Thursday, May 14, 2020

Art Contest – Midsummer 2020

Art by Eric Matzner (Canada), Adult First Place Winner, Midsummer Art Contest 2015


Welcome to The Norse Mythology Blog's ninth worldwide art contest! Although there was a Midwinter Art Contest in 2019, there hasn't been a Midsummer Art Contest since 2015. If you decide to enter, please be sure to carefully read the entire Contest Theme section so that you understand the assignment.

During the summer solstice on June 20, those of us in the northern hemisphere will experience the longest day and shortest night of the year. This may seem early in the season, but it’s really the middle. From this point on, days will get shorter as we slowly move back towards winter.

Throughout Northern Europe, there are local traditions that celebrate midsummer. Some of these practices preserve very old rituals. Your original piece of visual art should capture the midsummer spirit.

I strongly suggest doing some reading and research on myth and folklore before you begin your artwork. What characters and concepts can you discover? Can you think of a way to relate them to the contest theme?

If you need some ideas about mythology, browse The Norse Mythology Blog Archive. You can also click here to check out the past Midsummer Art Contest winners in the three categories: kid, teen, and adult. Most importantly – be creative!


Your artwork entry must somehow relate to the myths of the World Tree and the celebration of midsummer.

During this difficult time under the shadow of the coronavirus, community is more important than ever. With so many schools and businesses shut down, with parks and beaches closed, and with baseball and other sports in limbo, it's all too easy for people to drift out of touch. It's vitally important for us to spend time reaching out to each other, to put in the work necessary to maintain our unfortunately divided communities.

In Norse mythology, the roots and branches of the World Tree connect the nine worlds. It's a powerful symbol of interconnectedness, of the many ways that all of us are in this together. The Norse myths portray the World Tree connecting not only humans but also gods, giants, dwarfs, elves, animals, water, earth, sky, the living, and the dead.

Your job in this contest is to find something about the World Tree that speaks to you and inspires you, then combine it with some aspect of midsummer as you create your own original work of art.

Art by Sheoaka F. (Australia), Kid First Place Winner, Midsummer Art Contest 2014

To get you started on your art project, here is how the Icelandic author Snorri Sturluson describes the World Tree, the cosmic ash tree, in his Edda (c. 1220).

The ash is of all trees the biggest and best. Its branches spread out over all the world and extend across the sky. Three of the tree's roots support it and extend very, very far. One is among the Æsir [gods], the second among the frost-giants, where Ginnungagap ["magical void"] once was. The third extends over Niflheim ["dark world"], and under that root is Hvergelmir ["bubbling cauldron," a spring], and Nidhogg ["hateful striking one," a dragon] gnaws at the bottom of the root.

Beneath the Roots

But under the root that reaches towards the frost-giants, there is where Mimir's well is, which has wisdom and intelligence contained in it, and the master of the well is called Mimir ["rememberer"]. He is full of learning because he drinks of the well from the horn Gjallarhorn ["loud horn"]. All-father [Odin] went there and asked for a single drink from the well, but he did not get one until he placed his eye as a pledge.

The third root of the ash extends to heaven, and beneath that root is a well which is very holy, called the well of Urd ["what has happened," but also "fate"]. There the gods have their court. Every day the Æsir ride there up over Bifrost ["shimmering path," the rainbow bridge].

Animals of the Tree

There is an eagle sitting in the branches of the ash, and it has knowledge of many things, and between its eyes sits a hawk called Vedrfolnir ["wind pale"]. A squirrel called Ratatosk ["drill tooth"] runs up and down through the ash and carries malicious messages between the eagle and Nidhogg. Four stags run in the branches of the ash and feed on the foliage. Their names are Dain ["dead"], Dvalin ["delayer"], Duneyr ["downy ears"], and Durathror ["nap thriver"].

And there are so many snakes in Hvergelmir with Nidhogg that no tongue can enumerate them.

Caring for the Tree

It is also said that the norns that dwell by the well of Urd take water from the well each day and with it the mud that lies round the well and pour it up over the ash so that its branches may not rot and decay. And this water is so holy that all things that come into that well go as white as the membrane called the skin that lies round the inside of an eggshell.

The dew that falls from the tree on to the earth, this is what people call honeydew, and from it bees feed. Two birds feed in the well of Urd. They are called swans, and from these birds has come that species of bird that has that name.

[adapted from translation by Anthony Faulkes]

Three of the Old Icelandic mythological poems in the Poetic Edda mention the World Tree. You many notice that these excerpts are a bit difficult to understand without referring to Snorri's explanations.

Völuspá ["prophecy of the seeress"]

An ash I know there stands, Yggdrasil ["steed of the terrible one," of Odin] is its name, a tall tree, showered with shining loam. From there come the dews that from in the valleys. It stands forever green over the well of Urd.

Grímnismál ["sayings of the masked one"]

Three roots rest on three roads from under Yggrasil's ash. Hel [ruler of realm of the dead] dwells under one, under the second the frost ogres, under the third the men of mankind. Yggdrasil's ash endures adversity more than men know. A stag nibbles it above, yet at its side it is rotting – Nidhogg undermines it from beneath.

Hávamál ["sayings of the high one," of Odin]

I know that I was hanging on a windswept tree nine whole nights, wounded with a spear and given to Odin – myself to myself – on that tree of which no one one knows from roots of what it originates.

[adapted from translation by Ursula Dronke]

There are many tales of Norse mythology that you can read to inspire your entry. A good place to start is by reading Children of Odin by Padraic Colum, which retells the major Norse myths and legends in family-friendly form. You can download the book for free from The Norse Mythology Online Library; it can be found in the Retellings and Reinterpretations section.

You can do any of these things:

1. Illustrate some version of the World Tree and some aspect of midsummer
2. Illustrate the feeling of the World Tree and midsummer
4. Create something inspired by the World Tree and midsummer
5. Draw something connecting the World Tree and midsummer to other characters or concepts from Norse myth and Germanic folklore

You must do this one thing:

Include a short explanation with your entry detailing how your work relates to the World Tree and midsummer


In this contest, Marvel Comics characters are NOT considered part of Norse mythology or folklore. Art with imagery from comic books or movies will NOT be accepted. Do some reading and research on myth and folklore, then base your imagery on what you learn.


I am very proud to announce the judges for this year's Midsummer Art Contest. These two are both extremely creative and insightful people, and I'm really glad that they agreed to participate this year. The three of us will judge the entries together.

Dom Reardon
I've been a big fan of Dom's artwork since it first appeared in the UK's legendary weekly comic 2000 AD back in 2002 and in its monthly companion the Judge Dredd Megazine in 2006. Dom has a truly unique and instantly recognizable style of black and white illustration that can be lyrically beautiful, deeply creepy, and shockingly horrific.

Dom Reardon's cover art for 2000 AD Prog 1447 (9 November 2009)

With writer Gordon Rennie, he is co-creator of Caballistics, Inc., a long-running series in the pages of 2000 AD that was introduced with this memorable blurb:
During the Second World War a department was formed within the Ministry of Defence to combat Nazi occult warfare. In the 21st century, however, it has long outlived its usefulness and its funding is scrapped. Enter reclusive millionaire rock star Ethan Kostabi, who has brought up its employees and, together with a handful of freelance ghosthunters, constructed a brand new outfit – Caballistics, Inc.

But the forces of the supernatural are not the only enemies that this disparate group have to tackle, for within the heart of Caballistics, Inc. are dangerous secrets that threaten to tear the organization apart...
I have to confess that, at one time, I had a deep and painful crush on the character known as Miss Hannah Chapter. The brilliant series was full of twists and turns, horror and heartbreak.

With writer Rob Williams, Dom co-created the spooky supernatural western series with the impressive title The Grievous Journey of Ichabod Azrael (and the Dead Left in his Wake) that began in 2000 AD back in 2010. It told the twisted tale of a dead gunslinger determined to get back to the land of the living in order to be reunited with his true love. Along the way, the series intersected with Greek and Christian mythologies, along with many other strange developments.

