Painting, Divination & Peace

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mountainaboveMountain Above; Water Below available on Etsy

This painting is of my childhood swimming hole, set deep in the mountains of Appalachia.  The title comes from the literal image of a mountain above and water below.  This reminded me of the iChing hexagram, “Meng,” which symbolizes “Mountain Above and Water Below.”

There are many different forms of divination; tarot cards, tea leaf reading, gazing in a crystal ball or shiny surface, etc.  In China, the method of iChing developed.  It uses a method of throwing yarrow stalks or 3 coins thrown six times to produce the hexagram.  There are different theories as to why this works, perhaps it is an effect of our subconscious mind communicating to us, some say it is an effect of quantum physics or that small things in the world can reflect the larger patterns that exist.  In any case, it has existed for at least 3,000 years probably longer and many people find it a useful tool.

Hexagram 4 – “Meng” is also known as “Youthful Folly.”  That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It is an opportunity for learning.  It also reminds you of the pleasures of childhood and to embrace that.  We can use that in our learning too, because when learning is fun, we remember it better.  But it’s also good to think over that time and release bad habits from then and replace it with mature knowledge.

I see in this painting the peace and innocence of childhood; a time before adult concerns and worries.  Looking at it brings me back to a state of peace.  When I paint, I drop into a place of unconcern.  I let the images flow into me and out of my paint brush, producing a vision of tranquility.

A good affirmation for this day would be: “I breath in peace and it flows through me into the world.”

More peace is always needed.

  • Patricia Robin Woodruff

What is a Totem Animal?

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In Native American beliefs, a totem animal is a spirit that takes the form of a familiar animal and embodies the symbolic qualities of that animal.  It can also be held in a sacred object, or be a symbol of a tribe, or clan.  The word “totem” comes from the Native American Ojibwe culture, but concept of the spirit animal is common throughout many cultures and times.  In Wicca, it is commonly thought of as a teacher spirit that can take any form, or a symbol that can help in our personal development.

I had a dream some years ago, where a gecko was guiding me into my life’s path.  When I awoke, I looked up the qualities that “gecko” embodies.  Unsurprising to me, a gecko can symbolize “life change” because they can change color, since they are often night creatures they have the title of “dream keepers” and they symbolize “mystical awakening.”  All of which was taking place in my life in a powerful way.

Last year I traveled to the Amazon jungle and took part in a native shaman’s ceremony.  During the ceremony, just outside our palm-roofed hut, an owl began to call.  It felt like he was speaking directly to me.  It was the call of the Spectacled Owl.  The totem of Owl is often viewed as the messenger of the spirit world, he is a seer of souls, and a guide to the spirit world.  This has been misinterpreted as a harbinger of death, but just like the Death Card in the Tarot deck, it usually does not mean physical death, but freedom from the restraints of the physical world and guidance into the teachings of the spirit.  Of course Owl is often seen as a symbol of wisdom and knowledge.

I feel that I am being encouraged on my spiritual path.  My book, The Call of the Spectacled Owl; An Artist’s Journey thru History, the Amazon, and Spirit (with Travel Tips) chronicles part of that journey.  All the writing, re-writing and illustrations are done, and it is going through its final editing.  I look forward to sharing this with you soon.

  • Patricia Robin Woodruff

The Mystery of Incan Stirrup Vessels

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CondorJaguarSnakeMy daughter and I saw this stirrup vessel in the Larco Museum in Peru.  It represents the Incan symbols for the Three Realms of the Universe.  The condor (look for his bright blue eye) symbolizes the Upper Realm, the world of the gods, celestial bodies and mountain spirits.  The jaguar (the toothy mouth on the right hand side) symbolizes the physical world that we live in, the land of birth and death.  The anaconda (wrapping around it) since it is often found swimming in the Amazon river, represents the watery underworld, where sacred springs emanate and the ancestors dwell.

These distinctively shaped stirrup vessels, with bases ranging from fruit to animals to sexual positions fill the storage rooms of the Museo Larco, over 50,000 of them!  As I looked through the collection, I felt that something was missing.  The explanation that they were “offering vessels” fell flat.  Surely there was something more about these vessels!  If they were only for liquid offerings, why the distinctive shape, and where was the scientific analysis of the liquid residue?

