Thursday, July 8, 2010

Anthropomorphists and Clouds (Personificazione della Nube)

A few days ago, I looked up from my outdoor mosaic work into the evening sky and instead of the usual bright blue that usually accompanies extraordinarily hot Texas summers with a drought, I saw clouds. But not just any clouds! They were the kind of clouds that are worthy of a JMW Turner painting as in Hannibal Crossing the Alps* here.

*Not to be confused with Hannibal from 'The A-Team'

They were the kind of clouds whose tops rise for miles but patchy enough to interplay with the light of a setting sun. The kinds which beckon your hands to gingerly yet lovingly caress and squeeze them in a way that shows you respect them.

Uh right, I later thought about how ancient peoples viewed natural phenomenon like this. Not many programs were on their satellite television sets back then, so weather displays like this must have been one of the best entertainment values of the time.

So many cultures through time have personified (anthropomorphised) these natural forces of clouds and wind. Meso-American cultures had their Ehecatl-Quetzalcoatl, Turks had an elaborate wind / weather personfication hierarchy that still kind of baffles me because of the complexity. The Greeks and Romans had different 'people' for each damned direction that the wind blows. The last available subdirection of 'South by Southwest' was named 'Avstin', I think.

In Mérida Spain (Lusitania for those of you with really old gps files) they have a nice imaginative mosaic showing the personification of the south wind (Notvs) pushing along clouds depicted as a woman (Nvbs). Check out José Luis Santos Fernández's blog who took these great photos of the archaeological site and describes the personifications of the Mithraeum house Natura mosaic.

I can only hope that some day an ancient mosaic or fresco will be found showing a tornado, tidal wave, or volcano, with accompanying text that trails off 'Arrggh!'. Or, maybe more acurately, it might read 'vae mihiiiii!!!' Until then, don't forget to stop and look up once in a while. You might miss something interesting.


  1. I love those moments of grandeur we can see just by looking up at the sky. We are so lucky to live surrounded by such amazing displays.

    What a beautiful post!

  2. I'm a sucker for looking at the sky and taking photos of clouds. (OK I'm a sucker, period, but hey). It's always so interesting. To me anyway. Sunsets too. All that colour and mass. I just love it. It's never the same twice.

    I said that while sober too, Tex.

  3. Have you ever thought about teaching Latin? Or maybe you already have, I don't know.

    It seems to me that you Mr. Vita Brevis could team up and create a site to teach Latin in a way that is interesting and funny.

    Just sayin' ...

  4. I wonder how many times they thought the world was going to end when they looked up at dark skies. Probably not more than I do.

  5. heehee, "Avstin".

    I love looking at clouds and sunsets and thunderstorms. I will never forget one time in Australia it was a boiling hot blazingly sunny day, and a severe thunderstorm approached in the form of a sheet of cloud ranging from slate grey to black, it was so abrupt that it was advancing in a line, and a huge flock of screeching cockatoos was flying out from under the storm like Bruce Willis outrunning an explosion.

  6. I have always been a look to the sky kinda gal. Clouds and weather have always fasinated me and now that I have a somewhat decent camera, I have been taking lots of photos of the sky, well when there is actually something up there other than that same blue hot sky.

    Great post!

  7. The dark patch of clouds in the upper left-hand corner of that first pic look kind of like Europe.

  8. PS - I talked about you on my blog today!
    : )

  9. Everyday Goddess,
    Yes, people forget about why it's cool to be here on earth sometimes. I always think to myself, dang, why didn't I think to look there?

    Vegetable Assassin,
    I agree, and I said that not very sober, but truth be told it would apply in either case.

    No, I'm still learning Latin. The only Latin I know for sure are the bits I carve into marble. (It's hell to change it once you go to the trouble of v-incising the letters).

    Dark skies are foreboding. Hey, read 'The Idolators', a short story in dual English / Italian in a collection by Penguin press.

    Haha, you got the 'Avstin' reference.
    I need to visit Australia, so many interesting things to see!

    Yeah, it's natures playground (now that we are out of the drought anyways.

    Yes, and that is one of the many reasons to like living in Europe?