Visioning the Future through the Bardic Arts: Creating Vision, Creating Hope

Reishi mushroom from the Plant Spirit Oracle offers a vision of healing, growth, and regeneration

I used to be a big fan of reading dystopian fiction when I was younger. It seemed like a distant world, a reality far from our own. But perhaps now, those books resonate too close to reality. As someone who practices magic, I have to wonder, would the concepts present 1984 be as present if the book hadn’t been so well-read? Did George Orwell manifest these concepts as a magical act, or were these already present and he simply channeled what was already coming into focus? The same can be true of many such influential works: The Handmaid’s Tale, Brave New World, Bladerunner, and more. We also have things like robots, invented by Issac Asimov as science fiction in the 1940s and 60 years or more later, became a reality.  One might argue that despite the fantastical nature of these works, works like these have had an influence on present human culture.  Perhaps, it is a sign of the times that most of what has been produced from a mass media standpoint in the 20th-21st century is rather dystopian and chilling, with some notable exceptions. As we have recently seen here in the US, words have power.  Words can shape reality and incite people to action. Is this the world we want to create?

As someone who practices magic, I certainly accept that our intentions and the directing of our will can help shape our realities. I also accept that for many things, we have to have a spark or vision before we can see it come to reality.  It is hard to bring something to life if we first can’t envision that it could exist. If we accept this to be true, then, in turn, we can consciously harness intentions and that bring visions to life that help create a better future. I think that one of the powerful things that art of all forms can do is help envision the future.

 

Poison Ivy from the Plant Spirit Oracle – teaching new ways of interacting with nature.

At this point, we are facing both ecological disaster and many human challenges that grow more serious by the year as our society continues the “slow crash”.  This era of human civilization will decline and end–but the question is–what comes after?   How can we be good ancestors for the future?  Thus, I am always looking for ways to do more. I want to take responsibility for my own behaviors physically and metaphysically. Physically, this might include being careful with my purchases, working to heal and regenerate landscapes, and engaging in other kinds of sacred action. Metaphysically, it can be bringing forth visions of a better future–we can create the visions now so that they can enter circulation and become something that helps seed a brighter world.

I also share the rest of this post with a caveat. People create art for a lot of different reasons, both external and internal. You might consider visioning arts as one of many reasons to create, a bonus reason, a reason that offers your art additional purpose.  Not all art has to have this kind of vision either, but some art forms and works may be very well suited to it.

Creating a Sacred Vision

If you buy into this idea and you practice the bardic arts of any kind (poetry, music, dance, writing, visual art, fine crafts, etc) you might want to give this idea some thought.  What vision are you putting into the world? What is the world you want to create?  Towards that end, I have a few suggestions for helping you hone and refine some ideas.  The most important thing you can do is spend some time in meditation and reflection about what vision of the world, what ideas and concepts, you want to bring forth.   So here are a few things to consider:

  1. Start by thinking about the specific kind of art (bardic work) you produce and what kinds of messages you can share. Certain art forms are easier to convey messages than others.  When you convey messages in your work, can the work stand on its own, or, do you want to share some information about the work in addition to the work itself?
  2. Consider presenting general philosophy about your work.  Messaging can come in a lot of forms: these sometimes come in the form of “artist statements” that talks about what you do and why you do it.  This is especially helpful for work that can be interpreted in many ways, or whose interpretation is not immediately clear upon examination (e.g. woodcarving).  You can share these messages on social media, on your website, even with the physical art that someone receives.
  3. Consider your specific messages or themes you want to convey.   Perhaps you have a very specific message or a general one. Think about the thing you most would like to see in the world–write it down, and keep it in mind when you create.
  4. Consider the symbols you use. Symbols, whether they are intentional magical sigils or just broader symbols, also carry tremendous power. If you have specific symbols or symbolism you want to use in your work, this should also be considered!

