Po e t r y
the Goddess Issue Anne Baring Sleeping Beauty Sorita De Este Priestess of Hekate Kuan Yin Compassion Embodied Ted Hughes and the Goddess
plus poetry from Maitreyabandhu, Linda France & Ingar Palmlund: ‘Persephone’s Shadow’
URTHONA Abbey House, Abbey Road, Cambridge CB5 8HQ 07443 499384 firstname.lastname@example.org URTHONA EXISTS to present the best of world culture, ancient and modern, from a Western Buddhist perspective. We take our name from Blake’s spirit of the Imagination, Urthona, one of the four Zoas. In his temporal form Los, Urthona is the archetypal blacksmith who labours at his forge to beat out forms which will awaken us all from spiritual slumber. URTHONA SUPPORTERS – Patrons: Di Bligh, Dr T.R. Gilson, Jack Herbert, S. Millward, Veronica Matthew, J.N. Hall. Friends: L. Cotterill, L.C.H. Long, N. Hewett, Satyadaka, K. Werner, B. Smith, Anantamani, Lalitavajra, F. Hopkirk, P. Hillier, S. Cotton C OVER I MAGE : Aphrodite goddess of love, bust in marble – believed to be a 17th or 18th century copy of a greek original
contents urthona issue 32 – a magazine for rousing the imagination www.urthona.com
5 Awaking the Sleeping Beauty Anne Baring on the goddess paradigm
14 Screen Goddesses Ed Piercy: Helen & Cleo on screen
20 interview with a High Priestess Sorita De Eeste priestess of Hekate 30 Gravity and Grace nagasiddhi’s remarkable sculptures
41 A Font, Brimming Dhivan Thomas Jones on Ted Hughes 46 Kuan Yin Jan Osborne on the bodhisattva
66 Masterpiece Dharmavadana on Homer’s Odyssey 67 Portfolio Photos of Tibet by Marissa Roth
54 Fail Safe & The Bedford Incident two classic cold war movies
60 Station Eleven novel by Emily St John Mandel
58 One Thousand Beams of Song CD by buddhist composer Bodhivajra
62 Herbie Hancock and Phillip Glass memoirs of Buddhist musicians
55 Agnes Martin her Life and Art new biography of the abstract painter
61 The Solitude of Small Doors new poetry collection from Ananda
59 The Power of Song recent folk and world music releases
64 The Weather Wheel new poetry book by Mimi Khalvati
18 Maitreyabandhu & Paramananda
29 Mark David Cooper, M. Stasiak
26 Sandra Braine, Colette Power James Patrick Riser
40 Dorothy Pere
19 Linda France
27 Varasahaya, Giulietta Spudich
38 Ingar Palmlund 53 Chris Hardy
28 Lisa Kelly
URTHONA was founded in 1992 by members of the Triratna Buddhist Order.
EU: 2 issues £16, 4 issues £25
EDITORS Ratnagarbha, Jan Osborne, Sue Bonnett, Dharmavadana (poetry)
Cheque payable to ‘Urthona’ (in £ Sterling only please) to the editorial address.
Credit card + Australasian, US and European subscribers please go to
SUBMISSIONS should be sent to the e mail address left. Urthona does not pay
for material published, authors receive a free copy of Urthona. COPYRIGHT NOTICE
DISTRIBUTORS IN UK
For all material published in Urthona copyright remains with the author.
