I’m Moving! Come with me.

I’m moving my blog to my own domain.
This will give me more options and more independence. This means that I won’t be posting at this site anymore.
You can find my new blog and latest post at clavielle.com.

My husband and I are also headed for Greece for a few weeks, so this will be my last post for awhile. Stay tuned for many wondrous tales of Greece and the wine dark sea!

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Northwest Fall Equinox Festival 2012

We just returned from a healing weekend in the woods with about 100 of our friends. We returned recharged, rejuvenated, and refreshed.

Part of the magic was the setting—an old growth forest and a trickling creek so full of clean, vibrant energy that it almost did the ritual for us. The place was so still that we could hear the creek softly burbling along about 50 feet from our cabin. And did I mention the stars? Ever so many and ever so bright in a clear black sky. Since I’m working on The Star tarot card for this blog, I was especially moved by their message of hope and inspiration.

Another part of it was the people. We have attended NWFEF for the past twenty years and have made friends that we usually only get to see at the festival. There were also family members and other friends there. We moved from one hug to the next, caught up on everyone, and basked in the love.

And another big part of it was the six goddesses that blessed us with their presence. In 1999 Lauren Raine created thirty masks of the Goddess for the Spiral Dance Festival in San Francisco. Her project, The Masks of The Goddess, traveled the world, spreading their message of the divine feminine from community to community. She retired the masks in 2008. Last year she brought them out of retirement, recharged and good as new.

Six brave women of our community opened their hearts to a goddess and her mask for a year. I say brave because living with a goddess is not easy. She has her own agenda and doesn’t understand that you already have a life. Of course, once you look over her list of demands, they all make perfect sense. The greatest demand is for time in meditation and contemplation. This shows you what needs to change. But you’re not quite ready to divorce your husband, or find a different career, or tell your best friend to take a hike, or let go of your fears. So you tell her that’s not going to happen and she doesn’t listen. She keeps pushing you and tweaking things, making your life into a field of land mines until you begin taking those first baby steps toward your goal. Then suddenly things become a bit easier.

These women persevered and are convinced that their lives are better because of it. I would agree. They all glowed.

The goddesses, from top left to bottom right:

Gaia: Mother Earth. The soul of our planet
Kali-ma: Hindu creatrix, protector, and destroyer
Lilith: Babylonian demoness and original bad girl
Hecate: One of the oldest Greek godesses. Goddess of magic. Able to move freely between heaven, earth, and the underworld.
Green Tara: The Bodhisattva of enlightened activity
Artemis: Greek virgin goddess of the hunt and the new moon

We stayed in the village of Hemlock, which was populated mostly by the over 50 crowd. The festival committee, in their wisdom, put the Hecate and Kali masks and shrines in this lodge. It was an honor.

Main ritual was a spellbinding dance of the goddesses. An inspiration and joy to watch.

A perfect way to turn the Wheel of the Year toward autumn.


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In Memoriam

Weddings and funerals are the rituals that bind community and families together. They are also events that are quite magical because they take place in a twilight zone, a time that is neither one thing nor the other, neither this nor that. The bride and groom have

from: Liminality…the space in between

ended their single lives and the wedding marks the beginning of their marriage. The deceased has ended her life in this world and is beginning her afterlife. Both rituals mark a time for intense attitude adjustment for the celebrants and the threshold of a new life for those who are being celebrated. They are times of power when our world and the other world overlap. They are times when synchronicities happen with unnerving consistency.

Last weekend I attended the memorial of a friend who died way too young. She was a quiet woman with a wicked sense of humor, a talented artist, a loving wife, and an admirer of wolves. It was a comfort to remember her along with so many other people who knew her story and could tell me even more about her.

The Star, Thoth deck

As I was leafing through a scrapbook of pictures of her I came to her picture at the 2001 Northwest Fall Equinox Festival. That year the festival was all about the tarot. Each presenter chose a major arcana card and did a booth representing it. Throughout the weekend, festival attendees could stop by a booth, learn about the tarot key and collect the card. I had totally forgotten that she was The Star.

Of course she was The Star. Her name was Debbie Hope.

I am currently writing about The Star for this blog.

In just a few days I will be attending the 2012 Northwest Fall Equinox Festival.


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The Major Arcana and the Hero’s Journey: The Star, Part II

The Hebrew letter, Tzaddi, is attributed to The Star. Tzaddi means fishhook, or that which is used to pull a fish, Nun (Death), out of water, Mem (The Hanged Man). * Water is the great unconscious and the fish symbolizes abundance, growth, and productivity. The fish is also a symbol of the place where the material world intersects the spiritual world (see The Hanged Man, Part II). And so we must use the fishhook of meditation or prayer to delve into the great unconscious and discover the hope, healing, and inspiration of The Star.

