INVOKING THE GODDESS ARCHETYPES THROUGH PROCESS ART
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
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
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
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
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
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.