An Annotated & Illustrated Collection of Worldwide Links to Mythologies,
Fairy Tales & Folklore, Sacred Arts & Sacred Traditions
by Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.

Common Themes, East & West:

Artists & Muses:
The Creative Impulse

From Tales of P. Bazhov
T. Smirnova
(Courtesy of Tradestone International)

Author's Introduction:
(9:45am, Christmas Morning, 2000)

I awoke this morning near the end of a rare Christmas solar eclipse with fierce desert winds howling around my roof and through the eucalyptus and pine trees.  On the California coast where I live, only 20% of the eclipse was visible, so I hadn't gotten up to see it -- nevertheless, I was aware of its unusual energies across North America.  Perhaps that's why my plans for the morning were so unexpectedly altered.

I planned to begin the day typing revised pages of a science fantasy novel I wrote nearly twenty years ago for a BA in Creative Writing; I love the book and was looking forward to working on it today.  Instead, lying in bed thinking of the birth of light signified by this day, of the feminine moon eclipsing the sun on light's birthing-day, of the fertile seeds of light quickening within realms of creative darkness, of my fragrant Christmas tree, whose lights represent those same mysteries, of the little harps and musicians, jesters and Father Christmases, Green Men and Wise Women, owls, deer, goats, bears, and firebirds with which I'll trim my tree later today, the idea for a new webpage was suddenly born -- and I had no choice but to follow my excitement and begin the page.

I have few links for it yet -- they'll arrive gradually.  But as someone who has moved within realms of creativity and the imaginal all my life, I'd like to share my thoughts on myths about artists and creativity.......

....A sacred Navajo narrative comes to mind this morning: it is about Isanaklehe, Changing Woman.  After her child-bearing years, the Sun, her mate, convinced her to move to an island in the Pacific where, like Shiva, another divine dancer, she would spend her time dancing in a hogan made of whiteshell, turquoise, abalone, and black jet.  After many years, one of the elder deities, Talking God, brought two human children so that she might teach them the rituals that, until then, had been known only to the gods.  She taught them the chants and dances, but no sandpaintings, for they were as yet unknown.

The children returned to their people and shared the sacred rituals.  As the years passed, people began to forget certain things necessary to the rituals.  Changing Woman knew that she had to create a memory-device to help the people but she did not know how.  She went into a cornfield, sat under a great cornstalk (the Navajos' Tree of Life) and had a sing over herself.  Praying, going deeply within her own sacred being, she found the images that would create a new art form, one never before seen: sandpaintings.  From that time, the new art was woven into the existing fabric of ancient words and movements, and the rituals survived, fresh and potent.

Anthropologist and Buddhist teacher, Joan Halifax, commented in a 1996 interview that:

Traditionally, there are three female archetypes: the maiden/virgin, the mother, and the crone.  I think there is also a fourth, and that is the woman of craft.  She is the woman who takes her creativity and turns it toward the healing of the world.  She can be a weaver of textile or a weaver of text.  I think that's where the women of the twenty-first century will find themselves.  They will be virgins, mothers, crones and wise women, and many of them will be women of craft.
Changing Woman's creation of a new art form out her own depths speaks to this archetypal theme of "women of craft."  There are men of craft too, and as difficult as the artist's path usually is for women, it isn't necessarily any easier for men.

....Here again, a haunting and sacred Navajo narrative comes to mind.  Since nights are longest at this time of year, winter was the traditional time for the nine night Navajo ritual known as the Night Way (or Night Chant), a powerful, difficult ritual for curing blindness, paralysis, and related disorders.  The sacred narrative for this ritual is exceptionally rich but I especially love the bleak portion where its two young culture-heros have lost all hope.  One brother is blind, the other crippled; the blind one carries the crippled one, guided by the cripple's eyesight.  They have exhausted all their energies trying to convince the gods to help them, but the deities have only mocked the children and turned a deaf ear.

The boys have no choice but to give up.  They wander off alone, rejected, and completely abandoned.  Out of that moment of utter desolation, music arises in the soul of one boy and he begins to sing.  His brother joins in.  They have no hope, no further recourse, no future, nowhere to go, no one to help them and yet, in that darkest, most anguished place, music somehow erupts.  That human music is so pure that it wrings even the hearts of the gods.  They heal the children and then, so that such healing will henceforth be available to the Navajo people as well, they teach the boys the crucial prayer-chants, dances, and sandpaintings of the Night Way.