Central Books, 99 Wallis Rd, London E9 5LN 0845 458 9925
SUBSCRIBING TO URTHONA UK subscription rates – 2 issues £12 4 issues £20
PRINTED IN UK BY: Newnorth, Kempston, Bedford MK42 8NA
Editorial WELCOME TO URTHONA ISSUE 32. As you will see there is no picture of the editor in this issue – he has been replaced by a Dakini! This seems appropriate for our goddess issue. The symbol of ‘The Goddess‘, with many names and forms, is one of the most active religious symbols of our age, and this is a fascination that many modern Buddhists share, especially as regards the liberated, intensely energised female figure of the Dakini. Indeed, the naked, blood drinking Dakini has some similarity to the wild and dangerous Valkyries, who collect the souls of the slain in Nordic mythology. But why is the goddess such a force to be reckoned with in these times? In seeking to throw some light on this question Urthona turned to two women who are well qualified to talk about the goddess image in our age. The first is Anne Baring author, with Jules Cashford, of The Myth of the Goddess: Evolution of an Image, an influential study of the history humanity’s relationship with the sacred feminine. We present a major essay, The Sleeping Beauty, based on a chapter from her new book, The Dream of the Cosmos: a Quest for the Soul. Then we have an interview with priestess of Hekate, Sorita De Este. She is a lady who has been intensely involved in Western esoteric traditions for many years, and is well-placed to talk about the modern worship of goddesses. Both Anne and Sorita have their own unique ideas, but having reflected on what they say, here are my thoughts about our modern fascination with the goddess. I believe that the modern goddess image is not primarily a figure to be worshipped, but a symbol that embodies a vision of the entire cosmos that is deeply, desperately needed in this age. In turning our hearts to the goddess, we are turning towards a sacred cosmos, in which each object and event is intimately connected to an interwoven Whole. This interwovenness, or interconnectedness, or ‘interbeing’ as Zen Master Tich Nat Hanh styles it, is a vision of life that in past ages was felt and known ‘in the blood’ without needing to be articulated. But it is a vision that, since the Renaissance, western culture has gradually, and disastrously, lost touch with. And, of course, before the modern era in the West, the sacred cosmos was seen as essentially theocentric. So in these times there is a deeply felt need to turn back to that living interwoven cosmos, but also, for many, to revision the universe in a way that is luminously sacred but not theocentric, not created by a ruling God. In doing this many people have received inspiration from Mahayana Buddhism, especially perhaps the Chinese Hwa Yen tradition, based on the Avatamsaka sutra. The Hwa Yen makes it clear that the interwoven Whole which is implicated in every discreet phenomena is none other than the totality of the conditioned arising taught by the Buddha, seen via a visionary synthesis rather than the more usual ‘via negativa’ of eradicating the illusion of a fixed self. To know the conditioned in this way is simultaneously to know the unconditioned. But equally, in developing this new/old sacred world view, a revisioning of the pagan pre-Christian traditions of the West has been important to many. And this is where the goddess comes in. Imagine a universe in which each event, each thought, each object is intimately related in a web or matrix of connections to every other phenomena; in which consciousness in its absolute dimension, not bound by time or space, the deepest level of our human values, is seen as implicated in the being of all material things. One might picture such a cosmos as a vast, luminous shimmering web, or a network of living jewels or mirrors, reflecting both the superabundance of organic life and the most fertile dimensions of human wisdom. This, I believe, is what people are turning to in their hearts when they become fascinated with the goddess image. Furthermore, as Anne Baring explains, feminine images have come
to the fore because it is an overvaluing of certain qualities of analytical thought, traditionally seen as masculine, that has led us away from this image. We now need not just a science of ecology applied to the biological world, but an ecological vision applied to the entire cosmos, one which transcends the distinction between the sciences and the humanities. The patroness or guardian of this ecological vision is the all powerful goddess of life, fertility and nature mysteries in her many guises. Different people, of course, have turned to different to traditional images as best embodying this ecological vision. As we explore in this issue both Isis and Hekate from the Mediterranean world have much to offer. Buddhists may turn to these figures, or Celtic goddesses and make them their own. Or they might choose to focus on figures from the East such as the female Bodhisattva Tara, much beloved in Tibet. And from China, Kwan Yin, enlightened Lady of compassion and succour for the afflicted, is a very attractive archetypal figure. Jan Osborne has here a fascinating and sensitive study about her many attributes. Then, of course, there is the naked sky dancing Dakini of the Tantric tradition. As we we don’t (perhaps did not dare!) have a full feature on her I will say a few words here. The Dakini is the principle feminine symbol of Tantric Buddhism. They are highly energised symbolic female figures, depicted as naked - often with just a garland of skulls - flying through the air and surrounded by a halo of flames. Frequently they are pictured in Yab Yum, sexual congress, with a male deity. Here the male figure is said to represent compassion and the Dakini to represent wisdom, the two inseparably joined in realisation. However, it would be more accurate to say that the Dakini represents the vast and terrifyingly blissful spiritual energy released when the Yogi encounters the emptiness/fullness of all conditioned things. I will make two further statements about them. Dakinis are not only seen by men, they appear equally to female practitioners, although for Yoginis they are more likely to be benign and helpful. They often function to dismantle the fixed views, or even dismember the body of a yogi! They are not ‘anima’ figures, representing something missing in the male psyche, nor even archetypes in the normal sense of the word. They represent powerful spiritual energies, active in a cosmos that is regarded neither as objective or subjective. If you want to know more about the Dakini it is best to turn to Judith Simmer-Brown’s major study Dakini’s Warm Breath. But as will become clear in this issue, many of their characteristics can be applied to goddesses in general, both East and West, as they are being understood in this age. RATNAGARBHA
