Marrying shamanism and creativity

Dates and details of next year’s courses:

Fruitful Arm

a recent poem and a painting from 2018; the dance between Eros and Psyche

A new poem in response to a recent workshop with me (and a dream I had of different stairs), by Kathy Wray:
Playground snake
marked at each step
one vertebra
a climbing backbone
where eyes can rest
and wonder free and wide
beyond senses
becoming of that time
only in that line
one form, formed

A place
a white page
where the stairs aren’t always down
they are sideways, behind you
lying down, pushed back
and pulled flat
no question to think
no forward place to move
where analysis is a waste
a wastage in a wanton age
lost in its own game, again
and again

When I’m stilled in this flow
flowing through its own stillness
tree rooted
a wooden staircase routes
itself down
wooded self in a line of time
ley line
without moving on
behind still
beyond the self
beyond remembered times.

The ancestry
600 years BC
is the cycle that drowned
went below its ground
we are on
swaying still
a fragility
feeling its wheel.

The sun is where we
call out towards
a light
that’s already inside
noticing its pull
letting go when full
in a formless vision
set free.

I love it when students and participants respond like this. There is another one below…

Dawn on Iona.

Carrying horse

After Horse Island Woman by Kate Walters

When the grey light of sun’s going settles,

I raise you up, gather your hooves in my hands.

Under the bulk of your belly, my skull is pressed,

when the grey light of sun’s going settles.

Starlight falls on red fur, pink petticoats,

as we summit, gasp angel breath. Here we stand,

when the grey light of sun’s going settles.

I raise you up, gather your hooves in my hands.

Nikki Kenna

In my workshops I like to bring together the most powerful and pregnant impulses. We tune into the highest power, and ask for guidance. We ask what we should give in exchange. We honour the sacred nature of the work. We see that Spirit wants us to play and to reflect divine beauty in our bodies and our creations. I love it when the drum sings.

Here is a picture of twin cloud spirits speaking to each other. I saw this just after we’d crossed into Scotland.

I’m just home from teaching workshops on Iona and in Devon. Dates for courses for 2022 (Devon) and 2022 and 2023 (Iona) are below. The Iona courses are almost fully booked already, and I will begin waiting lists.

Below is some feedback on both courses.

The first passage is by Sally Tripptree, Devon, October 25th – 28th, 2021.
– Reinforcing, searching continuously for the authentic place.
– The Sacredness of the work – connecting to your highest power.
– Never-ending journey – working with devotion, passion, intensity and genuine-ness.
– Respect for yourself – enables and supports authentic work.
– Gratitude for being with the feminine
– To live and be with grace, as the inner bodily pulses are ignited.
Kate’s wiseness, holding, being with, reaching in, containing, high level intensity and connectedness enables the unknown to become known, and with this knowing the artist is enabled to access their authentic self.
The results speak for themselves in the work that rises from the once blank space. Stuck-ness or a feeling of being lost becomes a distant lens and clarity emerges.

The second passage is by Maggy Walters (no relation!):
These last few days have been busy with the day-to-day but with the music of ‘Making Your Mark’ replaying gently behind the surface. This course really built upon all that came before with ‘Connecting With the Ancestors’ and I see very clearly how the personal and group connections can be strengthened and enriched through regular and repeated practice. For me, this newly discovered way of being, experiencing and exploring through the Shamanic Journey and alongside creative process seems to provide a perfect balance where moments of insight and clarity intermingle with the ungraspable, indefinable or ineffable.

I experienced the three days of ‘Making Your Mark’ as a kind of blind but trustful wandering, led kindly by the hand through deep waters, through clouds, shadows and reflections, into an unexpected, strangely but beautifully-lit place. Painting to music carried me from a pulsing, energetic, earthy rhythm within the body toward an increasing tenderness; a holding state for the soft feminine – vulnerable, quiet and beloved: a place of sanctity and devotion.
This was and is an inner space with echoes in the outer world, a place of deep peace, later followed by a sense of something descending, like a shower of tiny droplets or light particles with the quality of fine rain or snowflakes, that perhaps could be called ‘Grace’? This was a very profound experience that has repeated briefly a couple of times since. I have yet to define it and probably should not even attempt to do so!
What I found was that from the groundwork of the previous course, a pathway became visible and a few more faltering steps have been taken, steadied by the holding of Kate and the group, who have established a real sense of trust, of commitment and of adventure.

The third passage of feedback is by Emily Player:
Many thanks once again for another wonderful experience. I really struggle to articulate how amazing the process of journeying has been. The feeling I have is like being reunited with a favourite childhood toy I forgot I had lost. It has been transformative, and while there have been many profound visions and moments, there has also been a lot of joy. I never expected that I could find laughter and playfulness as well as insights into deeper aspects of myself, others, the earth and universe. Everything feels connected, and elemental. I am not sure I even understand fully, but what I have seen, felt and experienced has been so beautiful and precious, I have felt so safe and comfortable to explore what has always has been there but perhaps ignored and not listened to before (by me) – it is extraordinary to be shown how to access it. Thank you for being our guide, sharing so generously.

You talked about the safety, and this being a safe practice. It truly has always felt safe and comforting, free from any judgement – I had a sense of absolute faith and goodness emanating from you, we may have all experienced some vulnerable feelings but I never felt vulnerable while exploring them. I hope that makes sense. I look back at the course in August and I know I sobbed, cried, and felt so raw – at times I could not put into words what I had learned, but I had a deep sense of knowing. It gave me an absolute trust in myself that I have rarely felt. To meet my power animal, to be with them, be guided, it makes my heart sing. The animals, spirits and beings I have encountered, as well as places, visions, colours and senses; I am totally in awe and humbled by the ability. I wish I could communicate better what ‘it’ is, but the language I have doesn’t seem right somehow. It feels sacred too, exactly as you said, sometimes I can’t articulate it but I am fully aware of what I have and carry with me.

