Friday, 17 December 2010

Narcissus

      Painting by Caravaggio

Narcissus in Greek mythology was a hunter who was renowned for his beauty. He was exceptionally proud, in that he disdained those who loved him. As divine punishment he fell in love with his own reflection in a pool, not realizing it was merely an image, and he wasted away to death, not being able to leave the beauty of his own reflection.

In yet another version, a young lad was so enamoured with himself that he stared at his reflection in a pool of water until he eventually turned into his namesake flower. And this is how Narcissus flowers came into being!


     Narcissus recurvus -- Pheasant's Eye Narcissus

I wanted to show you a new drawing I have done of Poet's or Pheasant's Eye Narcissus.  The one above is a much older drawing which I did back in 2007.  This version has remained one of my favourite flower drawings over the years.  It was my first attempt at drawing something without trying to make everything in it reasonable.  In other words, the flowers are just standing there in space without being in a pot or a vase or the ground.  This was the beginning for me of letting go of the traditional technique I had learned years earlier.

When I posted the above drawing back when I started this blog, I just showed it as one drawing among many others.  I did not take the time back then to talk about my flower drawings the way I do today.  So, now, let me tell you a little bit about this variety of Narcissus.

A spring-flowering bulb, Narcissus is the name of a genus which includes flower bulbs such as Daffodils, Jonquils, Paperwhites, etc.  The word, Narcissus, is derived from the Greek word narke, meaning numbness or stupor.  Some attribute this name to the narcotic fragrance of the flower while others debate that it has this name because of the poisonous nature of the Narcissus bulbs. 

The family name for this group of plants is Amaryllidaceae.  Poet's or Pheasant's Eye Narcissus (hybrid Narcissi Poeticus) is one of the oldest and most popular of garden flowers.  It is widely distributed in France and Germany and extends its range to the Pyrenees.  It grows wild there in the upland meadows and is very abundant in June and July.  Evidently, it can be quite a breathtaking sight to see these fields of white blossoms in the bright sunshine and to smell their heavy fragrance on the wind.  The plant has obviously been cultivated and naturalized and is now found in gardens all over the world.

The flowers are called Pheasant's Eye because of the centre of the bright, red-edged "eye".  Medicinally, the powerful anti-cancer properties of this plant were already know by the time of the Greek philosopher, Hippocrates.  He used Narcissus Oil for treating uterine tumours, a practice which was common later in the Middle Ages.  Remember that this is a plant bulb which is toxic enough to possibly kill a person who eats some of it.  Even if you don't die from such foolishness, you will find that it is a powerful emetic -- and you know what that means!  

On a lighter note(!), the so-called Poet's Daffodil (same plant as Narcissus) is cultivated in Holland and southern France for its essential oil as Narcissus Oil is one of the most popular fragrances used in perfumes.  The oil's fragrance resembles a combination of jasmine and hyacinth and is used in such quality perfumes as Fatale and Samsara.  The actual scent of these flowers is so strong, however, that if a person enters a closed room where a large quantity is located, they can develop severe headache and vomiting!

     Narcissus marvel -- Poet's Narcissus

This second drawing is a recent one.  I think this is a "sub-category" of Poet's or Pheasant's Eye Narcissus known as Narcissus marvel.  Once again I have drawn the flowers without locating them in anything.  You can see that the "eye" of this variety is quite different from the Pheasant's Eye drawing I showed to you just after the information about the Greek myth of Narcissus.

By the way, as most of you are aware, this Greek myth has given rise to the psychological description of a condition called Narcissism.  This is self-love carried to such an extreme that a person puts themselves first always and actually believes that their wants and needs come before anything else -- whether their wants and needs are moral or not.  This leads, of course, to extreme selfishness and an inability to love anyone but yourself.  We hear that this is the problem with a lot of people in the so-called "Me Generation"; although, at the same time there seems to be a lot of healthy "We Generation" stuff happening today with our young people.

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Now I want to show you something that happened this past week just in time for my birthday.  I had previously received a request to use my "icon" of St. Bakhita (which I have shown you) in connection with a prayer being published in the Sudan -- designating St. Bakhita as the patroness of abused children.  I am really very pleased by this as I was an abused child (as you know).  This material was published on the blog of the priest running the mission in the Sudan and I have pasted it in below.  See what you think.
[The link for the Sudan blog is at the bottom of the information and the blog is well worth taking a look at.]
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St. Bakhita, Patroness of Abused Children


Posted: 15 Dec 2010 07:00 PM PST




"O God, who looked on your servant Josephine Bakhita with pity and saved her body and soul from her abusers, grant that through her prayers abused children and vulnerable persons all over the world may be saved, and that those in danger of being abused may be miraculously protected and shielded. Amen."



I recently received an email from Sr. Gladys Chikere, OLA, of the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Apostles in Nigeria who works in the area of child abuse and protection. In reading the life of St. Bakhita of Sudan - who was kidnapped, enslaved and tortured as a child - Sr. Gladys felt inspired to promote her as a patroness and intercessor for abused children. She asked that the above prayer be circulated along with the image of St. Bakhita.

I'm grateful to Sallie Thayer of Toronto for permission to use her icon of St. Bakhita (above), and for her link to this blog. The icon and other examples of her work can be found at: http://salliesart.blogspot.com
http://cfrsudan.blogspot.com/

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Now, here are some photos about legs -- no, not human legs but dog and cat ones!  Enjoy these humourous pictures of legs.



Here is a photo of a dog doing something that I would expect from a cat or a monkey!  The legs are so arranged that at first glance it is difficult to tell exactly what is going on.  Even when you figure it out, it is still hard to believe. 


This breed is all legs to begin with, but I had never thought about what they do with those legs when they want to lie down on the sofa for a nap!  I guess he is comfortable even if he looks funny!



Now here we have a cat who must have either been stretching or reaching for something when he fell asleep!  How on earth he has continued to sleep in this position is really beyond me.  However, knowing cats as I do, I am not totally surprised by this photo.  I have seen them fall asleep in some incredibly strange positions.

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Well, I had better get this posting finished and published.  I began working on it last night and here it is the next day at 6:30 p.m. and I am still not finished.  Somehow I have kept getting distracted.  So, I will tell you that Suki and I are both doing fine and are well-prepared for Christmas.  I will write more about what is going on with me when I doing my next posting -- probably the last one before Christmas.
Rejoice, the waiting of Advent is almost over!

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