Rod of Asclepius History Meaning and Symbolism Inspiring T Shirt Design

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?

Rod of Asclepius stone carving

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.

Rod of Asclepius t shirt design work in progressI 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.

Rod of Asclepius t shirt design work in progress

 

Inking was completed with a Micron pen. Actually, that’s not true.  This drawing took up about five Micron pens…

Rod of Asclepius t shirt design work in progress

 

 

 

 

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!

Rod of Asclepius t shirt from Closet of Mysteries
There’s a dirtbag in a nice t shirt!

 

Solve et Coagula; creating a modern alchemical illustration t shirt design

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.

genesis in the retort alchemical illustrations

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 alchemical illustration work in progress

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.

Solve et Coagula modern alchemy diagram by Scott Myst Solve et Coagula modern alchemy diagram by Scott Myst

Watch video of drawing IN ACTION!

My final alchemical illustration design

solve et coagula alchemical illustration by Scott Myst

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.

Solve et coagula alchemical triblend t shirt

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Looking Beyond – A Magical Grackle ink drawing by Scott Myst

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:

Detail of magical grackle drawing by Scott Myst

The process

I began with a pencil drawing which is my typical approach.

Work in Progress magical grackle drawing by Scott Myst

I recently purchased a new calligraphy pen for drawing.  It will never look this clean again…

Calligraphy pen

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.

Work in Progress magical grackle drawing by Scott Myst

Once the pen work is done, I add in the tones with a watercolor brush.

Work in Progress magical grackle drawing by Scott Myst Completed magical grackle drawing by Scott Myst

Here is a detail of the eye at the bottom.

Detail of magical grackle drawing by Scott Myst

Final artwork

Here is the final magical grackle ink drawing scanned and made pretty:

looking beyond - A Magical Grackle ink drawing by Scott Myst

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 🙂

Thank you for viewing!  I hope you enjoyed it.  Feel free to leave comments.  Sign up for updates with the form below to be notified when I post new content.

Hand Drawn “World Tree” T Shirt Design by Scott Myst

I recently completed my hand drawn “World Tree” t shirt design.  Here is the behind the scenes look at the design from beginning to end.

world tree muscle tank top from closet of mysteries
While reading Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy by Mircea Eliade, I was inspired to make a shirt design around the concept of the World Tree.  The tree is an archaic concept of a life force that penetrates all levels of existence; the underworld, our mundane or physical world, and above into the heavens.  This concept is present in most cultures from Siberia to the Norse traditions and are even the original basis for modern christmas trees.

The Drawing 

To begin my work, I pulled out my antique compass which was originally my father’s.  He bought the set brand new in the 1930’s.  It is a work of art in its own right.

Vintage compass set

I laid out a standard five pointed pentagram as the background and added the tree in the center.  Next, I added the alchemical elements around the outside.  Once the pencil work was complete, I began inking with illustration pens.

World Tree Original Drawing by Scott Myst World Tree Original Drawing by Scott Myst

World Tree Original Drawing by Scott Myst
World Tree Original Drawing by Scott Myst

World Tree Original Drawing by Scott Myst

The Screen print

Once the drawing was complete, it was scanned and prepared in for output onto shirts.  I removed any remaining pencil marks and made the artwork a solid color for the best screen print.  World Tree original art screen print from Closet of MysteriesThe image is printed large on the front of the t-shirt in a single color for a bold and unique shirt you can’t find anywhere else!
World Tree original art screen print from Closet of MysteriesWorld Tree black t shirt from Closet of Mysteriesworld tree tank w
I love creating unique graphics by hand since it always results in something that is a truly unique expression.  My two passions come together when I create artwork based on ideas I contemplate while studying the mysteries that intrigue me the most.  I hope you enjoyed this look into my process of creating this hand drawn “World Tree” t shirt design.  Feel free to leave comments and suggestions for future projects.

I also welcome discussion about the mystery schools, shamanism, magick, and spirituality 🙂

Drawings from the magickal sketchbook

I have a pretty nifty sketchbook that I purchased while a student in Florence, Italy in 2003.  I could not bring myself to draw in it for the longest time.  I broke out of that a couple of years ago and now it is my go-to sketchbook where I hash out most of my ideas and studies.  Here are some of the magick drawings I have been working on lately….
Scott Mytst's sketchbook for magickal drawings

Pentagram Drawing

This is a basic experiment with in sacred geometry originally drawn with a compass and pencil.  Other elements from hermetic and alchemical illustrations are added with my own personal twist of course.IMG_2245

eye in pentagram magical alchemy  IMG_2246

Ouroboros

I have long admired the ouroboros symbol for its deep meaning and overall aesthetic appeal.  Do not be surprised to see a new design featuring the twin snakes consuming themselves in my shop in the near future.

