Jim Carter


In ancient Roman belief, dogs and birds held numerous magical powers and were the basis for purificatory and expiatory ritual. The Augurium Canarium involved the sacrifice of red dogs to appease the fierceness of Sirius, the dog star, the ceremony belonging to the category of apotropaic rites that averted destruction, ensuring seasonal renewal. In the ancient world, an auspex would perform ritual at transitory and dangerous moments of the yearly cycle. Omens and messages from the gods were seen in weather patterns, the flight and voices of birds, and the behaviour of wild animals. Similarly, in prehistoric Europe, human and animal sacrifice and ritual took place at tribal boundaries as a protective mechanism that sought the annual death and rebirth of the gods of nature and fertility.

The current work suggests such a rite performed at the passage from winter to spring. The image of the sacrificed dog fox relates here to both the suffering and vulnerabilities of the wild animal and to rejected aspects of the human psyche. Shunned and victimised by society, the fox is in this work afforded magical and transformational properties that can carry ill omen and prevent calamity. The animal lives in a shamanic universe, a magician dissecting itself and all animals and birds to understand modern environmental and existential anxieties. By the use of magical signs and talismans, and in the position and severance of hands and limbs, this work reimagines the auspex as redeemer, victim and omen, and animals and birds inextricably bound up with the fate of humanity.