Posts Tagged ‘stars’

Omer, Emor & Zohar: Of Stars & Seasons

May 11, 2012

This year’s observance of the Lag B’Omer holiday began on Wednesday evening and continued until sundown on Thursday. Accordingly, the Torah portion from the Book of Leviticus/VaYikra that will be read tomorrow is named Emor and addresses the significance and structure of the seasons of our year.

Parashah Emor, meaning ‘speak ‘in Hebrew is one of perceptive contrasts. Although the festivals of the Jewish year are introduced in the book of Exodus, they are reprised in this section of Leviticus to include the laws applying to Kohanim, the priests of Israel. While these laws serve to set the role of the Kohanim apart from the community, they also teach us that even in times of great misfortune and sadness, it is important to retain holiness and joy in life by the regular observance of festivals and holy days. Our calendar is an important means for the understanding and intelligent use of time. It allows us to set aside our daily routines and enter a state of transformation leading to spiritual growth. For example, the search on the eve of Passover to remove traces of bread (chametz) from our homes equates with a search and examination of our own imperfections. Judaism employs a luni-solar calendar in which the year corresponds with the solar calendar and its months match the lunar calendar. Since the twelve months of the Jewish calendar are about eleven days short of a 365-day year, a leap month is added to the calendar on a 19-year cycle. The Hebrew zodiac in the illustration illuminates this concept.

The parashah focuses on the observances and performances of good deeds (mitzvot) for the festivals of Passover (Sefirat ha’Omer or Counting of the Omer), Shavuot (Shtei Ha’Lechem or Grain Offering), Rosh HaShanah (Yom Teruah or Blowing of the Shofar), Yom Kippur (Fasting) and Sukkot (Sukkah Booth & Arba Minim or Four Species). In choosing images for this parashah, I’ve focused on the ‘Counting of the Omer’ that occurs during the 49 days between Passover (The Exodus from Egypt) and Shavuot (The Giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai). ‘Omer‘ is the Hebrew word for ‘sheaf’, an offering of grain brought to the Temple in hopes of a healthy barley harvest. For a seven-week period, one ‘omer‘ is set aside and counted on each of the 49 days. This practice commemorates the length of time taken by the Israelites to reach Mt. Sinai from Egypt after the Exodus. According the Zohar, a collection of classic Jewish mystical treatises, this is also a period recognizing their transition from spiritual impurity to becoming a people in a profound relationship with God inaugurated by their receipt of the Law on Shavuot.

For those of you who have not seen it, the illustrations for this parashah are adapted from my book Between Heaven & Earth: An Illuminated Torah Commentary (Pomegranate, 2009)* as is the interpretation above. Between the zodiac of the Hebrew year and a grid depicting the counting of the omer with a sprig of barley, the young boy holding a small etrog (citrus) tree reflects a custom among Orthodox Jews that is observed on Lag B’Omer. Until he reaches the age of three, a child is considered unable to interact fully with this world, as he is deeply absorbed in building his spiritual infrastructure. After this time, his family and friends stage an ‘Upshernish‘ or formal haircut celebration to initiate his ‘entry into the world’. If a child’s birthday falls between Passover and Lag B’Omer when hair is not permitted to be cut, the event is postponed until Lag B’Omer. Having attended several of these events, I am always touched by the tender poignance radiating from the child and parent who supports him. The tiny etrog tree and the letter aleph are included here as symbols of the Torah learning and mitzvot that the child will begin to experience. It is heartening to know that we too, can observe this time cognizant of our journey towards fuller spirituality. Hag Sameach!

*For previews and purchase information of Between Heaven & Earth: An Illuminated Torah Commentary (Pomegranate, 2009) visit: http://bit.ly/g2D9Lm

Dreams and Nightmares: The Foundation of Faith

June 17, 2011

Parashah Shelakh-Lekha, one of the best-known episodes in the Book of Numbers, concerns the twelve scouts, or spies, sent ahead of the Israelite camp to appraise the nature of the Promised Land. It is often compared to the Golden Calf incident of Exodus, in that both events were tests of the Israelites’ faith and trust in G-d, their leaders and themselves. When the expedition returned, ten of the men dramatically exaggerated what they had seen, in an attempt to discourage the Israelites from accepting their territorial inheritance. “We looked like grasshoppers to ourselves and so we must have looked to them.” In the left-hand illustration, the small hybrid grasshopper-man addresses the terror and trepidation the scouts disseminated. Perhaps, they calculated, their negative report would ensure positions of power for themselves among the people instead of encouraging the people to act with faith in G-d and in their own abilities? I have given this creature a tattoo in the shape of the Hebrew letter ‘mem’ whose numerical equivalent is forty because this incident doomed the Israelites to wander in the desert for forty years until a new generation arose that would be spiritually prepared to realize its divine inheritance.

