Women and Water – Women and Sound

By Sally Annett

Ruth Le Gear is a 21C Irish artist who speaks with Nature. She is a film maker, site specific installation artist and, a water shaman. Her practice focuses on ecology and healing, manifested through somatic and performative psychogeography, eco-arts, film, photography, sound and text as well as sculpture in the form of wearable and portable water talismans.

When one sits in the natural world and listens deeply, senses profoundly and reaches out in thought, speech and song, waiting patiently for a response, often a wave or sensation of a lost memory, a faded dream, resonates within. If you listen deeply enough, openly enough a still small voice will answer. Ruth Le Gear’s work revolves around this dialogue, this communion with Nature and is part of an obscured tradition of bards, storytellers, healers and wise women who enter into and talk directly with the four worlds of body, psyche, intellect and spirit. There is an ancient lineage of women and wells, fundamental to Abrahamic, Greco-Roman and Pagan traditions and sacred sites which speak of women as the voice of the waters.

The Elucidation 29 – 33
The kingdom went to ruin,
The land was so dead and desolate
That it wasn’t worth two bits;
They lost the voices of the wells
And the maidens who dwelled in them.

(Prologue to ‘Perceval, le Conte du Graal’. 13C).
 William W. Kibler (Translator) , Anonymous  (Author)

from: The Camelot Project  2007 (1*)

Le Gear writes, “Each body of water is totally unique. It has its own physical and spiritual history, its own mineral content and unique vibration that it shares with the living beings it encounters. If you’ve ever had a drink from a crystal clear mountain stream, one from an ancient well or swum in the sea, you will know that all water is not the same.

 My life’s work is to understand and communicate with water.
I explore it, in all its layers, the tiny micro-organisms that live in one drop, the huge oceans, and ocean creatures, lakes. rivers, clouds, mist, rain, sleet, hale, icebergs, and glaciers.”

Women and water remain intrinsic to our collective survival. Communities with water on-tap, 24/7 tend to forget this except in time of drought and rationing. In the traditions of the British Isles and Ireland the goddesses held sovereignity over whom was to be king of the land. Irish rites of kingship up until 16th C included a ritual of this performed marriage, a hierosgamos of the new king to the land goddess to. The ceremonial rites of land and woman have been largely lost, traditions are still being re-found, re-kindled and guarded in odd places, through rite, ritual, text and action. A deep communion and parlance with Nature; a special reciprocal connection of the feminine to the land, the material world. She is, in other traditions, the bride, the Shekinah, the Lady in the Grove and the Lady in the Temple (pre-the first destruction), the struggle for balance between the dualities of physical life is at the heart of so many creation myths. Le Gear has intuitively reanimated some of this legacy, she has become a voice for the waters, a well maiden.

Environmental issues and concerns are also not a new themes in art, from the religious iconography surrounding Francis of Assisi to William Blake, Stanley Palmer to Andy Goldsworthy there are many (male) examples of this relational exploration of what it means to be in contact with or destroy, Nature and or to experience the devastating consequences.
Often elevating the role of ‘mankind’ to that generous gardener to our world, either to steward or manage it in some nostalgic, bucolic fashion, but as something separate and outside ‘mother nature’. 
There are also many women who have been working in, with and through nature, through ritual practices, sometimes perceived as magical and pariah workings, natural crafts, cuisine, herbalism and poetry. In the 20th century they have been able to exploit photography and film to record their works and performances in in the 21C, the Internet. Star Goode’s decade long tele-visualisation, (1994-85) ‘The Goddess in Art’ attempted to document aspects of this body of work, as well as its power and countercultural presence in shaping our futures.
In 2021, we live in a world which is dying, or rather which is being polluted and altered past the point of anything but extinction for our own species and many millions of others. In the schemata of planetary systems and the births and deaths of stars, this seems merely and inconvenience, but to those of us who have children, it is everything.
Le Gear’s work with water long predates the 2020 COVID -19 live streamed, multi-channel/platform and explosion of social media and performance technologies. These have shown us clearly this desire for multi-disciplinary ecological action through the arts and sciences. There is an irony and potentiality in the use of this technology that connects and exposes us. It is/was normal for us as a species to inhabit, commune and talk to the natural world. Humans cannot exist outside of Nature, we need simple sustenance; air, light, water, food,  which have been so often lost in the technocratic ‘manmade’ world which dominates our mechanistic, medicalized often over engineered consumer lifestyles. More and more urgently we see the fallacy of this believed independence and the desecration of the land and waters.

