Thursday, December 27, 2012

Artist Spotlight- Witchdoctor Utu from the Dragon Ritual Drummers

Hello Dear Readers!

 I hope you are having a wonderful holiday season! I am continuing on with my Artist Spotlight series, in which I get a chance to introduce you to folks who took the time out to answer my query’s about how they are inspired to do their art! There is more to come after this as I meet more folks and get contacts of more amazing people! Not to lose the regular focus of this blog, I am currently working on a personal post that will showcase a happening in the nieghbourhood of Old Louisville during Halloween time! Stay tuned!

The beauty of the internet and connectivity is meeting people from all over the world you may never had gotten a chance too, especially if like myself, have spent the last 20 years doing constant gigging. Because of this one doesn’t often get the time to experience other Musicians (unless you are on the same bill at the venue!) but in my time off from the stage, I have managed to get artwork done and research into other Artists and musicians. Previously, my artists have primarily focused on the visual arts, and this entry will be a treat for your ears.

Getting to “chat” with Witchdoctor Utu was a real treat. His world renowned Drumming group The Dragon Ritual Drummers is coming together of different faiths to honour many Spirits from different Tribes from all over the world. Utu himself is from Scotland, where a bulk of my family is from and honours and drums for African and Native American Deities, something that makes my very own Ancestors proud.

I hope to be able to catch one of their ritual drumming performances just for the sheer joy of being able to express my connection to all my Ancestors. Coming from a Dance Background and as a drummer myself, I couldn’t think of a better way to honour them.

Many thanks Witchdoctor Utu!

 Utu from the Dragon Ritual Drummers
How do you describe what you do? 

Our shows are interactive ritual performances, honoring spirits, deities and cultures that we either serve, or have manifested with in our troupe and its magiks.
How do you receive your inspirations? 
Our drum troupe is composed of members from the Niagara Pagan men’s Circle, and many of the members are also part of the Niagara Voodoo Shrine, as well we are the honorary drum guard for the New Orleans Voodoo Spiritual Temple, and also serve as Egungun drummers for the Yoruba Royal House of Rebuja and Prince Bamidele. With a fabric like that to draw from, inspiration is a constant flow here; at times we can barely keep up. But while serving in our various guises, we will as a unit realizes that there is a spirit realm or entity that has manifested or favored us, or needs to be honored. Once we see that happen, we try to then compose something in their honor. At times too one of the members could be sharing their personal magik or workings and a light goes off, and again its clear to us all that we need to go in that direction.
When did you first notice your connection to the Spirit World? 
Me personally since childhood. I was raised very eclectic by my mother, and we traveled much when I was a child to exotic locations, and saw early how different tribal peoples viewed religion and their practices. I was always involved in their ceremonies...that and being from Scotland, the spirit world and ancestors are a big part of our culture.
 As for the Dragon Ritual Drummers, the troupe started by workings that the men’s circle was doing, connecting to an indigenous serpent power that was once placated here in Niagara by the mound builders that once inhabited the region. When they were routed by the Iroquois nation, their water serpent of thunder was cast into a negative light by the conquering Iroquois (something they did throughout the Ohio River valley and the north east, their sky god hero would slay a horned serpent and free a maiden). We were connecting with it the horned water dragon, whose mystical lair is beneath Niagara Falls, and discovered how attainable it was, and decided to create some music in his honor, with no real plans other than one offering. It’s been 12 years and we have never looked back. Despite all the other nations of spirits we drum for, the local horned water serpent is our totem, and the deity we take our name from, and all our music and power comes first and foremost from him.
If you feel comfortable, can you share your faith or path with us?
 Half the Dragon Ritual Drummers are members of the Niagara Voodoo Shrine and our home temple in the New Orleans Voodoo Spiritual Temple. The other half are occultists with many paths behind them (none of us are young..anymore :))...But as a collective, we serve the local water serpent and his consort; The Maid of the Mist. That’s the foundation that all our spirituality as a collective rests upon. As half our troupe is also born in Europe, we have such a huge eclectic fabric that would be almost hard to define. We discover new spirit worlds all the time based on who are drumming for, whether that be an elder or temple. We serve with our hearts, make the necessary offerings to appease the spirits we are serving, and then ride that relationship as long as we can or has been ordained.
How does this faith/path express itself through your art? 

