LAURA SHANNON

FOLK DANCE - CIRCLE DANCE- SACRED DANCE - WOMEN'S RITUAL DANCE

Laura's Blog

Greek Fire 2. The fire of incense and the Tree of Life

Thursday, December 3, 2020

One of the things I love most about life in Greece is the way women burn incense to sanctify their homes and holy icons. With this tiny act of sacred offering, along with the lighting of the kandíli or olive-oil lamp, the lady of the house takes on the role of priestess, turning her home into a temple, a place of prayer, as women did in ancient times. Incense sticks are not used here. Chunks of pure frankincense or scented resins are placed on little charcoal disks called karvounákia, in a special burner, a thymiatírio. When money is scarce or shops are far, women burn olive leaves, as they have done in Greece and Cyprus for thousands of years.

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Greek Fire 1. We give thanks for fire and food in lockdown

Thursday, November 26, 2020
 
Today is American Thanksgiving. This holiday is not really known or observed here in Greece, but finding ourselves housebound in lockdown, my husband and I decided to prepare a small celebration meal today, just for ourselves. The pandemic restrictions in Greece are fairly austere at the moment: you can only leave your house for 6 specific reasons, you have to send a text message to a government website and then wait for the response before you can set foot out the door. Luckily, exercise is considered a valid reason, and we are very fortunate to be able to walk by the sea daily – but we have to stick close to home, we can't drive off to have our daily walk someplace further afield. Essential shopping is also permitted, but we can only go to our local supermarket, not to the bigger one in the next town which has a much better selection of organic and whole foods. If any of Kostantis' family in and around Athens were unwell and needed us to take care of them, we would be permitted to go and do that, but again luckily, everyone remains in fairly good health, ftou ftou ftou – however, this means we are not allowed to see them at all. We can't go to them, and they can't come to us.
 

Greek Fire: The Unelected and Unaccountable Men Who Decide Our Fate

The Unelected and Unaccountable Men Who Decide Our Fate 

Laura's blog on August 2, 2015

In Greek myth, the Fates, the Moirai, are three sisters – Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos –  who spin, measure and cut the thread of life for every person born. Their rule is law; even the gods, so the legend has it, have no power to bargain with the one who cuts the thread and ends the life. Her name, Atropos, means ‘she who cannot be turned’.
 
In Greece today, others are making the life-or-death decisions. It is not the three sisters of ancient folklore, but a bunch of men in suits now wielding the power to uplift or cast down an entire nation and its millions of citizens. I would like to shine a little light on just two of these groups of (mainly) men who have had the most impact on the recent decisions to bring Greece to the brink of bankruptcy, default and catastrophe.
 
First we have the ESM, the European Stability Mechanism, which presents itself as a fund to ‘rescue’ EU member states in financial straits. In truth, it imposes crippling loans in exchange for austerity measures, ultimately to facilitate the transfer of public assets – land and resources as well as funds for education, healthcare, infrastructure and pensions – into the hands of private investors...
 
 
 
 

Dancing on Lesvos this Easter - with compassion for all refugees

Celebrate Greek Easter:
2-week Dance & Culture Holiday on Lesvos with Laura Shannon & friends
27 April - 11 May 2016

 

 

January Full Moon, 2016


Dear dancing friends,
 

I invite you to join us on the Dance & Culture Holiday to celebrate Greek Easter in Milelja, Lesvos, 27 April - 11 May 2016.  I will be sharing Greek, Balkan and Armenian traditional dances, with exquisite and sensitive live music provided by Kostantis Kourmadias and Nikolas Angelopoulos. Local teacher Rena Grigoriou will share Greek dances from Molivos and Asia Minor, and feminist theologian Carol P. Christ will give a talk on the Goddess in ancient Greece. 
The early booking discount applies until February 1, 2016
 
This year’s course is open to men and women, and also to non-dancers (ask about prices) so it is a good opportunity for holidays with your partner. There is no course happening in Milelja the week of May 11-18, so there are rooms available if any of us would like to stay on for a non-structured holiday. 
Milelja is such a beautiful place, especially in spring, and Easter is a very special time to be in Greece, where the ancient traditions really come alive and we are invited into the heart of them.
 
It is a time to focus on rebirth and resurrection, both in the Greek Easter mysteries and in pre-Christian rituals honouring spring and Persephone’s return from the underworld. We will dance traditional ritual dances which emphasise these energies, so that we can work with these cycles consciously in our own lives, honouring both the descent and the emergence of new life.
 
As you know, the island of Lesvos in the last six months has received thousands of refugees coming by boat from Turkey, mainly fleeing the war in Syria. Some of you have asked how the refugee situation will affect us, or how we can help. 
 