The symbols that comprise these illustrations each tell stories of their own that are too lengthy to include here. They can be found on page 169 in the AfterImages portion of my  book, Between Heaven & Earth: An Illuminated Torah Commentary (Pomegranate, 2009) It can be purchased directly from the publisher, http://www.pomegranate.com/a166.html or from Amazon,  amzn.to/gZSp5j where you will find several reviews.

I welcome your comments and questions here at Imaginarius and will do my best to respond. Wishing you a thoughtful Sabbath and weekend…

Imaginarius’ New Book!

March 30, 2011

LS>FrontCoverOnly

Since the 2009 publication of The Alchymical Zoodiac: A Celestial Bestiary, my micro-publishing imprint, Imaginarius Editions,  has released two new books. Stitchburgh in 2010 and now a small bedtime story. The Little Sheep Who Couldn’t Sleep was originally written and illustrated in 1990 and like the others was finally able to come out and play. The Little Sheep is Willy, for whom bedtime is the best time for thinking about interesting things. It’s not a spoiler to say that in this story, learning how to count sheep finds a wooly new meaning! It’s intended for children 2 and up, but if you are a parent, grandparent or older sibling charged with putting a little brother or sister to bed, I think you’ll find it fun, too.

The Alchymical Zoodiac, Stitchburgh, & The Little Sheep Who Couldn’t Sleep are available via PayPal at my website:http://www.winnlederer.com/

A Mundane Magick:Cleo@Cockfosters

January 18, 2011

Imposing strange images on ordinary observations seems to be the outgrowth of my developing visual vocabulary. As though seeing is an invitation to knowing or perhaps just imagining, as in this latest entry from my Notes From The London Underground series. What began with a casual glance at a pregnant passenger waiting at Bank Street station evolved into a vision that tells a story which can be interpreted at multiple levels. It is encapsulated in the framed text next to ‘Cleo’. The rooster and crocodile found their way into this image in response to the wordplay in the Cockfosters tube stop name, with which I couldn’t resist tampering. The crocodile represents the Egyptian deity Sobek, associated with ancient creation myths and agricultural fertility. A bit of research revealed that the rooster symbolizes the ancient sun gods and as the male principal also associated with fertility, it is charged with the protection of family and community. The name Cockfoster’s originated somewhere around 1524 and referred to a family estate in the North London suburban boroughs of Enfield and Barnet. The name may also be a mash-up of the words ‘cock forester’, the residence of the estate’s chief groundskeeper.


So even when an image presents itself to me, I don’t always understand all the reasons why that is so and in that sense, it doesn’t seem complete. I’d enjoy hearing your interpretations; it’s part of the magick…

This and other drawings in this series are available as limited edition prints. These may be seen throughout this blog and at my webfolio: http://www.winnlederer.com/underground/index.htm


http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?lt1=_blank&bc1=000000&IS2=1&bg1=FFFFFF&fc1=000000&lc1=0000FF&t=ilenewinnlederer&o=1&p=8&l=as4&m=amazon&f=ifr&asins=0764950983

Publish Or Perish? Yes and Never!

January 13, 2011

This month, with the release of Stitchburgh from my imprints, Imaginarius Editions and TatterTale Press, I’ve brought an old dream to life. While the majority of my posts here have highlighted individual images, I’ve often been asked the eternal question: where do you get your ideas? The short answer is from everyone and everywhere. But today, I thought you might like to know the story behind Stitchburgh which in itself is a clue:

One day in 1979, when my children were young, I attended an exhibition of handmade quilts. Created by a Pittsburgh craft guild called The Quilter’s Triangle, their intricate colors and narrative quality moved me to research the history of this unique and personal form of expression. As a mother and an illustrator, I was inspired to create a work of art for my children. It would reflect my new interest in quilts as it enriched awareness of our neighborhood and daily lives. So I created an illustrated alphabet that I decided to make into a quilted wall hanging. First, I drew and painted everything onto a large canvas. Then, I chose the stuffing and fabric backing materials that would be needed. Since my skills do not include needlework (except for the occasional darned sock), Mrs. Fava, an elderly Italian seamstress in my neighborhood helped me put it all together. At bedtime the next evening, I told my children the first of many stories about Stitchburgh, an imaginary world where everything is made from the colorful patches of an old quilt. In this original tale about a little blue goose named Fanny Featherbottom and her beloved Aunt Madras Goose, a writer, Madras’ stitchwriter suddenly breaks. Her story, now tangled into knots, is lost. You are invited to follow the writer and her niece as they adventure around Stitchburgh in search for it and discover where good ideas are really found!

