Making Art, Making Magic

Posted January 12, 2012 by Guest in Sacred Connections  |  32 comments

by Guest on January 12, 2012

Guest post by Joanna Powell Colbert, creator of the Gaian Tarot, for Sacred Connections series.

I stumbled across the process of making magic through making artwork, or artwork as a transformative process, back in 1985 when I first started drawing pen and ink portraits of goddesses.

Goddess Spirituality was brand new to me. I was consuming everything I could find on the topic — books like WomanSpirit by Hallie Iglehart Austen, Patricia Monaghan’s Encyclopedia of Goddesses and Heroines, and The Spiral Dance by Starhawk.  I was circling with other women who were also coming out of oppressive religious traditions. We were all finding a lot joy and empowerment in embracing the Divine Feminine for the first time.

I was very interested (and still am) on how Spirit shines through the countenance of everyday people, when we shift into our deepest, wisest Selves.  So I started drawing portraits of Goddesses, and asked different women to pose for me.

Artemis by Joanna Powell Colbert ©1985 - Guest post by Joanna Powell Colbert | Crafting the SacredThen I did a self-portrait of myself as Artemis, the Greek Goddess who epitomizes “Woman Whole Unto Herself.” At the time I was twelve years into a marriage that was emotionally abusive. I had given away all my personal power to that man and that marriage, and to the church we attended.

I painted a portrait of myself as Artemis, not thinking about my marriage, but thinking about all the qualities I would like to have — her courage, her athleticism, the fact that she didn’t need a partner to be whole.

I painted Her as the protector of the wild things, with a deer in the background. Later someone said they saw my children in that deer; I was their protector. A few months after creating that self-portrait, I found the courage to walk out on my marriage. That painting set me free.

There is something about creating archetypal art that takes us down to a place where we can access our own wisdom, and where others resonate with our experience and emotions.

When I say that I make magic when making art, I mean that I connect with the Divine consciously, and surrender to Her guidance. There is an element of transformation in making this kind of art for both the artist and the one viewing the art, just like there is in any well-crafted ceremony or ritual.

When I first started working on the Gaian Tarot in 2001, I had no idea that it would take me nine years to finish it. I didn’t even know if there would be an audience for it. I just knew I had been called to create it, and that I really did not have a choice.

Gaian Tarot Priestess by Joanna Powell Colbert ©2001 - Guest post by Joanna Powell Colbert | Crafting the SacredOne of the first cards I painted was the Priestess. I am an ordained priestess. I know what it means to walk the path of sacred service, to teach, and to stand in that liminal place between this world and the next, opening and closing gateways. I know how to act as an underworld guide for others, which of course is what a good tarot reader does.

I poured my own experience as a priestess into this image. Even though the High Priestess in many tarot decks is depicted as a young woman, in my own experience the most powerful priestesses are elder women. So I split her face in two, making her half-Maiden, half-Crone. I can’t tell you how many over-50 women have said to me: “That’s me!

I chose a lot of the imagery for this card consciously — the split face; the wolf, salmon and owl; the willow veil, and the Dreaming Goddess of Malta. Other elements of the design were intuitive choices, or even “happenstance,” which in retrospect is really divine guidance. For example, one day a friend asked me if I had put the “white cross with the red center” into the Priestess image on purpose, because that was a significant symbol to her. I had no idea what she was talking about. I looked again and saw that the white gown formed a cross or labyrs, with the red pomegranate at its center.

Now that is a great mystery, and I have seen it come up time and again, as I discuss the Gaian cards with people who love them. I am constantly learning about symbolism in the cards that others see and that I did not consciously put there.

Elder of the Scar Clan by Joanna Powell Colbert ©2011 - Guest post by Joanna Powell Colbert | Crafting the SacredLast summer I went through a difficult time. By the end of October my healing was well underway, and yet I was keenly aware of the scars on my psyche. I submerged myself into the colors, scents and sounds of November, meditating on the ancestors and the Old Ones, especially the Goddess in her guise as the Crone. I created a piece of art I call “Elder of the Scar Clan.” I poured all my grief, heartache and healing into this piece.

