owl_shadow2 This painting by Meinrad Craighead is my favorite. I love her mystical artwork that celebrates the divine feminine and animal spirits, particularly those that inhabit the New Mexico land near the Rio Grande, where she lives.

I recently saw the documentary film about her life called Praying With Images last week, a beautiful biographical portrait of a woman’s life, an artist’s life, lived on her own terms. She came from Little Rock, Arkansas, where she had her first mystical experience of the sacred feminine as a child. Her family then moved to Chicago, where she began exploring her art in earnest. After she graduated from college, she traveled through Europe, living for a while in a beautiful tower in Spain on an art scholarship. She decided to become a Benedictine nun and lived for 14 years at Stanbrook Abbey in England, where she was given her own studio. While she enjoyed the monastic life, she left it behind in the 1960s and moved to a place near Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she has lived alone, taught art, and produced most of her deepest work.

She says, “I drew from my own myth of personal origin; each picture is a realization of this story and is connected to the ancient images of the God Mother in art and mythology.”

I had the pleasure of meeting Meinrad after the film and hearing her speak a bit about her life and her art. I asked about this painting, Wisdom, drawn as I am to the owl. She said the owl represented the nocturnal, the ability to see in the darkness, and find what you are looking for there. The mandala below it shows the three phases of the moon with the image of the crossroads, which she identified by a particular term, but I don’t recall the word for it. I tried looking for it in my books of symbols, but couldn’t find it. (If anyone knows what it is called, please let me know.) Nonetheless, she identified it as the point in the woods where the road diverges. We talked about the goddess, Hecate, representing the crossroads, being the personification of the triple goddess (it has many meanings: maiden, mother, crone; land, sea, sky; past, present, future; waxing, waning, and full moon, etc). By the way, Hecate is more often associated with the crone, representing wisdom, repose, death, and endings symbolized by the waning moon. The tri-sected circle and the owl are illuminated by the full moon behind it.

I think that Meinrad’s crone wisdom shines through in this amazing work, done with pen and ink and acrylic on scratch board.

I am also including her painting, Crow Mother Between the Two Moons. It seems we share a common interest in the teachings of owl and crow. crowmother

The meaning of owl and crow

In my shamanic journey life, Owl sits on my right shoulder and Crow sits on my left. They are my spirit guides and show me the way when I am sitting in uncertainty or the unknown. Of course, sometimes I don’t need to go anywhere but need to just Be where I am in the stillness or the discomfort, or wherever it is I am sitting for that moment, until the path becomes clear. They are the yin and yang of my soul. Owl is the dragoman (I love that word) of the night, the shadow, dreams, the invisible, underworld, the unconscious. Owl was the companion of Athena, the goddess of wisdom, and as such, revealed unseen truths to her. Owl had the ability to shine light on Athena’s blind side, allowing her to speak the whole truth and not half-truths.

So you could say Owl helps keep me honest and guides me to the truth in a situation. That does not mean it is always wise to speak the truth that I see because I have learned that there is a time to be silent with understanding and a time to speak out. I think true wisdom comes from knowing when is the right time to speak your truth. Owl gives me courage to both accept and utter what is difficult. He is quiet and contemplative (the introvert), yet sure when he leads the way into the darkness.

Crow is the yin to Owl’s yang. She is surveyor of the light, daytime, all things visible, and she teaches about living in the world, about living in consciousness and about illusion—what you think you see is not always what’s real. She is talkative, inquisitive, impatient, crafty when she needs to be, and bold. She is the extravert side of me. Crow can be opinionated and speak with the force of her convictions, but the lesson for me is to be mindful of my opinions and actions. Sometimes Crow is impulsive and then I must pick through the carrion of my thoughtlessness and eat crow.

A New Life

Crow is also symbolic of the alchemical process of nigredo, the beginning state of a substance before it has been formed and reached its full potential. Therefore, crow is about the magical process of creating something out of nothing. Crow magic is about change and adjusting to shifts, and boy have I been doing a lot of that lately by moving across the country, and in effect, starting a new life.

In the wild, owl and crow are often enemies, but in my world they are companions who co-exist and work together to help me achieve the balance I need in life: the balance of masculine/feminine, light/dark, above/below, conscious/unconscious, inner/outer. On this blog, they are my guides and messengers of wisdom and truth shared amongst my sisters and friends: bringing messages of truth and wisdom in both directions.