Truth


The idea behind art is to tell the truth. I know that it’s art’s principle purpose. It isn’t to create nice pictures, fun sculptures or cool photographs. It is about telling the truth. Primarily I am writing this for those seeking to become photographic artists.

Many films made today don’t do that. Especially the “Tent Poles” that pepper the summer and Christmas seasons. A film doesn’t have to be a heady Sundance winner to tell the truth. Really some of those “critically acclaimed” films are lies as well as films like Immortals.

I damn Immortals because it in no way reflects the truth found in Greek Myth. Greek mythology describes a past that is as real to those who lived it as it should be to the story tellers of today. It’s reality reflects the culture, the fears and hopes of an ancient culture.

Many characters from Greek myth have been highjacked by modern movements. Take Hecate for instance. She is also called Hekate, it depends on the transcription you are using. She was a pre-Olympian goddess. That means she was one of the Titians that Zeus left out of their condemnation to Tartarus (basically hell for those who don’t know).

Over the millennia since her inception she has been highjacked by different groups like Aleister Crowley’s Golden Dawn. Since then the followers of Wicca have attached her to dark magic and witchcraft. None of this is true. Simply she was thought by the Greeks and Romans to be a goddess of the crossroads. A protector of women. Her ties to the Underworld come from her efforts in saving Persephone from Hades (the god of the underworld) for her friend Demeter the mother of Persephone. After that Hades would take Persephone into the underworld for a portion of the year and Demeter would let the world die during that time. So here is an explanation for fall and winter for the people of that ancient time.

As explain in Hesiod’s Theogony, she held sway over many things:

“Whom she will she greatly aids and advances: she sits by worshipful kings in judgement, and in the assembly whom she will is distinguished among the people. And when men arm themselves for the battle that destroys men, then the goddess is at hand to give victory and grant glory readily to whom she will. Good is she also when men contend at the games, for there too the goddess is with them and profits them: and he who by might and strength gets the victory wins the rich prize easily with joy, and brings glory to his parents. And she is good to stand by horsemen, whom she will: and to those whose business is in the grey discomfortable sea, and who pray to Hecate and the loud-crashing Earth-Shaker, easily the glorious goddess gives great catch, and easily she takes it away as soon as seen, if so she will. She is good in the byre with Hermes to increase the stock. The droves of kine and wide herds of goats and flocks of fleecy sheep, if she will, she increases from a few, or makes many to be less. So, then, albeit her mother’s only child, she is honored amongst all the deathless gods. And the son of Cronos made her a nurse of the young who after that day saw with their eyes the light of all-seeing Dawn. So from the beginning she is a nurse of the young, and these are her honours.” (Hesiod, Theogony, English Translation by Hugh G. Evelyn-White)

In contrast Apate was the daughter of Nyx. She lived in Pandora’s box and escaped when it was opened. Apate is a personification of deceit. Some of her siblings included Nemesis (made popular by the Resident Evil movies). The Roman’s called her Fraus which became the root of our word ‘fraud.’

In truth Hecate was primarily associated with liminality. This word comes from a Latin word means “a threshold.” A limit or boundary between things. I think of a beach as a perfect metaphor for boundaries. You can’t cross this boundary in your normal physical state without losing your life. The same goes for the creatures living in the seas. Even the air breathing whales can’t survive if beached. I’ve seen this myself on Cape Cod.

This is truth. Witchcraft and dark magic are not. Now I know there are those devoted to Wicca and all that and that’s fine. People are free to chose their faith but it should, like art, be based in truth. Hecate isn’t part of that faith or practice no matter how hard one wants to believe she is. In fact she is a myth. A story from ancient times used as part of the explanations of why the natural world is they way it is.

As artists we must question everything and seek out truth and use our art to represent that truth to the world. To many people artists seem to be useless hangers on unlike philosophers, religious leaders and our political leaders. This is flat out not true. Artists are the (or should be) the ones who question and seek true meaning in all that is. If you are a photographer and you think you take pretty sharp photos I challenge you. Do you know and understand the purpose of art?

I would ask this as well, have you studied history, science, anthropology, sociology, psychology and politics? Artist are not stupid people who just could’t cut it in the “real world.” A good artists knows more about the world, natural sciences and humanity (including history) than most of her peers around her.

Put your camera away for now and pick up a book and learn so when you do return to your camera you will be able to seek truth and show the rest of us what it is. A great example is Andrew Dickinson’s web site.

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