Every one of our drum songs is an expression of our faith, everyone one of them is homage to a deity or spirit world. Every member of the Dragon Ritual Drummers, past and present, has a custom tattoo in the likeness of our horned serpent. Our way to dedicate ourselves to the entity that made all this possible, a dedication in blood.
How can you be contacted about your work from interested collectors?
 Our web site is the hub for us, with links to all our social media, CDs, itunes and the likes.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Artist Spotlight: Madrina Angelique : Crossroads Mamma!

Madrina Angelique (along with the very talented Denise Alvarado) are one of my teachers for the online school I attend called Crossroads University. ( ) This is where I and other students learn all about Hoodoo, which is to say a working with the roots & herbs, as well as a good dose of history in the American Indian and African American Traditions. With classes that offer caveats such as kits and online chats to go with these classes such as "Indian Spirit Hoodoo-Working with Black Hawk", "The Spiritual Traditions of Marie Laveaux", "Foundations of Southern Rootwork 1-3", Foundation in New Orleans Voodoo 1-3" and "Doll Baby Conjure"  one can get their fill and then find some more to study. Being in a new town and state and away from all that I know I found this community a fulfilling one in continuing my Spiritual Education. (Stay tuned to that website if interested I saw that they are also adding more classes in the future as well!) I found a home in their online community.

I was lucky to win a beautiful raffle created by Madrina of a portable altar for La Santisma Muerte or Holy Death. She is what some call a "Folk Saint" that is a Saint that people recognize and asked for help and prayers, but is not recognized by the Official Catholic Church.

 Madrina Angelique's etsy page is also a great place where I have purchase great quality Red Palm Oil ( a must for folks with Elegua or Eshu residing in their homes) as well as handcrafted Florida Water that smells so amazing (without that alcohol chemical smell some commercial products have), along with the La Santisma Muerte Oil and Water. I have also taken advantage of various specials in readings when I need some outside advice. I found that by doing these by email is especially helpful as I have the reading to refer back to when I need to and it isn't coloured by my own note taking. If you are interested, her contact information is below.

She also makes custom handcrafted Spirit dolls as well as charged Eleguas' that I know he is proud of!
Devotional Doll

Copper Elegua

Madrina Angelique also teams up with Denise Alvarado to write affordable books in which I highly recommend : Crossroads Mamas' 105 Spiritual Baths for Every Occasion   and Workin' in Da Boneyard. both are available on website below. You can find them on Amazon of course but I suggest going to the source or joining the Creole Moon Book club where you get these in downloadable form (a book a month plus weekly exclusive articles for a $6 subscription!)

Madrina Angelique

How do you describe what you do?
I am an initiated Santera and Palera but I think of myself as a Rootwoman. 

How do you receive your inspirations?
I receive many inspirations from nature, the spirit world and people. 

When did you first notice your connection to the Spirit World?
When I was 2 years old. I saw a skeleton dancing back and forth across my doorway with a top hat and cane. I remember getting a spanking for lying when I told everyone about it. It wasn't until years later that I saw Baron Samedi in a book and knew that was who I saw. 

If you feel comfortable, can you share your faith or path with us?
I see myself as eclectic with some tradition. Spirit is always with us, not matter where it comes from. 

How does this faith/path express itself through your art?
It's all I do. I craft for the spirits. I try and let the world see through their eyes. 

How can you be contacted about your work from interested collectors? and

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Artist Spotlight: Nik Seizure: Cute n' Creepy Success!

I met Nik at a Tower Records in the mid 1990’s, the go to place for a job for musicians, artists and those who loved the freedom of the relaxed dress code. Tower was one of my all-time favourite places to work, a haven or an enabler to those of us who collecting toys, magazines and obscure music were a part of our daily life. He was a coworker of my best friend and spiritual muse Heather Oswald in which the 3 of us had many fun adventures. Foggy beaches and cemeteries come to mind. I remember visiting Nik when he lived in Colma, a city just north of San Francisco, that was literally a city of Dead. It boasted more graves then living people and in fact is where most of San Francisco was re-buried when developers moved many of the original cemeteries in the city itself. 

He is funny and fascinating and I am so excited that he took me up on offering his works and words for my blog. I still have all the little wacky and weird gifts he would always bring me when we’d hang out, lunch boxes full of spooky ephemera and vintage findings that still make it into my pieces today. I am over the moon at his success which I find most inspiring, a true story of artistic success that is so rare these days.

