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Spirit Of Madagascar
8 x 10

Carl Linnaeus, founder of taxonomy and binomial nomenclature, needed a name for a new discovery. The animal we know today as a slender loris. What must it have been like to discover these strange creatures in the forests, with absolutely no understanding of their habits? Slow moving, and nocturnal, Linnaeus was reminded of the creatures of Roman mythology known as the Lemures - loosely translated to mean "larvae", these were creatures of the dead, grotesque skeletal forms that were feared. The lemures were the ghosts of lost souls - the executed and damned, or others who may not have been afforded a proper burial.

The only way to exorcise these spirits was through a springtime ritual known as "Lemuria". On May 9, 11 and 13 at midnight, the head of the household, would walk barefoot through the house scattering dried black beans over the shoulder reciting the words "with these beans I redeem me and mine". The banging of pots and dishes was said to further ward off the spirits.

Linnaeus applied the name to the loris and two other species, grouping them together under the genus Lemur. Of the three, Lemur tardigradus (slender loris), Lemur catta (Ring tailed lemur) and Lemur volans (flying lemur), only the ring tailed lemur has retained the genus of Lemur. The ring tailed lemur is one of 105 recognized species and subspecies of lemurs found only on the island of Madagascar. They have become an iconic Malagasy species due to their variety of vocalizations and striking appearance. Habitat loss, and poaching for meat and the pet trade threatens these forest dwellers which are currently listed as endangered.