The Snail Goddess
Day #21 of Hilma af Klint and the Imaginary Possible
Hilma af Klint kept extensive notebooks in which she explained the significance of the various symbols and colors in her work. In Notes on Letters and Words pertaining to Works by Hilma af Klint, she writes, “The snail or spiral represents development or evolution.”
Many of the symbols in Hilma’s paintings are drawn from elements in nature, like the association between a snail and a spiral. Her recognition of the spiritual significance within and emanating from natural forms is closely aligned with sacred geometry, which
“explores and explains the energy patterns that create and unify all things…The molecules of our DNA, the cornea of our eye, snowflakes, flower petals, crystals, a shell, the stars, the galaxy we spiral within, the air we breathe …
Sacred Geometry Explained - What is the Meaning Behind the Patterns?
Sacred geometric patterns exist all around us, creating the fundamental structure and templates of life in the…
A nautilus, a sunflower, a snail, the chains of our DNA, the energy that makes up a galaxy are all made of spirals.
In Hilma’s work, everywhere I looked I saw this microcosmic/ macrocosmic perspective. The phrase, ‘as is above, so is below,’ has a certain resonance with this perspective: The stars are above, but also within us: “We’re made of star stuff,” Carl Sagan once said, and there is scientific truth to this sentiment.
Hilma af Klint’s vision was macro/micro/cosmic. She perceived both the science and the sacred in the world around her and painted images which contained both.
Emily Pothast, in writing about Hilma’s use of spirals observes:
“The recurring theme of the spiral or snail signifies evolution: a cycle in which transformation also occurs, but also inwardness, as in a labyrinth pointing inward.”
The Visionary Practice of Hilma af Klint
The Swedish mystic painted what she saw in the spirit world
I began thinking about how a snail carries it’s home on its back, but also lives inside that home: moving through the world as both an insider/outsider. That is how I often felt and so I wasn’t entirely surprised that one day I found myself drawing a snail.
What did surprise me, was the snail itself. She had a long train, like the silvery trains of snails I’d seen, but this snail was definitely a woman, and her train was a long luxurious robe, like that of royalty. Her face was not that of a princess, not pretty, as a part of me wanted her to be, but something far more formidable. A woman with character, the face of a goddess. Not someone you’d dare cross.
I wonder if Hilma was amazed at what came through her and became a painting.
For me, this sense of amazement was almost a daily occurrence. How this Snail Goddess had come through me was a mystery. I felt myself a witness to small miracles unfolding, and it filled me with a sense of awe and deep gratitude to have had a part in what emerged, what unfolded, and, like a wild and strange flower, bloomed under my fingertips.