The Otter Serpent in Dragon Form, The Cerne Giant Festival 2023
Sculpture by Sasha Constable working with the Cerne Community, in Partnership with The Dorset Museum as part of the Dorchester Science Festival.
In the early history of humankind, when all societies worshipped nature, they expressed their relationship with water via beliefs in serpentine water beings. Snake-like dragons and similarly ophidian creatures occupied leading roles in their pantheons of deities. Serpent gods rose up out of primal seas to create worlds. They appeared wherever water flowed, sparkling in the celestial river we now call the Milky Way, emerging out of the clouds, arching over the Earth in rainbows and meandering across the land in shining streams. Spiralling in hydro-theological cycles between Earth and sky, they were the bringers of water and life.
Wherever they went, water serpent beings manifested ideas about non-human powers and water’s elemental capacities to shape human lives. Celebrated, worshipped and propitiated, they expressed respectful relationships with water and people’s appreciation of its essentiality to all living organisms.
Veronica Strang, Water Beings: from nature worship to the environmental crisis (Reaktion Books, 2023).
As creative beings, water deities embodied the local species they generated. Artist Sasha Constable drew inspiration from the Otter, a frequent visitor to the river Cerne, creating what may well be the first ‘Otter Serpent’ in Dragon form.
The Cerne is one of the few chalk rivers worldwide, flowing into the river Frome famed as a chalk habitat for salmon as they breed and migrate to the High Arctic. The Otter Serpent/Dragon created by Sasha Constable champions our need to nurture the precious water that flows through our habitat and village like the blood coursing through our veins.
This Cape Farewell commission, like Veronica Strang’s writings, invites us to think imaginatively about how to address and transform the environmental crisis that humans have caused, and to find ways to turn the tide.
The Veronica Strang lecture – Water Beings; from Nature Worship to the Environmental Crisis is on Friday 28th April @ St Mary’s Church, Cerne Abbas 7.00 for 7.30pm.
Professor Strang is based in Oxford. Do Not Miss.