Friday, November 16, 2007

Non-Human Neko Avatars in Second Life

These photographs show the 'Neko', a mythical creature who is part-woman and part-feline in Second Life 'mythology'. In fact, in Japanese, 'Neko' simply is a word for cat, but the word has been given mythological connotations in the world of Second Life. The Neko is a popular manifestation in Second life and has developed a very potent reputation in erotic terms. As you can see, however, like all felines, the Neko is a fabulous warrior and can be quite fierce when the mood takes her or circumstances demand a response.

Artists in Second Life have created an entire Neko sub-culture. Cat Trees and Cat Beds can be purchased, along with a multitude of toys and other diversions. There are male and female Neko avatars and even Mice Avatars to amuse them. The Neko is only one character in a very rich and varied non-human array of creatures inhabiting Second Life. After all, the only limit is the imagination and the tools required to create...

One Neko shown here is an 'Urban Neko' who frequents urban Neko haunts. As a Neko, one can have cat ears and tail, a catskin and whiskers if desired. You will see one Neko with wings who is seated in the pose of a Sphinx. A wolf (not an avatar but nonetheless powerful!) prowls nearby. Some tails and ears are XCite-enabled, which means not only that they move in catlike fashion but that a touch by another will excite an actual response, whether positive or negative.

In Japan, the cat has been found in various myths and legends, both positive and negative. The 'Neko-maneki' or 'welcoming cat' is a symbol of good fortune found in restaurants and homes and is taken from an old legend in which a cat warned a nobleman of an impending lightning strike and thereby saved his life. The cat was the Goddess of Mercy in feline form. There are other beliefs, however, of 'ghost cats' and 'demon cats'. It was thought that a cat might become a 'nekomata' or 'goblin cat' if its tail were not severed, a cruel superstition! Any cat mistreated could become an 'obake-neko' or 'ghost cat'. According to another legend, the cat and the serpent were the only two creatures not to shed tears on the occasion of the death of Buddha. The cat allegedly hunted the rat who had been sent to fetch the medicine to cure the Buddha.

In Japan, Cats were believed to possess the power to control the spirits of the dead and to be able to ward off dangerous spirits. A special three-coloured breed of cat was prized especially by sailors who feared the souls of the drowned and who believed that this rare colouration signified a cat with special powers to avert the dangers these unquiet spirits posed.

In Second Life as in our own world, cats possess all the mystique of any graceful and beautiful predator. Many great artists and writers throughout history have written hymns to the Feline. Charles Baudelaire managed to describe the innate sensuality and pride of the cat in a number of poems.

From 'Les Fleurs du Mal':

Le Chat

'Viens, mon beau chat, sur mon coeur amoureux;
Retiens les griffes de ta patte,
Et laisse-moi plonger dans tes beaux yeux,
Mêlés de métal et d'agate.

Lorsque mes doigts caressent à loisir
Ta tête et ton dos élastique,
Et que ma main s'enivre du plaisir
De palper ton corps électrique,

Je vois ma femme en esprit. Son regard,
Comme le tien, aimable bête
Profond et froid, coupe et fend comme un dard,

Et, des pieds jusques à la tête,
Un air subtil, un dangereux parfum
Nagent autour de son corps brun.'

'Come, superb cat, to my amorous heart;
Hold back the talons of your paws,
Let me gaze into your beautiful eyes
Of metal and agate.

When my fingers leisurely caress you,
Your head and your elastic back,
And when my hand tingles with the pleasure
Of feeling your electric body,

In spirit I see my woman. Her gaze
Like your own, amiable beast,
Profound and cold, cuts and cleaves like a dart,

And, from her head down to her feet,
A subtle air, a dangerous perfume
Floats about her dusky body.'

Another poem by Baudelaire about Cats in general:

Les Chats

'Les amoureux fervents et les savants austères
Aiment également, dans leur mûre saison,
Les chats puissants et doux, orgueil de la maison,
Qui comme eux sont frileux et comme eux sédentaires.

Amis de la science et de la volupté
Ils cherchent le silence et l'horreur des ténèbres;
L'Erèbe les eût pris pour ses coursiers funèbres,
S'ils pouvaient au servage incliner leur fierté.

Ils prennent en songeant les nobles attitudes
Des grands sphinx allongés au fond des solitudes,
Qui semblent s'endormir dans un rêve sans fin;

Leurs reins féconds sont pleins d'étincelles magiques,
Et des parcelles d'or, ainsi qu'un sable fin,
Etoilent vaguement leurs prunelles mystiques.

'Both ardent lovers and austere scholars
Love in their mature years
The strong and gentle cats, pride of the house,
Who like them are sedentary and sensitive to cold.

Friends of learning and sensual pleasure,
They seek the silence and the horror of darkness;
Erebus would have used them as his gloomy steeds:
If their pride could let them stoop to bondage.

When they dream, they assume the noble attitudes
Of the mighty sphinxes stretched out in solitude,
Who seem to fall into a sleep of endless dreams;

Their fertile loins are full of magic sparks,
And particles of gold, like fine grains of sand,
Spangle dimly their mystic eyes.'

These poems remind me that there are two very different driving motivations at work in Second Life. There is the desire to explore, which creates a need to travel and experience different places and characters. At the same time, there is a real need to immerse oneself in the experience. This often cannot be achieved if one is too involved in exploration! Like the Cat, one must surrender entirely to relaxation, to quietude and stillness. If one does not stand still, one never will be able to fully BE in another world. Being requires cessation of motion sometimes. The Cat truly comprehends this. Human beings often are far too impatient and far too easily distracted.

No comments: