God is the madwoman in the attic.
I'm camped out on the threshold with my journal, camera, and plenty of snacks.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

signs of...

This image is from a church program distributed during Lent. I think the message that Sunday was "Signs of Rescue." I don't remember much from the sermon, but I still see two things in the image: the Christian trinity as perichoresis (the persons of God "dancing around") and the pagan symbol of the Triple Goddess (Maiden, Mother & Crone).

The spiral as triple Goddess is recognized by contemporary pagans, as found in ancient art throughout the world. Most famously, perhaps, in art at Newgrange in Ireland.

I have a friend who went on a pagan pilgrimage to Malta where she was profoundly impacted by the spirals depicted in red ochre in a lower level of the Hypogeum.

Contemporary pagans like to remind us that St. Augustine, in his book
City of God, mocked the pagans for belief in a goddess who is simultaneously 3 and 1... only to (ironically?) advocate for a trinitarian view in a later book On the Trinity.

Contemporary Christians like to maintain a clear distinction between the two religions and their trinities. I recall years of lessons (apologetics?) on the uniqueness of the Christian faith (although life experience has worn away at the impression).

I stumbled across one site where the two perspectives were claimed equally, in artistic cooperation:

"Inspired by Newgrange in Co. Wicklow, this attractive brooch depicts
the holy trinity combined with another 'Celtic classic':
the Newgrange spiral."

I'm grateful for the connections between Christian and pagan. Their long complex (tumultuous) relationship links them over & over as they share characters, concepts, seasons... each providing a different approach or facet of the same subject. They each inform my understanding, appreciation, and regard for the other. Together they make, for me, a more complete spiritual life.

I look at the triple spiral and I recognize more. The image points to: Father, Son & Holy Spirit*; Maiden, Mother & Crone; three dancing; eternity; ancient & modern; seed sprouting into a plant...and more besides. What do you see? & feel?

Being able to draw on these two religions gives me more because each is finite and so I am cautioned against absolutism. Each complements & tempers the other; filling gaps; pushing me beyond the specific influences that shaped them into their particular forms. Each gives me its own insight & wisdom. When the gifts & inadequacies of both are coupled they remind me that there is more besides what any religion - any human articulation - can know.

These are all signs. They give us information. They point to something. They aren't the thing itself. They help us find the way. Sometimes they are very beautiful.

I just found the artist who made the image on the program: Jan Richardson. Please visit her site and her blog - lots of inspiring images, especially expressive for what words fail.

* "God is not two men and a bird." Elizabeth Johnson quoting Sandra Schneider
Johnson, Elizabeth. Quest for the living God. New York: Continuum. 2008. p.208.


Rachelle Mee-Chapman said...

I love connecting the dots between pagan roots and Christian ideology. This post is fascinating. I have a compulsion to touch sacred stones these day, so these words and images are right up my alley. What fun to read a kindred spirit. Thank Jenni! (And thanks for your comments at Magpie Girl as well.)

Jen Lee said...

Great post!