Excerpt from Art and Symbols Once Upon a Time
Michelle Snyder is an author, speaker, columnist, blogger, and teacher. Her post-graduate degree is from the University of Wales, Religious Studies Department, in the discipline of decoding ancient symbols. She has been teaching art and symbology to students of all ages for 35 years and her artwork has appeared in galleries from Massachusetts to California. Michelle is co-owner of White Knight Studio in Arlington, MA, with her husband Jay.
“Creative expression seems to be part of being alive. Music, poetry, literature, sculpture, artwork – all are expressions of the mind and spirit. Some expressions mimic reality and some are abstract, some are beautiful, some are ugly, but their essence is the same. They all say something.
Images are a language of sorts. Like letters (which are symbols) grouped into words and then arranged into sentences - shapes and colors are put together forming a visual language. Symbolism is that kind of language. For millennia symbols have recorded the history, knowledge, and lives of those who lived on Earth.
This book is a collection of my expressions. Some are unique, others are renderings of classic symbols. Brief explanations accompany each image. Dedicated to those of us who like more picture and less writing.”
Acrylic on canvas, 12” x 23”
Dragons guard treasures and beautiful damsels. Dragon mythology has its root in stories
and legends told by explorers, ca. 4000 BC, who discovered great beaked, winged
dinosaur bones at the Flaming Cliffs of Asia in Mongolia. The potent beasts became
mythological icons of power, both good and evil. They symbolize well-being, prosperity,
and nobility, and they have friends in high places. These powerful creatures have come
to represent everything from chaos, destruction, and the ultimate foe, to wisdom, protection,
and the unconscious.
Acrylic on canvas, 12’ x 12”
Study of the Sri Yantra mandala, surrounded by icons of time of day. Mandalas are
associated with wheels and are used as an aid for meditation. Creating a personal
mandala is considered a healing activity, encouraging internal balance, centering the
mind and spirit.
Acrylic on canvas, 6”
Alchemy symbols protected the records of processes and discoveries taking place in
an alchemy lab. They provided a way to pass on this information through the underground
stream - a chain of hand-picked initiates. The alchemists recorded their formulas
and knowledge with secret symbols, eschewing their written documentation. These
“magician scientists” were sought out either for their knowledge, or to be put in the
dungeon. The esoteric recording system protected them, as well as their
information. These serpents are two halves of an ouroboros, the winged representing
volatile elements, the other, stable elements. They can be compared in philosophy to
the yin-yang, symbolizing complementary opposites within the greater whole.
Colored pencil on paper, 4” x 6”
Basilisk legends also stem from ca. 4200 BC, where cattlemen observed enormous
beaked dinosaur bones at the Flaming Cliffs of Asia. Basilisk means “Little King”;
he is the king of small serpents and dragons. This fearsome creature came to represent
kingly power that destroys all who do not show respect. In the Middle Ages the basilisk
was given a golden crown and considered one of the “Keepers of the Treasure”.
Colored pencil on paper, 4” x 6”
Study of an Etruscan chimera. The chimera was once identified with the constellation
Capricorn (the serpent-tailed goat). Homer wrote that the chimera - lion, goat, and
great serpent - is the Great Goddess with calendar symbols. The chimera triadic represents
the divisions of the year, the lion being spring, the goat, summer, and the serpent,
winter. There was likely a fourth animal to the calendric - possibly an eagle - to represent
Colored pencil on paper, 6”
Unicorns are associated with monarchy, stressing courage, grandeur, wisdom, nobility,
and justice. Old esoteric writings describe unicorns as having a white body, red
head, and blue eyes. Added to the symbolism and mythology associated with unicorns,
this description indicates royal Celtic origins, perhaps a symbol for kings and
princes and for royal bloodlines.
Pen and ink on paper, 5” x 9”
One of the most ancient human symbols, the equal-armed cross appeared tens of thousands
of years BC. It was the first symbol for direction: north, south, east, and west.
Over time, one arm of the cross was lengthened to differentiate the directions. The extended
arm of the cross denotes south. The cross and the circle symbolize the
position of the sun at the winter solstice, the sun at its lowest point at the Tropic of
Cancer (more accurately represented by an ellipse).
Michelle is a regular columnist for The Arlington Advocate, writing about symbols as “The Symbologist.” Many of Michelle’s and Jay’s articles are published on their blog: Once Upon a Time: The World of Symbols, on Debra L. Martin’s blog Two Ends of the Pen, and in the online news publication Wicked Local.
Other books by Michelle:
Symbology: Decoding Classic Images
World of Symbols: Secrets of the Mermaids, ebooklette
World of Symbols: ebook
You can find Michelle’s articles, books, and artwork at her website and blog: