creative consulting for the art of life by Jason Jenn

creative consulting for the art of life by Jason Jenn

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Relevance of Janus Geminus

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While underrated in modern times, one of the most important ancient deity’s for us to recognize and contemplate the relevance of is the Roman God known as Janus. This deity is most distinguished by having two faces, thus often referred to as Janus Geminus, with one face that looks backward and the other forwards. Sometimes both faces are bearded older men, but often he is depicted as having one bearded older face looking to the past and a clean-shaven face of youth looking toward the future. In some depictions he even has one face of a man and the other a woman, signifying the unity and duality of male and female essences in each of us. In some depictions he even contains four heads - looking in each direction.

He was known as the god of beginnings and transitions, and thus all manner of doorways, passages, portals, entrances, gateways, change, movement, endings and time. It was essential to honor Janus at the start of every endeavor, from calendar dates, to spring plantings, military actions, marriages, and each new dawn. He was the first god to be invoked before all others to help during all manner of rituals, rites and prayers. He was the god of liminal spaces, guardian of transitions from youth to adulthood, barbarity to civilization, countryside to city, outer space and inner space.

From Janus is where we get the word January, for it became the first month of the calendar, Janus was highly honored on New Year’s Day - but also at the beginning of each day, each month, and several other special dates throughout the year. Our modern day concept of the old man of the past year and the new baby of the coming year likely comes from Janus’ two faces.

The word janitor also comes from Janus, as he was associated as the custodian of all entrances, doorways, gateways, arches, and thresholds - and a janitor was a term used for a doorman or porter, and later adopted to include many other services. There are also certain rites and rituals that were performed with Janus in order to cleanse soldiers when they returned home from battle to reintegrate them into society. The Emperor Numa Pompilius (ruler from 715-673BCE) built a giant temple in Rome called the Ianus Geminus with large archways that served as a passageway and used ritually. In times of peace the doors were closed to keep war contained, and in times of war it was opened to welcome its soldiers back home. The Roman Empire was usually at war, and thus  the doors were rarely ever closed other than during 43 of Numa’s peaceful reign and during a ban on the ancient rites after 390 CE/AD.

Janus is very much associated with money, coins, and financial enterprises. The first coin of the libral series (a Roman pound) bares the two-faces of Janus, and thus he in modern times he is mostly known for The Janus Coins.

Two other important symbols for Janus are the rod (staff or scepter) and keys. The keys were not only symbols for unlocking doors (as he was the god of passages), but to unlock the secrets of the mysteries. He was considered the guardian of mysteries and it was through him that one was initiated into the various mystery cults at the time. One key was gold for the major mysteries, the other silver for the lessor mysteries.

The origin of Janus comes likely from him being the first king of the Latium (before Roman), who perhaps was a very wise ruler who, like many other historical figures, was transformed into a deity after his death. He was likely a man who looked upon past experiences to postulate the future, therefore becoming known as the two-faced god with one face looking back to the past and the other forward into the future. It was possibly under King Janus that coins were first produced, and thus the monetary connection.

Two-faced deities exist in many other cultures around the world, most notably in Sumerian and African, so it is possible there is a connection between Janus and many other religious beliefs. Janus may be connected to the Etruscan deity Ani, where the English words annual and anus are derived. Afterall, the human body has a beginning and an ending, with the mouth and anus - two portals that point in different directions. Janus is also connected with the Ouroborus, the snake eating its tail, and a symbol of the cycle of life and death, new beginnings and rebirth.

What Western culture fails to recognize is that the Latin language and most modern European languages have origins in Sanskrit from India. Much of the wealth in the Roman Empire was used to purchase goods from India. It is possible that Janus is connected to the Hindu god Ganesh, who is guardian of gates and invoked before other gods as the remover of obstacles.

