Wearing of Draconic Green…

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For those of you who weren’t here last year, this has become an annual post/repost, festively updated. Enjoy wearing the green, in scale or threads. Enjoy this simple March offering.

So, it is Saint Patrick’s Day once again, a curious religious-turned-secular celebration which in its modern incarnation owes far less to fact than fancy. Still, it gives those who need it an excuse to hoist a pint and dream of leprechaun gold and other Hibernian stereotypes which have little if anything to do with a saint who wasn’t even Irish. The facts are, Patrick—aka Patricius—was, as his name attests, a well-born Romano-Briton, kidnapped from Wales and raised as an indentured shepherd across the Irish Sea. When he escaped his captivity, he became a priest, in time returning to Eire as bishop and evangelist to the heathen Celts.

Arguably the most famous bit of blarney connected with Patricius is the story of him driving all the Irish snakes into the sea. That there never were any Irish snakes in the first place proved a minor inconvenience to the hagiographers. It was the Dark Ages, after all. They were dealing in myth and metaphor, in selling the Faith to the masses with broad strokes and simple symbolic tales.

Never let the truth get in the way of a good sales pitch.

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But, in the truth they so blithely ignored lay something far more insidious. To understand exactly what was going on, we must take a step back, to a time before the one God replaced the Many. A time when Druids held sway and Dragons ruled.

Learned men and women, the Druids were the moral compass of the people. They were also blessed with the ability to converse with all manner of creature, including Dragons. They looked into Dragon eyes and saw a part of the oneness of nature: as with tree and spring, deer and human, so too with Dragons. They recognized the Dragons were old before time with spirits indwelling and immortal. Like the stones beneath their feet, they could roar with joy, speak, and sing. As keepers of their people’s justice, faith, and wisdom, Druids formed an intimate bond with the Dragons of Prydain, Cymru, Brittany, Eire, and the outer isles, receiving both guidance and instruction from their long-lived associates. The Druids shared their knowledge with kith and kin, and, in the process, Dragons became the most powerful creature in all Celtic lore. They represented the entirety of creation, from the rolling solidity of hill and mountain to the sinuous turn of river and stream. To a people who honored the eternal unity of the universe, no being could be more magnificent.

Triple_Dragon_by_Indirie

Triple_Dragon_by_Indirie

When Constantine obliterated the separation of Church and State in the 4th century, any previous laissez-faire attitude towards Pagans vanished, and the Christian notion of Dragons as demons straight from Hell was fine-tuned into the strictest article of faith. To Medieval minds, draconic physique not only made them perfect models for Lucifer’s minions but also linked them to Satan in his Serpent garb, tempting humanity to sin. (Note: A look at Genesis suggests that the Serpent was actually a Dragon—certainly a legged reptile—who only lost his limbs after that little kerfuffle with the apple. Gnostic texts, particularly On the Origin of the World, are much kinder, casting him as the descendent of Zoe [Life], the “instructor,” and “wisest of all creatures.” This more pro-Dragon take may have affected the Church’s decision to label Gnostics as heretics. But that’s another story.)

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Black Dragon – Damian97

To anatomy and temperament add their association with the God-less Pagans and Dragons became the peerless targets of an increasing number of fanatics. Would-be saints and tin-pot heroes were lining up around the block, scripture and swords at the ready, as Dragon slaying became a quick—if dangerous—path to fame, fortune, and heavenly reward.

This was the stage upon which Patricius played, the script which informed his legend. No real snakes in Eire? No matter. There were Druids and Dragons, beings as figuratively serpentine as Satan himself. For the Patrician mission to succeed and the Church to claim ascendancy, one way or another both had to be eliminated. So Druids and Dragons fell under siege, their sacred springs and blessed woods seized in the name of the new God. No one knows how much blood was spilt in their defense—record-keeping gets a little sloppy when fighting for one’s life—but tales from sidhe and weyr speak of the Dark Times, “when rivers ran red.” Among the survivors, a band of adventurous Dragons emigrated to the New World (“driven into the sea”), while others retreated beyond the veil, dwelling in the land of the fey until the human madness passed. For centuries, the only reminder of Ireland’s rich draconic history lay in the verdant hue of her hills. From a dracophile’s perspective, Patricius left the isle much poorer than he found it.On March 17th, take a moment between sips of emerald lager and think back on the dear price our scaly friends paid—and continue to pay—simply for being themselves.

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celtic greens

Muzylowski Allen’s Glass Menagerie

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Shawn MacKENZIE:

Stunning multi-media glass work by Shelley Muzylowski Allen.

Originally posted on Canadian Art Junkie:

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Winnipeg-born, Vancouver educated Shelley Muzylowski Allen is a sculptural glass sensation with a high profile internationally. Based in Washington state, often participating in workshops and collaborations, she adds unconventional materials and complex patterns to her blown and hand sculpted works.

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Coulombe: Symbolism of the unspoken

Shawn MacKENZIE:

Fascinating artist from north of the border.

Originally posted on Canadian Art Junkie:

coulombe54

Quebec artist Sylvain Coulombe is on exhibit with The Symbolism of the Unspoken, his first solo show in Toronto. There’s a  strong sculptural element to his portraits, due to thick applications of paint, and deep scraping and carving of his wooden canvases. 

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Everything Goes Better with Cats: Pangur Bán

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My desk, lap, bookshelves are draped with feline furriness. It is the way around here.

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Surrounded by such inspiration, I thought I would step into my way-back machine, indulge my inner medievalist, and share the tale of Pangur Bán and his person.

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Back in the 9th century, an unnamed Irish monk at Reichenau Abbey took a break from his usual monastic labors to pen a paean to his purry companion, Pangur Bán – White Pangur.

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Pangur Bán – trans. by Robin Flower

I and Pangur Bán, my cat
‘Tis a like task we are at;
Hunting mice is his delight
Hunting words I sit all night.

Better far than praise of men
‘Tis to sit with book and pen;
Pangur bears me no ill will,
He too plies his simple skill.

‘Tis a merry thing to see
At our tasks how glad are we,
When at home we sit and find
Entertainment to our mind.

Oftentimes a mouse will stray
In the hero Pangur’s way:
Oftentimes my keen thought set
Takes a meaning in its net.

‘Gainst the wall he sets his eye
Full and fierce and sharp and sly;
‘Gainst the wall of knowledge I
All my little wisdom try.

When a mouse darts from its den,
O how glad is Pangur then!
O what gladness do I prove
When I solve the doubts I love!

So in peace our tasks we ply,
Pangur Bán, my cat, and I;
In our arts we find our bliss,
I have mine and he has his.

Practice every day has made
Pangur perfect in his trade;
I get wisdom day and night
Turning darkness into light.

000KellsLibroPangur Bán

Messe agus Pangur Bán,
cechtar nathar fria shaindán:
bíth a menmasam fri seilgg,
mu menma céin im shaincheirdd.

Caraimse fos, ferr cach clú
oc mu lebrán, léir ingnu;
ní foirmtech frimm Pangur bán
caraid cesin a maccdán

Ó ru biam, scél gan scís
innar tegdais, ar n-óendís,
táithiunn, díchríchide clius
ní fris tarddam ar n-áthius

Gnáth, húaraib, ar gressaib gal
glenaid luch inna línsam;
os mé, du-fuit im lín chéin
dliged ndoraid cu ndronchéill

Fúachaidsem fri frega fál
a rosc, a nglése comlán;
fúachimm chéin fri fégi fis
mu rosc réil, cesu imdis.

Fáelidsem cu ndéne dul
hi nglen luch inna gérchrub;
hi tucu cheist ndoraid ndil
os mé chene am fáelid.

Cia beimmi a-min nach ré
ní derban cách a chéile
maith la cechtar nár a dán;
subaigthius a óenurán

Hé fesin as choimsid dáu;
in muid du-ngní cach óenláu;
du thabairt doraid du glé
for mu muid céin am messe.

Recently, the character of Pangur has been transported into the modern world in the wonderful 2009 animated film, The Secret of Kells.

If you haven’t seen it, do.

But first, hug your four-footed friends close, and remember: Everything goes better with cats.

Carterolder

Goody-B Wiseman’s Feral Dream Tigers

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Shawn MacKENZIE:

Beautiful bronzes that speak to the heart of our wild and furry dreams.

Originally posted on Canadian Art Junkie:

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Canadian trained artist Goody-B Wiseman’s Dream Tigers are wild but delicate.  The miniature sculptures fit in the palm of a hand. Wiseman works in bronze to explore the mythical “feral child.” (Above: Hidden, Edition of 20)

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Art Against Darkness: What Nelson Mandela Drew

Originally posted on Canadian Art Junkie:

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“It is true that Robben Island was once a place of darkness, but out of that darkness has come a wonderful brightness, a light so powerful that it could not be hidden behind prison walls, held back by prison bars or hemmed by the surrounding areas.”  Nelson Mandela (1918-2013)

More than a decade after he walked out of prison – after the Nobel Peace prize, after his presidency, and long after he was globally revered – Nelson Mandela began to draw.

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