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The Spirits That Hold Us In Their Sheltering Embrace

Dawn broke this morning amid coral clouds adrift across a pale turquoise expanse. Even now, the sun veils most of its face as it rides high in the southeast sky, although the blue shows through everywhere else.

These, though, are the ordinary clouds of October: a feature of the dawn, one that does nothing to affect the perfect clarity of the air. For three days, and for the first time in months, we have been able to see a clear horizon in all directions.

In more ordinary years, it’s easy to take such a sight for granted, although the air’s cold sharp clarity never fails to amaze — an easy feat when it steals one’s breath for its own. After the pall cast over the early weeks of the season this year, we now know that it is a gift to be acknowledged daily, and we are grateful.

At this moment, the blues outside the window are many: the turquoise sky, the slate of mountain slopes in shadow, the teal tinge of the evergreens, the indigo of the scrub jay’s feathers flashing in the light. These are the blessings of autumn, gifts that come from all directions now, and in a year when there is so much to mourn, we find reasons for gratitude where we can.

And so it feels like a perfect day to feature Wings’s newest work, one completed only last week but also one that weaves the style and substance and spirit of some of his older works throughout. It’s that rarest of styles from him, a cross — but one with a history; the patterns on it echo one of his designs from a decade and a half ago or more, updated with more newly-acquired stamps that turn the stars into extended Eyes of Spirit. But as has always been the case on the rare occasions that he creates one, no colonial cruciform, this: This is an homage to the stars and the sacred directions.

And, indeed, it takes its very name from that purpose. From its description in the Necklaces Gallery here on the site:

The Stars and the Sacred Directions Necklace

Wisdom rests within the embrace of the stars and the sacred directions. Wings summons them both to the center of the sky in this revival of one of his older styles, a traditional Southwest-style cross cut freehand and wrought in heavy fourteen-gauge sterling silver. In echoes of older works, he extends the upper spoke of the cross into a secondary bail, creating an image that is less cruciform, more evocative of the Four Sacred Directions. The spokes are scored and stamped entirely freehand in a design that evokes a Northern-style star. A second star is nested at the center around a single square cabochon of natural blue-green spiderwebbed turquoise beautifully marbled with an inky matrix, an eight-pointed star whose points each form one-half of an Eye of Spirit, itself a sign of wisdom, illumination, and guidance. One the reverse, he echoes the motif of stars pointing to the Sacred Directions with mariner’s stars stamped freehand around his hallmark at the cardinal points. The pendant hangs from a hand-made bail, through which is threaded sterling silver snake chain. Pendant including bail hangs 3″ long, without bail, 2-5/8″ long; bail is 9/16″ long; cross is 1-3/4″ across at the widest point; turquoise cabochon is just over 3/8″ square; chain is 18″ long, excluding findings (all dimensions approximate). Close-up views shown below.

Sterling silver; blue-green spiderweb turquoise
$1,500 + shipping, handling, and insurance

Wings has always made his crosses a tribute to the elemental powers and spirits of the our world: of earth and sky, of the light of sun and moon and stars, of the winds and sacred directions, cardinal and ordinal alike. He consistently elongates the upper spoke, usually through an organic bail, so that upper and lower spokes become, at a glance, roughly equal in length. It becomes an imperfect evoking of the Four Directions, spokes stretching to east and west shorter but occasionally, as with yesterday’s featured work, doubled in quantity, the better to honor their messenger spirits who ride the winds.

In this instance, he has repeated the stampwork on the reverse, around his hallmark at the center, an embrasure in the form of directional motifs set at the cardinal points: a symbol of multiple signifiers, a mariner’s compass, a guiding star, one that echoes the bolder imagery on the front that evokes the spirits and invokes the powers of illumination and wisdom, guidance and protection.

The imagery and power of the Four Sacred Directions has guided Wings’s hands as long as he has been at this work, which is to say, his whole life. For me, that, too, is a gift, for I do not wear cruciform crosses; in the context of our histories, they represent colonial violence and genocide, not any promise of peace or of life renewed. But I do wear the imagery of more ancient powers, of our own creator and creative spirits. And I would wear this.

This is a work to honor the forces that give our world life, and us with it, to honor the spirits that hold us in their sheltering embrace. And at this season, we can see proof of those gifts clearly once again.

~ Aji








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