INTERVIEW WITH A HIGH PRIESTESS RTHONA: A FEW BIOGRAPHICAL DETAILS
to start with would be great. You were born in South Africa. How did you first feel drawn to exploring esoteric paths and was this to start with via deities native to Africa itself? Sorita: Yes, I was born in the ‘Mother City’ of South Africa, Cape Town, a city of tremendous natural beauty with a cultural cauldron of diversity, a blend of colonial, various African and international spices, creating an interesting and somehow harmonious flavour set against the backdrop of the very beautiful Table Mountain. It also has some of the best sandy beaches in the world! My own family is a blend of all kinds of things, but I was raised with my roots firmly reaching for Europe, through my Italian, and later also my British family. As a young child I had a series of mystical experiences – out of body experiences and prophetic dreams. In an effort to understand these experiences, and duplicate them, I tried to learn more – firstly by speaking to adults. I soon realized that the majority of adults found the subject weird, or at best uncomfortable, something they did not understand. In the years that followed I sought explanations in books on religion and unexplained phenomena, bumping into matters related to the occult arts from time to time, usually in works warning against the perils which would befall anyone who stepped across the threshold seeking further knowledge. But I was at the age that warnings only made me want to explore more. In my late teens I met a group of people who introduced me to initiatory Craft and in the years that followed I was
SORITA DE ESTE is a devotee of
western esoteric traditions who has followed the path of the
goddess as cosmic ‘world soul’.
Urthona caught up with her recently to ask about her life and the way of the goddess... fortunate to explore Alexandrian Wicca and its ceremonial magic components with some absolutely amazing people. The Craft provided me with a framework through which I was able to explore a number of psychic realities, and also of course introduced me to the worship of its deities, a Moon Goddess and a Horned God of the Wildwood. How did you come to arrive on these shores and was this partly due to wanting to explore European magic / western esoteric paths in more depth? In 1995 the opportunity to travel to London with a friend presented itself. From the moment I arrived London seduced me, as I got to know the city and its people through the bohemian art, jazz and world music scenes – and through the people I met via my job managing an alternative health centre in Chiswick. Esoteric Bookshops became my Temples of Knowledge and I frequented Watkins and Atlantis Bookshops, gathering a plethora of information on different traditons, discovering Eastern meditations and an untold number of idiosyncratic offbeat sects along the way! So whilst my esoteric interests were not central in my coming to Europe, my interest and understanding of the many subjects it comprises certainly benefitted by me being here. For many years, I believe, you explored the Wiccan path, becoming a high priestess within that tradition and playing a prominent role at large Wicca gatherings /
Top: Sorita in red cloak
Above: Sorita at Avebury
conferences in London. Obviously you can’t talk about the details of Wiccan ceremonies, but I am wondering in general how you feel that rituals of that kind affect one’s state of consciousness. It’s a big question I realize but what kind of person did you feel yourself becoming by means of your dedication to that path?
This page top: the moon behind clouds
This page above: a Roman statue of Luna Far left: a modern re-imagining
of a moon goddess by the sea shore
Wicca is a tradition focused on duality in its many manifestations, primarily expressed through the manifestation of the feminine divine as a Lunar Goddess, and the masculine divine as a Horned God of Nature – but certainly not limited to this. It developed out of practices which had gone before, taking inspiration from the work and teachings of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, the writings of Aleister Crowley and Dion Fortune, folklorists such as Charles G. Leland, and other older traditions, such as the grimoire traditions of Europe including infamous works such as the Key of Solomon the King. Rituals, when correctly performed, can have a profound and lasting effect on the practitioners involved. Experience of the Divine or something ‘Other’ than ourselves, in a state of heightened awareness, allows us to change our perceptions of the world we find ourselves in, and through that we are able to have a deeper understanding of ourselves and of the other living beings – physical and non-physical – we share this space with. Being a practitioner of the Craft has changed me, but trying to define that with just a few words would be impossible – at best any attempt would trivialize it. As with all mystical traditions it is experiential, not intellectual.
new poems from Colette Power
HOW TO ERADICATE KARMA Warm the teapot, and stand in the open window Watching the storm bend the branches of the old fir tree Winds lifting the yellow curtains so that they look like The wings of a canary or butterfly Moving through a tangled forest of tea towels and shiny kettles while You pour the dark sweet tea into a cup, the color of the Aegean Sea Sending up clouds of fragrant steam that dampens your hair and Amber colored face, a dark Buddha with flour on her hands and Currants in her apron pocket Smelling of nutmeg and dried orange peel Preparing to bake bread and enter the Middle Way
Sandra Braine is a licensed clinical social worker/psychotherapist. She has lived and worked in both England and America which is where she was born. She has enjoyed writing poetry since early grammar school.
new poem from James Patrick Riser
new poem from Sandra Braine
poetry CITY MEDITATION TECHNIQUES Your altar should be simple and meaningful like the street corner Guadalupe candles with childhood pictures taped to them. There's no need to wait for the yelling from the other side of the wall to stop before you begin. The Lotus only grows from muddy waters. Once you're settled: become your breathing, like the curling incense smoke reaching out the open window: Become the mournful sirens the throaty dogs barking at shadows in the alley way, growling at hungry ghosts.
