Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Fascinating Fairies, by Skye Alexander

What image comes to mind when you think about fairies? Dainty female figures with gossamer wings, long flowing hair, and gauzy dresses? Maybe waving magic wands or flinging sparkly pixie dust around? Most likely they’re tiny enough to perch on flower petals, but regardless of size these magical creatures are always dazzlingly gorgeous––and sometimes sexy, in an ephemeral sort of way. Of course, they’re also sweet, fun-loving beings, just the sort of playmates you’d like your kids to hang out with.

Nice, but not true––unless you’re in Disneyland, that is.

Until the last century or so, fairies came in a wide assortment of sizes, shapes, and colors––with a variety of temperaments to match. Yes indeed, some were exquisitely beautiful, but others could star in your worst nightmare. And when it came to their behavior, parental guidance was definitely advised.

Fairies, Fairies Everywhere
Wherever you go on this planet you’ll hear fairy tales of magical and mysterious beings, some no bigger than your hand and some taller than the redwoods. They fly through the air, tunnel deep into the earth, splash about in the seas, even flicker in candle flames. These awesome creatures have played a prominent role in the lives and legends of mortals since the beginning of time, and they still do.

Although flying fairies dominate the scene today, they didn’t really become popular until the Victorian era. Instead, early legends in Europe, Britain, and Ireland tended to focus on these fairy folk: pixies, elves, dwarfs, trolls, hags, leprechauns, goblins, and the sidhe. Other cultures had their fairies too. The ancient Greeks, for instance, believed in all sorts of nymphs who occupied the waterways. The Persians had their beautiful peris. Deep in Russia’s immense forests woodland fairies called leshiye ruled supreme; they could shapeshift to appear as tall as trees or as tiny as mice.

Many folklorists say fairies descended from ancient gods and goddesses. For thousands of years, these deities had dominion over the earth, the heavens, and all the inhabitants therein. They governed day and night, land and water, the seasons, the growth of plants, wild and domestic animals—just about everything. Basically, fairies can be grouped into two categories: those who guard and guide the natural world, and those who deal with destiny and the fate of humankind.

Usually, fairies stay out of sight of humans, going about their business without fanfare. But if you detour off the beaten track and into the peaceful, unspoiled places on our planet, you may get lucky and enjoy a close encounter with these nature spirits. Just be careful not to get too close or to fall for their ruses—you might never come back from the fairy realm!

Fairy Power
Myths and legends tell us that fairies have an arsenal of supernatural powers that they can use for good or ill—and mere mortals are no match for them. Throughout history, friendly fairies have helped humans by protecting crops and livestock, healing the sick and delivering babies, granting wishes and bringing good luck. Angry spirits, on the other hand, reportedly stir up storms, wither crops, conjure plagues, cast curses that last for eternity, and turn humans into toads, stones, or worse. So obviously, you want to stay in the fairies’ good graces.

Here are some characteristics fairies possess:
·                        Fairies live practically forever––at least ten times as long as humans, maybe more.
·                  Fairies are stronger than they look––Hawaiian mythology tells of small spirits called the menehuene who supposedly created amazing stone dams and walls on the island of           Kauai, and Arabic myths say fairies known as the jinn built the pyramids.
·                       Fairies can foretell the future––“The Sight” (clairvoyance) is natural to them.
·                      Fairies can make themselves invisible––you’ll only see a fairy if she wants you to.

Friend or Foe?
Fairies don’t feel emotions the way humans do, nor do they share our sense of ethics—although they have their own codes, which can be quite rigid. At best, fairies could be considered amoral. Our ancestors sought to understand the ways of the fey, in order to win the fairies’ favor and avoid incurring their wrath. You might want to do the same, because although modern media depict these spirits as pretty innocuous, they have a long tradition of being anything but.

Friendly Fairies:
·                    Scottish brownies assist people with domestic chores, cleaning the house, or plowing   the fields after everyone else has gone to bed.
·                     Native American spirit animals guard and guide humans.
·                     The Incan huacas protect crops and livestock.
·                     Irish merrows are known for their gentle and cheerful natures.

Scary Fairies:
·                       Goblins roam in packs, terrorizing humans and ruining property.
·                       In Hindu mythology, cannibalistic rakshasas eat holy men and cause leprosy.
·                      England’s spriggans steal children, rob homes, and damage crops.
·                India’s trouble-making mumiai torment people of the lower castes by attacking them and destroying their belongings and gardens.
·                     The Russian rusalki charm human men, then drown them.
·                     Japanese tengu herald death and war.

Many legends describe fairies as tricksters who like to tease and torment humans. Irish leprechauns are notorious for playing tricks on people, especially those who want to grab the fairies’ gold. Pixies confuse travelers, causing them to veer off track and get lost. Britain’s bogles sneak into people’s houses and mess things up, make strange noises, and generally annoy the occupants.

