Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Love, Roses, and Cupid


Symbolism has provided a means of communicating ancient love rituals worldwide. Some familiar symbols for love are XXs, OOs, and hearts, which convey kisses, hugs, and love; these are often seen on a crumpled up private note, inside a card, or on a tree trunk. In Victorian times, the language of flowers was a popular way to communicate intimate messages. Different flowers and colors have specific meanings. Roses are a symbol of discrete or secret love, thus the phrase sub-rosa - under the rose.

Love is one of our strongest emotions, and perhaps the one most difficult to describe. We see it, feel it, even hear it, yet cannot sufficiently explain it in words. 

Songs, movies, plays, books, and great works of art have attempted to speak for our hearts. Love drives the hero knight to rescue the fair damsel, in spite of dangers to himself which usually include the possibility of death. Thousands of fairy tales tell the stories of princesses rescued by Prince Charming knights and restored to their rightful place. These stories are symbols of a culture now rare, a culture whose men lived by the ethic of women and children first. Sleeping Beauty is such a story and is at least 10,000 years old. Until the deconstruction of Prince Charming in Shrek II, he was the standard of chivalry and courtly behavior, pure of heart and strong of love. Shown: Sleeping Beauty, Walter Crane
  


I found it amusing to that Cupid is the son of Venus, the goddess of love, and Mars, the god of war: thus a hopeless romantic, running around with a fistful of arrows. At first depicted as a young man, the son of the goddess of love became a chubby little baby over time (perhaps he found the fountain of youth?). This little cherub is now a famous symbol for falling in love. Cupid also symbolizes life, which is lived in the eternal present.


There is a mythological love story about Cupid and the beautiful Psyche, depicted by many masters of the fine art of painting and told of in the great art of storytelling. Cupid was commissioned by Venus, who was jealous of the beauty of Psyche, to compel Psyche to fall in love with an ugly mortal. Psyche is sleeping as Cupid approaches, but she wakes suddenly. Startled, he accidentally scratches his own leg with an arrow, thus inflicting his ‘arrow of love’ upon himself. He falls in love with her. They marry and have a child named Voluptas (Voluptas means pleasure, Cupid means Eros or desire, Psyche means soul).


The archer of love also shot his arrows into many of the characters of mythology, causing two persons to fall in love who may otherwise not have become a couple. Here he is depicted with a "sea monster," symbolizing his relationship with the great sea kings - the Vanir mariners of ca. 4000 BC. This is key, as it is the Vanir navigators who used Venus as a clock, measuring its movements in the sky; it is by Venus that ancient mariners calculated longitude, enabling them to sail the world's oceans and seas. Most of the navigators were women, and women had discovered the Venus clock. So it is that Venus became symbolized by a goddess, representing that women had used the heavenly body of Venus to establish accurate astronomical time. Now symbols of love, Venus and Cupid are the subject of artwork both classical and contemporary.
      

From the oral tradition of the Vanir grew many mythologies, the goddess of love being one of them. Her son, Cupid, is a classical symbol of unexpected passion and love, his arrows striking targets without discrimination, sometimes inflicting love on people who were not able to openly show their feelings for each other. A heart pierced by an arrow from his quiver is a symbol of romantic desire, broken hearts, or unrequited love. His arrows can inflict either attraction or repulsion – a symbolic representation of the movements of Venus and Mars as they orbit the sun.

I would be remiss if I did not mention Valentine's Day; a day when children in school who don't get valentines feel rejection, the single long for a mate, and the disenchanted remember their past love. It is the lucky ones who can take a moment to express their hearts to each other: Associated with Saint Valentine, the saint of courtly love, the medieval tradition of love between a knight and a married noblewoman. This tradition has been celebrated with pink roses, hearts, and chocolates since the Middle Ages. The saint is said to have wed lovers who were otherwise forbidden to marry. Chaucer associated February 14th with Saint Valentine's Day as a day of romantic love. 


Love is a complex reality. Powerful, motivating, uplifting, or painful and devastating, love cannot be ignored. There are those among us fortunate enough to meet their soul-mates; others go through eternity always knowing each other but never being together. This illustration (artist unknown) poignantly illustrates two soul mates who can look through the barrier, but not penetrate it.

  Love fuels compassion, hope, and charity, and heals the unseen wounds of the soul. 

Excerpt from Symbology, Hidden in Plain Sight: the secret life of symbols.

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 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