Friday, November 13, 2015

Symbolism in Fine Art

Penelope and Her Suitors, Waterhouse, 1912
The women resemble the maiden, mother, crone with distaff, spindle, and loom
In The Language of Pictures, David Bell speaks of the art of painting as language, a means by which human may communicate with human. He says that the urge to express is really the urge to share experience, and it is an almost universal urge; art is a way of accomplishing expression. “Penelope and Her Suitors” depicts many images from Magdalenian activities which have been preserved by illustrations and oral mythologies: the three women with spindle, distaff, loom, and thread winders are all evident in the inscriptions from Gönnersdorf. 

Paintings, like letters, are capable of an infinite number of combinations and variations; we can regard the parts of a painting to be like parts of speech. Aristotle said, “The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.” Art is symbolic: abstractions of thought. Much symbolism used by the masters contrasts the religious icons of the Church, in that one is esoteric; the other, exoteric,  needs to be easily understood by all. 

Popes, princes, and kings commissioned masters to create artwork. Many of these artists incorporated pagan symbolism into their masterpieces; some works were created as protective amulets, some depicted heretical spiritual beliefs such as Gnosticism. The masters esoterically preserved these suppressed philosophies in great works of art. This visual cryptography was taught to apprentices and passed on to followers by the “underground stream.” Those who were initiated understood the messages underlying the beautiful imagery. Portraits were also commissioned, and symbolism was used to denote genealogies, position, nationality, and social status. The portrait of “Napoleon on the Throne,” by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (1806), incorporates numerous symbols.  

Napoleon on the Throne
J. A. D. Ingres, 1806

Gibson writes the following:
1. The golden wreath on his head represents the laurel wreaths of Rome, symbolizing victory and immortality. The plant is sacred to Jupiter, imparting his protection, and the wreath resembles a nimbus under the golden halo created by the back of the throne. 

2. The scepter in his right hand is topped by a model of Charlemagne, symbolizing the new emperor’s inheritance of the great Carolingian leader. 

3. The scepter in his left hand sports an ivory hand of justice, the fingers of which form the sign of the Holy Trinity, signifying blessing. Scepters are attributes of supreme authority.
4. Bright red robes are the hallmark of Roman emperors, and costly ermine is associated with nobility. The velvet is embroidered with Napoleon’s monogram N and many bees, which among other things, represent goddess, cooperation, and prosperity.  

6. The sword is said to be Charlemagne’s, which according to the Song of Roland had mystical properties. The sword denotes justice as well as authority. 

7. The eagle woven into the rug is the king of birds, sacred to Jupiter and a symbol of supreme authority, sovereignty, and military might. It is in the center of a zodiac, representing God’s mastery of the universe. 

8. The scales of Libra on the right side of the rug denote judgment and justice.  

This portrait may or may not have been commissioned by Napoleon. It was heavily criticized after exhibition; the iconic style symbolizing an absolute ruler was considered inappropriate for an emperor who was thought to be a man of the people. Symbolism is a powerful and effective language. The use of archetypal images conveys concepts to the viewer intuitively, as Jung believed, being perceived by the unconscious, and decoded by cultural genetic memories there.

Nymph Callisto on Jupiter’s Chariot
Baldassarre Peruzzi, 1512
In this painting by Peruzzi, there are many complex astrological scenes depicting what is said to be the horoscope of Agostino Chiga, the owner of Villa Farnesina in Rome. “Nymph Callisto on Jupiter’s Chariot” is part of a decorated ceiling in the villa. Here we see the use of astrological and mythological symbolism. The mythological story of Callisto is significant; she was turned into a bear by Juno and rescued by Jupiter from being hunted; he swept her and her son Aras into the sky as the Great and Little Bear. The two bulls pulling the chariot are significant of Taurus, which is rising through the constellation of the Bear. The heads of the putti emerging from the clouds represent the winds. The wheels with eight spokes are associated with the successive conjunctions of Venus, and therefore the goddess. 

