Friday, May 25, 2018

Thank you for treasuring freedom



Memorial Day is about remembering. It’s about appreciating the sacrifice of others who had a vision of freedom for a whole nation. This vision was not embraced lightly – they knew that freedom would be obtained with great difficulty, and that it could slip away easily, quietly in the night. These warriors who fought to support this vision died hoping that decades down the road they would have made a difference. They admonished us to be ever vigilant.

What we can ponder upon as we enjoy the sunshine this weekend is: what is freedom? Do we have the same vision as the great ones whose vision resulted in America?

This is a great country. Not perfect, but great. We may be called upon to make sacrifices to maintain our freedom. Perhaps even asked to die for it. Would you?        
     
Thank you to all who serve in our national defense system. Thank you to the families who have lost loved ones for the sake of freedom.  No, we are not perfect, yes we make mistakes. Leaders are human. It is up to the PEOPLE to make sure that our leaders are wise and have the vision to move us forward, to create sustainable relationships with other countries, and not to be deceived.

Thank you to those who sacrifice time with loved ones who are in active service.

Without you we would not be free. 



About Symbologist Michelle Snyder


Michelle Snyder is a professor of mythology, and an author, publisher, speaker, and artist. She  did her post-graduate research at the University of Wales, decoding ancient and prehistoric symbolism, mythology, folklore, and fairy tales.  Her artwork has appeared in galleries from Massachusetts to California. Michelle is co-owner of White Knight Studio.

Michelle Snyder
Non-Fiction - Symbology:
Symbology: Decoding Classic Images
Symbology: Decoding Symbols through History
Symbology: Fairy Tales Uncovered
Symbology: Art and Symbols
Symbology: Hidden in Plain Sight
Symbology: ReVision
Symbology: World of Symbols
Symbology: Secrets of the Mermaids

Michelle Paula Snyder
Fiction – Fantasy Wonder Tales:
The Fairy Tales: Once Upon a Time Lessons, First Book
Call of the Dragon and other Tales of Wonder
A Tale of Three Kingdoms, book one: The Lost Unicorn
 A Tale of Three Kingdoms, book two The Lost Mermaid
 A Tale of Three Kingdoms, book three The Lost Dragon

Monday, May 14, 2018

Totems and Animal Symbolism

My Totem - M. Snyder


One of the most popular and perhaps among the oldest, forms of symbolism is animals. Animal symbolism is found all around the world. Although many animal symbols are of fantastical beasts, such as the dragon, the unicorn, the griffin, and the sphinx, real animals have been part of symbolism from the time symbols were first scratched onto a surface. The Lascaux Caves in France (c. 14,500 BC), Altamira in Spain (c. 12,500 BC), and many other caves are filled with images of animals both real and familiar. These images are records of how our ancestors lived, hunted, and divided time. In the “art” of the Stone Age are many ancient calendrics using animal images.

Animal symbolism differs from culture to culture, as wildlife differs around the world and along the path of evolution. There are, however, great similarities in the concepts that animals symbolize. From these concepts we can extract information about the ideologies of ancient cultures. Animal symbolism can be images representing concepts linked to the qualities of the animal - birds can fly, and therefore can represent a link or messenger between Heaven and Earth. Symbols like the centaur are more practical: Centurions lead 100 men: centaurs are horseback leaders of 100 horseback warriors. The symbol of Sagittarius could represent horseback warrior centurions - great men whose legends are cherished for millennia, symbolized both visually and mythologically.

Study from the Book of Kells - M. Snyder
There is rich cultural flavor in animal symbolism. Celtic heraldry is abounding with animal symbols. Elite Irish families use animal symbolism on their coats of arms, Irish pubs often take the names of animals known for their strength, and contemporary Irish coins are minted with images of peacocks, salmon, and stags. The Celts revere animals as teachers, friends, and healers. They believe animals can teach us how to live in harmony with nature; studying the natural cycles of other life forms imparts understanding of how things work on a fundamental level. Animals are aware of changing seasons: some hibernate until spring, and some migrate seasonally. Much animal symbolism in Celtic and Welsh mythology is associated with fertility and vitality. Fish, in particular the salmon, symbolize wisdom. A common saying is “fish is brain food.” In Celtic mythology Taliesin, the child who grew to be a wise magician and bard, was found on a fish pier. This association can be traced back to the Allerød, when salmon were more abundant than ever before or since. Boars are symbols of courage: boars are strong, dangerous, and hard to kill. Iseult’s premonition of the death of Tristan came in a dream about the death of a great boar. Boars also represent fertility and wealth. The stag is associated with Cernunnos, the horned god of nature and hunting. Hounds are sacred to the Faeries of Ireland and Scotland and thus are held in very high regard in both lands. Celtic knots are mathematical formulas symbolized; most have animals imaged in them. 

