Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Dropping Ecstasy? Minoan Cult and the Tropes of Shamanism


Myself and a colleague, Sam Crooks, have a new article out in Time and Mind: The Journal of Archaeology, Consciousness and Culture on Minoan cult and its possible shamanistic characteristics. Cult scenes illustrated in miniature on administrative stone seals and metal signet rings from Late Bronze Age Minoan Crete are commonly interpreted as “Epiphany Scenes” and have been called “shamanic.” “Universal shamanism” is a catch-all anthropological term coined to describe certain inferred ritual behaviours across widely dispersed cultures and through time. This study re-examines evidence for Minoan cultic practices in light of key tropes of “universal shamanism,” including consumption of psychoactive drugs, adoption of special body postures, trance, spirit possession, communication with supernatural beings, metamorphosis and the journey to other-worlds. It is argued that while existing characterisations of Minoan cult as “shamanic” are based on partial, reductionist and primitivist assumptions informed by neo-evolutionary comparative ethnologies, shamanism provides a dynamic framework for expanding understandings of Minoan cult.  It is of course understood that while this study is a careful, informed analysis of the evidence, it is but one interpretation among others. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Greece (Crete and Cyprus) is the Word







My PhD thesis, which is provisionally titled “The Cultic Life of Trees: What Trees say about People in the Prehistoric Aegean, Cyprus and Israel,” involves both an iconographical element and an archaeological component. The main goal of my research project is to investigate the meaning of images of trees within ritual situations depicted on Minoan and Mycenaean (prehistoric Crete and Greece ca. 1700–1450 BCE) stone seals, gold signet rings and frescoes. I am therefore studying two categories of evidence: images of proposed tree-cult rituals as depicted on gold rings, seals, clay sealings and frescoes held in museum collections, and actual three-dimensional archaeological sites situated within the landscape that have been proposed to correspond to the glyptic imagery.

I was awarded the Jessie Webb Travel Scholarship in 2013, but did my travelling in the first half of 2014. Beginning in Greece in January of that year, I was based at the British School at Athens for a month and a half but also spent a week at the British School at Knossos (Crete). During this time I undertook research within museum collections, at archaeological sites, and within libraries. 

I started off with an appointment at the National Archaeological Museum of Athens where I was able to visually examine, handle, photograph and draw Minoan style gold signet rings and stone seals relevant to my PhD thesis. Because my appointment was during a time when the museum was closed to the public (a Monday) I also had the opportunity for an uninterrupted view of all the displays in the Bronze Age gallery. I was accompanied by the curator of the Bronze Age gallery, Mr. Costas Paschalidis, and a conservator who were extremely helpful and accommodating. While in the study room of the museum I was also fortunate to network with Minoan archaeologist, Ina Berg, from Manchester University, who happened to be there and whose work I have cited in my thesis. On other occasions, while in Athens, I examined Minoan Style gold rings and ceramic figurines from Minoan peak sanctuaries in the Benaki Museum and the Museum of Cycladic Art.

I was also able to visit the sites such as the Temple of Hephaistos in the Athenian Agora which, while chronologically later than the scope of my thesis, is of interest in regards to understanding the feasibility of growing plants within rock-cut pits, as proposed for the garden at the Minoan palace at Phaistos, discussed below. I also visited the Athens Acropolis, reputed to have had a sacred olive tree, and the Cave of the Nymphs, both of which are important examples of urban sites that incorporated natural features and housed supernatural figures symbolic of trees (nymphs). I also visited the Panhellenic rural sanctuaries, Epidauros and Delphi, thought to derive from Minoan-style rural sanctuaries and which also both have Mycenaean era remains, as well as the important Bronze Age palatial site of Mycenae.

I alternated excursions to museums and sites with studying in the libraries of the British School and the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. During this time I worked on aspects of my thesis including both revision and editing of the presentation of my data, and on chronology and interconnections between the regions examined within my thesis. I also networked with other scholars at the British School, and attended talks hosted by the British School as well as the monthly Minoan Seminar hosted by the Athens Archaeological Society.

