Calligraphy: unwinding the mystical paths of writing

Writing is a powerful tool, forming a bridge between the world of matter and the one of the spirit. With the invention of writing, the humans can put their fears, desires, war stories, legends... on paper, thus conserving memories of ancient times for future generations.

No matter what graphic forms it took, in ancient times writing was a symbol of supernatural power and divinity. In the East, letters were the only carriers worthy for holy or divine scriptures. The words coming from God were materialization and humans able to perceive the message. There was no separation thinkable between the visual appearance and the meaning of texts unthinkable, comparable as a separation between body and soul.

calligraphy name.jpgcombines all graphic forms of letters, it is the visual art related to writing and derived from the Greek words: “kállos” which means beauty and “gráphein” or writing, to the art of beautiful writing. With water-based ink, pens and brushes, an artistic form is given to letters in an expressive, harmonious and skillful manner. The art has been practiced all over the world, each in its own specific context and meanings. Calligraphy in the past couldn’t be separated with its mystical intentions.

book of kells 1_0.jpgWestern calligraphy is recognized by the use of the Latin alphabet. Starting from the first century, Roman and Rustic capitals were carved on stones or painted on walls. In the second and third centuries the uncial lettering style (or written entirely in capital letters) developed. It was the monasteries which preserved calligraphic traditions during the fourth and fifth centuries, when the Roman Empire fell and Europe entered the medieval period.

The Book of Kells is one of the finest and most famous of a group of manuscripts in what is known as the book of kells 2.jpgInsular style, produced from the late 6th through the early 9th centuries in monasteries in Ireland, Scotland and England. Christian churches promoted the development of writing through the prolific copying of the Bible, particularly the New Testament and other sacred texts.

In the mid-1600s many documents were written, in various hands and skills, sometimes too complicated to decipher according to French officials. After all legal documents were restricted to three hands, namely the Coulee, the Rhonde and a Speed Hand. Whereas most of the writing masters were settled in Rome, and calligraphy was strongly linked with Christianity, the capital moved to Southern France, after the sack of Rome in 1527, a military event led by Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor.

In Eastern cultures letters were full of mysticism and supernatural power. The hieroglyphs were for the Egyptians as a sacred gate to the secrets of the world. They believed that they could create immortality through words and images. Calligraphy was equal to an eternal life and magical power.

49901-ancient-sumerian-clay-tablet-illustration_0.jpegThe Sumerians, being the first society who introduced writing, needed to record business transactions, used clay tablets for writing, not simply because it was an abundant resource in Mesopotamia, but also because the act of writing in clay was a ritual enactment of their myth of creation. They believed that clay was at the origin of life and that man was created from earth and blood.

The Chinese considered every brushstroke of their characters to be the bearer of the soul and spirit of the universe. The art of writing Chinese characters is often misunderstood. The calligraphy is in the first place to be felt, long before it is beingchina calligraphy.jpg read. Another reason is that in the West modern calligraphy means writing in a beautiful manner, in the East they refers to is as "laws of writing" or a “chosen life path”, a sacred knowledge. The history of the Japanese calligraphy can be traced back to the origins of the Chinese civilization.

In the Islamic tradition, a point to a line, light to movement and from Aleph (the first letter of the Arabic alphabet) to the rest of the alphabet. Writing becomes the story of creation itself. In religious texts, calligraphy goes beyond the meaning of the text itself and the beauty of the holy message. Ornamentation is designed to imitate the infinity of God’s creation, a reflection of the reciprocal reflections between the spiritual and material worlds. For many ancient cultural and religious traditions, the world of writing is a metaphor for life: its elements are the creatures and its books the world.

calligraphy west modern.jpgThe number of productions of Western calligraphy declined from the 15th century with the invention of printing. The modern revival of calligraphy began at the end of the 19th century. A contemporary definition of calligraphic practice is about writing and art, in general not linked any more to any religious or spiritual meaning. It’s practiced for private purposes such as wedding invitations, logo design or memorial documents.

In Japanese, calligraphy is called shodou, or “the way of writing”. Unlike its Western counterpart, it is still widely practiced by people of all ages and all walks of life in Japan. Indeed, all Japanese children have to learn the basics of calligraphy as part of their elementary school education.

Calligraphy is an eternal journey inside the human soul. Every explosion of emotion unleashes an immense waves of energy by means of subconscious brush strokes. Shodou  is often considered art within art. An abstract painting or emotional message can never be reproduced. It is alive and immortal, real and untouchable. Calligraphy can also be a medicine for our soul by admiring and writing shoudo. These are activities of meditation and said to be an effective way of prolonging life.

Surrounding yourself with calligraphy, you create peaceful and harmonious atmosphere, an enclave free of worries, sheltered from modern rush, where through aesthetical appreciation you are given a chance to enter an imaginative dimension of peace and tranquility soaked in dreams and passion of the universe itself. (

japan calligraphy.jpgTo write calligraphic characters that reveal truly deep meaning, one must focus intensely and become one with the meaning of the characters they create. To be able to do this, you must free your mind and heart of thoughts and preoccupations and focus only on the meaning of the character. Becoming one with what you create, essentially, is the philosophy behind Zen Calligraphy.



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