San Rafael Woman Turns Her Jungian Vision-Inspired Paintings Into a New Book

  • Independent Journal of Sherry LaVars/Marin

    San Rafael resident Norma Churchill reflects on her life in “Journey to Snakewoman.”

  • Independent Journal of Sherry LaVars/Marin

    “Journey to Snakewoman” author and artist Norma Churchill shows off a drawing from her book.

  • Independent Journal of Sherry LaVars/Marin

    Norma Churchill looks at some of the photos and artwork on a wall in her home in San Rafael.

  • Independent Journal of Sherry LaVars/Marin

    An image from “Journey to Snakewoman”.

  • Independent Journal of Sherry LaVars/Marin

    Norma Churchill looks at a tablet with a story and drawings of her mother who was a riveter in World War II at her home in San Rafael.

At nearly 90, Norma Churchill feels like she’s lived many different lives. One was when she reveled in the hippie movement of the 1970s in the Bay Area and began taking classes in San Francisco on the active imagination method of analytical psychology founder Carl Jung, a meditation technique used to bridge the gap between conscious and unconscious minds.

To her surprise, the San Rafael resident has been prolific. Her exploration and analysis of what she had experienced led her to begin drawing and painting the scenes she saw and the emotions she felt. She then published her work in journals and lectured at universities, conferences and at the CG Jung Institute in San Francisco.

After sifting through piles and piles of her work she had at home, Churchill put together ‘Journey to Snakewoman: The Visions of Norma Churchill’, which reflects her journey and features some of her hundreds of rice paper paintings. and it was recently published.

Q What prompted you to get into it?

A During those hippie years, Jung psychology was a big deal, and other things came from the East like Buddhism that appealed to me as a way to live my life. It was a very exciting learning time, and it was so exciting to be around so many like-minded people. It was exciting because I found a deep truth in it. I met one of my mentors, Jungian therapist and educator Katharine Whiteside Taylor, who gave classes. Her house would be full of people and I even surprised myself that she had a knack for that, seeing the psyche, and for a few years it was great fun until my psyche was strong enough to see the side too obscure. .

Q What was this method?

A It was like little movies that I watched. After a while, it touched me deeply and I went to analysis to try to understand a little more. He grabbed me and I couldn’t let go. I’ve always been interested in art and I started drawing, not so much what I saw, but my feelings about what I saw.

Q Your book was published decades after those early experiences. What did you realize looking back on your work later?

A Many of these visions spoke of the feminine principles that had been lost and why we suffer from this, the loss of the feminine. We see it in our culture. What’s interesting is that we are now in the midst of the rise of women’s eventing in our world.

Q Your book has received numerous awards from the Jung community. What do you want members of the greater community to take away from this book?

A The world needs to be more aware of the inner world and take this time to shut up and try to find that within themselves. People tend to separate spirituality from ordinary life, there is no separation. If you are silent consistently for long enough, something will come to you.

Q What inspired the title?

A I saw many things in these visions, many animals, but the snake continued to be my psychopomp. He would talk to me and give me lessons. During my time as a shaman, my mentor and analyst Jung Donald Sandner and I had conferences in Colorado for about seven years. He wrote a book, “Navaho Symbols of Healing,” and I became interested in their culture, which is very beautiful and complex, and their stories. I had gone with him and a group from a university going to reservations and one night he talked about one of their heroines who had become a snake woman. I realized she had gone through many of the same experiences I had with the snake. I almost passed out, I couldn’t believe it, and I talk about it in one of the chapters. It was parallel and deeply shocking, thrilling and mysterious.

Q Do you miss the practice?

A No, I think I did what I was supposed to do.


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