Rambling Thinking about cultural appropriation.

The discussion I had yesterday with Luke Loader at the Abbey has really set my wheels running. Not only, it turns out, is he a bright, young man, he has university degrees in archaeology and wrote a thesis on finding the Anglo-Saxon religious presence in archaeological sites. He has agreed to have a taped interview with me. That way, he can be quoted and cited. I feel like Luke has a great deal to add. Points that we discussed:
Glastonbury [as a market town] is a place with two appearances.
* The name conjures up different images in a visitor’s mind
1- as an English Heritage site replete with ruins, archaeology, and buildings that date back 1000 years
2- as an esoteric site where one can find anything in the way of religious and spiritual engagement
Because of this, Glastonbury has a split community. The locals he refers to as Glastonians, whose families date back centuries [his own has been here for 400 years]. And then the esoteric community, the Avalonians. Now, there is a book I have at home called The First Avalonians, so that is a name that is out there. So one of the first things I need to check is whether there is any scholarship about this split, this schism in the town. When I told Luke that I am really interested in the local side of the pilgrimage/tourism question, he indicated that it was about time and that he wanted someone to ask him and others, what do you believe is the spirit of Glastonbury.
I have found one reference to “Glastonians” in An Ecclesiastical History of Ireland, From the First Introduction of Christianity Among the Irish to the Beginning of the Thirteenth Century by one, John Lanigan, published in 1822. It was a brief reference to the Abbey “stealing” Irish saints as their own. Palden Jenkins, in his website page called the “Map of the Ancient Landscape around Glastonbury,” says:

Living in and visiting Glastonbury today involves interfacing two, or several, contiguous realities – Avalon and Glastonbury. There’s a busy modern reality and an archetypal, timeless, magical reality – both of which have their pleasures, inspirations, knocks and scrapes! The town is psycho-socially polarised too, to add to the excitement, between ‘Glastonians’ and ‘Avalonians’. Staying tuned to both realities is the challenge. If you don’t, you go bankrupt or mad (Jenkins 2013).

Clearly, this is not a new idea. Upon doing a search, most of the references to Glastonians are personal communications on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites and are of used as a personal referent by individual people. How do the so-called Avalonians and Glastonians feel about this apparent schism? That is an excellent question and I hope by December, I’ll have some answers.

Cultural Appropriation.

THIS is cultural appropriation.
THIS is cultural appropriation. Click on the picture to go to the webpage.

As a feminist anthropologist, the idea of cultural appropriation is absolutely nothing new. When in grad school in the 90s at the University of Iowa, Department of Anthropology, I and my cohort, slogged through the copious reading offered by then professors on the subject. In 1990, Friedman summed it up thusly

Modern westerners appropriate what is outside of themselves in order to             become what they are not. If we label the first strategy as holistic, the second as ethnic, and the third as individualist we might begin to gain an insight into the conditions of emergence of such strategies, but this lies beyond the scope of the present article (see Friedman 1991).

Because I worked with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians for my fieldwork on identity and tourism in 1996-8, I saw these images working on the ground, in real time. The problem of appropriation of anything or anyone becomes a matter of who is doing the appropriating and how it is being presented. The use of image and of cultural artifacts in order to make oneself something else, is, in fact, the major way that this gets interpreted. For example, American Indian authors have long cited ‘whiteshamanism’ as vulgar cultural appropriation. I would call this “playing at being a Native American medicine-person.” Anthropologist, poet, and American Indian, Wendy Rose wrote on this in the 1980s. Here is a link to her superb article, “Just What’s All This Fuss About Whiteshamanism Anyway?” It is in this vein that I began my work in both spiritual matters and academia some 25+ years ago.
Even before the birth of my son, Matt, I had been thinking about the biggest question of my life, maybe anyone’s, life. Who Am I? I have many notebooks of writing from the 1980s asking myself this question over and over and over again. One of the main reasons that this question was so overwhelming was my growing distrust and dislike of institutional religion, specifically protestant Christianity. I’m in a job at the time wherein we were obliged to listen to whatever radio station the boss wanted on. That was usually Rush Limbaugh [yes, back in the day]. So, I spent days doing a job I was growing increasingly tired of listening to the right wing pundits smack-talking everything that I knew already was my own deepest convictions. They stood against everything that was in the very blood of my veins. Reaganomics was riding high. Every election just made it worse. My blood was boiling all of the time. In fact, I was so angry that I couldn’t hardly carry on a conversation about anything without blowing a fuse. The few of you who knew me back then will remember, I’m sure. When I became pregnant with Matt, I knew something had to give.

