Earth Wisdom Tarot Sacred Art

Creativity as a Sacred Practice

in Art, Creativity, Spiritual Practice

Gaian Tarot 3 of Fire(Adapted from a reflection written for the Candlemas session of my Gaian Soul Seasonal Practices e-course.)

Recently, as I meditated on the deeper teachings of the tide of Candlemas, I pondered the Welsh notion of Awen, that ecstatically mystical kind of creative inspiration — the “fire in the head” we often see in portraits of our beloved Brigid.

In tarot circles, we talk about the suit of wands (or the suit of fire in the Gaian Tarot) as symbolizing creativity, passion, self-empowerment, and transformation. Mara Freeman says that “the element of Fire kindles the soul’s awakening,” and that when we light candles on our altars at Candlemas, they guide the way home to our own True Selves.

So it’s not too much of a leap to realize that the practice of creativity awakens the soul. No wonder we are all hard-wired to be creative people! It’s in our very DNA. It is our birthright.

Almost all of us have experienced the sense of being set on fire by a creative urge or compulsion, on a wave of ecstasy.  And just as often, we may find ourselves blocked, hindered, afraid of failing, or plain old uninspired.

Philip Carr-Gomm tells us that “It is no accident that Brighid is the Goddess of Poetry and Healing. When you are fully expressing your creativity, when her Awen is flowing through you, healing occurs. To be fully healthy, you need to allow yourself full creative expression. By meditating on Awen, you are encouraging both health and inspiration to flow into you.”

And yet . . . Inspiration alone is not enough. It must be followed up with action, because:


I’m thinking of hours spent online pinning lovely images on Pinterest (oh so inspiring!), or flipping through magazines, or watching cooking shows on TV — all these can be fodder for inspiration, and can get our creative juices flowing. But if we don’t move from inspiration into action, the inspired ideas fly away into the ethers.

Getting into action is a principle that’s true of any area of your life that you want to change, or where you want to make progress.

You can change course if you’re moving, but not if you’re standing still.

Gaian Tarot Six of FireSo if you feel blocked creatively, or if you think you’re not a “real” artist, or you think you’re not good enough at whatever it is you long to do, or you’re afraid of failing or looking silly, (you know all those stories we have inside our heads?) — just . . .

Get into action. Any kind of action. Doodle with a pencil, splash some paint on a piece of paper, pick up a point-and-shoot camera, plant some flowers, put a new scarf over an old blouse, throw some herbs and spices into that pot of soup on the stove. Choose a word at random from the dictionary, set the timer for 5 minutes and write about that word without stopping or censoring yourself.

Just kickstart the creative flow.

It doesn’t really matter where you start, because once you start, you’ll keep going. You may throw out the writing or the art that you just did, or pour the soup down the drain, but it will lead you into creating something worth keeping.  I think of it as priming the pump.  The water doesn’t flow right away, but when it does, it gushes.

And then (this is very important) make a habit of creativity.

Maybe it’s because I’m a Capricorn, but I just love this quote from William Faulkner:

“I only write when I am inspired. Fortunately I am inspired at 9 o’clock every morning.”

In other words, he shows up, whether or not he’s feeling inspired. He puts pen to paper, and as the words begin to flow, somewhere — maybe in 10 minutes or 15, or even an hour later — something ignites, and Inspiration shows up.

If you do your part — showing up — the Muse will do hers.

Gaian Tarot Explorer of FireSo set a time and place to do your creative work every day, even if it’s only for fifteen minutes. You can get a lot done in fifteen minutes!

My own morning practice looks something like this (although I change it up from time to time):

  • Meditation and deep breathing, 10-20 minutes.
  • Make coffee, go outside to greet the day, 10+ minutes. More deep breathing!
  • Write longhand in my journal for 15+ minutes.
  • Sketch in my art journal for 15+ minutes.

After that, my work day starts.

I will confess — there are days when I skip one or more of those steps.  But when I do them all, I’m a happy woman and the creativity just flows. If I jump into my work day first, without giving the first fruits of my morning to nature, spirit & creativity, I become a very, very cranky woman. And my creativity withers on the vine.

Martha Beck, with her indomitable sense of humor, reminds us of an extra added benefit of creative practice: “When you are in a creative or appreciative zone, you literally have no access to your inner lizard, to that fear-based, non-creative, shrieking little beasty who’s so afraid you’re going to be a bag lady.”

I love that!

Creativity and gratitude cannot occupy the same space as fear and anxiety.

If creativity is a sacred practice, and if it awakens the soul, then we should treat it as such.

At the beginning of each session of making art or music, or writing, or cooking or gardening — whatever your chosen art form is — do it mindfully and intentionally.

Create sacred space in whatever way works best for you.  Light a candle and some incense, ground and center. Stand at your altar and breathe some holy words, like these:

“I offer the fruits of my spirit and my creativity up to you, beloved Brigid. Guide my spirit, guide my hands.”