Some fairies are known to steal humans’ belongings. It seems they do this either for their own amusement or to get our attention, because if you ask politely they usually give the objects back. So the next time you lose your keys or glasses, ask the fairies to please return them.

How to Win a Fairy’s Favor or Avoid a Fairy’s Curse
Want to attract friendly fairies? Put out food and drink for them. Many of them like milk, honey, wine, fruit, and bread. Gifts of clothing, coins, and shiny trinkets also appeal to some fairies. In return, they might offer you treasure or healing benefits. In the Brothers Grimm’s story “The Three Little Men in the Wood,” fairies give a little girl gold in exchange for a bit of bread. You might try these things to win their favor too:

·                     Build a fairy house for them to live in.
·                     Sing and dance, and invite the fairies to join you.
·                     Play a flute or ring wind chimes.
·                     Respect nature and animals.
·                     Support causes that protect nature and wildlife.
·                     Plant a garden (no pesticides, please).

Not everyone wants fairies hanging around, however. If you’d rather these unpredictable spirits kept their distance, you could try the tactics our ancestors used:

·                     Display iron objects.
·                     Sprinkle salt around.
·                     Hang up garlic.
·                     Hang a rowan branch above your door.
·                     Make loud noises.
·                     Ring church bells.

Probably the best advice for dealing with fairies is to err on the side of caution. Let them make the first move. Be courteous, but not solicitous. Don’t invite them into your life or try to insert yourself into theirs. If you meet a fairy or if one gives you a gift, keep that secret between you and the fairy. If fairies want to stop by at midnight and wash your dishes or muck out the stables, fine. But if they invite you to dinner or offer to babysit your kids, beware.

Adapted from Skye Alexander’s book Fairies: The Myths, Legends, and Lore
Available at Amazon. 

Skye's website: Here

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Symbology for Gamers: The Great Black Forests

Dangerous Environments - The Dark Forests

Location, location, location, even for dungeons, is all important. Environments are a dangerous enemy. Mother Nature is powerful and temperamental. She can raise up whatever is needed to survive, or smash down with destructive elements of her choosing. Her magic is unsurpassed, and beyond our capabilities. Legends and tales of great beasts with immense power represent her elemental prowess. The Chimera is said to be the power of a volcano, Typhon is a deadly typhoon. Tibetan folklore blames earthquakes on the giant frog which holds up the earth.

The great dark forests of immense size in which little children could disappear forever are a common theme in IndoEuropean folklore. In Fairy tales like Sleeping Beauty, the element of the story where vegetation grows all around the castle – in this case protecting the genetic line of the king – can only be 6000 years old, as no forestation existed prior to that time. It was about 6000 BC, during the Boreal (means tree) era, when the ice ages were waning and the earth was warming up. At first the tundra was soft and wet as it thawed, trees started to grow but the soil was not firm enough to secure the roots, and the trees would tilt. Drunken Forests, as they are called, still exist in parts of Alaska, where the ground never dries out.  

After a few centuries or so the earth became firmer, and enormous dense forests of huge trees covered the land. Hundreds of miles of forestation created an environment where predators thrived and many different kinds of life emerged. Little or no light produced a dank and mysterious environment, even at the edge of the woods where only the bravest souls would enter. Legends of nasty creatures, witches, and other beasts were told to children to prevent them from wandering into the woods. Hansel and Gretel, a story of two children who are deposited into the dark forest to die, also tells of a cultural enemy – the witch – who desires to kill them. Only the compassion of the inhabitants of the forest and their cleverness help them survive. Babes in the Woods is a sad tale of a brother and sister who get lost and die, covered up with leaves by the birds.  In The Lost Mermaid, a witch casts a spell on all the creatures of the woods, turning them into imp slaves to do her bidding; those who were unfortunate enough to wander in also fell to her power.

The forests of folklore were dangerous, not only for their natural predators, but because lack of sun and stars made navigation next to impossible, and getting lost was a given. Magical intervention was credited with saving the few who did, by magic or luck, find their way out. Animals smell changes in water, vegetation, and soil as well as they navigate by the sun and stars, so they can find their way in and out. Creatures of legends and myths also have this ability, so they too are not a victim of the environment, and if you are true of heart, they will lead you to safety. But puny humans must depend on the intervention of those who know their way around the trees if they  are to survive. But, getting lost is not the only danger. Little Red Riding Hood is the story of a young pretty girl traveling a path she knows well and comes across a clever wolf who deceives her; representing dangers of those we think we know as ‘friends’. A woodcutter with an axe, working in the forest, is the hero (in this story he represents the iron workers of their culture defending them from enemies).

