Why are horns seen as demonic

Monsters, Devils and Demons - Ugly and Horns: Evil looks the same everywhere

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The good is beautiful - but the bad is fun! An exhibition in the Museum Rietberg shows how much pleasure cultures from all over the world draw the devil on the wall. Because who represents demons, can get rid of them better.

Whether a Japanese mask or a depiction of the devil from central Switzerland, whether an Indian demon or a Persian: practically all of them have in common that they have horns, huge fangs and mostly claws.

Animal human

“This is no coincidence”, says Axel Langer, curator at the Museum Rietberg, “a demon is very similar to us humans, apart from horns, terrifying teeth and claws - these are, so to speak, the universal demonic accessories”.

Their origins can be traced back very precisely: The horns, for example: they are a cultural-historical export product, as curator Langer explains: “They come from ancient times - just think of the god Pan, for example. The horns then migrated to India via Persia, so to speak, and came to Japan via Buddhism in the 6th century. That's why Japanese demons also have horns. "

Another feature: a demon is certainly not a beauty, but what is repulsive is depicted with a lot of love and down to the smallest detail. This also seems to be common to all cultures: the desire for ugliness

“It's also about distorting and exaggerating the human, the good, the beautiful, looking for a counterpart,” explains curator Caroline Widmer.

to overcome fear

But in the beginning there was fear: the fear of everything that seemed inexplicable to people. Who paints monsters banishes them - makes the fear pictorial.

But evil also stimulates tremendously. "In all cultures there is a fascination for the demonic, for the hereafter, for the other - and there is an attempt to express this other," says curator Widmer.

The representation of Indian demons, for example. “Some of them are shown quite funny, with chic panties and in great colors. With the demons, the artists could let off steam and let their imagination run wild, while with the gods it was clear what they had to do. "

In short: evil is simply more fun, it is more attractive for artists.

Strange-odd-curious: the monster turns into a joke

In time you got the demons under control - and from then on you could parody them.

In Japan, for example, in the 19th century, men wore carved demon figures under their robes. Monster en miniature, so to speak - to show too clearly who has who under control. Laughter is one of the best remedies for fear - across cultures.

This monster show in the Rietberg Museum also has something therapeutic about it: First there is the fear of demons - both internal and external. Then you create an image to banish the evil - and at some point you laugh about it.

Broadcast: Radio SRF 2 Kultur, Kultur Kompakt, May 30, 2018, 5:20 p.m.

schs / kell

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