My art has been the most healing journey for me over the years. I have a degree in Art Therapy and sometimes I think I got just for myself. At the deepest and hardest points in my transformation there were always images. Some reflected my pain, some reflected the transformation out of pain and others like this one showed my paint and transformation. Many times there are words that come with the paintings. Here is one painting and the words the came with it:
“I am at the edge of the creative cauldron, peering in over the rim. It is strange and yet familiar, as I look at my reflection in this dark lightness. The image I see is a quicksilver reflection of a woman rippling across this smooth cauldron surface. Who is she? I see such beauty flickering in her face as the full moon shines over my head. If this is a reflection of me what has happened? I don’t remember this lovely face.
There is something in her eye that draws me in and I climb the cauldron’s edge and slip gently into the water. As my body breaks the surface, the water begins to bubble around me. Kind, fragrant bubbles, splitting rainbows as they burst. I am surrounded by beauty in the colors, the fragrance and the warm water that surrounds me. I am back in the womb. I lean my head back against the edge of this vast support bowl, close my eyes and relax into the depths. The water envelops me, caresses me with wet, wonderful lips and sucks me under. I feel myself plunging into the depths of the water as all that was light turns to darkness and I no longer see clearly. All the beauty that surrounded me has turned to black, and gray and swirling green. It frightens me. I drop, helplessly into this dark abyss with no anchor to hold me. There are no familiar landmarks to grab on to. I am just falling into a darkened space. Frantically kicking my feet I swim toward the steel black side of the bowl and plunge my hand into its icy blackness. My hand only smashes against the darkness, and splits open, splitting forth my rich, red blood. With nothing to support me, I sink into the reddened darkness. My body goes limp, as my breath is replaced with wet, amniotic blackness. Slowly my lifeless body sinks to the bottom of the void and lands in the muddy surface at basin end. I become the muck, dirt, rocks and oozing slime.
And I lay there endlessly, alone in the darkness. All at once there is a stirring in the sludge around me. I feel life return and begin to pulse and undulate in my body. There is a growing, green shoot coming from the center of my being and it ascends from me like a strong green snake. My lifeless body remains forever, a part of the void at the bottom of the cauldron. slowly moving its way through the dark, cold, colorless water this snake-like green shoot becomes a stem. As it reaches for the surface the stem grows stronger, greener and full of life. As it reaches the surface a sliver of light becomes visible again, encouraging the stem to move upward. Finally it breaks through the gently bubbling, fragrant water as it burst forth in a display of green leaves that lay down on the surface of the water to support the beautiful lotus that it has birthed from its journey. And the cauldron brings forth life again.
“ The process of creating visionary image pushes the artist to fall through the creative cauldron, into themselves, and through the illusion that is their own image, so they can retrieve the image of the Divine. This is the dance of creativity as it ebbs and flows from creative to destructive energies in equal balance.
Visionary art making, whether it is writing, visual art, dance or music, is a shamanic process and many artists have enhanced powers of seeing, hearing and dreaming which allow them to move easily between the worlds, without experiencing the boundaries that keep others from exploring those realms. The artist often takes this journey for self exploration but the images, movement, songs and poems that result, are transformative, enlightening, healing and empowering to those who experience their work.
Something must be destroyed in order for something to be created. It is a law of nature. This is a part of the creative process that must be understood, as many artists through the centuries have been swallowed up by the darkness and never returned. Why did they drop to the bottom of the creative cauldron and become the mud rather that retrieving the pearls? It is fear that swallows them up as they see themselves reflected in the quicksilver face and the personality can’t make sense of what they see.
We fear the darkness because it lacks the familiar landmarks that anchor us into feeling safe. It is the place where nightmares chased us as children and the boogieman hid under our beds and in our closets. Children learn to fear the darkness and that fear follows them into adulthood.
A physical manifestation of this darkness is the womb. The womb is an excellent prospective from which to view the process because it is something we have all experienced. We remember it in our cells even if we don’t remember it in our minds, whether we are male or female. We are all connected to this space. There is mystery and magic in the dark void from which we entered this life, which is also the place we return when we die.
I can feel a sense of fear and excitement when I think of it in this way. Excitement about the creative, birthing aspect of womb space and fear around the unknown death aspects. It is this paradox that keeps us ambivalent about darkness. It conjures fear because it is nebulous and if we go there we may never return. The darkness of womb space is connected to our origins in this incarnation. It reaches back through time and space to our very beginnings. To the time when we were all one with Source in the void. It is before light, dark, time, space, form and breathe. In womb space we are connected to all memory and if the visionary artist can dive into that place and retrieve that information, what they bring back speaks truth to everyone who views the work. Any one can tap into this well of wisdom.
Womb space has been called the matrix, the Great Mother, The Earth Mother and the cave is its chief symbol. Since ancient times initiation rights have been performed in caves, as the initiate returned to the darkness of the womb to vision quest. These lost ancient rights must return again for it is in the space of the womb we can revisit and remember who we truly are.
The womb is the unmanifest because of it’s potential to bring forth life in human form as well as creative form. In Sumeria the word for underworld, the sacred cave and the womb was Matu, which meant mother. The oracle at Delphi was thought to be a womb that could be accessed to bring forth wisdom and knowledge.
The word hysteria is now thought of as an out of control state of irrationality and madness that is attributed to menstruating women. It originates from the Greek word, hustera which means womb or womb consciousness. To the early Greeks hysteria was a condition of shamanic possession and ecstatic trance that was cultivated by women during menstruation in order to receive vision and prophecy.
Somewhere along the line in history it got relegated to a negative state of craziness. We have lost the ability to tap into this incredible state of womb consciousness that can connect us to a higher source of wisdom.
“The Dark Night of the Soul” is really a journey into womb space to the void and a search for light. It is a frightening place to journey because we must go there alone. When we have dropped through fear and the illusions of who we thought were and stand naked with our selves and the darkness, magic can happen. When we are naked, exposed and not sure of who we are we can open and expand to new possibilities. This expansion process begins in darkness for it is within this darkness that our greatest gifts and treasures are hiding just beyond the light of our current reality.
I have stood at the edge of my own darkness, on the rim of the creative cauldron and at the cave that leads to my inner landscape many times and I have trembled. I have experience fear pushing me to walk away and not look while at the same time my curiosity was calling me to enter. I have been told that bats, snakes, spiders, monsters and dragons live in dark places. Those scary things have kept me from exploring earth’s caves, which are the womb of the Earth.
Metaphorically our fear is the dragon that dwells there and the fire is its breath that will surely burn us. What if that very dragon lives within us, then what? What if others see our darkness and run away because they have mistaken if for a dragon? It is often safer not to look and pretend there is nothing in our darkness. In reality that dragon can become our carriage and it’s fiery breath our guiding light and it can carry us to the treasures on our darkened path.
The womb and the void are dark but they are the space that contains light of our possibilities. The darkness is the fertile ground where light can grow. If we are women the seeds of our future children in physical form are planted there. For all of us the seeds of the children of our creativity are planted there just waiting to grow into a beautiful garden. The vast space of the womb holds our passion, our power, our creativity, wisdom and truth.
If we can allow ourselves to drop into what appears to be a deep, dark endless cavern of no return, we can soar like birds through this expansive landscape and retrieve the treasures that are planted there.
Then beauty can be revealed to us from within our darkest dream. AS ABOVE SO BELOW…