I awoke one day last week and as I got ready for work and had breakfast, I kept thinking, thinking, thinking about and picturing a goddess figure. I finally went into my studio and drew her with a pastel on a piece of card. She wanted to be born.
She feels like Sophia, the Mother of All there is: the Universe, Cosmos, Everything, who creates/gives birth to Order out of Chaos. Sophia is honored as a Goddess of wisdom within the Neopagan and New Age movements, as well as within feminist-inspired Goddess spirituality. I do like the pantheon of Goddesses very much and at various times in my life, have turned to them for succor or inspiration.
When I was running my Inner Critic workshop on Saturday, I cut her shape from some felt and began to stitch her together. The next day, I gave her some hair and began to paint her face and body. I made a gold crown for her head.
As I worked in my studio. I began to think of Turtle. In the Muscogee creation story, she was the first Being to be formed.
“In early times there was no land anywhere. All things struggled to stay alive, because everything was all water-covered. . . . . Turtle had no problems, she had First Teaching and knew her ways. They were the ways of water. Turtle was made first and felt herself to be the older sister of things. She decided to help them.
First, she stood up out of the water and called all to come and hear her. She showed them her legs and how she moved them. Soon she taught most creatures to swim. When they got tired she let them stand on her back for rest.
While all of the others were swimming, Turtle dived beneath the waters and found land. She scooped it up and brought it to the surface. Soon every creature living had a little bit of land. Everyone began to pile their land up together.”
This fragment is from a version of the Muscogee creation story told by Emma Burney, a Black Creek of Jacksonville, Florida. The entire story and many more can be found in Creation Myths and Legends of the Creek Indians.
I belong to the Muscogee through my father’s side. Although I didn’t grow up with any of my tribe’s language, stories or teachings, my First Nation inheritance is very important to me and one which I’ve explored from time to time in my artwork. My art quilt Winter Trees Wept and my Journey Bundle are two such pieces. I wrote about my visit to the Old Ocmulgee Fields, Georgia to pay respects to my Muscogee ancestors in 2007 here. Now, Turtle, or locv, has come to me.
I have a turtle shell which I found in Virginia five years ago. A year before I found the shell, I was driving to my cousin’s house and pulled to the side of the road to rescue a box turtle which was making it’s way across the highway. I got my shell from a shelf, blocked the tail opening with some wax and put some dried lentils inside of it to make a rattle. I threaded a leather thong through the top leg holes so that I can wear it as a necklace.
Turtle is an important female figure in the Creek cosmology. Today, as they have done for centuries, when the Muscogee perform their Stomp Dance, the women wear turtle rattles on their legs.
I painted a shell onto the back of my figure.
I’ve decided to save my gold crown for a different doll. This one is becoming Locv, Turtle. I am going on a journey with her. She has a strong back and can carry me between worlds. She can teach me to swim in the water and teach me the ways of water, which along with earth, is a female principle in the world of the Muscogee.