atop a cluster of five red-encrusted boulders on a lonely hilltop to the west of the Henge.
The vision for the statue is a life-size figure of the Great Queen, with arms outstretched, a spear in one hand and the other open as if speaking a prophecy. She wears a cloak that billows out to the sides and in front of Her. Her hair is loose and tumbling as if in the winds of war. Viewed from the back, Her hair forms the head of a great raven, whose wings spread out to either side forming the back side of the cloak. She’s naked under the cloak, with Pictish symbols drawn on Her skin. Her body is strong, muscular, and beautiful, yet you see the shadow of a skeleton emerging from the surface of Her skin.
That’s the vision – if I can pull it off. The sculpturing process is experimental for me, because I’ve done auto body work in the media that I’m using, but I’ve never tried using them to make a big statue. So I’m learning as I go. I began with a fiberglass mannequin and will build the sculpture out using that as a base. Today’s work was to fix the arms in the forward position and spread them into a wide stance. Next stage, attaching wire cloth to form the basis for the cloak and hair.
This is, of course, a devotional work for me. Part of my process when I connect with the Gods is to do devotional art as a way of opening myself up to Their power. As I find inspiration about how the art work should look and feel, I learn things about Them; the creative process brings out an experiential understanding of Their iconography, and the numinous meanings contained within Their imagery. This will be the third in a series of devotional works I have done for the Morrigan. I began with a small altar statue (the one designed by Paul Borda), which I bought in the unfinished version and hand painted, about 10 years ago. The second work was an oil painting, which I believe there’s an image of posted here, a multifaceted portrait. This statue will be the third work. I notice that they seem to be getting bigger every time… we’ll see what She asks of me next, if I manage to complete this statue as I’ve imagined it.
Me, hugging the mannequin as I try to adjust it.
The mannequin.
Showing the alterations I made to spread the arms in a wider stance.