In addition to other work in 2000 AD and the Judge Dredd Megazine, Dom has illustrated Vachss: Underground for Dark Horse and The Power of Five: Raven's Gate for Walker Books. He's also done artwork for the Wizards of the Coast games BattleTech and Magic: The Gathering. Back in 2004, he was named "Best New Talent" in the British Comics Awards.

In March of this year, Humanoids released the new original graphic novel Nicnevin and the Bloody Queen. In the tradition of British folk horror, the supernatural murder mystery features art by Dom, Jock, and Matthew Dow Smith.

You can learn more about Dom by clicking the hyperlinks above and following him on Twitter.

Utkarsh Patel
I'm very happy to have someone with Utkarsh's expertise and passion for mythology judging this contest. He teaches comparative mythology in the Department of Sanskrit at the University of Mumbai. His courses, workshops, lectures, and panel appearances have focused on Norse mythology, Greek mythology, and many aspects of Indian mythology and folklore.

What may be even more impressive than his fluency in multiple mythologies is his dedication to discussing the meanings of myth for those living now. He has spoken on the relevance of myths, how media transforms myth, ethical dilemmas in mythology, the interaction of mythology and religion, and re-envisioning ancient myth for today. He has also presented TEDx Talks on "Mythology and Feminism: A Case for Subaltern Narratives" and "Management and Mythology."

Cover of Utkarsh Patel's Shakuntala: The Woman Wronged (2015)

Utkarsh's first novel was Shakuntala: The Woman Wronged, which retells the story of a heroine from the Sanskrit epic Mahabharata from a feminist perspective. The follow-up Satyavati retold the tale of another strong woman from the Mahabharata. His latest book is Kannaki's Anklet: An Epic from the South of the Vindhyas, which retells the the story of the heroine of the Cilappatikaram ("tale of an anklet"), the oldest Tamil epic poem.

Utkarsh has a strong online presence that includes This Is Utkarsh Speaking (on myths and their analysis) and his main website. He's co-founder of The Mythology Project, which aims to "dig into this rich cultural stockpile, piecing together the puzzle of our existence through archival collections, by researching living myths and traditions and conducting public lectures, workshops and courses for adults and children." He also hosts the "Mythology Comes Alive" series on YouTube for Saregama Music.

In addition to all of these places, you can also find Utkarsh on Twitter.


There will be three winners in each of the following categories:

Kids: Age 12 and under
Teens: Age 13-19
Adults: Age 20 and up


1. Art must be done with crayon, marker, paint, pen, pencil, or digital materials.
2. Original art only; no photos or collage.
3. Art must be kid-friendly; no nudity or violence.
4. No copyrighted characters. Let’s leave the Marvel Comics to the professionals!
5. One entry per person, please.


Send an email to that includes the following:

1. Your full name (kids can give first name and last initial)
2. Your age (as of June 13, 2020)
3. Your location (city, state/province, country)
4. A short description of your artwork explaining how it relates to the World Tree and midsummer
5. Your scanned artwork (as an attachment)

Seriously, don’t forget to include your art as an attachment!


11:59 p.m. (Chicago time, CDT) on June 13, 2020


Dom, Utkarsh. and I will be judging the entries based on creativity and relation to Norse mythology. Do some reading, do some thinking, and make something original!

Contest winners will be featured on sites and pages of Norse Mythology Online

The three winners in each age group will be featured on the many sites and pages of Norse Mythology Online:

The Norse Mythology Blog

The Norse Mythology Facebook Page

The Norse Mythology Twitter Page

The Norse Mythology Pinterest Page

Your art and your description of it will be posted on all of the above outlets and will remain permanently in the The Norse Mythology Blog Archive.

June 17: Kid winners announced
June 18: Teen winners announced
June 19: Adult winners announced

Good luck to everyone!

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