An Online Retrospective

Author Archives: Geraldine Charles

Tarxien Goddess

Tarxien Goddess (oil, 1994)

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Tarxien Goddess (oil, 1994)

Tarxien is a seamless and beautiful temple and is younger than Ggigantija. The golden stones are carved and fit perfectly.

Inside the entrance stands a broken statue of the gigantic, corpulent Goddess. Here I have envisioned how she might have looked once. Everywhere are beautiful carvings of spirals, plants and animals. We were there at sunrise once and here is a Maltese friend meditating at that hour.  

Next: Sheela Na Gig St Non’s Well

Maltese Goddess of the Upper and Underworld

Maltese Goddess of the Upper and Underworld (oil, 1998)

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 Maltese Goddess of the Upper and Underworld (oil, 1998)

I did this painting after a visit to Malta and Gozo, ancient islands of the Goddess. Her temples there are the oldest freestanding temples in the ancient world and are contemporary with Avebury and New Grange. They are formed in Her corpulent gigantic image. One enters into them as into Her body. The temple on Gozo is called Ggigantija, House of the Giantess, and legends say it was built overnight by a giant woman. Some of the stones weigh fifty tons. On Malta in December, 1997 I was able to finally visit the Hypogeum, subterranean oracular temple. It was awesome to be in there in the Mother’s great womb within the rock and earth. Here is the sleeping priestess within rounded chambers, smeared with red ochre evoking the womb, listening to the voices from the Underworld. Here also is a priestess from the neighbouring temple of Tarxien.

Next: Tarxien Goddess

Maltese Great Mother of Ggigantija on Gozo and Hagar Qim on Malta

Maltese Great Mother of Ggigantija on Gozo and Hagar Qim on Malta (oil, 1998)

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 Maltese Great Mother of Ggigantija on Gozo and
Hagar Qim on Malta (oil, 1998)

I spent a week drawing every day on Gozo at this ancient Goddess temple when I was recovering from breast cancer. I have also included the beautiful carvings found at the Tarxien temple on Malta.

Next: Maltese Goddess of the Upper and Underworld

Tanit: Phoenician Goddess of Death and Rebirth

Tanit: Phoenician Goddess of Death and Rebirth (mixed media, 1997)

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 Tanit: Phoenician Goddess of Death and Rebirth (mixed media, 1997)

I was on Ibiza – an ancient island of the Phoenicians in the Bronze Age and a sacred centre of their Great Goddess, Tanit, who said I am the beginning and the end” – when I discovered that I had a cancerous tumour in my breast. It was February of 1997. Although the tumour was five centimetres by then, I had never noticed it. I learned that Ibiza, which was called “The Island of Pine Trees”, was a place where people came to be healed and also to die. It was a colony of the Carthaginians/Phoenicians from north Africa. There are many wells here sacred to Tanit, whose mysteries were forgotten when the Romans destroyed Carthage (Tunisia). She was the same Goddess as Astarte of the Canaanites (also a Phoenician-Semitic people) who was hated by the Hebrew prophets and their Jahweh. Tanit was also African Berber in origin. In this image are the hand of Tanit (later the hand of Fatima?) and other symbols. Here is La Dama de Elche, found in Andalucia and representing the Goddess herself or Her priestess, wearing extraordinary headplates and heavy jewellery, so mysterious. Apparently Ox T’art means “womb of the Earth”, so in Ash T’art there is the word “womb”. The Siren or Serene carries the soul of the dead to the Otherworld.

Next: Maltese Great Mother…

Andalucian Madonna and Phoenician Priestess

 Andalucian Madonna and Phoenician Priestess (oil, 1996)

Andalucian Madonna and Phoenician Priestess (oil, 1996)

My son and family were staying in the mountains beyond Malaga and beneath a small town called Comares which cradles the summit of a high mountain. It has a strange presence as there is a town of the living that looks like a cubist painting and a town of the dead. Since it is not possible to bury the dead in the earth, they are kept in boxes on enclosed shelves. Rows and rows of the “apartments” of the ancestors painted white, heightened by the sun and bedecked with flowers, photographs and images of the Madonna. A very surreal and also beautiful place. The Madonna in my painting I caught from those graves. With her is La Dama de Elche, a Phoenician priestess of Asht’art or of Tanit of Carthage. The semitic Phoenicians, the same people as the persecuted Canaanites of the Hebrew Bible, had colonies all over the North African coast as well as in the south of Spain. La Dama (and fifteen more Damas have been found) was originally life-size and probably seated on a great throne. On her back is a pouch where the ashes of the dead were kept. Some of the Damas were found in great burial chambers. Tanit is a protector of the dead as well as the living and she says “I am the beginning and the end”. Her mystery religion was profound but was wiped out by the Romans who hated the Carthaginians and carried out many wars against them. Carthage was demolished, raised to the ground and Tanit forgotten, except on Ibiza where her mysteries lived on.

