Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Stone Soup Anyone?



Stone Soup is a fairy tale told in England, Ireland, the United States, Germany, and many other countries. Contemporary versions tell of a needy person tricking the greedy into sharing food and lodging; usually it is a destitute soldier or clever beggar offering to make soup with a stone, asking only for a kettle from the unwitting scrooge. But like other legends, this folktale has deep prehistoric roots, reaching back into the bitter cold stone-age.

Once Upon a Time long, long ago a great part of the world was frozen most of the time. In this icy world, animals broke their teeth trying to chew meat from the frozen carcass of a fresh kill. Fingers and toes would suffer frostbite in only a few minutes if not covered properly – even then excursions outside were brief. The people who lived in this ice age built and heated houses, made quilted clothing, and cooked their food. Duncan-Enzmann has translated from their inscriptions blueprints for houses and instructions for venting fireplaces. Stones were abundant and were used for many things: tools, weapons, contracts, and for heating beds and cradles – not unlike bed-warmers of the early pioneers.

Stones were also inscribed with instructions to make and use fire-bows, make medicines, and even make “stone soup”. In a regular modern winter there is nothing like a nice cup of hot tea, cocoa, or chicken soup to warm up a cold body. I remember winter bird-watching with my dad on Plum Island. He always brought a thermos of hot chocolate – said it would keep me warm. During hard times when food is scarce, or on the battlefield in winter, even a cup of plain warm water helps warm up a cold body, and with a few drops of molasses or honey in the water, becomes a delicious treat.

During the ice age of ca. 12,500 BC, knowing how to warm up could mean the difference between life and death. Leather pots were made and filled with water, and a “boiling stone” (ones that did not explode) was heated on the fire. When it was good and hot it was put into the water. The stone simmered the water, and, with bits of meat, vegetables, and spices, a nutritious soup was made. The heating stone would need to be cleaned before putting it in the water. Ashes from the fire would have to be removed; brushing it with branches of dried herbs added flavor to the broth, branches of willow (from which aspirin is made) provided gentle soothing for those who enjoyed the soup.

Meat is scarce in the fairy tale, and fatty meat was scarce during ice age winters. Without some fat in the diet a person can starve to death, even with an abundance of other foods. The only place fat could be obtained in deep prehistoric winters was from the long bones of a female horse. The bones were added to the broth of the stone soup, cooking out the life giving fats, just as we cook chicken soup today.

Like most fairy tales, this one has a struggle (freezing weather and scarcity of food), a hero (the stone), and a happy ending (a steaming bowl of yummy soup).

About Michelle Paula Snyder


Michelle Snyder is a professor of mythology, and an author, publisher, speaker, and artist. She  did her post-graduate research at the University of Wales, decoding ancient and prehistoric symbolism, mythology, folklore, and fairy tales.  Her artwork has appeared in galleries from Massachusetts to California. Michelle is co-owner of White Knight Studio.

Michelle Snyder
Non-Fiction - Symbology:
Symbology: Decoding Classic Images
Symbology: Decoding Symbols through History
Symbology: Fairy Tales Uncovered
Symbology: Art and Symbols
Symbology: Hidden in Plain Sight
Symbology: ReVision
Symbology: World of Symbols
Symbology: Secrets of the Mermaids

Michelle Paula Snyder
Fiction – Fantasy Wonder-Tales:
The Fairy Tales: Once Upon a Time Lessons, First Book
Call of the Dragon and other Tales of Wonder
A Tale of Three Kingdoms, book one: The Lost Unicorn
 A Tale of Three Kingdoms, book two The Lost Mermaid
 A Tale of Three Kingdoms, book three The Lost Dragon








Friday, February 24, 2017

Excerpt from The Fairy Tales, Once Upon a Time Lessons

The Fairy Tale, J. Sant
  The Power of Stories 

Stories are part of childhood. They help us grow, build our imagination, instill a sense of wonder and hope, and help us understand right and wrong. Mothers have told stories to teach children culture and tradition, moral and ritual, and behavioral consequences ever since there were mothers. In the words of Fairy Queen Titania: "Is it not the mothers who bring up the babes, and give the growing child its earliest lesson to know right from wrong?" Fairy tales and folklore provide an entertaining, imaginative way of doing just that.

Once upon a time fairy tales were once known as wonder tales. Oral tradition is as ancient as our voices; as old as our lives. There was a time when the survival of the people depended upon those with the knowledge and skills to read the stars and predict the seasons. When such a gifted person was found, many gathered around her/him to live. They all worked to survive, and their wise one guided the efforts. These collections of souls and wise ones evolved into queens and their people, later to become led by great men and their queens, in kingdoms.

Sadly, with power comes corruption, and many kingdoms became abusive of the trust and dependency of their people, and time changes things. We no longer need a wise one to tell us when the weather is going to be cold, and we don't need to know our astronomy to know where we are on Earth. Today, we can watch a weather channel to find out what Mother Nature has for seasons. Although these are not skills we need in a king, there are other things that would be of great value to a people in their leaders, and perhaps these values can be re-learned from the once-upon-a-time stories our ancient and prehistoric ancestors told to teach their children about the most important things in life.

Among the fundamental impressions made consistently by the oldest of folklore and tales is that of a power greater than the human being; a power both creative and destructive, both compassionate and cruel of spirit, a divine entity to which no human should neglect to make supplication when embarking on anything of importance. In some tales Christian language is employed, God is God, and one should pray to Him accordingly. Yet there are other names for this Great Power; represented as the Great Mother, as powerful fairies or magicians, as old wise men or women, they intervene in the affairs of humans and can take offense or be profoundly pleased with their treatment by mortals. A common situation is misfortune of a princess at the hands of a wicked or offended fairy, whose dooming of the maiden brings sorrow to the king and queen.

Present in many of these wonder tales are those bestowed with the ability to interface with this Great Being on behalf of someone in need of intervention; indeed the intense bereavement of the afflicted magnetizes the assistance of other benevolent and powerful fairies or beings. Another common theme is the stolen damsel, who is kept prisoner by maleficent beings and is rescued by a hero who displays the bravery and courage that flows from love.

Another moral of the story found within these ancient dramas is that magic has a price. Invoking the blessing of deity is one thing, but seeking magic from those capable of it is another. Whether it is to change fate's cruel sentence by way of potion or spell, or to counteract the dreadful curse or magic of a wicked fairy, deliberate interference in the workings of magic has hidden consequences. Yet one cannot always know whether the price is worth the cure unless it is invoked, and a lifetime can pass before the price is revealed. Should one merely struggle with one's fate? Or by seeking the aid of spell and potion change what is undesirable to that so dearly longed for? These questions are struggled with by many characters in fairy tales, and some fare better than others in the end.

Yet, these wonder tales were told to children not just for the moral of the story, but to instill in them respect for and knowledge of history and traditions, and sometimes that history was far from pleasant. Indeed, it is filled with desperate and dangerous struggles represented by symbolic actions and events within the stories that, removed from the context of history, seem quite dark. Assuredly they are not as evil or tragic as was the reality on which they were based; powerful enemies make for dangerous struggles and horrific actions. In spite of this bleak reality, the listeners of these tales could enjoy a sense of wonder and be infused with hope as the stories unfolded, ensuring that these two powerful emotions were maintained in a culture struggling for its very existence.

This is how education was done in our long-ago past – stories and pictures were used to teach industry, science, tradition, and morals. In Symbology: Fairy Tales Uncovered are presented some of these marvelous tales decoded, revealing a fresh look at prehistory as recorded with oral tradition and symbol since once upon a time.

What we know as fairy tales is a collection of wonderful stories from different places, some from the earliest times that they were first told. The Fairy Tales is a series of four short books presenting fifty-two wonder tales, one for each week of a year based on the phases of the moon: new, first quarter, full, and last quarter – thirteen stories in each. 

Once a week teacher Mother Merlina tells a tale to Fair One, who is taught important things with a fanciful story of character and struggle, fate and fortune, wisdom and foolery. The stories are archetypal in nature, and as such are universal in their import and message. Some are long, some are very short, but all are full of fanciful characters, magic, and wondrous events.
The four phases of the moon as taught in The Fairy Tales:


Study at a Reading Desk, Leighton
Once upon a time, in a great kingdom by the sea, there lived a young Fair One. In order that she might receive the best education and become a just and compassionate leader, the young princess sat with her tutor Mother Merlina once a week. Together they would spend hours by the window which looked out upon a vast ocean and its rolling waves, and the wise woman would tell our Fair One the most important stories of all time while the princess looked at a picture from the box with the silken wrap. In it were parchments of colorful pictures, one for each story, made long ago by an unknown artist. They were a treasure. Over the weeks to come many wonderful pictures would be enjoyed. Each quarter of a year, Mother Merlina would begin a series of stories to teach the young princess about the moon, as well as some very important lessons about life.

This is part one of The Fairy Tales, Once Upon a Time Lessons. Fairy tales within a fairy tale, this story reflects the once upon a time people of northern IndoEuropean cultures, and provides a glimpse into the wondrous past of kings and queens, magic and sorcery, youth and bravery, love and loyalty that were the foundation of their society. 





About Michelle Paula Snyder


Michelle Snyder is a professor of mythology, and an author, publisher, speaker, and artist. She  did her post-graduate research at the University of Wales, decoding ancient and prehistoric symbolism, mythology, folklore, and fairy tales.  Her artwork has appeared in galleries from Massachusetts to California. Michelle is co-owner of White Knight Studio.

Michelle Snyder
Non-Fiction - Symbology:
Symbology: Decoding Classic Images
Symbology: Decoding Symbols through History
Symbology: Fairy Tales Uncovered
Symbology: Art and Symbols
Symbology: Hidden in Plain Sight
Symbology: ReVision
Symbology: World of Symbols
Symbology: Secrets of the Mermaids

Michelle Paula Snyder
Fiction – Fantasy Wonder-Tales:
The Fairy Tales: Once Upon a Time Lessons, First Book
Call of the Dragon and other Tales of Wonder
A Tale of Three Kingdoms, book one: The Lost Unicorn
 A Tale of Three Kingdoms, book two The Lost Mermaid
 A Tale of Three Kingdoms, book three The Lost Dragon







Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Golden Touch, the Real Story



The story of King Midas and his golden touch is told today as a tale of the price of greed, and in some, the rewards of repentance. This is how the first part of his story is generally told today:

Midas was a king of great fortune who ruled the country of Phrygia, in Asia Minor. He had everything a king could wish for. He lived in luxury in a great castle. He shared his life of abundance with his beautiful daughter. Even though he was very rich, Midas thought that his greatest happiness was provided by gold. He would spend many days counting his coins. 
One day, Dionysus, the god of wine and revelry, passed through the kingdom of Midas. One of his companions, a satyr named Silenus, got lost along the way. Silenus got tired and decided to take a nap in the famous rose gardens surrounding the palace of king Midas. He was found there by the king who recognized him instantly and invited him to spend a few days at his palace, where they feasted and rested. After that, Midas took him back to Dionysus. The god of celebration, very grateful to Midas for his kindness, promised Midas to satisfy any wish of him.  
Midas though for a while and then he said: “I hope that everything I tough becomes gold.” Dionysus warned the king to think well about his wish, but Midas was positive. Dionysus could do nothing to dissuade him and promised the king that his wish would start the following day. Everything he touched would turn to gold. 
The next day, Midas, woke up eager to see if his wish would come true. He extended his arm touching a small table that immediately turned into gold. Midas jumped with happiness! He then touched a chair, the carpet, the door, his bathtub, a table and so he kept on running in his madness all over his palace until he got exhausted and happy at the same time! He sat at the table to have breakfast and took a rose between his hands to smell its fragrance. When he touched it, the rose became gold. "I will have to absorb the fragrance without touching the roses, I suppose," he thought in disappointment. Without even thinking, he tried to eat a grape but it also turned into gold! The same happened with a slice of bread and a glass of water. Suddenly, he started to sense fear. Tears filled his eyes and that moment, his beloved daughter entered the room. Giving Midas a hug, she turned into a golden statue! Despaired and fearful, he raised his arms and prayed to Dionysus to take this curse from him.
The god heard Midas and felt sorry for him. He told Midas to go to river Pactolus and wash his hands. Midas did so: he ran to the river and was astonished to see gold flowing from his hands. The ancient Greeks said they had found gold on the banks of the that river. When he turned home, everything Midas had touched had become normal again. Midas hugged his daughter and decided to share his great fortune with his people. His people led a prosperous life and when he died, they all mourned for their beloved king.

