Monday, October 10, 2011


As I sat down to think about the construction of a Halloween scarecrow for my little garden, I was struck by the notion that they seem to frighten humans a lot more than they do crows. The history of their use goes back at least as far as the ancient Egyptians, and examples exist in cultures all over the world. For their scarecrows, the Greeks made statues of Priapus, the mythical son of Dionysus and Aphrodite. Said to be exceedingly ugly, Priapus is better known by the huge permanent erection with which he was always depicted. (He gave his name to Priapism, the frightening condition made famous by the Viagra disclaimer.) The Pennsylvania Dutch called their scarecrows "der Butzemann" which is the German equivalent to boogeyman. The Japanese call their scarecrows kakashis, which translates to "smells badly." Apparently, they originally burned animal flesh near or hung fish bones on their scarecrows after discovering that it dissuaded birds from eating nearby. Nowadays, apparently they use super creepy mannequins heads.
All of which is to say that there are deep subconscious chords struck by a rough human form standing alone and unmoving in a desolate field. Our minds want to invest it with life, or more specifically, the semblance of life, which is much more disturbing.

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