All I could see is the same thing I am seeing all over again. Attacks on womyn’s lives from domestic violence to rights over reproduction were on the rise [I swear I tried my best to stop all that. I voted, I wrote letters, I called in and even talked on Limbaugh’s show about the real meaning of ‘liberal;’ I was such a frequent caller to Al Gore’s office that they called me by name.] Beyond the women’s issues, my back was up over the fundamentalist knee-jerks to everything that wasn’t laid out in black and white in the King James Version. Everyone and their sister were on the slippery slope to hell. They’ve gained too much, so much ground, that we are nearly at square one again, but, I digress. At this point, I began to be sick of being “an American.” Because, what the hell does that mean anyway? Oh, I know, there are plenty of people who can give me a beautiful 2-3 sentence answer to that question. Freedom, equality, the right to . . . blah, blah, blah. Freedom? Equality? For whom? Remember that I from the south. Tennessee. Not deep south, mid-south, yet I grew up in Memphis and was a child there when Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. We were racists. Out and out. I’ve taken many years of my life to think about that and to know, understand, and incorporate into my life the fact that all human beings are the same. [Thank-you Anthropology!] Did that cure institutional racism? Hell no. Not any more than any other single human figuring that out. What it did do is enable me to raise my son to appreciate and be just fine with all of the differences that the species Homo sapiens can come up with. Now, at the age I was when he was born, he too is madder than hell and won’t take it anymore. I still digress.

I knew I had to get out of the institutional Christian church. It was not working. But, then what? To be, what? To do, what? That’s where cultural appropriation comes in. I knew. I knew that I couldn’t become . . . Jewish or Muslim. Anyway, those are just the edges and the other side of the Christian coin. I really knew nothing of Buddhism or any other Asian religion. American Indian spirituality? No. Because, dang it, I’m not an American Indian. Now, we have the family myth of having an Indian grandmother somewhere back in our past. Cherokee, from the Trail of Tears, as my mother’s family comes from the Tennessee River in West Tennessee and saw the water passage of those on the path where they cried. But, I didn’t see that in my family at all. What I saw was Europe. Scotland/Ireland/England on mom’s side and Moravian [Central European] on dad’s. While I couldn’t attend sweat lodges and play Indian drums around a bonfire, I could revive for myself the ancient way of the Celts before the coming of Christians from the Mediterranean. So I began reading.

Am I, as a citizen of the USA, appropriating the culture of the Celts? Or the pre-Roman English, Welsh, Cornish? That’s where my discussion with Luke comes back into this mixture. When I described some of my feelings about not feeling American, we started down a very interesting course. He, as an English archaeologist whose family traces its roots back 400 years in Somerset, suggested to me that his archaeology is also my archaeology. I can trace my mom’s ancestors back to Scotland in 1750. They left these shores 265 years ago. Short time, in the English way of thinking. Although there is land that I love and crave and cling to in the US, especially in the Appalachian Mountains of Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia, I cannot and do not feel like the archaeology of North America is mine. It doesn’t belong to my ancestors or lineages. There is no genetic memory there, save for the short period we’ve been here. I didn’t ask for this, either. While I am fascinated by the archaeology of the American Indians and Alaska Natives, the First Nations of Canada, the Aztec, the Maya, the Yucatec, the Inca, I can only ever look on it as “other.” It has great beauty and wonders of the knowledge of ancient peoples, but it is still “other” to me. As it should be because . . . I’m not from The Americas. Not at all. Where this leaves others that have been forced to come to the Americas from all over the world, I cannot say. Perhaps we can continue a long-standing discussion on that.

I’ve got proof, by the way. I had my DNA tested through the Human Genome Project headed up by the National Geographic Society. It’s fascinating to have your own genetic map reaching into the deep past. I highly recommend this if any of you feel at “6s and 7s” about your roots. As it turns out, as I suspected, I have no bloodlines that hint at American Indian kinship. Now, I’ll hold open the possibility that one day the science of the genome will find a way to chart my dad’s DNA that is me as well. Until we have that capability, I’ll go with the mtDNA from my mom. As it turns out, I have not only Neanderthal signs – 2.8% – but, I have an unusually high percentage of the more recently identified Denisovan – 3.5% – identified first in a Siberian cave. Apparently, I have a lot of “living relics of ancient encounters.” Maybe that’s part of this malaise anyhow. I’m only 93.7% Homo sapiens! For the rest, it seems that my matriarchs were all over the place from the Caspian Sea to all sides of the Black Sea between 55k years ago to 7.5k years ago and then quietly on to Western Europe after that. According to the analysis, I am 46% Northern European and I belong to:

My First Reference Population: British (England); My Second Reference Population: German

This reference population is based on samples collected from populations in the United Kingdom. The dominant 49% Northern European component likely reflects the earliest settlers in Europe, hunter-gatherers who arrived there more than 35,000 years ago. The 33% Mediterranean and 17% Southwest Asian percentages arrived later, with the spread of agriculture from the Fertile Crescent in the Middle East, over the past 10,000 years. As these early farmers moved into Europe, they spread their genetic patterns as well. Today, northern European populations retain their links to both the earliest Europeans and these later migrants from the Middle East. (https://genographic.nationalgeographic.com/results/yourregionalancestry)

Hmm. Seems like I’ve been feeling my genetics for a long time.