Next: Tanit – Phoenician Goddess of Death and Rebirth

Kundalini Serpent Goddess Rising from Glastonbury Tor

Kundalini Serpent Goddess Rising from Glastonbury Tor (oil, 1995)

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Kundalini Serpent Goddess Rising
from Glastonbury Tor (oil, 1995)

Glastonbury Tor in Southwest England feels like a giant humped Dragon, a vast living animal mother. I try here to envisage the Dragon-serpent Goddess rising. In Her hand She holds a fiery cauldron out of which rises a bird/ phoenix. I didn’t realise when I did the painting that in the “Glastonbury Zodiac”, which is thought to exist in the land around the Tor, the Tor itself is the Phoenix and to others a great swan. I often go to Glastonbury and spend time on the Tor and at Chalice Well and always come away refreshed and very often inspired to do paintings.

The Serpent-Dragon Goddess is Kundalini who dwells within the Earth as well as at the bottom of our spines – a great fiery dormant energy that, when She rises, brings revelations and great energies. The Kundalini may be the dormant energy in the volcanoes and when they erupt She rises. She is the energy of the red hot magma from deep within Earth’s belly. This is how life began and this might be how life ends as the Pacific “Ring of fire” comes alive in unimaginable cataclysms and tidal waves.

Glastonbury Tor, Holy Well or Chalice Well of red healing waters have been and are major inspirations in my life and work. Sacred site of Matrona, the ancient Mother, and the nine Morgens who were shaman priestesses that dwelt on the Tor healing, prophesying, shape-shifting and controlling the weather at a time when the Tor was an island rising out of the surrounding waters and marshland.

Always extreme energies in Glastonbury that are prone to drive people to insanity and megalomania or great creative and spiritual heights. Its magic draws hundreds of women each year to the Goddess conference and the annual “Corn-ference” (about the crop circles) takes place there. Europe’s only legally recognised Goddess temple is naturally to be found in Glastonbury. I have experienced many ecstatic moments on the Tor …. at Beltane, at full and dark moons, on luminous spring and autumn days around the time of the Equinoxes. I remember watching the total solar eclipse from there, surrounded by a great crowd of people all in a hushed awe or in tears as they world darkened and then the solar Mother slowly returned.

The ruined church tower on the Tor looks like a nipple from the distance and close up the vaginal archways appear as gateways to the Faerie realm. To the Celts the Tor was in fact the entrance to the world of the king of the blessed dead or Faerie folk. It is also a 3D labyrinth and in 1980 I took part in torch-lit procession led by Geoffrey Ashe and Kathy Jones, tracing its pathways in the Beltane Taurus full moon. A strange night of wild energies, of storm and lightning, torrential rains and hail! The Chalice Well gardens in contrast is a place of great peace, mediation, waking, dreams, a place full of spirits where images and poems come to me.

Next: Andalucian Madonna and Phoenician Priestess

Nordic Mother of the Animals

Nordic Mother of the Animals (oil, 1995)

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 Nordic Mother of the Animals (oil, 1995)

I have stayed at Skogsnas, an eco village started by hippies who, 30 years ago, built their own log cabins and developed arts and crafts and music, many times. It is situated inland in the same county from the city on the Baltic where I was born. Not far from the “village” there is a neolithic settlement that probably belonged to the Saami, the original inhabitants in the north who have been there since the Ice Age at least. The settlement would have been a summer fishing and elk hunting village and it is situated by the shores of a powerful river call Namforsen. A lot of excavations have taken place there and there are perhaps thousands of petroglyphs carved and painted on mighty cliffs by the river and on its islands. The interesting thing is that the majority of the images are of female elks, very few horns in sight. Obviously the elk cow was sacred and the Great Goddess was of her nature. There are ships carved with elk heads and what looks like shaman women. Of course the archaeologists have not noticed any of this and also tend to deny the Saami heritage which I discovered when I travelled to Jokkmokk on the Arctic circle in Saami/Lapland.

I have written all about this in “The Norse Goddess” book. In my painting the Goddess looks like one of the mystical Seide stones, sacred to the Saami and she wears a crown of elk cow heads. There are great numbers of elks in the Swedish forests today and there are even bears to be found here up north.

I remember going to Namsforsen one night around midsummer, when it was light all night but an eerie light, with a group of women. We had borrowed a rowing boat and we went out to an island where there are a great number of petroglyphs on a great cliff that dips into the water. We got into tapping this cliff rhythmically and felt that we were communicating with the ancestral spirits indwelling in the cliff and that this was the actual purpose of the carvings. This painting came out of that magical experience.

Next: Kundalini Serpent Goddess…

Nordic Solar Maiden

Nordic Solar Maiden (oil on hardboard, 2000)

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 Nordic Solar Maiden (oil on hardboard, 2000)

I visited Tanum on the Swedish west coast where there are innumerable petroglyphs carved on the cliffs all around the area, not far from the sea. This is a World Heritage site. The symbolism is very different from the neolithic elk cows at Namforsen and probably belonged to the Vanir people who used magic instead of swords and whose great Shaman Goddess was Freya, before She was co-opted by the invading Aesir Indoeuropean warlike people of the Iron Age. Freya was both solar and lunar and she owned the bird costume used for shamanic flights. Her shaman priestesses were the Valas and Valkyries. Everywhere at Tanum there are dancing joyous figures, priestess acrobats doing somersaults over boats, men in ritual battle, solar wheels, etc.

