europe, travel log

a season of water and women

gaetan’s hand spreads out over the flats : “all this was water. still would be if it wasn’t for the drains. that’s why it’s flooded right now, with all the rain. this here is the island of avalon, over there by the evergreens they would send off bodies on boats from the isle of the dead. it would all be impenetrable swamps, clouded in mist – you’d need to find a way here then wait for the lady to summon the boat…”

perched on my terrasse, we gaze at the horizon. today the mists of avalon have loosened their grip and the fields are drenched in sunlight. the land here bathed in song as much as it bathed in water. chinese medecine links the element of water to the winter months, and the cards follow suit, leasurely showering a deluge of cups on everyone around me, of water bringing memories, ancestors, connectedness through time and space – incubation.

here i am sitting with women again. i listen to their stories. we’ve had freak february daffodils, gales and a snowball holiday where the town celebrated its 20cm of powder in utter delight. meanwhile, the rest of the island labored in waist-high snow. we pour cups of tea before we start the women’s circle, staring through curtains of endless rain and experiencing leaking dreams : we wander in and out of other women’s heads, curious birds swooping in our wake between the cracks. a woman down the hill dreams of me sitting on a sofa, rain splattering indoors. “that happened – a couple of days ago”. hypnosis summons an image of a radiant bull, leading a herd towards the sun, while the woman sleeping the room next to me sees a cow jumping over the fence, back and forth. tara and kali, smiling at each other from each side of a double page, wreak havoc in dreamed funeral homes and real salt circles. i dream the name of the water god tlaloc, indignant of being treated as if he had no feelings – how many, many more coincidences we would discover if we all constantly shared our dreams with each other… i tattoo a spider on a thigh, an invitation to a certain kind of womanhood, of courage, of connection to the mysteries –  a few days later a woman has to be brave for a younger girl, and lets a tarantula rest on her petrified hand.

i spend a long time blowing steam in the candlelit cave. the numb soles of my bare feet can feel everything. i blink through this deluge and feel the action of the slow drops of healing.

this community of women is like the soft call of home. “take a moment sisters, breathe…” sacred feminine were just words, before. now it’s a feeling with texture and colour. an experience in my pocket. a craving i didn’t know i had.

i’ve had a whole life’s worth of inventive ways and reasons of steering clear of the female community. whether i was a scruffy tomboy, a lone bookworm or an angry punk, the hats i picked up never held any breadcrumbs back to a peer group i could relate to. the word femininity only summoned pink razors, cosmo quizz and other hollow icons of the consumer culture, manufactured to pollute women’s brains with vapid noise. traveling was slowly, steadily unscrewing the bolts of what i knew, but still – the mainstream latino culture of my new homes wanted to know where were my babies, where was my husband, why my hair was short and my jeans torn. i kept my own company. i’d never met a community of sisters and never dreamed such a thing could ever be waiting for me.

but lo and behold – first, i meet kinswomen! this has never happened to me before! wild souls pining for the road or plotting for a roof, depending on the day. they stride into my life one after the other, we wave friendly banner like ships entering a harbour, we trade news from the trail, goods and houses, tattoos, haircuts, massages, plant friends and sponges. i feel like the ugly duckling, looking up to the family of swans.

then there’s all the others, the many faces of the goddess. we connect in the simple way that were used for millenia and buried for centuries. on a new moon we arrive  at the circle depleted and part company elated. leave your archetypes by the door, the maidens, crones, single mothers and tired warriors, the broken-hearted and sick and homeless. here we only have women. drums. songs and shrieks and how can you describe what happens in a circle. “you’ll just have to try this out at home”. a space where the civilized animals are played down. we talk blood and bones. “oh wait, you do that too?”

as the legend goes : we are women, standing on the shoulder of an older woman, who stands on the shoulders of an ever older woman… it’s inexpressible, feeling this umbilical cord of kinship, stretching back through the fabric of time. shining from every eye gazing back from around the fire. suffice it to say i am loved and blessed.