THE GARDENER In praise of summer gardens at Taraloka managed by Suchitta, 2013
The sparrows who build their nests in the eaves of the trees love it. Swallows, those exotic tourists who drink from this rich cup, love it. White clover in their ivory wigs, gathered in galaxies on the lawn, love it. The black and white brothers whose kingdom this really is -
The only self is no-self. Become the scuffle of shoes on gravel, snippets of conversations breathing of the now, exhaling an imagined future that puffs like warm breath in ice cold air.
whose mother is buried by the river, love it.
Incense smoke dissipates, but leaves a
The box hedge trying to be straight, loves it,
and the pink flowers of the geranium trumpeting praise, love, love, love it.
Form is emptiness, emptiness; form.
Light, colour, form â€“ that combination of adoration, love it. The gardener with her watering can, who orchestrates this symphony of exquisiteness, surely loves it. The baby swallows, sitting in the plastic guttering, calling, calling, learning, learning to love it.
Colette Power is a Breathworks mindfulness trainer and supervisor. Her poetry has been published in Urthona, Interpreterâ€™s House, Brittle Star and a number of anthologies.
James Patrick Riser has two novellas, Syndrome and Falling Sky, published by Wild Child Publishing. His poetry has appeared in the online literary journals 4 and 20, Pif Magazine, and Dead Beats.
Novel Review Ordinary People Awakening Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel Pan Macmillan, 2014, 384 pp Dharmachari Sujvala IN THIS GRIPPING ACCOUNT OF TOMORROW, Emily St. John Mandel’s fourth novel, the end of the world as we know it comes about suddenly and unexpectedly. The cause of our downfall is virulent but nonmalicious. There is no time to rail against it, before everything falls silent. Snow is a wonderful backdrop to the first intimations of the disease: the way it stops our systems by heaping up stillness with the sound-deadening structures of its beautiful crystals. How can any Canadian writer resist a description of snow? Without obvious device nor flashy language, we are launched into a memorable first scene with two intriguing characters. She writes with a persuasive clarity, and a quiet urgency, which made me want to read on. The book was released last Autumn, two days before the anniversary of 9/11, when Ebola was all across the daily news. So a wave of influenza, in stronger form, is believable as the agent of change. The way that each person meets this anti-climactic catastrophe, whilst preoccupied with their own plans, is at the heart of this story. I enjoyed revisiting each character, as they take shape through their actions and reflections. Like Longfellow’s Hiawatha – walking out into a rain-cleansed Summer morning – has lean and knife-sharp heroine Kirsten seen, “what is to be, but is not”?
That said: in contrast to Cormack McCarthy’s The Road (which Mandel has read and appreciated), with its Golding-esque pessimism on the depths that we are ready to sink to, Mandel’s optimism seems closer to reality. It’s my own deduction that, in times of sustained crisis, co-operation between people is as likely, or more, to break forth than chaos (let alone cannibalism). Mandel’s world reminds me much more of Douglas Coupland’s ‘Girlfriend in a Coma’ This is ‘Nostalgia for the Present’: a writer’s yearning to explore her own post-infrastructure neighbourhood. She appreciates that every gain made by our forebears is a potential loss, and feels the lack of insurance in the fading out of rural and survival skills. Characters inured to the acceleration of technology are brought to a stark awareness of their dependency upon it. Was it naive of the author to allow them to adjust quite so easily? Her knowing cultural references to William Shakespeare, Graphic Novels, REM and Star Trek come off as a conceits, yet precisely the kind of ironies that an educated generation would make, whilst lurching forwards in their unbelievably offline new world. There is a small, shy ghost story placed within this afterworld, too. Although the passage is just a few lines long, its cool strangeness deepened my respect for the writer. My favourite character is the curator of the mysterious Museum of Civilisation. My disbelief was worn down by so many moving passages, towards the end, that I was prepared to feel the simple dignity of the new world through this person. Identity and community are rediscovered here, in a place where all Departures and Arrivals cease. In time, there is time to reflect upon the accretion of those possessions which once possessed us. When the context for their importance evaporates, they become alien artifacts. As Thomas Moore says, in ‘Care of the Soul’,
The charismatic old rascal, Arthur Leander, a.k.a. King Lear, is the linchpin whose influence is felt long after his dramatic demise. One of his wives is a compulsive fantacist who pens Station Eleven, from which the outer work takes its title. The Asian trainee paramedic, Jeevan, tries his hardest, but what will become of him? I found myself vacillating between the need for gritty scenarios, and a growing acceptance that there is “actually not as much crime as you’d think. There just aren’t that many people”. Despite her research into e.g. the shelf life of petrol, she tends not to dwell much with the basic problems of survival. Food, most noticeably, is given short shrift: everyone just eats venison despite a lack of schooling in hunting, skinning and cooking a deer. Surely domestic livestock would be easier to catch? The fates of babies, infants, the old, sick and disabled are also perfunctory. This is, after all, a novel by a young woman with no dependant children, and her main concerns are obvious: friendship, romantic love, poignant recollection are the inner foci of her post-traumatic sibling society. All of these citizens are suffering the loss of an affluence that the majority of our world will never share.
