Ideas/Development: The Sacred Feminine

Following my research into Mircea Eliade’s studies on ritual and my investigation into female performance art, I feel it would be important to develop my ideas on how/where my ritual performance would take place.

As mentioned previously, I wish to create a performance piece based on the expectations women face as they get older – where media focuses on youth and beauty and age is seen negatively – what with so many different “anti-aging” or “age-defying” products.

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Images of Anti-Aging Product Displays, 2013

I wish to create something which would represent the female, as well as being of a sacred and spiritual nature.  I feel after looking into female performance artists such as Hannah Wilke, as well as the ideas of objectification of the female body and articles relating to feminism – that nudity could perhaps be misconstrued (i.e. Hannah Wilke) and could distract from whatever statement I wish to make.  I do not wish the naked form to be the focus of the performance and really, feminism should be about freedom of choice of how I wish to present myself.

Following my readings of Mirea Eliade’s Rites and Symbols of Initiation (1958), there was mention of youths dancing in triangular shaped sacred areas.  Furthermore, during puberty rites, girls were segregated from the community and retreated to the symbolic womb.

With this is mind, I feel that I could instead represent the feminine by using symbols to suggest ideas of the female presence.  I feel that symbols can subtly communicate ideas without the use of words and symbols can also be seen as a more universal language – often having the same meaning for a wider audience.

These writings reminded me of the Yoni symbol which represents the sacred feminine:

From earliest times, humanity has found visual expression for the cosmic forces of creation, birth, and passion in artistic representations of human genitalia. Fertility cults centered on phallic worship are well documented, but older and even more pervasive are Goddess images of the vulva-known in the East since ancient times as the yoni. Yoni symbolism is a part of spiritual traditions in every part of the globe-from naturally occuring rock formations revered by North American Native peoples to the shakta-pithas of Hindu temples, and from early Celtic sheela-na-gig carvings to the Japanese kagura ritual.
The Yoni traces this primal motif in Australian Aboriginal folk tales, in alchemy, in Tantric practices, and in contemporary art by painters such as Georgia O’Keefe and Judy Chicago (Camphausen, 1996).

books
Front cover image of Camphausen, R. C. (1996) Yoni: Sacred Symbol of Female Creative Power
Judy Chicago, The Dinner Party, 1974–79. Photo: © Aislinn Weidele for Polshek Partnership Architects. Image Available from: https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/exhibitions/dinner_party/
Judy Chicago, The Dinner Party, 1974–79. Photo: © Aislinn Weidele for Polshek Partnership Architects. Image Available from: https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/exhibitions/dinner_party/

There are many variations of the Yoni symbol but I feel the simplest and perhaps more recognised would be the downward-pointing triangle which is also representational of the womb.

The downward-pointing triangle is a female symbol corresponding to the yoni (Walker, 2013)

Therefore the downward-pointing triangle could also relate to the sacred place, as per the place of death and rebirth discussed in Eliade’s writings with regard to female rituals.

Furthermore, the downward-pointing triangle is also the alchemical symbol of earth and water “traditionally seen as…receptive and feminine” (Ardinger, 2011).

Screen Shot 2013-11-08 at 16.24.00
Alchemical Symbols of the four elements. Heilbronner, E. (1998) Philatelic Ramble Through Chemistry. John Wiley & Sons (p3) 

With this in mind, I feel this is a relevant point because of the relation to ritual – particularly in Pagan terms with regard to the worship of nature.  As mentioned previously, rituals are practically non-existent in the Western world, however the rituals or festivities that do exist i.e. Easter and Christmas, although thought of as Christian festivities, there is some belief that these are pagan based i.e. Easter – the Anglo-Saxon pagan spring festival for the fertility goddess Eostre and Christmas – the ancient festival for the solstice feast of Mithras, the Roman god of light.

With all of the above points in mind,  I feel that the use of the Yoni symbol could be an excellent method of demonstrating the presence of the feminine in my work, as well as the link to the natural elements which are a strong factor in ancient ritual based practices.

This would also work well in demonstrating the negativity toward the aging process as per the artificial products and superficial pressures to stay young, as opposed to the reverence and conservation of nature.

References:

Ardinger, B. (2011) Practicing the Presence of the Goddess: Everyday Rituals to Transform Your World. California: New World Library.

Camphausen, R. C. (1996) Yoni: Sacred Symbol of Female Creative Power. India: Replika Press Pvt. Ltd.

Eliade, M. (2012) Rites & Symbols of Initiation – The Mysteries of Birth & Rebirth. New York: Spring Publications, Inc.

Heilbronner, E. (1998) Philatelic Ramble Through Chemistry. Germany: John Wiley & Sons

Walker, B. (2013) The Woman’s Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects. UK: Harper Collins

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