Art Novena for Lady of Lourdes 2012

Art Novena for Lady of Lourdes - an annual tradition on Cloister of the Heart starting on
3 February (the day after Candlemas or Imbolc) and culminating on the feast day of Our Lady
of Lourdes, the Immaculate Conception on 11 February.

A few months ago I visited the grotto of the Lady of Lourdes.  An unforgettable
experience which has touched me deeply - beyond religion, beyond concepts, 
beyond labels.

Nine Days for the Lady of Lourdes
a novena
('novem' the Latin word meaning 'nine')
nine days of  illuminating art, 
and sharing
Starting on Friday 3 February 
till 11 February
the feast day of the Lady of Lourdes.

You are invited to join in .

Art Novena 

Nine Days of Sharing Art from the Heart

That which reminds you of the Sacred in the Ordinary

and opening ourselves to the healing possibilities,
both spiritually and physically, 
that comes through love and acceptance
and opening of the heart

The infinite goodness has such wide arms that it takes whatever turns to it - Dante

I visited Lourdes last year as a pilgrim.  There, in front of the cave, I experienced something very special.  I felt a special vibration, a kind of spiritual presence there.  And then in front of the image of the Virgin Mary, I prayed, I expressed my admiration for this holy place that has long been a source of inspiration and strength, that has provided spiritual solace, comfort and healing to millions of people.  And I prayed that this might continue for a long time to come - the Dalai Lama

art works
that awakens your heart
and reminds you of the Sacred in everyday living

that speaks of the love of Our Lady

Friday 3 February till 10 February
holy day of Our Lady of Lourdes

beyond religion

a tribute
to inspiration

a shining light

Please join me in this Novena.  Every day from 3 February to 10 February I will provide a link here for you to join up with me and others in this sharing of the heart.  Please share your art, or story, or words, or a prayer, or maybe a sacred circle in tribute of the gifts of Our Lady of Lourdes to the world.

Haiku my Heart

ancient wisdom of ages
calicoed embrace 
flaming radiance of love

I invite you to also join in
Art Novena for Lady of Lourdes
starting here today and culminating
on Her holy day 11 February

Click on the link below for
nine days of sharing
sacred circle

First Day of Art Novena for Mary of Lourdes

I shall try the only thing a devotee can do :  
I shall always keep thy divine image
and thy holy divinity 
locked in my heart and
conjure them in my imagination

- the words of Lucius, the hero of The Golden Ass

The image is an inner shrine, 
an interior refuge.

It is beyond words

but the poet and sage knows how to
invoke the imagination and  the
Sacred One up into the psyche
in an enduring 

and nurturing way.

Images, as opposed to rational explanations, 
are feminine.
The masculine are the logos, the word,
clarity and logic;
The feminine is the imaginistic.
the imagination, the imaging of the heart.
When we only have the masculine God,
then we are not whole beings.

An image includes not only a picture but the way 
we experience it, the way we feel it.
Every image we perceive,
every feeling it evokes,
is a living prayer.

Today is the first day in this novena of nine days 
dedicated to the Lady of Lourdes
sacred circle
and whatever else you want to bring.

Please join me as we explore images of Divine Mary
in all Her aspects, and the feelings
that they evoke.
Culminating in the Holy Day of Lady of Lourdes.

Please take the image below and put it in your sidebar, add your name to 
Mr Linky below and invite us to visit your novena.

Day Two of Art Novena for Our Lady of Lourdes

Mary is this eastern gate.  For a gate which looks to the east is the first to receive the rays of the Sun.  So the most the Blessed Virgin Mary who always looked toward the east, that is, to the brightness of God, received the first rays of the sun or rather its whole blaze of light. - St Aelred of Riveaux, Twelfth Century

