There you have it! Taking a DIY approach to Halloween costumes could prove far more effective in scaring off the evil spirits than buying some injection molded plastic outfit from the super stores… Happy hauntings!
Everywhere seems to be bursting with pumpkins, pumpkin spice lattes, skeletons, witches, and ghosts. Halloween is approaching. It’s easy to get caught up in the fun and commotion of a holiday. After all, that is what a holiday is all about right? I like to look a little deeper to find out about where the traditions come from and what is at the core that our ancestors created the traditions to remind us of. Let’s take a look at the historic traditions and origins of Halloween.
Samhain origins of Halloween
Halloween is a modern version of a day of the dead celebration with is roots in the Samhain tradition from the old world. Samahain is opposite on the year wheel from Belatne (May 1). The two days mark the “hinge” points of the year. This is most easily understood if we imagine the year to be a single day where Beltane is the dawn and Samhain is sunset.
During these times of the year, the ancient Northern Europeans believed that the veil between the material plane and the beyond becomes thin allowing the energies to flow from one side to the other. This is why both holidays are thought to be important for spiritual work and rituals.
While Beltane is primarily focussed on new growth and the bounty of spring, Samhain leads the world (in the Northern Hemisphere) into the darkness of winter. Because of this, it is a day for the dead. This does not mean that the ancients were morbid. Rather, the ancients understood the cyclical nature of all things which includes death as a part of living.
One of the main beliefs which sets the stage for all of the modern Halloween practices is that the dead are released from the underworld to wander amongst the living. It was believed that those ghosts could seek revenge on anyone who had wronged them during life. This is the reason for costumes and masks which were intended to hide the living from such repercussions.
Trick or Treat
The tradition of trick or treat seems to go back a long way. It’s roots are most likely to be found in the ancient world. Offering were often placed outside of villages in order to placate angry or malevolent spirits unleashed during Samhain. Over time, it is theorized, people began to dress up like the evil spirits to claim such offerings for themselves. Depending on your point of view, this may not have been such a great idea but that is the theory none the less.
Traditions have obviously evolved over time and children set out in costumes going door to door. Perhaps to this day, we continue to anger the underworld by stealing their treats and gobbling them up ourselves…
Although we live in a modern world, it is good to remember where our traditions originate. Rather than simply dressing up our kids just to claim free treats, it may benefit us all to remember the natural cycles that the holidays represent. This time of year is significant in marking the decent into darkness that make life possible.
Have fun and enjoy your Halloween!
I am celebrating the seasons with an Autumn Equinox SALE! Enjoy a 15% discount from now through Sunday on all of my hand printed creations.
“LSD is a psychedelic drug which occasionally causes psychotic behavior in people who have NOT taken it.”
The only source I have honestly ever heard the infamous Timothy Leary LSD quote was Terence McKenna. Never the less, here I am printing my shirt design inspired by Dr. Leary.
When I make a design, I like to research the symbolism to really understand it. Recently, I designed a Rod of Asclepius; an ancient symbol most easily recognized from its symbolic use by the medical profession. Often confused with the Rod of Hermes or Caduceus which has two snakes wrapping a staff, the Rod of Asclepius has a single snake. Where did this symbol originate and what does it really mean? Well, I wanted to know so I did some poking around to find answers.
Who is Asclepius and what’s up with his rod?
Asclepius is the ancient Greek god of medicine and healing. He was the son of Apollo (the sun) and father of another famous doctor Hippocrates. As with many archetypal characters, there are several versions of the story of his mother but none end well for her and Asclepius was raised by his father. Apollo taught the young demigod how to heal using plants. Asclepius was so skilled that it was said he could even raise the dead. The gods felt he would upset the balance and had him assassinated by Zeus.
The Rod of Asclepius symbol is made up of a snake wrapping around a staff. Scholars debate over the meanings of the snake and staff. The truth is, like with most symbols used by mystics, their meanings are many. The most popular meaning of the snake is that it represents rebirth since it sheds its skin. Since healers in the old days had to travel on foot, the staff was also associated with the medicine man.
