I love playing my cello in the Forest – but I don’t often get a chance. I used to take my cello with me to shamanic training courses. I would creep out at daybreak to play, undisturbed and unobserved, in the woods.
One early morning a deer and her fawn came and stood listening only a short distance away.
Another morning I discovered that some people on my course had climbed a tree in my ‘outdoor concert hall’ (a small clearing) so they could listen but I would not see them.
Again another time I entered a dialogue with the Wind. I would play back what the Wind was saying. She would pause and give me the next phrase. It was full moon that day and a luminous darkness was descending over the woodland. It inspired me to make a painting titled Song of the Wind.
I'd always believed that the cello was a solitary instrument, but now I was starting to wonder if maybe I was the solitary one.
This painting represents a, very free and personal, take on the Finnish goddess Meilikki.
Mielikki is a Goddess of the Forests and the Hunt. She is said to have created the bear (the brown bear that is, not polar bear as depicted here). She is the Forest Healer who heals the paws of animals who have escaped traps and she rescues chicks that have fallen from their nests. Her name is derived from the old Finnish word mielu which means luck. She is also known as Metsänemä, Mother of the Forest. Brown bears were the most sacred of animals in Finland. Her husband is the forest god Tapio (see picture right above).
While painting her I was taken back to earlier times, the period of the most recent Ice Age in Scandinavia. I saw a vision of an earlier manifestation, where she was a goddess of the land under Northern Skies, long before the first trees (and they would have been birch trees) grew on this land and ultimately dense forests. When the Ice Cap stretched this far south, the ancestors of today's polar bears would have walked and stalked this sacred land....
The title of this painting was taken from a lecture by Cody Dickerson:
As a person with synaesthesia (the production of a sense impression relating to one sense or part of the body by stimulation of another sense or part of the body), I often hear a mysterious music. I often "hear colours" or I will "perceive visual patterns as music".
However, other times the music takes on a more mysterious quality and I hear otherworld voices singing to us. Over the years I have often wondered whether Plato's Music of the Spheres was really the celestial song of the Ancestors singing us home - so we will know the way when our day comes... That may just me thinking outside the box - or perhaps it has resonance for you too. Let me know!
Ever since I met my Swedish husband (at age 19!) and started spending a lot of time in Sweden, I have been a huge fan of the work of Swedish artist John Bauer.
I saw an exhibition of his work in his city of birth, Jönköping, last summer. The snow had a 3D section for children to play in, meaning they walked into the picture book and became part of a story where all characters appeared life-size, including an elk! There were art materials everywhere for them to write their own stories and make their own pictures. Lots of costumes too for dressing up. My kind of exhibition!
John Bauer and his young family died tragically as a ship sank in a storm on Lake Vattern in southern Sweden in 1918... By means of this painting I would like to honour his work, still enjoyed by people all over the world, today. He had a deep passion for the Forest paired with an ability to see what remained invisible to others - and he painted from that place.
Tapio's People is a phrase from the Kalavala, a 19th-century work of epic poetry compiled by Elias Lönnrot from Karelian and Finnish oral folklore and mythology, telling epic story about the Creation of the Earth, describing the controversies and retaliatory voyages between the peoples of the land of Kalevala and Pohjola and their various protagonists and antagonists.
Tapio, also called Metsähine, or Hiisi, the Finnish god of the forest and ruler of the game therein. He was a personified form of the various forest spirits important to hunters dependent on the forest for their livelihood.
The Finnish word "Hiisi" means Spirit of a Forest (on high ground).
Tapio's wife Mielikki (she appears top right on this same page!) had a strong connection to bears. She is the mother of Nyyrikki and Tuulikki.
Moss people (also known as wood people, the females known as moss maidens) come from Southern Germanic folklore and are a type of tree elf, tree spirit or fairy. By classification, they were a race of elves, similar to dwarves, the same size as children, "grey and old-looking, hairy, and clad in moss."
They were often but not always the object of the Wild Hunt. According to folklore, in order to escape the hunt they enter the trees that woodsmen have marked with a cross that will be chopped down.
The moss people are similar to a Hamadryad. Their lives are "attached to the trees; if any one causes by friction the inner bark to loosen a Wood-woman dies." They are thought to be small, with hair and clothes made of moss. Katharine Haworth informs that her family calls moss 'the fairy carpet'!
The older I get, the more aware I become that the landscapes around me are “soul-scapes”. I feel most at home, most myself and most effortlessly connected to Spirit in places that mirror my inner landscapes. (Unfailingly Scandinavian, Nordic and even Arctic landscapes). Undoubtedly there is an ancestral dimension to this. Perhaps the places my Ancestors walked, loved, tended and called home, live on in my blood and in my psyche as a deep yearning.
I have both a Forest Studio and a Herbarium (meaning a room dedicated to plant and tree studies) in Sweden. Whenever I am not there, I experience an intense homesickness and yearning to return.
Strangely I do not feel this yearning for my actual country of birth: The Netherlands. However, to my defense: my fourth non-fiction book is a labour of love and love letter to the Low Countries!
EARTH KEEPER (60 x 42 cm) £345
This painting was born from a dream, where my head became the Earth and different types of trees sprouted from my head, like green hair.
I often think we we human being will only treat Mother Earth right once we realize that she is our Ultima Madre (Ultimate Mother) and that our bodies are literally made from hers, gifted by her.
If her body and life blood (the oceans) are polluted, disrespected or damaged, so are our bodies. In my third book, Medicine of the Imagination (p. 245) I wrote: "We often think of cancer as something alien that invades our bodies from the outside.//The heart of the matter is uncontrolled cell growth, this means that it is part of us, part of our own body and system of cell-regeneration malfunctioning or spinning out of control". As above, so below. As without, so within. I asked myself the question: what is the defining characteristic of the times we live in? One key feature is undeniably excess and uncheckable growth. Are we (our lifestyles) tumors on our Mother's body?
"The Holocene Extinction, otherwise referred to as the sixth mass extinction or Anthropocene extinction, is an ongoing extinction event of species during the present Holocene epoch (with the more recent time sometimes called Anthropocene) as a result of human activity. The included extinctions span numerous families of plants and animals, including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fishes and invertebrates. With widespread degradation of highly biodiverse habitats such as coral reefs and rainforests, as well as other areas, the vast majority of these extinctions are thought to be undocumented, as the species are undiscovered at the time of their extinction, or no one has yet discovered their extinction. The current rate of extinction of species is estimated at 100 to 1,000 times higher than natural background rates."
This painting is all about using the human imagination as the powerful tool it is, see my third book: Medicine of the Imagination: An Impassioned Plea For Fearless Imagination.
At our Forest House in Sweden, Ravens keep watch over the area. They communicate, fly in formation and send out alarm calls. When hunters approach the area, or logging trucks, I first hear about it from the Ravens.
They have a large repertoire of calls, ranging from Rattle, clicks and even bell-like notes.Caw-caw means I am here, this is my territory. You had better have good reason to be here!
Ravens appear to have individual voices. Sometimes they even seem to be talking to themselves, as I do! I have asked to be their apprentice and to be a humble learner of Raven Language.
In my forest dreams ravens sometimes have different colours from reality: a deep turquoise or forest green plumage.