Raven Ravenson and the Crescent Moon

My purpose here was to create a simple, heavily stylized illustration in the realm of Slavic mythology--as if for a children's book--using natural materials, in this case, wood, golden buttons (tansy), and tea leaves. 

This illustration features, you guessed it!, two of my favorite characters  as part of a recurrent motif.

Raven Ravenson and the Crescent Moon--they meet again! 

Slightly modifying a particular tale from Slavic folklore, we have:

Simargl, having lost his first-born, died of grief, his heart aching like that of a wounded bird. And he turned into a black Raven Ravenson known as the Iron Beak. And he took off and landed atop the Crescent Moon made of copper. And he began to oversee human affairs, becoming a god.


Whenever I create images out of natural materials, photography is as important as the original. You can see the difference between the pictures above and below: the latter was shot outside, with sunbeams lighting the tansy Moon as if it were its real equivalent up above.  


Getting some corn from a local organic farm the other day, I--once again--realized just how anthropomorphic this grain is.

So I used photography with a few digital effects, splicing gaming or comic-book imagery and Slavic folklore. 

The modernized result is this illustration of a domovoi, a Russian (Slavic) house spirit. This bearded creature is sometimes helpful, yet also quite the trickster.

Don't anger it.

The Story of a Young Oak

Once upon a time, there lived an Oak. He was a young Oak, slender, but quite tall. His greatest wish was to grow ancient, wise, and become thick as quickly as possible, offering shade and comfort to weary travelers by obscuring the scourging Sun with his foliage. And some day--this youngster feared his own thoughts a little--he sought to become the site for a mythic sacrifice.   

He even posted squirrel-eye-view photos of himself on Instagram in order to appear more imposing, tagging them #Ratatoskr to get more hits to his social-networking profile. 

Like this: 

That was a little white lie, of course, since the only animal to ever climb him was a tiny baby squirrel. However, the latter stopped half-way up, and the only reason it climbed him in the first place was to escape a hysterically barking lemon-red basset hound. 

And Time the Destroyer granted his wish. It always does.

The Oak continued to collect growth rings, each new one faster than the previous, it seemed--faster than the giggling young girls in wreaths holding hands as they danced around him, spinning, sharing his adolescent desire from the ages long gone, and spinning some more.

Or maybe it was all a dream. 

The Sun, the Moon, and Raven Ravenson

The other day, two fellow Slavs with a similar taste in underground forms of music reminded me of a classic Russian fairy tale, The Sun, the (Crescent) Moon, and Raven Ravenson.  

Perhaps, it was due to the natural elements present in the latter more so than, say, Koschei the Deathless, that I couldn't get this strange tale out of my head. So much so that I decided to pull together a quick illustration, as if for a children's book.

(If interested, I found an English translation on Google books. For those who don't bother clicking on the link:  I must specify that all three characters are masculine, whereas I'm used to personifying the Moon in the feminine.)

In the last little while, I've been reexamining folk culture, particularly my own, through the lens of sociologie de l'imaginaire. The latter is a method which combines the scholarship of Carl Jung on the collective unconscious and that of David Émile Durkheim on the collective consciousness, respectively. This research area refers to the sum total of surface-based cultural features as the logos, whereas mythos stands for the symbolic and archaic undercurrents pushed into the unconscious, the Dreamworld, in the Modern period. Unlike Europe, this is a relatively new field of expertise for Russian sociologists, according to Alexandr Dugin.

By analyzing various traditional attributes, such as the types of folk-tale characters that are prevalent in a particular culture, the sociology of the imaginary allows one to determine its collective functioning regime. I bring this up now because I've realized that

Russians are the Moon People.

That's what I'd call us, that is. With the exception of the Cossack soslovie, Russians, by and large, operate according to a nocturnal feminine system (as per Dugin's Logos and Mythos, untranslated). (For instance and by contrast, Germans, collectively, are diurnal masculine types.)

The above makes Russian tales and legends a particularly fruitful area for me to pursue creatively.


The End of August Gray (part ii)

 ...And then around 6 o'clock the next morning, when every self-respecting night owl should have been sound asleep, else defying its very essence, it finally happened.

The Gray gorged up too much of itself. To top that off, the growing belly ache from swallowing the Sun the day earlier was not helping either.

It exploded. 

It was then that the Sun peeked out from the blue mountain ribbons. Frankly, it was getting a little tired of going through the same exercise every few weeks with the same result.  "Sisyphean labor," it scoffed. 

The Sun was a staunch Heideggerian.

But sometimes, when no one was looking, it engaged in its guilty pleasure of choice--historic existentialist literature. Only a little! 


Then the Sun recalled that it was much higher up the totem pole than the Gray--indeed, some would say, at the very top. (The Moon always disagreed.)  So, it illuminated the valley.

Though considering the sheer magnitude of the Gray's most recent gluttony, bits and pieces of its shredded amorphous body floated over certain sleep-deprived night owls' heads for hours to come.

They were occasionally pushed over by the Wind revealing the Water. "Divide the task into manageable segments!", the Wind used to say.

August Gray (part i)

Today, the Gray visited "Twin Peaks" again.

Without much hesitation, it gobbled up the mountain. And the entire sky.

This is a little disorienting, you know. You're standing on a mountain, but there is no mountain! 

The Gray got greedy and ate the Sun, too, temporarily (the latter always burns through its belly, but it never learns). In the end, the Gray always consumes itself--when its appetite simply becomes insatiable.

Yet unlike its counterpart at the end of the rain season when everything, every blade of grass, sought a glimpse of sunlight, whereas humans were popping vitamin D, this Gray was much needed.

It hasn't rained in weeks, and now the woods will finally acquire that crisp verdant color. Nature, like a woman, must be renewed.

After all, the new Moon is coming. 

Mistress of the Mountain

As a child, I grew up on Bazhov's fairy tales from the Ural region of Russia, such as the Mistress of the Copper Mountain. As an adult, I've become convinced, as have those before me, that people of the West had lost their links to the archaic, by and large, pushing their myths deep into the subconscious, only to manifest in dreams or during the creative process.  And even when we see patterns that resemble mythic beings, we focus on the scientific, not the symbolic. 

So I imagined that the local mountain here has to have a Mistress, too, and I willed her into existence.  (Admittedly, there likely are authentic Native American legends associated with this part of the Northwest with which I'm not yet familiar.)

Her base is rock on rock, as she is of the mountains, after all. I've deliberately used only local plants and tried to incorporate as many attributes from different seasons as were available.

The Mistress' dress at the neckline, for instance, is made of old, fragile leaves that survived the winter. They reminded me of intricate chocolate-tinted lace, as the closeup demonstrates. In contrast, her pink earrings are fresh flowers. Closed eyes: indifferent, asleep, or deep in thought? And, of course, the Mistress is not always amicable: hence the tiara made of prickly bur. 

P.S. Music sets the mood, the tone, the pace. I've created this while listening to Creature Creature's Phantoms (and a bit of Light & Lust). Consider it an inspiration as well.

The Trees Have Eyes

Channeling myth, Tolkien used the term ents to refer to trees endowed with human-like qualities, whereas contemporary scientists simply cite pattern recognition, anthropomorphism, and a slew of other categories, which explain the phenomena, but undermine the archaic. 

When I lived in large cities, meeting spots comprised a certain exist at a train station or a particular coffee shop. Now that I'm in Twin Peaks, my favorite hike has a number of markers, too. I refer to them as the "Dragon," "Cthulhu," and "Krampus."  This kind of nomenclature came naturally, as the trees and tree stumps in question bear strong resemblance to these mythic and literary creatures. 

While the structure of my consciousness obviously reflects Modernity and Postmodernity, as is the case with contemporary man in the West and its derivatives, I am now beginning to understand our ancestors. 

So, next time I'll meet you by the Dragon! 

P.S. I photographed these ents (and friends!) in the American part of the Rocky Mountains, the Canadian prairies, along with Kanazawa and Mount Takao in Japan. 

Grubby little ents have grabby little hands!