I have taken a break from painting Madonnas (see ‘Diary of a Pilgrimage’ posted on March 28th) but they have not stopped appearing to me, in fact new images are coming in under many disguises and in the most unlikely places. I know that they are a symbol for something, but rather than trying to explain it, I decided to keep traveling with them.
Meanwhile friends are sending me images of many Virgin Marys. From Italy I received photos of paintings from small country churches and shrines at crossroads. A week ago the postman delivered a book a cousin sent me; it tells the history of my mother’s village up in the Alps where as a child, I spent all my summers. Flicking through it I came upon the photograph of a fresco painted on the exterior wall of one of the old houses bringing back memories and a sense of longing. I remember how I used to admire those simple paintings that dotted the village, the only examples of Art in a place where otherwise Crafts (wood carving, weaving and basket making of high standard) reigned supreme.
A Spanish friend has promised to document the traditions of her native village that involves hosting statues of Madonnas in people’s homes and of passing them around after a certain time has elapsed.
I have taken a very interesting course on the Sacred Feminine in Irish tradition meanwhile, back in County Clare, I keep my eyes open for new signs. This is how recently, as I was driving on the R460 Corofin to Gort road for the millionth time, something white amongst the green vegetation caught my attention. I parked the car, took the camera and walked back to the spot where a small shrine that I have never noticed before, hung on the bushes at the side of the road.
This shrine was peculiar insofar as it contained not one but a multitude of small statues: six Madonnas, two crucifixes, one Sacred Heart, one Mother Teresa and one St. Brigid. It was obvious that it had been hanging there for a long time but had been only recently painted therefore becoming more visible.
After taking a couple of pictures I started to walk back to the car wondering about the presence of the shrine at that particular spot when I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, something shining on the ground at the other side the bushes’ edge. I removed the pallet that stood at the gap and entered a small area sheltered by trees and, there in the ground a plastic laminated image of a bizantine-style Madonna marked the presence of a well surrounded by rocks, moss, ivy and ferns. On the left hand side, nestled amongst the stones, stood a small blue and white statue.
The place was beautiful, peaceful and serene; a little oasis on the side of a relatively busy road.
I know of a few of these wells around the area and promised myself to revisit and document them. I am also interested in finding out who makes, maintains and look after them, who visits and leave signs,continuing an old undying tradition that goes back to more pagan times of respect for the sacredness of the Land and the power of Place.