A woolly mammoth (by me) and a poem for winter solstice.
O Winter! bar thine adamantine doors:
The north is thine; there hast thou built thy dark
Deep-founded habitation. Shake not thy roofs,
Nor bend thy pillars with thine iron car.
He hears me not, but o’er the yawning deep
Rides heavy; his storms are unchain’d, sheathed
In ribbed steel; I dare not lift mine eyes;
For he hath rear’d his sceptre o’er the world.
Lo! now the direful monster, whose skin clings
To his strong bones, strides o’er the groaning rocks:
He withers all in silence, and in his hand
Unclothes the earth, and freezes up frail life.
He takes his seat upon the cliffs, the mariner
Cries in vain. Poor little wretch, that deal’st
With storms; till heaven smiles, and the monster
Is driven yelling to his caves beneath Mount Hecla.
William Blake (1757–1827)
In order to keep warm these cold winter nights, I have slaved over a hot computer screen and worked upon rendering my Ice Age horse illustration into a 3D model. He has lost a little weight in the transition, but he is still grassfed and now roams free range in the void of cyberspace. To receive the full 3D experience click the Sketchfab portal below and spin around it.
Happy Winter Solistice!
My painting is a reconstruction of what a horse looked like during the time of the Ice Age based on cave paintings. Representations of horses and other animals were carved, painted and drawn by Upper Palaeolithic artists and grace the walls of several European caves. The most famous examples are found in Lascaux and Chauvet in France and Altimera in Spain.
Cave painting of a horse from Lascaux
This equine image from Lascaux (dating approximately 17,000 years ago) reveals features similar to the Jungarian horse or Przewalski’s horse, which is known as the takhi in Mongolia. It is dun coloured with a big white belly and has a dark brown mane. Other cave paintings also feature horses in their winter coats with long hair around the jaw and hoofs. The frozen body of a Pleistocene stallion known as the Selerikan horse was found in Siberian permafrost in 1968 and its preserved hide confirms the accuracy of the Upper Palaeolithic paintings.
Horse bones have been found in Britain at sites such as the Pin Hole Cave, Creswell Crags, Derbyshire (dating around 50,000 to 45,000 BCE) and Kent’s Cavern, Devon. So far there is not much evidence with regards to art from the Upper Palaeolithic in the UK, let alone equine depictions. A bone with an engraving of a horse’s head, however, was found in Robin Hood Cave in the Creswell Crags. It was originally known as the ‘Ochre Horse’ (dating approx. 13,000 to 11,000 years old) and now resides in the British Museum collections. At the moment, the Ochre Horse is the only piece of Upper Palaeolithic portable art with an animal depiction found in Britain.
Happy Winter Solstice!
As the aurora borealis has been lighting up the skies here in the UK, it is wonderful to find out they are associated with the northern fox in Finland. The northern lights in Finland are called revontulet, ‘Fox Fire’. One Finnish tale tells us that they are the result of a fox up north running through the snow. As it dashes along the fox sweeps it’s tail over the snow which creates sparks that leap into the sky forming the aurora.
The arctic fox also takes on the role of fox wife among the Inuit peoples of Canada and Greenland. Follow this link to a traditional Inuit story about the perils of marrying a fox wife:
Glad Tidings for Winter Solstice. This arctic owl is the prototype for my Yule 2014 card. It also reflects the sombre words of Rabbie Burns’s Winter: A Dirge (an extract):
The wintry west extends his blast,
And hail and rain does blaw;
Or the stormy north sends driving forth
The blinding sleet and snaw:
While, tumbling brown, the burn comes down,
And roars frae bank to brae;
And bird and beast in covert rest,
And pass the heartless day.
“The sweeping blast, the sky o’ercast,”
The joyless winter day
Let others fear, to me more dear
Than all the pride of May:
The tempest’s howl, it soothes my soul,
My griefs it seems to join;
The leafless trees my fancy please,
Their fate resembles mine!
Robert Burns, 1781