Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Crown of Doves and Bull's Horns

I studied political philosophy in college and never forgot Niccolo Machiavelli's advice in The Prince:
"Men nearly always follow the tracks made by others and proceed in their affairs by imitation, even though they cannot entirely keep to the tracks of others or emulate the prowess of their models. So a prudent man should always follow in the footsteps of great men and imitate those who have been outstanding. If his own prowess fails to compare with theirs, at least it has an air of greatness about it."
My professor raved about this passage because it provided a roadmap for "ordinary" people like us to follow -- but it always bugged me.  Why not say imitate great -- people?  I mean, weren't there great women in history too?  The truth is, I didn't know about many of them.  All of the philosophers we read -- from Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, Heidegger and Kierkegaard, down to de Tocqueville and the Founding Fathers -- were men.

Like many women who feel invisible to men and struggle with feelings of low self worth and are unsure of themselves, I kept quiet about it.  But later on in life, on my journey to wholeness and self-loving, I began to ask myself, is there an excellence of women?  Are we so different, and, if so, what would it mean to be a great -- woman?  Since I am a visual learner, I began to look for images that inspired me.  How did I want to look and feel?  And who would be my role model?

Like most women, I turned to what was at hand: fashion magazines.  While the women were beautiful, I couldn't find any that inspired my imagination.  So I turned to art books, and found myself drawn to some of the earliest images, from the Palaeolithic era and Bronze Age, of the female figure in a "gesture" of epiphany.  Unlike the demure images of women that I found in magazines for modern women and much more recent art, this ancient gesture of the raised arms signifying a sudden, intuitive perception or insight into the reality or essence of a thing, really spoke to me.

What image speaks to you?

For my picture, I chose two images from Bronze Age Crete that I found in a book by Anne Baring and Jules Cashford called The Myth of The Goddess: Evolution of An Image.  The figure above is a Mycenaean seal with goddess and worshipers from 1500 BC.  The one below is a goddess with a crown of doves and bull's horns from 1400-1200 BC.


Sarah said...

Bull horns - how appropriate!

Linda said...

so true. our collective images of women (not just goddesses) are mostly of the "reclining woman" variety -- not exactly an image of power, but of passivity.

i love the image of a woman with arms fully extended. she is dancing, conjuring, creating...

lisalisa said...

Great pictures. Your search for inspiration shows in your enchanted work. xx