Sunday, November 13, 2011

Phantasm of Samuel - the Witch of Endor

1 Samuel 28: 1 – 31: 13
The setting: King Saul of Israel at the foot of Mt Gilboa. He was old and weak.

His predicament: GIdeon is gone, Samuel was dead,e David was no longer by his side, and as Saul had slain the priests, Saul was utterly alone. He saw the Philistine army advancing and he did not know what to do. God had forsaken Saul and would not giveh im his help in need.

Saul's deceived solution: Saul heard that there was living at Endor, a witch (Hebrew word used in the scripture means 'mistress of a demon', in fact she was a necromancer). She would call up the spirits of the dead.

Saul was so desperate to know what was going to happen, that at night he changed into some old robes and sought this woman out who was living in a cave.

"Bring me up from the dead the spirit of a man whom I greatly long to meet" Saul anxiously and impatiently asks.

And the witch said "What spirit shall I call up?"

"Bring me up the spirit of Samuel, the prophet" replied Saul.

Theological interlude
Once a person dies his/her spirit goes back to God the Father of all spirits. When Jesus died he commended His spirit to His Father and then he gave up the ghost. Meanwhile His soul and body went down into Hades for three nights, then the Father returned His spirit back to him and raised Him from the dead (He was the first of the resurrection of the dead).

Any other person who has died his/her spirit is returned to God but their soul and body lies in the grave -- asleep until the first (eternal life) or second (damnation) resurrection. They cannot be communed with, their spirits are with God until those two resurrections take place.

When a clairvoyant or any other medium believes they are communing with the spirit of the person they are wrong. They are communing with a 'familiar' spirit or 'attendant' spirit. This spirit would be very familiar with the person who is trying to be reached by the medium.

Continuing the story:
The witch called for the spirit of Samuel. Business was as usual and she attempted to be a medium in contacting his familiar spirit or demon.

But she became terribly afraid as this is not what should be happening. Her own familiar was suddenly in abeyance to a higher power, her satanic accomplice was paralysed by the apparition of a being who she had neither part or lot with.

The Lord in His anger had allowed the spirit of Samuel to return to him and He rises him up for the dead as a phantasm to speak to King Saul. For since Saul sought unto the dead, God had in His anger sent up the real Samuel as the bearer of a fearful message of doom.

When the witch saw Samuel's ghost she was filled with fear and shrieked, as this time a real phantasm had appeared to her.

Saul replied "Do not fear; but tell me what you see?" For Saul could not see the spirit like the witch could. "I see one like a god * rising up. He is an old man, covered with a long robe."

Saul could not see but out of the darkness he heard Samuel say "Why have you troubled me and called me out of my rest?"

Saul replies "I am in great distress for the Philistines make war upon me and God has forsaken me. He will not speak to me either by a prophet or a priest or in a dream. And I have called upon you that you may tell me what to do?"

And the spirit of Samuel replied sternly with Saul "Tomorrow you and your three sons shall be as I am, among the dead." And so it came to pass.

The crime of consulting a medium sealed the doom of the first King of Israel.

* resurrected body made in the image of God, an incorruptible body with a radiance

Spiritual application:
In Perry Stone's book How to Interpret Dreams and Visions he gives some succinct information of the working of demons "… familiar spirits are familiar with information from the past and are able to relate it through the voice of a person who opens himself or herself up to being controlled or possessed by these spirits. In what is called the New Age movement, individuals connect to spirits by channeling them in their bodies."

The manifestations of such spirits are NOT the spirits of the departed (as only God the Father can return their spirit, like He did with Samuel) they are demonic entities that have existed since the fall of satan.
Any past information can be revealed to a medium or clairvoyant who channels the evil spirit -- the demons already know this, but as for the future, they do not know and only speculate. Don't be caught out by these false practises masquerading as divine insight.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Gotham City of Fools

The 'Gotham Tales' are stories about feigned madness, similar to the holy fools of Russia. They became associated with the village of Gotham ('goat ham') in Nottinghamshire about 1540.  The tales were about the escapades of the mad men (fools) and the first works was called "The Merry Tales of the Mad Men of Gotham'.