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europe, travel log

the Everything That’s Ever Turned You On List

on the café table there’s an apple, a cup of lapsang souchong smelling of bonfires and the queen of wands. the perfect cocktail for simmering arousal.

my cheeks feel warm, the soft skin of my stomach tingles. i am sitting with every single lover i’ve ever had or wished i did, scribbling away. filled to the brim with quiet fire.

when gorgeous meg told me about the list, i didn’t get it. “write the qualities of your perfect lover?”. it sounded like idly wishing for something that wasn’t there, feeding daydreams. like a horny 13-year-old’s craving, before you learn that the greatest thing about love is that it comes in marvelous, unthinkable flavors.

“the way it works is : you identify and name qualities, behaviours… then instead of hunting for them in someone else, you cultivate them in yourself.”

that caught my attention.

“you start by writing down everything anybody’s ever done that’s turned you on.”

oh, mama. caught again.

it started like a shower of sparks. one memory would suddenly flare up, then the next. a trail of butterflies in my stomach that had me giggling.

patterns then emerged from these isolated moments, traits that would come back time and again, gaining sharper definition as time went by.

as i sifted through these moments i watched my needs change. from the people who wanted me instantly to others, who can bide their time. from the one i could talk to, to the one with whom i can share silence. i wrote “closeness to nature” and suddenly remembered a boy in chile, who first made me notice that i touch every single plant i come across.

there was : the light touch of fingers on my wrist. a slow, hour-long foot massage. though sensual delight made an appearance, it was scant compared to the details revealing a certain temperament, a vision, a set of values. a playful mind, a gentle heart. a respect for boundaries. speaking uncomfortable truths, that need to be spoken. the list included friends and unlikely faces i did not expect to add there.

when i was done, i had an ébauche, a recipe for the best version of me i could imagine. me in my days of radiance. i fell in love with myself a little more.

the greatest impact was yet to come : i skimmed back through my words, looking for patterns. i was in for a surprise.

years ago, i’d climbed the creaky staircase of a dark, dank parisian library, and came to a doorway.

a hand had painted on the lintel :

“Be not inhospitable to strangers
Lest they be angels in disguise”.

the message had hit me like a sledgehammer. i’d spent the rest of the day in a daze.

the imprint of that sentence was laid out in front of my eyes : that time a love of mine left his shoes to a sleeping beggar, and walked home barefoot, mine de rien. that other man who got lost for hours on any simple errand, happily making lifelong friends along the way. people’s attitude to strangers was a key player in my list. i had no idea that this was so important to me – maybe because my default role in people’s lives is often “the stranger”, the traveler, the new face. it made me think of a card on the postsecret website that read, in a similar vein : “i judge you by how you interact with my mentally retarded brother”.

the last one, added like an after thought, was : “knows their medicine.” to know what you need, what you want, and how to get it. i blew a kiss goodbye to my past self, who had no idea of what she wanted in a lover. i felt a page turn.

that night, i dreamed of giving painless birth to miraculous twins, that glowed like the sunrise.

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europe, travel log

december

on the blank page of half a sketch pad i was gifted while traveling, there’s a verse written by an unknown hand : “Once upon a time, there was an ant”. with the ant drawn under its namesake. in the middle of the page, like someone leaving a hidden gift.

just before leaving on the christmas pilgrim trail, i’d met a man called soul. after two minutes of casual conversation i thought “oh, there you are! we’re really close friends! we just hadn’t met yet.” when i arrived in my childhood bedroom, the first thing i laid my hands on was an engraved wooden box which reads : “Soul Slices”.

glastonbury gave me a beautiful sendoff in the form of a winter solstice celebration. i should have been in bed, eating antibiotics and resting. i piled on layers and limped over to the gardens – bumping into friends wearing celebratory glitter on the way. we giggled as we blessed each other with holy water. we all raised our hands and blessed the log for the fire of our shortest day. there was a labyrinth where people walked barefoot, meandering the sand paths for long stretches of time to the sound of harp music. the air was thick with song, a strange warmth and a heady, cinnamon-scented kind of love. it padded down the street like a slow smoke, stronger every day since the month began.

