Thursday, 25 October 2012

Being a Goddess in the 21st Century – What does it mean?

  In the past couple of years a lot of “hype” has been made about the word Goddess. For each and every person it has its own cords which resonate within them. But what in essence does it mean for each and every individual?
For every person the word Goddess has a different and unique meaning. 

  To some it has a purely religious meaning a figure to be revered or feared, to others the word Goddess conjures up images of esoteric mysticism. And then there are those who understand and acknowledge that it is the sacred and divine female aspect of our selves. Everything in life has been created with two opposing poles, the Yin and Yang, Male and Female. 
  There is a sacredness and interconnectedness between these two forces, and as we who are making this journey in a female form RE-member this, it is important to celebrate this magnificent divinity within ourselves. But before we look at this aspect within ourselves let us look at the history and mythology of woman that has been ignored and distorted through centuries of patriarchy.

  The spiritual journey of Earth’s people began with the idea of a goddess, universally called The Great Mother. We know that thousands of years before the Bible was ever recorded creation stories centred around a goddess. The reverence and incredible respect our ancestors once felt for the primal power of the female is reflected in those dimly lit times of the pre-historic ages when the power to give and nurture was supreme. It is only as recent as 6000 year ago, for as we know 6000 years ago is recent in the age of human kind, has the earth and the female perspective been ignored. As we are moving into the dawning of a new age a growing number of people are looking back to the past through woman’s spirituality to find new visions for the future.

  To remember the eternal rhythms, they draw strength from the creation of their own goddesses. Today we build tall monuments to that which we call progress like for instance the Twin Towers or Eiffel Tower, a progress that threatens all life forms. Millions live by it and the conqueror has replaced the nurturer as a symbol to be respected. The natural world we once revered we now destroy, we have long forgotten the spirit of the earth goddess. 
  Women have always gathered together, 40 000 years ago our ancestors of the western world, arrived in Southern France, they were hunters and gatherers wandering in small and peaceful groups, formed around mothers, dependent upon one another for survival. Locked away in caves deep in the earth are wondrous cave paintings they left behind, which could be reached only by crawling for hours through narrow tunnels and past dangerous ledges, perhaps this perilous journey symbolise the dangers of the hunt, or perhaps it was a place close to the heart of the earth goddess for these people. Over thousands of years countless generations returned to these caves to add their mark. In a cave in South Western France one of the oldest existing sculptures of human form was found, the sculpture being that of a woman, archaeologists have dated the sculpture back to 35 000 years BC. 
  The stone-age woman probably started having children during puberty, the sharing bond between mother and child was at the centre of clan life. They roamed long distances learning the secrets of the earth, drawing nourishment and medicine from the plants. The female was often honoured in pre-historic art, the miracle of birth and substance offered by her body, the bleeding that came and went with the changing of the moon; she was magical like the goddess earth. Tens of thousands of female figurines have been unearthed from the stone-age whereas figures of the male were fewer in number. After following the source of food from place to place, around 10 000 BC people began to cultivate, the agricultural revolution changed everything, and especially the harmonious relationship we had to the earth. No longer did people accept what was provided by the earth, now we sought to control and wield the awesome powers of the natural world.

