Wednesday, June 6, 2012

New Mandalas - their Meaning and their Mystery

Although no one today knows for sure what the true meaning of the Celtic spirals and knot work are, or indeed represent – what is certain is that these designs appear to be as old and mysterious as time itself. 

Showing up first on cave and rock art all over the world, they made their appearance in the 'Celtic' lands of Ireland, Scotland, England, Brittany and Wales about 5,000 years ago as stone carvings and on other monuments. 

From ancient times right up to the present day, these spiral and interlacing knot work motifs, along with animal zoomorphics, have been a constant within Irish art. craft and cultural traditions. The Irish version, which also appeared in Scotland and the north of England around the fifth century within the pages of illustrated manuscripts such as The Book of Kells and The Book of Durrow, brought these ornate and intricate designs to remarkable levels of detail and beauty.

There is much speculation on the meaning of these designs and patterns. Some say they represent a transcendental spiritual path between the material and non-material world; that the interweaving patterns may be a symbolic representation of inhalation and exhalation of the life force in each of us, and the ceaseless flow of energy and movement, both on a personal level and in terms of the universe itself. Others put forward the idea of both the spirals and the interlacing knot motifs as being representations of running water and carry the idea of fertility and the continuity of life, while still others speculate that the spirals speak of the transmigration of souls to alternative realities. 

A twelfth century scholar by the name of Giraldus Cambrensis wrote this after examining an illuminated Irish gospel manuscript, which may quite possibly have been referring to The Book of Kells:

"Examine it carefully, and you will penetrate to the very shrine of art. You will make out intricacies so delicate and subtle, so concise and compact, so full of knots and links, in colours so fresh and vivid, that you might think all of this was the work of an angel, not of a man."

One thing for certain, though, is that these designs resonate deeply with people from all cultures and traditions – as if we are witnessing some primal compass point leading us back to the higher aspects of one's consciousness.

As Carl Jung wrote, "Because there are innumerable things beyond the range of human understanding, we constantly use symbolic terms to represent concepts that we cannot define or fully comprehend."

These designs and motifs – from spirals to knots to animal zoomorphics, as well as the colours and colour combinations used – all work together to create a sense of a personal meditative journey being taken by both the artist and the viewer.

Here are some new mandalas we've been working on, with more new ones being created and offer as these go off to new homes.

Which designs, motifs and colours resonate most with you?


Patricia said...

Hi June- I love the red background on the top one but they are all vibrant and full of good energy!

June said...

Hi Patricia - Thanks for stopping by.

The red is one of my recent favourites, too, and I've painted a few of them using that same deep, rich red as the main back drop colour. But if truth be told, I love experimenting and playing with all the colours, both for the main background colour and then the colour combining for the designs. Sometimes I find myself just waiting a while and letting the energy of the mandala itself 'speak' to me and guide me as to what sort of mood it's in that particular day, and which colour or colours it would like me to play with.

When I'm working on these mandalas, I feel I'm being taken on a special sort of creative journey. To paraphrase a hero of mine, Joseph Campbell, I truly do feel I am following my bliss.

Thanks again for visiting, Patricia.

Slan go foill,

Introverted Art said...

June, I love the one with the blue. It reminds me of several Stars of David interlaced together. Mandalas are so full of meaning and symbolism. Whatever the meaning is, they sure speak to you in a deeper lever beyond thought and spoken words.

June said...

Hi Ana - Delighted for you to visit me again here.

Yes, I have to say that the purple and blue one is one of my very favourites, as those are my favourite colours and I have to sometimes stop myself from doing them all with blues and purples and give the other colours equal play time.

As I'm into yoga and meditation, I've also done a bit of research over the years about chakras, and have learned that the colour blue represents the throat chakra, which encourages communication and creativity. The purple chakra represents our 'third eye,' which is the psychic energy centre in each of us, and it's thought to be the basis for intuition and the link with which we perceive the higher states of consciousness and dreaming states.

