Finding the Goddess Within...
Women have more freedom now than ever in history because of the sexual and spiritual awakenings of the ‘60s and ‘70s. We are taking that freedom and forging our own paths. Some are becoming political leaders and CEO’s; breaking through the glass ceiling and stepping into roles routinely held by men. While other women take a different approach, taking a cue from our fore mothers and devoting themselves to their families. Either path is perfectly valid; for one is no less courageous than the other. These two types of women may be on separate paths and may have distinctly different life goals, but they still have much in common. Many women even fulfill both these roles and many more. All women, no matter their path, race, culture or creed share a common thread, their sexuality.
Despite all of our advances we are just recently empowering sexuality for women. Women are still fighting the battle that a sexualized woman is a negative thing. However, many women are taking up the charge and claiming their sexuality as their own. One of the many ways this is being done is by the Burlesque community. We Burlesque Ladies are taking the art of stripping a step back in time and putting a futuristic spin on it. Speaking for my peers and I, performing burlesque has opened a whole new aspect of confidence and happiness. By embracing my sexuality and revealing my skin, I have revealed a hidden layer within myself. I have found the Goddess within. Every night when I step on to the stage I leave behind my mortal shell with all of its flaws and become the Goddess. I am Aphrodite. I am Bast. I am the Goddess and so is every woman.
Photo Courtsey Oden Wise
Saturday was the day our performance was scheduled. I went up to the stage area and rehearsed for several hours before the show acquainted myself with the area. Making sure there were no hidden potholes or mud slicks as I am a dancer and tend to cover a lot of ground.
Later that even we had the interesting task of face painting and doing stage make up in the dark. I am personally still on a learning curve when it come to touring the festival circuit. Many things are taken for granted are simply not available unless you bring them yourself.
Boots laced and face painted we headed up to the main stage area. It had been a while since I had been on stage and my nerves felt it. I took a minute to visit with my Goddess and put my performance in her hands. To protect my safety as I was burning with fire and to protect my ankle as it had been trying to turn all weekend.
Charge with the energy of my goddess I took the stage like a lion on the hunt and my music didn’t start. So I started to dance to the tune in my own head until the sound difficulties were figured out and picked up wherever my choreography had left off.
In my second number I lit part of my skit which is always a probably when dancing with fire in loose flowy clothing. I caught the flame out of the corner of my eye and spun in a circle twice and the movement put the flame out. All part of the show folks. All part of the show This is why it is important to wear fire safe clothing.
After we were done performing Leo Starwind took the stage and sang. It had been several years since I had the fortune to share a stage with him. I sat out by the huge ritual fire and jammed along with him singing along. When he retired from his set the drummers all broke out their drums and I on my stage high wanted to dance my merry little heart out around the fire. I decided to go back to out camp to switch into my tennies as my fire boots have a slight heel to them and and my ankle was already being cranky from the uneven ground. I switch out to my old trusty knock off converses that I have had for years and start heading back to the stage and the main ritual fire where everyone was gathered. Behind the stage they had put in cobble stones so the area would not be a mud pit and one came loose on me as I was only feet away from my destination. My ankle had been trying to give on my all weekend and it finally had enough. I went down. This time it wasn’t so bad nothing like when I hurt it in the parade. I think it simply just had enough. I hobbled over to the ritual fire and didn’t say anything but I was pouty that I could not now dance. I finally let it be known that I hurt my ankle when I was asked to be the Valkyrie in the Symbol and I had to refuse because I couldn’t really walk.
I made it back to camp assisted by all my lovely family new and old. In the morning since I could not help break down camp and pack. I decided to cook for everyone using up all the food that would not make the trip back.
On the first morning we get up bright and early to start to set up our camp. We move our tent into the what will become known as the Trickster's camp and begin the process of unpacking. By early afternoon we have Merch set up and our sleeping arrangements made up comfortably. I was feeling off as my sugars were high, I hadn’t slept well and my eating schedule had gotten thrown off with the traveling and the late set up. Fyrbyrd and Loki come sweeping in about 3pm after the majority of the work is done. JERKS By this time we had gotten close with Sexy Jesus and his crew of people. While we knew the Sexy Jesus from previous festivals.
