As I walked through the crowds on New Year’s Eve, and looked around on the last day of term before Xmas, I saw a strange sight in the streets; dozens of young people dressed as animals. Pandas, dogs, cats, tigers, bears, reindeer, wandering the high street with human faces. Inverse Egyptian deities, they embody the deep seated need for humans to be animals.
The Baphometic current is strong in these children of those of us who grew up with the plethora of wildlife upon our screens courtesy of that great demi-god, David Attenborough. They are happy to align themselves with the fur covered bodies of their relatives. While a few mythological creatures appear, with dragons a favourite, alongside various odd coloured monster types, the overwhelming majority of onesies depict real life mammals.
Contrasting with the cosplay/furry/otherkin mindsets, onesie wearing does not change the human centred internal identity of the wearers. They go shopping, talk with friends, attend school, go out with family and friends to watch fireworks, lounge on their sofas surfing the web, and generally do normal stuff. Teenagers go out of an evening to pubs and clubs as lions or zebras with scarcely a second glance from their companions who wear jeans or dresses. Ordinary people, that simply look like animals.
Baphomet is conventionally represented by a human figure with furry legs, and the head of a horned mammal. In aeons past, the costuming of the human head was our way of identifying with the animals around us, as we tried to put their intelligences onto our bodies that we might learn from them. Then, for thousands of years, we only used animal costumes rarely, and human animals became distant figures absent from our daily lives. Nowadays, we seem to prefer to dress up the body as animal, placing our human selves into the animal kingdom while still human; this change betokens a flip in relations with Nature, keeping our own individual faces while simultaneously dressing ourselves as mammals, and not in human clothes.
Does today’s surge of identification with animals (manifested in the onesie craze) emerge from a deeper felt need to come out as ‘animal’? Or does it merely reflect the popularity in mainstream culture of ‘Where the Wild Things Are’?
I tend towards the former view; young adults today (in this island at least) are well aware of their common ancestry with all mammals, and must have a greater sense of kinship with their cousins than previous generations who, even for those of us in our 40s, were brought up with the Book story of Adam’s dominion over the beasts as an early childhood formative legend. We were told we were different, above the animal kingdom, unique, special and better. Today’s youth has had Life On Earth available to them on DVDs and other media since birth. They know in their bones that humans are just another form of the flourishing of this Life. This is their Normal.
They know their place.
This heartens me greatly: An emotional connection to our furry friends, our bluds, means a different take on issues such as ‘the environment’; when ‘those creatures over there’ fit within the terminology of ‘us’, we make different choices. Whether this might affect future decisions on behaviour, or influence policy decisions, I do not know, though it seems like a positive change of perspective.
As with all such cultural shifts, the phenomenon itself became possible only through the appearance of technologies which allow it to occur. Fluffy fabrics easily manufactured en masse, and distributed across the world, were not a feasible option a century ago, hence the fads for various real animal furs added to clothing. Whilst the clothing industry of here and now does have many ethical questions to answer, the days of thousands of beavers etc slaughtered to satisfy fashion are long gone. The recent abandonment of angora by so many stores, shows we do not like to feel that actual animals have been treated cruelly in the production of clothing items.
Will we one day see onesies depicting other branches of the animal kingdom, or members of the plant/fungi/microbe kingdoms? No one can say. However I feel it is only a matter of time before we see starfish, oak trees, and fly agarics shopping in the High Street, and I look forward to that immensely.