Getting creative with spiritual arts and crafts
Magic and creativity: How to use arts and crafts to build your own connection with the spiritual world. Why do you think they call it the Craft?
There are many ways to explore one’s spirituality from an aesthetic point of view. Religious artifacts have long been constructed of beautiful and expensive materials; shamans of every stripe have adorned themselves and their sacred spaces with feathers, beads, quills, furs, and other naturally lovely objects around them; Judaism even has a name for this concept of spirituality expressed through the creation of beauty. It’s called hiddur mitzvah, and it is directly interpreted as the glorification of G-d (mitzvah) is a beautiful manner. The creation of sacred objects has long been a way to worship and acknowledge the Divine.
But let’s be realistic. Most of us aren’t going to be requested by a cardinal to compose a symphony for an upcoming religious observance or paint a mural in a cathedral. Other than the occasional spray of flowers for a church service or something similar, the average person doesn’t have much opportunity to be creative in the name of faith or belief.
As a Pagan, and a self-proclaimed “crafty person”, however, I have found a new approach. Instead of creating objects of spiritual significance, bring your own sense of the Divine to anything you create. There are several ways to change your crafty thinking to make any act of crafting an act of worship. Here are a few:
1. Create jewelry, for yourself or others, that can stand as a personal talisman or even just “good luck charm”. It can be subtle or gaudy, classic or funky, but as you create it, whether beading, weaving, or another method, think about what you want the piece to say about you. Put on music that inspires the mood you want to have when you wear it. Make a piece that you wear each day, or save only for special occasions. Whatever you do, make it yours.
2. Meditate, or conversely “dervish”, your way to a work of art. These are different approaches that are two sides of the same coin. Whichever approach you choose, this can be in incredible way to kick start your new path to Divinity. The first one, meditation, is the quieter path. If you have meditated before, you are halfway there, and may find this soothing, internalised trancing will suit you perfectly. Put on a light soundtrack of soft music and have the lights as low as is comfortable whilst still being able to draw or paint, or even sculpt. Wear something loose and breathable (and washable!) and allow lots of time. Take yourself into a light trance with your materials in front of you at a height that is not too awkward to work effectively. As images run through your mind, with eyes either open or closed, let your hands go as they will over the paper or canvas. Abstract is easier at first, though if you are a skilled artist, you may find some amazingly realistic pictures come to you with this technique, since meditating turns off the “you can’t do this” voice that lingers in our conscious. With that shut down, you are more likely to draw what you see in your mind, rather than forcing your fingers to do something that you think is “correct”. Taking the dervish approach, on the other hand, is great for people, like me, who may not find that an internal trance is conducive to creating. (The second I start drawing, I “wake up” most times) The original “whirling dervishes” were members of the Mawlawi Order-followers of Rumi- and whirled and danced in an expression of love and worship of their God. Nowadays, in addition to referring to that sect, it can refer to anyone who is a whirlwind of activity. This is a wonderfully fun way to create. Turn on wild dance music, throw down LOTS of drop cloths, and, if you are me, strip down to nothin’ and just paint away! Big splashes of paint, wild scribblings with a crayon, stopping to dance around, sing along or just vocalise non verbally…anything goes with this very external expression of your artistic self. Abstract works best here, and what you see at the end may amaze you when you truly let yourself go.
3. Create a simple object that has a known underlying divine meaning. In most children’s crafts books, sooner or later you come across a “Ojos de Dios”, or more commonly, its translation-God’s Eye. Everyone has seen those popsicle stick and yarn wrapped little gems, and more often than not, the name is all the remains of their actual purpose once the craft became a way to keep kids quiet on a rainy weekend. These little creations are so much more. Originally a craft of the Huichol tribe of Mexico and the Aymara tribe of Bolivia, they were intended to be placed on altars to watch over the people at prayer. They have been absorbed into many Pagan groups and their construction is limited only, as the saying goes, by your imagination. The yarn wrap around the crossed stick frame is a meditative process in and of itself and then it can be decorated however you like. I have made many of these as “Goddess’ Eyes” and placed small moon or goddess symbols on them. The colours you choose can be representative of the deity you wish to invoke and honour. Finally, the placement of your Ojos de Dios can fulfill a certain intent, be it protection of a home, love, or prosperity.
4. Make a small shrine in your craft area. I have a small statue of Quan Yin with a number of other small items near my craft table. She is, among other things, when pictured with a child (as she is in my little statue) a goddess of birth and fecundity. I am not a mother and likely will not be, but each project I create is a product of me, almost a “child” and I feel Her presence near when I create. For new techniques, a big project, or an important commission, I may take a minute to ask Her for Her help and guidance as I work. It’s a comfort and adds an additional feeling of creating for the Gods.
When you start to live more creatively, you begin the see possibilities in everything around you, and you really do start to feel the Divine closer as well. These new approaches can help change your perspective in all aspects of your life.