Once I started researching and comparing my experience with the shamanic ritual of ayahuasca, I found the answer in the shamanic beliefs passed down from the Incas.  In my book I describe my first-hand experience in ritual with a native shaman.  During much of the time, he produced a tuneless, breathy whistle to “call the spirits.”

In my past travels, I also knew of the archaeoacoustic properties of a neolithic burial chamber on the island of Malta, where ancient people used a “sound hole” to produce a mind altering standing sound wave throughout the structure.  People who study archaeoacoustics have discovered that many of these ancient pots were produced to create a whistle that generates altered states of consciousness.  So not only were these pots used to “gather the spirit” of the image they represented, they would help the shaman and the participants reach an altered mind state where they were receptive to the energies.

I gave my book the title, “The Call of the Spectacled Owl: An Artist’s Journey thru History, the Amazon, and Spirit (with Travel Tips) because the book covers a lot.  Although this trip encompassed only one country, Peru, I feel like we traveled through different worlds: the Upper Realm climbing the hills of the ancient desert temples dedicated to the Moon Goddess and the Sun God, the Middle Realm with Lima’s modern city and the scavenged city of Iquitos, and the watery Lower World of the Amazon, encompassing the lush jungle and the mystical shamanic realm.

I think I bring a unique perspective as an open-minded artist with a passion for learning all that I can about our connection to Spirit.  I anticipate that the book will be released at the end of June.  I am very excited to share this with you!

  • Patricia Robin Woodruff

Creation, the Creator and Creativity

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In the book, “The Mission of Art”, Alex Grey says that “the artist brings the infinite into finite form…” “An artist’s divine imagination, their soul, links the infinite presence of God with the finite physical world where the artist brings spirit to form.”

This understanding of my art merges with my current understanding of my spiritual beliefs. As Inigo Montoya says in the movie, The Princess Bride, “Let me explain… no, there is too much. Let me sum up…”

Imagine the beginnings of the Universe… Everything condensed into one single point, which exploded outward filling the emptiness with matter. All the matter/energy of the Universe, forming and coalescing into suns and planets. Our tiny planet spinning and transforming. The energy solidifying into matter becoming water and land and living things. Single-celled creatures mutating and transforming into more and more complex forms. Complex living things in the ocean, moving onto land, transforming and changing. Such a wonder of variety… fish, insects, birds, mammals and people. Green things transforming the energy of the sun into itself. Animals eating the plants/sun-energy and transforming it into itself. We are all made of “star stuff.” We are matter. We are energy. Other names that have been used to identify this energy can be Spirit, Magic or God. We have that God-force within us and are continuing the process of creation. We imagine things and then we turn that energy solid; into art, relationships, writing or inventions.

Science tells us that very element heavier than hydrogen has been forged in the heart of a star. In the television show, Babylon-5, J. Michael Straczynski stated through the wise character of Delenn the perspective that all living beings are created from the same elements that make up the Babylon-5 space station and the stars (ie. nitrogen, iron, hydrogen, etc). Delenn states, “We are star stuff. We are the universe made manifest, trying to figure itself out.”

Different thinkers have come to the same conclusion and have been able to verbalize it in different ways…

Ann Kent Rush stated, “Creativity is really the structuring of magic.”

Rabindranath Tagore, the Bengali mystic stated “ The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day, runs through the world and dances in rhythmic measures. It is the same life that shoots in joy through the dust of the earth in numberless blades of grass, and breaks into tumultuous waves of leaves and flowers.”

Stephen Nachmanovitch, a musician, author and computer artist said, “The imagination is our true self, and is in fact the living creating God within us.”

That wonderful energy fills me up and flows out of my fingers in my artwork. I feel like the 13th century poet, Rumi, was talking directly to me when he wrote, “Hundreds of thousands of impressions from the invisible world are eagerly wanting to come through you. I get dizzy with the abundance.”

Art, writing, poetry, dance… any creative activity flows from the Creator.

– Patricia Robin Woodruff

Fires of Creativity Rising

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I find that a spiritual retreat is just the thing to energize my art and writing ideas; one of my favorites is Fires Rising at Four Quarters Interfaith Sanctuary of Earth Religions.  Four Quarters is located in Pennsylvania and is host to several festivals throughout the year.  There is also a similar event held in Nevada, organized on the same principals.

