Saturday, December 19, 2015

Winter Solstice 2015

May you enjoy sweet blessings
of peace, love & light!

December 21, 2015 11:49PM EST
 

Winter solstice is a signal to celebrate. For those of us living on the northern part of Earth, this is the shortest day, but then after the winter solstice, the days get longer, the nights shorter.

This season reminds us of the ever-changing flow of life. I invite you to honor this time with a meaningful ritual. Creating a ritual can be as simple as lighting a candle with an intention in your heart to commemorate this pivotal moment and re-kindle your inner fire!

Let there be Light!  SSSsssSesheshet*
*the singing/ringing sound of the Systrum


  • CANDLELIGHT CEREMONY:   Here is a nice way to commemorate the Solstice with friends or family. Place one large unlit candle on your table with smaller unlit candles for each person. Turn off all the lights, spend a few moments of quiet contemplation in the dark and then the host or hostess lights the main candle offering a blessing.  After that, one by one, each person lights his/her candle from the main flame offering a word of gratitude and placing the candles in a circle around the main one. Once all candles are lit, in unison offer a song or simply saying, "Happy Solstice.”


  • BELL &/or SYSTRUM CIRCLE

  • This can take a simple form ~ e.g., family and friends ringing bells together ~ or it can be as ceremonious as bells/systrum being rung after each person in the circle shares a word of gratitude.

    Start with choosing a bell to ring or a systrum to shake. Bells can be of varying sizes and types, but, ideally, blend well when rung together. Brass bells and/or jingle bells are commonly available and have long time associations with the season.For a bell ringing/systrum shaking Solstice circle, family and friends gather together in a circle. Each has a bell or systrum in hand. The host or hostess preferably with a systrum in hand shakes it to clear the space and then says a few words about the Solstice being the start of the new solar year... let us ring out the old year and ring in the new year. By shaking the systrum a sacred space is created as an antidote to the world's chaos.


    Family and friends gathered might ring bells and shake systrum honoring the directions (as inspired by spiritual practice of many traditions ~ i.e, Native American, Buddhist, etc.) as follows: Begin by facing each of the compass points (North, East, South, West), ring the bells and shake systrum in unison, honoring connections with each sacred direction. Repeat in the three directions: upward, the place of the cosmos; downward, the place of the planet; and center; the Divine within.

    In place of, or in addition to, individual direction honoring, ring the bells and shake systrum together to celebrate the familial and friend connections; again ring them in unison to celebrate our connection with the cycles of Nature; and then they ring them a third time in unison to celebrate our connection with life on planet Earth and all of Nature.

    Finally, from the oldest to the youngest, each person is invited to speak a vision or wish for the planet for the coming year after which the bells and systrum are played together to affirm that vision/wish. After all have shared, the ceremony ends as the entire ensemble calls out ""Happy Solstice” three times with a resounding ringing of all bells and/or systrum!




            Wishing you a blessed holiday season!
     

      Sunday, November 29, 2015

      Early influences of Egyptian Mother Goddess

      When I was very young, around three years of age, my paternal grandparents boarded a steamship to cross the Atlantic and live overseas for several years.  I will never forget the day of their departure and the thrill of visiting them in their stateroom with my parents, aunts and uncles, all with cocktails in hand toasting "Bon Voyage"...

      Top row: Grandma Florence, my dad Jack, Uncle Bob, Grandpa George
      Bottom row:  Aunt Kay, Aunt Margaret Elizabeth and Uncle George
      Finally, the appointed hour arrived, the horn sounded alerting us to disembark and we are all ushered down the ramp used to exit the vessel.  From the dock we waved goodbye amidst paper streamers the ship's passengers were given to throw from the ship to family and friends below, all part of the ceremony of embarking on the cruise during the heyday of the passenger steamship!


      My grandparents lived in Athens for several years and I remember how thrilling it was to get a letter or postcard from them.  Back in the late 1950's the most expedient means of communication was a telegram (yes, I AM dating myself here); overseas telephone calls were practically unheard of, so a letter with a stamp from a foreign country was quite an exotic delivery in one's mailbox!

