Scarecrows – Scary or Wary?

The scarecrow is commonly associated with modern references like the Wizard of Oz and Batman, but its original purpose was to discourage birds such as crows or magpies from disturbing and feeding on recently cast seed and growing crops.The earliest reference is in Japanese lore (circa 700 AD) in which a Kuebiko is depicted as adiety which knows everything of the world from its unmoving location among the fields.

By Drake1024

 

Yet, maybeall is not asit appears. First, was the scarecrow reallyonly a utilitarian object used for its stated purpose?

According to Occult View, “In agrarian societies farmers lived close to their land andtheir natural world, unlike today’s modern corporate farms…which is why the scarecrow would seem pointless, since it does not really scare crows!Farmersknewthis.”

Today we are learning anew just how intelligent crows and ravens are. As we’ve seen in studies documented by PBS since 2009, (and again just last night in Nature’s Crows special), Crows and their cousins never forget a face.Farmers skilled in the art of olde probably knew this.After all, if a crow can remember you and I, they are quite capable of recognizing the ol’ tattie bogle that hasn’t moved an inch since he showed up. They are also not fooled by plastic owls. So why the continued use of bogeymen?

By Radojavor

 

“Perhaps one possible purpose of the scarecrow was notjust to scare away birds, but to mark the land as belonging to the farmer. Or if a serf, to the land’s lord.Stay out!The idea of hanging bodies as a warning was used in the past. The ancient Romans left crucified prisoners to send a message to their population. The infamous Vlad the Impaler impaled prisoners of war as a gruesome warning. The scarecrow, impaled and crucified, could have served a similar, if less graphic, purpose.Call it a Scareman.

Farms were always subject to the whims of nature, and the farmer lived at the mercy of a capricious environment. A drought or flood could result in starvation. An infestation of pests could devastate crops, a plague destroy the livestock. The scarecrow could also have served as an effigy, a form of substitute human sacrifice. The scarecrow would be offered to the natural world in place of the living, that nature might be sated.Like the gargoyles on the gothic cathedral, the scarecrow might have been a hex to protect the farm from harm andkeep evil spirits away.”

Odin’s Ravens

Odin’s Ravens

In Norse mythology, Odin hung upside down from the world-tree Yggdrasil in order to attain enlightenment. He had to suffer greatly for his wisdom. After nine days Odin achieved his goal and discovered the Runes, died and was reborn, freed from the tree but at the cost of one of his eyes.Sufferingbefore spiritual growth is a theme in many religions.

To complete the circle, Odin was linked to his two ravens, Huginn (thought) and Muninn (memory), which travel the world giving Odin information. Here ravens represent the power of the mind as they perch on Odin’s shoulder whispering in his ears. As crows perch on the scarecrow, grantingthem theadvantage of sight over the fields.

Fast forward a bit to the dark ages. In folklore from the British isles, crows were considered omens of doom and death. If crows were considered bad omens, then using a scarecrow to banish them seems to have a metaphysical as well as a practical purpose.

These symbolic supernatural attributes are a reflection of the genuinevirtues of the crow.They are mischievous,enterprising, adaptive, and highly communicative, and the scarecrow represents not the will of man to ‘scare’ them away, but that man was scared of the crow.

As the ages wear on, methods change, and scarecrows have joined the ranks among the legends and folktale pasttimes, existing only as lonely halloween decorations.

Today, highly reflective aluminized PET film ribbons are tied to the plants to create shimmers from the sun, a futuristic approach to pest problems, however we all know how much corvids like shiny things.

Polly Morgan

In 1889 Carl Akeley, working for the Milwaukee Public Museum, created the first total habitat diorama by arranging stuffed muskrats into a facsimile of their natural environment. While the originators of the diorama strove to heighten its sense of reality, many contemporary artists have used the medium’s format to comment on its artificiality or hyper reality.

Polly Morgan is one such fairly new British artist focused on Avian still life. Rather than mimicking the natural setting, she places them in unexpected and wholly unnatural scenes which encourage us to look at them with a renewed perspective. Ranging from the baroque to the hilarious, each piece sheds its typical associations of commonality with her unique style.

View more of Polly’s work: Link

 

This lecture will examine the work of several photographers who use the form of the natural history museum diorama to comment on the connection (or lack of connection) between the human and natural world.

Diane Fox is a Lecturer in the College of Architecture and Design at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville where she teaches graphic design and photography. Fox received her MFA from The University of Tennessee and her BFA from Middle Tennessee State University. Her current body of photographic work, “UnNatural History,” is composed of images shot in various natural history museums in the US and Europe. Her solo exhibits have been exhibited in the Erie Art Museum, Erie, PA; Tower Fine Arts Gallery, SUNY Brockport, Brockport, NY; Gallery Stokes in Atlanta, GA; Santa Reparata Gallery, Florence Italy; Apex Gallery, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, Rapid City, SD; Sarratt Gallery, Vanderbilt University Nashville, TN; and Dom Muz Gallery, Torun, Poland among others. You can see some of her work at dianefoxphotography.com.