Emblem books were collections of wisdom sayings, of reminders of what was true in earthly life, of cues for how to conduct yourself while you were here. Emblems were similar to other forms of picture language, such as heraldry, playing cards or the tarot deck (which last appears about the same time as emblem books).
But while these other picture languages have “closed” vocabularies—a limited number of pictures or elements with which to make pictures—emblems are “open.” This suggests that as a language they’re adaptable to the changing times.
Also while other image-based systems are all image, emblems are usually made of a picture accompanied by a text. Each emblem is one thing, but has two natures. They form a link between the immediate perception of reality that responds to pictures– the right brain– and the abstract representation on which language is based associated with the left brain.
In this regard emblems are a lot like dream work, which translates the images of the dream into statements so that we can reflect on and integrate their meaning into our lives. They’re also like what each of us does every day, when we turn our experiences into stories in order to talk about them, and by talking about them form them into orderly images. It’s how we make sense of our experience. How we convert it into memories so that it doesn’t disappear.
The emblems on this site are drawn from the images and tropes I make use of in my private psychotherapy practice. They describe behaviors, tools for change, issues, stories and potential outcomes that come up in the work of therapy. Please note, these are some of the tools of my profession and are not examples of any client’s private material.