Friday, February 7, 2014

I do not practice religion...

“ I do not practise religion in accordance with the sacred rites. I have made mysterious Nature my religion. I do not believe that a man is any nearer to God for being clad in priestly garments, nor that one place in a town is better adapted to meditation than another. When I gaze at a sunset sky and spend hours contemplating its marvelous ever-changing beauty, an extraordinary emotion overwhelms me. Nature in all its vastness is truthfully reflected in my sincere though feeble soul. Around me are the trees stretching up their branches to the skies, the perfumed flowers gladdening the meadow, the gentle grass-carpetted earth, … and my hands unconsciously assume an attitude of adoration. … To feel the supreme and moving beauty of the spectacle to which Nature invites her ephemeral guests! … that is what I call prayer."  
-Claude Debussy

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Summer of Gods - Eliciana Nascimento

About the film:

The Summer of Gods is a short film about a troubled girl named Lili who unites with her Afro-Brazilian religious ancestry on a summer visit with family to their ancestral village in rural Brazil. Soon after her arrival, she encounters Orishas (African gods) who join with her grandmother to help her find peace with a gift
that has previously vexed her. The film is set in the Northeast of Brazil where Afro-Brazilian religious traditions remain strong. Lili's Grandma is a well revered local priestess who honors the Orishas. Lili is blessed by the goddesses as well. To preserve tradition, they lead her on a mystical adventure through a nearby forest which symbolizes her initiation into the tradition.

About the Filmmaker:

Film director Eliciana Nascimento now holds an MFA (Master of Fine Arts) in Cinema from San Francisco State University. This was her MFA thesis film and her second narrative film.

Eliciana: “My interest in telling this story is to help preserve my ancestors’ traditions. Personal life experience informs its characters and theme as many elements of the film are pulled from my own childhood memories. As a native Brazilian living in a foreign country, I have developed an interest in Pan-African themes. I have noticed that the issues Afro-Brazilians face in Brazil are similar to those faced by African descendants here in the United States and in nations throughout the Americas. As a storyteller and social activist, my motivations around filmmaking are rooted in telling stories of people from the African Diaspora who have often been marginalized by societies and the mainstream film industry. My goal is to use cinema as a tool to reveal the beauty, culture and mythology of these people.

 Above text and images taken from The Summer of Gods website.

Here is a blurb that I found on Indiewire:
As the filmmaker herself describes her film which is...
...set in the Northeast of Brazil where Afro-Brazilian religious traditions remain strong. In the film, Lilli's grandmother is in charge of an annual celebration for the Orisha Yemanj√°. In real life, the event is known in Brazil as Festa de Yemanja and it is the largest Orisha celebration in the country. In this event, devotees of African religious traditions dress in all white to take their offerings to the sea to thank Yemanja for helping them in their social and political struggles. In The Summer of Gods, this celebration is at risk of expiring because Lili’s great-grandmother is about to pass away. Grandma is a well revered local priestess who unites her community to honor the Orishas. Lili is blessed by the goddesses as well. To preserve tradition, they lead her on a mystical adventure through a nearby forest which symbolizes her initiation into the tradition.

This film looks so interesting!  I know very little about the Orishas, but I am very, very drawn to Yemaya/Yemanja.  I definitely want to see this film when it is released - too bad I wasn't still in The Bay Area where I could see it tomorrow in Oakland!

Heavenly Messages by Melissa - 2/14
Three Wooden Horses by James Doran-Webb

February 1, 2014

Dear Friends,

Have you ever thought much about February? Why is it the shortest month of the year? Why does leap year’s day get posted to it? And in the shortest and nasty-cold month of the year comes Valentine’s Day celebrating sweethearts and love. And of course there’s the Super Bowl and the even stranger rite of Ground Hogs day. Let’s face it, its an odd month. February is unique and original just like Aquarius where the Sun always travels on 2/1.

Aquarius is a highly intelligent, inventive, cutting edge, electric air sign ruled by Uranus planet of change and revolution. Aquarius is the sign most closely associate with astrology (the original 10,00 foot perspective) and is the iconoclast railing against the system who easily rises to a   broader perspective and convince the rest of us with Crystal Blue Persuasion to see through any mirage. Their motto is “Freedom, Liberty, Equality for All!” and throughout time Aquarians have been the gadflies and provocateurs who continue to point out where their society, their government, even their own family can do better – can live up to a greater potential.

If you are born with Sun in Aquarius you are learning to rise above your own personal constellation and embrace a larger more objective understanding of reality. You are leaving the hum-drum comfort zone of the small minded and beginning to think in cutting edge ways. Above all you are here to express your own unique self!

Here are a few quotes by some famous Sun in Aquarius natives to get a sense of these values:

Better the occasional faults of a government that lives in a spirit of charity than the consistent omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference. ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt

To be ourselves causes us to be exiled by many others, and yet to comply with what others want causes us to be exiled from ourselves. ~ Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Life is one big road with lots of signs. So when you riding through the ruts, don’t complicate your mind. Flee from hate, mischief and jealousy. Don’t bury your thoughts, put your vision to reality . Wake Up and Live!     ~ Bob Marley

You’ll see these Aquarius themes in this month’s issue with many examples of astrology’s “as above, so below” which highlight government and corporate indifference or downright stupidity. Another big theme for February 2014 is how to bring life back into balance, which must begin at the personal level before larger structures have any hope of change. Read about it all below.

I hope your own life is in a lovely balance and harmony and if not, that you will be able to reach a higher perspective from which you can easily see how balance can be achieved. And in this Valentine’s month I wish you all the love you need to fill your heart to overflowing!



