‘Ancient Ritual and Art’, Jane Ellen Harrison

'Ancient Ritual and Art', Jane Ellen Harrison

I read this book over the past two days, and it was a fascinating read. Interestingly though, I found not much that sparked any creative flow or connections to my piece, save for one or two concepts, as it mainly dealt with Greek religions and rituals, rather than primitive.

However, the two points that struck a chord within me were; ‘the concepts of ideals into idols’, which I have written a short paragraph in my first PRD, but will continue in length here; There is a passage in the book that states ‘why does the conception of a god impose obligation? Just because and in so far he claims to have objective existence. By giving to his god from the outset objective existence the worshipper prevents his god from taking his place in that high kingdom of spiritual realities which is the imagination, and sets him down in that lower objective world which always compels practical reaction. What might have been an ideal becomes an idol. Straightway this objectified idol compels all sorts of ritual reactions of prayer.’

A fascinating notion, that the religious man brings a god into a tangible for of reality through his worship, so that he may ‘know’ god. God therefore becomes a piece to worship, rather than a concept that is fundamentally too complex and harsh for the human mind to understand. Could this be the link between all Art throughout the ages? a way to understand and create physical manifestations of concepts? More than likely, this concept requires more rumination.

Secondly, there was a passage that detailed an’s ritualistic obsession with Birth and life, and the connections with Spring. Unfortunately, I cannot find the original passage that inspired me to think of such a concept, but I believe there was a very ritualistic process in Greek civilisation, in which the woman and children would bear and plant the seeds, much like their roles in life as the bearers and seeds, ad then the priests and temple assistants would water the crops whilst a priest of the Gods would bless and pray for the crops good harvest. It struck a chord within me, not for the aspect of watering and growth of crops, but rather the concept of ‘rebirth after death’. There were two images that suddenly sprung into my mind as I thought of this;

The first, was a skull with a flower growing out of it. However, I dismissed this image immediately as I perceived it as clichéd and too close to my consistent obsessions with death and bones, which I want to get away from.

The Second, and more interesting of the two, are the concepts of filth and moss taking over statues. I first saw it in an image of a ‘Haniwa that had started to have mosses grow over it, and it was beautiful. the empty, hollow form being retaken by nature, the clay going back into the earth…it was striking. I then thought of Chernobyl, and these ideas and concepts fit well into the theme of ‘time’ once again.

A decision must be made!


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