From the Editor’s Desk

From the Editor’s Desk

Summer 2005
Dear Reader,

Welcome to the Summer 2005 edition of the Journal of Mythic Arts, where we’re looking at the stories behind traditional mythic patterns, designs, and symbols.

Modern life is filled with symbols that resonate with mythic significance, from the all–seeing eye on an American dollar bill to the caduceus wand representing the medical profession;from the howling coyotes on Arizona t-shirts to the baubo siren on a Starbucks cup of coffee. Some symbols and patterns have mystical connotations, such as the Nordic runes,the Celtic Ogham alphabet, and the symbols of the Zodiac; some are used for prayer, meditation, or divination, such as Tibetan mandalas,Navajo sand–paintings, and the archetypal imagery of tarot cards. The precise meanings of some symbols have been lost in time and yet still they retain their mythic potency.The Green Man design, for instance, though often found carved into medieval churches is of older pagan origin; its original name and meaning are not known, but folklorists conjecture that the image once represented the animating spirit of nature. The Tree of Life is an equallyancient design found in Christian iconography, the Jewish Kabbalah, and other sacred arts all around the world, where it represents the uniting of heaven and earth, and the cycle of death and rebirth or resurrection.

Tattoo design is another area where mythic patterns appear in modern life. In older societies such as the Celts and Vikings of western Europe, the Pazyryk and Sycthians of Central Asia, and throughout the Polynesian Islands, the patterns of tattoos had sacred or magical connotations, often marking a rite–of–passage from one phase of life to another. The Maori for instance, received the skill of tattooing from the god of the Underworld, and the markings on a Maori man’s face determined his lineage, his tribe, and his relationship with the gods. Contemporary Maori wear the "Ta Moko," facial tattoo, proudly, reminding themselves of their unique heritage and spiritual ancestry. (Click here for some wonderful images of contemporary Maori tattoos.) In a similar vein,Samoan author Sia Figiel’s fine novel They Who Do Not Grieve illuminates the important role of tattooing and myth in the lives of Samoan women, past and present. The ritual aspect of tattoos has not been entirely lost in modern society, and some people still celebrate major life passages (such as turning a certain age, for example) by the ritual of marking their skin with a personally meaningful image. A British friend of mine recently went on a Vision Quest, fasting for four days in the wilderness, in order to mark several major life changes. He designed a tattoo as a permanent reminder of the new phase of life he’s embarked upon, drawing on Native American Kokpelli imagery and British trickster motifs to create a symbol that’s both old and new, and rich in personal significance. An American friend, from the Yaqui Indian tribe, periodically adds tattoos to his body to mark a variety of religious and shamanic initiations. His flesh is a roadmap of his spiritual journey, from youth to his present middle age.

Maori Moko Tattoo and British Trickster Tattoo

Some of the most powerful of symbols are also the simpliest ones. The circle, for example, is a universal symbol associated with the sun and moon. In the form of the ouroboros (a snake eating it’s tail), the circle stands for eternity; in Zen Buddhism, it is the symbol of enlightenment; in the Native American "medicine wheel" it represents the sacred Four Directions; in the form of the Round Table of King Arthur it stands for equality between men.Many ancient religious sites were curved or circular in form, such as the Hyperborean Temple of Apollo, the stone circles of the British Isles, and the numerous round or kidney–shaped Goddess temples on the island of Malta. To Renaissance alchemists, the circle represented divinity and the material of the soul, while the square, by contrast, stood for humanity and the material of the earth.The alchemists’ attempt to "square the circle" (i.e.: to solve the geometrical problem of creating a circle with the same area as a square) was not only a mathematical puzzle but also a spiritual endeavor, an attempt to imbue the human soul with divine perfection and thus come closer to God. Likewise, the circle within a square is represented in the Jewish Kabbalah as symbolizing the spark of God within the human form. Whereas the circle is considered feminine in many cultures,the square is perceived as a masculine form, representing knowledge and worldly concerns as opposed to intuition and matters of the spirit.

