From the Editor’s Desk
Welcome to the Autumn 2005 edition of the Journal of Mythic Arts. In a Harvest Feast of offerings, we’re looking at food in myth and legend, at the magical marketplaces where goblin fruits are sold, at food symbolism in fairy tales, and at the sorcery of the kitchen.
In my Devon village, and other rural towns across England, autumn is a time of age-old harvest rituals, bonfires, and celebrations. In some areas, the last grains gathered from the fields are baked into special breads and cakes with magical or curative properties; in other parts of the country, fruits that are left ungathered aftera certain date are said to be the property of the fairies and thus unlucky for human consumption. Autumn is a time when bowls of milk or ale are left on farmhouse steps at night to appease the local piskies or the passing spirits of the dead, and when fairy rings of beautiful (but poisonous) red–and–white–spotted mushrooms appear — alongwith the hallucinogenic "magic mushrooms" that cause this time of year to be called "the silly season."
Across England, village churches are decorated with lavish displays of fruits and vegetables for the autumn Harvest Festivals. In one village near mine, too small for its own church, the Festival takes place at the local pub, where a vicar blesses a display of local vegetables arranged upon the bar. In my village, the vicar expanded the festivitiesto include "a harvest of talents" this year in addition to the usual arrangements of garden and farm produce. He invited local artists and craftsman to contribute examples of their work, which was arrayed around the 12th century church alongside vegetables, flowers, and fruits. Since the village includes such fine artists as Brian and Wendy Froud, Alan Lee,Virginia Lee, Marja Lee Kruяt, Yuli Somme and Katy Marchant (to name just a few), it made for a rich harvest indeed. I was charmed by the site of a Wendy Froud angel perched happily on the old stone altar.
In mythology, there are many rituals and taboos concerning the subject of food. The most widely spread taboo is the ancient belief that visitors to the realm of the gods or of the dead must not partake of food or drink if they ever hope to go home again. In Greek myth, Persephone, the daughter of Demeter (goddess of the seedgrain and the fruitfulness of earth) is rescued from the underworld where’s she been imprisoned by the Lord of Death — but she has eaten several fateful pomegranate seeds, and so must return to dwell with him for a third (or a half) of every year.Similar stories can be found in myths and legends from around the world, such as a Finnish tale from The Kalevala in which Väinämöinen journeys to the land of the dead in search of the words for a magical spell. He is able to return home only because he refuses to drink a tankard of beer. In British fairy stories and ballads, human visitors to the fairy realm are warned they must not touch food or drink — for those who do are trapped in Faerie forever, or else sent home again only to waste away and die, pining for another taste.
Certain foods in myth have symbolic significance and magical properties. Apples in many mythic traditions are the symbols or bestowers of immortality, and golden pears of longevity; grain is a symbol of rebirth, and wine (called "the blood of the grape") has been a symbol of ecstasy and communion going back to the rites of Dionysus. In Japan, the god Inari is credited with the creation of rice — appearing there as an old man with two rice bundles sometime around 800 BC. In China, rice was placed in the mouths of the dead and sacrificed to the ancestors.Leftover rice could not be discarded, for it was sacred to the Chinese god of thunder. In Europe, Dionysus is credited with creating the apple as a present for Aphrodite, goddess of love. Apples were used as love charms in Germany, Denmark, and the British Isles, as well as in Norse fertility spells, being sacred to the goddess Frigga. The folk custom of "bobbing for apples" on Halloween is the remnant of Druidic ritual for divination.