When you live in a communal living space brought on by hard camping, no running water, no electricity of any kind. You bond with people quickly, part out of necessity do to the harshness of conditions and part out of closeness. By the end of the event we were trading, giving and sharing all we had. It was this openness that made what could be a miserable time of being cold and hungry in the woods into a loving, warm, amazing experience. There was 10 of us all chipping in where we could all helping each other out whether it was sharing food, gathering wood to keep the cook fire going, taking turns cooking to feed everyone.
This is the kind of human companionship that makes festival FESTIVAL. This is the kind of event that when one starts to lose hope in humanity that can renew your faith in people and it is this kind of experience that truly makes you appreciate all the little luxuries like running water and electricity. Oh and the conversations that were had because not single person had cell service!
My two favorite things about the whole experience. The constant tribal drumbeats that stir your blood. The sound just makes you a little wilder and brings that animal part of you a little closer to the surface. The second is all the musician with instruments singing and playing around the campfire just rocking out. Going to concerts is wonderful and amazing but when you get to see that same musician playing for the sheer joy of it and everyone around joining in on the song. Well few things can measure up to that, very few.
Image courtsey of Oden Wise
Fyrbyrd and I at our vend booth with tent city behind us.
We headed out Thursday afternoon after driving all over the city picking up various things that we need for our adventure. We packed Freya (our old blue van) to the gills and set off on our adventure. Upon finally getting on the road for our destination we ran into rush hour and construction traffic on I-44. It was bumper to bumper for over an hour. We sat there singing songs and chit chatting like it was nothing. I curled up under my half open parasol to keep the beating sun off of me as I was starting to burn just sitting in the front seat.
We got into the last 10 miles of our destination as the sun was setting and had to navigate back country roads in the dark all while being followed by a cop. The turn on to Rocky Top Rd was on the right we saw it just in time to pass it. Rocky pulled over and was about to make a you turn when the cops pulls over behind us. We all suck in a breath and hold it. If you can’t tell we haven’t had good luck with cops in the past they tend to not like us hippie gypsy folk. The cop never turned on his Cherries and Berries so we slowly pulled out and looked for a more appropriate place to turn around. We get ourselves sorted and the cop merrily passes us by and we all sigh in relief.
Yet our escapades were not over, we just turned on to the road of DEWM. Back country road all in gravel and it is pitch black then add a 45 degree incline and potholes that would swallow a large dog. Dear freya was loaded down and her poor underbelly was scraping as w e inched down the road just praying we we in the right place and that no genuine damage was happening to the vehicle.
Eventually the road evens out and we come across a mailbox with a red ribbon tied upon it. Red ribbon are definite symbol of Beltaine and thats why we were there *smiles*. “Check the address,” Rocky says and sure enough. This was it. ALMOST there, by this time it was almost 9:30pm at night. We pull in and most of the vendor campsite are taken we still need to set up camp for the night so we can sleep and rest and we were all hungry.
So we picked a spot and started setting up. We have no flashlights I brought fairy lights candles in a jar but this is not bright enough to set up a tent in the dark with. On goes Freya and we use the headlights. Our neighboring campers all come over to help and check on us Newbie campers (were not virgins campers but damn close). I’m used to camping with my troupe or other groups of people and they usually take care of the logistics so this was all pretty new to me and I was grossly under prepared. It took a team effort of all of our neighbors but we got in and settled. Come morning we would end up joining camp with another group of people and creating a tent city, a loving family and a great experience.
Shaman fire fleshing for the first time.
My Gypsy traveling days have began again for the Summer. Festival season was launched by Burner Boot Camp a Fundraising event for Dragon's Gaze Fire Troupe. This event raises money for things like Fire Performer Insurance, New performing equipment and Portable Sound Equipment. You know things that fire gypsies need to be fire gypsies.
It was a damp weekend and we ended up sleeping in the basement of the main house at Serenity Pass instead of camping out. Air mattress to air mattress we had a slumber party as we sat around drinking homemade hooch after a long day of poi and staff spinning in the drizzling rain.
