Posted by: aediculaantinoi | December 6, 2012

Eros in One’s Idolatrous Preferences…?!?

Being that I am a cultist of Antinous, and he’s blessed with an abundance of many, beautiful, surviving statues from the anceint world and later periods, having images of deities is important to me in their worship. But, given that I’ve also got a large number of deities who are lesser-known from the ancient world to whom I give cultus as well, it’s often difficult for me to do so without an easily accessible (and preferably beautiful!) image of them; and, printing something out from the internet on a piece of paper or cardstock and sticking it in a frame doesn’t do it for me. Such images, while all right in a pinch and being things I’ve used on many occasions before, are not preferable because they’re literally two-dimensional, and thus “not-as-real” as three-dimensional things. The gods have height, width, and depth to them, and I prefer my images of them to likewise have such characteristics if and when possible.

So, I’m always on the lookout for such things, and I try to pick them up whenever possible. For Palaimon/Melikertes, I’ve been looking for something for a while, but “boys on dolphins” aren’t exactly easy to come by in terms of inexpensive statuary. However, Palaimon is also sometimes portrayed as a youth or child merman. In that regard, I recently located this image which might fit the bill:

merman

Admittedly, he’s not perfect: I am not a huge fan of the expression on his face, and I’d prefer it if he were a bit “older” in appearance; but it’s about as close as I suspect I’ll be able to get for anything under several hundred dollars. What do you reckon?

Apart from statuary being reasonably priced, however, another big concern of mine has to do with its overall physical beauty: does such a statue make me go “Ooh, this image of the deity actively attracts me and pleases my eyes and other senses?” (Yes, I know–deeply shallow, that’s me!) That kind of eros for the gods–and for Eros himself!–is a good thing, I think, since ours are not gods that are transcendent, nebulous, and formless ultimately, even when they are in some sense. This sort of kataphatic practice is important to me, as I mentioned recently, and thus it’s always a concern of mine.

HOWEVER, sometimes I wonder what people are thinking where some of these images are concerned.

Let’s take an example: something else also sold by Design Toscano, from whom the above merman/potential Palaimon comes as well, in their very popular Egyptian line of products. The following is called the “Egyptian Panther Goddess”…

Egyptian Panther Goddess

Yeah, I know: kinda hot. They’ve got a whole line of Egyptian thong-wearing, bare-breasted, slim-waisted, very caucasian Egyptian women in their collection, some of which are rather hideous and/or ridiculous. Despite all of that, this one is rather attractive…and yet, who the fuck is the Egyptian “panther goddess”? I’m not aware of such a goddess ever having existed, unless it is some sort of hybrid or derivative of Bast and Sekhmet…and yet, another part of me sort of goes, “Couldn’t this be the Nubian goddess Mehit, possibly?” (Despite her obviously being melanin-deficient, of course…!?!…but, given that I’d like to give more attention to some Nubian deities in the near future, this seemed like it might be a potential consideration for an image of Mehit if no other can be found.) Or, is this just some random pseudo-Egyptian artist’s wet-dream brought to three-dimensional, full-color life, not in honor of any Egyptian divinity, but because it gets his rocks off and will sell well? (And while I’m sure all of the latter is true, and that none of this was ever made for devotional usage, that doesn’t mean that such things can’t be put to devotional purposes if the right aesthetic and devotional chemistry occurs in order for them to function as such.)

So, that’s a question: where does one draw the line with one’s devotional imagery? If a devotional image is something beautiful as well as spiritually evocative and effective for devotional usage, but also is totally hot and gets one sexually excited or stimulated to see it, is that a good thing or a bad thing?

I’d be interested in hearing anyone’s thoughts on this matter, and any related matter as well. (And I haven’t made purchases…yet…!)


Responses

  1. Art is important. Images of the Gods are important. It was an appreciation of Graeco Roman art that led me to discover the Gods, and I freely describe myself as an idol worshipping heathen. The early Christians were afraid of the images of the Gods, and from a theological point of view they were right to be afraid. Images can have power.
    It can be difficult to find appropriate images. Design Toscano has some nice things, bur also some that are ghastly and in poor taste. I would classify the example illustrated above as porn intended for the “artsy” class of people. As you pointed out, there were no panther goddesses in ancient Egypt.
    But things can be repurposed, sometimes. I recall seeing a very nice reproduction of a Renaissance David that could be Apollo. I think sometimes that Renaissance and Baroque artists used Bibical names for their creations as a way of disguising the pagan origins of their figures. The “panther goddess” figurine might be usable, depending.
    I have three dimensional figurines of most of the deities that I feel some connection with, but I also use flat pictures printed off the Internet, and sometimes just a business card printed with the deity’s name. Images are not absolutely necessary, but they are important.

    • Yes…I can only imagine what relationship (if any) I’d have with Antinous if the first image I saw of him was one of the bad medieval ones of him that really no longer resembles him at all (unless it was him at a very worried 46 years of age!). Or, worse, if it was something like that awful baby Hercules I posted a while back…eew…

      I have never liked the Michelangelo David as much as Donatello David; but, certainly, reproductions of Davids are much more easily obtainable, and often quite a bit nicer than cheaper statues of Apollo I’ve seen. I at last saw one that was intended to be Apollo that didn’t make me sick–and he’s partially clothed, but otherwise he fit the bill, as it were, and in a punny way in terms of the latter because he’s shown on a swan! ;)

  2. I think it all depends on the deity, whether or not “totally hot and gets one sexually excited or stimulated” is a bad thing. I mean, we all know the story of the hunter who accidentally saw the bathing Artemis –but nudity and “sexual” are not one-in-the-same, and images need not be of nudity to be arousing.

    • Exactly. I would say that a good portion of my images of Dionysos, for instance, make me feel that way, but that is only appropriate. Not so much for other gods.

      • Indeed–I suspect a lot of deities, when they appear, would be absolutely striking and attractive right alongside being terrible and horrific, or perhaps even because they’re terrible and horrific…These things can work out in interesting ways, I think.

        It’s one of those difficulties with Antinous the Liberator, because he’s also beautiful, but likewise isn’t the usual beautiful we associate with him. Thus, it’s hard to convey that image of him easily, and a good visual depiction of that side of him has not yet been produced, unfortunately.

    • Certainly–the best Apollo statue I’ve yet seen that is cheap enough to be viable as a shrine image is not totally nude, and yet the image is very attractive and erotic, though not necessarily sexual either. Shades of meaning between each term certainly exist.

  3. I’m just really really sick of seeing goddesses represented primarily as big naked tits and not much else, particularly when that hasn’t anything at all to do with how the goddess is actually represented in the tradition. I mean, if it works for people, fine, but that just makes it harder for me to find anything I actually like.

    • I hear you. Come to think of it, that might be one of the primary reasons why my painting of Nyx is generally well-received by people who see it, especially women.

    • I know what you mean, certainly. The above example is actually one of the more tasteful ones in that particular line, and yet it is still way over-the-top (not unlike the various “Celtic” ones that likewise supposedly depict various women or goddesses from Irish myth, etc.–as much as I like some Jim Fitzpatrick images, at the same time, the Irish didn’t invent the thong!); one of the things about it that is somewhat redeeming, perhaps paradoxically, is that it doesn’t depict an “actual” goddess and thus doesn’t give the wrong impression about an actual goddess. But anyway, yes…

      As a further aside, I don’t find a lot of their nude male imagery particularly appealing either, and I’m not sure why they offer some of it. Hmm. :/

  4. Reblogged this on The Darkness in the Light.

  5. This post is timely for me; after years of only having an ancestor altar in my house, this past week I’ve decided that it was time to add deity altar(s). I began thinking about what I would put on such an altar and, of course, the first thing that came to mind was statues of deities to whom I would want to make offerings etc. The problem, though, is that no one’s making idols of Finnish deities- to my knowledge- and in an historical sense, pre-Christian Finnish culture being as it was, I’m not sure that such a thing has ever existed. Nonetheless, I really wanted statues. I found one statue that is probably supposed to be Hephaestus- a bearded man with a hammer at a forge- but it works perfectly, for me, as Ukko/ Ilmarinen, also a smith-deity. Harder still has been finding a statue to represent Lemminkäinen, the god to whom I feel the most drawn.