Further still, at the very top of the chakra wheel is the colour violet, which is the crown chakra, located at the very top of the head. This is thought to be the spiritual gateway to our higher self, with its essence being one of a pure blissful state of being.

Although Celtic art is Western-based as opposed to Eastern, I do strongly feel that those early Irish monks who first created these illuminated works of beautiful art in the round towers such as Glendalough had tapped into and gotten in very close touch with their own kind of blue, purple and violet chakras, as to me, they were clearly inspired by something very spiritual, very deep and profound.

Thanks again for stopping by. I look forward to more visits from you, and more visits from me to your beautiful blog, as well.

Slan go foill,

Anonymous said...

Hi June, all your work is very beautiful but if I had to chose one perhaps the top one. Interesting topic the mandala, every culture seems to have them. In India they are used in meditation.
Bridget x

Dusty Wood said...

Hi June, the work looks great and your last post was indeed well worded and very informative. Keep up the great work, and don't forget to make a little time for yourself!
Slán go foill

Ana said...

What an informative post! I like the quote which says that by examining these motifs carefully, one can penetrate to the very center of art. Perhaps symbolism evolved to reflect what the thinking of the current culture was. Who knows... I think their mystery adds to their beauty. You have a wonderful way of representing this ancient Celtic artform.

Maria Noonan-McDermott said...

Hi June
Just had to say that your new work is divine, it would be difficult to choose a favourite, although I love the purple and blue combinations.
Wonderful mystic designs with Celtic motifs really appeal to me and the crosses with the interlaced knots are truly magical.
My friends and family have all loved the mandalas they received as gifts.
Hope it's all going well for you. Love your new blog, really interesting.
All the best and wishing you loads of success.

Jane said...

This is a wonderful, beautifully written post, June. You are a very fine writer. I had no idea the mandala designs were so old and mysterious!

June said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
June said...

Hi Dusty, mo chara. Thanks very much for dropping by and for the lovely compliments on my blog. I'm glad you're enjoying them and that you're finding them interesting. I look forward to more visits from you. Have a great weekend.

Slan go foill,

June said...

Hi Ana - Thanks for the compliments about the mandalas, their backgroun and history, their many mysteries and many thoughts on what they actually mean. Yes, I agree with you most definitely that their mystery actually enhances their beauty. When I'm painting them, I can and usulaly do get very lost in them...sort of like the mazes that are designed to take the spiritual seeker on a meditative journey as you're walking the maze.

Have a lovely weekend, and thanks again for the lovely words you wrote.

Slan go foill,

June said...

Hi Maria - Thanks so much for visiting and for the very lovely words you wrote about my first foray into Blogland and these new mandalas, and I'm especially chuffed to know that they were liked so much by the friends and family you gave them to as gifts. That just makes my heart sing to know that. Making these mandalas gives me such joy while I'm painting them, Maria, that I just want to keep making more and more of them - in all colours, in every kind of colour combination, and these days, with more bead work that I've just begun to incorporate into them.

Like you, my favourite colours, and also my favourite colour combinations are the blue and purples - they seem to always resonate most with me on a very deep level. Reds, yellows and oranges always excite me and get my painting 'mojo' going which is a joy and a lot of fun, while purples and blues calm me, relax me and take me into this other sort of serene state of creative intention and bliss.

Thanks again for visiting - you're most welcome to drop by any time. Have a lovely weekend.

Slan go foill mo chara,

June said...

Hi Bridget - Thanks very much for visiting, not only for your lovely comments about my mandalas, but also, what you wrote regarding how the mandala is used in Eastern cultures and spiritual ideologies, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, mainly in India and Tibet.

I have to say that the actual word I have used - 'mandala' - isn't specifically connected to the western or Celtic tradition, but it's word that I myself have decided to use as a way to both define and describe them, and what they represent to me when I paint them.

Taken from the ancient classical Indian language - Sanskrit = the word 'mandala' translates loosely to mean 'circles'. However, a mandala is much more, and means much more than just a simple rounded shape or several rounded shapes to the makers of these designs, in terms of Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism.

