24 January, 2006

Mythical Metamorphoses

Mythical Metamorphoses; Things are not always, what they seem.
Over the years, all manner of metamorphoses and magical transformations, even in their most prosaic forms, have continued to fascinate, allure and astonish, while invoking fear and reverence, in peoples from all cultures throughout time. The various representations and renderings of metamorphosis present the viewer with a sensate assault on vision of the uncanny processes of shapeshifting that question notions of “coherence and self-identity in space and time, of narrative and character, of evolution and devolution.” P xiv [1] Although metamorphosis can be found in most cultures and has been the subject of much theoretical discussion, for instance in relation to Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the medieval and renaissance metamorphic imagery, and to Kafka's Verwandlung it is impossible to give overview of the standing of metamorphosis within a historical and mythological context. Metamorphosis comes from the Greek meta beyond, over above and morph shape. It means “to change physical form, structure, or substance especially by supernatural means” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
In order for a change to be described as a metamorphosis, it requires a presupposition of an original form. Metamorphosis goes by a variety of other names, including mutation, morphing, transformation, transmutation, transfiguration or transmogrification. metamorphosis has been the subject of much theoretical discussion from its earliest to most recent presentations. In mythology and non-rationalistic cultural traditions, human beings are often viewed as having the ability to metamorphose. Those with such abilities are referred to as shapeshifters, doppelgangers, changelings, skin-walkers, mimics, mutants, and mimics.
Shapeshifting often refers to characters that change form or morph on their own, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, while transformation refers more commonly to externally imposed change of form or are morphed, whether by magic or sufficiently advanced technology. Those who morph or are morphed, such as werewolves, vampires and their victims, are generally considered monstrous and/or “other” within the narrative and social order.
To metamorphose is to change in appearance, character, condition, or function; it is the embodiment of change. Change as a fundamental certainty has been acknowledged from even before the time by the very first civilizations from around the world, yet many philosophical questions and arguments continue to resonate about the permanence of change.