Borealis Meditation

Science and Spirituality

Category: Uncategorized (page 1 of 12)

Borealis Meditation S04E07 – Hanging out with Sarah Rose

New episode! Hanging out with Sarah Rose a friend of mine from the Pacific Northwest. We chat about making soaps, sprays, oils, and wild crafting.

Sarah Rose makes sustainable wild-harvested herbal medicine and body care products in the Pacific Northwest. You can find her at farmers markets and also online at her website and follow her on instagram

Listen here:

Borealis Meditation – Papua with The Collector

New Episode is out! I am excited about this one! I sat down with a friend of mine here in Singapore who has lived all over the world. I like to call him “The Collector” since he collects interesting experiences, skills, people, stories, and objects. I didn’t get a chance to talk to him about sharing social media info before he took off on another trip so for now we will just call him “The Collector”. He is looking at possibly starting a youtube channel though and I will share it when it is ready! So where in the world were we talking about? New Guinea!

The tribes The Collector mentioned are the Komoro and the Asmat. One of the shields with the image of the ancestors I have used below.

Listen to the episode here:

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Kilauea 2018 East Rift Zone Eruption

I decided to split the show notes for each eruption into their own post. Just because it was getting a little long. This is meant to be read and watched along with or after listening to S04E05 of Borealis Meditation Podcast (hence the lack of text). 

Kilauea Volcano!

Summit Overflow (Late April)

Drone footage and time lapse of Summit Collapse

Lower East Rift Zone (Puna)

Here are a few maps for some context on the geography of the eruption:

Major features on Kilauea Volcano and landmarks. The summit collapse and overflow shown above happened within Halema’uma’u crater (circled) which is in tern within the summit caldera. Pu’u ‘O’o has been the center of activity since 1983, and I mentioned Hwy 130 in terms of the earthquakes going down the rift. The east rift zone is highlighted on the map showing it going all the way out to Kapoho and it continues underwater as well.
This is an older map but you can see the areas of newish lava over the last ~200 years. Lava zones correspond to levels of hazard and have an impact on if you can get insurance and how expensive it is, and therefore the prices of land. When people ask “why do people live on the rift zone” the answer is that, simply land is expensive in Hawaii and the higher the risk the cheaper the land. Lava zone 1 = on a vent or rift zone, Lava zone 2 = down slope from a vent or rift zone. These are the highest levels of risk in terms of lava. The areas covered in this eruption were all lava zone 1 and 2

Pu’u ‘O’o

Time lapse showing the filling of Pu’u O’o crater with the perched lava pond in March and early April. Below is the late April collapse of Pu’u O’o. Now remember I said the weather was super shit so the thermal camera is what was used to “see” the collapse. You might have to loop it a few times but you can see where the lava lake was at about the same level and then the drop to an open vent.



Below the collapse is an over flight and 3D model. So remember the earlier lava pond all high up in the crater? Look at that change!!!!

Down the rift zone…..

This is the final extent of the fissure eruption lavas show in the video of before and after above. The large area in the upper right is where Kapoho, Kapoho Tidepools, and Vacation land were.
This is a map released around the end of the eruption. You can see the former coast line plotted along with the fissures and landmarks.
for comparison here is what the lava flow areas and active flow field looked like before this eruption. You can see the communities on this one that were covered

That is what I have for the Kilauea 2018 major activity.



Borealis Meditation S04E05 – My Favorite Things

Welcome to the episode where at one point I realize “oh shit I’ve been talking about this for too long” and then try and fail to completely code switch.

Show Notes are split into two posts one per eruption:

Kilauea 2018 East Rift Zone Eruption

Anak Krakatau Collapse (check back soon)

Listen to the episode here:

Dear community can we talk?

Dear (pagan/Pagan/P-umbrella/ and/or spiritual new age and a few other groups we can never decide who is on this list, or what to call it) community,

Can we put down our torches and pitchforks and all the handfuls of mud we have been throwing at each other and have a frank conversation? The internet is becoming a toxic place in general and I think we need to have a conversation about it. Some people in our community have a big local network, but I think a lot of us have always had a bigger online community than an in real life one. We are a diverse group made up of elders who have been on this path for decades to tweens and teens just discovering witchcraft and pagan etc. stuff and everywhere in-between. We are a generally inclusive crowed too. We are awesome about the fun parts of community. Parties and sharing stories and tips and spells and pretty things. But the hard parts of life. Frankly we suck at.

