Saturday, February 13, 2010

Juno Sospita

These two photos show terracotta acroteria of the head of Juno Sospita from a temple of Juno that was once on the Palatine Hill. They are now in the Palatine Museum, a museum that seems to be open every day - even Mondays when other museums in Rome are closed. When I first saw these in 2006 I was quite struck by Juno's goat-skin headdress because it looked to me a lot like... well, what we would now expect a certain founder of The Church of Satan to be wearing - as if a goat-skin really means the Satan of the New Testament (as the ha' satan of the Hebrew Bible is another thing altogether)! Consequently when I was in Rome in 2009 I marched through the Roman Forum in the boiling midday heat and up on to the Palatine Hill, almost getting heat-stroke, to find the museum to have another look at these terracotts and photograph them. So here they are. And what can I say about Juno Sospita? Well, according to Price and Kearns in the "Oxford Dictionary of Classical Myth and Religion" p.305, the cult of Juno Sospita was imported to Rome from the city of Lanuvium which from 338 BCE was administered jointly with Rome. The distinctive iconography of this goddess, who wears a goatskin and carries a spear and shield, indicates a martial character. Dumezil believed that her full epithet Sospita Mater Regina confirmed his thesis that Juno was originally trivalent, with influence over military prowess, fertility and political organisation. In Beard, North and Price's "Religions of Rome Vol 2: A Sourcebook" p.37-8 Cicero is quoted (On the Nature of the Gods I. 77, 81-2) saying "...Just as much, I'd swear, as you believe in the divinity of that Juno Sospita of your own native town - the one you never see, not even in your dreams, without a goat-skin, spear, shield and shoes turned up at the toe. But the Argive Juno does not appear like that, nor the Roman. So it follows that Juno has one appearance for the Argives, another for the people of Lanuvium, another for us." Anyway, while I am less amazed at her goat-skin headdress than I once was, I still think it's pretty remarkable. See these interesting coins with Juno on them.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Trees and Clothes

I am really struck by this photograph by artist, Simryn Gill, from her exhibition, 'Inland'. I don't actually know what the title of this work is, but I find it evokes in my mind a Vodou aesthetic, possibly as mediated through black and white films, either ethnographic, or horror. Basically it is an image of banana trees wearing clothes. I love it, and I would never have thought to do that myself, dress up banana trees. I don't think the artist's intention was to evoke Vodou, well, I don't know, but that's what it suggests to me.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

I know what to do, you do Voodoo.

Dance in a ring of flames, shadows fall the same, fire, love and pain. Do voodoo, voodoo, voodoo. ~Chris Isaak. 'Voodoo'.

Since the earthquake in Haiti "Voodoo" or more properly Vodou is a hot topic on people's lips - especially religious nutters who think it's demonic. Having originally come across Vodou through a simultaneous mix of reading Anne Rice books, buying the New Orleans Voodoo Tarot Deck by author and practitioner Sallie Ann Glassman, and film maker Maya Deren's book 'Divine Horsemen' in the early 1990s, when Vodou was a huge trend in Australia's occult scene (Religious Studies academic Lynne Hume discusses a "vodou ritual" she attended, in which I was one of a group of Hounsi, in her book 'Witchcraft and Paganism in Australia' - we had no idea how inauthentic we appeared!), I later went about reading more ethnographical works on the subject in an effort to understand it from that angle. I guess I'd say I was actively interested in Vodou for about five years and only moved on to other topics because, well, there are just so many things to know about. Seeing as it's now featuring in the news - especially the religious news, including Pagan religious news - I am inclined to Google it and see how it's going here in Oz these days. Of course there is still musician Kerri Simpson , a student of Glassman, who has some interesting things to say, there is also Mambo Racine in New Zealand, and I just discovered this group, Sancista, in South Australia. I'm mainly interested in Vodou nowadays from an art angle (sequined flags, vodou sculpture) as well as in regards to deified aspects of landscape and the natural world for the purposes of analogy with prehistoric Aegean religion(s) - not from the syncretistic angle of African religions and Catholicism of course, but from the possession angle. It seems poignant that the only tattoo I have is the Vodou veve of Ayizan, the first priestess (pictured above). It's a schematized palm frond mask and that is exactly where I'm currently going with my PhD research. We circle around, it seems.

Monday, February 1, 2010

I Love Aegean Glyptic

Really, who wouldn't love it? I've been spending days going almost blind, scrutinising the CMS volumes in the uni library, and I've only done about half of them. Yay! This one, the Isopata Ring, is particularly gorgeous, but there are hundreds of other beautiful ones too. I saw some of these 'celebrity' rings and seals in the Athens Archaeological Museum in July. Haven't been to Crete yet though to see famous examples there, anyway the Heraklion Museum was closed last year, I think it is still closed. I'd feel irritated to go to Crete and be confronted with a closed museum, like how in Israel the archaeological section of the Israel Museum was closed, but I already knew that and the Rockefeller Museum, the Bible Lands Museum and Eretz Israel Museum were compensation enough.