Monday, February 9, 2009

Nature Whispers...

Once upon a time, man tred carefully in Earth’s ancient forests. Hunters felt a powerful arcane connection to the Divine while in the forest and were intuitvely aware of it’s sacredness. They also realized the woodlands provided a sanctuary for the animals, trees and plants that sustained them in life, so they treated the land with reverence and respect. After leaving the forests, hunters suffered the loss of connection to the enchanted forest world and sought to bring this magic home with them. They crafted objects and jewelry from the wood, gems, animals they obtained while hunting. These 'hunting trophies' were displayed in the home as mementos.

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They crafted amulets and talismans to adorn themselves with. They honored the sanctity of animal’s spirit, therefore the spirit of the animal retained it’s dignity in death. The pendants were regarded as supernatural objects and each piece was endowed with a special mystical power: to protect, to ward off sickness, strengthen the body, and keep away evil spirits. I just added these to My Etsy Shop! The toothy one has already been purchased and will be displayed at The Museum of Witchcraft in Switzerland!

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It is not a coincidence that early explorations of the unconscious were undertaken in the vicinity of Earth’s ancient forests. Fables, folklore, and fairytales throughout the world have been handed down orally and eventually written about enchanted forests. The mythologies are always the same, only the cultural landscapes differ. Perhaps the most famous collection of folktales in our lives, is that of the Brothers Grimm, inspired by the valleys and wooded heights of the legendary Black Forest.

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Our society is suffering from the loss of connection to nature. It is the mission of Beloved & Co. to awaken that connection and to remind people that we are part of nature, not separate from it. My Black Forest Relic Collection is a kind of Memento Mori to remind people about our current deforestation crisis: the tragic loss of the world’s sacred forest sanctuaries and the plants and animals it protects. The word "relic" denotes a supernatural object (usually a bone or other such) venerated because of association with a saint or martyr. Black Forest Relics are infused with the magic of the forest, the mythologies of the animal and a sense of imminent mourning...each one sacred in it's own right. I’ve decided to donate a portion of the profits made from the sales of my Black Forest Relics to an organization dedicated to defending wildlife. Originally I was going to donate to the World Wildlife Fund...but they said: "Please note that to communicate that you are making a donation to us based on sales, we require a licensing agreement. This entails a minimum annual guaranteed donation of $25,000 and registration as a commercial coventurer in four states. At this time we are not interested in a licensing agreement due to conflicting efforts with another jewelry line which is exclusive." So I'm looking into smaller grassroots efforts...any suggestions?

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I've been feeling a deep obligation to give back to Mother Nature lately. I was the first seller on etsy to sell taxidermy jewelry and now it seems we have a trend on our hands. Within months of offering my handmade and vintage/antique taxidermy jewelry another seller began creating grotesque reproductions of the jewelry I was selling. For those of you who have been reading my blog for a while, you might remember me ranting about it. Soon to follow, yet another seller opened a shop offering even more discusting knock-offs of the aforementioned seller...offering jewelry made exclusively from dead squirrels. And now, another seller has opened up a shop solely offering the same kind of antique jewelry I sell.

The problem is not that I now have “competition” or that they may have taken inspiration from my shop or other lines of taxidermy jewelry currently being offered in the marketplace. (Although I do find it extremly bothersome that these greedy opportunists sought out a way to bank on someone else ideas.) The problem is these grotesque reproductions and even the antique peices, are being offered with no regard to the sanctity of the animal used in the creation of the jewelry. One seller has chosen a rusty meat cleaver as the shop’s icon. Pointing not to the sanctity of the animal, but to the violent death the animals experienced. I find the objectification of the animal macabre, blatantly exploiting the death of animals for profit...the animal spirit loses it's dignity in this context. The sacred is completly absent and this drives my point home, our society is suffering from the loss of connection to nature! Alex Grey's painting "Gaia" shows two opposing facets of earthly existence separated by the Tree of Life. On the side representing life out of balance our visionary artist chooses to represent the decadence of humanity through the smoggy skyline of Manhattan Island.

