Ceramics and Shamanism

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Ceramic Shrines for mythological Gods appx 45 cm x 25cm

When I first started to make Shamanic journeys, I would often appear before my Spirits dressed as Snow White in her full Disney regalia; a pretty blue top with a yellow skirt and a red cape. A couple of winsome blue birds would flutter about my person like budgie sized midges.
I remember one particular journey where I saw myself sweeping the floors of the Dwarves cottage, singing sad little songs as I went along and sighing a lot. Pluto was pulling at my dress, trying to tempt me to come outside to play. But I continued to dutifully sweep the floors.
As I raised my head and clutched my hands in order to reach the final high note of a particularly pretty and sad little song, I turned around and I caught a glimpse of what I looked like from behind. I got an awful shock; the Evil Fairy Goodmother was staring back at me. She was laughing her evil laugh and showing me her crooked yellow teeth and the big wart on her nose. While one side of me was the beautiful Snow White, the other side was an Evil Witch wishing to kill me.
I felt shocked and insulted by the very suggestion that I should be the cause of my own misery, but as I continued to visit this scenario in my journeys, I learned more and more about how I was creating my own reality.

I was taught by Jonathan Horwitz, the man who introduced me to the basic techniques of Shamanic journeying,  to meet each day by greeting the four directions as well as the Earth and the Sky. For the longest while I did this without feeling anything in particular except sometimes I would feel a connection with the elements and sometimes I would feel gratitude.
But after a while I sensed that there was something else lurking in my room, something that was not acknowledged by me, something other, something uninvited. It felt like a dark secret and it was bothering me; I spent a lot of time in the company of the Thirteenth Fairy without actually recognising her.
I began to get pointers in her direction and as an experiment I would invite her into my morning ritual and I would thank her for her blessings. I would also deliberately invite her to join me in various projects. I would ask her to show me what she wanted from me. And when she obliged, I could but observe my life slowly disintegrating before me.
I became more or less bedridden with a bad back for 6 months and that caused huge money worries as I make my living from my ceramic sculptures and I wasn’t able to lift anything heavy. Some days I couldn’t even get out of bed. I was all alone, and I had no family to fall back on.
I felt incredibly alone and frightened for the future, but during this time I began to actually see and connect with the Thirteenth Faery in my dreams and in my journeys.

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Sculpture of the Thirteenth Fairy in the shape of Crow 25 x 18 cm

In time I got to know her well enough to sense her presence even before disaster struck; I would recognize her in that sudden dread when you just know that a well laid plan will go to pot and that you most certainly will not get to the ball.
The Thirteenth Fairy will get you with illusions of love; she will get you with sudden illness. You will hear her cackling laughter during those cold, starlit nights when you sit alone on the beach or lie in your bed wondering what life is all about. When you scream at the sea, and rage at the wind; THIS IS NOT FAIR!!
And just when you think that it cannot possibly get any worse, it invariably does get worse, a lot worse.
And at this stage I throw my hands in the air and give up.
The Thirteenth Fairy will teach you about what lies behind ordinary reality.
She will take you to the Hall of Mirrors at the Fairground and sit you down in the middle of the room. She will point to the mirrors and ask which of the many images are truly you? The fat, circular one? The one where you seem to resemble a cork screw? The one with the two heads?  Or perhaps that one over there, the very tall, skinny one?
And, like the good earnest student that you truly are, you attempt to find the answer. You dig deep, then deeper. You try your very best to figure out how to connect with the essence of each image. Who am I! Which one?
You may start by politely, perhaps even self-consciously, rub at the surface. Then maybe you dare to scratch it a little with your finger nail.
In the end, out of desperation, you are taking a chisel! a hammer! a wrecking ball! to the glass. But the surface is too solid and too hard, and you end up hurting yourself.
You may try the sneaky approach and attempt to fit yourself into the narrow space behind the mirrors and the wall so that you can see if perhaps you can find yourself hiding in there. Is there someone in here? Anyone?
Then you think that perhaps the mirror is hungry or thirsty; you bring it little offerings of sweets, incense and flowers. You sing a little song to lift its spirits.
Nothing.
It is cold in the room. You crawl back to the middle, and you look again at all the mirrors that surround you. The floor beneath you is solid concrete and yet, eventually, you fall asleep.

And when you wake up the next morning, you do the same thing all over again.

You need to find the truth; you desperately need to make sense of your surroundings and of yourself.  And you shout out to fate, to Kali, to the night; Look at my hands, they’re bleeding! Look at my bed; it is a solid concrete floor! Surely I deserve an answer! Am I not your good, obedient student? Have I not suffered enough!  What more do you want from me!
And this is when you begin to suspect that perhaps all the challenges heaped before you are but illusions and that your responses are merely you being conventional and reacting according to what you have been taught and what you fear rather than according to what is true to you.
As the Thirteenth Fairy forced me to look deeper and deeper into what is essentially a trick question; as she relentlessly heaped disaster upon disaster on my life, she forced me to begin to wake up to my own true self. And I don’t think the journey is over by any means, but during this bleak time I’ve started to recognise that I often chose to honour my own fears and that I often act out of duty rather than conviction and pleasure when dealing with a difficult situation.
So I decided to stop being scared about my future. Instead of worrying about the mortgage, I put my house on the market
And then I made a shrine for her.

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Shrine to the Thirteenth Fairy 40 cm x 24 cm (with closed doors)

The Thirteenth Fairy is aligned with tricksters such as Coyote and Loki and with the Goddess Kali/Parvati. She is herself neither good nor bad but she will act according to the laws of your story and the necessity of events. Her role is to thrust our story forward and keep the drama moving.

In Sleeping Beauty, we learn what happens when we don’t acknowledge and honour the uninvited, the shadow, the dark.
You may recall how the story goes; at the christening of a long-wished-for little princess, only twelve of the thirteen fairies in the land were invited to be her godmothers. As the feast came to an end, the fairies bestowed their magic gifts upon the baby. Suddenly the thirteenth Fairy entered the palace full of fury and eager to avenge her snub.  She told the court that “because you did not invite me, I tell you that in her fifteenth year, your daughter will prick herself with a spindle and fall over dead. This is my gift, this is my prophesy’’.
A good fairy mitigates the curse so that the princess will only fall into a deep sleep at fifteen and the king attempts to protect her by removing all spindles in the land.

The Thirteenth Faery enters the story in order to allow for the Hero or Heroine to rise to the occasion and bring about the ‘Happy Ever After’.  It is pure chance that she is the one not to receive an invitation to the christening; the King only owned 12 gold plates so he could only extend the invitation to twelve guests. Gold is the mineral connected to the Sun, the masculine. I do wonder if the Thirteenth fairy is connected to the 13 cycles of the Moon, the darkness and the feminine. The uninvited and the neglected child wreaking her revenge, thus throwing the unseen and the taboo into the spotlight.
The Thirteenth Fairy steps up to the breach because without her there would be no story.

I have written a shorter version of my adventures with the Thirteenth Faery before, but this is a copy of a longer version that recently appeared in The Sacred Hoop.

http://www.annakeiller.com

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About Anna

I am a ceramic sculptor living on the South coast near London, England. My work is influenced by my experience of the earth as a living being and seeing how we are all connected with eachother and with the things that surround us. I create ceramic torsos using molochite clay which I often smokefire in galvanised dustbins. I also make House Gods to protect and amuse, and Fat Birds - little smokefired sculptures that tell the story about what it is like to be a fat bird at peace with its surroundings.
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