This week has been a treasure of a week, where new experiences appeared in my world unbidden – not least the amazing opportunity to join in with Cat Caracelos StoryThreads Introduction to Visual Narrative & Mythos circle.
Our first invitation in this magical 3-week experience with Cat was to play with the subject of tree. Well, I am surrounded by gorgeous trees. In fact, one of the main attractions to our home when we first viewed her was the majestic copper beech tree guarding our entrance, so this was a real joy to dive into.
I decided to play with digital art this time round, as it has been too hot to spend too much time up in my CreaTEAvity Cocoon Pod this week. As I played around, images came to light and as if by magic, my tree artwork was born into creation.
As a creativity and transformation coach, I love to help people explore their world through art and writing, mindful of symbolism within their beautiful creations. I was excited to explore the messages that were waiting in my tree digital artwork.
The overall image is that of a resplendent tree floating in the clouds, with lush green leaves and roots bare, seeking succour from the air. As I played around, I came across a few more images that begged to be part of my tree exploration experience and so lets see what the symbols are, individually, and what I feel they may present as a combined whole …
Starting with the tree itself, the main focus of my artwork, trees represent: dynamic life itself, the result of heaven, earth and water; it is the feminine, nourishing, sheltering image of the Great Mother, rooted in the earth and reaching toward the heavens, evocative of eternity. The Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge are both in Paradise. (1a) The leaves on the tree are: symbolic of fertility and growth; in the Chinese tradition the leaves of the Cosmic Tree represent all of the beings in the universe. (1b)
The tree is suspended in the sky, which represents: infinity, eternity, immortality, and transcendence; the residence of the gods (and) symbolic of order in the universe (Cooper, 1978). (1c)
Clouds tend to figure pretty big in my world and have done for a number of years. I love to watch the clouds, a form of meditation for me, and a way to exercise my outlandish imagination. My tree is floating in the sky, sharing space with beautiful clouds, which are: the macrocosm of thought, where the moisture (rain) they hold is the macrocosm of emotion. So, clouds … talk to us about the balance between our analytical (thought processing) mind and our touchy-feely emotions. (2)
Oh so this is getting really interesting in terms of what my tree artwork is representative of in my life right now!!
The next piece of art that called to me was a heart-shaped earth, which I felt had to be placed right in the centre of the tree-trunk. So what of the symbolism of hearts and earth? Hearts were used by magicians and alchemists for incantations of love, romance and also for rituals in strengthening relationships. The “Sacred Heart” of Christ is also the emblem of truth: the focus of Roman Catholic worship as a symbol of the Lord’s love. As a graphic representation of an inverted triangle, this symbolizes a vessel in which love is poured or carried. Consider the symbolism an upside-down triangle. The heart evolved from this initial symbol.
Earth is the symbol of life. All life. Earth is the accommodator … all threads of life are first woven with the fibre of Earth, and she represents a network, synonymous with belonging, community, tribal wisdom. Earth is the embodiment of the concept of HOME. The Earth is a consecrator. It anchors, reunites, and re-establishes all things in need of her balancing effect.
Another image that caught my eye and demanded to be placed was a beautiful energetic spiral, composed of two colours that I have always insisted I disliked, until my transformative experience last year, where orange and yellow suddenly became two of my most favourite colours! (Have you ever had that happened to you?)
So what of spirals? Well, the Spiral is one of the most ancient symbols: ancient people noticed the spiral pattern in the world around them, in the form of a snail, in the spiral growth of trees, in the movement of the Sun. They intuitively knew that the spiral was the basic symbol of evolution and expansion, but also of death and doom, thus they painted it on murals or carving it on wood and rock, in an attempt to venerate the archetypical motif that surrounded them in numerous forms.
Hypnotists also make use of the pattern of a spinning spiral to induce trance states, and the spiral expresses itself in numerous forms in nature: horns, shells, plants, galaxies, even in our DNA.
