Art provides a powerful way to connect with our inner selves. It communicates through symbols which constitute the language of the soul. This symbolic language speaks to us through art's physical qualities of color, form, composition and medium. It also communicates through an artwork's content. In this way, form and content combine to express spiritual or mystical meaning, giving art a sense of mystery and inviting us to return again and again for contemplation. Over time, art can reward us with new insights and touch our souls through beauty of form and meaning.
Ma'at's Feather, oil on canvas by Anne Nordhaus-Bike
In ancient Egypt, the goddess Ma'at personified the order that came out of primordial chaos. Her name, which means truth, alludes to her vital role in the afterlife: after death, every person comes face to face with Ma'at, who weighs the individual's heart (which houses the soul) against a white feather. If the scales balance, the person is allowed to make the journey to heaven's eternal paradise. If the heart is too heavy, the demon Ammit devours it, and the person has to stay in the underworld, suffering from a terrible restlessness.
This painting, Ma'at's Feather, brings to mind this ancient story. The red background alludes to the heart that Ma'at must weigh as well as the spiritual fire and personal sacrifice that assists inner growth. Touches of gold indicate spiritual riches obtained from inner purity and heartfelt devotion. Here, the white feather floats in air and has turned almost completely purple, symbolizing a kind of spiritual achievement or royalty beyond simple purity. After reaching a pure state in order to balance the scales of Ma'at, a soul still faced a long journey and many trials before reaching paradise.
Ma'at and Astrology: Libra and Gemini
In astrology, Ma'at is associated with Libra, an air sign signifying the lightness required to succeed at the afterlife's weighing. Symbolized by a set of scales, Libra has a natural affinity with Ma'at's scales as well as her balancing function and devotion to justice.
Ma'at also carries connections with Gemini because of her famous feather. Talkative and information-loving Gemini is linked to birds, feathers and flying because this chatty sign loves communication, and birds tend to be talkative beings that communicate through various calls and other sounds. Also, birds fly through the air -- a symbol of thought, logic and the mind. Gemini's ruler, Mercury, represents the human mind. Like Libra, Gemini is an air sign, reinforcing the lightness required to please Ma'at.
On the spiritual plane, Gemini governs inspired writing and higher thought because Mercury, the Roman god with wings on his feet and cap, served as the speedy messenger of the gods. Also, as birds fly high in the sky, they are closer to the heavens -- literally and symbolically -- and are therefore privy to divine communication. Here on earth, observing their colors and traits can give us clues to spiritual messages. For example, a robin's large red breasts indicates a big heart and emotional warmth, and its perky, jaunty movements symbolize freshness, youth and good cheer.
Ma'at and the Sun's Journey Through Gemini
With the sun's recent move into Gemini (May 20), the story of Ma'at offers rich associations that can help us see Gemini in a new way and make the most of its airy energies. During our time on Earth, our work consists of making our hearts light and pure enough to balance perfectly with a single feather. As the sun moves through Gemini, we can make progress toward that goal by refraining from negative thoughts and misuse of our minds and communication so we don't make our hearts heavy with guilt and shame. At the same time, we can engage in constructive communication and positive thoughts. Throughout this process, we can attune with Gemini's best expression by enjoying lighthearted pleasures that freshen our spirits and inspire our minds.
With Venus currently in Gemini and in retrograde motion (i.e., she appears to be moving backward), our minds may be focusing on the past, especially old relationships and values. In some cases, our memories may be pleasant. In other cases, challenging memories may surface in dreams, and old mistakes and failed relationships may fill our thoughts. These experiences offer opportunities to forgive ourselves, right any perceived wrongs we may have committed, and heal old wounds so we can lighten our hearts and move on to a better, higher expression of our inner selves.Ma'at's Feather (detail), oil on canvas by Anne Nordhaus-Bike
Additionally, Venus' time in Gemini can be a time for reviewing pleasures from the past, especially artistic or creative expressions we may have set aside. Perhaps it's time to reclaim those talents or reinvent them, or finally put them to rest in order to try new, creative activities. This period can also be a rich time of reviewing how we express ourselves in general as well as a time to consider ways to make our communication more beautiful (Venus) and truthful (Ma'at, Gemini).
If we take on these efforts now, by the time the sun leaves Gemini on June 20, we will have made significant progress in evaluating our communications, relationships and creativity. Then, when Venus ends her retrograde motion on June 27, we will be ready to move forward in more beautiful, pleasant and meaningful ways.
During this introspective period, may Ma'at's Feather -- and her higher truth -- inspire you to lighten your heart and restore beauty throughout your life and relationships.