How do you describe what you do?
I'm a fulltime artist and illustrator; I've done over 250 shows and have sold over 3,000 pieces of art. My web comic Mosquito and Spider ( was featured in the Cartoon Museum's Monsters of Webcomics show. I also work on movies, I won an audition to be Milla Jovovich's sketch artist for a film called Clocktower and you can see my Scream Serpent in Scream 4. I produce art books, zines and graphic novels ( and am a regular contributor to WordPlayThursday, Save the Bedbugs and Shlocksuckers. I've shown my work everywhere from adult boutiques to the Moss Library in Norway to The Mutter Museum and you can catch me regularly every 3rd Tuesday at Kaleid Gallery's Two Buck Tuesday in Downtown San Jose.  

How do you receive your inspirations?
When I was growing up in the Bay Area I watched a TV show called Creature Features with Bob Wilkins religiously. I was always interested in monsters, dragons and haunted houses and the movies screened on Creature Features only cemented that there was something else. Monsters existed in a broken reality. They were the things that shouldn't be there but they were. And so my inspiration comes from speculating what could be there in the dark. 

When did you first notice your connection to the Spirit World?
My family was never religious so I sought out spirituality, even joined a punk rock church. I knew there was something out there, something undefined but I could never put my finger on it. I was even a tour guide at the Winchester Mystery House just trying to get close to them. There were little omens that came out of gumball machine prizes, there was always a safety net under me in life. There have been so many times I could have been homeless or dead yet after losing everything again and again somehow everything became right. I was very good about making bad decisions but in the end there was always an invisible wall to myself destruction. I studied the new age, quantum physics, and philosophies only to come to the conclusion that I'm no closer to understanding it than anyone else. There are spirits and they speak in subtlety. I've accepted that they're never going to pop out and go "Booga booga!" but I know they're there every time I have a thought hammering at me.  

If you feel comfortable, can you share your faith or path with us?
I think we exist so that god is consciously aware of itself. Imagine if god was glass and we shattered it into a million pieces, each piece is a part of god and the physical world. One of the reasons we're always aware of a spiritual side is because we're enveloped in it. And it's legion. It's peace. It's unfathomable filled with spirits both holding on and letting go of their egos. 

How does this faith/path express itself through your art?
You know those movies about the psychic shouting at the dead, telling them one at a time? In my head, in my soul they're all talking at once and they don't shut up unless I push them all out in canvas, even cartoonish. It's kind of a reluctant symbiotic relationship. I think creativity is the other side trying to get through, even just to say "It's going to be ok" 

How can you be contacted about your work from interested collectors? 

Anything you would like to add that perhaps I forgot?

nope :> 


Nicolas Caesar was the curator and one of the artists for Scream 4. His webcomic Mosquito and Spider was a selection for the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco. His work is collected internationally.

Shop now!

Mosquito and Spider - Daily
Danson with Wolves every Friday!

Other places you can get my work:

I thought that painting looked familiar!! 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Artist Spotlight: Evelyn Abston- Modern Day Renaissance Woman

I met Evelyn, through my old job and come to think of it, I wrote about her for our company newspaper as well! I remember when I took her photo, she wore my hat and a long appreciation of her positive nature started that day. We showed our artwork together and recognized a kindred soul in the retail world that often lacks it, a beacon of light for those seeking help AND understanding. One of my favourite days at work is when she told me she could see that I was part Fae. I knew then she could see through all the layers of worldliness I had wrapped like a cloak for my own protection and see the bit of my feral soul peeking out.  I found out, that like me she was more of a Da Vinci type. Some folks may know her for one thing, but crack open that notebook and there are 50 other inventions she is working on and will complete. Instead of lamenting about being a super focus Mozart type, she embraces the ability to multitask her artistic expression whether she is putting out a new cd or a series of mixed media artwork. Below our interview, she included the inspirations behind some of her hand chosen pieces. I love to hear the "behind the artwork" stories of the artwork. Thank you Evelyn for sharing your healing light!

Evelyn Abston, Modern Day Renaissance Woman

 How do you describe what you do?
I see myself as a modern day Renaissance Woman. I sing, I play the Guitar, Keyboard and the Bowed Psaltery. I paint with watercolor and acrylics. I create 3D multi-media pieces with Rhinestones, glitter, metallic paints; I am a TV producer that focuses on topics of the care and wellbeing of animals. I also work with Reiki energy and acupressure and I like to utilize all the gifts that God gave to me. I like to create my art with the assistance of my animal and spiritual guides. They always inspire me helped direct me in my art.                  

