My mother died unexpectedly in August 2022. I made this painting 11 days after her death, on the day that would have been her 84th birthday. At the funeral our youngest son asked: "Now are you are a mother, but you no longer have a mother. How are you going to do that?"
I had many dreams about swimming with a Black Whale. She told me that her name was Grief. She held me close and gave me small flicks with her flipper to encourage me to swim on my own. But she stayed close and watched over me. Grief is a Forever Companion. We all need to learn how to swim with her...
I see this mysterious being as knitting and stitching back together rips in the Weave of our World.
Tikkun olam (literally 'repair of the world' in Hebrew) is a related concept in Judaism, which refers to various forms of action intended to repair and improve the world.
In the modern era tikkun olam has come to refer to the pursuit of social justiceor "the establishment of Godly qualities throughout the world" based on the idea that "Jews bear responsibility not only for their own moral, spiritual, and material welfare, but also for the welfare of society at large". This goddess is embodied by Lyn Hill!
I have started using paintings as altars, a focal point for spiritual work.
This painting shows how I want every single child on our planet to feel: loved, cherished, held securely, seeing their beauty and divinity reflected in the eyes of their parents. I deliberately painted this picture book style, so children (anywhere and any age) can look at it and receive the message.
In April 2022, near my Forest School in Sweden, I saw a wolf in the wild for the first time. I have been told that there are two wolf packs in our local area, but it is a very rare thing to catch a glimpse of them.
This happened the night before we returned to London so I joked that “instead of running with wolves I will now need to run with urban foxes instead!”
Then I decided that this idea could just make an interesting painting. So here it is!
This painting follows on from a (long sold) painting of a Snowy Owl as the guardian of a Birch Tree Chamber of Rebirth.
In my dreams (and in my artwork) Snowy Owls often appear in the liminal zone between the Land of the Living and the Land of the Dead.
One of their teachings is that there is a point of no return. Do not cross that line until it is your time to go.
In 2022 foxes built a den in our (inner city) London garden, under the playhouse our boys enjoyed as children. Once twin fox cubs were born I spent weeks hanging out of windows with a camera (you can find the reels on my Instagram account!)
I also had great fun running daily updates on social media (The Real Fox News, as a friend called it!): "My twin and I, we have such fun! Our Mum tried to do some sunbathing and grooming in the sunshine yesterday, but we soon put a stop to that, LOL!! We want her to play with us and chase us!"
In Neolithic Art from Europe we see a fascinating link between frogs and giving birth (or possibly birthing positions for women), as markings in caves. The Lithuanian archaeologist and anthropologist Marija Gimbutas, known for her research into the Neolithic and Bronze Age cultures of (what she called) Old also found artefacts indicating that once upon a time there was a Frog Goddess in Europe.
As a Rune Magician I personally also see a link between Rune Perthra or Perthro (in terms of both shape and meaning) but more about all that in the handbook for rune magicians that I am writing just now!
The work of Marija Gimbutas has made a key contribution to the rise of feminist spirituality, feminist religious scholarship and feminist psychology. Her key (and lasting) concept is the idea of an embodied sacred feminine that preceded patriarchy.
Many women (including myself and most of my students) feel that the existence of a goddess tradition is liberating and opens up pathways to personal, cultural and intergenerational healing.
This painting is dedicated to Katharine Haworth, because of her soul work (and deep calling) and also her vibrant family!
(Curled up safely inside the world tree Yggdrasil)
In Norse mythology Líf and Lífþrasir are two humans foretold to survive the events of Ragnarök by hiding in a wood called Hoddmímis Holt and, after the flames have abated, to repopulate the newly risen and fertile world
(And yes, I have definitely taken some artistic and poetic liberties!)
From talking to students I know that many people think that Ragnarök is the end of the world full stop. The end of Earth and life on Earth! I always point out that there are references in the Poetic Edda to a new world after the current one (the one we all share and our current lifestyle and political choices indisputably set us on a committed path to destruction).
However, did you know that two human beings will survive Ragnarok and repopulate the new world, the next world to rise from the waves? They will hide out in Hoddmimir's wood (well-known scholar Rudolph Simek thinks that this is a metaphor for world tree Yggdrasil) and live on morning dew:
"In Hoddmimir's wood | shall hide themselves
Lif and Lifthrasir then;
The morning dews | for meat shall they have,
Such food shall men then find."
St. 45 Vafþrúðnismál
After a friend sent me pictures of a whale skull on a beach (earlier this year), I had a series of dreams where this skull was asking for company.
I often have serial dreams, where every dream follows on from the previous one, and together they tell a complex story, or they share a complex magical teaching or mystery. In my final dream (in this particular cluster) the Northern Lights were dancing overhead, animating the skulls, breathing life into them. As well as being in-spirited (meaning skulls have their own indwelling spirit anyway) they became animated, able to move and talk the way that human beings do. Only for the time that the Northern Lights were active though!
We humans step into the Dreamtime every night. Perhaps the spirits step into Human Time, in a similar way? And is that their way of dreaming perhaps?
I have painted the whale skull in the company of the skulls of other marine animals.
In Greenland I met a whale skull presiding over an abandoned island (will try to add a photograph from my phone). That was a very emotional moment. The following night, (in Greenland), the aurora borealis were dancing exuberantly on the mountain tops and I thought: on a nearby island, it is happening right now, this gathering, this conference of animal skulls...
Just like the antlered deity on the far right, this owl is another Guardian of Thresholds. She is both mother and nocturnal bird of prey. She hunts to feed her fledglings.
She teaches that death feeds life and that seeds germinate in dirt.
