- Ask permission to enter from the Ancestors, Mother Earth, Spirit of Place and give gratitude for the opportunity.
- Enter quietly, with reverence and respect.
- Allow yourself to be in the moment and feel the essence of this sacred site.
- Be aware of the organization of space and its connection to nature.
- Try to imagine the daily lives and rituals of the people who inhabited this ancient place and picture yourself among them. Let your imagination flow….
- Connect with the mystery and spirit hidden within these walls. “If these stones could speak…”
- Remember the sounds, colors, textures, structures, and feelings you experienced.
- Choose a comfortable place off the beaten path and sit quietly.
- Do a silent meditation, some yoga or tai chi.
- Write down your observations in a journal, or sketch with pencil or watercolor.
In my book, Art and Sacred Sites: Connecting with Spirit of Place, I have a chapter on Caves in South of France with specific reference to Font-de-Gaume in the Dordogne River Valley. (See my earlier post from July 3, 2015). Since my journey there was in 1995, I didn’t remember being able to photograph inside the cave and the only photograph I could find in my archives was an exterior view of the rock face. However, I did remember vividly the pubic triangle inscribed on the cave wall which spoke of ancient rituals inspired by the Divine Feminine.
So just the other day while going through some old snapshots, (yes, before digital),I found three photos I took within the cave of Font-de-Gaume. The simple line drawings are so beautiful and elegant! I was thrilled to re-visit the images of the sacred feminine, vulva shapes in the form of simple triangles, or more organic renditions scratched into the walls. I can see why I was inspired to create artwork upon returning to the studio.
According to Marija Gimbutas, these abstract female forms feature the buttocks and are often marked by one or two lines. (11,000 – 9,000BC).
Here are a few monotypes that were inspired by my pilgrimage to this ancient cave.
The motivation for this blog is to share my journey to sacred sites around the world. I write from the perspective of an artist – not as a scientist or an archeologist. I take pilgrimages to these incredible sites as a way to connect with spirit of place, to walk in the footsteps of the ancestors, to see the symbols carved in stone and painted on cave walls first-hand. I stand in awe and bask in the mystery of what once was and what is left behind.
As a visual artist, I take my inspiration from these journeys. I’m a painter, printmaker, sculptor – an expat living in Mazatlan, Mexico. Originally from Mississippi, I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area before moving to Mexico. I’ve always got lots of work going on in the studio, currently I am working on paintings inspired by the ‘vesica piscis’, a form in sacred geometry that is prominent in my work. It is a feminine shape formed by 2 interlocking circles – the womb, the divine mother. (watch for a future blog on this symbol) Also in the works is a bronze sculpture for the City of Mazatlan, ‘Aleteo’, with imagery of flora and fauna from the area. (More about this soon!) My prints are currently inspired by the Nazca Lines in Peru (see one of my earlier posts.)
In addition to my own artwork, I also teach printmaking workshops to locals and international artists in my studio in Mazatlan as well as take artists on ‘Art Vacations’ to other great cities like Oaxaca and Guanajuato. I’m planning the next one for Peru and should be great!
In May 2014, I published a book, Art and Sacred Sites: Connecting with Spirit of Place, about my journeys and inspirations. (Available through my website: www.glenrogersart.com) I was motivated to produce the book when I realized there was a pattern to my travels over the last twenty years – I would visit a sacred site, then return to the studio to create a body of work. I have sought out sites around the world that held meaning and fascination for me from the Temple of Knossos in Crete to Uluru in Australia.
Although I have kept a journal for many years, writing the text for the book was a challenge – but one I came to enjoy. Now that it is in print, I realize I enjoyed the writing and feel the need to continue to share my experiences through this blog. I would love to connect with other artists, adventurers or armchair travelers who share my fascination with the ancients – with those who have come before us.
I love to travel! As an artist, it is where I find my inspiration. I feel alive and fully awake outside my comfort zone. I love the new experiences and meeting new people. And I’ve figured out ways to travel well without breaking the bank. I use my frequent flyer miles to fly to amazing places (that’s getting me to Italy in September). I’ve been doing house exchanges for many years now – and have several coming up (San Miguel de Allende and South of France) – which translates to staying in wonderful homes in amazing places for free! I’ve done many artist residencies most of which were also free of charge – Frans Masereel Centrum, Belgium;Helene Wurlitzer,Taos, New Mexico; Fundacion Valparaiso, Spain to name a few. And I have done artist exchanges, where we exchange homes and studios. I’ve been lucky – but as they say, “Luck follows the prepared mind.” I plan ahead, do my research and put it out to the Universe.