i gave myself this day : in the early morning i would be hurtling down the roads back to france, in a rush. too many people to see, places to go to see them, timetables and slow trains and are you free between 1:15 and 2:03 in 12 days. but to my surprise, the days since december have been a study in slowness.

when i joined my family we were all in a similar state – wounded and bone-tired. we floated around in a tide of exhaustion which washed away the usual to-dos. what took its place was a vague nothing replacing our family rituals. we lit every candle in the house on christmas eve, played cards and did not exchange gifts. i felt like we let ourselves be, most of the time – be alone more than usual when we gather under the same roof, be silent, be inactive. these things do not come easily to my womenfolk – it was quite a privilege to share with them this unusual, collective aloofness. i got the time to go through the cycles of tenderness and irritation, quietly enjoying each step. i found myself smiling at us all, going through the same old dramas that have clung to the walls for the last ten years.

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the sex magic readings have been my personal christmas present to myself. “you’re going to just come up with something great. then watch it work so well. then be happy”. i’d never read long-distance before : a name, a picture, that’s it. no safety net, you just jump. i was nervous as hell but as soon as my fingers flutter over the cards it’s obvious – i’m not the one doing the picking. listening to my recorded reading offers the privilege of refining my analysis and correcting speach mannerisms, the pauses allowing long periods of unrecorded silence, letting things bubble up without hurry. when i send off the audio files, only a few hours pass before i receive excited pictures of symbols over there that had come up in the cards, emails exclaming at connecting dots, orders for readings to gift to friends. i’m glad i can end the year with the important reminder that i can invite any exciting new pinch of magic into my life. i don’t need to wait and prepare – i just have to pick a star, get up and walk in its direction.

 

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europe, travel log

samhain – november

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costume design

when i was preparing to cross the channel, set on exploring my ancestral lands, i had this feeling that my stay would extend beyond the few weeks planned. an intuition that i would spend the autumn threshold there, to meet my dead in a proper introduction, such as i could not yet imagine.

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the samhain gathering was a sunrise, a nest, a bubbling cauldron. four days dreaming in the moss with a colorful tribe of newfound brothers.

catapulted to another tor, i head to dartmoor under the gaze of a sheep skull with a string of pearls. first day, new faces. each one voices an intention and pulls a card – as effective an introduction as i’ve ever seen. the hanged man stares back from between my fingers, and the feeling of hovering persists. my senses sing in rapture : there are songs like golden feathers drifting in from another plane, group massages in front of a red stove, bare feet in the grass and slow breathing in the morning. the clinking of cutlery, whistles and miming while our silent lunch slips into clown, the grazing of charcoal on paper. the naked man’s voice sweeps us into a conversation under a teepee. i give tarot readings in the bath. we have casual cabaret, a casualabaret in the drawing room. ellie tells us a story of the handsome young man trying to escape from the love of the fairy queen, and  the tale leaks into our dormitory that night. in my dreams, the fairies steal from you “your laughter and your sadness”. meanwhile a scared man seeks a refuge among the slumberers, then disappears without a trace. 

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the day of the feast feels like something i’ve done many, many times before. the women go shrieking with pleasure into the frozen stream. we call the ancestors. cows answer the wolf howls. the dances and tears and offerings make the air crackle and thicken, i can feel them, the countless generations that sail in us, witnessing, humming in our blood. breathing down our necks, just outside the circle. after cleansing and paying our tribute, we paint our faces, don our finery. we feast : each of the 22 arcanas finds a seat at the table, a card for each passer-by,  child, trickster, and the lord of the house in a plushy animal costume. we toast and name our dead, we fill the room with their stories. the ones whose names have been almost forgotten, the ones we didn’t know and the adventures that we sometimes took part in. the devil and i strip and strike a pose before dessert : the drawings are passed around, a casual reminder of the diversity of our visions in the myriad interpretations of our curves and muscles. at some point my head starts swimming with too much stimulation, the scene, the songs, the food, the presences. red ribbons dance from the conifer bonfire and the sky pelts down ice from the full moon.

