For me the role of protector came in many forms. From improvised sing-songs and night time routines that kept me safe from scary movie creatures and dark shadows to the devotional candles my grandmother kept burning round the clock in our home to the many little internal bets I made about how long I could do a certain task, with the inevitable success granting me safe passage or dreams.
There also were dream images themselves. And voices. . . which, as it turned out, DID save my life on two occasions but that is all for another time.
My draw to the pantheon of ancient Egypt dates back to when I was 6 or 7 and the treasures of Tutankhamen were touring the US for the first time. The images of Tut's burial treasures were on the cover of every major magazine and many books were released about the discovery and the history of the tomb.
It was in grade school that I first was shown one of those books by my teacher. That was followed by a trip to the library and a venture through our family encyclopedia. (Anyone remember those? )
I was completely enchanted by the anthropomorphic Gods and Goddesses and the amazing array of symbols and meanings attributed to them all.
I fashioned many of the objects I saw out of whatever materials I could find. The tin foil roll was a favorite target of mine, much to the dismay of my mother, and I made countless small little statuettes of the figures out of it. This led to my first bit of sculpting clay but i was not good with it at all. I was much better at drawing and so, in short order, the walls of my bedroom closet became a tomb with hieroglyphs drawn on all three walls.
This also did not go over well with mom. :)
I can tell you that I felt protected by the strange and wonderful figures. I memorized their names and forms. . . Horus, Isis, Anubis and Hathor were my favorites to render and, by age 10, I had taken to drawing them on the tops of my feet in felt tip pen, also with the understanding that they would protect me. Though I never felt I needed protection against anything in particular.
So when took up polymer clay work a few years ago, it seemed natural to want to create something from my childhood. Perhaps something I never could then. And while it did not leap off the page into my head to make Egyptian statues, it was not far behind the first thoughts.
One thing that had NOT changed was my lack of ability with clay. Art, in almost every form, comes somewhat naturally to me. But clay, even polymer clay, just felt so foreign at first.
Once I began trying to create votive statues of the ancient Egyptian pantheon, it all fell into place and I suddenly had the incentive and the motivation to stick with the clay. It has, to say the least, paid off.
I never knew there were so many forms and deities spread throughout the history of ancient Egypt. I'll never master them all but I do so love the time spent researching and learning just as I did as a child. It is as important as the art that comes from it.
One of the forms I never knew of in my youth but who I am so drawn to now, is Bes, a multifaceted and infinitely interesting Deity of many faces and forms. Celebrated as the full-service protector god who served as the champion of everything good and the protector against anything bad, Bes had a long and impressive list of deity duties, including:
Protector of Women
Protector and Entertainer of Children
Guardian against Nightmares and Dangerous Animals of the Night.
Patron of Warriors, Hunters and Travelers
Patron of Music and Dancing
Guardian of Families and Keeper of Domestic Happiness
God of Good Fortune, Luck and Probability
God of Commerce
Guardian of the Vineyards
Guardian Against All Manner of Misfortune
|I almost never make the exact same form of Bes twice! This is my latest.|
Now, the world is filled with guardian spirits, angels, entities and deities. Bes is just one of many form cultures of every corner of the globe.
But what is often missing in the adult versions we hold to is the child's ability to take the image, the idol, the entity and expand it in our own universe.
Essentially, to reinvent and create it. And then, in doing so, to believe in it fully.
And while many people I know tend to believe this is because we "know" too much about the world around us and it's inherent dangers, I think it is quite the opposite.
We have forgotten far more than we have learned since childhood. For some, that is not a choice. Bad things. . . terrible things, definitely do happen to us. Sometimes placing us beyond the point of return.
For me, each statue and amulet. . . or each fairy world or gargoyle . . . or each elf or miniature house I create is a protector. Everything I create in fact could be seen as such. I find that the mystery is everywhere around us. . . and, unfortunately, there are still a few monsters out there too.
The deal we make with these created protectors is a simple one to strike.
I believe fully in it as I create it and, in doing so, it opens the door for another to believe in it as they decide to bring it into their own world. In whatever form, when it arrives, it is an acceptance of something that binds from the earliest days of our creativity.
It is a desire to make sense of the world around us in the very same way the ancient Egyptians belief in their pantheon came to be. It changes, it grows, it adapts and it reinvents itself over and over and over. . .
As we should too.
Every piece I create is a step into that reinvention. It's a claiming of something that was inherently mine all those years ago and, for whatever time I have left in this world, I want it back as completely as I can manage.
And, along that road each day, I leave these little markers. These Descansos. All of them protective icons and imagery that allows me to step forward without fear again tomorrow.
Into the unknown and the well known.
All at once.