In both Hinduism and Buddhism, the mandala represents wholeness and balance (think yin and yang) and is believed to represent the cosmic structure of life itself...a connection we have between the finite and the infinite...our mind, our spirit, the world and indeed, the universe and our place in it.

I believe that all ancient cultures, including the pre-Christian Celtic Druids and the early Christian monks in Ireland and the western world believed. thought and felt similarly when they too created their own versions of these beautiful, ornate and intricate spirals, patterns and interweaving knots that can be found in the illuminated manuscrips.

Thanks again for stopping by, and I look forward to many more visits from you. Have a lovely weekend.

Slan go foill and namaste...

June said...

Hi Jane - Thanks so much for the lovely comments about the mandalas and about what I wrote about the background and the mystery that is the mandala and the many beliefs surrounding the meaning of what these designs mean and represent, in both Celtic and other ancient cultures and spiritual ideologies the world over. Coming from you, a wonderful writer yourself, I'm quite chuffed.

I'm so glad that you found the post and that it was both informative, interesting and enjoyable to read. Thanks to both yourself and Ana for asking me about these designs and what they mean. From the very first time I saw these designs in a book of prints of the Book of Kells, to the very first time I saw the actual Book of Kells itself, up close in Dublin's Trinity College many years ago, I was immediatley mystified by and attracted to their their colour, their mystery, their intricacy and their beauty.

Thanks again so much for stopping by, and I hope future posts will be as interesting and enjoyable. Have a lovely weekend.

Slan go foill,

Pili said...

Hi June!

I just saw your comments on my blog and came back to check out yours and I'm in love with these designs!

It's really very mind-boggling how you can feel so connected with symbols and places you've never seen or been at before. I went to Ireland for the first time this past March, but for some strange reason I've always felt very drawn to the place, so much, I've always considered moving there! In my visit I went to Newgrange, and was so completely blown away by the symbols and the impressive work of it... such an experience!

I hope I can get myself to work on editing photos from the trip soon, cause I just loved every minute of it, and expect some new photos of India soon-ish, since I'm going back there next Tuesday, for the wedding of my bf's best friend! Do check back on the blog for some photos of Goa, I've been there a few times!

June said...

Hi Pili - I've only just posted to your blog a few minutes back and so it was a brilliant and lovely surprise to see a comment from you here on mine!

Thanks so much for stopping by, and for your lovely comments about the mandalas...I love creating them, but more than that, I love that other people are enjoying them and the good energy and vibes that emanate from them just by looking at them. I don't know if it's the colours or the designs or a combination of both, but I find myself just wanting to look at them for hours.

Briliant, too, that you've been to Newgrange. It is a truly amazing place and experience, I agree. As you're into Irish music, I'm sure you know about Clannad's beautiful album and song, 'Magical Ring'? Always brings the beauty and mystery of Newgrange back to me, that does.

Ireland has that deep effect on so many people - the music, the people, the culture, the history and just the overall vibe of this little island nation that I love so much. I'm delighted that you had such a great time visiting, and are considering moving here, as well.

As for India, now. Oh...Goa! Beautiful, beautiful Goa! How I would so love to visit there...and so many other states in India. What a beautiful place to be married in - Goa! I'll be thinking of you next week. Have a beautiful time there. I eagerly await your return, with lots of photos to share of both your visits to India as well as Ireland.

Thanks again for stopping by. I'm delighted to have found you, via Aileen's lovely blog. The internet and blogs specifically, are truly wonderful when it comes to connecting people.

Slan go foill,

Carolyn Dube said...

I love it when I learn something new and my eyes get to feast on wonderful pieces of art! Thanks!

June said...

Hi Carolyn - Thanks for visiting! I'm glad you're enjoying the mandalas as well as my little write-up about Celtic art in general. I've also been enjoying visiting you and taking a virtual vacation with you on your blog, which I'm delighted I found.
Take care, and have a lovely week, and thanks again for stopping by.

Slan go foill,

chris said...

The geometry of these designs is so striking. Circles are so lovely and timeless. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog and leaving a happy comment. :)

padmaja said...