The spiral is a symbol found carved into the megaliths of prehistoric burial sites, such as the Newgrange tombs of Ireland. The precise meaning of the symbol is not known, but archaeologists and folklorists conjecture that it represented the descent into the underworld of death and, in the case of double spirals, reemergence and rebirth. The Celtic triskelion is a spiral–like design that divides a circle into three equal parts. The original meaning of the triskelion,too, has been lost to history — but like many pagan symbols it was adopted by the Christian church during the Middles Ages, and was used in church decorations to represent the Holy Trinity. The cross, of course, is the symbol most closely connected with Christianity — but it, too, appears in pre–Christian sacred arts in cultures the world over, from the Buddhist mandala designs of Tibet to Mayan temple designs in the Yucatбn. The swastika (a variation on the cross, bendingeach arm in a clockwise or counter–clockwise direction) is another universal symbol, and has sadly lost its sacred connotations due to its association with Nazi Germany. In Indian Buddhism, for instance, the swastika is the symbol of the seal on Buddha’s heart; in Indian Jainism, it represents the four levels of existence: the world of the gods, of humans, of animals, and the underworld. In China, the four arms of the swastika divide the world into the four points of the compass; in Tibetan design, the swastika is a symbol of good fortune.

Downward pointing triangles are considered feminine in several Eastern traditions, associated with a woman’s vulva, with water and the downward motion of falling rain, while upward pointing triangles are masculine, associated with the rising flames of fire and male sexuality. In the yantra designs of India, the juxtaposition of upward and downward triangles represents cosmic duality; in Tantric symbology, it represents the penetration of watery femininity with the fire of masculinity. The Golden Triangle and Golden Rectangle are shapesbelieved to have divine or magical properties due to their association with the "beautiful proportions" of the Golden Section (a.k.a. the Golden Ratio or Golden Means). These shapes were used in Greek art and architecture, in the building of medieval churches and cathedrals, and by artists ranging from Da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael to Turner, Suerat, Dali and the contemporary "faery painter" Brian Froud.

In centuries past, religious sects and secret societies such as the Gnostics, the Cathars, the Rosicrucians and the Freemasons made extensive use of symbols as an encoded language with which to pass down their ideas and creeds, particularly during periods when their members could be persecuted for their beliefs. Dan Brown’s controversial thriller The Da Vinci Code introduced many modern readers to the idea that artists over the centuries(he cites Da Vinci in particular) may have employed the use of symbols and encoded design motifs to communicate ideas anathema to the religious and secular authorities of their day. A whole cottage industry of books has sprung up (such as Secrets of the Code and Da Vinci for Dummies) to further explain, decode, or refute the various mystical symbols that Brown makes use of in his best–selling novel.

The Pre–Raphaelites and other 19th century English writers and painters communicated in the "language of flowers," using flowers, trees, and herbs to encode information into their pictures and poems. In this symbolic language, various types of flowers (and other plants) conveyed specific messages — thus the considered selection of flowers on a canvas, in a poem, or in a lover’s bouquet was rife with meaning. Red roses, for example, stood for love and fidelity; white roses for a pure (and sexless) love;rosebuds with thorns for a love that was hopeful but uncertain of return. Lilies stood for innocence, lavender for sad memories, white carnations for friendship, thistles for indifference, and passionflower for pain. The language of flowers was popular enough that Victorian artists could rest assured that many would recognize the significance of specific flowers in their works — marred only by the fact that some guidebooks gave contradictory meanings to the same flowers.

Though we’ve lost the knack of speaking with flowers or through the proportions of divine geometry, contemporary artists still draw upon a variety of symbols to add layers of meaning to their work — particularly in the field of mythic arts where archetypal and folkloric imagery is used to communicate provocative ideas about feminism, environmentalism, and other subjects. British artist Jaqueline Morreau, for example, uses symbols drawn from Greek mythology to explore contemporary feminist ideas; Portuguese artist Paula Regodoes the same using symbols drawn from nursery rhymes and fairy tales. Bay Area painter Mark Wagner works with symbols and patterns from Native American and world mythology to address ecological concerns and portray the sacred, numinous aspects of nature. Tucson photographer Stu Jenks creates art as a form of prayer using light patterns of circles and spirals, while British sculptorsAndy Goldsworthy and Peter Randall–Page engage in dialogue with the patterns found in the natural world. Other artists have re–imagined and updated the mystical designs of centuries past, such as Brian Froud’s re–interpretation of Nordic runes in The Runes of Elflandand Kris Waldheer’s use of mythic archetypes in her Goddess deck of tarot cards.

