Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Mysterious Green Man


Perhaps you know someone with the proverbial “green thumb;” it seems every plant they touch thrives. The expression comes from the myth of the Green Man and the Green Girl. These colorful characters began with the 20,000 BC creation myth of Aske and Emla, the original Adam and Eve who were named after the Ash and Elm trees. This leafy couple are also the beginning of the Dryad myths and other creatures of the forest. Over time, as symbols were used to record history and tradition, faces with leaves and vines were used to express the concept of vegetation, creation, cycles of nature, and those who made things grow.

During the Atlantic period (5900-3750 BC) Vanir women with green thumbs were cultivating kitchen gardens. At the same time, the herding, cattle-rustling northern Ǣsir Celtic culture traveled the Andronova Corridor migrating into Europe, following food and crops, eventually merging with the Vanir goddess’ agricultural way of life. A “War of Accommodation” followed (a peaceful effort - not war as we experience it today), as the two lifestyles learned to live and thrive together. The image we know as the Green Man symbolizes these herders-turned-farmers, although the name “Green Man” was not used until  Lady Raglan used it in her article in 1939. The name for this old symbol stuck and became a popular name for British public houses, whose signs often show a full-figure Green Man. Older names for this symbolic character are Jack-O-the Green, Pan, Robin Goodfellow, Puck, and Bacchus.

Thousands of years later this intriguing symbol of the man in the garden is still central to the ancient cultures of pre-Christian Europe. There are countless numbers of these symbols found all over the world; even some American public buildings have carvings of this ever-present figure. Many beautiful European gardens have a likeness of this ancient farmer watching over their gardens, ensuring lush and beautiful vegetation. The Green Man appears in Islamic, Celtic, English, Indian, Russian, and German symbolism. It is one of the most proliferous symbols, still used today as a decorative motif in the British Isles and Europe, and in many chapels and public buildings worldwide.      


In some cathedrals in Europe images of the Green Man outnumber the images of Christ. The reason for the appearance of these predominantly pagan images in Christian churches is of some debate. There are representations of a green Christ, and of a Madonna and Child surrounded by foliage pouring from the mouth of a Green Man. A cathedral in Freiburg, Germany, depicts Christ in the tomb surrounded by weeping Green Men; it could be they were carved to preserve the memory of the farmers who provided for their women and children by working the land. A Madonna and Child in the Exeter Cathedral, UK (1309) is supported on the head of a Green Man, perhaps symbolizing the ancient male farmers who supported the women and children, later worshiping the goddess with the crops they grew.


Green Men show a wide range of moods and expressions and are placed in a variety of environments. There are even some green girls, although they are less common. The connection with vegetation and life is evident, prompting us to think about the relationship mankind has with the plant kingdom – that of the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide necessary for life. The Green Giant vegetable logo is a modern example of this ancient character. Other modern depictions of the Green Man include Peter Pan and the Hulk. This symbol of the man in the garden has come to represent irrepressible life, animal fertility, the hope of new crops and therefore “renaissance,” or rebirth, in the sense that the vegetation is reborn each spring. The green face represents a watcher, observing the cycles of birth, death, and resurrection of our most important natural resources. Our dependency upon the plant kingdom is part of the message: The Green Man blesses new growth and brings beauty to our environment, with colorful flowers and vegetation for food, reminding us of our part in the process of gardening.


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 Massachusetts to California. Michelle is co-owner of White Knight Studio.
     Books by Michelle, available at Amazon:

     Symbology:


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

 

 Fiction: 
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






Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Fairies of Once-Upon-a-Time


Most of us have grown up surrounded by Fairy tales - stories about good fairies, bad fairies, blue fairies, tooth fairies, fairy godmothers, and some with actual names, like Tinkerbelle. These elusive little creatures flit in and out of our lives in stories populated with all manner of fascinating creatures. Dwarves, elves, giants, and mischievous little pixies are a few I remember from childhood stories. All these beloved characters have their roots in the same ancient culture, and take part in preserving the records of its history.

