I am on the phone, my lips poised to wrap around a salacious complaint. Anticipating this tasty indulgence, my eyes roll. Out of the corner of my eye, I see my word wand hanging on the wall. The wand is wrapped in satin ribbon with delightful helpings of red and purple beaded fringe. The cowries and feathers evoke ancient artifacts. The bells hanging at the end call to me. The word wand reminds me that negative speech is like a meditation and a prayer for more of what I do not want. I switch the channel.
The symbolic arts do what the intellect alone cannot. Making a symbol of a metaphysical truth or spiritual law helps me immediately apply, embody, and test ideas that ring true, but quickly fade without practice. For umpteen years, I had understood intellectually the importance of speaking words that affirm health, wealth, and well-being. Nevertheless, frequently, I would lapse and speak words that undermine my well-being. My word wand, a symbolic art form, reminds me to stay on point.
Human beings tap into the mind via our hands and fingers. Just as these letters, words, and sentences are symbols of ideas, art materials (i.e. colors, drawn or painted images, and decorations such as shells, feathers, string, and glitter) make up a symbolic language. Handling the materials help us to grasp higher principles with our being as well as our mind.
Vision Carriers’ symbolic art workshops revolve around ideas such as “God cannot fill lack, but She can fill a vessel open and ready to receive abundance.” This idea is the basis of Open to Receive: The Sacred Vessel. In The Red Shoes: Standing in Your Own Power, participants create a pair of red shoes to remind them to stand up for their birthright—creative self-expression.1 “The Red Shoes” is a story Clarissa Pinkola Estes retells in her book, Women Who Run with the Wolves. The story shows how detrimental it is to trade our vital creative selves for mere security. For other examples of Vision Carriers’ symbolic arts workshops [click here.]
The goal in symbolic or process art is not necessarily to create beautiful artwork. A demand and command for beauty exposes a petty petulant ego. The pleasure in making art stems from the interplay between our intention, the materials, and our hands. This interplay generates artwork that is energetic, authentic, and striking. Defining or interpreting the artwork is not as relevant as the energy and intention that goes into making art.
I admire the red shoes I have created with layers of red lace, trim, gold glitter, black buttons, cameos of Harriet Tubman and Ida B. Wells and metallic paint. After a brief invocation, I slip my feet into my red shoes and stand up placing my right foot forward to steady myself. I place my hands on the hips that propel me forward when I walk. I vow to be true to myself and to stand up for myself. Then I stomp my right foot three times to signify my resolve. I stomp my right foot to the east, north, west, and south, turning left on my left foot. In my closing prayer, I thank my ancestors and the trailblazers who have made a way for me. I take off my shoes and place the right foot facing the door, the left shoe pointing in the room signifying that in my comings and goings the Divine guides me.
The symbolic arts are a physical representation. The closing ritual is a physical act representing the inner attitude or change invited by the art. The closing ritual provides “a way of taking principles from the unconscious and impressing them vividly on the conscious mind. Ritual sends a powerful message back to the unconscious causing changes to take place at the deep levels.” 2 The symbolic arts inspire a realization that all is well with my soul.
1 Inez Singletary midwifed this workshop inspired by “The Red Shoes,” a story Clarissa Pinkola Estes retells in her book, Women Who Run with the Wolves. This story shows how detrimental it is to trade our vital creative selves for mere security.
2 Robert A. Johnson, Inner Work: Using Dreams and Active Imagination for Personal Growth.