Birth, death, expansion, chaos, symmetry, eternity, infinity, renewal, the constant flux of things are some of the notions that spirals communicate to us, as they appear in a vast array of manifestations in the microcosmic and the macrocosmic level since time immemorial. Perhaps, the recurring pattern of the spiral holds a key to the understanding not only of the universe and but also of our soul. (4)
Ladybirds have been a real symbol of hope to me over the last 18 months, since we discovered a host of ladybirds making themselves at home in our bedroom bay sash-window frames! So it made perfect sense that a gorgeous image of a sunflower with a tiny joyful-coloured ladybird would find its way onto my floating tree.
Sunflowers are such a vibrant symbol of sunshine; yellow again! Wild sunflowers are: often photographed with their tall stalks and bright petals stretched towards the sun. This unique behavior, known as phototropism, is a motif that has appeared in many ancient myths and is viewed as a symbol of loyalty and constancy. The sunflower’s petals have been likened to bright yellow rays of sunshine, which evoke feelings of warmth and happiness, and often associated with adoration and longevity. (5)
So what of my beautiful lil ladybirds? What do they mean? Well, so legend has it, if: a ladybird has come into your life it is time to begin channeling positive energy and passion into your own life; a good time to start being optimistic. Ladybirds are a very lucky totem to have … very passionate and creative, with lots of positive energy surrounding them. Ladybirds also have a very fast paced and fiery energy surrounding them; enabling them to direct their positive energy and passion into everything they do with tremendous force and success. (6) What an amazing symbol to find her way into my artwork, hey?
It felt absolutely necessary to my artwork to bedeck my floating tree with eight of these beautiful ladybirds on sunflowers, with another fun cartoon-like ladybird on a leaf to represent playfullness, which is hugely important to me. So why eight ladybirds on sunflowers? For me, the figure eight represents the Universe. Indeed, the figure 8 is: considered to be a symbol of the finite or limited world. When this figure is turned on its side, it become the mathematical symbol for infinity proposed by the mathematician, John Wallis, in 1650. When you hold this symbol in your hand and turn it back and forth between the two positions, the Act of Switching Positions itself become symbolic of the relationship between the finite and the Infinite, just like shaking hands is a symbolic act of good will or of sealing an agreement. (7)
The notes above are a cobbled-together summary of various sources but what do they mean together, when I look at my tree artwork?
Right now, I feel as if I am floating inbetween two worlds : my whole life has been tipped upside down and I am still finding my feet, quite literally. Pulling through my breast cancer treatment has quite literally been lifechanging and the tree in amongst the sky and clouds felt like a beautiful representation of walking between two worlds, heaven and earth, while I find a balance that is perfect for me. My tree is strong and bountiful, with beautiful energy and lifegiving, nurturing me to full vibrant health in every part of my life and transcending the difficult path I have had to tread over recent months, which brought me too close to walking into another parallel world. My roots may well be exposed to the ether but that enables me to find my space to ground and connect with All That Is, free from restrictions and able to engage with all sources of nourishment available to us all.
Clouds reflect the emotions and rawness, everchanging and illuminating, a source of comfort and delight. The heart-earth symbol very much is a symbol of the deep strands of connection I now feel to everyone and everything surrounding me, and within me, so it is only right that she is nestling at the heart of the tree, where wisdom and knowledge reside.
The colourful spiral called to me, loud and clear, inviting me to re-engage with primitive feelings, my feelings of safety, security and self-esteem; my emotions, dealing with a very early menopause, thrust upon me courtesy of chemotherapy, opening to infinity.
The sunflowers and ladybirds are reflective of the strands before them: how lucky I feel to be alive, to be feeling well, harnessing our solar energies into a powerful forward-movement, where the roots of my tree merge into the Universe, gaining energy and wisdom from every cell of every being.
May all this continue to be a powerful symbol of my determination to live a long, happy, vibrant and very healthy life where I will devote my life to sharing the power of play and creative bliss!
These are my initial thoughts and I look forward to exploring this more with new invitations from Cat as we delve into week 2 *yayyy*
Cat Caracelo: http://www.catcaracelo.com/
(1a, 1b, 1c) http://www.umich.edu/~umfandsf/symbolismproject/symbolism.html/L/leaf.html