      While living overseas they traveled to many places and a distinct memory from my early childhood is viewing their slideshow upon their return to the US. Two slides in particular have left an indelible mark.  One was of Green folk dancers and the other was of my grandmother and grandfather seated upon camels with the pyramids in the background.  I wish I knew what happened to those slides; nonetheless, I suppose these were among the first seeds planted sparking my lifelong enthusiasm for ancient Egyptian studies. Also, I distinctly recall the folkloric applique wall hangings they brought back for each of their children.  My father was gifted an applique of a farmer in the field with his cattle while I coveted the one they gifted his older sister ~ i.e., Egyptian Mother Goddess Isis with her loving wings spread open in a welcoming gesture.  Long story short, that applique now enjoys a prominent place on my living room wall (see below):


      All this to say, as many of you know, I have spent a great deal of my life investigating ancient Egypt.... and I can no longer be silent in revealing that I have been steadfast in calling the extremist terrorists "extreme extremist terrorists."  I refrain from using any other terminology when repeatedly shocked and saddened by their dastardly deeds.  In a post by 'Greg' earlier this month at dailygrail.com, "the influence  (of the Goddess Isis) was such that her worship continued for more than 3000 years, not only in Egyptian culture, but also by the high civilizations of the ancient Greeks and Romans as well. Fast forward the better part of five millennia, and it has taken just three years for a loose assortment of low-life scumbags to co-opt that name ... For whatever reasons, (this) group has become popularly referred to as the same name as this beloved Goddess, largely through mass media repetition and then reinforcement through discussions on social media." (UGH! Arrrgh!)

      I for one (among many I am sure) have been steadfast invoking the wings of Isis, beloved mother goddess of ancient Egyptian cosmology, along with beloved Mother Goddess Hathor to please, please, please fill the heart/minds of the extremist terrorists with the guidance, love and light missing in their lives and transform their deeds to be for the good of humanity and the planet. I invite you to join the plea for the media to relabel the extremist terrorists.

      Please understand and be clear Isis is a name
      to be invoked to shower love and light
      throughout the universe.

      Svāhā sššt sššt sššt

      PS:  Click here for an interesting overview of the "relationship" of Hathor & Isis


      Saturday, October 3, 2015

      ... and before Egypt, before Crete, before Spain, Mother Maui beckoned

      Mystical Magical Maui

      Sultana's invitation promised an "unforgettable journey initiated through dance, music, art, poetry, ritual, mythology, affirmation, meditation and prayer...in the breathtaking beauty and majestic embrace of Maui."

      Maui, February 1998:  yours truly with my Guru, my mentor, my lifelong friend,
      MIMI in her Egyptian Priestess attire complete with the wings of Goddess Isis
      who along with the inspiration & protection of Goddess Hathor,
       I enjoy oso many blessings

      Sultana and Safiya Al-Nour offered classes in dramatic and elegant dance as a healing art .  The special guest teachers included world-class performing artists:  Omar Faruk Tekbilek, heavenly mystic and master musician; his lovely wife Suzan, who shared authentic Turkish dance with us; Aisha Ali, who offered North African Tribal Dance as well as lovely choreography to "Raks Tahia," music composed for the legendary Tahia Carioca; and Mimi Janislawski, who has traveled a unique path to her chosen career as an exponent of Bharatanatyam.
      Mimi Janislawski
      THE SUPREME MOST INFLUENTIAL
      Traveling to this retreat in mid-winter (February 17-23, 1998), my intent for participating was simple - to become refreshed and renewed. Over the course of the previous twelve months several family members had passed and as fate would have it, their funeral details were my privilege to attend to.  By treating myself to this event my hope was to carve myself a little niche to allow time for self care as well as honoring my creativity.  Little did I know how truly profound this experience would unfold to be!

      In the beautifully transformed space at the rustic oceanside property of Camp Keanae, nestled high on the cliffs above the Keanae Peninsula, participants found the main dance space a glow with candlelight.  Sultana welcomed us, opening the camp with a beautiful prayer ceremony.  A traditional Hawaiian ancestral welcome followed thus blessing the space as a sanctuary of love and light.

      We then gathered together for a superb meal in the dining hall and into the night we enjoyed music by a campfire light.

      Resting in the bunk of our cabin I could hear the ocean waves crashing on the shore line washing a healing sound over me.  It rained almost every night which I found to be personally symbolic as well - all part of a cleansing ritual, washing away the high speed pace of the nineties lifestyle, slowing me down to listen to the creator within.

