Sunday, December 30, 2012

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Thursday, September 27, 2012

That Window

More than a decade ago, when I began to really deal with who I am, I remembered a symbol which was I first consciously experienced when I saw it on the cover of the Chalice Well at Glastonbury, a reputed resting place of the Holy Grail. Two overlapping circles creating an oblong. From a mundane point of view, it's a Venn Diagram, but its more spiritual name is Vesica Piscis (which translates, unromantically, to "fish bladder). It is ubiquitous in sacred geometry and represents, amongst other things, the duality of the universe. Since I was accepting my own duality, I took it as a personal symbol.  I don't want to tip my hand too much as to what it will mean to Calogrenant (particularly because her tale and its implications are still playing out within my mind), but it is there, behind her future growth, as much as are the chalice and the blade which bisect it.  Here are a couple of links for those who might want to further explore the Vesica Piscis.
Library of Halexandria
Symbol Dictionary

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Calogrenant Week 5

Did I mention last week that Brocéliande is populated with fairies?

Monday, August 6, 2012

We Have a Winner!

Darya Teasewell has correctly identified the parodied work of art in this week's page as Albrecht Dürer's engraving "The Knight, Death, and the Devil." Here's the original:

At 1513, this knight is a little late, but who really cares? The rendering of the armor is gorgeous and this has one of the coolest devils in art history. Calogrenant is obviously not the seasoned veteran in this engraving, but his spirit is the same - he will not be cowed by death or evil, but will be the perfect knight. Is Calogrenant an idealist? Certainly. And why not? But Calogrenant's honor and fearlessness will lead to...?

Meanwhile, Darya will receive a signed print of this week's Calogrenant page on museum quality art paper, hopefully, over lunch at some venerable Los Angeles eatery.

Calogrenant Week 4

A note on Myrddyn's comment on the geographical instability of Brocéliande... If Arthur ever existed, he would have been a Romano-British warlord in 6th century Britain, coordinating efforts to forestall an invasion by Angles, Saxons, Jutes, and Frisians. Ultimately, these Anglo-Saxons won, creating what is today England and giving meaning to my job as an English teacher. Humans generally do not let go of their heroes, and the Welsh kept Arthur alive through hero tales. These tales travelled across the channel to Brittany, and Breton bards spread the stories through France. Through the early Middle Ages, the stories of Arthur and his knights were told in French courts, and the tellers went so far as to place Arthur's realm not in Britain but in Brittany. The forest of Brocéliande figures in many of these romances as a magical place, and key events in the legend take place there. And even though there is a real Brocéliande in Brittany, when the stories returned to Britain with the Normans, Brocéliande was transplanted as well. Even Tennyson, whom one would think would know his geography, places the forest in Britain.

Oh! And a prize to the first person who can tell me what work of art is directly parodied on this page.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Calogrenant, Week 3

"So ever the king had a custom that at the feast of Pentecost in especial, afore other feasts in the year, he would not go that day to meat until he had heard or seen of a great marvel. And for that custom all manner of strange adventures came before Arthur as at that feast before all other feasts..." 
Sir Thomas Malory - Le Morte d'Arthur Book 7

"Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government." 
Dennis the Peasant

From the time I first read Malory in high school, I wondered how Arthur ever got anything done. Sitting around waiting for a wonder isn't all that conducive to setting policy, keeping the roads clear between Londinium and Eboracum, or making sure the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes aren't prematurely importing their verbiage. (More about that on a subsequent post. Sufficeth to say that when Myrddyn says to speak in plain English, it's a bit of an anachronism. Of course anachronism is a major part of the Arthurian stories. More later, like I said.) It is, however, a convenient device for beginning a tale, not too distant from "Once upon a time.." Not all of the stories of Arthur's knights begin this way. The Arthurian romances are the descendants of Celtic tales, and many of them still have a distinct Celtic flavor. The hero pursues an animal (often a white one) into a world of enchantment and there finds adventure. Generally, in the Celtic stories, the hero isn't necessarily looking for adventure. Our knights are though - and Calogrenant certainly is.

Pentacost, by the way, is the fiftieth day after Easter, marking descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Twelve Apostles, as described in Acts 2:1–31.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Back to the Source

I don't think I've ever worked so single-mindedly on one project in my life. I've been drawing for hours every day for the past month and a half. I've certainly discovered my limitations as an artist, but I see this as a chance to learn as I go.