It was a nice relaxing way to start the Festival Season. Spending the day practicing, honing and learning new techniques to my craft. I have gotten to a point where I am comfortable enough with poi that I have decided to pick up and play with staff. I am no where near a perfect poi spinner but when I get stuck or grumpy with a poi move I switch to staff. Coming back to the poi later has helped me and my learning has significantly progressed in both skill levels.
This weekend was all about beginnings and the workshops were for entry level lessons for those wanting to get a taste for the flame. I even managed to get my dispersal down for fire breathing now I need to work on my aim . I did shoot some video this weekend so I will be putting together a teaser clip of the workshops so you can see for yourself what it was like.
Afterwards we all climbed in the packed vehicles and scattered to the four directions back to the daily grind but we will always have the fire and mischief with us.
Loki and Fyrebyrd got married this weekend. It was a four day affair and those in the bridal party it was more of a week long extravaganza. The above shot is from the offical wedding photoagrapher. Williams and Meyer Photography
The rest of the shots in this post are courtsey of Patrick J. Brehm another professional photographer who was with us throughout the weekend as a wedding guest.
Photo Pat B.
The day after the wedding was clean up day and party day for those that remained and "worked" the wedding I.E. handled everything so the Bride and groom could relax. However it couln't be just any old party no it hand to be done with splash and with Pagan Style like ina Cave.....
Photo Pat B
There are a bunch more photos but they have yet to be uploaded.
The next day was a float trip. Rocky and I begged off because fun in the sun is just not our speed and well we needed some down time.
The last day we visited Riverside Wildlife Center and got to play with all kinds of wild creatures. Like ....
Photo Pat B
Like a Tiger named Jasmine and a baby alligator
Photo Pat B
There are a Ton more photos as there were several professional and sudo professional photags taking pics the whole time. It is just going to take a while for them all to surface. So this is just really a teasor until I can do the big post. Photos courtsey of Williams & Meyer and Patrick Brehm
*oil painting Gail Billings Beck*
I have been going through a period of great transformation. Like many of artists, who seem to continually reinvent themselves it may seem like a drastic change. However I am in a constant state of evolution and am merely ending one cycle and starting another. Throughout my adult life I have reinvented myself several times and in each phase, I had a change in name. As my out look is growing I no longer identify as who I was. I originally chose the name Sugar Cyanide as a symbol of my duality as a performer. Sugar representing the sweet side and the classic burlesque style performance and Cyanide representing the boundary pushing alternative performance artist. I still love the name Sugar Cyanide and it is a great performance name. HOWEVER.... I no longer solely identify as a performer. Thus the name does not fit all my purposes.
When you first start performing your stage persona is a character that you put on. You get into costume, do your hair and makeup. Voila! You are a whole new person. You act different, walk different and talk different. After spending enough time as “said” character you start to become that character. Eventually the person, who you originally were, changes into the Character. Now instead of two separate identities they have merged into one.
Having been away from the stage for the last six months. I have realized in that time, that my personality has grown away from the Sugar Cyanide persona. Yet I am still Sugar. *smiles* What does this mean? This means that I will be focusing in a slightly different direction. Performing will be taking a backseat to my other projects. Which it already has but it will continue to do so. I will still performing and doing Burlesque under the name Sugar Cyanide. However Sugar Cyanide will go back to being a character that I become to perform. My personal, spiritual and non-performances outlets will become Sugar C. De Vika or S. C. De Vika (Which is the name I publish under.)
S. C. obviously is abbreviated for Sugar Cyanide. Where the De Vika is a name I have been using privately in the Pagan community for years before I became a performer. De Vika is a butchered version of Devi Ka which means Little Goddess in Sanskrit. This change though subtle will mean a couple of things. I will try to maintain a distinct division between the two. Sugar Cyanide will be strictly performance related while Sugar C. De Vika will be everything else, specifically spiritual counseling, education and Craft work.