So, am I using cultural appropriation when I call the quarters and draw down the moon? Am I when I teach and illustrate to other European-Americans that there are other traditions on which to draw? And, is Christianity a viable way of being in the world when you can demonstrate that your ancestors had their own spirituality and religious beliefs that were destroyed by invaders? If we’re speaking of American Indians, certainly not. The actions that forced the autochthonous peoples already 15-20K years established on the North and South American continents into slavery, death and assimilation are mostly thought of today as colonialism at its worst. It would appear that the roman invasion of Europe, the Mongol invasion of Anatolia et al, and the rise of the Ottoman Empire were all exactly the same. Unthinkable and unforgivable.

Do we have the right . . .

We all come from conquered societies, except the lucky few who live in places so remote, even in 2015, that the military-industrial complex cannot yet put its toes on the ground. Even those are pushed into capitalism by the insidious march of tourism into the wild places of the earth. There is nothing worse than a stupid tourist. That is, a tourist who is so enamored with their own way of life [ethnocentrism] that they must have the “comforts” of home even when those cause the local populations real hardship. Tourism has an upside, too. But, I’ll leave that for another time. We’re still thinking about cultural appropriation here.

I’m sitting in my one-bedroom apartment in Glastonbury. It’s cozy and warm. As best as I can tell, and for those few homes I have been to here, the population I am working with, befriending, depending upon, and feel kindred-ness with all live in this or better. If they don’t, they are living out in the country in tents or caravans, off the grid, by choice. When I participate, I am all in. I am not going to anything here in Glastonbury in regards to workshops, rituals, music events, carnivals, etc. that I don’t feel will aid my own personal growth as well as adding to my knowledge for this project. Nor do I attempt – unless specifically asked – to add or change or comment on any of these. Am I appropriating when I participate? I don’t think so. The spiritual doors are wide open here in Avalon.

Cannibal Tours: Tourists Painted as Papua New Guinea Natives. This IS cultural appropriation.
Cannibal Tours: Tourists Painted as Papua New Guinea Natives. This IS cultural appropriation.

Friedman, Jonathan. “Consuming Desires: Strategies of Selfhood and Appropriation.” Cultural Anthropology 6, no. 2 (1991): 154–163.

Jenkins, Palden. “Map of the Ancient Landscape around Glastonbury.” palden.co.uk. 2013. Accessed on October 18, 2015.

Lanigan, John. An Ecclesiastical History of Ireland, From the First Introduction of Christianity Among the Irish to the Beginning of the Thirteenth Century, 1822.

O’Rourke, Dennis. “Cannibal Tours.”  Australian Film Commission/Direct Cinema Ltd., Australia, 1987, 70 min.

Walking Through Canterbury From Pilgrim’s Hotel to CCCU: September 26

I thought I would treat you all to a pictorial essay.  So, here goes.Marlowe Theatre - Daylight

Just outside the door of the Pilgrim’s Hotel is the just refurbished Marlowe Theatre.  A beautiful structure and it is quite busy and well-attended.  The link is live to the theatre so you can check it out.



River Stour BridgeJust around the corner, the serene River Stour flows through the town.  It appears so peaceful at the surface, but if you look over the bridge and peer into the water, the current runs persistent and strong.  There are plants flowing in the water that puts me in mind of the Lady of Shallot slowly drifting down the river to her death from looking up from the mirror of shadows.  Beware the current and look up from your weaving.  A good lesson for us all.

Ever the cheeky humourists, this is a sign featured outside a butcher’s shop just after the tell-all book about current PM, David Cameron came out this week.  You’ll have to look it up if you aren’t up on the saucy politics of the UK.

The square comes up fast. . .

. . .then down the road a bit more and you come to the entrance to the Canterbury Christ Church Cathedral.  Admittedly, while it looks imposing from this shot, when you’re walking along the street, with lots of other stone and ancient buildings, it is not obvious that this is the entrance to the cathedral.  As a matter of fact, the map of the city makes it appear that this is an open street.  As you can see, it is anything but that.  So, in we go.



Walking into the entryway, you can easily now see the imposing cathedral through the arch to the back.  For an American, the entrance itself is quite something to see in and of itself.

BTW, if you’re ever here, it cost L10.50 to enter.  I would hope that if one was coming to worship that there is no fee.  This structure is part of the Church of England.


I found it impossible to get the entire building in one picture, so here’s a montage of photos to pin together in your mind.  This building is under some sprucing up, as you can see with the scaffolding on this side.  Even with that, it is a magnificent structure.  And now to the interior.

