You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘regal’ tag.
The other day I rashly promised a post about Juno—or I will call her “Hera” since the Greeks invented her (?) and their name is more euphonic. Immediately though it became obvious that writing about the queen of the gods is not as simple as it seems. Hera plays the villain in many myths—particularly those of Heracles (indeed, her name is his name: Heracles means “Hera’s man”). She is a great and terrible antagonist–even more so than giant sentient animals, or super dragons, or the dark monstrous deities of the underworld. But why is that? How can a regal woman be so much worse than the gods of charnel darkness and stygian torture?
Hera is the eldest daughter of Rhea and Cronus. She was devoured by her father at infancy, but escaped (via mustard emetic) and joined her brothers and sisters fighting against the titans for world domination. Once the battle was won, she initially rebuffed the romantic overtures of her youngest and strongest brother, Zeus. The king of the gods then took the form of a bedraggled cuckoo and cunningly played upon her sympathy for small injured creatures in order to win her heart and her hand. After their marriage, however, Hera played the cuckoo in their relationship as Zeus dallied with goddesses, nymphs, and comely mortals of all sorts. Classical mythology is pervaded by a sense that Zeus, king of the gods and lord of creation who fears nothing (except for being replaced by a strong son) is extremely afraid of Hera. She is often portrayed as jealously lashing out at Zeus’ paramours and their offspring…or otherwise punishing those who act against her will or fail to pay her sufficient respect.
Hera’s animals are the lion, the cow, and the peacock (she put the hundred eyes of her dead servant Argus on the bird’s tail to give it even greater beauty). Her emblems are the throne, the chariot, the scepter, and the crown. She is sometimes portrayed wearing a strange cylindrical crown of archaic pre-Greek shape (which may indicate that she was a goddess of power borrowed from a pre-Greek society).
Hera tends to be portrayed as a rich powerful woman of a higher class who barely deigns to notice her inferiors. She is the goddess of women, marriage, wealth, success, and (above all) power. Her children are Ares, Hephaestus, Eileithyia (the goddess of childbirth), cruel Eris, and beautiful Hebe, the goddess of youth who married Hercules after his apotheosis.
Have you read “The Three Musketeers”? After spending the entire book struggling against the machinations of Cardinal Richelieu, the hero prevails and join forces with…Cardinal Richelieu. Power is like that, and so is Hera. She can’t effectively be fought against. The world is hers. She can only be appeased or beguiled… or served outright.
The way upwards is not through deeds of merit, or valorous acts, or fighting monsters—it is through political wiles, networking, and figuring out how to please extremely rich powerful people who are impossible to please and implacably oppose regarding you as any sort of equal.
I started to do some research on beautiful and esoteric crowns of the world, but I was tragically distracted by hunger. Somehow the two extremely different impetuses fused into one peculiar quest and I wound up looking at a bunch of beautiful cakes shaped like crowns.
I guess crowns and cakes do share a few characteristics. A cake after all is a high status food for fancy occasions. Many cakes are cylindrical. Cakes tend to be highly decorated and they are often given over to the person of the hour in the manner of Roman crowns and garlands. Yet on a more fundamental level, crowns and cakes are quite dissimilar—one is a fancy hat betokening authority over others, whereas the other is a tasty dessert.
Yet there are so many crown cakes—many of them quite lovely. Is this because of the cylindrical shape, or is it because more people like crowns than you might expect? Is it part of “princess culture”–that formidable marketing confection which affects so many little girls? Maybe it has something to do with king cake or some other traditionalist throwback to customs of yesteryear. Whatever the reason, I really enjoy looking at these extraordinary confections. Also, thanks to the gifted royalist bakers of the internet, I have managed to throw together an airy yet still quasi-relevant post at the very end of a long day. I promise I will address weightier concerns tomorrow…
Now if only I had one of these delicious cakes! Maybe there is something to this princess business.
As a whole, snakes are among the most colorful of animals, but some of these slithering reptiles elevate this characteristic to an entirely new level. Allow me to present Diadophis punctatus regalis, the regal ringneck snake. Indigenous to the desert southwest of North America, this snake is a more magnificently colored subspecies of the widely distributed ringneck snake (Diadophis punctatus). The regal ringneck snake is a charming shade of shiny blue-gray with a yellow clergyman’s collar and a jet black head—a color palette which would certainly get a person noticed at Delmonico’s but which hardly seems exceptional in an order of animals which includes parti-color beauties like the coral snake, the milk snake, and the paradise tree snake. But initial appearances can be deceptive! If the regal ringneck coral snake is threatened, it will roll over on its back and expose a belly which comes from the most lurid tropical dream of the nineteen-eighties.
The regal ringneck snake is a moderate-sized snake which measures from 20 to 80 cm (8 to 34 inches) in length and makes its home in the mountains which loom above the southwest deserts of the United States (and which stretch down into Northern Mexico). Expert hunters, these snakes are ophiophagous—they live almost entirely on a diet of smaller snakes. Since snakes are very fast and can slip into almost any space or climb almost any obstacle, the regal ringneck snake uses venom to slow down its elusive smaller cousins so it can devour them.
The regal ringneck snakes venom is effective on smaller snakes but has no impact on humans or animals large enough to prey on the snake. The bright orange and yellow belly display instead warns of another threat—like a skunk, these snakes can squirt an unpleasant musty secretion onto creatures which harass them. If you come across a regal ringneck snake showing off his splendiferous belly, it might be wise to leave him alone!
To balance yesterday’s post about the dog star, today we feature three whimsical cat paintings by Tokyo born surrealist Tokuhiro Kawai. I am calling Kawai a surrealist, but perhaps it would be more correct to call him a painter of fantastical narrative: all of his works seem to have some sort of magical fairy-tale story behind them. Although the three monarchical cats shown here are lighthearted, some of Kawai’s other paintings are much more melodramatic and feature fearsome conflict between devils, angels, and heroes.
Each of these paintings features a Scottish Fold housecat either wearing a crown or being ceremonially coronated. The little black and white cat is so self-assured and regal that we hardly wonder at its elevation to the throne. With broad gleaming eyes and fur that seems as though the viewer could touch it, the cat seems real. One wonders if perhaps it belongs to the artist.
Kawai has a particular gift for painting animals and many of his compositions are filled from top to bottom with flamingos, foxes, owls, ammonites, and pelicans. Cats seem to be his favorite and they are pictured as conquerors, tyrants, and gods—in one of his pictures a feisty cat has killed an angel like it was a songbird and is holding the limp corpse in his fangs while standing like a stylite atop a classical column. Fortunately the cat in these three paintings does not seem as violent. The little kitty is clearly dreaming about the trappings of power—what it would be like to wield absolute authority and be pampered all day. Knowing my own pet housecat’s personality, I believe that such an interpreatation of feline psychology is not entirely a stretch.