Image by DakaSky

Aquarius is associated with The Star. Natives of this fixed air sign are idealistic, eccentric, egalitarian, humanistic, intelligent, and stubborn. They are the rebels that oppose the bondage of the status quo and give us hope and inspiration. They are also capable of the mental focus necessary to meditate or pray effectively. The sign’s glyph of two wavy lines one over the other is an image of the magical axiom “As above, so below” and reminds us of the star’s message. Even Aquarius’s symbol, the Water Bearer—bringer of spiritual and material refreshment, echoes the imagery of The Star.


A beautiful, naked woman, kneels by the pool of the great unconscious. Her knee rests on solid ground, indicating material stability, but her foot rests on the water, indicating a faith in visions and dreams which are the products of the unconscious, gifts of the Goddess. With her right hand she pours life-giving water into the subconscious, the cosmic mind stuff. With her left hand she pours the water of inspiration onto the material world. It divides into five channels, one for each of the senses, as it soaks into the thirsty earth. It waters the tree of the mind, in which dwells the scarlet ibis, or Thoth, the Egyptian god of magic and mental clarity. The card’s number is 17, which reduces to 8, the number of Strength. To achieve the mental stillness and perception necessary for meditation and prayer, the woman will need the skills learned in the Strength card. Behind the woman are eight 8 pointed stars, one large star surrounded by seven smaller ones, symbolizing the self surrounded and supported by the seven chakras, planets, colors, and sacred metals. The eight pointed stars are symbols of the wheel of the year, the interweaving of order and disorder in the universe to create an ultimately harmonious and balanced design.

These images and attributions underscore the meaning of The Star: divine inspiration, cosmic creativity, and hope combine and help us achieve our fondest dreams and find our true selves.

Book of Shadows Tarot, Imbolc

The Star is a most fortunate card. Depending on where it appears in the spread, it tells the reader that the querent has been, is, or will be inspired to achieve a goal. It also suggests that she is coming out of a hard place in her life, seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, feeling hopeful, and/or opening up to many possibilities. This card assures the seeker that the universe is aware of her desire and will support it by sending help and inspiration in various forms. Even reversed it is still fortunate, although the querent must be reminded that, like Aquarius, this card looks to the future. It doesn’t guarantee success; it only tells us that success is possible, but hard work, dedication, and single-mindedness are necessary.

In the hero’s journey, The Star is any ally, mentor, or phase of the journey that gives the hero hope and inspiration.

Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyon, is the quintessential Christian allegory. It begins with Christian, the main character of the first part, asking the Evangelist how to get rid of the burden he is carrying on his back. The Evangelist directs him to the Wicket Gate, but Christian can’t see it. So the Evangelist tells him to go toward the shining light, which Christian thinks he can see. With this inspiration, Christian begins his journey to the Celestial City.

When Dorothy finds herself trapped in the land of Oz and unable to return home, Glinda the Good floats down from the sky in a shining pink bubble, gives her the ruby slippers, and tells her to follow the Yellow Brick Road to the Emerald City. With this hope and inspiration, she begins her journey home.

In Frank Capra’s heart-touching Christmas drama, It’s a Wonderful Life,Clarence Odbody, angel second class is an ally who is The Star. Small town banker George Bailey has reached his darkest hour and the angel stops him from committing suicide by showing him what a horrible place his hometown, Bedford Falls, would have been without him, inspiring the despondent banker to keep on trying.

The hero is The Star in the Broadway musical, Jesus Christ Superstar. Despite self-doubt, betrayal, and simply being human, Jesus finds his star of divinity and makes it shine, inspiring his apostles and giving them hope.

And, of course, anyone over the age of fifty remembers Jiminy Cricket assuring us that “When you wish upon a star your dreams come true.”

The Star is vital to the hero’s journey. Without it the hero would never be able to look death and destruction in the face and overcome against all odds. He would quit, and there would be no happy ending.

* The Tarot, A Key to the Wisdom of the Ages, Paul Foster Case.

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The Major Arcana and The Hero’s Journey: The Star, Part I

Stars are bright points in the nighttime. We wish on them, we worship them, and we seek guidance from them. They remind us that even in the darkest dark there is hope and inspiration. The Star is the perfect key to follow the desolation of The Tower.

Venus as the Eventing Star

The brightest star in the heavens is Venus. Actually, Venus is a planet not a star, but she is a very bright point in the nighttime. When she sets just after the sun in the west, she is the Evening Star, which the Greeks called Hesperus. When she rises just before the sun in the east she is the Morning Star, Phosphorus Aster, the Greek title for the reborn Dionysius.*

Radiant Inanna, impress from a Mesopotamian cylinder seal

She is the most ancient Sumerian goddess Inanna, who begins her descent into the underworld as the Evening Star, is hung out to die on a meat hook by her sister Ereshkigal, and is reborn in the east as the Morning Star.

