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Deciphering the Da Vinci Code


What if the Da Vinci Code makes me uncertain about what I really believe?

A review of Ron Howard's film of the book

Meditate with Art

Windows into the Soul: Art as Spiritual Expression


Beneath the Brushstrokes: What art can tell us about the Divine

by Richard G. Miller

Art is a sometimes fascinating and often frustrating force. It challenges our sense of reality and illusion, history and interpretation. Dan Brown’s best-selling novel The Da Vinci Code purports that the visual artist uses symbols to tell us what we don't want to, or aren’t ready to, hear, or what is too unpopular for the artist to commit to actual words.

To look at it another way, perhaps artists, by virtue of the creative process, actually connect to spiritual forces beneath their feet and then point to this connection in multi-layered creations. We look, but are we prepared, or worthy, or able to see what exists below the surface?

Hidden symbolism is some of what makes art frustrating for the average gallery hopper. Art can take on so many forms, techniques and images, not to mention colors, perspectives, textures, arrangements and social agendas. To deal with hidden meanings is a significant barrier. We are tempted to just observe the visual language and react to it. What could classical artwork possibly communicate to us in a postmodern Western value system besides its enduring beauty?

The Da Vinci Code speaks of this language hidden from most of us. Hidden even from many art students. It is the language of the Divine Feminine. The Goddess. The Sacred Mother. Ancient world religions have celebrated the feminine with images that illustrate her amazing reproductive role and seductiveness to the masculine.

Goddesses of love and passion, Virgins, Sacred Prostitutes, Fertility, Sophia Wisdom, Goddesses of Music, the Constellations, Goddesses of the Sea and Rain, Mother Earth, Goddesses of Harvest Plenty, et cetera. Carl Jung, father of Jungian psychology, confirms that these archetypes live on in our collective dreams and streams of consciousness.

circle If we had grown up with stories of heroic or divinized women, we would recognize references to those stories in the art we view. But living in an age when women are yet recovering from the stereotype of emotionally unstable producers of babies, it is hard to consider them as having heroic or divine qualities, much less see them depicted as such in art.

Yet the evidence presented in The Da Vinci Code seems to indicate that artists have long been singing "her-stories" through visual references. Certainly art as an act of creation develops an artist's sensibilities to the feminine, spiritually birthing into light a thing from darkness. Hence the artist develops, or discovers, a visual language that speaks of that experience without really being heard.

In the spirit of The Da Vinci Code, let us look at some symbolism in art that may be hinting at a deeper meaning:

  • Obvious allusions to the spirit of the Feminine in art: women, mothers, sisters, children, babies, sirens, nymphs, angels and cherubs, long flowing fabric and tresses of hair, eroticism, female nudes, dancers, bathers, virgins, and references to Mary, Rachel, Eve or any known goddess.
  • Possible allusions to the Divine Feminine: fairies, mermaids, oceans, streams, rivers, ships and cargo, receptacles of fluid, containers of all sorts (closed and open), trees and forests (especially with a road leading into/through), fruit (especially apples), birds (especially swans and nests), eggs, flowers (especially lilies and roses), dragons, fire, snakes, bulls, Pegasus, soft undulating landscape, harvest, the moon (crescent and full), spiders, time (especially as a measure of seasons and cycles), horns of plenty, bread, seeds.
  • Very subtle allusions in art to the Divine Feminine: groups of three and four, pentagrams, bearers of burdens (especially children, water and harvest), innocence, family, home, love, grace, wisdom (especially books and teaching), mirrors, death, tombs, pain, blood, circles, ellipses and ovals, shadows, emotions such as longing, patience and expectancy, fullness, fatness, roundness, abundance, herbs and medicinals, ornamentation, flowing movement, play.
  • Feminine colors in art: Red of lips, nipples and menstrual blood, white of purity and milk, green of abundant plant life, deep blue of night sky and ocean, silver of moon, yellow of sun and blond hair, black of death, the womb and black magic.

The presence of one or two symbols of the feminine does not make it a work extolling our goddesses, but in interpreting, we must not overlook the overriding theme of the artwork or any medium or technique that makes it especially spiritual or feminine. And while the Divine Mother can be interpreted in many, many symbols, before we write it off as mere interpretation, or beauty in the eye of the beholder, it is also worth noting that she appropriately wears endless variations of costumes, hats and accessories.

Perhaps Dan Brown is spinning more than a tale. It is my hunch that he found a creative shuttle with which to present the oft-unseen Divine Weaver. She circle dances a mystical tune that resonates in our souls season after season. She is ever giving birth to new ideas and creations, whether or not we give her credit.

The Mother of us all has not been silenced, especially in the arts where she is felt most clearly, and we may admire Dan Brown for his clever, modern tailoring using the fabric spun from the age-old Sophia.


Da Vinci Code Book Cover
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