For this discussion I am going to use some examples. The specifics of the examples don’t matter because news flash sometimes the point isn’t the details. Life can suck. Life can be hard. It can be comforting to know you are not alone. Buckle up because I am rested for once and who knows how long this is going to end up.

I exist in a few different circles, academic scientists, +/-pagan etc., art/photography, and a lot of friends back home in gaming/reenactment. I don’t think I would survive if I only hung out with academic scientists. I am going to use them as an example to contrast against our community. In science, you are your brand. Every once in a while something pops up and we talk about how rampant mental health issues are in our field. But. In general, people suffer in silence. Who wants to be branded the weak one in such a competitive environment? We all know people who burned out so bad then went into totally different fields. We joke about writing our talks the night before, not that it was done 2 weeks ago and you shake every time you practice it and your anxiety about it has you puking every day. In science I have learned, who you know and your reputation matter almost as much, if not more than the quality of your work. So when you are your brand you are selling why would you ever show any weakness? It is an insane amount of pressure to add to the crippling work load. I made the decision that for my mental health I need to call it quits at 5 every day. I am almost always the first person to leave. It is noticed. I only get away with doing this by busting my ass and getting in early. What matters is that I am there when everyone else gets in, even just 5 minutes. Appearances matter.

In contrast to this environment the online pagan community, and my art community can actually talk about the existence of struggles. But we can do better and isn’t that what we should be aiming for? To do better? To serve our community better? Mental health issues are one thing but not the only suckage life throws at us. But we are going to start here. We are good at acknowledging mental heath issues but we could do better at helping each other. We need to encourage and support the open dialog of rough days not just good days. Cat Treadwell is a saint in my eyes. Her open and frank discussions of her mental health, and her book about it make a huge difference for me. It’s hard. And even when its getting better there are hard days. It really does help when you know you are not alone. I think the majority are quiet about the day to day and those that speak out don’t know how many people they are helping, if nothing more than letting them know that they are not alone. You have no idea how many times that “make space mom proud” meme has reminded me to take my fucking meds. Keep sharing it. This is a good start. But just a start. In mental health it can he hard to get to the point where you can ask for help. But if you are in the US that can be just the start of struggle. Finding and paying for that help can almost be harder. We are also an alt-community so finding someone you can really talk to might be hard. We should be sharing resources a lot. Who knows where the eyes are of someone who needs it. Telling a friend is one thing, but what if that friend then had a list of professionals at their finger tips? Or trusted elders to talk to while they look for professionals? Maybe we should have a list of people who have had some sort of counselor training for each local community. And we should support people like Cat Treadwell who are helping more than they know.

While we are talking about being open and sharing the day to day with others… I saw that Juniper Jeni posted that some people had expressed that her frank talk about being a widow of a suicide makes them uncomfortable. I have seen her mention a few times people giving her shit about how she is grieving. I say tough shit. You have no idea how many people she could be helping by showing them that they are not alone. There may be many people struggling with the loss of a loved one (and yes I include friends in that list). I lost a friend over a decade ago and I am constantly reminded of her. Juniper was talking about how many reminders she has in her life every day. I started drinking my coffee totally black when she passed. The very first time I had coffee she gave me disgusting cheap ass coffee black because if you are going to do it, just do it don’t dance around it with fancy flavors and shit. Coffee reminded me of her anyways I might a well honor her and drink it black. Honestly I don’t watch Star Trek that much anymore because it reminds me of hanging out with her and her Dad (who passed when we were in high school) watching Star Trek. One post could help someone on a day they really need it. Juniper has put a lot into the community and you know what? She is helping now by sharing her experience. We should support her because the ugly truth of what happened won’t just go away and we shouldn’t sweep it under the rug. If we want to support each other we need to be there for the bad more than for the good. Its hard, it hurts, and it sucks. But if something happened in your life wouldn’t it be nice to know you could really count on your community to be there for you? Again the details of what happened, and to who almost don’t matter as much as the fact that it is being shared and might help someone who feels totally alone in their experience. Death, even expected sucks. It might be a spouse or a parent or a friend but the hard realities of cleaning up after someone’s death are not always openly talked about. And they can last a lot longer than the outpouring of support when the death happens, and the bills don’t stop. It took over a year for my Dad to deal with all the paperwork when my Grandpa passed, and his affairs were pretty well in order. You cannot live a long life and not be touched by death. Might as well face it head on and not try to hide the ugly reality of being the ones left behind.  We can teach and help each other with lessons learned. But if no one talks about it, how will you know who to ask for help? Who knows maybe seeing the ugly side of what your loved ones will go through could help someone not go down the path of suicide. We don’t know, but isn’t it worth the off chance? I don’t know Juniper really well, but sharing can be healing and why would you take that away from her if its helping? We should be supporting the fuck out of her every way we can.