She is Ishtar.

Ishtar, the Babylonian goddess of love

She is Astarte, The Morning Star of Salvation, who wakens Adonis, the eastern version of Dionysius, from his tomb. *

She is Earendel, the Saxon boatman set to shine in the heavens to guide those in greatest darkness. *

Sirius is the brightest “true” star in the heavens. It’s a binary star system consisting of the larger Sirius A and Sirius B, a white dwarf. Of all the stars in the sky, Sirius is the only one whose annual heliacal rising, (the first time it becomes visible before sunrise) matches the length of our solar year, 365.25 days. Because of this the Ancient Egyptians believed that all the cycles of time were based on its annular rising. So, of course, they based their calendar on this event.

Sopdet, who is Isis

But most importantly, Sirius is Sopdet, the great Egyptian goddess Isis. Her annual heliacal rising around midsummer signaled the beginning of the flooding of the Nile in Ancient Egypt. This was the Egyptian New Year, when Hapi, the river goddess, began to overflow her banks, flooding the farmlands with life-giving water and rich silt.(See Alternative Archaeology) It was a time of great rejoicing and hope for abundance in the coming year.

Isis, the one with the throne on her head, guides the boat of the night through Duat

Like Inanna, Isis also makes a journey to the underworld. During her 70-day absence from the night sky, which occurs between her heliacal setting and her heliacal rising, she braves the dangers of Duat, the Egyptian underworld, and resurrects her brother/lover, Osiris. And so, with the rising of Sopdet over the Nile, Osiris, god of life and vegetation, returned.**

I am the one who rises in Sirius,
I am the one called Goddess by women,
I separated the Earth from the Heavens,
I showed the path of the stars.

Polaris, the North Star, marks true north. *** It is the only star in the night sky that never appears to move. All the other stars revolve around it. Every clear night this lovely, easy-to-find star faithfully guides weary travelers to their destinations.

And then there is the mysterious Star of Bethlehem that guided the Three Wise Men to the birthplace of Christ the Savior. It must have been a rare celestial event to cause three magi to pack up and travel for months to the insignificant town of Bethlehem. There are many theories as to what it may have been. They range from comets to novas to planetary conjunctions. My favorite is the exact conjunction of Venus and Jupiter in Leo, which occurred in the early evening of June 17, 2 BCE—a perfect nativity for a newborn king.

Milky Way over Palouse, WA, photo by Putt Sakdhnagool

Since our first ancestors raised awe-struck eyes to the glorious night sky, stars have instilled in us a sense of wonder, hope, and inspiration. The basic meaning of The Star key is obvious. But there is more to be learned from it.

To be continued….

*The Devil’s Picture Book, Paul Huson.
**The Nile doesn’t flood any more because of the Aswan Dam.
*** Not to be confused with magnetic north, which is read from a compass.


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Inspiring Blog Award Nomination for The Book Jacket Blog

Thank you Thank you Thank you, Isidora, for the Inspiring Blogg Award nomination. Your work with Isis and Dionysus has continued to inspire me over the years and your blog, Isiopolis, a votive work in honor of the the goddess Isis, is the perfect way to spread the word about this most wondrous goddess. Blessings to you, Isidora, at the rising of Her star.

The rules for the “Inspiring Blog Award” are:

• Acknowledge and thank the giver.

• Link back to the nominator’s blog.

• Put the award on your Homepage

• List seven things about yourself.

• Give the award to seven bloggers who inspire you.

And so…

Seven things about me:
 I find it very difficult to think of seven things about me that I want to tell the internet.
 I love to read, and my favorite genres are fantasy and murder mysteries.
 I just finished the steam punk YA Leviathan trilogy, by Scott Westerfeld—wonderful.
 I’ve written two young adult fantasy novels and am finding that it is more difficult to publish a novel than to write one.
 Working in the garden, close to green, growing things feeds my soul.
 I have a husband and two sons–or they have me. One son is married and the other one is busy planning a wedding with his fiance.
 A Siamese cat who craves cantaloupe runs our household.

Seven blogs that inspire me:

Isiopolis, a Votive Work in Honor of the Goddess Isis
The Writing Life Too
Malcolm’s Round Table, Where Magic is Shaken, not Stirred
Mary K. Greer’s Tarot Blog
For the Socially Conscious Marketer in All of Us

Thank you all for your precious thoughts, ideas, images, and information. They mean so much to me.

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A Whole New World

I just finished reading two great books. nova, by samuel r. delany, is a science fiction classic; and I predict that Behemoth, the second book in the Leviathan Trilogy, by Scott Westerfeld, will become a fantasy classic.

