Tuesday, April 17, 2012

"Nimue", a white hart, and a goat?

16x20 acrylic on masonite
Tammy Mae Moon

I finally got to finish this up this week.  I have been working on it in spurts for weeks now.  My original plan was to paint Nimue, one of the names for the Lady of the Lake, and a white hart.  While I was working on her a goat appeared, and I really had no idea why at the time.  It wasn't until I really started to think about the symbolism of the goat that it hit me why he was there.  I figured I had better do some "splaining".

First, Nimue is a goddess that has always intrigued me.  We know that she was one of the ladies of the lake, and that she was an enchantress.  Supposedly she used her feminine ways to seduce the great wizard Merlin into teaching her all of his magic, then she used this magic to entrap him in a tower, or in some stories a hawthorn tree.  Some of you may remember one of my older works from 2009 "Merlin and Nimue":

 You can imagine how the Patriarchy loved this tale of an evil temptress destroying the powers of the greatest wizard.  One who really studies the writings of the courtly love era, the Camelot myths, certainly will understand the story differently though.   The writers of these Courtly love tales believed that all women were to be honored as the goddess, and it was through the love of the goddess that man transcended this world and became immortal.
Merlin would have been able to predict his own death, and yet he willingly hung out with Nimue. In one tale Nimue changes him into a hawthorn tree. The hawthorn tree to the ancient Celts was the symbol for the chalice itself (the Holy Grail). It held the divine secrets of everlasting life. Therefore Merlin became one with those divine secrets by way of Nimue (the goddess).

Now the white hart appears a lot in Camelot myths too.  Usually it is the hunt for the white hart that leads the knights into the forest, or the Otherworld.  It represents the legendary beast of the chase and represents both heavenly and earthly love and is similar to the symbol of the unicorn in medieval lore.  It represents innocence, and the goddess of the land.  It leads you into the Otherworld where you will be forever changed.

The goat has been a strong symbol through out history.  It was sacrificed routinely by ancient cultures so it represents sacrifice.  But it is also represented by strong virile, wild male gods like Pan.  Of course we have all used the phrase "horny old goat".  Goats represent that wild, sexual, masculine energy that drives the world to procreate.

So these two animals represent two facets of Nimue.  That innocent, pure feminine goddess of the land, and that wild, evil, sexual temptress that she has become and the goat represents the sacrifice of the land.  In between these two animals is a healthy large heart.  The heart of the goddess being fed by opposites.

So there is some of my thoughts on this one, at least the ones I can form somewhat coherently.


Tammie Lee said...

hello Tammy,

not only gorgeous is this piece, it also overflows with a feeling of strength and power. the faces of the goats are beautiful.

i enjoyed your splaing as well as your older piece. How could Merlin not help but want to be with her! thank you

- T.W - said...

Stunning work, the look in her eyes is captivating... And the roses are a really cool touch!

// - T.W -

plantie_bee said...

ah ha! so the goat has a true purpose!
well i never doubted it anyway, sometimes symbols paint themselves, and it simply takes our rational mind some time to understand why

beautiful work tammy! it is as tammie lee said, a painting that emanates strength and power, as well as a true feminine grace :D

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