Depression, Death, and now let’s talk about abuse. We need to face the ugly. This next example I will use to talk about abuse has ignited a lot of mud slinging and screaming but I am also going to argue that picking apart the details totally misses the point. Sarah Lawless wrote a piece about her bad experiences and bad behavior she has seen. The details of these cases don’t matter to me at all. That is not the point. Imagine if you were just starting out and you got into a situation with a coven that made you really uncomfortable and everyone around you acted like it was normal. Then you see a post online by someone inside the same community but maybe on the other side of the country detailing something similar and saying NO! THIS IS BAD. If it helps someone recognize a harmful situation and get out of it isn’t that a good thing? We don’t need to nitpick the details of posts like Sarah’s, we need lots of examples of behavior that we say is unacceptable. We do have issues and we can’t just sweep them under the rug. I think some of us have been around a lot time and forget that there are new shining faces in our midst. We should also be working to help and support them. Pull them under our nice black cloaks and welcome them, and arm them with tools to navigate the specific pitfalls of our community while we try to fix it. By saying you don’t have to have sex with a high priest or priestess to practice, and you don’t even have to be naked might seem like common sense to some of us, but to someone navigating our community for the first time it might be what they need to hear. Just because we are comfortable with people having multiple sex partners doesn’t mean it isn’t also ok to set your boundaries and only have one at a time if that is what you want. We should be using these stories as examples we can learn from and teach setting boundaries and consent culture. Only when we start to really work towards consent culture and forming and respecting boundaries I think will be start to see some of the issues Sarah addressed start to fade. The burning man community I have experienced has a strong emphasis on consent culture and I have always felt comfortable going to burner events, more so than pagan events. Every relationship has a power dynamic, and if you can’t tell who is the dominant well then it might just be you. Those power dynamics can make for difficult situations for the less dominant member. Consent culture gives them an “out” and more power in the situation. And trust me, its sexy and awesome for someone to check in and ask where your boundaries are. And remember consent culture doesn’t stop with sexual relationships it extends to all relationships.

You cannot have light without dark. We shouldn’t hide from the dark realities of life we should try to be the light in those dark times. We talk a lot about balance of light and dark, masculine and feminine, the elements. We need to walk that talk and face the dark realities of life head on. Cat Treadwell, Juniper Jeni, and Sarah Lawless are examples in our midst who are facing the dark realities of life and shining a light into the corners. It is impossible to quantify how many people their frankness has helped because not everyone speaks up. So my suggestion is this:

If you see a post that you disagree with the details of, maybe if the message and stories could help someone out of a dark situation, or help them not feel alone, that is the point of the post. Not the details. If the message is depression sucks but you are not alone, death is horrible but you are not alone, dealing with the aftermath of someone’s suicide really fucking sucks don’t do this to people you care about, or this behavior is abusive and you shouldn’t tolerate it, leave the details be. Of course if the message and point of the post is to hurt someone else that’s bad.

Now I hate my writing. I don’t word good. So please just pay attention to my message not the details. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, and by working together we offset those weaknesses with other peoples strengths. But seriously, right now I am trying to help a few friends in my science circle and once you get past the taboo of talking about the darkness its easier to help and we already have that part down. Keep up the good work, but we can always be better! I have a lot more to say about this topic but I think that’s enough for now…

Ok. I guess now you can pick those pitchforks up, re-light those torches, and pick up your handfuls of mud. But please this time can we think a minute before jumping on a bandwagon for the next target? Let’s be constructive and make our community better and not tear each other apart ok? Unless you are a rapey or abusive person then you can fuck right off.