As these two sacred Navajo narratives show, deities as well as mortals are involved with the "creative impulse."  There are countless such examples: Shiva dances in the Himalayas; the Hopi Kachinas dance in the San Francisco Mountains near Flagstaff; Hathor dances in Egypt; Uzume dances with bawdy merriment outside Amaterasu's cave in Japan; out in space, India's primal seers (rishis) dance all of creation into existence as they kick up the dust of swirling stars.  Ireland's Brigid is connected with metal-working, so is Greece's Hephaestos, who makes magical jewelry for Aphrodite, just as dwarves make jewelry for Freya in Teutonic myth.  Athena invented the trumpet, Pan the pipes, Hermes the lyre, Hathor the tinkling sistrum, Brigid the keening (a form of funeral lament).  Medusa was murdered but her immense creative impulse survived in her son, Pegasus, the winged horse, whose hooves churned up the sacred waters of inspiration for the Muses; the Muses in turn churn up that impulse in each of us, inviting us to give voice and shape to our inborn creativity.

Everywhere and among all peoples the creative impulse surges strongly, finding new channels of hope and wonder.  With these thoughts in mind, I refer you to several sites related to this topic -- and hope you'll enjoy them...........

Navajo Corn Maiden
Fr. John Guiliani
[Courtesy of Bridge Building Images]

Experiencing the Communications of an Ensouled Universe
This page from my friend, Dianne Skafte, Ph.D., looks at meditative "exercises" designed to keep you open to realms of wonder, muse-making, oracles, and hope.  If you feel you've lost your connection to the "creative impulse," or if you wish to strengthen the one you have, this is a superbly wise, gentle way of experiencing it on a daily basis. (Note: her page has a closeup of the Three Green Maidens painting I've chosen for the top of my page on artists.)
This website from Celtic scholar, University of Edinburgh professor, and professional harpist, Dr. Karen Ralls-MacLeod, looks at the role of music in ancient times.  Since music is one of the most primal manifestations of the "creative impulse," her wonderful work fits my topic perfectly.  The link will take you to her recently published Music and the Celtic Otherworld, a book I own and greatly enjoy (click on the book cover for reviews, further information, etc).  The link will also let you see Dr. Ralls-MacLeod's list of upcoming works on music, harps, Celtic and Arthurian lore, and much more.
[Added 25 February 2001]: From the always worthwhile monthly e-Zine,, comes this evocative, sensitively written review of Billy Elliot by Elizabeth Terzian, a dance historian, cultural mythologist, choreographer, performer, and lecturer.  The review takes as its focus the archetypal power of the repressed muse of the dance.  Excerpts:
"Billy Elliot" appears as an epiphany at the dawn of a new decade to reawaken in the collective psyche the dormant Terpsichore, the muse of dance much neglected in the previous decade....

"Billy Elliot" shows how a repressed archetype never dies; rather it emerges in unusual places and circumstances, such as in Durham County in England; of all places, in a coalmining field....Young Billy (Jamie Bell) is driven by his daimon to dance....

...The turmoil Billy experiences in his environment and in his psyche is very much like an archetypal conflict between two powerful forces, the Dionysian maenads as represented by the violence and chaos of the [coalminers']strike and the Apollonian muses as represented by the focused and structured dance lesson. Billy's daimon feeds on both forces to express itself with passion, beauty and harmony....

I saw the film only hours before reading this review for the first time and was very impressed by Terzian's insightful skill in capturing the depths and complexities of this wonderful film.  Both film and review are marvelous examples of the title of my webpage, "Artists & Muses: The Creative Impulse."

Yei Bi 'Chai Dance, Navajo
by Wayne Beyale
(Cover of Stars of the First People, Dorcas S. Miller,
Pruett Publishing, Boulder, CO, 1997)
On Wonder
This is a MythingLinks page, my essay on wonder for the Summer Greetings 2000 page.  The thoughts I expressed at summer solstice are very much resonant with those I am expressing six months later on this current page.
David Paladin on Openness to Ever-changing Realities
[Added 25 February 2001]: This wise little "channeled" page from Navajo shamanic artist, David Paladin (also see below for more from him), begins with a search for the cause of divisiveness among religions.   Then he looks at what stops us from greater openness to the realms of mystery and creativity -- among other things, he suggests it's when we become too rigid and frozen in our religious myths.  (This page is also listed on my Spring Equinox and Common Themes' Wars, Weapons, and Lies pages).