 How do you receive your inspirations?
My inspiration comes in different forms. Sometimes I will see a shape or a picture that urges me to work with that image as a starting point. For instance, one of the works I have included is titled “Alchemy Woman”. It is a 3D art piece. The female figure is from an actual marketing postcard I liked. When it is time to do another piece, I will feel a tingling sensation on the top of my head and the current runs through my arms. This is the moment I know my guides are gently telling me “it’s time to work”.  Actually I can also phrase it “it’s time to play”. On a side note many times when I am writing the word job, I have a tendency to spell it joy first. I see anything I do as joy. So it is not really a job, it is a joy.

 When did you first notice your connection to the Spirit World?
My family always had experiences with spirits. I would hear stories from my uncle about his visits with friends who made their transition. My Grandmother on my Mother’s side shared with me a story that her father was visited by his friend who came back so he could tell his friend’s son where there was some money hidden. His friend said that his son would have been afraid if he tried to visit him. When I was 8 years old, I was playing outside and happened to see the neighbor’s wife working in her garden. She was perfectly solid. When I relayed that to my Mother, she said I couldn’t have seen her because she had died 2 weeks prior. I had a brother who had died when I was 5 years old. Until the time I was 30 he would visit me in my dreams to see how I was doing. One time when my husband David and I had taken his Grandmother to visit my Grandfather at the cemetery, Laura couldn’t remember where he was buried. I asked Giovanni, David’s Grandfather to help us and he told me telepathically where he was. I know spirits are all around me and it is comforting. I always feel safe.

 If you feel comfortable, can you share your faith or path with us?
My personal cosmology is that we are all connected to each other whether we are in a human body or a spirit body. There is no separation. We may not always be able to hear as clearly to spirit but that is because we have more dense energy that may filter out our communication. I also believe that what thoughts we focus on is what we create in our world. I was having a conversation with a friend at lunch the other day and said that the more we focus on how we want the world to change you will start seeing the changes. If we aren’t seeing the changes as quickly as we would like, it could be because other things still have to take place before the change is here. The spiritual philosophy I follow is called the Science of Mind. This philosophy was founded by Dr. Ernest Holmes. He wanted this philosophy to be offered in the colleges for people to improve our lives. The basic foundation for this philosophy is “Whatever you think about in your mind is what you will produce in your physical life. I know what I am focusing on by what shows up in my life. If I am having challenging experiences I will take a deep breath in then put my hand over my heart and the first question I ask myself, what am I thinking? Then the second question I ask is how do I want my life to feel like? The answer is usually “Joy”, then I will ask myself what does this Joy look like? And my life becomes joyful again

 How does this faith/path express itself through your art?
When I start visualizing the idea of what I want to create, then I will meditate and see how the stream of thought manifests. If I can visualize it, I can create it.

 How can you be contacted about your work from interested collectors?
I do have a website and it is
People can also contact me by email because I don’t have all my art on my website.

Alchemy Woman:
I got the design of the woman from a marketing postcard. It has butterflies, gold hearts, 3D flowers. I love changing the elements from paper, beads, glitter and metal into something new. We can all change our environment’s, lifestyles into what we wish to create; All we have to do is visualized and focus. It manifests.

Moon is one of our 4-legged kids we adopted when we thought she was 2 years old. The Vet said she older than that. We think she is probably about 13 years now. She has the most amazingly, expression olive colored eyes. When we first adopted her, she did not feel comfortable being held or picked up. She was a rescue who stayed in a cage most of her life when we adopted her. We knew that it may take some time to know she was safe with us. We let her find that out for herself. 3 years ago while I was watching TV she jumped on the couch and for as long as she was living with us I said if she wanted to sit on my lap to take a nap that would be fine with me. I had been saying this since she started living with us. This time she moved her head to one side like she was thinking and then started to get on my lap! Since then she will get on my lap and go to sleep. I can also pick her up now and kiss her on the head and I hear her purr.

My 17 year old passed in 2007; His name was Nicholas, but we all called him Nicki. He was special to me because of how he came into my life. I was in my second marriage and we were contemplating adoption. One of the names I picked out if we adopted a boy was Nicholas. I happened to meet Nicholas when I was looking at the cats up for adoption; his name was Nicholas. I didn't see his face because he was huddled in the back of the kennel. When I told my ex about the cat he said, maybe you need to adopt him. I thought that was strange because he didn't really want us to adopt any more cats we already had 2 cats. But I contacted the rescue group and we picked him up a week later. When the lady presented him to me, I was startled. His eyes looked exactly like my other beloved tabby that died of feline aids. I missed my Oscar. He was my buddy, my pal, my quiet counselor. When he died at 5 years old, I never really stopped missing him I remember saying to him. I know you are still here but I’m still seeing you physically. When I saw Nicholas, I knew this was Oscar. He was my gift.

