Amantha Murphy’s Magical Mystery Tour

I’ve just returned from a pilgrimage to some of Ireland’s early sacred sites, travelling with a coterie of amazing women whose companionship proved invaluable in  enhancing profound interactions with the wells, cairns, barrows, henges, mounds and temples of our ancestors.  Shared knowledge, stories, memories, visions and dreams enhanced our individual insights and experiences and resulted in a deep sense of reverence for the land we walked upon.  AmanthaOur guide, Amantha Murphy  walked straight out of the tradition of the beloved down-to Earth  magical women of my childhood – Mrs. Piggle-WiggleMary Poppins, and Mrs. Doasyouwouldbedoneby  (If you have never read about them, hie you to the library immediately.  Like most enduring children’s literature, these well-written and engaging stories transmit ethical and mystic information as meaningful to adults as children.)  As a child, I believed completely in the reality of these fierce and lovable characters and they remain very real guides and mentors in my heart and mind to this very day.  Imagine my delight to meet a flesh and blood representative of their ilk.

Amantha, in the best fairy godmother tradition, is a small round woman draped in flowing shawls and skirts put together in a delightful mix of colors, patterns and textures.  She walks with a cane, striding at a calm steady pace across grasslands, over boulders, up steep hills and down into underground crannies. Her patience should be legendary and derives from the deep inner calm only available to those who truly know and accept themselves. I’ve never met a more accommodating tour leader for catering to the needs and foibles of her charges.  At the same time she kept a firm capable hand on the group, staying on schedule, herding us from place skillfully and professionally as any sheep dog, with never a harsh word or admonition.  Her knowledge of the sites, history, stories and legends of ancient Éire complements by her talent her work as a shamanic healer and medium.  Her extensive experince in facilitating women’s circle groups enriched our gatherings and allowed each woman space to speak freely and personally.

elemntsWater, Earth, Air Fire – elements that form the basis of every earth-based spiritual practice.  We woke to them, dreamed of them, lived in consciousness of them.  In Ireland, a land surrounded by water, the people continue to venerate the sea, their rivers and the the many springs that bubble blessings upon the land.  Many of the springs have, since ancient times, been protected by walls and coverings.  These wells are still in use and many belong to Brigit, venerable goddess turned saint.  As a poet, Brigit is a goddess I am very familiar with.  She travels beside me to every reading, helps me breathe, relieves me of stage fright and adds resonance to the words I speak.  Brigit is one of the few deities of old to make a successful transition into the modern world.  She slipped gracefully from Paganism to Christianity without losing her connection to the people of Ireland and continues to offer her devotees healing, hope and inspiration.  It was a joy to kneel at her holy wells and drink from fountains that have continued to flow unceasingly for millennia.Chris at Brigit's well - old



One of the joys Amantha brought to our pilgrimage was her ability to create simple appropriate ceremony on the spot.  She is adept at incorporating new circumstances, recent conversations, and changing mood or weather into a ritual perfect for whatever place and time we were in at the moment.  The lack of cant or dogma from both Amantha and the group was one of the great delights of this trip.  As was our dear Rose, driver par excellence, purveyor of necessities and luxuries, reverent drummer and sweetest of companions. The trip would not have been as easy or joyous without her.

There were so many highlights, all so meaningful I don’t want to list them as if this were a brochure.  The experiences are too recent for me to want to fix them into words as yet. But I want to get share the flavor of our journey so I will describe the island of Innisfallen.

Inis Faithlinn (Innisfallen) lies low in the waters of Lough Leane.  I won’t start on the legends and history of the lake because they are all connected and intertwined in a Celtic knot impossible to unravel in the space allotted to this essay.  Suffice it to say that the lake is magical and deep and spans not only the centuries, but the realms of this and other worlds.  It belongs a much to the Tuatha Dé Danann as to our contemporary world.  Inold man carvingis Faithlinn holds the remains of a monastery founded in 640 CE, but long before then it was home to the holy folk of much older religions.  I’ve rarely visited a place that felt so welcoming.


We twelve arrived in a shallow boat that barely held us all and sat just inches above choppy lake waters.  Our ferryman was an old acquaintance of Amantha’s.  He and his little dog Bella  took good care of us as we journeyed across the water.  I kept thing of the Ryder Waite metarot card- the six of swords.  To me this card indicates transition – moving from something old to something new with a sense of accompanying poignancy and memory.

