Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Moon & Stars Rocking Chair

I made this rocking chair for my daughter, Brianna, and our new granddaughter, Beth. The chair is wide enough for the two of them to sit together as they read a book together. I also made the chair lower than normal so that my daughter's legs won't dangle as she rocks in the chair.

Brigid, aka "Venus de Mello

I also call this figure "Venus de Mello" because my daughter,Brianna Mello, inspired this piece while she was pregnant with her first child, our first grandchild. While she was in labor I whittled on Brigid on a park bench outside the hospital. At one point I wrapped her up in a towel and walked up to Labor&Delivery to check on the progress, and then back outside. I learned later that I had caused a lock down of the hospital because someone had thought Brigid was a rifle that I was carrying under the towel, and had reported me to Security, who reacted by putting the hospital in lock down. The Labor&Delivery nurse was NOT happy with me!

"Brigid" was banned from an art show in Hartford, CT for being "indecent." To call Brigid obscene seems beyond prudish to me. I removed all of my stuff from the show when they told me to remove her from the building. Here is the story of Brigid.
Brent E. White

Hi Brent,

It was so very nice to meet you yesterday. Your work is brilliant and beautiful and I'm happy to have your pieces in the show. Sharon O'Brien, Director of Integrative Medicine Department will be calling you sometime today. She was worried about the nudity of your sculpture and asked the Vice President of St. Francis Hospital to come and look at Brigid this morning. Well, that Vice President happens to be a catholic nun and she was not happy to see the nude sculpture in her building. So she asked politely to have it removed. I am actually embarrassed about it and am having a hard time believing that she wants your sculpture out of the show. I am so very sorry about this. Would you consider bringing something else in it's place? Sharon O'Brien has also promised me that she will call a number of OB GYN's to come and look at your sculpture before you take it out. She thinks that one of them might be interested in purchasing it. So that's a good thing. Anyway, Sharon will be calling you sometime today about all this. Please let me know if you want to put something else into the show and I will change the price list, etc.

Again, I'm sorry about this and I still can't believe it. Well, that's Connecticut for you - it's very conservative here - much more than I ever imagined!

In Irish mythology, Brigid is known as the "exalted one." She had two sisters, also named Brigid, and is considered a classic Celtic Triple Goddess. Brigid is revered as a goddess of fertility, as well as "a woman of poetry, and poets worshipped her, for her sway was very great and very noble.” She was also a woman of healing and artisty. It was she who first made the whistle for calling one to another through the night. One side of her face was ugly, perhaps an act of self-mutilation, but the other side was very comely. The meaning of her name is "Breo-saighit,” a fiery arrow.

Brigid’s feast day is Imbolc, a Celtic festival marking the beginning of Spring. It has been suggested that Brigid was later Christianised as St Brigid, whose saint day is the same time as Imbolc, around 1 or 2 February.

That St Brigid shares both her name and her feast day with those of the earlier pagan goddess may indicate that Saint Brigid is partially or entirely a fictional creation based on the pagan figure in order to convert Celts to Christianity. The rationalizing of pagan figures and mythological accounts into actual historical events was a common practice of early Christian missionaries, such as St Patrick, whom religious accounts credit for turning Brigid from paganism to Christianity - or the real-life saint may merely have been named after the goddess.

In the Christian tradition, St Brigid is at times known as "the Patroness of Ireland" and "Queen of the South: the Mary of the Gael." In addition, St Brigid is highly venerated by many Eastern Orthodox Christians as one of the great Western saints before the schism between the Eastern and Western Churches.

In this figure of Brigid, the intwined arms and legs represent the entwined pagan and saint Brigid. The seeing and the blind eyes represent enlightenment and ignorance. The golden-ratio swirls on her belly and breasts represent the pagan triad and christian holy trinity. The turtile and Kokepeli represent Polynesian and Native American fertility symbols in their respective spirituality. The Flower of Life adorns her back. The Tree of Life, with branches outlining the face of a god-figure, embraces Brigid with its shade, and she springs from it’s roots as if in rebirth. Is she reaching for forbidden fruit?.

Saint Brigid was not given to sleep,
Nor was she intermittent about God's love of her;
Not merely that she did not buy, she did not seek,
The wealth of this world below the holy one.

Christ was made known to men
On our island of Hibernia
by the very great miracles
which he performed
through the happy virgin of celestial life,
famous for her merits
through the whole world.


Dasher, The first of Santa’s reindeer in the series of: The Twelve Days of Christmas
I donated Dasher to Ocean Tides, a boarding school for "at risk" boys in Rhode Island for their annual fundraiser. I'll be carving the others of Santa's team of reindeer, to donate to Ocean Tides, over the next several years (how many reindeer does Santa have?).

