Thursday, 31 May 2007

Coyote and the Shadow People

Coyote's wife dies of an illness and he weeps for her. He is visited by the death spirit who offers to take him to the land of the dead if Coyote will follow his instructions. Coyote agrees.

On their journey the spirit points out a herd of horses. Coyote cannot see the horses but he pretends that they are there. Neither can Coyote see the death spirit. He appears to be a shadow.

When Coyote and the death spirit arrive at the land of the dead the spirit invites Coyote to eat some berries. Coyote cannot see them but pretends to eat them nevertheless. The spirit leads Coyote to a lodge and tells him to enter through the doorway and sit down beside his wife and eat the food that she has prepared for him. Coyote cannot see the lodge, the food, or his wife, but he obeys the spirit.

When night falls Coyote sees the lodge that he could not see during the day, and in it are fires, and people he knew when they were living and, of course, his wife. With the dawn, everything and everyone disappears, only to return on the following evening. It is like this for several days and nights.

Eventually the death spirit tells Coyote that he must leave. The spirit allows Coyote to take his wife with him but warns that he must not touch her until they have crossed the fifth mountain of the five mountains that lie between the lands of the living and the dead. Coyote agrees.

Coyote and his wife begin their journey. At night they sit with a fire between them and Coyote notices that with every night his wife's form becomes clearer. On the last night of the journey Coyote can wait no longer and reaches across the fire to embrace his wife. She disappears the moment he touches her.

The death spirit returns and tells Coyote that because of his foolishness the practice of returning from the dead will never be and that the dead must remain forever separate from the living. The spirit leaves. Coyote tries to return to the land of the dead, repeating everything he was instructed to do on the first journey: he pretends to see a herd of horses, to eat berries, to enter a lodge, to acknowledge his wife, and to eat the food she has prepared for him. When evening comes the lodge, the fires, the people, and Coyote's wife do not appear, and they and the death spirit never appear to Coyote again.

Excerpt from the Larry Ellis essay "Trickster : Shaman of the Liminal" .

A longer version of the story is here.

The Trickster way

Some time ago, I began reading the autobiography of Chief Archie Fire Lame Deer (in French it is called "Le cercle sacré"- "Gift of Power" in English ????). Two sessions of holotropic breathwork had made me see unexpected aspects of my personality, and had encouraged me to learn more about the Native American culture. This, by the way, is also what encouraged me to get into beading seriously.

Reading Archie Fire Lame Deer's book gave me a great lesson in what courage is all about. Also this book introduced me to the notion of "Heyokas", the Sacred Clowns. For a long time I said jokingly that this had something to do with me. I am left-handed, clumsy, hold two nationalities and generally have a habit of saying the wrong things at the wrong time, dressing up inadequately for the occasion and often making people laugh unintentionally. Feeling inadequate is something I have known all my life. And funny things happen to me all the time.

Musing about what to do for my June BJP page, I found a remarkable essay by Larry Ellis entitled "Trickster : Shaman of the Liminal". It tells about the archetype of the trickster, of Coyote and thresholds. Well, I had been losing my home keys and access card for work all week so it made me smile. However I was deeply moved to find out in this article a Nez-Percé version of Orpheus and Eurydice, as this is one of my favourite myths, and this is what had brought me there in the first place. So I decided to do something around this Coyote story, including Nez-Percé style beading.

But Coyote is a weird protector ; yesterday evening I got fired two days before the end of my work assignment and asked to hide from my boss by staying at home. The reason ? I almost made a cockup. Anyways, later that evening, I was called for two other job interviews. Hey, calm down, Coyote ! lol

Another great essay on the Sacred Clown is here.

Back to beading, one of the first book I bought was "Beadwork, a World guide" by Caroline Crabtree and Pam Stallebrass, closely followed by "North American Indian Jewellery and Adornment" by Lois Sherr Dubin. Awesome stuff. I was immediately attracted to Native American beading, especially from the Woodland area, and wanted to copy flower patterns but didn't dare to. It soothed me to think that Europeans immigrants bought two good things to Native Americans ; glass beads and horses. Time has now come for me to dare to bead one of these flower patterns and to heal the grief and shame about human follies.

Sunday, 27 May 2007

May Project : there is no way to happiness, happiness is the way

As you know I have enrolled in Robin Atkin's Bead Journal Project. It means I have to choose a format and stick to it for a whole year. I couldn't make up my mind so I made a sample Beaded Journal page to test the 4 inches by 4 inches format. Let's say it will be my book's foreword ;o)

It began by a need for skies. Then I felt like using this little bit of William Morris fabric I had, and some of my blue strawberry flower beads... little by little I knew an animal had to come in, and after a while I knew it had to be a rabbit (though it could've been a bat or a swallow too).

Well yes, the rabbit is blue, not to comfort the white lions, but because of this

"Watership Down", a classic book by Richard Adams, and a cult animation movie by Martin Rosen. I guess the themes that appeal to me in this story are "getting out of the box", "political action", "mythology" and "running away". My most ancient nightmare is about "running away". Watch a clip from the film here.

Also my eldest daughter is called Alice Hazel Camille.

Detail of 'Alice in Wonderland', furnishing fabric, Charles Francis Annesley Voysey, England, about 1920. Museum no. CIRC.856-1967

There is also a company of blue rabbits in the classic French Musical "Emilie Jolie". They help out Emilie, who is trapped inside a book, but have a terrible problem : they change colours when they catch a cold. My second daughter, born in the year of the rabbit, is called Emilie Heather Olympe.