Heavenly Messages for February 2014

Your handy Astro Facts: The Full Moon (26° Leo) is on 2/14 at 6:53p.The New Moon (10° Pisces) is on 2/28 at 11:59p Pacific Time – the last possible moment in February! In all earlier times zones the New Moon is on 3/1). Mercury goes retrograde (at 3° Pisces) on 2/6 at 4:43p and turns direct on 2/28 at 9:00a. The Sun enters Pisces on 2/18 at 1:00p All times are ET unless otherwise noted. Read February’s Individual Messages HERE.

True to the unusual wavelength of Aquarius, February’s astro energy is different from the norm too. For one thing, unless you live in far western time zones, there is no New Moon this month, kinda weird. And as the month dawns the Sun glimmers alone in Aquarius, while in other years Mercury, Venus and Mars often join in. This year on February 1st Mercury is gurgling in watery Pisces, moving slower than usual in prep for going retrograde on 2/6. Venus after her own retro phase now moves direct in Capricorn and won’t reach Aquarius until 3/5, while Mars is 5 signs away in Libra also moving slowly getting ready for his own retro motion in March. The Aquarius theme song, Crystal Blue Persuasion, won’t have much harmony this year. If you don’t know the song listen to this and you’ll understand why it fits Aquarius so well: Crystal Blue Persuasion

On 2/6 beginning at 4:43p ET Messenger Mercury does the first retrograde of the year stationed at 3° Pisces, then reenters Aquarius on 2/13 backs up to 18° Aquarius and goes direct on 2/28 at 9:00a ET.  Mercury retro has trickster energy around communication, so it’s wise to watch what you say out loud in both voice and text. As always the basic rule is to check, check and double check everything!  Read more about general Mercury Retrograde trends here in my MERCURY RETRO article, and here is an article I liked by Darkstar Astrology.

Mercury rules both Gemini and Virgo so these two signs know more about how to handle Merc retro phases better than anyone. Of course this is because you’ve had to learn, like it or not! Since Mercury reverses in Pisces and backs into Aquarius again, both these signs need to pay more attention too.  See your individual sign messages for more personal insight.

Astrologers have been talking about large Mercury retro windows lately, meaning retrograde effects are felt sooner than the actual retro date. (I have my own opinions on this which involves  astro calendars needing to have major adjustments, but that’s a story for another time.) Mercury retro is well known for traffic snarls and that retro window was certainly WIDE open in Atlanta last week on 1/28 when the city ground to a halt due to a snow and ice storm. I grew up in Atlanta so the city is dear to my heart. Though this storm loomed, officials canceled nothing in the area – not schools, government offices or roadways, even though there was plenty of warning about the weather in advance. Stranded workers slept in the aisles of stores, thousands of school students and their parents were affected, in fact the very grade school I attended, E. Rivers Elementary School, had students stuck there overnight. Classic Mercury retro mayhem! Here are some interesting articles on the debacle Students Finally Get Home and an analysis on underlying structural causes which lead to these kind of problems in the first place The Day We Lost Atlanta

It’s also interesting to note the 2104 Winter Olympics in Sochi Russia takes place from 2/7 through 2/23 entirely during Mercury retrograde! The retro window has already opened for this major sports event too, with the dark shadow of terror threats hanging over the Olympics causing many to cancel plans to attend. Another retro effect is Russian President Vladimir Putin’s anti-gay rhetoric and recently introduced anti-gay laws forbidding “gay Propaganda” at the Olympics. The eyes of the whole world are witnessing this backward thinking more reminiscent of earlier centuries than the 21st. If you haven’t been following this story read Olympians urge Russia to reconsider to get caught up.

When Mercury does a backstroke in the mystical waters of Pisces it can create even more unusual trends. Especially this go-round when Neptune, Chiron and asteroid Pallas/Athena also travel in Pisces. Time stretches and shrinks, those retro spacey feelings last longer, it’s much easier to get  distracted and wander away in your mind or on the highway! When Mercury retros in Pisces you want to tap the plus side of this pattern, which is greater ability to go deeper and discover currents not noticed before, which can carry you to magical shores of creativity, spirituality and love!

On 2/13 Mercury slides backs into mental Aquarius again, tapping another energy entirely. Mercury retro in electric air sign Aquarius can zap your own nervous system and larger systems like mass transit, Interstate highways, etc. Mercury was in Aquarius on the day of the Atlanta storm – enough said! This retro pattern takes a toll on brains and bodies – it’s important to have extra rest and downtime so your nervous system can release pent up static.

In other astro news Mighty Jupiter is still doing a backstroke in watery Cancer, and Saturn, lord of the material realm, remains stationed in the powerful water sign of Scorpio, while Neptune and Chiron continue their swim in the mystical waters of Pisces. We may have just left the year of the Water Snake, but that snake still has plenty of water in which to swim!

In the as above so below category, water issues are making dramatic headlines currently.  Consider the recent case of Charleston, West Virginia where less than a month ago (on 1/9) a toxic chemical called MCHM used in the coal industry leaked from storage tanks near the Elk River upstream from where Charleston gets its water supply. Up to 300,000 residents in the area could not drink, cook or even bathe in their tap water! As recently as 2 days ago (1/29) residents were warned that chemicals could still remain in their plumbing systems.

