INVOKING THE GODDESS ARCHETYPES THROUGH PROCESS ART

PART I

Dan Buffo was Dean of the Snowlion Junior class, in 2003, when he interviewed Sally McQuaid, while she was on personal retreat at Land of the Medicine Buddha, in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California.

Sally McQuaid is an artist who teaches process art as a healing modality. She works with mandalas and goddess archetypes to facilitate her students' healing journey.

Dan Buffo: Hello Sally, thank you for sharing your work with our Snowlion community. And thanks for taking time for this interview while you are on retreat.

Sally McQuaid: You're welcome Dan, I've been looking forward to it. Before we begin, if I may, I'd like to trace your hands and then paint them while we are talking. This is what I'm doing while on retreat - working with a new idea for helping others through process art. I'll tune in to the image of your hands and paint what I perceive. When I'm finished I'll tell you about my process, what I learned, and what this new creation means to me. I understand that the Snowlion students create and use a spiritual mandala in their Junior year. This is a similar process. Each painting can generate a reading, just like any kind of intuitive process.

Dan: OK, Sally, you trace and paint, and I'll ask questions. To begin, please tell us how you got started with this work?

Sally: I began to study art about ten years ago. Then took a class in mandala work using process art. I opened to my goddess work in 1995, while I was seeing an energy healer. As the energy moved through my body I saw goddess images in some of my chakras. Afterward, I felt compelled to paint what I saw. I noticed that each image I created celebrated an undiscovered part of my true Self. These images came from that deep archetypical space near my core. This experience really expanded my edges and I became more awake to new possibilities for self-awareness.

I was curious to learn more. So I read the story of each goddess that appeared in my field, and found that they resonated with my current experiences, questions, and problems. And I began to use the metaphor of each goddess' story as a bridge to new understanding. I called up their strengths to aid and support me. I let the symbols speak to my everyday experience. I felt how the energy of the archetype permeated my psyche to initiate healing and soul growth.

Allowing the body to resonate directly with the goddess archetype is a terrific way to bypass the rational mind and reach deeper layers of the psyche. You can explore connections between the goddess essence and your chakras, your emotional states, your thinking patterns, your spiritual practice and even your current life goals. Thus she moves from universal to personal, from the intangible to the tangible, from invisible to visible, from formless into form. We integrate spirit and matter to achieve a more wholistic approach to our life.

Dan: Do you have to be an artist to do this kind of work?

Sally: Anyone can use process art. It is not just for artists. Process art is creating with the goal of being with the experience of art, rather than the finished product. This allows art to become an exercise in self-inquiry, growth, and self-knowledge. It can be used as a healing tool, to problem solve, or do process work. I like to call this 'soul work'. In the myth of Hestia I use the term kitchen-work.

Dan: Who is Hestia and what is kitchen work?


Hestia, by Sally McQuaid


Sally:
Marion Woodman is a well-known Jungian analyst who incorporates dream work, bodywork and imagery in growing the soul. She encourages union between the light in spirit and the soul light in matter. Her term for bringing spirit into form is kitchen work. This resonated with my continuing need to get out of my head and do experiential artwork to bring my internal images to life.

Hestia is unobtrusive yet powerful, unseen but felt. She supports deep inner kitchen work She is a Greek goddess who had no statues. Yet, she was at the heart center of every city, temple and home. She was present in the sacred fire burning inside the circular hearth.

Invoking Hestia's hearth fire can heat your deepest desires hot enough to bring them to manifestation. She helps us use the body to bring our true longing into form. She is the cauldron within which you consecrate the inner marriage of body and soul. Doing this kitchen work helps you clean out, sort and put in order the unswept corners of your psyche. I call on her when I am living too much in the world. I allow her archetype to fill me when I need silence, solitude, peace, wisdom and the comfort of home.

I painted her seated crossed legged, stirring the cauldron within her belly. She is naked, open and unafraid. She is self absorbed, content, focused and serene as she does her work.

I ask for Hestia's assistance when I have a new image gestating in my mind that I want to paint. I sit cross-legged, mirroring her body posture. I imagine the cauldron of my body warmed by the flames of her hearth fire. I visualize myself stirring the contents of my imagination. I open to her serene focus, her self-confidence, and her intense concentration as she tends to the kitchen work. This process centers me in a deep way so that I paint from a very different level of consciousness.

My goal in painting is to out-picture the light in matter, the soul light within each of us that shines through to portray our inner essence. Part of that light comes from Hestia's flame that burns inside my body. Her fire permeates, purifies and sanctifies my work and my self.

