Goddess of the Willamette River

I live only a 5 minute walk away from a majestic river named the Willamette.

I’ve watched her through the last two years of seasons, from the summertime when she’s crowded with drunk college kids on inner-tubes and scattered with the dangling chords of fishing poles plunged below her shimmering depths, to the wintertime when her height swells with rain, choppy white peaks beneath the cloudy sky. The sheer force of her is a sight to behold.

The Willamette river is actually a tributary of the Columbia river and is 187 miles long, stretching through the heart of Oregon. Her nourishment has sustained humans for the last 10,000 years.  The first inhabitants included the Kalapuya, the Chinook, and the Clackamas tribes. The river was named by original inhabitants of the area, though no one knows what “Willamette” actually means.

The beauty, power, and importance of this river makes me fully understand why so many cultures ascribe deities to rivers. When I sit on the shore of this river I feel compelled to honor and worship it, for sure.

I do ascribe to nature-based spirituality, and I have a particular fondness for the old religions of some of my ancestors, The Celts. While I love their mythology and deities, I also think there is value in finding a spiritual connection to ones current locale. This falls in line with Celtic spirituality’s tendency towards animism.

The Celts of the ancient world believed that many spirits and divine beings inhabited the world around them, and that humans could establish a rapport with these beings. (…) rituals, offerings, and correct behaviour maintained a balance between gods, spirits and humans and harnessed supernatural forces for the benefit of the community.
The pagan Celts perceived the presence of the supernatural as integral to, and interwoven with, the material world. Every mountain, river, spring, marsh, tree and rocky outcrop was inspirited.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celtic_animism

I would love to know the name of the deity of this river, but I don’t know if any of the original inhabitants have a river goddess assigned to it. (Does anyone know? My research has not been fruitful.)

In the meantime, I’ve decided to ascribe my own personal name to her, out of reverence.

River goddesses sometimes have the river named after them, such as Tamesis, who is the ancient deity of the River Thames, the River Severn, named after an Old British river goddess of that name, and the River Shannon, Irish Sionann, also the name of the river’s goddess.

So I’ve reverse engineered her name, taking inspiration from “Willamette”. The new name (given with respect to any other name she may have ever had) of the goddess of this river is Willamina, which actually means “determined protector”. Fitting, I think.

Thank you for your nourishment and beauty, Goddess Willamina.

Ditching Chemical Hair Dye for Henna

The body, our best canvas for art and expression. I’ve had more hair cuts and colors and styles than I can count, I’m also quite decorated in permanent body art, tattoos. I love clothes, I love make-up, I basically love expressing myself with this physical form of mine.

One of the main reasons I didn’t follow my old dream of being a film actress? I realized I would have had to look mainstream and BORING for the rest of my life. No thank you!

But, of course, many of these decorative techniques we use in this culture are, sadly, toxic. Hair care and make-up are not well regulated. (here’s a guide to finding safe brands) Hair dye is known to be full of problematic chemicals (yes, even the “natural” ones). So my crunchy hippie side often has wrestling matches with my fabulous femme side over just how to decorate myself. The hippie side has, for the most part, won by little bits over the years. But my inner femme will never totally let go.

I used to be really good about being super body-positive, not buying into consumerist gendered marketing, and not putting toxic crap on myself. Then around decade ago I totally fell off the wagon. Something about living in SoCal again and being in fashion school totally brainwashed me for awhile and my hippie and some of my punk side flew out the window. I wore high heels every day, and wore skin tight trendy clothes at all times. My hair was dyed and flat ironed, and my make-up was harsh blacks and bright neons. I didn’t care how toxic anything was, I just slathered myself in it.

That phase kinda reminds me of this song, like I’d been taken over by an alien… “She, she wants me to go to the mall, she wants me to put the pretty.. the pretty pretty pretty lipstick on…”

But when I got really sick a few years ago a huge change occurred. It triggered my inner earth mamma again, suddenly I was pulled down and grounded, realizing I needed to wear the comfy shoes and non-restrictive clothing for my health. And suddenly being a trendy fashionista was not a top priority.
Now I’ve settled in between the two – A sort of hippie goth thing has happened. I decorate myself, but try to do it healthfully. I’ve researched non-toxic, animal friendly make-ups, etc… And I’ve done really well with it, except the hair dye thing.

I had a period during my recent uber-crunchy phase where I had totally natural, un-dyed hair… something I hadn’t had since being a young teenager. Then I got bored with it, as I always do, and decided I’d color it with henna to be healthy AND have fun. But eventually, I got tired of the mellow colors of henna and fell off the wagon again, going back to dying it bright red and dark browns.

