The Veins of Mother Earth

At the beginning of my semester-long internship, we spent a lot of time looking at various nature symbols and really digging into their meaning, especially in terms of culture, religion, and science. One of the very first symbols I chose to look into was the river. I have no immediate connection to any particular river, but while being guided through a quick mediation I visualized myself in a jungle with my mom who led me to this long, wide, river running across our path. My mom is from the Philippines and she would often talk about bathing in the river near her village or helping her mom do laundry in it and watching her waist-length hair swirl in the water.

Taking what little connection I had to this body of water, I did some research. As I was reading through various sites and sources, one particular line stood out to me. “Waters rolling as Time itself, as if veins of the Great Mother Earth”. This struck something visceral within me and caught me off guard. Surprised by the emotional response, I let myself think about it more and sit with this intense feeling. Of course the rivers are the veins of Mother Earth. Scientifically, rivers can be defined as “large, natural channel containing water that flows downhill under gravity. A river system is a network of connecting channels”. So, what are veins if not networks of channels which carry life-sustaining fluid away? Fresh water is necessary for life and without it we wouldn’t be where we are today as a species, as an ecosystem, as a planet.

Rivers have been recognized as important fixtures in the natural world before written history, and as civilizations became more stable, their fascination and respect for them started to be documented through stories and myths. The Book of Symbols references various rivers mentioned throughout time, discussing familiar examples like those found in the depths of Tartarus in Greek mythology, such as the Lithe and Styx, which had magical properties or roles within the underworld. Rivers were also mentioned in Asian mythology, with one example being Chinese. First written in the pre-Qin period, this creation myth describes how the first humans came about. The goddess Nuwa created man using clay from the Yellow River. In my mom’s home country, the river was and are lifelines in a cultural and community sense as I’ve mentioned before. In mythology, some indigenous groups believed that humans came from eggs laid by the limokon bird with a man and a woman emerging on opposite sides of a river.

Rivers being so prevalent in culture and religious contexts for so long highlights our innate ability and desire to respect and care for the Earth as it provides us with so much. Things like fresh, drinkable water are taken for granted and the communities who were the first protectors of the Earth are often denied access to or stripped of this precious resource. In thinking of rivers in the context of the veins of Mother Earth, we will be better equipped to protect these vital bodies of water and by extension, the entirety of the Earth. Rivers and water are essential to life and should be protected and respected out of appreciation for all it has granted us. I would like to include one more quote from a Mojave-American poet and Native activist, Natalie Diaz: “I mean river as a verb. A happening. It is moving within me right now”.

References

Kuipers, Andre. Earth Observations Taken by the Expedition 31 Crew. Colorado River, 30 Apr. 2012.

“The First Water Is The Body.” Postcolonial Love Poem, by Natalie Diaz, Graywolf Press, 250 Third Avenue North, Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN, 2020.

“River” UXL Encyclopedia of Science. . Encyclopedia.com. 15 Apr. 2021 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

Ronnberg, Ami, and Kathleen Martin. The Book of Symbols: Reflections on Archetypal Images. Taschen, 2010.

D-Eco-Self Ocean Project 2021

Some of the trash that the sculpture II students safely picked up from the local beaches
The artists behind the project: Ashley Mapelli, Gianna D’Ambrose, & Emily Burney
The mixing process
The first pour of the resin
Symbols floating amongst the trash

2021 D-Eco Self theme was ocean & symbols. This year the Monmouth University, AR 218 Sculpture II class had a difficult time with finding a safe way to collaborate due to Covid-19. Monmouth University seniors Ashley Mapelli, Emily Burney, & Gianna D’Ambrose spent some time throughout the semester researching symbols and thinking of a safe way to go about this exhibition this year with the help from AR 218, Professor. Callas.

