Friday, July 13, 2012

Needlework in Magic

[updated July 4th, 2014 - as information regarding Marion Zimmer Bradley's sexual abuse of children has been revealed I am deeply distressed but will leave this post as it is.  Mists of Avalon was a work that I loved to read but I no longer endorse Bradley's work.  In no way do I feel her art makes up for committing sexual abuse or turning the other way when a loved one commits such acts.]

Many artists, myself included feel as if they are conduits for divine energy.  I do not separate my artwork from my spiritual practice because when I make art I connect to a deep soul place that resonates with both my artistic and spiritual self.
Spiritual artwork is brought forth in many forms and has been used to adorn magical objects and places for thousands of years.  In my case this work is created with a needle and thread.  Whether through embroidery, quilting or sewing functional objects with each stitch I try and connect with a deeper flow and sense the divine moving through my fingers.
One of the most eloquent and powerful descriptions of this can be found in Marion Zimmer Bradley's classic Mists Of Avalon.  Morgaine is a priestess of Avalon and is told to make the scabbard for Arthur's sword.  She enters into a ritual space where she will channel the Goddess and embroider spells to protect the sword's bearer in battle.

On the first day, she cut, using the sword itself, an undersheath of thin doeskin. It was the first time she had had fine tools to work with, and she took pleasure in the special iron needle she had been given to stitch the sheath together...
Fashioning the shapes of doeskin sheath and velvet to cover it, she spent the first day; and before she slept, deep in meditation of what she must do, almost a trance, she cut her arm a little and smeared the doeskin with her blood...
All that day, in silence, she worked, gazing into the chalice, letting the images rise, now and then stopping to wait for inspiration in the meditative flow; she worked the horned moon, so that the Goddess should always watch over the sword and guard the sacred blood of Avalon. She was so wrapped in the magical silence that every object on which her eyes gazed, every movement of her consecrated hands, became power for the spell; it seemed at times as if visible light followed her fingers as she followed the horned moon with the full moon, and then with the dark moon, for all things must follow in season...there were times when it seemed that needle and thread moved through her own flesh or through the flesh of the land, piercing earth and sky and her own blood and body...
By sunset of the third day it was finished, every inch of the scabbard covered with twining symbols, some of which she did not even recognize; surely they had come directly from the hand of the Goddess through her hands? She lifted it; slid the sword into it; weighted it in her hands; then said aloud, breaking the ritual silence, "It is done."

While I have never had an experience as grand as this telling the trance-like rhythm of needlework often carries me to a space that feels between.  As I look towards a future of making more time to create artwork I see this as a technique to develop not only for my art career but also for my spiritual practice and journey.

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