      Beloved Romeo
      By the morning of the third day I began to feel a sense of healing taking place so much greater than I ever imagined, thanks in no small measure to the healing gifts of Romeo Folvarko*, whose presence was integral to this magical retreat.  He generously blessed this camp supporting the parents by watching children and helping in the kitchen.  In addition, his perceptive chiropractic technique released strongholds of life's tensions for many of the camp's participants, pulling out the stress and freeing us to fully absorb all the wonderful music and dance this camp had to offer!

      At that morning's class Mimi Janislawski, our Classical Indian Bharatanatyam dance instructor, began teaching us a flower offering with great attention to our posture and focus. As I practiced the exercise my focus became a beautiful red ginger plant and I was flooded with appreciation feeling the glorious natural wonder of Maui all around me.

      Following Mimi's class Sultana led a relaxation and stretching session accompanied by Don V. Lax, a violin virtuoso, whose presence also graced this retreat.  Their divinely inspired collaboration touched my heart strings bringing tears of gratitude to my eyes.

      That night at dinner I had the good fortune to be seated next to Suzy and Faruk who were talking with Mimi. Faruk told his tale of being a professional musician during his youth in Turkey but that when he came to the United States could only play his music on weekends while working to support his family as a presser in a taylor factory.  At first it seemed oppressive but then he got the coat pressing down to a 9/8 rhythm!  Put the coat this way was "1" then flip it over "2", this side "3" and so on.  The big machine had an F tone and other machines other tones that he vocalized with.  This is when he began to realize what a gift from God he had.

      Faruk realized he could find the music and the rhythm
      anywhere and everywhere. 

      After dinner we were blessed with a heartfelt scholarly lecture presentation by Patricia Rife, University of Hawaii professor, on the spiritual life and times of Jelalludin Rumi, the 13th century mystic/poet whose escatic turning towards Allah was the inspirational founding of the "Whirling Dervishs" in the Mevlevi Order. She explained the five very different Sufi orders and how their practices all relate to the Quran and Islamic practice of zikr - chanting prayers to God.  Slides of historical woodblocks and lithographs of the dervishes in Turkey and the Middle East complemented her insightful talk in praise and remembrance of Rumi's wonderful "enlightment" by the dervish Shams of Tabris.  We were encouraged to read Rumi's 13 volumes: "Come, come, whoever you are!" Patricia is a pioneering female Sufi who has broken through traditional barriers in her own spiritual quest.

      The next morning while having breakfast we were treated to a whale swimming merrily along in the waters just beyond the Keanae peninsula.  It was a bright sunny morning with a gentle tropical breeze wafting through the palms and ti leaves.  We delighted in her greetings!  On an excursion outside the camp another participant witnessed a whale rolling on her back slapping her flippers, then rolling on her tummy slapping her tail and then twirling up in the air!  Everytime Blue Mountain of Ahimsa Sanctuary Farm played his pennywhistle she jumped up to see who was playing for her.

      Day Four's morning class with Mimi began with our watching and following as she presented her choreography to Hymn to the Goddess, excerpts from The Saundarya-Lahari Tantra by Sri Shamkara-Bhagavatpeda (8th Century).

      "Supreme Goddess...gracious smiling countenance
      radiant as moonlight luster."  

      So beautiful, so cosmic and so expertly taught by this woman - the manifestation of excellence who has perfected her performance art and mastered her craft of teaching.

      At lunch Darryn Songbird, one of the camp's participants and a fine musician and storyteller, told a lovely tale of the Goddess and Buddha and Mimi spontaneously interpreted it through mudras and pantomime.  For those of us who had quietly gathered around it was quite a magical moment.

      That afternoon a gentle breeze blew as the musical strains of Priyo's guitar caressed the wind.   The guitar music was then blended with Don's violin and it just really could not have been more heavenly:   A beautiful view, pleasant temperature, and the music of two masterful musicians swirling all around me.  I succumbed and went into the otherwise vacated space.  I danced with a free spirit allowing the music to flow through me and all around me.

      Every night the campfire glowed.  Mystical flute melodies, pulsing dumbecs, and ringing finger cymbals rose high above the cliffs creating an experience that will be forever imbedded in my heart/mind.

      Being in Maui in the company of master dancers and musicians touched me very deeply and most profoundly.  Coupled with the sound of the waves and the tropical breezes I felt as though I was floating in the cosmic ocean.

      It was at this retreat I made friends with the lovely Mirayah Delamar who along with her husband and children had just relocated to the Maui and I have had the privilege to behold their Maui Sacred Earth vision she and her husband held in their hearts become a reality! A lovely dancer named Shakina displayed her artful batiks in our dining hall, where I might add we had one delicious dinner after another.  On my last day at camp one of her pieces symbolically found its way to me - a woman rising from Maui's turquoise waters swirling amidst hearts and stars under the crescent moon.

