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LeAnne Miller


September 25, 2007 | Comment icon 3 comments
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"....The lady with the snaky hairdo is probably more famous for turning folks to stone than she is for becoming a piece of sculpture herself..... which she did. Medusa, a creature too horrible for mortals to look upon, offers at least, this cold comfort; In the end, she was too horrible to look at herself. She, that Queen of nightmares with her writhing crown of snakes, became the world's........ first "REAL" gargoyle." --- Stephen King (in his introduction to Nightmares in the Sky. In the earliest, darkest, and middle ages, one purpose for creating objects termed 'gargoyles,' was to be a unique characterisitcs of the buildings, churches and Cathedrals during the early to late Gothic eras of Art and Architecture. The primary reason such strange and imaginative creatures and beings were made, was to fulfill a practical purpose; after they were completed (as individual pieces), they would be attached to the topmost parts of buildings around the edges and building corners and would serve their 'owners' as collective water drainage spouts. In appearance, most of these gargoyle creations would have extra long necks with open backs and extra large gaping mouths; with these 'monstorous' appearances, people naturally assumed for all illogical reasons that for the gargoyle's looks of appearing mean and evil, that the creatures WERE mean and evil; however, these assumptions were all misguided and wrong.

According to historical definition, the word gargoyle is derived from the french word 'gargouille' which means 'throat' or 'pipe.' This is also the base word from which the english word 'gargle' comes from. In research studied from historical networks, organizations, and associations which dedicate time and efforts to research to share with other serious researchers and readers of the subject, it is ascertained that at least five recurring themes were prevelant from studying numerous gargoyle statues (as building drainage spouts). Additionally, in the world currently, there is a profileration of artists who create and sell free standing, smaller statues of animals and beings (such as dragons, cat gargoyles, panatheistic gods and goddesses of numerous relig ions) termed 'grotesques.' Bas reliefs of Lilith, and pagan creatures are some examples; Similarly, in merchandise catalogs such as ISIS books, and Azure Green, small and moderately table sized statues of ancient deities as Ahura Mazda (an ancient god equivelant to the Greek sun-god, Apollo--and on the side of "Good," Mithras, (the son of Ahura Mazda--and considered on the side of "Good,") and as well, there can be found the eerie,"Evil" adversarial dark being, Pazuzu. (whose 'groteseque' likeness has been utilized in at least three Hollywood films. The first time he is seen in the Blockbuster film, The Exorcist (starring Piper Laurie and Linda Blair). It is intimated that it is the demonic deity, Pazuzu which has taken Possession of the Reagan McNeill character (portrayed by Linda Blair; even though it is never clear that through the exorcism rite that the devil-demon reveals to the priests of his 'real' name. Similarly, It is in the PRE-prequal film "The Exorcist: Beginnings," which touches on the idea that 'before the creation of Man --by GOD-- Demons existed and in fact had 'Dominion' of all the earth. And the demon, Pazuzu is the adversary of the priest in the Exorcist: Beginnings film. Incidentally, there is the film entitled: 'Dominion,' which is considered the prequal film to the list of Exorcist films.

Not to be outdone by the Line of Exorcist films, writer-director, Wes Craven also utilized the showcasing of BOTH, large statue images of the Sun-god, Ahurah Mazda and the Demonic Pazuzu, in his film, Wishmaster (which starred ingenue actress, Tammy Lauren, and also verteran Horror icon actors, Robert Englund (Freddy Kreugar of the Nightmare on Elm Street movies) and Tony Todd (from the Candyman series of films). The larger-than-life statues of Ahurah Mazda Pazuzu can be viewed by carefully studying the party mayhem at the home of Simon Beaumont (played by Englund). In the Hall of Statues, in which Beaumont has placed the sun-god, Mazda at the end of the hall way, along the one wall, there is also shown Mazda's evil adversary, the winged demon, Pazuzu. In actual and factual description, Pazuzu is indeed, a very eerie and unnerving image of a 'grotesque.' The label 'grotesque' seems appropriate to when it was created to describe the smaller gargoyle-like statues and images, as their similar 'monstorously gross' appearance was thought to perform a secondary purpose--the same of their gargoyle cousins--which was to have the ability purpose of scaring away evil spirits and beings from the churches and catherdrals they were built on and attached to.

