Shany between reality and fantasy
History and mythology: The Egyptians believed that visible and invisible entities existed in the world and had the power to make human vicissitudes favourable or unfavourable. Therefore, they practised magic rites whose aim was to procure the benevolence of these creatures and perhaps even to dominate and manoeuvre them in order to damage their enemies, that is, other mortals. The favours of these beings were the result of offerings, gifts and the practice of the cult of totems.
These beliefs, in the typically agricultural and pastoral culture of this people, gave life firstly to a form of religion called zoolatry, that is, adoration of animals.
Subsequently, when the concept of the existence of gods matured, they were given a human appearance, but with an animal’s head. The Egyptians then started on a pathway towards the development of an anthropomorphic religion. Animals continued to be venerated separately and their cult was perpetuated.
Moreover, as the concepts of the cycles of life took root, one of the main aspects of Egyptian religion was based on the respect of these cycles, which were:
Time, in which the year was marked by the flooding of the Nile.
Life in continuous alternation with death.
Day and night, in which the sun appears again every new morning and is always followed by the night. The woman had a privileged role. In fact she was considered the undisputed queen of the events of the night.
Sobek was one of the most important divinities, he was the god of water and floods, and resided in the Nile. He was pictured as a man with a crocodile’s head. His cult guaranteed the fertility of the land which was the essential element of Egyptian economy. Sobek was usually benevolent, but in periods of drought and famine he was believed to be angry with mankind.
The crocodile itself was called Sobek. This animal which was so dangerous for man was adored as a divinity of the waters, and its feared attacks on the peasants who lived along the banks of the Nile were averted by means of offerings and rituals whose aim was to make it harmless. Herodotus tells us that crocodiles were also tamed, domesticated, and treated with care. After their death they were embalmed and buried in sacred urns.
Facts: The Nile crocodile is a reptile that can reach a ton in weight, seven metres in length and can live up to eighty years. It lives in Africa but is not found in the Nile region north of Lake Nasser. It has extremely strong claws, and jaws of indescribable strength, equipped with lethal teeth. It is still greatly feared today as it feeds on reptiles, birds, fish and mammals, and is therefore a deadly danger for man.
Fantasy: In an age-old empire, powerful, obscure and monstrous forces dwelt in ghost cities, forests and deserts of sand, in the surge of flooding rivers and in sudden hurricanes……. This is the realm of Shany, priestess of the sacred crocodile. She dominates Sobek with her magic arts and her beauty, and the fierce animal’s divine nature is impotent before her. It is totally in the power, and at the command of Shany, the beautiful queen of the night.
Sculptor: Paul Deheleanu
Painter: Gustavo Gil Campos
Text and translation: Riccardo Carrabino