Things have changed a lot since last summer. Now there are reception stations set up on the beaches near Eftalou and Skala Sikammias, from where the refugees can travel by bus to the centres in Mitilini, so they no longer have to walk across the island to the capital and they no longer pass through Molivos or Petra. There are many local and international aid organisations helping to welcome and care for the new arrivals with food, clothes and medical care. Uschi and Irini, the owners of Milelja, have personally dispensed 30,000 euros’ worth of goods from donations made by guests like ourselves. 
 
They have also given much support to local Greek families, who as a result of the economic crisis also find themselves in need. This is enormously appreciated. Our presence, too, is a sign of support for residents of Lesvos and especially Molivos, who see in us a precious affirmation that ‘life goes on’ despite the recent challenges, and we will be made very welcome.
 
So be assured, you will be able to relax and enjoy your holiday. Having time off is very important and Milelja remains an ideal place to rest, dream, dance, renew and take care of yourself on every level - even more so this year, when we may have our own dedicated bodyworker on site during the course.

There are ways for you to contribute to the refugees if you wish to, either by making a donation, bringing extra clothes, or staying on to volunteer with one of the local groups (let me know if you would like more information about volunteering options). There are enough volunteers on the island already, so our hands-on help is not actually required.
 
We dancers can best be of service by bringing our compassionate presence to the island and to the overall theme of exile and homecoming. Many ritual dances serve as conscious containers to help hold, and heal, feelings which are too much for us to carry alone. It is not the first time streams of refugees have travelled through this part of the world; most inhabitants of Lesvos today are descended from the Greeks who left Smyrna as refugees in 1922. Kostantis, whose grandparents were among that wave of refugees, plays and sings the music of the Asia Minor Greeks in a way which both bears witness to the pain of the loss, and recreates the homeland through its music and dance. People in Molivos honour him deeply for his skill, and we are lucky to have him play for us.


I find that most people have, somewhere in their family history, a story of some kind of loss or exile, and all of us have certainly gone through versions of it in our lives, perhaps many times - it is part of being human. This is not the only theme we will be working with in the dance, but it is one of the key ones, and the dance circle is the best place to witness and transform it. The dances of people who have survived can teach us emotional, physical and cultural resilience, and reconnect us with the joy which is so often obliterated through the experience of trauma.
 
Sufi mystics also know: the yearning to return from exile inspires us to dance, because there is no other way to carry the feelings; then, paradoxically, the dance itself becomes the road home, the passport to the inner homeland of the dancing body. This is also the heart of the Easter mysteries and Persephone’s return. There is no greater joy than a return to the whole, full self, and to feel ourselves as part of the whole human community – this is the invitation of the circle.
 
I hope we will be dancing together in Milelja this Easter! If you have any other questions, please email me.
 

With love and blessings in the dance,


Laura
 
P.S. The dance course for the 2 weeks costs 695€ if booked with deposit of 250€ by February 1, 2016; 795€ thereafter. You can also pay in full if you prefer. Please see flyer for booking information and accommodation prices.
 

Greek Fire: We are at a crucial moment in European history. Please light a candle today

Laura Shannon
Folk Dance – Sacred Dance – Circle Dance – Women's Ritual Dances

Greek Fire: We are at a crucial moment in European history. Please light a candle today
 

Monday, 13 July, 2015



Dear friends of Greece, Europe and democracy,

We are at a crucial moment in European history. Please, light a candle today and dance, if you can, for solidarity with Greece and a European culture of democracy and peace.

Shocking demands are coming from the record-breaking all-night EU summit – still ongoing as I write – which is attempting to impose unbelievably harsh measures on Greece.

As the Guardian reports today,
'Anger at the incredibly draconian demands being placed on Greece with this new bailout offer have sparked a social media campaign, #thisisacoup, against Germany and its finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble. The campaign has been supported by many, including nobel laureate economist Paul Krugman, who lambasted the summit developments in his column at the New York Times.'

Paul Krugman writes,
'This Eurogroup list of demands is madness. The trending hashtag ThisIsACoup is exactly right. This goes beyond harsh into pure vindictiveness, complete destruction of national sovereignty, and no hope of relief. It is, presumably, meant to be an offer Greece can’t accept; but even so, it’s a grotesque betrayal of everything the European project was supposed to stand for.'
Killing the European Project: http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/?_r=1

Larry Elliot sums up the list of new demands:
'The conditions being attached to a third Greek bailout are beyond harsh: tax increases, pension reforms, privatisation and spending cuts previously rejected by Athens, all overseen by the troika of the European Central Bank, the European commission and the International Monetary Fund. Athens would have to hand over €50bn of assets to the eurozone that would be sold off over time. From now on, the Greek budget will have to be approved in Berlin. A country that has seen its economy shrink by 25% has been condemned to shrink some more. A humanitarian crisis looms.'

