Memmori School of Thought
November 6, 2018
In 2018 I began searching for another use of my Hamlet Series Skull and Crossbones. I was struggling with finding tangible meaning to assign to it that would be held with equal value by others – no easy feat.
During my struggle, I learned about two spiritual ravens in Norse mythology named Muninn and Huginn at Disney Epcot while waiting in line. According to myth, these two spirits soared around Midgard (Earth) collecting knowledge for Odin. These two reminded me of characters I came up with during a Creative Grab Bag project – Daydream and Nightmare – or, rather I imagined them to be somewhat like the two as I envisioned them.
So, how did two mythical ravens get me to an imaginary school?
Muninn and Huginn are also known as Memory and Thought. Muninn, or Memory, I equated to be like a Nightmare. Memories haunt us like bad dreams sometimes. Even the sweetest of them in retrospection can cause us pain when we’re remembering something or someone that we’ve lost. Where as Huginn, or Thought, I equated to be more like Daydream. Thoughts aren’t real and don’t hold weight until we act on them. Imagination is fueled by thought, and while thoughts can certainly cause us harm, most of our thoughts are not of harm – yet they can harm us if we choose to stay absent in the physical world to stay present in the fantasy one that we create in our minds. During this period of discovery, I kept being faced with the fact that my artwork was macabre, a sort of style and content that was very niche. Meaning – to me – that very few people like it, fewer still want it, and least of all does anyone want to buy it. But I gave up on making money with my artwork when I realized that it wasn’t for anyone else, but really it was for me. The release of my inner child’s observations and trauma.
Being that I accepted my artwork was macabre. I decided to focus on the Memento Mori subject matter, which works great for skulls and crossbones and is very cathartic for my less than happy thoughts. A funny thought crossed my mind about it. What if other people, the ones that are in the niche group, had something to belong to – together. What if we could have all been a part of a group of some sort. This thought was explored with my Obscuro project, which was mostly a retail store specializing in the obscure and the magical with a secret bar for members only. The key to being a member… you have to reveal your innermost, deepest, darkest secret to all the other members. Thereby releasing it and continuing membership by guiding another into the dark to seek the light.
Twisted? Maybe a little. Into the dark, to seek the light? Where can a light be most effective, if not in the dark. It’s through the dark that we are guided to the light, or in other words – we must embrace our own dark sides as part of us to be whole.
Then I realized, my way of thinking is a way of thinking. Just as light itself exists on different frequencies, and appears in different colors of the spectrum, thoughts and ways of thinking can be different and yet originate from and arrive at the same place – God.
So that was it – my new goal was to find a way to share my way of thinking, to share my emotional knowledge and philosophy through my art in the memento mori style. And the idea of a school was born. But I couldn’t start a school. I work in education already, and I have no want for the responsibility of a school. Rather, a school in the mind, or a school of thought to guide others. Muninn and Huginn guided me to an idea. Memmori, (mem-mori) which sounds a lot like memory, School of Thought was born.
Memmori is meant to be a way of thinking, or a School of Thought. Memmori is “Memento Mori” shortened; the Latin phrase for “Remember Death” or in other words, remember that you must die. The idea was to keep death and the eternal afterlife ever present in mind to help steer our choices and personal interactions. Perhaps once used to keep us in-line with strict biblical laws of the puritans and less about a life with a “Carpe Diem” attitude, but for my intents and purposes, it’s a reminder that as long as we’re living we might as well make the best of life, because – after all – you will die. It is inevitable. Nothing here is forever. But, less “Carpe Diem”, and more like… “if today is my last day on Earth, is this bad attitude worth wasting final moments on, or as long as he/she is still alive, there is a chance to be forgiven, to be loved, and to still make things right between us…”
Since Muninn and Huginn lead me to the inspiration for the school, I used the color schemes I associated to Nightmare and Daydream from my Creative Grab Bag project for the school’s colors. My skull and crossbone symbol finally found a home, reconfigured into a mascot for the school; the Phantasms!