Now, I’ll present three core visioning goals for my own work as an artist–I  am sharing them both to demonstrate an example of the kinds of visions you can create but also to spark your own creativity about how your bardic arts of all kinds (poetry, visual art, music, dance, fine crafts, writing) might support your own unique vision.

Messaging and Visioning: An Example

As a visual artist and a writer, I am always thinking about how I can bring this aspect of magical visioning into my work. It is one of the reasons I create, but certainly, not the only one! These are my three goals.

Presenting an alternative perspective and value of nature.

One of the first ways I see us using art, writing, poetry, music, and other bardic arts is to present alternatives or ways of reseeing our present reality.  We can show a different perspective on something, offer a new angle, or provide new insight through our work.  I think you can do this with anything, but as a druid who has her heart set on preserving the natural world, my focus s on nature and on providing alternative messaging and visions.

The art show!

I’ll give you a good example of this. As I’ve shared before on this blog, I live in a region of the USA that is an extraction zone: we have fracking wells, 1000’s of miles of streams full of acid and iron from mine runoff, mountaintop removal, boney dumps, logging, and coal-fired power plants–to name just a few.  Around here, most people view nature as something to extract; a resource to be profited from, and a way to keep jobs in the region. Hunting and fishing are also big around our rural area; while I’ve met some hunters who have reverence, unfortunately, many shoot animals, birds, and rodents for sport.  Thus, there is very little respect or love for nature and in my art, I work to offer a different message. 

A few years ago, I was invited to hang some work through our local art association at the regional hospital. It was a nice opportunity to have my work seen by a lot of people.  I thought really carefully about the content of my art and decided to work to present an alternative view of resource extraction.  I painted trees with hearts in the ground, I painted the telluric currents of earth energy flowing, I painted regenerated landscapes.  It’s hard to say how these pieces of art touched those who saw them, but I hope they did some good. The more these kinds of alternative messages and perspectives can get into circulation, the more “normalized” they become and the more power they hold.

Staghorn Sumac ornaments from reclaimed wood

Another way of thinking about this is in the tools and materials I use–there’s a message about valuing nature inherent in this work.  For example, my neighbor plowed over a beautiful stand of staghorn sumac last summer without even knowing what it was or how it could be used.  This beautiful stand was one I got to know well and I was really distraught at how it happened.  This really saddened me, but he did allow me to come in and harvest as much as I wanted of the wood and roots.  I did so, and at the holidays, I made him an ornament from the beautiful root wood and put a note on there that it was from the wood he let me harvest.  Perhaps this beautiful wood will have him think twice about cutting down the trees and seeing some inherent value in them.

Re-enchanting the world

After someone is willing to see nature, to value it more, to understand it in a new light, then I can shift to the more magical and potent part of the message–the message of the world being an enchanted place helping re-enchant humanity’s perspective of the living earth. If a new vision is step 1, then re-enchantment is step 2.  In other posts, I’ve written about what I see as the disenchantment of the world, the philosophical and literal stripping of all magic and wonder from the world, which I believe has paved the way for some of the more egregious abuses of nature in the 18th- 21st centuries. 

Ultimately, if we see nature as sacred, enchanted, and having a spirit of its own, it is much more likely that humans of all kinds will behave in ways of reverence and respect. I think a lot of authors and artists have done a great job in showing that the world has an enchanted side. 

Japanese Knotweed as Guardian of the Waterways

I think one of my own projects that most closely aligns with this goal is the Plant Spirit Oracle.  The goal of this deck was to take common medicinal plants and offer them in an enchanted and personified way.  I also paid special attention to plants that were maligned like Poison Ivy and Japanese Knotweed as part of this work. Thus, Japanese Knotweed, which is widely hated and maligned, is shown in an enchanted light as a guardian of the waterways; the catnip in your garden is shown to have spirit, poison ivy teaching awareness, and so on.  These plants have forms that can be viewed, interacted with, and offer guidance and wisdom. . 