The magical snake of Moses
The Rod of Asclepius symbol seems to make a cameo in the Bible also. The use of a magical serpent on a stick by Moses would give this symbol an older usage than ancient Greece. In Exodus, the Hebrew God tells Moses to make a fiery serpent and place it upon a pole. When he does this, anyone who is bitten by a snake is magically healed by looking at it. I would really like to learn that spell! Moses also performed a neat little trick turning a staff into a serpent.
The Rod of Asclepius archaic roots?
I believe that the origins of the use of the serpent and staff date back to the archaic times. The Rod of Asclepius was made out of symbols taken from shamanism and the archaic medicine man. Let me explain.
The Shaman snake
Use of serpent symbolism predates our known history. Many archaic shamanic cultures have beliefs involving serpent symbolism. Some Siberian shamans tell ancient stories about riding the serpent rainbow into the upper world. They also spoke of following snakes into tunnels that lead to the underworld. The encompassing symbolism can be summarized to the best of my ability: shamans viewed the snake to symbolize the solar energy and path through the sky. It’s energy is the source of all life and, therefore, healing.
The Shaman Pole
My understanding of the symbol of the pole is that it connects the worlds. The pole is a simplified world tree. The world tree varies from culture to culture but is a sacred tree. It connects this world to the underworld with its roots and to the heavens with its branches.
Many shamanic rituals involve climbing a sacred tree. The shaman goes into trance and climbs the branches. As he climbs, he enacts different adventures at each level of heaven the tree leads him to. Anyway, they would strip the tree of most of the branches not needed for the ritual. Over time, many cultures ditched the branches all together and it became a pole.
The Universal Healer
The serpent on the pole is a symbol of a healer. A person who can harness the power of life represented by the snake. They are also a person who can ascend and descent through the worlds by climbing up or down the world tree into the underworld or heavens. In those ancient times, they knew that sickness was a spiritual battle. The archaic shaman was a healer who dealt in all of the worlds and understood life energy.
…And so I drew my own adaptation!
Below, you can see some of the work in progress. I will explain some of the choices I made in my version.
I went with the winged disc at the top of the pole to reiterate the solar connection. This was meant to particularly reference Egypt.
The snake is loosely modeled after a python.
Inking was completed with a Micron pen. Actually, that’s not true. This drawing took up about five Micron pens…
Well, after digging through some history and some of my own hogwash, here I am in a very comfortable shirt. Sign up for my newsletter and get yours for 10% OFF!
Today I ran an experiment on a whim. I am not sure why I had never tried it before. I was already going to print off a few posters of the Solve et Coagula design. It popped into my mind while staring at the stack of blank, grey poster paper. Why not see what happens if I try something different? Today I also made a screen print poster of my Hand of Mysteries Design with discharge.
First, I printed my Solve et Coagula design. The test was short and I only made 3 of these posters. I think I will end up offering them as a limited edition shirt combo…
It seemed an obvious enough idea since paper is made from natural fiber which is dyed. As long as the dye in the paper is reactive type which makes up most all of them, it should (and did) discharge. Neat!
I only printed one of these posters since I was really just testing to see if it worked. There may be some other source that already had this information but it seemed more fun to try it out than to Google it.
Now that I have seen that the process works, it is time to think of designs that integrate the technique in some creative ways. I will need to make a screen print poster design with some discharge elements. It shall be an interesting experiment.
Both designs are also available on t Shirts on my Etsy shop:
Closet of Mysteries on Etsy
The alchemical dragon has been a symbol used by mystics for ages. The most iconic of these illustrations from the Theatrum chemicum Britannicum is the two headed dragon facing the sun and moon. It comes from page 212 at the end of the chapter called Liber Patris Sapientiae.
This Robert Vaughan illustration is one of many that were commissioned for the book. In it, we have a two headed dragon with its necks entangled but heading out in opposite directions. One head faces the sun while the other faces the moon. The dragon represents the process of alchemy. Symbolically, the dragon is action – making “it” happen. His drawing is masterfully executed earning it a place amongst the greatest alchemical illustrations.