A wise woman gave us her “instructions for living a full life,” but I would add that they are instructions for living a creative life as well:

Pay attention,

be astonished,

and tell about it.

– Mary Oliver

Thoughtful, sparkling comments. . .

  • Loran Sun - Feb 26th 2012 9:33 pm

    What an inspirational post, Joanna! I get these cards frequently but never quite viewed them in this way. I admire your morning practice and am thinking about incorporating some of those activities in to mine. I tend to get into my email with my coffee first thing in the morning. It’s not necessarily the best way to start the day.

    • Joanna Mon - Feb 27th 2012 8:11 am

      Thank you, Loran! Sometime I also fall prey to checking email first thing, and I am working hard to break myself of that habit. Christine Kane says it sets you up to be *reactive* throughout your day instead of *creative*. That makes so much sense to me! We need to feed our spirits *first,* before we start engaging with others, even lovely friends who comment on our blog posts! 🙂

  • Jennifer Mon - Feb 27th 2012 8:40 am

    Thank you for this post! I’ve been having difficulty getting back into a creative groove recently, by the end of my mundane day, I just don’t seem to have any oomf left for it. I’m hoping that getting my crafting area more organized will help this, but perhaps a daily practice earlier in the day would help, too.

    • Joanna Tue - Feb 28th 2012 9:12 am

      Jennifer, I think that whatever we do *first* in the day colors the whole rest of the day. Try taking even 5-10 minutes for an art practice first thing and see what happens. Can’t hurt! 🙂

  • Nicole Mon - Feb 27th 2012 9:10 am

    Beautiful- thank you.

    I live to create & do so throughout each day as it is the essence of my life. It is indeed a healing and a joyful expression of my soul which wants to be happy and carefree always.

    So I have found in the past that when i felt fearful and anxious, sitting down to do creative work helped me through and out of that state. What a blessing !

    • Joanna Tue - Feb 28th 2012 9:13 am

      Nicole, so beautifully said!

  • Jordan Hoggard Mon - Feb 27th 2012 9:40 am

    Love the Faulkner quote! And, though my “butt in the chair” method fully resonates with it, I have to laugh . . . as when I was 3 I walked up to my Dad, took his Faulkner book out of his lap, walked across the room, and and dropped it into the trashcan. I asked him recently if it was simply me balking for attention back then. He laughed, “No, I’d say not. The way you clap-wiped your hands in the air over the trashcan with an eyebrow up, at 3 for chrisssakes, and walked off to work on your stamp collection was more like telling me to get back to work on some editing I was taking a break from.”

    I never liked Faulkner much, and often wonder if that is more dyslexia or irony on my part. lol

    • Joanna Mon - Feb 27th 2012 9:45 am

      That’s hilarious, Jordan! I’m not a huge Faulkner fan myself, but I love that quote. And love you were so fully *you* at age 3!

      • Jordan Hoggard Mon - Feb 27th 2012 9:57 am

        🙂 I love that quote, too. Laughing, age 3 and 4 were great years.

  • Louise Mon - Feb 27th 2012 6:04 pm

    Joanna….thank you so much for your inspirational words! Lately I have been mourning what feels like the loss of my Creative Muse. Lately She has retreated & I have missed Her so very much. Your post made me realize that I need to court Her, to acknowledge the sacredness of Her presence in my life & the special gifts She bestows. I will begin setting aside dedicated time each day to allow Her the opportunity to whisper into my heart and soul again. How easy it is to get so wrapped up in the ordinary day-to-day activities that we forget to honour our Creative Muse. Bless you, Joanna….

    • Joanna Tue - Feb 28th 2012 9:15 am

      Louise, I can relate. I got so busy with marketing and teaching after I finished the Gaian Tarot, that I found I was not making time for art. Not making time for the Muse is kind of like not making time for your significant other. Not smart if you want to stay in relationship! I’m glad you will start making time for Her again. Blessings.

  • BlackBirdy Mon - Feb 27th 2012 6:16 pm

    this is great…and i just got the 3 of Fire in this morning’s reading!

    • Joanna Tue - Feb 28th 2012 9:14 am

      Gotta love the 3 of Fire!

  • Kristen Wed - Feb 29th 2012 10:38 am

    Love this post. And thank you for the reminder!

  • Jo Wed - Feb 29th 2012 10:53 am

    Lovely inspiring post Joanna. I so resonate with creativity is a healing salve to our spirits. I often think about how it is associated with our sacral chakras and how healing it is to run fresh energy through it as we unlock our creative juices. And with that I’m off to play with paint 🙂

    • Joanna Thu - Mar 01st 2012 8:57 am

      Mmm, I love that idea, Jo — I can see a rainbow of paint running through our spinal columns!