“And thou who thinketh to seek for me, know thy seeking and yearning
shall avail thee not, unless thou knoweth the mystery; that if that
which thou seekest thou findest not within thee, thou wilt never
find it without thee.For behold, I have been with thee from the
beginning; and I am that which is attained at the end of desire." - The Charge of the Goddess-
Ixchel - Medicine Woman
This Lady and I have been wrestling for quite some time. Now that I have her on the canvas, I have to chuckle at the struggle to finally manifest Her. It turns out to be the point of our journey, the reminder that there is always a struggle, a labor of love, to create that which you desire.
You see, the muse came to me this time as Ixchel, but I did not know that until the very end. She is a moon goddess in the ancient Mayan culture, and as such, possesses the triple aspects of maiden, mother and crone. She controls the tides and is known as a midwife and healer. Pretty standard stuff. But I was to learn more.
In the intuitive method I use when painting with the Muse, many symbols come and go in the layers. The huge rainbow across the canvas did not start as a one. It was simply an arching brush stroke of color – first one, then another, and another – until it looked like a rainbow though the color order was skewed. Since it was never my intent to paint a rainbow and thinking I would cover over it in subsequent layers, it's wrongly ordered colors bothered me only a little.
As the painting progressed, my mixed up rainbow insisted not only on staying, but in claiming its place of prominence in the painting. Still I refused to put the hues in their right order, or even include the full spectrum. Rainbows are not my thing. They go with unicorns and swirled candy lollipops – just so much fluff. This Goddess had much more substance than that, I kept telling myself.
I felt her surrounded by blue, so I gave her wild blue hair covering most of the rainbow. She would have none of it. She wanted a crown. I painted gesso over the hair and then painted a substantial, gold crown covering the rainbow. “No,” she shook her head at me. “The rainbow outshines my crown.”
I can’t count the number of layers I painted for her skin. She wanted pearly pink and I kept giving her swarthy tones. Frustrated to the point of giving up, I posted the painting in progress onto a group forum of painters using the same method (created and taught by artist, Shilo Sophia McCloud). Someone suggested that perhaps She was Yemanya. I knew a little about this Goddess and her connection to the sea, but after a some further research, Yemanya didn’t seem right.
I decided to look through my deck of Goddess Guidance Oracle Cards created by (Doreen Virtue, Ph,D. with various artists). When I came to the image of Ixchel painted by Lisa Iris, it nearly jumped right off the card. There She was – Her blue/black hair in the cornrowed style I had tried to paint, a heavy gold crown, the electricity of the storm (the chaos of creation) all around her, and barely noticeable in the mist of a waterfall, a rainbow.
What had felt like jumbled aspects of my painting suddenly came through loud and clear as Her symbols. I had painted an orb of light behind her head, a nimbus, I thought. No, she had been trying to tell me it was the moon, connecting her with the tides of water – the feeling I’d had that She was immersed in blue.
In her maiden aspect, she is often called Lady Rainbow. Her mythology tells of her unrivaled beauty and flawless opalescent skin. All the Gods are enamored of her, all but the one she desires – the Sun. She chases him across the sky, causing the tides to rise and leave floods in her wake. Ixchel finally wins the love she desires. Their consumation is symbolized in the rainbow - sun shining on water. Their love is fraught with storms, but through it, they produce four sons. Named for the directions, they are the jaguar gods.
There is a reason they call the process of birthing labor; it is rarely an easy transition. Most often it is painful and there comes a time when we just want it to be over.
At numerous stages of birthing this image onto the canvas, I was ready to give up. I found myself hating the whole thing. I did in fact try to quit. I threw down my brushes more than one time, only to come back, wash and scrub away layers, gesso over parts I could not remove, and start again. But, like giving birth, once I saw Her image coming through, the struggle and pain it took to manifest Her was forgotten.
And that’s when I laughed, because She’d been there all along, the midwife trying to help me birth Herself into existence. She was there in the rainbow I’d so disliked that I painted it all wrong and resisted any thought of fixing it. Perhaps She was even behind its very imperfection – reflecting her idealized love of the Sun that once consummated, like most love falls short of perfection.
She was there in the blue hair that had covered the nimbus and then was removed to reveal the moon.It was She who called for her crown (which I later learned is depicted as entwined snakes in the Dresden Codex). She even whispered to me the mythology of Her sons (and her own shape-shifting into jaguar), which showed up in what I thought was an absolutely ludicrous fur collar – Her mantle.
But her loudest message to me had come in the very beginning of the process. In Her crone aspect, She is a medicine woman, a powerful healer. In Virtue’s Oracle Cards her message is, “You are a channel for Divine healing power.” In my meditation before beginning the painting (part of the process of intuitive painting), I wrote: “Open to me and I will make you an instrument of peace, within and without.”
If only I’d stopped struggling against the process, if I’d listened to what She was telling me, paid attention to the symbolism coming through on my canvas instead of resisting it, if I'd opened myself sooner, to bring Her into being through me, it would have been so much easier.
And so She reminds me, once again, that the best way to seek Her out is to look within – and trust what I see there. Isn't that just like the Goddess?
Click HERE to learn more about Ixchel, and see various images by other artists
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