Saturday, February 13, 2016

Gargoyle Protection During Natural Desasters

I have been making my one-of-a-kind gargoyle bells for over 15 years now. Over those years I have had a number of collectors who continuously buy my bells in order to place them along the perimeter of their home for protection. I have always thought that was nice, but maybe a little excessive and overly superstitious. One collector in Oklahoma City insists that my protective friends saved him from deadly tornadoes that hit his area every summer . His home was unscathed during the 2013 super tornado, although quite near the path. Another collector in LA, who in one year bought more bells than any of my retailers, insists that they protect her and her family form earthquakes as well, along with "bad ju ju," she says. I have always believed in the protective power of my bells, but time and time again, they have proven themselves to me and others in times of need.

Perhaps the most profound proof of this protection for me was when I went through hurricane Irene in 2011. I had never been through a hurricane before and was living on a narrow pinnacle of land near Tilghman Island out on the Chesapeake Bay. Before retiring for the fun-filled night, we decided to place Bonzie, my personal gargoyle, on the kitchen counter for protection. I am not sure what possessed us to choose that spot to place him, but I am very glad we did. We spent the night crammed in a tiny closet with a dog and two cats because it was the safest location if anything were to happen to the structural integrity of the house. The night was both insane and horrifying! When Irene arrived, all that we could hear was the screeching sound of the wind whipping around in all directions. This night was one of the few times in my life that I ever trembled from fear,and I really don't shake easily. It really unnerved my partner to see me, such a calm and collected person, trembling. We tried to sleep, but the mix of absolute terror, not to mention bad dog breath, irritated cats and crammed closet stench made that nearly impossible.

When the winds died down the next morning, we stepped out of that wretched closet and all seemed well. I looked out the windows in the front and despite some downed power lines, and wind-blown debris, everything looked okay. Then I looked out the back window. The picture you see here is what I saw. A giant and beautiful black walnut tree was completely horizontal in the yard. We were shocked that anything could take down that giant beauty. We were also utterly amazed and thankful about how that beauty decided to fall. Had she fallen any other way she would have crushed us, our art studio, the Post Office or the neighbors house. In fact, she fell in the only safe direction she could have, causing minor damage to the neighbors shed and with a few branches lightly touching the neighbors windows. If she had fallen a hair in any other direction, it would have caused much more damage. If she had fallen closer to the house, it would have crushed us in our closet hideout and  I might not be writing this today. I couldn't make sense of why or how that tree fell in the manner that it did, as the winds were not blowing in that direction all night and there is nothing to indicate why it would fall that way when other trees in the area fell in other directions. However,when I saw the smiling eyes of my big, beautiful and magical gargoyle, Bonzie, it all made sense.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Historical and Spiritual Uses of Bells

Early humans invented all sorts of useful tools to aid them in their everyday needs and struggles for survival. In addition, there is something in our nature that drives us to invent and create art, music and spiritual/religious tools. Our earliest examples of art, some dating back 40,000 years, such as cave paintings found throughout the world, and the voluptuous Venus of 
Willendorf statuettes are considered to be spiritual in nature. 

Bells and the purpose of their invention may never be known for certain, but there is some compelling evidence of spiritual uses of bells around the world throughout history. It is said that the very first bell was simply a hallowed rock struck by a stick whose sounds reverberated off of cliffs to far way places.

Excavations in China have revealed one of the earliest types of bells was made out of clay and was called a ling.  Lings were simple bells, having a handle at the top of a hollow cavity with little or no decoration.  Lings were later cast during the Bronze Age in China and have also been discovered during recent excavations of archeological sites.  These types of early bells were thought to be used as a ritualistic musical instrument for important occasions or ceremony.  

Bell artifacts have been created and used by cultures throughout the world including such places as Assyria, Rome, Central America and Africa.  Thought to be used as combination of ritual, representations of power, and musical value, bells have even been found in tombs with mummies of ancient Egypt, giving them a powerful place in the afterlife of the dead.  In ancient China, bells were used in groups, such as on a spinning wheel or long strip of wood, signifying more power through their sound as the number of bells grew.  It was during this time period that bells began to become symbolic as well as functional, often accompanied with stories and songs, especially when individuals were able to cast them into metal objects and embellish them with images and symbols.  

