Madonna of the Snakes
1972, oil on canvas, 24 x 32", by Jenny Badger Sultan
In the Fall of 1972 I was pregnant with my first child. One morning before going to teach a childrenís art class, I had a meditation image of my body with snakes coming out of my belly and rising up to communicate with me.
The image persisted throughout the day and I realized I needed to paint it, so I did.
The painting scared most of the people who saw it and some thought that this was a horrible image of pregnancy! For me it was a very positive image, however, even though I didnít fully understand it.
In a dream group I was in at the time, one of the men who had lived in India said that in India snakes were thought to represent the ancestors. I took this to heart and thought of them as counseling and supporting me at this momentous time of my life.
I think this was the beginning of the importance of snake imagery in my art.
Much later, in 1993, I was astounded to learn that my paternal grandmother (who died in Australia in 1909) had experienced hallucinations during her first pregnancy, believing that she was giving birth to a serpent.
I also saw an Egyptian pendant from Tutankhamen's time with a similar image: a snake-woman nursing a baby Pharaoh, called The Great Enchantress.