Monday, 6 April 2009

Putting a Face to a Name

Pagan statuary, like pagan art, when it comes to actual deity is woefully disappointing. Either nothing exists at all or it is represented by something akin to a bob of resin made to look like stone. Vile. I have spent some time today looking up suppliers of statuary – for reasons I will soon ramble on about – and most sites make me cringe. There tends to be the one artist I think churning out bucket-loads of the same crap and selling it on to all the pagan outlets prowling the internet. There are a few problems with it for me; on one hand some are terribly executed even when copying an existing and often ancient representation such as this 'homely' Lillith (the poor thing, look what they have done to her!), or the statues have a face.

This is the main stumbling block for me; gods with faces. I cannot connect with something that looks like a person or has a clearly human visage. The gods to me are faceless, clearly anthropomorphic yes, but they don't have faces. They don't on the other hand have a blank space where features should be, it is just that they don't need faces. Faces belong to people, specific persons and the gods to me are more than that, they have transcended what it is to be a person. Paradoxically though they do have personalities and characters unique to themselves it is just that it is represented in deeper ways than a face. So, yes, I dont like faces on my statuary beyond perhaps a simple representation of even something abstract.

Now on to the point I touched on and promised to come back to; why statuary. I'm a physical kind of guy, perhaps if I went in for astrology I would say it is typical of my being a Taurean though as it happens I don't at all go in for astrology – another day, another blog, another rant I guess – which I am willing to bet someone will tell me is another Taurean trait. If they do I will stuff their birth-chart up their Uranus in Pisces. So, I like having physical representation in some form whether it be a picture or an image. They act as a focus, a point at which to begin a journey. A trigger for the mind and the body. I have been giving thought to the idea of the stature becoming the house for a piece of the god themselves, much like in Hindu temples where the statues are seen to be inhabited by the gods in a manner of speaking (to the point of be closed away for a nap in the afternoon – bless 'em). So, by keeping and tending a shrine with a statue of the god you are tending to a part of them, nourishing and communicating with the god directly rather than speaking into the ether. In this way the object itself becomes divine, becomes deeply sacred in much the same way Christian relics so I guess. This the opens the possibility for incorporating the statue and the god into rituals; either by bathing and scenting with incense or perfumes, feeding and addressing as a physical manifestation of the divine. This idea, this notion and its implications speak deeply to me. They strike me as being worthwhile and important, they strike me as being things I can myself do as part of devotional work especially in the context of disciplined and formulaic ritual work as I was talking about recently.

Then I saw some images on
Bo's blog, and was inspired. These to me capture perfectly deity in a very personal way. Capturing the anthropomorphic feel and lacking the features that would tie them to a specific 'person', yet conveying perfectly their nature and essence; eliminating the background hiss to give a crystal clear image. Gods know where he find these pictures on the internet.

So I got to thinking if a similar objective can be achieved with a picture as with a statue.

I am still thinking on it.


Anonymous said...

Not sure if it helps but when I went looking for deity statutes I moved outside the pagan paraphernalia altogether.

My first 'statue' was an artists jointed model (all 18 inches high) suitably faceless and pose-able to my tastes.

My current Goddess statute is from the local garden centre. she too is faceless but the pose works for me, including a lap (as she's kneeling)for leaving small offerings.


The Heron's Stare said...

Yes I see what you mean, and I agree that most of the tat hawked around pagan fairs and on the web is pretty dreadful stuff. Whatever you use has got to be resonant for you in some way. Something you can build a relationship with. My garden shrine has as its main feature a carved wooden horse's head. That works for me. Hope you find a picture that works for you.

Bo said...

oops, I must have driven you mad with all the astrology i've been doing! This was good stuff.

Lee said...

Bo, i still read it avidly, i just happen to look on with a sceptical mind. not quite in the league of you perusing the OBOD boards at times im sure :)

Bo said...

Well, you haven't accused me of having 'a garish history of mental instability' yet!

Algernon Misanthrope said...

Dear Lee,

What a fabulous site! It's truly wonderful. My wife has come up with a wonderful manner of finding appropriate imagery for our pagan ways. Not being particularly happy with the somewhat tawdry excuses for statues that abound in the pagan sector, my wife turned to pre history and molded some very simple very crude statuettes based on Magdelinian period primitive art such as the Venus of Willendorf etc. The crudeness of the shapes and the simpllicity of the lines and make them most powerful figures. I hope that's somewhat of a help for you! Good luck in your quest!