    • A lot of the representations I have of my deities were not actually made to represent Them intentionally, but simply strike me as being Them. Of course, this is entirely true for my personal spirits, since no one else knows Them! Sometimes you just have to make do with what you can find and/or create yourself (or modify). The bust I use in the idol for my primary spirit is actually Eros from some neo-Classical catalog, but it works well. The statue I use for Trophonios is actually an Asklepios, but since their iconography was very similar in ancient times, it makes sense.

      • That’s excellent! And that makes a great deal of sense about Trophonios.

        I have a few situations where I say “I use this as” rather than having the designated or intended depiction of whomever-it-is be the deity I’m representing. I may need to do more of that as my deities get more and more obscure! ;)

      • That’s the way I’m going about it too; I’ve been looking for statues that in some way remind me of the deity I’m looking for. The Hephaestus (or, for me, Ilmarinen) statue actually arrived today, and- O Ye Gods, I want to hit myself- while taking it out of all the wrapping, I accidentally broke off a piece. Luckily it wasn’t a part of the figure itself, just a kind of background piece; easily fixed with super glue, I’m sure. I also just found a statue that could work for Lemminkäinen at Design Toscano; it’s a classical statue of a man dying, which works out well for Lemminkäinen since he was killed and brought back to life by his mother. It’s also on sale, which is good because I’m kind of poor right now :)

    • Yes, it’s important to keep those traditional customs and limitations in mind quite often…

      And yet, the anthropomorphizing tendency is not one that I think should necessarily be restrained, resisted, or critiqued either, since most of that comes out of creedal monotheistic tendencies which don’t theologically apply in situations of polytheism.

      I’ve seen the names of the Finnish deities you’ve mentioned, but don’t know much about them. Do you have any online sources you’d recommend for further information on them?

      • I don’t think that there is any kind of tradition against having an image of a Finnish deity; I’m just not sure that there were any historically. Some purists might call me out on it, but I’m content to represent the gods I deal with with statues.
        As for a good online place to read about Ukko/ Ilmarinen (the two are separate deities or the same one depending on who you ask; I go with the latter) and Lemminkäinen, the only place I could think of that would have good- if limited- info on them is an article on modern Finnish Paganism by a knowledgeable practitioner in Finland in the last issue of the Heathen journal Óðrœrir (found here: http://odroerirjournal.com/?wpfb_dl=2 ). Most other places, like Wikipedia, will just give you a short break down of that figure in the Kalevala.

  6. On the one hand, I was browsing the Tumblr #antinous tag yesterday and came across a photo of the Farnese statue (I think) about which I had to comment, “DAT ASS.”

    On the other hand, ye gods! Huge boobs, visible ribs, and don’t forget, the nipples have to point *up*! That “Egyptian panther goddess” reminds me of Tumblr’s Hawkeye Initiative. Fan artists are critiquing comic book depictions of superheroines by redrawing the same pose with Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner in the recent movie) or another male hero. Let me see if I can insert a link: http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/hawkeye+initiative

    • I’ve heard of that…and, I fully agree with it. In fact, I think a lot of things would be improved by having male characters wear them or pose in those fashions, etc. Thigh-high boots and chain mail bikinis are fun for EVERYONE, after all! ;)

      • Looks like a lot of comic art would be improved by hiring people who know how to draw human bodies in correct proportion, so the hero(ine)’s butt isn’t somehow up next to their ear.

        As to the thigh-high boots, etc., well, that’s what the Sherlock in Heels Tumblr is for…. :D

  7. Personally, I frown very heavily on a mixture of sexuality and religion so blatant as devotional images that could, ahem, excite the senses. In my mind devotional images should inspire reverence and respect; nothing more. But if a devotee of the Nubian pantheon thinks Tits the Panther-Goddess fits the bill for one of her deities it’s not my place to object.

    And I think that the Little Merman would make quite a fine Palaemon, Of course, that could just be my marked fondness for Toscano. Mhmm, that furniture…

    • Thank you for commenting on the Palaimon possibility! One asks for comments on things, and everyone goes right for the tits, and doesn’t comment on the more “urgent” of the matters discussed above. But then again, it’s the internet, and even though we’re polytheists, still, tits always draw a crowd, alas (even on a queer blog…or, perhaps, especially therein!).

      • “Everyone goes right for the tits”

        I am going to slip that phrase into casual conversation as often as humanly possible. I has so many meanings and implications. Are we attacking them? Feasting on them? It boggles the mind, truly.

    • If one’s devotional images of Eros never excite the senses, then one is worshipping Him wrong —granted, if one’s images of Eros only excite, one is seriously missing out, one certainly lacks a thorough understanding of Him if that’s the case, but in proper context, the erotic (Erotic?) senses are just as sacred a gift to humanity as the fertile womb of Demetre or the chiselled thighs and abdomen of Herakles glittered with sweat.

      • I think Eros can be excused, perhaps. Aphrodite too; though not Venus.

      • It is intriguing how much more austere and modest Venus is in comparison to Aphrodite…

  8. Having been particularly All About Mehyt in the past… that one definitely doesn’t scream Her to me. Nor do I think she had panthers attributed to her (not that they couldn’t be!)?

    • Thank you–that is very helpful! I have hardly heard Mehit’s name spoken (in fact, I’ve never heard it spoken!) nor written about, so I’m glad to know there are others out there who have had experience with her! Nubian polytheist enthusiasts of the world unite! ;)

      • I’m not entirely sure I would say it was an experience…. but maybe it might be? It was just for a while that I was completely obsessed with trying to find every bit of information on her that I could to publish on my once-defunct website (I would like to get it back up and running at some point!). So maybe it was? Heh.

        But you’re right… she is not very much talked about. Which I find to be a bit weird, because it’s entirely possible that her and Anhur might be the basis for the Return of the Distant Goddess myth, especially the synchronizations the both of them have with the respective other gods which are now the prominent members of that particular myth-now-festival.

        Otherwise I haven’t had much luck researching Nubian myth/gods, since it seems to be such a… nebulous term? But it’s good to find someone else who has an interesting in them! :)

      • I sort of stumbled upon Mandulis and Apedemak accidentally; I’d encountered the first in some reading I did a while back, but then in more recent months (somewhat as the result of Serpent Path matters), they re-appeared, and then kept appearing in unlikely places. I hope to get a hold of the very expensive book on Apedemak at some point. But, having known those two, I wanted to know more, and thus have been rooting around for more Nubian deities; this is all the more “urgent,” one might say, since one of the Trophimoi–Memnon–was Nubian/Ethiopian (the late antique Greeks and Romans little distinguished these cultures, even though there is a big difference between them), and thus might have some direct connection to them in a quasi-Antinoan context.

      • Come to think of it, we’re in a sort of similar situation with the Nubian gods as we are with the Thracian ones: the latter are pretty much mostly known via Greek (and some Roman) sources, and the former are mostly known via Egyptian sources. The view we get of them is therefore often automatically “exterior” and non-native, and yet in their syncretisms and such, a great deal can often be revealed. In a certain sense, then, it would make logical sense that these more syncretistic deities would be the ones who are more accessible and more likely to attempt reaching out, especially to those of us who are already playing in the syncretistic playground, as it were. ;)


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