These tales were penned by A. B. of Phisicke Doctor with subsequent editions the word 'mad' being replaced with 'wise', and the myth of the Wise Men of Gotham was born.

It is believed the pen name was the author Andrew Borde, who, however, denied it. There were 20 tales all up from Gotham in Nottinghamshire; but there is a rival from Gotham in Sussex. Still nothing to solidify this claim.

There were about 45 other villages in England and one in Wales who had their own Gotham cycle of tales. These tales were re-published over time and then exported to America by Washington Irvine who created the title of Gotham City (a city of fools) of his native New York in his Salmagundi, 1807; which of course developed into Gotham City of Batman.

In the Middle Ages in England the term Fool was an archetypal figure who, through his apparent foolishness, possesses wisdom and a state of near-divinity. The Divine Fool could say things to royalty no one else could.

The Fool would wear a hat which had goat horns on it, hence the jester's cap. The wearing of horns was linked to the Fool.

From mediaeval times until the 17th century licensed fools or jesters were commonly kept at court (Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable). They were also frequently in the retinue of wealthy nobles to keep them entertained or to ward off depression.

Most nations have some locality renowned for fools: Phrygia as the fools' home of Asia Minor, Abdera of the Thracians, Boeotia of the Greeks, Nazareth* of the ancient Jews (popularised by the Pharisees), Swabia of the Germans, etc.

*To call someone a Nazarine was to call them a fool. The divine fool who was born at a place known as 'The House of Bread' in a cave sanctuary dedicated to Adonis was referred to as 'the Nazarine' -- here is an example of the derogatory tales that emerged to ridicule Jesus Christ the Nazarine. Yet the foolishness of God was greater than the wise men of the Torah.

The word “jester” comes from Egypt, a reference to an entertainment in the courts of the pharoahs, wherein dwarves danced for the amusement of the royalty. “Jester” is a rough translation of the phrase “dancing dwarves from the land of the spirits.” The belief that dwarves came from the “land of the spirits” is key to the concept of the fool, a figure imagined as “not all there,” somehow only partially in this world while still connected to another.

As the jester/fool apparently retains some connection to another world, he is believed to have insights directly gathered from a sphere of knowledge the rest of us cannot know. This is related to a medieval word “oncunnynge,” from which we get our word “cunning.” Oncunnynge (applied to fools) is an intuition that is superior to logic, an understanding of truth that the rational mind is incapable of. Again, like the Egyptian jester, the medieval fool was perceived as someone who, in a world ruled by logic and order, understood reality on another level.

The medieval world was rich with customs and holidays for fools. The Feast of Fools (an inspiration for Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night) was derived from the Roman saturnalia when masters and servants would exchange places for a few days. The Catholic church took over the Feast of Fools (12th to 15th century), calling it the Feast of the Epiphany, but retained the same role-reversal theme, so that in community celebrations, peasants reversed roles with the aristocracy, priests and the pope himself. Multi-day celebrations included the election of a mock-pope (called the Lord of Misrule), who made outrageous laws and ruled his mock court in an atmosphere of chaos and sensory celebration. The Catholic church continued to suborn pagan celebrations. The Roman’s Lupercalia (whose riotous celebrations are imitated in the first scene of Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Julius Caesar) was transformed into Mardi Gras, a favorite holiday of Central and South America when African culture met Catholicism.