This concept of talking with and too Nature has ancient, oracular and creatrix roots but the practice continues around the world; peeping through cultural curtains, lifting the dusty veils of the mythopoetic, imaginal and healing the whole. The arts have the power to observe in a way which is freer (but not ignorant nor exclusory to) than scientific investigation.
“Nature is to be praised, to be spoken to, to be listened to…engaged with imaginally to see what it will be.”( S. Blackie 2020)

Le Gear’s principle medium is herself and the relationship of her body with the element of water, itself interconnected with all life on earth. Her practice resonates with homeopathic healing techniques; the vials of small sugar balls and the inversely proportionate strengths and values of healing, i.e. the smaller the quantity of remedy ingested or returned, the greater the magnitude of healing. They also hint at a magical or unexplained series of events, which impact us in unknowable ways.

Le Gear evidenced this when she wrote of her beautiful 2008 piece ‘Teardrops in Wonderscape’, “(it) explores how a drop of water has the capacity to hold the memory of a substance that has passed through it. The investigation of this notion; water as a conductor of memory, has led to an interest in homeopathy. Intrigued by the emotional content of a tear, it involved the systematic collecting of tears from the public and making a homeopathic remedy from the collected tears; each tear, like a snowflake has its own unique fingerprint.
Le Gear potentised these tears and placed this remedy in 3505 tear collecting vials, that were suspended from the gallery ceiling and which the audience lay beneath.
These tears should fall upon the viewer, as the vials are suspended upside down with no lids, this transition should happen but it does not.”  
It is real but incomprehensible.

By 2012 her thinking had developed further, with the intention of working towards healing polluted bodies of water. She traveled to the Arctic waters around Svalbard and worked with Masaru Emoto, “Emoto is best known for his claims that human consciousness has an effect on the molecular structure of water. Emoto’s hypothesis has evolved over the years of his research working with frozen water crystals. He believes that water takes on the resonance of the energy, which is directed at it, and that polluted water can be restored through prayer and positive visualization. “ (Le Gear 2012)

This work used homeopathic techniques, working with several dilutions of sampled water to make ‘remedies’ in this case not, originally, for human consumption. Le Gear writes : “The contradiction of a remedy made from water and diluted with itself presents interesting questions around the uses and permutations of a landscape whose energy-fields mediate and co-exist with the human body. This work reflects on the ephemeral and delicate sense of loss, causing us to contemplate on the contemporary environment we find ourselves in. We are living in a world where we only see the tip of the iceberg; big energy in little spaces.”
Her practice at this point became more ritualized and empathic, dialoguing with landscapes and waters of her surrounds. Time was spent feeling for their particular resonances and trying to ‘inhabit’ the waters; “to meet their polar opposite vibration through a ritual conversation”. Speaking to the voices of the wells.

There is much more to the artistic and healing processes in Le Gear’s practice but the crucial workings remain undisclosed by Le Gear, even to Annett. Her conversations with the waters are the fundamental element of the work. Working remotely has emphasized that it is the direct connection to the waters, a subtle exchange, which takes the form of words and which is mediated through Le Gear.

What is evident is that this is a deeply magical practice, Le Gear works actively to create a profound exchange of energy and understanding of the essential, physical, psychological, spiritual and divine or unknowable aspects of Water, their energies, their wounds and disruptions, but also to seek a way to balance the waters. It is again, a contract of service, a devotional practice. Le Gear engages with all aspects of being, of human experience, which sit upon and weave within the incomprehensible matrix which supports the laws of life and physics.

As an artist and researcher she has travelled extensively with her work, sampling waters in northern Europe and Mexico and South America as well as the Arctic circle, attending symposia and collaborating with university faculties and with several international solo exhibitions where her work, with its quiet and elegant simplicity transmits its meditative nature.
She writes,
“To me waters are like poetic time machines. They record time and also hold the keys to unlocking itself; alchemy within water. In homeopathy you treat like with like. This has been my process here, making remedies from the waters and returning them to themselves…I also introduced this water remedy to other bodies of water in different parts of the world. The return of the waters is always as a frozen sphere. Thus, I am making a remedy from the water and then I ‘return’ it to the water. I am setting in place a process of ‘healing’ (the water body) by giving it a focus that it currently does not have.”

It has been a process of surprise and intuition for Le Gear. She talks of ‘emptying’ herself and stepping outside of her egoic, functioning self to let the words and emotions of the places to come through. More pragmatically she write :  “My work resembles the process of creating a database / library that organizes a range of information about the nature of water. Intriguing results describe visually the energy, aesthetic and emotional image of accumulated water.”

These results extend to understanding of a social-political nature. The spaces she visits have very fully and complex histories as well as eco systems and these strands inform the artworks and exhibited pieces alongside the remedies and Le Gear avoids researching the location for each sampling before she has worked with the waters, to remove any learned knowledge and rely on immediate impressions. It is a solitary, contemplative and time-full methodology which sits in the space where science, magic and art coincide and collide.

