Sunday, March 31, 2013


Why do we need mythology in a modern world?
A Story.... Imagine a rider on an elephant. Our logical brain, the "thinker" is the rider. The emotions are the elephant. If rider tries to direct the elephant to a place where the elephant doesn't want to go, the rider will quickly tire from the effort and give up. We have had that experience, where in spite of all of the best intentions and the logical reasons to do (or not do something) we fail in some endeavor - whether it is weight loss, saving money etc. The elephant overpowers the rider and grabs the cupcake! Or buys the shoes! The key is to get the elephant and the rider to work together - where the powerful emotions are in alignment with the logistical talents of the rider. (paraphrased from "Switch - How to Change When Change is Hard" by Chip & Dan Heath)

 "Chukka Shoes at JC Penny" by Melissa Klein

Mythology and symbols can access the subconscious brain in deep ways that can words simply cannot! The linguistic area of our brains is located in the frontal lobes, mostly on the left hemisphere, but the emotions which drive our behavior is in the deep, "primitive" areas of the brain - in the area of the amygdala. Visual images and symbols have a direct access to our emotions. We have emotional responses to color and symbols can encapsulate whole idea systems - for example, consider these symbols: a cross, a Star of David, a swastika. They all evoke powerful emotions, and have moved people to great lengths - for good and bad. 

"Making Waves" by Melissa Klein

But.... What if you are not a part of an organized religion or your religion doesn't use your symbol system?
I believe that people already know what is special to them. Many people have certain symbols that have had special meaning for them throughout their whole lives - it's often an animal, but it can be other things - a ladybug, a pair of shoes, a mermaid etc. We develop these symbols and attach strong emotions to them - and go to great lengths to find them. And when we do - we light up. Like, finally! I have found what I need! We are starved for those images. But sometimes it's hard to find just the right illustration of what is your symbols, and the right combination - that works with your environment and personal style. 

"Harvest" by Melissa Klein

I strongly identify with horses, but many of the images of horses are well, kind of cheesy. I still like them, but my tastes have evolved from being a kid, and in my 40's those horse posters just don't look good anymore in my living room (although the plastic figurines are still kinda cool!). 

"A Great Breakfast with Friends" by Melissa Klein

I want something with more depth that reaches beyond the beauty of the animals to what they mean - the freedom, strength, courage and wisdom that I have learned from them.  Luckily because I'm an artist - I can create the painting that I want to see, and often it feels like I am making the image that I need to see. These images help me navigate through my day and help reassure me during difficult times. Many times I've had someone buy a card or print of a horse and she will say "I don't even know why I'm have to have this! I'm afraid of horses and don't ride." When I point out that the for many people horses symbolize freedom - seeing her face light up with an "Aha! That's what it is." is just magic.

"Apex Rides the Sun" by Melissa Klein

Please tell me… What symbols and totems hold magic for you? I'd love to hear!

Thanks for reading!

"Dream Catcher" by Melissa Klein