In researching this water-event story, I just learned a very interesting fact. Turns out that Freedom Industries who owns the tanks which leaked 7,500 gallons of MCHM was formed from a merger of several other companies and was only 2 weeks old when the leak occurred. We can guess that management was not quite up to speed yet when the accident happened. Whatever your concepts about corporate America are, this is an educational story. Read more about it here Poisoned: why West Virginia’s water crisis is everyone’s problem

On the other end of this water focus is California’s current drought which scientists are saying is the worst in 500 years. Governor Jerry Brown has issued an “exceptional drought emergency” and officials say 17 communities and water districts could totally lose their water supply in only 100 days. Creeks, lakes and reservoirs have run dry in many rural areas already and major aquifers are threatened too. On top of this the usually deeply snow covered Sierra Mountains have seen record low snowfall this season – some of the ski areas aren’t even open yet! The Sierra snow pack provides water for the area and if it remains below normal, it also means less water in the future. Crops like Napa Valley grapes (wine costs might soar, oh no!), rice, avocados, strawberries, almonds, corn and more are affected too. Across the globe, there are also record droughts in China and a fierce heatwave in Australia is parching that country and putting a strain on water supplies as well. It’s as if the heavens above are reminding us that water is our most precious resource we have and we had better honor it!

The Grand Cardinal Cross still hangs in the heavens this month and plays right into these themes.  Wherever life is out of balance whether it is government officials asleep at the wheel, corporate managers of dangerous substances flying under the radar, or average people too complacent to take personal measures which help their communities and the environment, the stress cracks are going to become obvious.

The cardinal signs are: Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn. As February begins Pluto, planet of transformation is in conference with Venus in Capricorn. Pluto has been in Capricorn for 5 years slowing pounding away to create deep structural changes in all the world’s bureaucracies be they government or corporate or even crusty patriarchal religious structures. (Can we all agree that Pope Francis has already begun to break the mold in the Catholic Church?) Venus, planet of peace, harmony and fair play, just turned direct in Capricorn on 1/31 after a 4 week retro phase and remains in Capricorn until 3/5. With Venus’ input, this important conference can tilt the balance toward smarter methods for managing these important worldly structures. Let us hope!

Along with this both Venus and Pluto are in an exact see-saw opposition to huge Jupiter in emotional Cancer. (Think of the several minute, heartfelt applause during the US State of the Union speech for wounded Army Ranger Cory Remsburg to get a feel for this kind of emotional energy.) At the same time revolutionary Uranus in Aries forms a challenging T-Square to all 3 planets. Uranus’ fiery Aries cry for change at all costs can easily pull any situation out of balance again. The 4th corner of the cardinal cross is Libra. Mars, planet of action has been stationed in Libra, the very sign which represents balance, for the last 7 weeks. Mars is now slowing down in prep for his retrograde phase (on 3/1) so will stay in Libra 6 more long months until mid July.
The whole point of bringing this to your attention is to help you understand when the planet of action is in Libra, the action required is to get into balance! In the midst of all these swirling cosmic themes it can certainly be a challenge, but one which will yield amazing results. With Mars staying in Libra such a long the sooner you get started the better off you will be. And what better month to do it than February when clarity reigns and it is easier to get out of your own way to see the bigger picture.

My wish for you is that you will rise out of the swampy water and jump on the back of the sturdy and powerful wooden horse and ride into a wonderful future in perfect balance and harmony!

IMAGE NOTE:  This photograph of three driftwood horse sculptures by James Doran-Webb is perfect to celebrate the new year of the wooden horse.  I also loved how this  photograph taken against a clear blue sky brings in the power of Aquarius Crystal Blue energy as well.  James Doran-Webb has created many amazing sculptures from driftwood which seems Aquarius, out of the usual mode, as well. To view more of his work and learn about his unique driftwood art visit his website HERE    and for some interesting information on the year of the Horse visit HERE

Individual Heavenly Messages for February 2014

NOTE: To get the most out of your Heavenly Messages read the message for your Rising sign (ascendant) along with your Sun sign.

AQUARIUS  January 20 – February 19 Happy Birthday Crystal Blue Persuasion! Aquarius isborn tuned into a different wavelength from the norm and the astro energy as your personal new year arrives is definitely supporting your birthright! Your ruler Uranus charges forward in fire sign Aries with a battle cry of “Change is here, embrace it!” While Lord of the Material World Saturn remains stationed in your career/profession/outer world zone continuing a once in 30 year journey in this important terrain. People who didn’t give you a second glace are looking up to you now. Along with this Venus consults with transformer Pluto in your mystical dream zone, discussing concrete ways to bring new patterns into your life which will manifest soon (even if you can’t see it yet). Meanwhile motivational Mars remains in fellow air sign Libra for months on end, all in harmony with you! The largest planet of all – Jupiter, continues to splash around in your work space, and whether the waves are flowing sweetly or crashing fearfully, it’s all good in the long run. Trust. Here is your heavenly advice for February and onward: Be Aquarian!  Let go – detach from the old safe paradigms and soar like the star you are to the 10,000 foot perspective. It is only from this vantage point that you will see your future calling and be able to respond. Mercury goes retro on 2/6 and return to Aquarius from 2/13 thru 3/17.  See Intro for details.

PISCES February 20 – March 20 Dear Double Fish, On 2/1 Mercury joins your ruler mystical Neptune, the Moon, Chiron and wiseasteroid Pallas/Athena all converging together in Pisces. This confluence sends a direct current toward huge Jupiter in your creativity space which portends a lovely, flowing month for you! Some of you may have income flow (or lack of it) on your mind, so you’ll be glad to know energies not fully evident yet are on your side. The worst thing you can do now is sink down into fear and the most marvelous thing is to do is whatever you love and enjoy your life moment to moment! Pisces is born to go with the flow and learn to tame impatient, “gotta have it now!” impulses. Mental Mercury goes retrograde in Pisces on 2/6 and remains backward the rest of the month which can help you with this or make you even more antsy. You want to tap Mercury retro’s plus side which is ability to go deeper and discover new currents you had not noticed before which can carry you to magical shores.  See Intro for details on Mercury retro.

