I was recently asked by New Dimensions guest Liz Kalloch to participate in a story/painting project called Tools & Talismans — a series of vignette paintings she’s creating based on photos of tools and talismans from 100 different women. I loved taking a photo and writing about the talismans I use in my daily practice.
The ritual of setting up a small altar as I begin my meditation practice serves as a way to help me release my everyday “mind chatter.” These talismans are reminders that I’m entering a sacred quiet time and help me to settle into a calm before the storm of my to-do list begins to insist itself in my day.
Here is what I use. First and foremost are my stones. They ground me. There are two smaller ones: a painted stone from Australia and a rose quartz crystal that I received on my 60th birthday. They are similar in size and I hold one in each hand in my meditation. It is a ritual I feel helps to ground and root me to the molten warmth of center of the earth. I think of this center as the heart of the great mother and it connects my heart with hers.
The other, somewhat larger rock is painted with spirals that remind me of Newgrange, a Neolithic cairn in Ireland the entrance stone of which is carved with spirals. It is older than Stonehenge or the pyramids. When my late husband Michael and I first approached this site we thought it was a museum surrounding the edifice because it looked so modern from the outside. The cairn is a large mound the sides of which are covered by sparkling white quartz stones. Inside, a 62-foot long narrow passageway opens into a central chamber. Shaped like a shamrock, the central chamber is surrounded by three smaller recesses. The roof is layered with stones that are grooved and laid in such a way as to have kept out moisture for 5,000 years.
Of the many notable features at Newgrange, the most famous is the small opening or ‘roof box’ situated above the passage entrance. At dawn on the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year (December 21st), and for a number of days before and after, a shaft of sunlight enters the chamber through an opening in the roof box, illuminating the chamber. One can’t help up think of it as some grand supra-sexual encounter between the earth and the sun.
As a few of us began to enter the site, I remember being sad that Michael would not be able to fit his large body into its very narrow passageway. When I arrived in the central chamber I turned around and was startled to see Michael standing there beside me. Whispering to him I asked, “How did you manage?” He responded that he was able to traverse the tunnel on his hands and knees. The entire site feels very feminine, and I’ve felt that it was an initiation for Michael to enter this most sacred place, bowed down to the Goddess. This painted rock talisman of mine is a very special reminder of this powerful place and of the ancient ancestors’ shoulders on which we stand.
The bear in the canoe is another reminder of Michael and our 41 years together. As you can imagine over the years we developed some nicknames for each other. He used to call me Mrs. Bunny and I called him Mr. Bear. He was a bear of a man; his hands seemed more like paws than hands.
I wear the rainbow of crystal mala in my meditation practice. I’m not sure what I believe about the power of crystals. However, I know that many people say they have healing properties. I’m most attracted to their vibrant rainbow colors which, in my experience, have healing properties. Sometimes when I’m feeling sad or anxious I’m compelled to get out my set of colored pencils and draw. There are times when I’ll wear my crystal mala for protection under my clothes when I’m out and about. I wore it quite a bit right after Michael died.
There are two other painted rocks. One has the image of the Buddhist goddess Tara. She is the mother of all the Buddhas and when she stamps her foot all the universes shake. She is the deity I call upon for protection. My car license plate is Om Tara, which I feel helps keep me safe on the road.
The other rock has a painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Some would call her a Catholic saint, but I think of her as the Dark Goddess of the Americas. She is the great compassionate one. Her story goes back to the ancient Aztec Goddess, Tonantzin. It was she who appeared to an indigenous peasant in 1531 near what is now Mexico City. The story is that she encouraged the native peoples to convert to Catholicism to avoid being decimated by the Spanish conquistadors. Even today the Mexican form of Catholicism is a unique blend of orthodoxy and elements from pre-Columbian indigenous traditions. I call on her loving presence to wrap me in the cloak of her compassion when I feel the chill of fear or despair. She is ever close to my heart.
The horse is my totem. According to Chinese astrology, I was born in the year of the horse. In years past, my life was filled with horses. Their comfort saved my life after the sudden death of my father and little brother when I was 12 years old. The horse represents power and freedom for me.
I keep my Angel cards in a little bowl that one of my circle sisters gave to me. The bowl reminds me of the importance of my circle of friends, who support the fullness of who I am. I pick an Angel Card before my meditation practice. Each card has a single word that I contemplate on for the day.
All of these talismans support me in my spiritual practice and ground me to the past, present and future. They set a rich and sacred tone for my day.
– Justine Willis Toms, Cofounder, Host
New Dimensions Radio