Regardless of the origins of Janus, he is a fascinating deity to contemplate in modern times, particularly during the new year, and definitely as we transition from 2012 into 2013. Janus is the god of the ReBegin. The Mayans calculated the rotation of our galaxy, and based on the alignment of the earth, the sun, and the center of the Milky Way, see Dec. 21, 2012 as the end of one cycle and the beginning of a new one. To them, the sun was aligned inside the dark center, or birth canal of the Milky Way, and thus, we are entering a time of rebirth and renewal. So embrace Janus Geminus, custodian of time and transition, who can cleanse us and guide us into a new era of peace and prosperity!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Fools & Fiscal Cliffs

Going crazy over all the issues surrounding the Fiscal cliff? Perhaps there is some divine insight for us to gain by exploring another cliff walker, The Fool in the classic depiction from the Rider-Waite deck by artist Pamela Colman Smith. For there we find our Fool about to step right off the edge of such a cliff. Note we only see a small portion of the cliff - who knows just what will happen once the step is made?  Will the Fool plummet to his death? Or will he merely land on a lower ledge a few feet below. Or will his little bag become a parachute and he safely glides downward? Or does the Fool discover he can walk on air and even fly? Is the cliff merely an illusion created by fear? So many mysteries surrounding the interpretation…but the Fool, seemingly unaware of it, or unconcerned by it, moves forward. We all need to seek out our inner Fools - for we are indeed on the brink of some major transformations in our world. We can hold on tight and threaten to tumble, or keep ourselves light and adaptable.

The imagery of the Tarot’s Fool contains a bounty of metaphysical symbolism. In the Tarot deck the Fool is usually depicted as the number Zero, which means he is a sort of wild card character, a liminal being neither here nor there, existing outside the system and full of possibility — anything could happen. Zero is also a number which has no value, additive at least. He is therefore neutral and a fresh point of origin, without bias.  He is the figure who wanders away from any stagnant situation to begin a new journey and adventure. Thus he is a figure associated with paradigm shifts and new beginnings. He is not afraid of doing something unusual and outside of the box. He does things that may seem foolish to the current society, but will one day likely become the new normal. History knows many Fools, but more likely calls them a pioneer, explorer, scientist, revolutionary, hero, or savior.

The Fool’s head is held high - perhaps filled with lofty ideas - carrying with him the desire to seek out things above and beyond him. He appreciates natural beauty as seen in the pure white rose* he holds and those dandy duds. The sun shines down upon him like the divine nature of his exuberance, his curious search for understanding and meaning. The only baggage he carries is the small sack of belongings which doesn’t weigh him down. He is free to wander. The dog yips at the heels perhaps with a warning about getting too close to the cliff. Perhaps the dog is his animal instinct, his primal fear of the unknown giving one last plea. Or perhaps the dog is merely yipping joyfully along with him.

We will honor the Fool's role in new beginnings Dec 29
What happens next? Well, that's the domain of the unknown, and where a leap of faith is required. We don’t know where we are going and we are filled with uncertainty. All the energy and attention being put into the current fiscal cliff is surrounding a non-physical event with such fearful energy (and reminds me of Y2K). The cliff is both imaginary and illusionary, but how it effects us will undoubtedly have tangible results and rippling ramifications the more hyped up it gets. But remember, the Fool’s Journey begins with a step into the unknown. The adventure that is the rest of the Tarot Deck continues from such a launching point. Nothing will be gained unless something is first risked. But we have to lighten ourselves. Fill ourselves with faith and follow a higher calling, as foolish it may seem to those who want to surround anything deemed unusual and out of the ordinary in a fog of fear.

So I’m not writing this as some proponent of stepping off the Fiscal Cliff. I don’t mind either way actually, it's all an illusion, but I find the timing of the whole endeavor to be quite interesting and perhaps even auspicious. It comes on the heels of the End of the Mayan Calendar. It is a ReBegin, and a situation full of possibility for a new Foolish journey and a new way of being to take place, which I believe our country and world desperately needs. But let the talking heads keep debating the so called Fiscal cliff if they must keep stoking the fires of fear -- there is a much larger and more wide-spread paradigm shift happening, and that is the one to pay attention to. There is another cliff that we are approaching, which could mean an entirely new way our world operates. So keep your head held high and spirits lifted as you move lightly and freely into the unknown.

