Crone magazine 2014 Interview by Marian Van Eyk McCain
Faith Nolton: Connecting to the Beauty of Spirit
There are so many names to describe Faith Nolton of which “visionary artist” is perhaps the best. This gentle, creative crone from western Wales — who co-founded the UK-based magazine Sacred Hoop — recently published Gardens of the Soul, both a visual feast and a uniquely inspirational workbook. If you have ever felt the urge to paint or draw your inner process, or to bring into visual form the subtle energies you feel around you, you will love Gardens of the Soul.
I wanted to hear about the life track that has brought her to this point. For she, like me, is a crone, a sensitive, soulful crone who loves the Earth and loves her life. So I emailed her and asked her about her journey.
Marion: Faith, how far back in your life can you trace the urge to express yourself through art?
Some of my earliest memories are of watching my father draw and paint. He was always sketching and making cartoons about everyday life, and I remember being attracted to the deep magical stillness that came into the room while he was working. He died many years ago, but his presence is still with me in the studio.
Marion: What drew you towards shamanism?
I’ve always been a mystic. Throughout my early years I felt connected the mystery of the world. I was intuitive, although this often interpreted as “daydreaming.”
As I grew, I explored aspects of Christianity, as that was the only “path” available. I am still a practising Christian, the other wisdoms I follow having been added on over time. They all sit quite comfortably together: many wells, but all drawing from the same source.
When my explorations led me to the ancient “cosmic maps” of the Medicine Wheel, I felt great affinity to this form of sacred animism. From there, it was a short step to shamanism. For the shaman all things are connected and really, truly our relations — stones, plants, winds, creatures, everything.
Marion: So how old were you when your two interests — art and shamanism — began to merge?
By the age of forty — while raising three small children and training as a relationship counselor — I had to back away from my art. I would get so immersed in the energies of the work that I couldn’t pay proper attention to the everyday world.
At this time I became a Quaker, and warden of a Friends Meeting House. As soon as I moved into the job “coincidences” began happening. I started training in energy healing and met my first shamanic teacher, Leo Rutherford. In the process discovered the way aboriginal peoples around the world regarded creativity as a natural way to connect with the unseen. Making a basket is also a form of prayer, eating is an act of appreciation of Mother Earth, weaving a blanket involves connecting with Grandmother Spider spirit — all very different from the specialised role of “artist” that I had grown up with.
In this way I began to experience that creativity could express itself in different ways, working with simple ritual and holding it as a consciously sacred action. I also met my helper spirits through learning shamanic trance work, and they have become my guides for the work I do making sacred pictures.
Marion: What inspired you to train as a shamanic counselor and start encouraging others to create visionary art?
Soon after I began studying shamanism, my spirit guides asked me to make pictures of what I was experiencing on my shamanic spirit journeys. This was an act of trust — it was way beyond the conventions of making art that I had been programmed with. I had to record exactly what I saw from a single flower to a vast inter-dimensional landscape with rainbows and spirit beings.
I came to realise that symbols were vital to convey the truth of what I’d seen. I also looked at the other sacred art traditions such as Orthodox icons, the Tibetan Buddhist thangka meditational paintings, and other mandala forms which shift the consciousness of the viewer. My work developed a weaving of realism and symbolism under the guidance of my spirits.
Marion: After years as a counselor and shamanic practitioner you ended up calling your work “soul mentoring.” You said it was important to get beyond labels and “step into the ‘elder’ place.” What does that mean to you? How is working from the “elder place’ different from before?
There has been a thread throughout my life of rejoicing in the moments when I’ve felt connected to the beauty of the sacred in life — and the wonder of witnessing when that happens for others. Eldership has added to this as an ability to bring my spiritual and life experience — and therefore discernment — to the process. I am able now to be alongside someone without needing to prove my own expertise or rescue them.
Soul mentoring involves deep listening with another person and witnessing their story. There is great healing power in being listened to with respect. This is a time-honored role of the elder in a community. Listening, without judging or interrupting can enable people to reconnect with their soul, with health and well-being. It’s like a soul course correction, or lifting away the veils of denying true self which can obscure our way path forward and hide our natural joy.
Marion: How has your work changed as you move further into elderhood?
I’ve learned to respect the individual life of each painting. In many sacred art traditions the paintings are regarded as having their own life, and being windows between the worlds of spirit and everyday reality. Power and energy can flow through the images, I’ve witnessed this myself and it’s very humbling. It’s the reason sacred images in many traditions often have curtains or doors, so that the power can be accessed consciously by uncovering the image.
Marion: Can these images help us to say “yes” to our mortality while living fully in every moment?
A major part of the shamanic path is coming to terms with one’s own death. Fear of death can cripple the precious time we have to experience life. A shaman guides the soul after death to its destination and also oversees rituals that prepare people for their transition into spirit. Ceremonies such as sweat lodge, vision quest, and ritual burial put oneself deliberately in that place of challenge that severs one from the familiar comfort zones. These “little deaths” happen in rites of passage initiations throughout time in order to live awake in the present moment, unhampered by fears of death.
In my belief, there is no end. The soul is a traveller, just passing through the lessons of this life. Trusting that is the challenge.
Marion: How does the work you do help people to become more aware of themselves as part of Nature?
In the past I’ve physically taken folks out onto the land to meet the web of life. Maybe it’s been a sweat lodge ceremony or sacred dance, a focused medicine walk or sitting alone in nature. When we quiet the mind chatter enough to hear our inner wisdom and true self, the energies of the wider reality reconnect. In these situations I haven’t had to do anything except act as an introduction service by creating
the right setting, sitting back and trusting the process. I’ve led them into a place where there are fewer distractions, where they can connect and see with their heart. This awareness is only a breath away, a question of paying attention and not letting the mind interpret and edit in old patterns.
These days, my pictures seem to bring people into this wider awareness. They convey my connection with and deep love of the wider worlds. They are a way for people to meet that reality and recognise it’s what their hearts and souls know and long to connect with. It’s a way, in effect, of showing people the way back home.
The text and images of this interview are as published, the layout has been altered.
Marian Van Eyk McCain,, is the author of six books, three of which are about crones and cronehood. She edits The Elderwoman Newsletter and has created a social network for crones. Find her at www.elderwoman.org .