Art can be a cure for Narcissism. The words ‘curator’ and ‘curé’ are essentially the same. By being the curator of our images, we care for our souls. It was so easy to read, I have to make the effort to imagine how hard it was to write. Mandel’s accounts of ordinary people awakening into new rôles in a new world works remarkably well. We are all curators of Civilisation; each the keeper of a unique collection. Were we to be cast away from the most influential people and places of our lives, would all be forsaken? Never all nor nothing is lost, as one age transitions into another. Ultimately, we are free to write our own disaster story. What would yours be? What constitutes the end of the World as you know it? And is there hope thereafter? Sujavala grew up in Scotland and has been living in Norfolk for the last 28 years. He was ordained into the Triratna Buddhist Order in 2005. He earns his living as a web developer, and is training to be a psychotherapist.
Infinite Light: A Photographic Meditation on Tibet
Pulitzer Award winning photojournalist Marissa Roth's latest project, Infinite Light: A Photographic Meditation on Tibet is a haunting glimpse into the lives of the Tibetan people, presented in a unique and symbolic manner
Flames burning in yak butter left as offerings in a small chapel at Tsamkhung Nunnery in Lhasa. Sept. 2010 © Marisssa Roth
ROTH’S INFINITE LIGHT: A PHOTOGRAPHIC TIBET is a visual poem of seventytwo color photographs of her impressions of Tibet, shot with some of the last available Kodachrome film, producing deep saturated color. Arranged in a continuous sequence, reflecting the colors of Tibetan prayer flags, the collection is akin to a walking meditation. Taken over the course of two separate trips, this project was the product of an abiding interest in Tibet and profound sense of spiritual connection to the people and the culture. The Infinite Light project also includes a limited edition book and traveling exhibition of the same name. Marissa says: ARISSA
‘[Infinite Light] is the reflection of my inner and outer journeys to this land and a very personal impressionistic view
of what it feels like to be in Tibet. It is also a social and political statement and another cry for awareness about what is being irrevocably lost…My thoughts are held in these mountains and with these people’ ‘Bathed in color and movement, Marissa Roth discovers a kind of liquid light. She photographed not so much an image but rather an energy, a sort of visual propulsion. Photographs not as nouns, but as verbs. This group of images then, offers a moment of the pulsing lifeblood, the wind, the color, and the flow of Tibet.’ —Arthur Ollman, from Introduction to the Infintie Light exhibition A high quality book of the collection as well as individual prints available from http://photokunst.com
Infinite Light: A photographic meditation on Tibet with foreword by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, endorsement by H. E. Jetsun Kushok Rinpoche, and poem ‘On the Road’ by renowned Tibetan poet Tsering Woese is published by Marquand Books. All copies hand-signed and numbered, 96 pages, 10 inches by 15 inches CLAMSHELL Deluxe Edition, 100 copies in Clamshell case (#1 – 100) Book wrapped in Tibetan cloth. Includes a special limited edition archival print in a presentation folder 8.75 inches x 12.75 inches, hand-signed on Hahnemuehle paper $1,250.00 SLIPCASE Edition 400 signed copies (#101-500) in slipcase $285.00 Orders: www.tibetinfinitelight.com email@example.com
For information about individual limited edition prints contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
A sampler of the printed edition of Urthona Journal of Buddhism and the arts