In Crete I studied the Minoan frescoes in the newly re-vamped fresco gallery at the Herakleion Museum, as well as figurines, ceramic vessels and other votive offerings from peak, rural and cave sanctuaries on general display. I hired a car and drove to Sitea in the east of Crete where I viewed the ivory pyxis from Mochlos in the Sitea Museum which is of extreme importance to my thesis and which is not yet properly published. In addition I visited the palatial sites of Knossos, Mallia, and Phaistos where gardens that may have incorporated sacred trees are reputed to have been. The purpose was to examine the locations around the palaces that previous scholars have claimed for “gardens” – all of which are speculative and unproven. In particular I was looking at the most commonly taken for granted claim for a garden at Phaistos – a rocky area which incorporates tiny pits – which on examination I was not convinced by.

Other urban sites I visited included the villa of Haghia Triadha near Phaistos where a famous larnax depicting trees in prominent cult contexts was found; Gournia where a baetyl which may have once been accompanied by a tree, as suggested by iconography, is located; and Vathypetro where there is a strong possibility that stone foundations are those of the elusive “Tripartite Shrine,” often depicted in iconography as being surmounted by a tree. I also visited the peak sanctuary of Jouktas twice to view its ashlar shrine, again a structure that within iconography is often topped by a tree, and the rural sanctuary of Kato Syme, a cult site that remained active from the Bronze Age to the Roman period and where, during the Archaic period, the god Hermes was associated with trees, possibly indicative of a continuation of Bronze Age cult.

After Greece I went to Austria, for the 15th International Aegean Conference, Metaphysis: Ritual, Myth and Symbolism in the Aegean Bronze Age, held in Vienna. A paper I had co-written with Sam Crooks and Louise Hitchcock, “Numinous Tree and Stone: Re-Animating the Minaon landscape,” was presented. Of course I went to all the museums and art galleries I could whilst there. A big highlight was seeing the famous Paleolithic figurine, the Venus of Willendorf, and my favourite Northern Renaissance painting of Adam and Eve by Hugo van der Goes.

Then from Austria I went to Cyprus where I stayed at the Cyprus American Archaeological Research Center (CAARI). My time in Cyprus was spent visiting regional archaeological sites and museums, visiting the main museum in Nicosia, and studying in the CAARI library. I hired a car and drove to the Sanctuary of Apollo Hylates at Kourion, where I studied the rock-cut pits thought to have contained trees. I also went to Lemba, Paphos, Palaepaphos-Kouklia, Kalavassos, Choirokoitia, and Kition – the main highlight being the aniconic cult stone of Aphrodite in Palaepaphos-Kouklia. In addition to southern (Greek) Cyprus I also went to Turkish Cyprus in the north, to Maa Palaikastro (which I could not find) and Enkomi (which somehow I did find). The largest amount of Cypriot Cylinder seals have been excavated at Enkomi.

As well as visiting regional museums I spent a lot of time in the Nicosia Museum looking at Late Bronze Age cylinder seals. Unlike the rest of the Near East, Cyprus has a lot of surviving cylinder seals, but practically no surviving sealings, or imprints on clay of those seals. This has led scholars to suggest that Cypriot seals were not used for administration but were talismanic. I also looked at ceramic vessels that had been decorated with (now disintegrated) wooden rollers, thought to be evidence of the use of seals for actual sealing, contra the above. I also studied votive miniature copper ingots, and possible evidence of male figures holding full sized oxhide ingots in the vicinity of trees on Mycenaean vases, a scene that appears also on Common Style cylinder seals. Other vases of interest included another Mycenaean example depicting what is thought to be scenes of pillar worship. The Cyprus Museum in Nicosia has many wonderful objects, including half the terracottas from the sanctuary of Ayia Irini, the other half of which are in Sweden. At the Bank of Cyprus Cultural collection I also saw intriguing wood evidence from Bronze Age copper mining.

From Cyprus I then returned to the British School at Athens where I mainly worked on my thesis in the library, having visited the Athens museums extensively when I was there earlier. I attended several archaeological lectures and meetings hosted by various organisations in Athens, including those put on by the British School, the Archaeological Society of Athens, and the Aegaeus Society. I also worked in the library of the American School of Classical Studies, next door to the British School.

I also went back to the British School at Knossos, hired a car and went to various sites. Particularly interesting was Archanes, which I visited in order to study its position in regards to Jouktas, the largest and most important peak sanctuary in Crete. This was useful because I was able to determine that Archanes was situated in a direct line west from the peak sanctuary which must have been a deliberate placement that linked the Minoan villa at Archanes with the most important cult site in the region.