Once upon a time, long, long ago in northern Europe there was a time-of-little-sun. For a thousand years it was mostly overcast, the precious sun peeping through just enough to sustain life. This lack of sun along with human biology, was responsible for the emergence of those who became known as Fairies. The sun provides warmth, but also vitamin D, which, among other things, prevents rickets. Dark pigmentation limits the intake of vitamin D, preventing overdoses. The lighter the skin, the more vitamin D is able to be absorbed. The people living in northern Europe during the time-of-little-sun would have produced lighter and lighter skinned offspring; those with darker skin, suffering from rickets, would not have lived long. These fair, almost white-skinned people were descended from the Maglamosians (ca. 7000 BC), and were referred to as the “Fair Folk”, and later, “Fairies”. They are the subject of stories such as Snow White, Snow Drop, and Rose Red.

The Fair Folk practiced oral tradition just as their ancestors had for thousands of years, and according to the translations by Duncan-Enzmann these records were produced mostly by women. They passed on their history and knowledge in stories accompanied by images. These “bedtime stories” survived suppression and destruction by enemies, and the natural loss of information over time. We have inherited these records as Fairy tales, compiled and retold by Grimm, Anderson, and numerous other sources.  

It is said the Fair Folk dwelt underground, in “fairy mounds,” remnants of which can still be seen today. During the time-of-little-sun the weather was cool and damp. Peat grows fast in that environment, and did. It covered the hills, and then it grew over the homes sheltered by the hills. Peat is good insulation and these homes were cozy-warm. Villages looked as if they were underground, as did the people who lived in them. Fairy mounds still dot the landscape in Ireland, evidence of ancient Fairy villages. 

Dowth Fairy Mound, Ireland
The skill of the astronomers, medicine ladies, Norns, and builders of the Maglemosian people was well known; feared by some, sought out by others. The Faerie culture of Tuatha de D’nan - people of the goddess D’nan (goddess of the river) – inherited this knowledge. As tribes of Celts moved and migrated, merging European cultures shared knowledge and ways of life. Stories of elves, dwarves, giants (Æsir), watchers (Vanir), pixies (Picts), leprechauns, ogres, and many other strange characters have their beginnings with these peat-covered people. 

The Fair Folk were descendants of the Vanir and Æsir, and were taught astronomy and natural sciences from childhood. Their knowledge of agriculture and navigation positioned them well; they were wise, and socially powerful. Because their knowledge was extraordinary the Fair Folk gained the reputation of having magical powers, and were both feared and loved. They became great leaders to whom others looked for help surviving. This positioned them later as queens and kings, developing great monarh families which still survive today.

Briar Rose - A. Anderson

Centuries passed and legends of these fair-skinned, underground dwellers with magical powers resonated through history. They were immortalized in stories and legends of powerful Fairy queens and kings holding council on Fairy rings of mushrooms, raising their families in Fairy mounds. We have inherited these wondrous tales of Once Upon A Time, and, if we know how to see it, the history of a civilization that lasted thousands of years - one that still has descendants today.
    
About Symbologist Michelle Snyder


Michelle earned her post-graduate degree at the University of Wales, decoding prehistoric images, mythology, folklore, and fairy tales and tracing them to their roots. 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.
     Books by Michelle, available at Amazon:

     Symbology:


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

 

 Fiction: 
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






Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Double Eagle

Double Eagle - M. Snyder
Pictures and images surround us every day, competing for our attention. They tell us about things we could have, do, and avoid. From road signs to computer icons they help us navigate our world. Logos for businesses convey more than just the name – we understand the type of product or service it offers just from the picture; the golden arches of MacDonald’s are recognized world wide. Our flag is the symbol of our country. Alphabets are made of symbols that when placed in a certain order, convey information. Pictorial symbols are constructed of shapes and colors that when placed in certain formations convey information. Symbols help us navigate our world.

Symbolism is the art of creating images that abstract concepts, or represent large amounts of information. For example, a heart scratched into a tree means someone is loved, the use of a bird within a symbol can represent the connection between the earthly and the heavenly, or a wolf in sheep’s clothing warns of deception.

Symbology is the process of placing images in proper historic context to decode them. Ancient civilizations that did not “write” passed on information orally in mythologies accompanied by symbols. The use and meaning of a symbol can change as cultures are combined by the course of events, and as generations pass. We find the same or similar images across the globe; they have migrated from place to place with the cultures that use them over many thousands of years. The study of these symbols from ancient civilizations has become a science. Asking who, what, when, where, why, and how helps establish historic context when  decoding symbols. Knowing when and where a symbol was used is the first step in extracting their meaning.