The response to it was astounding; many women identified with it, naming themselves as members of the Scar Clan. When I showed it to my therapist, he said: “I see her courage and her wisdom. And the last thing I see is her scar.” When I look at it now, I see my heart’s blood, and I see the courage to heal and to forgive.

Art. Magic. Transformation.

Blessed be.

 All Artwork by Joanna Powell Colbert ©1985 – 2011


Making Art, Making Magic - Elder of the Scar Clan by Joanna Powell Colbert ©2011 - a guest post by Joanna Powell Colbert | Crafting the SacredJoanna Powell Colbert is an artist, author and teacher of earth-centered spirituality, creativity and tarot. The Gaian Tarot combines Joanna’s love of symbolic, archetypal art with the mysteries of the natural world. It was released as a deluxe Collector’s Edition in 2010, followed by a mass market version published by Llewellyn in 2011. Joanna is currently teaching a series of seasonally-based e-courses, Gaian Soul Practices, on nature, creativity and contemplation.
Connect with Joanna: Website | Blog | Facebook | Facebook Page | Twitter

{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Jo Crawford March 27, 2012

Thank you Joanna for sharing your creative process with us. I resonate strongly with the experience of finding unexpected symbols in my work after the fact – that’s when I know I’m doing my deepest work!

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Joanna March 27, 2012

Thanks Jo, for having me here. Ah, that’s so lovely to hear the same thing happens to you. Definitely a sign we are in the flow of the numinous.

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Elaine March 27, 2012

Beautiful post Joanna!

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Joanna March 27, 2012

:-) thanks!

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Lori-Lyn Hurley March 27, 2012

This is so beautiful. A perfect example of art as the language of the soul. I see stories upon stories in these images.

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Joanna March 27, 2012

Thank you, Lori-Lyn. I love your phrase, “art as the language of the soul.” Blessings to you.

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Loran March 27, 2012

Hi Joanna! Nice to see you here at Jo’s!

I started walking the sacred path of the Divine Feminine in 1981. It has been filled with mystery and magic but most of all miraculous connections with women. How could we walk this path without art as well?

Wonderful post. I have always felt a special connection to Artemis.

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Joanna March 27, 2012

Hey Loran! I did not know you know Jo, but I am not surprised. :-) There are many of us who are like-minded, yes? Good to know you have been walking with Her as long as I have. I have been reconnecting with Artemis lately. It may be time for another portrait.

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Loran Hills March 27, 2012

I would love to see another portrait of Artemis!

Somehow out of all the millions of people out there we do seem to be able to find each other.

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Seanara Coyote March 27, 2012

Enormously powerful post, Joanna. Thank you for sharing what you did. Although I do not have the gift of creating art with my hands, I identified deeply with everything you said about being a priestess, a teacher, and a Tarot reader. And I feel privileged to study with you in the Gaian Tarot Circle. With great appreciation.

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Joanna March 27, 2012

Thank you Seanara, and thanks for visiting here. Deep appreciation back to you.

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Kristen March 27, 2012

This is a wonderful piece Joanna, thank you so much for sharing your journey with us. Your art has been deeply inspiring to me! Elder of the Scar Clan has been very special to me in recent weeks, as I tap into the Crone and work with her through my own internal journal of healing. Your connection to Spirit, as you described, shows so deeply in your work. Thank you.

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Joanna March 27, 2012

Thank you Kristen. I just read your blog post on the Crone. Very, very powerful. Blessings back to you.

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Kim Antieau March 27, 2012

Really lovely and powerful. Thanks, Joanna.

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Joanna March 28, 2012

Oh thank *you*, Kim!

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Linnette Dooley March 27, 2012

Many goddess images do not speak to me. They look more like fairies. Elder of the Scar Clan has the depth and resonance of the Goddess. She looks like she has walked with Inanna many times into the underworld and returned with the gifts of her journey. And the piece looks like the fertile, decomposing soil that creates the ground for new life. Love this piece – it feels very grounding.

