31 May 2006
To the Editor,
Re "Moses' Top Ten
By SARAH VOWELL
Published: July 16, 2005
Aside the greater question of keeping Caesars and Gods in separate corners, Christians intent to affix "Ten Commandments" in American government venues (or anywhere else) should reread its second command which proscribes "graven images" (Exodus 20.4). Twenty ton granite monuments featuring the Ten Commandments would certainly qualify as "graven images" as well as "lithographs" (stone writings) hung on walls - in homes or in court houses. (The point was that any image is forbidden which substitutes attention, to any degree, from the invisible Divinity! - do we need to draw you a picture? or will WORDS suffice? [trick question])
The prophet Jeremiah (Jer. 31.31ff, cf: Heb. 8.6-13) stated that "the days will come that (the Lord) will make a NEW COVENANT, not according to the covenant...made with their Fathers...out of Egypt, but a covenant (He) will...write in their hearts." Well, this has not happened yet - in 2900 years.
This echoed by the apostle Paul (2 Corinthians 3.6,2 NRSV)that "God has made us competent to be ministers of a NEW COVENANT - written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tables of stone, but on tablets of human hearts - for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." Still, not happening yet - 1960 years later.
As water is to fish, WORDS (yes, words!) themselves are the very invisible "graven idols" of bigots. (One does well to read ones own Book!)
29 May 2006
Who is she that looks forth like the dawn, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army with banners? Song of Solomon 6.10
"And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; she was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery. (Revelation 12:1,2) . . .She brought forth a male child, . . . but the child was caught up to God and his throne." (Revelation 12: 5) . . .the woman was given the wings of the great eagle that she might fly . . . into the wilderness." (Revelation 12:14)
21 December 1995
SPIRIT OF BYZANTIUM
Agias Lesvias Square
85500 Hora, Patmos GREECE
Dear Ms. Karavis,
Perhaps you remember me during the 1900th Anniversary Celebration of the writing of the Apokalypsis (the last book of the Christian "New Testament", also called "The Revelation of St. John") this past September - an American with a tall Greek friend from Athens [really, from Volos]. We returned several times during the week, but did not find you again. You mentioned that you would accept a commission to create an icon. Please accept the following request and the enclosed payment of 85,000 drachmas. I will leave the quality and size of the icon to your judgment.
|Icon by Alkmini Karavis|
Comments regarding the image of the icon and its parts -
a] the woman should be shown descending from the heavens so her "clothes of the sun" would appear weightless and floating. The "sun" light surrounds her transparently with her features nearly, or completely, covered in "light". Perhaps the aurora borealis, or similar, surrounds her head.
b] the moon should be shown at crescent, not the full moon as some attached images show. This is my graphic preference (and consistent to the new moon of Artemis, Inanna and other prehistoric images.)
c] The crown of twelve stars should be literally "twelve stars". Some writers and artists have made "twelve stars" into images of the twelve signs of the zodiac, or the twelve apostles or the twelve patriarchs. Perhaps the stars are small shooting stars more like the arrows of huntress Artemis (see below). (I particularly like the attached ER Hughes' painting, "Night with her Train of Stars" where the ". . .Stars" are children.)
d] The woman should be shown very pregnant, in the midst of her "anguish for delivery", the child about to be born, with one hand over and the other hand under her belly- very reasonably, she is probably not exactly standing "with the moon under her feet".
e] Some later images show the woman holding the baby as if Madonna and Christ Child, an idea especially popular in Northern Europe during the 15th century, apparently part the Mariology that accompanied the so-called "counter Reformation". (Compare with the the image of Our Lady of Guadeloupe, Mexico, at a similar time frame of 1531). This is certainly not the image of John's dream - the child is taken directly to "God and his throne", and the mother escapes the Dragon to the wilderness where she has even more offspring (Rev. 12.17) - this mother never holds her child.
|Captions below. Here: 2, 3.1, 3.2|
f] The wings of the eagle are not given to the woman until after the birth of her son to help her escape from the Dragon into the wilderness. Graphically I prefer the wings to be near by - ready for attachment, not yet attached. I suggest the four wings as Ezekiel's eagle faced cherubim [Ezekiel 1] and also note Ezekiel 17's "great eagle with great wings, long winged, full of feathers, which had divers colors.." [verse 3]. As the wings are not yet attached, they might be used as purely graphic elements - in the corners or as borders, perhaps swirling around the woman - to symbolize the four corners of the earth or the four winds [Rev. 7:1]. The wings might be in the four colors of the Four Horsemen of Revelation 6 - white, red, black and pale - together with gold as if drawn by Klimt.
g] The wilderness - harsh, mountainous, rough, stony - should be shown in the lower third of the image. I think the Fortress-Monastery of St. John, its hills and surrounding would be perfect. [Note: Ms. Karavis chose the view of the sea from the Cave of the Apokalypsis that is the traditional writing place of the Book of Revelation.]
h] Background to image might be dark blue at the top graduating to light as in an early morning sunrise.
|4.1, 4.2, 5.1, 5.2|
Personal comments and background information, based on as yet, a very superficial study -
1] Contrary to my impression (raised as a fundamentalist American Protestant), the island of Patmos in John's time was not a deserted isle for Rome's exiles, but a populated mid-point of active Mediterranean sea trade with at least 4000 inhabitants. Within 20 minutes walk of John's Cave of the Apokalypsis was an important Temple to Artemis (complete with priestesses?), which was destroyed in 1088 AD by monks to built the summit site of the present Fortress-Monastery of St. John.
According to the inscription in marble in the Monastery's museum, this was specifically a Scythian or Tauropolos Artemis. Perhaps the chief Scythian goddess, Tabiti-Hestia, patroness of wild beasts as was Artemis. A very short distance from island of Patmos was the city of Ephesus in what is now Turkey, the place of John's death, which was the center of worship to Artemis [the Roman Diana] (Acts 19.23-40 ) and where, curiously, Mary was declared THEOTOKOS ("Mother of God" or "God-Bearer") at Pope Celestine I's Council of Ephesus in 431 AD. (The Temple of Artemis in Ephesus was rediscovered in 1869.) Artemis was the "goddess of the new moon, of wilderness, its animals, a huntress and - though herself a virgin without a children - the patroness of childbirth; - according to Euripides (Hippolytus, 165-8) "I cried out for Artemis in heaven, who loves the hunt and whose care relieves those giving birth". The statue of Artemis in Ephesus shows her with the multiple breasts to nourish her many "offspring". Artemis is most often depicted with eagle wings and her wild animals. Our woman of Revelation 12 is "in her pangs of birth" and her eagles' wings take her to the wilderness where she has even more offspring. Also compare with the "Lilith" of the Jewish Torah and of earlier Sumerian myths, who as Adam's first wife, taking umbrage to the recumbent position he demanded, uttered the ineffible Name of God, flew on (Owl's) wings to the wilderness, where she gives birth to hundreds of demonic offspring daily (see picture).
2] Patmos is located near to the Cyclades island group. Apparently Patmos has had very little modern archeology (my friend and I did climbed the Kastelli hill - finding 2000 year old pottery shards covering the summit), but it is certainly possible that figurines similar to the many found in the burial plots of nearby Cyclades Islands could well be present on Patmos.
3] I think is would be best that this icon be painted by a woman iconographer, either native of, or living on, the Island of Patmos. She should have the broadest understanding of the universality of the revealed images of divinity or, a better English [and Greek] word, the "epiphany" - ineffable divinity manifest in an concrete image - this I think is the reason for creating an icon. Familiarity with the Symbolist and Pre-Raphaelite movements in the 19th century might be useful.
With all this madness, I leave the icon in your good hands. From the poet Yeats -
of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.
Warm regards, Gary Regester
|6.1, 6.2, 7.1, 7.2|
Spirit of Byzantium
Thank you for the fax. Good to learn you have received my packet. I thought I might not hear from you until summer.
I think you understand my request very well. There is no hurry. I understand that ICONS are "not made by human hands". So let your thoughts grow and take their own path. Since my visit to Patmos and re-reading the Apocalypse, I see that this woman is a wonderful bridge described by John on Patmos which connects the spiritual epiphanies before the coming of Christianity with those epiphanies of today and of the future. I agree that she is unclothed and surrounded by the sun or sunlight. And that the image includes the ideas of the 2nd Chakra, the waxing and waning moon, etc. etc. I look forward to your sketch and explanation. Further to Ezekiel's angels with the eagle's face and four wings, John also has the same idea in Revelation 4:7,8 which I overlooked, "and the fourth living creature like a flying eagle. . . with six wings about him. . .never ceases to sing, 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!" This creature announces the pale horseman of Death (Rev. 6:7). So two, four or perhaps six eagles wings around our lady.
Certainly, the mythology surrounding the divine feminine is a 20,000 to 30,000 year old spiritual epiphany that connects human, animal and plant existence. All who are women-born well know that "holy Matrix" during our first years of life. Memories of which are quickly eclipsed by the newer 4000 year old "us vs them, sky god" cosmology, accompanied by its necessary warrior cult, that disconnects us from each other and the earth. Given the resultant and accelerating destruction of both human life and the earth, the return to this earlier mythology is deserving of further and more serious consideration.
Gary Regester (I have added some general background information to the original letters.)
|8.1, 8.2, 8.3, 9.1, 9.2|
"The Myth of the Goddess", by Anne Baring and Jules Cashford, Viking (Penguin) 1991;
"The Civilization of the Goddess", by Marija Gimbutas, Harper Collins, 1991
"The Language of the Goddess", by Marija Gimbutas, Harper Collins, 1989
"Alone of All Her Sex", by Marina Warner, Vintage (Random House) "Answer to Job", by Carl Jung, Princeton University Press, 20121983
28 May 2006
The good Frater Holme's raison d’être is to physically demonstrate the premise (theorem) that "sacred" symbols so peculate into [and out of] mundane and profane everyday objects; that such phenomena / relationships refute both Protestantism' literalism [univocation, i.e., "my way or the highway"] AND Catholic scholasticism; "both which are exterminators of symbolism" [Norman O. Brown, "Love's Body", 1966, pg 199]; meaning that there is no escape from the overwhelming superiority of symbolism mediating within the human psyche - "put down your weapons [words, idols and other third party meditations] and step away from your [expensive] vehicle!" "For the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life." 2 Cor 3.6 Cf Carl Jung's "Numinosum".
This changes everything. John the Divine could have said, "Prochorus, I'm exhausted by dictating this dream. You tidy up some of the syntax. I met a priestess in the bar last night - see you in a couple of days." Time to re-read the Book of Revelation - especially the references to women - especially, to the Artemis-related woman clothed with the sun, standing on the moon, about to give birth, fighting a dragon - who features in the twelfth chapter - as her story is the inversion of the pre-existing Greek myth of the twins, Apollo (sun) and his sister, Artemis (moon) killing the she-dragon, Python, because the dragon attacked their mother, Leto, while they were invitro. Strange Christian window into "pagan" feminine mythos. Something, no protestant preacher ever preached at me.
27 May 2006
An accidental "holyday" following a week's work last June at the Venice Biennale 2005 found me in Avebury Circle - geographical center of England (how did they know?) - on June 21, summer solstice - me and lots of the Goddesses' children - Silbury Hill in the distance, from atop the West Kennet Long Barrow.