Exploring the Wise Mother or Crone Archetype through Art Therapy
It has been a joy exploring and embracing the Crone in the company of other women!
I made a very conscious decision from the start of these sessions to work intuitively and, mostly, to avoid the easy familiarity of words in the pieces I created. I hoped this might open up new insights, coming from that non-verbal interiority.
I’m not sure I had fully connected to the tree as a form of the Mother Goddess/ Wise Woman, though I already had a strong sense of the Goddess as deeply rooted in the earth, yet also connecting upwards and outwards into the universe. Nor had I come across the bear as Primal Mother as within Celtic tradition, something I want to explore further.
Looking back at what emerged for me over the four weeks, the aspects I most want to hold onto to guide me as I move forward are:
- Continued focus on letting go and becoming.
- Using my increased ability for self-compassion to enable me to uphold my necessary boundaries and direct my energies in a more focused way.
- Acknowledging and working with those parts of me that need healing and allowing myself times of true solitude, quietness and rest.
- As well as connecting to the wilds around me, accessing the wild within.
- Embracing not being productive as a valid and valuable way of being.
- Increasing acceptance and befriending of that which I cannot control.
- The abiding awareness of the interconnectedness of all things.
- The fire in my belly that fuels curiosity and the desire to explore and have adventures.
Alongside this deep-dive into my own relationship to the Crone, there were some delightful bonuses!
I don’t think I had previously encountered Hildegard of Bingen; her vision, dating all the way back to C12th, delights me!
I love this term ‘hagitude’, coined by Sharon Blackie, and look forward to reading her book Hagitude; reimagining the second half of life when it is published later this year. I also embrace that sense of moving closer to that skin that is fused to the bone . . . the essence of everything we were ever going to become.
As a record for myself of the learning of these four weeks, I am gathering together below what I posted on Facebook after each session.
Inner Wise Woman (week 1)
My first piece from my Wise Woman/Crone Art Therapy Group – so exciting and liberating to just let it flow.
There were no constraints as to medium and everyone came up with very different pieces from a 10 minute presentation/ meditation, with about 40 minutes to work in. The purpose of these sessions is exploration, not the creation of ‘works of art’!
I will write a much longer post on my blog after the 4-week course ends when I have steeped in all the perceptions.
But some key elements in this for me were:
- the wise, old tree, with a very female base, roots both linking it deep into the earth and connecting to all that is;
- the Crone’s waning crescent moon;
- the tree as connection between grounding earth energy and ethereal sky/moon energy;
- the upside down heart, containing power, wisdom, creativity, sexuality, femininity, motherly energy;
- The green abundance may seem odd against the bare tree, but this represents the nurturing, green-fingered quality of the crone;
- the sunflower represents hope; the basket, woven from the wisdom of the years, contains an abundant harvest.
Where I have come from and where I am going (week 2)
This week’s Crone Art Therapy session around “Where I’ve come from and am going” included a very word based symbolic image of a tree as a prompt. I responded by wanting to get away from words and also from obvious ‘representation’ to something much more deconstructed.
I felt drawn to rush outside to find some birch bark, as well as some heavier bark. There was something here about authenticity as a core value, as well as my deep connection to the wild (and the wild within), to nature.
I didn’t want a white background and the tissue gave me a sense of the interconnectedness of all things, something that underpins my life. And the gold in this and the ‘leaves’ seemed to represent my focus on joy.
If I had had copper wire, this would have formed the ‘roots’, but I used string. For me there was something about the important grounding of our roots, yet also how roots can form tangles that we need to explore and unravel.
The thicker bark represented the ‘hardening off’ of age, endurance, strength, but also the possibility of masked areas, linking to the shadowed area to the left, that which needs healing, grief.
The birch bark captures for me a sense of a protective layer that is also delicate and beautiful, and which can be peeled back to expose the softness and vibrant life beneath.
The ‘leaves’ are somewhat heart shapes, gilded, my precious heart-kin, the larger ones at the core representing Paul and Jessica. I feel truly blessed at this stage in my life by a sense of a genuinely heart-connected community of friends.
