I made a short video of the process of screen printing my 2 color Amanita Muscaria Mushroom Shaman reindeer t shirt design.
The design is based on an ink drawing I had done while studying Siberian Shamanism. The shamanic cultures of Siberia often herd reindeer and consider them sacred animals.
There are many interesting theories relating to the consumption and use of the Amanita Muscaria in relationship to the Yule celebration. One in particular, is that the idea of flying reindeer came from the shared experience of the reindeer eating the mushrooms and then people would also partake. Then when all of the beings were good and tripping, the deer would jump around and the humans would perceive them to be flying. Of course, that is just a theory but an interesting one no doubt 🙂
In this video, you can see my original artwork and then the two color process of me screen printing the reindeer t shirt with that design. Enjoy the wonder!
Amanita Muscaria Reindeer shirt is available in the Closet of Mysteries Shop.
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!
Since the earliest times of human consciousness, people have been exploring the spirit world, the inner world, and the physical world through visionary practices. Often, this has been done by intaking specific chemicals derived from plant medicines. The pathways opened by the intake of these substances provide a number of effects which can include expansion of perception, self awareness, mental and physical healing, and occasionally cause people to lose their minds. The following is meant to explore the nature of the reaction when people intake plant medicines and what to the pathways into the psychedelic experience.
To better understand the nature of a visionary experiences, it is helpful to first understand that all species have a shared consciousness. People have long referred to the connection between humans and the collective unconscious. This is something that all species share. There are many overlaps within the network, as the same energy makes up everything. Think of this like an old dial tune radio. Each species is tuned in to a unique channel but the frequencies cross over one another often as there are margins of overlap, like when you turn the dial on an old radio and can hear more than one broadcast simultaneously. It is unknown to what extent different species are aware of their common signal, but we can make the general judgement based on our current evolutionary state, that humans are fairly unaware of their common frequency at all.
There are many scientifically unexplained animal behaviors in animals that provide evidence of their conscious network connection. Monarch butterflies, for example, follow a migration route from Canada to Mexico. This journey takes much longer than the life span of an individual butterfly but they reproduce and their young will continue the journey which their parents had begun. If we look at this behavior from the point of view that this “instinct” is driven by the collective knowledge of the species of Monarchs, it seems to reinforce the idea that they share a thought network.
Supposedly, we do not understand the so-called psychic phenomenon experienced by the butterflies or any other migratory animal who follow the knowledge of their ancestors. Biologists simply shrug off many animal behaviors as “instinct” without ever explaining what “instinct” actually means. The reason is that they don’t know what causes instinct and wish to make the claim that there is some physical mapping in the brain from an evolutionary mutation. This is because science stubbornly refuses to delve into the fact that there is more to the universe than the easily observable physical aspects. This is a limited outlook and dismisses the true understanding of the universe, which our ancient ancestors understood quite well. The fact is that there is a greater aspect to the universe that resides in an energy system and we would commonly refer to it as the spirit world.
How plant spirits communicate
By now you may be asking yourself, what does this have to do with plants? Plants, lacking the physical data storage unit of a brain, have a different way of holding the knowledge of their ancestry and self awareness. There is much evidence of plant consciousness that has been studied through their slow movements of their behaviors. For a general understanding of the study of plant behaviors, I recommend viewing the documentary “What Plants Talk About” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lLmM1N754vU). There is solid proof that plants have developed ways to communicate with each other so they can make appropriate behavioral decisions which will best benefit their network. The best way to observe this communication is through the plants very own chemical makeup.
Here is where it gets really interesting. Some plants have developed special chemicals that allow them to communicate with not only each other, but also animals. It is only when we intake these chemicals ourselves. that we are able to begin to understand what the plant networks are really all about. These plant chemicals are popularly referred to as “psychoactive substances.” The intake of these chemicals change our brain frequency to resonate with the plant’s frequency. The result is that we connect to that plant and begin to perceive ourselves as the plant does, we have now tuned into their network. A psychedelic experience is brought about by entering another realm occupied by the plant’s consciousness.