World building is crucial in science fiction and fantasy. Both genres take place in strange worlds with totally alien landscapes, codes of ethics, and/or creatures. These worlds must ring true from the start, because the sooner the reader gets her balance and bearings, or at least finds promising and intriguing handholds, the more likely she is to keep reading. But science fiction and fantasy have slightly different rules for world building. The worlds in science fiction must be based, at least tentatively, on accepted scientific theory and fact. Fantasy has no such constraints, but it does demand that its worlds be true to their own rules and history. Actions must be predictable and understandable. If one character can levitate and all the others can’t, the author must provide a good reason for the discrepancy.

Both delany and Westerfeld are master world builders. The settings of their books are totally strange, intensely fascinating and completely believable. The reader slips into them as if she’d been there before. And this, I have come to discover, is one of the secrets to successful world building. The writer must assume that the reader has already been there. Of course both the reader and the writer know this isn’t true, but it must be done, because the story is usually told from the point of view of one or more main characters who have been there before. In fact, they probably live there. Even if the story begins with the point of view character landing in an alien environment, the author should still be writing as if the reader already knows what is there. He should assume that the reader knows that, for instance, the sky is a lovely shade of apricot and the water is red, and concentrate on telling her how the character feels about this and how he reacts to it. This not only informs the reader that the sky is apricot and the water is red, but also gives her important information about the character. Every writer knows he should show, not tell, but this is subtly different. If the author is able to “convince” the reader at some subconscious level that she knows all about this strange world, the reader says, “Oh, I guess I do, but I seem to have forgotten, but these hints he’s giving me should help me remember.” And then she does what every enthralled reader does—she begins to imagine. And with her imagination, the author’s world comes alive.

samuel r. delaney, photo by Random House

The first chapter of nova begins with:
“Hey Mouse! Play us something,” one of the mechanics called from the bar.
“Didn’t get signed on no ship yet?” chided the other. “Your spinal socket’ll rust up. Come on, give us a number.”
Mouse begins to respond, but a blind, insane spacer lunges into the room with a tale about being a cyborg stud for Captain Lorque von Ray. They were flying into a nova to mine its Illyrion and he looked into its brilliance and was blinded.

delany writes all this as if the reader already knows who Mouse is, what instrument he plays, what a spinal socket is, what a cyborg stud is, where the bar is, what Illyrion is, why a ship’s captain would fly into a nova to get it, and who Captain Lorq von Ray is. The reader has to, or it would shatter his illusion, because this part of the tale is told from Mouse’s point of view and he already knows all this stuff. And so the reader obligingly begins snapping up clues and filling in the blanks, and by the end of chapter two, she has the answers to all the above, is comfortable in delany’s world, and has even more questions that need answering.

Scott Westerfeld

The first chapter of Behemoth begins with Alek giving Deryn a fencing lesson. They are snarking at each other, giving the reader clues about their personalities. The next thing she notices is that the author refers to Deryn to as “she”, but Alek seems to think she is a he and the reader’s interest sharpens. Then Westerfeld reminds her that the fencing lesson is taking place on the topside of an airship that has just left the Italian peninsula and is now over the Mediterranean, and there are rumors of two German ironclad warships in the vicinity. Deryn calls Alek a Clanker, the German enemy. Ah-ha, the reader says, so this is could be World War I. It couldn’t be World War II because airships were outmoded by then. But what is a girl doing on an Allied airship with a German, and why are the Germans called Clankers? And what is a hydrogen sniffer? A Huxley ascender? Where is the airship going? The reader’s mind goes into overdrive trying to “remember” the answers to these questions, and by page two, she is hooked. From this beginning Westerfeld leads the reader into the alternate reality of a World War I fought by Clankers

Hydrogen Sniffers

(the German machine culture) and Darwinists (Allied forces who fight with genetically modified animals); and he does it with the coy precision of a strip tease artist—one enticing tidbit of information at a time.

But why bother with these intricate other worlds? In other words, why bother with science fiction and fantasy. The easy, cop out answer is that fantastic realities are fun and interesting, but this isn’t why these two genres have such avidly loyal fans. The real reason is that once the author has got the reader to truly believe in his world and to care about its people and politics, he is free to point out the world’s problems (which usually bear a remarkably close resemblance to our own) and perhaps actually solve them. He can say why this policy or that idea failed and he can kill off the oh so familiar bad guys. None of this is quite so simple in realistic fiction and can come across as moralistic or pedantic.

Rod Serling

Rod Serling wrote screenplays full of scathing comments about war and US post WWII society. He was the angry young man of Hollywood, constantly fighting with censors—until he got his own show and began writing a blend of science fiction/fantasy stories called The Twilight Zone. The censors left him alone, he could say whatever he wanted because his stories weren’t about real life. However, anyone who has seen even a few of The Twilight Zone shows can’t help but feel their sharp, political humanist edge.

Science fiction and fantasy can step into places where realism fears to tread. And they succeed because they take place in a whole new world.

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