Why this story, though?  The Arthurian legend goes back quite far in my life. I remember when I was five years old, a local television station ran The Adventures of Sir Lancelot, a half-hour adventure show from the UK, right after The Mickey Mouse Club. I'm sure I had no idea what was going on in the show, other than the fact that there were knights. (A bit of confusion then: I also watched The Adventures of Robin Hood, and I couldn't seem to get around the fact that in Sir Lancelot the good guys wore armor and in Robin Hood the bad guys did.) What really connected me with the Arthurian stories, though, was when I played in a high school production of Camelot. That may seem rather mundane, but for me it was a watershed. It was my first experience with theatre, and it was my first real connection with the actual story of Arthur, Guinevere, and Lancelot. Obsessive that I am, I memorized the entire play and then read T.H. White's The Once and Future King, and then Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur. Four decades and many other books later, this legend is the taproot of who I am. My love of literature, history, myth, comparative religion, fantasy, theatre, storytelling, and Monty Python all revert back to the cycle of stories which revolve around this figure, the very nature of whose existence is murky at best. As I get further into this project, I look forward to portraying characters whom I've known for most of my life. In that respect, it's not unlike attending a high school reunion. (Truth be told, being the socially awkward nerd that I was, I know these characters better and have kept better contact with them than I have with my actual classmates.)

I suppose it's no surprise, then, that the first character we meet is my oldest friend. I have always been beguiled by Merlin (or Merlyn, as T.H. White spelled it, or Myrddyn in the Welsh as his name appears in Calogrenant). I'm certainly not the only one who feels this way. Merlin seems to have been second only to Arthur in general interest almost from the beginning. The 12th century Welsh cleric Geoffrey of Monmouth, who in his Historia Regum Britanniae (The History of British Kings) wrote the first full history of Arthur, also made a star of Arthur's mystical advisor. Geoffrey imported Merlin from a couple of generations later, and incorporated at least two if not three Celtic bards/seers/madmen into the character. Merlin was such a hit with readers that Geoffrey composed The Life of Merlin as a follow-up, and the mage has been an integral character in the Arthurian cycle ever since.

In the medieval stories, Merlin was dark and mysterious - a figure of awe - not that he isn't still. But T.H. White created a different Merlyn than Geoffrey's or Malory's. There was, I believe, much of White himself in his seer: a stodgy, cluttered academic who lives backward in time. His Merlyn was a guide for us into the middle ages, someone with our knowledge who has gone back to that age and observes with our eyes and attempts to bring to a violent age a sense of civilizing order. There is sad irony here, since during the writing of the books which comprise his Arthuriad, White lived through and was horrified by the bestiality of the Second World War. His book ends with Merlyn long gone and Arthur's idealistic experiment in ruins, at war with his best friend. What, I wonder, would Merlyn (or White) think of our world today, in which ideologues, devoid of their idealism, do their damnedest to destroy each other without bothering to discover who, exactly each other are. But to come back from the tangent, Myrddyn in my comic owes much to T.H. White, but just as much to J.R.R. Tolkien, Dr. Who, three quarters of my professors from college, and just about every presenter of B.B.C. documentary series, from Kenneth Clarke to the present. He's becoming in my mind an amalgam of just about everyone I've ever really wanted to have lunch with.

Speaking of the B.B.C., here's a link to one of the best reasons for state-sponsored media I've ever come across. My discovery of In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg is one of the true perks of having the Internet. Once a week, he sits down with a few academics and discusses... whatever. This past week it was Hadrian's Wall. The week before that it was skepticism.  Forty-odd minutes a week of unashamed and glorious pedantry! So here's a discussion of Merlin from a few years ago. Enjoy.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Calogrenant Begins

Calogrenant begins with two pages, starting next week there will be only one page per week. Simply click on the images to enlarge.

A few notes:

First I would like to thank Dr. Helen Nicholson of Cardiff University, whose excerpt from the Arthurian romance Claris et Laris served as the inspiration for this web comic. I'm pleased to say that I have Dr. Nicholson's blessing for this endeavor, and I'm very happy to have made a friend. As long as I'm thanking people, I'd also like to thank Rob Seutter, aka True Thomas, who has frequently asked my services (on the promise of numerous steak dinners) for posters for the Society of Creative Anachronisms, thus inculcating in me the delusion that I can actually draw. And I'd further like to thank Henry Mayo for his inspiration and support and for creating the Free Art School group in Facebook and Michael Gross who has been inspiring and mentoring me (unbeknownst to him) since 1972 and who recently told me a very simple but powerful truth: "You've got to draw every day." In truth I could fill several pages with the names of people who have supported and inspired me, so I will simply say, "Thank you one and all."

I hope you enjoy this story it's been rattling inside my brain, demanding to be told, and now we've made a start.

By the way, if the elderly gentleman's name seems to have been misspelled, it has not. Calogrenant is using the Welsh variant of his name. More about that in a few weeks.

