I’ve always thought I have a strong connection with a particular animal: the Sloth.
I like this animal that people usually associate to laziness…
Why am I talking about this?
Because my sister gave me a soft toy of a Sloth and this reminded me of the Spirit Animals of the Shamanic tradition. Starting from this, I began to reflect on one of the fundamental themes of Horror storytelling.
Transcending from the condition of the common man and gaze into the unknowable abyss.
It is a theme that has very ancient roots in the history of mankind and that permeates stories, myths and legends from the earliest times. Horror storytelling is based on a peculiar emotional state: an uncontrollable fear that can be aroused by real events or even unreal experiences.
This is exactly where Horror storytelling comes into play: it gives us the opportunity to know facts that, in normal contexts, we could never learn. Through the Story (book or film) the one who experiences it breaks the ancient dichotomy SACER/PROFANUS; man crosses a threshold which, in a spatial sense, delimits the distinction between what is within the reach of all individuals and what, instead, concerns only the inscrutable laws of the universe.
The one who goes beyond the threshold experiences the brutality, fear and violence outside the limits imposed by “nature” and contemplates them in a superhuman perspective; hence the horror of peering into the abyss, or the anguish in discovering a terrible secret.
Knowledge of what is “beyond” is the mover of the disturbing experience.
Shamanic tradition developed as the first form of structured knowledge of the world around us, through the observation of nature and, in particular, of animal behavior. In this vision, animals acquired sacredness and power, up to represent mighty and primitive archetypes that evoke ancestral fears and immeasurable truths.
For example, a strong shamanic component, in this sense, is present in Lovecraft’s work, although intertwined undeniable classical mythological influences and scientific information (he was expert in astronomy). In his writings the “initiatory journey” which leads to the contemplation of the cosmical forces ends in madness because it is the human condition itself that doesn’t allow to grasp the elusive.
Throughout history, knowledge has grown from Shamanic tradition and evolved, laying the foundations of modern religions and, later, of the scientific method. In my opinion, we could say that all these disciplines have a great influence on the Horror perspective, just because all these fields of experience aim to break through the unknown that still permeates our existences.
I absolutely don’t want to go into private matters on beliefs and religions, I’m speaking only and exclusively of fiction.
Given this, the Sloth certainly represents an archetype in which I recognize myself in strengths and weaknesses and I keep my Spirit Animal tight!
See you soon…
by Alice Colombo