MY EXPERIENCES WITH THE SURVIVAL OF SHAMANISTIC CULTURES, AND THEIR INFLUENCE ON MY ART
The Faculty of the Graduate School
Incorporated with the
University of Guanajuato
In Partial Fulfillment
Of the Requirements for the Degree of
MASTER OF FINE ARTS
July 27, 2005
This thesis examines my experiences and those of others with the survival of shamanistic cultures and rituals in various parts of the world, and the subsequent influences on my art. Essentially, it has been written to demonstrate that the human spirit is strong and will always find ways to survive and triumph in spite of the obstacles placed in front of it. May the examples here provide us with hope and understanding about the everlasting essence of the spirit.
My experiences unearthing the unknown of the past that live through the rituals of shamans today have strengthened my art work. The colors and subject matters of my paintings and sculptures continue to shape shift and be enriched by my exploration of shamans, bringing new information to me on the mystery of the creative process. As a result, my work is ethereal, guided by dream interpretations and the wisdom of ancient ones circling and informing me.
My current body of work examines the different aspects of healing in the Americas. In particular, I am looking at the healing wisdom of indigenous shamans and its relevance on people today.
AUTHOR’S BACKGROUND STATEMENT
My full name is Claire Monica Maria Carew. I was born in Guyana, South America, of African, Arawak, and European ‘mixed’ multi-racial ancestry. I have given myself three names: Clarita, which means ‘little girl’ in Spanish, for I am but a child in my search; She Who Sees, my aboriginal Arawak name, which guides me to see beyond the surface of things; and Wasema, which is Swahili for ‘let them talk,’ which reminds me to listen to the spoken and unspoken.
I began my visual arts career more than 25 years ago at private art schools in Toronto, Canada, obtaining a Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Guelph in Canada; a diploma in Education (Visual Arts Specialist) from McGill University in Montreal; and a number of other diplomas, awards, and certificates from various institutions of higher learning.
Although my primary home has been in Canada since 1967, I have lived in Guyana, England (where I was on scholarship to study in London), and Mexico. My quest to discover my true essence has taken me to the United States, Cuba, the Caribbean, Europe, and Russia.
I have lived as an outsider, preferring only to dance in and out between others, keeping my conversations and small talk to the barest minimum in order to spend more time thinking, reflecting and completing my art. Seeking deeper answers to the mystery of life through silence and solitude, I treasure my time alone knowing fully well that the true meaning of alone is all one. In this way I attempt to balance my body, mind and soul.
My art has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions in Canada, Mexico and the United States, and is held in private collections in Brussels, Canada, England, Guyana, Russia and the United States. ii
I pay tribute to God and my Arawak, African and European ancestors. Thanks to my parents, Mr. and Mrs. Ronald and Patricia Carew, my sisters, my nieces and nephews, and to all of God’s angels and saints whose whisperings words of encouragement and positive healing energy continue to hold me in good stead. Your names are too many to mention, but I still remember you.
Thanks to Debra Ann Carew, Dr. Jan Carew, Vinay Dhalla, Pam Sealy, Joe Sims, Ingrid Mayrhofer, Don Bartolo, Miguel Lima, Dennis Pohl, Asselin Charles, Rodolfo Fernandez Martinez Harris, Margarita Rodriguez, the Garcia Barrera family, Ken and Robin Loving Rowland, Harry Van Helm Bram, Steve Braam, Ethel Tudor, Ruby Carew, Moisés Velazco Bustamante and all the healers of the world who continue to do their work quietly, soothing, comforting, and shape shifting us into becoming better human beings.
CHAPTER 1 - INTRODUCTION
THE RELIGIOUS FUSION OF ANCIENT SPIRITUALITY AND CHRISTIANITY
''No one can see who does not kindle a light of his own.''
Shaman: A member of certain tribal societies who acts as a medium between the visible world and an invisible spirit world and who practices magic or sorcery for purposes of healing, divination, and control over natural events.1
In many parts of the world which have experienced invasions, genocide and enslavement, peoples and cultures have survived through a variety of strategies. One of the most successful strategies was the hiding of ancient pre-Christian belief systems through fusion with Christianity. This has taken place in Cuba with the development of Santeria, a fusion of African religious beliefs and Catholicism which is still practiced in Cuba today and continues to grow with an international following.2
In Haiti, voodoo was fused with Catholicism in order to protect the survival of voodou, which continues to exist today and increasingly is spelled this way to remove the Hollywood stereotypical connotations of good and bad. According to Asselin Charles, a Haitian professor living in Thailand, ''Vodou is a religion, and as such is neither good nor bad; it simply is.''
