Huldra, Nordic Queen of the Forest (oil, 2001)
I took part in a five day bilingual (Russian and English) conference outside Moscow on how to protect and rescue the primordial boreal Taiga forest of Siberia and its indigenous peoples from the onslaught of capitalism and multi-national timber companies who can only see timber and dead wood but have no concept of the living and sacred forest. The Taiga is the only vast and ancient forest that has been left more of less intact until now. It was protected during the Soviet era. It is now threatened which is a disaster.
I went to this conference because I grew up with the same vast pine forest in the north of Sweden and I love it passionately. I and my friend Feja Lesniewska also went to visit an eco village and young Russians who live in Karelia, which was annexed by Russia from Finland after the war. I was sitting in the forest drawing by a lake and birch trees, the Silver Maiden, in her golden autumn glory, a landscape so familiar from my childhood. The forest creates soil, water, nutrients, berries, fungi and much else as well as the air we breathe. There is an eternal cycle of life, death and rebirth as leaves fall and decompose and everything is recycled to create new life. The Queen of the Forest or Forestwoman presides over it all. I grew up in Sweden with the sagas of the trolls, mainly forest dwellers that cannot tolerate sunlight and love the dark dampness of the Forest mother. She is called the Huldra and is a magical being who has been slandered by the patriarchs. They see her as a beautiful naked woman with long blond hair who lures lonely men to their deaths in the forest. Her backside is a black putrefying tree trunk. She is both dark and light and, like Kali, she gives and takes life.
Nuestra Señora De Guadalupe (oil, 2000)
To my great surprise, I have found myself, a northerner, drawn to the indigenous Dark Mother of the Americas. I was travelling in the USA in 1999 during the launch of my book “Return of the Dark/Light Mother or New Age Armageddon?: Towards a Feminist Vision of the Future” which was published in Austin, Texas by Plainview Press. During the six week tour I got ill and exhausted with bronchitis and continuous coughing. Whilst in Texas I had previously been introduced to La Senora/Our Lady by a feminist nun in San Antonio. As I travelled, finally to end up in San Miguel de Allende in Mexico and Mexico City itself, Her call became louder and louder. I found myself delirious, feverish and hysterical on a New York airport, having missed the connecting flight to Mexico and was put up in a hotel overnight. I managed to sleep a few hours and had a marvellous visionary dream. I dreamt that I saw all the world’s Goddesses swirling and rotating in a great pyramidal form and at its summit stood Our Lady of Guadalupe radiating a great and blessed light. When I finally arrived in Mexico City, I was still ill and I was alone, speaking very little Spanish in this vast, dangerous and very polluted city but somehow I felt protected. I managed to sleep all night in the cheap hotel room situated close to the grand El Zocolo or plaza in the city centre. The Aztecs practise their ancient dances here in front of what once were their temples, long time gone. I knew in my sleep that even if I crawled on my knees, I had to get to Tepeyac, the sacred site where Nuestra Senora was seen hundreds of years ago by an Aztec shepherd. Here stood the ancient temple of Tonanzin (the pre-Aztec Goddess) and below the rocks and waterfalls are the chapels and great cathedral dedicated to Our Lady. She is Tonanzin reborn. She is NOT Mary of the church even though the Catholic church attempts to whiten Her and make Her look submissive. There is, however, a sculpture group, high in the rocks and by the waterfalls of Nuestra Senora, hands out-stretched and dark skinned with a group of Aztecs in traditional clothes and ornaments, very beautiful, giving Her gifts. She simply said, ‘I am the Mother of your people”, which is very different from the vision of Mary the Virgin that appeared at Lourdes and obligingly said ‘I am the immaculate conception”. The whole day at Tepeyac was blissful and I was surrounded by mainly indigenous Mexicans. Every time I entered the cathedral I cried my eyes out but so did everyone else. She has always stayed with me.
Madonna on the Serpent Mound with the
Sun on her Back (mixed media, 1992)
This is another miraculous experience on Malta, this time with Willow La Monte (editor and producer of the Goddessing Journal) at Cospicua, a city by the sea close to Valletta, the capital. On the 9th December every year the Madonna of the Immaculate Conception is carried through the streets of Cospicua from her great cathedral. She is immensely heavy and made of silver and is carried by many strong men and a few women who are both ecstatic and delirious after many hours. They do ritual steps, swaying back and forth as they carry The Madonna. I cannot describe the feeling of seeing her returning after her long journey. I know that we both cried. She is lit up by the sun on her back. In my image she is at one with the serpent and is not crushing its head under her feet. The first time I saw her carried out of that cathedral some years earlier, there was a violent downpour of rain the moment she was visible in the doorway even though there had been a drought for months. She clearly brought that rain and everyone thanked her.
