September 2, 1997. Full Moon / Total Lunar Eclipse - obscured by rain and snow clouds on the mountain last night (initiating background whine).
Was awakened at midnight from fitful Sleep by George's mother bumping around next door. She's making her bed after having pulled it all apart during the day, and typically bad communications resulted in: no one else helped her do it before bedtime. I'm on Day #2 of my heavy Moon but feeling good enough to make two store runs, and to cook and clean up a big dinner. But, so edgy from the sky's Moon, and from waking up to the emotional storm of George begging his mother to be quieter at night, and her attempts to explain her problems (her awful ambivalence towards asking me for help sometimes results in her attempting too-difficult things on her own, or trying to simply hire more help...) put me in some sort of skeletal gridlock. Horrid tension in face and head and neck - had to get up and move and cry hard and then still have to Pray myself back to Sleep. This awful pain of feeling others' pain! I want my old life back! I don't want to deal with our elder's needs and details! Pharmacy and dry cleaners interface. Appointments and practitioners...
When I am on my Moon, I just want to be on complete retreat. I resent any request for service - can't they see how hard it is for me to even think and speak in English? Don't they have any idea what it takes for me to walk around Albertson's and Walgreen's bleeding in the midst of crowds of strangers? I feel more crazy and conflicted every month, and my stated, "no cooking one night per Moon" has become an inadequate token respite. So, for this full Moon, on my Moon time (yeah!), I pull "The Moon" card. Asking, "what about this hypersensitivity to my roommates?" I receive the card for compassionate healing. 'Moon energy and long hair' - what is it? Lunacy? Should I lock myself up for the duration like a werewolf? Is it just to be borne or endured? What does one do with The Moon? ........ Pray!

- Pray for a miracle (like finally falling asleep in the midst of unresolved turmoil)
- Pray for everyone to learn and grow and heal according to their nature.
- Pray to believe in such possibilities.
- Pray for our fledgling family-as-organism to help us transcend the diffi-culties of our individual natures.
- Get down with praying to remember to Pray - to keep breathing, to recognize compassion, and experience healing, and just surf those Lunar tides. High tide!
- Pray for guidance in responding to every demand from the exterior world. How can I elicit understanding and compassion for us all without inducing shame?

December 20, Winter Solstice Eve 1997. Miracles of healing. The Moon (here represented by The Virgin of Guadalupe) is my self-appointed Saint of photography. That miracle of communication (the imprinted vision of Herself on Juan Diego's robe.) The everyday miracle in our human lives: photography's miracle of healing potential. On the dark side, Native Americans have experienced soul theft from photo-taking. The historical experiences of these people and their instincts about photography 'stealing a piece of one's soul' is right on. They recognized the potential power of the 'captured' image - bigger than counting coup! When photography is purely exploitive it is very bad magic: a stealing, a taking, a using of image, especially portraiture, for the wrong reason. Part of the miracle given by Our Lady of Guadalupe was this photographic image in the service of healing. Shamanic healing. It was the communication of a vision which resulted in transformative health. This first photography (sans camera, sans painting,) was magical.
Roses from heaven mapping an inexplicable visitation. The healing of a poor old man brings a message of hope from an avatar of compassion. Some say when you stare into the eyes of the image of Our Lady on Her cloak, you can see yourself reflected in her pupils, an effect impossible for a painter to achieve. She shows you Herself beholding you: a healing vision of yourself. That's what photography can do.

Many people that I care about have trusted me to make their portraits and to use those reproduced images at my discretion. The woman in the Guadalupe image of 'The Moon', and her daughter, (the winged beauty on 'The Magician' card) are of Cherokee descent, Native Americans whose Beauty was much photographed. They are fifth and sixth generation Cherokee. (The fifth generation was prophesied to return to their homelands after the forced removal and Trail of Tears.) It was the essence of her spiritual presence, her physical attitude, that I wanted to use for my own Guadalupe image. It was a big thing for her to agree to 'pose' as Our Lady, but once There, she brought complete awareness of the archetype to the photo session. Our intention and Prayers before and during the session helped us create images of shamanic power and beauty.
We made pictures of the story of miraculous faith. We made Prayers for the final works to be used for healing. The great key, the great blade of decisive effect lies embedded in the intention of the image maker, the photographer. Unlike the portrait painter, whose intention is extant in every slow stroke of brush and hand over extended lengths of time, the photographer uses a technology of a single moment. Her machine snatches a frame from a point of real experience, whether candid, or posed (given). Photographs are so fast, now, so easy. So easy to forget the power of the almost magical technology one holds in one's hands. Like a bomb designer, or a genetic engineer, the portrait photographer must ask, 'should we make this thing, just because we can?'

