Monday, January 15, 2018

The Majestic Sphinx


Most everyone is familiar with the Egyptian Sphinx at Giza, towering over the sandy landscape, facing the rising sun. Its animal form, the lion, has long been a symbol associated with the sun. The Giza sphinx is carved out of bedrock and is the largest single-stone sculpted statue in the world. Perhaps as long as ago ca. 9000 BC the great sculpture was part of a megalithic observatory. Four thousand years later, two pillars were placed in front of the sculpted monument to facilitate measuring the movement of stars and planets (the holes are still evident). An Egyptian Pharaoh had the sphinx’s head re-carved in his own image. For the Egyptians, sphinx statues represent kings or gods and are usually male; they are symbol of divine sovereignty. 

The sphinx symbol has its origin in ancient astronomical observation. Thousands of years before it was sculpted, the great Sphinx was a yardung peak serving as a sundial. Later, it was sculpted into a symbol for an astronomical event in the Great Year. With a lion’s body and a woman’s head, this symbol suggests the relationship between Leo and Virgo. These two constellations appear together at the point where the sun’s path crosses the equator at the autumnal equinox of the Great Year - a 26,000 year cycle. (The zodiac wheel moves counter clockwise in the Great Year, Virgo preceding Leo.)  


Greek sphinx statues are usually depicted as a winged lion with a woman's head, or a woman with the paws and claws of a lion, a serpent's tail, and eagle’s wings; wings often symbolize the movement of time. This feminine sphinx is usually seated upright, rather than horizontal, as the Giza Sphinx is. Variations of the sphinx are found in all parts of the ancient world, both sculpted and imaged. The watchful beast wards off evil, especially at temple entrances; sphinxes with animal heads or bodies often line the approaches to temples. These are majestic and magical beasts; some are guardians, and some are dangerous. Today they represent sacred and secret knowledge, an accurate evolution of meaning based on the ability of the megalithic mariners to read the Venus Clock and calculate longitude, a skill that was a closely guarded secret. 


Oedipus and the Sphinx
Oral tradition surrounding the sphinx is also found in many cultures. A Greek legend tells of a sphinx at the gate of Thebes who asked a riddle of anyone passing by. If they did not know the answer, she killed them. When King Oedipus answered correctly, she threw herself into the ocean. The riddle was said to be this: What walks on four legs in the morning, two legs in the afternoon, and three legs at night? (Answer: a human) This riddle suggests the cycle of life, and is also associated with Yggdrasil (Tree of Life) and the Phoenix. The sphinx, as an astronomical symbol of Leo and Virgo, also represents a life cycle as time repeats the patterns of the stars and planets.


In art from ancient Greece the sphinx is a common motif, usually depicted winged and crowned. The modern interpretation is a transition to higher consciousness. In South India the sphinx is known as purushamriga meaning human-beast. It is found depicted in temples and palaces where it serves as protection from evil. At one temple in India two of these guardians sit on either side of the grand doorway, guarding the entrance. They are the divine beings, warding off evil and removing sins. They smile mysteriously. One is male, one is female; they have been seated side by side for many centuries. 

In contemporary symbolism this fabulous creature symbolizes mystery, power, royal dignity, vigilance, strength, secrecy, silence, inscrutability, and the riddle of the Universe; also, divine and human wisdom, discernment, and temperance. Sounds just like what my cat thinks of herself.

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

Monday, January 1, 2018

Sirius Rising - Happy New Year!






A new year. 

We have orbited the sun again, and now it is time to change the numbers; 2017 becomes 2018. The past year is memorialized in blogs and posts and newscasts, portraying images and stories considered important during the past 365 days. 

Perhaps you have always practiced a turning-of-the-year 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 reset the clock 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!! 



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 Dragonragon

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Tis the Season

Noel - Michelle Snyder
Many traditions and mythologies tell of the birth of a special divine child. Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ as told of in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The birth of the sun-god is an ancient event; male gods such as Shamash, Ra, Horus, Tonatiuh, Taiyang Shen, Mithras, Krishna, Surya, and Abraxas all tell the story of the mighty sun that gives us life. In prehistory until about 3000 BC, the sun was represented by a beautiful female named Helen; like the sun, females bring forth life. The Magdalenian culture of 12,500 BC symbolized the sun with the sun child - their precious blonde daughters. As millennia passed the sun child grew to become a maiden, a queen, then a goddess, Helen. 

Christmas is the celebration of the birth of a child. A Paleolithic calendric for human reproduction from c. 12,500 BC instructs that babies be conceived in spring, to be born around winter solstice. Winter babies had the best chance of survival: Families stayed inside, and newborns got a maximum of attention. Babies who were born in spring were exposed to pollen in the air and in mother’s milk, producing more people with allergies. Summer produced a high percentage of colic babies who had to compete for parental care with hunting and building activities; the preparations for the approaching glacial weather were paramount. Fall babies risked animal worms, viruses, and bacteria, which in winter would be uncommon. For them, winter solstice was a time to celebrate the birth of babies – all babies. Every life was precious and insured the survival of the human race through the iron cold ice age. The birth of babies became associated with the return of the sun, the light of life. 

