The Sacred Art of Courtney Davis
From the foreword to St. Patrick a Visual Celebration
(Blandford Press 1999) by Father Dennis O Neill
In the fall of 1997, 1 was privileged to witness what happens when the veil separating
this world from the Otherworld is lifted and living humans have a Glimpse of Paradise.
Amazingly, this happened in my own dining room! Courtney Davis was visiting the
United States for a fortnight and spent a weekend in my rectory. I am aware that,
in Celtic understanding of reality, the body is in the soul of the person. Without
even intending to do so, before a gathering of about thirty people, Courtney actually
managed to help those present to "see" this. With the use of dowsing rods, he measured
the precise parameters of the energy fields around different individuals. He showed
us how our energy fields contract as we either close in on ourselves or shut down
altogether and expand proportionately as we feel joyous and expansive. He gave any
potential sceptics an opportunity to test this out for themselves, if they liked.
He then took one of his own pictures and invited individuals to concentrate on it,
allowing themselves to be drawn into its world. In each case, their energy fields
Witnessing this heightened my appreciation of the way many branches of Eastern Christianity use the veneration of icons as a means of drawing the believer into closer communion either with Christ or whichever angel or saint is depicted. A similar principle is operating in both cases: Celtic images, designs, and mandalas and Eastern Christian icons are all gateways through which a believer can enter the Otherworld and deeper communion with its inhabitants.
Before the evening ended, Courtney also measured the energy field around the picture
itself and then, speaking the entire time, slowly approached the picture to show
what happens when he crosses over the boundary of a picture's energy field and enters
its world. As he crossed over, his voice began to change distorting into a deeper
sound and slower motion, muffling more and more as he approached the picture.
As he backed away from the picture, his voice returned to normal. It seemed to
me that I was being given a glimpse of what happens when someone enters "the mists
of Avalon" and passes through the "veil" which separates this world from the Otherworld.
The Celtic Otherworld is the real studio Courtney enters whenever he prepares to
paint one of his marvelous pictures. Its inhabitants are his teachers and guides,
as he puts brush to the page. The next morning, after celebrating the Eucharistic
liturgy, several parishioners came to the rectory for coffee and sweets. Courtney
invited them into the dining room, where he opened the velvet satchel in which he
keeps the pages of the Book of Patrick. He be-
In the Celtic belief system, there are times in the year when the veil separating
this world from the other is considered thinner than at other times. It is believed
that, at these times, it is easier for humans to slip from one side to the other.
The quarterly lunar festivals are such times. And it is thought that the thinnest
space of all comes at Samhain, Celtic New Year, which takes place on the night between
Halloween and All Saints Day.
Perhaps Courtney Davis can pass through the "veil" so effortlessly because he is
himself a Celt, born to parents of Welsh, Scottish, and Irish descent on October
31st,the night of Halloween in 1946. While his birthplace was Blackwood, South Wales,
he grew up in London. Alas, throughout his life, he has suffered from back problems
and is registered as disabled. After three years of employment as a designer for
one of England's largest jewellry manufacturers, he was in such pain that he had
to have major spinal surgery in order to keep going. It was during the painful period
right after his first surgery that he had the first of a series of mystical experiences,
which completely changed his life. It began with the sensation that his departed
grandmother was manipulating and massaging his left leg and foot which had lost feeling
from the surgery to accelerate the healing process. This was followed by a vision
in which the wall suddenly opened, allowing the hospital ward to be filled with radiant
light, smoke, and Otherworld beings. They were monks, who surrounded him and began
This extraordinary experience had a threefold result. Even though he eventually had to have a more back surgery in the future, he has been basically well enough to maintain a continuous creative outpouring for the last thirty years. In 1987 after creating black and white images for the previous ten years, he began to paint wonderful things with aid of spirit lights that guided his hand.
His work has been exhibited widely in Western Europe, Japan and was introduced to
Chicago in 1995 at his first American exhibition. Not only have many of his pictures
appeared in his books, but also some of the designs are now being re-