  These people have vanished but from China to old Europe they have left us their strange standing stones, such as Stonehenge. Enigmatic and still today we can only guess as to their real meaning and purpose. But their placement does suggest that they were placed there to trace the moon. Satellite sites now reveal that they all stand on energy lines that criss cross the earth. Stones have always been seen as reservoirs of power. In pre-historic times the serpent was seen as a symbol of healing and prophecy and was always associated with goddess religions as these were times when woman still shared the centre of civilisation. A matriarchal culture is one where woman has a place of honour and respect and that does not mean domination, the men and woman in these cultures in olden Europe were buried in almost the same way, the woman had placed with her a little more stuff but nothing like the patriarchal chieftain system later on where one man owned woman and other men and horses and other things. It was also never a society that used to put men down in order to elevate woman, there was just a humble reverence of the bountiful powers of mother earth and the bountiful powers of the female.
  Moving to a different part of the world, on a small island in the Mediterranean are the oldest known remains of an ancient goddess worship culture, they fished as they do today, the island people of Malta. The eyes of the goddess, on their boats still guide them safely into the sheltering harbour. Around 7 000 years ago the first raising of crops was done with hand tools probably done by woman. For we know that woman developed agriculture. The clay houses of these ancient peoples of Malta have been washed away but their temples remain. Long before the civilisation of Egypt, these temples were carved out of the monumental stone in the shape of their female deity. The sick found comfort in the temples, it was a place of healing, a place of community. It was also the place of oracle, a sacred place where one could hear the voice of the priestess, the ancient healer who gave prediction and comfort. It is believed today by the people of Malta that the goddess can be found in everything and always represents Mother Earth. In these temples they have also found drawings and representation of the Tree of Life. The way that it is interpreted is that the tree was the medium between Mother Earth and man and the branches coming out of the tree represents a life span which is connected to one another which shows a continuity of life.
  Ancient texts record that a goddess known as A-set was the oldest of the old “She Who Knows All”, the Chinese called her Quan Yin, she was known by many names; Eye of Heaven, Guardian of the Justice and Truth of the Universe, She who gave the unalterable Laws of Life. It was she who invented the stylus so that words could be recorded, she who invented numbers so that sheaves could be measured.
  We can always draw parallels with the ancient goddesses when we look back at our own lives, for instance if you love the outdoors, looking at the stars and feeling one with nature you will find that you feel a great affinity with Artemis* and her strengths. In every culture, links to earlier beliefs are revealed through customs, myths and celebrations. The Dance of Life around the maypole is done all over the world. Today in Mexico at the great Basilica they honour the Virgin Mary; they dance where once there stood a temple to an ancient goddess, the people used to bring her round cakes just before the rains came. Although the surroundings are Christian the ceremony goes back through the millennia to an ancient world. In certain parts of the world today Shamans are mostly woman who still carry on thousands of years of tradition.
  A thought that many of us have forgotten is that we are ancestors of tomorrow and that which we say and do can be remembered thousands of years from now just as it has been in pre-historic times and even in our own recent history. When we think of it like that no tiny act will ever become meaningless. We will live on through our children and grandchildren and so on. The knowledge that we are able to pass on this knowledge of how we survive and how to keep the spirit and the body whole, our relationship between each other and the earth and that is the tradition that we keep alive.