Gods Dreamed of Man and Danced in Wonderment
From the Indian Genesis Series of Paintings
By David Chethlahe Paladin
(used with permission of Lynda Paladin)

[Added 2/9/01]: These are thoughtful, beautifully written comments on art and creativity by the late Navajo shamanic artist, David Chethlahe Paladin.  Here are several excerpts:
...There is no such thing as talent.  Thereís only one thing, commitment. We all have creativity.  The key to expressing it is to define what it is that you want to pursue and make a commitment to it.  Then youíll find the tools you need.  Youíll have the patience to work through all the mistakes, the things that donít look good, and youíll keep persevering until it happens the way you want it, or in a way even more wonderful than you had first imagined.

              My mind wanders through a pool of universal concepts until I sense an attraction or affinity that manifests within my consciousness as an idea, a concept.  It forms in my mind. Then I begin a process of translating the concept into visual symbols.

              Many times a painting is a response to something that I wonder about in my mind.  Changing my focus allows the images to flow onto the canvas without my mind obstructing the process.  The painted images that answer my wondering often surprise me! ....
              As I was working upon a Chumash style painting I got the impression from the consciousness that I was touching that many traditions need to be brought back and included in ritual celebrations today.  The ritual portrayal of the ancestors of the Chumash through shamanic art needs to be continued to preserve our awareness of our interconnectedness with the ancestors and our responsibility to creation as participants in creation.  Like most American Indians, the Chumash believed that their response to creation did have an effect; they were not helpless victims of a capricious universe.  By creating rituals and keeping the traditions, the people affirm their sense of belonging to and participating in all of creation.  Even quantum physics is recognizing that the observer becomes the participant in scientific experiments.  Humankind needs to reconnect with the forces of the heavens and of the earth and of the ancestors to restore the balance of life.  When we deny our ability to respond to a keeping of the order, then our part of creating reality is weakened and reality itself is weakened.  [See directly below...]

Here's a separate Paladin page containing only his Chumash comments -- but also including an image of the painting he was working on when his insights (above) emerged:[link updated 3/25/03].

Selected References:

Davidson, H. R. Ellis.  Myths and Symbols in Pagan Europe: Early Scandinavian and Celtic Religions.  Syracuse University Press, 1988.

Jenks, Kathleen.  "Changing Woman:  The Navajo Therapist Goddess," in Psychological Perspectives, Autumn 1986, published by the Jung Institute of Los Angeles.

Matthews, Washington.  The Night Chant: A Navaho Ceremony.  University of Utah Press, 1995.

Monaghan, Patricia.  The New Book of Goddesses & Heroines. Llewellyn, 2000.


Menu of Common Themes, East & West:

Animal Guides
Artists & Muses: The Creative Impulse
Creation Myths I
Creation Myths II
Crones & Sages
Dragons & Serpents
Earth Goddesses & Gods
Floods, Storms, Rainbows, & Other Weather Wonders
Food: Sacrality & Lore
Green Men
Landscape: Sacrality & Lore   (Mountains, Wells, Springs, Pools, Lakes, Caves, Labyrinths, Spiral Mounds, Crop Circles, Stone Circles, Feng Shui)
Nature Spirits of the World
Rituals of Puberty
Sacred Theatre, Dance & Ritual
Sky Goddesses & Gods
Star Lore & Astrology
Symbols, Signs, & Runes:
Time(Calendars, Clocks, Natural Temporal Cycles, Attitudes toward Time, & Millennium Issues)
Trees & Plant Lore
Tricksters, Clowns, Magicians, Jesters & Fools
Wars, Weapns & Lies: The Dehumanizing Impulse
Weather-Working: An experimental, on-going ritual in cyberspace
Weaving Arts & Lore (Cosmic Webs, Spinning, Spindles, Clothing)

Down to Geographical Regions: Africa
Mything Links Reference Pages:
  MythingLinks Search Engine
Cross-cultural, Multi-regional, Interdisciplinary Collections
General Reference Page  (online libraries, reference help, literary texts, world languages, word-lover sites, help on writing research papers, copyright information, film plots, themes, and/or films representing various historical periods)
Special Interest Sites for Pacifica Faculty, Students & Colleagues(includes Jung, Campbell, Freud, Eliade, Otto, Hillman, other depth psychologists, mysticism, anthropology, religious studies, archetypal perspectives, foundations for mythology & psychology, relevant journals, books, videos, etc.)
Teachers' Reference Page for Primary & Secondary School Education

If you have comments or suggestions,
my email address will be found at the bottom of my home page.

This page created with Netscape Gold 3.01.
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Text and layout copyright © 2000-2008 by Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.
All rights reserved.
Page created & launched 25 December 2000, 3pm.
Latest Updates:
9 February 2001 (Paladin link + more art); 25 February 2001;
25 March 2003: checked all links & re-Nedstated.
27 January 2008: removed Nedstat because of their offensive pop-up ads;
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