After that quilting exhibition, it would be eighteen months before I finished the first illustrated version of Stitchburgh in 1980, but this version would be far from the last. After countless submissions and revisions of the illustrated manuscript by editors who were probably wondering what it would take to make me go away, I was sitting on a thick stack of rejection form letters from dozens of mainstream publishers and had reached the bottom of my proverbial barrel. Suddenly it hit me. Why waste my energy staying mad when I could put it to better use?

You see, I remembered a story about Beatrix Potter, the renowned children’s author. Though she came from a comfortably wealthy English family, she was harboring stories that begged to be let out to play. She too experienced rejection from several publishers at the time. So, she gathered up her pluck and determination, printed a small edition of them privately and simply distributed them as gifts to friends and family. The printer whom she retained for her project was Frederick Warne & Co. who soon came to understand the potential value of her work. In time, they went on to turn Peter Rabbit into an international media and merchandising star for generations to come. On the tail of this memory, I asked myself, ‘why accept rejection as the last word?’

So with renewed hope, I gathered up one of my illustrated manuscripts and made an appointment with a local commercial printer to see what was involved in publishing my ‘masterpiece’ on my own. When I explained to the print salesman what I wanted, he looked at me incredulously. ‘Just a small run of a full-color, 32-page children’s book? You have to be kidding; are you aware of the costs? I was beginning to get nervous as he listed everything necessary to publishing a book, from layouts to finished art, from films to plates and paper, to press time and bindery charges. I was sinking into my chair when he gave me the final figure. At the time, the minimum press run for a picture book was 5000 printed, bound copies of my book: $18,500. The huge quantity was necessary in order justify setting up the gigantic four color press and to establish a fair market price for each copy sold.

In 1980, this was equivalent to a down payment on a modest home! ‘And,’ he added ominously, ‘that’s only the tip of the iceberg; what about the costs of marketing and distribution? How are you going to handle that? Stunned into silence, I imagined myself buried under a mountain of 5,000 books and quietly thanked him for his time. I slunk out of the office, feeling like a complete idiot.
Never mind pursuing other bids on the job; they were all in the same ballpark. As I packed away my dreams and resumed my life as wife, mother, teacher and freelance illustrator, I was again discouraged, but still hoped that I could somehow, someday make it happen.

Myriad other projects kept me busy over the years and in time, even as I illustrated other writer’s books for mainstream publishers, I cooked up some new ones of my own. During these years, print technology was advancing so that my early self-publishing experience would become an anachronism. While there had always been small private publishers snootily referred to as ‘vanity presses’ or ‘subsidy publishers’, authors who retained their services were not taken seriously. Rather, it became a stigma as their work was presumed to be substandard by the mainstream industry and therefore unpublishable.

However, early in 2000, as I began to explore the growing self-publishing industry, the mystique associated with mainstream publishing became more transparent. With major changes in the tax laws and the decline of the world economy, authors were no longer treated as celebrities unless they were entertainment media stars or prominent political figures. We could no longer depend on publishers to cover the expenses of heavily promoting our books. With a few exceptions, it looked as though mainstream publishers were not much more than glorified printers with the presumed aura of ‘marketing caché. To make matters worse, the giant bookstore chains on whom they depended for their marketing and distribution venues were struggling financially. These began to close many of their brick and mortar establishments and not surprisingly, corporate mainstream publishing is quaking in its boots. In addition, self-publishing, with ‘print-on-demand’ technology at its core is a rapidly growing industry that, partnered with the vast online merchant network is proving to be their formidable competition.

Happily, the vanity press stigma was being obliterated by the developing print technology because authors who became literate in its techniques could now publish their work with the newly emerging “print on demand’ industry. Though it would take me years to feel comfortable with the tools of computer aided design and sophisticated graphics software, I was fascinated to observe how these were driving a paradigm shift in the way books are produced, marketed and distributed.

Last year alone (2010), 764,448 self-published titles appeared – an increase of 181 percent from 2008. That compares with 289,729 titles from traditional publishing houses. These numbers come from the R.R. Bowker Co., the agency that grants ISBN numbers and compiles the bibliographic data that must appear in your book before you can release it for distribution. Such information is necessary for booksellers and libraries to catalogue and identify your book in the vast publishing marketplace.