Grand Stained Glass. . .

canterbury cathedral floor plan


I’ve included a floor plan of the cathedral above to you can get an idea of the vastness of this space.  This picture is of the Nave.  In the far back is the choir and beyond that the presbytery.




I walked along the north aisle where they were putting in these gorgeous fall flowers.  I assume they are for a wedding later on.  Just amazingly beautiful.  The arrangement itself must be 5-6 feet tall and on a 4 foot pedestal.

Moving toward the back and toward the Martyr’s area – that would be Thomas Becket.  I didn’t take pictures there.  It was just a bit too creepy for me and the area was really packed with tour-guide shepherds and their sheople eager to hear the gory tale of murder and mayhem.  If you look here, just beside the woman in blue are gates.  That is the mighty treacherous stairs going down to the Martyr’s level.  Of course much has been changed since Becket’s day, and it’s some speculation as to the actual spot, but, it’s the thought that counts.  There are also images and icons of Becket throughout the cathedral on every level.  From here, I went down to the crypt level to see an icon of what would appear to me the angel Uriel and an image of a Black Madonna and child.  Unfortunately, you can’t take pictures in the crypts, so I kept my camera off.  However, SHE lead me to the Icon and after another group of tourists had cleared the space, one of the curators came in to retrieve something.  We, of course, started chatting, and she offered me the e-mail address for the archives so that I can purchase a picture of the Icon.  Forthcoming!

As I made my way out of the crypt, I took just a couple of other pictures to show the truly magnificent pulpit.  I’d like to give a lecture on the Divine Feminine from that spot!  Then, back out to the bright sunshine.

The exit from the cathedral is just as mysterious for the first timer as the entrance.  This wall of buildings faces the same street as the entryway.  [These are the backs that open onto the grounds of the cathedral.  Through the doors to the left is a huge gift-shop and way out to the street.  It’s all quite well kept and polished so when I saw this, I couldn’t resist the color purple.

Remember that my ultimate goal this day is to get to the opening of the conference at Canterbury Christ Church University (CCCU)!  [A short walk – for the healthy-legged!] But, for myself, it was quite a haul.  On we go.

This is a very old Methodist Church.  If you know me, you’ll know that I grew up in a progressive Methodist family.  So, this is an homage to that gentle upbringing and to show the age of the place. . .

And Tudor buildings still in active use.  Well now you’ve seen Canterbury old town down from The Friars to Burgate Street. Now I headed onward toward CCCU.  But before I arrived there, more architectural delights awaited.

I’m crossing the main Ring Road [that’s a bypass for American drivers] and you can easily see the Roman Walls of the old town.  This wall goes all the way around and there are definite routes in and out if you’re in a car.  On foot is much easier, as is most of England, and worth the aches to do it.

Here is the opposite direction from the picture above.  Everywhere you turn there is another ancient building, usually church-related. This one is now a school. I’ll be turning right at the end of this street and an immediate left to get onto Longport Street.

The ancient wall that runs down Longport and on past the ruins of St. Augustine’s Abbey.  Here is the walker’s view of the ruins.


The next stop, just a few hundred feet, is CCCU.  So ends the tour of Canterbury, a al, me.  Next, the conference!

Weeks 2 and 3: Glastonbury 2015: which have run literally together and collided.

So, again by date we’ll go. September 21 – 24.
September 21: Monday: The best thing that happened today was getting to spend an hour or so having coffee with my dear friend, Katie Player. She has the most wonderful house on the Roman Way which has a spectacular view of Glastonbury Tor. Nearly every morning, Katie wakes us up on Facebook with a picture of the Tor for the day. Sunrise, rain, mist, and snow, it is always there like a sentinel looking out for the inhabitants of Avalon, whether they realize it or not. I won’t go into that right, but, as everywhere, there are a goodly number of people who live here looking at the ground, so to speak. Perhaps, those are some of the ones I really need to get to know. Does someone who lives at the Grand Canyon get so used to the wonder that it isn’t seen anymore? And in the shadow of any of the great mountain peaks? What is it that keeps the human enchanted by the landscape around them? Surely, this is one of the pieces of the puzzle that I am trying to put together here in the landscape of Avalon. Katie surely does appreciate the wonder of the landscape as do many people I have met here. Yet, there are many who do not.

Katie.Player.viewKatie’s View
After leaving Katie’s as she had to pick up her too cute daughter, Hollie and a friend from school, just regular life-stuff, you know; I got to meet the young ladies when I bumped into them at the best store, Proper Job. It was a quite complete day.
September 22-24: Tuesday, Wednesday, and early Thursday: I don’t know how many of you know that one of the great things I am getting to do while in England this time around is to present a paper on my project at a conference at Canterbury Christ Church University. More on the conference after this. I am more than thrilled about this particular opportunity. Since I am writing in the present about days already done, I can hardly contain my enthusiasm and return to the miasmic feeling of these three days. Here goes.