Thursday, July 12, 2012


I'm back. And I've got an announcement. Starting Monday, July 16, Mythcongeniality will host a webcomic. It will be called "Calogrenant" and it's the story of one of King Arthur's knights who... No, I won't comment on it yet. Come back Monday and every Monday thereafter and follow Calogrenant's adventures. Being who I am, I'll also give a running commentary on each installment. I'm excited!!!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Facts and Truth and Fairytales and I'm Back

I'm going to try to make this blog a more regular part of my life and not just an annual post. That being said, I don't know how fitting it is that I start up again by cannibalizing FaceBook. I posted a link to NPR yesterday featuring an interview with Professor Bart Ehrman regarding his book on the existence of a historical Jesus.It started a flurry of comments from friends who were both believers and non-believers. All of it struck a chord for me which resulted in the following:

Joseph Campbell once described the soul reaching Nirvana as a moth finally achieving the flame: an instant of enlightenment and the oblivion. But eternity is in the instant. After 59 years and 11 months, I can't presume to know any more about the existence or non-existence of a deity than I did coming in. But as a storyteller, I know that I can't discount scripture, myth, and folktale. When a woman came to Albert Einstein asking how to motivate her sons to become scientists, he said, "Read them fairytales." Our problem lies in that we expect literality and historicity. When the first cosmonaut went into space, he reported that he saw no angels. I was quite young when I heard that and saw this more as a snide joke than a revelation. Expecting to see angels in space is as literal and misses the point as much as Huck Finn praying for fishhooks. But humans do that. Jeshua ben Joseph says, "When you pray, pray like this," and for 2000 years we dutifully try to repeat His exact words, rather than try to understand the transcendent meaning of those words. Humans bicker over the exact location of the Garden of Eden, ignoring that the Garden of Eden is a state of mind. And a woman who is every adolescent who ever lived gives in to a temptation based both in the desire for immortality and a good dose of horniness and gets blamed for the fact that life sucks and then you die AND becomes the central reason Paul gives for the need of human redemption.

If I'm agnostic, it's not because I choose to be. I would like very much for there to be a loving deity who actually cares about individual humans or that there be some kind of cosmic consciousness that humans, if they could only perceive it, are a part of. I must say that the closest I've come to touching ought of the transcendent was at a goddess ceremony at a Unitarian church in Pasadena a few years ago. As I approached the altar, I became very dizzy. That's about it, and I'm sure it could be given a psychological/physiological interpretation. But I won't discount it. Just a few minutes earlier, a lesbian Native American woman in attendance came up to me and said, "It's good to see another Two-Spirit here." It wasn't the first time I'd been called that, but it carried a little more weight under the circumstances. Wouldn't it be wonderful if more people saw people such as myself as holy women? There would be far fewer candles to light in November. I've been sorely tempted to put myself forward as a priestess of the Shekinah. But the fact is, I just don't know. It is that same fact, however, that keeps me from being atheist. That also posits a knowledge that is denied to me. I do not and cannot know that there is no cosmic consciousness. Neither Richard Dawkins nor Thomas Merton were given the absolute inside track. (Though Merton is in a better position now to know or to be nonexistent.)

I've got my Bibles, my Zen and Hindu books, and my books of folktales and fairytales a bunched together. As I said earlier, I don't discount fairytales. These were stories passed down from one generation to the next both as entertainment and insight. One does not have to literally believe in trolls or phoukas to get the truth from these tales. (A story doesn't have to be factual to be true; truth is something derived from a tale. And I DO believe in witches, though. I've socialized with several.) It is a mistake, also, to conflate mythology with falsehood. Myths are attempts to assign human meaning to existence and thus to understand higher truths. Thus Joseph Campbell, who stated to Bill Moyer that he didn't believe in a personal god, dedicated his life to unravelling the truths to be had in these stories.

I was quite interested in this interview. Many people have undertaken the task of proving the non-existence of Jesus the man. According the Aristotle, it is virtually impossible to prove the nonexistence of anything. General Lew Wallace decided in the late 19th century to disprove the divinity of Christ and ended up converting himself and, instead of writing the atheistic book he'd intended, wrote "Ben Hur," a straight-forward Christian novel. I use Lew Wallace when I talk to my students about research. The job of the researcher is to find out the facts - not to prove the veracity of their hypothesis, but to DISCOVER whether or not it is true. (Tough word.) Professor Ehrman has found a good deal of evidence that allows him to say that Jesus did, indeed, exist. Is Professor Ehrman a practicing Christian? No. He's an agnostic. But isn't it interesting that he adheres to the teachings of the Rabbi Jeshua ben Joseph? I think one can be a non-believer and still get a great deal of good from any system of faith. What bothers me most about ardent atheists is that they, like ardent believers, miss the Truth.