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It seems history is repeating itself...the Victorians also felt, in the move from rural to city living, the loss of connection to the natural world and sought to connect with it through collecting taxidermy and other natural objects. The trend was popular within high society and so it became a symbol of status. To meet the demands of the trend, the marketplace for taxidermy grew. This drove the prices down making taxidermy and other natural objects affordable to the middle class. No other society has had such a smothering love as the Victorians had for the natural world. Everywhere was evidence of their fascination with the wild and exotic and their desire to possess it. From the great zoos that were opening around the country, to Natural History museums, and the conservatories that housed their rainforest plants. “Perhaps the ultimate realization of that controlling love for nature was in the art of taxidermy. Here a wild and beautiful creature could truly be possesed- it could become an object: wild but touchable, beautiful and captured.”

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The Victorians in their lust for the beauty of nature did not forsee the devastating effects it would have on natural world. The taxidermy business was booming and it wasn’t slowing down. As taxidermy in the home became commonplace, the demand for more exotic tropies grew. And with this, a new trend emerged...the whimsical and bizarre world of Anthropomorphic Taxidermy and sideshow gaphs. Noteworthy taxidermy artists such as Herman Ploucquet, Walter Potter and Edward Hart inspired the work of Dr. Peter Hughes. Hugh's revealed an even darker side of man's malady. He had a number of wealthy admirers of his work who were willing to pay handsomely for various 'special' tableaux to be constructed to their particular specifications. For example: Twelve scenes from the works of children's author Beatrix Potter, constructed for a Mr. Hertz of Iowa, which depicted the author's familiar squirrels and bunny rabbits being 'imaginatively' abused by foxes and cats. And another series of dioramas inspired by De Sade's 'Juliette' in which the unfortunate heroine is represented by a tabby cat and her tormentors by sadistic rabbits, constructed for Lord Bangor. At the time of his death he was working on a commission depicting to recreate in detail various key scenes from De Sade's seminal '120 Days of Sodom'.

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Since the Industrial Revolution, man and his machines have waged an official war on Mother Nature. "Civilized" man has become an enemy to the natural world. Not even 10 years ago, there seemed to be hope of an end to it. The wholesale slaughter of animals for museums, art objects, and fashion was not only undesirable, it was offensive. Remember all the “Fur is Dead” campaigns? Models refused to wear fur on the runway stating “I’d rather be naked than wear fur”. But things have changed, and we are seeing the trends return. Some of the same models promote and wear fur these days. How soon we forget! Don't get me wrong, I eat meat...I love feathers, fur, and bones...I own taxidermy! What I'm saying is, we need to make conscious choices. Choose sustainably produced meat, eggs and dairy! When buying other animal products, buy vintage/antique and when buying new...make sure it's from an from ethical source! We need to be aware about the impact overconsumption is having on our bodies and the environment. (Read This)

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Alice said...

What a great article! My family are mostly hunters, so though I've never hunted myself (it seems boring to it in a tree all day without being able to make a sound), I'm very concious of where my meat comes from and critical of those who'd just "rather not think about it" and judge hunters as inhumane, while they go an eat their meat from slaughterhouses. My father, the biggest hunter of them all, has even been asking me to suggest books about paganism and nature worship, which really does say something about the link between hunters and the magic (for lack of a better word) of the natureal world.

Those copiers (copiests?) are disgusting. I've seen some of their shops before, and unlike the taxedermy that's hanging in my house, their pieces make me feel queasy. You've pinpointed exactly why.


To the idiot who left the 'Anonymous' obviously don't read very well. Or perhaps you are just slow and the point I made hasn't sunk in yet. Why don't you re-read this post, you might learn something! Evolve already!

verhext said...