For artists and writers in the field of mythic arts, the ancient symbols and folkloric patterns we have to draw upon are potent ones, layered with centuries of meaning. It is thus particularly important to understand the mythic implications of the symbols we use, so that they work in concert with the stories we wish to tell, rather than straining against them. German Romantic writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe described symbols as a "momentary revelation of the inexplicable." This, to me, is also a good description of fantasy at its best: it reveals the inexplicable through the symbols and metaphors of myth, mystery, and magic.

In this Issue

In our Reading Room this month, Ari Berk examines the myths and traditional designs of labyrinths and mazes — from the old Greek labyrinth of Ariadne and the Minotaur to a modern labyrinth prowled by David Bowie as the Goblin King. I take a look the Three Hares design, which I had once thought unique to my corner of southwest England but which can actually be found as far away as China and all along the old Silk Road.Our fiction offering this time is a contemporary story from Kim Antieau — a dark, sharp piece about tattoo designs and the Briar Rose fairy tale.

In the Crossroads, our section on cross–media arts, Jeanette Snyder recalls the first time she attended a performance of the A Lce Lha mo, Tibetan opera theater, in Darjeeling, India, 1964.

In the Gallery, we feature the work of Clive Hicks–Jenkins, an artist who works with imagery drawn from Welsh folk tales and Biblical legends, bringing ancient archetypes, legends, and symbols into pictures of modern Welsh life. In the Gallery archives, we’ve re–designed our page on Marja Lee Kruÿt, a Dutch artist whose delicate watercolor paintings abound in symbolism drawn from world mythology and sacred arts.

In the Coffeehouse, you’ll find two magical poems on the subject of tattoos by Bob Hicok and Mario Milosevic; two poems rich in fairy tale symbolism from Nathalie Anderson and Joseph Stanton; and two poems by Patrick Cotter (here and here) inspired by the patterns of Irish myth.

Contributor’s Notes for all the writers and artists whose work appears in this issue can be found at the bottom of this page.

Endicott Studio News

The World Fantasy Convention:

A number of us will be gathering this autumn at the World Fantasy Convention, held in Madison, Wisconsin over the weekend of November 3 — 6. Graham Joyce, Robert Weinberg, Kinuko Y. Craft, and I are the Guests of Honor this year.The theme of the convention is The Architecture of Fantasy and Horror. Midori Snyder, Ellen Kushner, Delia Sherman, Charles de Lint, Charles Vess, Kelly Link, Gavin Grant, Holly Black, Greg Frost, Ellen Datlow and I will all be in attendance — and we hope we’ll see some of you there as well. It’s always lovely to meet readers of this website, so please come up and say hello.

The World Fantasy Awards:

The World Fantasy Award nominations have been announced, and Endicott contributors appear on the ballot once again. Congratulations everyone, and good luck! A full list of this year’s nominations can be found on the World Fantasy organization website.

Publications and Releases:

Several Endicott contributors have new books out that we highly recommend: Quicksilver and Shadow and The Hour Before Dawn by Charles de Lint (Subterranean Press), A Rumor of Gems by Ellen Steiber (Tor), Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link (Small Beer Press), Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman (William Morrow),Valiant: A Modern Tale of Faerie by Holly Black (Simon & Schuster), Pay the Piper: A Rock ‘n’ Roll Fairy Tale by Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple, The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror Vol. 18 edited by Ellen Datlow, Kelly Link, and Gavin Grant (St. Martin’s Press), Tesseracts Nine: New Canadian Speculative Fiction edited by Nalo Hopkinson and Geoff Ryman (Edge Publishing),and two gorgeous art books: The Lord of the Rings Sketchbook by Alan Lee (Houghton Mifflin) and Lady Cottington’s Pressed Fairy Letters by Brian Froud and Ari Berk (Abrams). I’m also pleased to announce that Midori Snyder’s much–loved "Oran Trilogy" is back in print at last: New Moon, Sadar’s Keep, and Belden’s Fire (Viking/Firebird).Don’t miss Neil Gaiman’s new film MirrorMask, directed by Dave McKean and produced by the Jim Henson Studios. I also recommend Ellen Steiber’s new website and blog to everyone interest in the lore of gemstones and ruminations on the writing life. Midori Snyder recommends Gregory Galloway’s innovative website which both illuminates and deepens the mysteries found in his debut YA novel As Simple as Snow (Putnam). For further book recommendations, please visit the Spring/Summer Book Recommendationspages in the Scuttlebutt section of this site.

Coming Up:

Midori and I are at work now on the Autumn issue of the Journal of Mythic Arts — an autumn feast focusing on food in fairy tales, folklore and myth. Until then, please visit the Endicott Bulletin Board for regular updates on myth–related publications, events, etc., and the myth and fairy tale discussions over on the Surlalune Discussion Board moderated by Heidi Anne Heiner.

Finally, please don’t forget that when you purchase books from via the links on these pages, you help to keep this site on–line as well as supporting the Endicott children’s charities.

Thanks, once again, for dropping by the Endicott Studio. We hope you find inspiration here for your own myths, visions, and stories.


Contributor’s Notes, Summer 2005

Nathalie Anderson’s poems have been singled out for prizes and special recognition from the Joseph Campbell Society, The Cumberland Poetry Review, Inkwell Magazine, The Madison Review, New Millennium Writings, Nimrod, North American Review, and The Southern Anthology; and her poetry collection Following Fred Astairewon the 1998 Washington Prize from The Word Works. Her work has also appeared in APR’s Philly Edition, Cimmaron Review, Cross Connect, Denver Quarterly, DoubleTake, Louisville Review, Natural Bridge, Paris Review, Prairie Schooner, The Recorder, Southern Poetry Review, and Spazio Humano, as well as in the Ulster Museum’s collection of visual art and poetry, A Conversation Piece.A 1993 Pew Fellow, Anderson currently serves as Poet in Residence at the Rosenbach Museum and Library. She teaches at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, where she is a Professor in the Department of English Literature and directs the Program in Creative Writing.

Ari Berk is a folklorist, poet, visual artist, and scholar of literature, iconography, and comparative myth. Dedicated to interdisciplinary writing, teaching, and research, Dr. Berk holds degrees in Ancient History (B.A.), American Indian Studies (M.A.), and Comparative Literature and Culture (Ph.D.). Associate professor of English at Central Michigan University, he teaches courses in Mythology, Folklore, American Indian studies, and Medieval literature.A frequent contributor to both Realms of Fantasy magazine’s Folkroots section and the Endicott Studio Online Journal of Mythic Arts, Dr. Berk also sits on the board of directors of the Mythic Imagination Institute. He is the author (with internationally known artist Brian Froud) of the books The Runes of Elfland, Goblins!, and Lady Cottington’s Pressed Fairy Letters. He lives in Michigan with his wife and son. For more information, please visit his Endicott bio page.

Patrick Cotter has published several chapbooks of poems including The Mysogynist’s Blue Nightmare, A Socialist’s Dozen, and The True Story of Aoife and Lir’s Children & Other Poems. His work has appeared in numerous journals, such as Poetry Oxford, The Salmon and Poetry Ireland Review, and in anthologies including Separate Islands: Contemporary British and Irish Poetry, Irish Poetry Now, Jumping off Shadows: Some Contemporary Irish Poets, The Irish Eros, The Backyard of Heaven and The Great Book of Ireland.Cotter was shortlisted for the Hennessey Award, and was a runner–up for the Patrick Kavanagh Award. He lives in Cork, Ireland, where he directs the Munster Literature Centre.

