In a world of consumerism and the internet, where anything you could want is just a click away, I wonder if we have lost a bit of that creative spirit, especially when it comes to our spiritual objects.
I don’t think any of us are immune to the thought of buying our effigies, the representations of our Deities and Guides. I have spent many hours scouring the internet, page after page, trying to find the right ones for me. The ones that really reflect my vision and experience of them. Never quite finding the perfect one, but ones that are close and I could settle on. I think that is probably one of the reasons why I have had so few over the years – I’m really picky.
The experience with Hel’s statue taught me a lot though. Yes, the statue was bought – but then altered through creative art, in a way that it became something else.
I was extremely nervous when I started the process. The statue itself was costly and if I messed up it would be a wasted investment. Due to my upbringing and experiences in life, I am very money conscious. So I sat with the idea for a long time before I started. It was clear though that it had to be done, so I would just have to take a leap of faith.
One altercation after another – Removing the flaming skull because that didn’t feel right at all. Getting out my acrylic paints and contemplating what color needed to go where to fit the image She was presenting to me as now. Little by little the statue started to change.
It wasn’t just a physical change though. Each change I was making seemed to make the statue more alive. I think a lot of this was because of the energy that was being put into it – My energy and Hers.
Now I realize that we always put in energy when consecrating and working with our effigies. That the Deity/ Spirit it represents adds to it over time the more we work with it. There was something very different though with this process of creation. The energy was different, the power in it was different, and the connection was different. This difference is what got me thinking about all this.
It is only in recent history that the everyday person has had the opportunity to choose and buy different statues and images of their Deities/ Guides. Before the influx and acceptance of Pagan faiths in the mainstream, people had to find ways to create their own if they wanted one.
This took many forms, including drawings, paintings, and creating simple images out of wood or doll like materials. They would create these effigies from what they had or could acquire. Shaping them into the image they would use to represent their Deity. Infusing that image with both their energy and welcoming their Deity to do the same.
No matter what it looked like outwardly, the energy it held, was their Deity. That visual representation that helped them to focus and to feel the presence of their Guide in their physical world. It became a sacred object through the process of creation.
It did not matter their artistic skill. It wasn’t about perfection or the ability to look good in a picture – it was about the time and intention that was put into the effigy. Stitch by stitch, stroke by stroke, whittle by whittle, the people connected, bonded, and deepened their devotion as they worked. A labor of love.
That is what re-purposing that statue was like for me. Step by step, day by day, color by color, it deepened that bond. It invited Her in, in a different way. It was a different type of devotional act.
When it came to setting up a space for Santa Muerte, my first instinct was to go online and look for an effigy for Her, since it seemed apparent that having one was important to Her. As I combed through them all I started feeling further away from what I was trying to create here. They were beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but the majority (especially in my price range) were all solid – made of resin and such.
This was not the image I fell in love with when I was younger though before I even knew what it was.
What drew me, what I loved was the actual skeletal figure dressed in cloth. That held its own energy and a life that I did not feel from these others. So my mind drifted to the experience I had through Hel’s effigy. That experience of creating and bonding through creating.
So instead of buying the other beautifully made statues, with all Her symbolism already surrounding it, I decided to create my own. Buying a poseable Halloween skeleton and material. The scythe was important but I could not find one the right size or feel … So in stepped my husband. I told him what I was envisioning, a double edged scythe, wooden handle, and metallic like blades. He found the perfect stick from one of our white oaks, made measurements, and went to work. I was amazed at what he produced – it was perfect! He even created the tiny pins that secured the metal to the wood.
When the material and the skeleton came I spent the entire day with Her as I cut and sewed each piece of Her dress and cloak. Fitting Her, talking to Her, and sticking myself more times with the sewing needle then I wish to count. I am not a great sewer but I wanted to do this all by hand.
When I was finished, when I had completed her stand, when I put the scythe in Her hands, I knew that all of this was exactly as it should be. It is not as elaborate as many others. It is not super fancy and some may not see it as beautiful or special – to me though, it is Her.
There is something, some dormant energy that lays in our creative passion. It is an emotion that rises from within us and is infused into whatever we are making. Blending a piece of us into the creation. Connecting us to it in a different way, and creating a deeper meaning of the object for us. Whether we are altering something that already exists or creating something completely from scratch, the process is still there.
It is easy to buy a statue and use it as is. There is also nothing wrong with this approach. It doesn’t make it any less, and over time both of you will infuse your energies into it. There is however something different that takes places when you get creative with it. A different kind of fusion and a different connection when you are with it, at least in my experience.
You don’t have to be an artist. You don’t have to have amazing skills to do this. It doesn’t have to look or be any way except what you see, feel, and are able to create. People not so long ago used simple corn husk dolls as effigies to their Gods. I think the key is the time and effort you put in.
It is hard to put into words the experience of all of this. To explain why it is so different. Perhaps the experience itself is part of the point and lesson. I don’t think I can go back though, to just simply picking one that I can find and not alter it. There is just something so powerful in the experience that can not be replicated for me, even in the consecrated and building up over time.
I think all of this is at least something to consider. Something for others to try if they never have. Like I said, the experience itself has been amazing and given me new perspectives on my own bonds and connections.
When creating a servitor (at least for me) it is a physical representation that I create out of clay, that houses all the energy of it and part of me. In that creation we are bonded in a unique way, even beyond the regular servitor bond. I feel creating your our effigy is a very similar process.
Even if you do not feel you are artistic – even if you are altering an already made statue to become something more representative for you – I think this is a good activity for anyone to try. To experience the process and the outcome of the process. Think of it like a personal experiment: Does the bond through it feel any different for you? Are there differences in your practices/ devotion through the new effigy as opposed to others? Is your Deity/ Guide seem more physically present since the effigy’s creation?
This approach is also great for people who want to have a physical effigy but finances just are not allowing for it. DIY your craft can also include DIYing all your tools including your representations/ effigies. You can find all kinds of cheap statues at second hand shops, flea markets, or you can create everything from scratch with what you can find in or around your house right now.
Don’t focus on the artistic talent you think you need to do this – just follow your feelings and heart through the process. You may even surprise yourself! I think the real magic lays in the experience.
If you have, or choose to try this, I’d love to hear about your experience!
My next creative project and experiment is going to be creating servitors, connected to different planets, to use them in planetary work.