Fires Rising 11"x14" watercolor by Patricia Robin Woodruff

Fires Rising 11″x14″ watercolor by Patricia Robin Woodruff

Fires Rising uses a fire circle as the central focus.  People dance and drum all night and there is a structure of small rituals that help focus the mind on identifying problems, mourning them if they need that, a “softening stage” of acceptance and then transforming it into a solution or something good.  The symbology used is an alchemical process of transforming your “lead” into “gold.”

This three night process has been very inspirational for me.  Not only does it help me work through problems in daily life, but it also sparks creative ideas for books and paintings.  (Kind of like a very intense working through of Julia Cameron’s, The Artist’s Way.)  The Artist’s Way is on a more cerebral level, whereas Fires Rising helps you through it with physical dance and movement, and at a more intuitive level with the drumming and chant.

If you enjoy the wild environment of the fire circle, check out my clothing designs that incorporate imagery from Fires Rising and the Stone Circle at Four Quarters. http://www.cafepress.com/innerartspirit

For a positive affirmation:

“I find creativity, healing and solutions in music and movement.”

– Patricia Robin Woodruff

The Wellspring of Creativity

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I recently had a friend and fellow artist tell me about an intense experience she had. When she finished the painting and stepped back from it and really looked, she just wept. She felt like she had never painted anything that beautiful; that it was God guiding her hand and creating thru her.  Some people might not comprehend her description, but as a fellow artist and writer, I deeply understood having experienced the same thing myself.

Julia Cameron author of many books including The Artist’s Way stated:
“I think writing is by its very nature transformational. I believe that the minute you put pen to page you start to alter your consciousness, and the more writing you do, the more closely connected you are to a higher power. Some people can call it the muse. Other people say it’s God. Whatever you care to call it, when you write, you connect to it.”

This applies to anyone in a truly creative endeavor; be it artist, actor, programmer, singer, dancer or writer.  The more you increase your connection to this Creative Force, the more productive you will be and the better the creative work will be.  Sometimes I look at a painting that I created while in this “flow” and I have a feeling of astonishment.  I created that?!  It feels as if I were channeling a creative force which was creating thru me.

In Greek tradition, the Muses were the goddesses of inspiration.  They are the offspring of the most powerful god, Zeus and Mnemosyne, who is Memory.  They are associated with springs of water and indeed, their inspiration is like a flow of creative waters thru an artist.  According to the Oxford English Dictionary they are “implicit in words and phrases such as “amuse”, “museum” (Latinised from mouseion—a place where the muses were worshipped), “music”, and “musing upon.” Just as these words are present in our daily lives, the Creative Force is as well.  Just like a flowing spring, the more we can clear the obstructions of daily life, and increase the flow of creativity by practice and repetition, the swifter and clearer that Creative Force can move thru us.

– Patricia Robin Woodruff

Crystal Clear Thoughts 11"x14" pastel on velour paper

Crystal Clear Thoughts
11″x14″ pastel on velour paper

The Artist and Writer as Shaman

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Shamaness 11"x14" pastel on velour paper by Patricia Robin Woodruff

Shamaness 11″x14″ pastel on velour paper
by Patricia Robin Woodruff

“Artists are the shamans of our time.” – Will Bason

One definition of a shaman by Brendan McGuigan is, “… a person who interacts with both the normal world and the world of spirits, usually acting as a sort of intermediary between the two.”  The more I learn, the more I feel that this is my role in creating art, poetry and prose.  I often feel that when I am writing “in the zone”, the story flows through me.  It’s like I am watching it unfold before me and my job is simply to write it down. The same goes for my art.  Often when drawing a live model different animals, insects or plants may suggest themselves and I weave it into the composition.  When I get done, I am no longer surprised when the model tells me that they have always identified with that imagery. I had a very vivid and powerful dream some years ago, where I was perched on a high mountainside with an ancient Native American man.  He told me solemnly that my name was “Listens To The Wind.”  When I awoke, that made sense to me, since my ideas seem to come from an invisible force.  I can’t see it, but I can sense Spirit by its movement in my mind and its creation through my hands.  So here’s a good affirmation for the week: “I am open to Spirit and the infinite inspiration it provides.” – Patricia Robin Woodruff