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Radiant Light--Dreaming in the Hypogeum

Dreamed May-June 1999, painted 1999, acrylic on canvas, 49.5 x 60", by Jenny Badger Sultan

Acrylic painting, 'Radiant Light--Dreaming in the Hypogeum', by Jenny Badger Sultan. Click to enlarge

I was in Malta in 1998 and 1999 to participate in art shows of Maltese and American artists. Both times I visited the Hypogeum, an underground temple and burial place. It is a place of great mystery, beauty and power. It was discovered in 1902 when house construction was going on. Immense and multi-layered, it was dug out of the limestone rock by people who had no metal tools. I had seen stunning photographs of it in 1962 in The Realm of the Great Goddess by Sibylle von Cles-Reden and it had stayed with me since then. It is speculated that the small chambers may have been used as places for people to sleep while incubating dreams.


Embassy of Malta
May 15, 1999

I see a letter with the letterhead “Embassy of Malta.” It is asking me to participate in a show. I am thinking of images--I see a painting of the Hypogeum--sleeping figures in the small rooms, the rounded sweep of ceiling.

Radiant Light
July 14, 1999

I come across an old calendar which my mother apparently saved. This calendar shows the records of my first menstruation. I find a notation that says 53--does this refer to the number of days between periods? or to the year when I began menstruating? (As I write, I see that 53 is the age at which I had my last period.) Anyhow I keep looking for notations. I feel pleased that my mother has kept this record.

As I go through the calendar, I find a page that has a nice photo of me in jeans and a painting shirt or smock and a description of a class that I taught or was going to teach a long time ago. It was called “Radiant Light” or “Inner Light.” I look at the description and am amazed. At first I think it is an ongoing class, but then I see that it is more like a one-day class or workshop. I cannot remember this at all--was it something that actually happened or something I proposed but it never came together?

Child Joins the Ritual
dreamed June 12, 1999

I am at a gathering. At a table there are women elders from a tribal culture--or perhaps several tribal cultures. Some or all may be Australian aboriginals. In front of each woman is a roughly circular plate-like sculpture that symbolizes her particular field of expertise or knowledge. Each one is different. There are raised elements, so it is a relief--but the shapes are like walls and channels--in a way like mini-landscapes. Each one is made of different materials and with different colors. But all the colors are earth colors--black, white, red ochre, dark brown, etc.

I look at each one and ask about its symbolism and how it is made, what materials are used. Some are clay, some are hard foam. They are fragile and yet they have been in use for a while. Away from here they are propped up or maybe even vertical on a wall and are the insignia of each woman. I am struck by the power and camaraderie of these women.

Then there is a part where women are gathering in a room to get ready for a dance or performance. They seem to be younger women and seem to be African. Much of their bodies seems to be bare, but they are partly covered--strips of cloth or whatever. They also have body paint on their faces and, I think, parts of their bodies. They are getting ready--adding to their clothing or body paint--helping each other.

One woman points out that there are 2 natural groupings--one, to the right (?) seems more clear, positive--faces are open. The other, to the left(?) seems more shrouded, a bit menacing, seems to partake of the dark. It’s kind of a subtle thing and seems to be part of whatever ritual or dance they are going to do. 'Radiant Light--Dreaming in the Hypogeum' (detail of acrylic painting), by Jenny Badger Sultan. 'Radiant Light--Dreaming in the Hypogeum' (detail of acrylic painting), by Jenny Badger Sultan.

A little girl is going to take part. As part of her costume a kind of sparkling net is draped over her head and then some kind of headpiece holds it in place. Not clear, but I think she represents some kind of insect. She gives a shrill sound--she is beginning to enact her part. She leaps up into the arms of one of the women.

This dream felt like a rich gift from the psyche.

I painted the little girl into one of the niches in the left-center of the painting.

I put myself in the painting as well, in the foreground with radiant light in and around me. I’m holding a bowl of water, singing and honoring the sleepers who are engaged in dreaming us down, down to the underground place.

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