Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Who is Melusine?

What I am currently working on is a painting of Melusine.  I have been wanting to paint her for a long time and am really excited to finally do so.  So who was or is Melusine?  Quite simply she was an extremely popular legend in Medieval times.  Her myth was popular throughout Europe from Scotland, to Avalon (though it is suppose to be a mythical place), to France.  Here is my shortened and quick synopsis of what Wikipedia says:

Melusine is a figure of  European legend, a feminine spirit of fresh waters in sacred springs and rivers.
She is usually depicted as a woman who is a serpent or fish from the waist down.  She is also sometimes illustrated with wings and a tail, sometimes two tails.  

During the Crusades Elynas, the King of Albany (Scotland) went hunting one day and came across a beautiful lady in the forest. She was Pressyne, mother of Melusine. He persuaded her to marry him but she agreed, only on the promise — for there is often a hard and fatal condition attached to any pairing of faerie and mortal — that he must not enter her chamber when she birthed or bathed her children. She gave birth to triplets. When he violated this taboo, Pressyne left the kingdom, together with her three daughters, and traveled to the lost Isle of  Avalon.

The three girls — Melusine, Melior, and Palatyne — grew up in Avalon. On their fifteenth birthday, Melusine, the eldest, asked why they had been taken to Avalon. Upon hearing of their father's broken promise, Melusine sought revenge. She and her sisters captured Elynas and locked him, with his riches, in a mountain. Pressyne became enraged when she learned what the girls had done, and punished them for their disrespect to their father. Melusine was condemned to take the form of a serpent from the waist down every Saturday. In other stories, she takes on the form of a mermaid.

Raymond of Poitou came across Melusine in a forest of Coulombiers in France, and proposed marriage. Just as her mother had done, she laid a condition, that he must never enter her chamber on a Saturday. He broke the promise and saw her in the form of a part-woman part-serpent. She forgave him. When during a disagreement, he called her a "serpent" in front of his court, she assumed the form of a dragon, (sometimes a it is said a swan) provided him with two magic rings, and flew off, never to return.

To me Melusine is the ultimate "Animal Bride".  I am super intrigued by the Animal Bride myth in mythology and often my work is of these faerie women.  These are the stories of the swan maidens, the selkies, mermaids, etc.  They are in almost all myth the world over.  They are tales of human men that marry a faerie woman who is some sort of animal, but turns into a beautiful looking human woman when the man captures her and brings her into our world to marry her.

There is so much good symbolism in the Animal Bride myth.  Mainly I think it represents our longing for an intimacy with nature, but how we usually try to possess and control her.  The Animal Bride myth always ends with the faerie woman returning to the wild from which she came, as she can never be possessed by man.

I am guessing these tales began popping up as soon as humans began creating civilizations.  As we moved out of the forests and became increasingly dispossessed from nature, so began our longing to return to her.  I think Melusine is the ultimate Animal Bride because she combines just about all the myths into one.  She is a serpent, swan, dragon, mermaid of sorts.  Her tale stretches across Europe and is not concentrated in one place.  She is connected to springs and bodies of fresh water as these are so representative of our subconscious selves that are always there whispering secrets we can not hear like bubbling brooks.

So here are a couple of wip pics of my Melusine.

The above shot is of the acrylic underpainting of Melusine.  I added a serpent and a swan in a sort of oroboros design (one of my favorite symbols).  They represent her two tails, or her two natures, earthly and spiritual.  

This is a shot of her after a layer of oil.  I still have more detailing to do, but you get an idea of what she will look like.

One thing I am noticing in my own art, and in a lot of contemporary art, is that my women are growing more child-like or innocent looking.  For me the underlying message in all my works has always had something to do with our longing for that connection with nature that is slowly slipping away from us.  I think the prevalence of these fragile, innocent women we are seeing so much in art these days has to do with that too. The more entrenched we get in this technological world, the more we long for a simpler time. We are longing for a more innocent time. We stare at our computer screens all day long and the stress of this technological filled lifestyle often makes us feel like robots, not alive.  We long to be wild.   We all have memories of being children, running in the woods.  Somehow that seems like lifetimes away now, why can't we have that again?

Okay, enough writing for to finish my Melusine.  


Victoria said...

So deeply beautiful..she is magnificent and magical.....gorgeous words..I love what you wrote...I truly relate to that wild and free world....I am often accused of being too disconnected to the real I don;t even own a cell phone yet lol!..blogging is the closest I come to this technological world and it is a blessing to meet kindreds like you!
I love coming to see your beautiful visions and art..thanks for sharing the sacred and magical always!

MoonSpiral said...

Thank you so much Victoria! I am glad you liked the post, it had been so long since I have wrote anything I felt rusty :) said...

Hello! I sense that urge for nature. My children grew up in touch with it. Mainly, enjoying the Atlantic ocean, as we live by a coastal beach in Fortaleza, Brazil. Nowadays I do not ride a horse through the woods, the sand dunes and the seaside along with my faithful Dalmatian anymore. Nor I go exploring the depths of the mangrove across the marsh paths and bathe myself in the Cocó riverbanks. But I miss it. So I still ride my bike to work and play basketball on Saturday afternoons. Things are changing fast and this way of life, as time pushes my age forward, will be sooner or later left behind. But I will undoubtedly be playing my violin as I watch the full moon over the calm sea and enjoy a glass of wine with my wife. And leave Facebook out of this, please. Thanks for your comments and paintings. And do drop by to visit!

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