Offering new visions of the future and personal empowerment

Wendell Berry’s Poem as a Woodburning–I made this at Samhain and in the spring, I will leave it as an offering in the forest, a reminder of the vision we can bring forth

A final aspect, and one that has a lot of potency for me right now, is thinking about how works of art of all kinds can shape the future. I’m sick of reading and thinking about things from a dystopian perspective and I’m sick of watching our world go further and further into those dystopian vision.  I’ve firmly committed to creating works of hope.  This was a clear vision for me for the Tarot of Trees– a response to deforestation. I wanted people who used the deck to value trees more, and I wanted a vision of a healed world to come forth. But there’s also a lot of future vision in these works: witch hazel, one of my favorite paintings in the PSO, is all about a pathway towards the future; about becoming a good ancestor. Comfey is about having the tools to bring positive change, while Rosemary reminds us of the powerful cycles and generations that we have to consider.  The messaging is there for those who look!

In another example, this one by one of my favorite writers, Wendell Berry, his poem, Work Song, Part II: A Vision is a prime example of a message that holds a vision of the future. When I first read this poem, I cried from the beauty of it, the vision Wendell Berry offered and thought about what we might need to get there.

Visioning a Brighter, Nature-centered Future

Providing alternative perspectives, enchantment, and visioning for the future is certainly a magical act and one that many people who practice the bardic arts might build into their work.  When you create something and put it out in the world, you have an opportunity to create so much more than just a piece of art–you have a chance to help build a vision of the world to come.  While simple visioning work is only part of the task before us, however, as Wendell Berry’s poem notes, it is an important part and something that each of us can do. 

Dear readers, I am very interested in hearing from you on this topic: Have you built visionary principles into your art? If so, please share.  If you haven’t yet but would like to, I’d love to hear from you as well!

 

33 thoughts on “Visioning the Future through the Bardic Arts: Creating Vision, Creating Hope

  1. lisa

    Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! It is my intention that everything that I say/do/create holds the sacredness of the Earth and ALL her beings in the highest reverence. We are powerful creators and my work this lifetime is to remember and embody this truth. WIP

    Reply
    1. Dana Post author

      Yes, Lisa! And the work that you have put into the world is so powerful–thank you so much for your incredible deck and works :).

      Reply
  2. Julia Pruett

    I have been trying to find how to order Plant Spirit Oracle Cards but when I go on your site I see no way to order them. I love your work!

    Reply
  3. Dorothy

    Thank you for this article. Over the recent years, my art has taken on a new direction. The direction includes the messages that I am receiving in dream state. I am finally trusting that the dreams mean something. The paintings that speak to me the most, often include poems that accompany the paintings. They are powerful images and symbols for me. Your article explains it. My website’s BLOG section at http://www.blackbirdcottagearts.com will show what I am trying to put in words. Messages are coming from many places for all of us. I for one, am listening and doing my best to put messages out there.

    Reply
    1. Dana Post author

      Dorothy,
      Thank you for sharing! I love the work you have shared on your website! And the outdoor gallery is such a wonderful idea. Messages ARE coming in from everywhere–for all of us willing and able to listen. Thank you for what you are putting into the world.

      Reply
  4. Gina

    This is the most beautiful article I have read in a long time. Your writing and work is so inspiring, full of wisdom and love – yes, you are making a difference in this world. You are a role model for me to make this world a better place for all living beings and our magnanimous mother earth.Thank you for all you do.

    Reply
    1. Dana Post author

      Gina, thank you so much for your comments! They bring me such joy. I am thankful for your kind words–they are deeply appriciated.

      Reply
    2. Dana Post author

      Gina, thank you so much for your comments! They bring me such joy. I am thankful for your kind words–they are deeply appreciated.

      Reply
  5. Claudia

    I was wondering whether I’m the only one with these dystopian movies etc. on my mind while looking at society, especially now. Over the past weeks I feel very drawn towards writing and poetry and I often catch myself writing really dark things related to nature and humanity. I never published these and decided they would only add to the negative energy. Your thoughts match mine in many ways but yours are definately more structured and better articulated – which helps me immensely to go deeper with my own vision. Take care Dana, thank you for your thoughtfulness.