Online companies such as CreateSpace, AuthorHouse, Blurb, Lulu, iUniverse and XLibris have made it relatively easy and affordable to put your ‘masterpiece’ out in the market. There are gigabytes of information out there comparing profit and loss to authors in both self and mainstream publishing, and you might want to look at these as you decide whether to self-publish or continue to submit your manuscripts to mainstream publishers. But numbers can be overwhelming and can do much to squelch your desire to venture into this market as an author.

As a typical artist and writer consumed by their art, I gave these figures a cursory nod, shrugged my shoulders and became absorbed in my fantasy of self-publishing. I worked to enhance my technological skills and happily imagined the fame and fortune my efforts would generate. I published my first effort, The Alchymical Zoodiac: A Celestial Bestiary in 2009 under my own imprint, Imaginarius Editions.

Though my sales of The Alchymical Zoodiac to date have just covered my expenses, I decided that after 31 years, Stitchburgh was still begging to become a reality. Paraphrasing the immortal words of Star Trek’s Captain Jean Luc Picard, I decided to “Make it sew!” Maybe at some point, if they still exist, a mainstream publisher will become interested in what I have done and consider producing a subsidiary edition and ancillary products. Maybe even, some bright star at Pixar might see animation film potential in it. You never know. But most encouraging are the kind words and support from all of you! Both Stitchburgh and The Alchymical Zoodiac may be purchased @my webfolio via PayPal: http://www.winnlederer.com





Codex Gastropoda #4:The Time Snails

December 26, 2010

The onset of a new year often inspires sentiments revolving around endings and beginnings. These might be memories accumulated over the year past and/or resolutions slated to inform the coming year. Both are part of our big picture, but share an underlying urgency to affect change in our lives and in the lives of those with whom we interact. Inevitably we all wish for more time to bring these new realities into being. The irony is that the process of time in the known universe remains a universal mystery even as we create methods for containing and measuring it. In that sense, time as a human construct theoretically offers us more power to use it than we often wish to acknowledge. Though the construct of ‘leap years’ are a familiar phenomenon, ‘leap seconds’ and the need to insert them into our time systems are relatively obscure. Since 1972, the ‘temporal authorities’ of The International Earth Rotation Services of the Bureau of Weights and Measures, at Paris, France, have slipped an extra ‘leap second’ into the calendar, making their decision to do so either on June 30 or December 31 of the target year.  This was done to maintain the accuracy of atomic clocks that are affected by the irregular spin of the Earth, which seems to be slowing down. December 31 of 2010 is being considered for the next insertion. If this is not done conscientiously, they claim, then after several centuries, the time discrepancy would amount to one whole hour or more. With all the time we spend online and in pursuit of less than world-changing activities, many of us probably wouldn’t notice.  Anyway, most clocks are not designed to accommodate leap seconds and because we are so synced to automated systems, there is the potential to mess with our minds that defies logic. Remembering the pre-email days of frantic deadlines for illustration assignments, it would’ve been handy to offer the following scenario to a client: “Well, I’d love to have this drawing ready for you tomorrow, but according to temporal authorities, if I don’t have another day to work on it, time as we know it will bend out of recognition, worlds will collide and the universe will pretty much descend into utter chaos as a result. Will Wednesday be okay?”

On that thought, I’ve resolved to reset my clocks on December 31 and gather my grand plans for 2011. Here’s wishing you all the time you need for yours in the New Year, too…

A Vintage Virgo: From The Alchymical Zoodiac

September 12, 2010

Each year at this time, my perceptions and energies seem preternaturally focused. Considering my September 13 birth date, is this a given? Or do we all find ourselves in this state on or around our birthdays throughout the year? Those who subscribe to astrological analysis with an emphasis on sun signs will confidently point to the sign of the zodiac in a certain position over the ecliptic and nod sagely. The history of science credits ancient astronomy and medieval alchemy as precursors to our understanding of the workings of creation and our role in it. While astrology’s readings of our personalities and events have also been part of human culture for millennia, our conventional science has yet to provide proof of this connection and has relegated astrology to the fiefdom of the foolish. Intuition suggests that this categorization of astrology may be premature; there is still much to learn about ourselves if we can move past its early efforts and allow its wisdom to augment our own. These sentiments inspired my creation of The Alchymical Zoodiac: A Celestial Bestiary (Imaginarius Editions, 2009) which may be purchased at my website: http://www.winnlederer.com/zoodiacbook/default.htm

Happy Birthday, fellow Virgoans (August 22nd-September 23rd)!