Winter Solstice Cross
Michelle Snyder
Festivals celebrating the return of the light have been traditional for millennia. Even thousands of years ago our ancestors knew what we know today: that on December 21st the sun reaches its lowest point on the horizon at the Tropic of Capricorn. The golden ball of light lingers at the bottom of the analemma for three days, then rises again toward the Tropic of Cancer. Many symbols have grown from this event. One is the Celtic cross; a symbol for winter solstice. Its predecessor, the equal-armed (+) cross, appeared tens of thousands of years ago as a symbol for direction: north, south, east, and west. Over time one arm of the cross was lengthened to designate which arms were which; the extended arm of the cross denoting south. The circle of the Celtic Cross (more accurately an ellipse) where it intersects the southern arm symbolizes the position of the sun at the winter solstice, its other intersections being equinoxes and summer solstice. This beautiful image is a popular decoration in homes during the Festival of Lights which is celebrated around the world. Hindu Diwali, Buddhist Tazaungdaing, Jewish Hanukkah, and Christian Christmas are all holy days associated with this time of year; some according to the lunar calendar. Sacred candles and lights on trees, bushes, houses, and in windows reflect the anticipation of the return of the sunlight.  

Another tradition of Christmas time is Santa Claus, most commonly associated with Saint Nicholas, an historic fourth century saint. Many miracles were attributed to his intercession, and because of that he became known as “Nikolaos the Wonderworker.” He also had a reputation for secret gift-giving, which many conclude made him the model for Santa Claus.

Further back in history, as far back as 45,000 years, we find another root for Santa Claus: a Paleolithic Siberian reindeer herder. Duncan-Enzmann tells of this character in Ice Age Language. The reindeer herder traded in reindeer hides, which are both warm and waterproof. He delivered his good by sled, often being charitable to those in need. 


Whatever your tradition is this season, remember that a smile, a kind word, and a warm hug are gifts that money cannot buy. Whether you are young or old, warm or cold, winter solstice is the longest night of the year. It signals longer days, more light, and warmer weather, all encouraging new life. That is a reason to celebrate. 

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

Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Astrology of the Zodiac




The mythologies of the Zodiac are the oldest stories ever told. They were laid into the tapestry of stars before recorded history, and the symbolism of these great tales is found worldwide. Our ancestors watched the magnificent skies, they knew the power of natural cycles on Earth, and understood the need to predict them. The Grand Stories were told to children, passing on this knowledge, and the constellations were the pictures that accompanied them. The ever-present stars provided a fixed reference for timing natural cycles as well as for cultural history, rituals, and knowledge. This “language of the stars” carries records of astronomical observation and its application to survival. The stories were immortalized by oral tradition and symbols.

There is great wisdom in studying the heavenly cycles. The Bible pronounces "Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years…that night unto night showeth knowledge,” (Genesis 1:14-17). Leading thinkers in Greek philosophy, science, and religion accepted that planetary alignments affected events on earth, including those of the individual. According to Duncan-Enzmann, this thinking has its beginning about 12,500 BC.

Reproductive calendar, 12,500 BC
Translated - Duncan-Enzmann
During the ice age babies born at winter solstice had more attention, as outside activities were limited. The world was frozen, locked in an iron cold winter – temperatures could reach 70 below zero. There was no pollen, worms, or viruses to make the baby sick. Nurtured well, these babies were healthy, and functioned better during their lives than those born when parents were busy with critical activities and natural predators were more abundant. Differences in the long term health and functional quality of people were noticed. As a result, babies were planned for winter solstice birth – a time marked by certain patterns in the sky. Here we have the beginning of astrology; the awareness of the position of the stars when a child is born, and their “affect” on that person’s life.

This practice evolved with time; since ancient times people have believed that, by divine power, stars shape the destiny of human affairs. We see confirmation of this in an ancient symbol for deity, the Cuneiform sign for god: a star. Astrologer-astronomers were advisers to nobility, charting when the heavens were in favorable position for everything from marriage to war. This is a traceable development from the prehistoric knowledge of the astronomical, and therefore, climatological patterns which affected the path and outcome of human activity.

Astrology is the oldest of occult sciences, the origin of science itself. Astronomy, calculation of time, mathematics, botany - all derive from astrology. Words like conjunction, opposition, forecast, lunatic, aspect, and influence are astrological terms common our language, along with phrases like “thank our lucky stars” and “star-crossed lovers.” The zodiac, like folklore, fairy tales, and mythology, carries lore from Once Upon a Time, long, long before recorded history, when we gazed at the heavens, divided time by the movement of the sun, moon, and stars, and learned to predict the cycles of Mother Nature. These stories have survived the erosion of passing time, the destruction of records, and the layers added by new generations. They are examples of how symbolism carries folklore forward over time. That these stories are found all over the world speaks to their endurance and relevance to human life.  


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