There are numerous mythological stories (and concurrent spiritual beliefs) involving the ritual "eating of the god" — ranging from the ritualized consumption of the flesh of Bear, Deer, and other animal gods — to feasting on the gods that dwell in the first harvest of grain or corn — to the Christian sacrament of communion, partaking of the flesh and blood of Christ. (See Food for Thought by Louis Marin for a provocative exploration of this subject.)Some myths are teaching tales intended to inculcate a proper attitude of respect and gratitude for the gift of food taken from the flesh of another living creature. There are many tales of this sort in the Celtic, Aboriginal, and Native American traditions, and also among the Ainu of Japan. "In the Ainu world," notes Gary Snyder (in The Practice of the Wild) "a few human houses are in a valley by a little river. Food is often foraged in the local area, but some of the creatures come down from theinner mountains and up from the deeps of the sea. The animal or fish (or plant) that allows itself to be killed or gathered, and then enters the house to be consumed, is called a ‘visitor,’ marapto. Bear sends his friends the deer down to visit humans. Orca [the Killer Whale] sends his friends the salmon up the streams. When they arrive their ‘armor is broken’ — they are killed — enabling them to shake off their fur or scale coats and step out as invisible spirit beings. They are then delighted by witnessing the human entertainments — sake and music. (They love music.) Having enjoyed their visit,they return to the deep sea or the inner mountains and report, ‘We had a wonderful time with the human beings.’ The others are then prompted themselves to go on visits. Thus if the humans do not neglect proper hospitality, the beings will be reborn and return over and over."
In addition to ritual feasting, abstaining from food is an important practice in various mythic and spiritual traditions around the world. In "vision quest" ceremonies found from North America to Siberia, periods of fasting in the wilderness serve to break down the barriers between the human world and the spirit realm, allowing the quester or shamanic initiate to speak directly to the spirits or Gods. In ancient Ireland, "fasting against" a person was a legal procedure through which the faster could compel the person fasted against to grant a petition or pay a debt; we can still see remnants ofthis tradition in the hunger strikes of political prisoners today. Certain fasts, called Black Fasts, were believed to have the power to cast spells of misfortune, disease, and even death. In a famous English court case of 1538, a woman was convicted of causing a man to break his neck through the power of her fast.
Many are the legends of "forbidden foods" eaten with dire consequences, ranging from forbidden fruits sacred to various gods, to certain foods (such as rowanberries) that belong exclusively to the fairies. The most famous of these tales, of course, is the story of Adam and Eve and the forbidden fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. (Biblical scholars are divided on whether or not this fruit was actually an apple.) Trickster tales often involve food — forbidden and otherwise — for Trickster is a figure of prodigious appetites. In some such tales, Coyote or Anansi or B’rer Rabbit or Loki makesuse of his wits and wiles in order to obtain a nice full belly; in other tales, Trickster is undone by the enormity of his greed and ends the story with his hunger unmitigated.
Food plays an important symbolic role in many fairy tales — such as the gingerbread house of Hansel and Gretel, the rampion (or lettuce) longed for by Rapunzel’s mother, the royal pears stolen by the Girl With No Hands, and the poisoned apple eaten by Snow White. Food is particularly, deliciously present in the Italian fairy tale tradition, which is full of young heroes setting off with cheese and sausages in their pockets, maidens with skin as white as ricotta, children born from the core of fruit, and bridegrooms made of flour and salt. Elizabeth A. Lynn noted this tendency in her hilarious story "The Princess in the Tower,"inspired by Italian versions of Rapunzel. (You’ll find it in the adult fairy tale anthology Snow White, Blood Red.) Food and magic is also intimately linked in Michaela Roessner’s charming, Italian–flavored novels The Star’s Dispose and The Stars Compell, and in Midori Snyder’s award–winning "commedia dell’Arte" novel The Innamorati .For retellings of classic Italian fairy tales, try Italo Calvino’s Italian Folktales.
Other recommendations: For a fascinating look at food rituals in myth, folklore, and custom around the world, I recommend The Rituals of Dinner by Margaret Visser. Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipies is a hilarious collection for young and old alike. The Devil’s Larder, by Jim Crace is a strange yet intriguing volume of sixty–four short–short stories on the subject of food.Elizabeth Knox’s fine novel The Vitner’s Luck concerns angels and wine–making in rural France. Joanne Harris’s Chocolat is also set in France and is also well worth a look (as is the sweet film made from it.) Other interesting films on the subject of food include Babette’s Feast, set in Denmark; Eat, Drink, Man, Woman from China; and, of course, the very magical Like Water For Chocolate from Mexico.