    Reply
    1. Dana Post author

      Claudia, thank you so much for your comment! This raises such an important issue that I hadn’t’ addressed, but should have! I think it’s fine to write dark things, or paint dark things, in an effort to get them out from inside of us. To help us process and heal from the terror that is our current moment. That’s a healing form of art. When I write these fears or manifest them in my art, I usually ritually burn them afterward. That stuff is important for my own healing and self development, but it doesn’t “see the light of day” so to speak. What I try to put forth, here, is what I outlined in this post.

      Reply
  6. litebeing

    Thank you for this. You are a positive force for this planet and universe. I appreciate your ideas and want to join you by creating positive art for magickal healing/manifestation of the world I want to live in.

    Namaste, Linda aka litebeing

    Reply
      1. litebeing

        You are quite welcome. I enjoy your animist perspective, even more now since I completed Daniel Foor’s course on Animist Psychology. It opened me up to more than I can explain here. I live on the outskirts of Philadelphia, very close to Montgomery County. While it is far from rural. The Wissahickon is practically at my doorstep. ❤

        Reply
        1. Dana Post author

          I’ll have to check out the Animist Psychology course. We should consider getting together sometime, maybe in the Poconos or somethign! Would be fun to meet another person on the journey :). I’m near Indiana, PA :).

          Reply
  7. THAT VOODOO

    1984 was a reflection on what George Orwell saw what was going on in the UK – did he know something deeper? The end wasn’t so hopeful. Was he a promoter of the very agenda he exposed? Or was he an activist, an agent of change?

    It could be predictive programming – not so much magick, but a way to desensitize us of things to come.

    It also could have been inspiration for the powers that be. I sometimes think the evil, occult elite types see the subversive arts, take the aspects that attack their plans, and turn that very satire into a nightmare reality.

    Manifest peace!!

    Reply
  8. Angela St Jean

    This article is so timely! Just yesterday I was inspired with an idea about what it means to be a good ancestor and how we’re all creators and often the items we create and share are the ones that are held most precious to future generations. It’s a thread that weaves together the tapestry of past and future. Creating as an artist, being present in nature is how I most feel connected to the Universe’s Creator. I think that’s the principle I want to pass on to those who will call me ancestor – the inspiration to find that connection. I resonated with your message about the loss of magic in the world. I was never taught but discovered it on my own and I too realize that sharing these lessons is a powerful the way to sway humanity preserve what’s left of our natural world.

    Reply
    1. Dana Post author

      Yes! I really think that all three of the druid paths: bardic, ovate, and druid, are tied to being a good ancestor. For those of us who create and align with the bardic path, this whole idea offers a wonderful way forward.

      What kind of artwork do you, Angela? I’d love to see some! 🙂

      Reply
  9. secondgenerationimmigrant

    Hi Dana, first of all massive kudos for your work.
    The Japanese knotweed illustration is my fave so far. Have you head of solarpunk? Lots of folks use it as a solar-powered version of cyberpunk and personally I think it sucks, but some friends and I have been using solarpunk differently as a showcase and manifestation of what we can already do and what we could achieve if we just did it on a scale large enough. The latter interpretation seems just up your alley, TBH.
    We’ve been doing Solarpunk imagination workshops with activists and interested citizens to imagine and back-cast the sustainable and just future we want to live in and now we won a grant to do it in the UK with a bunch of activist groups. I realise you live in the US, but if you want to take part, just HMU.
    Check out the art of one of the Commando Jugendstil members here https://www.artsteps.com/view/5fb3b57aa7ce9b37a5b76519?currentUser
    and their Twitter https://twitter.com/cjugendstil?lang=en

    Reply
    1. Dana Post author

      Thank you! Thanks for sharing about the solar punk concept–I’ll have to check it out :). I like the connection too, to the telluric and solar currents through that concept :). Thanks for sharing!