The ruins of the monastery lie beside an ancient yew tree on a lovely grassy meadow. A Path Innisfallendirt path meanders around the island skirting an interior covered in woods and meadows full of blooming foxgloves.  The wind soughed and murmured in the trees like half-heard conversations for our entire visit.  Small herds of deerdeer grazed among the trees and white swans sailed just beyond the shoreline.  I found a clutch of hatched duck eggs under a mossy tree.  The island felt surprisingly familiar to me, as if I’d been there many times before – sometimes as a woman, sometimes as a man.  By now, it’s history has been washed clean by sun, wind and rain.  Those long ago events felt present to me, but transparent somehow.  Lingering, not because they are bound to this place, but because Inis Faithlinn feels as good to whatever ghosts might be as it does to me.

The wind and the land were present throughout my journey as elemental entities palpably guiding, touching, inspiring, comforting and loving me.  I am forever grateful to the Irish deities, the weather, Ireland, Amantha and the remarkable women who accompanied me for a deep and abiding encounter.  Blessed be each and every one of you.

moon goddess

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Published in We’ Moon

2015coverposterI am proud to announce that a couple of my poems will be featured in We’ Moon next year. We’ Moon is a women’s almanac published every year since 1987 by Mother Tongue Ink in Oregon. It’s been my constant companion since it first came out but I don’t have my old copies because every year they get slowly demolished as I rip out pages to send to friends, post on my refrigerator, pirate into my collages and leave subversively on the tables of coffee shops or scotch taped to the mirror of restrooms.

Sharing is the name of the game at We’ Moon, which sets out to publish as many diverse women writers and artists writing for and about women as they can possibly cram into each issue. We’ Moon means “women”, of course, but it also meaSelena-Gomez-Moon-Goddess-2014-AMAns “we of the moon.” Women’s bodies are linked to the moon biologically; our menstrual periods follow the same cycle of twenty-eight days as the moon does. If women live together for a period of time our cycles begin to align with each other. If we sleep in moonlight for several months our periods begin to occur during the new moon. Honoring that link, We’ Moon is an astrological moon calendar and appointment book that makes it easy for women to track their periods.


I was barely into my thirties when I discovered the women’s movement – not that I hadn’t always been a feminist. Equal pay for equal work has always seemed like the most obvious rock bottom line ever. But though I was politically convinced about the necessity to stand up for myself as a woman, I really had no interest in claiming my femininity.

I had no idea what I was missing!  The story of my reclamation is too long for this posting; suffice it to say I fell hook, line and sinker in love with womanhood. That restoration and healing has brought untold benefits and blessings into my life. I wouldn’t be half the artist, mother, poet, wife, sister daughter I am today if it hadn’t been for the deeply sustaining company of women and the spiritual blessing and enhancement of the divine feminine throughout my adulthood.

circle-of-goddesses-candleholder-ke-12096About the same time I was discovering the feminine, 50 -60 women from different countries and walks of life were gathering in Denmark to live in a women’s community called Kvindelandet. It was there that the idea of a special calendar for women, based on the cycle of moon, sun and stars, was first conceived. The very first We’ Moon was hand-written in five different languages and published in France.   We’Moon still receives submissions from women all over the world.

By the time it began appearing in the USA, I was living in the middle east where no feminine books, much less bookstores, existed. Happily a visit to England coincided with the first publication of We’ Moon, which I bbl-photo-silvermoondiscovered in my favorite bookstore, Silver Moon on Charing Cross Road. Silver Moon like so many women’s bookstores (see previous post) no longer exists, but for many years it was my lifeline. We’ Moon has been around the world with me.

I am so pleased to be appearing in the 2016 edition and to have my words join the collected wisdom of so many of my sisters. Thank you dear editors, nothing could make me prouder than to join the company of the many many other wise women of the moon you have served so faithfully and well over the years.

moon goddess

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NaPoWriMo #30 At Last

Muddled and befuddled by sniffling, sneezing, coughing,etc., but now, recovered and composed, I complete the assignment after a really dark dream influenced by way too much TV and self-pity…




you should be standing here

alone in the dark

empty as when you began

now that the men you loved,

the ones you hated,

are both dead.

Maybe you were blind before

without volition

ignorant of option

but now, playing it all back

step by inexorable step

you can’t help but notice where

you might have foreseen

foregone, forborne, forgiven.

Hatred begets hatred

see how it ends?

That’s a beginning.


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NaPoWriMo # 29 The Review

I decided in the spirit of self-promotion to review one of my own books. The Naked Man is a chapbook inspired by a true muse, a extremely intelligent, charming and desirable muse of a man, trapped, it seemed to me, in a kind of eternal adolescence marked by extreme self-absorption, unabating angst and existential questioning. 