Woman Buddah:
This painting came to me when I was visualizing colors. I love the oranges and reds they denote Creativity and the spark of life. I added rhinestones to bring out the radiance. She holds the key to abundance and wisdom. When I need inspiration I can look at her and the stream of creative consciousness starts flowing.

The Multi-Colored SunFlower:
A wonderful friend was having a health challenge with the cells in his body changing. I designed the Sunflower with healing colors. I always see the sunflower as a symbol of wholeness. Later I found out this was his favorite flower and he hung it over his bed. In the painting I had added black tourmaline, selenite and blue kyanite. To activate the healing energies, I performed a healing ceremony with my guides and my friend’s guides. 

The Pink Sun:
I had a business acquaintance that was having a heart challenge. I created this 3D wellness card and blessed it with the healing energy of joy and love. The sun was a watercolor design I layers.

The Blue Cup:
I love creating coffee cups whether I am doodling, painting or putting them into my 3D art projects. Coffee to me is a symbol of creative stimulation, abundance, warmth, coziness. I have to admit when i was younger I didn't like the taste of coffee. When I turned 20 I thought drinking coffee would denote adulthood so I learned to like it. My favorite coffee is Peets Major Dickason.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Artist Spotlight: Johnny Hellion, Facing the Darkside

Introducing : Johnny Hellion

I met Johnny through a mutual friend and artist, Ugly Shyla, online. We often have conversations about the current state of the art world and the frustrations thereof, which led to some very fascinating conversations including one where Johnny explained that he donated some of his uncle ashes to the Museum of Death in Los Angeles, California. His uncle being a cohort of Charles Manson, his notoriety lives on in a glass urn that you too can gander at when you visit a most famous and popular Los Angeles attraction in California.

In a previous blog I introduced my scariest paranormal experience ever having to do with one of my closest friends was the nephew of Charles Starkweather, and that he took his life when we were just young adults. I often wondered what my friend Chris would be like today if he could accept and perhaps embrace the dark nature and continue to funnel it through art as he was an accomplished musician. I was lucky to work with him, and he composed music for my only solo work in my dance company performances.

Johnny is living proof that one can bring light to the darkness so we can consider what is there and work with it. Is it just the dark side of our nature that we push away and not accept that causes it to funnel out in avenues such as addictions, bad habits, and negativity? What if we faced it explored it and exorcised it through an art medium?

It was his 3-D sculpture of Captain Howdy coming out of an Ouija board that literally scared me. I shared the picture with friends, as I knew they would also appreciate the nod to the demon star of the movie “The Exorcist”. A movie that totally terrified me, not so much for the demonic possession that starts with a “harmless” Ouija board, but for the archaic tests for Epilepsy that I turned my toes of my own personal fears of just being diagnosed. His art scares me on many levels and I being that type who likes to face things head on, his art speaks to me in that way that art does when it heals through obsession, repeating something so that it no longer has a hold on you and desensitizes you from the fearful image.  I find it healing, like my seizures, when at first glance can be something terrifying but in another view can be seen as a release of energy. Perhaps when trapped, can cause a shakeup of earthquake proportions. When let out little by little and shared in these smaller dosages we face our own darkness on level ground. 

In his own words, Johnny describes his work thusly:

“My name is Johnny Hellion. I paint in different mediums, mixed media and also make art pieces such as wall masks from plaster. I’m inspired by horror, serial killers, death and the macabre. Some of what I do come from known horror icons or characters but I also have a lot of original pieces that just come from the imagination. At times I feel in trance when I work on my artwork. It’s like a meditation at times, most of the time I don’t even know what I’m doing till I’m done and have to sit back and figure out what it is or the meaning. I think people enjoy it and it’s what matters. It’s all an expression of myself and my influences or inspirations. Anyone can reach me at or check out my artwork from the links at

A watercolour by Johnny Hell , all rights reserved by Artist, used with permission.
                                                        Assemblage in a silver frame

Examples of mask work


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Artist Spotlight: Jamey Stevenson- For the love of Animals

On the day my day my inspiration Heather Dawn Oswald, for my Santo Paintings: Memento Mori, passed away, 11 years ago on November 5th, I started compiling Artists who are also inspired by something outside of themselves that drives them to create …in between regular blogs, I would like to dedicate some space for the next couple months to Artist Spotlights. Artists like myself whose touch with the Spiritual or Supernatural influenced a life of art making. Stay tuned as every few days I will be rolling out a new Spotlight complete with pictures and an address where you can see more of the Artist’s work.

