Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Embodying the Diety

Boise, Idaho Church of Craft logo

By the time I was ordained at ChI, I was very clear about my ministry and what I have to offer my fellow human beings on this earth. I know for myself, and others, that creating/making, can be a spiritual practice. It certainly is for me. That is why I co-created the Church of Craft, in which congregants meet once a month to create together in community. It started in October 2000; now there are churches all over the world.

Along with the Church of Craft, I have my own spiritual practice of art-making which is closely connected to my dream life. I’d love to share one of those experiences with you.

In 2002, I had been doing a lot of work with my female power and understanding the creative and destructive force of passion and anger. On the night of Imbolc (a holiday from the oldest times about turning obstacles into openings) I had a dream that I titled “Craft Kali.”

I am sitting in a waiting room with a bunch of other people, waiting to be born. There are lots of good magazines to read and wonderful music playing on the speakers. All of a sudden, the Hindu Goddess Kali’s voice reverberates through my head as she tells all of us that it is time to be born. We all get up and form a line at a curtained entrance. When it is my turn, I go through the curtain and slide down a long, curving slide. The walls are lined with burgundy felt. As I slide down Kali’s birth canal, I think how crafty she is to use felt on the walls of her womb! It feels good against my hands as I slide down, and I’m not so worried about what will meet me on the other side. I am born on my parent’s street, the street I grew up on in waking life. On the corner is a large Victorian house that I often dream about. There are no doors but many windows, and I peer inside at all the beautiful art nouveau furniture and wonder how I can get inside. Kali’s voice booms through my head again, telling me that this is my ministry and I need to get to work. I am nervous and worried about this prospect, yet I also feel elated and excited.

The Hindu Deity Kali-Ma

On awakening, I really felt the need to connect with the deity Kali, which at the time I knew very little about, and understand a bit more about why she might be appearing in my dreams.

Whenever I begin the process of making art with my dreams or with spirit, I start with the most accessible feeling. In this situation, it was the feeling of the felt (and there certainly is a play on words there, isn’t there?) as I was being born. I went to the fabric store and bought an array of red and burgundy felt—the store was having a sale on felt and I brought home bags of it for less than $10.

Once I got home, I spread the felt out on my craft table and there it sat for about a month. Every time I sat at my table, I would stroke the felt and remember the dream, but nothing more came to me. At the time, I was taking a class called Art & Symbolic Process with Charles Miedzinski (R.I.P.) at John F. Kennedy University. The symbol I was working with was “the vessel.” Some of the burgundy felt became a vaginally-shaped vessel covered in photos of myself as I grew from a girl to a woman. This project brought up a lot a lot for me around my body as vessel, and what I chose to put in it, and what was put into it against my will.

Through this transformative process, I had another dream. This dream was very direct: I woke up hearing Kali’s voice in my head again, asking me to let her enter my body. Needless to say, this scared me a bit, as she is typically depicted with a string of severed heads around her neck! She is the creator, but she is also the destroyer, and that aspect of my femaleness frightened me.

Full Body Cast Sculpture of Myself as Kali

Fortunately, I had some wonderful spiritual artist friends who immediately suggested that I do a full-body, plaster cast of myself as Kali. They helped me, and it became a very intense, all-day ritual as we cast my entire body—including two versions of my arms and legs holding different positions and mudras. While making the cast, we burned incense and played bhajans to Kali. It was powerful! We were three powerful women, making art and collaborating with this powerful deity energy for 8
hours straight. We were all shaking with the energy by the end of the day.

I felt as if I was “dancing in the flames.” As discussed in Marion Woodman & Elinor Dickson’s wonderful book Dancing in the Flames: The Dark Goddess in the Transformation of Consciousness: “Feminine consciousness is the transformative energy that can contain the energies of matter and,
through the fire of love, connect them to the energies of the soul.” I was allowing my own fiery passion to dance through my body, letting it purify, destroy and create inside of me.

I ended up showing this body cast in several shows around the Bay Area. At each opening, I was asked, “Aren’t you embarrassed to have your naked body on display?” But when I looked at this amazing work of art, all I saw was the fierce, feminine power of Kali-Ma being embodied in
my own flesh, and that felt extremely powerful and wonderful! In fact, it was quite a transformation for me to show my body in this way, since I have struggled with body issues from the time I was about 8 years old.

Seeing Kali-Ma in my body form helped me to see my own body as a holy vessel. Since that experience, my body image has greatly improved. I am not so hard myself when I look in the mirror. I learned how to love myself in a new way. Through that transformation, I opened myself up to love and intimacy, and ended up meeting the most wonderful man in the world, and marrying him! Before creating this piece, I wasn’t capable of opening myself to the kind of intense, deep love that a true marriage has to be.

I continue to do artwork like this, working intimately with my spiritual practice and the spirits and deities that guide me. I look forward to sharing more experiences and ideas with you in future columns!


Dancing in the Flames: The Dark Goddess in the Transformation of Consciousness by Marion Woodman.
Singing to the Goddess: Poems to Kali & Uma from Bengal, by Rachel Fell McDermott.

The Dreaming Way: Dreamwork and Art for Remembering and Recovery, by Patricia Reis & Susan Snow.

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