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Wendy Doniger The Mythology of Masquerading Animals, or, Bestiality CULTURES THROUGHOUT THE WORLD REPRESENT OUR DECEPTIVE relationships with animals as masquerades, which operate in both directions: in our rituals, humans often masquerade as animals, but in our myths we imagine that animals masquerade as humans. The most intense version of this universal theme is the tale of the bestial decep­ tion, the masquerade of an animal as a human in the most intimate of all relationships. What do the myths ofbestial masquerade tell us about the ways in which humans have fantasized about their relationships with animals? WAKING UP W ITH AN ANIMAL You wake up in the morning and discover that you have been in bed all night with an animal (or a god in the form of an animal): that is the fantasy that underlies both the folktales and the literary retell­ ings o f those tales about figures sometimes called “animal lovers.” (Unfortunately, this term is often spelt with a hyphen, which produces a potential confusion with animal-lovers, people who are fond of stray cats and dogs. It is easier to distinguish animal husbands—as the Frog Princes are usually called—from those who engage in animalhusbandry . Ofcourse, the partner of an animal lover is, in a most literal sense, even a bestial sense, an animal-lover.) Freud’s Family Romance (in which the child’s parents turn out to be other, better people than ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN SOCIAL RESEARCH VOL. 6 2 , NO. 3 (FALL 1995) social research Vol 71 : No 3 : Fall 2 004 711 his apparent parents) often involves animals, for the changeling child may be raised by or among animals, so that the animal is a maternal surrogate, like a wet nurse, impersonating a mother; or the child may be sent out to be killed, whereupon the compassionate killer relents and kills an animal instead, taking back its heart (or tongue) as proof of the murder, so that the animal is a sacrificial surrogate, imperson­ ating the sacrificial victim. The Family Romance presents two comple­ mentary animal paradigms: often, lowly animals are assim ilated to the lower class people who adopt a royal child; as animals are below humans, so lower classes are regarded as naturally below higher classes. But, on the other hand, animals may be assimilated to gods and be regarded as the high parents of children who appear to be lower—merely mortal. Even in folktales that lack an explicit religious agenda, the union of a human and an animal has theological implications. Midas Dekkers has suggested that the myth of Leda impregnated by Zeus as a swan is the source of the myth of Mary impregnated by God: “Christ was bom o f a virgin and a dove; Christianity too is founded on bestial­ ity. .. . Bestiality is present at the very cradle of Christianity. Bestial tendencies can be discerned not only in the Christ child himself, but in the gathering assembled round the crib” (Dekkers, 1994: 9-10). The assembled animals are evidence not so much of the bestial parentage of the Christ child but of his place in the mythology of the Family Romance. For Jesus, following the pattern of the birth of the hero already established by Oedipus, Romulus and Remus, and many others (and later continued in Tarzan and Mowgli), is taken from his noble parents (in this case, God) and nurtured by animals before being raised by parents of lower birth (Dundes, 1990). Like all the children of Leda and her swan, Jesus “is at the same time the product of bestiality (man x animal) and of theogamy (god x man). . . . Human beings are, so to speak, marrying both beneath and above their station” (Dekkers, 1994: 10). The donkey has special meaning in Christian mythology, as Gerard Kornelis van het Reve argued in 1966-1997: 712 social research Whether God is a Lamb with bloodily pierced feet or a one year-old, mousey grey donkey, which allows itself to be possessed by me at length three times in succession in its Secret Opening, what difference does it make as long as He takes away the sins of the world, and has pity on us...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1944-768X
Print ISSN
0037-783X
Pages
pp. 711-732
Launched on MUSE
2014-04-30
Open Access
No
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