As ancient cultures developed more concrete, secular religious practices, bells became an integral part of those rituals.  In Christianity, bells were used to call people to services, and later, developed in Rome, one large bell was placed atop a public meeting house, so that only one bell was rung to call many people from a village, instead of many small hand bells being rung in the streets.  The Romans used bells to notify the public that the public bathhouses were ready, so it was thought a natural progression took place to notify, with a bell, the calling to religious service.  Many bells were hand-hammered metal, made in Ireland during early Christianity, and these became to be known as the sacred bells of Ireland and were revered like many other saintly relics.  Many people in early times came to feel that bells were the existential voice of God and possessed sacred powers.  During the early days of this newborn religion, too, many early Christian churches and monasteries used bells to control all aspects of life, from service time,  curfew bells, turning in and out of sheep into the fields, and the indication of the final bell of the day, when it was time to extinguish the fire and go to sleep.  Churches and the religious leaders in these newly formed communities found that the bell helped regulate the society and remind the followers of certain tasks and duties.  People relied on these bells to aid them in their religious quest in these hamlets and towns. Usually, these bells were affixed to a central tower or region, to be better controlled for ringing and notification over a broader space of distance.  

Bells were made out of many materials with many different methods.  Early bells were molded by hand out of clay and fired in a pit.  As the ages progressed, and metallurgy was more fully understood, bells were made of bronze, iron and other metals.  The techniques varied, but older bells were much more crude, being riveted together from two to four pieces, and either having a clapper or being run on the side with a mallet.  As time and industry progressed, bells were poured into castings and could be made larger and more intricate in this way.  During the time period of more prolific bell manufacturing, bells became more sacred to churches and were often blessed and even named, such as in the Russian Eastern Orthodox Church.

Bells can be found with history deeply rooted all over the globe, and in many different cultures and religions.  Bells can be used and were used for such purposes as protection, warding off evil, meditation,musical enchantment and as discussed previously, calling to prayer. They seem to have the deepest roots in the eastern countries and ancient Asia.  In India, bells were often placed on the outside doors of temples.  It was thought that if one rang a bell before entering, that it would ward off any evil spirits from entering the temple along with the praying visitor.  Bells in these temples also served a more common purpose, as these places sometimes did not have doors, so ringing of the bells would also ward off any animal that might have wondered into the shelter during the night.  In Tibet, tingsha bells are two cymbal bells that are rung on each other in prayer rituals and in ceremonies.  Singing bowls are also classified by some as inverted bells, being more of a bowl shape that one rings by tapping the bowl bell on the side with a mallet, causing a vibration or “singing” which is thought to aid in meditation or healing practices.  The connecting tie that runs through all of these eastern cultures is that bells were revered, used firstly in ritual and spiritual practices, and later used to make music and aid in meditation, prayer and joyous gatherings and cleansing rituals of sacred spaces and altars.    

Believed to begun in ancient China, bells have grown in scope, size and significance to religious groups and individuals who utilize them for any number of given purposes.  Bells are used for ritual, music, protection, meditation and healing.  With their immersion between worlds of culture and religion, these ringing tools seem to withstand the test of time.  Bells vary in shape, size, sound and material, but one thing remains clear, across cultures and time, bells ring loudly to those who listen to their song.  

I stumbled upon the creation of  ceramic bells by inventing an art form I call gargoyle bells. One day back in the year 2001, I was making a pinch pot and I noticed that the pot sort of looked like an open-mouthed face. Thus began the development of the idea to create bells that look like faces with wagging tongues. Over time, I realized that my expressive faces looked like gargoyles and began researching the meaning and purpose of the mysterious grimacing creatures that sit atop Gothic cathedrals. After lots of research, it dawned on me that I was creating a type of protector that rang. I completely fell in love with the concept. I realized that, not only can people use the gargoyle itself to scare away evil and  protect themselves, they can also ring them to clear the negative energy with musical vibrations and resonance.

Since that first day years ago, I have made thousands of grimacing, goofy-faced, tongue-wagging ringers. I simply cannot stop making them! At present, my gargoyle bells encircle (and protect) the globe, having gone off to collections and homes in Australia, Italy, Great Britain, Russia, Korea, South Africa, with most sprinkled evenly across the United States.  For more information on gargoyle bells and their uses, please visit

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

How Morey My Cargoyle Saved My Life

A number of years back, I made a bell named Morey. He looked much like a member of the Irish side of the family. He had those bright smiling Irish eyes of the Matthews clan with a concerned brow, a knowing glimmer and slight cataracts. He really felt like a family member so I always kept him close. Morey was the first bell that I ever hung in my car. I don't know why I never had the idea to hang one of my gargoyle bells from the rear-view mirror before, but it really seemed like a good idea at the time. I had been having lots of strange mechanical problems with my '05 Prius and when I hung his waggy blue-tongued head, face-forward from the rear-view mirror, I felt so much more at ease about driving, even though my car continued to 
break down.