Throughout the Americas, aboriginal peoples continue their sacred rituals of the sun dance, vision quests, sweat lodges, fasting, and snake rituals at the Grand Canyon under the cloak of darkness and secret.3 Today many of these sacred rituals are practiced openly, and, in my experience, members of the wider community are allowed to attend some of these provided they follows strict adherence to the rules, often including no alcohol, drugs or recording devices, and modest dress.
In each the several pow wows and native circles of indigenous peoples I have attended, I have received the blessing of lit sage or sweet grass, the smoke of which is used to clear the mind and lift participants to a higher plane of thinking and being. The smudging of the individual requesting such a cleansing usually takes place using a shell and feathers which sweep the smoke toward the person. Whereas in the Catholic Church, frankincense and myrrh are used for similar purposes, in the many indigenous cultures I have visited, it is copal, sage, and other types of herbs.
When one goes to see a shaman, known as a curandero in Mexico or a healer in most places in the Americas, it is not unusual to see an altar with Christian symbols next to ancient spiritual symbols. Herbs, Christian crosses, raw eggs, copal, flowers, candles, and images of the Virgin of Guadalupe, Jesus Christ and Mary sit next to ancient symbols from Africans and other native peoples.
In churches in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, such as La Parroquia of Saint Miguel Archangel, Christian symbols sit alongside ancient Mesoamerican symbols. Parishioners pray to a Christian god and to Ometeotl, the Mesoamerican god of duality. The church therefore is a safe haven for people to quietly and secretly practice that which they have believed traditionally without being persecuted. This is one example that clearly indicates the victorious survival of ancient shamanistic cultures in the Americas.
One must understand that the practicing of the spirituality of indigenous cultures is still not accepted openly among many, and this is why the shaman Don Jesus, whom I met, said that a shaman has to be discreet. An authentic shaman does not hang up signs, publicize him/herself on the Internet or advertise in the media about his or her gifts.
Another of the clearest examples of a successful strategy used to maintain past cultural ties in a modern Christian culture is the playing of the drums, which, in my experience, echoes our heart beats, steams up our lives and bring us a sense of power. Although drums were forbidden by law during slavery and forced occupation of native lands in the Americas4, it did not stop aboriginal peoples and African slaves from playing them in secret by going into the deepest forests of Canada, the USA and in places as far away as Guyana, South America.5
I maintain that the drum awakens our spirits, transports our dormant souls, and creates an altered state of consciousness, and therefore it is one of the most common tools used to keep cultural roots alive. Today one can hear African drums played in a variety of places such as the Instituto Allende in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico; in African American churches; in the zocalo of Oaxaca, Mexico; and in the contemporary music of Brazil and Cuba, to name a few.
As one enters a pow wow of indigenous people in Canada or the United States, often the first thing heard is the beating of the drum and the chanting of the singers. The grand entry of a pow wow commonly is opened by a circle of drummers beating on one drum in the center of the pow wow grounds. It is through drums that many are moved to dance and sing and to enter an altered state of consciousness.
I believe that the beating of a drum is an effective tool to ease the heavy burdens of living in an oppressive state and to restore ones' energies. In me it produces a catharsis that can be more effective than going to seeing a counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist. Today, as in the past, one can see peoples of the Americas moving into a form of meditation as they listen to the drums. In particular, people of the African Diaspora, aboriginal, Asian and the Sikh religions continue to use the drums as sacred instruments to transport their participants from the mundane.
Whatever you can do or dream you can
Boldness has genius power and magic in it.
CHAPTER TWO - INVESTIGATION
UNEARTHING THE PAST
-- Claire Carew
Digging the wells of knowledge,
Fetching the waters of truth,
Dusting the hieroglyphs at museums,
Kissing the mask of Frida Kahlo,
Climbing the pyramids at Teotihuacan,
Reading the petroglyphs of Albuquerque, New Mexico,
Filming the ancient dwelling of Anasazi cliff dwellers in New Mexico,
Receiving the ring of a Hopi Shaman in Arizona,
Sitting in native healing circles in Canada,
Receiving the blessings of native elders and healers,
Preparing for the steep climbs of Imbaimadai, Guyana;
By practicing deep breathing exercise for two days
Before witnessing pictographs thousands of years old,
I search ancient lands
Unearthing the past.