I thought I was learning a technique to assist my creativity. It has done that and nothing short of changed my life too. My life is exactly as it was before, but I understand it better, I experience it differently. I can access clarity if I choose to, even if my questions are answered with questions. I know there is a seen and unseen in everything and it is up to me to try and learn about both. It does feel like a rich resource, and one that lends itself to my art, my flow and my creativity – also my relationships, my family. It helped me understand what I wanted, and as drawing and making are a large part of that, the two things went hand in hand.


The following feedback is from Bridget McKenzie, who attended my recent course on Iona.
“I don’t think I’ve ever found a creative course or retreat so helpful, deep and stimulating as this. It was a perfect balance of being caringly held with structured activity and being set free to explore inner and outer landscapes. I was amazed by the power of the drum to bring mythopoetic imagery so quickly and vividly to mind, and the prompts you gave for our questioning were profound and clear, and they built up progressively over the days of journeying. I particularly appreciated walking as a serpent, painting to music, and browsing books, as well as the Hollow Bone session.”

One day we followed directions to a secluded beach of rounded stones, to search for the carcass of a whale, washed up a few months ago. It was a humbling experience to be near the body of the whale. A few days previously I had asked about the spirit of the island, Iona, and I’d been shown the eardrum of a whale. I’d thought it was to do with sound, with the creamy delicacy of interiority, of being carried: I didn’t realise it might be so literal. I brought home one of the rib bones. I’d been thinking about wands in my own work and in my teaching. It felt like a wand which had been waiting for me on the beach: clean, adrift, garnished with weed. I stood near the smashed body with her pale upturned hands carrying armfuls of burnt orange; slabs of blubber palest pink and tacked with dark stars mesmerized me. I made studies from memory in my notebooks. I used oil bars. It had to be fat. I raided the kitchen for greaseproof paper to protect the other pages: the oil, the fat, the smell of bones and flies and sea.
and my heart was opened…

Men are Afraid

Recently I asked a psychoanalytic colleague why men might be afraid of my new work. What he wrote is below, followed by some of my thoughts and reflections.
By a happy coincidence, I was already working with the image of Medusa and her Tongue, thinking about language, mother animals and the way they wash their newborn young, sexual acts of great intimacy and love, and the expression of our greatest needs – for love, for adoration.

“In response to your question of why some men are afraid of your new work I think about Medusa. According to the Greek poet Hesiod, (750-650 BCE) Medusa was Gaia’s granddaughter. Hesiod tells that Gaia as the original personification of Earth gave birth to a son, Pontus, as the original personification of the Sea, and that from the union of Gaia and Pontus Medusa’s parents, Phorkys (Homer’s ‘Old Man of the Sea’) and Keto (whose name is related to ‘whale’ and ‘monster’), were born. Medusa was one of triplet daughters known as the ‘Gorgons’, and her parents, once rulers over the deep, were subsequently vanquished by the Olympian God Poseidon.
Medusa, despite her immortal parentage was mortal and as ‘a young woman of great beauty’ (Leeming, 2013, p.12) she was, according to Ovid, raped by Poseidon in the temple of Athene. Athene was outraged both by the violation of her temple and by Medusa’s beauty which was a direct challenge to her own, and seems to have blamed the desecration of her sacred temple on the beauty that is blamed for causing the rape. To punish her Athene turned Medusa into a monstrous figure of horror, with snakes for hair, a protruding tongue, staring eyes and tusks.
This aspect of the Greek myth illustrates the power of elemental beauty to arouse the uncontained impetuous sexual action of a male God of the patriarchal Olympian pantheon. It also describes the punishing reaction to that power by the rational female God of the patriarchal pantheon: the powerful beauty which is not authorised becomes petrifying to all who encounter it.
The invocation of involuntary powerful arousal is experienced as petrifying because it bypasses and so appears to incapacitate conscious agency. The patriarchal response to this appears to be to try to re-impose control firstly through rape and secondly by locating the cause for the rape in the victim not the perpetrator. This is a pattern repeated through patriarchal structures.
In Medusa in the Mirror of Time David Leeming quotes St Augustine’s response to the arousing effect of women:
‘St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo (354-430), author of Confessions and City of God, said: “Women should not be enlightened or educated in any way. They should, in fact, be segregated as they are the cause of hideous and involuntary erections in holy men” and “whether it is in a wife of a mother, it is still Eve the temptress that we must beware of in any woman”.’ (Leeming, 2013 p.32)
Maybe patriarchal cultures fear the involuntary arousal men experience in the face of erotically alive women? Maybe erotic scenes that do not remain within the parameters prescribed by patriarchal discourse are experienced as disturbing because the arousal they cause is involuntary and so escapes from the orbit of patriarchal control? Perhaps this is partly why some men are afraid of your recent work.
In “Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power” Audre Lorde describes how women are taught to deny a relation to their erotic selves as part of a strategy to domesticate and control life forces that would otherwise disrupt patriarchal order.
‘In order to perpetuate itself, every oppression must corrupt or distort those various sources of power within the culture of the oppressed that can provide energy for change. For women, this has meant a suppression of the erotic as a considered source of power’;
‘The erotic has been misnamed by men and used against women. It has been made into the confused, the trivial, the psychotic, the plasticised sensation’;
‘pornography is a direct denial of the power of the erotic, for it represents the suppression of true feeling. Pornography emphasises sensation without feeling’;
‘the erotic is a measure between the beginnings of our sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings’; (Your Silence will not Protect You, Lorde 2017, pp.22,23)
The ancient Greeks conceptualised the arousal of a loving sensual sexual response to things and events through personification in the figure of Eros. They described Eros, this arousal of a loving response that includes the sensual sexual relation, in Audre Lorde’s words, as being ‘born of Chaos, and personifying creative power and harmony’ (Lorde 2017, p.25). This would seem to be a powerful force that is not in the control or at the mercy of the patriarchal subject and which pushes up out of chaotic undifferentiated feeling insistent on seeking a form. For St. Augustine the only form this can take is an ‘involuntary erection’ and, perhaps, the incapacitating of his ability to think appropriate thoughts in an appropriately ordered manner.
Audre Lorde elaborates how a woman in touch with her own erotic power and energy is experienced as dangerous to the nature of patriarchal culture and particularly its men.
When I look at your recent work its erotic power is evident. While noticing this power I also wonder where it originates. It is not in my control but my curiosity is not incapacitated. To an extent the paintings present a conventional scene in that heterosexual couples meet the authorised parameters of post-romanticism, and they rehearse the scene of the man sensually and sexually aroused by the woman. This references the theme of the powerful and attractive woman drawing the man into an enchantment, which is simultaneously a defence against and an elaboration of the patriarchal fear of being taken over by one’s own arousal and a consequent loss of control. So this may also add to why some men are afraid of this work. Yet that would be true of erotic work in general and not specific to this work.
If there is something specific to this work that causes some men to be afraid it may lie somewhere else as well.
It seems to me that the source of the erotic power in the work doesn’t lie particularly in any one of the figures individually, nor in the overt sexuality of the images. When I experience myself looking at the paintings the erotic charge seems to come viscerally from the paint itself, as a communication direct from the activity of paint taking this form. The experience, if you open to it, is one by which the effect of the act of painting is re-evoked for the viewer in the act of looking, and this effect is perhaps precisely the connection to the erotic.
Whereas a classical nude scene might be erotic and arousing by virtue of its sexual aspect, it is unlikely to be disturbing in the same way as these are because what in the former is found to be erotic has already been objectified in the specific places marked out for it by patriarchal discourse. When the erotic is found in these specific places it has already been ‘relegated to the bedroom alone’ (Lorde 2017, p26) and so placed under the control of the man where its power is yoked to the requirements of patriarchal order. The centre of power and agency is located in the man. This means his erection is neither involuntary nor hideous but expected and required.

