This painting has to do with my intention to more fully integrate my physical body with my soul/mind/spirit. I was inspired by the idea of two interlocking circles, where the overlap is in the shape of a mandorla, or vesica piscis, a shape that has had many meanings over the centuries. It’s “where it’s at,” however you might define “it”. In my mandorla sits the rose, symbolic of the unfolding mystery of life, as it is living itself out within who I am. The swirling tree in both sides of me connotes growth, and the tree is rooted in the river, the river of life. The colors of both sides are represented in the other side, as each side actually started out the other color. There is no real separation within us.
The heart shape, symbolizing love and acceptance, is repeated in both the body and in the shape of the hands.
On my shoulders are a magpie and an alligator. Every time I go out of the house, and most any time I look out a window, I see first a magpie. For me, they remind me that there is more to life than the mundane, as they, with crows and ravens, have often signified the spiritual dimension. Magpies also remind me to use my voice.
The alligator, an animal that has not shown up in my psyche before, came to me in a dream the night I set my intention for the painting. I dreamed of two boys each leading an alligator as one would lead a dog. One boy was very young, maybe 4-6 years old, and his alligator was young, in great health, and very magnificent. The other boy was maybe 10-12, but his alligator seemed very old, tired, lacklustre, and listless. The word “listless” seemed very, very important in the dream. At first I didn’t want to look at the second alligator, but when I finally did, I found that it looked as though it had survived a “great something.” It looked as though it had been through a lot, but was S.S., as Dr. Estes would say, “still standing.” I found myself really admiring that alligator. In the dream I realized that “listless” was a pun: that it really meant for me “list-less,” as in, “without a list.” Those of you who have known me for awhile know that I have lived by my many lists of things to do, things I might do, people to call, posts to write, etc. I sensed strongly that I need to be “list-less” for at least awhile.
After playing with the dream for awhile, I realize that I am the older alligator, having been through some great somethings, yet still standing. And that my psyche was telling me to be “list-less” at least for awhile. The dream was profound, and as I looked up some symbolisms for alligator, I found that as reptiles, alligators rely on their environments to keep them healthy and energetic —- if it is too hot or too cold, reptiles cannot regulate their body temperature and are at risk. I, too, have become exquisitely sensitive to whatever environment I am in.
Alligators are also, among reptiles, unusual mothers in that they help their young hatch from the eggs, then carry them in their mouths down to the water, and stay with them for several months. They are associated with the Great Mother. For the past 18 years, my primary identity and self-understanding has been as mother — perhaps, too, an unusual mother in many ways.
I chose to represent the alligator in a pose reminiscent of the ouroboros, a snake biting its own tail, symbolic of many things, but primarily that of full circle completion: wholeness. It also symbolizes one who has incorporated its opposite, or shadow. Both meanings are ones I would like to incorporate into myself, and both grow out of my intention to more fully unite with my physicality.
And the waning moon, so beautiful, refers to my life now where more years are behind me than in front of me. It is a beautiful time of life, as are all the times of our lives, as are all the phases of the moon.
Part of the reason I’ve gone into this rather detailed explanation of the painting is that I wanted to give an example of how I work with symbolism, dreams, and intentions while painting. I find it especially interesting how dreams are often a commentary from the greater psyche on whatever it is that we’re occupied with on a conscious level.
I also want to highlight that besides image, symbolism, dream, and intention, I have also added “word” by way of the poem that accompanies this painting. (See https://catcharissage.com/2013/11/13/a-new-poem/)
Do you work with your dreams in image or word? What kinds of symbolism do you find personally meaningful?
May you be blessed in ways immediately recognizable and truly useful, and with love,