#1- I had to finish writing my paper. Oops. Yeah, I know. Don’t leave anything until the last minute, so says the professor who has trouble following her own advice. But it wasn’t that so much, writing a paper, it was the fact that I would literally be “coming out” as a channel who is also an academic and a scholar. Even while the Call For Papers for the conference was so very encouraging and the keynote speakers all talk about this same type of thing, it’s quite another to speak up for one’s self. That made this particular paper extremely difficult to write.

#2- Diabetes. As is often the case, I experienced extreme fatigue and weird blood glucose levels after coming to a new place and getting used to it. Enough said.

#3- The Highlight! I was here to attend the Goddess Hall’s Equinox Ritual, make some new acquaintances and see some familiar faces. And the Hall was completely packed. It was literally standing room only and therefore got really warm pretty fast. Fortunately, the beautiful ritual got everyone involved all wrapped up and despite a few trips of feet in the crowd and beads of sweat becoming rivulets, the ritual was evocative and full of meaning. There was a large infinity symbol on the floor of the Hall, one side white – denoting the light half of the year that is ending – and the other side black – denoting the dark half of the year that is beginning. This a major theme throughout Celtic spirituality and two major cross-quarter holidays, Beltane and Samhain, celebrate and consecrate those beginnings and endings. The equinoxes, both spring and autumnal, mark the center of time; when there are equal parts of day and night. As we were invited and chose to walk around the infinity symbol, much like one would traverse a labyrinth, everyone took slow and careful steps first on the light half, then to the dark. Ending back at the point where both sides meet, we then all got a blessing from a beautiful priestess of Avalon and were invited to go back to our respective spots. After the ritual was done, there was poetry readings and announcements. A community of like minds. As we left out into the chilly September night, we all received fresh picked apples from the bounty here in Somerset. It was a lovely experience!

#4- Last, but not least . . . My car did something very strange. With no warning at all, the seat-belt warning bell would not go off. Would not go off, would not go off, would not go off, would not go off. You get the idea. The sound of that bell is most unpleasant and having no way to deal with it, I had to make an extra trip up to the Bristol airport and trade for something else. I actually like the car I traded for MUCH better. It is a white Vauxhall, stick shift, and cruise control. Then, I had to leave the Bristol airport and head directly to Canterbury. Going through Bristol is a maze of small roads through a big city [about the size of Nashville with Bristol being a bit smaller] that eventually leads one to the M32 then the M4. The M category of highways are comparable to US interstates. So once on the M4, I had 3+ hours of highway driving. Yay, cruise control.

When I rolled into Canterbury, I was completely turned around, tired, and it was raining. I got lost immediately. It took an hour and a half once I arrived to figure out how to find my hotel, The Pilgrim’s Hotel, in the walled city, just across the street from the Marlowe Theatre and in shouting distance of the Cathedral. I wanted to stay in the old part of the city to get some of the ambiance of the now mythological pilgrimages that have taken place here for hundreds of years. The lost-ness was mainly due to the fact that one cannot really drive in the walled city. That is unless one has the benefit (?) of a handicapped badge. Well, I have that, so I finally got some instruction from the hotel manager, one Wesley, on how to navigate down into the town. Whew. That was a torturous day.
Checking into the Pilgrim’s, finally, Wesley was kind enough to get my bags out of the car for me and get me up to my room. And I do mean UP to my room. Now I have already filled out visitor’s survey for the Hotel so I am not saying anything here that I didn’t already tell them. The building is old. I love that. But, for those of you who know me, you also know that stairs are still, after 11 years, still a nemesis that I have not conquered. My room was on the top floor and the staircase was the original 1500s type, narrow and steep, especially to the 2nd floor. Oy. It also never occurred to me that my single room would be the equivalent of a nun’s cell. The bed was quite comfortable, but, that was just about all that fit into the room. There was a desk, but no chair with which to use it, and the closet cabinet opened the wrong way so you had to stand beside the bed between the wall and reach around the closet door (which would not open all of the way due to the bed) to get things in and out. The rooms have obviously been upgraded as there was a new en suite. But, again, it was so small that one could hardly pee with falling into the tub. That was an experience. By the time I got out of my driving clothes and into something suitable for having dinner, I was exhausted and aching all over. Therefore, I AM A PILGRIM! Torture to the body IS part of the point, eh?
The thing I did like about the room was the beautiful old window which opened all the way out. Oh except that there is scaffolding completely enveloping the building, so it wouldn’t open ALL the way, kind of like the closet door… but, from the window, a view across the buildings with top of the cathedral in sight.

Now, I’ll have to say that the food in the two restaurants on the ground floor was really excellent. One is a French-English restaurant called Dems. I had the best mussels there I have ever had. So good. The other one is a Pub with a regular pub menu, not fussy, and very popular with folks going to the Marlowe for the evening.

