Thursday, July 5, 2007

Day at the Museum

We (Zelda, Green Ghost, and yours truly) visited "Mythic Creatures: Dragons, Unicorns & Mermaids" last week! The AMNH did a great job. The importance of studying, preserving, and even internalizing beliefs in these creatures was driven home.

I really enjoyed all the interpretations of Mermaids--it's remarkable how they are a nearly universal concept. The West Indian and African depiction's were the most interesting. One frequent interpretation of her has her Westernized (even with straight hair), holding a hand mirror and sporting a wrist watch! Hence, she was foreign (which meant she was well traveled and well to do, possessing knowledge of far-off places) and liked and coveted fine things. A person could encourage favor in the form of luck or material gain by presenting a gift to the Mermaid. One would wrap a comb or mirror in a fine bit of cloth, make a wish, then pitch this offering into the sea. If your gift was accepted, the Mermaid would send fortune your way. What a beautiful custom!

I also was impressed with the story of the 'Roc' (or Rukh), the giant mythical bird. The exhibit featured a snippet of text from Sir Richard Burton's translation of the epic "Tales from A Thousand and one Nights". I'm a big Burton fan, and picked up a copy of the book from the Museum Shop. Who would consider any other translation but Burton's! :)

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