The ‘fruits’ are caught up in these ‘leaves’ of loving friendship, as they, together with the ability to find joy in the everyday and the richness of our natural environment, are my greatest blessings.
One of my fellow explorers saw in it a Spirit Bear, which I now also see. This is lovely, as it perfectly captures something of the ‘where I’m going’ part of the brief. These were just a few of the insights from a quick review of Bear symbolism:
“If the bear shows up in your life, it may also be time to take care of your own needs for healing, whether it’s at the physical, emotional, or spiritual level. . . Be sensitive to where you are at and reflect on where you would most need healing. You can call on the bear spirit guidance to direct your energy in a more conservative or focused way. . . Bear medicine emphasizes the importance of solitude, quiet time, rest. . . The spirit of the bear provides strong grounding forces.”
Personal Power and Authenticity – Unique Wise Mother (week 3)
Today’s Art Therapy session was for me like being wrapped in a warm embrace. There was a wonderful sense of tapping into self-compassion.
I rooted myself in the sacred space of the lake, one of my greatest teachers these last few years.
Having in my early thirties defined the purpose of life as learning to love in the broadest sense, the heart is central. At this time in my life, I seek to draw more on the wisdom of my heart than the intellectual processes of my mind.
I wrote some eighteen months ago ‘I want to be a lighthouse when I grow up!’, and this figure radiates and is surrounded by light. That light is also a reflection of the emphasis I have put on experiencing the world with joy. Interestingly, I didn’t see the prismatic quality of what I was seeing as a ‘gold’ paper until I photographed it, but I love that it contains all colours!
There is also that golden joy within, the wellspring, as well as a ribbon of blue, the desire to look inwards and focus on spirit.
Even in Crone-age, there is a fire in my belly that feeds my curiosity, my desire to explore, to have adventures.
Nature has been key to my living since my early childhood, so the greenery acknowledges this.
I have surrounded myself with golden light, which is also the embrace of self-compassion.
Passing through this are the necessary boundaries, somewhat fluid, permeable, yet vital.
There is a sense that this is both who I am and what I aspire to be. I still struggle with boundaries, especially those that protect me from overwhelm and seesawing wellbeing. At best, that golden self-compassion does enfold me, as it did when I was creating this. But too often, it still gets pushed aside by ‘living’
Moving Forward in Embracing the Crone (week 4)
My focus in this last session was the Crone I want to be, the qualities I want to cultivate the me I want to live.
I have always felt a strong affinity with the turning seasons, the cyclical nature of living. The prompt video spoke of a cycle of healing, creating, resting, and blooming. This really resonated as exactly what I aspire to embrace more fully and in a much more balanced way.
I started by creating a circular swirling blue background. I wanted it to reflect an acceptance that there is much we can’t and don’t control. So I used wet watercolour and salt – not as effective as I’d like due to time and probably also that this was not water colour paper as I wanted some scale. It represents the universe, the great blue yonder, the mystery. It may even encompass an ongoing preparedness to make waves!
There is a healing hand, cut from some marbled paper I made years ago. Again, this acknowledges that I cannot fully control my physical healing, the need for acceptance of things as they are, particularly as I age. I also chose a paper that included yellow for self-compassion.
The purple and blue object represents creating and living creatively. Implied within it are the embrace of eccentric purple, of fun and of doing your own thing.
The meditative figure on grey is rest, whether the rest of just stopping and being or the more active rest of meditation.
The final circle for ‘blooming’ contains elements of all these, is rooted in them but blossoms into something more.
At the centre is ‘the handwriting on my soul’, another phrase that caught my attention. I need to read the handwriting on my soul to return to the land of my soul.
The image lacked connectedness to the many wonderful souls whose paths intersect with mine. So, I added dancers to the circle of life. They also represent the freedom and exuberance that the years bring.
Then there are two badly drawn Chinese characters, intended to read laugh and live.
I would like to have include interweaving coloured threads, the strands of all that makes up a life.
There was a sense as I created this that no circle, no element, should be perfect in honour of the great teachings that imperfection gifts us.
Others commented on the sense of balance – I titled it Balanced Flow. I think holding awareness of this cycle more consciously may be helpful to me.