Primavera, Botticelli, 1482
The symbolism in Botticelli’s Primavera (Spring) is more esoteric in nature, and unusual because it reads right to left. The colors are significant; green, gold, and sapphire are associated with the Three Graces. Javier Sierra, in his book The Secret Supper, postulates that this painting commissioned by Lorenzo de Medici deals with occult themes, and represents the magical practice of drawing down planetary influences into images, transmitting only healthful, rejuvenating influences to the beholder, functioning as a complex talisman against the effects of Chronos. One could make a connection between the perception of the painting as a talisman and the alchemical Philosopher’s Stone. I believe by placing this work in context, the esoteric nature of the alchemical and mythological symbolism is due to the persecution of alchemists and their philosophy. The goddess with the branch in her mouth is a symbol of Alchemy, a philosophy suppressed by the Church. 

Many renowned artists of the time used this visual code in their now famous works to portray heretical or unpopular world-views. Other interesting “forbidden symbols” which represent enlightenment (a concept the Church frowned on) are three: golden arrows, red x’s, or flowers (as seen in Primavera). Nadia Coucha, in Surrealism and the Occult, argues that although modern symbolist painting is often considered artistically poor, the motives for such art must be considered. She states that symbolism set the stage for modern symbolist artists and contributed to the view that art should be about ideas, not only appearances.   

Symbolism is a visual language that has been used for millennia to express that which is seen in our minds, by our eyes, and concepts understood by the soul. Masters of fine art used image as symbol, bringing depth of meaning to their work that is all but lost. 

About Symbologist Michelle Snyder

Michelle earned her post-graduate degree at the University of Wales, decoding prehistoric images, mythology, folklore, and fairy tales and tracing them to their roots. She is an author, columnist, publisher, artist, and teacher. Her artwork, inspired by her love of symbolism and folklore, has appeared in galleries from Massachusetts to California. Michelle is co-owner of White Knight Studio.
     Books by Michelle, available at Amazon:


Symbology ReVision: Unlocking Secret Knowledge  
Symbology: Hidden in Plain Sight
Symbology: My Art and Symbols 
Symbology: Fairy Tales Uncovered 
Symbology: Decoding Classic Images 
Symbology: World of Symbols 
Symbology: Secrets of the Mermaids


A Tale of Three Kingdoms: Book One - The Lost Unicorn


A Tale of Three Kingdoms: Book Two - The Lost Mermaid

The Fairy Tales: Once-Upon-A-Time Lessons First Book

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Symbology: Fairy Tales Uncovered

Excerpts from Symbology: Fairy Tales Uncovered

From: An Old Fashioned Debate:

Views of scholars differ in the field of comparative literature, especially that of folklore. There is more agreement, however, when it comes to fairy tales being relics of ancient mythology. It is in determining the origin of these wondrous tales that great debate seems to rage. 

Before we can enter a debate we must define the terms used within it. According to some, fairy tales are traditional narratives, which are not about divine beings nor held to cosmological events (as in most mythology), but in which the supernatural plays a part; whereas others will define them simply as stories with a beginning, middle, and end (separating them in genre from fables and nursery rhymes). Here it is important to mention that Countess d'Aulnoy (1650 – 1705), who authored stories she called contes de fees (fairy tales),  was the first to use that title for the genre she penned. 'Fairy tale' does not even appear in the 1888 Webster’s Dictionary. Perhaps it is worth considering what terms were used prior to her use of that phrase; what we know as fairy tales have been, and still are, referred to as folklore, romance, mythology, children’s stories – and fabrications, which are lumped into tales that are false or misleading; a general antonym being truth.