Goddess from the Soulscapes Tarot by Jade Ashcroft
  Deep in the English country side is Sillbury Hill the largest pre-historic structure in the modern world and it was not built by slaves but by generations of people using deer antlers as their picks. It took them 400 years but it has stood for 4 000. In recent centuries treasure seekers have thought it to be the burial site of an important warrior king and his hoards of gold but they have found nothing and so it conceals nothing. It is the earth goddess for all to see. Just a stone throw from Sillbury Hill there are several pre-historic monuments to ancient times, the great ceremonial circles of Avery and Stonehenge, places where the goddess reigned supreme.
  Even here in Africa we have reference to ancient goddesses but she is still worshiped in many parts as Yameya, Afrikete, Oyo, Mabulisa, dark reservoirs of strength and female power. In a lot of these cultures as well as pre-historic you will find that there was never different levels of importance, everything, thing, God, man, animals and plants were regarded as holy and spiritual.
  Moving to yet another part of the world where archaeologists were dumbfounded by the amazing discoveries they unearthed on Crete, they had achieved great feats of engineering, they tracked the starts, and they kept written records. Unlike other civilisations of their time the city states of Crete lived in co-operation and harmony. Their customs, laws and wealth supported in the general well-being of all life. There is no evidence of male or female dominance. The women were legendary herbalists, healers and midwives, they were merchants, sailors, chariot drivers, farmers, and they were equal to the men. Today’s scientific theory that all living matter of the earth forms one interconnected life system goes hand in hand with ancient Minoan Crete beliefs, for our oneness with each other and nature lied at the heart of the goddess worship.
  Moving forward in time and closer to recent times history books call it the dawn of civilisation, for the man it was the beginning for the woman it was the beginning of the end. The Greeks announced that history would now begin and proceeded to obliterate or pervert the 25 000 years that had gone before. Athena was redefined, once the goddess of love and wisdom, she now became the goddess of war, the violent and the erotic became linked as they had never been before. Man, said man had always been the natural master of the Earth; he was now also the pro-creator, Athena now sprang fully armoured from the brow of Zeus, Eve was created from the rib of Adam and the female inferiority forever was proclaimed by the book of Genesis. And don’t believe that woman just accepted these beliefs. There were pockets of these woman who rose up and thus was formed the legends and myths of the Amazons. We now have civilisations that are celebrating war. They are antagonistic towards natural death but creating massive death through warfare all the time and this is where we live today.
  There are many was to pay homage to the wonders of creation and to discover the fullness of what is means to be human. There are things to be remembered, for 35 000 years our ancestors found power in unity and co-operation. If we listen to the echo’s they have much to say. We have completely forgotten our own worth and strength. We are goddess each and every woman on this planet and it is up to you to reclaim your inner wisdom and strength.
  One of the messages that we can claim for ourselves are the words “Know Thyself”. How many of us do? We have lost pieces of ourselves being wives, mothers, daughters, lovers, girlfriends, and in the end it is up to each and every single one of us to remember “Know Thyself”.
  It is up to each and every one of us to remember who we are, what passions once coursed through our veins, what we longed for, what we believe in, even something as intricate as what we like. So many of us when you take away our careers, husbands, children, cleaning and everything else we attach ourselves too, have no idea of who we really are. 
  It is here where I attempt to create a space for woman to get together once a month to celebrate things that are happening in their lives or in the lives of their children or family. And it is our creativity, it is our expression of who we are, how we feel and how we relate to the earth and the people we love. 
  The teachings that we hear today about our own worth and what we believe woman to be are very different from the messages that are given to us by the media and society. We know that we as woman are strong and gifted but society is telling us that we are meek and lowly. But so very often woman have forgotten that innate magnificence that is lying dormant in the pit of her belly. 
  And this is my aim at my monthly Inner Goddess Awakenings, for the woman to RE-ignite, RE-member, RE-connect and RE-discover their very own instinctual selves. 
  The workshops that I hold always have a different theme and many of our sessions held in the afternoons are spent under the magnificent African sun, for so many decades woman have felt uncomfortable in their own skins. The picture of the “perfect woman” that is being sold by the media has aimed the focus the attention solely on outer appearances. Women have been transformed into superficial beings striving on a daily basis to look the “correct” way and to please those around them. We have come to a point that woman so often sacrifice their own happiness and self-esteem in order to try and fulfil this “perfect picture” of what a male dominated world thinks that she should be.
  The workshops are run from the most amazing venue called Thymeless Tings situated right in the Cradle of Humankind in Johannesburg, South Africa and boasts a waterfall and soothing and refreshing rock pools right on the property. The idea behind this unique venue is recycle and up-cycle and hold an important lesson for its customers, beauty can be found in everything.
  The workshops are a space for ladies to come and be themselves, to create, connect and discover their unique selves again. A place where they feel safe to share and explore all the different facets about themselves. To clear out old baggage they have been carrying with them for so long. To look back on their journey and to be celebrated for how far they have some. To start the healing process, and to guide woman along their own journey of spiritual awakening to their own divine inner goddess.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Soundcloud, Getty Partner For Licensing: Musicians Lose 100% Control, Paid 35-50% Of $'s

Soundcloud, Getty Partner For Licensing: Musicians Lose 100% Control, Paid 35-50% Of $'s

Soundcloud, Getty Partner For Licensing: Musicians Lose 100% Control, Paid 35-50% Of $'s

image from soundcloud.gettyimages.comSoundCloud has partnered with leading licensing company Getty Images to simplify music licencing.  The new SoundCloud feature allows users to make selected tracks available for sync licensing directly within the SoundCloud player, and commercial users to request a license by clicking a "license" button on the player.  But the opportunity comes at what some will see a high price to artists.