Some wonder tales tell of sentient trees or other plants that intervene in the fate of those lost in their woods; sometimes for the good of the character, other times for their detriment. Narnia and Harry Potter feature sentient trees and vegetation, which could either aid your quest or inform on you to your enemy. Magical spaces are found deep in forests, somewhere impossible to find unless you are lost, end up there by a roll of the dice so to speak. It is in a clearing within a dark forest that Belle’s father meets the beast in Beauty and the Beast.  Some forest creatures are both good and evil. Slavic folklore tells of Baba Yaga, an old witch, or supernatural being who lived in the forest in a hut on chicken leg stilts. She can hinder or help those she encounters, or be neutral.

Forests are not the same as jungles. Climate and location create a different kind of danger in the northern environs, and altogether different sorts of beasts. The Black Forest which grew from the Rhine across Germany and into northern Europe was known long ago as the Hercynian Forest, home many supernatural beings, one of which is the legendary powerful Unicorn. This is a beast worth having as a friend, and fearsome as an enemy.  Another popular animal in European forest folklore is the wolf, who can either be an enemy or benefactor, depending on who you happen to be. Jungles are full of snakes and bugs, whereas forests are full of poisonous mushrooms and creatures with claws and teeth. Birds can represent the only connection between the forest floor and the heavens above the dense canopy of leaves, through which nothing can be seen, and little or no light enters. Winged creatures can be dangerous spies, or helpmeets to those unfortunates who find themselves deep in the forest.

Forests are places where Fairies abound. They live in the Sacred Trees in European folklore, and are found in streams, at springs, and wherever forest flowers grow. The have led some to their doom or helped them escape the Dark Woods. They can hinder or help your quest. Shyla encounters three Fairies in The Lost Unicorn, who are instrumental in helping her find her way. Forest Fairies have been known to enchant water flowing through little streams. Witches also cast spells on the only water to be found in any environment. Water, necessary for life, is dangerous in a forest. There are few sources and are targets for mischief. In reality, natural poisons are deposited in these streams as they flow over decomposing vegetation and animal remains. One must know how to find water that has emerged from a natural filter like chalk, sand, or gravel to be safe, or find water standing in granite or stone, which also purifies liquid. These are historically accurate methods, and now there are solutions which purify water – magic potions if you will. You could, with luck, find a Unicorn to purify the water with his horn.

The wood itself can be magic – either demon possessed as in Pinocchio (the book), or imbued with beneficial qualities as in the living Fairy wood of The Lost Mermaid. Magic wands are created with particular strengths, depending on the kind of wood from which they are made. Some trees provide food, others poison. Some wood burns well, sometimes it gives off a poisonous smoke, or release blessings or curses in the smoke. Sometimes it screams as it burns – bad for the one who lit the fire. This haunting sound can be heard around campfires wherever a particular kind of wood is inadvertently gathered and burned.

The forest floor, upon which you must walk unless you swing from the branches (something more common in jungles than woods), also presents hazards. Upon the forest floor are dead leaves, pine needles, mushrooms, decaying branches, and other plants that thrive in damp dark environments. Roots tangled together from the tightly clustered trees make travel difficult, and tales of being grabbed by them and dragged below the earth are common. What lurks under the blanket of leaves and sticks is anybody’s guess: traps can be set, treasures can be found, or tiny magical creatures might be lurking out of sight.

Most fundamentally, all tree lore is rooted (pun intended) in Yggdrasil, the original Tree of Life, Sacred Tree, World Tree etc. Our ancestors observed that animals would eat in the shade of trees, and die there. They would melt into the ground, nourishing the tree, which then grows food to feed the animals and people, and the cycle repeats. Yggdrasil is a symbol for the cycle of birth, life, death, and rebirth – the greatest and most powerful mystery of all time. Real magic. From this lore grew the Green Man and Green Girl, Dryads, and other tree-beings. These are keepers of the trees, protectors of the forests, and we reap the consequence of our treatment of their home. Be careful, therefore, how you tread in the dark of the wood. 

About Symbologist Michelle Snyder

Michelle is a professor of mythology and symbolism, an author, blogger, artist, and geek. She earned her post-graduate degree at the University of Wales, decoding prehistoric images and folklore, tracing them to their roots. Her artwork has appeared in galleries from MA to CA. Michelle is co-owner of White Knight Studio.
     Books by Michelle, available at Amazon:


Symbology ReVision: Unlocking Secret Knowledge  
Symbology: Hidden in Plain Sight
Symbology: My Art and Symbols 
Symbology: Fairy Tales Uncovered 
Symbology: Decoding Classic Images 
Symbology: World of Symbols 

 Fairy Tales: 
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
The Fairy Tales: Once-Upon-A-Time Lessons First Book