*The white rose may also be a symbol of the Fool's engagement upon a Rosicrucian journey - there are of course many more symbols and meanings packed in the image - and part of the sublime value and joy of the Tarot is discovering our individual interpretation and how it resonates with us.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Queen of the Weeds Returns - Dec 9

The Queen of the Weeds will make another appearance to get her message across to the human population as part of The Los Angeles Road Concerts: Mulholland Dérive on Sunday, December 9 from noon-6pm. The unique format of this event as a series of  installation art and continuous performance along a stretch of infamous LA road make its the perfect spot for this denizen of roadsides and empty lots everywhere to manifest.

A dérive is a spontaneous exploration of urban landscapes guided by aesthetic instinct. The Mulholland Dérive invites an audience during a certain period to drop their relations, their work and leisure activities, and all their other usual motives for movement and action, and let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain of Mulholland Drive and the encounters they find there. The iconic Mulholland Drive begins at Cahuenga Pass and winds through LA's quiet, affluent Hollywood Hills neighborhoods, past the homes of famous stars, massive mansions, rich baby boomers in convertibles, people sitting alone in their cars at lookouts, seven scenic overlooks of both LA and the Valley, cliffs, Los Angeles as a distant backdrop along the drive, crossing over the 405 on the Carmageddon-causing bridge, then turning into "Dirt Mulholland" an undriveable six miles through the Santa Monica Mountains, mountain bikes and people walking dogs, then becoming a residential street in Woodland Hills ending at the 101.

On December 9th from noon to 6 PM, audience members are invited to drive, bike, walk, skate (etc) the length of Mulholland Drive on a loose schedule, arriving at each spot to experience an interaction with and/or by each artist.

For more information:

Monday, November 26, 2012

Junkmail Weeds Repurposed

Definitions of a weed often include the idea of it being undesirable, troublesome, and existing profusely where it is not wanted. With that in mind, I could see no better item to make the Queen of the Weeds root crown, than the junk mail flyers that have appeared in the mailbox at my new studio. I cancelled them immediately upon receiving my first batch, but it takes over a month to put an end to them, so the mailers dutifully reappear until that grateful day.

So I twisted them up and secured it all with some masking tape for the frame. I wanted the roots to remain flexible, and they do bend and shake like real roots. I added some Spanish moss left over from an old costume components from The Axis Mundi Tree Spirit (Fauve Conspiracy's "Arboretum" piece ASH) and strands of twine, to serve as smaller root fragments. I then covered the structure with various shades of black and brown paint, and finished it off by sprinkling black, copper, gold and brown glitter over it.

The idea of Queen of the Weeds is that she is an inverted plant, her head being the structure of roots and her body being a dress of greenery. I got the inspiration from the real goddess, who did indeed speak to me shortly after I pulled one of her manifestations out of the ground.

Scientists recently discovered that plants can communicate with each other through a type of clicking sound their roots make. What it signals however they aren't sure. So whether this story is a result of a fertile imagination or a channeled message, I've been talking to plants and hearing things ever since I can remember. As a child a bush in the neighbors yard next door taught me spells to interact with the wind...but that is another story.

