Ethereal Emissaries

Perirrhanterion, Gamboge

Apart from their elaborate mating displays, cranes have been seen dancing to musically rhythmic sounds*. In their wide variety of documented behaviors, as well as in their various graceful and awkward movements, I see an elegant creature paralleling so many human emotions and concerns.

A perirrhanterion was a decorative open basin of water for symbolically purifying oneself before entering the temenos (the sanctuary area), in ancient Greece and possibly before that time. There are similar rituals of symbolic cleansing with “holy water” in past and contemporary spiritual traditions throughout the world.

With these paintings of perirrhanteria, I am working with the idea of a vessel of spiritually purifying water, and striving for an ethereal beauty equal to the purpose. I don’t know of an actual perirrhanterion form that involved cranes or other birds, but given their ability to soar higher than our eyes can see and migrate across the globe, perhaps they are emissaries of a sublime grace.

Perirranhterion, Where To Turn

*At the moment, the source book for this incident is hiding somewhere in my library, but I’ll update with the publisher details a.s.a.p.:

Around the turn of the 20th c., a white explorer was ferried by two indigenous young men in their canoe through a wild boreal region. When they came upon a pair of cranes, the young men began performing their crane song, accompanying themselves by using handy percussive tools against parts of their boat. The cranes began to dance to the music. The explorer relates that the magnificent performance continued for several minutes.

This of course implies that the possibility of making music for cranes to dance to, for no “practical” reason, was part of knowledge and experience of people of cultures other than our current dominant one.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Pam Collins says:

    I originally misread your words and thought they said that the vessels purified the water…perhaps it was the grace of your cranes lifting the vessel, holding the space, that took my mind in that direction. Having recently been blessed to visit the “Chalice Well” in Glastonbury, England, and being a confirmed swimmer and a potter, the intersection of vessels, water, and humans entering the sacred works powerfully in me…as does your art, Laurie. Something about your work moves my heart as no other work ever has.


    1. “…the intersection of vessels, water, and humans entering the sacred…” Pam, thank you so much for your heartening, humbling, eloquent feedback and affirmation.

      I am incredibly fortunate to be able to serve in the way that feels best and am convinced that any work that resounds deeply in us is not the artist’s own, but a reasonably successful version of what magnificent, intangible grace wanted to appear at the moment.

      How wonderful to be able to visit the Chalice Well!


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