Morey was with me at midnight, when I was on the long stretch of highway 33, a small two-lane highway going out onto a pinnacle torwards Tilghman Island on the Chesapeake Bay. Morey gave me assuring looks with his sparkly Irish eyes every time during my car crisis. I knew I would be okay with Morey by my side. He was the most assuring when my brakes gave out right when I was getting on the excruciatingly long spans of the Bay Bridge. This was undoubtedly the most terrifying experience of my to living through a hurricane, (That is another story, but I had Bonzi for that one.) but Morey was there for me. I put my flashers on and talked with him as we rolled passed large freighter ships above the expansive blue waves. We prayed that no one in front of us would stop...imagining ourselves flying into the blue abyss below. I asked Morey if I should have my windows down so I could swim out easily if we crashed. I resorted to my usual calming strategies, loudly singing and religious hymns I could recall from years of attending Catholic schools. Morey's gleaming eyes seemed teary with compassion, while reassuring me it would be okay, and it was.  

My Prius is now in a metal junk pile because its computer system fried, but I survived innumerable pratfalls because the mechanics simply could not find what was wrong with the vehicle. It took six months for them to find out that one tiny electrical component among hundreds was fried. Meanwhile, I continued to drive that mysterious death trap of a car with Morey at my side. I survived failed break systems in the wee hours, on major highways and on many bridges, including the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, one of the longest bridges in the world, several times. It truly is a miracle that I drove all those miles in that possessed Prius unscathed. I honestly feel I have my cargoyle guardian Morey to thank for that. During less arduous times, Morey would just ring for me out of the blue... reminding me to stay alert and watch for deer or other pratfalls. He saved me from many accidents with his surprise dings and dongs. When the Prius went to scrap, I knew Morey's job was done. I have since sent him to Washington to help a teen cousin of mine who is/was deathly afraid to learn how to drive. I am sure he is helping her to feel safe and bringing her  the security and confidence she needs while driving herself to school and her new job.

Now I have a different cargoyle named Gormy. He keeps me company on my hour commute to teach Annapolis. Gormy is semi-retired because he used to be my classroom bell. Now he actually only has to work a couple of hours a day and being a cargoyle for me is now a piece of cake job. This is ok with me because, although driving is a serious matter,  I know that I will never need the serious protection and reassurance that Morey provided again.  

Stay tuned for other stories about cargoyles, including one about how Gormy helped me avoid an extremely expensive speeding a very surprising and clever way!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Power and Meaning of Tongue-Sticking

  I went to Roman Catholic private schools in the 70's and 80's. When I was in first grade, I was trained how to properly receive the holy  communion through religious education. As a part of this preparation for holy communion, we were taught to stick out our tongues to receive the communion when the priest introduced it to us. This was the accepted method of the day. After my first communion, I would greatly anticipate communion time, often salivating at the thought of the delicious little wafer and considering that communion meant that the long Mass was almost over. In my inability to focus, or for that matter, follow Father's thick Latin accent, I would involuntarily practice this gesture over and over again throughout the Mass. I thought that this would help me to to do it correctly for the priest when it was finally time for the ritual. Needless to say our Principal, Sister Francis, did not understand my practice and assumed instead that I was expressing negative ideas about Father Livius by pointing at him with my tongue. While seated face to face with Sister in her office, I could barely focus on anything but the paddle with holes drilled through it hanging on the wall behind her head. I blubbered unintelligible explanations to Sister through my distraught cries. I will leave my punishment to your imagination, but lets just say that I wished Sister belonged to the the Sisters of Mercy.    