The Queen of the Weeds costume bodice is made by repurposing two old Ikea round woven place mats and gluing some left over rope into spirals.  There's also an old brown shoestring involved to hang it upon my neck -- so talk about shoestring budget! I did need to purchase the sequin fabric and one plastic weed plant to attach permanently to the bodice. The whole idea was to strike a balance between recycled materials helping limit the carbon footprint.  I accessorize the rest of the costume with real plant matter. At first I was torn over having to pull up more weeds for the performance piece, but I received the Queen of the Weeds blessing on the endeavor as long as it helps propel her message forward. She wants the message known, loud and clear. Pay heed to the weeds!!!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Queen of the Weeds Proclamation

"The Queen of the Weeds" Photo by A.J. Goodrich
"The Queen of the Weeds Proclamation" is part of a series from "The Flowering Prince's Garden of Stories" and was presented for the first time at Planet Queer: Close Encounters on Nov 19, 2012. It’s based on an experience I had in July while pulling weeds on Dirty Face Creek Farm in Iowa. It is dedicated all the wonderful people at the organic farm who are seeking to create a truly sustainable lifestyle that works in harmony with the land and have taught me many lessons about the value certain so-called weeds possess. It is also dedicated to Ian MacKinnon for all the fierce, bold work he does to Get More Gay and contribute to the Gay Art Renaissance in Los Angeles. In creating this piece I seek to present part of what I consider a channeled proclamation from a spiritual plant deity that occurred after uprooting one of her physical manifestations. Scientific studies are beginning to affirm what many cultures have known for centuries: plants are conscious beings and we can communicate with them (

Photo by A.J. Goodrich (Travis Wood as Gardener)
In presenting this piece I understand that it is in opposition to the "conventional" farming practices used many people within my family whom I love and respect. Nevertheless the message is vitally important to be heard. I have the deepest respect for farming, but also the deepest concerns for how we MUST manage a transition from our current modality into a new, sustainable and environmentally conscious method that still allows for economic prosperity for farmers and a good, responsible quality of living. There are indeed some challenges ahead in how to make that happen.

Thanks to Travis Wood for participating as “The Gardener” and for all the support staff of Planet Queer and Akbar who make these type of wild performances possible to take place. We are indeed so blessed to be a city flourishing with creative energy in this way. I also thank the Queen herself for sharing this message and hope that this performance will serve to make all of us reconsider the relationship we have to weeds. It certainly is not an easy friendship to make, but it has many rewards and gifts as well. As she says “Pay heed to the weeds!”

Photo by A.J. Goodrich

A gardener emerges from the audience wearing gloves and acts as if picking out weeds from the garden, wiping his brow from the heat, and making his way upstage to a large weed that emerges from the opening.

Gardener: So this is the story of my close encounter over the summer while working in the gardens of an organic farm in Iowa. It was a beautiful blue sky day of billowing clouds, with buzzing bees, fluttering butterflies, chirping crickets and twittering birds, in an otherwise brutal summer of record hot drought conditions that surely had to rattle the resolve of even the most stubborn skeptics of climate change. The crops were irrigated so they maintained a steady green growth, but that meant the same thing applied to the weeds. So it was my task to remove these intrusive and unwanted invaders before they took over the garden and choked out the crops. I noticed one unusually large weed right in the middle of the garden with sprouts branching out almost as tall as myself. I struggled to rip it out of the ground…it took all of my might…but when it finally budged I swear I could hear the most awful screaming and as I looked at the massive tangle of roots I could see a ghastly gnarled face with hair like medusa peering back at me. And before I knew it…the uprooted weed began to speak!
following photos by Ian MacKinnon
The Queen of the Weeds emerges from the opening and makes her way around the stage, confronting the gardener and the audience, as the gardener eventually drops the big weed he pulled and cowers in the corner as she speaks.
QUEEN OF THE WEEDS: Pay your respect to the Queen of the Weeds! For she is the one that you have for so long forsaken, and it is time for you to listen to what she has to say!  So pay attention stupid human and in particular all you queers (etc) of the world — we are connected: we the fringe and persecuted members of humanity and plant world. As much as you try to get rid of us, rip us up, push us down, stop us from growing, or stomp us out — we will endure. You must honor that what you call weeds have a right to exist! We weeds have something to say and it is time that you listen! Pay heed to the weeds!

