Ancestral energy lives in the stars above us, the stones beneath us. Their memory gathers in oceans, rivers and seas. It hums its silent wisdom within the body of every tree.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Creating Constellations

A map of stars of where my loved ones live.

I do a lot of work with mythic symbols: runes, cave paintings, indigenous drawings, the Nazca lines, Pictish symbols, etc. I like how symbols distill the larger picture down to a single silhouette, outline or image. As someone who tends to get lost in the bigger picture, it helps me better understand the essence or spirit of the thing.
It’s the same idea as taking your genealogy and creating it into a visual tree, with names as leaves, where the oldest known homelands as roots burrowed into the ground, your foundation. It’s a beautiful thing that art does. It shows something outside of its expected interpretation, offering another dimension of context by which to view it.
In the deep winter, when the trees are barren and naked, I look to the stars. I imagine how the oldest ancestors studied their patterns and trusted their fixed points enough to navigate the world. They used the stars in the sky as a compass to explore previously unknown terrain, to aid their exploration. Our ancestors ventured into water that had no visible end just to see what was on the other side. How powerful the stars are, that their constancy made man put faith in them.
I study constellations as a hobby. I am no master of names or places in the sky but I can recognize my old friends and I look to the summer sky for friendly faces, gazing at them as I used to do on camping trips with my family: Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Cassiopeia, Draco. Those nights around the fire with my parents and my siblings are some of my fondest memories, just us immersed in nature, a glittering starry sky above us. It’s a reminder I carry with me now, that they are still above me, even when the sun obscures their view…like those we love are still with us, even when death has claimed them.
When we are small our lives revolve around our immediate parents and grandparents, including our childhood playmates. As we grow older, our worlds and our circles expand. We know people who live in other cities, we grow closer to distant relatives. Our web gets larger and we begin to collect people important to our growth, our chosen family. No matter where we travel, they remain a part of us, a fixed point in our lives, and that love and gratitude never tarnishes or fades. Even when our friends and family are separated from us by geographical distance, the love we feel for each other exists as something solid in us.

My starburst.

Even still, it’s hard to hold that image in the isolation of the winter months. A few years ago I wanted to make a visual representation of the web of people in my life. To start, I took a map of the world, and put a dot where I lived. Then I charted a dot in every city where my loved ones and chosen family lived. Some dots became larger than others, in areas where my roots were deeper, becoming brighter stars on my map of my sky.
When that was done, I drew lines from each dot into the one that represented where I lived. What I found was a wonderful image, a starburst, light blooming out into the world that represented the landscape of loving energy I had created. It was as if the dark gloom of winter melted away beneath its image.

A stilt-walker creature from The Dark Crystal?

A winding path and journey forwards?

A diamond, opening like a box so the light comes out?

That starburst became my personal symbol of joy, a totem I burned onto a wooden disc to carry with me in my mojo bag. I created my own constellation, my own constant companion. Sometimes, as a meditation, I play with it, mapping out the cities and playing connect-the-dots in various ways to see what images I find, like the Big Dipper, the Bear or Cassiopeia’s necklace.
Now, unlike the fixed stars in the heavens, the ones in my life do move around the world and the shape of my personal constellation changes. But I have learned to accept change as the only constant I can count on. Some stars go out and people leave my life, either through death, a move or a falling out we can’t seem to come back from, which doesn’t negate the love we had for each other when we had it.
Every winter I revisit and reshape the stars in my universe, a reminder of how loved I am, and how far-reaching the web of friends has become. This exercise reminds me that I never truly walk alone. My feet walk the earth where others before me have walked, eyes tilted up to the same stars I see, the same stars those who come after will see.
Have gratitude for the love you have in your life, for the lives you have touched and the ones that have stirred your soul. Create your own symbol, whether it be a web, a starburst, a constellation, a collage. Make yourself something you can touch and hold that reminds you of your blessings and fills your spirit with peace.

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