Eastern symbolism is replete with animals. Many Chinese symbols portray good fortune and positive elements. Chinese people believe that by filling their lives with lucky objects and images they increase prosperity and happy circumstances, making their existence joyful and fulfilling. The horse, the seventh sign of the Chinese Zodiac, is thought to be close kin to the dragon. Associated with elite status and military might, horses represent endurance, loyalty, and purity; they are also a symbol for quick advancement in rank and recognition of strength. One of the earliest Chinese images, the tiger, protects both the living and the dead, and is often seen on clothing or in the home to ward off harm. A tiger is an emblem of dignity, ferocity, sternness, and courage.

The animal symbolism of Native Americans is especially familiar in the West. In this tradition humans communicate with the Creator through interaction with nature: the birds, the forest, and the animals. Many individuals choose, or are given, a totem - a symbolic power animal whose character reflects the human character traits of the individual. According to Joseph Campbell, the word totem originally referred to a brother-sister blood relationship. The contemporary use of the word refers to a common ancestor as well as a symbol - often an animal - which unites a group of people. 

Totems generally have a protector relationship to the group. Tribes, families, and chiefs use totem poles to symbolize their gods and to record family history. Diverse tribes carve a different sets of images; some individual families or chiefs have their own. The tallest totem pole in the world is on the Nass River, between Canada and Alaska. He is “Kandah the Shark” of the Sakau’wan clan, towering 80 feet 6 inches. Said to be a King Salmon, this giant represents several Eagle clans on the coast.
   
In the past, totem poles may have had other significance. As they are carved out of trees the wooden totems do not last very long. The oldest standing totems are from the late 1800’s, but there are stories from all parts of Canada and the United States of much older totems. The real history and meaning has been lost, even to most tribes. The makers of modern totems follow the visual tradition established by artists long gone. 

Totems found in various locations have different characteristics. This is commonly attributed to the varying gods and ancestors of the tribes. It is my theory that the location of the tribe influenced which gods and animals were depicted, and the geographic surroundings inspired the design of the totem. I posit my thinking on such visual activity as the following; a description based on an experience I had: 

Imagine a perfectly still, mirror-like body of water. You lie down on the soft grass near the bank to meditate, gazing at the opposite shore. In the stillness and quiet of early morning, the rocks, trees, and grasses, with their crisp reflections in the mirror-like water, take on the likeness of gods and goddesses of nature, and ghosts of ancestors.    


Indian trackers, with their ear near the ground as they listen and look for tracks, would have this view frequently. These reflected images are surprisingly similar to totems. The picture above of reflected shoreline is of Woodford Lake in New Hampshire (photographer unknown). There is a convincing similarity to a totem pole, especially when the photograph is vertical. The totem on the right is from Vancouver, Canada, First Nation Stanley Park. Perhaps totems are territory markers fashioned after the geography found in the area, identifying the location and tribe to others. Although existing totems are not very old, we can still derive a great deal about the tribes that used them; their history, location, cosmology, and genealogy all influence the images of the totems. 
Mankind has always reflected upon the ways of animals, insects, and birds, sometimes for survival, and sometimes to look for a deeper and more harmonious relationship with Nature. The book of Proverbs admonishes us to consider the wisdom of the ant: “There be four things which are little upon the earth, but they are exceeding wise: The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer; The conies are but a feeble folk, yet make they their houses in the rocks; The locusts have no king, yet go they forth all of them by bands; The spider taketh hold with her hands, and is in kings' palaces.” (Prov. 30:24-28)   and “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest” (Prov. 6:6-8). Animal symbolism from ancient and modern cultures is, in part, a record of accumulated knowledge of natural sciences.

