“Toxic gift from the depths of the Great Mother”


“Life Tools Power Objects”

This video was shot while hiking on Io in northern Hokkaido. Also know as Shiretoko which translates to “sulfur mountain”, it is known for erupting liquid sulfur.

Shiretoko Sulfur
Shiretoko Sulfur

Volcanoes are our direct link to the interior factory that makes our world possible. While visiting volcanoes I try to retrieve sulfur crystals that I use in spot meditations to connect to the inner locations of the planet. There is a brilliant blog by Paul Kiritsis  on Evolver that goes into the details about the esoteric properties of sulfur.

My interest in volcanoes began in 1987 when I had the opportunity to visit Mount Etna, I was primed and ready to go, I had seen it’s incredible lava flows on the flight into Catania. At the time I was with fellow Fastwurms doing an art installation in Sicily and the assistant curator for the show, Lydia  offered to take us to the summit. We started our drive up and at some point near the summit we came around a bend in the road to be greeted with high winds and freezing rain. When she braked the car kept moving for a while and the wind took over, slowly pushing us off the road to a drop. Right away she told us she had tire chains in the trunk, so we formed a human chain with me getting the chains. I managed to get to the front tire chains on while being held by my legs, after that Dai took care of the back tires and we were able to slowly back away and make our way back down. We all had frost bite and spent the ride down screaming in pain while laughing at having escaped our destruction.

The caldera at Vulcano, Aeolian Islands
The caldera at Vulcano, Aeolian Islands

A few weeks later on Christmas eve three of us found ourselves heading for the Aeolian Islands to visit another volcano. We had been told to visit Stromboli, but had missed the ferry and so we headed to Vulcano, the site of a dormant volcano and an ancient Roman hot spring. When the ferry arrived, we were met with allot of people leaving for the Christmas holidays, we did not realize that we would have the entire island to ourselves with no returning ferry for four days. We had camping gear so we headed up the steep sides of Vulcano to the caldera, so overwhelmed by the sight of this vast caldera, I immediately charged down and was overtaken by sulfur from the fumaroles. The resulting lung burns lasted a for weeks but regardless I was obsessed with volcanoes more than ever.

A month later we tried to get to the caldera of Vesuvius and once again was greeted by wind, and ice pellets, so this time we abandoned the car and walked up to the top. We were on a mission from a friend. A week earlier, we had been asked by a our new Roman friend Graziella if we could dispose of some of her fathers fascist medals and so we decided that Vesuvius was the location and the remainder in a cairn in Georgian Bay. It would be another three years before the next volcano, which was Io in northern Hokkaido, the beauty of that experience was the natural hot springs and many fumaroles. I had learned to approach them from downwind, knowing now just how toxic they could be.

Merapi Sulfur
Merapi Sulfur

My most memorable volcano experience came in Java, Indonesia on Mount Merapi where I did a night climb to the summit. The climb began at one PM with a group of local people, Gunung Merapi (“fire of the Temple of Rama and Permadi” or mountain of fire ) fumes 300 days a year at 2,300 metres and is situated twenty eight kilometer from Yogyakarta.

The most incredible part of the climb was walking between lava flows in the dark of night, you could see of to either side glowing eerie red light outlining the trees and boulders. The climb was demanding but the incline was gradual, so not an extreme climb, with a few switch backs at the top. In the last hour I raced ahead wanting to be at the summit for sunrise. The summit was above the cloud cover so the sunrise was diffused; I visited the caldera and collected sulfur samples from the chugging fumaroles. The sample I am holding in the “Life Tools” image  is from Mount Merapi.

Gunung Sumeru
Gunung Sumeru
Drawing, flowers, dirt, from the place, 1992 napob
Drawing, flowers, dirt, from the place, 1992 napob

The next volcano I visited was Sumeru in eastern Java, but I never made it to the top. I was approaching it from the south face and only learned later that the easier way was approaching it from Gunung Bromo. For the two weeks that I  stayed at a nearby village I could watch it puffing every fifteen minutes. The photo above was taken from the window. Later on that trip I did visit the volcano at Ende, in Flores  which is just on the edge of town and the three lake volcanoes at Kelemutu, which I made a watercolour painting of when I was there.

Kelemutu, watercolour, 1992 napob
Kelemutu, watercolour, 1992 napob

My ongoing list of future visits are Mauna Loa in Hawaii, Galeras in Columbia, Popocatepetl in Mexico and in April this year I will be checking our the Yellowstone Caldera, in the southwest even though it erupted over 640,000 years ago, I was there years ago and wanted to revisit this dormant super volcano and the geysers.

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