Wednesday, 29 February 2012

A is for....

Apple-Tree Man.

There is a huge amount of mythology surrounding apple trees. They were possibly the first tree to be cultivated for their fruit in Europe and have played their part in in several of the mythologies and religions of the world. From Eve's eating of the apple in Genesis, to the mystical apple groves said to grow on the Isle of Avalon, to the US's Johnny Appleseed, the apple tree has played its part in human history and myth all over the world.

© Shona M MacDonald 2012
All Rights Reserved

 The apple appears in the classic faery tale 'Snow White'; apples were fed to the Norse Gods and Goddesses to maintain their immortality; Hera's apple-tree in the Garden of the Hesperides played its part in Heracles' labours in Greek mythology.

Many folklore traditions exist, and some prevail today, involving the apple tree and its fruits. We 'bob' for apples at Halloween and a prophesy ritual can be performed that same night by peeling an apple - making sure to keep the peel in one piece - and throwing it over your left shoulder. When it lands it will form the initial of the person you will marry. It was once believed that if you could see the sun shining through the branches of an apple tree on Christmas Day then a good harvest the following year would be assured. And in the West Country in Britain, in particular, 'Wassailing the Apple' has been an annual tradition, sometimes performed at Yuletide, sometimes on the 6th of January or on the 17th of January (Twelfth Night by the old calendar). Traditions vary from hitting the apples trees with sticks to wake them up after the winter, to pouring the last of the harvest's cider on the tree roots, to soaking toast in cider and hanging it in the apple-trees for the robins who are believed to be the apples-trees' spirits, but all involve singing Wassailing songs in the orchard. These ceremonies would often conclude at the oldest tree in the orchard where the spirit of the Apple-Tree Man is believed to dwell.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

How it all began...

One day at work I was reading the Endicott Studio blog. This is a blog guaranteed to to take you down all manner of strange Faerie pathways and on this particular day I followed a link to the website of the artist Rima Staines. I was entranced by her gorgeous artwork and the wonderful muted colours of her illustrations. One picture in particular stuck in my little brain and would not leave:

© Rima Staines
This little alphabet niggled at me for a long time, sitting in the back of my mind until one day I decided that I would quite like to create an alphabet of my own - a Faerie Alphabet. In fact, why not a whole series of Alphabets, I thought optimistically. And I began to write a list - I love a good list, me. I write hundreds of  'em. For everything. They keep me right and I LOVE crossing things off them...because that means I've done stuff! So I wrote my first list of Faerie creatures, or tried to anyway. Finding a Fae creature beginnig with X proved difficult. Finding Fae creatures that I was inspired to paint starting with several other letters proved rather tricky too. But, undeterred by the uncomplete-ness of the list, I started sketching the letter A full of enthusiasm for my new project!

That was 3 years ago. Letter A's sketch was a success but letter B's wasn't so hot and the project was put aside while I worked on other things. Quite what prompted me to pick it up again, I'm not really sure, but as with so many initially simple ideas that I have, they get expanded, extended, changed in my head the more I think about them. And the idea of making what was going to be a small series of little paintings into a virtual book suddenly appeared.

I plan to explain some more about the digital process that made this possible in later posts but now it's time for a couple of pictures. All books start with the front cover:

© Shona M MacDonald 2012. All Rights Reserved.
And the title pages:

© Shona M MacDonald 2012. All Rights Reserved.