Hi June, I am happy to find your art today, thanks for stopping by and leaving your feed back!
Each one of the mandalas you exhibited in this post resonate with so much of energy, the inter woven patterns are intriguing.
In our hindu religion, the use of mandalas is synonymous with our worship everyday, check out the Sri Chakra, the most powerful one.

June said...

Hi Chris - Thanks for stopping by, and thanks too for the lovely comments about the mandalas. Yes, I agree completely - the patterns and geometry is very striking and special. Special to the point of involing calm and serenity, especially when I'm drawing them and then painting them. There's something very meditative and contemplative about circles as well as the interlacing knot patterns that beckons me to do more of them.

Slan go foill,

June said...

Namaste Padmaja! Aap kaisi hai? Bahut shukriya for visiting my blog - I'm quite happy to have found your beautiful blog, as well. It made me very happy and honoured to read your comment about these mandalas of mine and how they resonated with you, as they do with me each and every time I draw and then paint them.

I am very interested in both Hinduism and Buddhism, and would love very much one day to visit India, as well as Indian culture (music, art, literature and film - I am also teaching myself Hindi).

I wrote a little bit about what the word mandala actually means and its origins in a reply to one of the comments left by Bridget, above. I can definitely see and sense strong similarities between Celtic art and Hindu art and design, and I hope that what I've written pays proper honour to the meaning and usage of mandalas in both a Hindu and Buddhist context.

Thanks so much once again Padmaja, for stopping by my blog for a visit, and for your lovely comments.

Slan go foill and namaste,

Anonymous said...

Hi June!
My favourite is from your very first post - it is the second one down - light blues & purples. The knotwork on this one seems to somehow hypnotise me and it feels like I am being drawn into the jewel in the middle of the mandala! The middle of the mandala is the little pool that I fall into after I am hypnotised and the blue knotwork is the splash I make lol! I feel like this mandala is full of water energy, and living by the sea - I feel drawn to that.

Keep blogging, beautiful!

June said...

Hi Emma - Thanks so much for your very lovely comment on that particular mandala, which has long been a favourite of mine, and is one of the first ones that I incorporated 'pools' of beads into the design. I have to say that, although I love all the mandalas, and I love making each and every one of them, and that each one of them bring joy to me each for different reasons due to the different designs and the different colours and colour combinations, the colours that I've always been drawn to most are the blues and purples, and all the shades therein.

I feel the same way as you do, in that I too feel an energy from these colours, emanating something akin to water energy and the deep healing power of the ocean. Although I don't live near the sea (I do live near a beautiful and tranquil lake, though, which I love), when I paint mandalas using blues and purples, I feel that much closer to 'home' - where my heart and spirit is happiest...that being, nearer to the sea.

I plan on incorporating more gems and definitely more beadwork into both the new mandalas I'm working on now, as well as the Celtic crosses I'm just beginning to start on - the wood is cut to shape as I type these words. All I need to do now is draw, paint and embellish.

Thanks for visting, mo chara. Happy Summer Solstice to you, and for the beautiful Midsummer's poem you wrote on your blog.

Slan go foill lil sis,

Rose Altom said...

I was delighted with your visit to my blog, and wanted to pop by on yours to say hi. What a thrill to find such beautiful artwork! Your color choices are wonderful, and I am especially fond of mandalas...I work daily on my peaceful meditations with nature mandalas. You have such a good way with words, and your blog is very informative. I look forward to visiting you often!

June said...

Hi Rose - It's lovely to have you visit my blog. You're most welcome here. Thank you so much for all your very lovely compliments about the mandalas. I love doing them - I get up in the mornings and just can't wait to begin a new one. And thanks, too, for the kind words about my writing - although I've always loved to write and have been journaling pretty much my whole life, blogging is a new 'experience' for me, so I appreciate your saying I've a good way with words. That truly made my day today.

I look forward to chatting with you, too. Both on your blog and here, with me on mine. Thanks again for stopping by.

Slan go foill,