I believe strongly that knowledge is power, and in passing on that power of knowledge. History tells us that wisdom has been lost through the burning of books in the Americas and the forced removal of indigenous and African people from their communities and countries, respectively; therefore I travel to places of indigenous people seeking knowledge of ancient wisdom through searching, exploring, and excavation. These journeys have awakened in me my own connections to a pervasive spirit not well understood in the linear world. The journey of investigation began in my youth.
My First Dream of Healing Spirit - Guyana, 1960s
My most lucid, recurring dream as a little girl while living in Guyana was of an Amerindian woman with her hair swept off her face and tied back in a bun. She blew into my ear as I slept. I was not amused and I would often wake up and retell my dream to my mother. ''Mom, that lady with her hair in a bun came to me again last night and blew in my ear.''
Recently I have learned two things related to that dream. First, Amerindian healers in Guyana blow into the ears of their patients as a form of healing. Second, I sometimes have difficulty breathing while sleeping, and although at this time I can wake myself up and catch a few deep breaths, I am not sure as a child I would have been able to wake myself up, and the blowing in the ear in my dream always woke me up so I could breathe more appropriately.
Embracing Aboriginal Spirituality - Out in the World, 1970s - Present
When I reached adulthood, I embarked on a 30-year journey of excavating, exploring and climbing to touch that which I need so much, the shaman's understanding of my world, the shaman's ability to heal, cure and uplift (See Plate 1, Imbaimadai.). I have traveled extensively to various countries in attempts to unravel the mysteries of life through an investigation of the powers of shamanism.
In the process, I have embraced aboriginal spirituality because of its purity. As I seek it, I ask it to reveal its secrets to me. It is strong; strong enough to survive the advent of modern medicine. How has it done so? My quest is important to me because it is the victorious survival of such rituals that soothe souls, thereby satisfying my longing to find that which has been lost in my culture through the African holocaust of enslavement, colonialism and racism. As I discover, I try to touch that which shows me innocence and genuine love. This is purity.
Many quietly and politely question my passion for aboriginal spirituality rather than African. I know little of my African ancestors' worship; and I have been taught through overt and covert methods that it was black magic used to manipulate others. In time I expect to recognize the truth of its positive qualities and embrace voodoo/obeah. Therefore, I paint and sculpt that which gnaws at my soul and has protected me since I was a wee child: my ever-present and yet hidden aboriginal ancestry.
Dreaming of Mexico - Canada, 1995
About 10 years ago, I felt compelled to travel to Mexico after dreaming of carefully studying the Sun calendar which has come to be called the Aztec calendar. My quest was to see only the works of muralists David Siquerious and Diego Rivera, and the various works of Frida Kahlo, the latter two of which used the symbols of ancient indigenous civilizations extensively through out their works.
The dream turned out to be a premonition, for when I traveled to Mexico City and boarded a bus for the National Museum of Anthropology, unaware that this was the calendar's home, one of the focal points of the tour was the calendar, a 24-ton basalt stone disc which was discovered beneath the Metropolitan Cathedral in 1790. Learning about this wondrous calendar linked into my quest for knowledge about the mysterious power of ancient rituals.
Painting a Premonition - Mexico, 1996
The first apartment I rented in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, in 1996 was on a street called 20 Enero, which translates to January 20. While in San Miguel, I created a painting which I named Sweet Surrender (See Plate 2.). It has a young man whose arms are in the shape of a V. Two serpents, one dark and one light, are on each side of two figures, a young man and woman in an embrace.
In 2000, I met Vinay Dhalla, a talented drummer born in Toronto of Sikh and Hindu ancestry. He wore a silver pendant of the letter V. When he asked me to paint his portrait in 2001, I realized that he was the subject of Sweet Surrender, so I showed it to him (See Plate 3.). In the course of events, I found out that Vinay's birthday is on January 20.
Roots Recognized - Mexico, 1997
While sitting in the Jardin, which is the central town gathering place in San Miguel, a Mexican man spontaneously asked me, ''What Indian blood is in you? Cherokee?'' I'm not of Cherokee descent, but I am of indigenous roots, and his request for information on my lineage confirmed for me that some can see my indigenous roots. I am also Amerindian, which is a short form of American Indian, so he actually was correct; he simply got the name of the nation wrong. I am Arawak.
