Exercise 1: Learning the language of the "Goddess"

By Gillian Valladares Castellino

(Thank you to all those who requested access to my on-line workshop. I have decided to publish the blog posts in order to make them available to a wider audience. I would still like to include your artworks in the relevant posts along with your feedback so please email photos of your artworks and comments to gillian_castellino@yahoo.com.au and thank you again)

The purpose of this workshop is to help us develop a new skill set - that of learning to work with symbols and images and using them to enhance our creativity. Creativity is the quality that helps us to increase the range of our responses to life's challenges and so make our lives richer.

There are different types of thinking skills which we use in daily life - some consciously, but most unconsciously. The type of skills which are most celebrated in contemporary society relate to thought patterns which arise from our conscious awareness. The umbrella term 'rational thought' would serve well to explain them. While this type of thinking has enormous benefits, the mind also goes down other avenues which we do not value and so disregard and dismiss. The exercises in this workshop are designed to become aware of these devalued skills, engage with them and harness them.

To explain what this means we need to establish a context, or framework which the 'rational' mind can understand and see value in. The human mind is thought to be made up of three components - the conscious mind (which uses the method of rational thought), the sub-conscious mind (posited by Freud) and the unsconscious mind (which was explored in great detail by C.G. Jung). It is the unconscious mind to which these exercises are targeted.

The unconscious mind cannot speak to us in words. It understands images, movement, feelings, sounds, smells,  ie sensory perceptions. It connects with the conscious mind through symbols. According to Jung "The unconscious is commonly regarded as a sort of incapsulated fragment of our most personal and intimate life.." 1 He also suggested that the unconscious had two aspects - the personal unconscious (which is unique in every human being and owes itself to personal experience) and the collective unconscious which is common to all human beings across time and geographies and is 'inherited'. It would be part of what ancient Indian tradition refers to as the akashic records. The collective unconscious is made up of archetypes. In Jung's analytical psychology archetypes are "definite forms of the psyche which seem to be present always and everywhere". He also referred to archetypes as "patterns of instinctual behaviour". In mythological research they are called 'motifs', in comparative religion, 'categories of the imagination' and thy have also been referred to as 'primordial thoughts'

In analytical psychology, the primordial image is the archetype of the Great Mother or Great Goddess. This is an inward image or symbolic expression which works in the human psyche through the medium of dreams, fantasies, rites, myths and creative works. When improperly understood and engaged with, it also shows up in certain types of mental illness. 3

The Great Goddess has been worshipped throughout the ancient world, across the Mediterranean, Europe, China, India, the Middle East and Eastern Europe. The exercise set out below utilises the symbols of the Great Goddess as depicted by the Neolithic people of Europe and represented in Marija Gimbutas' book 'The Language of the Goddess'4

In the exercise below, we will relax ourselves, engage with images of the Great Goddess, play with the images and feelings that result by making marks on a paper. Once we have finished we will try to understand the messages the process has for us. There are no right or wrong answers. There is no right or wrong way to perform this exercise. This is meant to be a bit of play, a bit of respite from whatever our daily routine requires of us and more than anything else a bit of fun. What you get out of the process, what you produce and what you learn is unique to you. Whatever it may be, it is something to be celebrated and cherished.

Materials you will need
1. An A3 size visual diary (in which to do your artwork in which to record your thoughts, impressions, answers to exercise questions, anything that catches your fancy)
2. A notebook - suggested size A4 or smaller (to carry about with you and use on a daily basis when inspiration strikes)
3. Any of the following: coloured pencils, textas, pens, conte crayons, pastels, charcoal sticks, modelling clay
4. Images and symbols
of the Great Goddess (see suggestions below for ideas - but feel free to draw on any resources of your own)

Fig 1: This is a representation of the Balkan Danube Script 5

Fig 2: The enthroned Goddess holding a child. Thessaly. Late Neo Lithic 6

Fig 3: Female figurine fro Cucuteni, Dragunseni, 4050 - 3900 B.C. Botosani County Museum, Botosani (Photo: Marius Amarie) 7

Fig 4: Figurine found at Passo di Corvo, near Foggia, Italy, dated 5300 B.C.

Fig 6 - Images of the Bird Goddess 8

(Ensure that you will be undisturbed for at least 45 minutes when attempting this exercise. Please read all the steps before you begin.)
1. Choose a spot in which to perform the exercise. Make sure that you are warm, your materials laid out in front of you ready for use, sit in a straight-backed chair. If you wish, you could light candles, use aromatherapy burners (lavender oil works well) or play some soft music to relax yourself.
2. In your notebook, write down:
(a) Three words which describe how you are feeling (before beginning the exercise).
(b) Three sentences on why you are doing the exercise.
3. With your feet firmly on the ground and your eyes closed, take a few deep slow breaths. When you feel completely centred and relaxed, open your eyes.
4. Look at the images you have gathered for a few minutes. Now, pick up any colour that appeals to you from your stash of drawing equipment.
5. Close your eyes and draw any marks or lines that you can recall of any image of the Goddess which you just looked at. If you cannot recall any image, just scribble. When you are ready, stop, open your eyes and without further thought, complete the image.
6. Now go on to fill up the page with other drawings or marks or signs inspired by the Goddess images.
7. When you have filled the page, take out your notebook and write down:
(a) Any three words that come to mind
(b) Any three words that describe how you feel at this point in time.
8. Set your work and the notebook aside. Have a drink of water or tea to ground yourself and basically remove yourself from the process.
9. Return and study your drawing. In your notebook, write down:
(a) A sentence on how you feel about the actual drawing itself
(b) A sentence on how you feel about the process you just went through
(c) A sentence on what the drawing seems to tell you (if you feel it doesn't say anything to you write that down).
10. Return to your drawing after a week. Study it closely again. In your notebook, write down
(a) Any message the drawing may seem to say to you
(b) Your feelings on re-visiting it
(c) What you feel you have learned by putting yourself through the experience

Regardless of what personal lessons the process may teach you, putting yourself through the exercise has given you an opportunity to work with archetypal images and symbols. Even if your conscious mind cannot make sense of the experience and extract meaning or lessons from it in words, rest assured that you have taken the first steps towards connecting with your unconscious. In time, (and this may take a while - as the unconscious does not recognise timeframes) the unconscious will speak to you in dreams or daydreams, stray thoughts or other images  - as long as you do not judge the response it gives you, or reject or dismiss what it has to say. If you wish to 'understand' this message consciously, then note down the 'stray' impressions and reflect on them either on paper, through further image making, automatic writing or by simply thinking about them.

You may repeat the exercise above as often as you wish, using different media or the same media. Each time you will get different results and a deeper understanding.

Here are examples of my own 'art works' resulting from the process:

Fig 7: Conte crayon, charcoal, coloured pencil on cartridge paper

Fig 8: Terracotta clay

1. The Archetypes and the Collective Unsconscious, Jung, C.G., (1959) Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd, London, (Note 42), pp. 20.
2. Ibid (Notes 88 and 89), pp. 42
3. The Great Mother - An Analysis of the Archetype, Neumann, E. (1963), Bollingen Foundation, Inc., New York. pp. 3
4. The Language of the Goddess, Gimbutas, M. (1989), Thames & Hudson Ltd., London
5. The work of  Dra Ana Ma Vazquez Hoys
6. For the work of Shareen El Safy at The Best of Habibi
7. The work of Deborah Barlow at Slow Muse
8. University of Texas - Goddess page