I also studied the position of the cemetery of Phourni Archanes in regards to Jouktas, determining that it as well was deliberately placed in proximity to the peak sanctuary. The settlement of Archanes must have been situated within a wider cultic landscape that intersected with the palatial site of Knossos in the north. The sanctuary site of Anemospilia, on the north flank of Jouktas faces Knossos. These sites are important because the may prove to be the cult places where the cult scenes in the rings I am studying turned out to be enacted. In addition to peak sanctuaries I also visited the cave sanctuary of Psychro in Central Crete.

Fortunately, since my last trip to Crete in February during which only the frescos and a small amount of other objects were available to see in the Heraklion Museum, by the time I was there again in May the whole museum was open, after having been closed for many years. I consequently went several times to the museum because now all the important material is on display. Particularly important for my purposes were the gold and bronze rings, the stone seals and the clay sealings. Especially interesting for my thesis was the ability to look closely as the clay sealings in order to determine just how much of the mages on the sealings was visible – not much! Because when studying Minoan glyptic one tends to look at drawings of the sealings, it was very enlightening to see exactly how small they were, the degree of breakage, and the visibility or not of the images. Althoguth the sealings were tiny and their images hard to see, better lighting of the glyptic display would improve their presentation.

In addition to looking at tiny sealings I was also able to study other objects relevant to my thesis such as the Haghia Triadha sarcophagus, the Zakro Rhyton, the Mallia vase featuring cats under a tree, and many other important object and images. Whilst in Crete I also went to INSTAP, the Centre for Archaeological Research in Eastern Crete, where I was taken on a tour of the facilities (and to lunch) by the head conservator, Kathy Hall. From Crete I went to the island of Naxos to view an important seal which was, however, extremely difficult to photograph because of the abysmal lighting in that museum. At least I could see it; I just could not photograph it very successfully. Finally, I went to the island of Santorini in order to look at the archaeological site of Akrotiri and the frescoes in the museum. One of the buildings in particular at the archaeological site, Xeste 3, had important frescoes depicting cult scenes that I discuss in my thesis. The frescoes are not on the walls now, and are still being conserved, but it was useful to look at the building they were originally in.

The Jessie Webb scholarship emabled me to work in the regions that I am studying in my thesis: Greece, Crete and Cyprus (I have been to Israel several times on other occasions), and to investigate two particular apects of those places: the spatial and the iconographic. Without this trip I would not have been able to see and handle important Minoan Style gold rings and stone seals and visit palatial and cult sites in Greece and Crete, or examine Cypriot glyptic evidence, sanctuary sites, and the use of trees within metallurgy. In Crete it was particualry enlightning to personally view the relationship between the villa of Archanes and the peak sanctuary of Jouktas, in conjunction with viewing an important funeral cache from Archanes that includes one of the most important Minoan rings depicting a cult scene.
 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Witch Head Nebula


As we approach another sabbat, this is a reminder of how beautiful our universe is.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Trance-former/Performer

 

I'm attending the joint annual meeting of the Society for Classical Studies and the Archaeological Institute of America in New Orleans from January 6 to 11th 2015 (really excited to finally be going to New Orleans!). I'm on a panel called Greek Shamanism Reconsidered, and I'm presenting a paper titled "Trance-former/Performer: shamanic elements in Late Bronze Age Minoan cult". Here's the abstract: 


The religion of Late Bronze Age Minoan Crete was characterised by several features that can be termed “shamanic”. These include ecstatic trance, dialogue with spirits, divine possession, the traversing of other worlds within a tripartite vertical cosmology, and therianthropic metamorphosis. Such activities were publically performed at cult sites situated upon mountains and within caves, as well as at urban locations. In addition they were engraved upon gold signet rings and stone seals, thus the events were both recorded and advertised through the multiplication of images associated with the Minoan administrative sealing process. Initially interpreted in the early twentieth century as blanket depictions of possession, Minoan cult procedure was characterised as involving the ingestion of psychotropic substances, the arrival of a possessing deity in the form of a bird, and the subsequent possession of the human participant – all of which manifested in frenzied dancing signifying a loss of control (Evans, 1901). Later scholars modified this diagnosis of possession, suggesting that rather than being “out of control” the scenes depict altered states of consciousness in which participants underwent non-ordinary bodily states but which were not necessarily characterised by the loss of control suggested by the term “possession” (Morris and Peatfield, 2002). Analysis of “shamanic” activity within Minoan religion can be more precise however. This paper argues that, along with images of classic ecstatic possession, glyptic art also depicts scenes of entasy in which spirits appear outside human figures, soul journeys to different realms, and the subjective trance experience itself. Three types of evidence will be used to support this contention: glyptic art, architecture, and the Minoan landscape. The main focus will be on miniature glyptic scenes on gold rings and stone seals. These depict images in which male and female figures exhibit extensive motor behaviour such as dancing and violently shaking trees, and alternately calm, contemplative visionary states whilst leaning over baetylic stones. Human figures also communicate with tiny airborne human and animal figures, see hovering abstract forms, and undergo possession by, and subsequently enact the role of, deities. These performances occur within the natural landscape, at peak or rural sanctuaries, in caves, and at urban sites. Scenes depicting the subjective trance state, shapeshifting, metamorphosis and therianthropic hybridisation will also be analysed. Architectonised versions of peak and cave sanctuaries such as stepped platforms, tripartite shrines, column shrines and pillar crypts, which evoke the idea of a central world axis through referencing trees, pillars and mountains, and incorporate the vertical cosmology of the Minoans within an urban environment, will also be examined. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Deciphering the Witches' Sabbath


