Maya El Nahal


It is interesting to me how lives nestle together (not always comfortably) in the city. In my continuing fascination with mycelial interactions, I am starting to see the city as one pulsing organism, writhing and wriggling and tentacular.

Here, you can pay for someone from a pest control company to eradicate squirrels from your garden, and you can also walk five minutes to Queen’s Park to see people feeding those same squirrels. Our society’s relationship with animals is complicated and as old as humanity itself, but at the moment I am particularly intrigued by our relationship with animals deemed ‘pests’. Denigrated and actively annihilated, these are the species most capable of adapting to the environments humans create, the ones who want to share our space, who are good at finding their way into our homes and lives. In one model of knowing we might frame this as being our fiercest competitors, but in another we might frame their proximity and proliferation as a sign of their being our most needed teachers.

At the moment I am wondering and wandering around with these ideas,
just seeing what comes up. As is often the case with my practice I start
on a whim, and with patience and attention, the lessons behind the whim
start to unfurl. Foxes, creature of many nocturnal meetings when my dog
takes her nighttime pee, have been my starting point.


I haven’t met with Magpie for some years: they do not live in the
Highlands or Islands of Scotland. They are everywhere here though, I see
them more than any other bird. Clever and adaptable, historically
they’ve been seen as good omens, although more recently they have taken
on the reputation of being a menace. Known for being collectors of shiny
things (although their individual fascinations are in reality diverse
and unique), they are curious and confident (in cities) and it is a joy
to be in their company again.

In Roman times they were
associated with the God Bacchus, and therefore symbolised intoxication,
altered states of consciousness, and communing with the Divine. Bacchus
is a very interesting character, a Roman renaming of Dionysus, he was
celebrated as a God of oppressed peoples, preaching uncharacteristic
inclusivity and euphoric joy; his feasts were led by women, the Maenads.
He was also a queer icon, gender fluid in depictions and stories. His
allyship with radical perspectives and revolutionary fervour saw him
eventually banned by the Romans, the only God to receive such treatment.
His cult was rebranded as one of drunken idiots, a propaganda campaign
that was so successful it persists today, keeping us from seeking
alternative perspectives to oppressive systems. I love Dionysus.

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