Another spin-off from Ephesus. This guy, Ts’ang Chieh (aka Cangjie) was one of the characters populating the old library. Turns out he’s the legendary inventor of Chinese writing. As I explored further, I realized that many cultures have some god who is credited with bringing writing to his people. Wouldn’t this make a great tablet?
Many gods are associated with wisdom and knowledge, but one website listed gods specifically connected to writing. Here’s the ones I found most interesting:
2. Brahma (Hindu) - supreme god of the East Indian trinity; brought knowledge of letters to human race.
4. Cadmus (Greece) – brought alphabet to Greece
5. Cangjie/Ts’ang Chieh (China) – Invented Chinese alphabet/characters
8. Hermes (Greek)/Mercury (Roman) – Inventor of the written alphabet, god of writing/literature, speech, travelers, treaties, dreams
10. Itzamn/Itzamna (Maya) – invented writing & the calendar.
13. Nabu (Babylonian) – god of wisdom & writing
15. Odin (Norse) - god of wisdom, poetry. Inventor of Norse alphabet
16. Ogma/Oghma (Celtic/Irish) – god of knowledge, eloquence & poetry
18. Quetzalcoatl (Aztec) - serpent god; founder of Aztec culture; patron of priests, the inventor of the calendar and of books
20. Saraswati – (Hindu) – inventor of Sanskrit; goddess of creativity, wisdom, 21. Sequoyah (Native American) - invented alphabet for the Cherokee and taught his people to read. First with pictographs and symbols adapted from English,
26. Tahmurath (Persian) – demons taught him the art of writing in 30 different languages in return for sparing their lives
28. Thoth (Egypt) – Inventor of hieroglyphics
Then I started collecting images:
Do you notice anything odd? Apparently, I’m not the first one with this idea. Lee Lawrie used the same concept to sculpt the bronze doors on the John Adams Building of the Library of Congress in Washington.
It looks like he sculpted 18 of them, but the first and third doors are identical. So, 12 gods. I found all of them:
The original doors are still there, but they are left permanently open. The sculptures were cast in glass for new useable doors that met current codes. I have no idea why, but the only image I could find for Brahma was the cast glass version.
Looking closely at this grouping, I’m struck by the homogenization of the figures. The sameness goes beyond the three-quarter stance. I think Lawrie ‘Disney-fied’ them: they’re all ready to appear in an animated film.
So I went searching…..
Brahma appears as a three-faced woman, as bearded men, and many other versions. I used the one on the right.
Nabu also has several alternate identities, but I really like this one with the cuneiform writing right across the front. By the way, the circle and stick being held by the figure on the far right is a measuring tape and a measuring rod. Strangely enough, Lawrie’s version looks more like Nabu’s father, Maluk:
I did use Maluk’s arms on my version.
A composite figure for Itzamna…
This does seem to be the only available image for Cangjie. I added an arm and moved his eyes a but further apart (it was almost impossible to sew them so close together on the Ephesus Tablet).
I didn’t change much for Thoth.
Not a lot of great options for Ogma (hmmm: I can quickly search through everything online. What did Lawrie do to find images? It must have been a nightmare). I cleaned up a carved image and took a line of Ogham markings from the cartoon-guy.
Quetzacoatl - another one with almost too many image choices. I simplified an image from an old codex.
And then I got to thinking how none of these fellows come from non-Egyptian Africa. What about African gods of literacy? So…
-Googled ‘god of literacy’ and names of various African countries and peoples.
-started thinking “well, Africa had a tradition of oral history, not written, so…” and stopped myself. Who SAYS there was no written history? Google it: https://www.quora.com/Why-was-there-no-written-language-in-sub-Saharan-Africa
-find several ancient African scripts and early proto-scripts: Vai, Nsibidi, Ge’ez, Old Nubian. But no god who introduced these scripts.
-Came across Anansi the Spider, a trickster figure who is the spirit of all knowledge of stories.
OK, then. Not having an African god of literacy available, I decided to use Anansi, a god of stories, as the center of my tablet. Human beings started in Africa, and verbal stories came before written tales. I’ll incorporate some of the ancient African texts into my design.
In my tablet, we have Ogma, Itzamna, Quetzacostl, Sequoyah, Thoth, Canhjie, Nabu, Brahma and Anansi (using only his body for now - I’ll add the legs later). I left out Hermes, Odin, Cadmus and Talmurath.
The appropriate script was added around each figure, then added the legs:
Well then….spider legs are straight, but this does not look good.
At the risk of Anansi being mistaken for an octopus, I’m going for curved lines.
And, sorry, but that’s all for this week. You’ll see how it turned out in the next post.
contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Most blogs have handy mechanisms that let the viewer search for past posts or certain subjects. Theoretically, this blog should be able to do that too…but I don’t know how to arrange that. However, while I’m taking a 2 week break, I leave you with these ‘addresses’: you should be able to click on any of these to get to the described pages (if that doesn’t work, then you can copy and paste the address to your search-thingy, if anyone cares enough).
One caveat - the posts are in groups of 3 posts. Clicking on an address will get you to that group, but you may have to scroll down to find the exact post.
http://www.dianesavonaart.com/blog/?offset=1497110900109&reversePaginate=true = the beginning of the blog
http://www.dianesavonaart.com/blog/?offset=1520372122322&reversePaginate= the start of the wet wool series
http://www.dianesavonaart.com/blog/?offset=1499263232172 = my embedding technique
http://www.dianesavonaart.com/blog/?offset=1502408066248 = start of Tablet series
http://www.dianesavonaart.com/blog/?offset=1508886830023 = Closet Archaeology Exhibit
Contact me at email@example.com See you next week!
This will be the last post until Dec 3rd. I will be taking 2 weeks off for travel/family/food. But I’m leaving you with a big, juicy post full of gorgeous images. Enjoy, and Happy Thanksgiving!
I mentioned these scrolls in last week’s post on the Library at Ephesus.
These powerful images, with such strong colors, just dazzled me. I had never heard of them before. How about we just savor these photos, and then I’ll tell you all about them, OK?
Look at the design of that nose! Not to mention the legs - and feet with eyes!!! - coming out over the head…
The designs on the one on the left look a bit Celtic.
Angels defending against demons with their swords (below). Until I looked carefully, I thought they each had two swords….then I realized that they have a sword and a scabbard.
A wide range of skill in these drawings. Some are highly detailed and beautifully colored…others look like quickly drawn doodles. Look at the second from left, above: the line of the eyebrow dips into the nose, then loops to form the nostrils, while her arm juts in from the side - touches worthy of Picasso. While these two below have been dashed off.
This next one is the best. The outline around the face, starting up with the fish on top of her head and swooping around her eyes! The planes of her face delineated in shape and pattern. The artist put a lot of work into this. I spent a good deal of time photoshopping it to increase the contrast.
Now, the making of these scrolls:
The website http://wonder-cabinet.sites.gettysburg.edu/2017/ gives this explanation for the making of the scrolls: The preparation of parchment begins a ritual in which the animal substitutes for the afflicted and the finished scroll substitutes for their skin. This symbolic relationship engenders a close connection between the scroll and its owner. The patron is first rubbed with a live animal, and later bathed in its blood and stomach contents. Only then is the skin soaked, dried, and scraped, after which the finished parchment is cut and sewn into a scroll. Portable scrolls made to the length of the customer offer head-to-toe spiritual protection, while longer scrolls protect a household.
In our highly sanitized culture, this sounds barbaric. But think of the incredible magical power. The unordained clerics of the Ethiopian church, called däbtäras, who make these scrolls, are not just uttering a few magical words. They are giving a viscerally immersive experience with a tangible end product. If nothing else, it’s got to have a strong psychological effect.
The prayers are written with carbon black ink, while the names of the holy Trinity and headings are written with red ink. The client's name is added in red only after the scroll's completion. The inks are sometimes enhanced with ritually powerful plants or sacrificial blood to increase their effectiveness.
Some of these wonderful scrolls are being saved in museums. But in Ethiopia, the scrolls seem to have devolved into made-for-tourist quality:
OK, on to the tablet. Let’s start with lots of scrolls and ribbons….
This is a page in progress. I have a variety of images all together in one large jpeg. Then I can copy and paste images and wording into the tablet (center square). Here, two panels of writing have been turned at an angle to make it easier to copy onto the angled scroll.
Unlike the Ephesus tablet, this one was so straightforward. It came together very quickly!
Basically, I copied the colors used on the original scrolls, except for that figure in the center, where I added YELLOW! and BLUE! Which made this first attempt totally wrong. What was I thinking? Why? Back to the dye studio…
Much better. Only a very muted bit of color, so she can hold her own against all that intensity. I just started sewing, and I love the extra punch the stitches give:
Just a single thread of embroidery floss makes such a difference. See the panel at the neck, versus the unsewn arms? Time to go play….
(many days later)