My Creative Muse and the Afterlife

Mandalla drawing of my creative muse with a white mandala background and rainbow color shape. Her arms are outstretched and she wears a rainbow crescent crown on her head. Drawing by Anna Loscotoff.

In January of 2008, I took my first Artist Way class in Sacramento, California.  Artist Way is about making space for your creativity, identifying your critical inner voice, and clearing out the congested wounds that have gotten in your creative way.  During one of our classes, we were asked to meditate on our Creative Muses and draw them.  I closed my eyes and without a second of thought, she stood in front of me.  She consumed my vision with flaming light, radiant. She wore a crescent crown, her arms outstretched, a rounded base.  This vision of her filled every ounce of my conscience.  

A symbolic shape of a woman is drawn in rainbow chalk pastels.  Her arms are outstretched, she has a round belly, she wears a crown of the sickle moon. Drawing by Anna Loscotoff, 2008.
Drawing in chalk pastels of a vision of my Muse, January 2008, Sacramento. We were asked to meditate on our creative muses and this image came immediately to my closed eyes.

The image was new to me.  As time has passed and technology grows, I see hints of her on the internet through the Triple Goddess and her horned consort.  I see the other Lunar Deities and how the image of the crescent crown has been used over time.  But for me, in that time and place, the crescent moon sitting on the head of my Muse was new. 

In 2011, I tattoo’d her shape onto my left wrist.  Her tattoo was a reminder; she is always present with me and creativity is a part of who I am.  I chose my left arm because the left is often seen as our spiritual, creative, and feminine side with the right side being rooted in the here and now, our masculine, logical side.  I signed my art with her shape, honoring my muse.

A new tattoo in the shape of a symbolic woman with arms outstretched, a round body, and sickle moon crown.
In 2011 I got a tattoo of my Muse on my left wrist. She stands in the shape that I saw her in 2008.


In the spring of 2013, we left Sacramento, moving to the dry Tehachapi Mountains.  I left behind a very dear friend, Susan.   A woman who was constantly reminding and supporting the divine feminine within me; reminding me of who I was and who I could be. Just after Christmas of that year, she called me.  Her friend was dying and she wondered if she could come and visit. 

Susan’s friend was Signe.  Signe was blind, and Susan, an avid hiker and outdoors woman, would take Signe with her.  She would guide her through the trees, up paths, and gave Signe an opportunity to see the world through Susan’s eyes. Susan instinctively felt that Signe could not pass with her in town, and if she came to visit me, Signe would be able to transition.

Signe passed the first night and, in her honor, Susan asked if we could go hiking.  As we drove up the mountain, Susan’s brother called.  He told her, “Signe can see every color of the rainbow now.”

We arrived at Mountain Park, a camping and hiking area just above Tehachapi with beautiful pines.  We stepped out of the car and began to climb. Two baby trees caught Susan’s attention and she pulled out her digital camera and took a photo.  She stopped, looked at me, and said, “Look at this!”

There in her photo, in the upper right corner, was a glorious rainbow burst of light.  It wasn’t at all like the shape you get from the sun, with circular orbs.  This was quite different. My daughter, 8 at the time, asked to see.  Immediately she stated, “Mommy, it’s your tattoo.”  And she was right.  The shape of my tattoo had appeared in Susan’s photo and she was every color of the rainbow, just as Susan’s brother had said not 15 minutes earlier.

A orb, every color of the rainbow, which appeared in a digital photograph. The shape of the orb mimics the shape of a woman with a round bottom and crown on her head.
A glimpse of the Afterlife. The first photo taken after the passing of Signe, this orb appeared in the upper corner of the picture, mimicking the tattoo of my Muse and containing every color of the rainbow, symbolic to the woman who passed.

We knew in that moment that Signe was with us.  We knew Signe could now see every color of the rainbow in this new space. I also understood that what I had seen in 2008 was real, not something my mind created in the moment.  The figure of the Goddess on my wrist wasn’t a figment, but rather a form that exists outside of our human bodies. 

When I find myself doubting or fearful as to what comes next, I return to Mountain Park and my time with Susan.  I return to Signe’s message of existence after our earthly death.  I return to my Muse, the form that appeared to me when I asked for her support and guidance. I am comforted that there is more.  I am comforted knowing we have glimpsed the Afterlife.

A drawing of my Creative Muse using every color of the rainbow on black paper. Drawing by Anna Loscotoff.
A drawing of my Creative Muse on black paper in every color of the rainbow.

Thank you to Susan, for allowing me to share her part of this story and for being such a powerful and beautiful influence in my life.

My Dear Readers, what gifts have you been given that allow you faith in an Afterlife? Have you seen, felt, or heard something that you hold on to? Do you have an interpretation different than mine? Are there books that have influenced you? You can send me a message here or comment below.

Links:

Lunar Deities

The Faces of the Goddess

Cernunnus, the Horned God of Celtic Mythology

Books:

Maiden, Mother, Crone: The Myth and Reality of the Triple Goddess

By Oak, Ash, & Thorn: Modern Celtic Shamanism

The Mists of Avalon (my all-time favorite fiction about the Triple Goddess)

Complex Nocturnal Visual Hallucinations

Original Mandala by Anna Loscotoff. Drawing of experience with Complex Nocturnal Visual Hallucinations, drawn on Procreate. Image of woman with blonde hair dreaming her arms are too long. She's sitting in blue bed with orange light in background. 2020.

