While I was wondering what might be appropriate for the two corners at the bottom of the quilt, the raised hands of the Dove Goddess came into consciousness. I remember symbols of a persons actual hands used by indigenous peoples as a symbol of identity, particularly to mark a rite of passage such as initiation, to adorn, and to recognize being in the presence of the sacred, embodying the ancient idea of being able to “see” the invisible and inexplicable with our hands. It occurred first to use my own handprints on fabric, then perhaps to ask Rob to put hers onto fabric for the quilt, not an impossible idea – but messy! I’m thinking back to the activities done in pre-schools of little children making handprints; I still have the one from Leo, which is kept in my treasure trove of childhood memorabilia.
Instead, I send a message to Rob, asking her to draw an outline of her two hands and send them to me. After they arrive by post, simple pencil outlines (I suspect made with the help of her precious young grandson, Zaimiri), it is up to me to decide how to represent them in fabric, and transport them into the quilt’s space. They are obviously traced with palm down, but I’m now wondering about the possibility of inserting them palm up. The palms facing out represent welcome, peace and openness. This way they would replicate the position of the palms of the Dove Goddess, giving honour to the phases of the moon, thereby to herself and herself in others. And I am beginning to feel there might be need to include further symbols.
Choosing the fabric by which to best make the hands manifest was the next issue (manifest being a word formed as a conjugate of the Latin for ‘hand’). I didn’t want anything connected to racial/skin colours. A lovely pale green floral that continued the theme of flowers looking almost like henna designs seemed perfect. I had thought I might draw the symbols by hand onto the fabric with oil pastel (a technique I had learnt from a recent DVD by Sue Dennis), but decided in the end to go the perhaps more laborious way of making paper stencils from which to print. It would be the first time I had used this technique of priniting on fabric.
Hands as symbols
Apart from being a means for confirming personal identity, hands hold the energy centre of the chakra points in the palm, connecting the hands to the heart of the healer, and thereby ‘convey the wisdom and energy needed for healing’. They also contain the all-seeing, compassionate eye in the Hindu and Buddhist practices. Palms facing up indicate to the beholder that there is no weapon – the origin of the friendly wave. Palms opened in such a way are welcoming, inviting and accepting of the other, offering a listening to and understanding of shared experiences, and inviting peaceful and unconditional friendship. A friend who looked at the quilt, hands included, said that they reminded her of a menorah. Considering the hands of the Dove Goddess, open and raised in worship, could she have been bearing in a gesture of her body, the ‘menorah’ that represents light and wisdom gained through divine (intuitive) inspiration. It may assume such significance for some. (This is also far too big a topic to pursue here, but an interesting enough comment to include here, I thought).
When I check online, the image that attracts my attention is that of the healer’s hands, of the shaman’s hands, consisting of a spiral in the palm, representative of curative powers. Envisioned as being embedded in the hand, the energy of the triple spiral emits healing energy to others through touch, such as in the healing practices of Reiki. It seems appropriate for all these reasons that hands be included on Rob’s quilt as a very powerful symbol of that part of her life’s journey: that of the bringer of peace and healing. Just as the roses I have cut out make me think of all the people she has touched in her life with loving, caring and healing energy, hands provide the means to show respect and offer an expression of sharing.
Symbols on the hands
On the left palm there is a single spiral. The single spiral is one of the most common symbols of the Celtic culture. This symbol stood for the radiation of ethereal energy. This single spiral is also the symbol of the healing hand. The power of the spiral as a symbol that aids inner ‘gnowings’, an intuitive way of experiencing our own truths and healing has been passed down over millennia. To me it represents the admonition of the Delphic oracle to “Know thyself” - really a life-long journey. There are however many different meanings of the single spiral. Some of the most prominent ones are: expansion of (self)consciousness, through both its perseverance and the gaining of personal understanding and knowledge…not so different to being true to yourself, which was the way my father interpreted the Delphic oracle.
On the palm of the right hand there is a triple spiral. Believed by many to be an ancient symbol of pre-Celtic and Celtic beliefs, the triple spiral appears in various forms in both pre-Celtic and Celtic art, with the earliest examples having been carved on Neolithic, pre-Celtic stone monuments. Sometimes known as the ‘triskele’, the symbol can be found on a number of Irish Megalithic and Neolithic sites, most notably inside the NewGrange megalith, on the entrance stone, and on some of the curb stones surrounding the mound. The three-way design of the Triskele (or Trefoil, as it is variously called), allows for multiple interpretations for making meaning and seeing the cyclical nature of life in process: mind, body, spirit; creation, preservation, destruction; past, present, future; father, son and holy ghost…and so on. It can also be read as the inter-relationship for life, between earth, sky and water. In Celtic tradition has been understood to represent the threefold stages manifest in life of childhood, adulthood and the wisdom gained by age – or perhaps the triple aspects of the life-force as physical, emotional and spiritual. For the Celts it represented belief in the interconnectedness of life and maybe the future as eternity. For me, it represents the three stages of a life for women: maiden, mother and crone, ever repeating through each generation. They are interwoven inextricably, because although we do separate them out according to the menses cycle, they are intimately connected through stages of change, progression and repetition.