Soul Shelter

Sometimes even the smallest piece of art can take a while to complete.

I read an article five years ago about ancestral altars and Hungry Ghosts.  That which has been uncared for, unresolved and ungrieved within our ancestry, is hungry and if not given proper attention to can emerge and affect the next generation.   From some work I’ve done with Bert Hellinger’s Family Constellations, I know how powerful healing work on my ancestral line is and how it benefits not only my self, today, but how it heals my ancestors.

Around that time, I read Anam Cara by John O’Donohue.  He suggests that rather than go out on a journey to find one’s soul or even to find it somewhere hidden within the body’s recesses, that we live and rest inside the shelter of our Soul, which envelops, protects and minds us.

“Imagine a light all around you, the light of your soul. Then with your breath draw that light into your body and bring it with your breath into every area of your body. One of the oldest meditations is to imagine the light coming into you, and then on your outward breath to imagine that you are exhaling the darkness. When you bring cleansing, healing soul light into your body, you heal the neglected, tormented places.”

In his book Anam Cara, he writes “The soul is the natural shelter around your life and will gather around you to mind you”

In 2008, I drew a sketch of a Soul Shelter, to keep the Souls of my Muscogee ancestors.

Soul Shelter, 2008

I honour and remember my ancestors  who were murdered by the European invaders and the United States government in their original homelands in the American Southeast.  The ones who perished on the Trail of Tears during their forced Removal to ‘Indian Territory’.  The successive generations who have never found their place in this world due to the intergenerational aftereffects of the trauma of Removal – alcoholism, addiction, mental health issues, under achievement.  I am so very grateful to the ones who came before me and survived.

We are in the thin time of the year.  Samhain.  The time when our ancestors, the ones who came before, are near to us. I had a powerful art-making experience a couple of weeks ago.  I was with a dear, familiar friend who knows me and some of my story and a dear, new friend who invited us on a healing art-making journey.  None of us really knew what we were going to make.  We started with a guided meditation which led to a house.  Mine was the house of my Muscogee ancestors.  I came to it through a winter woods and after going through the interior, I left with a warm fur cloak to continue my journey.

This is what I made.

Soul Shelter, 6″ x 3″ diameter

I made an armature from pipe cleaners and covered it with some sheer fabric I’d machine embroidered with bare winter trees.  I lined it with light blue dyed fleece and wound some wire and beads around the top to hold it together.

I love how it looks like a wise shaman.

It is meant to be worn.

My ancestor work feels like a journey inward and an outward journey.  The Soul Shelter can accommodate both at the same time.


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