Mardi Gras was also an offshoot of the European carnevale (still celebrated in such Italian cities as Venice), an elaborate, sensual celebration of the wordly and the erotic (carnival’s root word, “carne,” means flesh). In a variation of the role-reversal theme, during carnevale and Mardi Gras, participants would wear elaborate costumes and masks, allowing them to take on personas far removed from their daily selves and indulge in undisciplined behavior they normally would or could not. As with the Feast of Fools’ Lord of Misrule, Mardi Gras elected a king who symbolized the chaotic and sensual demolishing of order. When New Orleans--a Caribbean city highly influenced by the cross-culturization of Central America, Africa and France--began its own Mardi Gras celebrations in the early 1800s, they took up the behavior that flourishes today in the French Quarter every March. Mardi Gras’s relation to the Catholic church is found in its name, “fat Tuesday,” a reference to the last day to indulge sins of the flesh before the advent of lent the succeeding Wednesday. It is in the midst of these Medieval and Renaissance celebrations that the fool flourished, both in the courts and among the peasantry. He symbolized the unleashing of counter-cultural behavior in a world that was becoming increasingly ruled by science, his antics a deliberate snubbing of culture, poise and manners amongst people who took themselves too seriously.

One of the greatest madmen in literature, Miguel de Cervantes had Don Quixote offer the finest insight of a fool: “Perhaps the greatest madness is not in failing to see things as they are, but in failing to see things as they should be.” (uplifted from

Monday, August 29, 2011

Holy Fools

St Basil's Cathedral

So, I haven't blogged for a while nor created any visual narratives, but wait we have "Of Jesters, Batman, Fools and St. Basil", so what could that mean? Well to get a drift, here is some background entries on the topic -- but no Rasputins.

Of Jesters, Batman, Fools & St. Basil
The question is, did you ever feel like a holy fool?
"The "holy fool" type conceals a radical Christianity under the mask of foolishness and holds the truth of the gospel, in the disguise of folly, before the eyes of highly placed personalities: the worldy and the princes of the church who do not brook unmasked truth. This type, which frequently appeared in the Byzantine Church, has been represented especially in Western Christianity as the 'Holy Fool.'" (Encyclopaedia Britannica)

Extracts from National Catholic Reporter (Http:// 
Lurodstov is the Russian word for the idea of "holy foolishness" for Christ's sake. Its practitioners feign madness in order to provide the public with spiritual guidance and usually to say things, what we would say in our generation as politically incorrect, to rulers and kings. They dared to speak the truth to the powerful, being virtually the only group that could openly criticise the Kremlin rulers and channel ordinary people's frustration. St. Basil fearlessly lambasted the tyrannical policies of Ivan the Terrible – one of Russia's most violent tsars. And the moody, pious tsar, whose slaughters claimed tens of thousands of lives, feared the naked ascetic whom he considered "the seer of people's hearts and minds," according to a church chronicle. Ivan commissioned a massive cathedral that was erected over Basil's burial site whose grave wrought many a miracle over the years.

According to Russian Orthodox scholar Svetlana Kobets: "By his feigned madness the holy fool opts to say that the lowliest of the low can be not the poor wretch he appears to be, but a holy one and God's prophet. He shares his power and authority with all the weak, mocked and despised thus symbolically destroying clear-cut distinctions between the profane and the sacred."

In the Russian church it is regarded as the most difficult and controversial of all spiritual practices, possibly because of its association now with the mystic Rasputin. Thirty-six holy fools have been canonized by the Orthodox church. Foolishness-for-Christ was not a common phenomenon. They fasted and never slept indoors, uttered prophecies, performed healings and even walked on water, according to their hagiographies.

In Russian history the greatest of the 'holy fools' was Basil the Blessed, a man so revered that the famous Cathedral in Moscow's Red Square next to the Kremlin was named in his honour. Basil walked through Moscow wearing nothing more than a long beard. He threw rocks at wealthy people's houses and stole form dishonest traders in the Red Square. He was a peasant's son nicknamed "the Naked Walker" and revered by Muscovites for healings and prophecies.

The holy fools were echoing St Paul's famous words (1 Corinthians 1: 27 - 29) about God's choosing the foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise.

"But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;
And base things of the world, and things which are despised, has God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:
That no flesh should glory in his presence."

And 1 Corinthians 4: 9 - 10:
" … we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ's sake."

Foolishness-for-Christ's sake is considered to be the most difficult of Christian spiritual exploits. It is frequently misunderstood and, if undertaken outside the will of God, is a sign of spiritual deception -- prelest.