Viewing some of my nude self-portraits emboldened one friend to ask for a portrait session of his own. After we took the pictures, he processed emerging psychological material for days, had big revelatory dreams, and was inspired to assist in the graphic design of some of his assembled pieces. The power of the experience surprised both of us. It was a true journey for him to allow my regard as he expressed himself. From him I learned to be very careful in preparing subjects for my collage portraits, as careful as when giving informed consent for actual psychedelic sessions. While warning that 'anything can happen' I would subsequently promise to stay in touch with my subjects during any psychic upheaval, to maintain confidentiality, and would acquire signed release for the display of any of the images.
Once I learned to treat this picture-making process as Medicine, I began to observe even more embodiment of archetype expressing in postures and in the emotional experiences of the subject. (Call and response ...) The process remained of primary import to me, so any photographs of good quality that resulted were like wonderful side-effects, artifacts of Grace.
I did not, of course, want consciously to steal people's souls. But I must admit to a deeply felt desire to mark definitive moments of soul's presence in order to illustrate that moment in the highest light and show it back to the person, and to our community. I intended to present people with an enhanced vision of themselves, to give them a visual referent, a mirror of beauty, the possibilities of their nature. This is the true miracle of photography: that it can be used in the service of evolutionary transformation, that it can indeed contribute to a healing of mind and Spirit.
A new woman friend came with the intention of using the portrait session to explore issues of personal power and protection. An Artist herself, she brought outrageous props and we took some truly wild pictures. She duly signed a release for the use and exhibition of certain negatives. On their completion, however, she expressed a great distress over the impact of the images, and while acknowledging their artistic worth, begged me not to exhibit any of the pieces in our small town. I could have. They were gorgeous, those pictures; and I did have her 'legal' permission. But there were all those Prayers, and our healing intentions.... I sadly closeted the work. Then, in a seeming reward a couple of years later, I was given license to 'go ahead and show' by my friend, who had 'moved on' with her issues enough to be able to be generous with those revealing portraits of herself. A great photography Teacher once advised me to always de-emphasize oneself in the process of making a portrait. Treating portraiture as Medicine taught me to maintain a respectful compassion for my subjects that would endure in an ongoing relationship, going far beyond the moment of the shutter's release.

The Mazatec Indians of Mexico say that Our Lady of Guadalupe is The Moon. They eat various psychedelic mushrooms and see Her. To them She is the Mother of Compassion, capable of swift miraculous healing. Carl Jung gave the name "archetype" to the myth forming Elements present in the human psyche that generate the same story motifs in different cultures. The Moon card is a condensation of a whole lineage of Goddess avatars. Sacred sites may give rise to successive emanations of a personified principle. Our Lady, an appearance of the Madonna, the mother of Jesus, appeared at Tepeyac, outside of current day Mexico City. She requested a new chapel to be built on this site that had long been consecrated to the worship of Tonantzin ("Our Mother"), an Aztec earth goddess. (The signs of Tonantzin were the crescent Moon and the agave century plant. Many images of the Guadalupe show Her standing on the crescent Moon.) Some say the Lady who appeared at Tepeyac spoke in Nahuatl, and many renderings depict Her with dark skin. We can imagine this Mary as the most current realization of a line descending from Ishtar and Isis, Cybele and Artemis. The Asian Kwan Yin is the Goddess of Mercy and Compassion, and Tara, a female incarnation of the Buddha, wears a crescent Moon on her forehead .
The Mazatec, to whom Our Lady appears as The Moon, invoke Her compassionate healing for a variety of symptoms arising from the core trauma of susto ("the fright"). They say that a bad shock, like a sudden traumatic incident, "leaves an impression" on the body, giving rise to all manner of developmental ailments. Their healers use a special plant ("The Leaves of the Shepherdess") to connect to the Spirit that heals the original fright, ("you must sing and Pray very hard to ask for what is needed") to loosen up the psyche for the healing journey. The mushroom experience subsequently undertaken is a contact with Our Lady The Moon, who effects the healing transformation once the fixation of the fright is dissolved.
Our Lady of Guadalupe is a real local favorite here in Santa Fe, New Mexico. When first I came here, we had these painted tiles of Her traditional image plastered right up next to our front door. At that time, I was vaguely offended to have a Catholic Saint imposed on me and my guests. (I was ignorant of the legend, and so very modern from living in San Francisco.) Years passed. I became a celebrant of the Day of the Dead, gathered the healing Earth at our local sacred site at Chimayo, watched my neighbors make various pilgrimages, and learned some things about ritual uses of Medicine in traditional cultures. I began making self-portraits with the camera and gradually came into my own relationship with Mary and with Tara ("Wisdom Moon"). This version - this dark Lady of Tepeyac who appeared to these sort-of-Christianized Indians, who is usually shown standing on a new Moon is the first Saint that I had ever looked to as such: an avatar of healing love, even a Saint for artistic process, embodying the healing power of photography.

