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Monthly Archives: December 2019

SYMBOLS OF FAITH

For many years my art practice has been based on exploring belief systems including rituals, celebrations, icons and symbols associated with those systems.

I have been intrigued with places of worship in the different places and cultures that I have interacted with and these influence much of my production, mixed with aspects of my culture.

My journey to Inner Mongolia reopened an intrigue with a series of symbols that have interested me for several years, leading me to create a small drawing and further research on the symbols.

In Ordos I was taken to a dinner hosted by local government officials and presented with a blue scarf called a Khata. Embedded into the scarf is a series of eight symbols called Ashtamangala. It was a pleasant surprise to be reintroduced to the Khata and the eight auspicious symbols that I had first seen in the Beijing Yonghe Lamasery in 2002 and in many Tibetan Temples and Monasteries in 2013.

I had received a white Khata in Tibet with the same embedded symbols.

The silk Khata is used and worn at many ceremonial occasions, including the arrival and departure of guests. They are usually white to symbolize purity and compassion; however, Mongolian Khatas are generally blue representing the sky and are often tied to altars, shrines, stupas, rocks and special trees.

The eight auspicious symbols of Buddhism are a Conch Shell, a Lotus, a Wheel, a Parasol, an Endless Knot, a Pair of Golden Fish, a Victory Banner and a Treasure Vase.

I have often seen these symbols painted on walls, on hanging banners, as three-dimensional icons on altars and as large sculptures in temple courtyards.

This is a very brief description of the symbols according to various Internet searches and text collections that I have on file.

The Conch represents a trumpet and at the same time associated with the three conch like lines on the neck of Buddha symbolizing Buddha’s melodious voice and uplifting message.

Much can be read on the left and right spiraling conch that cause echoes of the message to spread in all directions.

The Lotus on which Buddha sits represents the progress of the soul or the journey from darkness to enlightenment.

The Wheel of three parts, hub, rim and spokes is a circle, which is recognized as complete in itself. The rim represents limitation; the hub is the world axis and eight spokes being the Eightfold Path leading to cessation of all suffering.

The Parasol symbolizes the dome of the sky and its function is the casting of a Protective shadow.

The Endless Knot is a closed ornament of intertwined lines. It represents the interplay of opposing forces as in cause and effect. As the pattern composition is closed on itself with no gaps the form is of simplicity and balanced harmony. With no beginning and no end it symbolizes infinite wisdom.

The Golden Fish usually appear standing vertically with their heads turned towards each other. They represent two great rivers, which in turn symbolically represent the lunar and solar channels.  They also symbolize fertility and abundance as they swim in pairs and happiness due to complete freedom in water.

The Victory Banner is an emblem of the Buddha’s enlightenment, heralding triumph of knowledge over ignorance.

The Treasure Vase is a round, full-bellied lidded vessel with a large jewel on top. It is associated with storage of treasures. It is a vessel that is perpetually full attracting wealth, harmony and spiritual abundance. It does not diminish however much is given away.

 

More information on Ashtamangala and the eight auspicious symbols can be easily found on the internet.

Welcome to Walter’s blog

Welcome to Walter Magilton’s new blogspace on the Stony Creek Studio website.
Walter will be posting content about his interests and aspirations in the coming months.
So, watch this space!

Stave Churches in Norway

During my research for our recent Norway trip, I came across the Borgund Stave Church as a must-see sight.

What is a Stave Church (stavkirke) in comparison to the great Cathedrals, like Nidaros Domkirke in Trondheim?

The name derives from the building’s structure of post and lintel construction, a type of timber framing where the load-bearing ore-pine posts are called stafr in old Norse (stav in modern Norwegian).

Stave churches belong to a particular period in Norwegian history. Built between 1130 and 1350 when the Black Death finally brought an end to any new buildings. Approximately 1,000 of the timber Stave churches were erected but only 28 of the Norwegian ones remain. This is due to the establishment of the Society for the Preservation of Norwegian Ancient Monuments founded in 1844 to preserve the nation’s cultural heritage.

The best-preserved Stave Church is in Borgund. Although we did not visit it, we had a tour and introduction of the Hopperstad Stave Church stated to be one of the oldest and dating to around 1140.

A stave church could take up to five years to complete, as the timber has to be seasoned on the root of the tree, drawing the tar to the surface. It would then be felled and worked to form the building’s parts which could be up to 2,000 separate pieces.

The base elements consist of staves (posts) which are assembled as rigid frames then raised into the upright position. The foundation is stone which eliminates rot, as the timber has no contact with the earth. All of the components are pre-made, and the travelling craftsmen move from site to site preparing the separate parts then within a few months the church is pieced together like a meccano set. The whole church is then painted with tar to preserve the timber. The tar was not made of crude oil,but coaxed out of charcoal after a lengthy process of burning wood in artificial mounds until a black molasses would ooze out.

As the community grew a larger modern church was built and as Hopperstad was no longer used for regular worship it was sold to the society in 1880 for NOK 600 (about AUD 95).

The Hopperstad restoration was based on the Borgund Stave church adding the external gallery, that protects the outer walls and portals.

Stave church interiors were highly decorated, and we saw an excellent example at the Rodven Stave Church built about 1300.

Generally, it was standing room only in the nave, men on the right and women on the left, with the occasional inbuilt bench seating along two side walls for the elderly and infirm.

Rodven Stave church included an extra wall at the rear of the nave where convicts and lepers could view the service through holes in the wall at various heights.

At the Norsk Cultural Folk Museum in Oslo we saw the Gol Stave Church, originally built in Hallingdal around 1200. Gol Church was relocated in 1881 by King Oscar II through the encouragement of the Society for the Preservation of Norwegian Ancient Monuments.

This church has ornate wooden carvings on door surrounds and an internal altar painting.

Due to the establishment of the Society for Preservation many of Norway’s historical culture and heritage buildings are preserved and continue to be cared for throughout the country.

With thanks to information accessed from brochures, Lonely Planet and Heritage Times.eu