 “you are a miracle, and a landmark on the territory of a new world”.

it felt like home. we emerge filled to the brim with love. stronger.

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i volunteer once a week, working in the garden at paddington farm

back into my new home, i settle into a rhythm… little eden screaming MOMMY LOOK ANELICOPTA. i rip open the blackened, dry skins of the beans. hard caramel seeds rain down into the pail at my feet. the beans climb up, the dry branches of black quinoa, the kale that i’d never met before. colorful home-schooled kids mill around, prodding at the earth while a mum gives me golden words – “there’s no lesson, no plan. we just do what they want to do. they’re learning to learn, and we try not to get in their way.” michelle wanted to teach eden about the trees, and instead got a lesson about how to evade monsters and aliens in the forest. i’m sitting in a pool of organic learning. the esoteric library, with its dusty crammed shelves of witchery, druidery, magickry, its string of muttering, beringed midde-aged men, delivers its treasure into my hands, but. it’s a trickle, compared to the rest of this river. friends made on the way to the sunset. promises of black clouds of starlings above a lake. the frost fair, where all the tribes of celts, fairies, witches and muggles mingle in their winter finery to watch morris dancers,  buy sheepskin slippers and gather to watch the man beating an arrowhead on the anvil.

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i spend a whole week dancing. the five rhythms unveiling its surprises as i watch my body shake in ways i’ve never felt before. like taking a walk down your dna trail, responding to the drums with convulsions, spinnings, percussions, low sweeping motions that i suddenly recognize, sowing seeds, bent over a field a few days later. my body caresses itself, stomps, breathes in the whirlwind of other dancers with only the slightest impulses coming from me. the house and techno music make my soul shrivel and wail, but no matter where i turn, they are honored guests here. i work on my patience – people go wild and love it, they’re a delight to watch. we’re all so beautiful when we stop trying. contact improvisation turns out to be SO MUCH FUN, halfway between dreamy hibernation and a playground. the barriers between your body and other bodies, between the kid and the adult blur as we run around, rub up, and throw ourselves onto the ground, breathless, screaming with laughter. like post-coital frolicking, with random strangers.

speaking of drugless trance : i find myself watching amma, hugging. a man on her team tells me she simply does not sleep. with each step closer to her, my body flushes with heat, and the inside of my arms tingles, anticipating the imprint of her embrace. i get dizzy and slightly nauseous, like when you’re falling, falling in love, hurtling down. i watch her for hours. a queen bee, surrounded by a buzzing mass. she the dreamer, and we the whisps of her dreams. she clamps the side of her forehead against another, mutters some syllables and jumpstarts an earthquake. watching a miracle – five hundred times. a fox greets me every time i go for some night air on the racetracks. the glorious sunrise welcomes us back into the real world, and i glimpse a buddha statue between grazing sheep on the motorway.

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arbre bleu

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weeping willow

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europe, travel log

london – brighton

i cross the sea to the north. it’s a long, dreamy transition leaving one mist-clouded coast for the white cliffs of dover. a middle-aged man mopping the ferry floor sings in a beautiful baritone a song about all the girls he’s ever loved, to an audience of me and a couple of running kids in the vast, echoing, empty cafeteria. i feel the water in me pulsing to the water beneath the deck; communicating in ways my brain can’t understand – there’s some kind of eager reconnection going on, clear as day. in london, to contrast with the parisian graffito “menu du jour : l’amour à la amélie poulain”, a bar chalkboard proclaims “unattended children will be given a shot of expresso and a kitten to take home”.