This, in turn, meant the other purpose of the gargoyles and smaller grotesque statues were to protect and keep safe the people inside the buildings upon which they were adorned. This basic "Good against Evil" theme/purpose was the primary premise behind the CBS/Walt Disney co-created, co-produced--but short lived--saturday morning animated cartoon series, "Disney's Gargoyles." The premise of the animated series was that the Clan (family) of gargoyles was headed by the 'Alpha'-male gargoyle (hero), named Goliath; and that although they were originally part of the architecture of an ancient castle (brought to New York City by the original owner of the castle), there seemed to be an 'assumed' natural law of Supernatural metaphysics which dictates that during daylight hours, the creatures must remain stone sentrys; but at sunset, the gargoyles are allowed "life" to fly around freely to help the helpless and defend those who need defending. Yet, any good deeds they performed needed to be completed before sunrise, as they would need to be back to their home-base at the castle, where they would once again be turned back into the stone-faced creatures of the Supernatural world they were - at the first dawning ray of sunrise. Another modern day study into the ideas of what gargoyles really are, was ingeniously incorporated into an episode of the highly popular, science fiction/factual (?) supernatural drama (now in worldwide syndication, as well as being currently sold in dvd sets), ....The X-Files.

The episode was entitled: "Grotesque," and guest starred a previous x-file alumni agent character played by actor, Kurtwood Smith (Reginald "Red" Forman of That 70's Show). Though while on the x-files episode, the dark drama placed more emphasis on the eerie and demonically mysterious aspect of what a gargoyle/grotesque truly is, and contemplating what the archtypal icon represented in this particular episode. The episode seemed to focus on the unsettling symbolism that the 'grotesque monster' being a life-long case study by Smith's character, seemed to indicate that he has become so narr owly focused on trying to hunt down, search for, and finally catch the 'demon' (he makes everyone assume it is an actual demon creature ), that in the end, all he ends up doing is driving himself into a deep, deep well of insanity. At the conclusion of the episode, the character of Special Agent, Fox Mulder(David Duchovney) narrates how a person can exhibit such an obvious sense of 'tunnel vision' in searching for the answers to the big questions in life: "Who, or what, are we--really?" and "Why do we (as humans) exist?" and if we are so focused and intent on looking for paranormal (and religious) reasons and answers for demons and monsters outside of ourselves in the world, are "we" really being remiss in possibly over looking the truly 'monsterous' tendencies and diabolical characteristics--within ourselves--as we live our life in search of who we are, and how we wish to create and or recreate ourselves in our individual search for self? The questions are left open (purposely) for each person to think about in his, or her own ways!
In the five themes listed about the history and symbolisms of the gargoyle, two of the five seemed to stand out more obviously than the rest. These specific themes were of : one, concerning the theme of disembodied heads, and the second theme of the concept of gargoyles/grotesques having open gaping mouths. In the reasoning behind why gargoyles/grotesques had gaping mouths, is that within research of one internet site: " The mouth pulled open is a frequent symbol of devouring giants. In order to convey size in a small sculpture, much smaller figures are placed next to the 'giant.' The act of pulling the mouth open is a threatening gesture which serves to remind us that we are (all) vulnerable to Forces larger than ourselves." (The Natural and Unnatural History of Gargoyles) However, there could be more symbolism going on than what is outwardly viewed. This is theorized as possible, due to an ancient superstition which was often said that for a person to cough and or yawn-- without covering the mouth with a hand, was to openly invite the Devil (or devils) into your vulnerable body. Concerning the theme among gargoyle/grotes que carvers and builders that most are simply disembodied heads, there are few explorations for this, as well as inspirational influences for future Art and Sculptures, which would be created by the Greeks -and adopted and adapted by the Romans afterward.

This is especially specific concerning the double-faced, disembodied head bust of the Roman god, Janus--for which the name January is created from. Janus, which, with his two faces, can be interpreted as the symbolic "two-faced" inner natures of every man (and woman); as well as symbolically illustrating the two sided natures of "Good as well as Evil" in any individual; the dual faced deity has even been theorized analytically to be expressing the Animism theory that everything of the world has both, natures of male AND female within them. These ideas and theories are all postulated around the two-faced, Roman deity, Janus, as throughout history, there is no known Greek counterpart to his mythological creationism. In fact, the Romans believed so highly of the warrior-god-leader, that they emblazoned his two-faced head image on all of their currency coins. The symbolism of disembodied heads is a throw back aspect primarily associated with 5th century Celts, who were, in fact, head hunters. They actually worshipped the heads that they had severed, believing them to hold a powerful Spiritual force. In the context of gargoyles and grotesques, it is said that if you ever make eye contact with one, you will be able to understand how the belief in this one trait can be revealed as 'true.' For the gargoyle's/grotesque's "evil eye" stare has a surrealistic hypnotic hold which at a later time can be viewed and studied as having a logical and rationally believable explanation.

