Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Why Would a Woman in Ojai, California Use a Barrel Cactus Thorn to Self-Tattoo an Equilateral Triangle on Her Arm?

Dani Ma, November 9, 2014
Photo by Dani Ma
Dani Ma is not your usual woman.

She lives in Ojai, California, a community of seekers, wounded healers, and the occasional healer who isn’t wounded (are there really any, though?) on the inland point of a triangle drawn between the coastal cities of Ventura and Santa Barbara.

This alternative (okay, “weird”) community is outside the box in many ways — experimenting with housing made out of various combinations of clay, mud, stone, straw bales, chicken wire, discarded glass bottles, car tires, truck tires, and deeply committed to organic agriculture and pesticide-free, herbicide-free living (except for the main tourist attraction in town, the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, which has been dousing its golf course with Roundup for years to kill dandelions, that much-prized weed in the Ojai weeds-as-food-and-medicine crowd), and deeply enthusiastic about conscious living, including conscious conception, conscious birthing, conscious parenting — let’s just say that folks in Ojai are as awake as you can be in a world only beginning to rouse from its slumber.

Thus, we know there’s a good chance that a woman who lives in this picturesque, hippie-esque small town might be considered unusual by mainstream “Starbucks folks.”

But  the truth is, even for Ojai, Dani Ma is unusual. What is Dani Ma’s specific claim to unusualness?

First, we doubt that Dani Ma herself would make such a claim. There’s nothing more normal, in Dani Ma’s world, than using natural tools to create art. A barrel cactus thorn instead of a tattoo needle? Excellent. Hey, if it was (and is) good enough for Native Americans, it’s good enough, and more than good enough, for Dani Ma.

Second — but why should I tell you about Dani Ma, when we can simply listen to her in her own words?

Below is a November 10, 2014 Facebook conversation about the equilateral triangle that Dani Ma tattooed on her arm the day before, on November 9, 2014.

The barrel cactus in question
Photo by Dani Ma
JD: Did you lose more blood in menstruation, this month, or in trying to get a thorn off that barrel cactus? How exactly do you get a thorn from this ominous plant? Did you use pliers or just go in and delicately pluck it? Was it easy to get off?

Dani Ma: Cut the needle with pruners.

Did you use just one thorn or did you go through a few?

One thorn.

How long did the entire tattooing take? 

It took almost four hours. With a tattoo gun it would've been more like 5-10 minutes.

Was it, you know, painful?

It was painful, yes. But I enjoyed it. It was right on the edge of my threshold.

You got some serious ovaries.

Lol. It’s so tender today . . . and scabbing over a bit. Not so glamorous.

Why an equilateral triangle?

My mom just turned 60, Kalia turns, 9, I turn 30. That's a lot of threes in the matrilineal line. Trinity.

And why didn't you tattoo the number three on your arm, or just above your elegant butt-crack?

Lol. The inverted triangle is the symbol of the womb. The feminine. Shakti. The strongest geometrical formation. The trinity. It’s all there.

Can you give me another sentence or two on your matrilineal (please note that FascistBook doesn't think that “matrilineal” is a word) backstory?

The women in my family were pioneers. survivors. My daughter was born on my birthday. My mother birthed me when she was 30. My mother and my daughter and my grandmother, we are all very close.

And why a barrel cactus thorn, and where did you get it?

The cactus was in my friend’s yard. She is the one who showed me how to do this.

Is she an elder of the tribe, or how would you describe her?

She is about five years younger than me. She's a rootsy mama. She dyes her own wool using plants. Slaughters chickens. Raises goats. We used the cactus because it’s strong and sharp.

The barrel cactus thorn in question
Photo by Dani Ma
Did y'all know of anyone else who had used a cactus thorn or was it just her own invention — she had tried it on herself (or others?)

It’s Native tradition.

Oh! I guess there weren't any tattoo parlors on the continent before the Europeans arrived.

Zactly. They used them to sew.

And did you use some kind of natural ink? Like the blood of an eagle, or something?

Lol I wish. I would've preferred iron oxide . . . ground pigments of some kind. We used India ink. Supposedly more natural than tattoo ink . . . still not fully rootsy.

Can you talk about what you consider to be the Goddess and how she fits into all this? Where is she? Does she live in Ojai? Do people have to pilgrimage to find her?

The goddess resides in all living things. She is the fabric of life woven into every aspect of our living world. I see the goddess in creation and destruction alike. She births and destroys. She embraces every element, every aspect of existence as her own. As women, we are intimately connected to these cycles. With our own bodies attuned to the celestial rhythms. Our blood. Our birthing. Our hunting. Our harvesting. Our wisdom to discern when to shed and when to conceive. Shakti, Gaia, goddess, ma, many names for one source. I am bleeding now and so grateful to have a woman's earth suit. May I become pregnant with activated vision. May I birth the work that needs to be done.

And gracefully segueing from that, would you call yourself a graphic designer or a graphic artist?

The graphic artist part is not important to me. Maybe Mother, songstress, poet, painter, dancer, lover of life.

Jock's caption: "Dani Ma (far right) and Ojai-area friends."
Dani Ma's caption: "mud mamas romp lakeside"
Photo by Mariana Schulze

*  *  *

And there you have it.

Earlier, we dared to call Ojai "weird." But what does “weird” really mean?

“Weird” derives from the Anglo-Saxon term, “Wyrd.” Wyrd's wide-ranging, eye-popping approximations are death, destiny, fate, karma, order, (the) past, predestination, truth, weaving.

Is Wyrd the Goddess? Is the Goddess “weird”?

You tell me. Either way, if you mess with Ojai, you mess with Wyrd.

And if you call somebody “weird,” please remember that what you’re saying is that truth has long been woven, and is now weaving, both you and them (and everything else) into an ordered tapestry of life and death, a tapestry that has no problem being sewn with barrel cactus needles, colored with vegetable dyes, and laid out in the singing sun to dry.


 Some Dani Ma links:

Flyer by Studio MA Design

“Feel Everything,” a film by Dani Ma

Jock Doubleday is a writer, stoneworker, and videographer who has spent many years in small towns in California.