Michelle Paula Snyder
Michelle Snyder is a professor of mythology, and an author, publisher, speaker, and artist. She  did her post-graduate research at the University of Wales, decoding ancient and prehistoric symbolism, mythology, folklore, and fairy tales.  Her artwork has appeared in galleries from Massachusetts to California. Michelle is co-owner of White Knight Studio.


Symbologist Michelle Snyder
Non-Fiction - Symbology:
Symbology: Decoding Classic Images
Symbology: Decoding Symbols through History
Symbology: Fairy Tales Uncovered
Symbology: Art and Symbols
Symbology: Hidden in Plain Sight
Symbology: ReVision
Symbology: World of Symbols
Symbology: Secrets of the Mermaids

Michelle Paula Snyder
Fiction – Fantasy Wonder Tales:
The Fairy Tales: Once Upon a Time Lessons, First Book
Call of the Dragon and other Tales of Wonder
A Tale of Three Kingdoms, book one: The Lost Unicorn
 A Tale of Three Kingdoms, book two The Lost Mermaid 
A Tale of Three Kingdoms, book three The Lost Dragon

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Mothers

Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun, 1755-1842
Mothers are worshiped and feared, loved and resented, emulated and ignored. They are powerful storytellers, hard workers, and resilient human beings.  

Where would we be without mothers? Truth is, we wouldn't be. Mothers have been around since life began. Children are the hope of the future, and mothers bring forth children. A female’s ability to produce new life was worshiped as sacred in the oldest civilizations. The future of the human race depended - depends - upon this blessing.

Have you ever seen “cookie cutter” kids? You know, a mother with kids in tow, and they all look like mini versions of her, all copies of each other? What an amazing sight. Our hair, skin, and eye color all come from our inherited genetics. Likewise, centuries of cultural tradition and millennia of human behavior deposit genetic memories - images, symbols, called archetypes – which carry ghosts of culture and tradition. The oldest and perhaps most powerful of these symbols is the mother, a vision seen since life began. A mother’s love is said to be the most prevailing and powerful emotion.  

Inscriptions from 14,500 years ago, translated by Duncan-Enzmann, tell of mothers caring for children. Daughters were precious because they could produce life, assuring another generation and thus hope for the survival of the human race. Celebrations of Mother are found in ancient Greek and Roman festivals dedicated to the goddess Cybele. These festivals were in honor of motherhood, maternal bonds, and the influence of mothers in society. “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.” That is quite a responsibility. Today much of it lay with daycare mothers - but mothers none the less.

Scripture admonishes us to honor our mothers. An old holiday called Mothering Sunday was celebrated in Britain, a day the Church set aside during lent in which children returned to their home church, usually taking their mothers with them. In 1913, Miss Anna Jarvis instituted a day to be set aside in honor of motherhood, and since then Mothers’ Day has been celebrated both here and in Britain, eventually replacing Mothering Sunday. Mother-in-law day did not have the same success.

Today, Mothers’ Day honors love for and of mothers around the world. Husbands and children express appreciation for the endless flow of motherly love with symbols of affection: phone calls, cards, chocolates, flowers, jewelry, and framed pictures of the kids are among the most popular in the West. Taking Mom out to eat is traditional, relieving her of both cooking and cleaning up. Some children present Mom with handmade gifts or write poems for mom in cards they make. 

This Mother’s Day why not start a family tradition of your own, make a phone call, make a card, make a cake, but make it special. Be thankful for your mom - without her, you would not be. 



Happy Mother's Day, Mom. 

Michelle Paula Snyder
Michelle Snyder is a professor of mythology, and an author, publisher, speaker, and artist. She  did her post-graduate research at the University of Wales, decoding ancient and prehistoric symbolism, mythology, folklore, and fairy tales.  Her artwork has appeared in galleries from Massachusetts to California. Michelle is co-owner of White Knight Studio.