Here are some definitions from both traditional and online dictionaries:

1) a children's story about magical and imaginary beings and lands
2) a story in which improbable events lead to a happy ending
3) a made-up story usually designed to mislead
4) a lie
5) a fanciful tale of legendary deeds and creatures, usually intended for children
6) a fictitious, highly fanciful story or explanation
7) a story about fairies or other mythical or magical beings, especially one of traditional origin told to children
8) a subgenre of folk tales almost always involving some element of magic, and good triumphing over evil
9) a traditional story, usually written for children, which often involves imaginary creatures and magic

Some would contend that these odd stories were nonsense tales told to the young by illiterate old women. By contrast, others say they were written down by very literate authors and read aloud, then retold by those who heard them read. Still others insist they are remnants of oral tradition from pre-literate cultures, and were indeed told and retold by old to young, in families who taught their children with oral tradition, from an unknown misty distant past.

To say that these tales have their origin from printed pages which were read aloud is limiting stories to the cultures which had the written word as a form of communication, and their later distribution to the invention of the Gutenberg press in the 1400’s. Human families have been around for tens of thousands of years; it is unlikely that none before our literate culture taught their young, or entertained the old, with stories. The stories we know have evolved over centuries – even millennia – of telling. The discussion s to whether or not fairy tales have authors, have been orally transmitted, or are an outgrowth of folklorish stories to children in their cradles is ongoing. Scholars base their suppositions on scant reprints containing some author notes and other accompanying material, which was not always known. It is perhaps true that these rare documents are the first time some stories were put into print, but it is an erroneous conclusion that they did not exist in oral tradition before that. 

From: Fairy Tales Decoded:

Three Fairies - 1634/Italian/Basile

This is a fairy tale about a wealthy widow who had an ugly, arrogant daughter. She married a rich widower who had a very lovely, polite daughter. During this tale each daughter visits the Three Fairies. Upon entering the fairies den the lovely daughter was generous and humble, spoke politely and was unassuming. The ugly daughter, however, was rude and selfish, assumed she deserved the very best, and demanded to be treated as such. As the lovely daughter leaves the fateful meeting through the wooden door, a star lands on her forehead. This is a reference to her subsequent education in astronomy and marriage to a husband of good breeding. In contrast, the arrogant daughter demands to leave the den of the Three Fairies through the golden door; as she does a donkey’s testicles land on her forehead. This is symbolic of her ending up with an ass for a husband.

Cultural traditions are preserved in folklore. This clever story relates the futility of selfishness and conceit, and the benefits of knowledge and social grace. When these stories are understood in terms of real families, much can be learned about our ancestors and what they valued.

The Three Fairies also equate to the mythology of the female Trinity, the Triple Goddess, the Graces, and the Furies, which date back to the weavers of the Ice Age 15,000 years ago. Daughters learned from their mothers, who learned from the grandmothers or matriarchs. This is the origination of Maiden, Mother, Crone - I prefer Matriarch - , or the three Norns who weave the threads of life.

About Symbologist Michelle Snyder

Michelle earned her post-graduate degree at the University of Wales, decoding prehistoric images, mythology, folklore, and fairy tales and tracing them to their roots. She is an author, columnist, publisher, artist, and teacher. Her artwork, inspired by her love of symbolism and folklore, has appeared in galleries from Massachusetts to California. Michelle is co-owner of White Knight Studio.
     Books by Michelle, available at Amazon: 
   Symbology series:

Symbology ReVision: Unlocking Secret Knowledge  
Symbology: Hidden in Plain Sight
Symbology: My Art and Symbols 
Symbology: Fairy Tales Uncovered 
Symbology: Decoding Classic Images 
Symbology: World of Symbols 
Symbology: Secrets of the Mermaids


Fairy Tales: 
A Tale of Three Kingdoms: Book One - The Lost Unicorn


A Tale of Three Kingdoms: Book Two - The Lost Mermaid

The Fairy Tales: Once-Upon-A-Time Lessons First Book

Friday, November 6, 2015

The Explorer-Engineer

 The Explorer-Engineer
by Dr. Robert Duncan-Enzmann

There is only room for one man on the Phaeton. Only one – but in great comfort. The man who is outward bound on the Phaeton has just retired healthy, athletic, a minor scientist, ex-pilot, excellent engineer, 60 years old, from a long-lived family, and without close relatives. In his younger days he served three missions alone: one in the Antarctic for 18 months, one on the moon for 8 months, and a highly commendable 4 year mission on Pluto’s moon. He served all alone and is worthy of a footnote in history. 

