Art, Spirit, and Wonder: Finding the Sacred Through Art​

Art History tells the story of humanity. Here we'll look at how Paganism has been viewed in art through the ages; into the ancient past, the Renaissance and other eras, and how artists are exploring Paganism today.

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When Long Shadows Fall.... Artists Get to Work!

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When long shadows fall and dwarf the trees at evening 
When white winter light burnishes the streams 
The I will bring you a coat of soft lamb's wool 

To keep your back from the keen northern wind

When snow shames the sheep that huddles to the leawood
When snow drops peep form darkness unfurled
Then I will bring you boots with fur linings
To keep your feet dry as you walk o'er the world

When home becomes a prison and snow drifts lock the door
When February fill dyke drenches the moor
When black rain freezes and whips at your hand
Then I will bring a carriage with wheels of wind
To take you away from this barren land
~ From "Winter: Long Shadows" by Maddy Prior


The Winter season has much to admire visually in the Northern hemisphere, regardless of whether the winter has been unseasonably warm (as it has been this year) or snow is blanketing the land. Pagans celebrate the Winter Solstice in many ways, sometimes adopting the LED lights of the 21st century, or decorating evergreen trees and adorning their lawns with all many of holiday spectacle. This tradition of “making special” is one that is observed by artists and non-artists alike. For this blog entry, I will be writing about how artists celebrate the Winter Solstice through their art and images. Perhaps we can keep Winter's long shadows at bay looking at their pictures.

The image of the two angels you see at the beginning of this entry is the one I created for this year's Yule card. My husband and I often create our cards together, although last year he took charge and Optimus Prime graced our cards. This year, I insisted on creating the card, although I was unsure of where to start. My Mother in law and Sister in law and I had been chatting about this over our Thanksgiving feast, and we had also been talking about some social justice issues. They gave me the idea to create a multicultural image with a message of love and respect for all. 


Delaware artist Melissa Camoirano D’Ortenzio uses a combination of hand drawn and digital techniques to create her images. In addition to the beautiful images that you see here, she also led a special ritual for Imbolg 2015 in which three paintings were created in circle dedicate to the three faces of the Goddess Brighid. These paintings were then generously auctioned off to raise funds at the Between the World Conference for the New Alexandrian Library. An outstanding member of the Delaware Valley Pagan community for many years, a number of people who know Melissa may not be aware of what a talented artist she is. The first image is Arianrhod and the Holly King, which shows a a pregnant Goddess, full of light, the symbol of the Holly King in her full womb. The northern lights swirl around her, as the Goddess Arianrhod is said to live in the Corona Borealis. For those who are curious, Melissa began with a hand drawing and used the following software to create the image: You Doodle, Lens Light, Percolater, Pic Stitch, and Over.


Melissa also created an image of the Holly King for this Winter Solstice season. For this image, she wanted to convey the Yule season, holly, winter, strength, a balance of consort to The Mother, gold for male energy. She used You Doodle, Pic Stitch, and Over in addition to hand drawing for this image.


David Turan is a photographer living on beautiful lands in New York State, and says that, “All of my spirituality comes from Nature.  I see the hand of the divine in all living things (including rocks).  I use these images for Yule gifts, cards, etc. I spend a few days each winter season creating images inspired by the dark cold days that eventually give way to the light.”


His beautiful snow drenched photographs showcase the lands around his home.




I became acquainted with Alicia Lynn Forberth on Facebook as she runs the group "Pagan Artists of Facebook." Her studio is "Fly By Night" Studios, and she studied illustration at The University of the Arts. She also created a beautiful image for her own cards, where fae like creatures shimmer as a light in the darkest night. You can see more of Alicia's work on her website: 



Painter Ruth Calder Murphy paints in acrylic on canvas. Here, she shows a sleeping Greenmail in the snow.


And here, we are in the belly of the Goddess Herself. These images resound with us in the cold, long night of Winter. 

Ruth also writes spiritual poetry, and you can find her website here: 


Some artists work with less traditional media. Natalie Zaman, editor of the Pagan online zine Broomstix, likes to create edible art for her family for the holidays. 


Of her edible creations, Natalie says, "Yule is all about the mixing and baking of these sun and moon ginger breads. They are works of art to me (and tasty!) and the making of them is a family tradition, and a magical one, as, for us, they are Yule--the ingredients, the smell as they're baking, and of course the imagery."

Natalie is also the author of an upcoming book published by Llewellyn: Magical Destinations of the Northeast: Sacred Sites, Occult Oddities, and Magical Monuments! Look for it soon!

Folk artists are often seen as "naive" or "primitive," however I don't see any of that in the work of Kit Clark, who creates beautiful collages using imagery from a variety of multicultural sources. Looking at his work, I see someone with a canny understanding of the power of image, color, and symbol communicating his vision of the world.



According to Kit, "the painted/illuminated ones are something I started doing a while back but from what I know of the art scene it's a popular form of folk art to draw like tattoos or such styles on old photos, so I just kind of found my style doing it, expanded to animals and then adding collage to that as well sometimes. it's primitive for sure, but sufficiently influenced by psychedelic experiences, hopi headdresses, tattoo culture that kind of thing. I hear basquiat used a lot in reference to it, which is fine, I'm not upset about it I reckon, he was famous for painting like he didn't know how and that's what people assume I think."


As to the halo-like forms surrounding the figures in his images, Kit has this to say, "the nimbi denote sacred nature. I find a lack of humans related to nature in a sacred way so with the animals I'm glorifying them."

The work grows from an intuitive place: Kit explains a bit more on how he creates his work, "as for my collage process it varies. I used to only make more painterly style work with small bits of torn magazine exploring surrealism and teaching myself about morphing images. at some point while I was living in a lovely off grid shack near meridale I started using a knife to cut paper, eventually landing in a spot with my work where I feel like I'm applying what I learned from tearing and layering early on. there's a lot to it, I mean, my whole life's story right lol. anyhow."

The last artist I want to feature is Thealandra Davis of LightHaven in North Carolina. LightHaven is a spiritual center with beautiful, rolling green land. Thealandra collects most of her materials right from Light Haven's grounds and the beings she creates represent the land spirits at Light Haven. Here, she explains a bit about what went into the creation of this being: "The face is a fossilized mammoth bone that I bought at a gemstone show. Most of the natural materials came from Light Haven's grounds. The arm on this one is a root from a Leyland cypress that died. The hood leaves are from the sycamore that I gathered and dried, along with a loofah washcloth that I soaked formed and dried. The body is a repurposed and altered candle holder. I scavenge quite a bit. Ha!"



The Land Spirits themselves requested representation, says Thealandra, " It was an enjoyable process being so completely in the flow, albeit intense and transformative for me. Reminds me why I do what I do and makes me want more, more, more creative, magickal exeperiences NOW!." 

With this in mind, I leave you all with one last image of Thealandra's work, reminding us all to enjoy the process of creation, of being in the flow, and of enjoying the materials that are offered to us that we may not always be aware of. 

Happy New Year!


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Helena Domenic has been an art history nerd for her entire life, having toured the Sistine Chapel at the age of eighteen months. She never quite recovered from that experience (thankfully) and has been seeking out the sacred and profane in art ever since. She's even a real-life art history professor at a Pennsylvania university. She is also a Tarot nerd, having created her own Tarot deck, the Fellowship of the Fool.


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