However, if your erotic energy, and with it your desire, is aroused without your intention your understanding or your will, something Other is at work in you. And that something Other is working in concert with something Other in the world and it is refusing to be bound. I suggest something Other is also at work in these paintings. There are unclear locations for the urgency of the desire and arousal: in the man reaching towards the woman; in the woman drawing him towards her; in the woman giving birth to the man who then finds her arousing; in the woman being alive with new life brought forth by the man; by their interpenetration and mutual receptivity; in the woman charming and demanding a willing surrender to an arousing revelation that is experienced and expressed in the work. An untold story is being unfolded in this work; an Other story.
I am reminded of Medusa’s back story: Gaia parthenogenetically gives birth to Pontus, their union gives birth to Phorkys and Keto whose union gives birth to Medusa. To fit the myth where having been raped by Poseidon and turned into a monster by Athene she is beheaded by Perseus, Medusa is denied immortality: it must be possible to kill her. But the story ensures that she lives on. Where does Medusa go? It is as if something of her escapes after having been raped by Poseidon and then beheaded, enslaved and colonised by Perseus and is seeking other paths into being. Perhaps that which is disturbing to the viewer in these paintings is connected to the process of enquiry they insist on and if you allow yourself to respond to that insistent call it invokes in you a visceral experience that articulates the path and effect of the erotic which is opened up by an Other Medusa.
When following any of these lines of enquiry one is invited into rough water where one’s reference points of acceptability become destabilised.
Perhaps the most disturbing and liberating effect of the erotic in the paintings is located in their insistence on directing your attention to the process of painting and of looking as an erotic engagement. To be the one through whom this creative power is channelled is clearly a huge turn on. To be the one who is properly allowing themselves to be brought into relation with the paintings threatens to also be a huge turn on. The process of looking involves you in a relationship with the process of creating whether you like it or not: something is created in the space between you and the painting which cannot be restricted to the detached fantasy of two lovers meeting in an embrace that is authorised, sanctioned and so neutered by patriarchal approval.
Perhaps it is this above all that causes those men to be afraid of your new work.”


I think another reason for fear and uneasiness around this new work might be to do with the fear of the loss of sight of what is considered to be rational. In his book on Ithell Colquhoun Richard Shillitoe has written: “Mysterious, liberating and transforming, sexual attraction and arousal are the antithesis of the rational.” (p. 101) He also expresses his thought that the thing men are most afraid of is the vagina…

From my shamanic work I know that the spirits want to experience this fleshly life through us embodied mortals. This includes sexuality and human love, and maybe this is another prohibited area for patriarchy?
It’s possible that paint, and the act of painting from a heart cracked open, enables them to come through…

When I was on the Isle of Iona recently, I thought a lot about magic wands. I even found one: the elegant, refined, gently bending rib of a whale (yes, I brought it home).

Here is a poem about a magic wand, by Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff.

Sleeps a song in things abounding
that keeps dreaming to be heard:
Earth’es tunes will start resounding
If you find the magic wand.

