The Bird Or The Archetype Of Lost Souls

The secret world of Dr. Nicolae Minovici (excerpt) The legends about Dr. Nicolae Minovici’s experiments, conducted at the Medico-Legal Institute in Bucharest, at the beginning of the twentieth century, are notorious. Beyond legends, Dr. Nicolae Minovici showed a real concern for the fragile border between worlds – the here-and-now world and the after-world. The current article is based on documents, so that both the cheap spectacular aspects and, especially, amateurishness could be eliminated. In Romanian folklore, the border between worlds was crossed through initiation, an initiation acquired through the use of knowledge and the manipulation of the right symbols. It is perhaps not accidental that Nicolae Minovici gathered an impressive collection of folk art, ceramics being prevalent. Symbols of lost souls, from old times, have most frequently been preserved in the motifs present on popular ceramics, from various ethnographic areas. The bird or the archetype of lost soulsThe bird is an archetypal symbol of elevation, of the aspiration for rising to the absolute dimension of the sky, a constant and universal metaphor for the soul. In most archaic mythologies, migratory birds are incarnations of the soul of the dead person who departs for the afterworld.As deities with multiple functions or as incarnations of tutelary spirits, the mythical birds know the secrets of the three worlds, which gave birth to the “bird language knowledge” mythologem. The baleful symbolism is largely specific to night birds associated with foretelling the implacable death fate. (Ivan Evseev) Birds have been considered “messengers of gods and all the manifestations of the spirits’ power assumed their wings”. Birds, wings and flight have all symbolized superior states of being. The connection between birds and the sky made the former be associated with angels and be attributed the angelic or solar language, which is nothing but poetry, a rhythmic language, meant to facilitate immersion into higher mental states. (Luc Benoist) The bird performs an initiating rite of passage, one of breaking through the space between the two worlds, a consubstantial barrier which only she can identify. Hence, “for descending into the infernal abyss, or for placing oneself in a communication state with the Garden of Eden, the pilgrim spirit takes bird wings. The bird or the birds around the tree of life create an opening to the Garden of Eden; the connection with the afterworld allows the bird to foretell death. Related to the bird flight are ancient and unpredictable dreams such as the journey to other worlds, in the past and in the future, and recovering eternal peace and happiness from the betrayed garden.” (Constantin Prut) On the other hand, “birds symbolize thoughts and intuitions – between people and the soul there has always been a symbolic connection” (Aniela Jaffé). In the Romanian folk tradition, the bird is linked to the major symbols “in the life of man, at one’s birth and wedding; it is a symbol of fecundity, growth and fruitfulness” (Georgeta Roşu). The bird motif can be found in folk ceramics from all ethnographic areas of Romania. Translated by Ioana Stamatescu

by Adrian Majuru (b. 1968)