Black Madonna of Malta (oil, 1999)
When I have been on Malta and Gozo I have not only been spending time in the Neolithic temples of the Great Mother but I have also been taken to see Black Madonnas in churches and in crypts. The most emotional encounter for me was/is with the Black Madonna under the ground. She is to be found in a crypt or cave under the floor of a cloister church in Rabat on Malta. My friend, Chloe Misfud, who loves her also, took me there and the times I have been in that crypt we have both spent long times in a trance state in the presence of the Madonna who was carved in a brown streaked marble and is so beautiful. The legend goes that a hunter was out shooting with his friends but felt tired and went into a cave to rest. He fell asleep and had the vision of the Madonna with the child. When he woke up many years had gone by. Very similar to the Celtic legends of visits to the land of the Faerie when a day might have been a hundred years in human terms. The crypt under the church is that very Faerie cave preserved. Perhaps no surprise that we enter such an enchanted state when down there. She is also known to have cried tears that look like blood, a miracle. She is surrounded by African spirit masks. The original Black Madonna would have been Isis of Egypt with the Horus child.
Fire Dakini Dancing Woman (oil, 1999)
This painting was inspired by visiting Yosemite Park in September, 1998, with Jane Lowe, whom I met at Z. Budapest’s International Goddess Conference. It was also inspired by an experience I had at Glastonbury Goddess Conference in August with the Lammas fire and our ritual around it. I was at the time still undergoing radiotherapy treatment and was in a strange state, feeling as if I were being zapped. I had a waking dream, the night before the Lammas ritual that was part of the conference, which told me I must bare my breasts to the sacred fire of the Goddess to exorcise the radiation. And this I did while warning everyone that the Harvest Mother is not only benevolent, She also takes life, that She had taken my son (my son had died on a Lammas full moon in August), that there is fear but also hope. Something was speaking through me …. perhaps the Dakini Herself as She dances wildly with the elements and gives us wisdom and transformation. In my painting I have brought together fire and water and rocks and mountains. Above is Yosemite park and below the Rocky Valley in Cornwall, with its waterfalls and carved labyrinths in the rock. Beautiful ancient wild lands.
The Dakinis are sky-dancing ancestral pre-Buddhist Goddess spirits of Tibet. They cut through illusions and falsehoods and theirs is a secret language. They hold skullcaps full of blood as they wildly dance. My fire-dancer rises out of a volcano. The molten red hot magma at the centre of the Earth Mother’s womb is like the Kundalini She-serpent that lies coiled and dormant in the spine. She creates and she destroys. If activated she rises through the Chakras to ultimately join Shakti, cosmic female power. She is ecstatic sexual power and therefore feared by the patriarchs.
My dancing Dakini is also inspired by the life-sized carved relief of Maria Magdalena, placed in the centre of a great altar triptych that I saw in a museum of medieval art in Lubeck in Germany. She wears dreadlocks and is covered in fur. She is the wild green woman of the desert. It is now thought that perhaps she in fact was an Ethiopian priestess and therefore African and black.
Cromwell’s Calvinist puritans in Britain destroyed priceless catholic art works, statues of the Madonna and precious old stained glass windows while in Germany, during the Lutheran Reformation, the Protestants had the good sense to preserve medieval art for the future. Thus, the Maria Magdalena, the likes of which I have never seen anywhere else. Calvin was a sort of fascist Taliban of his days and to him anything beautiful or sensuous was an abomination. Earth was a fallen realm and women especially were damned.
The Chakras (oil, 1988)
I took part in a healing meditation in Bristol soon after my son died from cancer. We were asked to visualise the chakras or energy centres of our bodies. I had intense images that came flooding in and I saw my own woman’s body and its energy centres as that of the Earth’s body – from deep within the Earth, Her red-hot magma, through the volcano erupting with immense orgasmic energies in the sexual centre. Then I saw the radiating sun in the solar plexus, which needs to be protected, and then the breast and heart. It struck me that the heart chakra is green because the green Earth is about love. Plants and trees and all green beings give out love and create oxygen that makes life possible for us. Without them we could not live. This felt like a revelation and changed my attitude to the colour green in all its shades. I experienced the third eye as the Moon. It also became clear to me that all the charts and figures I had seen of chakras and the body have been based on the male body. I felt that what I saw came from a different space: my woman’s experience of body, sexuality, cosmos.
