stagna quaedam vel opacitas vel immensa altitudo sacravit
(the darkness or the unfathomable depth of their water made certain ponds sacred)
Seneca epist 41.3
Stagnant waters – ponds and lakes – have always inspired human imagination. The visual imagery invoked by this kind of landscape has made it a subject-matter of artistic expression, from painting to poetry. But what imbues these places with meaning for us, what elevates them from a place to a landscape? - It turns out that we humans are linked to stagnant waters by our myths. In ancient times, certain bodies of water were thought to be the abode of a numen and therefore sacred. Especially lakes with dark, murky water were considered to be unfathomably deep; to our forefathers, they were portals to an otherworld, inhabited by spirit-beings.
In chthonic mythology, stagnant waters are imagined as an archetypical female landscape. Unlike the archetypical male rivers, ponds and lakes keep the water within. It is the amalgamation of the deep, stagnant water with the earth, that yields the fertile muck, the substrate of life. Consequently, the numen associated with a pond or a lake is usually a goddess of fertility – note that in Germanic languages, Moor (fen), Moder (muck) and Mutter (mother) share the same stem.
The cults of the chthonic goddesses, the water-mothers and earth-mothers, are nowadays all but forgotten. However, when one roams the surroundings of a pond and the world goes quiet, the energy of the place, as a border region between our everyday world and a mythical otherworld, can still be sensed. It is a particular atmosphere – wistful and somber, uncanny at times, difficult to put into words – that I try to visualize in this project.