Grandmother Medicine

A Cup of Tea or Three with Me


Hey hey! What's inspiring you today? That's what Pip Lincolne has asked me and the rest of the recent graduates from her Blog With Pip course to write about today in a series called A Cup of Tea with Me. Have a look at all the lovely blogs at Pip's home Meet Me at Mikes. I did this course to help me get my head around technology and instead discovered and learnt so much about self expression and met a caring and very helpful new community. I think you had better put the big kettle on. I am! It's absolutely freezing here in Sherbrooke Forest tonight and I am settling in to do some long overdue reading of everyone's Cup of Tea posts from the class. And I'm a tea fanatic so it really rarely stops at one cup.

Well it's deep deep winter in the forest and it's really hitting most of Melbourne and Victoria. There have been whispers that it might even snow up here on the mountain this year and I'd love experience that. I find winter a very creative and beautiful season but it doesn't always have a positive effect on everyone. When I lived in Scotland I would go to work in the dark and come home in the dark and when my sister came to visit it had a terrible effect on her spirit. I think the land and the seasons are so important to our wellbeing. I think this is something we need to think more about rather than where it is convenient to live - where do you feel at home? Where does your heart dream? Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved dark green forests filled with mist. And sometimes the forest has a flash of red and white spots - faerytale mushrooms! Or if you want to be very specific and with mushrooms you absolutely have to be, they are Amanita Muscaria. I want to say first up that these mushrooms are highly poisonous and toxic and not to be handled by the inexperienced. But they are an absolute feast for your eyes and spirit. I think they bring out the child inside us all. I found the exquisite mushroom teaparty in the photo above in the Arboretum on top of Mt Dandenong about one month ago. And I photographed it exactly as I found it. How is that for an enchanted encounter? Autumn and early winter are the seasons to come and find these beauties in Sherbrooke Forest but I was surprised to find one more blooming all on her own 2 days ago - surely the last of the season for this year.

Amanita Muscaria - Sherbrooke Forest

Last bloom of the season

Another magical creature that has been sighted and spoken about quite a lot this week is the Lyrebird. Early this morning I heard one calling right near our house. This is new! I heard him calling last Sunday and he has returned today. Lyrebirds are such ephemeral beings. Even their feathers are fine and if you are lucky enough to photograph them they are almost always blurry because of they move so quickly and lightly. In photos it looks like they are emitting a kind of etheric energy. They feel like creatures that can move between the worlds, seen and not seen. When you see them they are always darting back into the ferns or flitting across the road and you almost have to question it - did I just see that? And I love that about them, that they are here and not here. Last week at our winter solstice doll workshop, one of the women brought along lyrebird feathers to put in the headdress of her doll. Wow - I'd never touched one before. She also told me that the males drop their feathers around this time of the year and that I should keep my eyes open on the Lyrebird Track in Kallista for them. I'm so excited I have to stop myself going out right now but of course, it's freezing and the kettle has just boiled, so I think I can wait. Here is a photo that Tony and I took up on Mt. Donna Buang on the full moon 2 weeks ago of a male lyrebird doing a mating dance-off with another male for the affection of a female who was quietly watching from under the trees. This was an amazing moment because they were so engrossed in their own performance that they didn't care that we had come so close to watch them. Such ancient and tribal moves.

Lyrebird dancing

Lyrebird is the totem of Sherbrooke Forest. I was told that it is such an ancient creature that they have dated fossils to 15 million years ago. Because of this their medicine is that of the ancestral record keeper. They remember the sounds of the creatures that no longer exist on this earth.

And finally, I am in the process today of dreaming in a new medicine doll for a woman of Afro-Cuban heritage who celebrates her ancestors in the Yoruba tradition which is more well-known as Santeria. She has asked for the doll to hold the medicine of the gypsy and ancestral wisdom of both Africa and Spain. I feel honoured to help create a doll to hold these ancient traditions. Each doll births differently and today I felt an urge to be inspired visually while I worked on her. When I first dreamed the doll, all I could see was that she had such dark skin that she looked almost blue. I began looking at photographs and kept being drawn particularly to a Berber tribe called Tuareg. It became clear that this was to be the medicine of the doll, she was Berber - and I am happy that the client understands. She knew that the doll would teach her about her a new way. The Tuareg are a nomadic tribe and something in the women's faces is so mysterious and wise. I was fascinated to learn that it is not the women that wear the veil but the men. And then I found the key : the Tuareg are often referred to as the Blue People because of indigo used to dye their purple and dark blue garments. Because of the scarcity of water, the dye is beaten into the fabric and rubs off on their skin turning it metallic blue. The fact that these nomadic tribes have moved through not only Niger but also in Spain confirmed that this was the perfect spirit to hold the wishes of the doll's new owner. Here are the photos found of wise women that inspired the early weavings of this new medicine doll.



I even discovered I had the perfect colours for her - a couple of months ago I purchased the most beautifully hand dyed silk merino wool from FibreArtemis in New Zealand. I love the combination of these colours against the forest ferns.


As I began felting I revisited Tony Gatlif's film, Latcho Drom, an ode to the spirit and journey of the Romani people from India to Spain. This film brought back so many memories for me of spending time with one of the most influential and inspiring people I've ever known, Australian artist, Vali Myers. We used to watch this film often in her adorned jewel of a studio in the Nicholas Building in Swanston Street. The scene below of the Bedouin girl spinning as she dances has always remained with me. When I first saw it I went into a strange awe because it felt like a memory I had forgotten. I felt such joy watching her spin and spin - when I was a little girl I used to ask my mother to dress me as a gypsy and I would spin like that for hours. I still think this young dancer is one of the best I have ever seen. And so that is the inspiration that is finishing my day. Remembering how it feels to dance! I am going to clear a space tomorrow to let the spinning child in me come out to play again. I think my body knows that moving in this cold weather is really important. Our spirits have memory beyond our current geography.

Where does your heart go to dream? What does that place look like for you?