Love,

Kat.

P.S. About that crippling workload? Yeah I think this is the last of after work coherent Kathleen you get until about mid to late April… wish me luck!

Peer Reviewed Magic: Moringa

Moringa is everywhere in Singapore it is THE superfood right now. Moringa also known as drumstick tree is native to northern India up into the foothills of the Himalaya. It is widely cultivated in the tropics where the young seed pods and leaves are eaten. Benzoil is derived from its seeds, a powder of its leaves is seen as a super supplement, used as herbal medicine and water purification.
Wait what? Water purification? No…..

That was my reaction when I was reading a description at Bollywood Veggies this weekend. It can be used to make dirty water drinkable? You have got to be kidding me. So when we got home we looked it up. Crushed moringa seeds are put in cloudy water, reduce bacteria and other impurities and within hours it is drinkable.

 

Dirty water + Moringa seed = clean water?????

That is a pretty impressive claim. That is the idea but does it work and if yes… how?

Moringa in action!

I found a press release on a study at Penn State. On the use of Moringa seeds to purify water the article says:

“That has been known for some time,” says Stephanie Butler Velegol, environmental engineering instructor at Penn State. Women in ancient Egypt reportedly rubbed Moringa seeds on their clay water pots, and dried powder from crushed seeds has been used as a handwash for many years.”

So how does it work? It appears that when you crush the seeds a positively charged protein called Moringa Oleifera Cationic Protein (that is the scientific name of the plant, cation means positively charged ion, and protein pretty descriptive) MOCP from in the seeds is introduced to the water. This protein kills some of the microbial organism and causes them to clump together and settle to the bottom of the container. You can’t however then store this water, the organic matter from the seeds will remain and become a food source for bacterial that haven’t been killed.
So. The protein in the seeds causes clumping and kills bacteria (but maybe not all of it) and then settles to the bottom leaving clear water at the top. Wanna see it in action? I did!

How cool is that!? Sounds like that is some serious magic that actually is backed up by peer review and now we know a little more how it works.

Here is the Penn State article

Here is the paper it is talking about (if you are interested in the PDF of this and can’t get a copy just contact me and I will download one and pass it along!)

Kusu Island

Spiritual Singapore: Field Trip to Kusu Island

Location: Southern Islands of Singapore

Part 1: Background and Malay Shrine

In the southern islands of Singapore there is a very small stretch of land called Kusu Island. Kusu is located around 5.6 kilometers from Singapore and is accessed by boat from Marina South Pier.  This island also happens to be the site of a massive yearly pilgrimage, so to continue my exploration of local lore in Singapore I decided to check it out in the off season. First I would like to give you a little history of the island before we get into the legends.

Map of Singapore showing location of the Southern Islands and Kusu Island

Map of Singapore showing location of the Southern Islands and Kusu Island

Historically Kusu Island was just two small outcrops on a shallow reef, and wasn’t enlarged until 1975 when the area between the outcrops was filled and increased from 1.2 hectares to 8.5 hectares.

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kusu-old-postcard

In 1616 Dom Jose De Silva, the Spanish Governor of the Philippines was on his way home with a fleet of 10 galleons and 2 galleys when his galleon was grounded on the reef near the island. It has been traditionally believed that this accident happened on Kusu reef and the island thus became known in the 17th century as “Governor’s Island” and the straits of SIngapore became known as “Governor’s Straits”. In 1806 it was renamed “Goa Island” for an unknown reason by the Hydrographer James Horsburg from the British East India Company. In 1822 a signal station with a signal mast was erected on the island and manned by staff from the Harbour Master’s Department.

So where does the name Kusu come from? Kusu is “Tortoise Island” in Chinese, but the island is also known as “Peak Island” or “Pulau Tembakul” in Malay with means Mudskipper Island.

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Mudskippers being mudskippers. They are awesome.

