REVERING THE NATURE -HUMANOID or ANIMALISTIC FORMS

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Post 733 -by Gautam Shah

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$ 20 Bronze man and centaur mid-8th century B.C.

Human and Animal body limb combinations constitute a very large set of images, revered by people across cultures and ages. Remarkably, lone human body forms, were less frequently revered, but the human and animal combinations were revered as deities, minor divinities, magical and mythical figures. These are found as figurines, statues, drawn and sculpted forms, narratives, descriptions, masks, costumes and outfits for performing arts. The personifications include whole body, parts, limbs, static and in-action poses, as stand-alone symbols, patterns, motifs.

24 Michelangelo (1475–1564), The Torment of Saint Anthony (c 1487–88)

The body-limb compounding offered greater potency and exclusivity. In many instances there are multiple anecdotes, how these forms came to be joined together, begotten from ordinary humans and live life like normal human beings. So the form or image was more a symbolic one, either angelic or diabolic, but always a latent super human.

$ 18 Lion_man_photo

In spite of so many varieties of humanoid or animalistic forms, there are no known incidences of compounding with minor insects and vegetation. Vegetation and derivative forms(Green-Man) were part of abstract or non-iconic worship of nature. The Green Man with a foliated head appeared in pagan period across Europe. Deities in Asia, are worshipped against such natural forms, or as related incarnations. Animals are shown in their original shape, usually executing abnormal feats like flying in air, spouting fire, water or poison.

$ 7 Granite statue of the lion-headed Egyptian deity Sekhmet from the temple of Mut at Luxor, dating to 1403–1365 BC,

$ 4 Meresimen Osiris four sons horus

Revering the nature was taking place with the classification of the material world in many part of the world, like, ancient India, Egypt and Greece. These were all real matters, Air, Earth, Fire and Water. These real matters originated as philosophical thoughts, first worshipped in an abstract manner, without any association or identification with human or animal forms. But, over a period of time these were personified in multiple deities, in different regions, at nearly same time. The assigned images and related mythological narratives had a great deal of convergence.

$ 25 Cinese dragon-1116306_1920

The inclusion of a metaphysical element, the sky (space -Avakash) and ether, was a strange thing. The real matters were easier to deify, but a metaphysical element (sky-ether) that could not have any iconic imagery, was difficult to handle.

$ 8 Water Demon Image by Vincedq at in Water Demon at JediMUD Wiki

There have been eulogistic mentions of the basic four/five natural elements, the earth, water, air, fire with later day inclusion of sky or ether.

$ 26 Cellarius_southern_scenographicFXD

The Indian beliefs were elements of nature, as the basis of existence (Sansāra –Sanskrit=world of existence). These elements were self-centred or sufficient (Ātman –Sanskrit=within), complete in own-self. The European conceptualization was of a deified superficial creator. The image as a representative or a formal deity was the belief in the existence of an external supreme being.

$ 21 tree-of-life

There are several instances where the natural elements have deified in the form of animals, birds or humans. Was it because the natural elements had no representable image?

$ 3 Winged Creatures

In various mythologies, there are numerous forms of human-animal and animal-animal combinations. Animal head and Human body constitute a very large set of combinations. These occur as descriptions, in performing arts’ narratives, drawn and sculptural forms. The animalistic or humanoid forms have been used as stand-alone symbols, deities, minor divinities and motifs. Egypt, India and Asia Minor have very large number of such representations. In India Vishnu has several avatars, representing the stages of evolution of life on the Earth. Egyptians have more such gods than purely of human forms.

$ 27 Dasavatar of Vishnu, 19th C Andhra Pradesh, India

Contrary to this, the Greek-Roman mythologies, have Animal body + Human head to dominate the scene. Many such forms gradually disappeared from worship practices with Christianity. But some reappeared with arrival of Goths. These forms, however, continued as part of folklore and performing arts. Some of the features were used to generate satanic scenes and narratives.

$ 16 Basantpur Nepal Kaal Bhairav Animalistic Expressions e83530e7130140c324fc10d8b503506b09e355cc

The ‘Green Man’ with a foliated head appeared in pagan period. The Green Man images occurred in wood and stone carvings in churches, chapels, abbeys and cathedrals in Europe. Green Man remained a mysterious design motif, flourishing with cultural and regional transformations.

