Drew up the first draft for Rob’s quilt last week, with ideas starting to gestate about how to represent her special symbols of colours of the rainbow and chakras, the vesica piscis, the white dove of Iona and the Celtic interlaced triangle, within the context of communion with others in her life, love of community and a personal spiritual journey. The symbols are manifesting quite easily, the most basic and essential is the full moon. Placement, as usual will come later.
The dove as symbol providing meaning goes back a long way, as indicating the spirit of divine presence among us – and is of course, peace symbol. The power for creation of women, represented by Canaanite, Sumerian and Israelite and Mediterranean mother goddesses known by various names in multiple places as Ishtar, Inanna, Asherah, Tanit, Astarte, Anat and Aphrodite was symbolically envisioned as the dove, with many adorning temples and shrines. A goddess statue from ancient Crete is shown wearing a dove crown. And so many goddess images from antiquity have wings. I’m thinking particularly of Isis, who shelters all and sheltered her beloved son, Horus, beneath her wings (a myth later morphed into the Mary and Jesus story). In Hebrew the word for ‘spirit’ is in the feminine form (‘ruarch’), and goddess embodiment known as Shekinah, queen of wisdom. Aspects of these stories incorporated the symbol of the dove into Christian symbolism for the immaculate conception of the godhead by mother Mary, and the dove hovering over the head of Jesus at his baptism.
The dove, or pigeon was the first domesticated bird, and was believed to be a messenger, a go-between for communicating with divinity, destiny with a strong association with wishful prayer – communication occurring on many levels. Doves were associated with oracular divination, often in the context of romantic relationships and fertility. I have read that there are images of a dove being re-born from the mouth of a dolphin, later transposed into the story of Jonah being ‘born’ from a whale, his name meaning dove in Hebrew, ‘ionah’ being a cognate of the Sanskrit word ‘yoni’, which later became known in Latin as the ‘vesica piscis’. It of course represents female pubic area
(often referred to as a woman’s ‘sexuality’), but much more importantly the sacredness of a woman’s body through which life is endlessly renewed, symbolizing faith, hope, joy and love that is at the heart of the lived human experience. The root form ‘io’ has connotations with and means ‘moon’ in the Egyptian lexicon, yet another connection to the monthly blood ritual that is the basis of continuing human life.
Needless to say there are too many historical and cultural associations to enumerate, let alone explain in this short description of my creative process. What is important is Rob’s association through the time she spent in retreat on the Island of Iona, the abbey of St Columba – whose name means dove in Latin. I am in the dark as to why this person received his name, and how the symbol of the white dove relates to him (apart from his name). Maybe because he brokered some sort of peace among the feuding barbarian tribes of the place the Romans called Hibernia and had long wanted to conquer, with the story of Jesus, by building on existing pagan rites and symbols – a common approach to colonization, even today. Since his name Colum-cille (kille) means ‘Dove of the Church’, it may be another appropriation of women’s reproductive power for renewing life to fertilizing a spiritual renewal in pagan lands, though the symbolism is normally attributed (perhaps in hindsight) as being a messenger of the Christian god of peace, with the need to be peaceful in a fairly barbarous environment.
Although not domesticated as such, I am constantly reminded of doves in my own garden. I feel blessed by regular visits from the regal grey and white wonga pigeon and brown pigeon doves living down in the bush, often several times a day. Of course, I do feed them because I love to see their colours up close; maybe that’s a form of domestication in the wild. I have come to think that they actually ‘call’ to me when they are ready for a snack – and not just the doves, the king parrots and crimson rosellas too! I’m little concerned that the little ‘dove’ I have drawn in the draft reminds me of the Twitter symbol (eeek), but maybe that’s not a bad thing, since it’s role is to facilitate communication in the wider world of the ‘social media’. I also know that this is just a sketch, and the dove will go on morphing as more ideas and connections are made.
 She can be seen in my PhD thesis on page 154, and is taken from the Awesome power series, 1989, published by Swinging Bridges Visuals, Australia, and produced by Rosanne DeBats & thea Rainbow (later thea Gaia).
 Iona Miller, 2016, Ancestors and archetypes, http://ancestorsandarchetypes.weebly.com/dove-goddess.html
 Barbara Walker, 1983, The woman’s encyclopedia of myths and secrets, HarperSanFrancisco
 Barbara Walker, 1988, The woman’s dictionary of symbols and sacred objects, Harper & Row: San Francisco. For me personally at the moment ‘IO’ stands for ‘immuno-oncology’, which has been my treatment for advanced melanoma over the last 9 months.