Symbologist Michelle Snyder
Non-Fiction - Symbology:
Symbology: Decoding Classic Images
Symbology: Decoding Symbols through History
Symbology: Fairy Tales Uncovered
Symbology: Art and Symbols
Symbology: Hidden in Plain Sight
Symbology: ReVision
Symbology: World of Symbols
Symbology: Secrets of the Mermaids

Michelle Paula Snyder
Fiction – Fantasy Wonder Tales:
The Fairy Tales: Once Upon a Time Lessons, First Book
Call of the Dragon and other Tales of Wonder
A Tale of Three Kingdoms, book one: The Lost Unicorn
 A Tale of Three Kingdoms, book two The Lost Mermaid 
A Tale of Three Kingdoms, book three The Lost Dragon

Friday, May 11, 2018

The Great Serpent Ouroboros


Ouroboroking - M. Snyder
Like many words that have ancient etymology, most symbols have their roots in antiquity. One such symbol is the ouroboros which dates back at least to 9000 BC. Ouroboros is Greek for tail-devourer. This image can be found in multiple symbol systems all over the world. The snake swallowing its own tail combines the symbolism of the circle and the serpent, and, like the Phoenix, represents life, death, and rebirth. The great serpent symbolizes the endless process of cyclical repetition.

In Egyptian iconography the self-sufficient serpent represents the path of sun, the circle of the universe. One image, dating to 1600 BC in Egypt, is the Chrysopoeia ouroboros of Cleopatra. The name indicates the attempts at creating gold, and indicates an advanced knowledge of natural science and the beginnings of alchemy. In alchemical emblems, the ouroboros symbolizes a closed cyclical process in which the heating, evaporation, cooling, and condensation of a liquid helps to refine or purify substances. Often there are two snakes, each biting the tail of the other. The upper one has wings to signify the more volatile substances, the lower has no wings to represent fixed elements. 

The serpent (or pair of serpents) with tail in mouth communicates self-sufficiency: The creature begets, weds, impregnates, and slays itself with a power that continually consumes and renews. In every end is a new beginning. In some funerary art the ouroboros represents immortality, eternity, and wisdom. An illustration from 1571 shows an ouroboros with the Roman Saturn, a god of time. In Norse mythology, the serpent Jormungand  grew large enough to encircle the world and grasp its tail in its teeth. This ancient Norse serpent holding the universe together is a continually regenerating ouroboros. The tail-biting serpent is also found in Hindu mythology, circling the tortoise, which supports the four elephants that carry the world. The Great Serpent appears in alchemical, ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Gnostic texts, as well as Aztec iconography 

An ancient depiction of the ouroboros has an inscription that reads: Hen to Pan, meaning The All Is One. Alpha and omega symbols are sometimes depicted with an ouroboros, both represent the beginning and end; the snake connects them together as it bites its tail. “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” is a saying derived from old English burial services, adapted from Genesis 3:19: "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." The ouroboros symbolizes this concept very well, representing the natural cycles of life, as does Yggdrasil, the Norse Tree of Life, and the Kabala Tree of Life.

Like many ancient symbols, the ouroboros has collected layers of esoteric meaning. The never-ending serpent is apparently immobile, yet is in perpetual motion, recoiling on itself. The cyclical nature of this Great Serpent links it to the infinity sign, and to the perfect, never-ending circle which is the constraining factor in Sacred Geometry, as the ouroboros constrains the universe. The continuous movement of the serpent symbolizes well the flow of creation from chaos to order, to chaos again, and the background radiation which continually tumbles through the universe (Duncan-Enzmann). This Hubble image of Monocerotis (which actually means Unicorn) looks very much like the great ouroboros.


Michelle Paula Snyder
Michelle Snyder is a professor of mythology, and an author, publisher, speaker, and artist. She  did her post-graduate research at the University of Wales, decoding ancient and prehistoric symbolism, mythology, folklore, and fairy tales.  Her artwork has appeared in galleries from Massachusetts to California. Michelle is co-owner of White Knight Studio.


Symbologist Michelle Snyder
Non-Fiction - Symbology:
Symbology: Decoding Classic Images
Symbology: Decoding Symbols through History
Symbology: Fairy Tales Uncovered
Symbology: Art and Symbols
Symbology: Hidden in Plain Sight
Symbology: ReVision
Symbology: World of Symbols
Symbology: Secrets of the Mermaids

Michelle Paula Snyder
Fiction – Fantasy Wonder Tales:
The Fairy Tales: Once Upon a Time Lessons, First Book
Call of the Dragon and other Tales of Wonder
A Tale of Three Kingdoms, book one: The Lost Unicorn
 A Tale of Three Kingdoms, book two The Lost Mermaid 
A Tale of Three Kingdoms, book three The Lost Dragon