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pimped crossing light on trafalgar square

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love at first sight in camden market – luz adopts a ukulele

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our working desk

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along the canals the boat people are applying coats of paint to their homes, taking advantage of the last sunny days. there are squirrels absolutely everywhere, surprises me every time. i am quickly reminded of how much our work is relevant in the cities, where the chaos is and i find it difficult to maintain harmony. we browse the city’s cosmopolitan options to fall back into our bodies. there’s an outdoor tai chi class, under a tree which keeps us from the rain. there’s an intensely beautiful yoga class with the urban avatar, an impressive presence who even pulls a dog-eared tarot from a pocket for a quick one-card pull before we leave. tango has a particular flavor so far from south america. i love working on my awkward steps, slowly polishing them. my body bristles with attention, gliding to the slightest pressure of a palm, following the heat of some stranger’s ribcage behind closed eyes. the milonga whisks us away from the gray towers into a swirl of silky dresses and intense, silent sensuality. a fragment of another era, still throbbing with life. cloaked in dream.

some beautiful dancing

we meet a tango dancer who paints dreamy dotwork landscapes and i run into some people i know from rio on the sidewalk. we take care of the lovely cedric, a city dog with an uncomfortable existence as he is mortally terrified of transportation, unknown people and much to our embarrassment, black men in particular. we never seem to run into english people anywhere ever. i go to a vibrant sunday market where it feels like summer is never going to end – a ska band jazzes up the park while families in t-shirts mill around incredibly delicious-looking food for every conceivable palate, friends have beers in deckchairs and a bush by the river drowns out all competition with ecstatic birdsong. i meet women who are building a boat in their backyard – “yeah, i’d barely ever lifted up a screwdriver before, and now here we go!”. when asked “so, did you enjoy the tate modern?”, i open my mouth, close it, for a few seconds, minutes. to me, that day, the art in these walls only screamed of alienation. the violent neons, ripped rubber tires and piles of rubbish weep. it brought me back to being a punk art student, feeling raw, unheard, powerless, angry, and using a similar language to express this.

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this reaction is probably enhanced by the days i’ve spent immersed in the delicate oil paintings of the pagan otherworlds tarot. the cards blow my mind. their beauty soothes the soul and evades words. i used to work with the tarot de marseilles, which i picked because it was difficult to relate to. i figured once i wrapped my head around this one, the others would come easy. its atmosphere reminds me of the stone walls of a cathedral, governed by complex number ratios, bearing the imprint of archaic rules and filled with underlying secrets i will never grasp. this deck here though…. it’s like walking through a forest. the cards whisper, and let the wind flutter through them. their messages often escape my lips, making no sense to me, but cristal clear to the listener.

i read in two homes populated by childhood friends, and the experience is moving, watching them sit one by one by my candlelight and open up, feeling their connection to each other through the walls and the years. their collective love creates a space for reading that is oh, so soft and welcoming. they wait gathered in the kitchen with wine, music and candles, cheering as each one comes back out, head whirring with information and wearing a sheepish grin. a book on non-violent communication falls into my hands, and deeply rustles me up. it comes right on cue in a time of stress, transition and delivering a lot of intense news. i’m still digesting all of the experiences shared in it… it offers such simple methods to deal with a million every-day situations. it’s like the ultimate communication swiss knife, simple steps to clearly understand and communicate relationship expectations, raising kids without guilt and punishment, get past that argument you always have with your mum, and the more spectacular examples of settling blood feuds between warring tribes and preventing a murder. the trick that really got to me was the phrase “repeat to me what i’ve just said”, and how you have to usually insist about five or six times for your message to reach the other’s ears instead of what they think they’re hearing. very soon afterwards i get a helpful illustration when a friend picked the devil card : “oh. that’s… bad, right?” “nono!” enter a long, loving soliloquy on the devil, followed by a pause and a few minutes later “and so the devil, that’s like a bad thing?”. it’s just humbling to have another precious tool drop in from the skies : “here my dear, this will help.” the cards had told me that some of the most important aspects in learning their language would not come from them, but from the web in which they are but one intersection : plants, folklore, language, poetry, music, moon phases and seasons, kung-fu, sexuality and self-care rituals. a friend talks of cleansing spaces with sound and a couple of days later i meet a kalimba with a sound like the tinkling of the stars. every note produces vivid mandalas behind closed eyes. it drew me like a magnet and the world disappeared, like the first time i heard tibetan bowls. i play it for a friend who immediately has a short out-of-body experience (and thinks nothing of it. “well, i dunno, it’s not like i count them or anything”). speaking of childhood loves, we leave london to hang out with the most beautiful bromance i have yet come across. in a nutshell, their first tattoo was : Till Death Do Us Part.

