The Mandoorla Mandalas

On September 9, 1997 I drew Four Mandoorlas. The misspelling of mandorla was deliberate, a reference to my Four Doors Mandala. In this drawing I began to explore the interior of the four circle figure I dreamt of in July of 1997.

In Four Doors Mandala I pictured the doors as links or bridges from the outside of the temenos circle toward the center. In Four Mandoorlas I sensed a movement from the center outward. I also saw them as inner doors and rebirthways.

The mandorla drawings arose during an e-mail discussion of the Romanian poet Paul Celan and the German artist Anselm Kiefer I shared in with Carroll Bishop and Colin Garvie. Much of Celan and Kiefer's work deals with the Holocaust. During our discussion of almond and mandorla, I came across Robert A. Johnson's chapter on the mandorla in Owning Your Own Shadow.  He linked mandorla with rainbow, and I began to see the four rainbows of my dream mandalas flipped over so they intersected to form four mandorlas.

While drawing the mandorlas, I had an impression of them as boats. While doing some research I found that a mandorla which is composed of the overlapping area of two circles with a common radius is called a vesica piscis, related to vessel, and so to both container and boat. This image of the vesicae as boats suggested a two-fold movement to me, journeys from and back toward the center. One of the meanings of vesica is a distilling vessel. I liked these associations, and began to think of my mandorlas as vesicae.

The deep blue pool which appears in the center of Four Mandoorlas, appears in quatrefoil form in this mandala, Pavanis:

The mandorlas are born from this pool and borne upon it. This close connection with water gave me the idea of calling them vesicae aquarius. The temenos circle has changed slightly, the intertwining figures are now based on an underlying pattern of overlapping circles.

The fire theme of the fire mandalas is repeated in these images in the four fiery balls. In this picture I used a metallic gold ink to color the center of the mandorlas and the space around the quatrefoil and mandorlas. This recalls my crucible of gold dream, so the interior of the vesicae have become distilling vessels themselves, indicating, perhaps, a further refinement process.

The vesicae seemed to represented outward movement, as the four green doors represented an inward movement. The rays that radiated from the center of the four circles coming together become trajectories for the movement of the vesicae away from the center.

What was implicit in Four Mandoorlas becomes explicit when the vesicae travel the path of the rays out from the center and become mandoorla openings in my mandoorla mandalas. The one pictured above left is The Sunrise Mandala. In this image we see through the mandoorlas rising suns and white inverted v shapes that extend to become roads toward the horizon. (I imagine one of those suns rising over a sandy beach with the ocean is just over the horizon. Carroll Bishop had always pictured the temenos by the sea…) Inside the quatrefoil is a fiery sun surrounded by a golden corona. I associate this with the mask shaped of gold in my crucible dream. I inscribed the poem "…weaving…" around the circumference of the mandala.

I gave away all of my mandoorla mandalas, a fitting fate for the images that showed the temenos opening to the world.