Seasonal Salon

Snake Witch


When I first saw this image in THE LADY AND HER BEASTS by Buffy Johnson in the late 1980's I was smitten even though it was a black and white photo.  I loved it, There have been several ancient images that drew me in then that I return to frequently and this is one of them.  I batiked and hand dyed this piece with my version of color in the early 90's as one way of connecting to the image.  I added buttons and stone beads after machine quilting along the batik lines to give it some sense of depth mimicking the carved stone effect.

So imagine my surprise when I recently discovered that it is a carved red image on white stone.  (The red pigment is questionable, though I suspect the original had some red color traces and that the color has been more recently enhanced.).  To see a picture of the original: click here.

Called the Smiss Stone, Ormhaxon stone, or Snake-Witch Stone this 32" tall carved stone dated to 400-600 CE was found in a cemetery in Gotland, Sweden.   It now resides in the Fornsalen Museum Visby Gotland, Sweden.  It is still debated if it is of Nordic or Celtic origin.  Actually there is much more debated about this piece.  Is it a woman? a giant out of Germanic mythology? a man? are the figures in the triskelion boar, eagle and wolf? 

All interesting, but I do not care.  What I see and feel from the piece is enough.  Enough to feed my soul, so I gaze from time to time with wonder and without expectation, semi awed.  I see a vulva exposer, a bold women who stands firm, a wise woman.  She is in the birth position, but what She is birthing is not immediately clear.  Procreation or the transformative journey of death back to the source? The animals resonant deep within memory cells. Not being an expert I see two birds and a boar or wolf, what do you see?  Holding snakes in her hands those multi-meaning symbols of life and death, healing, transformation, sexuality, does she offer them to the viewer or display them as badges of honor?

It is a mystery; images as message from our ancestors to their future relations, to all who came after.  So at May Day when in the Northern hemisphere the season of Spring is in full bloom, I contemplate the burgeoning life around me.  The migrators have returned, the landscape is greening, nests are being built, offspring are being birthed or laid, smells are released, the days lengthen, life is exerting it's dominance while still containing the seed, the reminder, that without death there would be no life. 

The wheel of the seasons turns gloriously awash in the hum of activity.  And I gaze upon this image knowing, seeing the mystery and the balance that makes this world possible.

Category: Beltane 2014