Monday, October 28, 2013

Dream Door

I had the pleasure of tea this weekend with James O'Dea, who brought up a connection with Sheikh Muzaffar Al-Jerrahi in Turkey. 

I was musing over that conversation as I was digging in my garden this morning.  it brought up the memoryof the Zikr I attended with Sheikha Fariha years ago here in Crestone when she told the story of the dream of the Sufi master Sheikh Nurredin Al-Jerrahi of her lineage.
When she got to the end of the dream I felt an internal explosion that announced "THAT!" It was my instruction to connect intimately with that Door and its contents. The image above is what came through. The small jewel you are seeing through keyhole
is a ruby heart.

Dream of Sheikh Nurredin Al-Jerrahi
My soul departs its earthly body and is taken in waking dream to Paradise. Led by a loving guide, it discovers vast, radiant gardens filled with joyous beings of light, who are engaged in countless forms of whirling, chanting, and silent contemplation.

Though overwhelmed with the beauty of paradise, my soul wishes to understand the whole picture, and therefore asks its guide where the fires of Hell are to be found. Smiling, the guide replies: "Dear friend, there is no separate realm that you call Hell."

My soul, steeped in the revelation of Islam, responds immediately: "But we read in the Holy Koran that those who deny Allah will suffer in Hell eternally." The beloved guide replies firmly: "But you read again and again in the Holy Koran that Allah is all- compassionate and all-merciful. How could an all compassionate Power create a realm expressly designed for beings to suffer even for an instant, much less for eternity?"

This response startles and intrigues my soul, but it remains unconvinced. Perceiving this, the guide continues: "What is taught in the mystic tradition about the person who, even once, repeats with utmost sincerity la ilaha illa’llah -the ultimate Source alone is worthy of worship?" Joyously my soul replies: "Such a one is counted among the blessed and after death awakens immediately into Paradise."

"Good!" exclaims the guide, "and since all souls are rays from the Divine Light, the essence of every being is this affirmation that Allah alone is worthy of worship, and all beings awaken, after the sleep of death, directly into Paradise."

My soul is exhilarated by this profound explanation, but because of its deep commitment to the words of the Koran, it still hesitates to accept the truth that there is no separate realm called Hell. The beloved guide sees this hesitation and offers my soul the final solution to its doubt, 'My dear friend, it is true that when a soul who has so practiced the life of loving submission to Allah reaches Paradise, it cannot bear the intense radiance here, so falls asleep again and dreams of Hell. Hellfire is simply the purifying radiance of Paradise. And all dreams, even dreams of eternal damnation, are but momentary. These dreaming souls soon awaken into Paradise purified and joyously praising the All-Merciful One." The explanation now complete, my soul feels the full coherence and power of this marvelous truth.

However, this mystical teaching deepens the soul's longing to understand completely, so almost at once a profound question arises: "Revered guide, if the experience of Hell is but a dream~ may not the experience of Paradise - its dancing maidens, its flowing streams, its radiant dervishes-may not all this be a dream as well?" The guide responds with delight: "Ah, my dear, dear friend, you have guessed the secret. Paradise, too, is a dream. But it is Allah's perfect dream, totally unlike the fragmentary and confused dreams experienced by earthly beings."

These words kindle the ecstasy of mystical knowledge in my soul, and it realizes that this unsurpassable guide is none other than the Prophet Muhammad, may the peace and blessing of Allah always be upon him. And in this state of holy exultation the soul becomes bold enough to question the Prophet of Allah: "Beloved guide, are you, too, a dream, telling me that Hell and Paradise are dreams?" The most excellent of guides responds instantly and with great power: "I am the dream key to the dream lock of the dream door that opens into the treasure of Divine Love, which alone is not a dream."

peace prayer art
world peace art

symbolic art
symbolism art
grail art
holy grail art
cosmos art

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Feverfew ((Tanacetum parthenium) Sinus Headache Remedy

Here is feverfew growing in the garden this year.  Feverfew is a member of the tansy family and I planted it out in numerous places where I was having very active ant populations that I was hoping would move on.  It worked quite well as well as providing beautiful perennial flowers on mounds of manageable size, unlike it's worthy if unwieldy cousin.  Moreover, feverfew is a valuable medicinal that I use in the following effective potion for sinus congestion and headaches:

1 tablespoon dried feverfew (use 2x amount for fresh), half a lemon cut up, 1 teaspoon of fenugreek seeds and 1 teaspoon of dried thyme (2x if fresh).  Steep these in one and a half cups of filtered water for 30 minutes. 