As a woodcarver of wildlife-themed carousel figures, the graceful form of deer has long enraptured me. During my first New England Christmas, while reciting “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” caprice urged me to learn more about reindeer, and whimsy compelled me to begin carving one. The long mane and oversized antlers of the male reindeer are just too cool, and are a lot of fun to “free-form” carve. With Epiphany approaching, and while whistling “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” I had an epiphany - the “coffin-box,” (hollow) structure of a carousel figure would lend itself very well to the carving of a pattern through the wooden shell and into the void within … and verses from “The Twelve Days of Christmas” would be a good theme for this endeavor. So while shaping one of Santa’s “eight tiny reindeer,” I began brainstorming about how to meld the themes of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” and “The Twelve Days of Christmas” together in my woodcarving. For starters, rather than making one big sleigh to go with the reindeer, perhaps I could fashion rockers as a base (it has a ‘stop’ to keep it from rocking) for the reindeer that would evoke thoughts of Santa’s sleigh. Eight reindeer, twelve days of Christmas, hmmm … well the first through eighth days would have to be combined in pairs, while the ninth through twelfth days could stand alone. OK, here is the plan for Santa’s eight reindeer and the twelve days of Christmas’s (to be donated to Ocean Tides Boy’s School for their fund-raisers):

“Dasher” is “Two Turtle Doves & a Partridge in a Pear Tree.”
“Dancer” will be “Four Calling Birds & Three French Hens.”
“Prancer” will be “Six Geese A-laying & Five Golden Rings.”
“Vixen” will be “Eight Maids A-milking & Seven Swans A-swimming”
“Comet” will be Nine Ladies Dancing.”
“Cupid” will be “Ten Lords A-leaping.”
“Donner” will be “Eleven Pipers Piping.”
“Blitzten” will be “Twelve Drummers Drumming.”
While working on “Dasher,” I pondered the symbolism of Christmas. The “flaws” in the palms of the antlers, which at first had so upset me, began to look like stigmata. Holly, so commonly associated with Christmas, would make a good “crown of thorns” for Dasher. The black “tear tracts,” so common in the animal kingdom (check out your dog or cat – I’ll bet you they have them) could represent sorrow for the suffering of Christ on the cross. The “Twelve Days of Christmas” is a song about the twelve days between Christmas and Epiphany and is all about symbolism. Some people contend that it was a mnemonic device to teach the catechism to youngsters. The "true love" mentioned in the song is not an earthly suitor, but refers to God Himself. The "me" who receives the presents refers to every baptized person who is part of the Christian Faith. Each of the "days" represents some aspect of the Christian Faith that was important for children to learn. I thought that, perhaps more importantly, as I hope to convey through my woodcarving, Christians can celebrate their rich heritage through more than one avenue at Christmas. “Twas the Night Before Christmas” speaks to the innocent child within us all. “The Twelve Days of Christmas is not merely a secular "nonsense song," but also a way to remind us of the grace of God working in transforming ways in our lives and in our world. After all, is that not the meaning of Christmas?


The Partridge in a Pear Tree is Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, whose birthday we celebrate on December 25, the first day of Christmas. In the song, Christ is symbolically presented as a mother partridge that feigns injury to decoy predators from her helpless nestlings, recalling the expression of Christ's sadness over the fate of Jerusalem: "Jerusalem! Jerusalem! How often would I have sheltered you under my wings, as a hen does her chicks, but you would not have it so . . . ." (Luke 13:34)
Two Turtle Doves are the Old and New Testaments, which together bear witness to God's self-revelation in history and the creation of a people to tell the Story of God to the world.
Three French Hens are the Three Theological Virtues: Faith, Hope, and Love (1 Corinthians 13:13)
Four Calling Birds are the Four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, which proclaim the Good News of God's reconciliation of the world to Himself in Jesus Christ
Five Gold Rings are the first Five Books of the Old Testament, known as the Torah or the Pentateuch: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, which gives the history of humanity's sinful failure and God's response of grace in the creation of a people to be a light to the world.
Six Geese A-laying are the six days of creation that confesses God as Creator and Sustainer of the world (Genesis 1).
Seven Swans A-swimming are the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: prophecy, ministry, teaching, exhortation, giving, leading, and compassion (Romans 12:6-8; cf. 1 Corinthians 12:8-11)
Eight Maids A-milking are the eight Beatitudes: Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake. (Matthew 5:3-10)
Nine Ladies Dancing are the nine Fruit of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22)
Ten Lords A-leaping are the ten commandments: You shall have no other gods before me; Do not make an idol; Do not take God's name in vain; Remember the Sabbath Day; Honor your father and mother; Do not murder; Do not commit adultery; Do not steal; Do not bear false witness; Do not covet. (Exodus 20:1-17)
Eleven Pipers Piping are the eleven Faithful Apostles: Simon Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James bar Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, Judas bar James. (Luke 6:14-16). The list does not include the twelfth disciple, Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus to the religious leaders and the Romans.
Twelve Drummers Drumming are the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostles' Creed: 1) I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. 2) I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. 3) He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. 4) He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell [the grave]. 5) On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. 6) He will come again to judge the living and the dead. 7) I believe in the Holy Spirit, 8) the holy Catholic Church, 9) the communion of saints, 10) the forgiveness of sins, 11) the resurrection of the body, 12) and life everlasting.

Twas the Night before Christmas Poem

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"