Dreams Leading to Travel -- Arizona and New Mexico, 2002
Although I desired to return to Mexico in 2002, I went to Arizona and New Mexico after having a series of dreams about Arizona and serpents. On arrival, I went to the Hopi mesa and met Lewis (See Plate 4.), a shaman who practices rituals at the Grand Canyon. I participated in a corn meal ritual and witnessed a Kachina ceremony, which makes gifts to participants in ways that are similar to what I have witnessed at the Guelguetza festival in Oaxaca and what I have learned about potlatch ceremonies in British Columbia.
Half an hour after meeting Lewis, with much effort, he took off a ring of snake design that he had made, and gave it to me, saying, ''See if it fits.'' Little did he know that I had been fascinated by serpentine objects such as jewelry since my teenage years, and that many of the art works I'd completed to date had serpentine designs in them. He then walked away and I understood the reason I was in Arizona. This was the final validation I needed to continue painting serpents in my art.
Prior to going to Arizona I traveled to see the ancient petroglyphs in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the Anasazi cliff dwellers and Acoma sky city. These, which are well known representations of ancient shamanistic cultures, have informed my art further.
Encounter with Dancer Shaman - Mexico, 2004
While visiting San Miguel during the summer of 2004, I asked a few people to direct me to a particularly famous shaman/artist/dancer. I was given a rough sketch of a map, but no street name. I was told that the shaman was known as Dancer. The experience of finding the place was quite exhausting as I did not have an actual name or address and had to follow the rudimentary drawing of streets without names, guessing by the curves of the street whether each was indeed the street. I went up and down the correct street several times asking and knocking on doors until I found the right one.
I was summoned in and asked to write my request with the assistance of a young, Spanish-speaking child. I paid the requested fee. She left the room, went through some ritual movements, spat as I've seen a member of the Huichol Nation do while performing a healing, and returned. When she returned, she said a few words, then took me into a different room with a dirt floor. It resembled a cave more than a room. She lit a couple of candles and ordered me to keep my requests a secret and to return the following week. I didn't go back because the fee seemed exorbitant. The experience, however, had the effect of drawing me deeper into my art (See Plate 5.).
Attending the Guelguetza Festival - Mexico, 2004
In the summer of 2004 I also went to see the Guelguetza Festival in Oaxaca, Mexico, in an attempt to gain further understanding of the impact of ancient rituals in contemporary Mexico. Before I left for Oaxaca, Professor Dennis Pohl at Instituto Allende in San Miguel suggested that I meet one of the most famous artists there, Francisco Toledo. Coincidentally, I met him (See Plate 6.). After meeting him and seeing his art, I felt that I was on the right path because I realized there were others like me who were creating images of the fantastic reality of ancient spirituality.
Attending the Black Fine Arts Festival - New York, 2005
I attended the Black Fine Arts Festival in New York wearing a tee shirt with an image of an aboriginal man. An African-American woman tapped me on the shoulder and asked why I had worn it. I explained that it was important for all people to have a better understanding of aboriginal peoples of the Americas, not only the stereotypes and false information that have been shared with us as false role models.
She explained that she and her business partner were feeling a lot of tension from others at the festival because they were representing a Mexican visual artist who looked quite similar to the image on my shirt. I met him later in the day, and he looked very much like a younger version of the drawing on my shirt. His name is Gerardo Bonilla (See Plate 7.).
Meeting Don Bartolo, Mayan Guatemalan Healer - Canada, 2005
Don Bartolo, a Mayan Guatemalan healer who lives in Toronto, lectures at universities in Toronto and has gone to hospitals in Guatemala to assist in the healing of those who are ill. I have met with him on several occasions. In the process, fusing ancient ways with modern discoveries, he said, ''Don´t say spirit, say energy.'' Understanding that lessons can be lost in the vernacular of cultures we are unaccustomed to, he said, ''Don't say shaman, say healer.'' Understanding my search for balance through the study of ancient shaman rituals, he said, ''We [healers] work with balance.'' The information that Don Bartolo shared provided me with insights that I have begun to use in creating my art.