“A pilgrimage is any journey with the purpose of finding something that matters deeply to the traveler.” Phil Cousineau
I don’t take travel lightly. I choose a place that I resonate with – where I’m drawn to – whether it’s a pilgrimage to an ancient sacred site or a city that inspires with art and culture, or a artist residency or exchange that is sure to feed my spirit. I’ve come up with 10 reasons how travel makes my heart sing.
- Awakening my creative spirit. I grab a pencil, a brush, my camera to freeze the moment and capture the essence. New inspiration comes in the form of a symbol inscribed in stone, a fresco, an ancient sculpture. My trip sparks a new interest – a new shape, a new color, a new form. I discover an artist’s work, learn a new technique, see a new color combination. I jot down notes, make sketches, save scraps of paper that I can later use as collage. I can’t wait to get back to the studio to explore these new ideas.
- Meeting new people – expanding my world – from the taxi driver to the food vendor, to the hotel personnel – I try to engage. I ask a local for advice on where to eat, where to listen to music, what’s their favorite hang-out – and often that develops into a rich sharing. I try to seek out artists in their studios, on the street, or in the galleries. As a printmaker, I love visiting print studios – often inviting the artist to visit me in Mazatlan, and perhaps we stir up an exchange, an exhibition, a workshop – furthering the connection.
- Taking a pilgrimage to a sacred site – I approach with anticipation and reverence honoring those who came before me. I am fully engaged and try to activate my 6th sense and imagination; who walked these very cobblestones, who carved these symbols with their hands? I rarely hire a guide because I want to walk the site as close to alone as possible, to feel the spirit of place. I look for a special spot where I can commune with the ancestors, the gods and goddesses. If possible, I do a short meditation, yoga, or tai chi. “The person who travels to a sacred site is not the same person when they return home. They have awakened to a greater respect for the planet, accelerating a beautiful unity and harmony between all living people, cultures, and religions. The ancient one who created these sites help us remember that this is the most important truth there is. ” Aluna Joy Yaxkin
- Learning the history of a people who walked the earth before me. I prefer to ‘google’ a site before and after visiting vs hiring a guide. There is so much information available on the internet – and honestly – I won’t remember the details and dates anyway. I take away what I am interested in – What was their life like? What were their rituals? Who did they worship? What were their symbols? Were they peace loving or warriors? Were they connected to the earth and the heavens? What did they leave behind?
- Opening myself to adventure and the unknown – I love my life, but sometimes I just need to shake it up! I think I’ve always been this way. I don’t think its running away – its running towards something I can’t quite put my finger on, to something I can’t plan or even imagine. Beyond my wildest dreams! Opening myself to new experiences that will somehow change me, and perhaps have a spiritual impact. In Phil Cousineau’s book, The Art of Pilgrimage, he recounts a story about Joseph Campbell who said, “Unless you leave room for serendipity, how can the divine enter in? The beginning of the adventure of finding yourself is to lose your way.”
- Experiencing new cultures – From eating delicacies of a region to enjoying local music, I travel outside the tourist areas if necessary and seek out the local delights. In Oaxaca, the mole and the hot chocolate, in Peru, the potatoes, quinoa, river trout and pisco sours, in Mazatlan – the fresh fish, shrimp dishes and Pacifico beer. Music captures the flavor of an area and I seek it out in local cafes, bars, or on the plazas. I delight in the rhythm and move my feet and hips to the music. Visiting the mercados and small shops, the local crafts are a feast for the eyes – from the textiles in Oaxaca and Peru that overwhelm me with their intricate designs, to beautifully painted ceramics in Guanajuato and San Miguel, the wooden and ceramic masks in Patzcauro, and hand-made silver and beaded jewelry most everywhere I travel.