      Participating in an event like this provided the opportunity to internalize the music and rhythms. Connecting to these traditions steeped in antiquity I advanced to deeper levels of self-expression.

      Sultana Al-Nour gathered together so many beautiful, talented, generous people, I consider it an honor and a blessing to have been counted among them.


      *Romeo and I became good friends and remained connected over the years until his untimely passing....I am blessed beyond measure to have counted Romeo among my dearest friends. I am comforted to know his light now shines amidst the stars.



                                                                                                                                                                         

      Saturday, June 27, 2015

      STORY of the SYSTRUM

      ~ Introduction ~  

      Many moons ago I was lovingly nurtured by wonderful parents:

      My beautiful parents Dot & Jack

      Raised in a Catholic home, I attended parochial grammar school and before Vatican II, which essentially shaped a modernization of the Catholic Church including a changeover from the Mass being celebrated in Latin to English, I can recall Mass ceremoniously celebrated in Latin with incense burning.  I distinctly remember weekly benedictions we attended as school children because a) we vacated the classroom (yay!) and b) the chanting of Latin phrases and the singing of sacred tunes among plumes of incense was intoxicating and hypnotic to a young impressionable me.  Nevertheless, in the Catholic Church, it being a patriarchal hierarchy afterall, there was no role for a girl (or a mature woman for that matter) anywhere near the altar other than to maybe iron the priest’s vestments and, of course, the church ladies could polish the pews!  No higher it seemed could a woman aspire than to enter a convent to learn to become a teacher at best.  So, in my late teens, when I discovered that thousands of years ago there were matriarchal cultures and women held esteemed positions in ancient sacred temple ceremony, I wanted to learn MORE!

      Thus began my independent life-long study of traditions, movements and rhythms steeped in women’s history. Along the way after learning the dance as well as learning to play frame drum and finger cymbals, a history of ritual and processions was unveiled, if you will, where women played a prominent role.  This history was revealed amidst imagery collected and archived at venues like the Metropolitan Museum of Art and in books  ~ e.g., When the Drummers Were Women. (Note: I am blessed to say I studied with the author of that book, Ms. Layne Redmond *and* traveled to Crete with her.  Go to Pilgrimage to Crete)

      Following a trip to Egypt in 2007, I was inspired to add a sistrum to my personal collection of percussion instruments which I play and utilize for various personal and community ceremony as well as public performances.  Alas, at that time there was nothing on the market which remotely resembled what I’d seen engraved on the temple walls.  After than initial search I shrugged my shoulders and considered it a darn shame I could not find what I was looking for.  Harumph!

      Approximately two-three weeks later,  I awoke with a start from a deep sleep… Do you know that predawn feeling?  I experienced a feeling of being startled awake… and yet still feeling half asleep in a time between night and dawn.   Somewhere between conscious, unconscious and suBCEonscious, I suddenly sensed a “knowing” of what the gods intend through me.  It felt like a wake-up call and I answered this “call” beckoning me to make it my mission to re-emerge the percussion instrument associated with the Goddess Hathor, a prominent deity of ancient Egyptian cosmology.

      Eight years later, after diligently working to manifest the Ceremonial Systrum™ in the 21st Century, I feel honored and privileged to now take the time to amass and relay to you my dear reader some of its rich and magnificent history while inviting you to join me in envisioning its sublime and splendid future.   

      Pictorial essay forthcoming...
      Cover Page of Pictorial Essay:  Story of the Systrum

      Stay tuned for future installments and thank you for subscribing!



      Tuesday, May 19, 2015

      New Moon 5/18/2015

      As the New Moon invites a time to regenerate one's self and to reconnect with all that feeds you, I return to the dance, my constant, the boat that keeps me afloat...amidst turbulent waters as well as those times when the wind in my sails is billowing. I feel oso blessed I discovered the dance early on and I remain a devotee!

      I am a woman walking thru this world with lotsa love in my heart, celebrating the divine spark of creativity in us all! It *is* GOOD to be alive and, I might add, to be a woman of a “certain age” whose youth has faded, yet the fine lines of a life well lived are only growing bolder!

