Archive for October, 2010
I’ve been meaning to do a write-up connecting my experience at Worldcon to the topic which has been brewing for the past couple of months amongst the #mythicfolk community – “The DIY ethos amongst geek communities”, but I’ve not managed to get the time or energy to do so. However, I will offer you pictures from the Saturday and Sunday night filk circles at Worldcon which partially inspired this topic. Led by the talented Ann Poore with her harp, the filkers allowed us to travel to distant lands, to the sets of disaster movies, to outer space, to various zombie apocalypse scenarios and beyond. There was magical harp music, there was a continuing filk dedicated to “Professor Tolkien” (which was played on two nights), there were filkers from Japan and South East Asia! What I was really impressed with was the “filk circle” which was inclusive and even allowed newbies like me to be part of it. The system was “pick, pass or play”, where, if you were not going to play you could either pick a song or a filker, or pass. I was sneaky. I picked Ann Poore to play, twice, because her harp music was beautiful. Also, I was too shy to play my own compositions. Maybe next time.
There was also a harpist from Germany who entertained us with her own compositions inspired by the Lord of the Rings and other fantasy sagas. Beautiful stuff.
Here’s the guy who wrote (and sang) the “Oh Professor Tolkien, What Have You Done”, song. Apparently he writes a lot of filks, but I forgot to take down his name. If any of you know who he is, do let me know! The song is such an earworm!
And this lady, was magical. Her music was the kind of music I’ve come to associate with filks – the old school kind.
Again, I do not know her name.
Why was I inspired by the circle? Perhaps it was the rough and ready aspect of it, the acceptance that even if you didn’t get it right the first time, it was fine. That some people would know other songs and just chime in. It was a spirit of free-flowing creativity that didn’t apologize for riffing off works of sf/f, and which defied the ideas of what a fan should be. It’s this boldness that I admired and which I think is part of the “Open Source” mentality and the D-I-Y ethos that I respect in geek communities. Of course, it’s not all roses. I think that the ideas behind copyright and creativity, appropriation and homage are tied into other issues to do with the D-I-Y ethos. But within the filk universe, everything gels well. Originating creators are respected, as well as these individuals who are creative in their own right. Lurking there amongst them, I decided that they were also mythic folk. Larger than life, creating communities where the mythic texts that were repeated in their songs were works of science fiction and fantasy.
I’d like to talk more about this D-I-Y ethos before October breathes its last gasp, but we’ll see if my wrists -and deadlines – will allow me to do so. But I’m also opening this topic up for discussion, either here or in chat.
Where are rest, and peace, and quiet?
When the worlds and the stars all march out of place,
when the gods declare war, when the light is engulfed,
where does the heart search, where does the soul turn?
To the earth, to the sun,
to wet open glades and grave ancient woods,
to faint, muted clearings and vigorous falls?
But Nature keeps all her peace and hands none of it out.
The sun rises, and sets, and is silent.
To another, to a friend,
to a close embrace and a coo of soft words,
to kinship and likeness, to friendship and sympathy?
But the burden of each one chokes out all good intentions.
The friend smiles, and means well, and is gone.
To the Self, to the mind,
to the warm veiled pockets of secret escape,
to the kind inner sanctums, the retreats deep within?
But thoughts are all traitors—they babble and lie.
The mind balks, and writhes, and is a torment.
The heart is left empty, then,
the rooms rotten and rank,
the dark unenlightened,
the light unreclaimed.
The worlds simply spin and spin,
the stars simply burn—
the heart continues to search,
the soul continues to turn.
This richly decorated silver vessel is an excellent example of late Iron age pagan craftsmanship and was found in 1891 in a peat bog near the hamlet of Gundestrup in Denmark. Different theories abound regarding its origin and reason for creation. It can however be dated to the La Tène III period (1st or 2nd Century BCE). The quality of workmanship is stunning, and while the style and craftsmanship suggests a Thracian origin, the imagery is most definitely Celtic.
The Gundestrup Cauldron was found in a dismantled state in several pieces; it was newly forged and had never been used. These facts strongly indicate that it was a religious vessel of some kind. One theory is that it was used by druids for sacrificial reasons – there is a depiction of such a type of scene on the cauldron itself but it is more likely to have been used as a kind of ritual offering. Seven outer, fiver inner and one base plate make up thirteen which when put together stands tall at 14 inches in height and 28 inches in diameter. It weighs around 20 lbs. The bowl was beaten from a single sheet of silver and Electron microscopic analysis show that at least three different silversmiths were involved in its making.
Some of the more well known images on the interior plates of the cauldron are as follows:
The Horned one
One of the most arresting pieces of imagery, popularly believed to be Cernunnos is the iconic stag-horned male figure in a cross legged yogic position. Holding a ram-horned snake and a torc in each hand,there are several animals surrounding him including a hyena, a lion, a young boy riding a fish and a stag with antellers very similar to his own. Decorative vine and flower motifs surround the whole scene. One of the seals found in Mohenjodaro (part of the Indus valley civilization) bears a remarkable likeness to this scene on the Gundestrup Cauldron. On the indus valley seal we see ‘Pashupati’ (Sanskrit for Lord of the animals) sitting in the same cross-legged lotus pose of Hatha Yoga. This figure of Pashupati is thought to be a kind Shiva prototype.
Goddess figure flanked by wheels
Another inner plate shows the bust of a woman flanked by two large wheels and fantastical mythical creatures : two elephant like animals and two griffins. Under the bust is a large hound or wolf.
