Art and Honoring Our Lineages

Lascaux cave paintings

There are points in my practice wherein various ancestral groups sort of blend together. It’s ok and I go with it, but sometimes it does surprise me. I’ll give you the example that I’ve been thinking of this weekend. Because I was a ballet dancer, I honor those dancers who inspired me in my work. Because I love them deeply, I honor the castrati. Awhile back, I sort of combined those two groups into one ancestral group. There was historical cross over – Marie Salle, one of the most famous ballet dancers of her generation worked with Handel and several castrati in London (she was also a choreographer in an art and at a time where female choreographers often didn’t receive recognition). All this really means is that when I honor them, I honor them together. Well, the same thing is happening, sort of, with the artists that I honor. 

Because I paint now, semi-professionally, I honor my artistic lineage (my writing lineage also got smooshed into this group unintentionally). I started early with those who painted the magnificent murals in neolithic caves. As part of that, in my kit, I have the four ochres: white, yellow, red, blue. That is what I carry in my töfr to represent this particular lineage. I also keep a small box-shrine (a box that sits right by my easel and that contains various things I associate with my artists) near where I paint. 

Now, at first, I thought that honoring these artists was just because I am also an artist. It’s only the last week that I realize it also dove tails with my spirit-work. Spirit workers edge into art in so much of what we do (I have had to paint spirit-portraits and icons,  create elaborate necklaces, embroider prayer flags, create medicine blankets, and even setting up a proper shrine is an act of art. Many of the artists I honor, including some of those neolithic ones considered their art a sacred act). I didn’t realize this until I got pushed *hard* to add certain things that are used in natural dying (dye not die) in numerous cultures to my shrine box. I found myself purchasing Madder (how one gets a brilliant and beautiful crimson dye out of this I just don’t comprehend), raw lapis (ground it creates ultramarine paint – it was so expensive in the renaissance that wealthy patrons who commissioned paintings would sometimes purchase the ultramarine and dole it out as needed to the artists. See this marvelous book, and this book for more information – also, they’re fantastic reads. Today we mostly use synthetics for this color.), dragons-blood (used in magic but also in dying), oak gall (makes a nice sepia tone, also the duergar like it), cochineal (one of the traditional sources for a deep reddish-purple), etc. These can make dye, watercolor, and ink, as well as being used in conjure – and probably in more things too that I don’t know about. There are other plants and resins that I keep in my kit as well to help facilitate all this. It came as a shock to realize that the artistic use of these things was connected not just to art but specifically and powerfully to spirit work and not just my spirit-work. I was pushed to share these with my assistant, and it became clear it was a lineage thing (1).

All of this makes me remember something that happened years and years ago. One of my language teachers, after our tutoring session, told me that she really wished she could experience the Gods as I did. I knew that she painted as a hobby, and I asked her how she felt when she created a piece of art. What she described was the touch of the Gods, that holy power flowing through her, and I told her that. She was having direct experience with the Gods, it just wasn’t coming for her in the same way that it happened with me. That conversation, she told me later, completely changed the way she looked at her art. 

Art is a conduit for the holy. Let’s do more of it because bringing beauty into the world is a good thing. 

What inspires you? What crafts, art, artists (in any art form) open you up to your Gods, your ancestors. What makes you feel closer to the holy? 

Notes: 

  1. The cochineal were discovered, btw, by Arachne’s dog. Arachne is one of the holy powers honored in the Starry Bull tradition. 

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About ganglerisgrove

Galina Krasskova has been a Heathen priest since 1995. She holds a Masters in Religious Studies (2009), a Masters in Medieval Studies (2019), has done extensive graduate work in Classics including teaching Latin, Roman History, and Greek and Roman Literature for the better part of a decade, and is currently pursuing a PhD in Theology. She is the managing editor of Walking the Worlds journal and has written over thirty books on Heathenry and Polytheism including "A Modern Guide to Heathenry" and "He is Frenzy: Collected Writings about Odin." In addition to her religious work, she is an accomplished artist who has shown all over the world and she currently runs a prayer card project available at wyrdcuriosities.etsy.com.

Posted on July 31, 2022, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. There’s a great “history of color” series by Michel Pastoureau … I have the RED book, but there’s also ones for blue, black and yellow. Highly recommended.