Other fools for Christ were St Seraphim of Sarov, St Andrew of Constantinople, St Xenia of Petersburg, Blessed Feofil of the kiev Caves, and Pelegia Ivanovna. The painter, M. P. Petrov came under this sister's influence and on visiting her she was able to tell him all about his past life, including details which on one but he knew himself. Astounded by this Petrov fell to his knees and kissed her hand. From then on he became her earnest visitor and admirer. "She pulled me from the depths of hell," he had said.

However, it is to be noted that some of these fools clearly went out of the will of God and strayed, shipwrecking their salvation as their mysticism was replaced with psychotic behaviour. Running around naked, shouting foul language -- more likely to be demon possession than mysticism.

And so here is our visual narrative.

Playing the Fool's Card

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Perspectives on Copernicus and Galileo

This week's visual narrative is called Phantasmagoria in Perspectives on Copernicus and Galileo. It is the third in our series on spiritual blindness (Part 1: Blind as a Bat - on the blind leading the blind; Part II: In a Glass Darkly).

Part III is about our worldview and how we see things.

"A worldview is a way of seeing. It's the lens through which we see – a lens of assumptions, beliefs, images, metaphors, values, and ideas that we inherit and construct from our family, our teachers, our peers, our community and our culture.

In the West we have inherited a worldview that was formed largely in the 17th century. In this perspective, or world is best compared to a machine, a mechanical worldview. In this worldview, miracles – if they occur (as lack of belief and faith) – would involve interference from outside. God reaches in and fiddles. God is the outsider in this view; natural causes create effects mechanically and automatically unless God intervenes.

Some people believe God does intervene, overcoming the natural mechanisms. They are often called supernaturalists. Naturalists (or reductionists) believe in either no God or God does not intervene." (extracted from McLaren, The Secret Message of Jesus: Uncovering the Truth that could change everything,  Publishing Group, 2006)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Recipe for a Claudian Landscape

Apollo and the Muses
If you would like to paint the Claudian way then you can:

  • Arrange an impressive tree or other large object and place it in theforeground of thepicture to 'frame' the scene and to serve as a contrast to the view that opens up beyond.
  • The foreground should be painted in warm tones such as browns and golds – the idea being that warm colours come forward.
  • The background should fade away, so therefore, paint these into pale blues, since cool colours recede.
The Roman Campagna

Monday, April 11, 2011

Looking dimly through a dark glass

Looking through a dark glass, dimly
It's all to do with perceptions and the amount of light we have. Or the lens we like to view the world in.

The Claude Glass
Claude Lorrain was a landscape artist of the seventeenth century. His works were renown for their tranquility resembling Arcadian scenes and fairy land. In his name a convex hand mirror known as the Claude glass was used to view landscapes. The reflection was prettier than the real view. European aesthetes would set out into the countryside armed both with clear coloured glass filters that tinted their views pink, green, or blue, and with black-tinted Claude glass mirrors, which distorted the landscape, while seemingly to improve it.

The blackness modified the colours to a series of tonal gradations – like a black and white photograph.

Condensed in the smoky-hued mirror, almost any landscape turned into an unspoiled Shangri-la in miniature, a tiny glowing vista that conjured the idyllic pastoral paintings of the seventeenth-century painter Claude Lorrain. (Jessica Jenkins, Encyclopedia of the Exquisite). Nostalgic travellers would carry their Claude glasses and compare any attractive landscape with Claude's sylvan dreamscapes, often referring the painted version to reality.

Claude Lorrain

Claude Lorrain

Still not everyone agreed with this trend, particularly John Ruskin (1819 – 1900) the art critic who blamed the painter Claude for his distortion of reality and calling the Claude glass "one of the most pestilent inventions for falsifying Nature and degrading art which was ever put into an artist's hand."

The Light
When people argue over their beliefs it is usually based on their different world views i.e. the lens with which they view their beliefs. But Jesus' message is universal and his presentation of the gospel is as vision. Jesus claims to be the Light of the world. Light to those who see is its own evidence.