Howard Gayton, who contributed the "British trickster" tattoo design to this page, is co–foundor of Ophaboom, a Commedia dell’Arte company based in London. He has directed and acted in all of their shows since 1993, touring extensively in the British Isles and across Europe, as well as in Korea. He has also worked as a director at the Little Angel Theatre in London, devising such shows as a glove puppet adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. In November 2005, he’ll direct a play in Portugal based on the fairy tale The Big Fish. Howard currently lives in Devon, where he divides his time between theater work, writing, and studying Tai Chi. The photograph of Howard’s tattoo is by Helen Mason, London.

Born in Newport, Wales, Clive Hicks–Jenkins worked as a choreographer, director and stage designer creating productions with leading companies (including the Vienna Festival, the Almeida Theatre, Theatr Clwyd and Cardiff New Theatre) before moving permanently back to Wales in the late 1980s to concentrate on his art. His work has since been selected for the Royal Academy, the Royal West of England Academy, the University of Glamorgan Purchase Prize, the Wales Drawing Biennale and the National Eisteddfod among others, and he has had solo exhibitions at Newport Museum & Art Gallery and Brecknock Museum.He has been a member of The Welsh Group since 1997, and he was selected for the Contemporary Art Society for Wales Print Project in 2000. He won the Gulbenkian Welsh Art Prize in 1999 and a Creative Wales Award of the Arts Council of Wales in 2002. His paintings and artist’s books can be found in many public and private collections internationally. To see more of his paintings, drawings, and artist’s books, please visit his website.

Bob Hicok‘s poetry has appeared in numerous publications including The New Yorker, Paris Review, Poetry, Ploughshares, The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror annual, and the Best American Poetry anthology. His books include Animal Soul, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; Plus Shipping; Bearing Witness; and The Legend of Light, which won the Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry and was an ALA Booklist Notable Book of the Year. Hicok has been awarded two Pushcart Prizes and an NEA Fellowship.He currently lives in Virginia, where he teaches creative writing at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.

Mario Milosevic is a fiction writer and poet whose work has appeared in numerous magazines and journals, including Asimov’s, The Amherst Review, Light Quarterly, Rosebud, Black Warrior Review, and previous issues of The Journal of Mythic Arts, as well an in the anthology Poets Against the War. His poetry has recently been collected in three volumes, Animal Life, Fantasy Life, and Love Life. Milosevic lives with his wife, writer Kim Antieau, in Washington state. For more information, please visit his Endicott bio page.

Dutch photographer, Hans Neleman, who provided the image of the Maori woman above, traveled in 1998 to New Zealand with the intention of photographing the intricate designs of Maori Moko tattoos. Following correct protocol and respecting Maori beliefs and philosphies, Neleman proceeded with diplomatic tact and earned the trust of the Maori. Moko–Maori Tattoo was the result of that mutual exchange of respect and serves as a powerful document of the dignity andbeauty of modern Maori. Please visit Neleman’s website to view more images in this remarkable collection of photographs.

Jeanette Snyder attended the University of California at Los Angeles and the Universities of Washington and Wisconsin, earning degrees in Anthropology and Tibetan Language and Literature. She has travelled widely in India, Himalayan Regions, and West and South Asia. Her research focused on Tibetan folksong, music and performing arts, especially the A lce Lha mo, Tibetan folk opera.

Joseph Stanton has long been interest in fairy tales, folklore, and children’s literature. He is the author of the poetry collections Imaginary Museum: Poems on Art, What the Kite Thinks, and Cardinal Points: Poems on St. Louis Cardinals Baseball. His work has also appeared in a wide variety of journals and anthologies including Poetry, Poetry East, New York Quarterly, Ekphrasis, and Harvard Review. His scholarly work has been published in American Art, Art Criticism, Journal of American Culture, Soundings: An Interdisciplinary Journal, and other journals. Stanton teaches Art History and American studies at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa.