My name is Lara Irene Vesta, daughter of Ellen, granddaughter of Mary and Barbara, great-granddaughter of Irene, Louise, Marija and Borghild. My people come from Norway, Sweden, Germany, Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales and a multi-generational ethnic Czechoslovakian community in Ukraine. I am an artist, writer, storyteller and educator living in the Pacific Northwest.
My inspirations include rites of passage, ancestral mythology, folklore and the healing power of myth. I am the author and illustrator of The Moon Divas Guidebook: Spirited Self-Care for Women in Transition, the Moon Divas Oracle and Wild Soul Runes: Reawakening the Ancestral Feminine. I am also the creator/facilitator of inquiry-based, community supported courses at the Wild Soul School .
I have been shaped and influenced by many teachers on my journey. As a child I was inspired by southern Oregon storytellers Jim Martin and Barbara Griffin. Later I trained as a writer of fiction and nonfiction and worked with fantastic mentors along that journey including Eric Allen, Vincent Craig Wright, Lawson Fusao Inada, Elinor Langer, Judy Blunt and Jack Driscoll. After earning my MFA in Fiction from Pacific University in 2007, I taught English, Writing and developed the Community Stories civic engagement program. The late Dr. Lorelle Browning and the joyfully inspiring Dr. Pauline Beard and Dr. Darlene Pagán were incredible supports in my time as a teacher.
I am a self-trained artist, art is the focus of my spiritual practice. My spiritual work is similarly self-directed--not necessarily by choice but by circumstance. As an American of multiple lineages I've found it challenging to access teachers who are in integrity, to find quality source materials and guidance on spiritual practice not attached to exploitation or commercialism. Without established communities to guide practice and vett both practitioners and information, amid the complexities of colonialism in land relationships and ancestral lineage divisions, spirituality can feel overwhelming and fraught. Yet I do believe that earth-based spiritual traditions have the power to reconnect and heal us. My attempt is to re-member the earth-based lifeways of my ancestors through research, art and story, and connect with the land where I live. I share my (very imperfect) path of exploration, translation and practice in the hopes that it will inspire others to pursue the unique and universal connections in their lives, places and lineages. I make continual adjustments as I learn, and you will see this reflected in my books and other writings. I'm forever grateful to individuals in the short-lived, and now defunct, Moon Divas and Kith and Kin communities, for showing me what spirituality could be in collaboration. My spiritual awareness expanded within my year of studies in the Philosophy and Religion PhD program at CIIS with Dr. Alka Arora, Dr. Mara Keller, Afia Walking Tree and Anjali Nath, MA.
Another aspect of my spiritual path has been illness and disability. In 2016 I was diagnosed with Myalgic Encephalomeylitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, a disease caused by viruses and inflammation with an infectious trigger. I became progressively ill and finally spent years homebound and mostly bedridden before receiving treatment, a time in my life I refer to as a death transition or rite of passage. Illness, and the multiple moves caused by its economic consequences, destroyed all of my in-person communities. After healing I began using the name Veleda to honor the history and magic of my motherline, and in deep loneliness began turning to online communities for connection.
I went into remission in 2019, but my journey was not over. Covid transformed my body yet again, through three infections and a bad vaccine reaction. In the past two years I have experienced a relapse of ME/CFS symptoms multiple times, and while I experience periods of relative health I have not been able to restore to a point of consistent stability. This continued transformation has been foundational to the creation of the Dark Goddess Project, a rite of passage process for integrating challenging change, and the corresponding Dark Goddess book. This is the gift in the wound, the boon of the underworld journey that is initiation.
In this embodied experience I have found that art, writing and community are the antidote to despair. As is the reframing of challenge and dís-ability as empowerment. My current research interests are in the areas of integrative spirituality, mythtelling, illness as initiation, rites of passage, creating community and healing through myth and story I share my studies, classes, creations and translations as gifts and am supported in this offering by an incredible circle of web weavers. This model of community supported education allows me to continue creating even as I struggle with physical challenges. This beloved community hails from all over the world, and they offer each other independent studies, practices and supports I would not be able to facilitate on my own. I am forever grateful to have these sacred people in my life, and surprised at how rich these online experiences have become.
But wouldn't it be a wonder if we could gather together in person sometimes?
In the year ahead we are setting the intention for the creation of the Wild Soul Sanctuary, a home and place of healing, ancestral animist practice and elder care in community.
Creating community is my priority, and that community begins with my family. In my most important work I am a mother of three (nearly) grown children, collaborative partner with the most creative person I've ever known, daughter of two active elder parents, granddaughter of my nonagenarian babička and part of an incredible extended family web woven between Oregon, California, Canada and Norway.
When I am not healing, creating or connecting I love tending gardens, reading and spending time in the wild.