Strain the herbs from the liquid, making sure to remove all the lemon seeds.
Simmer the remaining liquid down to 1 cup. add 2 cups of honey plus 2 tablespoons of vegetable glycerin which helps to preserve the syrup.  Sometime I add 8 drops of Aerobic 07 to serve as a preservative.

Let cool and pour into a jar with a lid and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 months if preserved with glycerin, longer if preserved with Aerobic 07, which kills off any anaerobics that stop in for a visit.

If you muscle test that go with what your body tells you you need.  The linear rule of thumb is 1 teaspoon every 4 hours for a 50 lb. child; 2 teaspoons for a 75 lb child and 1 tablespoon for a 100 lb child or adult.

Also excellent for fevers and cough.  It tastes good too!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Whirling from World to World to World

Spinning Dervish Lute Rose Window,    31.5" x 17.75"
I was tuned into NPR's All Things Considered when I caught Robert Siegel interviewing Orthodox Rabbi Joseph Telushkin about the afterlife. The rabbi's comments were pretty unremarkable until the subject of reincarnation came up. Despite the disclaimer that it is really not part of "The Tradition" (at least not his tradition), he did mention that it does sneak into some Kabalistic parts of the liturgy. One reference I was not familiar with turns up in the meditation (traditionally) recited as part of the Sh'ma while in bed before falling asleep. 

I turned to my baby siddur (~5"x3.5"x1") that contains all such meditations and found it. Below is my (paraphrased) translation:

The Four Worlds

Master of the Universe,
I am here to entreat You that anyone who has angered or irritated me, or done me dirty,  be it through bodily injury or provocation, injuring my honor or anything else of mine, through force or desire, doing unintended harm or out of out and out corruption, whether it be through speech or action in this incarnation or another (the word used here is GILGUL, which comes from the root for circling or spiraling), do not make me the cause of their punishment !!!

On the other hand if I screw up royally, I ask that it be erased through Your great Compassion, just not through torture or really bad illnesses.

Now, I think that's fair and quite a positive way to transverse to dreamland.

When it comes to circlings and spiralings, I love the Kaddish that sings of going from world to world to world.  My dear friend Jacob Goldberg a"h spoke about accessing the simultaneously existing worlds spoken of in the mystical tradition at any moment that our hearts were open and available to their realities (and our minds didn't object).


Sleep well and happy travels!

copper mixed media
sacred mixed media
hebrew blessing art
kabbalah art
phoenix art

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Evolving Mitochondria?

Flight for Life - a love song;  24.5"x23"; etched copper with fretwork backed in mica

This weekend I heard an illuminating interview with biochemist Sondra Barrett, author of Secrets of Your Cells. Her perspective (via the microscope and microscopy) is a validation of much of what I have long suspected regarding the cellular source of the symbolic images that arise as imperatives to be made visible in the sacred copperworks that emerge from my studio. 

Here are some of her ideas:

"Could the idea of creative triads originate from our biology?
Just think, the genetic code is  made of 3 letters;
as we develop embryologically, at 3 weeks we are 3 layers;
and of course, we have a triune brain of 3 layers as well – brainstem (survival brain), limbic (emotional) and cortex (thinking brain). Our heart has 3 layers. 

We see squares and pentagons, hexagons, too.  And from a  molecular perspective, we don’t have life until we have the hexagon, six-sided molecules  ..."

In light of her revelations, illuminations like Flight for Life - a love song are all the more intriguing. 

Through the Flames; 20" x 16.5"
It all started when I looked into Through the Flames and saw four more spinning energetic forms withing the flaming cave - just like the hovering (angel?) only they were without wings. 