My journey can be summarised as before Lourdes and
after Lourdes
a dive into the deepest ocean of emotional turmoil,
questioning and looking
moving from the cloak of protecting

the vulnerable,
the raw feelingness,
the openness
the deepest Truest Self
hiding itself behind its many faces
pursuit of purpose,
logical thinking

swimming to the surface

into the brilliance of the Sun
heralding authenticity
the divine strength of
personal vulnerability

the deepest knowing
that She is the morning star
that shines brightly before the sun rises*

transcendent of all religion,
all creed,
all ego-made constructions
She is the bridge
where East and West meet

to those that say
that Mary is a watered-down version
of the Divine Feminine,
I say,
Love such as Hers,
cloaked in compassion
 is True Power
centred in the Heart of the World

Don't hide your heart, but reveal it, so that mine might be revealed, so that I may accept what I am capable of - Rumi

I took these photographs early this morning, in my garden of Our Lady, created after my visit to Lourdes.

I invite you to join in to the Art Novena for Our Lady of Lourdes
Nine days of 
sacred circle

Please link up below and link back to here so that others may join.  I will visit you as you visit one another.

*words of St Bridget of Sweden

Saturday, February 4, 2012Day Three of Art Novena for Our Lady of Lourdes

She was a poor shepherdess,
growing up at the foothills of the Pyrenees
on the banks of the Gave du Pau
tending the very poor family's
small flock of sheep

When the most miraculous vision appeared to her
a vision of Light
with roses on Her feet

from this numinous event
flowed forth a stream of healing water,
a holy place was born

Bernadette's life was transformed
into one of passion,
commitment and a vocation to the highest Love

Bernadette's message : God is everywhere!

A place where the fire was lit long ago
and the fire of your Soul
and Its unconditional love
is kept alive

A light for your feet

And such is the miracle within our own hearts
as She brings forth the waters of regeneration,
healing and wholeness,
teaching you that Love is everywhere

A small naif shrine made from items I collected during my visit to Lourdes :  an embroidered holy card, a small collector's doll which I dressed up as Bernadette, a tiny statue of Our Lady of Lourdes, and a watercolour sketch of the Cathedral of Lourdes.  To strengthen the feel and theme of the innocent child and childhood feelings, I used birthday cake candles to represent the massive votives that are kept burning at the grotto.

I invite you to join in this
Art Novena to Our Lady of Lourdes
share your stories 
of the sacred within your own journey
and let us remind one another
of the Love 
that the fabric of life is made of!
Please put up the link on your post.

I also invite you to Soul Songs today.
Here on The Path of Divine Love.
A sharing of collages, singing the song of your soul.
No knowledge of SoulCollage required.

Day Four of Art Novena for Our Lady of Lourdes

And then that girl the angels came to visit,
she woke also to fruit, frightened by beauty,

given love, shy, in her
so much blossom, the forest
no one had explored, with paths leading everywhere

They left her alone to walk and to drift
and the spring carried her along.

Her simple and unselfcentered Mary-life
became marvelous and castlelike.

Her life resembled trumpets on the feast days
that reverberated far inside every house;
and she, once so girlish and fragmented,
was so plunged now inside her womb,

and so full inside from that one thing
and so full - enough for a thousand others -

that every creature seemed to throw light on her
and she was like a slope with vines, heavily bearing
- Rainer Maria Rilke

Do you have favourite images, stories, poetry, art
and sharings of the heart
about Mother Mary, Our Lady of Lourdes,
Health of the Sick,
Comforter of those in need,
Divine Mystical Rose?

This art novena is dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes.
I chose this aspect of Her as I was deeply touched
and turned inside out
by Her Presence
which is still so powerfully
at Lourdes.
Not only in the energetic imprint of Her Presence in the living flame of light
in the Grotto, but even more so in the presence of thousands of
volunteer nurses, carers, companions AND thousands 
of the most vulnerable people;
all come together in such a spirit of humility, vulnerability and compassion.
The Spirit of Mary manifest for all to witness.

I invite you to join in and to link up below.  We will visit one another and 
form a circle of companionship and caring!