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Joanna March 28, 2012

Linette, I love your take on the Elder. Beautiful, thank you.

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Jackie March 28, 2012

Aah, Joanna and Jo. It makes me smile seeing the pair of you holding sacred space here with this. This is such a beautiful post – it give me chills when you talked about Artemis and all she symbolised for you and the High Priestess is just stunning. Such rich layers of healing and wisdom in your artwork and words Joanna – I become more of my ancient wise bone crone looking into the eyes of the Elder of the Scar Clan. She touches that place of deep knowing we all have. This post makes me want to stand barefoot on the earth in circle with you both! Thank you for sharing, love Jackie xxx

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Joanna March 28, 2012

Deep thanks, Jackie. I think we *do* stand barefoot together in circle, at least metaphorically, or somewhere between the worlds. Hugs and Blessings.

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gayle stacher March 28, 2012

Joanna, great and deep share. I agree w/jackie in her statement about how your artwork & words offer rich layers of healing & wisdom. your artemis embodies visceral strength & courage to claim what’s to be.
thank you!

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Joanna March 28, 2012

Thank you Gayle. I was 30ish when I did the Artemis self-portrait. I didn’t see the strength in myself until after I finished the piece. I feel a little wistful when I look back on it now. The young woman I was, still has so much to go through!

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Kathleen Jenks March 31, 2012

Joanna — I’ve long loved your Artemis painting. It’s been on my Myth*ing Links website for years now. So I found it deeply moving to read your story of how you came to paint it. I would never have made this connection if you hadn’t placed all these images on the same page but when I got to your Elder of the Scar Clan, all I could see was a majestic, antlered crone. Even the scar has the same tilt as the first two antler-branches on the viewer’s left. At first I didn’t even see the scar, but when I did, it seemed almost like an offshoot of the “antlers,” which connects this Antlered Crone — at least in my mind — with Artemis’ deer in springtime. And now that deer, so wisely protected, is the wise, strong autumnal antlered-woman. What an amazing journey.

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Gina Rafkind March 28, 2012

oh I so loved reading this story….thank you for sharing Joanna and Jo. I love the artwork/cards and that story about the white cross and red center is wild! :)

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Joanna March 28, 2012

Thanks Gina! Glad you like the story and the artwork.

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Arwen March 28, 2012

This made me weep and then cheer. Thank you for the sharing of self.

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Joanna March 28, 2012

Arwen, one of these days we will meet in person, and I will give you a big hug. Until then, seek joy. :-)

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nicole March 29, 2012

Awesome & noteworthy narration about spiritual crafting and art making. Thank you for inviting me here !

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Joanna April 3, 2012

Thank you Nicole! Glad you found Jo’s blog, too!

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Stephanie Anderson Ladd March 30, 2012

Thank you, Joanna and Jo, for offering this beautiful .goddess wisdom. Joanna, I had the pleasure of hearing you speak to our tarot group in Durham last year (with Beth Owl’s Daughter) and debut your cards, which I have really been enjoying getting to know better. I was amazed at the story of the white cross with the red center. I had not noticed it either. I love your priestess the best because of her old/young face, which I relate to as a woman in my 50′s–as we grow towards the end, we grow towards the beginning, it seems and hold both of these within. And the Elder of the Scar Clan resonates with me, too. I have said that my scars are my war wounds and I think of them as beautiful markers of my journey. Thank you for sharing your stories and for creating the Gaian Tarot

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Joanna April 3, 2012

Thank you Stephanie! I always love visiting your group in Durham. You are all lucky to have Beth Owl as your guide. I’m so glad the Gaian deck is nourishing you. Many many blessings to you!

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Indigene April 6, 2012

Joanna, this was an amazing post, full of the sacred, the wonderful power of woman and your beautiful spirit! You continue to bless me daily with your spiritual tarot and I give blessed thanks to the feminine divine for you! Thank you for sharing your intimate journey with us.

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