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Donna Henes is an internationally acclaimed urban shaman, popular speaker, and award-winning writer specializing in multi-cultural ritual celebrations of the cycles of the seasons and the seasons of our lives. Her joyful celebration of celestial events have introduced ancient traditional rituals and contemporary ceremonies to millions of people in more than one hundred cities since 1972.
Queen Mama Donna is the author of five books, Bless This House (Ixia Press/Dover 2018), The Queen of My Self (Monarch Press 2005), The Moon Watcher's Companion (Marlowe & Co. 2004), Celestially Auspicious Occasions: Seasons, Cycles & Celebrations (Perigee: Penguin/Putnam 1996) and Dressing Our Wounds In Warm Clothes (Astro Artz 1982) a CD, Reverence To Her: Part One: Mythology, the Matriarchy, & Me (Io Productions 1998) as well as an acclaimed quarterly journal, Always In Season: Living in Sync with the Cycles. She currently publishes The Queen’s Chronicles, a monthly ezine and writes for The Huffington Post and UPI (United Press International) Religion & Spirituality Forum. Her articles for adults and children have been syndicated in publications throughout the United States and Canada and globally via the internet.
Henes is a founding member and on the Board of Directors of the International Center for Celebration, and she served as a children's book award judge for the United Nations Jane Addams Peace Association from 1980-1988.
In 1982, she composed the first satellite peace message in space: "chants for peace * chance for peace." She has been a recipient of four fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as numerous project grants from municipalities, corporations and foundations, and a mayoral citation from the Honorable David Dinkins.
Her listings include: Who's Who in America; Who's Who in American Art; Who's Who in Entertainment; Who's Who in American Writers, Editors, and Poets; and The World's Who's Who of Women.
In addition to teaching and lecturing worldwide, she maintains a ceremonial center, ritual practice and consultancy in Exotic Brooklyn, New York, MAMA DONNA'S TEA GARDEN AND HEALING HAVEN, where she works with individuals and groups to create personalized rituals for all of life's transitions.
Mama Donna explains what an "Urban Shaman" is at the Keynote address Goddess Culture Conference, American Museum of Natural History, New York City, 2008.
For more, listen to Mama Donna on the Real Riches podcast, hosted by Tanna Corona (show #86), available for download on iTunes.
Ritual is a sacred enactment through which we can connect to the spiritual realm. The need for ritual is a basic human instinct. Ritual channels our need as individuals to be part of something greater than ourselves.
People have a compelling urge to merge with the infinite. Ritual unites us with a larger reality and invokes in us a visceral understanding of such universal paradigms as unity, continuity, connectivity, cycle, and constant change.
Ritual is a symbolic manifestation of our intention. It carries us past our analytical mind and allows us to access universal consciousness directly and viscerally, through our heart.
Ceremony — solitary or shared — offers us a way to relate intimately with the primordial force, and to embrace that sacred power which informs and fuels all existence. Ritual is our lifeline to the divine. When we set aside quality time and claim the psychic space for ceremony, we are able to transform our perceptions, our perspectives, our experience, our expectations and, in the process, our reality.
Citation in honor of her dynamic and enlightened work as a performance artist and urban shaman in the streets, cultural institutions and schools of New York City; And, in recognition of her ability to communicate to children and adults alike a global (and indeed cosmic) consciousness through an exploration or the holidays and rituals of many cultures celebrating the seasons of the year; and, in gratitude for teaching all of us to stand an egg on its end at the Spring Equinox.
— David Dinkins, President of the Borough of Manhattan
Since 1972 I have served as an urban shaman, celebration artist and "Unofficial Commissioner of Public Spirit of New York City" (The New Yorker Magazine). Over the past decades, I have produced hundreds of public participatory events and ceremonies in parks, plazas, museums, schools and streets throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.
There used to be a person whose work it was to keep track of the seasons: to cite the cycles in order to secure a celestial continuity. Today there is no job classification for what I do.
As shamans in every culture always have, I create contemporary rituals for my community which I consider to be all of humanity. My role is that of catalyst: organizing and instigating innovative, de-mystified systems for creative public interaction, celebration and communion. I work to facilitate tranceformative ways for people to interrelate with each other, their own deepest and best selves and the entire universe, thus creating an energetically joined conceptual web: a real communications network which connects us all at our cosmic center.
The events and rituals that I create are sort of like silly science lessons or non-directed play (certainly more kindergard than avante garde). My goal is to establish a demystified, non-elitist, exhilarating and involving atmosphere where truly sincere participation can occur.
In order to be real, a ritual has to be really done: actually, physically performed by each participant in a personally relevant way. I serve to set up the situation and provide the props. The rest is left to crowd spontaneity guided by the overwhelming and mutually experienced vibrations of the occasion.
All of my work emphasizes community involvement and creative expressions of interconnectivity. I strive to bring all sorts of people together in meaningful and non-threatening ways to interrelate with each other in the spirit of sharing, caring and peace.
It is my special concern to offer significant and relevant ways for city people to observe and participate in the wondrous workings of the world around us. The vast majority of the population of the planet today dwells in sprawling, paved, sound and light-polluted megalopolises. We are disenfranchised from the natural world, which is itself in danger of disappearing.
Despite what most of us have learned of the solar system as children, it is difficult to remember on a daily basis that we are rotating and revolving and spinning through space at a terrific speed — all at the same time. We are part of, and at the same time, painfully apart from the plan and patterns of the cosmos.
To that end, I have designed and performed a series of "Celestially Auspicious Occasions," a term that I coined to denote the special holidays and holy days celebrated by people throughout time in recognition and honor of the universal cycles created by the movements of the sun, moon and stars.
The ultimate goal of this work is a tranceformation of our sense of personal and communal response-ability that comes from the realization of the complex and inexorable interconnectivity of the universe, and hence, hopefully, our determined protection of this, our only planet-home.
I believe that the only thing that can save our Earth from our own shortsighted and selfish attitudes and actions is for us to start thinking of ourselves = the planet. It is time for us to join together as interdependent partners, as interconnected members of our families and communities, as coexistent inhabitants of the earth and as cocreators of our mutual future.