Monday, March 24, 2014

Altering Iconography

I found a sea shell on Long Beach and my uncle helped me make a small hole in it to pass a string through. It was my first piece of jewellery outside the traditional gold baptismal cross and the ubiquitous blue eye of the sea / evil eye talisman of the Levant. These two symbols, eye and cross, co-exist around many a Hellenic neck, orthodoxy and paganism intertwined.
    I like a cross large, and swinging like medallions should. I've had metal ones, woven leather ones, wooden ones. I'm ok with the cross, not so okay when they have a tortured man affixed to them but I can live with that. I've collected religious iconography since adolescence. I kept an alter of my own design in my bedroom since then. It has moved around, now living semi-neglected over my fully neglected work table. My altars always held Christian, Pagan, Buddhist, Hindu, SF & F icons as well as assorted found items that resonate with me. My painted lead Ral Partha figurines, meant to enhance role playing games, live on my altar today. So does my collection of Magi. The best parts of any nativity scene are the three wise men of the east. Zoroastrian Wizards come to say hey to baby human potential. Magi, magician. My plastic baby Jesus in his manger is surrounded by plastic allies. A witch doctor rattling his shrunken head wand, a great ape standing in for the one true king, Kong. A unicorn has come into the circle. This magic beast has come into it's own in recent years as a true archetype, leading the kids to achieve their dreams no matter what society says about which way they need to swing, medallion or not. There's also a black panther & red fox - guardians for the left and right. Caveman bearing his club stands tall and makes sure no one comes tumbling in neglectful of the ancestors.
    Today, if I was to pray, I'd pray to a triumvirate of powers. The Animals, The Ancestors, The Angels. I think whatever can be cobbled together today of my fractured spirituality can be somehow symbolized by one of these 3 powers. Us humans are part all of that. We would be remiss to neglect one or two or three of these aspects of ourselves and of the living world. Animals & Ancestors are self evident to most people, even the faithless rationalists. Angels, though, tend to be discarded as remnants of some prior world view. I view them as they are, intelligences of planetary, solar or cosmic scale.
    I hung the shell around my neck but the string twisted and the shell edges were sharp and prone to snapping. The shell was retired. I adopted a black string a few short years later, with 3 wooden beads, 1 plastic one and a small metal spring. I wore this day in day out for a decade. I always appreciated the natural side by side with the artificial, a New York Dolls of urban decay decor. It must be somewhere in one of my leather pouches filled with the magic of my youth. The ultimate fate of these collections remains unknown. Part of me wants to trot them out as capital A Art. Not some contrived object but the real deal, the stuff I put together long before I knew someone somewhere could rationalize it as contemporary art. I may bury them in the woods along with other ritual objects no longer in use. Blades, chalices, shadowy books, robes, cords, discs, rings. Buried deep, bundled strong. Sure some stoner may stumble on them, all the better. I'll make sure they've been properly cleansed, rendered inert. If someone needs to use the tools of the ancestors they can do so in good conscience. Only a fool would do so rashly.
    Maybe I'll combine all these details into the body of a statue, left to gather moss on some lawn of future home, greeting all the curious visitors, winking a blind eye to those who see. Come visit, drape a home-made necklace around the satyrs' neck.