The Artist as Alchemist

Article by: Zoe Flowers

Shakrah TreeAt their best, the artist, activist and cultural worker are the alchemists of our time. Working in the space of the unseen, they are intuitive, follow their gut and keep their eye on possibilities. In the same way that the ancients turned base metals into gold and silver, artists, activists and cultural workers transform poverty, depression and personal drama into art that reshapes the world.

However, unlike the alchemist the gifts and talents of artists and activists are often overlooked until they “make it big.” Even then they are subject to criticism, being labeled flaky or spacey at any given time. With this in mind, is it any wonder that some tuck talents neatly away or dim their light so others can shine? Is it surprising that they find themselves struggling to get work seen, fighting to keep organizations afloat and feeding families on shoestring budgets? I would have to say: no, no and no.

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Changing society isn’t going to happen overnight. So, those of us in it for the long haul need some tools to navigate this linear world.  Ritual is a huge part of my life. Ritual keeps me focused and marks both important and innocuous experiences.Here’s an easy ritual that I use on New Years, my birthday and in workshops.

      1. Take out a sheet of paper. On one side, list everything you want to release. On the other side, write all the wonderful things you want to attract.
      2. Take a moment to imagine everything you want coming to you easily and perfect ways.
      3. Burn the paper and imagine everything you’re releasing going up in flames and out of your life.

Reiki and meditation are also key components of my healing regimen. Both offer a time to get quiet, listen, focus and release. In a recent meditation, I realized that I needed to decide whether I was here to win or lose. I had to see myself as “winning” – as a person who wins. The time had come to shut down the negatives tapes for good. It was time to silence the voice pointing out every “bad” choice. I believe artists, activists and cultural workers have to liberate themselves before liberating others.

The New Year is the perfect time to move in a new direction. A new way of being might include incorporating a new healing practice or asking the tough questions like, “Am I gonna let what people said, thought or did to/about me rule me for-eva – eva?” With a little effort, 2014 could be the year you become the alchemist in your own life.

Affirm: I AM a person that wins! Winning looks good on me!


Zoë Flowers is a Reiki Master, poet, playwright and domestic violence expert. With over a decade of experience in the domestic violence field, Zoë speaks nationally and has spoken internationally on the issue of domestic violence. Her play From Ashes to Angel’s Dust: A Journey Through Womanhood has had many successful readings around the country. Zoë’s poetry and essays can be found in anthologies such as: Stand Our Ground Poems for Trayvon Martin and Marissa Alexander and Dear Sister an anthology by survivors of sexual assault. Ms. Flowers currently makes her living as a Reiki healer, Director of Prevention at The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence and teaching artist in New York City.

Alternate ROOTS supports the creation and presentation of original art that is rooted in communities of place, tradition or spirit. We are a group of artists and cultural organizers based in the South creating a better world together. As Alternate ROOTS, we call for social and economic justice and are working to dismantle all forms of oppression—everywhere.