Famous photo of Einstein annoyed with reporters.
Tongue-sticking  or "sticking out your tongue" has become a gesture that has recently become somewhat acceptable as an adult expression in Western culture. Even as recently as ten years ago, if an adult stuck out their tongue at you or posed with their tongue out in a photo, most would have assumed they were mentally off. Most people are familiar with the famous photo of Albert Einstein sticking out his tongue in annoyance of reporters. This was a rare and bold act which only Einstein could get away with at the time. Now however, it is not surprising to see the pinkish face protrusions of celebrities and even U.S. Olympic athletes, along with a vast array of American teens and twenty somethings through their Instagrams and Facebook profiles. My questions in regards to this is what has changed in are views of this expression and how does it reflect our culture? Have we become, crass, vulgar and improper or has the meaning and acceptability of this gesture changed within our culture?

The tongue is truly a fascinating a unique muscle and sensory organ that has held varied symbolic associations across cultures and time due to its versatile nature. As a sensory organ, the tongue more directly represents our sense of taste and liking for culinary items. Someone may stick out there tongue to imply anticipation and hunger. It is also an organ associated with kissing and sexual practice and therefore a tongue display can be considered a sexual advance of sorts. On the other hand, when someone is concentrating intently on something, they often inadvertently stick out their tongues. I am a lower school art teacher and have many photos of children focused on their art projects with their tongues out to the side. The tongue is also a symbol for our intelligence by allowing our incredible capabilities of speech and communication. 

For Tibetian monks, tongue-sticking is a form of greeting, but also a way of revealing to others that you are good and you do not have a the black tongue of a demon. At the other end of the spectrum, throughout many cultures of the world, tongue-sticking is a powerful war gesture and an important and often final move in war dances. Many ancient cultures like the Mayas, Aztecs, Celts, and Indians among others have gods and goddesses represented in their art with their tongues hanging out. There is also repeated mythology across cultures that integrates fierce and mighty tongue-sticking gods lapping up blood, which brings us in a round about way back to my story about preparing for holy communion. Should I have been punished for anticipating the sacrament with such a natural response and desire to be prepared? Was my tongue-sticking really such a horrible act?

Gargoyle Bell by Dawn Malosh
All questions aside, the reason I began researching this unusual subject is because essentially my gargoyle bells are tongue-stickers. No matter how you view it, they are sticking out their tongues. Sometimes they seem like they are laughing so hard that their tongues are hanging out. Other times they seem like a Maori warrior or an ancient Sheila-na-gig, warning enemies to back-off. Like human tongues, my bells' tongues give them their voices, their unique rings. Their vibrations are used to cleanse spaces of evil and negativity. In addition to this, like the gods, my gargoyles' tongues could be perceived as a type of warning or reminder that they will not hesitate to devour anything that tries to harm the humans and spaces they protect. Visit for more information about this or email me at

It seems that our society has come to some sort of realization and acceptance of this gesture of tongue-sticking. It is all about the intent behind the gesture and people seem to understand that better today. I am glad because most people are very accepting of my tongue-wagging gargoyle bells. If only Sister Francis understood that, like a good little Catholic, I was just trying to prepare myself to consume the body of Christ, then maybe, just maybe, she would have forgiven me for my tongue-sticking ways.

Monday, March 3, 2014

A Mysterious Special Guest

To the best of my knowledge, I am the sole inventor of my funny faced bells I call Gargoyle Bells. I even own several design and trademark patents on them. I have never seen anything like my strange creations before. Last week however, I came across something very close to my quirky creations. It is a flea market item and the owner had no idea of its true origins. It is a beautiful distorted face bell, carefully carved out of some sort of hard wood. It has a very Asian looking face and large Buddha-esque ears. I just had to have it!

He arrived just in time for the Blessing and Naming Ceremony for the latest newborns. This is him visiting with Bonzie, my personal (and quite handsome) gargoyle bell. Bonzie likes to chat and share wisdom with other gargs, but usually before they go off to their new homes. This time around, he welcomed a new companion to gargoyle bell headquarters instead.

The ceremony of new gargoyle bells commenced on the New Moon of Saturday, March 1st. A Blue day with excellent astrological pronmise. It was a beautiful blessing with a variety bells and many new face pots joined in the mix. Reiki healing music played while all bells were saged and cleansed, including our mysterious guest. Healing, peaceful, positive and protective energies from the universe were invoked into the bells as always.

When it became time to name this adorable-yet-toothy visitor as we always do with letter dice, the name Kilos was spelled. I decided to ask where he was from and the dice very distinctly spelled Tokyo! I have been trying to figure out what Kilos may mean in Japanese and see learn more about his history. It is a beautiful mystery that I will enjoy researching.