 Introducing Jamey Stevenson:

I was lucky enough to meet Artist Jamey Stevenson in an online community. She fancied my leather book cover I made for school and she commissioned one for herself. It was then that she explained the art that she does. A very humble person, Jamey is not one to boast or speak much of the dedication it takes to complete a piece. She is the ultimate recycler , collecting the unfortunate animal casualties of the Oklahoma roadways, cleaning and decorating them with a mosaic of sparkling crystals. When she posted a female lynx skull she had just finished I was hoping that she would be open for barter, perhaps we could trade? I ventured and she was excited to. As the last coat of finish dries on the leather, I would like to introduce you to my first Artist Spotlight.

How do you describe what you do? 
I take beautiful animals that have passed away naturally, and celebrate their life by making them beautiful again with crystals and jewels.

How do you receive your inspirations? 
I have always loved animals and tried to do whatever I can to help them. I am a certified wildlife rehabilitator and went to school for veterinary technology. There are an abundance of animals that are killed here in Oklahoma, most people don't care to stop or even take a second look after they have hit something. I always try to stop and see if maybe the animal is still alive, if it is I try to help it or take it somewhere it can be helped. If it has passed away, I get it off the road and take it home to decorate at a much later time.

When did you first notice your connection to the Spirit World? 
I really don't know. 
I do know I started having empathic abilities around 9. It has caused me to be kind of a hermit and stay to myself in "real life". I have finally started to embrace myself over the past few years. I am now in my learning phase.

If you feel comfortable, can you share your faith or path with us?
I am what some people call a Hedgewitch connected to the Goddess.
I am a lifelong learner and will continue to be open minded to everyone and their beliefs.

How does this faith/path express itself through your art?
I am not sure my skull art expresses my path directly, but I do believe it shows my love for animals, their life, and the importance of celebrating life after death.
How can you be contacted about your work from interested collectors?

In Southern tradition, many artists add small tokens of appreciation, called a Lagniappe- along with the piece purchased, or in my case traded for. Jamey created this beautiful red Swaroski Lynx claw which will have an honoured space in my Medicine Bag.

I'd also like to take this time to make the suggestion that the supporting the local American Artist is a great way to help the Economy as a whole, by supporting an artists they in turn take that money to purchase more supplies which keeps folks at the local arts and crafts shops in business. Instead of visiting big box stores that sale cheaply made product , why not give something truly original and made with love?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Update! Remembering in November: Artist Spotlights to come..

A funny thing happened upon needing and leaving the restroom…And a recent brush with the other side of the veil, a reminder that it is coming soon the time to give thanks, to think about loved ones that have gone before in the wilderness of the unknown. In honour of the holidays of remembrance this November, I present my featured Artist profiles. 
There are fantastic people I have met on my journey, intuitive, empathic hardworking people that give a genuine care about the world they live in, enough to be inspired to comment in the direction of the happenstance in the form of artistic output, calling attention, not so much to themselves for personal glory or popularity… but to the causes they take to heart.
An idea that has bounced around in my head for the last few months got the kick to the forefront by a visit from a group of Civil War Soldiers.
 Soldiers too, in common with these Artists that I know, know all too well the idea of sacrifice for the good of people they do not know. Maybe perhaps they hold the memories of loved ones they wish to protect in their hearts much like inspiration of an Artist that feels so strongly the need of a message that has to be shared with the world. In their own ways they give their life for the betterment of their fellow man: Soldiers quite literally and Artists figuratively. 
Now this comparison is not to negate the huge sacrifices of life that Soldiers give, and especially their families when their loved one dies a hero’s death, perhaps you are very curious as to why I would make such an unusual comparison?  I will get into that. But to digress a little:
As a child, like any child, I had ideas of what I wanted to be when I grew up, of course they changed over time as life’s happenstances adjusted my path and nudged me in way I couldn't have guessed. I was naturally artistic kid and love to draw, sing and dance, but had no idea that it would be my professions. I wanted to be a Nun or a Soldier, a Marine in particular, and since I was no longer at Catholic School, I sent off a form to join the Marines at the tender pre-teen age of 11. Well, needless to say they thanked me and said they would get back to me in a few years which they held to their promise. Life, by then had taken one of those turns and I saw first-hand what happened to someone I love returning from war and not being the same. He was a great Marine and the adjustment to civilian life proved to be difficult, I contemplated this as I held the ID of an Iraq Soldier who had surrendered to my Brother in Law during Operation Desert Storm.

