Dreamed between 1963 and 1968, painted 1989; oil on canvas, 49.5 x 42", by Jenny Badger Sultan
I am with a group of people in a desert landscape. We are building a Scythian church. I recall red tile roofs, whitewashed walls. When we are finished we gather inside the church and join hands in a large circle and do a circle dance together.
Later I wander around the dim interior by myself, looking around. On the floor, right near two steps leading down to a lower level, I see this painting and these words:"Little Saint Bridget was bound so hard, that when they released her she flew."
This dream was a major one; I've returned to it many times. Building this church together in the desert felt magical.
I do not recall exactly when I dreamt it; I was not keeping a regular dream journal at that time. But it was between finishing grad school in l963 and l968 when I met my husband Henry.
- Scythians: one class in grad school, "Art of the Migrations", covered the Scythians, nomads related to the ancient Persians; they dominated the plains north of the Black Sea and east to the Aral Sea from 2800 to 2200 years ago. Known for graceful metalwork and mosaics (on floors as well as walls).
- Saint Bridget: I knew nothing about her when I dreamt this. I later learned she is not just an Irish saint, but prior to Christianity was a manifestation of the Great Mother Goddess (who was becoming more and more real and important to me at the time). There are many aspects to the Irish St. Bridget which relate her to Bridget the Great Mother: I learned that the Irish St. Bridget had established her cell in the trunk of an oak tree that had been a shrine to the Mother Goddess, Brigid. The Irish Brigid was a triple goddess to whom fire and the hearth were sacred. St. Bridget's nuns tended a sacred flame. The flame images in the painting came spontaneously.
- The bound-up figure: such a healing image for my own life. I grew up as a "good girl"--extremely shy, not very physically capable except for drawing and writing, and very intimidated and often frightened by a brother 5 years older who was physically active and outgoing. Although I loved him, it was hard, as he felt angry and frustrated at our family and vented a lot of it on me. So I see the bound figure as both me and an image of hope for all women, who have suffered so much from the binding of the patriarchy. And it also seemed to show the hope of the release and liberation of the Goddess energies which have been suppressed for such a long time.
- The flying figure: the same person (me, other women) unbound--able to stretch out and enjoy freedom in an ecstatic release. I feel the dream also expressed the resurgence of the Goddess which began in the sixties.
- The painting: I have depicted the dream three times in three media:
- as a small watercolor. I traded it for therapy; a few years later I asked to borrow it so I could photograph it, but my therapist couldn't find it.
- in l989, this version: a large oil painting. I was sliding into a winter depression and two of my women friends were deep into cyclical depressions; I painted Saint Bridget as a healing painting.
- in fall 2008, for a friend who had always loved the oil painting and commissioned an acrylic miniature. She wanted to celebrate a recent experience of feeling freed from an oppressive situation.
- In May of this year, 2013, I visited friends in Liscannor, Ireland, and visited St. Bridget’s holy well. People still pray and leave offerings there. I left a photocopy of my painting.