Day Six of Art Novena of Our Lady of Lourdes
Rituals honouring the Divine Mary

Through my many pilgrimages to sacred places around the world, I have learnt from other cultures and societies, and I have found many ways with which to show my love for Mary.  These small rituals also leads me into full trust and acceptance of Her infinite Love for me and all of this world and all of its fruit.

From creating art and shrines, to the simple act of lighting candles, each of these actions, done with intent and contemplation, has the power to anchor the numinous into this physical world;  to bring profound healing to the human heart and all its illusions and to liberate us from our self-sabotaging and limiting ego personalities.

Our lives are no different to the lives of those mythical tales.  As we act with loving awareness, acceptance  and intent, we awaken the Godself within and we open ourselves up to become aware of a new way of seeing and to the divine Presence that is in everybody and everything.

I created a sacred Mary garden outside my art studio.  Here I light candles, burn incense and plant fragrant lavendar, basil, rosemary and white roses.  Each plant and its fragrance has a sensual and healing property and the rose is sacred to Mary. 

And then I have added the ritual of dressing the image of Mary in beautiful cloaks and flowers.

During the festival of Sara la Kali, the image of Sara is dressed in many many cloaks - at times up to 25 cloaks.  The cloaks represent the prayers of her devotees. 

I follow the old Pagan wheel of the year or the wheel of the seasons.  Here, in the Southern Hemisphere, we are six months different to the North.  The equinoxes are the feast days within the wheel, which follows the path of the sun.  I then add the Holy Days of Mary to this wheel.

You will see that you can fit any tradition or religious calendar into this wheel.  Most of the Christian feast days coincide with these dates, as do other traditions.  Each season has its own colour and symbol.  These are archetypal, that is, they are images deeply embedded in our subconscious and we recognise them when we see them.  Advertising and marketing people know this and they also use these images in their advertising and promotional campaigns, not the other way around.

Obviously, as this will be your own ritual, there are no rules and regulations and if you have symbols or colours that are pertinent and meaningful to you, then there is no reason why you cannot change the generally accepted symbol.

When we work with archetypal images and symbols, we are telling a story on another level, a much deeper level and we give meaning to our own stories, our own suffering and our own inner conflict.  

Without meaning we cannot enter the centre of our beings and the centre of our lives;  we will always stay on the periphery and on the outskirts and we will feel alienated, lost and alone. 

The rosary (known in other traditions by other names), uses the word rose because the five petals of a rose in medieaval times signified Mary's five joys and the thorns her sorrows.  The rosary combines mysterious roses, white, red and gold.  The white rose is joy.  The red rose is sorrow.  The gold rose is glory.  These colours are also reflected in alchemy, as well as in myths and legends and fairytales!!  This reflects the wisdom of the psyche, the inner language of the soul, planted there for us by the Divine to help us find our way home, to Love, again.

Ave Maria!

I started telling this story last year already.  I shared with you my wish to attend the annual Gypsy (Rom) festival in Saintes Maries de la Mer and to do the pilgrimage to Sara la Kali and how this came true a few months ago - the story is here :

And then I was so fortunate to combine this trip with the Mary Magdalene pilgrimage -

I also wrote during the Twelve Days of Mary meme, how the visit to Lourdes had changed my life in physical ways, here

To me, the Blessed Mother is not limited to any religion, any dogma or any culture.  
The Soul has its own religion and that is where you will find Her and Her many faces.
She is present for all 
Her Grace enfolds everyone
You only have to become aware of Her.

Wherever I travel in the world, I visit Her sacred shrines.  I have visited Kwan Yin in Ayutthaya in Thailand;
Kali Ma in Her many temples in India;
I have attended the Navaratri and Durga Puja, the nine nights of the Goddess in Varanasi;
the holy well and holy fire of Brigit in Kildare;
the Goddess Temple in Glastonbury 
and I have participated in many Goddess Conferences in Glastonbury
hosted by the Temple of Avalon and Her priestesses
and I have facilitated the first International Goddess Conference in South Africa in 2008
to name some of my pilgrimages to the Holy Mother

all of these have been numinous experiences
that touched me deeply
and brought great insight and healing to my mind
for our conflicted nature as human beings

me so profoundly
Our Lady of Lourdes.