Since the head-hunting Celts believed the disembodied heads held such a mesmerizing hypnotic trance induced state of inexplicable power over them, this aspect in the artistic image would strangely correspond to the thought concept postulated by the Greek, Plato, who stated in his work, Phaedrus: "That the eyes were in fact the windows to the Soul." This was a concept which Plato had drawn from the Biblical Book of Proverbs. Incidentally, then, for a Christian person who did not know the anamorphic images works were actually "Good" in general, he or she, would believe that because the stone creature looked evil, that such a creature was evil. (And it was the kernal seed of this specific 'gargoyles are all evil' fear- thought, which has grown and been believed in from the earliest dates in history pre-dating Christianity; yet, the concept was taken up by Christian priests and leaders and 'demonized' as a way of trying to 'convert' uninformed people that to dedicate themselves to Christianity was the only way to save themselves from such evil and demonic creatures and supernatural beings). In a certain Christian belief then, it was thought that to look at an evil being or creature straight in its eyes, was to make oneself vulnerable to having his or her Soul 'sucked' out and stolen from him or her; and this was all only by looking at a hideously grotesque gargoyle creature in the eyes. (This is also a protection measure against encounters with vampires and vampiric creatures). This belief, however, was not the only culturecentric belief about the heads of gargoyles.

Actually, for the ancient Greeks, the cultural beliefs about God were centered around one specific ideal. This ideal basic to their beliefs was that: The 'Godly' part of any person, and creature that the Greeks held the most importance in, was the head. They believed that the 'heart' of a person was located in the part of the body which was technically 'closer to God-in Heaven.' And the part of the body which was 'closest' to God ( in Heaven) was the head. It is interesting to note, that it was only during the 1200's when gargoyles first appeared in Europe--as practical adornments of Gothic Architecture. However, according to the Northern Gallery website on the internet, it is most interesting to learn that Gargoyles can be traced back in history to over 4000 years ago; their historical existences have been found throughout countries such as in Egypt, Rome, and Greece. Various water spouts made of terra cotta materials were actually very common. Most of these depicted such animals and creatures as lions and eagles, as well as creatures descri bed from Greek and Roman mythologies: gryffens, snakes, chimeras, harpies, furies, centaurs, satyrs, etc. Gargoyle water spouts were even discovered buried beneath the ruins of Pompeii." It is also interesting to learn that the very first 'grotesque' figures originated and came from Egypt.

One such figure most professional archeologists, historians, Egyptologists, etc. would agree is a top notch example of a 'grotesque' figure, is the Great Stone Sphynx of Egypt. According to http:/ , it is stated that even North America has its own coteries and communities of gargoyles. The Academy Architecture of Princeton and Duke Universities being excellent examples. Even today, the historical head quarters of the Philadelphia Fire Department remains a remarkable example of the use of gargoyles in these modern times; and also captures and conveys the essence ( and significance) of what it means to be a fireman--(Looking outward to 'look over' and protect the many Souls in the world). Interestingly enough, research also tells us that once lead drainpipes were introduced in the 16th century, there was no longer any real need, practically, for gragoyle water drainage spouts to continue being used. However, architects continued to create and incorporate gargoyles and grotesques into modern building designs. It appears that in post Gothic eras, that smaller 'sentry' gargoyle and grotesque statuettes (modern ly termed maquettes) are created, sold and used to serve only as images and focal concentration icons as symbols of an earlier, Spiritual time in Art history.

Additionally, they continue to be sold and used in numerous religious ways, and some people acquire the statuettes and images as unique collectible adornments to be showcased; and some people acquire the numerous types of gargoyle creatures simply because they enjoy looking at them. In conclusion, it all serves to say that: The most likely truth is that all of these former elements come together in explaining both the existence of, and our attractions to gargoyles and grotesques; the conscious, the unconscious, primative religions, myths, Christian conversions, practicality and most assuredly the stone carver's joy of creation. The image under consideration embody profound, symbolic contents from a "collective unconscious," and are significant and enduring symbolic manifestations of and from the human experience. Comments (3)

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Comment icon #1 Posted by nettysavalon 17 years ago
O.k Now wait a minute.It is true that Gargoiles come from greek Mythologie.How ever they become alive at night and they are supposed to be some poor souls ,who did some crime in their past.They were killed and cursed and turned to stone, to become alive, evry night to protect people from evil. How ever as with all good monsters some turned against us humans and became alive to harm us and kill the good Gargoiles.In time people belived Gargoiles were bad creatures and even started to sacrifice children to them.Medusa was no Gargoiles.She had no wings,could become alive when she had to and she w... [More]
Comment icon #2 Posted by manwithdream 17 years ago
Maybe this sounds silly, but couldn't gargoyles also have been used to scare pigeons away from the roofs of big buildings? I think scary looking creatures with wings would scare pigeons like the fake owls a lot of people use today to scare away pigeons. Manwithdream
Comment icon #3 Posted by nettysavalon 17 years ago
Maybe this sounds silly, but couldn't gargoyles also have been used to scare pigeons away from the roofs of big buildings? I think scary looking creatures with wings would scare pigeons like the fake owls a lot of people use today to scare away pigeons. Manwithdream Who would have thought of that.Yes You are really good,but who told that roomer to the pigeons?Oh yeah now I know it was Medusa the Pigeon Qeen lol

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