is the archived salon instructions page for April 2006, the third
featured guest for April is Miriam Robbins Dexter. Dexter carries
on Marija’s tradition of scholarship, with an impressive
list of publications (see her
bio) including her completion of Marija’s last book,
The Living Goddess, our suggested reading for this month.
You can order it from the independent Powells Books at http://www.powells.com/partner/30381/biblio/0520229150
Also, we have a downloadable PDF
of an interview done with Miriam in April 2006, by Riyana
Dexter now teaches at UCLA and at Antioch University in LA. Her
complete interview is available as part of our "Behind the
Screen" series and is available from Belili at our
order page. -- Starhawk
Miriam Robbins Dexter
“Civilization” is most often defined, in archaeology
and anthropology, as a system with chieftains and hierarchical
stratification. How does Dexter define civilization? How would
you define it?
The story goes that someone once asked Gandhi what he thought
of Western Civilzation. He said, “I think it would be a
good idea!” What do you think he had in mind as to ‘civilization’?
What would it mean if we defined ourselves by his definition,
Dexter talks about the context in which artifacts are found. What
are some of the religious or spiritual artifacts in your home?
Your childhood home? Where would they have been found by excavating
archaeologists? How were they used?
In your home, or your childhood home, were there artifacts with
spiritual and religious significance that are similar to others
found in churches, synagogues or mosques? For example, crosses
or menorahs? Are they used differently in those different contexts?
Dexter talks about many small shrines being found among other
buildings. What do you think that means about how religion and
ordinary life were integrated? Compare this to the variety of
religious buildings we have today—from storefront churches
to grand cathedrals.
If you were to build a shrine or temple that reflected your beliefs,
what would it look like?
"What is Old Europe? What is the Old European concept of
the life cycle?"
And further -- for those studying to get a sense of context of
Marija's work, I recommend the Kurgan Culture (Dexter, Miriam
Robbins and Karlene Jones-Bley, eds., 997, The Kurgan Culture
and the Indo-Europeanization of Europe: Selected articles from
1952 to 1993, by Marija Gimbutas. Washington, DC: Institute
for the Study of Man, (Journal of Indo-European Studies Monograph
No. 18) Marija spent several decades studying the archaeological
remains of the patriarchal Indo-Europeans, until she became more
interested in the peoples of Neolithic Europe (whom the Indo-Europeans
invaded/encroached upon beginning 4400 BCE) than the Indo-Europeans
themselves. Questions: "Who were the Indo-Europeans?"
"What kinds of artifacts did they have (weapons, etc.)? What
kind of languages or dialects did they speak? What was the nature
of their religion? How was it different from Old European religion?"
Beforehand, make up some salt dough:
(Don’t confuse this with the monthly recipe, it’s
not for eating!)
1 part salt
1 part white flour
1/3 part oil
Color batches with food coloring if desired.
(this also makes great Play Dough for children!)
At the gathering, each participant should take a piece of dough.
Hold it in your hands, close your eyes, and breathe deep.
Think about the ancestors, all those women and men who have shaped
pots and sculpted clay and made art to reflect their beliefs.
Know that all of us have ancestors who were artists and sculptors.
Honor those ancestors, and thank them for the gifts of life and
beauty that have come down to us.
As you breathe, imagine that one of those ancestors is coming
close to you. She is standing behind you. Her hands hover over
yours, touch yours. Now they merge with your hands, and guide
Let your hands begin to shape the clay. Think about what is sacred
to you, what you most care about and love, what nourishes your
soul. Don’t worry about making an object, or judging your
efforts, just let your hands play with the clay.
You might open your eyes, and take some time to share your sculptures.
Or you might want to continue to play with the dough during your
discussion time, and then share.
Whichever you do, be sure, at the end, to take a moment, close
your eyes, and thank your ancestor. Feel her hands withdrawing
from yours, letting them be just your own hands again, but perhaps
with a touch of skill or inspiration lingering. Say thank you,
If you wish, you can bake your objects in a 250 degree oven until
they harden. Or you can return them to the batch of dough, or
leave them outside to go back to the elements.
Miriam Robbins Dexter
48 OZ (3 POUNDS) OF SEMI-SWEET CHOCOLATE BITS
1 CAN PET EVAPORATED MILK 12 FL OZ (NOT CONDENSED)
1/2 POUND OF SOFT MARGARINE (DO NOT USE BUTTER)
4 1/2 CUPS GRANULATED SUGAR
16 OZ MINIATURE MARSHMALLOWS (NOT BIG MARSHMALLOWS; THEY WON'T
MELT QUICKLY ENOUGH)
1 CUP OF CHOPPED WALNUTS (optional)
3 TABLESPOONS OF VANILLA EXTRACT
YIELD: 7 OR MORE POUNDS
In a heavy aluminum or cast iron pan (12 inch diameter by 6-8
inches deep) heat over moderate flame the sugar and evaporated
milk. If your stove has 2 different size of burners, use the small
one at high heat; if not use medium heat. Bring the mixture to
a full, but slow boil. Start a timer and immediately reduce the
flame to just enough to sustain a very slow boil; you want to
be aware of a few bubbles (very slow boil). Stir occasionally
and time the process to 6 minutes, no more and no less. This timed
part at low temperature is to cause the sugar to truly go into
solution and is the most critical part of the process to assure
creamy, non crystalline fudge. At the end of the 6 minutes turn
off the flame. Add to the mixture: the chocolate bits, the marshmallows,
and the soft margarine. Keep the clock running. It is the thermal
inertia of the heavy pan and the hot sugar syrup that will provide
the heat to melt the rest of the ingredients! Stir this mixture
so as to melt all of the ingredients together (about 2 1/2 minutes
max). Stir in the walnuts, and then add the vanilla and stir it
A variation of the above is to hold out a cup of marshmallows
and add them later with the walnuts. The marshmallows added at
this time won't quite melt and a rocky road is created. Pour the
mixture into (use spatula) a greased (we use "PAM")
9" x 13" Pyrex dish to a level of 1" deep. You
want the time from initial boil to completed process to not exceed
9 minutes. Since 6 minutes are used in the cooking of the product,
all of the stirring and mixing and dispensing must take place
in less than 3 minutes total. This means working quickly during
the mixing cycle.
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