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The symbolism of animals in jewelry

Updated: Sep 3, 2021

The human beign is a creature of masks and disguises.

The origins of animal symbolism in jewelry.

In the mythical perspective, animals are not a mere instinctive and repeated apparition. Subtle, natural and powerful energies abound in them.

Sometimes man is a creature of masks and disguises; however the animal shows univocal and constant behaviors. Hence, the symbolism of that animal action remains continuous.

The origins of animal symbolism are closely related to totemism and zoolatry. Thus we have that the location of the animal in the space or symbolic field, together with the situation and attitude in which it is shown, are essential for the discrimination of symbolic shades. For example, the "tamed animal" is very representative and its significance would correspond to the transposition, which it has when it appears in the wild.

The combat between the knight and the wild or fabulous animal is a very frequent theme in universal symbolism; the victory of man can come with death or the domestication and submission of the beast.

For example, in the novel The Knight of the Lion, by the medieval author Chrétien de Troyes, the main character is helped by a lion. In the legend of Saint George, the subjugated dragon serves his subjugator. In the West, animalistic symbolism could be inscribed with Aristotle and Pliny; although it is observed with specificity in the book Kysiologus, written in Alexandria of the second century after Christ.

Another important contribution, a century or two later, was that of Horus Apollo with his two Hyerogliphica books, which was the application of Egyptian symbolism.

From the aforementioned works the medieval tendency of the bestiaries arises, which developed in various books such as the Bestiaries of Philip of Thaun (1121), Pedro de Picardia, William of Normandy (13th century); also in De animalibus, attributed to Alberto Magno; the Libre de les Bésties, by Ramon Llull; and the Bestiaire d'Amour, by Fournival (14th century).

These texts match with the perspective of the primitive men on animals, exposed by Schneider; whereas the human being is an equivocal (masked) individual, the animal is univocal, it possesses constant positive or negative qualities, which allow it to be assigned to an immanent form of cosmic manifestation.

In general, animals, in the category of complexity and biological evolution, express the hierarchy of instincts, from the insect through the reptile to the mammal.

In some Assyrian and Persian reliefs the triumph of a dominant animal over a lower one is appreciated, which invariably corresponds to a similar symbolism.

In the same way it appears in pre-Columbian America, for example, the fight of the eagle against the serpent. In other representations, the subjection of the lion on the bull usually establishes that of the day on the night; and, therefore, that of light over darkness and the victory of good over evil.

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