A weed as you define us is a plant that grows where you don’t want us to grow. A plant in your opinion that offers no significant value but drains the resources of the crops you seek to grow. So you use that as your excuse to wipe us out. We have a right to be here too. Just because we are where you don’t want us to be. Who says this land belongs to humans? Humans think they can just take over this land like a plague and plant genetically modified crops and pump poisons into the soil without concern for all the other creatures that depend on the land. You spend so many precious resources to feed your massive populations and what do you give back in return? Pollution, corruption, destruction!  You are selfish and weak, and depend on plants for every second of your greedy needy feeble lives. We weeds have something to say about that!
 We weeds feed off the sun, the water, the minerals, and when we die, we give back to the Earth that gives us life. We weeds are strong, we weeds are hardy, we know what it takes to survive under any condition! We rise up from the cracks and we thrive in the harshest of climates. We have many benefits beyond your imagining! We have power!  We have strength! We have magic! Many of us contain essential medicines and wisdom. But you turned your backs on us and forgot how great our gifts are. A weed is merely called a weed because you think we have no value, because your view of value is so limited. But if you only took the time and opened your mind you would see what treasures and riches we have to offer! Pay heed to the weeds!
But no, you would rather meddle with your science and your progress that turns away from the natural world. You ignore our natural medicines in order to concoct a world so based on artificial chemicals you don’t even know what is natural anymore - you’ve tainted it all. You are utterly disconnected, creating poisons more devastating than any we have ever witnessed before on this planet. And you use them so adamantly against us. Weed-killers humans call them - ha! You might as well simply call them killers, for they harm animal and human alike. You pump your toxins so far and so wide you do not realize just how that poison comes backs to haunt you. And yet, for as powerful as you make them -- we weeds still exist! We keep coming back! You can’t get rid of us! Meanwhile you have destroyed so much of the land making it impossible for some of the weaker plants to grow.  Only we weeds truly know how to thrive in those conditions. You can set us back, but we will always be waiting for our chance to return, to grow and thrive in the hostile conditions you have imposed. You think you know what you’re doing, solving problems while creating more problems, resorting to the manipulation and mutation of natural plants, thinking you’re so clever. You create your own demise you create your own havoc and destruction. But we weeds will once again rise. Pay heed to the weeds!
 Maybe it hasn’t gotten hot enough for you? Maybe the storms aren’t big enough for you!? Maybe your pathetically genetically engineered crops you call food, aren’t modified enough for you!? You have removed yourself so far from the continuum of life and Mother Nature for you to realize that as you kill everything around you, you are bound to eventually kill yourselves. You think weeds are the problem! Humanity is the problem. So what about it queers? What part are you going to play? You know what it feels like to have a poisonous heterosexual dogma spewed upon you! You know what its like to be so reviled and so hated for your supposed crimes against morality! You know what its like to have gifts and magic to offer the world, only to have people turn against you for it! Why are we weeds and we queers so forsaken? Humanity is blinded by its greed and need, but we are all connected. This is after all, survival of the fittest. And oh, you can bet we weeds will live on. Perhaps we weeds and you queers, hold the key to that survival! We who know what it is like to endure the abuse and the misunderstandings and the failings of a f*ed up humanity! Our lessons, our gifts, our magic, our treasures, our wisdom, our medicine could be exactly what the world needs right now. You may think you’re doing your little part to solve the problem, but what more can you do? Are you doing enough? How far are you willing to go outside your comfort zone? How much sacrifice are you really willing to make and how much of your own blood are you willing to give? How are you going to fight back against the oppression? How are you going reclaim your value and repair the destruction of this world that we all call home?
So think about that humans! Think about that. For you can rip me up, tear me up, put me down, strike me down, do whatever you think is best to cast me out from this garden…but we weeds are survivors. We will return. You can’t stop us forever. We will eventually, inevitably, most certainly return and we will take over! For I am the Queen of the Weeds! So pay heed to the weeds! Pay heed to the weeds! Pay heed to the weeds!!!!!
TQotW disappears back into the opening, leaving behind the gardener who holds the pulled up plant in his hands gently, honoring the lesson she imparted. Lights fade.