IMG_2247

Hand of Mysteries

This magick drawing a sort of self portrait with the hand of mysteries or philosopher’s hand but I think I lost my likeness when I inked the drawing.  I expect a larger version would be more successful in capturing facial features…

IMG_2249

IMG_2248

Thank you for checking out my sketchbook and magick drawings!  If you enjoy this sort of content, leave a comment and share this on your social media.

Hand Drawn Ganesh T Shirt Design – Behind the Scenes Look!

Please enjoy this “behind the scenes” look at the process involved in the creation of my hand drawn Ganesh T Shirt design.

 

Somewhere along the line in my drawing career (if you can call it that), I have become impatient.  I noticed this unsettling fact a few years ago but kept on doing things in my normal, fast way.  I found that I was no longer satisfied with the work I was creating in my old way.  As a response, I have been challenging my patience with projects involving higher demand on my concentration and loads more time than I used to.  I find that taking a new approach by incorporating a greater amount of detail has refreshed my interest in drawing.  Taking on the challenge of creating a Ganesh shirt design proved to be just the challenge I was looking for.

This drawing of Ganesh was intended to increase my mindfulness and push my patience.  Here, you can see the progress from beginning to end.  Follow the process as I worked from drawing to screen printed t shirt design.

The Drawing Process

As with any drawing project, I began with a pencil drawing.  Since this is going to have a lot of detail, I want to get most of it down before spending the time inking.  As a sort of creature of habit, I always draw with one of the same two .5 mechanical pencils I have used for years. My favorite is the Sakura which is very comfortable to draw with.  Also, I always keep a white plastic eraser around as they are the only ones that actually work.

Once the graphite part is generally established, I went at it with a black 05 Micron pen

I really enjoyed drawing the hands and feet since they are kind of like a baby’s…
This is the final inked drawing which I scanned for screen printing:

Screen printing the Ganesh T shirt

I make stencil from a film positive version of my drawing by burning it to a screen.  This is the screen ready to print a Ganesh Shirt.

 

Traditionally, Ganesh is depicted seated on a throne so I added this background element to the t shirt design:

The final printed Ganesh T Shirt still hot on the press

You can find this Ganesh T Shirt available in styles for Men and Women at my shop: Closet of Mysteries

Feel free to comment, ask questions, and share 🙂

Deer Shaman T Shirt Design – Behind the Scenes Look

One of the more popular prints from the Closet of Mysteries is the hand drawn Deer Shaman T Shirt.  Here is the story of how I developed this design.

The Back Story

Before moving to northern Arizona, I spent a lot of time venturing into the area for recreation.  On one adventure, I noticed a metal sculpture of a deer headed man at a gas station in Flagstaff.  After that, the image seemed to jump out at me every time I came to the area.
  Since moving northward from Phoenix, I have seen this fellow quite a lot.  Finally, while visiting a gem shop in Cottonwood, Cristina inquired about one of the metal sculptures of the deer headed man with the shop owners.  They explained that he is a shaman and that is why you will always see him with a medicine bag around his neck.
  After doing some research, I found that this particular motif of shamanism has been common around the world since ancient times; mostly occurring within tribes of people who, not surprisingly, sustain themselves by deer hunting.  This is yet another example of the curious connection between cultures with supposedly no contact and separated by oceans yet doing the same things…
  I decided to create my own hand drawn version of this character for a deer shaman t shirt design.  Here is a sneak peek at the finished product:

 The Drawing

Below are the various stages of the creative process through completion…
I like to work with a .5 mechanical pencil for most all of my drawings before inking.
I begin with the deer head since it is the main focus of the piece.

As I began to work on the body, I decided to give him a staff to aid him in his magical endeavors…
You can see that I started out giving him two of them but thought better of it.

I then added more detail with the fire resulting from his conjuring, the essential medicine bag, and lots of folds in his rough robe.

Once satisfied with my pencil sketch, it was time to do the inking.  I use a waterproof acrylic ink and calligraphy pen to get the line quality and contrast I will need in order to get a good screen print image.

The Final Deer Shaman T Shirt Design

The final stage was done by scanning the drawing at a high resolution and adding some cool tribal elements to create a background to make my shaman stand out.  At this stage, I am ready to turn this design into a screen printed deer shaman t shirt!

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– Scott