Moon Over Canterbury
Moon Over Canterbury
Marlowe Theatre at night
Marlowe Theatre at night

More later. . . the conference and a walk through the Canterbury Christ Church Cathedral.

Black Madonna Workshop with Katie Player and Nic Phillips. September 19, 2015

As promised, I’m giving an entire post over to the “Faces of the Black Madonna workshop.” Here is the official statement from the event:

Nic's Triptych - Three paintings of his interpretation of the Black Madonna
Nic’s Triptych – Three paintings of his interpretation of the Black Madonna

Glastonbury artist and author Nic Phillips (Nic Phillips Sacred Art) and Priestess  of Avalon and Sacred Dramatist Katie Player share a long standing fascination with Black Madonnas, and have come together to provide a day of exploration into Her sacred mysteries.

In the morning we will be discussing her various incarnations through the centuries and posing the questions: Why is she black? Which ancient goddesses may have influenced her appearance? What message is she trying to give us? We will look at her ancient roots, through to the medieval icon phase and her cult in Western Europe, up to her depictions in the modern world and veneration in cultures such as Haitian Vodou where she is syncretised with the fierce and protective mother spirit, Erzulie Dantor.

Other parts of the day will include sacred movement and a simple ceremony to connect with Her. We will be making an altar to the Black Goddess together and invite everyone attending to bring an item of relevance to add to the altar. In the afternoon there will be a session to create your own Black Madonna icon on wood using collage pictures of Her, gold leaf, and more.

This one-day workshop is £50, 50% payable on booking, the balance due by Saturday 12th September 2015. Please email nicholasphillips365@hotmail.com for a booking form or for any further info.

The Avalon Centre, 1 King St, Glastonbury Sat 19th September. Please arrive from 9:30 for a 10am start. Ceremony closes at 4:30.

Katie Player and Nic Phillips
Katie Player and Nic Phillips

After a week of downpours starting on the day of my arrival, September 15, Saturday dawned clear, warm, and welcoming beautiful. I made my way just a few blocks from my humble abode to the very welcoming Avalon Centre. Katie and Nic were there to welcome us all into the space that they had already set up. A nice cup of Earl Grey tea and hugs was a great way to get started. Moving past the galley kitchen with a wonderful long dining/working table and some 16 chairs, I came to a door and then a lovely living room-esque space with comfy couches, suck-you-in chairs, and fortunately, some rather more sturdy straight-back chairs replete with cushions. There were already a few participants sitting and enjoying both their tea and each other’s company, so I introduced myself and chose a cushioned chair to settle into.

To the left of the living area is a large meeting room; I’m going to guess 25’ x 40’ in dimensions. It has a hardwood floor and open ceiling so that it feels very large, but, simultaneously, intimate. On the left wall are massive glass sliding doors that open onto a small garden with benches and chairs available for relaxing and chatting.

At the head of the meeting room, Katie and Nic had set up a beautiful altar for the day full of images of the Black Madonna from around the world. There is also a projection screen where Nic had a slide show of photographs so all of us who were participating could see the images that he was discussing in his narration. I truly enjoyed seeing all of the representations of the Black Madonna [the Dark Mother Goddess] in her many forms.

Workshop Opening Altar
Workshop Opening Altar

The Dark Mother comes in many forms around the world as well. From Cerridwen to Kali and Bast to Tiamat, SHE is the one who rules the night, the underworld, the bottom of the sea. SHE leads souls to the other side and defends HER children. As mentioned above by Nic and Katie, Erzulie Dantor is the Haitian Voodoo Loa [Goddess], the breaker of chains. Here is another depiction of HER.

Photo Source: Mystic Voodoo http://www.mysticvoodoo.com/home.htm

Erzulie Dantor
Erzulie Dantor

According to Marcel Gomes [Sweden: Swing, Swing, Swing – May 6, 2011], Erzulie Dantor

…is the Voodoo goddess of love, romance, art, jealousy, passion, & sex. Erzulie Dantor is the patron loa of lesbian women, fierce protector of women experiencing domestic violence and patron loa of New Orleans. Beauty, love, and sensuality are her Creations. Emotions are what link her to the endless reservoir of universal creativity. Erzulie Dantor offers to you protection and possibilities beyond the imagination. Erzulie Dantor is a mulatto woman who is often portrayed as the Black Madonna, or the Roman Catholic “Saint Barbara Africana”. She has tribal scars on her cheek, and is considered heterosexual because she has children, but she is also the patron loa of lesbian women. Thus, she loves women fiercely, and will defend them to the death. She loves knives and is considered the protector of newly consecrated Voodoo priests and priestesses, as well as of women and children who are victims of domestic violence, and women who have been betrayed by a lover. She is highly respected and much feared due to her Woman Power. https://marcelgomessweden.wordpress.com/2011/05/06/erzulie-voodoo-goddess-of-love/

Woman Power. It is an endless speculation as to why Woman Power is so feared. That was a part of this workshop: to embrace the power.