If a Soundcloud artist chooses to participate, flat fees begin at $99 for web site use to $200 for a one time podcast play on up to $1500 for wider corporate usage. If licensors want a track for an ad or film, they must to call Getty for a quote.

Artists Must Relinquish Control
To be eligible for placement, artists must give up 100% control of how their music is used. "Your agreement with Getty Images Music allows us to license your music to any client who is willing to pay money for its use," reads the company's FAQ. "The agreement you sign pre-clears all of your music for potential licensing."
The company's justification for taking full control: "Pre-clearance is a strong selling point for our clients who are more likely to use music that causes them less hassle."

If the music is licensed, the artist receives just 35% of the upfront licensee fee plus 50% of Getty Images' share, as publisher, of any backend performance royalties. Fair or not, 50% fees to companies that place songs and generate licenses are common in the music industry. But usually those companies (often publishers and song placement experts) actively solicit the usage. Getty's placements from SoundCloud's artists are at their core passive, with the potential licensor discovering the track on their own and requesting the license.
What do you think?  Will you make your music available view the new Soundcloud / Getty Images music licening platform?



Sunday, 7 October 2012

An Unconventional Initiation Into Traditional African Healing Part 1 by Jean Sobiecki

An  Unconventional Initiation Into Traditional African Healing Part 1

19th July 2012: Its been three weeks since I started using southern African psychoactive spiritual medicines called ubulawu, as part of my training process to know African traditional healing —and I can say its been one heck of an unconventional initiation….
As a background, I am an ethnobotanist with university training in botany and medical anthropology. 

I have had a life-long calling to healing: including the use of medicinal plants, the knowledge of which I gained through self study of nature, books, making and using my own herbal medicines as well as learning from local traditional healers throughout my life. I am currently apprenticing with a Northern Sotho healer named Mama Maponya in Johannesburg, to learn traditional southern African medicine.

The Sotho are one of a number of Bantu language speaking tribes occurring in southern Africa. These groups originated from central Africa and migrated southwards. Traditionally, the Bantu people cultivated fields (a main crop being Sorghum) and raised cattle and supplemented this with by hunting and gathering wild foods. Some of the core beliefs of the Bantu people are that of the principle of community (Ubuntu) and the role of their deceased ancestors, around which many rituals are performed.

In southern Africa there are two main types of traditional healer-doctors: the herbalist (Inyanga in Zulu), and the diviner (Isangoma: Zulu). The diviners like shamans are the spiritual specialists, and use divination to communicate with their ancestral spirits to diagnose their patient’s misfortunes or medical conditions. Both the herbalists and diviners use psychoactive plants as spiritual medicines in their practice and give these under guidance to lay people who use the ubulawu’s to dream and make connection to their ancestors.

Psychoactive can be defined as any substance that can alter our behavioral functioning, be it perception, emotions, cognition on the whole. Many common substances are psychoactive from milk to sugar through to caffeine, opium and psychedelics, each having their own particular effects. 

Until recently southern Africa was often considered to be poor in psychoactive plants. Yet the research I have done since 1998 has helped to revitalize this field of ethnobotanical research and I have show that a multitude of plants are used for various psychoactive uses: for relaxing, stimulating, dreaming etc.

Ubulawu are traditional African preparations made mostly from the roots of a variety of herbs and creepers, and sometimes the stems or bark of certain plants that are chopped or ground and left in water that is churned with a forked stick to produce foam. This plant infusion is washed with, the foam eaten or the liquid is drank and vomited with. Vomiting or emetic medicines feature in many ancient systems of healing to clean the body and mind. Using the medicine connects you with yourself, and your ancestors through dreams and they often have mild and subtle psychoactive properties.