I saw a film about Mother Teresa's Order once. She and her sister nuns had taken over an orphanage of crippled children. There was a stunning video sequence made of their first entry to the grounds. One of the sisters approached a four year old boy who was in bed with eyes clenched shut, his little frame contorted in constant spastic tremors. We were given to understand that he had been in this position for years. The woman, very matter-of-factly, cradled the child's head and began stroking his face and chest. After mere moments, his body relaxed, his jaw softened, and his eyes opened, as he gazed in frank wonder at the serene face of this anonymous She of the miraculous touch.

The Image: In my collage the face of The Moon is serious/sad, looking down at all of us, Her suffering children. She stands atop an old adobe ruin in the Pecos River Valley, where the window looks through to the roofless sky. The over-arching sky view was shot in El Dorado, looking west to the Sandia Mountains. I placed a wreath of cut-out roses just beneath Her feet in a crescent Moon shape. The cactus border is another reference to the desert, the place of revelation. She stands above an old adobe window that frames the lion beneath Her. The 'window for germination'. George photographed that lion at the zoo; my daughter asked why I put it in, and I never had a good answer until I chose this collage to represent The Moon card, and was writing the poem's text ... and humming ...
("... hush, my darling, don't fear, my darling -
The Lion sleeps tonight ...")
Her lion is yawning hugely in the sun, " ... tamed by the courage that pulled the thorn."

This is the thing about embodying compassion - it takes a lot of courage. Hurting, paranoid, blind, confused and sickly people may become dangerous. All disease is communicable, because fear communicates. To feel compassion is to approach the abyss. That lion could end his yawn with a bite! One cannot learn what is truly helpful from mental logic alone. Any healing, any true contact with another is miraculous. The Moon's light is a special light. It is not of the intellect. The Moon pushes the emotional nature. It pulls on our bodies. The necessary response to such magnetism might be to move, to dance, to wail, to howl at The Moon.
In a Buddhist sense, compassion is more than a mere sympathy for an individual's situation. It is the deep wish for 'all sentient beings to be freed from their physical and mental suffering.' This 'deep wish' becomes an intention, a desire to alleviate the suffering of all. The cultivation of patience with other's rage, fear, or hostilities relieves us from our automatic negative reactions. Brings us back in touch with our own Buddha nature. The cultivation and extension of compassion heals, miraculously.

I made a second image of Our Lady from that day's photo session with my friend. It too, has a little window and a door, and a portrait of her sweet face. And above all that is the Lady with a Water jar on shoulder, double-exposed into a big old tree trunk: Our Lady Lives Next Door. This Lady is also a manifestation of The Moon. Neighbor that She is, you've seen Her, too. Compassion is amazingly accessible. Just for the asking. The Moon rises regularly.

I am a fourth generation professional nurse in a matrilineal line. Me, my Mama, her Mama, and her Mama were all nurses. We have some skills with touch, love, Medicine, and natural development. I quit nursing for a salary years ago. Was last employed in the clinic of our maximum security state penitentiary. Twelve-hour shifts on concrete floors. It took three solid hours just to pour all the pills. Enough pain, rage, fear, and lies to make the place whine like a chain saw. I wore my shoulders up around my ears and a defensive grin like a rictus. Buzzed my hair and dyed the remnant purple - anything to keep those boys laughing ...
My first task was to train myself not to automatically reach out and pat a shoulder or arm. ('Courage to pull the thorn' - not comforting obsessively, or moving by auto-pilot; besides, which thorn to pull first?) Finally had to quit the prison when my body got too reactive to the steady flood of input, the vibe (the sympathy ...). I would get these evil muscle spasms in my neck, or under my shoulder - looked awfully like Igor, crabbing my way about to each cell door, hunching painfully under my load ... Hurt too bad just to be There - and I was spending half of what I made on treatment ... It was past time to have some compassion for myself, and resign.
Now, I'm pulling The Moon on purpose. Now I have home health nurses come to see my convalescent mother-in-law. Now I am living with someone who hurts. Someone for whom I have compassion, but must maintain boundaries. I must allow her depression to merely BE. Have to let her nature have its way. I have only to keep making real contact with her, and let the miracles of healing unfold as they will.

George's cousin Mary came to visit, suffering from a cancer. As the full Moon of August is rising, she pulls her first card from this deck. Of course she pulls The Moon. She pulls the card of Mary miracles unto herself. May it be ever so. The face of compassion blooms in the desert and Our Lady Lives Next Door, to us all.

December, 1997

© Requa Tolbert, 2011
The Moon - The First Persona