A recognition of the magical, spiritual, and symbolic properties of food can be found not only in myth and legend, but in the beliefs and practices of many people to this day — as evidenced in the harvest rituals still practiced in my Devon village and in other communities all around the world. Luci Tapahanso, a poet from the Navajo Indian tribe in northern Arizona, offers these words of advice for cooks, rooted in her people’s traditional ways: "Think about good things when preparing meals. It is much more than physical nourishment. The way the cook (or cooks) thinks and feels become a part of the meal. Food that is prepared with careful thought, contentment,and good memories tastes so good and nurtures the mind and spirit, as well as the body. Once my mother chased me out of the kitchen because it is disheartening to think of eating something cooked by an angry person." (You’ll find the full piece, "Remember the Things They Told Us," in Tapahonso’s collection Sáanni Dahataal: The Women Are Singing.)
In this Issue
In our Reading Room this month, Ari Berk gives us a fascinating article on milk, honey, and bread in myth and legend — accompanied by charming sculptures of feasting fairies by Wendy Froud. Helen Pilinovsky looks at goblin markets, ranging from the fairy markets of folklore to the famous Christina Rossetti poem, and then into the magical markets and shops of contemporary fantasy fiction by Neil Gaiman, Holly Black, J.K. Rowling and others.Our fiction offering this time is a gorgeous new story from Christopher Barzak concerning honeybees, the Feast of Love, and a lonely young boy born wrapped in barbed wire.
In the Crossroads, our section on cross–media arts, Midori Snyder writes in praise of the power of cooks and the alchemy of cooking.
In the Gallery, we present a rich feast of images by Australian artist Oliver Hunter, who whips up delightful concoctions with paints, pencils, chalks, inks, clay, and words.
In the Coffeehouse, you’ll find six poems related to the theme of food in fairy tales: a Little Red Riding Hood piece from Lawrence Schimel, two Hansel and Gretel poems from Joseph Stanton and Nan Fry, a poem based on The White Snake by Joseph Stanton,a poem inspired by The Girl With No Hands by Nan Fry, and a mélange of fairy tale imagery in the beautiful offering by Nathalie Anderson.In addition, Nan Fry gives us a poem steeped in the myth of Persephone and the pomegranate seeds, and Mark Yakich gives us an evocative little fable about love, foxes, and the appetites of wolves.
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
We are currently working on the Autumn/Winter Book Recommendations pages, and we’ve got some great new titles in store for you. Look for it in the coming weeks in the Scuttlebutt section of this site.
Until then, please visit the Endicott Bulletin Board for updates on myth–related publications, events, etc. You’ll find myth and fairy tale discussions over on the Surlalune Discussion Board, moderated by Heidi Anne Heiner.
We’ve begun work on the next issue of the Journal of Mythic Arts (Winter 2005/06), which will focus on "healing" tales in myth, folklore, and fantasy. We’re also busy preparing new art prints for sale, as well as t–shirts with Endicott’s "Hedgerow Nester" logo, all of which will be available in time for Christmas. To find them, keep your eye on the Friends of Endicott page — or join our mailing list and we’ll let you know when they become available on–line.Proceeds will benefit the Journal of Mythic Arts.
Finally, please don’t forget that when you purchase books from Amazon.com 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, Autumn 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.
Christopher Barzak’s stories have appeared in Trampoline, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Nerve, Rabid Transit, Realms of Fantasy, Trampoline, The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, and The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror. New stories are forthcoming in a variety of publications including The Coyote Road: Trickster Tales (edited by Datlow and Windling), So Fey, Twenty Epics, and Realms of Fantasy magazine. He finished his first novel, One for Sorrow, last year and is currently working on a second novel set in Japan. He was awarded The Speculative Literature Foundation’s Travel Grant for Writers, and is currently living and working near Tokyo, Japan.
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.
