Here There be Archetypes
This is a bit different, both in subject matter and source. I happened upon an intriguing blog site, Vintage Printables. They have a vast collection of out-of-copyright scientific illustrations that extends to Medieval material. Make sure to visit the blog ( after reading this post).
As an experiment, I have taken two images from the site and re-imagined them. The Hirsute Man riding a unicorn (original image) has been changed into a colour image that suggests ageing & enhanced textures. It has been given a slightly metallic-gilded quality.
The Medieval images I selected are Archetypal in nature. The Archetype is described as ancient or archaic images that derive from the collective unconscious“. These images/symbols/motifs can give us a better insight into human behaviour, social structure and creative expression in all of its forms.
For example the Hirsuite Man is the Wild man or Hairy Man of the forest. From Canadian First Nation’s lore he has become widely known as Sasquatch. In the regions of the Himalayas this creature is known as the Yeti and Meh-Teh . The Cryptologist will search for proof of such creatures or evidence that they until recently existed. Those whose views relate more to parapsychology will pursue an extra-dimensional rational for sightings.
Through literary & symbolic imagery we can connect this being with Beowulf’s Grendel and Gilgamesh’s Enkidu. They are wild forces within human nature that is confined or in opposition to society. We can see this expressed in the dark conflict of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde and in the chaotic freedom of the musical Hair.
The Unicorns were first mentioned by the Greeks. During the Middle Ages and Renaissance the significance of this creature grew. It was commonly described as an extremely wild creature of the forest, a symbol of purity and grace. The combination of the two symbols in the first image would represent the forest/Nature in balance, Yin & Yang.
The second Medieval image that I chose from the site was that of a Dragon ( original image). The dragon derives from the imagery of the giant serpent, either land or sea. Beowulf faces the dragon beneath the sea in his final battle. The classic representation of the winged creature with legs, ( flying lizard) does not become common in European culture until the Middle Ages.
The dragon is a complex symbol. Again a force of Nature, linked to the air, water, and fire. It can sleep beneath the earth and gather riches in its nest. It is associated with raw resources and man made creations of beauty and art. It can represent both destructive and creative energy. As with many symbolic images there is duality, light & shadow.
Because the original image was in colour and of a very recognizable Medieval iconography, I chose to turn it into a stained glass image. Suffering from a bit of duality myself, I ended up with two versions. The one is darker and appears to me to be somewhere between stained glass and a satin tapestry in texture. The second brighter image adheres more closely to the illumination of stained glass.
The dragon’s connection to the sea serpent links it to the mythic creature of the Kraken and the very real Giant Squid, made famous in Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.
This brings me to a final image and creature whose name combines the real with the mythic, the Vampire squid. The same blogger who has Vintage Printables also has the blog, Neurological Correlates. It was there that I found an article on the Vampire Squid and their intriguing eating habits, not what you think. Included in the post was a video of the creature.
I captured a shot of the squid from the video and put it through some modifications. Here is the original shot and the modified image.
Below the thunders of the upper deep;
Far far beneath in the abysmal sea,
His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep
The Kraken sleepeth: ……… ( Kraken by Lord Tennyson 1830 )
In Jungian terms the sea/ocean represents the great unconscious full of treasures of wisdom and the dark shadows that we must confront in order to acquire this wisdom. I hope this experiment in imagery and imagination opens the way for your own exploration of the realm of the Archetypes.