First off, I am not a painter.
Despite this, I recently got (and moreover, gave into) the idea from other practitioners to create art using sacred ingredients. For me, this first meant buying watercolor paints, so that I could paint spiritual images using waters collected from my favorite oceans, sounds, creeks, lakes, etc. When I have more time, I’d also like to experiment with earth energies, and attempt clay sculpting that mixes in local red clay from here in the Appalachian mountains or dirt from other areas I travel. Perhaps I’ll create a figurine of a land spirit that integrates a small North Carolina emerald, peridot, or hiddenite.
Unfortunately, though you can buy supplies, you cannot buy skill or knowledge. My first attempt to use these watercolors resulted in the realization that I’d bought canvas papers that were likely meant for acrylic paints or such, as the watercolors refused to take to the material and simply congregated into droplets that sat atop it. At this point, obviously, I had to search for some plain paper, the only of which I could find being small off-white pages torn from a journal.
Finally armed with all my available tools–though perhaps without them being too impressive–I decided to do a trial run, seeing how things turned out if I free-handed a simple painting on my small paper. For my subject, I settled on a fairly basic depiction of a Greek hippocampus. These fish-tailed horses usually reside in seas, but can also be found in freshwaters, and often serve as the chosen steeds of water spirits and deities. Using water collected from the Atlantic ocean (probably my dearest water body and a place where I’ve spent much time), I made up my watercolors and began to paint a hippocampus swimming in the emerald sea. I gave it ash-grey fur and a mane of black, revealed a single black hoof reaching up out of the waters, and illustrated ocean water dripping off of a long sky-blue fish tail.
About half way through painting the image, the process got much more interesting. By now, I was focused on the image, the action of painting it, and the spiritual value that the Atlantic ocean holds for me. It seems this focus opened my mind spiritually, when I realized that an actual hippocampus had taken interest in the process and was offering advice on the image. Though you can’t see it over top of the black, he requested that the sea-green paint of the waters be used over the mane I’d already painted to more accurately represent the long, ocean-soaked locks (“How long do you think we stay dry?”). As I depicted the tail, emerald droplets came to drip off it and I was encouraged to use longer, more relaxed brush strokes for a tail that so easily glides through the water. There was none of the neatness of my family’s land-bound farm horses after a good grooming, but instead the carefree elation of rolling in the waves.
With the guidance of a respected water spirit, I eventually produced (and framed for preservation) a painting that could have been made by a small child. To say that the image itself is unimpressive would be severely underselling it, and being my living human self having a physical experience, I certainly can’t say that I don’t wish the product was better. But to the hippocampus, it was quite beloved: a personal spiritual creation using the saltwaters of his home, worthy of being placed on my theoi altar (per his request) for the respect and veneration of the spirits it represents.
It certainly wasn’t the end result that encouraged me to write this post–it was the process. It was the feeling that comes with a spiritual endeavor. Skill can come with practice, but for now, I still have my spirits. I’ve again been reminded to give and do for my spirits, even when it’s not “perfect”. I guess the takeaway is, exploring different ways of connecting with spirits is a rewarding and worthwhile endeavor, and can lead to wonderful places. Exploring different methods of connecting may even help develop your personal overall ability to connect with your spirits, and you may find an uncommon approach that happens to work best for you. I tried something new, and though my painting won’t be going in the Louvre, for the first time I’ve actually met a lovely hippocampus spirit.