So why is this island special? This island has a Malay shrine and a Chinese temple, and during the Kusu Festival in the ninth lunar month every year there are thousands of devotees that come to the island to pray for good health, peace, happiness, good luck, and prosperity. The devotees had to make their way to the islands via sampans or bumboats up until 1975 when regular ferry service began after the land reclamation.

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Bumboats

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Sampan

There are several stories associated with this island so I am going to just list a few.

  • From Favorite Stories from Singapore by Monteiro and Watson: Around 150 years ago two holy men, Dato Syed Rahman (an Arab) and Yam (Chinese), made a meditation and fasting trip to Kusu. During this trip Yam fell ill and Syed prayed fervently for him. Through the intervention of supernatural forces, food and water were provided from a boat and this saved their lives. Syed and Yam became sworn brothe
  • Sailors that were shipwrecked in the waters near Singapore during the Ninth Lunar Month centuries ago and were rescued by a giant turtle that turned itself into an island.
  • Long ago, two fisherman were shipwrecked while working in the waters near Kusu. A giant turtle saw them and transformed into an island to provide sanctuary for the shipwrecked fishermen to land.
  • More than a hundred years ago an Arab named Syed Abdul Rahman left Singapore in search of peace with his wife and daughter. While traveling in their sampan they were caught in a storm which capsized their boat. They were spotted by a giant tortoise who brought them safely to an island. Legend has it that their lost sampan was also returned to them but it was loaded with food.
  • Centuries ago passengers on board a ship were all stricken by an epidemic but as soon as they dropped anchor near the island all were recovered.
  • In 1923 the Merchant God or God of Prosperity Da Bo Gong is said to have taken root on Kusu when a wealthy businessman Chia Cheng Ho donated money to build a temple in honor of the Merchant God

kusu island map Singapore

map of Kusu Island itself. The two shrines are built on the original outcrops

As I said there are two temples on the island, one Maylay and one Chinese. We first visited the Maylay Temple on the largest outcrop and hill. This shrine is called a kramat and there are actually three of them. They were built to commemorate a pious family: Syed Abdul Rahman (recognize that name?), his mother Nenek Ghalib, and his sister Puteri Fatimah, who lived in the 19th century. These three shines to these Malay Saints sit at the top of 152 stairs.

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The entrance to the Malay shrine there is a set of “up” stairs and “down” stairs. This is the up stairs.

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Walking up the stairs to the shrine

First view of the Malay shrine.

Yellow outdoor shrine. The rocks are painted yellow and prayers are written on them

A modern blessing. May you always insert USB right way first time. Thank you Lea

Devotees pray for wealth, marriage, fertility, good health and harmony. And the shines are said to be popular with childless couples seeking to start a family.

Main shrine area

Secondary shrine to the mother and daughter.

I was told that the prayers are written on the yellow paint, or on yellow cloth and tied on the way down.

prayers tied to plants

prayers tied on a tree

more prayers

This shrine is located on the largest outcrop on the island. This island as stated before was originally just two outcrops on a section of reef off another of the small southern islands off Singapore. This island is most likely a remnant from erosion.

outcrop of Jurong Formation

Stay Tuned for Part 2! The Chinese shrine! (these always take longer to write and upload than I expect!)

References:

Park Signs

https://thelongnwindingroad.wordpress.com/tag/kusu-island/

http://iyor08singapore.blogspot.sg/2008/02/kusu-island-isle-of-history.html

https://remembersingapore.org/2014/11/27/tour-of-kusu-st-johns-lazarus/

http://biodiversitywarriors.org/m/article.php?idj=6548

http://www.purpleimages.co.uk/singapore-harbour.html

http://www.ghettosingapore.com/bumboats-in-singapore/

 

Field Trip Zentralfriedhof Vienna

Field Trip Time!

 

I was recently in Vienna Austria for a conference, and I have to say what I was most excited about was visiting the Zentralfriedhof again. This is the big “central cemetery” in Vienna. When I was in Europe 2 years ago was my first time in Vienna and this was on my list due to the fact that Beethoven is buried here. But that wasn’t what stuck with me. Let’s start with a little history and then we can wander through this amazing spot.