The socio-political and environmental aspects of the work were further shaped by Le gear’s residency in 2016 where she took her place at the Land Arts of the American West Program, as part of the University of New Mexico’s Art & Ecology Program held on traditional Navajo lands. She witnessed the aftermath of the Gold King Silver mine catastrophe, writing,

 “Colorado (was devastated by the) releasing (of) over 3 million gallons of toxic waste into the Animas River, a tributary of the San Juan River that runs through Navajo Nation and nourishes all aspects of life. …the released waste contained thousands of pounds of dangerous and highly toxic heavy metals… this impact was felt deeply by the indigenous, local Diné people who not only rely on the San Juan River water for drinking and crop irrigation, but also view water as a living being integral to their community and way of life. As farms went fallow and losses accrued on the Navajo Nation, their very spiritual belief system and worldview was compromised because they were not able to use water from the river”.

Le Gear marks this as the point when she fully faced aspects of her own art practice as activism,
“Learning about these environmental injustices left seismic impressions… we made plans to collaborate, thinking of how our combined work could inform others of these injustices and also engage in healing gestures that carried potentials to ripple outward.”

Her work sits alongside work like Anne Bean’s ‘Come Hell or High Water’, produced throughout 2020 on the river Thames and Graham Reid’s (2016) Field 851. Beyond that within traditions of religion, philosophy and alchemy. In 2021, there is a recognition of the practice of women artists and water in Ecoartspaces project, ‘I am Water’, https://ecoartspace.org/I-AM-WATER-2021 which uses billboards across New York City (USA) to profile environmental arts practitioners. Among the artists featured are Lisette Moralles, Joan Pearlman and Ellen Janzen whose work and philosophical ideas resonate with that of Le Gear.

Le Gear’s is a gentle and intimate way, which starts with small, clear acts and the intention of listening, then working with this received information. It requires an act of trust in something other and creates spaces for grace and wisdom to come through.

For the Women and Water residency, altered radically by COVID-19, Le Gear has collaborated with Sally Annett and the ATELIER MELUSINE(AM) in south west France. Designed as emic residency Le Gear had to change her private methodology to allow Annett to be her ‘body on the ground’, collecting the water samples and returning the waters by post to Ireland.
Le Gear has worked almost completely blind to the actual locations; the decision being made to keep the sites secret to all but the AM team during the development of the remedies. This has allowed Ruth a purity of engagement with the waters outside of their natural surroundings – in their essential, chemical form.

Annett and Le Gear have communicated weekly, sometimes daily, Annett requesting instruction on how to gather and handle the water samples, sending them across the Atlantic from the Vienne in France to Sligo on the northwest of Ireland. Le Gear sending images, texts and instructions as well as her immediate reactions and impressions in sound files and free flow writings and charts. The samples are geographically close, nine in total, but final three chosen for exhibition and remedy in AM; 1. The Benaize near Le Pret, 4. The Font Chretien, Civaux and 5. The River Vienne. Civaux. The sites are 35 km apart, two rivers and one spring.
Sites 4 and 5 are both in Civaux and only a kilometre or so apart, however one is a fresh water spring bubbling out of the rock and the clearest of all the samples visually, the second taken from a major body of water which has run for several hundred kilometres to reach this point. So close geographically but environmentally, chemically and energetically very different.
Each ‘say’ very different things and Le Gear’s reaction to each one has startled Annett.

Sample 5 being the perfect example.

Sample five is from Civaux, the waters taken on the north west bank of the river Vienne just at the entrance to the village. Civaux is an ancient celtic/pagan shrine and pilgrimage site (Rue de La Biche) and just north of the ancient Roman town of Lussac Les Chateaux which is surrounded my Mesolithic, Neolithic, Magdelenien and Neanderthall cave, ritual and living sites. These have been overlaid by ancient shrines to Celtic goddesses, Roman goddesses and then to Christ. The site at Civaux was just this, a celtic, then Roman and then a Christian religious site. The Church at Civaux contains one of the few representations of the Melusine herself. In the 1980s the site was selected as the site for a large nuclear reactor/power plant, as a quiet waterside village (the river water is used to help cool the twin towers) and to everyone’s astonishment, a huge cemetary, built in Merovingian times:  the third and 4th centuries AD was, uncovered. Over 4 km long and within excess of 4,000 stone sarcophagi. A staggering site. As an addition to the nuclear power station, a crocodile farm and aquatic centre with 50 meter diving pool was additionally built also utilising the abundance of hot water from the towers. It has been labelled by one visitor as ‘The most dangerous place on earth’. It is indeed an awesome site.