But that alone did not settle it for me. I released the start of Memmori on my IG account, back in November 2018, but it wasn’t ready yet. Still not, really; or maybe I am not ready yet. What to do with this idea and how to continue fueling it escape me, but ready or not I’ve been moving forward allowing it to kind of form itself as the idea blossoms into reality.
A few months back I began having strange dreams. The kind that you wake up from and have a hard time deciphering if it was real or not. I started seeing myself as dead, a spirit that was non-material and unfinished on Earth. I desperately wanted to get home and I found a way to be brought back. I saw the Earth, whole with many swords puncturing it from all angles. Something compelled me to draw one from the Earth, and in so doing I knew I would be reborn there, from where I drew it. In the dream, I believe I would pick up life from where I left off, but after drawing the blade I found myself in a cave, far from home in space and time. The blade I drew looked ancient and it disappeared from my hand into the cavern wall. I emerged from the cave onto a battlefield with many dead and wounded soldiers. They wore armor and clothes that lead me to believe I was in India, a century back in time. Then I woke up.
The idea of all of what transpired in the dream felt so familiar that I searched for the sword I saw. A part of me imagined, “What if that was Excalibur?!” but, the closest I’ve seen to what I recalled in the dream was one discovered that left historians baffled; a 13th-century medieval sword with a curious inscription. Then of course I searched more, and learned of a sword from Toledo, Spain that found its way to India. Naturally, now I cannot find the article, but as my memory recalls, the blade of the sword was on a merchant ship that was raided in or near India. The blade, at some point, was fashioned into a sword and made it’s way into a prince’s collection, 1 of 3 famous swords (though it seems to now be non-existent online). Why did this story stand out to me? Well, I’ve been told all my life by my great grandmother that we she, and thus we, are descendents of Spanish Explorer Juan Ponce de Leon. Since I was young I was fascinated with the idea that I was indeed a descendent of the discoverer of Florida and I fantasized about visiting Spain. In my teen years, I had a fascination with swords and blades, and learned of Toledo, Spain being the epitome of sword manufacturing in Europe, if not all the world. Given that I had this dream, and my prior fascinations, I thought it was an incredibly odd coincidence that there was a sword, in India, that came from Toldeo, Spain that is presently missing.
Swords were and are still a huge fascination for me, and after the dream I thought about using a sword in my artwork for something. I tried to recall the use of a blazing sword in the Bible, as I remembered there being something about an Angel that wielded one. As I researched on, I read some interpretations of the passage Genesis 3:24. God sent an Angel with a firey sword to guard the Tree of Life and block man out of the Garden of Eden. The sword could not be stopped by anything, and it meant certain death for man, until God sent Jesus to hold the sword and make a way for mankind to return.
That felt like something. So I created a blazing sword, though I had no idea what I would do with it. I literally just made a sword on fire and called it just that – as if it were a thing all on its own.
I searched for a meaning to it. I tried to figure out what it could mean for me, what it could be… then I got hit with another inspiration. I turned toward my husband and I asked him if he recalled how many universities and colleges, even high schools, use the Flame of Knowledge, as a torch in their seals or emblems. He did. So I asked him, what if I used a flaming sword for mine? His eyes lit up and from his expression I knew I found a purpose for it. The blazing sword that protects the Tree of Life, is the Flame of Knowledge. For to know and appreciate life, we must know and understand death. And in that spirit, I crafted a seal for Memmori.
I used the Latin terms from my Salutis! project as they held meaning and value as the principles for what I believe Memmori stands for: Serenitatem Accipere, Mutare Animo, Scire Supientian – Serenity to Accept, Courage to Change, and Wisdom to Know. These fragments taken from what I believe is the best prayer ever conceived, the Serenity Prayer, written by Reinhold Niebuhr circa 1933.
Naturally, there are more meanings embedded in the seal, but for the moment I’ll leave those as mystery for your imagination to sore off with.
My plan is to make one post of month on IG with words of wisdom based on the Memmori concept. I’m still compiling the first 12 posts, and once I have them fleshed out, I’ll start releasing them – so keep your eyes open on my IG for more to come from Memmori | School of Thought.