April 20, 2012

Dancing With Animals

        Ancient religions all around the Mediterranean and Near East had versions of a goddess called by Homer Potnia Theron, or Mistress of the Animals.  A deity of this type was worshipped because prehistoric and ancient people, just like people today, wanted to have dominion over nature - to make it be warm when they wanted warmth and cool when they wanted to be cool, to have food animals come easily when they wanted meat, and dangerous animals fear them and stay away…  Nowadays we use science to try to do these things for us, but before modern techniques of controlling nature had been devised, we worshipped the Mistress of the Animals.
        Earth Day is this weekend, and I am reminded of a piece I made more than ten years ago concerning the relationship between humans and the rest of the natural world.  When I learned about the Mistress of the Animals in mythology it occurred to me that it's time that we moved beyond our need to dominate animals.  It's time for us to learn a new way of fitting into nature instead of trying to change it to suit our short-term desires.  A modern version of this goddess would show the harmony of creation that should be our ideal.  So I decided to make, instead of a Mistress of Animals, a sort of Dancer With Animals.  The place of the goddess is taken by a human, with a little animal tail instead of wings, to show that she's just another one of the mortal creatures of earth, with whom she dances as an equal.  (True, she's at the center, but after all I am a human and I do see things from the human point of view.)  I wanted all the animals - predators and prey, mammals, birds, insects, and all - to look like they are enjoying being together.
        Happy Earth Day, and may we all learn to dance just a little more lightly on the Earth!

[Pictures: Dancing with Animals, wood block print by AEGN, 1999.]

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