Wendy Froud, who contributed art to the "Lore of Simple Things," is a sculptor, doll–maker, and co–creator (with Terri Windling) of three children’s books: A Midsummer Night’s Faery Tale, The Winter Child, and The Faeries of Spring Cottage. She is also a puppet designer whose creatures have appeared on The Muppets television program and in feature films including The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, and The Empire Strikes Back. (She designed the character of Yoda for the latter.)Wendy lives in Devon, England, where she is at work on a new book of mythic art and tales. The photographs of her art that appear in this issue were taken by her son Toby Froud, an artist and film student in London.
Nan Fry won the Washington Writers’ Publishing House competition in 1991 for her poetry collection Relearning the Dark. Her work has appeared in magazines and journals including Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Poet Lore, and The Wallace Stevens Journal; and in anthologies including The Faery Reel and The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. Her poems have been featured on posters in the transit systems of Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, Maryland as part of the Poetry Society of America’s Poetry in Motion® Program, and published in Poetry in Motion from Coast to Coast. Fry lives in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C.
Alan Lee, who contributed a drawing to the opening page of this issue, has illustrated numerous books including Black Ships Before Troy (winner of the Kate Greenaway Award), The Mabinogion, Faeries,The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings. He was the conceptual and set designer for Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films, for which he won an Academy Award. His paintings, drawings, and etchings have been exhibited in museums around the world. He lives in Devon, England.
Carrianne Hendrickson, who contributed art to the "Goblin Market" article, is a reknown ceramics artist whose work often involves mythical, magical and fairy tale themes. A graduate of SUNY Buffalo, Hendrickson’s teapots, figurative sculptures, dioramas, story vessels, and narrative works have been exhibited across the U.S. Her art has been featured in numerous publications, including 500 Figures in Clay, TEAPOTS: Makers and Collectors, 500 Teapots, and The Ceramics Design Book.
Oliver Hunter studied a Narrabundah College in Canerra, Australian, and is currently preparing for further study at Melbourne University, Victoria. His art has been exhibited at The National Portrait Gallery and at the Canberra Youth Centre’s ZAPT! events; it has also been featured in a calendar for the Department of Education and e–published on the "Word Candy" site through the ACT Writer’s Centre. His theatre designs have appeared in Narrabundah College’s production of Alice Unplugged and Centerpiece Theatre’s The Miser. Oliver is currently working on an updated online art resource as a follow–up to his internationally popular Muse Hill website.
Helen Pilinovsky is currently pursing doctoral studies in English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University with the assistance of a Javits Fellowship, where she is working on the archetypal differences between the canons of Eastern and Western European fairy tales. Her articles and reviews have appeared in Marvels & Tales: the Journal of Fairy Tale Studies, Realms of Fantasy magazine, and theNew York Review of Science Fiction. Helen lives in New York City, where she is at work on a casebook focusing on the fairy tale of "Donkeyskin" with Kate Bernheimer.
Omar Rayyan, who contributed art to the "Goblin Markets" article, has illustrated numerous works of fantasy fiction for children and adults. Born in the Middle East, he currently lives "in a semi–remote area of the U.S." with his wife Sheila, also an artist.
Lawrence Schimel is a writer and anthologist who has published over 70 books in many different genres. He won a Rhysling Award for his poem "How to Make a Human," a Lambda Literary Award for his anthology PoMoSexuals: Challenging Assumptions about Gender and Sexuality, and his children’s picture book No hay nada como el original, with illustrations by Sara Rojo Pérez, was selected by the International Youth Library in Munich for the White Ravens 2005. He lives in Madrid, Spain.
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.
Charles Vess, who contributed art to the "Goblin Markets" article, has illustrated many books including A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare, Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie, and A Circle of Cats by Charles de Lint. He created the illustrated novel Stardust (with Neil Gaiman) and the "Ballads" series of comics (collected in The Book of Ballads), as well as producing hundreds of pages of comic book art for Marvel and DC Comics. His work has been exhibited in galleries and museums across the U.S. and internationally.
Mark Yakich has worked in the European Parliament and has degrees in Political Science, West European Studies, and Poetry. His first book, Unrelated Individuals Forming a Group Waiting to Cross (Penguin 2004), was a winner of the 2003 National Poetry Series. A new chapbook, The Making of Collateral Beauty, will be published by Tupelo Press in January 2006.