In tiny drawings made on Iona and back at home, the man’s tongue is washing the woman’s heart, penetrating the heart space. I ask, “Is his tongue a magic wand?”


I often make drawings of paintings when I know they’re incomplete, but are at an interesting or important stage; it’s a little like taking a snapshot of the stages in a relationship. In my paintings I often obliterate interesting passages too, and it’s a way of keeping a record of their evolution. Sometimes the signposts indicate areas I need to explore rather than just the final iteration of a painting. Like tracks through an Italian forest…. I might find (the sustaining, equivalent aspects of, for example) a grove of flowering Daphne bushes, or wild boar hoglets playing and squeaking in the undergrowth. There might be an icon as a waymarker, or a ridge above thousands of trees; or a monk tending beehives painted yellow and blue.

Here are some pictures of works in their stages. I think these stages show that the work itself is alive and working towards its own resolution – not just mine.

Bathing nervous limbs

Bathing nervous limbs open daily until 29th of August, co-curated by Ella Walker for Edinburgh Art Festival 2021

Bathing nervous limbs
blog detail
Balneum, 15th C., f.3v, detail. © The University of Edinburgh.
The starting point for this group show, which includes the work of more than 20 contemporary artists, many of them recent graduates, is the Balneum, an illustrated manuscript from the early 15th century about the therapeutic benefits of different bodies of water.

The show is a mixture of new work made in response to ideas in the Balneum and existing work on relevant themes. The artists vary widely in their styles and approaches, from video documentation of a 2017 performance by Zoe Williams to Natalia González Martín’s delicate, hyperreal bathing nudes.

There is a series of bronze mirrors by Nina Royle and a collection of decorative plasterwork vessels by Melloney Harvey. 2016 Fleming-Wyfold Bursary winner George Ridgway presents a film on a smart phone about volcanic fumaroles. Paloma Proudfoot has made an impressive wall-mounted ceramic of a figure disrobing. Anousha Payne’s serpent beast, painted in watercolour pigment with a glazed ceramic head, is an incarnation of the Tamil sea beast Makara, which (cleverly) merges with the water, even as the water embodies it.

Meanwhile, painters dive into the waters of myth, superstition, spirituality. Kate Walters’ mystical evocation of baptism is one of the best works here. There are mysterious and well executed landscapes by Ithell Colquhoun and Danny Leyland. Jessie Whiteley’s egg tempera paintings combine elements of myth and surrealism with urban modernity.

Danny Leyland, Between Two Worlds, 2021, Oil on canvas, 70 x 40 cm.
Co-curator Ella Walker describes working with the Balneum as an act of multiple translation: from its original Latin to an existing French translation, into English with some help from Google and then into the artworks, by the artists themselves. The show illustrates the spectrum of ways by which artists translate ideas, through the cipher of their own interests, instincts and experience.

But there is another, final act of translation which sometimes gets scant attention at the cutting edges of contemporary art: that between the work and the viewer. Here, if one continues the water metaphor, we are cut adrift, with little information about any of the art we are seeing. We must make of it what we can, which is fair enough, I suppose, though, one suspects there are some fascinating insights which are lost in translation.

Bathing nervous limbs runs at Arusha Gallery, Edinburgh, until 29th August, as part of Edinburgh Art Festival.

A dream of a song spirit…and my recent course at The School of Art & Wellbeing, Honiton….

A dream of the Spirit of a Song.

“I saw your song alive; there was great beauty. A cord stretching and growing like a branch, or a tree; a synapse, a ganglion; a cord of sinew, or mating rope between Arthropoda; an umbilical cord, twisting, fleshy, rooty, internal, from earth to heaven. With growing points/nodes/staging posts or platforms where happy dark-haired women were sitting, singing, with wide open mouths. They were descending from these platforms, one was a little anxious about the descent. Then they sat in a circle on the ground.”

I’m just home from teaching a course at the wonderful, beautiful School of Art & Wellbeing in Devon.
The School is a haven for Nature: several sweeping acres are set high on a hill overlooking Dartmoor, with a Mongolian yurt, wild gardens, shepherd’s huts, polytunnels for plants, flowers and painting; and a pavilion with a kitchen and tables; easels, paints and showers.

This is a place for deep connection with all that is good and abundant. It has been established and nurtured over many years by Mary-Ann and Geoffrey. I knew it was perfect for my workshops the first time I visited when I ran my dog around the open meadow beside the pavilion.

My first workshop there was about connecting creatively with one’s inner fire, and the life force felt so strongly in this place. We worked with shamanic ceremony; we made journeys riding on shamanic horses to find power animals, plant spirits, and places of beauty in our lives to ask for medicine names or a name a special place would give us.
In some cases these came as ‘vocables’. We worked ceremonially, and also with humour and lightness. I don’t teach in a strict way, and worries about ‘getting things wrong’ were dispelled. I also worked with the ‘hollow bone’ process, one to one, inviting trauma and grief to surface. Images came for drawing by participants, and words.
We talked about First Nations’ Peoples’ poetry, and song, and images. We looked at contemporary artists, and we spoke about the constriction and inheritance of patriarchal and religious systems.
One night we had a wonderful fire and a sunset dance using headphones and bluetooth technology. Our circle was warm and safe. I felt honoured to be working with such a wonderful, brave, inspiring group of women.

The next workshop here will be August 30th – September 2nd.
This will focus on the ancestors; we’ll respond creatively with images, words, dance, and possibly song. This course is fully booked.
The last course this year will be from October 25th – 27th. It will be strongly body-focused, and will also work with a range of responsive sensitive mediums and will be explored ceremonially and with beauty.
Please contact me for details of next year’s courses – they’re currently in the planning stage!