Work with Hestia applies to any of the creative processes. I use it whenever I want to be centered and still, listen for guidance, or gain insight. Her essence is a great antidote for feeling anxious or troubled. Her warmth and enlightenment brings inner peace and tranquility of spirit.

Dan: How do these goddess archetypes support the healing journey?

Sally: The deep mind responds very well to the symbolism of these archetypical images. They become a gateway for the psyche to access a specific archetypal energy. The right brain loves visuals better than words so the images touch deeper and different places, in a preverbal/nonverbal way. I sense the goddess archetype living in my cells and feel my body and energy field vibrate with her energy. Consequently, the stories inform the left side of my brain and the images stimulate the right side of my brain.

Their metaphorical significance opens up areas that have been blocked by guilt, shame, fear or anger. As the new energy penetrates the darkness of negative emotions the field is purified and transformed. They also reveal positive emotions such as delight, mysticism, harmony and joy that have been waiting to be acknowledged - and enjoyed!

This process facilitates wholeness, helping me live a more well-rounded, balanced life. I feel stronger, more capable, more loving and understanding. I'm finding new ways to grow; to assist in my soul's awakening to bigger and deeper truths. I am facilitating my own conscious soul evolution. It is incredibly healing!

Dan: Can you tell us more about facilitating your conscious soul evolution?


Persephone, by Sally McQuaid

Sally: Yes, I had an exciting experience with Persephone. Her story is about journeying into the underworld of the subconscious in order to bring to light hidden parts of the psyche. I painted her standing in a temple surrounded by columns with a vine entwined around her from her feet to her shoulders. She looked trapped by the vine. For me, that vine symbolized her mother, Demeter. Persephone was so enmeshed with her mother that she couldn't move. This resonated with my own life story as a daughter who was fearful of disobeying her mother's wishes and many times felt powerless and stuck.

Persephone was a naïve young maiden, innocent of worldly things, and an obedient daughter. She and Demeter (goddess of harvest and abundance) were almost inseparable. One day while Persephone was alone in a beautiful meadow, gathering narcissus, the earth suddenly opened and a chariot pulled by huge black horses emerged, driven by Hades, lord of the underworld. Persephone was abducted, screaming in terror! Hades raped her, and then made her his queen.

Demeter was so devastated that she forgot to tend the earth. People began to die of hunger because the crops would not grow in the eternal winter of her neglect. Demeter pleaded for her daughter's return. Hades said no. So she asked Zeus, King of the gods, to intervene. He arranged for Persephone to stay with Hades only a few months each year, resulting in winter. When Mother and Daughter were reunited, Spring returned and the crops flourished.

To call forth Persephone, I entered my sacred space and visualized her as she looked in my painting. I saw a young prince on horseback dismounting and walking up the steps of her temple. He approached and kissed her hand, thus rescuing her from her attachment to her mother. The vine fell from her body. She walked down a deep flight of marble stairs into the underworld. As she descended, a royal cloak appeared on her shoulders and the small golden crown of a princess shone on her hair.

At the bottom of the steps she entered the ballroom of a brightly lit castle, and was greeted with singing and toasted with champagne. I could sense her power and presence growing within me. She walked to the throne and her crown was replaced with a larger magnificently jeweled one. I realized then that I/she had become Queen of the Underworld! "I have a new name", she/I proclaimed, "It is Queen Proserpine! When I am ready I will welcome my King." (Proserpine, as I later discovered, is the Roman name for Persephone!) As she left the castle I slowly came out of trance.

As the hours and days passed, I discovered that I had undergone an enormous transformation of consciousness, filled with a sense and certainty of my own personal power. I had experienced an integration of three powerful archetypes: the virgin Persephone, the mother Demeter, and the mature queen Proserpine. I had been freed of my internal parental critic to speak my own truth, no longer afraid of being rejected, abandoned or unloved.

I was excited to remember that I had already painted the image of Proserpine! When I looked at this painting, I saw that her posture was the one I assumed in my visualization, with a ball in front of her third chakra, symbolizing her personal power!

Like Proserpine, I am not yet ready to meet my King. I need to make the inward journey to meet the Hades archetype. Then his essential qualities can balance my queen energy. This will support the union of masculine and feminine power that has lain dormant within my subconscious. I'm looking forward to that adventure another day!

End of part I. Part II of this interview, to be published in the next issue of Lionsroarr, will include more on using archetypical energy and what Sally learned in her process art reading of Dan's hands.

Copyright 24 April 2003 by Dan Buffo and Sally McQuaid. All rights reserved.