Beyond Katie, Nic, and myself, the participants of the workshop were: Julie, Kaff, Molly, Justin, Elinor, Mary, and Carolyn. As always, this turned out to be the perfect number of people as we could chat and get to know one another while we moved effortlessly through Katie and Nic’s beautiful day. Nic’s excellent scholarship introduced us to:

*Our Lady of Guadalupe – Maybe the Aztec Goddess, Tonantzin http://www.theyucatantimes.com/2014/12/our-lady-of-guadalupe-or-tonantzin/

Guadalupe and Tonantzin
Guadalupe and Tonantzin

*The Bride in the Song of Solomon says “I am Black and Beautiful.” She also berates herself due her dark skin which she akins to the hard fieldwork that has been her lot.

*Isis and/or Artemis as a correlate to the Christian Black Madonna

Artemis of Ephesia
Artemis of Ephesus

*Mary Magdalene in the south of France, especially at Notre Dame de Ravis where there is a statue of Sara La Kali who is claimed to be the child of the Magdalene and Jesus, among other things. The Romani claim to be descendants Sara La Kali.          http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/0/28211422

Sara La Kali
Sara La Kali

*Santa Muerta who is venerated during Day of the Dead in Mexico. She is the subject of much controversy, as shown here in Huffington Post in 2013: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/r-andrew-chesnut/death-to-santa-muerte-the-vatican-vs-the-skeleton-saint_b_3291499.html

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - MAY 27: A figurine of Santa Muerte (Saint Death) seen in a temple in the historical center of Mexico City, Mexico, on May 27, 2011. The religious cult of Santa Muerte, a syncretic fusion of Aztec death worship rituals and Catholic beliefs, has rapidly expanded. In the past decades, original Santa Muerte's followers (such as prostitutes, pickpockets and drug traffickers) have merged with thousands of ordinary Mexican Catholics. Although the Catholic Church considers the cult as devil worshipping, on the first day of every month, crowds of Santa Muerte's devotees fill the streets of Tepito. Holding skeletal figurines, they pray for power healing, protection and make petitions to ?La Santísima Muerte?. (Photo by Jan Sochor/Latincontent/Getty Images)
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO – MAY 27: A figurine of Santa Muerte (Saint Death) seen in a temple in the historical center of Mexico City, Mexico, on May 27, 2011. The religious cult of Santa Muerte, a syncretic fusion of Aztec death worship rituals and Catholic beliefs, has rapidly expanded. In the past decades, original Santa Muerte’s followers (such as prostitutes, pickpockets and drug traffickers) have merged with thousands of ordinary Mexican Catholics. Although the Catholic Church considers the cult as devil worshipping, on the first day of every month, crowds of Santa Muerte’s devotees fill the streets of Tepito. Holding skeletal figurines, they pray for power healing, protection and make petitions to ?La Santísima Muerte?. (Photo by Jan Sochor/Latincontent/Getty Images)

*Einsiedeln, Switzerland: Notre Dame Sous Terre [Our lady of the Dark Wood]. This statue is a pilgrimage destination for the Swiss as well as people from all over Europe.

Black Madonna at Einsiedeln, Switzerland
Black Madonna at Einsiedeln, Switzerland

This Black Madonna is carved of dark wood and is painted black. Nic and Katie speculate that the association, Our Lady of the Dark Wood, could be due to HER make-up or to an actual forest. And, here is a great article from 2002 discussing the nature of the Black Madonna as Dark Goddess. Our Lady of the Dark Forest: The Black Madonna of Einsiedeln  Originally printed in the May – June 2002 issue of Quest magazine.
Citation: McCormick, Karen. “Our Lady of the Dark Forest: The Black Madonna of Einsiedeln.” Quest 90.3 (MAY – JUNE 2002)

*Our Lady of Walsingham, Walsingham, Norfolk, UK. Why SHE is considered a Black Madonna, I have yet to discover. Katie has suggested that we take a road trip to visit her while I am here. That sounds like a great idea. In the meantime, HER picture:

Walsingham Black Madonnas
Walsingham Black Madonnas

And, a history of HERSELF.