This alchemical process is an action that is influenced by the opposing forces in nature. The Sun and the moon represent the opposing forces of heating and cooling. During the alchemical process, a substance is heated and cooled many times producing evaporation and condensation.
The sphere at the bottom is the elixir it stirs. It represents the cycle of transmutation in progress. The dragon sits atop it like a mother hen on an egg. This can also be seen as the world and the alchemical process transpiring within it.
I like to ponder the idea that the universe is an alchemical experiment. The intended outcome is pretty reliable. As parts of the experiment, we have a tendency to buy into the idea that the time we live in currently is the only one that matters and that we must be the culmination of the intentions of history. This could not be so based on the evidence of the culture around us. I find it helpful to think of the world as an alchemical process that is ever changing toward a positive outcome. The alchemical dragon serves as a reminder to me.
By the way, it also makes for a good t shirt:
By preschool age, most people know the days of the week pretty well. It is amazing that despite that fact, most people have no idea how the days of the week got their names and what those names actually mean.
Have you ever wondered why we have seven days of the week? It turns out, it is the same reason people consider seven to be a lucky or holy number (depending on the belief of the individual). The roots are ancient and rather simple once we are made aware of the answer. We can observe seven celestial spheres in the sky with the naked eye. The observable solar system is how the days of the week got their names. The most obvious ones are pretty easy to figure out based on this knowledge. Let’s have a look at each day and it’s meaning in order. For good measure, I will also give a little more information about the days’ the pagan connections and zodiac correspondences.
How the days of the week got their names
Sunday is the day named after and said to be ruled by the sun. This one is a bit obvious because it is literally “Sun-Day”. This is why so many solar based religions engage their religious ceremonies on the day of the sun. Sunday has historically been the day for solar deities such as Apollo, Horus, Ra, Surya, Jesus and many more. The zodiac sign associated with Sunday is Leo.
Monday is named after the moon (Moon-day). Monday is a day that has been historically associated with lunar deities such as Artemis, Sin, Kuhu, Diana, and many more. The zodiac sign associated with Monday is Cancer.
Tuesday is names after Mars. The origin is Norse for their ancient war god was named Tyre. Tuesday is derivative of the name “Tyre’s Day” (incidentally this is also where the word “tyranny” comes from). This evolved through languages and time into the familiar name we use today. Mars is, of course, the name for the Roman war god but the planet has carried many other names throughout cultures and history. Some such names include Nergal, Mangala, Ares, and Hur Deshur. The zodiac signs associated with Tuesday are Aries and Scorpio.
Wednesday is named after Mercury. The name is another that was derived from the Norse god Woden associated with the planet. The original name, like Tyre’s Day, was evolved from Woden’s Day into the common name in use today. Some of the many names for Mercury from around the world include Hermes, Budha, Thoth, and Kokhav. The zodiac signs associated with Wednesday are Gemini and Virgo.
Thursday is named after Jupiter. It turns out that those old Norse gods dominate all of the middle of the week. Thursday is really “Thor’s Day” and evolved as the other names have. Jupiter has also been called many names including Zeus, Enlil, and Marduk. The zodiac signs associated with Thursday are Pisces and Sagitarius.
Friday is named after Venus. The norse god Freya is associated with the planet Venus and the current name use developed from “Freya’s Day”. Venus has been associated with love throughout cultures (Friday I’m in Love) and carries many names such as Ishtar, Aphrodite, and Ba’ah. The zodiac signs associated with Friday are Taurus and Libra.
Saturday is named after the planet Saturn. This one is another fairly obvious one since it sounds like “Saturn’s Day” when you say it. Saturn is considered by many cultures to be the ruler of time, darkness, evil, agriculture and karma. Some of the other names attributed to Saturn are Kronos, Shabtay (origin of the word “Sabbath”), Ninurta, and Sani. The zodiac signs associated with Saturday are Capricorn and Aquarius.
By looking beyond the mundane meanings that we take for granted, we can connect to the history that we are involved in. I find it truly fascinating to dig in to language and find out what hidden meanings might be right in front of us but beyond our attention. Our ancient ancestors put a great deal of reverence in creating the languages we speak. The pantheon of our solar system across cultures explains just how the days of the week got their names.
