Colquhoun was drawn to myths that deal with genital warfare among the gods resulting, for the male, in a bloody ending and, for the female, in confirmation of her generative and regenerative powers. The Pine Family (1940) includes references to the myth of the goddess Cybele and her lover, Attis, whose birth, life and demise were characterised by sexual violence, emasculation and castration. It also introduces an aspect of sexuality that is new to her work; the origin of gender differentiation. In a reversal of alchemical fusion, the Gods exerted power through, literally, divide and rule. The lesson of Attis is that male power lies with the male genitals. Remove these, and men become subservient devotees of the goddess. (1)
Works such as Loki (1948), Garden of Adonis (1945); Horus (c 1947); Spine of Osiris (1971) and Eye of Horus (1971) also deal with myths that involve castration. In the case of Adonis, the goddess Astarte was the author of his castration, although she entrusted the actual act to the victim himself by instilling in him thoughts of self destruction. Osiris was murdered and dismembered by his brother Seth. Isis, the sister-wife of Osiris, recovered his missing penis and, by impregnating herself with it took responsibility for both the male and the female roles in the conception of Horus. Colquhoun’s fascination with sexual mutilation endured to the end of her career. The late collage Klingsor’s Castle (1981) makes reference to the figure of Klingsor from Wagner’s Parsival who achieved his magical powers at the expense of his sexual powers, by accepting voluntary castration.
1. For further information on gods who ‘live out their short seasons seducing and being seduced by goddesses whose vitality is overpowering and in whose presence they play the colourless role of fading gigolos, or partners without clout’, see Giovanni Casadio, ‘The Failing Male God: Emasculation, death and other accidents in the ancient Mediterranean world,’ Numen, vol. 50, 2003.
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