I recently had a rough night of sleep.  The hallucinations kept coming, one after another, for hours.  Because I understand what’s happening, or at least understand it’s not real, they don’t last as long as they used to.  I can generally pull myself out fairly quickly, but on nights like this I become afraid to close my eyes again and the anxiety rises. The adrenaline and fear is exhausting and at a certain point my brain begins to think something is really wrong.  On this particular night, after hours of partially waking, I told my husband that I thought I was having strokes. I was mostly asleep, not fully conscious of what I was saying. Other nights I’ve told him I was having a heart attack.  One night, I got up and told my daughter, full of panic, that my arms were too long. Yes, my arms were too long.  In reality, my brain is somewhere in the in-between; not yet awake, not completely asleep.

Anna sleeping at around 5 years of age with her dog.

When I was in high school I slept with my lamp on.  My dad, always conscious of the energy bill, would come in at 2 or 3 in the morning, my light having somehow woke him. He would switch it off, unintentionally waking me, and quietly reprimand me for keeping it on.  I’ve come to learn it was a sleep survival instinct. Research has shown that increasing light pulls the individual out of the hallucination.  That’s why, in second grade, the skeleton on my shelf didn’t disappear just because my dad came in the room.  It disappeared when he turned on the light. Many nights, with the lights off, I would see doors in my bedroom walls.  My brain told me I needed to go through the doors, curious about where they went.  Only I couldn’t get to them, something was in the way.  That something was often a dresser or bookshelf, and I would fully wake trying to move them.

You’d think a solution would be to sleep with the light on.  As an adult, I wish that were an option.  I do sleep with a salt lamp, but that often feels too bright and doesn’t allow me to fully sleep.  Nightlights cause shadows.  Those shadows become stories, creatures, forms.  Those shadows become anxieties to my sleeping mind. 

I go through stages of hallucinations, my mind fixating on certain subjects, sometimes for years at a time. I’ve had weeks of aliens coming through the ceiling, years of an important ring that I have lost or swallowed (and the loss of that ring to my sleeping mind will end the world), fairies flying around the room, floods. Lately my mind has a preoccupation with electricity. All of these are symbolic and visions into where my subconscious is centered. I will go more into symbolism, both in dreams and in hallucinations, in future posts.

Could there be something really wrong? This condition can be found in completely normal, healthy individuals, but there are some genuine medical reasons that people experience nocturnal hallucinations.  I just don’t seem to have any of them.  I don’t have hallucinations during the day, either visual or auditory, which is common in Schizophrenia.  I don’t have Epilepsy.  I don’t use drugs or alcohol.  No sight deprivation, Parkinson’s or Lewy body dementia.  Complex Nocturnal Hallucinations are also common in Narcolepsy, however Narcolepsy has several other defining factors such as excessive daytime sleepiness and sleep paralysis (neither are issues that affect me.) Also, it started when I was in 1st grade, (perhaps earlier, I just don’t have the conscious memory), which makes me think it is just how my brain fires. 

What types of things have you experienced while sleeping?  Any common symbols that keep coming up for you?

Want to explore deeper?  Here are some studies about Complex Nocturnal Visual Hallucination:

Complex Visual Hallucinations in Mentally Healthy People

Complex Visual Hallucinations; Clinical and Neurobiological Insights

What You Should Know About Sleep-Related Hallucinations

Melatonin-Responsive Complex Nocturnal Visual Hallucinations

The Skeleton on the Shelf

Anna in 1981, age 6, in her backyard.

I was only in first grade, nestled into my blankets on the loft of my bunk bed. It was late, everyone asleep, all the lights out. I opened my eyes from my deep sleep. Sitting across the room, on my book shelf, sat a skeleton. Not a little one, like a toy, but a full sized boney form, staring at me.

I screamed.

I kept screaming.

It kept staring at me.

My dad burst into the room; the skeleton sat until my dad flipped on the light. Mercifully, the light banished my visitor.

At school, I told the third grade girls who I so delightfully looked up to about my experience.  They were convinced I had been visited by Bloody Mary and I feared they were right.

Anna holding her birthday cake in the shape of a giraffe on her 7th birthday.

This is my first memory in a long history of sleep disorders, all falling under the umbrella of Parasomnia.  Parasomnia includes common sleep disorders you’ve probably heard of like Sleepwalking, Sleep Talking, and Nightmare Disorders, but it also includes sleep disorders a little less familiar, like Hypnagogic Hallucinations (upon falling asleep), Hypnopompic Hallucinations (upon waking), and Complex Nocturnal Visual Hallucinations (middle of the night.) While  Hypnagogic and Hypnopompic Hallucinations are often connected to Narcolepsy, Sleep Paralysis and Excessive Daytime Sleepiness, Complex Nocturnal Visual Hallucinations often disappear with increasing light and don’t cause that same exhaustion during the day.  

Through my years of sleep disorders (Sleepwalking, Sleep Talking, Nightmares, Teeth Grinding, Complex Nocturnal Visual Hallucinations) I’ve become deeply invested in the world of sleep, how our dreaming brain works, symbolism and dream interpretation.   

This blog will be an exploration of dreams and symbolism, mandala work, art, meditation through art, and sleep. It may lead us down unforeseen paths, like the time I followed a red balloon through my parent’s room, trying to convince them it was real and them trying to convince me I was asleep and needed to go back to bed. I hope you will join me on this journey.