 

The Zentralfriedhof is a planned interfaith cemetery outside of the city center in Vienna. It was built in the 1860s as the other smaller cemeteries started to fill up in Vienna. At first there was some controversy due to the interfaith nature of the cemetery, not only a variety of Christian paths but also Muslim, Buddhist and Jewish sections.

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From the city center I took the s-bhan 7 and entered at the back of the cemetery from gate 11. I have entered through this gate every time now. The first time my husband and I were just on a little adventure and gleefully wandered in excited to explore and were immediately struck by this off site. On our left was an old overgrown cemetery, that looked abandoned. On the right where freshly decorated graves and a man with a mower trimming the grass. We got quiet and walked into the Zentralfriedhof. After a minute we began wondering to ourselves what was going on. We started to look at the names and dates on the stones to our left. All of them were around WWI, and then stopped. We said “huh” and went on our way to find who we came to see. I visited Beethoven and thanked him for his music that had been a huge help in some very dark years. It was a hot day so we didn’t last too long before we started back to the gate we had entered in. This time we wandered into the overgrown section and it became very clear where we were. This is the old Jewish section of the Zentralfriedhof. It felt heavy, and lonely, and oh so very sad. When we got back we looked up the history of this section and learned we were right. The impression we had had in that section was that we were face to face with the Holocaust. It turns out that there are two Jewish sections, and that the older was partially destroyed in Kristallnacht. The second newer Jewish section established in 1917 is still in use today.

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Now, I went back this year. I was prepared. I was there for the cemetery. I went on a Sunday morning, and the air was clear and crisp. I have never been to a cemetery that has stuck with me so deeply. I entered at tor-11 and flicked my normal payment into the long grass. No one was around and as I walked straight into the old Jewish section I whispered “I came back. I’m here. I remembered you.” At first the mood was as heavy as I remembered. Such a physical reminder of history that as an American is almost abstract, stories in videos and books. Here it was in my face. Here is WWI and here is WWII. I began to think about the world today and how much hate there is against groups of people. I cried. I sat in the grass and cried. There is so much beauty in humans and so much darkness. We can be amazingly warm and welcoming and amazingly cold and hateful. The first feeling I had was one of “don’t forget the past” and I continued wandering saying to myself “I won’t forget”. I came to a mausoleum that I think is dedicated to soldiers from WWI but I don’t read Hebrew. Walked in and looked up at the sky, and began to smile. This section felt like it was obsessed with not being forgotten, and had become overgrown. But the result was beautiful! I could see the blue sky between the branches of a beautiful tree.

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This was the inflection point of my first visit back. I kept wandering looping through pointing out all the beautiful to whatever and whoever would listen. “Look at that tree blooming! How beautiful is that!?” over and over. This section is beautiful. Look at your flowers, look at your trees. I saw deer grazing between the stones. Look at your wildlife! You are not forgotten, and you have the best section! By the end I was laughing and marveling at the artful way nature was slowly swallowing the stones.

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When I stepped onto another road between the Jewish section and a manicured section my heart was light, the sun was out, the bells were ringing in the central church and the birds were singing. I kept exploring more of the cemetery and found myself at the main entrance. I hadn’t made it to the front last time. Facing that giant fancy gate (everything in Vienna is so over the top) I took a right. The wall separating the street outside from the world inside was set with old grave stones. I would learn some of their history later. I wandered and ended up in a sculpture garden.

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First of all, I love sculpture. Second, this was a sculpture garden that incorporated the natural world around it. So I loved it right away. One was set up to have fire? Amazing. I wandered deeper again through the grass with dandelions and daisies and found standing stones. Twelve stones set in a circle with a tree in the middle. One perfect for sitting. Sitting there I remember thinking “I found it. My happy place. This is the most amazing spot in the world.” There were also three circles inside the stones set in brick and I walked these circles in a walking meditation. It was getting later in the morning at this point and more people were around and I saw a family with small kids enter the garden. I didn’t was to deprive the kids of discovering this awesome stone circle so I kept wandering. I passed an outline of a cathedral with trees inside on my way out.