Jungian psychology posits the existence of archetypes – templates of energy that dwell in the collective unconscious of every human being.  If all goes well these archetypes surface and sink, surface and sink, but sometimes are psyches get trapped, ridden, or driven by a particular pattern we find almost impossible to shake off.  In that case existence becomes very two-dimensional and isolated, real engagement and relationships are lost  because we are lost to ourselves.

The question I pose in the poem is one I consider often as a writer. “How dare I use the real lives  and situations of myself and others as grist for my craft?”  My muse’s life was an open book- he confided nothing in me exclusively and talked endlessly about all his relationships with everybody.  The man had no secrets except the ones he denied and I don’t know, nor did I speculate on what those might be. Nevertheless, I feel unkind. Nevertheless, I published.  Sometimes that ruthlessness scares me. I’m rather glad it manifests as poetry, instead of elsewhere.

The Naked Man

This slim volume raises

an intriguing question, “How far

should the poet go when mining her own life

or the lives of others to complete her work?”

The Naked Man portrays a soul, perhaps

too cunningly termed “manchild”, driven by archetype.

Her puer aeternus, stripped naked, every flaw

and furbelow exposed for all the world to see

is based, according to Ms. Irving’s own admission,

upon a man she knew! She has taken personal

observation, rumor, the gossip of girlfriends

along with the subject’s own confessional soliloquies

and turned them into a series of witty, barbed

anecdotal portraits some might call unkind

in spite of being based on fact, but truly

is any person ever only his persona? What right

have poets to expose our foibles, holding up

but one mirror when so many aspects

dwell trapped within, clamoring

to be seen? There is something maenad-like

about her ruthless dissection of this man

she calls a fool. To be fair, when interviewed

the author claims she holds Fools sacred, “They

represent the unlimited potential of humankind,”

claims Ms. Irving, “ but dancing on the edge

is not enough, eventually we all must leap.”


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NaPoWriMo # 28 Concerning Bridges

Red Wagon in the Rain


Driving by, my peripheral vision

catches sight of a bright red wagon

standing amid weeds on the unkempt

lawn of a Methodist church, verdant

grass unmowed since our latest cloudburst

saturated every garden, turning earth

to mud more liquid and viscous

then Texas dirt has any right to be.


The scarlet wagon, briefly glimpsed,

framed by crooked trees, resembled

the symbolic bridges traditional

Chinese landscape artists paint

into seasonal landscapes. I suppose

a wagon is a kind of bridge carrying

people, cargo across an expanse of ground

difficult to traverse on foot.


Pioneer travelers floated Conestoga wagons

across unbridged waterways and flooded fords

I picture them lined up like pontoon bridges

Roman engineers artfully employed

to cross wide European rivers –

Rhone, Seine, Danube, Tiber.


It’s raining again, sky full up and heavy

with clouds that dim the light to gray.

The crimson color of that wagon

glows like a lantern in my mind

bridging the gaps between

pioneers and Romans, Methodists

and Oriental art. The past,

the present, the future melt

and meld, moving in slow currents

through my days and I think

I am that red wagon, I

am the bridge.



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NaPoWriMo # 27 Hay(na)ku Meets Philosophy

I have a theory about shopping;  it mimics the act of creation, which is to make something from nothing.

Creativity, is what makes us godlike.  It is an act of divinity, a reflection of The Prime Creative Force.  The act of creation invokes a powerful response with us, which involves our entire self -mind, heart, body, and spirit. The endorphins that making something engenders reverberate for days within us.  Buying something also brings new things into our lives that didn’t exist before.  We feel as if we made it, but all we really did was buy it, so the feeling doesn’t last,  It’s like a sugar high- an instant burst of energy that flames up then quickly disappears.  Nevertheless, for that tiny space of time we feel real good.

Creativity takes many forms, including crafting a friendship.  Engaging in relationship includes looking out for one another – noticing when the other is stuck in a rut of her/his own making and needs a jolt to lift her/him up and out. It might even involve shopping!

To a Sad Girlfriend

out and
shop with me
need to
splurge and spree
hit the
One Buck Tree
lip gloss
by the gross
nails rose
sport silver toes
“make a toast”
in glass all
in gold
so faux it
bold lips
rubs off on
but still
our pledge is
you’ll laugh
and I’ll love
friends true
blue, for ever.
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NaPoWriMo #26 Getting in Character

Pandoras_box_by_DigiBentoBoxPandora’s Box  is a story that has always fascinated and disturbed me, as do all creation myths that blame the ills of humankind on women. Ironically, it is most often women who fall victim to and suffer from those same fatal flaws.  To add insult to injury,  the very same stories that blame women for evicting folks from Golden Age and Eden never give us poor feminine perps enough brains or chutzpah to be responsible for our crimes.  Oh no, we are dupes, dull-witted cats paws of devil, serpent, or megalomaniacal supergod.  I have written a couple of versions of the Pandora story, there’s always another perspective to discover.  Here’s the latest:


 No one asked if I wanted

to be universally adored

ogled, growled, whistled and hissed

at every time I left the house! Imagine

what that does to a girl,

how paranoid and creepy I began

to find all men, so when

you married me off to Epimethius –

old ,wrinkled, warty, half-blind,

I wept with relief.  My comeliness

didn’t cut mustard in his workshop

where his fingers had eyes of their own.

