Who The Devil Are You?
Being raised as a catholic, the figure of the devil has had quite an impact on my life. The first nightmare I can recall, I was 5 or under, the devil was on the roof of our house in Comoros Islands, we were closing all the windows and the doors so that he wouldn’t come in and I was petrified in my bedroom. Then growing up, catechists would tell stories describing in details what hell was and images of little devils with pitch forks and fire were all over the christian visual material… Of course I suppose all this is quite a motivation for working at being a ‘good’ virtuous religious person!
Around 12 years-old, like most teenagers, I got into watching horror movies and exploring supernatural stuff with friends and that scared me and scarred me for many years. My biggest fear was to be visited by the devil and what could happen to me… but luckily none of that ever happened. In my early 30’s I was still spooked by these kinds of things, although I had no reason to be. I had lived many years safe and more than happy. I lived in the peaceful forest of Canada by a river and this christian figure was still engrained in me. So I decided to take care of it. I was doing my first 5-day solo meditation retreat; I was about to face that I was scared to be alone, but really I was also scared of nasty non-sense stuff that might happen to me like in my childhood nightmare or in the horror movies I used to watch. So I called the dude! I was determined: I was actually just plainly tired of the fear. So I asked him to show up. I called him, I said out loud “satan, come now, show yourself”. It was very scary but I had no choice. At this point the fear of what may be had to be more intolerable than the actual thing… if that thing I feared even existed???
Well yes, that’s the whole question now!
Of course, nothing came, the devil didn’t show up. Nada. Rien. Nichts. Nothing.
This passage cleared a big chunk out of me. Most of all, it made me realise the power of human ideas and concepts. If you look at the story of the devil, this figure basically embodies everything that scares us most. So anything we don’t feel comfortable with, we simply say, ‘it is the work of the devil’. Easy, that way we don’t have to face what is disturbing us and why it is so.
Most of my images portray free, spirited, connected to nature, strong women. So once in a while I will get a christian in my booth that is appalled by my work and finds it to be the work of the devil! Think about it: Free, spirited, connected to nature, strong women. Now you will certainly find none of that stuff in the story of the bible or christian mythology*. My images are deeply disturbing what their conditioned comfort zone is and the only way to respond to my art (and to protect their insecure feelings) is to accuse me of doing the work of the devil. Most see my artworks as inspiring and uplifting, so isn’t it incredible how we can all see such different messages from the same image according to our own personal story, our own ideological thought world?
Take Dancing Wild: I painted happy women being wild and free and having a blast dancing naturally naked! Some will see: nasty angry witches casting spells around a fire.
Moon Ritual: I drew women-trees celebrating their connection to the cycle of the moon, but some see: creepy witches doing a ritual at night around the moon.
The Vagina: One said it was obscene, disgusting and definitely inspired by demonic ideas… Somehow god created our body but for some, seemingly, a few of our body parts ‘he’ doesn’t take credit for…
In the middle ages, the so-called witches were simply healers, midwives and shamans connected to the natural world. They were a threat to the security and conformity of a religion gone mad, a mass psychosis, so they were burned. This shows how religion, as a split of mind from reality, can become a sickness of the mind, what it can do by means of fear to unquestioning people, the pain that ideas can inflict on our spirits, on our freedom; what it did to my own spirit and freedom.
Today I am fortunate to live close to nature where no insane human concept exists. Nature is harmonious and peaceful. We have all the potential and means to live this way. It takes work for each of us to disassemble the beliefs and the ideas that have been conditioned into us by our families, religions and society, but it is possible and most of all, it is necessary so as to be truly free and happy.
So that was one of my steps along the way; I would love to hear your stories of how this figure has affected your life if it has. Please share them in a comment below or email me.
To see more of my artwork visit www.artbygaia.com
* My children are fortunate to have been raised with no religious inhibition and stigma. One of them is passionate about mythology and wondered when the day will come that the christian story will be in the mythology books… so now this is how we call this story at home.