ageing, Annabel Du Boulay, art, child bereavement, childlessness, creativity, fertility art, fertility goddess, Hecate, imagery of womanhood, Kuan Yin, Lilith, menstrual problems, menstruation, older women, perimenopause, post-menopausal, Singlehood, solitude, womb art, womb healing, womb wisdom
PC digs up womb wisdom & womb art for older, single, bereaved and distressed non-mothers
‘Womb wisdom’ is an emergent phrase in certain circles of female parlance and practice. Through workshops, therapy, ritual, art and literature, Womb Wisdom groups and their leaders – or self-designated ‘healers’ -, sometimes meeting within red ‘womb tents’, strive to reaffirm the feminine in our civilisation and culture. Women gathered this way rediscover an awareness of their female selves through a sharing of experiences, singing, writing, dance and reading out loud, intent on reawakening in themselves a sense of the strength and beauty of female physicality.
Much Womb Wisdom activity celebrates the menstrual cycles, the life-giving powers of the womb, and the ways in which these seem to chime with the rhythms of nature: the notion of ‘the Goddess’, as some term it. And one product is an array of artists’ and sculptors’ and designers’ images, most incorporating full, pod-like, uterine shapes, like the logo above. They tap into the well-established artistic tradition of rounded fertility goddess figurines and icons.
Now I admire some facets of this movement. After all, physically speaking it’s easier for men to remain conscious of their masculinity. The concrete evidence of their maleness is on the outside of their bodies, readily available for them to touch and feel. Any gang of men can produce their tackle for all to see when drunk out on a Saturday night, and fondle it in their spare time. Women have a harder job keeping in touch with all their reproductive body parts: enjoying them, even remembering that they’re there. The uterus, especially, is a precious inner treasure, certainly for those still in their child-bearing years, so any process that re-connects women to their physiology must have benefits.
But as a single, post-menopausal, childless woman, I have two problems with much Womb Wisdom art. First, it celebrates the female potential for mothering, life-giving and child nurturing, aspects of the female that I’m just not party to. Second, many Womb Wisdom images don’t visually communicate any messages of positivity that I can personally respond to.
I’m a rather literal, prosaic person. Realistically, this is more like my womb self-image:
With all due respect to Womb Healers, no amount of egg-shaped art representing fecundity and fulsomeness is going to change that interior metaphorical perspective.
Instead, to help women more like me, I’ve unearthed the inspirational work of Annabel Du Boulay, an artist and therapist-healer working out of Glastonbury, England. Although she’s experienced motherhood it came with challenges, as two of her three children were born with life-threatening syndromes and multiple disabilities.
One aspect of her work is a sacred Womb Healing art installation, with connected workshops for women. The art dimension consists of four large acrylic paintings, each one promoting an image that positively counters different kinds of ‘womb wounding’, i.e. distress or pain related to mothering, or its lack. She does this in the form of female figures, archetypes, even, well-known in various mythologies: Hecate, whom she names as the Mother of Loss; Lilith, whom she associates with solitude and singleness; and Kuan Yin, compassionate champion of women who’ve suffered terminations.
These are not just our personal overseers: they seem to me to represent the protectresses we hold inside ourselves, if we can only tap into them. (The fourth picture in the series represents Brigit, Mother of Healing, protectress of those with disabled children.) Du Boulay’s four workshop series each correspond to one of her painting’s themes. This recognition of the loss-and/or-struggle sides of femalehood, and the way that Du Boulay has turned them around, have to be admired and emulated, surely, by more creative workers in this niche artistic field.
The survival experiences of women enduring uterine-related illnesses, disease and the ravaging effects of hysterectomy, the loss or lack of children and the sometimes almost biblical plagues of the menopause need special recognition, I think. If we can survive those, surely we are female Goddesses, worthy of a place of eminence within the processes of nature, indeed. So I’ve hunted around, and tentatively proffer yet two more images of my own.
If you come up with other optimistic, proactive symbols of ‘our’ female state, i.e. the womb state that is also mine, please do contact me and let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you.