Sample five was collected, decanted, wrapped and posted and the small glass vial exploded just before being delivered to Le Gear.

She writes “ It arrived in my hands – sopping wet – I could feel it’s magic from the paper but also from the tiny glass shards! 24 May 2021, eclipse of the moon. Le Gear attached a series of star and explosion emojis which seemed incredibly apt; the place has power, the place has had trouble.

The remedy made from the water is full of dualities and warnings, just like the site and reads :

This essence is all by thought consciousness, Understanding. The identity is really universal.

It’s demon would be attachment and in its development, it would be about the assimilation of knowledge and the development of wisdom. Its purpose is understanding, consciousness, awareness, belief systems, and transcendence. The ability to perceive and be aware to be open minded and question, a greater sense of spirituality and broader understanding. In its trauma, it would manifest as blind obedience, misinformation, education that towards curiosity. This essence allows one to reestablish the physical and emotional connection with spirit to examine one belief to examine, to examine one’s beliefs and to develop an inner witness.

I am I am whole, complete and total unto myself, everything and everyone is part of myself. It is all perfect. The body is totally at rest. And still, the energy is quiet and calm. The mind is clear and empty here totally aware. Life is it is an all as well.

Annett established a second studio-lab in the AM, to work alongside Le Gear and create the final exhibition which includes a cinematic installation, sculpture, photography, text and painting alongside the working samples, bottles, remedies, maps and field notes.

The project has opened up new ways of approaching her work and its process’s for Le Gear, hers is a personal and private methodology. This same process of collecting, thanking and returning the remedies to the water has bought joy and wonder (and mild injury) to the project participants and much song.

Working with the Sally Annett and the Women and Water project has been an exercise in love and trust.

I have had to step back from my practice and look at my intuitive methodologies as best I can and translate this essentialized personal ritual into transpersonal action: into words and directions for Sally, creating a set of instructions of sorts. It has been such an incredibly instructive and reflexive experience and I am learning about elements of my practice which had been invisible to me before.

In my studio, I study the water samples that I’ve collected. Spend time with them, contemplate with and meditate on them. I listen deeply allowing intuition to bridge an unknowable chasm to begin communication with the waters. I take a small amount of the water, which holds all of its history and potential, and make an essence, this is then translated through video, drawing and sound.

And slowly, the essence of the water is unraveled.

The completed works will be on show, by appointment from 11 September 2021, with Annett and Le Gear continuing to work up to and past that date with the other sites and remedies.

The 9 sites :

1.La Trimouille The Benaize @ Le Pret – 01 /05/21- 46°26’13.0″N 1°04’54.3″E

46.436940, 1.081745

2.St. Savin The Gartempe  05/05/21 Prom.de Rochengout 46°33’49.7″N 0°51’56.3″E

46.563816, 0.865627

3. Villeneuve Ruisseau du Grand Moulins. 46°24’55.1″N 0°44’34.9″E

46.415300, 0.743040

4. Spring, Le font de chretien 46°26’05.7″N 0°40’53.2″E

46.434925, 0.681456

5. Civaux – La Vienne 46°26’46.7″N 0°40’22.3″E

46.446303, 0.672847

6. Madalene Bussiere – spring source of the Benaize  46°15’28.2″N 1°26’40.4″E

46.257842, 1.444541

7. Lac la souteraine 46°13’56.4″N 1°30’03.5″E

46.232341, 1.500979

8. Lac du mondon (Benaize) 46°19’51.8″N 1°18’43.7″E

46.331053, 1.312137

9. Chateau Mareuil (L’Asse) Brigueil le Chantre 46°22’34.9″N 1°06’10.1″E

46.376364, 1.102801

The Elucidation (excerpt)

by: William W. Kibler (Translator) , Anonymous  (Author)

from: The Camelot Project  2007

 13 – 28

No one should reveal the secret.
Now listen to me one and all
And you will hear a tale
That will be a delight to listen to,
For in it will be the seven guards,
Who throughout the world have charge
Of all the good stories that have ever been told.
These writings will recount
What sort of people the seven guards are,
How [they act] and what end they will come to;
For you have never heard the story
Told or recounted truthfully;
Yet how and why the powerful country
Of Logres was destroyed
Was noised and bruited widely;
Time was, it was much discussed.

Appendix 8
1. “The people of Logres lost the voices of the wells and the land was laid waste…the earth was barren and…the rivers and wells ran dry…the kingdom turned to loss…for they lost the voices of the wells and the women who dwelt within”. (Prologue to ‘Perceval, le Conte du Graal’. 13C).





Sharon Blackie – The Voice of the Wells: Earth Centred Spirituality of the Oracular Tradition

14/06/2020/ Live Streamed on Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xFAKwdrsJ1s

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