Days of the week septagram
A Seven pointed star can be created to represent the sacred week. The symbol is constructed with the sun at the top. Each of the other spheres are simply placed at the end of the line followed from the previous. Here is the version of the star that I have designed:
I have made this diagram into an awesome screen printed t shirt which you can get from my Etsy shop by clicking the images below. I screen print the shirts by hand on some of the best cotton shirts around!
I need more drawing in my life. I found that the best way to accomplish this is to draw more. That sounds so easy but when you have a house full of kids and screen printing orders backing up, it can prove to be quite challenging to find time for such things. I feel that putting a resulting image onto a t shirt will prove a good enough excuse to make some new work. It did. Here we go… This is a basic overview of the creation of my “Solve et Coagula” modern alchemical illustration t shirt design.
I have often looked at old alchemical illustrations and wondered “what is it trying to tell me?” It wasn’t until I was aware of a bigger purpose that I realized that the creation of alchemical artwork is part of the transmutation process. By creating intricate illustrations, the coded alchemical process becomes embedded into the psyche of the artist to bring about the philosopher’s stone. Transmutation is therefore carried out, in part, by the process of communication about transmutation.
Drawing an alchemical illustration
This new perspective has inspired me to participate in an old practice and create a basic alchemical diagram. My intention is to create a t shirt design with the finished image. I want that image to reflect the ancient alchemical diagrams while still feeling like it is my own true artwork. The one thing I cannot escape when dipping in to such a project is time. There is no substitute for the time and patience it takes to make intricate images. What I will create is not very intricate but will still push my patience (not my strong point). If you had to pick one over the other, I would say patience is more important in making this sort of art than talent is.
Solve et Coagula
“Solve et Coagula” refers to the universal on-going process of breaking things apart and bringing them back together. It is this natural process in distillation that brings about the purification of a substance. The physical story of alchemy tells us that the elixir is distilled over long periods of time where it becomes vapor and then condenses into liquid once again.
Watch video of drawing IN ACTION!
My final alchemical illustration design
Of course, you can purchase your own Solve et Coagula alchemical illustration t shirt from my Etsy shop. I screen print each shirt by hand with care in my own shop.
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I thought I would share the stages of progress of my most recently completed original magical grackle ink drawing. I called this piece “Looking Beyond”. Grackles are abundant in my area and I have been fascinated with these birds for a long time. The males sport flashy black feathers that shine in iridescent colors of blue and green around their heads. They have appeared to me in dreams a number of times and I always have seen them as a messenger from beyond and a sort of spirit animal. Let’s take a look at this magical drawing in progress.
This is a detail of the completed artwork:
I began with a pencil drawing which is my typical approach.
I recently purchased a new calligraphy pen for drawing. It will never look this clean again…
I commence the work by following along the original drawing for the most part but add a lot of detail as I see fit. I like the way the trees are coming a long at this stage. This new pen pleases me.
Once the pen work is done, I add in the tones with a watercolor brush.
Here is a detail of the eye at the bottom.
Here is the final magical grackle ink drawing scanned and made pretty:
Two random side notes about my experiences with grackles:
I once observed a small group of these clever guys ripping into packets of sweetener and gobbling up the powdery content at an outdoor coffee shop. The method was quite clever; nap packet from table and take it to the grass, stab beak into paper packet then open beak to make a nice sized hole, then feast on contents. On a side note, these were the worst looking grackles I had ever seen. Their shabby appliance reminded me of Gollum (artificial sweeteners turned them in to the bird equivalent of tweekers).
When I worked at ASU, I used to walk from a neighborhood across the street to avoid paying for parking on campus. The road I walked down on campus had some very large trees along the sidewalk in which grackles would nest. As I walked along that sidewalk during the spring when there were hatchlings in the nests, the males would dive bomb my head making a strange clicking sound. The first time scared the hell out of me as I did not see them coming. After a couple of times, I learned it was a better idea to walk on the opposite side of the street 🙂
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