ARIES March 21 – April 21 Dear Aries, February’s astro energy is different from the norm in many ways. For you Rams the focus repeats some of last month’s message as in, “your current task is to determine exactly what path to take…[and] urges practical, well thought out concrete plans.”  The emphasis is definitely on well thought out, versus barging ahead into fruitless battles which you don’t need to engage in the first place. Ruler Mars is on a slow track now in prep for a retro phase on 3/1 which only happens once in 2 years, so you may feel a bit slower yourself. On top of this Mars currently travels in your opposite sign of Libra which activates your relationship/ partners zone (and will for the next 6 months). Mars in Libra puts energy into diplomacy and learning to walk in the other person’s shoes – not a strong suit for Aries. Since Mars is your fearless leader no matter what sign he transits, it’s time for you to tame your Lone Ranger side and listen to the wisdom of Tonto (the Johnny Depp version). In plain words: slow down, shut up and follow advice of those who have your best interests at heart.

TAURUS April 22 – May 20 Dear Taurus, Your ruler Venus just turned direct on 1/31, so February is going to have a warmer feel for you! Venus’ forward motion helps you regain lost ground and she remains in fellow earth sign Capricorn all month (thru 3/5) continuing to give you a steady helping hand. On 2/1 there is a confluence of watery Pisces streaming through your networking, community connections and friendship zone with a direct current to huge Jupiter paddling in your mental/ communication sphere. It’s a lovely time to reach out to your circle of like minded folk and share experience and advice. Mercury goes retro in this same zone on 2/6 so be extra careful that communication doesn’t go astray. (See Intro for details.) Mars continues his travels in Libra which rules your work/job space which is also the zone of health patterns. If you have bullheadedly been working yourself too much, or your boss has been herding you into more work than you want, Mars in Libra demands balance. If you want to avoid stress related health issues, do whatever it takes to find this balance in your everyday life. Venus helps you out with good ways to set appropriate boundaries – follow her advice!

GEMINI May 21 – June 20 Dear Gemini, let’s start with this month’s good news: the Crystal clear Aquarius Sun works well with motivational Mars in airy Libra and both beam out clarity to you! Venus moves forward again in your deeper relationship space so your values around partners in life get clearer too. Ruler Mercury is in Pisces as February begins and joins satellite dish Neptune in your career/outer world zone. This helps you tune into higher guidance around career and professional choices. The not as happy news is that Mercury turns retrograde on 2/6 and backs up all month (thru 2/28). As you well know when Merc goes retro this tends to create wonkiness for you, and this time it affects larger world choices too. It’s not as bad as it sounds Gem, because even backward Mercury manages to work harmoniously with optimistic Jupiter traveling in your income/finances zone and then returns to fellow air sign Aquarius (from 2/13 thru 3/17) helping uplift you to higher concepts. See Intro for more details about Mercury retro.

CANCER  June 21 – July 20 Dear Cancer, February begins with the Moon in mystical Pisces aligning with Mercury, Neptune, Chiron and wise asteroid Pallas/Athena calling you to the highest perspective you can reach. Meanwhile Venus just turned forward again in your relationship zone where she remains all month. Venus has been urging you to re-evaluate your relationships across the board from love/marriage/family to business partners and expects to see some results now! With you sweet Crabos the deal is always one of two trends: you feeling insecure and needy  expecting your partners to always be there to hold your hand; or, you giving way, way, way too much of your time and energy to others, until everything is totally out of balance – including you! This leads back to gaining a higher perspective. Mercury is set to go retro on 2/7 (thru 2/28) which can be a good time to review your belief structures. Who told you that you weren’t “enough” and up to any task you set yourself, and/or who convinced you the way to heaven was through sacrificing yourself to everyone else’s needs? If you figure this out you really will be on your way to heaven…on earth!

LEO  July 20 – August 22 Dear Leo, With the cold glare of the Aquarius Sun in your eyes, February often feels chilly for you warm blooded Lions. The usually adoring gaze of others around you has a squint to it which gets you wondering what you did. Most likely dear Leo, it’s not about you at all – it’s about what others in your life project upon you. You are meant to stand up for what you believe and sometimes folks just don’t want to hear it. Motivational Mars is in Libra and travels in your mental/communication zone in February and during the next 6 months as well – much longer than the norm. Libra is a sign of diplomacy, fair play and balanced viewpoint. The warmongers out there who gain from conflict want you to stir up trouble and when you point out a different path….well that’s when they start squinting at you. Now these mongers may be in the work place, on the home front or even trusted friends and allies. As always Leo, remember a phrase from last month’s message: “If others question your judgment roar to remind them you are the king/queen of beasts – and they’d better follow your lead!”  The Full Moon shines in Leo this month on 2/14. A wonderful time to roar!

VIRGO August 23 – September 22 Dear Virgo, Ruler Mercury enters your relationship/ partners zone as February begins, but is on a slow track preparing to go retrograde on 2/6. Meanwhile Venus in fellow earth sign Capricorn has just turned direct giving you added confidence about your own clever concepts, while Mars energizes your income zone. You are looking to your partners to giddy up and go, but instead it seems like they are in slow-mo. A bit frustrating! Mercury backs-up until 2/28 so here’s your best advice for the month: Maintain the better boundaries you have been practicing and when necessary bring out your tough love, ruthlessly compassionate side to keep things on course. You’ll also need to practice patience while trusting that your partners do hear what you say and will act when they are able. In other words, a skilled juggling act is required. Jolly Jupiter remains in your networking connections and friendship space, so when you feel frustrated reach out for advice or to simply to have fun with your buds and let off some steam. SeeIntro for details on Merc. Retro.

