I am about to embark on two new pieces of art this month, one of which is for the Spirit of Albion film that will be coming out in May, which will be hopefully a groovy montage of God and Goddess faces (obviously the actors playing the said Gods and Goddesses in the film) along with appropriate symbolism. The other is a little more complicated in idea as it is for the cover of a CD to be recorded in Australia by my partner Damh the Bard, specifically for a group of sponsor’s who have generously contributed to our next visit in May, all of this being organised by the amazing band members of Spiral Dance.
The reason that the second piece will be more complicated is purely from my own point of view, it should in fact, be a simple piece considering it’s purpose (the majority of my friends will know that this is a pretty usual state of affairs with me though). Let me explain, the first time Damh and I went to Australia I was interested to see how Pagan people, with a relatively recent European heritage, worked with the land and how it shaped their spirituality. How different was the language of the land from Britain, Ireland or mainland Europe or any other continent who’s inhabitants moved there to find a different life for themselves? How did the Southern Hemisphere feel when working ritual? Seeing the Sun and Moon wax and wane across the sky in a mirrored fashion, from my point of view, was quite disconcerting and finding any sense of direction for me almost went away completely, generally I had quiet a good sense of direction.
One thing was very clear to me from that first and our subsequent visit was, that the land was undoubtedly in charge, without malice or agenda but definitely in charge. I know that seems an obvious thing to say, but coming from Britain where the land has practically no say in how it is dealt with, I felt the land in Australia has an enormous presence and it was both wonderful and awe inspiring. I wondered if that feeling could possibly have been a small inkling into how our ancient forebears felt about our lands before the ending of nomadic lives and the coming of farming in Europe.
So how then do you communicate with such an entity? The indigenous peoples have their bond by blood and bone, they are part of the land and it is part of them over many thousands of years, their stories, songs and artwork speak of their Dreamtime, their ancient and not so ancient ancestors, the shape of the land that sustained them and how it speaks to them.
But what of the Pagan people of European heritage I have met on the two journeys so far? Those Pagan people (I can not speak about non-pagans as I didn’t really meet many) who were born there or have recently moved there feel passionate and connected with the land and all it is, they fight to protect its uniqueness from incoming plants and animals that upset the natural balance and they honour the indigenous peoples and their territories at every Pagan gathering. But they still have a wealth of heritage of their own blood and bone built over thousands of years that needs to be honoured also. How do you blend the two seemingly opposite lands, the stellar mirroring and cultures?
In truth they blend quiet successfully and in many diverse ways, for instance working with an ancient idea of tree lore such as the Ogham and finding the correlation within the local trees takes time but can be easily be done and is being done. The animals seem very alien at first and finding any similarity for a newcomer like myself foxed me. But then I stopped and watch the kangaroos bouncing across the bush, shy and retiring if we got too close and they strongly reminded me of deer in the woodland. Finding a way to relate the European Pagan wheel of the year also can seem at odds with the Southern hemisphere, but again on closer inspection it seemed to me that the effects of Summer in Australia are pretty similar to winter in Britain. The land, grasses and greens die down in the heat and become brown and crisp looking, whereas in the Winter everything picks up, it is the mirror effect again and maybe that is the root I have need to take with this piece of artwork. It is a case of learning to look in the mirror and see the true reflections.
The magic and wonder of a mirror image and the echos of history that are reflected back through the glass of time……