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As I wandered back through the cemetery more or less towards the gate I needed to exit I had this nagging feeling to explore this little path between two graves. It looked relatively well used. When I wandered back into the trees I found a little grave. But when I turned around to go back out sometime caught my eye. It was a small toy hearse attached to the tree about a foot off the ground. There was a small plastic vial in the back and as I pulled it out I smiled knowing what it was. A geocahe! I unrolled the paper and write my geocache name and replaced it. By this time I was getting a little hungry and it was time to head back to town. Walking to the train station I noticed several older ladies with little bags. These bags all had little brushes sticking out, and they had obviously been out on a Sunday morning maintaining the graves of loved ones. What a beautiful spot and a lovely tradition. I really don’t know why people don’t like cemeteries.

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I met up with a friend later and when he asked what I had done that morning, and I had told him I had visited the central cemetery he expressed interest in seeing it as well. So later in the week, again in the morning back I went. This time entering by tor-11 I had a smile on my face right away. “I came back again!” I whispered to the old Jewish section. This time the section took me to a different spot with my friend. This one has visible damage from when the cemetery was bombed in WWII. But, our visit in this section was short. My friend was more interested in seeing more of the cemetery. We had a lovely morning exploring more, and I gave a quick wave to the section as we left.

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This place was built at a time of great expansion in Vienna, and the thought of that empire collapsing must have not even crossed the minds of the Viennese. But the cemetery slowly fills, and there is still life there. Deer, rabbits, and birds, along with visitors. It is still a beautiful spot and full of history. Well worth a visit. Or two. Or three…. Who knows I may get called back again! I will put a gallery of photos on the facebook page

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The German Girl Shrine

Field trip time! Today I went out to one of the smaller islands that are part of Singapore to check out a spot of local lore and have some kampung style life (kampung is Malaysian Bahasa for village).  Pulau Ubin is the Nature Island, and throwback island of Singapore. To get there you take a bumboat from a ferry terminal and just jump off on the old pier. Once there the usual course of activity is to rent a bike, explore and then end up back in the kampung for a beer and some seafood. I went with my husband and a new friend we will call the Swedish Venom Man (his work involves snake venom! Also everyone needs a good nickname ).

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bumboat between Singapore and Pulau Ubin

We had a few items on our agenda for this trip out of the city, but the first thing I wanted to do was check out the German Girls Shrine. There are a few pages online about it (see end of post) but the one I read first was the Atlas Obscure one . After reading around a little more there seems to be some disagreement in the story, but they all have the same general outline.

Here is the story as I have pieced together from reading several different sites. Before WWI there were several coffee plantations on Pulau Ubin (pulau means island). The plantation in question was owned by a German family who may or may not have had the names Daniel Brandt and Hermann Muhlingans but not much more is known about them. When WWI broke out and Britain declared war on Germany, British soldiers interned the plantation owners, but apparently his 18 year old daughter escaped.

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sign on the road pointing the way to the shrine in Chinese, English and German.

However, her body was found the next day in the bottom of a quarry, and it is thought that she became disoriented or lost and accidentally fell to her death. From here things get hazy. She was found by Boyanese plantation workers who supposedly covered her body and left flowers. Her ghost was apparently seen around the island as well. Later she was moved and given a burial at the top of the quarry hill. It is thought that she was respected because her parents had been kind to their workers. Her grave site was known to be visited in this spot from the 1920-70s. In 1974 she was exhumed for the expansion of the quarry. A local who lived on the island at the time reports to have seen some human hair and her cross when they did. She was placed in an expensive urn which was placed in a hut where the current German Girl Shrine is located.

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The shrine building and yellow joss paper burner (I think) with the burnt offering table visible in front of the shrine building

It is rumored that the original urn was stolen and the one there today is another one. It is also reported to be empty so where the German Girl and her cross are today is unknown. How this girl thought to be catholic turned into a Taoist deity is unknown. But she was worshipers that come from Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Myanmar. She is said to bring luck in gambling. Girly things are left at her shrine.

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inside the shrine. Main altar in back with the perfume (Florida water) offerings and nail polish and lipstick. The urn can be seen to the right of the statue. Fruit and candles on the front table.

So this is the story. We went to the shrine and it turns out that yearly in 2015 the old yellow hut was replaced with a shiny new hardwood building (with CCTV). It is beautiful but I was a little disappointed because the old one looked so interesting! Still it was an interesting place to visit.