LIBRA September 23 – October 23 Dear Libra, You’ll feel better as February begins with ruler Venus moving direct again. Venus’ retrograde phase was meant to help you review your value system from the roots up, and learn to set appropriate boundaries with family members and anyone else with whom you share home, hearth and heart space. She remains in your home and family zone all month (thru 3/5) so continue to take advantage of her helpful energy. Meanwhile martial Mars maintains his long term visit in Libra (over the next 6 months) where he is up close and personal – like a warrior in your face! With Venus as your ruler sweetness graces the face you normally wear, however, the current posture of Mars brings more aggressive energy your way and you’re not used to it! Since Mars does not intend on leaving any time soon, it’s best to come up with a workable plan. Mars in Libra puts emphasis on diplomacy, fair play and a balanced viewpoint. It’s a good idea to pull on those better boundaries Venus has been guiding you toward, so when others try to sway you off your own trusted course, you’ll be able to steer them back firmly and with grace.

SCORPIO  October 24 – November 22 Dear Scorpio, As February dawns Venus moves forward again after a 5 week retro phase in your mental/communication zone and is in a helpful conference with ruler Pluto making concrete plans about the next phase of your life. This new phase may be a bit illusive for the time being because co-ruler Mars maintains his long term position in your “ethereal closet” zone for the next 6 months. On top of this communicator Mercury in misty Pisces is set to go retrograde from 2/6 (thru 2/28) making things more vague and hard to define. Meanwhile stern Saturn in Scorpio is having none of it, and continues to demand that you rise like a phoenix from whatever ashes you’re in. What to do? Here’s a good idea: stop expecting other people – your employer, lover, partner or family members to create ideal circumstances for you. Scorpio is the most powerful sign of all and it’s time to use your own vast store of creative talent to make your world rock and roll! Put your magnetic energy to work. With  a light heart and the playfulness of a child, have a fabulous time imagining your ideal life, exactly the way you want it to be, and before you know it, you will be living this life!

SAGITTARIUS November 23 – December 20 Dear Dashing Steeds, do you know in the Chinese zodiac tradition on 1/31 we just entered the year of the Horse? So it’s your year too! It may not quite feel like this to you yet, because ruler Jupiter continues to reverse in water sign Cancer (can horses easily gallop in water?) and lord of the material plane Saturn, remains stationed in your non-material zone. On top of this mental Mercury is slowing down in prep for a retro phase beginning on 2/6 (thru 2/28) and motivational Mars is stuck in place for months on end. So it’s easy to understand if you’re not at a trot yet. Hold the faith Saggie, things will change and when they do it will be at full gallop! In the meantime good news for the month is that Venus is now moving forward again in your income zone helping you build concrete financial plans for a stronger foundation in your life all round.

CAPRICORN  December 21 – January 19 Dear Capricorn, Good news this month for you! Sweet Venus moves forward again and remains in Capricorn all month (thru 3/5) so you continue to exude charm and allure! On 2/1 Venus is in conference with transformer Pluto helping devise concrete plans for the next phase of your life. Other people are a large part of this plan as huge Jupiter maintains his position in your partnership zone. Motivational Mars in Libra continues long term travels in your career/professional/outer world zone (for the next 6 months) and since Libra is the sign associated with relationships, partners are further emphasized. Re-evaluate those you want by your side. Communicator Mercury begins the month in your mental zone but is moving slowly in prep for a retro phase beginning on 2/6 (thru 2/28). It’s a good time to review concepts while remembering to check and double check everything you must say or write, and when you space out and forget things anyway – learn to forgive yourself!

Melissa StrattonAstrology,
Tarot and Dream Analysis

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Alice in Quantumland

Some adventures later, Alice meets the Little Mermaid, from who she learns about the theory of many worlds:

“As you know,” she began in a liquid, musical voice, “I am a creature of two worlds. I live in the sea and am equally at home upon the land. But this is as nothing compared with the number of worlds which we all inhabit, for we are all citizens of many worlds — many, many worlds. . . . 
The quantum rules … apply to the whole world, to everything. There is no limit to the idea of the superposition of states. When an observer looks at a superposition of quantum states you would expect him or her to see all of the effects that are appropriate to the selection of states present. This is what does happen; one observer does see all the results, or rather the observer also is in a superposition of different states, and each state of the observer has seen the result that goes with one of the states, in the original mixture. Each state is simply extended to include the observer in the act of seeing that particular state. 
This is not the way that it seems to us, but that is because the different states of the observer are not aware of one another. When an electron passes through a screen with two slits in it, then it might pass through to the left or to the right. What you observe to happen is pure chance. You might see that the electron has gone to the left, but there will be another you that will have seen the electron go to the right. At the point at which you observe the electron, you split into two versions of yourself, one to see each possible result. If these two versions never get together again, then each remains totally unaware of the other’s existence. The world has split into two worlds with slightly different versions of you in them. . . .”

You can read the rest of this mind blowing article from Brain Pickings here.

A PDF of the book can be found here.

Cosmic News - M. Kelley Hunter


Image: Red Tara, oil painting by author.

NEW MOON on January 30 at 11 AQUARIUS, 4:38pm EST, 1:38pm PST, 9:38pm GMT

This is the second New Moon of the month. The January 1st New Moon was at 11 degrees Capricorn and this one is at 11 degrees Aquarius (we round up), giving us the magic 11:11 gateway number full of serendipity. Consider this as the February New Moon as there is no room for one in that shorter month. Again in March we will have two New Moons.