Perhaps it was something I did in a past life? Being a Soldier, dedicated clergy? I was drawn to the discipline and the relief of having someone dictates your path. It seemed having someone telling you right from wrong rather than deciding and making mistakes and learning experiences on your own would be such a relief then to overthink each experience wondering if I am doing the right thing.
  It was not to be for me. I was not to be the hero or saviour but more of a commentator. A demotion that I am making the best of and perhaps I had already done my turn at that and now it is time for my soul to learn something new.
Perhaps the Universe has other ideas for my talents that it nudges gently for me to learn and apply that I need to listen for in the stillness.
On Tuesday, I had errands to run and they took me all over town, before going to get milk for the household, I was on the South East part of town and thought it would be neat to see the outside of Waverly Sanatorium , one the most famous and haunted places in Louisville and take some pictures.  I was chilled by the communications I saw on the Season 7 part 2 of Ghost Hunters where the Nurses who fell ill during their tenure communicated to the investigators by rapping on the walls.
Since the street leading to the Sanatorium is not loudly marked, I blew past it when I discovered a sign for Union Fort Duffield, a Civil War fort which construction started on Nov. 1st, 1861 in West Point, Kentucky just shy south of Louisville on the Dixie Highway.  

Intrigued, I decided to go check it out instead. By this time I really needed to relieve my bladder, it is a well-tended attraction, so I gathered there might be a latrine or at the very least a private bush I may relieve myself in the wilderness.
There was signage and a place for brochures; I hadn’t brought a larger stroller for the little one but an Ergo baby carrier that I strapped my toddler in whilst we pursued the map of the area. Happy for the adventure in nature, she was excited by the prospect of exploration and eager for a hike.
A hike it was! There was a toilet but it was located on the top of the fort some 300 feet above where I was standing. Looking around there wasn’t a private place in which to take a my little one and relieve myself, not to mention disturbing bugs and snakes. The area felt a little sacred to conduct such mundane business on. I saw the path and the incline and started up the hill.
Not many people had traversed what once a road that tourists, were at one time, allow to drive up. After a steep incline where my shuffling of the fall leaves startled some sunning snakes, I turned the corner where cleverly painted benches assured climbing folks that they could rest and the assent would be worth it in the end. 

Thinking it would be harder to keep going if I rested the 25 or so lbs Toddler & backpack weight on my already sturdy dense frame, I kept trudging up the hill. Honestly it was steep but the air fresh and the view of the Ohio awe inspiring. A mountain biker was doing the same, a full forward lean to get his bike up the incline so he could deflate his tires some and take the fast track back down.
As I made it to the top I was rewarded with the restroom building and made haste to relieve myself.  As I exited, a gentleman making the same trek asked if I had also climbed the hill carrying my little one.
“Yes”, I panted, happy and proud I made it to the bathroom with no accidents.
“Good on you!” he complimented and I thanked him, happy I had a witness as I was a little worried about my flagging cell battery and the possibilities of falling down the mountain, understanding now the service of GPS on my phone to find me if such a thing should happen. My brain often works out worst case scenarios, just in case.
We were rewarded for our efforts by a huge earthen fort with a fantastic view. There were informative signs, cabin and a left over cannon which I photographed.
Sitting down by the cabin and giving my daughter a chance to stretch her legs we settled to have some water and inspect the dirt which I collected a little in a Ziploc baggie.
I collect different dirt. I have since I was a kid when my father brought me back a small block of a “witchdoctors hut” (his Native guide’s words) from an Anasazi ruin that I knew I was probably facing some curse for having. When it later vanished I imagined it went back home where it belonged.
This hand full of dirt I collected from under a shade tree would fulfill a collection I was making for a bucket I was creating for the Spirit Black Hawk, where dirt from a Mountain is required. I thought it was a bonus that the dirt from an impregnable fort on a mountain would be even much more a boon for an offering for this great warrior and after looking about to see I was not observed went about my giving thanks to the land & Spirits for the dirt.

