Soul Collage. I’d been hearing about it for the past two or three years. Then during our breakfast date in Oaxaca, Mexico, in the spring of 2017, a friend and art therapist, Nancy Clingan, asked me if she could order a book and send it to my house in Philadelphia to bring back to Oaxaca in four weeks. She explained how she was preparing to offer workshops in Soul Collage, and the book was all about the process. I attended one of the workshops while in Oaxaca this year. From her third floor apartment in Xochimilco, where from the kitchen window, one can see amazing shaped white clouds and the bluest skies above the Santo Domingo Church, Nancy welcomed several of us to a soulful gathering to experience Soul Collage.
Imagination and intuition work together with chosen images placed like puzzle pieces on a 5×8” card, to explore your self, soul, your shadow and your gifts. We humans share intrinsic experiences such as joy, pain, fear, love, anger and we can recognize them in ourselves and others, and thus feel connected. Soul Collage is a way to bring those parts of ourselves to life, visually, through creating collages. We work intuitively, intentionally, yet without planning. We allow the neter, muse or spirit to guide us to choose the images. We are drawn to them without thinking too much. In the process, we allow ourselves to be child-like, in a sense, selecting images we like, simply, or perhaps, don’t like. The light and the dark, or shadow, can both be present and represented in our final work.
I became interested in Soul Collage after many years of working professionally as an art therapist. I used collage in my work with women and children, in prisons, hospitals, shelters and residential schools. Upon hearing about the copyrighted process developed by Seena Frost, I was askance with doubt. “How can anyone copyright collage?” It’s ubiquitous in the world of art therapy. Seena combined making collages, instinctively, without planning, with the second process, asking the final work to speak to us, through the image. Using the phrase “I am the one who……,” the creator of the card allows an image from the card to speak, out loud, in first person. Without scripting or thinking ahead, the chosen image speaks its truth, its message.
The relationships with archetypes, as developed by Carl Jung, with the initial idea coming from one of his patients, bring Soul Collage akin to the collective unconscious. Archetypes such as warrior, crone, creator, the fool, the judge, the punisher, the forgiver, the magician magically show up in our work. Soul Collage embraces the one and the many parts of ourselves and each other. The inclusion of a neter, a guide, a muse, an energy, an ally, that guides us is also an integral part of this unique process of Soul Collage. As we work together silently, contemplatively, in small groups, we recognize parts of ourselves in others alongside us.
After making cards for a few years in a small group of women near my home in Vermont, I began to accumulate a deck of cards. At some point, we begin to separate cards into categories: the committee suit, which represent the many parts of ourselves; the community suit, representing beings that impact us in our lives; the companions suit, calls on animals, both wild and pets, to symbolize chakras and different qualities; finally, the council suit is made up of the archetypal dimension with universal patterns of energy. There are three cards that are created intentionally, called transpersonal cards. The source card, the spirit of all that is; the witness card, which reflects but does not judge; and the soul essence card, a spark of the source of each essential being.
Right away, I wanted to use this process in work I was already doing in new ways and as part of my retired-from-career-life. I planned to spend winters in Mexico and summers in Vermont, and I could see how Soul Collage could work in both places. Training to become a Soul Collage facilitator is a 4 day intensive experiential hands-on learning. It reminded me of my graduate work in Expressive Therapy at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. The work is personal, definitely, but also universal. It’s magical to bridge the gap between us. The intimacy in the group lends us a hand to understanding and feeling compassion for each other. To me, this leads us to peace and love, which is our destination, isn’t it?
Healing is an essential part of Soul Collage work. Each card we create holds special meaning for the creator. Left to stand on a shelf or table for a few days or weeks, we find deeper meaning and ideas. At times, if we are facing a challenging question or decision, we can draw out cards from our deck, place them face down and ask a relevant question.
We glean new approaches from the images which have come forward. This reading can be used as a part of meditation, prayer, and rituals, alone or with others.
One can create cards at home, alone; no need to wait for a workshop. Find a stack of images in a magazine, old book or calendar and see what calls to you. Tear or cut them out, place them around like puzzle pieces and see what comes up. Allow it to speak to you without censorship. Trust the process. People who trust and use Soul Collage proclaim that it has magic in it. You have to try it yourself to find out. It is a path of self-exploration and discovery. It’s all that; plus it’s fun. And it’s beautiful.
See below for Nancy’s upcoming Day of the Dead, Soul Collage Retreat, November, 2018, in Oaxaca, Mexico.