One symbol from antiquity still used today is the Double Eagle, which symbolizes Yesterday and Tomorrow, although, like most classic symbols, this emblem is now layered with meanings. This regal image is found in the heraldry of monarchies and Czars throughout Europe. Egyptians used hieroglyphs depicting lions (and other animals) facing East and West to symbolize past and future. The ever-present, yet ever elusive 'now' is indicated by the microscopic line between the two as tomorrow becomes yesterday. This most mystical of places is perceived by the viewer of the symbol; the viewer becomes the essence of 'today'.  

“Our understanding of today rests upon the foundation of our understanding of yesterday.” Understanding symbolism leads to better appreciation of yourself and others. If you are on a quest for enlightenment, deciphering symbols can help you grasp concepts which words cannot express, and become aware of the intelligence and industry of our ancestors. Most classic symbols have roots in astronomical notations of prehistoric cultures that watched the sun and stars and recorded their movements. They symbolized concepts like yesterday and today, and events like sunrise and sunset, seasons, and years. These ancient images are the origin of many symbols still used today.

About Symbologist Michelle Snyder


Michelle earned her post-graduate degree at the University of Wales, decoding prehistoric images, mythology, folklore, and fairy tales and tracing them to their roots. 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.
     Books by Michelle, available at Amazon:

     Symbology:


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

 

 Fiction: 
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






Thursday, December 31, 2015

Sirius Rising - Happy New Year!






A new year. 

We have orbited the sun again, and now it is time to change the numbers; 2015 becomes 2016.

Perhaps you have always enjoyed this tradition, perhaps you are new to New Year celebrations at midnight on January 1st. In some cultures like Egypt the new year starts at harvest time. Why does our year change when it does? It all has to do with Sirius, a very bright star that has guided navigators for millennia; in fact it is the brightest star in the sky. It is actually a binary (double) star which has been observed since antiquity. 

Ptolemy of Alexandria used Sirius as the location for the globe’s central meridian when he mapped the stars. Sirius is called the Dog Star, due to its position in the Canis Major (Greater Dog) constellation; many cultures associate this star with dogs. Sirius marked the coming of winter for the Polynesians, for the Egyptians it foretold flooding of the Nile, in Greece it accompanied the hot, “dog days” of summer. Its name means sparkling, or scorching. In the children’s rhyme Hey Diddle Diddle Sirius makes an appearance: The little laughing dog is Sirius in Canis Major, marking the growing season which “laughs” bountiful; the dish and spoon are so full - it is more than we can eat. 

In ancient times Sirius was called the "Star of the Sea," and was depicted as an inverted pentagram. Some early American flags connected with the Navy displayed inverted stars, like the one flown by Commodore Perry in 1854. A rare contemporary usage of the inverted pentagram symbolizing Sirius  is the American Medal of Honor. 

Eight thousand years ago the Vanir astronomers worked out the geometry and trigonometry necessary to accurately measure the distance and movement of the stars and planets (Enzmann). They devised the calendar, named the days of the week, and discovered the accuracy of the Venus clock – with which we set the world’s clocks until the 1970’s. They also observed the cycle of Sirius, and began the year with its pinnacle. The symbol for the Venus clock, the pentagram, is sometimes used for Sirius.  Knowing the time is one thing, knowing when to start over is another.  

Once a year, when Sirius is opposite the sun, it rises when the sun sets. This marks a new beginning: A new year rings in at midnight, the moment it reaches its highest point in the sky on the celestial meridian. To us it is the New Year Star, a blazing reminder that our orbit starts again. 

At this new beginning humans like to make a new start. New Year’s resolutions abound, good intentions are had by all. We promise ourselves we will avoid the seven deadly sins, be nice to our in-laws, go to the gym three times a week, and give up that one sweet treat we always regret eating. Sometimes we keep our promises, sometimes not; but each year Sirius gives us another chance. Another new beginning. 

As long as we live the Earth will turn, the sun will rise, and Sirius will start a new year. This year, promise to do something that will last, something that will create precious memories, new traditions, or a family legacy. That way, when we are gone and the sun still rises, something of ourselves will continue; an immortality of sorts. 


And have a Happy New Year!! 



About Symbologist Michelle Snyder

Michelle earned her post-graduate degree at the University of Wales, decoding prehistoric images, mythology, folklore, and fairy tales and tracing them to their roots. 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.
Books by Michelle, available at Amazon:


     Non-fiction:


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

 






 Fiction:  
The Fairy Tales: Once-Upon-A-Time Lessons, first book












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


 








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