*Our Lady of Chartres, Our Lady from Under the Earth (Notre-Dame-De-Sous-Terre), Chartres, France. The website interfaithmary.net has this explanation for HER in Chartres [where there are two Black Madonnas]

For millennia Chartres was the main pilgrimage site in France. With its ancient Pre- Christian roots, its Druidic Black Madonna, its relic of the Veil of the Virgin , not to mention the power of its cathedral, Chartres drew pilgrims from all over Europe. Much has been written about the magical, alchemical power of the cathedral to bless, purify, and transform visitors, but this is not the place for that discussion. Suffice it to say that the Lady of Chartres is a trinity of sorts who finds expression in the cathedral as a whole, which bears her name Notre-Dame de Chartres, and in the three main depictions of the Madonna on three levels of the church:
1. in the crypt, the Black Madonna Our Lady from Under the Earth, guardian of the underworld;
2. in the cathedral, the Black Madonna Our Lady of the Pillar, guardian of this world;
3. in the most famous window of Chartres, Our Lady of the Beautiful Window, crowned and wrapped in her blue mantel as the Queen of Heaven. http://www.interfaithmary.net/pages/Chartres.htm

There is a lot of detail in this explanation. Please go check it out.

Chartres, France - Notre Dame Sous Terre
Chartres, France – Notre Dame Sous Terre
Chartres Black Madonna
Chartres Black Madonna

*Our Lady of Czestochowa, Czestochowa, Poland. This Black Madonna happens to be Katie’s first encounter when a child of an Icon that was black skinned. Katie has joined the project, The Seduction of Avalon, so I hope she will relate her story herself. HER picture:

Our Lady of Czestochowska
Our Lady of Czestochowska

And, where you can read about the Black Madonna with the slashes on her cheek. http://www.piercedhearts.org/treasures/shrines/czestochowa.htm

*There are so many other stories and images, Goddesses and Madonnas that fit the bill of the Black Madonna. Here is a Sir Gawain tale from the Arthurian legends:
And, I encourage everyone to check out my friend Lydia Rule’s Black Madonna Banners and explanations, as well as the rest of Lydia’s fabulous work. She painted all of the images that you see on this website.


Now, let me go beyond the scholarship and describe the spiritual aspects of the workshop.

In two separate movement sessions, Katie provided music, space, scarves, and inspiration for all of us to move our bodies and meditate upon the wonderful idea of the Black Madonna, the Dark Mother, in our own lives and in the world. Everyone got up and took a scarf with which to play. The music for each session was 3 pieces from around the world. A few were familiar, a few were strange and foreign and enchanting. As I danced with the others in the group, I felt as though all time was slipping away and that only those in that room existed on this plane of existence. We were swept up into each song, each entirely different from the last. Katie’s sensibility in movement ritual was clearly evident and we came back to our seats from each session rather floating in air. Extraordinary.

In the afternoon, after we gathered our own lunch from around Glastonbury, we were invited to make our own personal Icons to take home. Here is a picture of mine:

It was such a pleasure to all sit around that big table cutting pictures from the hundreds that Nic had found and printed out to decoupage onto our icon boards he had provided for us. We laughed, painted, glued, dripped, and glittered our way through the afternoon. Everyone’s Icon was as individual as we all are. Even when some people picked the same pictures, each Icon was completely different. Beautiful, too. Here are pictures of the event.

Christina's Black Madonna Icon
Christina’s Black Madonna Icon

The last piece was a beautiful meditation and a gift of Apache tears stones from Katie and Nic. Katie led us deep into Mother Earth to a cave where the magnificent Dark Mother dwells. Each of us were on our own when we got there so all of our experiences were quite different. This will have to remain within the group as the information was sometimes intimate and very personal.

The participants
The participants
Black Madonna workshop altar with our icons
Black Madonna workshop altar with our icons

As for me, I had a dream the following night.


The dream shook me awake with fear.

I know SHE was standing beside the bed that was not the bed that I lay upon. I had been standing and waiting for something or someone in the dream before. SHE suddenly – but more quiet than nightfall – came by my side and put her hand on my left shoulder. SHE swept HER hand down my arm to deposit something into my left hand.

I remember the deep attraction, an actual physical pulling toward something or someone that was beyond the side of the “bed.” SHE moved away from me staying on the left and I could see HER. Black haired and nut brown skin, I don’t recall her clothing at all. I couldn’t say whether she had anything on her body. Just Black hair and nut brown skin and eyes which were closed from far away. My etheric body began to turn sideways on the “bed.”

Suddenly – silently – she was again behind my left shoulder. I neither saw nor heard her move from one spot to another. Again, she put her hand on my shoulder and drew it down to my elbow. SHE gripped me hard, so I was in just enough pain to turn my head directly toward HER. Then –

HER eyes opened and I could do nothing but stare into the Space of Space, the Void of the Void, the place where all begins and ends.

I awakened when and only when SHE shut her eyes. As I awakened, I was sure that I was off of the bed and in mid-air. My etheric body struggled back to the sleeping form and when we re-merged, Tamaria and Christina, we, I mean “I,” further struggled with the bedding to find nothing amiss. I was laying just as I’d fallen asleep; solidly in the bed. It was 3:30 am.