A tale of a tapestry
By Jessica Cohen, the creator of Feline Oracle
When I was a little girl, a neighbor who babysat me had a tapestry in their living room that was a copy of a medieval one in France. I was enchanted by the hunting scene; all its plants and animals and the details of the people’s clothes filled me with wonder. It was like a window into another world.
One afternoon, I noticed that the four corners of the tapestry had winged figures, who seemed to be watching like I was.
There was an angel, an eagle, a lion, and a cow. I asked Allen, whose house it was, who they were and what they meant, but he had no answer. I became obsessed with the feeling that they were somehow important and held secret meaning. It was a message from long ago and I couldn’t read it. I had a learning disability that made reading very hard for me, but art had always been a place where I felt I understood. I could “see” the story, even if I could not read the words.
Over the next few years, I saw the same images appear every once in a while in books and in museums. They were sometimes on objects, but still no adult had an answer for me. I would whisper the sequence over and over to myself so that I would not forget. It was my mystery, a private treasure map that I was following.
Almost 20 years later, I was in art college. I had spent all the years up until then reading stories of all kinds. I knew all the Greek, Celtic, and Norse myths. Folklore and fairytales were my bread and butter. I was steeped in myth and symbol. It was in my first art history class that the slide came up in the dark classroom. I felt a chill. For the first time in years I saw and remembered the mystery and heard the words in my own child’s voice: “Angel, eagle, lion, cow.” As the instructor went over the artist, the patron, and the story the painting depicted, I was vibrating. I could barely wait for him to stop speaking so I could raise my hand. When the time came, he answered, “They represent a tetramorph, a symbolic arrangement of four differing elements. In this case, it’s the four evangelists. Matthew is a man, Mark the lion, John the eagle, and Luke the ox. Sometimes, as they are shown here, they have wings.”
This was how I came to love glyphs, sigils, and symbols of all kinds. This was the birth of my love of visual storytelling, and the first gateway into my fascination for the occult and divination. My artwork is driven and steeped in these ancient traditions. By understanding the visual lexicon of our past, I navigate my way through to the future.