      The river of my life has presented a few occasions of choppy, high wave waters and tears (over)flowing. However, many, many more are the blessed days of smooth sailing and I believe my dance, frame drum and systrum practices deeply steeped in ancient traditions honoring the Feminine Divine are what keeps this vessel afloat. 

      Blessed be.
      Permit me if you will to share a dance piece entitled:
      "Veiled in Mystery ~ Giving Blessings"

      Svāhā


      NOTE:  See more videos of Tahya solos:  Click here


      Sunday, May 10, 2015

      MAY it be memorable

      Strike the drum.  Shake your systrum!
      Join the procession...

      The High Priestess at the Temple of Hathor reminds me MAY 22 is the 2015 date for celebrating the Festival of the Beautiful Union ~ that is, the festival of the union between Hathor and Horus, when Hathor goes to meet her Beloved, travelling on a boat from Dendera to Edfu. It is a festival of lovers, love, fertility, joy. 

      This is the day to petition Hathor for love and a beloved. Traditionally held between sunrise and sunset, shortly after the New Moon of the month of Epep (Epep begins approximately on the 17th May). After sunset, dancing and drinking began!

      The High Priestess offered this chant:

      I praise the Golden One and exalt her likeness, 
      I honour the Lady of the Sky. 
      I pay homage to Hathor. 
      Glory to my sovereign goddess!
      I beseeched her and she heard my prayers. 
      She sent me my beloved
      And my beloved came to see me.


      We 
      convened at the Temple and have agreed to set the festival start time for 7 pm, wherever we happen to live. The High Priestess went on to say, "The seventh hour after midday - very Hathorian."  

      My calendar is marked accordingly and I invite *YOU* to join in!  What an awesome vision to envision that at 7 pm at various points across this lil' spinning galactic floor
       in sweet procession/succession, systra will be ringing and chants will be spoken uplifting our intentions for love (for one's self, our beloved, and waves and waves of love, fertility, joy across our dear Mother Earth)! Waves and waves and waves of love ~ Svāhā!  

      SSSsssSSSsssSSSsssSesheshet 

      ...and in celebration of the loving and nurturing spirit of the Divine Mother in us all, 
      I wish you a sacred & blessed Mothers Day!


      Saturday, February 7, 2015


      Sistrum / Systrum 
      Processional Instrument Ritual Implement


      Elusive tho' the rhythm & melody may be
      A fellow sojourner once told me
      there's a song in the systrum's story.

      A poet I may not be, but temple priestess reincarnate, YES, that IS me!

      The Systrum awakens the Mystery deep within
      transporting me
      through time, I swoon
      transforming me
      from earth-bound to sky-clad spirit
      under the light of an ancient moon

      Gently shimmering the jingles,
      I become one with those etched on ancient temple walls
      Musician priestesses standing tall
      Processing through the temple courtyard
      with instrument in hand...

      Tho' the rhythm and melody may be buried beneath drifting sands
      their chant* to the Goddess throughout time eternal withstands

      We sound our drum for her Spirit
      We dance her Grace
      We see her lovely form in the Heavens
      She is our Lady of Sistrum
      Hathor!
      Lady of Delight,
      Mistress of Dance & Queen of Song ...


      *excavated from Hathor Temple in Dendera, Egypt

      Friday, January 2, 2015

      2015 New Year greetings

      Best wishes for a New Year shimmering with blessings of vibrant good health, wealth, prosperity & vitality :: Teka dum Teka dum Teka dum Pah 

      SSSsssSSSsssSesheshet sssSSSsssSesheshet

      In the spirit of our interconnectedness, I invite your suggestions/ideas/comments/assistance in cultivating ideas regarding the creative manifestation of the Systrum in the world as I believe this beauty allows re-creating and participating in meaningful "exercise" (ritual) combining body~heart/mind~spirit.  

      The Systrum is a simple, yet effective, devise/tool/implement/instrument.  How simple is it? It's like putting a rattle in a baby's hand.  Playing the Systrum is natural, instinctive and historical too.  Yes! It's historical, affordable and easy to play ~ allowing us to . . .

      Remember ancient drumming & chanting traditions
       of Egyptian temple musicians.
      (Click here to read more)
      Arouse & bring alive those memories in our contemporary 21st C existence!
      
      © Tahya 2007
      Priestesses playing sistra
      as depicted on Hatshepsut's Chapelle Rouge @ Karnak
      (Read more about Hatshepsut, The Woman Who Would be King by Kara Cooney)