I've been thinking a lot about art, and trends in art expressing a universal need for a chosen mythology. From the blatant religious motifs of the past to today's redux of nature, churned through the eyes and hearts of children raised in suburbs -- have we made nature so obsolete that we now have to mythologize it?

I think this is partly the reason the deer-owl-mountain (& taxidermy/hunter) trend -does- irk me - i was raised in the woods, they are a real thing, they are my Mama, my home, and when I see someone making paper copies that mean nothing but a flimsy desperate mythology, it makes me sad.

But not as sad as if I were that person, raised without wilderness and grasping, grasping.


"have we made nature so obsolete that we now have to mythologize it?"

Yes, but mythology has always been a way for the Sages to communite about things that weren't intuitively understood by members of the community. We're seeing a revival of this because people are so disconnected.

Storytelling (Fairytales, Fables, Folklore, Myths, ect) is a way for individuals to safely explore the realm of the unconcious mind. When you KNOW THYSELF you understand other people and the NATURE of REALITY. We can begin to understand the psyche through exploring the worlds of archetypes, dreams, mythology, folklore, religion, philosophy, alchemy, astrology...

Many artists and musicians are revealing the light (divine wisdom and intelligence). I think it's great that people are using mythology to help people "wake up". Analytical psychologists also employ the model of the unconscious mind as the source of healing and development in an individual.

Archetypes are innate universal psychic dispositions that form the substrate from which the basic themes of human life emerge:
*archetypal events: birth, death, separation from parents, initiation, marriage, the union of opposites etc.
*archetypal figures: mother, father, child, God, trickster, hero, wise old man, etc.
*archetypal motifs: the Apocalypse, the Deluge, the Creation, etc.

Archetypes are components of the collective unconscious and serve to organize, direct and inform human thought and behaviour. It not a surprise then that trends in Art and music are of Hunters and Healers! We need to return to the ways of the ancients!

verhext said...

Yes, I totally agree. I guess I just get frustrated for the same reason copies of your work are frustrating -- when people are using symbols or themes because they've become a trend, do they lose their meaning and reverence?

I am maybe just old and worried. I need to stop!! When I think about it, I would of course rather all energies pointed to nature!


You said "when people are using symbols or themes because they've become a trend, do they lose their meaning and reverence?"

I don't think so, let's take the typical goth kid for example. Goths are usually very empathetic and highly intuitive. They are tagged as being "different" at a very young age. Sadly they are usually misunderstood, teased and even abused. By the time they have reached adolescence they rebel against parental, religious and social norms...structures they never fit into or identified with and/or that failed to protect them. We can look at some of the archetypes they identify with and the totems and symbols they choose to protect themselves with.

Common archetypal events: Death- represents change and transformation. The Apocalypse- represents the End and Death on a grand scale.

Archtypal figures: Satan/Lucifer, the rebel and fallen angel. The Witch, the persecuted wise woman.

Symbols- The Crucifix: the martyr/victim archetype...view of self. The Pentacle: symbol of the Goddess based religion, (the mother archetype heals, nurtures and protects) suggests a longing for a healing/loving maternal source.

Shadow totems: Bats, black cats, spiders, and snakes. These are all considered dangerous creatures and inspire primordial fear...these primordial images are used to protect themselves with.

These are all images of associated with the Underworld...

(Now a Siouxsie and the Banshees song comes to mind: Fear of the Unknown "Aware of what will hurt you, you're prepared to remain this way
so sad yet safe with your afflictions afraid to start a brand new day")

So no, I don't think these things lose their meaning and reverence. Even if the individual doesn't consciously understand the meaning behind it any of serves the person until it's realized.

Have you ever read any Carl Jung? He was a Swiss psychiatrist, an influential thinker and the founder of analytical psychology. His most notable ideas include the concept of psychological archetypes, the collective unconscious and synchronicity.

Jung said that archetypes/primordial images are hard wired into our psyche. A baby fawn for example, inspires the same feeling in almost everyone, even if the person has never seen one in person. This would explain the existence of snake and spider phobias in people living in urban environments where they have never encountered either creature.