How people connect to plants/energies during a psychedelic experience
The result of intaking psychoactive substances varies from plant to plant. For example, when someone consumes the THC created by a cannabis plant, they begin to alter their perceptions to be more like those of that plant. The plant’s consciousness is shared by the user and creates an altered state in which the person feels more like what it is like to be a cannabis plant. The variety of plant shows its personality through the effect it has on the consumer. This is why different strains of marihuana make people feel differently.
MAPS Magazine 2001
The same sort of effect happens when a person has a psychedelic experience with psylocybe mushrooms. The psilocybin changes the brain waves of a person so that they connect on what could be best described as a “psychic” network in which the mushroom organism as a whole communicates with itself. This is why people will experience a loss of self or ego during a mushroom trip, resulting in a change of perception. Within the experience, the user can communicate with their host; a conscious collective of the mushroom organism that has a vast network throughout the universe.
All plant based psychedelic experiences have a host which is the collective of all plants of that type. The psychoactive chemicals have evolved in the plants as a way for the organism of the plant type as a whole to remain cohesive. Ayahuasca users report encounters with spirits in the form of many jungle animals. This is one way that the plant essence shows itself to the user and communicates. The more powerful the chemical, the more a person has a loss of self and enters the world of the plant host. Since ayahuasca is a DMT experience, the experience is so powerful that the person will entirely retune from their normal human frequency and perceive the world as the plants do.
When a chemical normally created by a plant is then synthesized in a lab (which is still mostly derived from plants), the plant spirit is diminished greatly and the chemical itself is left to create an experience based on the frequency of the substance. Most of the time, the result is more harmful to the user than good. The only chemical synthesized in a lab that do not seem to have an extremely negative effect on the user are DMT, LSD, and MDMA. Others made through heavy processing, such as cocaine, amphetamines, heroin, and pharmaceuticals created for western medicine, have a huge range of addictive and toxic results. For evidence of this, simply look at the drugs that produce huge social, personal, and physiological problems with the users. Where the psychedelic chemicals can have problematic results for cultural power structure, and occasionally a person’s ability to cope with what they learn through their experience, none of them have shown any evidence of physical addiction or dangerous overdose potential.
Effects, benefits, and warnings
Each plant spirit is, in a sense, a teacher. By taking us outside of our own limited perspective, we can learn things we did not previously know. This is how the shamans use plants for divination to find prey, lost objects, or to see into the future. In the Sioux legend of how Peyote was discovered, a woman was shown where to find food and medicine by the spirit guide of the Peyote cactus. By venturing out of our own consciousness and into the of the plant “mind” we can also look at ourselves objectively which is sometimes quite difficult for people. When we are constantly reacting to hang ups that we are creating through our habits, such as thought of fear, the plants can show us those problems. Facing our fears often causes what people refer to as a “bad trip.” While these experiences can seem traumatic, when viewed properly, they reveal to us something we need to work on to make ourselves better.
“DMT” by Alex Grey
Another important fact to note is that the plant spirits, like people, can be of different nature. Some are light while others are dark. It seems that the direction of a trip on DMT, for example, is close to the polar opposite in direction to that of salvia divinorum. While DMT is like an elevator ride upwards into a place of light, salvia takes you down like being flushed into and swallowed by the earth. While there is something to be learned from either experience, the salvia one can be much tougher to handle. Datura is one plant teacher that I would be very cautious of as some people are lead by the spirit of the plant down a very dark path and a few don’t return.
It is my belief that all organisms have an underlying connection which constitutes a collective “whole.” Each human, for example, is an individual part of a larger human animal that is its own conscious entity. This is why ideas simultaneously become popular all over the world and why people can sense things about each other. Some of the plants have evolved ways in which they can break down their barrier of individuality and connect as a whole. When they share this state with people, the result is a greater sense of connectedness and loss of ego. While we all live our lives as individuals, the plants can teach us to function as a whole in which we better understand the symbiosis of the natural design and how we can function through mutual growth rather than by selfishly using resources without regard to consequence.
With all psychedelic experiences, I recommend taking it very seriously as many of our ancestors have. By entering the world of the plant spirits, you venture into a sacred realm that can provide life changing benefits. It’s a good idea to study the traditional use of plant medicines as well as to read up on people’s experiences on sites like the DMT Nexus and Erowid. With the right perspective and preparation, you can benefit from the psychedelic experience and gain an understanding of the lessons learned from them.
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:
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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