To involve the community the students formed a safe beach clean up. People kept their distance, gloves and masks were worn, and everything was sanitized! Afterwards the students started the sculpture by making a frame. The frame was painted so that it would look like the ocean and sand. The second process was mixing and pouring the resin. As the students poured they would put the trash, shells, and sand that was collected by the community into the piece. The students also wrote down symbols that had deep meaning to them and set it in the resin. After everything hardened the students came up with another safe idea to involve the community.

Individual slips were made and were placed in a hanging bucket connected to the frame. Pens for the community to keep were all included so that everyone wouldn’t be touching the same writing utensil. The community would then each take a slip and write down a symbol that they have a deep connection to. Afterwards they would place the slip in the glass bottle sticking out from the resin.

The name of the installation is “The Reminisce of Society” to remind the community to clean up their beaches and to recollect precious and personal meanings. The students have yet to figure out where this piece should be exhibited since the Monmouth University art gallery is closed this year.

Ocean Symbols: The Wave

The Sea Around Us, compares waves to dangerous monsters found in myths and legends. The ocean’s waves can consume a boat like the Titanic, flipping it over with powerful crashes, and pushing it down with force to the bottom of the sea. Waves can take away any mammal’s life, except for Dolphins, with just one strong hit. It can drown any non sea creature and keep pushing them away from land. The waves will hit against each other causing chaotic splashes and makes the ocean look frustrated and angry. As mentioned before, boat legends have these superstitions because of the ocean’s waves. If the ocean senses bad luck, it’ll act as the superstitions mentioned and start cooking waves to attack. When the waves act as a strong and powerful force in the ocean, it can leave anything helpless; destroying everything in its path. During tsunamis waves will destroy homes, wipe away memories, take lives, tear plants out of the ground, and leave the land littered in lost material and garbage. For our social practice project we will be collecting the garbage found on the sand before it reaches the ocean’s waves; preventing the litter from being carried away. Waves can symbolize a negative environmental impact when it comes to the ocean. 

Ocean Symbols: The Boat

Erich Neumann’s, The Great Mother, is an article found on ARAS that goes through the boat’s different origins as well as symbols. The article mentions that the boat is symbolic for carrying life like a mother carries her baby. The boat protects life through the rough waters of the ocean but in some incidents life can be lost. The Titanic for example was a large boat that was responsible for carrying hundreds of lives. Unfortunately the Titanic met its fate, the glacier floating in the ocean. The ocean consumed the Titanic along with the lives that were inhabiting it. This could be compared to when a mother loses her child; sometimes the boat cannot hold life due to fate and other challenges. The boat is also known for holding courage and hope. It is courageous enough to challenge the ocean’s brutal currents.

Ocean Symbols: The Shell

During the times where Christianity was just beginning shells from the ocean were used during the Christian pilgrimages. These shells were used as bowls as the Christians went from home to home asking people to fill their hands with water as well as food. No matter what class in society they were from, poor or rich, they were able to fill the shell all the way to the top. Due to this observation Christians believed that the shell could be used for baptism purposes, filling it with holy water. The painting The Birth of Venus by Boticelli, shows this purity by having Venus standing on a shell. The sea shell could also be a symbol of salvation like the boat. Although the boat helps one from salvation by preventing drowning in the ocean, the shell brings salvation by bringing relief to stresses. For many years people have grown accustomed to and have been curious to collect shells that are pushed onto the sand from the ocean. Many people have stated that by collecting shells they feel this form of relief and peace. The sea shells are then used for more stress relieving activities like jewelry making or even making designs or murals on buildings. Simon Rodia is a famous Italian artist that is known for scavenging shells on the beach and then using them in sculptures; the Watts Towers is an example of one of his works that contain this material. 

Ocean Symbols

Hello! My name is Ashley Mapelli, I am a senior at Monmouth University and I am currently researching oceanic symbols. The boat, shell, salt, whale, and wave are important symbols to pull from the ocean because they all tie together in a similar fashion and there is plenty of information found. There can be negative interpretations and positive ones; but each have their own uniqueness.

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