In conversation with my friend, Serena Roney-Dougal, Doctor of Parapsychology and author of “Where Science and Magic Meet” and “The Faery Faith: An Integration of Science with Spirit“, it became clear to me that the classic Hindu chakra system and philosophy is in fact based on the male body and ignores the vagina, a body orifice that only women have and source of great multi-orgasmic sexual powers. Our nourishing breasts, that are loving and giving, are also ignored although central to the energies of the heart-chakra. But we should not be surprised that women’s divine and sexual life-giving powers are ignored, also in the ancient venerable Hindu teachings since after all women are seen to give birth to illusionary life that traps the male spirit and is but a source of pain and misery. The Earth Mother is not seen as divine, Her powers and beauty denied.
Summerland (mixed media, 1996)
Summerland is the land of the faeries and the dead, and this is my interpretation of the gateway into this realm of the White Goddess who carries the souls of the recent dead in Her great winged arms in a mantle of light. I “saw” Her, as in a near death experience, when with my dead son in the hospital in Bayonne. I saw in my mind’s eye how he travelled on great radiant white wings into a great and loving presence. This experience changed my life. Here in Summerland stands an ancient shamanka/Faery based on a small sculpture of a pre-Aztec Mexican shaman woman playing her drum.
And the Faeries Danced in the Mist (mixed media, 1989)
It was Samhain night (Halloween) and the ancestors were afoot. I was in the Preselies with two friends and we were looking for the beautiful little Gors Fawr stone circle which nestles at the foot of the mountains, Carn Menyn, visible in the distances with its rock outcrop of “blue stones”. It was a dark and misty night of the Dark Moon. I went with a friend into the field where we knew the stone circle would be, but however much we looked and searched we could not find it. One of the friends was in the car with the searchlights shining into the field. It was spooky. When we got back to the car we found that the woman had felt a presence prowling around the car and was terrified. I imagined the Faeries dancing in the mist. Next day we went back in the daylight and there the stone circle was where we had searched the night before. The Preselau mountains are full of spirits and are the haunt of the powerful and most ancient Hag, Cerridwen.
Celtic Mysteries – St Non’s Well (oil, 1993)
For five years I lived just twelve miles down the road from St. David’s in south-west Wales, the smallest cathedral city in Britain, and to St. Non’s Well. During medieval times there was a very important pilgrimage that went from St. Winifred’s Well in north-east Wales to St. David’sand the Holy Well of St. Non, supposedly St. David’s mother. The legend went that when Nonita was about to give birth, she was for some reason out on the wild coast in a storm and as she sank down and gripped the rocks in birth pains, the well burst forth and she was enveloped in a great light. My interpretation would be however that the reason she was there in the first place is because there was the well, a spring that aided birthing women. Quite likely a priestesshood dwelt there, the Triple Mothers who were midwives, healers, mediums and astrologers.
When travelling in Brittany/Bretagne, another Celtic land, I found it was thought that not only did St. Non travel to Bretagne with St. David as a child and later died there but She is also thought to have been born there. We found the grave of St. Non in a small town called Dirinon in a very old chapel and not far away is St. Non’s Holy Well. When I travelled to France on a pilgrimage with two friends, we started our journey asking St. Non for protection here at her holy well and we were indeed protected.
To me, St. Non’s Well is a most sacred place. I love it and visit it often although I no longer live in Wales. It is situated on the coast, above the cliffs and the blue green sea, so beautiful. There is a catholic retreat and the well is protected as is St. Winifred’s Holy Well, also a catholic shrine. There is a small chapel built with ancient stones found in the area and in it are stained glass windows of St. Non, St. Brigid and St. Winifred as well as a plaster-cast statue of the Virgin with child. I have had many visions in that chapel.
The old pilgrimage-way went past St. Brynach’s church at Nevern and so I included in my painting the Bleeding Yew Mother at Nevern where there is an alleyway of ancient Yews. There is perpetual darkness there even on the brightest day. Pentre Ifan cromlech – the womb of the Cerridwen – above Nevern on the slopes of the Preseli mountains is lit by the full moon.
Sheela Na Gig St Non’s Well (mixed media, 1992)
A vision I had at the well of the Goddess/Sheela as the gateway to the Otherworld or Faerie realm. She straddles the portal, giving blessings and healing to the people, over the portal of St. Non’s chapel which here becomes transparent. The “Sheela” is in fact Freya as she is shown on a stone carved in the 5th century CE (common era) on Gotland, which is an island belonging to Sweden in the Baltic. There are many ancient remains there such as large labyrinths and Bronze Age stone ship settings.