Friend or Foe

Jacek Kaczynski

Jacek Kaczynski

A couple of years ago, someone randomly sent me this picture with the comment they thought I’d like it, and I did, despite it provoking a sense of intimidation within. I put it to one side for a post but somehow deleted it, and even though I searched high and low for months with every search term I could think of ~ I couldn’t find it. Last weekend I was having a night on the vodka whilst moving old emails when I came across a copy of the image and actually felt a sense of triumph at the sight of it. Once the initial flood of elation had subsided, I went looking for the original reaction…the one I’d had so many moons ago ~ but the intensity didn’t rattle me at my core like it had done before, although I still think it’s a great piece of work and certainly worthy of a closer look.

Try as I might I just can’t get away from seeing the taller of the two as a domineering menace. It could be the large round open mouth, and black hollowed out eyes which leads me to that impression. And that nose, there’s no getting close without getting injured. But, are they about to engage in an embrace? If I look at their arms both have their hands turned inwards ~ they could be old friends or lovers looking to connect, and the more I keep that in mind, the easier it is to see it that way. This makes sense to me because I’m far more likely to suss out any threat instinctively before I see anything else. At the very least I would say that if either of these two characters sticks their nose in your business, it’s going to hurt. Although, this is all pretty superficial, and I know the biggest reason for the provocation of my innards came down to the fact that neither looks to be filled with too much of anything.

The concept of the hollow man is one I find personally terrifying; the idea that one could live a life without substance is my idea of a living hell. The scarecrow on the right looks slightly more human than the other but only because of the hair and ear. There’s a slight possibility that he’s simply pretending to be like the other, and his mask is covering up his face, but it’s impossible to tell from the perspective we’re given to look through. There’s no denying the one on the left is no more than a prop because you can clearly see the head is empty. Whatever this image is representing, it’s clear there are some similarities between the two characters.

In looking for information on their origins, I found that Scarecrows assuming mythical qualities are not a modern creation. An early reference was found in a book dating back to 712; Kuebiko, the Japanese deity of wisdom and agriculture was said to be a scarecrow who couldn’t walk but knew everything. They’ve been used in horror films to great effect and I still remember being scared shitless by Dark Night of The Scarecrow.  Amongst the less intimidating offerings, there is the brain-seeking scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz, and an old tv series Worzel Gummidge, which featured a scarecrow who was able to change his head at will. Like dolls and puppets, they’re easy to imagine animated which may account for their relative popularity as non-human characters in books and film which have a supernatural element. But none of this gives me much to go on to find their symbolic meaning.

Their primary function is to serve as guardians of seed and stop young crops from being ruined by birds, so ~ do they appear as a symbol of protection in the early days of new ventures, new relationships, or new ideas? Or is it a warning of deception because someone is pretending to be something other than what they really are? I suppose much will depend on whether the scarecrow is an element of the self or if it represents an aspect of some ‘other'. So in short, the presence of scarecrow could be seen as an indicator of the potential of intrusion or invasion from those wishing to destroy the growth of something in its early stages. It may be worth bearing in mind that the scarecrow is an ephemeral being, and the current threat will disappear within a relatively short space of time. The biggest question could well be ~ are you on the side of the scarecrow or the crow? But I’m just wondering about how crows are a favourite animal totem for people of a certain ilk. So, by association, do people who like (or fear) scarecrows have a thing for crows too?