I did not have high expectations of my visit to the Grotto and the City of Lourdes.
I had seen many pictures and thought I knew what to expect.

At the grotto I fell in line with the other pilgrims, waiting my turn to touch the walls of the cave and its dripping water.  The atmosphere was light and joyful, although many stood and kneeled deep in prayer.  As I approached the statue of Our Lady where She appeared to St Bernadette, I could feel an
intensification of the energy, a slight vibration and a humming sound.  The closer I came, the louder the sound became.  The sound was over and above the sound of the rushing waters.
As I put my hand out to touch the dripping water and I raised my eyes, 
a column of light was visible to me,
shimmering and dancing.
My first impression was that it is a giant candle, but then my logical mind
realised that this is not possible.
The only way I can describe it is 'a flame of living organic light' :
Her Divine Presence made manifest in this world,
visible to my eyes.

And overwhelming and immense feelings which I am at a loss to name.
A feeling of such incredible fullness and completeness which has stayed with me ever since.

A hundred thousand harps take you
like wings and sweep you up out of silence.
And your primitive wind is blowing
the fragrance of your marvelous power
to every being and to every creature in need.
- Rainer Maria Rilke

I invite you to join in with this Art Novena of Our Lady of Lourdes.  If you have any art, pictures, stories or prayer that you want to share and offer in celebration of Her infinite Love for this world.

Day Seven of Art Novena for Our Lady of Lourdes

Anandamayi Ma, the blissful Mother

In 2010 I spent time at the ashram of Anandamayi Ma in Haridwar, India.

It was after a few years of serious loss and letting go in my own life.

I attended meditations and satsang at her ashram.

Anandamayi Ma's words :

Question :  Is it difficult to know which is the true path?
Answer :  If you  sit with all doors and windows closed, how can you see the path?
Open the door and step out, the path will become visible.
Once on the way, you will meet other wayfarers, who will advise and guide
you as to your path.  Your job is the muster whatever strength you have to
get underway - thereafter help is assured.

All names are Thy name and all forms are Thy form.
Do you want deliverance from the bonds of the world? Then weeping profusely, you will have to cry out from the bottom of your heart: Deliver me, Great Mother of the World, deliver me!.... When by the flood of your tears the inner and outer have fused into one, you will find her whom you sought with such anguish, nearer than the nearest, the very breath of life, the very core of every heart....

I invite you to participate in this Art Novena for Our Lady of Lourdes, the blessed Mother.

Haiku my Heart Our Lady of Lourdes Novena

Enshrined within woman
sacredness the door 
to wisdom through the ages

Today is Day Eight of the Art Novena dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes

in all Her aspects of

An earthen altar and shrine
the Queen of Heaven on Earth
manifest in the cycles of natural life
visible in the changes and transformations
renewal, rebirth and loss
of identity and attachment.

Tomorrow is the Holy Day of Our Lady of Lourdes
Love made manifest in the Earth

I invite you to share with me
your art
your stories
your vision
your heart

Holy Day of Our Lady of Lourdes

Today is Day Nine in this Art Novena of Our lady of Lourdes.

 I pick the flowers from my garden and make a garland
to adorn Her image
I twist ivy and roses for Her crown

I pick the first crop of gooseberries
and symbolically offer the fruits of my harvest to Her

as I sprinkle the ground around Her with
holy water from many Holy Wells

and I plant Her blessing seeds to sanctify the ground

(You can read more about Mary's Blessings seeds

I reflect on the past eight days of this novena.

While I stayed in Lourdes, the one image that still lives vividly in me,
is that of the thousands of sick visiting the shrine AND
the thousands of volunteer helpers, carers, companions and nurses.
Such giving and such receiving.  Compassion and extension to those who cannot walk, for those who cannot hide their vulnerability.  Being a part of that procession and witnessing such love openly being given and shared, touched me deeply.