They then all lined up in kind of a chorus line - two on either side of the one with wings.  As I watched they all seemed to be intensely focusing down. What I saw was what appeared to be ray lines (strings?) extending toward a single invisible source. I continued to watch to see what they were all focusing in on I finally saw that it was a BEE!

So, I gathered all of the pieces in the appropriate sizes and began to lay them out, only now they didn't want to be arranged in a chorus line anymore with the bee as the focus below. Instead they arranged themselves in the form you see here (I took this photo with the piece hanging in a window to see the light coming through the mica):

The story that I tell myself about it is that there appears to be a conference going on.  Either the BEE has called it or the "ANGELS" have.  The BEE. of all creatures, is all about communication.  She could certainly report on many aspects of life at this moment - the weather patterns, alterations in vegetative life, the timing of flowers, the balances and imbalances of nature. The bee is within a hexagram, the signature form of the hive as well as the Holy of Holies.  Remember that Sondra Barrett says "we don't have life until we have the hexagon."

One of the "ANGELS" has donned wings. It has been given the assignment to go into some kind of action.  The position of the wings is different from the hovering of the "angel" in the cave. It's definitely ready for take off.

As a devout gardener, my concern for the welfare of the bees of our world and their apparent demise is not being reflected here. There is a feeling of benevolence, albeit something that requires action.

This may all be a figment of my own imagination, but I'm not alone. When it was finished, Julie told me that she had just had a waking vision of something very similar, only it was taking place within a tree trunk.  Karin was amazed because she had seen the same cast of characters several years ago only with the wings folded in.  She remembers making a drawing of it. But it was Zoe  that came up with the most extraordinary insight.  "Shahna, it looks like something is happening within the mitochondria.

So what do you think is happening?
Please do Post A Comment under the calendar listing below.  Hope to see you at the studio tour!

courage art

flames art

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Harvest Kitchen Rituals

A Life of Peace & Plenty - Here & Now

The frost is finally on the pumpkin as of daybreak this morning. 

It's the resplendent little Red Kuri Pumpkin that is growing at Art Song this year.  

We've just past the equinox & the song singing itself in my kitchen is the  Harvest Moon Autumn Ritual Pumpkin Lentil Stew.

2 large onions
2 cloves garlic
2 T fresh ginger
2 tsp coriander seed
1 tsp cumin seed
1 tsp cardomom seed
1/2 tsp dried hot red chilies
2 cups lentils (~12 ounces) - these can be a mixture of different kinds
6 cups broth
~3 lbs Red Kuri Pumpkin (or your  favorite winter squash)
Sea Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
Quality Water (I use Kangen)
(Full Disclosure: I don't own a food processor)

Chop onions, press garlic and finely grate ginger.
Place in a wok or similar large cooking vessel.

Using a spice grinder, blender or mortar and pestle, finely crush the coriander, cumin and cardamom seeds.  Add to onions, garlic and ginger along with the chili pepper and 1/2 cup water.  Cook on top of the stove, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has evaporated, a brown film forms in the pan and a lovely scent emerges.  This will take maybe 15 minutes. (Remember, this is a ritual).

Deglaze the pan by adding 1/4 cup water and stir to loosen the brown film.  Repeat previous step, cooking mixture dry and deglazing until vegetables are richly browned. (See, the food processor wouldn't have really have changed your commitment to investing yourself in this ritual).

Rinse and drain the lentils.  Add to the pan along with the broth.  Bring to a boil, cover and simmer ~10 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel and remove seeds from the pumpkin.  Cut up into 3/4" cubes.  You should have ~ 2 quarts.

Add squash to the pan, cover and simmer until lentils and squash are soft when pressed. As I double or triple this recipe when I make it, this can take several hours. The idea is for the squash to steam.

When you feel satisfied that the whole stew is cooked, drain any remaining liquid to use as a soup and season with salt and pepper to taste.  The smell and taste is so intoxicating, I find I want very little of either.

