Saturday, 24 December 2011

Elephant No. 83: Stickers

Today is Christmas Eve, which seemed like a good occasion to use a set of butterfly stickers I bought a few days ago. Although I've never been someone who would bedeck her house, her clothes, or herself with butterflies, butterflies on Christmas Eve seemed like a good fit. 

In Japan, the butterfly was once seen as the personification of a person's soul, whether alive, dying or already gone. Similarly, the Ancient Greek word for butterfly is psȳchē, which means "soul" or "mind". The Naga people of India trace their ancestry to a butterfly, and in China, two butterflies flying together symbolize love.

Because butterflies emerge from a soup of imago cells that were once a caterpillar, they are most particularly a symbol of rebirth in cultures all over the world. As Taoist philosopher Zhuangzi once wrote, following a dream: "Was I before a man who dreamt about being a butterfly, or am I now a butterfly who dreams about being a man?" 

They are also a symbol of the power of small things to make a big difference. This is based on the butterfly effect first proposed by Edward Lorenz, which suggests that a single butterfly flapping its wings in a Mexican rainforest can cause a typhoon on the other side of the world.

For today's elephant, I started by simply sketching an elephant outline onto a piece of black paper.

Once I had an outline, I simply filled it in with butterfly stickers. I didn't care much if things overlapped, or if I had a few bits of black showing through.

Because of what butterflies represent, and because it's Christmas Eve, today's elephant is dedicated to absent family and friends: those we love, those we have lost, and those we hope to see again one day, in whatever form that may be.

Elephant Lore of the Day
Elephants mourn loved ones, even many years after a death. When an elephant walks by the place in which a loved one died, he or she will pause silently, often for several minutes. While standing over the bones, the elephant will touch them, smell them, turn them over, and caress them with its trunk. They don't do this with the bones of any other animal.

This moving display is still not completely understood by researchers. They assume the elephants may be grieving. Other possibilities are that the elephant is trying to recognize the dead elephant, or perhaps reliving memories. What is known is that elephants have a surprising range of emotion, and very long memories, making it quite conceivable that they are remembering and mourning the loss of elephants they may have known.

Elephant sanctuaries (this Wikipedia list allows you to click through to information on a number of sanctuaries around the world)
Performing Animal Welfare Society
Bring the Elephant Home
African Wildlife Foundation

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