So for the April Show, I announced that it will be my last show till August. I know for many this raised some eyebrows. I have been dropping hints about my new upcoming project. I am taking a break from the scene so I can focus on this project. I have told a select few people and I am now sharing this information with the world. I am writing a book. This actually has been in the works for several years, however it wasn’t until recently that the publisher and I were able to come to an agreement. I sincerely believe that the stars align for a reason.
Everything that has happened for the last several months has prepared me for this project. If it wasn’t for that which wasn’t needed, being cut from my life then I would not have the time to focus on this project. I will be accomplishing one of my life goals and embarking in a new stage in life. This is an opportunity that I believe will allow me move in a new and much more fulfilling direction. Does this mean I will stop performing all together? No. I believe not. The stage is a drug all of her own. She just won’t be my main addiction anymore. When your drugs aren’t fun anymore. You need to take a break from them.
For the last several years I haven’t been able to focus on what I truly want but have been putting my energy into other peoples projects. I realize now, that in order to accomplish my dreams. I need to focus on me and what is best for myself. I am re-evaluating what is important to me and many things I thought were important simply are not. I am cutting a lot of baggage emotional, physical and material. So that when I re- emerge I may soar higher than I ever have because I no longer have those things holding me back.
Remember, Never forget your dreams or you will spend you life lost, looking for them.
This past weekend I got to fulfill one of my childhood dreams I got to dance on stage with a professional dance company. I hope sometime in the future I may do so again. I had the honor of performing with Atrek Dance company. In two shows entitled “Conversations in Concert.” My parents attended Opening Night making it the first time that they have seen me perform as an adult.
Atrek Dance Company is a Not for Profit Dance Collective dedicated to the development of local contemporary modern dance programs. Conversations in Concert was a show based on the feminine experience. What it means to be a Mother, Sister, Mentor, Friend. Atrek was looking for women to represents the diversity of women. As Diana Barrios (Director) stated, she didn't feel she could accurately represent all womanhood with only a group of 20 something dancers. She wanted to bring in people from different backgrounds and experiences to complete the concept.
I wanted to push myself and try new experiences. This was a new experience for me to take a step back. To follow and not lead, to not be in control. I found it completely unnerving and had to face many of my insecurities. I took the opportunity to step outside my normal comfort zone, into a place where I wouldn’t be as good as everyone else. Where I even though I was well known and had more at stake if I publicly failed or made a fool of myself. I knew that I had to take that chance that this was an opportunity to grow as a person and as an artist. Growing is an uncomfortable thing. If it is not then it is not growth. Grow I did and I am forever thankful for the ladies of Atrek for allowing me to have that opportunity.
Being a part of this show was very important to me for several reasons. One of the many is that I could represent a plus size women in a field that being plus size is detrimental. I have been on stages all over the Midwest dancing in my knickers. Being plus size I had overcome the not just the usual roadblocks that every performer has faced but the additional hurdles that come with being plus sized. So while many women in the show represented Mothers, Daughters and Wives. I stood there for Plus Size Women Everywhere!
Several years ago when I left my day job. I took a leap of faith. I felt called to perform, write and create. Not just for the sake of art, but as a spiritual mission. I knew that the Goddess and the God had a plan for me and that by taking this harder less known path, of becoming self -employed and making art and my spirituality my career. That I would be following the steps and getting closer to that plan. I love Burlesque and the stage but I do not perform for the sake of performing. I perform in the name of the Goddess and the God.
I have been openly Pagan since the dawn of my career. This has been a very important factor, because there are very few publicly known and open Pagans. There is still a lot of fear and discrimination about Paganism. It can be down right scary to be Pagan and in the limelight. I have been blessed and have only received positive responses so far, but I know at some point this will change.
My mission is for people to start seeing and understanding Paganism. For Pagans, to no longer fear being public about their faith. To show the public that Paganism is not to be feared. That we our humans who wanted to be loved, like everyone else.
I have been going through a spiritual journey as I share this message much like the Fool in Tarot.
I have learned in life that we repeat the Fool’s Journey several times. That each time we reach success, the more times we have traveled the path of the Fool. Its okay to be the Fool because only through failure can we learn. In learning we can become greater.