The first New Moon after the Sun enters Aquarius marks Chinese New Year. This is it! We gallop onward across the prairies into the wild new territory. The Horse embodies teacher energy, with the natural instinct to find the best trail and move fast.

AQUARIUS expands our attention to the larger social context after a down-to-business month that required attention on shoring up and maintaining our own situations in the face of major systemic changes. Revolutionary Uranus, considered the ruler of Aquarius, is engaged and active in Aries. This New Moon is in excellent alignment with this electrically-charged, technologically-inventive planet. Uranus in dynamic interaction with Pluto drives the overarching transformational agenda of our times. Other planets—Venus, Mars and Jupiter—have extended interactions with these two outer planets the first half of this year. The 2014 Horse will ride like the wind through the wild weather.

Largely influenced by the weighty internal agenda of VENUS retrograde in earth sign Capricorn this first month of 2014, we have been re-evaluating our lives on many levels to make them not only workable for the foreseeable future, but to be much more emotionally satisfying. Emotional satisfaction is a proper standard. According to the U.S. Declaration of Independence, as well as Venus, the pursuit of happiness is an inalienable right.

High and brilliant in the pre-dawn sky, Morning Star Venus is turning to direct motion on the 31st, seeking to empower and manifest collective values to include joy, wellbeing and beauty as essential aspects of our redesign of how we are living. We take stock of how well we are claiming our emotional self-sufficiency and repositioning ourselves to invite and welcome inevitable change—for the better. In life we rely firstly on ourselves. No one else can live our lives for us. Venus as the money planet has also clearly been focusing attention on the seriousness of the economic restructuring. There is no choice but to step up and deal with it. As we are grounded and centered in our own base, we have more to contribute. As Venus turns forward, we, too, move forward, with increased emotional self-sufficiency and a more promising game plan. In this Moon cycle we seek alignment with like-minded people with whom we can accomplish worthy projects.

Venus, in its slow pivot from backward to forward motion, holds steady with Pluto for a good week on either side of this date, driving home her point about economic renewal. There is a lot going on behind the scenes globally. We experience significant shifts in our own lives in relation to love and money, and our sense of satisfaction (or not). Practical considerations impact our choices and decisions. Venus-Pluto in Capricorn is a powerful goddess of rebirth, who demonstrates her volcanic power by turning the Earth inside out, further disrupting systems that are no longer viable, as well as crafting and empowering new life forms through her guardianship of the Nature hierarchies. Imagine your personal image of this authoritative Crone Goddess energy—is it Kali, Lilith, the ancient Mountain Mother? Think of Galadriel, Elven Queen of Lothlorien in the LORD OF THE RINGS (Cate Blanchett's character in the movie).

Another appropriate and authoritative image of the cosmic feminine divine is Ceres, Nature Goddess and also a Horse Goddess. As a planetary energy in the asteroid belt, Ceres is like a protective shepherdess, who fosters wellbeing in all realms of Nature. She has a lot to say these days about our human responsibility as stewards of Planet Earth. Ceres is activated during this New Moon and in this next week, moving from Libra to Scorpio, into the transformational path of destiny as indicated by the Nodes of the Moon. I believe the Earth will be responding this coming month to the scientifically-confirmed polar magnetic shift of the Sun, incoming rays from the Galactic Center and the increasing light field of the interstellar cloud into which our solar system is moving.

Another key factor in this New Moon pattern, big planet JUPITER is in a close face-off with the transformational Pluto-Venus, putting a powerful ringed forefinger squarely on big cultural issues. This is one of the key planetary interactions that push this year into overdrive in terms of change. Some of our belief systems are severely challenged. This is hard for some; glorious for others, as we awaken to possibilities beyond our past experience. Religious issues are front page, some of the headlines linking religion and economics. Needs of the people must be addressed, and may be in some beneficial ways, from local to national to global, with a new game plan for 2014. heading west.

An increasing sense of altered reality permeates the fields with Mercury entering Pisces, also on the 31st. As it merges with Neptune, be aware of possible undercurrents of anxiety or a sense of things off-kilter. This mood sends us into a February rather like Alice when she went down the rabbit hole. Though more than a bit disconcerting, that story ended well, didn't it? We can always change the ending, which is one of the storylines for February. Take what time you need to fine tune your energy field. PAUSE and take a second look around to zero in on the most beautiful aspect in your field that will raise the vibrational resonance.

Mercury pauses and turns retrograde on February 6th, remaining so for the rest of the month. We may start out with a plan, but it's up for constant review as old ways dissolve and disintegrate, opening space for new options. We may even forget what the plan was, as our take on reality gets fuzzy. Mercury, the thinking planet, turns backwards in watery Pisces, sign of the elusive, fluid Fishes. Reality is equally elusive and fluid. It might feel like we are losing our minds at times, but not all sense of reality is lost. We are challenged to change our minds about what version of reality is "real." Make up your own. Is your life feeling like a reality TV show? There is some basic truth to that. Find a good sound track for your life.

An appropriate affirmation as a motto for the month is the shamanic saying, "The world is as we dream it." Don't be at the mercy of what is going on around you and don't be a martyr to anyone else's cause. Disengage from any vibration that brings you down. Change any "channel" you don't like, and direct your own reality show. This is an intriguing thought, isn't it? With Neptune in Pisces we are all re-imagining, re-creating the Big Dream we want to be living, along with Gaia, the Earth herself, and "all our relations," as we "think" more with our opening hearts than our heads.

Compassion frees us. The best of this really extraordinary Neptunian Mercury retrograde is its plasticity. Situations are very changeable, offering multiple perspectives—think kaleidoscopes, glass eyes, magnifying glasses and fun house mirrors. "Curiouser and curiouser," remarked Alice through the Looking Glass. There are lots of YouTubes and documentaries out there these days that have a mind-bending effect. How much alternative reality can you encompass? Some intriguing movies may come out this month.

Spiritual practices, including body-centering ones, may be essential. This Piscean energy offers a rare opportunity to deepen meditation and other means of spiritual communion. BE KIND to yourself and others. Resting and naps allow the mind its needed "time-outs." Self-medicating in addictive ways are only a temporary fix that skew reality even more. Let's not dwell on the negative. This month can be incredibly inspirational and spiritually uplifting if we aren't expecting too much of ourselves (or others).

On the 13th, Mercury, still retrograde, shifts back into Aquarius for a breather, like a dolphin coming up for air. We step back for a better look and see where we were "out to lunch" for a while. We can adjust the picture, like getting the camera lens in focus to retake a photo that got blurry. Let's see what awesome possibilities have bubbled up by that time, and clarify the best on offer under the light of February's Full Moon rising on Valentine's Day. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Natural Beauty - Caspian Tern

Caspian terns build a type of nest known as a scrape. It's typically a shallow depression lined with stones, shells and vegetation.  (text and image from MNN)
I love that image of the nest - it would be something I would make in a shallow bowl and put on my coffee table!

(Image from here)

The Caspian Tern is the largest of all terns and can be found in North America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Asia and Africa.  Cornell's bird site has some more pictures along with the sound of this tern - you can find that here. Cornell's site is a wonderful resource for anyone interested in birds.

This book was one of my favorite finds when I was at summer camp in Nova Scotia as a teenager - it was and still is one of the cleverest things!  And, of course, the tern makes an appearance.

Click on any of the images to enlarge them.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Getting ready for Year of the Wood Horse

Karen Abler Carrasco ~ 2014 – The Year of the Yang Wood Horse

There might not be a bigger shift of energies in the entire 60 year wheel of Chinese astrology than this one coming up–the shift from two Water years of deep introspection to the fast-paced spurt of extroverted forward propulsion that the Wood Horse brings.  Hold on to your hats, folks, and realize that you won’t be able to, nor will you want to, slow your horses in the New Year ahead!
This will be a promethean year, the Beginning of all beginnings, arriving around January 31st to February 4th, 2014.  Full of uplift, optimism and compelling inspiration, we will be guided into purposeful action of the most elegantly simple and powerfully fruitful kind.  After two years of feeling every revelation of corruption in the dark as if it was scouring our subconscious insides and wringing us dry of watery emotion, we are READY for this change!  Light, hope and clarity of vision gallop in. Emerge from your cocoons, everybody, here we goooooo!
Because this will be such a big change of energetic experience for us, it will help to review here how the cycle of the sacred Five Elements, or Phases, have set us up for this shift.  In that cycle, Wood feeds Fire, Fire’s ash creates Earth, Earth’s compression reveals gems of Metal, and Metal collects and holds Water, which nourishes the Wood to start the cycle all over again. The natural laws of these five elements are actually working in multiple ways throughout Nature, our bodies, our psychologies and the energetic movements of all things here on this planet.  In these movements, there are cycles within cycles, one of which is the cycle of birth, growth, disintegration and death, or the void that comes after old life and before new life.
We have just been traveling through that void, in two Water years, which immersed us in a descending place of degeneration, dissolution and chaos, a time when our internal world of formless spirit and emotions held total sway over every attempt at external control or order.  For most of us, it was an unsettling time of letting go of many things, either voluntarily or forcefully, a time of deep soul searching, with gradual or sudden destabilization in many areas of family and livelihood.  There was a profound search for a return to a spiritual basis for daily living.  This all had the effect of highlighting an individual’s isolation and powerlessness within a seemingly random and careless society.  Not that outright rebellion and outcry didn’t happen, globally as well as internally.  The 2012 Yang Water Dragon year saw to that, with its critical promptings of social responsibility and heroism, and this Yin Water Snake year that followed delved even deeper into the most hidden caves of stagnant dysfunctionality and corruption on all levels.
The good and great news is that we have completed 5 years of the degenerative part of the cycles–that of the harvested, decomposing Earth, compressing and eliminative Metal, and dissolving, settling out, cleansing Water.  We now emerge into the generative cycles–powerful, bursting buds of Wood’s new growth fueling the joyful outreach and passions of Fire and the beginnings of Earth’s fruitful harvests.
So, that’s the Wood part of what’s coming.  Now to turn our gaze to the animal symbol of Horse. This sprouting upward rush of Wood energy will find its perfect release into the impulsive and passionate nature of the Yang Horse, whose native element is Fire.  The Horse energy inspires powerful INTUITION and an indomitable surge towards freedom in every aspect of life. This is a year to follow your inner voice like never before, for it will have a universal cosmic ch’i within it.  Higher guidance is with us every step of the way.  Reach for the sky, call up your vision, fuel your plans with vision boards and creativity, find a fresh path and pace yourself well.  This yang Horse year has the potential to channel the powerful new upthrust of Wood’s Ch’i through the Horse’s Heart energy of Fire and into every project we start, every desire we reach for.  It will keep our eager plans from being dominated by too much “head” and not enough “heart.”
It may be quite challenging to trust that we have this absolutely new, purified and hopeful energy to build on now.  Our hearts have had to endure a gauntlet of deconstruction through two Metal and two Water years, but the fiery Horse is about to change all of that.  Within the extroverted “Green Horse” year, we will not only branch out with new growth, but we will be able to stoke the Fire element of love in every area of life.  Follow your intuition fearlessly, as it is both the horse’s main attribute which preserves its freedom and powerful health and it is Wood’s primary talent for stretching into the unknown future.  Reach out with irrepressible faith to a new level of social communion and mutual support.  Trust every impulse to embrace a revitalized and renewed sensitivity for the pleasures this earthly dimension has to offer.
Step up and out of any old clutter, stored memories, should-have-dones or regrets.  The time to deal with that is over for now.  Untangle your thoughts quickly and get clear on what it is that you truly desire in this lifetime.  Your trusty steed is here, full of vibrant health and tremendous stamina.  It should be quite a fast ride, so grab a fistful of mane, hang on to the reins, cast your old cares to the wind and let out a whoop of delight–Yeeehaaw! Upward and onward we thrive!  May we all be blest abundantly as we hold each other closer in the circle of health and new life the Wood Horse year brings.
Article reblogged from here.