For around 3 years Mat Osmond and I have collaborated, at a distance, on a book about the Black Madonna. Mat wrote poems in response to the paintings of Meinrad Craighead; at the same time (up until September 2019) I was working on large watercolour paintings of aspects of the divine feminine.

“The Black Madonna’s Song is dedicated to Sr Meinrad Craighead (d. 8.4.19): an artist, writer and Benedictine nun whose life was steered from early childhood by an intimate sense of encounter with God the Mother. At the heart of the pamphlet is a series of ekphrastic poems by Mat Osmond that reply to paintings by Craighead: works that reflect her lifelong devotion to the Black Madonna.

The Black Madonna’s Song is illuminated by a series of arresting watercolour paintings by Kate Walters, chosen for their resonance with Mat’s poems and offering a third layer to the pamphlet’s oblique meditation on the instinctive process that Craighead herself spoke of as ‘praying with images’.

In honour of the women who’ve recently taken up breaking the windows of UK banks heavily implicated in funding ecological catastrophe, all proceeds from The Black Madonna’s Song are being donated to covering their and fellow Extinction Rebellion arrestee’s court costs. ” Mat Osmond
For a link to the publisher, where you can buy the book:

The Black Madonna’s Song


And to close this post… interesting article on new pathways in art…

I take back what’s mine

I’m so thrilled to be part of this show – details above! at Arusha Gallery, now open.
Here is a review, where my work receives a special mention, to my great joy…

Last night these words came, woke me up: Spirit coming through is the fruit of an energetic liaison and a promise too of an aperture of wholeness. Like a child, a holy fruit, a holy kernel inside the fruit of flesh. There is an elixir hidden inside the flesh.

The aperture, to do with seeing, using spirit as an Aperture: seeing through the spirit: drawing and writing in an altered state (with a poet?) …

*Dream on 14.7.21

Of a man I feel comfortable with cuddling up to me, making love to me. I was in a very large house with many rooms, and each one had someone in it, a version of me, female, younger, who needed looking after. It was my job to do this, and I did it well. It/I was sort of my super-id or higher self, taking care of all my different and many parts. The man kept an eye on me, he was around, comforting still, and I knew he accepted me fully, exactly as I am.

The inspirited birds/lovers.

I remember initiatory crystal head-dress dreams (I was giving them to women in a holy place, there were stairs), and an old dream of a soft pink revolving eye on the floor below. For healing and penetration.

Pollen for thanksgiving. Do my painting of ploughing with the heart.

Be alight. Or, be a light.

I have a kind of branded vision. I dream he came to me, he put his fingers into my eyes (like doubting Thomas putting his fingers into Christ’s wounds). He felt his way through all my flesh to my bones, and such bones they are, all silvery and metally and shining strong beneath and blood and sinew red. He branded me with his touch. His touch burned me, punctured me.
This dream came after reading Dom Bury’s wonderful poem Brother.

He wanted to touch my vision, and in a way, he has, by the shaping with his hands of the forms in my dreams – vessels, figure of eight, female, full of fluid; the elixir of life. I gave it to him. He took it. I didn’t know he’d taken it.

Recent Shamanic journey, for painting.
Saw a white spirit dragon full of spirit snakes, it was pregnant with them. And then, I’m told the therapy is over, best now to use my wings (or are they owl wings?) to sweep all the debris together , where it’ll form an owl/raptor pellet (they are vomited up, not excreted). We’ve absorbed all the goodness. Keep the bones contained. The rest: go high. The spirit swoops down like a bird to feed on the physical plane. Like a fishing sea bird or a tern.

The nature of the feelings of desire – their actual nature – is luscious fruit – strawberries – the food of the gods – not to be wasted and essentially so good and fine.

(New piece – creature with flippers- to swim in the spirit sea.)

I find notes about an important dream on 15.10.19 when staying in my brother’s house, of a dark haired man on my right, constructing things together, we were in love, making something lovely, I had an important part in it. My animus? And I had holy hands with holy fingers – pictures of mandorlas on each finger, with deep bright yellows, an eastern feel, like icons on the uppermost fleshy parts of each finger.

Dragon medicine (it was pregnant with – pouring with – spirit snakes)

We must learn to:

Control our intentions. A keeper of the creative force of life. A change to the climate of our lives. Higher perception and intuitive abilities. Guarding our creations. Need for wonder. Snake is opposite. So, the bringing together of opposites?

The need to take care with words and enunciation. Love/harshness, power of words to heal or hurt. Time to act. Great creative and spiritual power.

Dream* 19.07.21
I was teaching a big group of women around a big table/outside/sense of danger from what was outside the perimeter, but we were contained, it was OK. I was asking them how they were, and they said, ‘dazed’. Huge animals were on the outside, composite, prehistoric animals, black, monstrous (early time?). Slow moving, slightly threatening (the virus?).

Notes from my notebook

From Braiding Sweetgrass:

“Go among the Standing People, the Flower People, the Bird People. The capacity of others as our teachers. There are intelligences other than our own, all around us. We can be less lonely if we learn to listen.”

P59 “they love to hear the old language” he said,…but, with his fingers on his lips, “you don’t have to speak it here.” “If you speak it here”, he said, with his fingers on his heart, “they will hear you.”

The current wants to return. I send it in a new direction.

In a new drawing: the man’s heart gives up Little Kate (where she took herself in desperation). She burrowed in there, looking for love and safety. Heart pocket. He empties it. Infant like a flame. The fire of her. Her being aflame; a flame. Alight; a light. Spirit tongue. Ignition. She appears to be birthing into air contained by a thin phallus skin. She is ejaculated into beauty. The testicles will be within his abdomen. His wings are folded back delicately.

