Monday, November 19, 2007

Beasts of Myth and Legend

Here is a mythical creature known as a 'Taurosaur'. He exudes power and dark authority as well as very overt masculinity. Western Europe, since the triumph of Christianity, began to label any creature of this sort instantly as 'evil', a 'demonic' presence rather than one devoid of any moral connotations.

The ancients were less judgmental in their perceptions. Animals to them were symbols of power and natural abilities. Each animal had his/her own attributes. Humans in many ancient cultures believed that animals were not their inferiors. In fact, animals were perceived often as teachers or mentors.

In old Scandinavian cultures, the 'berserker' or 'bear-shirt' warrior was famed for his fearlessness and ferocity. Apart from the berserkers, there were warrior cults who followed the wolf. Siegmund and his son lived as wolves in the forest for a number of years, as described in the Nibelungenlied. Native Americans from the Plains Tribes had similar traditions. Chinese martial arts styles are named after the animals they mimic. Rather than dismissing the animal kingdom as nothing more than a source of food and provisions, ancient cultures often respected and revered the behaviour patterns of other species.

The Minotaur of Crete originally was not a monster in the contemporary sense but rather a protagonist in an ancient sacred ritual. The Bull in fact was a symbol of kingship and godhood. Dionysius himself took the form of a Bull on occasion. The 'bull from the sea' in the legend of the Minotaur may in fact have been Dionysius, as one of his manifestations was that of a young bull who emerged from the sea.

The Bull is both a sun and lunar symbol and a symbol of virility. The horns of the Bull represented the phases of the Moon and often ancient depictions of the Bull show him wearing the disc of the Sun between his (lunar) horns.

The primary religious purpose of the Bull generally was not sexual in nature but sacrificial. The Bull was designated as an acceptable substitute for the king or god and would be sacrificed in his stead.

Before Christianity gave the 'devil' horns, a tail and hooves, those attributions were perceived as befitting almost any god. Although the Neolithic 'shaman' figure found on a cave wall may not be that at all, there still is some evidence in favour of the theory that magical and kingly power has been attributed to the bull and the stag from time immemorial.

The 'devil' himself as depicted in early Christianity originally was the god Pan. Lucifer from biblical legend was Venus, the 'Star of the Morning' and the highest of all the angels. It is dangerous to divide good from evil when dealing with deities. Their existence cannot be measured according to human rules.

Even in a world of the imagination like Second Life, however, people tend to be limited by old prejudices. An avatar who sports black wings can be mistaken for a 'demon' and actually attacked for being evil... irrespective of his actions or demeanour. If we wish to operate outside our human limitations, we first must expand our consciousness and free it from bias. There is no point in walking in another skin if our consciousness and perception are immune to change.

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