Readers of London pal, Ethan Doyle White's, blog Albion Calling, may have seen the recent interview with Professor Ronald Hutton there in which he, among other things, discusses his book on Shamanism. He says there were two reasons why he wrote a book on Shamanism, the second reason being "Carlo Ginzburg's promotion of a universal archaic shamanism as a key influence on early modern images of witchcraft." We all know who Carlo Ginzburg is, right? Author of books useful to modern Witches such as The Night Battles, originally published under the title I benandanti, and particularly Ecstasies: Deciphering the Witches' Sabbath, originally published as Storia notturna: Una decifrazione del Sabba.
 
Ginzburg's work is often cited by Pagans as some sort of "proof" regarding Witches that counters Hutton's and other sceptical Witchcraft historians' work. But there is no need to polarise the approaches. It's not really an "either-or" situation. Historians of Witchcraft - including Ginzburg - are discussing this, that is Ginzburg's theories of Witchcraft, and there are published results from the Harvard Colloquium Nocturnal Histories: Witchcraft and the Shamanic Legacy of Pre-Christian Europe. I have a copy of this if anyone wants it.
 
The history of Witchcraft is an ongoing project, and as you can see from Hutton's latest interview there is some pretty interesting scholarship fermenting away right now at Bristol. (Can't wait for that!) Anyway, the main purpose of this blog post is to direct readers to an interesting review essay on Ginzburg by Perry Anderson at the London Review of Books (yes its old, but still worthwhile to get an understanding of Ginzburg's methodology), also a review of Storia Notturna (from 1990, and only partial unless you subscribe, but still interesting). 

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Artifice of Daedalus: Modern Minoica as religious focus in contemporary Paganism

 
 
 
I have a paper in the upcoming conference, New Antiquities: transformations of the past in the New Age and beyond, happening in Berlin in June 2014.
 
The conference focuses on the twentieth century surge of fascination with the religious culture of the ancient Mediterranean, whose allure was appropriated in innovative ways by various actors and movements ranging from Rudolf Steiner to Goddess-cult(ure)s, from Neo-Gnostics in Brazil to the Russian New Age.

In these diverse interpretations and productive misunderstandings of antiquity, ancient gods, philosophers, religious specialists, sacred institutions, practices, and artifacts were invoked, employed, and even invented in order to legitimise new developments in religious life. Focusing on the contemporary period (from the 1960s to the present day), the goal is to identify these appropriations and changes of ancient religious life. Conference papers will address transformations of the past in the literature and cultural discourse of the New Age and beyond, extending into movements such as Neo-Paganism and Neo-Gnosticism.

My paper is titled: "The Artifice of Daedalus: Modern Minoica as religious focus in contemporary Paganism", and this is the abstract: 

That human society was peaceful, matriarchal and goddesses-worshipping during the Upper Palaeolithic period (45,000–10,000 years ago) until around 3000 BCE with the rise of patriarchy is a common belief within both the modern feminist Goddess Movement and contemporary Paganism. This gynocentric utopia is thought to have reached its height during the Neolithic period (ca. 9500–4000 BCE) but subsequently degenerated, its “last flowering” occurring during the Bronze Age in Minoan Crete (3000–1450 BCE) where it was eventually extinguished by the patriarchal Mycenaean Greeks.