This painting was made as the world processed the aftermath of the Covid-19 Pandemic and Russia invaded Ukraine. Life has returned to a "new normal" but feels very uncertain at the same time.
One way of looking at this existential uncertainty and anxiety is that we are all (collectively) growing our wings in times of immense turmoil and multiple paradigm shift.
How is that process unfolding for you? Are you finding (or unfolding) your wings?
Is there a kind Mother Being (human, deity, animal, Bone Mother or other) holding safe space for you?
Are you holding space for others as a Sheltering Mother, Compassionate Healer or Loving Friend?
What is your connection to owls (if any)? Do you have a favourite type of owl? Mine are the Snowy Owl the Barn Owl! I will never tire of painting owls.
My father died of Cancer in May 2009, five years after the diagnosis. Our three children were 9, 7 and 5 at the time. During his five years of serious illness he often said: "Imelda, please ask the grandchildren to say a prayer for me because I believe the prayers of children are the most powerful medicine on our planet!"
My father believed that young children stand “closer to God “(in his religious perception, he was a Roman Catholic) because of their innocence and also because their souls arrive from the celestial realms as they incarnate on Earth. This makes young children so wise and precocious, they still remember other worlds and divine teachings in ways that have been “culturally conditioned out of” (to put it mildly) most grown-ups.
Professionally speaking I am very concerned about the way that anxiety and powerlessness proliferate in young children living through a pandemic and 24/7 reporting of armed conflict, the continued threat of a nuclear war. The rise of (diagnosed) mental health problems in young people is staggering and deeply alarming.
This painting was made to honour my father and share his heart-felt belief. Perhaps the prayers of children can and do make a bigger difference than we think?
This mysterious antlered deity is a Guardian of the Threshold. She stands in the doorway between Conception and Death, between Animals and Humans, between Day and Night, between Trees and Antlers, between stars and atoms.
Some call her The Reindeer Mother. My colleague and friend Ellen Sentier calls her Elen of the Ways. Some call her the oldest Goddess of the British Isles dating back to Paleolithic times.
For our Deep Ancestors, living in the Stone Age, life evolved around deer (as is still the case with Sami Reindeer Herders!) Deer provided food, tools were crafted from their bones. Their skins were used for both clothing and in the construction of tents and houses. As with the Inuit: every single part of an animal was used. There was no waste.
Herds of deer would also guide our ancestors on seasonal migrations across swathes of land. They were always on the move, following food supplies, the seasons and the weather. Sami people still do this today (insofar as formal borders between countries allow). The Deer Mother was honoured as a great deity and the art of shapeshifting was still known, the boundary between humans and animals more fluid.
In the year 2022 I had many intense dreams about whales. I see Whales as the Elders of our Oceans. From shamanic studies about animal spirits, I know that the Whale is seen as the Primordial Animal Mother. Perhaps because Life started in the ocean and whales are mammals.
My dreams focus on the processes of birth – endings - rebirth. Our three sons are small blond boys again, spinning around me wherever I go, making me feel like a "small solar system". Soon I wake up to three strapping young men and two girlfriends stomping around the house. Don't get me wrong, I am enjoying this phase hugely, but my mother's heart sometimes yearns for their younger selves, for little boys sitting on my lap or drawing amazing head-footers.
In my dreams I am back in the womb, of the Great Whale Mother, not of my human mother.
In 2016 I decided to not cut my hair any longer. Not for any profound spiritual reason (a la Samson and Delilah)! It was mostly because my hair stylist always enthusiastically chopped off many inches when I asked him to only trim the straggly ends.
When I comb it out, all the way down, it is long enough to sit on. It is quite wavy, so it tends to spiral and bounce back up. (It leads a life of its own!) So anyway, in a recent photograph on IG several people said: "Your hair!!" I jokingly responded that "many birds live (and nest) in my hair" - and then painted the vision.
Edward Lear poem:
There was an Old Man with a beardWho said, "It is just as I feared! Two Owls and a Hen, four Larks and a WrenHave all built their nests in my beard
The Sami people believe that the Sun has a daughter, called Bejjen Neide. She was the herder of a tame moose herd.
(Interestingly, the Old Norse peoples also believed that the Sun had a daughter, destined to take over her mother's course across the sky after Sunna is eaten by a Wolf during Ragnarok).
I often see moose at our forest house in Sweden but tame they are not!
Moose can be very dangerous animals. They attack more people than bears and wolves combined.
While Moose can be dangerous any time of year research shows that they tend to most aggressive in the spring when cows are protecting their calves, and also in Autumn, when bulls are in the rut.
A friend sent me a minke whale vertebrae in the post, as a gift.
I became so attached to it that I took it to bed with me because I wanted to dream with it (but my husband took it off me, for some reason!)
"2022 has been a year of Upheaval and Loss, but between the losses there were pregnant pauses filled with Dire Beauty and Magic.
Do you experience Pregnant Pauses in your life?
This painting was made in the months before our third son and youngest child left home to start university in the north of England (Durham).
Do I perceive an Empty Nest or the opportunity to birth a new self and spread my wings? Both?!
I literally took wing by boarding an airplane to Greenland for a painting sabbatical under the Northern Lights.
ART MADE IN GREENLAND
THE DREAM OF A CHILD
This painting was inspired by dream, but on awakening, it was very clear that it had been my child self doing the dreaming, not my 55-year-old self. And that child self was about six or seven years old.
I remain a child at heart. When our youngest son turned 18, he said: "Now there is only one child in our family, and that is Mum!" And I decided to take that as a compliment...
After all, all adults are ex-children.
(Ancestral Lineage memory)