Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Elder Gods

Bull bison in blizzard,
photo by Tom and Pat Leeson.

There is nothing of lightness in this ancient divinity, nothing of air, water or fire.

He is primal force. Blood of the earth.

On this continent, we are inclined to think of the bison, the buffalo of the plains as an entirely North American totemic.

We do not hear his bellow under the knife of the Persian Mithras; we ignore his thunder in Crete; we mistake the Minos dance of death for one of grace and skill and circuses.

We may think that Zeus's shapeshifting was merely an early version of a Facebook dating con.

We are misled by milleniums of taurine domestication of his cousins.

Materializing in the forest shadows of primordial Europe, the auroch, as he is sometimes named, must have struck awe among neolithic animists, and so they made him a god.

Not one set safely in the distant sky. Remote, removed. From thongs and torn flesh and trampled, gore-splattered grass.
To be sacrificed to, not made a sacrifice of.

In building our worlds and constructing our mythologies, we sometimes fail to go back far enough -- to when Horning may have been a literal and ceremonial fact.
We fail to hear the screaming.


Jaye Wells said...

A powerful post, Bernita. People often associate research with boring term papers in school. However, when used for fiction, research is an amazing brainstorming tool.

writtenwyrdd said...

The rampant sexuality of bulls, be they bison or the more domesticated cousins, peppered old mythologies. Also, the danger of them. I believe this is quite clear, even today-- for anyone who reads without the tendency to romanticize the past. Blood and violence were no strangers in the past, they were dominating and dominant factors in the lives of the peoples who danced with bulls and hunted the buffalo with spears. But we of today generally think of the grace required to dance on a bull's back instead of thinking that, like a matador, there's a very real danger of being gored.

writtenwyrdd said...

By the way, another great post. Clearly, you see the past without blinders on, Bernita.

spyscribbler said...

Things in the past definitely seem distantly safer and appear much more mild when seen on the cool pages of an encyclopedia. You're right; we need to bring them to full-blooded, sometimes terrifying life. Like you did.

You know, I love the contest, but I just realized I missed your posts.

BernardL said...

Beautifully written, Bernita, and you've illustrated your point sharply. I am compelled to add the mundane nuts and bolts to your reverie: they did feast on the beast, and clothed themselves in its hide, back when they were honoring it on cave walls. Desecration came later; and then on its heels, regret. Uh oh... in reading this blunt comment over, it appears to describe my manuscripts more accurately than the wonderful creature's picture. :)

Bernita said...

"an amazing brainstorming tool"
Jaye, that is so true.

We have to think past the domestication. Thank you, Written.

"You know, I love the contest, but I just realized I missed your posts."
That, Natasha, is a mighty compliment. Thank you.

Bernard, thank you.
We tend to forget and ignore one half of the duality in which man invests in his gods by misunderstanding the other meaning behind the hides and painted pictures. Once the beat was more than meat.

Robin S. said...

I couldn't agree more, Bernita. Another excellent post as usual.
You have to dig down, first to find, and then to tell, the truth - no matter which genre you're working in.

Demon Hunter said...

I agree with Jaye and everyone, Bernita. I love to research while I write. You gain a wealth of knowledge that you might not have otherwise fathomed. Great post as always! :*)

Billy said...

So true, Bernita. Wonderfully stated!

Bernita said...

Thank you, Robin.
It's an archaeological exercise.

Bernita said...

Thank you, my Demon and Billy.

Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) said...

Brilliant post, Bernita. We do have to look beyond the obvious, to dig down to the truth, the raw energy to truly understand and so create powerful words.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Vanilla.
We should never be satisfied with sanitization.

raine said...

Beautifully stated, Bernita.

In our cities and villages and homes, where we've gathered for protection, we've forgotten the primitive power of such god/beasts...the bull, the snake, the wolf.
Quite right, and a potent reminder.

Charles Gramlich said...

I loved the writing in this post. Took me right back to those snowy northern forests, when something moved in the shadows, something huge and horned.

Ello said...

Ooh I liked this post alot! ANd I'm with Spy, I really missed your insightful and powerful words as much as I enjoyed all the fine writing last week.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Raine, Charles, and Ello.

We produce new gods, Raine, to diminish the old.

The obsidian blade seems puny, doesn't it, Charles?

Ello, that is so kind.

Travis Erwin said...

Great prose and flow to this post. You have a gift for manipulating language.

You have put into words some of the many inner thoughts I've had while out hunting. Nothing like a trek through the ice and snow of a high mountain peak to get you mind and blood pumping.

Gabriele C. said...

They return. With the fall of barbed wire fences, watch towers and mine littered death land between west and east, the wild animal come back to Germany, lynx, wolf, wisent (the European bison) and bear. I hope they'll be allowed to stay.

Sarah Hina said...

This really resonated with me today, Bernita.

Our blood memories have so often been lobotomized. But your words are a reminder of how deep our stories can run, if we let them.

Church Lady said...

I missed your traditional posts as well--along with the accompanying art/photo.

Research is sooo much fun. It's why I enjoy writing historical fiction.

Great post!

Shauna Roberts said...

Great post about a great picture. I love the way you tied varied historical aspects of bulls together.

Looking at this bison, one can understand why they were worshipped.

Carolyn Jean said...

Thanks for the post and that incredible picture! It's so wonderfully wild and strange.

December/Stacia said...

*sigh* Once again, beautiful. I love mythology and seeing echoes of it in books.

Bernita said...

Simple atavism, Travis!

I hope so too, Gabriele.

"Blood memories" - excellent phrase, Sarah. Thank you.

Thank you, Chris, Shauna, and Carolyn.
Truly, a wonderful photograph to so capture the ancient essence of the animal.

Bernita said...

Thank you, December.

Dave F. said...

I hate to go way off topic here, however, there's an article about Canadians shopping in Erie Pa and hiring buses to drive down to Grove City Malls and even to Pittsburgh because of the difference in the Canadian and USA dollars. Apparently the USA is cheaper and has sales.

That didn't so much prompt this as the fact that you Canadians refer to the Canadian dollar as the "loonie"?

You call your dollar - loonie...

Bernita said...

Dave, the Canadian one-dollar coin was nicknamed the "loonie" because of the Loon depicted on the reverse, which carries on the tradition of having wild life engraved on many of our basic coins.
The two-dollar coin has a polar bear, the nickle bears a beaver and the quarter an elk ( though our quarters often represent specialty/collectible issues from the mint, celebrating things like Olympic sports, provincial emblem stuff, etc.)
The incomprehensible madness of shoppers in search of a bargain is quite international and had nothing to do with the nickname for our money.
I fail to see your point.

Dave F. said...

No point. The news story just said something like Canadians are taking their loonies south for bargain. I never heard the Canadian Dollar referred to as a loonie before.

As for shopping bargains, I only bought one Christmas gift without a discount coupon. The rest of the gifts I've gotten deals on but one cost me full price.

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