He will pilot the first starship, he will do it alone. With a little luck he will be the first human to come close to not just one, but a number of stars. He will never return. But he will be remembered, cherished, and enshrined in humankind’s history books. 

The supplies carried are ample to the point of luxury. 100 tons, at 10 pounds a day, will suffice for 20,000 days or 50 years. In addition he has machinery with the capacity to recycle air, water, and food such that, at worst, he need consume only one pound of stores per day. His recycling equipment has a total mass of about 50 tons. The recyclers are triple redundant; furthermore, he has a shop and tools for repair work.

The retired explorer-engineer’s quarters are not only large, but also structured interestingly. They are so skillfully planned that it will be years before he immediately recognizes every twist, turn, passage, room, and gangway. His air supply exists in his quarters as an atmosphere, and in solid storage. The mass of his atmosphere is about 100 tons, including free and stored air.

It is most unlikely that he will ever land, yet his vehicle is equipped with a small aerospace plane which could land on an airless moon, asteroid, or comet; or enter an atmosphere and land; even take off, ascend, accelerate, and return into space. He is equipped with four space suits. 

The small but artistically planned quarters have five gardens, and eight planted areas that might be called flower gardens. The ship carries five tons of plants and plant nutrients. The tonnage is sufficient to recycle oxygen and collect noxious dusts for 100 persons. The explorer-engineer will forever have a great surplus of vegetables, fruits, citrus fruits, avocados, catfish, and chicken. His little farms and flower gardens are free of earthly pests. They do and will thrive.

Entertainments are multiple, including libraries of video, audio, participating-simulations, and events beamed from Earth. 

Recycling the Circulating Air

It is most important to control an atmosphere. Without air men die quickly. Perhaps the simplest way of proportioning O2 and CO2 is through plants. About 20 to 100 ft 2 of leaves are needed to convert on human’s CO2 exhalations into O2 and Carbon in a plant’s tissues.


Illumination at the correct wavelength and of sufficient intensity is needed to cause plants to “inhale” CO2 through their stoma, and exhale O2. One of the most important mini-factories on the ship would manufacture and/or refurbish light bulbs, fluorescent tubes and such.

Recycling and purifying the circulating water

Filtering, clathrating (as with zeolites), evaporation of distillation, then finally filter cleaning and zeolite reactivation should suffice to keep drinking, cooking, washing, toilet, and other circulating waters sweet and clean.

Plants can enter the cycle by digesting mineral residue left after water, or watery substances, are respectively distilled or heated to dry ash.

Thermal and or electrical energy is needed to recycle water. It would be abundant – indeed – overly abundantly available.

Recycling of human, animal, and plant wastes or remains

Recycling of wastes and remains may be accomplished by a combination of bacterial digestion or thermal incineration. In both cases the remains would be fed to plants.

In the case in which all plants died catastrophically waste could be in incinerated and the ash stored, and/or dumped.

Food could be plentifully available as garden products including carrots, radishes, potatoes, beans, peas, lettuce, bonzi, lemons, oranges, lines, pears, apples, potatoes, rye, wheat, sorgum, barley, rabbits, chickens, catfish, snails, shrimp, and octopus. 

Raising the food, maintaining seed stocks, caring for special plants such as bonzi citrus groves, would be hard, painstaking work, But perhaps rewarding for a lonely voyager.

Space to live in

Space would not only be ample for the retired explorer-engineer on a one-way retirement mission to the stars, it should, and certainly would be, interestingly comfortable. Somehow a frank Lloyd Wright of architectural layout and interior decorating will appear among humankind’s legions of skilled educated people who will design such quarters as a labor of love. 

A sphere of 3o feet in diameter would accommodate four decks. This would be a vast region for a lone person. 