- Knowing I can rise to the challenge. You know what they say – Shit happens! No matter how well planned, or researched, there is always a glitch whether large or small that I have to deal with along the way. It’s problem solving 101, it’s thinking on my feet. In situations like this, I feel my heart quicken and my brain churn as the possible scenarios and solutions play themselves out in my head. I take a moment to breathe, ask my spirit guides for help, open myself to divine intervention. I say my mantra, “In Her Hands”, calling forth the Goddess energy. Here are some examples: I realize the tour company never sent me the entrance ticket to Machu Picchu and I only have the receipt; I discover I am in the wrong terminal 10 minutes before my flight; my taxi driver drops me off in a strange city in Greece after dark with no hotel. Adrenaline pulses through my body. “For what gives value to travel is fear. It breaks down a kind of inner structure we have.” Camus
- Moving out of my comfort zone. My normal routine is replaced by the new and unexpected – new food, new bed, new people, new forms of transportation, new sites and sounds, new time zone, waking at a different hour. My senses are heightened, I am more alert. Although there may be times that something doesn’t live up to my expectations, I always enjoy the differences from my everyday life and it usually makes for a good story! I’m never afraid to change a hotel or even a city if it is not working. (Exit stage left!) I love coming home after a trip to enjoy the contrast between what I just experienced and my normal routine. Maybe something in me has shifted….
- Awakening my sense of gratitude. This is true especially if I am traveling in a third world country or seeing people suffering from poverty. I realize how good my life is and how many daily comforts I take for granted. I count my blessings and say a gratitude prayer. I donate to a local charity, purchase hand-made wares directly from the maker if possible, treat everyone with respect, smile and send out love.
- Savoring the memories. Almost as delicious as anticipating a trip, is savoring it once you return home. I share it with my friends over a meal or a cup of coffee. I exchange experiences, trade stories, especially those: “You won’t believe what happened….” I enjoy posting photos on Facebook and blogging about my inspirations. I proudly display my new pot or textile which brings a smile and a memory every time I pass it. The world gets smaller….
Planning a journey is half the fun, right? I’m looking forward to a 3 week artist residency at the Venice Printmaking Studio in Italy followed by a visit with an artist friend in Zurich this September/October and a house exchange in San Miguel de Allende in January. I am also planning two Art Vacations where I take artists to incredible locations to create, make prints and enjoy the sites – 1) Peru – May 2016 and 2)Oaxaca, Mexico – June 2016. Find out more details on my website: http://www.glenrogersart.com or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you have anything to contribute? I would love to hear your comments.
As I was planning my trip to Peru in May, I saw this as a spiritual journey and dreamed of having an encounter with a shaman, an
Once in Peru, I kept my eyes, heart and intuition open to the possibilities. One day while visiting Pisac, a village in the Sacred Valley known for its textile market, I asked a local for recommendations on a lunch place, and he directed us to a small cafe, Apu Organic. Right away, I could see the owner was into the spiritual and perhaps they could put my friend and I in touch with a shaman. Maria Elena agreed to connect us with ‘El Viejo’ (the old man), which she referred to as a paco, not a shaman.
On the appointed day, Isaiahs, our translator and guide met us at the Apu Cafe and took us up to the mountain to meet ‘El Viejo’. It was a beautiful walk through fields of quinoa, wheat, maiz, and assorted vegetables – all laid out in free-form plots. As we walked, Isaiahs pointed out herbs used for medicinal purposes and textile dyes. This alone was an extraordinary experience.
Having reached a simple adobe structure at the top of a hill, we learned this was the home of Don Jesus or ‘El Viejo’. Upon meeting us, he took each of us by both hands, looked deeply into our eyes, which felt like he was looking into our souls. As he sat on a blanket on the dirt floor, he started by pouring coca leaves into a cloth, having me lay my hands over them while concentrating on my questions. He then read the coca leaves as they dropped from his hand, answering our questions about the future in his native Quechuan language while Isaiahs translated to us in Spanish. After we were satisfied, he proceeded to make a large bundle of various herbs, minerals, shells, milagros, seeds, metal, etc. that he had brought with him in small packets of newspaper. After deliberately placing each item on a square of paper, he folded it up, and began chanting over this offering to Pachamama, Mother Earth. He then had Isaiahs walk us further up the mountain to burn the offering. Reaching a well-used fire pit, Isaiahs showed us how to blow the clouds away since it was threatening to rain. We brought Port Wine, as directed, as an offering to Pachamama as part of our ritual and despite the sprinkles, we felt our offering was successfully received. This was one of my most treasured moments in Peru, and I left the mountain feeling positive, encouraged, revived and hopeful about the future.