Next: Nordic Mother of the Animals

And Her Belly Lit Up The World

And Her Belly Lit Up The World (oil, 1996)

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And Her Belly Lit Up The World (oil, 1996)

It was the first of January 1996, the day after my birthday on New Year’s Eve and I was walking with a friend in the dusk in the mountains near the sacred Carn Ingli (Mountain of Angels) in South Wales, high above the world. I looked up and “saw” a great white bird in the distance with a brilliant light shining from its belly. I was amazed and was going to ask my friend if he also had seen it. But when I turned around again I “saw” a car with its headlights on. The point being that I saw both! When I returned to Bristol I found that I had written in a notebook a few weeks earlier of a dream in which I saw a winged fish – or serpent-tailed Goddess – and I heard the words “And Her belly lit up the world”.

There are strange magnetic anomalies at the summit of Cam Ingli and there are remains of neolithic settlements here high above the world. The legend goes that St. Brynach, probably a pagan god turned into a saint by the Church, lived up there and was fed by the angels. Carn Ingli is part of the Preselau mountains domain Cerridwen and where the Stonehenge Blue Stones were brought. It is an area full of magic and faerie legends. Pentre Ifan cromlech is not far away and Nevern Church and graveyard with its beautiful golden Celtic cross and ancient yews, one of which is the “Bleeding Yew”. It is said that St. Brynach carried the tall and immensely heavy Celtic cross on his shoulders to where it now stands by a little Church named after him. Carn Ingli is a place of strange dreams and trance states. I did many important paintings whilst living in south Wales and I felt very strongly the presence of spirits in the land itself.

Next: Nordic Solar Maiden

Mother Earth in Pain: Her Trees Cut Down, Her Seas Polluted

 Mother Earth in Pain: Her Trees Cut Down, Her Seas Polluted (oil, 1996)

Mother Earth in Pain: Her Trees Cut Down,
Her Seas Polluted (oil, 1996)

I did this painting after twice visiting Newbury, with women of our Bristol AMA MAWU group, walking the old and beautiful woodland within 14,000 trees that were supposed to be sacrificed and cut down to make a bypass for motorists, supposedly saving them five minutes driving time. We came back again and happened on an occupation of Tarmac’s offices in Newbury. I used to go to Greenham Common women’s peace camps nearby in the 80s. Now there were “Ecowarriors”, women and men, living in “houses” high up in the threatened trees trying to save them. There was a battle lasting months but in the end they were defeated and the trees cut down. I felt great pain and grief as I grew up in the north of Sweden with the vast boreal birch and pine forests that once originated from the Siberian primordial Taiga forest. I love the forest and its magical beings, the delight of my childhood. The patriarchs, however, always hated the forest which is female, dark, damp and impenetrable and ruled over by a great female spirit. The Hebrew prophets, acting on behalf of Jahveh who hates the dark Mother Earth, cut down the sacred groves of the great Semitic Canaanite Goddess Asherah, the Christians demolished the tree enclosures of the Old European Triple Mothers …. in Germany and elsewhere. Today the great rainforests of Brazil and the Taiga of Siberia are under onslaught. The Earth will turn into a desert and there be no water or topsoil if the forests die. We will not be able to breathe.

At around the same time as the battle for the tree land at Newbury, there was a terrible oil slick from a stranded oil tanker outside of Milford Haven in South Wales, near where I had lived for five years in the 80s. My beloved and most beautiful Pembrokeshire coastline was fouled and polluted and thousands of birds died covered in black oil.

I first experienced the pain of Mother Earth during an altered state on sacred mushrooms on Silbury, Earth’s pregnant womb, in 1978. The Yews of Europe, the Redwoods, Cedars and Douglas firs can become thousands of years old and are venerable ancient beings who live in a different timescale from us, their branches high in the sky and their roots deep in the Mother’s dark soil.

Soon after I did the painting in 1996, I decided that I wanted to use it in political action and I brought it to a spring equinox ritual a group of us (around twenty women) from AMA MAWU and Rowantree eco-feminist group were performing outside the gates of a Bristol University research station at Long Ashton – (Ama is a word relating to mothering – breast feeding in Sweden and in many languages and Mawu is a great West African goddess). Genetically “modified” or rather engineered wheat was experimentally grown there, partly funded by the giant US multi-national Monsanto which is set upon dominating (and polluting) the world’s food supply. Some of us were at the time involved in the Genetix group, active against GM foods. Mother Earth Herself in my painting is based on a neolithic sculpture to be found in the great feminist Lithuanian archaeologist Marija Gimbutas’ book “The Language of the Goddess“.

Next: And Her Belly lit up the World