Below is an abstract of a research paper I have just had published on African spiritual medicines in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs in August titled: Psychoactive Ubulawu Spiritual Medicines and Healing Dynamics in the Initiation Process of Southern Bantu Diviners. This paper gives more detail on the traditional spiritual plant medicine use occurring in southern Africa, for those who want to know more. 

Abstract—The use of psychoactive plants by traditional healers in southern Africa appears to be a neglected area of ethnobotanical research. This article explores the healing dynamics involved in the use of popular psychoactive plant preparations known as ubulawu in the initiation rituals of Southern Bantu diviners. Research methods include a review of the literature, fieldwork interviews with Southern Bantu diviners, and an analysis of experiential accounts from diverse informants on their use of ubulawu. Findings reveal that there is widespread reliance on ubulawu as psychoactive spiritual medicines by the indigenous people of southern Africa to communicate with their ancestral spirits, to bring luck, and to treat mental disturbances. 

In the case of the Southern Bantu diviners, ubulawu used in a ritual initiation process acts as a mnemonic aid and medicine to familiarize the initiates with enhanced states of awareness and related psychospiritual phenomena such as enhanced intuition and dreams of the ancestral spirits, who teach the initiates how to find and use medicinal plants. The progression of the latter phenomena indicates the steady success of the initiates’ own healing integration. Various factors such as psychological attitude and familiarization, correct plant combinations/synergy and a compatible healer-initiate relationship influence ubulawu responsiveness.

I can say that through my own current use and experiences with the medicines, what I understand of their effects and qualities is not what I expected based on all the literature…it has been very enlightening for me. Ubulawu’s psychoactive effects are very subtle not like what most consider psychoactive-i.e., strong visionary psychoactives, yet the way they take you into parts of yourself can be profound.

I call this an unconventional initiation since initiate traditional healers usually go to the rural areas and seclude themselves in huts living the traditional way—yet I have undertaken to use the plants in a noisy central business district of Johannesburg close to my teacher, living in a rented place with a landlord that is not ideal for me. This however, I have learnt is not what matters. It’s adjusting to any situation and persevering with the training that matters.
This is my journey with one of the plants called U (I can not name the medicines until I have finished my training).
INCEPTION: 2 July 2012
I began using these foaming medicines that one vomits with every morning and the first medicine called U opened me like a flower ordered to so without any protection to the light or darkness: just revealing who I am, to myself.
Being in this new home I don’t enjoy; cold and dark (being mid winter too), I felt the struggle of being in bed with my negativities, inflamed, raw.
My anchor: Buddhist dharma. Visiting the Buddhist centre in Johannesburg I felt peace and safety.
Days and nights upside down, grief’s and pains visiting me from unmet desires, writhing— stirrings in my spirit…seeing the addictions of desires, giving up on them, having too.
Waking up at 11:30 the one morning facing guilt of not doing the socially accepted thing of waking up early. “Why am I sleeping at this hour”? A program in my head said. “I should be working”…I said hell to it.
Who Am I? Is this all my intellectual pursuits? Get me out of this shithole place, I told myself: Venturing into a nearby suburb of Kensington, I sought a townhouse, a place of my own, maybe something would pop up….but I knew in the back of my mind it wouldn’t happen overnight. I remembered what my teacher Mama says “No good comes with rushing”.
For days I felt my nerves raw and burning, my minds negativity rising up like an oil slick, no way but to pray, face it, then I saw it is time to face and overcome my fears, not just entertain their existence, that or just give up my training, but then…?
11 July: After the 9th day in a panicky state I went to see my teacher Mama Maponya, whose wisdom and compassion is like that of Buddhist lamas, she said “this is what the medicine does, it shows you who you are, gives you direction to know yourself”.
Fuck. I hated what I saw, what I couldn’t run away from. “I can’t do this— I can’t be a healer. I can’t open to my ancestral spirits—I’m sensitive enough” I told her in excruciating honesty. “I just want to teach and do research”.
15th July: I woke up in the morning with clarity of knowing my story, my truth crystallizing: (I wrote these down with a strong knowingness)
I have found my truth: What truths for myself have I found?
I know I am a seeker of truth.
To know my truth, I must be aware.
I know that the dominant culture in the West: capitalist culture hides us from awareness and truth.
I do not know if there is an omnipotent God, but what I feel is true is we have been given life in order to create: what we want.
Finding peace and happiness is my responsibility—our responsibility: no one neither god nor anyone will save us.
I believe healing our minds and learning to love and overcome our fear is the way to happiness and peace.
Awareness, taking responsibility and loving ourselves will lead to mature being and inner peace.
I need to take responsibility for my life and what I truly want.
Our capitalist consumer culture has taken us away from peace through addiction to strong desires and fears and insecurities through design thereof through mass media marketing and advertising.
To be at peace with myself I must deal with and heal my fears: my fears of people: of conflict and being afraid of conflict.
To do so I must believe I will not fear (though accepting it), being confident and believing I deserve to express my honest truth. I deserve a voice.
The healing I want to teach is spiritual freedom, to guide people.
If I am cold I must find warmth. If I am unhappy I must make the conditions happen that are necessary for my happiness to occur, as the Dalai Lama says.
I sense a journey overland is on the HORIZON.
These thoughts distilled for me in the course of the day and I shared this on my facebook mindfulness and consciousness group: What is enlightenment other than making the journey alone, into who we really are, learning to overcome our fears, our addictions, making peace with ourselves and the world and mastering our minds and negative emotions, to finally rest into the truth of who we are-essentially: pure mind, open heart.
Finding my truth is finding my enlightenment.

