When Blood Flows, the Danger is Past
Painting incorporating dreams, 2000, acrylic on canvas, 50 x 60”, by Jenny Badger Sultan
I painted this during a time when a lot of images of blood had appeared in my dreams. Some were very upsetting. I decided to bring them together here. The title comes from an Arabic proverb: “Blood has flowed, the danger has passed.” (The idea is that sacrifice, which often involves blood, has the power to avert chastisement by supernatural forces.)
Bringing a variety of events (dreams in this case) together in one pictorial space is a technique I call “simultaneous narration” or “continuous representation.” The dream images have a chance to resonate with each other and lead to more understanding.
Here are two of the dreams that stand out:
March 23, 2000--The Bloody Women in the Water
I become aware of a commotion outside--people gathering, yelling and gesturing by the sea wall, looking down at the beach. They shout that there is some violence going on below in the water. A man is killing a woman with a knife, or maybe they are killing each other.
I say to Hank "We must go." We run out of the classroom down towards the sea wall. Why are we running to see this horrible event? Are we going to try to stop it?
We reach an area with wide steps leading down into the water. White foam washes up onto the steps. In the water I see two women’s bodies, naked with bloody parts. They are still alive. I sense the two women are calling to each other.
I go down the steps, horrified, to see if I can help. The closest woman's head is bathed in blood. I grasp her by the shoulders and raise her out of the water, supporting her from behind.
The other woman is still in the water nearby. I’m not sure what will happen with her--will Hank or others help her? I have a feeling that the woman I am holding is dying, but at least I will be giving comfort as she dies.
April 19, 2000--The Ritual Blood Designs
I am with a group of women. We have been doing initiations with each other. Evidently I have been the ritual leader for several others. At last it is my turn, but a woman tells me "You will have to be the leader for your own initiation."
I am upset and say "No, that's not fair, I want someone else to do it. How can I do my own?" They insist that I am the one who has to do the ritual.
I tell them "I can't possibly do the part where a design is painted or incised on my back--there is no way I can do that for myself." We agree then that someone will do that part for me, but I will do the rest of the ritual.
I am lying or sitting. With a single-edged razor, one of the women is cutting a symmetrical design of symbols on my back. Evidently a lot of blood is coming out. They are worried. No one else bled so much.
I say "Perhaps before the design was more scraped with a needle or something, and not so much cut." Anyhow, they continue until the design is complete.
At the end, somehow, I add a few things--only now it seems I use body paint. I add a bit to the bottom of the design and then a small yellow snake at the small of my back. I think of Kundalini energy.
Now we have to go somewhere else to finish the ceremony. Part of it will be to take a print of my back. Somehow my back is loosely covered as we go. It is dark out.
We reach a park, like the Civic Center Park in Berkeley. In one area, next to the street, a group of young leather-dressed toughs, boys and girls, are hanging out and burning things--at first I think it’s a car, then it seems to be bicycles. I feel there is some danger.
One young man comes up to me. He sees my face, which evidently has face paint on it. "That's great", he says. It inclines him to not bother me. He asks "Where can I get some face paint so I can try that?" I tell him quickly where a good store is.
We go on--our car is in an underground parking garage. I still sense some danger--the youths may still accost us. But I figure if they do, I will show them my back and that will impress them and make them go away. Moving quickly with my friends, I wake up.
Cradling and comforting a dying woman is a recurring theme in my dreams: see the The Forest Bride six years earlier!