fantasy art

Issue#4 - December 4th New Moon - Rebirth, The Snake and The Goddess

Welcome back to Lunesence (formerly known as Lunazine), which I had to postpone for 2 years due to a string of very bad luck and financial troubles. I'm happy to be back offering something to you: an essay, a book review and a website review. The theme this month is rebirth and the snake, since this is a cold, dark time of the year, and has traditionally been the time of gestation. This is the 1st part of a 3 part series.

Holiday Sale
I would like to announce my Holiday Sale that is going on from now until December 31st. Medium-sized prints (8.5x11 or 3.5x17 inches) are $15 or 2 for $20. Large-sized prints (11x17 inches) are $25 or 2 for $30.

Just remember to write in the comments section which prints you want. If you prefer to pay by check, please just let me know what you would like and I will ship everything off immediately.

Name Change
I've changed the name of the business and website from Art & Vision to Aquafemina. Art & Vision I am going to slowly switchover to my web & graphic design and creative artist representative business. The Art & Vision site will also house my photography.

Free Monthly Print
Every month now I'm going to be giving away a medium-sized print and will draw the names from my mailing list. The print will be the winner's choice.

About the Holidays
Happy Yule, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Merry Christmas! I hope you have a restful, insightful Solstice filled with warmth and love.

Book of the Month:
The Rose and the Beast: by Francesca Lia Block

I found Francesca Lia Block quite by accident. I was looking online to see what Suza Scalora (one of my favorite artist/photographers) had illustrated – to see if she had published any other books (in addition to her Fairies and other book) – and I noticed she had illustrated the front cover of The Rose and the Beast (it’s a gorgeous photo illustration, by the way).

This collection of “fairy tales retold” by Block was intriguing. I have long been retelling fairy tales in a weird and twisted way, so I was naturally curious as to how Block treated it, and wondered if she was a “sister spirit” in writing. Reading about Block, I noticed she was placed by publishers in a strange liminal zone where she wasn’t quite treated as a writer for an adult audience (fairy tales are always treated as childish in the Western world), but she was too dark and real for children. She now has a very avid fandom of young adult females.

The Rose and the Beast had some dark adult undercurrents in its pages, but nothing too horrifying for women coming-of-age. Inside her pages are stories of Sleeping Beauty pricking herself with heroin needles, Bluebeard the serial killer and Little Red Riding Hood’s Wolf as a child molester and wife-beater. Many of the other stories were less intense - but frankly, I liked the stories that touched upon the more violent and sadistic side of society better. There was something more satisfying about them.

I found “Wolf” to be very suspenseful and intriguing - it had a genius quality – a story that flowed so easily it seemed the author wrote it quickly and in a deep trance. The voice of the narrator was very raw – it seemed honest and real. One paragraph reads: “I don’t know what else I said, but I do know that he started laughing at me, this hideous tooth laugh, and I remembered him above me in that bed with his clammy hand on my mouth and his ugly ugly weight and me trying to keep hanging on because I wouldn’t let him take my mom away, that was the one thing he could never do and now he had…” (p. 127-128)

“Bones” was another one of the stories I just loved. It begins with “I dreamed of being a part of the stories—even the terrifying ones, even horror stories—because at least the girls in stories were alive before they died.” (p. 153) Bones continues with “We were all over his house. On the floor and the couches and tables and beds. He had music blasting from speakers everywhere and I let it take me like when I was at shows, thrashing around, losing the weight of who I was - the self-consciousness and anxiety, to the sound. He said, You’re so tiny, like a doll, you look like you might break. I wanted him to break me. Part of me did. He said, I can make you whatever you want to be. I wanted him to. But what did I want to be?”

As you continue to read, you discover that “Derrick Blue” is a modern-day Bluebeard, collecting bones in deranged, serial killer fashion…And the story gains in suspense while you root for the female narrator to escape his Casanova clutches.

Block ends her book with a punch in her story “Ice”. It first reads: “She came that night like every girl’s worst fear, dazzling frost star ice queen. Tall and with that long silver blond hair and a flawless face, a perfect body in white crushed velvet and a diamond snowflake tiara.” How many hordes of young women can relate to their hearts getting run over as the men (or boys) they love fall for an “ice queen”?

Block’s genius is that she writes in a down-to-earth, yet metaphorical fashion for her readership: the young female. She finds the archetypal themes still threading through contemporary society and shines light on them, while catching a raw and honest young woman’s voice, as if in snapshot.

About the only weak link that I found was her story Charm. I got a little lost in Charm and wasn’t always certain – or interested – in what was happening. It could have been my mind-state at the time however, and the other stories were well worth it, so I should give Charm another chance.

I’m now another fan of Francesca Lia Block, for her modern-day risks in lyricism, her magical realism, her metaphorical, mythical themes, her archetypal yet fleshed out characters…Since The Rose and the Beast is divvied into 9 stories, her book is both a fast intriguing read, and one you can easily put down if you are interrupted constantly by a busy lifestyle. The book is definitely worth buying, and in this case, you can tell a book by its cover!

The paperback version is available at Amazon for $6.95. The hardcover version is available at Amazon for $10.47.

- © 2003 Katharina Woodworth. All Rights Reserved.

Website of the Month: Suza Scalora's
I have witnessed this website go through many incarnations from when I first discovered it in the summer of 1998 and I found her Mythopoeia site (now defunct)...If you want to thoroughly enjoy some of her beautiful photographic artwork on faeries and wizards, check out her site and her books, The Faeries: Photographic Evidence of the Existence of Another World and the Witches and Wizards of Oberin. Gorgeous, inspirational, vivid, fun, mythical work!

- © 2003 Katharina Woodworth. All Rights Reserved.

Lunesence is published by Aquafemina - Finding myth and meaning in today's fast-paced lifestyle.

Katharina Woodworth
Aquafemina -
Art & writing rooted in mythological, archetypal & Goddess explorations.

- © 2000 - 2003 - Katharina Woodworth. All rights reserved. All work herein is copyright (c) 2000 - 2003 - Katharina Woodworth unless it is otherwise noted the work of another author.

Feel free to send copies of Lunesence to your friends.

Featured Essay: The Goddess and the Snake
by Katharina Woodworth

The Year of the Snake
According to Chinese astrology, we have entered into the Year of the Metal Snake, or the White Snake (this was written in 2001). The Year of the Snake is a good year, marked by introspection, sensitivity, artistry, inner growth, spirituality & philosophy. People born under the Year of the Snake are described as deep-thinking, creative, intuitive, generous, sensuous and hardworking.

In Chinese mythology, dragons are originally snakes, and dragons are considered very beneficial and benevolent creatures. In contrast, the most famous snake in the Western mythos is the Serpent that tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden. For centuries, the snake has been perceived as an evil and maligned creature, the physical home of devils, demons and Satan. The serpent has been something to fend off and kill. According to Webster's New World Dictionary (3rd Edition), the snake is "(2) a treacherous or deceitful person", and the serpent is "(2) a sly, sneaking, treacherous person." Serpent with a capital "S" is "Satan, in the form he assumed to tempt Eve (Gen 3:1-5)" and serpentine is "of or like a serpent, especially evilly cunning or subtle; treacherous." Legend has it that St. Patrick drove all the "snakes" from the shores of Ireland. Since there are no biological snakes on the island, it is rumored that snakes symbolized the Pagan religion and the Church killed Celtic leaders, priests, priestesses and healers on St. Patrick's Day.

The Evil Serpent of the West
The original Garden of Eden story did not feature a mortal woman and snake-seducer, who were the fall of all Humankind. Millennia ago, the mortal woman Eve was the Mother/Creator Goddess and her consort was the Serpent, who was not an evil creature but a source to wholeness. According to Anne Baring and Jules Cashford in The Myth of the Goddess, "The serpent first appears as a serpent mother goddess in the Neolithic era, and is also drawn coiling around the womb and the phallus as the principle of regeneration. In the Sumerian cities of Ur and Uruk... were found two very old images of the Mother Goddess and her child, both having the heads of snakes. As the male aspect of the goddess was differentiated, the serpent became the fertilizing phallus, image of the god who was her son and consort, born from her, married with her and dying back into her for rebirth in unending cycle....The serpent, once lord of rebirth, has now turned into his opposite, the instigator of death in league with Eve....Once the Goddess has become a woman, and the Serpent God has become a reptile, any meaningful union between them is impossible, and the images can no longer serve as a means of metaphysical exploration."

The Caduceus & The Tree of Life
Together, the serpent, the Goddess and the Tree of Life is a very old symbol and was probably the forerunner of the symbol of the caduceus. The caduceus, which is represented as two snakes coiled around each other and a staff, has long been the symbol of healing and the medical profession. According to Barbara Walker in The Women's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, "Some Gnostic Christians worshipped the serpent hung on a cross, rod, or Tree of Life, calling it Christ the Savior." These Ophite Christians called him Ophion, while the Gnostic Jews worshipped him as Nehushtan. Some of these Gnostic Jews believed that Yahweh/Jehovah was no god, but a devil, and the usurper of the original Kingdom of the Wise Serpent. In her book, The Woman's Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects, Walker writes: "In Mesopotamia, intertwined snakes represented the healing god Ningishzida, one of the lovers of the Goddess Ishtar. This god's symbol was a staff round which a double-sexed, two-headed serpent called Sachan was coiled. Biblical writers renamed the healing serpent Nehushtan, worshiping it as an early form of the God of Moses (Numbers 21:9; 2 Kings 18:4). Greeks adopted a similar double-snake symbol for their medicinal god Asclepius. The same healing emblem was found in ancient India, and also in the Americas among the Aztec and North American Indians...Classical Greek writers claimed that Hermes inherited the caduceus in his character of Conductor of Souls; it was said that his magic staff had enough healing power to raise even the dead from Hades....Some devised the story that the caduceus was first invented by the two-sexed sage Teiresias of Thebes, who stuck a cane between two copulating snakes and discovered that their orderly arrangement around this staff provided mystic clues to cosmic geometry." According to Baring and Cashford, "The umbilical cord connecting the child to its mother has the form of intertwined double snakes, and this universal and evocative image of relationship may lie behind the image of the serpentine meander and labyrinth connecting this world to the one beyond."

Snake Goddesses & Priestesses
Before the snake and the goddess were differentiated, there were many serpent goddesses. In Egypt, the goddess of magic was Nehebka, the falcon-winged cobra goddess and protectress of the Pharoah and the Egyptian royal family. She is said to have studied all the forms of magic, and when she had learned everything, swallowed seven serpents in a mystical rite that made her completely immune to any spells cast upon her. In Sumeria, the serpent-goddess of the abyss, Nammu, gave birth to earth and heaven.

According to Walker, "The ancient Aegean world worshipped primarily women and serpents. Men didn't participate in religious ceremonies until late in the Bronze Age, when Cretan kings were allowed to become priests of the bull-god. Even then, the priest's role was subordinate to that of the priestess, until the priest himself took the title of 'serpent.' The word for 'priest' among ancient Akkadian peoples literally meant 'snake charmer'."

The ancient divinatory art of herpetomancy was alive before Biblical times and is still practiced today. Seers use a live snake to foretell the future. In ancient Greece, the Oracle of Delphi was called Pythia and communicated with the underworld through a serpent. In South America, white anacondas are shamanic helpers; they appear in visions and dreams as spirit guides who swallow and then give birth to the initiate. In China, there were once bone-setting shamans who were visited in dreams by a snake that splits apart, only to be mended by the dreamer. Every two years, Hopi Indians perform a snake dance in which they handle live rattlesnakes.

Even today, some belly dancers and gypsy dancers dance with large snakes. There is also a newly rediscovered form of yoga called Snake Yoga, which is being practiced and taught in the U.S. by Le'ema Kathleen Graham.

Snake Power
Kundalini Yoga also centers around the imagery of the serpent. According to Mariah at The House of Light, "Chakras were first associated with a Goddess named Kundalini. She is described as a sleeping serpent coiled three and a half times around the first chakra at the base of the spine. Her name comes from the word 'kundala', meaning coiled. In Hindu beliefs, this Goddess, when awakened, climbs upward, chakra by chakra, until she reaches the crown chakra at the top of the head. As she pierces each chakra, she brings awakening to her subject. When her journey is complete, her subject is said to be fully enlightened .... Kundalini is a Sanskrit term that means "coiled up". It is 'Prana', it is 'Life Force', and we all have the ability to awaken this "snake" that lies dormant at the base of our spine." Some texts describe kundalini as two serpents coiled around the spine, much like the image of the genetic double helix, or the caduceus. The serpent to the left is called ida-nadi, the serpent to the right, pingala-nadi.

Symbolically, the serpent has been considered to be the power beneath the earth that makes the plants grow. This is similar to the Great Earth Dragon, whose movements beneath the earth are said to cause earthquakes. In inner Mongolia, it is still believed that snake spirits may inhabit a house and must be satisfied with sacrifices or bad luck will ensue. Altars are tended for the house's serpent spirit, and must not be moved without the spirit's permission.

The Uroboros or Ouroboros is the symbol of the snake devouring its own tail. Marie-Louise Von Franz pointed out in Patterns of Creativity Mirrored in Creation Myths, that in the Middle Ages, at the end of every known area, "there is simply a drawing of the Uroboros....which on old maps also represents the Ocean....They drew all the constellations they knew and outside them the cosmos was surrounded by the Zodiac snake, the snake on which were all the signs of the Zodiac; beyond that lay the unknown." In the Middle Ages, the Uroboros characterized the mystery of unknown matter, or the original matter of the world, prima materia. In ancient Greece this serpent was also known as the Hermetic World Serpent or the Sea-Serpent Oceanus encircling the earth, or the underground Python coiled in the earth's womb. The Uroboros was also thought to embrace the mystic World Egg. According to Barbara Walker, "A number of traditions indicate that the original serpent protecting the World Egg was female, a mother-serpent, like Ananta the Infinite in India or Mehen the Enveloper in Egypt. The male serpent became the guardian of the Egg only after patriarchy was well-established. His swallowing of his own tail (to make an endless round) was probably based on the primitive notion that the female serpent swallows the male in order to fertilize herself: a notion that was reported by Pliny and solemnly believed throughout Christian Europe. Sometimes, Uroboros was androgynous or a pair of mated serpents swallowed each other's tails."

Snake Dreams
Many Westerners have dreams in which snakes are central characters that they often fear. Thomas Eldridge, leader of The Center for Highly Sensitive People, wrote about his childhood nightmares of rattlesnakes and his lifelong fear of snakes in general. In his newsletter he wrote,

"The final chapter of this ongoing story occurred in my 60th year on day one of the Year of the Snake. On that night I had a dream of a snake coming to me in my sleep to be healed. I had no sense of what it needed healing from or why I could do it. I called it an Adder in my dream. It was a poisonous snake: long, slim and black. I had no fear as it slowly moved up my back and rested its neck around the top of my right ear. That was the spot on my body that was healing for the snake. I could see toxins coming out of the snake as it lay on me. I remained perfectly still in my dream for a long period of time as the snake released its yellow toxic fluids. I somehow knew that it would need four healings to be completely well.

"The next three nights as I went to bed I could feel the snake before I fell off to sleep. It was right there waiting for me. These three nights it only seemed to need less than a minute of healing before it moved down near my feet. It coiled up there to spend the night with me."

In his autobiography, Balancing Heaven and Earth, Jungian analyst Robert A. Johnson writes of a recurring dream he had in which a hooded snake chased after him. He would wake up after these dreams in sheer terror. It was only later in his life that he stopped running and the snake caught up with him. The snake neither struck at him nor enveloped him; the snake's hood protected him from psychic harm. Only afterwards did Johnson come across a Buddhist story, which, in essence, a hooded snake became the guardian spirit of the Buddha and protected him from any harm with his hood.

I have never had dreams of snakes but I remember clearly once during my first years at college, while I was working out in a gym for the first time, I was stretching on a floor mat and rested for a minute when I "saw" a snake sleeping and beginning to rise from its sleep at the bottom of my spine and womb area. I was unfamiliar with the symbolism of the snake at the time, and related the story to my then-boyfriend. He was very excited for me, because he knew I was going through a symbolic rebirth.

Returning Snake Energy into Our Lives
With its ability to seemingly regenerate by sloughing off its skin every few months, its cyclical pattern of hibernation, and its ability to carry venom (power) yet not poison itself, the serpent has long been a symbol for the healing, regenerative force. By turning inward to such spiritual disciplines as yoga, tantra, tai chi or martial arts, by dancing, swimming or practicing healing arts such as Reiki and shamanism, or by growing closer to the earth, one can awaken the serpent within.

I do believe that our own society will again begin to revere the symbol of the snake for its healing and regenerative properties, through our attention, practice, dreams and inner work. As the great mythographer Joseph Campbell once said, "Serpent gods do not die."

- © 2003 Katharina Woodworth. All Rights Reserved.

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