I really have noticed a big difference in my hair’s texture and body since doing this. As you can see in this picture, the hennaed hair, on the right, is shiny and thick and wavy, and the hair on the right, which has been dyed for 3 years now, is kinda fuzzy and flat.

henna vs dye

BUT, can I overcome my love of dark hair to go back to henna? I think I just might. I’m going to eventually go for a brighter red than the color in the pic, which was a brown henna.  I’m also going to get a heated hair cap, which, apparently, makes henna more vibrant.

(And yes I know, there are black and dark brown henna’s on the market… but I’ve never seen people be able to get their hair really and permanently dark with them. Maybe you have and have some tips? Let me know below.)

Now, if you yourself are looking to switch to henna hair dye, be very very picky about which brand you choose. There are henna dyes out there that are just as toxic as conventional hair dye. Make sure it is PURE, fresh henna. Here’s a quick FAQ on henna.

I’m personally a fan of Avigal Henna, and Lush Cosmetics Henna, but there are other quality brands out there. Basically, if it uses any weird ingredients, don’t buy it.
READ LOTS about henna before you use it- otherwise you may end-up with no results, a frustrating, messy time, and sometimes even green hair.

Henna is, absolutely, a bit more of an undertaking than conventional hair dye. It’s a natural product, so it’s gritty, clumpy, crumbly, and takes longer to process. But it makes your hair look and feel AMAZING. So it’s totally worth it.

Things I personally like to add to my henna mix: I use hot coffee instead of water, and add red wine for a redder shade. A couple tablespoons of olive oil is also a good call if you’re using a powdered henna.

Also, I’m going totally henna crazy and am going to learn to do henna tattoos as well. I’ve been madly in love with the traditional designs of it for years, and would love to set-up a little booth with draped fabric and pillows at festivals and decorate people with it. So I’ll be using lots of my friends as guinea pigs and will photograph the results.

In a few months I’ll also post a hair update to see how things are going with the henna transition. So far, the first application went great, but my roots are lighter than the rest of my hair, which is not ideal. It was immediately so much thicker though, and made my scalp really happy.

Have you hennaed your hair? Have any thoughts or tips? Please post them below!

 

A Story of Masks

This poem is one of my favorites. It is a storehouse of power, and it sticks with me while I observe the struggles that birth workers go through around the world today, trying to work within the system, avoid prosecution, and fulfill their destiny to help mamas and babies.

It was written by Starhawk, an environmental activist, author, and priestess. It is printed in her brilliant book Truth or Dare: Encounters with Power, Authority, and Mystery.

_____________________________________________________

A Story of Masks

What has been done to the earth
has been done to you
as to us all
Every murder, every rape, every act or torture
leaves its scar on the landscape of the self
and the outer bars
cast shadows in our mind

Feel them
they are your wounds
they are all you might have been
and will not be
Cry for it mourn rage
There are toxins in your blood
Your dismembered parts
lie scattered around you
You prowl your own borders
looking for escape
The wall is invisible
like glass, but stronger
you can’t get over it
you can’t get under it
you can’t get around it

So you put on the mask
that hides you
and try to slip through
How do you walk in this mask?
How does your body feel?
The mask covers you
It hides the barrier
And suddenly you can’t remember
where you were going or why
and none of it seems very important
so you stop and sit
And there you remain
forever
Or you can take the mask off

And put on the tricky mask
the deceiving mask
and try to slip through
How do you walk in this mask?
How does your body feel?

And the barrier disappears
and you walk through
and the path is clear and green and pleasant
and you know it’s the right way
although from time to time
you suspect
that you really haven’t gone anywhere
that you are back where you started from
And there you can remain
forever
Or you can take the mask off

And you put on the mask
that pleases
and try to slip through
How do you walk in this mask?
How does your body feel?
And everyone at the barrier is charming
they make polite conversation
they serve tea
they sympathize with your difficulties
with how hard it is to break through
and you wouldn’t want to offend them
so you stay where you are
And there you can remain
forever
Or you can take the mask off

And you can put on the ugly mask
and try to smash through
How do you walk in this mask?
how does your body feel?
You don’t care who you offend, or what you break
the pleasant people scatter
the teacups shatter
and you bash into the barrier
again and again
your flesh becomes pulp
our own bones break
and there you can remain
forever
Or you can take the mask off

Unmasked

Turn your naked face
to the fire
that remains
An ember in the center
juice of the earth’s living heart
The fire survives
as you survive
and all may yet survive in you

Beside the fire
She is still sitting
the story woman

Her whisper makes
a dry sound
like the sliding of snakes
coupling and uncoupling
at the cell’s core
Like the memory of being alive
with all life living in you

She says
There is another way
You knew it once
Remember

Memory sleeps coiled
like a snake in a basket
of grain
deep in the storehouse
Breathe deep
Let your breath take you down

Find the way there
And you will find the way out

-Starhawk-