Judith Hoch

Working with Art, Archetypes, and  Spirit

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Mami Wata: The Spirit of Nature and the Power of Woman

Deities of the water, Earth and air are the subjects of my Mami Wata: The Spirit of Nature and the Power of Women series of works pictured here. “Mami Wata” is a plural noun that connotes the myriad, ancient water deities of Africa, whose divinatory priesthoods are matriarchal. These feminine deities are often half mermaid, half reptile or fish. Primordial deities, they are the precursors of Isis, Ishtar, Cybele, Ceres and other Great Mother Gods. Ancient Great Goddesses like Isis, have feather and snake attributes, showing a combination of the primal, natural powers of the bird and the reptile.

Mami Wata Prophecy, the painting pictured here, came forth spontaneously on my easel, although her tradition was familiar to me because of my work in Nigeria and Miami. My Mami Wata Prophecy holds the secrets of life and death—the snake, the fish, and the skeleton–close around her while assuring us that everything is “okay.” The snake represents the vital force behind manifested form, the passionate energy of life, and the transformative power of death. Her snakes also demonstrate that my Mami Wata is a sibyl, a diviner of ancient truth. In my painting’s right lower corner is an insert showing Nut, the sky Goddess in union with Geb, her brother the Earth, a union which brings forth Isis.

 

“I am Nature, the parent of things, the sovereign of the elements, the primary progeny of time, the most exalted of the deities, the first of the heavenly gods and goddesses, the queen of the dead, the uniform countenance; manifested alone and under one form.” — Isis speaking to Apuleius the Roman
Mami Watan Prophecy

Mami Wata Prophecy
Acrylic on canvas
1045 mm x 950 mm

It was the Jewish story of the Garden of Eden, which demoted the snake to the status of Eve’s evil familiar. The Jews’ enemies, the Canaanites, had powerful snake cults and the Garden of Eden story cast aspersion on those cults and the women who ran them. In Jewish legend, Lilith was Adams’ first wife, equal to him, not created from a rib like Eve, and Lilith supposedly ran away from Adam, a fact that demonized her in the eyes of Jewish scholars. An independent, powerful deity, Lilith became the spirit in the trees, a winged being at home with snakes and birds, one of the first of all deities to represent the mysteries of nature. Please enjoy my paintings of Lilith, Mami Wata, and the other deities pictured below.

Copyright © 2018 Judith Hoch

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