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Stepping from dusty temple walls, crumbling papyrus and long forgotten stories in ancient tongues, eight Egyptian gods come forth into our modern world. Through liminal spaces and altered states of consciousness pour the tales of their ingress and adoration. Hawk Divine asks us to wonder: Do spirits and monsters walk among us? Does the magic of imagination, word and image evoke gods into existence? Can the wisdom of a meaning-rich, poetic and life-affirming past save us from a meaningless, robotic and desolate future?
Featuring Janice Duke’s eight Egyptian Gods portrait series as full page illustrations, as well as eight new illustrations – including two double page images of Horus and Set – the text comes to life in full colour. Step into an enchanted world: this world.
Hawk Divine is a series of short stories written in the first person. Each story explores an encounter with an ancient Egyptian deity in a modern context. Themes delved into include near death experience, elation, heartbreak, wonder, enlightenment, despair and desire.
In the ancient world deities were often context specific, even to the point of having different forms in different places and different times. There was no ‘one true’ notion of such beings, they were living, evolving entities, with histories and agendas. They also tended to embody particular qualities and aspirations. Each story acts as a gateway to connect to those qualities and aspirations and provide a new time and place in which these mythic characters can express themselves.
Why is it written in the first person?
I have two reasons for this.
Firstly, one of my biggest inspirations for writing Hawk Divine was The Egyptian Book of the Dead. This is a collection of spells which, according to ancient Egyptian belief, enabled the soul of the deceased to navigate the afterlife. The title itself is a mistranslation, it would be more apt to call it An Egyptian Book of Life, as life after death was the aim, with the afterlife considered a continuation of life on Earth, and the journey there containing risks, friends and unexpected events, just as in life. The texts themselves are life affirming in their rich descriptions of particular encounters with, and reflections upon, life through the eyes of another, and each set of spells was written for a particular individual. Every translation of them I have read has been in the first person. So, in keeping with that, it seemed fitting.
My second reason is the more important though. I would like the reader to feel as though they have stepped into a part of someone else’s life. That is the effect I felt when reading The Egyptian Book of the Dead, a part of its magic. Hawk Divine attempts a kind of invocation of the reader into the story. Whether it works or not is up to you to decide.
Are all the stories about the same person?
They could be, but they are not intended to be.
Why did you write it?
Fans of my illustration work requested that I create a series of Egyptian deities, starting some years ago. As I worked on the images, researching each being thoroughly, the temptation to write about such fascinating and beautiful subjects was simply too strong to resist. I have been a writer for most of my life, but very shy to show, let alone publish, anything. This particular series inspired me to combine words and images, to show the writer in myself as well as the artist, and to express various compelling themes in a new way.
Have any other questions? Feel free to ask in the comments.
You may be pleased to hear that my efforts to fundraise for the RSPB in the aftermath of a mass poisoning incident by selling limited edition prints of a Red Kite painted especially for this purpose have been paying off so far. I have raised over £800, woohoo!
It is on display in the hide at Argaty Red Kites, the Red Kite feeding station near Doune, Stirling; and in Pitlochry Pet Supplies, Perthshire. Hopefully helping in some way to continue to draw attention to the issue of wildlife persecution.
Every buyer so far has been very happy with their purchase. Thank you to all of you, as well as those who share this effort, your support and enthusiasm really makes this feel worthwhile.
If you or anyone you know would like one of these special prints email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Help spread the word and together let’s make it over £1000 for the RSPB. Let’s shine a bright light in the darkness of this tragedy and show how much we love our beautiful birds.
From my blog: janiceduke.wordpress.com/2014/…
The question of art imitating nature is a popular one in aesthetic philosophy and art in general. It is a fascinating topic, but something in particular about it has been niggling at me for a while now, especially recently. That something is the distinct lack of nature in mainstream modern art.
In recent years I have been volunteering with the RSPB, doing my bit for nature and engaging with the public to share my passion for wildlife. I have had a lifelong love of the natural world, but in the beginning it was, much like my love for art, an escapist love. I grew up in Greater London, spending the majority of my time in Essex, where one finds a clash of nature and man on virtually every street. Parts of Essex are ancient woodland and wild meadow nose to nose with housing estates and motorways. My childhood was all about finding the wild places and their inhabitants, escaping from a grey human industrial world populated with predators that made a sparrow hawk or a fox look positively friendly.
But if I drew animals it was usually my pets, of which I had many, some rescued wildlife but most of the domestic variety. Although I did draw them my preferred subject was always fantasy, worlds completely apart from this one, where natural forces dominated and giant mythic beasts roamed. I fell in love with the artwork of Brian Froud and Alan Lee, who take nature to fantastical places, they and others and many, many books gave me yet more escape routes from the council houses I grew up in with their abusive neighbours and insulting social workers, Sun newspaper brainwashed communities and the gaping maw of the poverty trap.
Drawing tended to come from reality to escape it and nature was the place I went to be free. I did not want a drawing of the wild wood, I wanted to be there, and I could not draw the woods of home without turning burnt out cars into fairy grottos and crumbling toilet blocks into troll lairs. Wildlife was scarce, education about it scarcer, and I was an impatient child, quick to replace it with dragons and adventures on alien worlds. Only in recent years have I gone back to that fascination with wildlife and cultivated it into something more still and receptive. Exposure to truly wild places is very likely the cause of this. I suspect if I had stayed in the city it would have rotted that wildness out of me eventually, leaving me another empty husk endlessly craving to fill the void.