So often we shut others out because we look different, act differently, believe differently.  So often we shut others out because we close our hearts for fear of revealing our vulnerability.  

A humble heart is a heart that is strong in its vulnerability.  An open heart is a door through which love flows in and out.

And such is Her infinite Love, in whatever form is true for you;
in that which has meaning for you;

In these nine days many new voices and hearts have entered my circle, taken my hand and walked through the garden of Mary with me.  Thank you for your sharing.  May we continue to meet and share the Love!

May you bathe in the river of blessings that flow from Lourdes

Ave Maria.

I invite you to participate in today's 
Art Novena for Our Lady of Lourdes
through image,
your love for Her, Mother Mary.


Dear Hettienne,

Greetings - I hope this email finds you well.  I am a scholar of art relating to sacred journeys, currently completing a postdoctoral position at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art in Washington.  

In early April, I'll be giving a lecture on the art and ritual of the Lourdes pilgrimage at the Graduate Theoloical Union, UC Berkeley and I was wondering whether I could show digital slides of your beautiful altars of the Lourdes altars/Novenas.  This is a not-for-profit public lecture, strictly for educational purposes.  I will, of course, cite your name in the caption.

Thank you, this is really wonderful.  I'm so inspired by your work and process, and its a privilege to be able to use your material in my lecture in Berkeley.  Of course I'll cite your website with your name.  

I hope to write a book at some point about visual representations of the sacred journey made by pilgrims - from the middle ages to today - and would love to be in touch further if this project comes to fruition.    

In the meantime, may I quote your statement of making and meaning during my talk?  The primary focus of my work over the past ten years has been to describe the transfer of the numinous - of spirit - from sacred sites themselves to imbued artistic representations, across cultures and time.  I've explored this idea in the context of Tibetan Buddhist thangka painting (in conversation with monks and artists in remote areas of Tibet and Dharamsala, India), Orthodox icon painting, at various Christian pilgrimage sites (Santiago de Compostela, Glastonbury, and many other sacred shrines and wells), and now, at long last, Lourdes!  My grandparents first sparked my interest in Bernadette's story when I was a child, so looking at the art of the pilgrimage really feels like a homecoming, as did my own pilgrimage last summer.

Kind regards, and God bless,

Dear Kate

Thank you for this opportunity to speak to you about Lourdes and my altars!! 

Pilgrimage and sacred ritual is my foremost spiritual practise.  Raised Dutch Reformed Protestant, the rich lustre of sacred and holy places offered a well of inspiration for my parched soul.  My travels have taken me to many different religions, cultures and traditions.  You will see on the internet that I have written on many aspects of the spiritual journey.  Until I came into contact with the mystical side of Christianity.  My first ritual I attended was the festival of Archangel Michael in Mont Sant'Angelo in Italy, then visiting Padre Pio. Then followed walking the pilgrimage of Bridgid, the sacred well and labyrinth in Kildare, Ireland. And that is when my art appeared in the form of paintings.  Ritual grounded in the knowing of the unconscious, awakens us from the dream of habitual seeing and thinking.  The conscious mind lacks the ability or maybe the neural pathway to communicate the new-found wisdom intellectually, and thus the expression through art steps in.  Well, that is only my experience and understanding, of course. But I had not been an artist till I participated in sacred ritual.

My stay at Lourdes and participating in the rituals daily, turned me into a full time artist.

When one participates in a ritual (probably any ritual, but when you regard it as sacred, you add a certain 'light' to it) you are transported into a different time and space : colors are different; the light is different; everything has meaning and the ordinary become extra-ordinary.  My art novena for Lourdes in particular, highlights my statement that our lives are the altar to the Divine and I strive to capture that numinosity of the sacred ritual in my photographs and altars. I only started creating sacred altars on my return from Lourdes.  These small shadowboxes are vignettes, a moment in time in the life of ordinary human beings, lifted out of the mundane into the numinous, merely by seeing life as sacred.

I will write up a statement for you - I will be very grateful if you will give my website address with my name