So I think all the trends we're seeing in art and music as of late in the NeoFolk genre are authentic. These are some of the Sages/Shamans of our Global Community. Some of those following the trend might not have yet realized it yet, but they are agents of the Divine. All the archetypal images of Mother Nature are spilling out of the collective unconscious, drawing us in...this is medicine. A call to return to ways of the Ancients! To heal ourselves, each other, the Planet... You hear the drum too, right? "Long Long time ago"...the elders speak from beyond!

The Hopi Prophecy says mankind must return to Peaceful ways, and halt the Destruction of Mother Earth, or are we going to destroy ourselves. The Tibetan Budhists have a similar prophecy, which was discussed when the Dali Lama met with the Hopi Elders a few years ago. It's Universal...

In the Hopi Prophecy, it spoke of the white man who would come to them and help transform the entire continent into a spiritual paradise. So that's what's happening there...but the Prophecy also warns that if the white man does not give in return for what is taken...The Hopi will hold the land till Human Beings live in harmony with Nature. The power under the land will be used for destruction...Earth Changes! You know California is scheduled to fall into the you know why.

So all the kids running around with headresses and glitter war paint beware! Many have taken inspiration from Indigenious peoples...Artists are rockin Tribal style and getting record deals and such. Folks better not forget to give back in some the youth, to the environment, to the animals, to the community, to the elders, to the homeless guy on the corner...

Verhext said...

Yes, I'm a huge Jung fan - I wanted to go into psychology for a long time and his theories were some that resonated a lot with me. That and Joseph Chilton Pearce. Magic midgets!

I linked here:
to one of my favorite books about Jung / synchronicity & the paranormal.

I've been thinking a lot about hs theories of anima/animus in my own life and my friends lives as well. What are our archetypes that shape and build our psyches, are we seeking them externally when we should be revering and building them internally, etc...

I do think you've nailed it with "if the white man does not give in return for what is taken...The Hopi will hold the land till Human Beings live in harmony with Nature. The power under the land will be used for destruction...Earth Changes! You know California is scheduled to fall into the you know why."

This is why it bothers me - I see taking and taking and no giving back!! (Also, I need to get out of CA and back to where I am happy, in the woods!! Before I fall into the sea! Though there are worse fates.)

(I think/write in shorthand and you are so eloquent!! Eeeek. Also I am at work and not really composing my thoughts, I apologize. I really, really appreciate how knowledgeable and well thought out your posts and responses are, it blows my mind.)

Alice said...

Lady Lavona, I do think you're giving a bit too much credit to Jung.

Aside from that, I can't believe that everyone who buys throw pillows with a pattern of fawns on it is really feeling the primordial pull of nature. Surely you don't mean to say that any hipster kid who buys now-popular nature-themed items from, say, Urban Outfitters is really rediscovering his roots as a child of the wilderness. He's just trying to look, you know...hip.


VERHEXT said: "I need to get out of CA and back to where I am happy, in the woods!! Before I fall into the sea!"

Haa! Don't worry I think you have plenty of time!

"I think/write in shorthand and you are so eloquent!!"

Don't worry silly...this is a comment forum! I appreciate the feedback! I'm just a nerd anyway.

ALICE said: "I do think you're giving a bit too much credit to Jung."

I don't think so at all...just giving credit where credit's due. Jung wasn't a psychiatrist...he was a contempary Shaman mascarading as a psychiatrist! His ideologies are central to Shamanistic belief systems... Jung was like the first person to bring these kind of ideologies to be pondered by Scientists and Intellects. No one since Plato was able to share these "theories" with "men of reason" without being brushed off as being a crack pot!

I didn't find out about Jung until my own belief system had already been built. I've been reading the Tarot for 18 years (I'm 33) and Jung's name came up all the time so finally I decided to investigate...I've always been really interested in the Occult, Folklore, Jung fits right in there!