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The Urn and bottles of Florida Water along with cosmetics left for the German Girl

There seems to be two spots in the area, a large stone, and the temple itself. Now I am starting to get used to the structure of temples in this area of the world, so this one seemed pretty standard but with an extra table. There was the main altar in back (no creepy doll like promised but a gorgeous wood carving) and an offering table inside, and a table outside for burnt offerings. I assume the large yellow structure next to the building is for larger burned offerings like the joss paper. Next there was a large rock with smaller shines behind it. I do not know the story of this rock but again from reading around it seems like it is from the original burial at the quarry hill.

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The rock shrine. This is the one I think is from her original grave site at the top of the quarry hill.

The offerings on the altar itself were neatly arranged nail polish, Florida water, and lipstick. The urn in question was there as well with a cross around it. There were also some visitors in the form of a frog on the sign and a gecko under one of the flags.

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gecko hiding under the flags around the doorway to the shrine.

I hope you enjoyed that bit of Singapore Lore, and the photos!

~ Kathleen

 

Links:

http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/german-girl-shrine

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/singapore/sights/religious/german-girl-shrine

http://habitatnews.nus.edu.sg/heritage/ubin/stories/2004/05/mystery-girl-of-ubin.html

http://remembersingapore.org/2012/10/13/german-deity-at-ubin/

Tour of the old shrine: https://youtu.be/Nw_dQmej8ts

http://www.wildsingapore.com/ubin/places/temple.htm

upgrade: http://pulauubinstories.blogspot.sg/2015/02/another-facelift-for-german-girl-shrine.html

 

Of Gods and Goddesses

I am good friends someone who identifies as a Indigenous Hawaiian Polytheist  (and she has restarted her podcast! Lamyka’s Podcast is awesome and you should check it out!) and we often get into cultural appropriation discussions, usually over Pele. I thought I “got” Pele… well sort of when I moved to Hawaii, but I don’t think I totally understood how the western idea of a “goddess” was totally wrong related to Her until I went to a talk by a Pele practitioner. All this is to say I think that it is a long and complex process to really get to know any specific deity, and I think their history and cultural context is very important.

I’ve mentioned before that I am taking the OBOD bard grade right now. In this grade there frequent mention of deities from the UK region and Ireland. My original thinking was that since I am culturally Western European and when you round I’m about half Irish that this set of Gods and Goddess would be familiar because of their influence within my home culture. I could not have been more wrong. They feel just as different and out of context as Greek, or Hawaiian, or Hindu deities. It is possible that if I was physically in the region it would be different. This is just my personal experience but, because I am taking this grade I am examining a lot about my belief system and path. I have always joked that I believe in the Force, but I think at this point I am pretty strongly an animist and about as far as I go is local land spirits tied to specific places. I am finding this process fascinating and I am enjoying it even if I am going slow.

So… of Gods and Goddesses

They may not be part of my path but I know they are very important to a great many people. I think they should be treated with respect, and examined within their context. Occasionally I get interested in a God or Goddess which I think is totally fine, but I also think it is important to remember that there are living breathing religions with long histories association with most pantheons. So let us all be respectful of each others cultures and cultural history.

I am also a believer in the idea that when it comes to local spirits, it is good to learn how they are used to being communicated with and worshiped or worked with. I have tried hard to weave local traditions into my own tradition in a respectful way. I have what I call my “home” traditions, the ones that I have grown used to and developed over the many years I have been doing this, but I try to modify them when I am in new places. If you have been following me a while you have noticed that I tend to move every 3-4 years. I am learning how to be new to a location. Sometimes it can be really hard to find the information I want about the indigenous traditions of a land. Right now that means looking into Malay traditions. This region though is a wash in different religions. I am finding the most fascinating mixture the brand of Buddhism practiced in Thailand. At a first blush it seems to be very interwoven with older local beliefs. Alaska I found really difficult because the area I was living in was very sparsely populated pre-gold rush, and Hawaii was so rich in cultural history I soaked it up. Now I have a new challenge, there are layers of history before the British in Singapore, if you know where to look. But eve early Singapore history can be hard to find under the fancy new Singapore that has risen since WWII.

First order we are all human, but what an amazing array of cultures we have ended up with!

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