The "original" Queen of the Weeds
View from the standing room only back of performance space at Akbar photo by Jamez D Palacio


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Fools and Food


Say no to GMO’s - or at the very least we ought to have the right to know!
The recent vote down against the labeling of GMO foods in California’s Prop 37 once again goes to show how a little misdirection by big business and a little bit of fear about the cost of eating and the economic effect of things goes a long way in fooling the public. So unfortunately here is another perfect opportunity to discuss the nature of ignorance versus knowledge and how being a fool is different than being a Fool.

First though, here is the simple and challenging truth about your food: if you don’t know what you are eating, you are likely eating food laden with GMO’s and grown in unsustainable, chemically laden ways. The reasoning is that it is cheaper and easier for farmers to grow mass amounts of GMO crops loaded with pesticides and herbicides than it is to grow non-GMO’s organically.  But it doesn’t need to be that way — it’s merely the way things became over time, it’s the business model that took off and took over in recent decades. Scientific research brought about some new discoveries and with a growing population there was a need to meet the public demand for more food. However we really don’t have proper impact studies to gauge precisely what the full impact of GMO’s are on the environment or our bodies.

Yet several studies reveal that GMO’s could be responsible for the wide spread Colony Collapse Disorder that is killing off bees. Meanwhile health issues ranging from disorders and diseases, to cancers and obesity problems continues to rise. You would think that such concerns would make people stop and reconsider the situation, but when big money is involved, the lobbyists and corporate machinery churns on - at the entire world’s expense.

The big uncertainty is exactly just how much harm GMO’s and pesticides do to your bodies when you eat them. However we do know that such things harm the natural environment!  It is more important than ever that we think twice about what we shove into our mouths and bodies, and where that food came from and how it will affect our bodies, our immune systems, our entire well-being.

There are indeed other practices and methods of sustainable agriculture that are being developed to meet the needs of the masses, but big business profits really don’t want it any other way. Derailing Prop 37 was a rather simple feat for them - they merely had to outspend the proponents of the bill.  They created enough worry about what the economic impact of the bill could be. The economy trumps our concerns about our health, once again revealing that money is practically a god in good ol’ consumer America. In general we are all like ostriches, who would rather keep our head buried in the sand than wake up to the hard, cold truth that GMO’s are everywhere in the country. We’d rather stay ignorant than pay a bit more to be informed.

Somewhere along the line, wisdom became uncool. Perhaps its because as life gets more complicated, as we hurtle along in a more confusing and daunting web of complexity we are desperately yearning ways to embrace more simplicity. We think ignorance is bliss. We think playing the fool will help solve our problems, and while I say that is a good intuitive response to follow — we need to careful about what type of fool we’re playing, for there is a difference! The lower-case fool ignores facts, ignores reason, and ignores taking responsibility. The capital F Fool, is more about doing things that seem outrageous and thinking outside of the box, the Fool is more about taking risks and changing the paradigm, the Fool is more about cultivating an essence of holy innocence that is peaceful and sincere.

Those difference and many more elements will be explored in “The Happy Happy ReBegin Day Celebration!” on December 29th from 7-11pm. Mark your calendars - for it will be a very festive AND informative evening of performance art starring April Hava Shenkman and yours truly.

In the meantime, is it too foolish to hope that sometime in the next four years we’ll receive proper food labeling on a national level? Or will the administration do something completely Foolish and truly change the way our agricultural system works so that it is safe? It may seem crazy and seem like a bad thing to do for the sake of the economy, but in the long run it could be the wisest thing we could do for the long term health of our citizens and the entire ecosystem of the world.

We need more Fools!