Workshops with Victor Sanchez -- Canada, 2005
Victor Sanchez is a Mexican researcher who has developed workshops for personal and spiritual growth applicable to the creative improvement of everyday life. The creator of The Art of Living Purposefully, he gives workshops worldwide on the teachings described in his books entitled The Teachings of Don Carlos; Toltecs of the New Millennium; The Toltec Path of Recapitulation: Heal Your Past to Free Your Soul; and The Toltec Oracle, all of which have been published by Bear & Co.
In these workshops with Victor Sanchez, I learned to do as he had said, ''Teach yourself.'' Rituals with ''grandfather fire'' included the burning of candles and prayer in unison for what participants wanted. He reaffirmed what I had learned previously: ''And this is how you will become a Toltec: by cultivating the habit and getting used to consulting everything with your own heart.'' -- Olmos Huehuetlatoll
Encounter with Shaman Marie Teresa Valenzuela - Mexico, 2005
Marie Teresa Valenzuela is a shaman who conducts workshops and performs cleansing ceremonies. I met with her in a café near the Jardin in San Miguel. Marie Teresa noted that the Parroquia Church of San Miguel has ancient indigenous symbolism on it, further proof of the fusion of native and Christian spirituality in a victorious move to retain elements of a conquered culture.
Visit with Shaman Spiritualist Don Jesus Psico - Mexico, 2005
Seeking additional perspectives on the survival of shamanism, I met with Shaman Spiritualist Don Jesus Psico in San Miguel de Allende in 2005. He held that shamen delve into three areas: 1) science, for the acquisition of knowledge about medicine, astrology, anthropology, history, and psychology; 2) magic, for the transformation of the mind, body, and health of people can ''can change the elements;'' and 3) religion, for it is important ''to use people's faith in spite of religious beliefs and race to heal.'' Don Jesus said that the belief in a higher spirit does not come from books, but from experience - experiences such as I had been having.
Books that Demonstrate the Survival of Shamanism
The Winged Serpent, edited by Margot Astrov, Beacon Press Boston, 1974
''I could see that the old people were right when they insisted that Jesus Christ might do for modern whites in a good climate, but that the Hopi gods had brought success to us in the desert ever since the world began.
''The Labyrinth of Solitude, by Octavio Paz, Grove Press, 1985
''Suspicion, dissimulation, irony, the courtesy shuts us away from the stranger, all of the psychic oscillations with which, in eluding a strange glance, we elude ourselves, are traits of a subjected people who tremble and disguise themselves in the presence of the master. …but what we have built in its place, a lodging for only a minority of Mexicans, has been deserted by the spirit. The spirit has not gone away, however; it has gone into hiding.''
Videos that Demonstrate the Existence of Shamanistic Presence in Contemporary Mexico
Sanadores de Cuerpo y Espiritu, produced by Ojo de Agua Comunicacion, S.C., for Media Llum Comunicacion for the series Towns of Mexico, circa 2001
Synopsis: The tseltales natives of the town of Tsajalchen, in municipality of Tenejapa, Chiapas, rely on several priests, midwives and healers to bring knowledge of the ancients to maintain the health of people. Fifteen of these 'sanitizers of body and spirit' have joined to form an organization to take care of their patients in a more seamless fashion. This video offers proof that these traditional doctors heal their patients holistically in recognition that the body and the spirit must both be healthy for humans to be healthy.
El Camino Que No Pidió Permiso, produced by Ojo de Agua Comunication, S.C., for Media Llum Comunicacion for the series Towns of Mexico, circa 2001
Synopsis: In 1995, the construction of a highway began to connect the mountain region with the coast of the Pacific in the state of Guerrero, Mexico. This highway crosses the territory of the Bog, and indigenous community called Tlalpaneca in of the municipality of Malinaltepec.
Unfortunately, the construction of this highway has seriously damaged this indigenous community through a lack of respect as it has cut across sacred hills, damaged springs, and left enormous ditches of erosion and the destruction of an ancient culture. This video evidences how the life of a farmer is spiritually connected with the earth.
Petition of Life, by Ojo de Agua Comunication, S.C., for Media Llum Comunicacion for the series Towns of Mexico, circa 2001
Synopsis: A Mexican shaman near the Mexicanero and Tepehuano indigenous groups in the Western Sierra Madre southeast of Durango, Mexico, prays through chants that this people are spared a number of diseases including cholera, measles, colds, and fevers. He takes a sip of water and blows it on various parts of a person, most often the stomach but sometimes the face, in the ritual of healing.