On my way out I noticed another sign, for the Fort Duffield Memorial Cemetery. 
Many of the original resting places of the Soldiers had been moved to other cemeteries but I could still feel that perhaps some of their remains stayed at the fort. Looking up at yet other climb and vista, I contemplated not climbing another 100 or so feet. I realized I may never have a chance to see this again, as we will be returning the borrowed car and soon my adventuring would be relegated to what I could reach on foot and bus. So I resolved myself to climb up the mountain and thought perhaps if it felt right collect some of that dirt as well. Soldier’s grave dirt is good for protection.
The road had not been walked upon since the leaves of the season begun to carpet the path. I shuffled up the hill taking small breaks to take in the quiet, catch my breath and take in the reverence around me. 
My little one reached her arms out to touch the light rain of goldenrod leaves that floated down upon us. We finally reached the Apex and upon reading the sign proceeded to the memorial.

I could feel the presence of the 61 men who had not seen battle in the Fort but lived in constant awareness of it possibility. Many died in the elements while stationed there in the 4 years of the Civil War that it was active. I felt them as sentinels as I gazed on their raised flag and gleaming white stones re-positioned in a circle around the flag they defended. I felt very strongly I would not gather dirt here, it did not feel right. I instead read out each of their names aloud and took a couple photographs instead.
 I saw their faces in life, in my mind’s eye, proud and tired soldiers in uniform, 61 of the 1000 that were station there to protect General William Tecumseh Sherman’s supply base in West Point, Ky.

I thanked them for their time and I felt lightness as I left the cemetery by a different path. This is a precaution taken by many who visit cemeteries so that they less likely to be followed home by other worldly visitors and ghosts. This path was much more of a downhill hike to be taken very slowly and carefully, especially with my precious cargo. It was with relief when I finally found the road and could see the car in the distance.
After finishing my errands and a good nap to be had for the little one, I made it back home  and shared my photos of our recent adventure with a little history lesson for the folks back in my hometown. I was grateful for the exercise and that our adventure’s outcome was a safe one when I exited the bathroom after placing the bag of dirt in our art/altar room where my Ancestors & Orisha’s reside.  Standing in the Nursery playroom I had a strong sense that the room was very crowded with unseen visitors, surprisingly I was not at all scared when a loud and strong voice spoke to me.
“You have done much to give voice to us; you do much to insure we are remembered. This does not go unnoticed. For this we want to provide for you, and protect you”
I started to cry, a sign that something supernatural was indeed occurring at that point. The voice came from the shapes that had formed in my mind’s eye. Shapes of these men that crowded the room, the men whose names I had read on the tombstones just hours before. I had never in my experiences with the other world heard a voice so strong and clear, and swooned before I regained composure to answer a simple “thank you, for that I am very grateful”.
With that, they vanished, the room lightened and I walked back to the living room where I contemplated how I could insure I do right by this acknowledgment.
An idea had been brewing for some time, of giving voice to other folks who straddle these worlds, inspired by their touches with the Spirit world that they expressed in healing, artistic expression and act of compassion. A lot of these folks came forward to help my family and I when we faced very difficult times in the previous year. Some I only knew through the internet but had spread the message amongst their friends, of when we needed assistance. Their acts of charity helped keep the roof over our heads, food in our bellies and their prayers & well wishes for trips to the Doctor for our little one for testing for Spina Bifida Occulta which thankfully came back as negative, her signs being only topical.
These folks, struggling as we do, to make a living at and providing for their families whilst communing, giving reverence with their passed on family and Ancestors; who in turn give them guidance and inspiration for art they sell. I want to dedicate this virtual space this November to these folks that dedicate their time and life to those that have gone before and theirs who come back to ours to help guide and inspire.
When you think of gifts this season for yourself and others please consider taking a look and or sharing with friends the links from the folks I will be gathering here. Not only does this benefit the immediate needs of the families they support but the Spiritual family beyond they also support with offerings and prayers. Our families are not just the ones we see, hug and spend time with but all that grace our walls and altars, family Bibles and photos walls, remembered in our hearts and songs.
Cold touches on the arms and voices calling our names from the beyond will happen with more frequency this month so leave out a class of water and a candle for those that are still looking out for you from the other side of the Veil.

***I have decided to update this post with feedback that I have received from other folks in concern to my impressions...reliable and trusted sources put forth the idea that perhaps the Soldiers I had felt came with an Native Spirit voice as they let me know that Ghosts often are not as strong or as focused (they are working out their own things here) to offer what I had heard and that perhaps it had to do with more the Native dwellers of the land I was exploring. I was retrieving dirt for Father Black Hawk after all. However, something else may have piggy backed on my way home, something that showed up in a photograph that was taken of me during rehearsal for the Victorian Ghost Walk in Old Louisville. Stay tuned as I hope to receive this photo and report back this cautionary tale in the next blog! 

Up your protection and prayers folks!