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the burnt pier

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brighton offers high vibes after concentrated londonness. when we arrive i forsake all good manners, drop my bags and run to the sea. i am unable to sleep, restless all the time, there’s an unlikely turkish palace and a burnt pier looking forlorn. i watch five beatboxers and rappers gravitate around a street mike in the space of fifteen minutes. it’s a delight to live in a musician’s home, and sway on the wave of voices and guitar strings while perched on the kitchen counter, watching the sunset. a city of students and funeral homes, nestled against the devil’s dyke, soft curves under fading pink embers. i drink in gratefully the night silence that london could not provide, the sea dissolves the city smell, racket and agitation with her tireless dance. i get a concentrated shot of brazilianessence in a shared house with fantastic women and a bulgarian samurai. we close one chapter of the coral collective as luz returns to brasil. it’s been an intense three months and it feels good to take a break, process and regroup, until our next adventure. i pack my bags and prepare to leave for glastonbury.

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nails and armors

after hanging out with so many men our path took a u-turn and we settled into a nest of femininity: we were hosted in a beauty salon. neither of us had ever set foot in one before, and it was delightful : a bunch of women taking care of themselves, making jokes and coffees and chatting, all there to have a good time, to bond and relax and forget their days’ troubles over a foot massage, a manucure, whatever. everybody popping their head in the door, whispering “so what’s up girrrls?”, tiptoeing in and out to check on our progress. candles, music, buddha statues all set and ready before we even arrived, every room vamped up with incense and flowers and attention to the minutest detail. ines, the dazzling owner, telling how women drive one hour to come to her place. that she makes sure her girls are happy, that they can work well and spread the love all around.

we worked intensely on women as family – our customers were mothers and daughters, sisters, and their tattoos were all about each other. the cousins, grandmothers and best friends came in to watch. ines kept joking about her daughter being a mini-ines, and sure enough, they even picked exactly the same tarot card. a mother surprised her daughter by just  coming along, then suddenly getting two big tattoos on her forearms.

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benni

four-hand tattoos

i complete luz’s octopus on andrea’s arm

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viv and martina

swinging by paris i took part in a little mother-daughter circle myself, cunningly plotting to draw her into experimenting our popular tarot-shiatsu combo. my beloved mother does not believe in cards, or in being taken care of – so it took some plotting to persuade her.

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a pig on a péniche!

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versailles with my mum

i’ve been thinking a lot about armor lately. tarot cards as i read them are forever wary of stagnation and the building of elaborate towers and walls – which shut you in as much as they keep others out. the tower card has kept popping up for men i’ve read for on the road, and one of its meanings is the destruction of old walls that have stood for too long. the line between a castle and a cage, the protective wall and the barrier is always a slippery one.

we build armors from our experiences. from memories of pain and resentment and sadness, we hold onto them to learn, to become tougher. we vow we will never be caught off guard again, be hurt. we establish a security perimeter, where none shall pass, to protect ourselves. we retreat behind a barrier of aggression, silence or the insouciant “i’m fine”. and then we sit there. thinking, safe at last. completely alone.