The rituals of the people include making sounds similar in rhythm to Buddhist chants; smoking pipes; blessing by smudging using two feathers; and preparing an outdoor altar using small tree trunks to form a structure for a wooden platform. Feathers are tied by a string on the four tree trunk pillars above the platform, and flower petals are placed on the platform. Slain deer are placed under such altars along with water and food.
The deer then are taken away and their meat is prepared for a feast and dance in thanksgiving for the food received from them. The heads and skin of most of the deer are worn on the back of a man who dances, bones in hand, the circular dance common to indigenous peoples of the Americas. He dances up to other members of the community -- men, women, and children -- who also participate in the dance.
THE HEALING WISDOM OF MEXICO
-- Claire Carew
My art comes from
A place of light and darkness.
The conscious and subconscious mind unfolds
Giving what I see and know at a deeper level
A presence releasing that which is within.
I pay tribute to God,
My Arawak, African and European ancestors.
CHAPTER THREE - DISCUSSION
REFLECTIONS ON SHAMANISM'S SURVIVAL
Our lives are dyed the color of our imaginations.
-- Marcus Aurelius
Spiritual peace and ascendance are not easy to come by in this noisy world. The noise of the world preoccupies people with the mundane. A study of shamanistic cultures of contemporary times indicates that people can retreat during their daily lives to more spiritually enriching places to center themselves and allow their creativity to come to the surface. This is a testament to the power of cultures to transcend deliberate destruction of their belief systems, cultures and languages.
Such is the case with shamanistic cultures which survived the invasion of Cortes in Mexico. Ultimately, the conquest of Mexico that we see titling many books is not entirely true. What actually happened was that religions were fused and people shape-shifted. In native cultures, this transformation often is depicted in the changing from human shape into animal form. This has been well documented for thousands of years in many stories of indigenous cultures.
Colonial and neo-colonial powers have occupied lands, set up governments and exploited the land of the people in the Americas; but more often than not, aboriginal nations have survived. This is the victory, the truth that is often not told. Customs, ancient chants, music, clothing, indigenous language and art are still flourishing in contemporary Mexico (See Plates 8, 9, 10).
''Recapitulation is an ancient shamanic procedure of healing the wounds and draining energy patterns printed in our energetic body. These wounds and imprints are the basis of the limited patterns that sustain our old self. It is only when we are free of the past that we can really choose who to be and how to live. Recapitulation is a soul journey that will bring freedom, power and well being into your life,'' according to Victor Sanchez.
The knowledge that I have been fortunate to obtain while studying in Mexico is my own form of recapitulation: a cleansing and revitalizing of my soul, an understanding that all was not lost. It has assisted me to live to my fullest potential, to make my ancestors proud and to give their lives and suffering meaning. I will continue to draw, paint and sculpt them back to life and to live my life not hampered by oppression. I will continue to shape-shift, to zag when I am expected to zig.
My continued transformation and breaking of the chains that would guide me toward living a mediocre life is inspired by the words of two great women
''I can be changed by what happens to me, I refuse to be reduced by it.''
-- Maya Angelou
''One can not content to creep when one has the urge to soar.''
-- Helen Keller
CHAPTER 4 - SUMMARY
THE WISDOM OF THE ANCIENTS INFLUENCES MY ART TODAY
Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.
-- Henry Ward Beecher
My travel to Mexico has informed and influenced my art into a direction that fuses ancient symbols alongside contemporary imagery (See Plates 11, 12.) The rich colors of the flora and fauna, the texture and rhythms of life, have inspired me to paint and sculpt new images which have an historic context, demonstrating my continued respect for indigenous cultures and belief systems.
Although aboriginal themes have always been featured in my art, coming to Mexico opened another realm of knowledge and understanding that has deepened the content of my art. My initial reason for coming to Mexico has been answered abundantly. I came to see the art work of the muralist and Frida Kahlo, and that I have seen to my satisfaction as I have gone several times to Mexico City to the National Palace and to several art galleries and museums to look at her art and other historic and contemporary artists' work.
Although my initial reasons for being in Mexico have been answered by visiting a number of galleries, museums and historical sites in Mexico City, Oaxaca, Guanajauto, San Miguel and Michoacan, I also have taken a journey of exploration of the victorious survival of healers in Mexico. Evidence of their survival was brought to my attention by a number of professors at Instituto Allende.