This paper examines the representation of Minoan Crete within the literature of the feminist Goddess Movement from the 1970s up to the present day. In addition it investigates the utilisation of outdated and erroneous interpretations of Minoan religion within the separatist feminist practice of Dianic witchcraft, the predominantly female pursuit of goddess tourism and pilgrimage, and the formation of the male-only Neo-Pagan group, the Minoan Brotherhood. Analysis and critique of the interpretation of Minoan material culture by these groups demonstrates that these archaeological objects are interpreted in a highly ideological manner in order to support both contemporary religious belief and magical practice. That such interpretations often have little to do with actual Minoan religion is emphasised by focussing upon a group of the most important and evocative feminist icons of the Minoan past: the faience and ivory “snake goddesses”. Recent scholarship has demonstrated that these objects range from being heavily reconstructed to outright forgeries and consequently are not reliable representatives of ancient Minoan religion.

The interpretation of “goddesses” for these figurines can be located within the early twentieth century Hellenist intellectual milieu of the Cambridge Ritualists, particularly Jane Ellen Harrison, herself heavily influenced by Sir James Frazer and his model of a Great Mother Goddess and her Dying and Rising consort. The projection back in time of mythical characters from Homeric literature and classical myth onto the non-Greek Minoans, taken for granted as acceptable practice amongst Goddess worshippers today, can be located in Sir Arthur Evans’ early twentieth century interpretation of Minoan Crete. The use of Minoan artefacts of questionable authenticity along with an interpretative reliance upon outdated scholarship by modern Goddess worshippers means that their rituals, festivals and tours function as heterochronies, conceptually transporting participants to an idealised, imaginary past that provides aesthetic compensation for the imperfect world of today.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Götterdämmerung or When Bad Things Happen to Good Valkyries




The description of the end of the world in Scandinavian myth is found in the Völuspá, which is part of the Poetic Edda. The rooster, Goldcomb, wakes the heroes in Odin’s hall who come forth to fight. Heimdall’s horn sounds the alarm, and Mimir’s [oracular] head tells Odin that the end is nigh. The Rainbow Bridge between Asgard and Midgard crumbles to dust and the cosmic tree, Yggdrasil, shakes. One by one the gods go forth to fight the various menaces that spring up, and then they die. The wolves that ate the sun and moon run free and darkness covers the world… Eventually the chaos ends and

She [the seeress of the Völuspá] sees the earth rising again / out of the waters, green once more; / an eagle flies over rushing waterfalls, / hunting for fish from the craggy heights.

So, is this what happened in the final opera of Wagner’s Ring? Kind of. As I said in a previous post, this opera is not a re-telling of traditional myth but a new story based upon components of Scandinavian and Teutonic myth. I’ve explained the plot of Götterdämmerung below, so now that its all over, I’ll provide my impressions of the Melbourne Ring Cycle overall.

As I said in my previous post, this is a non-traditional, post-modern production. There are no “heroic” Norse-style references either in costume or set design. I understand that sometimes these can seem cliché and predictable, however I can’t say that I am a fan of the complete absence of a heroic – as in elaborate and over-the-top – look of Neil Armfield’s vision for the Melbourne Ring.

While generally the stage design is interesting, what with taxidermied animals, a big spiral ramp that linked Asgard to Midgard, and I especially liked Acts I and II of Siegfried in particular the treatment of Fafner, and in Götterdämmerung the way Siegfried’s corpse was dealt with, on the other hand, the overall look of the production is sparse. But by that I do not mean minimalist, which is another aesthetic kettle of fish entirely.

By “sparse” I mean that the design attitude seems to be “how can we reduce this?” – possibly a decision made so as to communicate the essence of the scenes as directly as possible. The equivalent of using as few words as possible in a sentence. Consequently, whenever anything visually interesting does appear, one devours it – and there certainly are some eye-catching components of this opera.

However….the costumes are mainly vile. Could everyone look any plainer? (Especially you, Norns!) OK, there is a bit of gold in the garments of Freia and the wood bird, that’s fine, but the decision to costume everyone else in “regular” street clothing is just visually boring. Camp it up, I say! I think the approach to the costumes may have been an overall design strategy in which the music and singing – both heroic and enormous – were foregrounded, well, that’s fine, this is opera after all, and the costumes were subdued in order to avoid the charge of sensory overdose. But I don’t think this would have been a problem, not for me anyway.