1 Animal or Bird Head > Hathor (woman with a cow’s head), Thoth (ibis, baboon, or moon head), Satyrs (goat head), Anubis (jackal head), Siren (bird-woman), Inpu or Anpu (jackal or canine head), Amun (ram head), Bastet (lion or cat head), Horus (falcon head), Sobek (crocodile head), Taweret (hippo head), Avatars of Hindu Lord Vishnu (Matsya-Fish, Kurma -turtle, tortoise, Varaha -boar, wild swine, Narasimha -lion, Vamana -dwarf, Ram, Krishna, Buddha, Kalki, Hanuman (monkey head), Ganesh (elephant head).

There are many combinations of Human and Animal (birds, fish, insects) body+limbs, such as,

2 Animal or Bird Body > Sphinx, Centaur, Greek Echidna (snake body), Harpies (bird body), Minotaur (bull body),

3 Mixed Animal Head + Animal Body > Griffin (Bird head -lion body), Chimera (lion + goat + dragon), Cerberus (multi-headed dog), Hydra (multi headed serpent monster), Pegasus (bird-winged horse), Seth (beast composite of aardvark, donkey, jackal, fennec, fox), Khepri (exclusively beetle).

$ 10 Aztec Serpent Moon God

$ 9 The altar where serpent deities are worshipped in a temple in Belur, Karnataka, India

There were few combination forms which were not venerated, but part of the folklore, such as Mermaid (fish body), Vegetable lamb (plant-animal), Barnacle goose and mandrake (plant-man). The combination forms also reflect mixed progenies, caused by the curse, relations of convenience, or forceful sex. These, however, have scarce stories of origin. To complicate the scene, some transient or fluid forms, such as the Proteus (shepherd of the sea’s flocks or seals) who, changed the character, scale, shape or form, have also flourished.

$ 22 Folklore

Folklore is full of body-form transformations, from humans, plants and animals, into the mammals, birds, aquatic creatures, insects, reptiles, amphibians or plants. Stories, such as, Beauty and the Beast, Metamorphoses (a man into a donkey by Lucius Apuleius), Frog King, Swan maiden, Werewolf or Vampire, are part children’s stories. Few such transformational changes relate to veneration.

$ 11 Buraq an animal said to have conveyed the Prophet Muhammad to heaven in a journey called the Miraj. The Buraq has been described as a white animal, half-mule, half-donkey, with wings

Performance arts have extended the anthropomorphic range, (anthropomorphism involves a projection of human characteristics onto something non-human), because what was not possible to draw or sculpt is acted out with descriptions, sounds, masks and other theatrical effects. Mask allowed transformation into a new character, and freedom to perform sexual acts and ghastly sacrificial acts.

$ 19 puppet-93568_960_720

Animalistic expressions have been morphed on Human characters primarily through masks, makeup, adornments, and descriptions. The demons, Raksasa (India), devils, dragons, Guardians of Doors (China and India), and warriors, etc. are examples of fearful expressions.

$ 15 Thai Golden Garuda Statues httpswww.flickr.comphotoswebel429038960

$ 6 Mosaic Morphed Animal+Human features

Zoolatry is the worship of animals. The Egyptian culture has several anthropomorphic deities, animal and human gods. There are several distinguished classes. The animal was revered as with powers, different and greater than of the human being. 2 The exclusive image of the animal (or bird, etc.), could not have a spiritual connection, and so the image had to be a mix of several animals and with human beings. 3 The common practice was to transplant the head of an animal over the human body, but occasionally head and body of different species were combined, and human head was joined with animal body. 4 The anthropomorphic image was enhanced through elaborate details in the folklore and additional decorations during rituals. 5 Many such images were accepted as tribal benefactor.

Several articles on related Topics have been published in my Blogs.

REVERING THE NATURE – Part-I Human-Plant Lineages https://interiordesignassist.wordpress.com/2020/09/24/revering-the-nature-part-i-human-plant-lineages/

REVERING THE NATURE – GREEN MAN
https://interiordesignassist.wordpress.com/2020/10/02/revering-the-nature-green-man/

860 MASCARON -sculpted human head forms
https://designsynopsis.wordpress.com/2020/10/01/860-mascaron-sculpted-human-head-forms/

720 GREEN-MAN and HUMAN-PLANT LINEAGES
https://designsynopsis.wordpress.com/2020/04/06/720-green-man-and-human-plant-lineages/

703 GROTESQUE or EPIMORPHIC FORMS https://designsynopsis.wordpress.com/2020/03/17/703-grotesque-or-epimorphic-forms/

670 ANIMALISTIC or HUMANOID FORMS in DESIGN https://designsynopsis.wordpress.com/2020/01/30/670-animalistic-or-humanoid-forms-in-design/

658 HUMAN and ANIMAL FORMS in DESIGN
https://designsynopsis.wordpress.com/2020/01/16/658-human-and-animal-forms-in-design/