I took this little blue rabit from the only embroidered project I had completed when Alice was a baby, probably because it reminded me of this wonderful appliqué cushion my mother had made in honour of her late grand-father.

Last but not least, this little rabbit running in a strawberry field is an hommage to Robin Atkins, who collects rabbit shaped beads and buttons.

I think I have found my theme for my Beaded Journal ; it will probably be interpretations of pre-existing stories(books, paintings and/or films). As a child I have often found comfort in fairy tales and what Salavodor Dali used to call the poor man's shrink : films. As an adult I believe in jungian psychology and the healing powers of stories (as explored by Clarissa Pinkola Estes for instance).

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Think you've got problems ?

There's good news and bad news.

Bad news : there are only about 30 white lions left in the World.

Good news : 4 white lions cubs were born this week in a French zoo.

Twist of Fate : one of the reason the white lions are so few is that they can't hide and are immediately spotted by their preys...

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Travel in Time

(c) Roger Viollet

Have you ever been to this fantastic city ?

Here is another clue

(c) Keystone France

Yes it is Paris, at the time of the 1900 World's Fair !

A wonderful city, where sewing is taken very seriously

(c) Roger Viollet

(c) 2007 Walter Limot/akg-images

("We replace bad heads" - in French it also means "we replace the sulking")

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

One of these days

At the moment I'm doing this utterly boring job in a big company. A one letter a day job (which I manage to mess up). I didn't think such jobs still existed. On my floor all offices are marked "boss of something". However it is quite well paid. So, some days I spend my days on the internet... Today was one of these days. After a while, surfing from one terrific website to another, to one creative blog to another, I had my first anxiety attack for months ; what the heck was I doing or not doing whith my life whilst more important things were happening all over the world ?

When I came back home, a child was howling ad lib on the subway "nooo, don't dooo thaaat". The child seemed to be on the verge of a major crisis. It lasted for ages. I began to feel very nervous. Then I began to feel nevous about my nervosity. Then the woman next to me shut her book and looked up, tearful, and went out. Another woman took her place, and very soon she had compulsive facial twitching. I had to shut my eyes in order not to scream "Can somebody do something about that chiiiild" (probably an echo to my repressed urge to sing "everybody dance now" in the face of all the dark suits this morning) . I thought about Corine Sombrun's last book about her shamanic experiences ; she says she can sense the energies flowing out of people, especially in the subway... Then a woman said something on the other end of the subway carriage, and the child finally calmed down. Then it was my turn to get out... I went to the local "Mercerie" which was about to shut, to buy a few ribbons. The elderly cashier was er special, and when I felt I had to tell about the child incident to apologize for my edginess, she replied "yeah, kids don't get enough slaps these days, don't they"... What a day !...

Saturday, 19 May 2007

Work in progress

This little one is taking me very long to complete...

I have another project ; I am participating in
Robin Atkins Bead Journal Project

Week-end in Normandy

A few weeks ago we went to Dieppe. Normandy was enchanting, as all the fruit trees were in bloom. We came across the beautiful Gardens of Moutiers in Varengeville, which is also a shrine for the only Arts & Crafts house in France, designed by Edwin Landseer Lutyens.

Click here to find out more about this architect, considered by many as the greatest english architect of the 20th Century, and who worked on the plans of New Delhi, where he built the Viceroy's house :

Also, in the village, is a church for which famous painter Georges Braque designed stained panels. Unfortunately the panels were being repaired, which gave the bizarre impression that a spring cleaning was going on...

More on this lovely Varengeville Church.

The Braque stained pannel The Jesse Tree.

Friday, 18 May 2007

René Lalique

From top to bottom : Brooch, Four peacocks on a branch (Hakone, Japan) - Hat pin, Wasp and Scabiosa stellata (Copenhaguen) - Tiara, Prunus branch (Lisbon)

Quess what I've done today ? I went to visit the exposition on René Lalique, the master jeweler. There were lots of flowers, insects and mythical beasts turned into exquisite jewellery to be seen. A pure delight !

The show lasts until 29th July 2007 in Paris and you can learn more about Lalique on the following websites :

Sunday, 6 May 2007

A day in the life (Election day)

Woke up from a nightmare.
My youngest daughter brought us breakfast in bed ; milk and biscuits.
We knew odds were against our champion so we didn't hurry to get up and decided to make the most of this day. Went to vote. I agreed to help with the countings of the vote at the end of the day whereupon I was asked to leave my ID Card with a stranger until the end of the vote (!).

Then we went to a restaurant near the Beaubourg museum.Next to the fountain decorated by Nicky de Saint-Phalle, saw a guy playing the didgeridoo, for the puzzlement and delight of tourists hanging by.

Then two police cars pulled in this pedestrian area and asked the musician what he was doing. I'm playing music said the guy. When the police left he told the crowd that it was the second time the police was stopping by today...

We then went to visit the new exposition at the Beaubourg Museum of Modern Art, stopping to hug a few young people with "free hugs" signs. Met a friend by chance. Saw a really nice piece by El Anatsui, a Ghanean artist ; a coat made of metal findings.

When we went out, in the hall an artist was drawing hearts with texts on a very long paper. Soon 7 dark suits came to enquire whether the artist had an authorization from the Museum Direction to do that ; he didn't and had to pack his stuff...

Tonight, the former Minister of Police Forces, the man who sends the police to arrest illegal immigrants at their children's school, the man who said 1968 only brought us disaster, the man who has decided not to have a ministry of art & culture, has been elected as the new French President. Welcome in the France of Tomorrow...