It is only when completely cut off from the human that we really find ourselves. An invincible summer in the midst of winter. Without that communion with the alien beyond ourselves we live in an echo chamber of humanness, in which the narcissistic and psychotic become amplified as all we repress is skilfully manipulated to manufacture warped desires that can never be sated.
If we never learn to face and relate to the animal without, how can we possibly hope to come to terms with the animal within? It claws and bites under suits and make-up, its primal hungers surging out in unexpected and unhealthy ways. It has become the subject of endless torments, from factory farming to collateral damage and extermination for sport, it is stuffed, pickled and packed for display, valued far more dead than alive. And all the while inside of us it howls.
When I walk through modern art galleries I am often confronted by this disconnect between man and nature played out vividly (nothing says this more than an exhibit sponsored by Shell). Yet throughout art history the influence of nature is undeniable, it is the very basis of the vast majority of work. Now it is the idiosyncratic, the facile and the profitable that inspire the mainstream. And escapism. Much like my own escapism told me quite clearly there were things in my life I needed to face head on, the escapism of our society’s aesthetics tells us that more broadly. As for our emphasis on the idiosyncratic, the facile and the profitable, I would venture to guess that those are the very things that need to be faced.
Far from escaping reality, in art as well as in nature, I have found the starkest confrontation with reality possible. I found myself beyond myself, out there, part of it all. From this vantage the absence of nature from our portraits and of people from our landscapes speaks volumes.
From my blog: janiceduke.wordpress.com/2014/…
Recently I finally got around to watching an interview I’ve been told about many times by people on both ‘sides’ of the argument and neither: Richard Dawkins vs. Deepak Chopra [Click Here to Watch]. Dawkins, as usual, puts on airs of being Mr. Reasonable and Objective and ends up, to me, looking something of a bullying arse. The High Priest of Atheism as ever steps beyond the realm of his expertise (he has actually done good science and should continue with that). Although this is still within science – Chopra is a qualified and experienced medical doctor, a board-certified endocrinologist, experienced in conventional medicine and alternative therapy, Dawkins is a qualified and experienced researcher in evolutionary biology, quite different – Dawkins still acts as though he is the only ‘real’ scientist there (concerned more with statistics and trends than real individual instances, ever the research scientist).
In the full interview Chopra comes over very well, I think, it’s an interesting chat between two people with very different views. To call Chopra an enemy of reason would seem more than a little unfair. In the edit used for TV Dawkins makes Chopra look like a total charlatan. It’s pretty pathetic really. Dawkins shines as an evolutionary biologist, but as a ‘champion of reason’ he seems as smug and underhanded as he does foolish. Anyone who fails to believe what he believes is mad. Sound familiar?
I think the personality cult he has amassed and the attention he receives for his opinions disguised as facts is probably all to engrossing, like many groups and movements those who have bought into it believe they have all the answers and everyone else is crazy. They believe ‘Science’ is the lens through which everything should be viewed and yet, as Dawkins shows in the interview, science is a vast subject with many areas he himself knows nothing about. So when he says ‘Science’ what he likely means is research science, specifically animal behaviour and evolutionary biology. The lens through which everything should be viewed just so happens to be his.
Terry Eagleton has remarked ‘imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read[/hear] Richard Dawkins on theology.’ Or indeed philosophy, psychology, physics and a host of other subjects he seems to have decided can only be understood and found valid or invalid by him, er, I mean ‘Science’.
Dawkins seems to have an ego Neutron stars would envy – appearing small only due to its immense denseness. He could learn a thing or two from Chopra, if he could ever actually see beyond his own point of view. Even if Chopra is a charlatan, his work makes people happy and I’ve yet to hear of anyone threatening the lives of others or belittling them in its name.
As ever the comments on this and anything to do with Dawkins tend to descend into incredibly tedious and ubiquitous ‘religion is true/false’ slap fights in which the main taboo appears to be admitting we know nothing for certain and can only test our theories. This just so happens to be good science as well as good mysticism. I can only assume that dogmatism has more appeal to our basic tribal instincts.
The question of the empirical truth of religion and spirituality seems to me entirely uninteresting and missing the point. “Truth” applies to religion and spirituality as much as it does to art. Have you ever seen anyone arguing that a painting is “True”? Or two similar paintings being killed over because one is believed to be “True” and the other “False”? It would be absurd.
The interesting questions regarding religion and spirituality are why people have them and what purpose they fulfil. To fail to acknowledge and investigate the function of religion and spirituality as evolved and interesting natural phenomenon seems to me as much poor science as it does a failure of imagination on the part of the inquirer. But thankfully there are many thinkers willing to look at these issues, unfortunately none are as famous, infamous or influential as Richard Dawkins, who appears intent on promoting a fundamentalist materialist world view that seems to amount to existential nihilism, which leads inevitably to the Camusian question: ‘Why not kill ourselves?’
I chose to see the Nietzschean light at the end of that particular dark tunnel, that we must create our own meanings, and those meanings can and do have validity, the kind there is little use in poking and prodding about for in a laboratory. I accept the fact I am a limited life form with limited fleshy sensoria that can only tell me so much, I will never comprehend the entirety of this wonderful phenomenon that appears to be occurring, however many instruments I use. I lack the hubris to claim I could know it all but I also lack the fear to let that diminish me. I can know what I can know. I embrace that and am in wonder with it. I am an artist.