575 MORPHED HUMAN and ANIMAL FORMS in ARCHITECTURE
https://designsynopsis.wordpress.com/2019/10/09/575-morphed-human-and-animal-forms-in-architecture/

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REVERING THE NATURE – GREEN MAN

Post 722 by Gautam Shah

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Green Man is a mystery that persists through various times, faiths and cultures. Historically the Green Man has appeared in unconnected locations and periods. The unexplained history and purposes are as enigmatic as the combination of human and plant. There are very few human-plant blends in comparison to human-animal mixes. The human-plant combinations have not been deific figures of worship or even reverence. The human-plant mix as Green man has only the characteristic head that is immortalized. It has remained a superfluous motif and never became an integrated architectonic element. Green Man has survived with minor transformations in the same form. The few changes have not been very evolutionary, like the changing forms of Gothic grotesque images. The forms are not easy to mark out for the age or culture.

13 Facade of house at Elizabetes ielā, 10b, by Mikhail Eisenstein 1903

Green man is not set to any particular context, position or location. The facial expressions do not reflect, where it is posited, in corners, over columns, door-heads or under the brackets. Green Man though expresses many different moods, angry reflective, gloomy humorous melancholic, idyllic, cheerful, whimsical, romantic, mysterious, ominous, calm, hopeful, fearful, tense, lonely, etc. Green man is usually interpreted as a positive and benevolent force. The figure is never angelic but always earthly.

Green Man

The Green man is depicted as a masculine face ranging from the middle aged to elderly. It is a strong figure of power, almost like the mythological iron smiths in various cultures. Green man is construed to be a symbol of a rebirth, cycle of growth in spring, fertility or procreation, but without any iconographic evidence. Some have claimed it to be a pre-pagan example of belief system of nature related deities, but again without any mythological trace.

6 Green Man in the presbytery of St. Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, Orkney, ca. twelfth-thirteenth centuries, Norman and Romanesque Wikipedia Image by Wordandsilence1979

Green man has strong lineage to plants, shrubs, climbers or trees. During and before the pagan period, groves of oak and yew trees were places of worship and sacrifices. The trunk, branches and foliage were shaken or cut on ceremonial occasions. The parts of trees, like the trunk, branches, twigs and sap were seen as human arms, fingers, blood etc. The trees were associated with death and rebirth, because of their capacity to regrow from almost dried and dead conditions. The timber of the yew trees as support posts were supposed to ‘outlast a post of iron’. The sacred groves were ideal location for propagating the new belief through the new churches. The ancient sacred groves of trees were maintained in churchyards. Christian Roman priests, during the periods of gruesome spread of Christianity were very suspicious of tree worship. But Green man has manifested in close proximity to the figure of Christ, but not as a deity. It was continuing symbol of life.

25 Face of a Green Man on the north side of the main west entrance of Derby Cathedral, England Wikipedia Image by Parkywiki

Ancient pre-pagan icons of fertility were a forest-god, a symbol of birth-death-rebirth cycles. The forest God was personified as a man, but only as a spiritual presence of nature. He was worshiped in hope of good harvests and symbolically guarded the gate between the real and unreal worlds.

26 The Ancient Religion of the Celts – Celtic Polytheism Imge from https about-history.comthe-ancient-religion-of-the-celts

Celts considered themselves as descendants of trees. Celtic Paganism, like many other regional versions were polytheistic in nature, but with strong reverence for the trees. The identity of a tree was as a benefactor of fertility, albeit a male one and not that of a mother or a Goddess of fertility. The fertility was celebrated with sexual intercourses, during the springs in sacred groves. Trees were more of holy places but not present as deific motifs.

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The Green man is depicted as a face of an elderly man, with a dense backdrop of wild shrubs. Green man image of face has wines and leaves jutting mainly from ears and head, occasionally from mouth, but less frequently from the nostrils. Edges of face and beard are lined by vines and shown bearing flowers and fruits. These images are consistent, though lack literary or other folklore descriptions.

Female Mascarons

There is no evidence of images or sculptures of Green man placed as the main deity or near an altar for worship. Green man images occur as decorative ornament in architecture, doors, columns, wall corners, gates and graves. Green man is found in both secular and ecclesiastical buildings. The ‘Green-man’ became a popular name and emblem for inns, pubs, and public buildings. It is as a mystical character, a superfluous image of just the head. The Green man now had three distinct forms, ‘1 Foliate head, completely covered in green leaves except the eyes, 2 Spewing head, mouth bursting with vegetation, and, 3 Hideous head, sprouting vegetation from all facial orifices’.

