Animal Spirit Guides Inspire Collage Art!

IMG_8185

I bought Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm’s The Druid Animal Oracle Deck  in 2008 in hopes of developing collage workshops based on animal teachings. My friend Ellen Jaffe, a poet and teacher, found the idea interesting, so we gave the deck a trial run at a yoga studio, each of us selecting a card at random without looking at the illustrated side. I chose Wolf.

IMG_8189

Illustrated by Bill Worthington
Illustration by Bill Worthington

After Ellen made her selection, we took turns reading from an interpretive booklet provided with the deck. From the section on Wolf, I learned that its keywords are “Intuition, Learning, (and) The Shadow” and that Wolf encourages us to honour “the inner power and strength you feel when you spend time alone” (p. 22).

Following a discussion of the teachings, I pulled out a folder of images that I had collected for the animals contained in the deck. Each animal had its own transparent sleeve full of pictures, and from Wolf’s sleeve I selected a few photos for my collage.

Forest Wolves, Catherine Raine 2010
Forest Wolves, Catherine Raine 2010

Having enjoyed our artistic experiment with The Druid Animal Oracle Deck in 2010, Ellen and I decided to offer a workshop called “Collage Your Animal Spirit Guide” at a music therapy facility in 2011. The session took place in Hamilton, Ontario and opened with all six participants selecting a random card. After reading aloud from the booklet about the selected animals, everyone received a set of pictures on which to base a collage in addition to backings, scissors, and a glue stick.

As we settled into our work one by one, minds humming in collective concentration, a silence like a seventh presence filled the room. After an hour of tearing, cutting, shaping, and gluing, we shared our artwork, celebrating each piece in turn.

Illustration by Bill Worthington
Illustration by Bill Worthington

Otter was my personal animal guide that day in Hamilton. According to Carr-Gomm’s explanatory booklet, Otter “invites us to play, to ‘go with the flow’ of life and experience — to become a child again” (p. 32).

Flower Hatted Otters, Catherine Raine 2011
Flower Hatted Otters, Catherine Raine 2011

To suggest flow and movement, I included swirling fish and active grasses. For playfulness, I gave the otters and their fish friend some red flower hats.

Flower Hatted Otters, Catherine Raine 2011
Flower Hatted Otters, Catherine Raine 2011

In addition to art sponsored by Wolf and Otter, seven other collages have been inspired by engagement with the Druid Animal Oracle Deck. After a gap of two years, I retrieved the deck when my mother was visiting me in Toronto. This time, Eagle rose up from the pool of cards laid out on my kitchen table. (Mom selected Hawk).

Illustrated by Bill Worthington
Illustration by Bill Worthington

“Intelligence, Renewal, (and) Courage” are Eagle’s key words, and the booklet further asserts that Eagle “will . . . show you how to renew and rejuvenate yourself, by demonstrating the art of plunging — at the just the right moment — into the lake of the heart” (p. 24).

IMG_0122
The Knitted Eagle, Catherine Raine 2013

My eagle collage depicts a rare species of knitted raptor, a bird who is at home in the water as well as the sky. Much less predatory than its non-textile cousins, the knitted eagle enjoys a quiet life of introspection.

The Knitted Eagle, Collage by Catherine Raine, 2013
The Knitted Eagle, Catherine Raine, 2013
IMG_0113
The Knitted Eagle, Catherine Raine 2013

Several months after Mom’s visit, my friend Noreia and I consulted the animal spirit guides and made collages in a North York food court. This time, the card I picked belonged to Raven.

Illustration by Bill Worthington
Illustration by Bill Worthington

Raven represents “Healing, Initiation, (and) Protection,” and its message “may  . . . mean that we can come to a resolution of the opposites — experiencing that in darkness there is light, and in light darkness” (p. 20).

Ravens Three, Collage by Catherine Raine, 2013
Ravens Three, Catherine Raine 2013

In my collage, three ravens consider life among the swirling patterns, discerning mysteries with their keen eyes.

IMG_1659
Ravens Three, Catherine Raine 2013

A subsequent session with Noreia saw us spreading out collage materials and the deck on a large wooden table at Balzac’s Coffee Roasters. I chose Frog, whose key words are “Sensitivity, Medicine, and Hidden Beauty and Power” and who reminds us to “look for the beauty and the magic behind appearances” (p. 19).

