Eve Bradford is a writer, ritualist, and student of the mysteries based in Nevada City, California. She blew into Brooklyn on the heels of a wedding for which she was the celebrant and just prior to a session of Bolad’s Kitchen, a school she attends in New Mexico taught by Martin Prechtel. She met with SARF’s Samuel Barnes at the Mountain Province Café on a beautiful afternoon in October. What follows is a condensation of their conversation.
SARF: You create art in many different modalities; do you feel as if there is a unified vibration that runs through your work?
EB: Absolutely -- that’s actually why I work in so many different mediums. What feels like the real core of what I’m up to is more conceptual, and it takes many forms. I’ve actually thought about this a lot - surprise surprise - and the way I explain it is that it has to do with a desire to inspire people to fall so in love with life, the world, each other, and Spirit, that they come to life themselves in a new way and make their choices from a place of being in love with life and in love with the world.
It’s connected to many different spiritual and mystical lineages: obviously there is a Sufi inflection - many have told me that my work reminds them of the Sufi mystical poets.
SARF: Let’s hone in on that: when were you first exposed to ritual? Have you learned under any particular masters or studied in different lineages?
EB: I’ve been a seeker since an early age. I grew up in a rather non-spiritual family; we’re Jewish by blood but definitely non-practicing and our allegiance was more cultural than spiritual. And so I was always looking for things; I went through a very odd period in middle school when I got really wrapped up in born-again, evangelical Christianity. They were the first people who ever really talked to me about God and it spoke to something very deep inside of me, though it ended badly once I was confronted by the hypocrisy that surrounded that community. I worked as a phone psychic as a teenager. I’ve been using the Tarot since I was very young. I moved to New Orleans right after high school and met this woman who was raised Wiccan, initiated into Orisha, and was a stripper…
SARF: … only in New Orleans …
EB: … and she took me under her wing. At that point I was really separated from my spirituality after that bad experience with the born-agains. I had gone completely into the mind, studying philosophy, art, and literature; and it wasn’t until this woman came along that I was moved back into a world of mysticism and spirituality in a way that was really important for me at that time. After college, I worked at an ashram in the Bahamas for a while, then at the Omega Institute in upstate NY for two seasons and was exposed to a huge variety of teachers there. And then, after moving to the west coast, a friend told me that this man Martin Prechtel was going to be speaking at a bookstore in San Rafael. So I went to hear him speak, and almost immediately I knew he was my teacher, and I’ve been studying with him for going on seven years. He’s both Native American and European and grew up in a pueblo in New Mexico. When he was 19 he was called thru his dreams to Santiago Atitlan in Guatamala and lived there for many years and was initiated into their wisdom traditions. When things got crazy there in the 80s, he was instructed by his teacher to return to America and “keep the seeds alive.” He now lives in New Mexico and runs a school there that focuses upon forgotten and untold histories, language, and intact earth-based spirituality. I swear, he holds all of history inside his head — it’s mind boggling. And his mission, which he acknowledges is essentially impossible, is to create an intact earth-based culture from the ground up. We approach it from all directions: music and art and food and story and history and language. All of these things that I knew to be true my whole life, suddenly when I came into contact with Martín I didn’t feel so crazy. I was always aware that in the modern condition there was just something missing, and his teaching allows me to begin to comprehend what that is, and how to approach it. After I first heard him speak I just wept, because it was just such a relief… Not only are these feelings real but there is someone out there who knows far more about them than I, and here he is in front of me.
SARF: The most affirming thing that one might ever recognize: I am not alone in this. This may be an over-wrought analogy, but [Martín’s teaching] sounds like the key to a door in yourself that you did not know existed. Before the teacher appears, that door is in effect a wall; and after, there is suddenly access to this deep chamber within yourself, where the wisdom of ages and the mysteries of one’s incarnation are kept.
EB: And there is a map, too. With the guidance of a teacher, we can go slow, against the grain of contemporary culture that wants everything to be so fast. He goes slow, breaking down the conditioning of modern imperial culture. One of his maxims is ‘Jump up and live again,’ and that is in essence what I’m trying to do with my work: to help people to come alive. There’s a quote, I believe from Tagore: “Lord, let me be alive when I die.” We crave aliveness, but we often don’t even know to call it that.
SARF: And what that requires, what art requires, is patience; something that contemporary capitalist culture seems designed to breed out. No longer can patience be a virtue when, as they say, ‘time is money.’ And yet even today the practice of writing is a practice of patience: look at any successful novelist, any poet, and you know that somehow they have been able to cultivate that elusive virtue. I’m interested in how you experience patience, and what advice you might offer to aspiring writers who strive towards it.
EB: That’s real. The interesting thing about writing is that it’s not just a practice of patience but also one of solitude, which is also not particularly validated in modern times. As a writer, I think one needs to create a practice that empowers one to really value your own company, to enjoy being alone with your own thoughts and visions. That’s crucial.
The other essential is not to multitask: Do one thing at a time. And really do it, and do it well, and concentrate on it for a set amount of time. Some form of meditation practice seems essential. There are many forms: sitting meditation has never done it for me personally. I need to get moving in an intentional way so that I then might come and be still as I create. For others that works really well. Some form of awareness-based practice is key; that’s your calisthenics, that’s your warm-up. Also, absolutely, you have to read. If you want to write you have to read. And read widely—sure, read those writers in your lineage, in your field, but also read things from way out there. I’m shocked how few people I know, even amongst artists, really read. This too is a product of our culture, where people are made to feel as if they don’t have the time, but once you start to read than you recognize how much time you really do have to do it: just take one hour when you would habitually be surfing the web and pick up a book. It’s so doable, and it so enriches your life. If you think you’re going to write without reading, you’re mistaken—at least if you want to write well. Sure, if you want to write contemporary fiction you needn’t read contemporary fiction, but read something: read the Taoist Cold Mountain poets, read Chaucer. It’s important. It’s respectful.