Painted Lady; Tattooed Lady

Butterflies are creatures of deep significance for me. They combine great beauty, joy and spirit with the power of transformation. These past few years have been times of great personal upheaval; unavoidable change has been an ongoing theme and butterflies have been a constant companion on my soul journey, encouraging me at times of struggle, reminding me that transformation is always possible, bringing joy and freedom despite the difficulties. They have helped me to learn how to embrace the changes; to be a little less afraid of where they are taking me.

Today was glorious, the sun turning the ocean turquoise, the strong winds lively and energising. I walked along the cliff path to Shanklin to book an appointment with my tattooist. I am a great believer in the use of body art as a spiritual tool; each of my tattoos marks an important moment in my life and development, each possessing a deeper spiritual significance for me. Of course there is nothing wrong in merely decorative body art, but my inclination goes deeper. Perhaps it is the fact that I am placing something beneath my skin, that a symbol – with all it accompanying power and meaning – becomes layered into my being. My tattooist Nick – whose own body art has deep spiritual significance for him also – describes tattoos as coloured scars. This adds to their power for me; our scars – the indelible marks of our experience – turned into art and celebrated. Sometimes I feel as if they have risen up through the skin, surfacing from a deep place inside, a testimony of each rite of passage, a lesson learnt or a blessing acknowledged. This week I will have a butterfly tattooed upon my wrist, acknowledging the gifts of my relationship with these extraordinary creatures.

On my walk today, nature – as if to support my decision to make their image a part of me – graced the cliff path with vast numbers of Painted Lady Butterflies. These seemingly fragile creatures have just arrived on the Island having survived their arduous migration from northern Africa. There were so many, the strong winds carrying them like shedding leaves, swirling chaotically around my head and body. They crowded on the red valerian and daisies, sharing the warmth of the sun and the sweetness of the nectar with the bees. Stood closely, watching them, I was so moved to have them rise up in clouds about me. They are joyous and ethereal reminders of the beauty of life – both its fragility and strength. They also have many links to the soul: in Russia they are babochka, ‘little soul’ and the ancient Greeks called them psyche, that eternal part of us that experiences it own countless transformations. In Hungarian they are pillango, a ‘creature of the moment’ and as such they remind me also to engage fully with life, no matter where I might find myself. Butterflies feed upon the sweetness of life; I pray I may never overlook the joy that my own life has been graced with.

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1 Comment

  1. trish said,

    May 27, 2009 at 5:25 pm

    this is so beautiful, butterflies are a reminder as you say to live in the present. I have copied this and sent it to Katya (said it was from your blog) butteflies seem to figure as very important in so many of my friends lives. I said she should have a look at your blog so expect a visitor.

    lots of love Trish xxx


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