Footnotes: CO2 (carbon dioxide) will be scrubbed out of the habitats atmosphere chemically as is done on Trident submarines. Hopefully the green plants will make the use of scrubbing unnecessary, and ideally the scrubbers will forever be on standby. 

To read more about real life starships, and short stories by Duncan-Enzmann based on rocket science, visit EnzmannStarship

Edited and published by Michelle Snyder: author, editor, artist, publisher, teacher. Her books on symbology and her original fairy tales are available at Amazon.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Proof of the Tools

Despite the fact it has never been published, very little of our centuries-old Masonic ritual has changed. MW Albert T. Ames, Past Grand Master, celebrates his 50th anniversary as Master of Meridian Lodge, Natick, MA, by returning to the East and reciting the same oath he took 50 years ago. Strict attention to detail is made at every meeting in order to preserve the traditions that accompany the privileges of Masonry, out of respect to our Brothers who have passed this way before. Discussions of changes to our rituals are rare, and shunned by most as much as any on religion or politics. The truth of Speculative Masonry is in the ancient established usages and customs of the Fraternity, and those truths are built upon the tools of Operative Masonry.

The meanings applied to Masonic symbols and emblems are clearly defined in word-perfect detail in our unwritten ritual. Yet, countless books are written that speculate about the hidden meanings and interpretations of Masonic symbols adorning our facilities. Speculation about meaning is a never-ending source of rhetoric for Masonic readers and writers alike. Brothers do differ and debate, demand proof of research and opinions, and there is little tolerance for ideas that are not supportive of previously published, academic opinions. Most all of them try to reveal some hidden truth about Freemasonry, but it is the working tools in our Lodge that provide a very real and exacting truth: the sun rises in the east, sets in the west, and true north is a constant no matter where we are. The proof is in the established usage of the tools.

Masonic tools are the doorway, the lock, and the key to a list of ancient scientific proofs that are from long ago, and their discovery is long forgotten. Symbols of ancient working tools adorn all of our Masonic lodges proving the cardinal directions that situate all members. Do not confuse the square, compasses, level, plumb, and rule - pre-manuscript traditions used for exacting sequential scientific measurements - with the added value of speculative application succinctly outlined in our Masonic ritual 300 years ago. The value of the east being 90° of true north is not a recent discovery, nor does it require a reference library to prove. If a 3 foot line and a 4 foot line originating from the same point have end-points exactly 5 feet apart, there is proof their angle is square. Rhetoric aside, without these working tools civilizations could not exist.

The proof that pillars are plumb and gauge the movement of the heavens above is not a matter of speculation. The shadows they cast on Masonic Pavement allowing precise measuring of time on a square-gauged level plane is not a matter of academic proof. The 10,000 year old, square, level, and plumb Baalbek Trilithon is proof that these working tools were in use in ancient times. A rule from Washington, DC to the spire of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France reveals the truth that Baltimore, Philadelphia, Ellis Island, New Haven, and Boston are on that straight line, and my only proof is the working tool. These proofs are how we measure time, distance, weight, and volume. The order of our universe is proved by these tools from the vast reaches of space to the smallest sub-ether particles. The only thing they cannot measure is the ultimate consistency, the Great Architect of it all.

Whatever speculative beliefs may divide our fellowship on Earth, the working tools are not part of any debate; their use is not theory, their proofs are not arguable. We can debate how best to help a Brother in distress, how best to balance our budgets, or how to reference our speculation, but the working tools of Freemasonry are the symbols of truth hidden in plain sight, and it is our charge to use them for more noble and glorious purposes.

Article published previously in The Working Tools Magazine. 

Jay R Snyder, Owner White Knight Studio, Natick, MA
Jay R Snyder is a  Master Mason and Junior Warden at Meridian Lodge, Natick MA. 
 He compiled, edited, and published Dr. Robert Duncan-Enzmann’s book Ice Age Language: Translations, Grammar, Vocabulary  available at Amazon.