In fairy stories a forest is the site of transformation. Unexpected encounters with shadow and benign figures take the protagonist from one state of being to a state of wholeness so a marriage can take place – ultimately giving birth to a golden child. The story of The Handless Maiden is one such story. It is a tale of endurance over a lifetime through repetitions of loss, sacrifice and renewal. Her father is tricked into selling her to the devil for riches and plenty. When the devil comes to take her, her purity of heart throws him across the yard. The devil threatens her father with ruin and tells him to cut off her hands and to not let her bathe. But the girl and the father both cried so many tears that the stumps of her arms were clean and again when the devil tried to seize her, he was thrown across the yard. Continue reading
I had closed a door on Catholicism many years ago and to repair the damage, embarked on reading the feminist writers and “New Age” teachers and met many eastern teachers to find relief from a deep darkness, a black dog that haunted by life. The return to the Christian tradition proved to be a profound revelation that I documented, and then as time went on, revealed the nature of the darkness as stark visions of abuse at the hands of a hospital chaplain when I was a student nurse, and an impact of witnessing an enraged nun, who was teaching us the Catholic catechism in preparation for our first confession, beating a boy with a cane in a frenzy, which drove into me a terror of hell and damnation that I was mute and lost for the next 4 years. Continue reading
Australian author David Tacey speculates that the power of the Australian land is activating a deep layer of psyche in white Australians that has been overlaid by civilisation…“ in this context a descendant of the Celtic world is likely to discover that a version of ancient Celtic spirituality is awakened… it is as if the psyche, automatically realising that a bridge must be constructed between the colonising consciousness and the primal landscape, reaches back into cultural memory to find an answering image of aboriginality.” (Tacey 2000, p. 139)
To reflect the hybrid state of an Irish person living under the southern cross, I also made works of oak grafted onto eucalyptus branches. Some branches had a snake-like quality that reflected both the Blue Snake of Ireland and the Australian indigenous Rainbow Serpent. Like the Cailleach the rainbow serpent is female and she created passages through rocks and formed waterholes in the Kakadu landscape helping form a habitat for all beings. She is also part of the life cycle of plants animals and seasonal changes.
The Book of Durrow Carpet – Page with interlacing snakes. c.675: 9×5 inches
This connection is lent weight by research which has also found common genes and language between the Dravidians of India and Australian Indigenous people. (Sidharth Gautham Sunder 2013)
The Indo-European words for oak and Pole Star have been traced to the Sanskrit words Daru and Dhurva respectively. The Gaelic word for oak is dair while druida and the Irish draoi refer to the wise man of the oaks. Drui -in is the wren, the little bird of the druid. Several D -R English words include duration, endure and durable. (Meehan 1995, p.17-18).
A monument to the ancestors was based on Grunewald’s Crucifixion. Psychoanalyst and art critic Julia Kristeva used Grunewald to describe the state of abjection a place of primal anguish where borders between self and other dissolve. The women at the foot of Grunewald’s cross arch backward in the Arch of Hysteria, a posture described by Charcot in the 19th C. asylums of Paris. The arch was the subject of many of Louise Bourgeois sculptures that reflect upon to the relationship between the genders, and in Ireland’s story a painful one of violence, alcoholism and multiple pregnancies emerged, as is found in any dispossessed and vilified people. The Catholic Church was both a source of comfort and control especially of women’s rights within marriage in terms of contraception and abortion.
Frances Guerin worked as an activist for social justice for many years, conducting workshops and managing events. She has a Master of Visual Arts from Latrobe University Bendigo and Honours Degree in Philosophy and Women Studies. She exhibits her work on a regular basis in Australia. The Wombat Forest and the landscape of Daylesford where her studio is located is the source of her artistic inspiration.
Published posts from the recent:
I was summoned to Ireland by a crow tapping its beak loudly against my window just after dawn for many months. In frustration I yelled out, “Who are you and what do you want?” Surprisingly, a thought responded, “Mother and grandmother”. Then the crow came no more.
However at night I dreamed of the Gaelic place names of Ireland, and the mysterious words, Cailleach Beare and Fianna, written in the scales of a snake’s back. The great blue snake sped across the south west of Ireland and transformed into a woman in white with a red sun behind her. Then little ceramic figures emerged including one of a woman riding a turtle.
The great Ah ha moment came when I found other contemporary artists who had made similar works of a woman on a turtle.
French artist Annette Messager drew a constellation in the form of a woman on a live turtle and set them free in the Jardin du Tendre. Peter Jones, an Iriquois Indian, told an old tale of Louise Skywoman falling to earth, off balance as she copes with contemporary life as a drinks waitress. The final discovery was the blue Hindu god Vishnu’s 2nd incarnation as a turtle that bore the earth mountain on his back during a flood similar in ways and times to the biblical Noah.