There is more to the mythology, none of it complementary to the king. There are a few variations of details; many tellers add morals and speculation to the myth as a tale to teach virtue. Turning his daughter to gold was a later palimpsest, told by Nathanial Hawthorne in 1852. 

Historically there were several kings named Midas; the common reference is King Midas from the 8th century BC, who ruled Pessinus, Phrygia. He was married to a Greek princess, daughter of Agamemnon. According to Greek and Assyrian sources he traded with the Greeks, and many other nations.
   
Was it Greed? Or Science!


In order to decode this legend we must look at the electromotive series. History tells us the Greeks found gold on the river banks where Midas washed the curse from his hands. This may be the most significant statement for decoding this story. If you take a tin cup and place it in water that is downstream from a copper mine or processing plant, in a while, with the proper liquid medium, you will have a copper cup. Iron turns to copper, copper to silver, and silver to gold. This is called the electromotive series, and is, in general, how batteries work. In the Smithsonian Museum there are two silver Llamas which fell into a river where silver trace was, and they turned to silver, well preserved to the detail. It is this process that is symbolized by Midas turning everything to gold, and washing the gold off in the river. 


A man found in a Danish bog preserved as copper.

 It is also important to look at what was happening at the time of Midas. Turkey used young children to mine tin, as they were smaller and could go deeper into the mines. Some died and were left in the mines. If the mine collapsed, or flooded, the children were left there. One mine did flood with water that held gold sediment, and a young girl about five years old was preserved as electrum; a silver & gold child. Pristine details remained: Her eyelashes were preserved and the flowers in her basket still had their petals. The story of Midas turning his daughter into gold likely comes from records about the discovery of this young girl. 

So how did the story become so detrimental to the reputation of King Midas? 

Another significant thing to know about Midas was that he caused the invention of coins for standard measurement. Great! you might say. It was. Trade in precious metals and stones were big business and it was full of thieves and cheats. The coins prevented Midas and others from being swindled in transactions, and the swindlers hated him for it.  The king’s reputation became one of greed and avarice, a reputation which spread rapidly as stories made up by angry traders.  In the stories about his daughter she has been called Marigold (a name derived from Mary of the Catholic tradition). That name would not have been used then, if he had a daughter, more likely her name would have been Elora, or Lura. 

Palimpsest about many legendary and mythological characters arise from similar slander. The monster Medusa was a result of stories told to tear down the power of the Vanir megalithic navigators called Gorgons. Medusa was the most beautiful of three Gorgon sisters. It is said that Athena turned her into the snake-headed creature – in essence, she did. Stories are powerful. They can create a persona that is hard to correct. Peeling away layers of information and looking at each in historic context helps determine what is valid and what is layered into history for deconstructive purposes. Midas was subject to just such storytelling. 

About Michelle Paula Snyder


Michelle Snyder is a professor of mythology, and an author, publisher, speaker, and artist. She  did her post-graduate research at the University of Wales, decoding ancient and prehistoric symbolism, mythology, folklore, and fairy tales.  Her artwork has appeared in galleries from Massachusetts to California. Michelle is co-owner of White Knight Studio.