God figure and the broken wheel
A bearded male bust is showing holding a broken wheel. A smaller figure with a horned helmet is holding the rim of the same wheel. Under the leaping figure for the second time on the cauldron we see the ram horned serpent. Surrounding the two men are griffins and other mythical creatures similar to those found on the female figure flanked by wheel. From a Celtic standpoint this central figure has been associated with Dadga who is a kind of ‘All-father’ and protector of his tribe and can be loosely likened to his Norse counterpart Odin.
Initiation or Sacrificial Scene
A man as tall as the height of the plate can be seen dunking another man into a cauldron. A dog is at his feet. The plate is divided horizontally by a vine like plant and above are horsemen with elaborate headgear riding away from the large male figure. The lower half depicts a line of warriors some with spears, shields and some carnyx players marching towards the large male figure. A celtic intepretation of this event would be – the central male figure (doing the dunking) equated with ‘Teutates’ the god of war, fertility and wealth. Human sacrifice was often made to this god, to ensure success during battle and it was done through drowning. Teutate’s Roman counterpart is the god of war Mars.
Some scenes from the exterior plates :
Plate A – A large bearded male figure holds two smaller men by their arms. The men themselves are reaching towards two small boars. To the bearded man’s left we see a dog and a winged horse to his right.
Plate B -We see a man holding a sea-horse in each hand. From a Celtic standpoint this can be linked to the irish sea god Manannán mac Lir.
Plate D- A large bearded male figure holds a stag upside down in each hand.
No matter the controversy surrounding its creation and Gaulish or Thracian origin the Gundestrup Cauldron remains a very important and unique piece of early pagan symbolism and beautiful decorative art. It can be found at the National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen. If you are travelling to Dublin then you can see a replica of it at the National Museum of Ireland.
(c) Laila Borrie
My inspiration for this painting once again came from photos. I sketch out the basic composition in my sketchbook and then applied that to the canvas using charcoal. I dampened half the painting where the sky would dominate the background. Next I applied a gradient of light blue at the bottom and dark blue at the top. Using dark tones I applied the shadows for the clouds and then worked upon that basis with lighter tones until I was satisfied with the cloud effect I created.
Following this I started work on the mid-ground, applying the dark under-coat of the hills and also giving the basic impression of the beach and sea. I try to get as much shape in as possible using different tones of the colours.
Next, I fill in the detail for the mid-ground. For the distant hills I add a very small amount of green to just highlight and give it shape, but retaining much of the blue as possible to give the sense of distance. The beach proved to be quite difficult. My first attempt didn’t look right so I had to paint over the whole area and start afresh. This is one good reason to paint layer upon layer, background to foreground getting all the detail in at each step because it makes it easier to correct mistakes. With my first failed attempt at the beach I had a very good idea of what not to do, which in turn made it easier to figure out how to get the effect I desired.
This part shows the start of the foreground. Initially I was getting very frustrated with detailing the rocks, I was getting impatient due to the previous mistakes I had made. Thankfully, when I had added the grass detail and finished the entire foreground I was very pleased with what I had done.
To view the finished piece, please visit my blog.
Do I love, or do I hate myself?
The face in the mirror, looking back with my eyes,
sometimes so lovely,
sometimes a horror,
smiling or smirking, but always the same,
the face that I see,
do I like, or do I loath it?
The voice in my mouth,
often so timid,
often so barefaced,
singing or barking, but always insistent,
the voice that I own,
do I shush, or do I allow it?
The inner self, the self so deep,
one time courageous,
one time a coward,
winning or failing, but always itself,
the self that is Mine,
do I show, or do I hide it?
The Me that is proud, and ashamed, and a fool,
the ego and id
now at war, now in order,
the Me that I fight with, contend with, and live with,
the Me that I know,
should I love, or should I hate?
Three months ago Nin asked me to make a contribution here about my artwork. She suggested that I write about the process I go through in producing a painting. I have finally gotten around to doing it (sorry for the wait, Nin).
The first thing I need before starting a painting is inspiration. As I have been painting mainly landscapes, I tend to go out for walks with a camera and take as many photos as I can before my legs get too tired. I have been using these photos, and photos taken by family members for basic inspiration. When I find some elements I like in a selection of photos I now do a basic little sketch showing where each element will fit into the composition, so I have a reference to work from and an idea of what order to do things in.
As I work with acrylics, I keep a water sprayer close to hand and have to work fairly quickly because of the speed in which acrylics dry. I start the painting by wetting the canvas with a light mist before applying any paint. In this painting I added the sky and basic outlines of the clouds first because this will appear in the background behind everything else. I also add the basic colour of the foreground because elements from the mid-ground and background will overlap it.
Next, I start work filling in the detail of the background. After adding highlights to the clouds, doing a distant tree line behind a field, I added the first layer to some mid-ground trees on the left. I keep the detail somewhat simplistic so as not to distract from the main focus of the painting and also to allow for some depth in picture.
I finished off the detail on the mid-ground trees. I also start highlighting the path that leads to the foreground. I used several similar colours so the highlights don’t appear too uniform. Acrylics blend really well and often by doing this you get nice effects quickly.
The next image shows quite a lot of work since the previous one because I forgot to take an extra photo of progress. I added more detail to the mid-ground and started work detailing the foreground as well. I painted a dark shade where the stones would be and a much lighter shade on top to shape out the stones. I also started work on the spring. I wanted to try for an effect of very clear water and went about this by painting the pebbles and then adding layers of watered down paint.
By this point, the bulk of the painting is done. I just needed to finish off the details and I added a dead tree stump to the right of the painting. I added some extra bits of colour, detailed the stone and water further and continued to used watered down paint to great effect in detailing the ground, especially as it slopes towards the water. The final image can be seen here.