19 July 2012: I stopped the medicine. The pressure slowly eased up. I could handle my landlord—everything was better.
It had been a very intense journey into my shadow, my core of who I am.
It’s not as if I could turn away from my negatives while using it, it was there till I came to terms with it.
How wonderful that a plant can do this: accelerated learning. So often we sleep in our slumbery ways to ourselves “ya I know my shit stuff” but then a minute later we are distracted by whatever it is. Not with U. I could feel how open it made me, how unrelenting it was for me to face myself while I was using it, a constant mirror.
After having stopped U for 5 days I had been given my next medicine to use; but I felt I wanted to take U once more. It was my intuition—my ancestors.
24 July 2012: That morning, kneeling down having churned the foaming medicines I knew it was good.

After vomiting with U this time I realize and recall that Elliot, another traditional healer I met, said I must heal myself first then do research, it will strengthen me. Like mama reiterated; the plants will support me in who I am and my work.

I now saw the points of connection clearly: my relationship to plants, making herbal medicine, —this is who I am—many people do not do this. So yes I am a healer. I must just heal my fears and move forward— with trust, I can integrate my creative, leadership and healing aspects into one like the Buddhist Kagyu lineage master Akong Rinpoche.
Having used U after 5 days of absence I can report that its effects are once again similar to my previous experience…I felt opening to insights again, same old anger as last time with an old friend D (funny how it will surface issues that need resolution), and also realize now how I am progressing on my path.

That afternoon sitting in the meditation shrine room of the Kensington Buddhist I gazed up at Tai Situpa’s photo (another high lama of the Kagyu lineage) and I knew: a distillation of mind was present:

The plants are helping me heal.
Build compassion through the Dharma
And create the conditions for my happiness or fulfillment in life.

The Journey progresses….

Jean-Francois Sobiecki
Phytoalchemist. Website soon up

Monday, 1 October 2012

Read the Latest Edition of the Enlightening Times Magazine

What YOU as an individual can do is BE yourself, and if you hearken to your calling, the world will be a much better place for you BE-ing awake. Your "Voice" counts. The Enlightening Times is an alternative view of our World. New Contributors are always welcome. Please email with any questions you may have.