Michelle Snyder
Non-Fiction - Symbology:
Symbology: Decoding Classic Images
Symbology: Decoding Symbols through History
Symbology: Fairy Tales Uncovered
Symbology: Art and Symbols
Symbology: Hidden in Plain Sight
Symbology: ReVision
Symbology: World of Symbols
Symbology: Secrets of the Mermaids

Michelle Paula Snyder
Fiction – Fantasy Wonder-Tales:
The Fairy Tales: Once Upon a Time Lessons, First Book
Call of the Dragon and other Tales of Wonder
A Tale of Three Kingdoms, book one: The Lost Unicorn
 A Tale of Three Kingdoms, book two The Lost Mermaid
 A Tale of Three Kingdoms, book three The Lost Dragon





Monday, August 8, 2016

The 12 Dancing Princesses


Fairy tales are vehicles for the transmission of history from ages lost in the mist of time. Clues to the lives and traditions of our ancestors are embedded in layers of characters, symbols, and story. Numbers are symbolic in fairy tales, hinting at astronomical awareness of the culture originating the tales. The story of the Twelve Dancing Princesses has its roots in the astronomical knowledge of pre-history. Twelve is a particularly significant number, associated with the ancient division of the sky into 12 constellations. It is common also to describe the movement of heavenly bodies, which move forward and back – as “the dance.” Each planet’s dance is different.

In this story, there are 12 princesses who sneak out of their room every night, and when they return, their shoes are worn out from dancing. The king, beside himself, finally finds a hero to find out what the girls were up to. Twelve beautiful princesses slept in twelve beds in the same room, with doors locked securely. Each morning their shoes were discovered to be worn out as if they had been dancing all night. The king, desperate to discover their secret, offers a prize to the one who did, but failure meant death. Several princes fail, but a soldier tricks the twelve girls and follows them through a trap door in the floor, into twelve boats, down a river to a castle where, sure enough, the girls dance all night with twelve princes. The soldier retrieves a branch from each of three trees; one of silver, one of gold, and one of diamonds, and a golden cup, which he gives the king as proof. 

With roots in the astronomical knowledge of pre-history – some goes back 77,000 years – this tale tells of keeping of secrets (represented by the mysteriously worn out shoes, which represent a year) and getting to know the twelve zodiacal constellations (the princes they dance with). Together the princes and princesses make twenty-four, the number of hours in a day. A wonderfully enchanting story, it is filled with symbols and allegory. Time is illustrated by the river and boats, and the twenty-four characters “dance” with the mathematics necessary to measure time using the stars. It is one of many tales referring to “stories written in the sky,” which allude to ancient knowledge of seasons and natural cycles – stories embodied in the zodiac. The locked room holds the secrets of the ancient navigators. The garden of trees with gold, silver, and diamond leaves is similar to a garden in the  epic of Gilgamesh. The golden symbolizes the golden ball of sun, or the grail.




This wondrous tale is one of thousands that carry secrets and buried history from the world of once upon a time. All we need do is look, and we will see. 


About Michelle Paula Snyder


Michelle Snyder is a professor of mythology, and an author, publisher, speaker, and artist. She  did her post-graduate research at the University of Wales, decoding ancient and prehistoric symbolism, mythology, folklore, and fairy tales.  Her artwork has appeared in galleries from Massachusetts to California. Michelle is co-owner of White Knight Studio.

Michelle Snyder
Non-Fiction - Symbology:
Symbology: Decoding Classic Images
Symbology: Decoding Symbols through History
Symbology: Fairy Tales Uncovered
Symbology: Art and Symbols
Symbology: Hidden in Plain Sight
Symbology: ReVision
Symbology: World of Symbols
Symbology: Secrets of the Mermaids

Michelle Paula Snyder
Fiction – Fantasy Wonder-Tales:
The Fairy Tales: Once Upon a Time Lessons, First Book
Call of the Dragon and other Tales of Wonder
A Tale of Three Kingdoms, book one: The Lost Unicorn
 A Tale of Three Kingdoms, book two The Lost Mermaid
 A Tale of Three Kingdoms, book three The Lost Dragon

Friday, August 5, 2016

Stone Soup - The Real Story

Soup Stone, Michelle Paula Snyder

Not all fairy tales have fairies. Some don't even have magic. Stone Soup is like that, it is a story of daring, caring, and sharing. The only magic in it is that of human cleverness. It is a fairy tale told in England, Ireland, the United States, Germany, and many other countries. Like all folklore, it evolved with the telling, and today it tells of the needy tricking the greedy into sharing food and lodging; usually a destitute soldier or clever beggar offering to make soup with a stone, asking only for a kettle of water from the unwitting scrooge. But like other legends, this folktale has deep prehistoric roots, reaching back into the bitter cold stone-age.