    I have moved almost entirely over to using natural pigments in my art (and other natural materials – I recommend The Organic Artist by Nick Neddo to learn more). When I realized that acrylic paint is just…plastic, basically, I committed to trying to remove it from my life. Not to mention, as you say, ochres and other pigments have an extraordinarily long history of use in human art, back when art was indistinguishable from ritual and spirituality.

    To be honest, the more I do this, the less I can tell where art becomes spirit-work or vice versa. Especially since the large part of my artwork is never made to sell or hang in a gallery but only directly for the spirits. I’ve been thinking lately that my next step might be to take that a step further and focus on “land art”, becoming a conversation with the land itself and expression of that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • ganglerisgrove

      yes, yes and yes. thank you for the book recommendations!

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    • ganglerisgrove

      Oooh he has a book on the color “white” that is coming out in January. Evil, Dver. He has like six books on color …I’m ordering them all. @_@

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    • ganglerisgrove

      Thinking more about your comment…I’ve done land art. I used to do a shrine project, a public altar thing, where you create beautiful pieces of land art, that are also living shrines to the Gods and just…leave them, knowing that they are ephemeral. it was a very powerful experience. I did it all over when I traveled — to Ran, Aegir and Their daughters in Monterey, CA, to Frau Holle in Germany, to name but two examples that really stand out. it’s a powerful offering.

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    • ganglerisgrove

      as to synthetics, I’ve been trying to remove all synthetic fabrics from my life. They’re also plastic and terrible for the environment. I’m slowly replacing my wardrobe, though some has to be custom made (wish I could sew). little by little …

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      • Re land art: yes that’s exactly the kind of thing I’m envisioning, except all over my local landscape.

        I’ve almost completely removed synthetic fabrics – half because of environmental reasons, and half because I find them unpleasant to the touch. I’ve been paring back my wardrobe anyway, and focusing on simple, natural, comfortable dresses. It’s tricky to find good pieces that aren’t synthetic though, it’s the default in our culture, and I find that I can no longer thrift clothing very much because of that. Instead I’ve been finding a lot of great cotton/linen blend voluminous dresses on Etsy.

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  2. There’s a muralist who went back to school to get a degree in archaeology who has figured out key things like the paint was applied in a specific order. She really picked it apart, and found other connections too, plus loads of additional sites. She’d go on to found Shumla (Studying Human Use of Materials, Land, and Art). Discovered that 98% of the time the pictographs were painted in a deliberate color order: black, then red, then yellow, and finally white.

    I’ve always found Boyd’s study of the region inspirational, in terms of how she tried to decode the art. “She thinks that even the sequence the colors were painted in enhances this story. Black was the color of femininity and primordial time, and it was applied first. Then came red, a color associated with masculinity, blood, and the color of the sky just before sunrise. The next color was yellow, associated with the rising sun. Finally, white, the light of midday, which renders the world shadowless, was applied.” https://www.archaeology.org/issues/274-1711/features/5996-reading-the-white-shaman-mural

    As to art that inspires me, I traveled the world to see Caspar David Friedrich’s Wanderer above the Sea of Fog. To me that’s always been Loki.

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    • ganglerisgrove

      That is fascinating, Wyrd Designs. thank you. Did we see the Friedrich together in Hamburg? I remember it was like the quest for the ring lol.

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      • Yes, at the Kunsthalle. The colors in real life have such sun kissed touches, that are never present in the reproductions. It ended up being a national holiday, the museums were one of the few places open too.

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  3. I am reminded of a video I saw sometime ago about a man who has collected and is preserving ancient paint pigments. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F8aVfqDKx1U

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    • ganglerisgrove

      omg that collection! I just watched the video — def. worth a watch, folks. (it was Sheele’s green that he terms emerald green. It is an emerald green color. But it has a body count cause of all the arsenic used in it. I studied from the inventor’s descendant who is an awesome colorist *G*).

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  4. ganglerisgrove

    Dver, yes to synthetics being unpleasant to the touch. One thing I’m finding is that designers will do dresses or shirts o whatever of natural fabric but have the *lining* a synthetic. This works out for my local tailor but it’s a pain in the ass for me.

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