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I recently listened to the audiobook The Creative Fire by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, in which she discusses the cycle of creativity.
Most people think of the artist as being moved by flashes of inspiration or asking for a blessing by the muse. Estes explains that creativity moves in a continuing pattern of rising and falling. This has been my experience of creativity.
After I completed the painting "Boann: transformation of a goddess" I felt I had reached a zenith. I felt inspired by this new insight into my artwork and I felt wiser and more aware as a result as well. It wasn't long before I felt a slow decline from this highpoint. My creative work slowed. While I felt more connected to the spirit of the work than ever, my connection to the act of painting felt strained. Suddenly, that light of inspiration grew dim.
The Morrigan is a dark figure in Irish Myth, probably even predating the arrival of the Celts in Ireland. She was a goddess of fertility, the controller of death itself, and later became associated with war. How could a fertility goddess be connected to death? It seemed strange to me at first. But it doesn't take much introspection to realize how growth is preceded by death and decay. Land is made fertile by the decayed plants and animals that enrich the soil. A fertile mind is enriched by the knowledge absorbed. A fertile body is nourished by the breaking down of nutrient-rich foods taken in.
The creative process is likewise nourished by a period of decline, a period of darkness that is the opposite of that outward expression of the flash of inspiration. Without this period of quiet, without this symbolic death, the creative expression loses fertility and richness. Estes uses the Demeter/Persephone myth from the Ancient Greeks as an excellent metaphor for the creative cycle, even making astute distinctions between the way the myth differed in Pre-Helenistic and Post-Helenistic Greece.
This analysis of the creative cycle can be used by artist and non-artist alike. For we all go through a period of darkness in varying levels throughout our lives. From waking at daybreak, after having slept in the dark of night, to the coming of spring after the death of Fall and Winter's sleep, to the ups and downs of any one of life's situations. "The Morrigan: The Dark Mother" taught me that there is a huge difference in outcome when one embraces the coming dark, rather than fearing it and trying to push it away. No matter what, the dark times will come; we have no choice. But we can choose how to move through the dark times. We can enter with awareness and grace, coming out of the experience like the spring sprouts bursting from seeds planted in the fall, with determination and filled with the joy of creation itself.