EverGreen: Baby and the Faerie Queene
is a piece dedicated to my late cat Baby, who my mother and I found deceased on the side of the road in front of my home on Friday, October 13th of 2006, presumably the victim of a passing car. I have lost pets before, but not in such an untimely manner. Our other pets were old and obviously suffering, for them death was a quiet release. For Baby it seemed too soon and we were not there to ease his transition. We discovered him already stiff and cold. We had adopted him as an adult cat from one of my mother's coworkers who was moving and could not bring him with her, but he fit in perfectly with our already multiple-pet household. He was there to greet me when I went to school or work and he was there to welcome me back when I returned.
I was not angry at Death for taking him, I was just deeply sad and it was almost incomprehensible to me to realize that the only contact I would have with him from that point on would be relegated to dreams, visions, and memories.
This piece is such a vision - my vision of Baby's transition to the Otherworld. He is welcomed by the Mistress of the Wild Hunt for souls Herself, the Faerie Queene. They share milk from an earthenware chalice. The milk is significant in two main aspects: firstly, Baby was a stereotypical feline in that he adored drinking milk, and secondly, milk and/or cream are traditional offerings left for the fae, especially as payment for the household spirits who often perform domestic chores on the property. Baby performed his share of domestic duties by being a diligent mouse- and mole-catcher. The chalice itself is directly inspired by the goblet in Victorian faery artist Richard Dadd's 1862 painting Bacchanalian Scene
. In Dadd's piece it also is adorned with a Death's head motif, but there is also a verse in Latin inscribed upon it. On the reverse of his painting is a legible version of the same phrase which translated means "Each man then has his own unlucky fate both here and beyond - like must be added to like and one's due paid to the appointed spirit." The winged Death's head in my version though is drawn from American gravestone art.
The Faerie Queene is Herself a blending of the western and northern European traditions from which She hails and physical features which link her to the soil in which Baby was actually laid to rest. I believe that Faery is deeply tied to the Land, it may perhaps be regarded as the Land's dreaming heart. I also believe that the spiritual creatures, much like their material counterparts in plants and animals, endemic to a certain landscape reflect its uniqueness. Therefore, I don't necessarily think that the Faerie Queene in the south-eastern woodlands of Pennsylvania may appear exactly as She does in the forests of Germany or in the English countryside.
In traditional fairylore the realm of the dead and the ancestors was associated and in some cases perceived to by synonymous with the Faery world. Early accounts even go so far as to link the Faery Queen and King with the rulers of the classical Underworld, Proserpina and Pluto. The faeries themselves were said to especially haunt ancient barrows and tombs, and human visitors to Elfhame often reported seeing their deceased friends and relatives among the inhabitants of the Otherworld.
The title "EverGreen" is both a hopeful metaphor for the life beyond this life and a reference to the main sylvan component in this piece, Taxus baccata
otherwise known as the Yew
tree. Since it produces small, red, cup-like fruits known as arils
and does not yield resin, it is technically not a coniferous tree, but it is evergreen and possesses needles rather than leaves. Yews are among the longest-lived trees on earth, yet they also grow at a very slow rate. The Norse commemorated the Yew as the 13th rune in the Elder Futhark, "eiwaz" and regarded it as a symbol of of the related nature of death and rebirth. Due to such associations, Yews are to be found planted at gravesites. While Christian churches often sit beside these cemeteries, the Yews themselves often greatly predate the construction of those buildings.Size
: approximately 11" in width x 12" in heightMedia
: Prismacolor colored pencils, watercolor, acrylic, sumi-e ink