“People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us.” Iris Murdoch.

Writing with an XR writing workshop, some fragments and longer passages

I wrote the bones of this piece during a workshop with the poet Dom Bury.
Finding the heart crack, a place to write from, the place of tension between extinction and joy…

Photo by Andrew McDouall, East Voe Beach, Shetland, 2017

Birds on the bank
the wing and the rock, wings done pulsing, nor lifting anymore
the screaming terns
white blood flights
the wet mother lays flat before me, the lip of her wave my arm, the side of her finger my brow

Curlew hiding in the moaning grass, he walks delicately through my scalp, down my face;
eye lashes wet, heavy, I’m gathering tears on the leaves of all the branches of your thoughts
and still it’s a blessing
(Or I think it is)

You far away in time
and tomorrow too
think of me in the space you make between your fingers as you spread them on the animal skin laid on the dirt floor beneath the sky

Black as night and tucked with the stitches of stars the coverlet hangs a crescent body
a curling fleshy belly
pale and round
the colour of honey
you lie my twin in the bubble I blow between my brows
it hangs there, and rides the current

and collapsing my lips fall with the others

The man is brought before me, twisted and dry.
Ancient you come hard against my palm, I fold my fingers around you, an earth, a sett, a burrow for this stone to rest for the next 2000 years.

Yellow butterflies squeeze out their perfume pale as dawn
Creamy white peals the bell at your crown
and I swim in the seas of your body, anemone pink.
Your dusky cloak, the edges of your hair stroke me man-god: Or ant. Mouse.

We embrace; for a moment I feel your hair against my face. I like it.

The bridges your breath makes sharing this love with all you ones who nest:
I sit beside the chapel, treasure wrapped in wool on the lonely isle. I’d already left him.

Asking for spells and trances and the vibration of cells, he brings me alive; he fears me.
The cut of the tongue of the spider, the carmine stab of the tern
the holes which might tear wider, though which we could drop, my son would fall
(I’d already have fallen)

Nerves, animals, Eros and my search for understanding

I remember:

As I drummed, a robe of white feathers was given to me. It gathered me up in itself, from head to foot. It was both weighty and light.

I’m becoming the apple which floats; hovers kestrel-like in the space between us. You sit. I float above your face with my desire.

The eye, the mandorla between my legs sees you as you fidget. I say, ‘swollen, shining, full’ and you are aroused. There’s sex magic here. I’m the fruit you hold between your teeth (they’re shining as you laugh). You bite me gently.

The open force field my chest your chest

The tops of my thighs

With your testicles clustered as winged seeds I’m sitting on them in the drawings: somewhat small, girlish, absorbed.

(I read old notes:The need to be born as a black sheep when it’s time to make a big leap with soul learning.)

I’m lost when I try to shut down Eros, to control it. I cant control it.

There’s pain when you’re surrounded by desire, and the sense of Eros is rooted in someone else. I ask how can it not be rooted in someone else? By not being their exclusive property you say. I think, so it’s an eros which floats, can inhabit anyone? What happens when I try to stop the face of Eros arriving in my paintings? It feels like chaos… but with time I see something else, something new:
The picture is a parent picture. Its a garden, overgrown and wild. There are new plants growing. There’s a sky opening. It’s a creature, it has open lips. It might be my two legs blue as night, the spirit line bisecting them. The rein from the horse’s lips is blue too, you caress it in your open palm.

The face of Eros is not you (you said). I need to let it be the face of Eros and not worry if it looks like you (I ask). Am I painting the fleshy embodiment of Psyche? Eros needs the spirituality of Psyche…what about the fleshy part, what happens to that? Is it burned away? Is it what I carry in my un-kissed face? I ask you questions, you don’t answer.

I paint a mare who’s waited long. She carries me in her arms. Her udder swells and sends a jet of milk, a stiff tail feather, it roots this Bird-Child in milkiness. It’s milk made erect; it’s flying milk, milk made stiff; a tail-feather tension. Sweet milk as semen-wand; I ask her.

And the stiff milk is masculine (it’s you); you’re filling the milk cells, giving them direction, taking the rounded softly curving forms of the udders and making them arrow-like, a tail-feather flight path into the body of the child.

In the new painting the magician touches my chin with his out-stretched pale fingers. As his hands come towards me they become pale as light. The way his hand just touches my chin, it looks as if he is about to gently turn my face away from the world, and towards him. I would like to do this, to turn away from the world, and towards him. I love him and I want to turn towards him.

His other hand gently guides my lower body, he keeps me from swinging too much. The gold enters my crown when he is beside me. I am inspired when he is beside me. He’s always been beside me. I had to wait to know him. I always knew I’d find him. I wasn’t impatient. The Angel Out Ahead let me know.

He is made of gold, a deeper red-gold like the colour of my horse when she was young, touched by the sun. I’m paler gold, and deepest blue, and white. My eyes are pale blue, the colour of spirit. I remember telling you about that blue.

There is a dream-vessel gathering sky fluid which came to me in a dream. A dream of you and me, and fish, and love. I know the sky can open, it’s a pattern full of spirit lines, like the body I am when I open for spirit, when I open for you.

I’m fluid, and that’s ok. I’ve been traumatised, my body has reflected this. I can let go to an extent, and expect nothing of myself. I feel dizzy, swimmy, writing this.
What I feel for you is desire distilled:layer upon layer of petal, of skin, of kiss, of breath; of the magical stone I found in my garden. There was a musical retort when my trowel struck it, and my inquisitive fingers find you, the part you left for me to find there. Rounded, perfect for my hand, smaller than you are when aroused, but nevertheless a talisman, a reminder of you. I brought it with me yesterday but I didn’t show you. Perhaps I needed to write about it first. Or perhaps its about the male member, the loving male member, about to come into my life. My trowel found it. My hand, my arm. Seeking to make a hole in the earth to plant something. Musical sound as I strike stone with metal. I draw out the stone phallus from the earth. I wipe off the damp soil, I study it, I take it indoors, I keep it with me, in my bag. I should make it a bag of its own, to keep it precious.

Every passing touch, every time I’ve thought of you, and you aren’t here: all goes into my distilled desire. My paintings are distilled desire, desire distilled. You are with me in my studio as I paint, as I dance, as I eat chocolate. When you tend your bees I move about the grasses on the path. I helped a man once, in southern France, we moved his hives from a mountain side to the valley. The air was clean. It was night. I was young, it was all mysterious.

From a Moleskine Fassbinder notebook, a few notes ++++++++++ 2019

From the Annunciation, Marla

A man born from a flower in space a man

Riding a colt foaled from a sterile mare…

Purcell Funeral Sentences Herreweghe

Eating flowers for healing

Wearing flowers of animal skin for healing.

Horse milk/flower milk for redemption. Drinking it.

Becoming pregnant with flowers/birds/fire

The buzzard-plaited wound

I pull birds from my mouth

A dream of writing about how a mountain is made (he is a man, he is masculine, strong) : of a morning’s birdsong and butterfly wings. A damsel fly hatching in the garden. Flying in circles. Standing with my son among the leaves and the sunshine, watching the creature fill her wings and fly heavenwards, a green and dusky joy (the quality of the black that absorbs all light yet is not dark).

I’m a tree with palpitations, with a swollen tongue, reaching out to save herself from falling; who loves her son; who was beaten;

She carries eggs, searches for meaning in her leaves and dead sticks. She’s sad, with a swollen tongue, growing a horn. She learns to stretch her love, to make it flow like a river.

A dream of a room with three fireplaces and three mothers. Soul bundles hanging from a tree.

The memories of creatures who dream of this place; who visit at night. The badger by the front door. I hang the bones you gave me from the tree, from my body they hang, hard as sun-dried sea plants. I’m a tree with a song.
You run to greet me. You take me, you gather me up.

I write about the child with her own milk, she came in the painting. She makes her own wings with the milk. Where does it come from? Could it be a shower of heavenly fluid spurting from the phallus, the man-creature standing near? It’s also, at the same time, mare’s milk. She absorbed it through the tips of her growing hair. The milk soaks into her scalp; bathing her brain it seeps through her cells into her breasts making wings of whiteness for her heart. Horse milk, man-milk for redemption. Drinking it. Holiness.

And there’s a horse with a golden hoof. Perpetually waiting to be born, the soft-tipped golden hoof doesn’t pierce the wall of the horse’s womb.

A friend across the seas gives me a golden spine. It grows out beneath my tail, and sinks into the earth, holding me fast.

Labia – wings from behind the sexual area. A Minotaur head/tops of the body minus head. Is it a wing or a rock behind her? Both? The conversation between a wing and a rock.

New writing on the Originary child, the budding phallus, and the Unspeakable Girl.

The Originary Child

Hermaphroditism of the child. Conjunction of female and male.

Initiation by Holy Bird. Drawing with oil pastels. April 2021. One of a sequence.

In a new drawing (in my sketchbook, not yet developed) the phallus has energetic fields which move beyond itself in a looping, orbiting way. Like a slingshot of energetic dust, a force field of attraction, with a pulling power, a gentle stroking towards its erect self. It is like a planet which is elongated, in a solar system which is not open on all sides.

And when kissing in the drawings, the faces become open, like a cove/beach/land/ receiving the sea.

I draw the Song of the Navel. It calls the hand of the Man into its sound bath/field/site; as the young bird opens its gape, she finds the parent-lover bird has thrust his beak inwards. The point of the bill tickles my throat.

In the drawing the wings are folded or pointed forwards, they protect the front of the body.

Electricity snakes from my nipples, charging the air with fire.

The tongue from the navel. The serpent emerging behind her, her arms hold it between her shoulders. She opens herself to the ground. She reflects the spring; the waters gather in her, she holds them in a bud inside.

The serpent’s head smooth and ancient, a rock painting remembered; it travelled here in dreams, in the breath of ghosts, in mineral dust and fingerprint traces. ‘How did it get here?’, A child might ask. Her little animal sculpture, bowing in grace, body decorated with flowers and love:how did that get here? How did she know it looked like that? The beauty bud emerging through the movements of her fingers, moisture, and clay. She made the creature, her teacher could not believe she hadn’t copied it from books. But no. It arose spontaneously, there is an uninterrupted line of energy/messages between her consciousness and that of the ancients.

The song of the navel, it calls his hands into her field. They open and cup the airs as they emerge. Dappled they drift like dusty motes, then caught on his palm he presses onto paper, the voices of the old ones call to us once more.

The child in the school room makes the sculpture, she’s visited by spirits through her little red hands. They shape the clay. Her love for animals pours itself into the creature, and her fear, and her alone-ness. She doesn’t understand what she has made. She doesn’t understand that it’s come through her navel and her pores. It’s genetic and spirit. Her teacher doesn’t believe she’s made it alone, without help. She didn’t make it alone; she had help. She didn’t know it then.