Illustration by Bill Worthington
Illustration by Bill Worthington

Carr-Gomm’s booklet also states that Frog is “a companion of the rain spirits” who can “help you develop your sensitivity to others, to healing and to sound through your skin and your whole body” (p. 19).

IMG_1378
Frogs’ Mosaic Green Room, Catherine Raine 2013

Frogs' Mosaic Green Room, Collage by Catherine Raine, 2013
Frogs’ Mosaic Green Room, Catherine Raine 2013

Goose followed Frog as the next creature-collage inspired by The Druid Animal Oracle Deck. At Noreia’s suggestion, we auditioned a different wooden table at a new coffee shop for the session, and it proved to be a goose-friendly venue.

Illustration by Bill Worthington
Illustration by Bill Worthington

When I turned to the booklet’s page about Goose, I discovered that its main attributes are “Vigilance, Parenthood, (and) Productive Power” (p. 27). Additionally, Goose’s talent for attentive parenthood and soaring flight “shows us that it is possible to be both grounded and spiritual in our daily lives” (p. 27).

Geese Like Pink, Catherine Raine 2014
Geese Like Pink, Catherine Raine 2014

After Goose, Seal surfaced as the next animal spirit mentor during an oracle session that Noreia and I conducted at a home retreat.

Illustration by Bill Worthington
Illustration by Bill Worthington

Symbolizing “Love, Longing, and Dilemma,” Seal can “act as a guide and companion through the watery realm of the emotions and the Otherworld” (p. 40).

Wistful Seal, Catherine Raine 2014
Wistful Seal, Catherine Raine 2014
Wistful Seal, Catherine Raine 2014
Wistful Seal, Catherine Raine 2014

Cat followed Seal to serve as a guide in the series, and Carr-Gomm’s booklet explains that “Cat brings us the ability to observe situations quietly, without judgment, before making decisions” (p. 17). 

Illustration by Bill Worthington "Cat brings us the ability to observe situations quietly, without judgment, before making decisions (Carr-Gomm booklet, p. 17).
Illustration by Bill Worthington

For Flying Flower Cat, a calm and grounded mind provides the ideal springboard for flight.

Flying Flower Cat, Catherine Raine 2014

Finally, Salmon has been the most recent educator chosen from the deck, but other animals patiently wait for their turn to advise. As for the nine creatures who arrived from 2010 to 2016, I’d like to express my gratitude to Wolf, Otter, Eagle, Raven, Frog, Goose, Seal, Cat, and Salmon for their energizing insights and creativity!

2022 Update

Salmon’s collage is dedicated to the memory of Ellen S. Jaffe, who loved consulting The Druid Animal Oracle Deck and making art in community.

Illustrated by Bill Worthington

As the oracle deck’s booklet relates, Salmon responds to upstream challenges with “wisdom and inspiration” (p. 30), and Ellen exemplified this spirit when she wrote poems about living with (but not being defined by) cancer. Like Salmon, she created an arc of beauty in adversity: turning to the sanctuary of art, reciting poems in her head during scans and treatments, and imagining the counsel of her late father, a doctor.

Seized by Loss, Catherine Raine 2016Seized by Loss, Catherine Raine 2016

Ellen died the day after her 77th birthday, cocooned in a cycle of return to her “beginnings . . . and perhaps beyond” (p. 30). While she was here with us, Ellen inspired, encouraged, and connected hearts with her poetry, activism, counseling, teaching, mothering, and friendship. For example, after hearing news of my grandmother’s death in 2008, Ellen introduced me to the phrase, “May her memory be a blessing,” explaining that it is a Jewish prayer to comfort the family of the deceased. Her compassionate words consoled me then and return to me now with a message of solace.

Ellen’s example shows what it means to live a life that blesses others, and in her legacy “lives the dearest freshness deep down things” (G. Hopkins’ God’s Grandeur, 1877) that soften the pain of loss. Ellen, thank you for being my friend and mentor. Your memory blesses, has blessed, and will bless us for generations.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.