28 Acheloos, detail of roman mosaic from Zeugm

From Renaissance periods, Green man began to be included as symbolic emblem on manuscripts, adornments, stained glass and murals. The Green man now literally began to be green coloured. A number of images of the Green Man have been found on graves. The head, in the form of, not a pompous person, but an empty skull suffused with greenery. Green man also occurs as hollow mask of cast plaster and embossed metal, the image may seem a stylized, but with facial expressions set to be relevant to the place and purpose.

Early ‘Green-men’ were known simply as foliate heads. These foliate heads were coined as the Green Men, by Lady Raglan in her article ‘The Green Man in Church Architecture(published in the ‘Folklore’ journal of March 1939).

29 Acanthus Foliage used in Green Man images

Green Men are connected with the acanthus for foliage ornament and decoration. The pattern of foliage leaves and branches, the flow of beard, mustaches and head hair, eyes, mouth, in each motif are different. The sculptor or artist can have different manners of expression but was there an attempt to depict certain type of mood? Some motifs or masks do convey friendly, fierce or pensive emotions, taking away the grotesqueness.

16-17 Rodin

24 Relief_libation_Louvre Votive relief libation to a vegetation goddess. Limestone, Early Dynastic III ca. 2500 BC, found in Telloh ancient Girsu Wikipedia Image by Jastrow 2006

Green deities have been mainly of two types: The deities are placed against a plant or tree to prove their lineage, or the body features such as face, limbs etc. have elemental transplants of vegetation. At another level certain class of persons are respected for their knowledge about vegetation and medicinal value. Greek and Roman gods Dionysus/Bacchus, are considered precursors of the Green man. Bacchus is often portrayed crowned with vines or ivy.

21 The druids; or the conversion of the Britons to Christianit Engraving by S.F. Ravenet, 1752, after F. Hayman

Celtic culture offers, another tree related character, Druid. It was a real one, rather than a concept. Word Druid originates from the Latin word nemus =grove (Nemetona =goddess of the sacred grove). Druid has many mythical connections such as (Breton=drouiz, Welsh=derwydd, Old Irish=druí, Scottish Gaelic=draoidh). In Celtic cultures (like Gaulish, British, Irish), the druid was accepted as social leader and knowledgeable person. He was responsible for divination, worship and sacrifices. The Christians naturally did not approve of such a cult figure. The Druids were not allowed by Christian leaders to document their knowledge of occultism or medicine, as both were more rational and could pose problems. Druids were experts on vegetation and use of natural medicines (almost like Indian ‘Vaidya’). And in spite of Druid’s age seniority, robe and white beard, their identification with the Green man has never been validated.

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The Green One, has continued to be a revered figure, in spite of Islamic dictates against physical deities. Green one has been the mysterious and spiritual guide and protector of all Sufis.

9 Al Kadir Islam

Khidr or al-Khidr =the Green One or Verdant one, also transcribed as Khidar, Khizr, Khyzer, Khizar, is a revered figure in Islam, described in the Quran as a ‘righteous servant of God, who possessed great wisdom or mystic knowledge’. The most popular shrine in Yazd, the Pir-e Sabz =the shrine of green vegetation (perhaps due to the green foliage it), is dedicated to a female figure Anahita (who brings rain and marks the beginning of spring). Worshipers pray for the fertilizing rain and celebrate the greening of nature and the renewal of life.

23 Naqsh-e Rustam investiture of Narseh (r. 293-302), in which the Sassanian king (second from right) receives the ring of kingship from Anahita (right).

10 Immeuble_art_nouveau_(Riga)_(7575658724)

11 Door of the Art Nouveau Building by architect Jules Lavirotte, Sculptures by Jean-François Larrivé

12 Mascarons Mosaic by Miksa Róth at Török Bank [fr] building in Budapest 1906

The Green Man vanished, for a while, from major buildings, but it never disappeared from the psyche of common people. It began to appear, surreptitiously, as street motif, in nondescript buildings and odd corners of restored buildings. Green man became a Mascaron (an ornamental motif of a human face). These were placed on door lintels, heads, to keep off the evil spirits. The motif became a decoration in Beaux Arts and Art Nouveau styles. The face motifs adopted special moods or expressions of the place and context.

7 - 8 Modern Green Men Full body sculptures

This is the Second article of the seriesREVERING THE NATURE

First article was REVERING THE NATURE – Part-I Human-Plant Lineages.

Next Article in this series will be > REVERING THE NATURE – HUMANOID or ANIMALISTIC FORMS.

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