(I grew to love those wise fingers.)

Am I sorry I opened the box?

No.  Suffering made mankind

comprehend compassion; forced

them to know themselves.

There’s hope for them yet.

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NaPoWriMO # 25 Clerihew

Sarah Louise Palin

suffers from chagrin

she stalked a high office

but fell on her faux pas’s



Emily Elizabeth Dickinson

words sometimes seem overdone

she hid from the world in her home to the end

its workings too cruel uncomprehend

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NaPoWriMo # 24 Parody

I really never liked the Joyce Kilmer’s poem Trees.  I had to memorize it in 4th grade and recite it without barfing in front of the class.  No, I wasn’t suffering from stage fright – even at that tender age I loathed excessive sentimentality.  It may be that my brain is turning to mush, or that my life-long struggle to grok and sometimes hit a universal note in my writing is finally paying off (even today people love Trees), but I did feel a rather grudging respect for some of the imagery when I read it again, as if for the first time, in reaction to today’s prompt. The line about the hungry mouth prest (his spelling not mine) to Earth’s sweet flowing breast-though incredibly embarrassing at the time-is really gorgeous and I think brave, considering  he wrote it in 1918.  Trees made him famous and his words immortal in the way only poetry can survive death.  It also made him an easy target for many other poets, most notably Ogden Nash

So, I admit it’s a cheap shot and I did try this with some of my favorites, but it made me queasy.  Nevertheless, I send a deep bow Kilmer’s way, wherever he may be (I pray he’s been digested by a tree); we should all be so lucky as to write a poem as famous as his.

Poetry: With Apologies to Joyce Kilmer and the Trees About Which He Wrote


I think that I’ll never see a tree

lovely as a poem can be.


A tree is tied to Earth’s sweet breast

but poems travel east and west;


saunter, run, crawl, dance, fly, play

sometimes curse and sometimes pray.


A poem outlasts the centuries’ wear

is intimate with fox and hare,


makes cat feet out of fog and rain

strolls with us down Lover’s Lane.


The Goddess blesses fools and trees

but saves her heart for poetry.

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NaPoWriMo # 23 Cartomancy

I pulled the High priestess from my Ryder Waite tarot deck. high priestess It’s the deck I learned to tell the cards with and its still my favorite because it incorporates so many plain, simple and universal symbols.  However, I have a problem with the tendency,  imposed by our culture, to rank everything in stereotypical orders of hierarchy.  My priestess is not about that, she would not allow the designation “High” with all it implies to be attached to her title.

After I wrote my initial paragraph-timing the writing, never taking pen from page, extracting the phrases which held the most juice, and writing the poem-I went looking for an image of the card I pulled, hoping to insert it in this post.  Having found her, naturally I scrolled down to look at the rest. This  one immediately caught my eye.High priestess  I can’t tell you her provenance. I wish I knew, but she comes from a Pinterest page with no attribution.  It’s such a beautiful card and exemplifies the priestess in my poem – complete with dogs!! Synchronicity comforts me with its implication that magic is indeed afoot. So here’s to the Living Goddess and the priestesses who serve Her!


High Priestess


The priestess sits before a curtain

embroidered with pomegranates

hung between two pillars. She appears

to sit in judgement, but in the inner ear

of her analytical mind the voice

of judgment becomes ever more quiet.

Tenderness, hard-won compassion

demand she sacrifice pity, sympathy, empathy

to witness with neutrality

evil/good gadflies spinning and buzzing

in the restless brains of those she serves.

Oldest of the Old, she replaces high with low,

brings what’s been hidden into light

applies dark poultice on angry burns

inflicted by excessive light.

Dogs, known for their loyalty, ferocity,

and ability to scavenge

accompany her rounds.

Her rituals circumvent death

retell stories of seeds and babies

who destroy their cocoons to enter life.

The priestess serves Ancient Mothers‑–

Isis, Persephone, Hecate—

Death in Life/Life in Death.

She is doorway, valve, portal, membrane standing

between seen and unseen, known and unknown.

She invites you to pass through…


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