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jul/12/alexis-tsipras-pledged-to-end-austerity-now-he-is-asked-to-sign-up-for-more

'The terms are much stiffer than those imposed by the creditors over the past five years. This, said the senior official, was payback for the emphatic no to the creditors’ terms delivered by the snap referendum that Tsipras staged a week ago.'
http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/jul/12/greek-crisis-surrender-fiscal-sovereignty-in-return-for-bailout-merkel-tells-tsipras

So, Greeks impoverished by five years of merciless austerity, now without jobs, pensions, health care, education or even shelter, all of whom are not responsible for the debt, dared to vote 'NO' to further austerity in the historic referendum of July 5th. It's not that nobody was listening. It's worse: they are now being punished even more brutally for daring to speak up and say, 'no more.' 

The Eurogroup is also demanding that the politically neutral state-run broadcaster ERT be shut down, leaving only private television companies long in the pockets of right-wing political parties on air.

Is this our Europe?


The Thomas Piketty interview I sent you last week (here is a new link for the English translation) makes the key point that Germany, which never repaid its war debts, has no right to lecture Greece about repayment of unsustainable debt:
http://thewire.in/2015/07/08/thomas-piketty-germany-has-never-repaid-its-debts-it-has-no-right-to-lecture-greece/
The original German article is here:
http://www.zeit.de/2015/26/thomas-piketty-schulden-griechenland/komplettansicht

In any case, as Jeffrey Sachs states, 'As with Germany in 1953, the real issue is Greece’s need for debt relief, not whether it is deserved.' 
Jeffrey Sachs, Let Greece profit from German history:http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jan/21/greece-profit-german-history-1953-debt-relief

Please remember these essential facts: The original Greek 'bailout' loans only bailed out the banks. Austerity in Greece has brutally punished ordinary people and the poorest of the poor, not those who responsible for getting Greece into the debt mess in the first place. Those responsible – the crooked politicians of previous Greek governments who stole public money and signed the country up to the previous crippling bailout loans – are not suffering; in fact, they continue to profit from the crisis. The Syriza government was elected with the stated intention of ending corruption and tax avoidance, yet it has been met with contempt, not cooperation, by EU officials, who have barely disguised their aim to overthrow Syriza and replace it with the same corrupt politicians who held power before. 

Suzanne Moore states: 
'If the European project that once seemed so noble now comes down to the European Central Bank, which is not in any way independent but acts as a thuggish bailiff to further impoverish Greece, what actually is it? If Germans believe they should not have to pay for the mistakes of Greek governments, then they do not see the crisis of Greece for what it is: a crisis of all Europe. Bailouts have been funded for the financial sector since 2008. To simply blame Greece is unsustainable.'
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jul/08/i-cant-support-a-europe-that-acts-as-thuggy-bailiff-against-greece

Please, I encourage you to stay awake, stay aware, look behind the veil of mainstream media, and send your thoughts and prayers for a peaceful solution to this moment of crisis.

With love and blessings for the cradle of democracy,

Laura


See also:
Austerity Has Failed: An Open Letter From Thomas Piketty to Angela Merkel
http://www.thenation.com/article/austerity-has-failed-an-open-letter-from-thomas-piketty-to-angela-merkel/

Katrina van den Heuvel: Will Europe’s leaders come to their senses about Greece?
http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/will-europes-come-to-their-senses-about-greece/2015/07/07/d923e2d0-2412-11e5-b72c-2b7d516e1e0e_story.html

Bernie Sanders, Joe Stiglitz, and Dan Cantor on the necessity of voting “no” to austerity measures. By John Nichols
http://www.thenation.com/article/bernie-sanders-i-applaud-the-people-of-greece/

Jasmine Coleman: Greek debt crisis triggers memories of World War Two
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-eu-33467931

Greek debt crisis: 'Of all the damage, healthcare has been hit the worst'
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jul/09/greek-debt-crisis-damage-healthcare-hospital-austerity

9 myths about the Greek crisis
http://www.politico.eu/article/myths-greek-crisis-imf-loan-bailout-tsipras-referendum-information-war-default-debt/

Greece is the latest battleground in the financial elite’s war on democracy
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jul/07/greece-financial-elite-democracy-liassez-faire-neoliberalism

Are Greeks the hardest workers in Europe?
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-17155304

Want to help Greece? Go there on holiday
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jul/07/help-greece-go-on-holiday-cheap-beautiful

To this last invitation, I add my own voice and encourage you to visit Greece this summer if you can. You will find that the ancient tradition of hospitality towards foreigners remains a sacred trust in this country, and you will receive a warm and genuine welcome wherever you go in Greece, whatever your country of origin. This is only one of many aspects of Greek society from which we non-Greeks can learn.

 

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