Birth and Fertility in Meinrad Craighead’s “Enclosed Garden”

Enclosed Garden (Copyright 1983, Meinrad Craighead. All Rights Reserved.)

Meinrad Craighead‘s rich tapestry of a painting, Enclosed Garden, depicts the central figure of a God-Mother whose entire body merges with the female reproductive system.  Replete with symbolic imagery, the painting is useful in the visualization of fertility, pregnancy and birth.  Plucking eggs from their ovary-baskets, the large fertile mother figure also nourishes a baby child, who rests within her and nestled between her breasts. Colortones of orange, yellow and red outline the uterine walls that encase the woman’s form, adding to her life-energy.  Below her, a gate swings open, signifying the release of egg or baby.  As if in harvest celebration, the image is crowded with other life forms of flowers, animals, birds, trees and crops.

Meinrad’s work exudes feelings of richness, power, calmness and tranquility of the female form.

The raven and the hare carry a variety of symbolic meanings in different cultures.  In the context of Craighead’s work, the raven could be associated with Native American understandings of the bird as bringer of light and creation; and the hare is most likely connected to its commonly understood symbol of fertility.

I have been in touch with Craighead, who gave me permission to write about this piece.  She is a fascinating woman with a very special background and life.  Born during the Depression into a family with unique roots in both German and Native American cultures, Craighead spent 14 years as a Benedictine nun, during which time she celebrated and developed her ideas on Mary as the Great Mother.  Ultimately, she felt drawn from the church so that she could focus more broadly on images of the Great Mother as Goddess.  More about Craighead’s intriguing background can be read here.

You may also view more of Craighead’s visionary work or contact the artist through her website.