If you choose to serve this with a little Tzaziki or sour cream, may I suggest that you add it either before or after you faint in delight.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Light is Planted at the Garden Gate

Write (these words that connect you with Me this day)...upon your gates.  DEVARIM 6:9

My great joy this year is to have a garden gate.  I created this illumination for the gate lintel as an emblem of my life as a devout gardener and keeper of the earth-connected legacy of my peoples.  The Hebrew words from TEHILIM just above the center horizontal axis are Or Zaruah - Light is Planted - pretty basic for a heart-based, earthy relationship to things Divine.

At the root are the Arabic words from the HADITH
Al jannatu tahta akdam il uma'at - Paradise (from the word for "Garden" - think Gan in Hebrew) lies under the feet of the Mothers. My Semitic cousins' expression in resonance with planted light, adding to nature the powerful Mothering Feminine Elements of nurture, watchfulness and protection.
Within the branches of  the stained glass tree is the 4-flamed Shin,a letter with known sound and no known number, named simply HaOt - the letter.  It is the letter of the world of transformative possibilities, the space behind the burning bush.  It is the sign I use in place of a signature on the copper illuminations I produce.

I would love to hear about the words that you would write upon your garden gate.

Harvest Moon Blessings and Happy Succot!

jewish art
runes art

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Primeval Forest Mother

Welcome to the Art Song Garden Sanctuary Blogspot

I'm diving in, not necessarily knowing what I am doing here yet, but my intention is to invite thoughtful exchange concerning sacred art, music, gardening, herbs, potions, recipes and the Hebraic mystical tradition!

There will be a calendar of events going on at the Art Song Garden Sanctuary along with other worthwhile and meaningful happenings in the larger community of artists and stewards. I plan to update every Tuesday.

Primeval Forest Mother

Primeval Forest Mother detail

This is a closeup of my last completed copperwork illumination which arose out of an imperative to bring into view an ancient feminine creature appearing within a circle of trees or within an opening of a single tree.  Here are the words which followed her completion when I inquired about who, exactly, she was and why she has appeared particularly at this time:

She who has always been.
Born of the stars
(weren't we all?)
But she was first.
A wild thing, part animal, part green,
She beems in merriment, Bombadil-like.

Who is this ancient one that stalks our memories,
encircled by the navel of a tree or within a circle of withes,
root, branch, leaf and swelling fruit?
Why does she now re-emerge,
the wise one who knows our deep anxieties to be transient 
as a stubbed toe or broken toy -
soon to heal or be forgotten?

An old comfort in a time of fading boundaries. 

PRIMEVAL FOREST MOTHER  - acid etched copper & oxides, mounted on ash 13"x 19" 

Anne Barber-Shams, a wonderful artist and friend in Oregon replied to the email I sent out to a circle I have updated with my new work with this extraordinary response that sparked the creation of this blog:

Hello Dearest Shahna,
I was so fascinated to open your new image. I put some time into the one I have been working on that is a sister to yours,   I think!

...The side frame is composed of images collaged on brass. The main image is inspired by the Eagle is in the background....Scientists have discovered that is births stars.

Love to you always,

More of Anne Shams work can be found at

I would love to hear from any one out there for whom a resonant archetypal image has emerged.


  • CRESTONE ARTISTS STUDIO TOUR 2013, Saturday and Sunday, October 5th  & 6the from  1-5pm.  (I'm stop #9).  Check out for tour map and links to the individual artists participating. 

  • WILDERNESS COLORS  - Watercolor and Pastel Paintings by Jo Anne Kiser & Emmy Savage through November 30th at the Pinon Real Estate Group building, 201 F. St., Salida, CO.  Reception Saturday, September 14th, 4-6pm.  Contact Jo Anne at or Emmy at for more information.
  • The Water Resources Review Committee will discuss the REGULATION OF GROUND WATER PUMPING IN THE SAN LUIS VALLEY starting at approximately 3 PM on Thursday, September 26. The meeting will be broadcast over the internet and will also be open to the public. It will be held in Senate Committee Room 356. To listen to committee meetings on the internet, go to: Click on "Interim Committees" and then click on Water Resources Review Committee.