To secure effective vision there must be not only light, but also a healthy visual organ. Blindness may arise from the absence of light, from mere functional derangement of the organ of vision, or from some fatal organic defect in the organ. It is to those whose blindness comes from either of the first two causes that Jesus appeals. He comes as Light, strengthening the visual faculty, dispelling the darkness that envelops the soul, and revealing to it the spiritual realm.

"I am come into this world that they which see not might see" (Jn 9:29). This presentation of Jesus as Light, appealing to the organ of spiritual vision and vindicating empirically His unique Divinity dominates the Fourth Gospel (St John). "It is the pure in heart who see God (Mt 5:8), because the pure heart is the organ of the God-consciousness.

Jesus, the Light of the world, can appeal only to those who have the faculty of sight. "Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven' (Mt 16: 17).

Where the faculty of sight is impaired or destroyed, however clearly the light may shine, there is no vision. This obscuration of the spiritual orb is what is called 'judicial blindness'. The phrase implies that there never can be such radical defect of vision without personal guilt in the person so affected. It is the judgement that comes through neglecting the light.

The capacity of spiritual vision is determined by use or disuse or perversity and may be so radically corrupted as to be impervious to the light. St John says that the Light shines in darkness, but the darkness comprehended it not (Mt 6: 22).

Spiritual blindness, therefore, signifies inability to see, or absence of the sense of sight; hence, figuratively, want of discernment, or defective intellectual, moral or spiritual sight.

The Claude Glass

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Blind leading the Blind

This is the first in my series on parables, proverbs and biblical myths (as some people would say).

Jesus said "Love your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again, and your reward shall be great, and you shall be the children of the Highest; for He is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.

"Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.

"Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:

"Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom.

"For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.

"And He spake a parable unto them, Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch?"

"If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch." 
When a person lacking in understanding or expertise attempts to guide another like himself, both will suffer serious consequences.
"There are none so blind as those who will not see."
It is pointless reasoning with a person who does not want to listen to sense.

Spiritual Blindness
Physical blindness gives people an image of helplessness and despair, but no one seems to recognise fully what spiritual blindness is.

Figuratively, blindness refers to an inability to recognise the truth. It can range from people who simply do not want to know to those who exercise it as a culpable condition, such as the judges whose judgment is perverted because of bribes.

Such blindness to the truth results in mental confusion where an individual has forfeited the ability to perceive truth at their own cost.

Paul in the New Testament describes gradual blindness when he writes of those whose 'foolish hearts were darkened.' (Roms 1:21). In another view he talks of seeing poorly now in contrast to seeing perfectly in the life to come (1 Cor 13: 12); as in dim glass.

Jesus described in the religious leaders and teachers of his own generation in terms of blindness (Mt 15:14, 23: 16-17, 19, 24, 26). The irony of their situation is that in their spiritual ignorance they assumed that they understand perfectly.

Similarly, Christian believers who revert to their pre-Christian ways are described as blind, not perceiving the contradiction expressed in their behaviour, (2 Pet 1:9, 1 Jn 2:11).

The Pharisees and Pharisaical Actions
Commonly thought of as hypocrite. Pharisaical means marked by hypocritical censorious self-righteousness. The etymology of hypocrite suggests 'a pretender'. In Hebrew culture the Pharisees pretended to be the authoritative opinion on righteousness and the law.

They are model citizen of Israel, accepted leaders simply by virtue of their zeal for the law. Sound familiar?

So why did they hate Jesus so? If you read the parable above, the Pharisees did not follow the spirit of the law, but the letter. The Pharisees did not act like that parable. Jesus challenges their right to their assumed position and exposes their pretense and emerges as a higher authority than them.

The pharisees had zeal but no knowledge of the mystery of the kingdom. Even the prophet Isaiah has spoken about the Pharisaic ardor for the details of the law when he said "So then, the word of the lord to them will become: Do and do, do and do, rule on rule, rule on rule; a little here, a little there – so that they will go and fall backward, be inured and snared and capture." (Is 28:13 NIV).

