Huginn and Muninn Go on Vacation!

Once upon a time, Huginn and Muninn decided that they were all too worn out from accompanying Odin everywhere and requested a break. To their surprise, the One-Eyed Wiseman was actually quite understanding, granting them an entire week off.

So they left the snow-peaked Scandinavian mountains and headed to sunny Japan for a brief, but deserved vacation. Landing in Ueno Park and causing a bit of ruckus, disrupting the local Zoo's resident herons and geese, the pair interpreted having a relaxing time in an onsen rather loosely.

It's as if they were drunk on...wait for it...mead.

P.S. Crows, not ravens? Corvids! Close enough.

Black on Green and the Un-Home

The thing about returning to this Rocky Mountain paradise from Asia or Europe is not the lengthy flights with multi-hour layovers (which could get quite pesky), but the fact that it—this paradise—is not.

Is not home, that is.

There is one caveat, of course: solitary hikes amidst northern Nature do feel like home. But this is the case just about anywhere for me. And so, this little town next to a mountain, this little town that I do like quite a bit, does not feel like home.

Unsurprisingly, I've lost that feeling almost completely long ago when I graduated college and left my parents' house, though even there, in the Canadian prairies, it wasn't quite right. 

It feels right in Moscow, my birthplace.

And in St. Petersburg.

But it's been a long time since I've lived in Russia, far too long, and things have changed. So much. And so, if I were to relocate to a place that I think would feel like home, it might not—likely, will not—feel like home for quite some time.

This is the plight of rootless cosmopolitans, like me, whose parents opted for immigration, even if for entirely legitimate reasons.

What does all of this have to do with Japan? It sounds contrived, but the old trope about discovering oneself in a foreign country is accurate. The Land of the Rocking Samurai (as I've always called it) shows me my limits, my comforts zones, tells me when it's too late, and when "too late" is a good thing. Japan emphasizes what—and whom—I miss, and what (who) doesn't even register on my radar. 

Beyond intense self-analysis, there are, of course, some of the most generous and wonderful people I've ever met (despite a time or two when the Japanese strike me as being too reserved by my too-open Slavic standards!), whose number seems to grow. And then there is Nature, the main reason for my travels, including certain wildlife specimens whom most would take for granted—ravens and crows.

Like this new friend of mine in Shinjuku Gyoen (again! of course!). 

Isn't he gorgeous?

Eurasia sans Color

Beyond this city dweller's melancholy and, at the same time, inquisitive facial expression (!), I've liked this image ever since I had captured it. Yet I couldn't quite determine as to why.

Only after converting it to sepia, I realized that what I was being drawn to was its strong tactile quality--the textural contrast between the rusted fence and this Eurasian crow's smooth, shiny feathers.

Color, color that I normally love, had to be destroyed.

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.  

Raven Ravenson

It took a ten-hour road trip, and I wasn't even looking for him, but I found Raven Ravenson! 

Fit enough for Slavic fairy tales and to be Odin's companion alike (he looked more like Munnin to me), I interpreted the appearance of this jaw-dropping specimen as a very good sign.

Of course, I'm pretty much IN LOVE with darker-than-darkest-night Corvus birds, so I might be slightly biased.

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 Crow of Peterhof

"I am a Eurasian hooded crow, just chilling here--literally--by the Gulf of Finland, hanging out outside of Peter the Great's palatial complex in Peterhof."

"I like it here up north: when it gets hot for those few days in the summer, I refresh myself in the royal fountains. How many avians can attest to that? In fact, I prefer the cascades perching atop golden Samson glistening in the sun. (His post-WWII replacement, that is, since the Nazis stole the real one, and it's never been recovered.)

And best of all, I watch silly tourists from all over the world attempting to toss coins into Peter's boots (those of his statue, but it might as well be real Peter, since he was nearly seven feet tall!). Their tour guides tell them that it's for good luck. Good luck for me--I've already amassed a small fortune from all the coins that missed!

So I'd retire in the Maldives, but I prefer the local climate. And besides, who's going to keep all the tourists in check?"