Monday, May 30, 2016

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 earned her post-graduate degree at the University of Wales. She is an author, columnist, publisher, artist, and teacher. Her artwork, inspired by her love of symbolism and folklore, has appeared in galleries from Massachusetts to California. Michelle is co-owner of White Knight Studio with her husband Jay Robert.
Books by Michelle, available at Amazon:


Symbology ReVision: Unlocking Secret Knowledge  
Symbology: Hidden in Plain Sight
Symbology: My Art and Symbols 
Symbology: Fairy Tales Uncovered 
Symbology: Decoding Classic Images 
Symbology: World of Symbols 
Symbology: Secrets of the Mermaids


A Tale of Three Kingdoms: Book One - The Lost Unicorn


A Tale of Three Kingdoms: Book Two - The Lost Mermaid

Monday, May 9, 2016

An Ancient Star

Knowledge of the heavens is a decisive factor in survival, and for millennia humans have studied and recorded astronomical cycles. Lunar, solar, and stellar calendrics were inscribed and painted on stone, bone, and ivory through the ice ages. One particularly stunning example is the six pointed star composed of two opposite, overlapped, equilateral triangles. This star has a long and telling history.

According to Duncan-Enzmann, the beginnings of this beautiful star are seen as far back as 77,000 BC in South Africa, where the yearly southern extreme of the sun’s position was recorded using an upward pointing triangle for winter solstice sunrise and sunset. A downward pointing triangle later recorded the summer solstice event. To “read” this symbol place yourself at the point, looking toward the wide end where the sun rises and sets, northward for summer solstice, southward for winter.

1)  Blombos, 77,000 BC       2 & 3) Lascaux, 14,500 BC
By 60,000 BC sundial shadows were being used to measure the daily movement of the sun. The shadow made by the sun and the center pole, or gnomon (Greek for the one that knows), traces the movement of the sun across the sky, creating a V shape; divisions of the circle indicated time of day. Later the gnomon was tilted for greater accuracy. In beautiful renderings during the Lascaux period, ca. 14,500 BC, summer and winter solstices were represented by overlapping the triangles creating a hexagram, or six pointed star. The horizontal center line created by the intersecting triangles denotes the equinoxes. 

Winter solstice, Spring equinox, Summer solstice, Autumnal equinox, Winter solstice

This sequence shows the position of the sun at sunrise and sunset during
summer and winter solstices, and at the equinoxes.
This series of images would be easy even for small children to understand and remember. Our ancestors taught the very young how to tell time and season astronomically.
Megalithic observatories emerged from the tradition of sundials, and records of the movement of the moon and sun were improved by the accuracy of stellar observation. Astronomical patterns were recorded using symbols like the six-pointed star. Calendric notations from sundials, the six pointed star, and stellar observations combined to create the seasonal wheel symbol: a hexagram surrounded by a circle, around which animals are arranged. This and other calendrics recorded the seasons of animal migrations - what could be hunted when, and where. The megalith observatories became a continental utility; symbols for when to plant, reap, gather, weave, build, and hunt were inscribed on the observatories, placed according to season.

Oral tradition, mythologies, and images like the hexagram were used to pass on knowledge of the heavens for thousands of years. Out of these “picture stories” grew a world of traditions, some centering the hexagram, such as the story of Solomon ’s Seal. Hindus know the star as a Yantra (mystical or astronomical diagram), to Buddhists it is a symbol of the Sacred Marriage, in China it represents Yin and Yang, and it is found among the symbols of Pre-Columbian and Central America. In spite of its astronomical origins, in the 18th century the hexagram was commonly used as superstitious protection against evil (the “hex” also comes from this tradition). Alchemists used it to symbolize the union of opposites, and it is considered by some to be the symbolic epitome of “as above, so below”. Known as the Star of David, or the Magen David, and commonly associated with Judaism today, the six pointed star is actually a relatively new symbol of the Jewish faith. One of the most fundamental and attractively scientific symbols, it was well chosen in 1948 for the flag of Israel. This ancient star also has contemporary meanings including male and female, fire and water, the personal and impersonal, and the perfect balance of opposites: the hermaphrodite.

About Symbologist Michelle Snyder

Michelle is a professor of mythology and symbolism, an author, blogger, artist, and geek. She earned her post-graduate degree at the University of Wales, decoding prehistoric images and folklore, tracing them to their roots. Her artwork has appeared in galleries from MA to CA. Michelle is co-owner of White Knight Studio.
     Books by Michelle, available at Amazon:


Symbology ReVision: Unlocking Secret Knowledge  
Symbology: Hidden in Plain Sight
Symbology: My Art and Symbols 
Symbology: Fairy Tales Uncovered 
Symbology: Decoding Classic Images 
Symbology: World of Symbols 

 Fairy Tales: 

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
The Fairy Tales: Once-Upon-A-Time Lessons First Book