On field trips, we climbed up to look at boulders with pictographs and saw evidence that ancient sites were still being used as shamanistic centers. We saw fresh ashes, smoke, and natural medicines. Our photography classes went on field trips and saw shamans who were preparing for a ritual. At one location, I took a photograph of a Texmazcal Sweat Lodge that was to be used by participants that weekend. A sweat lodge is an ancient indigenous rite of passage for self purification, healing, and clarity in life. I believe a sweat lodge experience reconnects participants with earth's nature.
I have begun to understand that my connection to the modern day benefits of ancient shamanistic cultures that have survived has enabled me to transcend the bounds of the rational and surrender to the experiences of my muse. This allows me to move through space at a pace more conducive to creativity, coincidences and the understanding of dreams. The influences of shamanistic cultures that have survived have informed my paintings, murals and sculptures, including Then Mexico Came a Calling, Hopi Premonition, Sweet Surrender, and Zaptistas Remembrance, among others (See Plates 12, 13.).
Because religious fusion was successful in maintaining ancient rituals, beliefs systems and the survival of shamanistic cultures in societies such as Mexico, the healing arts and others, including my own, have nurtured the souls of mankind. The mysteries continue, but my life purpose is clearer: making art and giving to others true spirit through uplifting images and joy as I pass through this world known as Claire Carew.
Woman that I Am
-- Maria Sabina, 1896 -1985
Mazatec healer, curandera, and shaman native of Huautla de Jimenez, Oaxaca, Mexico
Women of transactions am I.
Mexican woman am I.
Woman like a clock am I.
Woman like the big eagle am I.
Woman like the opossum am I.
Woman who examines am I.
Woman like the hunting dog am I.
And woman like the wolf am I.
And woman like the hunting dog am I.
I´ll show my power.
Woman of justice am I.
Woman of law am I.
Clean (pure) woman am I.
Woman of justice, woman of law am I.
Woman of justice am I.
The law which is pure,
The law by which we live,
The law which is good.
Lawyer woman am I.
I go to the sky.
Woman of paper work am I.
Legendary woman who cures am I.
Father Jesus Christ,
I am truly a woman of law,
I am truly a woman of justice,
My poor child, my dear humble child,
My poor child, my dear humble child.
Meanderings and Wandering Thoughts
- Claire Carew
Hola, Clarita aqui;
Enjoying the beauty of San Miguel once again,
Court yards of fountains and tropical flowers abundantly rich in colours.
Fancy shops with pretty clothing
Long flowing skirts and shirts,
Music to soothe, romance and meditate by
The simple pleasures of life are enjoyed.
Ice cream, a child playing with a toy,
Families sitting near the center square,
Eating large meals at 2 p.m.,
Galleries and opening receptions galore.
Musicians everywhere with their guitars in tow.
San Miguel memories of times gone by are here.
Ancient ones' presence is felt strongly as we sit on the base of volcanic rock,
Lucid dreams and synchronicity reports are every day occurrences;
The light makes everything crystal clear.
Artists love it here.
Florence, Italy comes to mind,
Yellow and red buildings, the secrets of opulence lie behind high walls.
Cobble stone streets winding through,
Church bells ring out all day and night.
Roosters crow and fire works are tributes to life often heard at night or the crack of dawn.
Narrow sidewalks make us dance around each other.
Lots of traffic, lots of tourists, everyone is in search of beauty.
Aboriginal women on the street begging,
I give mostly on Fridays as most shopkeepers do.
Children walking in circles all day, selling dolls, gum, anything will do,
Rarely we buy as we have all been here before.
I sit and reflect on the duality of San Miguel.
1 American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th ed., (Boston, Massachusettes: Houghton Mifflin, 2001) no page cited on Internet.
2 Wyrick, Deborah, Divine Transpositions: Recent Scholarship on Vodou and Santeria Religious Art, (Raleigh, North Carolina.: North Carolina State University, 1999) no page cited on Internet.
3 Curtis, Florence; and Boeson, Victor, Visions of a Vanishing Race, Salt Lake City, Utah: Promontory, 1994) no page cited on Internet.
4 Ba'Nikongo, In Nikongo, editor, Music Making History: Africa Meets Europe in the United States of the Blues,Leading Issues in Afro-American Studies (Durham, North Carolina: Carolina Academic Press, 1997) 189-233.
Astrov, Margot. The Winged Serpent. Boston, Massachusettes: Beacon Press, 1974.
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