Sunday, January 19, 2014


I have decided that this is the kind of home I want to live in...

You can read about them here.

Image from same article.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Kolo - A Community of Healing

For some time, I have been interested in learning more about the Slavic part
of my lineage.  Every now and then, I run into something that
really touches me and this video is one of those things.

You can read more about The Kolo Collaboration here.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Natural Beauty - Birds of Paradise

I didn't know that there are 39 species of these birds.

They're pretty spectacular - watch how they dance and display!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Gongbi Silk Painting

I found this over at Jackie Morris's blog and thought I'd share it here, too.

Return to the Temple - Zola Dubnikova

Artemisia Gentileschi - artist

Judith Slaying Holofernes 
One of the most famous and skilled painters of the Baroque era, Artemisia Gentileschi was centuries ahead of her time. Among the first women artists to achieve success in the 17th century, she brought to her work an electric sense of narrative drama and a unique perspective that both celebrated and humanized strong women characters. Rediscovered by feminist art historians in the past few decades, Gentileschi has inspired a spate of books, both scholarly and popular, and a number of films. But it is the sensational painting Judith Slaying Holofernes (c. 1620) that epitomizes her career. The Art Institute of Chicago, in collaboration with the Foundation for Italian Art and Culture (FIAC), is thrilled to present this stunning work, an exceptional loan from the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, for its first display in Chicago.
The daughter of painter Orazio Gentileschi, Artemisia trained in her father’s workshop and quickly earned acclaim, completing her first signed painting, a dramatic yet sensitive rendering of Susanna and the Elders, when she was just 17. Her style bears some resemblance to that of her father, who was a follower of Caravaggio, but Artemisia’s paintings stand out for their theatricality—the raw emotional intensity of a few figures daringly arranged. The younger Gentileschi’s work is also distinctive in its focus on powerful heroines, capturing both their vulnerability and strength, a feature many attribute to events in Gentileschi’s own life. At the age of 18, she was raped by one of her father’s colleagues, Agostino Tassi. He was convicted in a trial a year later after Artemisia was tortured to “confirm” her testimony, but Tassi was never punished. Within months of the conclusion of the trial, Artemisia was quickly married and moved to Florence with her new husband.
The brutal depiction in the monumental Judith Slaying Holofernes is often interpreted as a painted revenge for the rape. Unlike other artists who focused on the ideals of beauty and courage evoked by the Jewish heroine Judith, Gentileschi chose to paint the biblical story’s gruesome climax, producing a picture that is nothing short of terrifying. As the heroine decapitates Holofernes, the general of King Nebuchadnezzar, to save the Jewish people, her brow is furrowed in concentration, her forearms are tensed, and blood spurts wildly from her victim’s neck. The startling naturalism of the scene owes much to the influence of Caravaggio; Artemisia followed his technique of painting directly from life and employing sharp contrasts of light and dark. The power of the scene, however, is all her own, and the painting endures as a masterpiece of Baroque art.
Violence and Virtue and its accompanying catalogue explore Gentileschi’s painting in the context of her remarkable career and the complex responses of Renaissance and Baroque artists to the story of Judith. The exhibition draws on the rich holdings of the Art Institute as well as a private collection in Chicago, putting Artemisia Gentileschi’s extraordinary work together with paintings and works on paper by such artists as Lucas Cranach, Jan Sanders van Hemessen, Jacopo de’ Barbari, and Felice Ficherelli, thereby enhancing a rare presentation of this truly pioneering and compelling artist.
Virtue and Violence: Artemisia Gentileschi’s “Judith Slaying Holofernes” is organized by the Art Institute of Chicago in collaboration with the Foundation for Italian Art and Culture.
The exhibition is underwritten by the Old Masters Society of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Contributions were generously provided by John and Judy Bross; Scott, Lynda, Jonathan, and Lindsey Canel; and April and Jim Schink.
Artemisia Gentileschi. Judith Slaying Holofernes, c. 1620. Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, inv. 1567.
Text is from The Art Institute of Chicago which just finished exhibiting this work.

Note:  Artemisia was tortured using thumbscrews as a means of "confirming" her testimony of her rape by Agostino Tassi.

There is a historical fiction of her by Andrea Vreeland entitled The Passion of Artemisia, which sounds like it would be an interesting read - I do love historical fiction.  I discovered its existence when I read this article about Artemisia.  And apparently, there is a movie about her, too, along with a couple of plays.

So much I don't know - so much fun learning!