It's been a year since I started The Pagan Sphinx and I've never truly discussed how I arrived at the name. So, what exactly, do Emily Dickinson and William Bouguereau have in common?
I've long thought of myself as a sort of pagan, in the sense that I tend by nature to be a person who doubts the existence of god but who does not discount it altogether. An agnostic you say? Perhaps. But that sounds sort of cold to me for some reason.
I have also long been a fan of Emily Dickinson. Not only of her poetry but of the woman herself; so much of whom is shrouded in mystery; with the exception of her poems and letters. One day, as I was doing a search on her poems and letters on the net, I came upon this article by Gary Sloan, from which I've copied the following passage:
Dickinson's enigmatic nature shrouds her evolution from Christian manqué to pagan. She had histrionic propensities that obscure the line between her true beliefs and those she feigned. Intermittently in her 1,775 poems and nearly 1,100 extant letters (many poems were incorporated into the letters), she struck poses and adopted personas. "When I state myself as the Representative of my verse," she told Higginson, "it does not mean me but a supposed person." In early professions of impiety, she had a penchant for hyperbole and self-dramatization that render her claims hard to evaluate. Later, an authentic infidel, she accommodated orthodox sensibilities. Long after she had chucked belief in a hereafter, she continued to quote promissory biblical verses to assure bereaved relatives and neighbors they would be reunited with their deceased loved ones. When she was herself bereaved, she accepted the ministrations of clergymen. She even solicited platitudes on immortality, plucking at a twig of evidence.
In essence, Emily doubted, as I do; as many of us do. And Professor Sloan: if you ever read this, I would like you to know how much I enjoyed your article and how what you wrote about Emily Dickinson has helped to enrich my appreciation of her. Because Emily Dickinson lived in Amherst, Massachusetts, which is practically my backyard, I have an even more special reverence for her persona(s), her work and her life. Visiting the Dickinson museum has become an annual Spring pilgrimage for me. I eargerly await April when the tulips in Emiy's garden (or so I like to pretend it's still her garden) are in full bloom.
That's the history of the title of The Pagan Sphinx. Then there is the matter of the blog header. I think of this painting by Beaugereau on several levels. Firstly, it's a beautiful painting. It's also playful, pagan-like and the all-time favorite of a once five year old SG1, who upon her second or so visit to its home, the Clark Art Institute, begged for the refrigerator magnet of the painting and insisted on taking it to school for show and tell one week. And that event, of course, was only slightly marred by the ridicicule of the other kindergartners. My very loving and lovely daughter recently said to me: "See, Mommy, I had a thing for curvy women, even back then!".
And this painting is huge. See the photo of the room where it hangs in the museaum; taken by yours truly. It is with regret that I never took pictures of my children on all the family visits we made there. But it's not too late. I am planning such a trip this summer, when both girls are done with school. In fact, SG1 will be a college graduate and spending time with her parents and sister before she heads off to Santa Barbara with her Beloved. Lots of pictures, I promise myself!
I've thought a few times of changing the blog header but I'm not ready. Just like SG1's inevitable moving on to a new life, I'm still hanging on. One day, when the time feels right, I may change it. Meanwhile, I'm still very much attached to it.
That, my friends, is a brief history of The Pagan Sphinx and those nude ladies dragging the naughty satyr into the pond. I swear, I could make up so many stories about that painting, were it not for the permanent writer's block...
I believe that the images and writing posted here fall under the "fair use" section of the U.S. copyright law http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap1.html#107, as they are intended for educational purposes and are not in a medium that is of commercial nature.