When diagnosed with “unexplained infertility” and during the long, long process of grieving that followed unsuccessful IVF attempts, I found myself almost obsessively drawing and making images of vulvas over and over again. Stylised line drawings, paintings, abstracts, moulding in clay, noticing its shape in many natural forms. I had no clear idea why. All I knew in the deepest part of me was that I must, for as long, and as many times, as it needed to come forth. Like stumbling along a path blindly in the dark, one step after the other without any clue where the path leads, it became like a daily “drawing meditation” followed by however many (or few) words spoke from (or to) each image. Not judging any of it, just allowing it to flow out on the page in whatever way it needed to that day, and the next day, and so on.
Focussing on this image in meditation, I allowed it to settle into my body awareness, into my “felt sense” of where “I” and this symbol resided together. This was more than just a literal meshing of image with anatomy. It was (and still is) a living resonance of the imaginal body and dreaming psyche with my physical body and senses. A mysterious, multi-dimensional energetic “space” which became an anchoring place deep inside of me. Some of these experiences became images I painted large on canvas. My imagination became full of many artistic possibilities in giving form and expression to this symbol.
This ancient, primordial symbol of the Sacred Feminine became central to my imagination, appearing in pivotal dreams. Of course, I researched its origins and meaning. But it became more than just information for me. It has become a touchstone symbol, a core image to which I return when seeking the archetypal roots of my feminine, womanly nature.
As a woman who failed to conceive, who history would have called “barren”, it was impossible to not feel myself as a complete and worthless failure. My body had betrayed me, unable to do its most basic “job” to reproduce. I had not chosen to be child free, nor had circumstances denied me motherhood. It was INFERTILITY I was confronting, and this strikes to the very primordial core of being woman. So it was to the most primordial image of the Feminine that I was pulled, guided by a deep instinct, choosing to follow its calling.
I discovered that this symbol, for me, represents our deepest archetypal feminine identity that is not tied to any definition of the presence or absence of being a mother. Yes, we refer to the “Great Mother” archetype, but this image of VULVA sans belly, sans breasts, sans womb, sans body holds for me the felt sense of original generative power and identity. It is not mother, or priestess, or artist, or wife, or even lover. It is complete unto itself and holds all possibilities whilst being defined by no one of them.
It is hard to find a positive and empowering archetype of the childless (not by choice or circumstance) woman. For me, it feels like a grieving place that is collective in its vastness and despair that resides beneath the personal layers of grief. Sometimes we fall through those cracks into those depths, no matter how many years on it is from our original loss, and menopause has a way of bringing this grief back to the surface. This symbol of VULVA, imagined in this way, is vast enough, eternal enough, deep enough, old enough, and strong enough, to hold in counterbalance to that place. Through my art practice, meditation practice and dream work I find it an eternally living and potently vibrating dimension of being in which I can anchor myself, and to which I return over and over again.
The image arises from body-centered meditative practice where the focusing was on the ancient symbol of VULVA and where, and how, this symbolic image resides within my sense of self. Kinesthetic and visual imagery of riding a surging and powerful red serpentine neck was my inner experience, which resonated in my body. But how to visually convey the melding of the image with my body? Through the “imprint” of red scales on red vulva I’ve tried to express the alive, vibrant sensation of where the skin of serpent and vulva meets in active partnership.
Editor’s Note: This is also published in SHE RISES :How Goddess Feminism, Activism, and Spirituality? (Volume 2)