Opera is not just about the music and singing, otherwise there wouldn’t be acting as well. There are a million things that could be done with costumes for this opera. I think the drabness of the Melbourne Ring costumes – as, I suspect, an attempt to tone down the Huge Mythic Themes of this particular opera – isn’t doing it any favours. Turn It Up, I say! And it’s not a matter of introducing more sparkly lamé, or necessarily full-on traditional “Norse” style costumes (as much as I like them); it’s about matching the look with the story and the sound – all of which are larger than life. All Of Which!

The costumes of the Valkyries win my vote for Most Atrocious. I really don’t want or need to see ugly, plain, military shirts and pants on a Valkyrie. I see enough of that on the television news. Do it if you must, costume designer Alice Babidge, but at least exchange the blands-ville cotton drill for sequins. Being “contemporary” and “realistic” is so ordinary. It’s also patronising to the audience, Oh, we’re too dumb to draw parallels between pre-industrial and modern warfare. Thanks for really explaining that to us.

The set design is better than the costumes. In Act I of Das Rheingold there was even a copy of the original painted backdrop used at Bayreuth – through which the giants Fasolt and Fafner smashed on their cherry pickers. This production was supposed to have an “environmental” message, and so it did, which I guess was basically a bit of an updating of the allegorical message of Wagner’s time – but it was only evident up to and including the second opera, Die Walküre. Then it entirely petered out.

The message was conveyed through the use of the taxidermied animals, some of which were endangered or extinct – a Tasmanian Tiger! – which appeared in crates, as though they’d been lent by the museum and hadn’t been unpacked. At other times they descended from above and hung in the midst of the spiral “car park ramp”. There was also a slightly tawdry Las Vegas visual sub-theme, which while thematically puzzling and incongruous, actually added bit of prettiness – even though it jarred with the rest of the visual theme(s).

So much for what the Melbourne Ring looks like – but what does it SOUND like? Well, impressive. I can’t do justice to it here so you will have to attend an opera or listen to a recording. What I’ve noticed in attending this live mega-opera, and which completely eluded me when listening to a recording or watching a film, is the way the music is continuous – no gaps in between in which to applaud a feat of virtuoso singing. The audience is silent throughout until the end of each act when there’s room for clapping. I also found that I could recognise the leitmotifs – musical motives associated with characters, objects, events and emotions. Hearing these is probably extremely obvious to a Wagner expert, but in my case it probably helped enormously that I had done reading about and listening to The Ring in the fortnight up to the start of the opera.

And then of course there’s the singing… Although I’ve been attending opera performances since around 1990, in varying degrees of intensity – sometimes several in a year, sometimes none for a decade or so – I’m not what could be described as a super-enthusiast or devotee (obviously, otherwise I’d be going all the time), nor am I an expert on opera singing. Fortunately, in this case I attended The Ring with my expert friend, who is a super-enthusiast and devotee, and who filled me in on the nuances of the voices and music, and the successes and failures of the singers and orchestra, while I felt more comfortable critiquing the costumes and sets.

In regard to the Melbourne Ring, my expert friend's assessment was that while Susan Bullock is not a true Brunnhilde and is working with a diminished vocal range, hers was an intelligent, studied characterisation. He thought that Stefan Vinke (Siegfried) was indefatigable in his delivery and that he met the taxing demands of the music on his upper register, and overall, that Terje Stensvold's (Wotan) was the most convincing performance. While I can certainly hear obvious shrieks or croaks when voices misfire, I’m less aurally attuned to whether a singer is singing properly or shouting, so I’m fortunate to have my expert friend filling me in. I take his word for it regarding the quality of individual singers and try and listen more closely.

Besides immersing myself in an enormous visual and aural artistic experience, another reason I attended the Melbourne Ring is because I am interested in the “Reception” of myth, in this case Scandinavian and Teutonic myth, as expressed through the lens of German Romanticism. Also, I adore the 19th century, particularly in regards to the utilisation of aspects of the ancient world. So much of 19th century thinking about the ancient world has been influential on the 20th century, and into the 21st, both in its initial acceptance and then regarding the critique(s) thereof. Plus, I actually like opera, but I definitely prefer the more serious, mythic type – such as The Ring – to frivolous and unimportant ditzy operas.

So, now I’ve seen an entire Ring, and my, how actually attending a performance filled in all the gaps that I didn’t even notice were there by just listening to it or watching a film. Now I’m wiser in the ways of Wagner, a little bit. Overall, did I enjoy The Melbourne Ring? Helrunar Yes!