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pagan otherworlds – a tarot with no armor.

there’s a card called strength. it has no armor, physical or otherwise. while on the battlefield, the vikings had a shield, used both for defense and attack. but no armor. there’s no armor in kung fu either. i was repeatedly taught that for most defenses you only need to move a limb by about 10cm. you deflect the attack, or move yourself out of its way. you use your opponent’s energy, instead of spending a lot of your own trying to block it. 

but armor does use up your energy. it’s complex to make, heavy to carry. it also limits your options. your movements, your angle of vision, your hearing, your power of improvisation – all are limited. armors are crafted for a specific set of circumstances, and if there’s a change, they become dead weight. take one of those fancy full-body medieval tin cans. you’d be baking under the sun and sloshing under the rain, attracting lightning bolts and with frozen articulations in the winter. in these conditions, how good can your response be?

i’ve just watched a great ted talk, where a turkish healer states : “if you want to watch something die, draw a circle around it.” i feel the armor, the walls work in much the same way. you draw a circle around yourself, say this is where you stand, this is your shape, this is what you’re willing to let in – and no more. you close doors. saying no is important, and closing doors too. but just like anything in our funny little cycles, there is a time and a place for that. if you watch life through the narrow slit of an war helmet every day, life can only be perceived as a battlefield.

i feel like our viking friends got it right. if battle you must, what is more efficient than armor is an adequate weapon. wit, empathy, healthy boundaries, communication. and a battleaxe too, why not. a weapon, and flexibility to adapt.

This being human is a guest house
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Rumi

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a month of yang

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life on the road, how i’d missed it. its crazy coincidences and intensified everythings.

the on-the-roadness is a space in which i’d circulated a few years ago -that was the reason i started this blog at all -, and my journey through this space has lately seen of a lot of new parameters. traveling with a steady companion –  and through the pairing of two loners, to boot – is new and surprisingly easier than i might have thought. traveling  with a huge bunch of Things (and in a Car!) is also a huge leap out of my backpacker routine – being able to lug around all of the paper, candles, tattoo equipment, food supplies, herbal medicine books, presents for hosts and musical instruments is a luxury i’m greatly enjoying. the years i’ve spent resolutely not accumulating belongings, which would stay behind at the next move, have honed a great appreciation and reverence for any tool. i’m feeling grateful as hell.

this is also the first time i‘ve worked as a team and the energy is so different to working just for yourself. you fight harder for your partner, you sell with more sass, you regard your  joint forces like a proud mother her baby. your focus is sharper, your boundaries clearer. the difference is palpable for both of us within and in other people‘s reactions as well – every time we leave a host‘s home, we are begged and pleaded with to stay a little more. it‘s interesting to observe another‘s way of communicating who we are and what we do to another fresh batch of strangers – whether this is my colleague luz or whoever happens to be introducing us to their social circle. luz and i have been tattooing and mixing that with seemingly little-related passions for so long that it‘s been a challenge to describe why we do it, how we do it. in the website that we‘ve already redesigned three times, i‘ve sweated and groaned over a way of explaining our path to the three-minute-concentration audience.

it‘s kind of funny explaining my relationship with luz a few times a week. the story starts with “so we met about four years ago”, and because of the number of incredible connections and coincidences involved, people will assume that we‘ve been intensely working together since then. before june, we‘d actually barely spent more than five months in the same city or even country. we seem to swim in and out of each other‘s lives, always popping up a few months later with exciting discoveries to share, amazed to find out we are still walking in the same direction, however different the paths. many people express a sort of envious wonder at how we have found each other. again, i‘m feeling grateful. common interests branch out into each other‘s familiar field and before we know it we‘re practicing group meditations with the moon and our hosts, matching chinese medicine elements with tarot cards and geeking out on herbal legends. i‘m so used to picking up odd bits of information left right and center, then isolating myself to study and delve deeper to work it into my art, just like she does. the sharing is beautiful and nutritive. we can feel our power growing.

so people don‘t want us to leave anymore, and more coincidences come to tug at our skirts. we dreamed of a boat ride in amsterdam, and two hours later we were suddenly in a boat. we got lost in creative ways and confused by absurd bureaucracy. we marveled at the beautiful boat-houses along the canals and wandered inside van gogh‘s paintings in a different way, now that we‘ve breathed under the same intense stormy skies and spent days walking by those pale redhead dutch faces. after a delicious shower of icy rain, we had a cup of tea with a young woman in a spiritual centre, telling her we were only staying a few days, looking for clients.

“but you work with tattoos… doesn‘t it take a while for people to know your work, then trust you, then decide to work with you?
– well no, actually. it‘s a funny thing, but people usually meet us, then we all fall in love, and the next day they get a huge tattoo even though they never felt the need for it before.”

her skepticism was camouflaged by a dazzling smile. ten minutes later a boy walked in, had a cup of tea with us, invited us to stay in his home for a week, and had three huge tattoos – we did him the courtesy of leaving before he got into huge debt to get more, always more.

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eric lived in an appartment squeezed between two blocks, but still had a beautiful view

eric
four-hand tattoo

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we met sofia back in brasil. little did she imagine we would go all the way back to her home, to tattoo all of her friends

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girls’ quiet sunday drawing session

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“have you ever tried spaghetti ice cream?”

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(by luz)

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adrian

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leon

work in progress snakes int

snakes for daniel

we have been simply swimming in masculine energy. men who suddenly stumble across us in their homes, get their first tarot readings, confess recent spiritual awakenings and dreams of travels to take medicine in exotic landscapes. men running from broken hearts or the mothers of their children. men living in beautifully adorned home-temples and claustrophobic rubbish heaps. men with whom we watch rabbits run around a back yard in the evening. men recovering from depression, artists struggling to make a living, political activists and ex-soldiers, construction workers and students and foreigners. a little boy with a gap in his gums that makes him look like a vampire, a little boy who lost his dad and could‘t stand my presence. a man who loves motorbikes, but doesn‘t “have the patience” to travel without a woman by his side. men madly in love with women living far away. a naked man standing in a lake, doing tai-chi in a golden sunset light. men in positions of spiritual power, not listening. everywhere, the carved face of the green man, the old pagan god of summer, creation, and all things growing – the european ambassador of yang energy, winking from stone walls. so many men! so many men to whom we deliver the messages from the cards and their own bodies. we watched them laugh and cry, stare into empty space and fall asleep and unblock and let go. we are coaxed into inventing a joint therapy marrying tarot and acupuncture which seems to delight our friends, so as the french saying goes, we add this string to our bow. it‘s been touching, swimming this great wave of manliness, and giving them a little care. the tarot kept spitting out apocalypse cards and great big storms of unmerciful change their way. so many people we came across had not had a simple pat on the back, a lovingly-prepared dinner or a kind word in a while, and needed it.

so it‘s been quite a ride. with some spare time to watch black squirrels, bats in waning light, swallows fishing in lakes, going to an earth-sauna looking like the oven from hansel and gretel. watching existential graffitis on the highway saying “i am the gate of the world”. discovering a place i‘d visited in my dreams and gardens full of sculptures and swings. painting bathrooms at two in the morning, drunk on wine and music from our rock‘n roll teens. listening to hang-drum or yiddish gipsy swing in parks, visiting vertical salt-water walls, a main street with house facades drooping like melted candles, a village of container homes and a punk community kitchen.

i‘m having quite the wild love affair with rumi, so i will let him add a last pinch of masculine beauty:

Who gets up early
to discover the moment light begins?
Who finds us here circling, bewildered, like atoms?
Who comes to a spring thirsty
and sees the moon reflected in it?
Who, like Jacob blind with grief and age,
smells the shirt of his lost son
and can see again?
Who lets a bucket down and brings up
a flowing prophet?
Or like Moses goes for fire
and finds what burns inside the sunrise?

Jesus slips into a house to escape enemies,
and opens a door to the other world.
Soloman cuts open a fish, and there’s a gold ring.
Omar storms in to kill the prophet
and leaves with blessings.
Chase a deer and end up everywhere!
An oyster opens his mouth to swallow on drop.
Now there’s a pearl.
A vagrant wanders empty ruins.
Suddenly he’s wealthy.

But don’t be satisfied with stories, how things
have gone with others. Unfold
your own myth, without complicated explanation,
so everyone will understand the passage,
We have opened you.

Start walking toward Shams. Your legs will get heavy
and tired. Then comes a moment
of feeling the wings you’ve grown,
lifting.

The Essential Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks

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