      Reply
  10. Jim Romines

    Hey Dana,

    Your last blog regarding Bardic art really struck a chord with me. For years I have been trying to conceive of images that have the purpose of raising the consciousness of the sacredness of the natural world and how to preserve it against selfish exploitation. I have attached some images that look similar to the images you have produced: “Gaia” concepts, images related to the landscape of Southern Appalachia and stone circles (which strike a mystical chord with me because I am convinced that my ancestors helped to erect the stones). I just thought I would share some of my work with you (however one is a work in progress with a kind of dystopian theme of “mother nature in distress”. One is a “praying Gaia” for healing the ravaged Eatrh).

    Thank you ! Jim CallanishOrangeSky.jpg CallanishSunset2.jpg CallanishSunset.jpg ChewedLeaves20.jpg GaiaAzaleas.JPG GaiaAzaleasRhodies.jpg GaiaDistressed.jpg GaiaFallLeaves2.jpg GaiaFallLeaves.jpg GaiaPraying.jpg GaiawithRhodies.jpg JaneBaldAT.jpg LandscapeRhodies.jpg RhodiesLeafHoles.jpg RhodyBlooms.jpg TurkCapLily.jpg

    On Sun, Jan 10, 2021 at 6:31 AM The Druid’s Garden wrote:

    > Dana posted: ” I used to be a big fan of reading dystopian fiction when I > was younger. It seemed like a distant world, a reality far from our own. > But perhaps now, those books resonate too close to reality. As someone who > practices magic, I have to wonder, would” >

    Reply
    1. Dana Post author

      Hi Jim – the images didn’t seem to attach. I would love to see them though–do you have a URL that you can share?

      I love that you are investigating the stones in Southern Appalachia. I’m in Northern Appalachia, and we know that there were some druid orders in the 17th and 18th centuries along the east coast that in, fact, erected stone circles. John Michael Greer uncovered some of this research some years ago and shared it with me. So it is entirely possible!

      Blessings,
      Dana

      Reply
  11. Allison G.

    I absolutely loved this post.

    I am a crochet and knitting pattern designer (@pigsqueakpatterns on IG). I rebranded last year after burning out on dyeing yarn, not to mention developing an allergy to wool.

    When I decided to launch my pattern design brand, I had only one clear focus – to create patterns that inspire people the way nature inspires me and to show how beautiful, magical and magnificent the world can be.

    While I only have a handful of patterns right now, this post has encouraged me to keep working on my designs and sharing them where I can in the hopes that I can help plant the seeds to a brighter future.

    Thank you for sharing it.

    Reply
    1. Dana Post author

      Hi Allison! I love to hear about your pattern design brand and how it connects to nature–yes! So exciting. I would love to see your site or Etsy or whatever you have. Plant those seeds for a brighter future, indeed! :).

      Reply
      1. Allison G.

        Hi Dana,

        I would love to share it with you.

        https://payhip.com/pigsqueak

        I only have 5 patterns right now but I hope to have several more released over the course of the year.

        I have so many ideas and energies that I can wait to explore them and express them through yarn crafts.

        Reply
  12. Nate Summers

    Hi Dana! This is such a moving and important blog. I’ve found myself thinking very strongly about the very same thing especially the interconnectivity between dystopian ideas and visions in popular culture and the disenchantment of the world. It can often seems that it is getting worse, and yes I do think that an overemphasis on dystopia in popular culture is manifesting it in our current world. I’m excited to bring more visions of hope and vibrancy and the re-enchantment of the world through my own bardic arts including my writing: I’m hoping to release a contemporary fantasy novel with a druid main character focusing on these themes this year. Btw, are you familiar with the rising subgenre Hopepunk? You might want to check it out.

    Thanks for your blogs and for brining your own bit of magic into the world!

    Reply
    1. Dana Post author

      I will check out “hopepunk!” I just finished a book called Song for a New Day–written released in 2019, but relevant so much to 2020 and 2021! I wish you well with the contemporary fantasy novel–sounds great! 🙂

      Reply

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