I think of making a painting of a couple holding a fire in their hands, it’s a shared fire, one they share, they hold it up, they breathe into it. The tiniest speck of dust blown into it becomes a furnace:they can’t help themselves. The fire is there, it’s the life-force that burns in the heart of the damp, rounded early life forms walking over the mud, on all their tiny legs.

I spoke of the silver dagger in my throat, before remembering today that it was a needle, for sewing.

I spoke of the dream of the primordial beings, the twins, the caterpillars together beside the spring, in the dark woods, in the mud, the beginnings of new life. You spoke of how the dream is uncovering what is already there (and hidden), and it’s what I do in my art too, and my work as a shamanic practitioner: it’s all the same. And you spoke of the thing between us, the life-force – it’s bigger than us, it just is. And we’re the same, the same soul in two bodies. And I’m so grateful to you for what you reflect back about my work. You give voice to the mythic third.

You speak of sacrifice, the making sacred, the silver nail driven through (me). And death, transformation, metamorphosis. Piercing, the mirror, being able to look at something, see something, through a mirror – used when gazing on the gods….something unbearable, unsee-able. It’s too much, too vast, unknowable, too godly. Also any image can be a reflection of something (we can’t yet see?).

In the painting I showed you, you wondered if she is melting….the red, the flame-riddled flesh below her navel. She’s melting with desire, sexual fluids, literally? Or with power, the power of desire, its force is transforming her into something else, another creature? Or emerging from another state of being, of desire, of being fluid, only just held in a membrane as she builds another body which even now is rising up and filling up her breasts, making them potent, swollen…new

Is she being cooked by her desire, made ripe?

She would draw him like this, as he laughs, as the skin is gathered on his face, sewn by the spirits who are happy, they’re gathering it up like nets or skirts and holding it for a moment or two; so she can glimpse the inside of his shining mouth.

Yesterday two drawings: Meditating Angel with forward-facing wings (in this one your phallus flowers; it’s budded, germinal); and Baptising with an Eye, which became the Unspeakable Girl supporting the bird as it grew from her heart; and weeping, his tears making a baptismal pool between their feet. The tip of the bird’s bill pierces the upper chest of her father-figure: he is initiated.

New writing on desire, longing, acceptance.

4th April. Easter Day

In the night, in the dark, the back of my hand passes over the hard cold glass. I’m feeling for – reaching for – water.

I suddenly remember my father saying to me countless times, “if you’re not careful you’re going to feel the back of my hand, my girl.” The feeling is a spinning, a numbing, a stiffness in my legs. A spaciousness in my head not unlike meditation, but not good or productive. It leads to loss. Loss of time, of self, of heart, of will, of life.

In the morning I practice the gesture (to understand the ‘back of the hand’ part): the sweeping of the arm out and forwards in an ugly arc: the batting away (of something unwanted, inconsequential, loathsome – his word) the rejection, the force, the dismissal. The poisoned patriarchy in action through the graze of an arm, the sweep of a cuffing fist, a vicious lunge into a permanent future of dismissal and disregard. I focus on the trajectory of the arm, I can feel the pain in my heart like a sore tooth. I stay with the pain, I don’t leave it.

I turn on the great beam, my dazzling searchlight. It’s wide and strong. It shines from a rocky outcrop black and sheer, in the middle of a churning ocean. It’s surrounded by seabirds and whales and clouds of spirit dwell above.

*Dream: Of a bridegroom with thick, padded, white sole/soul: soft, flexible, repaired….

I think of my painting , it’s a child giving birth to the world through her mouth/voice. It’s the act of speaking, of bearing witness (to herself). Her mouth is closed, her skin transparent, her eyes are closed, turned inwards.

In another on wood a figure with closed eyes holds an infant on her crown. Her hands are gold, delineated with the blue of night. The infant might have a bird’s bill piercing her crown. Or maybe the bird is extracting her bill. Maybe the bill has always been there, and will return there at death?
Maybe it comes out to allow the child to live here on earth, for her allotted time?
Maybe the bill pierces her, follows the line of her spine, activates her when she isn’t in skin-form. We don’t know if the bird is inserting his bill or removing it.
We don’t know what messages are carried in the bill, or in the act of piercing or withdrawal. Might there be a bird coming into her from the other end, into her sexual channel?

What coolness I’d feel, being pierced by a bird’s bill. The fat dagger of a Solan, a Shetland gannet carrying all the wild beauty of that place (and he’d close his eyes as he dived into me: a deep and black ocean); or perhaps the tiny carmine needle of a tern, a bird of light, a clitoris-tickler, a sun-bird; or a gaggle of sparrows descending with a shout of their tawny wings, little brown bills no threat, no penetration; or an eagle, who’d hook his great beak into my navel, spread his wings wide along the length of my open legs.

I think again of the messages tattoo-ed on the long yellow dagger of the Solan. They’re written by the airs of the rocky ledges where he was born. They’re incised by the guardians of that place; the eyes inside of my body can decipher them.

Fledgling mother with wing stumps, wing stems like unfurling leaves, foetal roundness, softness, so as not to pierce the amniotic sac, my tender growing-ness pushing against the pregnant air. The rounding air, the skin of the paper smoothed around me, I stretch out my growing limbs beneath your hand, your fat oily crayon, your sea-green, your petal-pink, chalky-white marks. Your eyes closed in bliss or weariness, your sense of finding your way with your hands. Of trusting the music today, the fire, the small fire growing from my nipple, the flame you inhale, you welcome me with your lips.

Then I’m walking across ancient commons of moor and marsh, lighting a candle beside a well; you gaze into the darkening pool, the noonday shade made by slabs of granite; I danced nearby once, full of hope; I learn at last to yield, to give up desire.