Photo: Petra Bole – „Wedding Pectoral Bouquet“
The Phenomenon of Initiation
by Petra Bole
The phenomenon of initiation reveals archaic man’s religious beliefs. Archaic initiation rites imparted three kinds of revelation: about the sacred, about death and about sexuality. In his book Rites and Symbols of Initiation, Mircea Eliade, the Romanian historian of religion, fiction writer, philosopher, and professor, defined initiation as “a basic change in existential condition,” which liberates man from profane time and history. “Initiation recapitulates the sacred history of the world. And through this recapitulation, the whole world is sanctified anew… [the initiand] can perceive the world as a sacred work, a creation of the Gods.”
Inside the world of art jewellery I have thus explored different approaches towards baptism, puberty, marriage, shamanism and death.
Baptism is an act of initiation which welcomes us into the community of Christian believers, thus becoming part of the flock shepherded by Jesus. It is a powerful sacrament that washes away original sin and gives us a new identity. In other words, we use physical signs and rituals to express our experience of God in our lives by using symbols such as water, oil, and fire.
Water, the key element in baptism, reminds us that we die with Jesus to conquer sin and rise with him so we might enter a new life. Sacred oil is to signify that the Holy Spirit dwells within the heart of this new Christian. A white garment reflects taking our new identity through baptism as a child of God. A baptismal candle represents the one true light, to guide the new believer throughout their new life. As part of the art jewellery installation some holy water is poured into a chalice and put on an altar and covered with a white garment, while a sheep is anointed and a white candle placed on a pedestal.
Girl’s Pink Brooch
Puberty is the process of physical changes through which a girl’s body matures into an adult one capable of sexual reproduction. I used the symbols of the colour pink (representing compassion, nurturing and love, and generally associated with young girls), pink pubic hair, a comb (as a symbol of women’s hair), a golden shoe (the girl/woman feels something of a Cinderella complex) and the pink dragon. One of a dragon’s powers is shedding its skin and coming out as a new, transformed being, much as a girl becomes a woman.
Boy’s Blue Brooch
Early puberty also correlates with increased sexual activity. In this brooch an ostrich, which in ancient Egypt was highly regarded, and even ridden like a horse, is used to represent a penis that is placed beside one white breast with a golden nipple. Early puberty might result in positive outcomes as a result of certain physical developments, such as greater popularity among one’s peers, higher self-esteem and confidence, but can also give rise to an endless search for a new identity by changing one’s appearance, such as colouring one’s hair, and the brooch also makes use of the colour blue to represent this.
Wedding Pectoral Bouquet
Historically, in most cultures, married women had very few rights of their own, being considered, along with the family’s children, the property of the husband. In this piece, the female lizard is attached to the male one, which may have different meanings, such as an absence of freedom (since women could not own or inherit property, or legally represent themselves) or, from the other perspective, the female’s burden is put on the male. However, since lizards are associated with dreamtime, both male and female join together to realize the common dream. The psychic characteristics of the lizard show us how to awaken our abilities by choosing one path over another that honours every part of our lives. The lizard is a powerful animal to have, revealing your weaknesses, your strengths and prompting the energy of change.
Shamanism involves a practitioner reaching altered states of consciousness in order to perceive and interact with a spirit world and channel these transcendental energies into our own. Shamanism is based on the premise that the visible world is pervaded by invisible forces or spirits which affect the lives of the living.
Mircea Eliade examined the class of rituals associated with initiation, and categorised them into three distinct groups: age rituals, initiations into associations and mystery cults, and shamanic initiations. One of the most common shamanistic themes, according to Eliade, is the shaman’s supposed death and resurrection ̶ the concept of a human coming back to life after death, a rebirth by which they become a new person, that occurs in particular during an initiation. In many myths shamans can speak with animals, and this ability tends to emerge after their initiations. The animal spirits that they communicate with can be benevolent or malevolent.
DEATH. Heaven or Hell?
What happens when we die? After death, shall we go to Heaven or Hell?
Hell appears in many mythologies and religions. It is commonly inhabited by demons, and serves as a place of torment and punishment. My Demon of the Hell is half composed of a negative creature called Captain Gutt (from the movie Ice Age), and positive one, Bison, as an indomitable spirit who holds a legendary power to overcome adversity.
Heaven is a transcendent place where beings such as angels are said to originate and dwell. According to some religions, these heavenly beings can descend to earth, or earthly beings can ascend to Heaven in the afterlife. My Golden Angel represents this innocent and beautiful being.
Petra Bole works as an artist, writer, curator, editor and lecturer. She is currently an assistant professor at the Faculty of Design in Slovenia, where she is in charge of the Department of Product Design. Her educational background is in architecture (at the Faculty of Architecture Ljubljana), jewellery (with a Master of Arts from the Sir John Cass Faculty of Art, Architecture and Design London) and humanities (a PhD in the Philosophy and Theory of Visual Culture from the Faculty of Humanities Koper–Capodistria, University of Primorska). As a doctor in the humanities she wrote a thesis on jewellery as art, investigating different art theories, and the philosophical and sociological aspects of art jewellery. Her work has been exhibited in many countries, such as Italy, Austria, Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Croatia, Serbia and Columbia. She was the founder and president of the Association for Contemporary Jewellery Slovenia (2003–2015), and since 2013 has been president of the Section for Unique Design of the Designers Society of Slovenia. She is the author of the book Jewellery as Art. Short reflections on artistic jewellery and many other articles about jewellery, art and design.