Once Upon a Time long, long ago the world was frozen most of the time. In this icy world animals broke their teeth trying to chew meat from the frozen carcass of a fresh kill. Fingers and toes would suffer frostbite in only a few minutes if not covered properly – even then excursions outside were brief. The people who lived in this ice age built and heated triple walled houses covered with hides, made quilted clothing, and cooked their food. Duncan-Enzmann has collected and translated inscriptions over ten thousand years old, some of which show blueprints for houses and instructions for venting fireplaces. Unlike wood, stones were abundant and were used for many things: tools, weapons, contracts, and heating beds and cradles – not unlike bed-warmers of the early pioneers.


Stones were also inscribed with instructions to make and use fire-bows, make medicines, and “stone soup.” Even in a regular modern winter there is nothing like a nice cup of hot tea, cocoa, or chicken soup to warm up a cold body. I remember bird-watching with my dad on Plum Island during the winter. He always brought a thermos of hot chocolate – said it would keep me warm. During hard times when food is scarce, or on the battlefield in winter, even a cup of warm water helps warm up a cold body, and with a few drops of molasses or honey in the water, it becomes a delicious treat.


During the once upon a time ice age 14,000 years ago, knowing how to warm up could mean the difference between life and death. There was no metal or iron to create cookware, leather pots were made and filled with water. Leather cannot be heated over the fire, so a “boiling stone” (one that did not explode when heated on a fire) was heated. When it was good and hot it was put into the water. The stone brought the water to a simmer, and, with bits of meat, vegetables, and spices, a nutritious soup was made. 

Of course, the heating-stone would need to be cleaned before putting it in the water. Ashes from the fire would have to be removed; brushing it with branches of dried herbs added flavor to the broth, and branches of willow (from which aspirin is made) provided gentle soothing for those who enjoyed the soup. 

According to the fairy tale meat was scarce; fatty meat was scarce during ice age winters. Without some fat in the diet a person can starve to death, even with an abundance of other foods. The only place fat could be obtained in deep prehistoric winters was from the long bones of a female horse. The bones were added to the broth of the stone soup, cooking out the life giving fats, just as we cook chicken soup today. 


Like most fairy tales, this one has a struggle (freezing weather and scarcity of food), a hero (the stone), and a happy ending (a steaming bowl of yummy soup). And like most fairy tales, the telling also conveyed principles and morals to live by, perspective on people and their stations, and brought to the listener a world where hope and wonder made a difference. 


About Michelle Paula Snyder


Michelle Snyder is a professor of mythology, and an author, publisher, speaker, and artist. She  did her post-graduate research at the University of Wales, decoding ancient and prehistoric symbolism, mythology, folklore, and fairy tales.  Her artwork has appeared in galleries from Massachusetts to California. Michelle is co-owner of White Knight Studio.

Michelle Snyder
Non-Fiction - Symbology:
Symbology: Decoding Classic Images
Symbology: Decoding Symbols through History
Symbology: Fairy Tales Uncovered
Symbology: Art and Symbols
Symbology: Hidden in Plain Sight
Symbology: ReVision
Symbology: World of Symbols
Symbology: Secrets of the Mermaids

Michelle Paula Snyder
Fiction – Fantasy Wonder-Tales:
The Fairy Tales: Once Upon a Time Lessons, First Book
Call of the Dragon and other Tales of Wonder
A Tale of Three Kingdoms, book one: The Lost Unicorn
 A Tale of Three Kingdoms, book two The Lost Mermaid
 A Tale of Three Kingdoms, book three The Lost Dragon