"you don't mean to say that any hipster kid who buys now-popular nature-themed items from, say, Urban Outfitters is really rediscovering his roots as a child of the wilderness. He's just trying to look, you know...hip."

Well yes...he's trying to look hip, consciously. But drawn to a nature theme is an unconscious longing. People like Urban Outfitter's are successful because they have marketing experts who draw on the group consciousness of society's subcultures.

Madonna does the same thing...she hits the streets for inspiration. She uses this method particularly well with religion. She tunes into the core of group's complex culture, it's then homogenized for the mainstream. She's done it with Catholicism, a mash up of Hinduism/Buddhism and most recently her Kabbalah kick.

People eat it up! Why? Because "something's missing" They have an intense unconscious longing for something with substance or soul. They are looking for something to identify with, to give their life meaning. People are drawn to things that mirror their unconscious longings/landscapes.

Religion/spirituality, art/music, love/romance/ all effect people the same way...these things all invoke passion and everyone is seeking something to be passionate about.

Let's take two different kinds of people:

First, you have the Mystical Adept, who has renounced materialism and considers himself to be rich in Spirit. In his pursuit of TRUTH...he has traveled the world over studying religion and spirituality, he has a fancy Spiritual title: Guru, Swami, High Priest, Yoga Master,or whatever...his faith is unshakable, he shines like the sun and owns the room when he enters, is the model of perfect health, and people listen when he speaks. People from far and wide come to see him. He is paid top dollar to teach classes and seminar all over the world...all expenses paid.

And then we have the student of the Mystical Adept: Materialistic, corporate slave, who attends over priced Yoga classes "religiously" with her designer Yoga mat and matching outfit. After reading about the benefits of Yoga in Cosmo, and watching Oprah she decided to look into taking classes. Plus some of her favorite celebrities on her favorite T.V. shows like "Sex in the City" and "Desperate Housewives" do Yoga, so that solidified her decision to sign up. Now she can't imagine life without Yoga...she hangs on to every last word of her Guru...takes his advice regarding her personal life, she now buys cruelty free beauty care products, organic meat and dairy products from her local health food store. And guess what? She's quite the trend-setter back at the office! She's organized a "Wellness Group" and now her fellow employees can enjoy the benefits of Yoga or chair massage during their lunch hour. (because studies show by reducing levels of stress at the office, you can increase productivity) Her faith is unshakable, she shines like the sun and owns the room when she enters, is the model of health, and people listen when she speaks. She is the most popular girl at the office and is quickly climbing the coorperate ladder.

Is the passion and devotion of the student less than that of the teacher? No, we're just looking at two different levels of consciousness...but the fundamental human experience is the same.

Each one, teach one...

Lisa Perrin said...

How sincerely fascinating! I find myself increasingly interested in taxidermy and its history!

H.G. said...

if you dont mind me asking what percentage of the proceeds from your black forest relics is going to the wwf?


I was just thinking about that...I'm not sure yet! I'll probably start with 10% and eventually donate proceeds from all items in my shop as my business grows. Also, after doing a little more research I may split it between WWF and the Defender's of Wildlife!

april said...

Lavona! You are such a beautiful person! This was such an interesting read (including the commentary). The blogosphere, and etsy are lucky to have you!


awww shucks April, you're the sweetest! xo!


Update 3/16/09

"Please note that to communicate that you are making a donation to us based on sales, we require a licensing agreement. This entails a minimum annual guaranteed donation of $25,000 and registration as a commercial coventurer in four states. At this time we are not interested in a licensing agreement due to conflicting efforts with another jewelry line which is exclusive. I certainly appreciate your desire to donate to WWF, but there are a million rules and regulations around this costing both time and money. We do not feel as though the financial benefit to us outweighs the legal and marketing work involved on either one of our ends."

So I'm looking into a smaller grassroots organization...any suggestions are welcome!