Snakes, Dragons, and the Power of Music: Strange and Wondrous 18th-Century Illustrations of Real and Mythic Serpents

In 1742, more than a century prior to Darwin parted the veil of creationist folklore to expose the reality of nature, an English theologian by the name of Charles Owen published An Essay Toward a Natural History of Serpents– a curious artifact from the museum of sensemaking, a fossil from the tidal zone in between ignorance and knowledge where the primordial waters of superstition are lapping at the slowly emerging terra cognita of science.

Offered as a print and as a face mask.Depicted as equally genuine together with the common vipers familiar to every English child are the “poetick Griffins,” a “monstrous Serpent of 4 or 5 Yards long … furious and extremely large,” and the Ethiopian dragons, inherited from ancient Greek mythology and believed to eliminate elephants “by winding themselves about the Elephants Legs, and after that thrusting their Heads up their Nostrils, fling them, and draw their Blood till they are dead.”

Available as a print and as a face mask.What emerges is a kind of nature tinted by supernatural inheritance– while Owen was inspired by the symbology of reptiles in an excellent much of the worlds religious customs, he brought the mindset of a biologist or “natural thinker” (the word researcher was yet to be created) to the venture. While his prefatory note to the reader is caught in the mind and language of its time, speaking of the “Almighty Creator,” the “Divine Wisdom in the works of Nature,” and the immutability of types in their “Eternal Design,” he likewise advocates passionately for acknowledging the limits of our understanding and savoring the rewards of observation, especially of looking more carefully at what is commonly overlooked. Although his motive is theological, its end and result are almost scientific:

Available as a print and as a face mask.Couple with biologist and Native American storyteller Robin Wall Kimmerer, composing a quarter millennium after Owen, on how the overlooked elegance of moss refines the art of attentiveness to all scales of presence, then savor other sensational scientific and natural history illustrations from Owens age: the consummate illustrations for the worlds very first encyclopedia of medical plants, which the young self-taught artist and botanist Elizabeth Blackwell painted to bail her hubby out of debtors prison; the self-taught German artist and astronomer Maria Clara Eimmarts haunting blue-and-gold performances of the Solar System as it was then known; Sarah Stones paintings of exotic, threatened, and now-extinct types; and some marvelous illustrations of owls from Darwins century.

That there is not a smart Purpose in every thing that is made due to the fact that we do not comprehend it, is as unreasonable when it comes to a Man to say, there is no such thing as Light, because he is blind and has no Eyes to see it.
For the Illustration of this, we might take a brief View of Creatures, in vulgar account despicable and too diminutive as a Species, to be worthy of an attention.

Musick seems one of the most antient of Arts, and of all other, singing Musick needs to have been the first kind, and obtained from the numerous natural Strains of Birds; as stringed Instruments were from Winds whistling in hollow Reeds, and pulsatile Instruments (as Drums and Cymbals) from the hollow Noiseof concave Bodies. This is the Conjecture.
Musick has actually ever been in the greatest Esteem in all Ages, and amongst all People. Nor could Authors express their Opinions of it highly enough, but by instilling, that it remained in Heaven, and was one of the primary Entertainments of the Blessed.
The Effects credited Musick by the Antients, nearly amount to Miracles; by methods thereof Diseases are stated to have actually been cured, Unchastity corrected, Seditions stopped, Passions raised and soothed, and even Madness occasioned.
Musick has been used as a Sermon of Morality … The Pythagoreans utilized Musick to cultivate the Mind, and settle in it a passionate Love of Virtue … used it, not just against Diseases of the Mind, however those of the Body. It was the typical Custom of the Pythagoreans to soften their Minds with Musick prior to they went to sleep; and also in the Morning, to delight themselves to business of the Day.
This Cure of Distempers by Musick sounds odd, but was a popular Medicine amongst the Antients. We have actually already considered, how those wounded by the Tarantula were healed by Musick; the Evidence of which is too strong to be overturned.

Available as a print and as a face mask.Available as a print and as a face mask.And then, in one of those glorious metaphysical meanderings lacing pre-scientific works of “natural approach,” Owen relies on the belief that music mitigates the effects of poisons, moral and physical, and includes a reverie to the canon of excellent writers proclaiming the power of music:.

Available as a print and as a face mask.Nestled in between the serpents are other poison-wielding animals– spiders, scorpions, frogs, wasps, hornets, the tarantula (” a type of an overgrown Spider, about the Size of a common Acorn,” against the lethal bite of which “the most particular and effectual Remedy is Musick.”).

Available as a print and as a face mask.Even looking carefully at the most “Noxious” of animals, he recommends, brings us into more intimate contact with the skilled perfection of nature, for the more we consider them, the more we find not a specific reason that they should exist however no reason they ought to not. A lovely notion to roll versus the palate of the mind– a concept that sweetens a great lots of other contexts with its implications.