portrait by Honor Woodard


On March 4, 1995 I hear the words, “Let’s bring it inside the Sacred Hoop,” in a dream. A few days later I found a book entitled The Sacred Hoop at the library and was introduced to Black Elk’s words, “And I saw that the sacred hoop of my people was one of many hoops that made one circle, wide as daylight and as starlight, and in the center grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter all the children of one mother and one father. And I saw it was holy.” I started to consider the various ways the circle served as a sacred symbol in different religious traditions. And I began to image writing a book that would be called Sacred Circles.

On May 7 I dreamt I was with a group of friends, all of us searching for a gem of some kind. During this search, I found something in my hand and as I cleaned it off—by licking it and wiping it with fabric—I saw it was a gemstone.

During a walk in the woods on May 10th I heard a sound that seemed to me like a door creaking as it opened.

I dreamt on May 22 of an old Lakota woman—secretly a holy woman—who knows how to do a dance which traditionally is only performed by men. She begins this dance which takes her in a circle around something and as this happens I become her looking down at her feet as she dances. As I watch her feet I’m reminded of the way I dance.

Then in June of 1995 during a walk in the woods, my attention was drawn to a prairie aster beside the trail, and I experienced a profound impression of a perfect circle.

aster on my path
like the sun with purple rays
circle bright and whole

On June 6 I drew a picture of a fiery sun with blue and purple rays surrounded by a black circle on the second page of a sketchbook. I called that image Sunflower. That picture was the first of many circular images I drew during the late spring, summer, and early autumn of 1995—forty in all, almost all in circle form.

The pictures I drew at first were images framed by circles, but some of them, like my picture of four oak leaves, four acorns, and a gooseberry, seemed mandalic.

This process was sparked again by my Four Circles Dream in July of 1996. I drew a series of ten pictures in which I eventually incorporated the rayed quatrefoil with other mandala images. It seemed to me that in these drawings I was attempting to bring to light an inner process. Hoping to better understand the meaning of the pictures, I revisited Jung’s Man and his Symbols, paying particular attention to the symbol “mandala” as a way of interpreting some of the images. I went in search of more information by reading additional books of Jung’s and joining online groups that were discussing Jung.

I eventually went back to the first page of that sketchbook and inscribed a quote from my reading of Jung, “Everything living dreams of individuation, for everything strives toward its own wholeness.” In that sketchbook I was not writing but instead drawing my Sacred Circles.

In the midst of this I recorded a dream: “I stir molten metal in a crucible. As I do this, someone explains that this is molten gold which has been separated from the ore and from the copper and other metals that were in the ore through a refining process which involved several steps. Now the cooling gold is stirred so it coats the inside of the crucible. This way it will form a malleable sheet instead of a solid lump. I picture the gold being shaped into a mask shaped like the sun. This takes place in Tuscany. I have the impression that this process occurs as part of the making of a historical documentary film of some kind, although all I see is the crucible as I stir the gold.”

In one of the online groups I had joined I posted my crucible dream and a fellow participant wrote, “A dream of making gold…often refers to the individuation journey…It is significant that you are watching the process. All things told individuation usually goes on as a process independent of the ego (that’s the bad news), but cooperation with the process (your attitude in the dream) helps a great deal…the documentary film is an image that I have seen in many dreams. Often, for all of us, the individual work we do on ourselves with great pain and suffering has a significance for the larger culture (the making of the documentary film).” The thought that sharing my process of drawing these pictures might be of some use to other people arose from my dream and these comments—this was an important motivation for making them available on a website.