Today I completed an embroidery in which I was experimenting with the process of working ‘in the negative’. I am not happy with the embroidery itself enough to put into kits, however the process was incredible. As I was sketching from the original tile, I found myself quite spooked by the face of the person on the original tile. This image of the original tile has been brought across from the following website:
As I continued to sketch, I thought how remarkably witch-like the face was and my mind wandered the corridors of Halloween in my musings. These ‘witch thoughts’ led me to the idea of the image being female (which judging by the clothing the figure is male) – then, as if a light went on deep within – I thought of the bent old woman from Luke 13:10-17. The old lady, bent over was healed on the Sabbath by Jesus.
The more closely I sketched the figure, the more I thought of the old lady, bent – and her own pilgrimage to the presence of Christ whereupon she received her healing and liberation. Could this bent, ugly old pilgrim be reminiscent of the bent old lady found in Luke 13?
What incredible implications there are if this is so! The implications regarding the close correlation between ‘place’ and Presence. The old lady journeyed to Jesus, the medieval pilgrim journeys to Canterbury. As I continued to sketch, my mind marveled at the depth and richness of medieval consciousness of the spirituality of place – Presence within place – the theology of the landscape. Canterbury Cathedral was a very important site of pilgrimage, and remember the dating of this tile is placed after the murder of Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket – Saint Thomas, placing Canterbury as an important destination for pilgrimage.
This tile has new significance for me. I no longer see a frightening face worthy of a good Halloween spook. Now, I see a figure reminiscent of the bent old lady who found liberation and healing at the end of her own pilgrimage to Jesus – such richness for the tired medieval pilgrim soul on his/her arrival at Canterbury – and also offering much richness to my own soul.