Wednesday, January 28, 2009

In honor of today's snowstorm, here are some images of snow crystals from a 19th century Japanese book.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

While admiring Sara's new, skull-adorned pillow, I was reminded of an anatomical drawing from an 18th century Japanese text that I'd recently seen. There's a delicacy and refinement to these images that I find quite beautiful.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

This is a cigarette card illustration of the British actress Anna Neagle. I'm not sure what role or film this was - she looks like she's working at a Ren Faire. I think this would make a lively Page of Cups.
Here's a great illustration of Marlene Dietrich, from a cigarette card. With the flowers and mirror, she looks like a celluloid Venus.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The work of Isabel Toledo, the talented designer responsible for creating the dress worn by First Lady Michelle Obama during her husband's swearing-in ceremony, will be the subject of an exhibit at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology beginning June 2009.

I have long admired the work of this creative woman, and I am delighted that she is now receiving greater exposure. People just learning about her, as well as long time devotees, will have an opportunity to enjoy her artistry.
The Medieval Garden Enclosed has a wonderful post about the date palm tree. My name is the Hebrew word for this variety of palm, so I feel a special affinity for this amazing plant.

As the post points out, the date palm was long regarded as a symbol of life, and it was one of the trees associated with the Canaanite goddess Asherah. While it is no longer revered, it remains an important plant, cultivated chiefly for its fruit (though every part of it may be used). I enjoy date molasses on my oatmeal; it has a milder flavor than its sugarcane counterpart.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

While taking in Obama's historic Inauguration, I couldn't help but admire First Lady Michelle Obama's stunning ensemble, designed by the supremely talented and original Isabel Toledo, whom I adore. The diamante necklace made me think of the wide collared menet necklaces worn in ancient Egypt. It lent a regal and refined touch to a very elegant outfit, giving the First Lady a timeless, dignified air befitting this extraordinary occasion.

Poster by Jonathan Hoefler.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

I was inspired to create a color palette for Field Recordings for Unicorn Listening Practice, by Craig Conley.

The colors are, from left to right: forest shadow; forest floor; ancient oak; dappled sunlight; resting unicorn.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Like many people, I'm intrigued by La Papesse card. One would think that the creators of the Tarot would have selected the image of an Abbess to represent a female religious authority figure. Instead, they made the unorthodox choice to make her the precise feminine counterpart of the Pope, and they vested her with all the symbols of that office, including the papal crown.
In an insightful essay on this card, Tom Tadfor Little believes that she represents, quite simply, "the feminine face of religion" which could never be entirely stamped out by the Church (as much as it tried). Owing to our "biologically dual" nature, the feminine has its rightful place in the religious sphere along with the masculine, with each complementing the other. By including La Papesse in the major arcana, the Tarot both acknowledges and affirms the role feminine energies play in the spiritual life of any society.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

This is a turn of the 20th century poster for Hamlet, illustrated by James Pryde and Sir William Nicholson. I think it would make a striking, minimalist Death card.

This is an illustration of a Deva by architect and author Claude Fayette Bragdon. I think she'd make a lovely Empress card in an Indian-inspired Tarot.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Here's an ad from the early 20th century for Knox Hats. Nothing like a lady in leopard.

This is a lovely fashion illustration from the early 20th century by Parisian designer Paul Poiret. I like the juxtaposition of the lady in black against the white column. The first time I saw this image, I thought of the black and white columns in the High Priestess card in the RWS Tarot. The moon adds a mysterious touch, and there's an overall melancholic feeling which makes this more poetic than the typical fashion sketch.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

"Rhythm is something you either have or don't have, but when you have it, you have it all over."

-- Elvis Presley

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Another drawing by L. J. J. Dubois, this time of the redoubtable goddess Sekhmet. I think she'd make a beautiful Strength card.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

In older decks, The Fool was sometimes known as Il Matto, or the Madman. Contemporary interpretations of this card regard The Fool as an innocent or naif, blithely starting out on a journey. Il Matto, on the other hand, was someone who because of mental illness or possibly a developmental disability, would have been uncharitably regarded as a simpleton or idiot. This card is not numbered, or is sometimes assigned the number zero, which is apt, because in the socially stratified society of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, Il Matto would have been considered a nobody, a person of no status, importance, or consequence. Yet this very absence of position or rank gave the poor Matto freedom as well. He was not bound by the conventions and restrictions of a particular class, because he existed completely outside the class system. He is often depicted being on the road. While this can obviously symbolize being on a journey, it also reinforces the idea that he exists outside of civilized society, and its laws. It can also suggest homelessness, both actual and metaphorical.

The Visconti-Sforza deck shows Il Matto as a ragged, destitute, pathetic figure; one who inspires pity and revulsion in equal measure. Yet in spite of his lowly state, or because of it, he possesses his own kind of power. With his crown of feathers, he is the king of all he surveys, at least in his own mind, and he cannot be toppled from his imaginary throne. He cannot go any lower, and therefore he is not affected by the changes in fortune and circumstances that bedevil others. Having nothing, Il Matto has nothing to lose.

Here's an elegant drawing by L. J. J. Dubois of the solar deity Ra, taken from Jean Francois Champollion's book Pantheon Egyptien. I like the simplicity and iconic quality of this image; I think it would make an interesting, Egyptian inspired Sun card.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

I love this image of Apollo in his chariot, blazing across the heavens. The steeds are each partly in shadow, partly in the light, and so suggest the light and dark that one finds in most Chariot cards. That duality if further reinforced by the clouds, which are also partly dark, yet with bright areas.
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What jumps out at me is the horses' vitality and wildness. They look like they could break free at any moment, yet their immense power is deftly harnessed by Apollo, with only one hand, no less. He is in full control of these beautiful creatures. Apollo was also the god of reason, so his archetype dovetails nicely with the themes of discipline, self-control, and focus that this card signifies.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

I'm absolutely smitten by this bust of Antinous, the Emperor Hadrian's beautiful Greek lover, and I realized he would make a great Page of Wands for my imaginary Classical Tarot. The wands represent a very active, masculine energy, and are also associated with fire; given the intense, passionate nature of Hadrian's and Antinous' love affair, this suit seems appropriate.

After his mysterious drowning death in the Nile River at the age of 20, an inconsolable Hadrian had Antinous deified, and in no time an enthusiastic, devoted cult sprang up to worship the young man. The love and adoration this man insipired, coupled with his untimely death, reverberates through the ages, giving him an archetypal quality well suited to the Tarot.