They are foremost interested in the restoration of Israel. They are politically influential. For this reason we find them to be the foremost inquisitors and dialogue partners of Jesus. Jesus accuses them of abusing their power: "devouring widows' houses" (Mk 12: 40), taking the best synagogue seats (Mt 23:6), expecting dutiful marketplace greetings and the title Rabbi (Mk 23:7).

Jesus says they are blind guides. Blinded by pride to the complete perspective. Their myopic vision of the law leads eventually to a decline in popular opinion and immediately to the harsh judgement of Jesus "You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel" (Mt 23:24 NIV).

Thought they are considered expert exegetes in the nuance of the law, Jesus condemns them as teachers of the law for expanding its intentions. While they take offense to this sabbath healing of a man with a withered hand (Mk 3:1 - 5), he refers to the written law and scorns extrapolations (Mk 2:27). He claims their traditions make void the word of God (Mk 7:13) by focusing on minute details and missing the larger purpose.  "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices - mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy and faithfulness." (Mt 23:23 NIV).

The Pharisees are offended when Jesus eats with tax collectors and prostitutes. Intent on separation from all defilement, the Pharisees have applied to their table fellowship the laws prescribed for priests and sacrifices. To emphasise their insufficient efforts at purity, Jesus call the Pharisees "whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but on the inside … are full of the bones of the dead." (Mt 23: 27 NRSV).

It was the pharisees that used their political and religious cloud for revenge; with priestly roles and political connections, they encourage his trial and crucifixion.

For those in spiritual blindness Jesus said "Forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." (Lk 23: 34).

Please check my visual narrative As Blind as a Bat ( It has another story about Jesus healing on the Sabbath Day and will give you a clear idea of what self-righteousness really is. The pharisees accused Jesus of casting out devils by Beelzebub the prince of the devils. To the clear moral vision of Jesus the attitude implied in this objection showed a radical depravicty of nature, an inability to discriminate between fundamental ethical distinctions. The former blind man says "Whereas I was blind, now I see. This man has done good to me, and for me, therefore, he is good." It is not the function of the prince of darkness to give sight to the bound.

Blind leading the Blind

in The Maze of the Labyrinths

SO here it finally is! Phantasmagoria in the maze of the labyrinths. Yes, make your choice --- the road less travelled or the wide road?

The Maze of the Labyrinths
These labyrinth's are filled with symbolism.

Tree of Life (evergreen tree is immortality of the soul) in the middle vs the minotaur (but there is always salvation from that even if that road is taken) - the sword (spiritual weapon).

Crown of thorns: Jesus and persecution.

Grapes: for nourishment. The Eucharist.

Ivy: faithfulness, eternal life.

Crown: reward and eternal life.

Beehive: honeyed words.

Egg: resurrection

Chain: imprisonment; broken chains - liberation.

Lamp: Truth, light, divine inspiration. Word of God.

Water: purification.

Swallow: because it hides itself in the mud during winter, the incarnation. Because of its return in the spring, resurrection.

Butterfly: transformation and resurrection.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Minotaur's End

Here is the collage for my visual narrative called The Maze of the Labyrinths (which is coming shortly).

The End of the Labyrinth or the Demise of the Minotaur

The Myth of Theseus

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Allegory of the Boy Artist Vanitas ATCs

As part of my ongoing visual narratives, I had made two collaged images of vanitas (Vanitas collages). These images I then decreased in size and made into ATC cards.

With the left over images I made vanitas birthday cards/ATCs .... now that's being different!

Vanitas ATC

Vanitas ATC

Happy Birthday JK

Hour Glass and the Ink Happy Birthday ATC

Unforgettable JK

Timeless History

Vanitas Celebrate Your Birthday

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Maze of the Labyrinths

Maze: must have choices in its pathway.
Labyrinth: design should have but one pathway leading to the centre.

According to The Oxford Dictionary of the Classical World edited by John Roberts "the labyrinth is a complex building constructed by Daedalus for Mino king of Crete and commonly identified with the Minoan plaace of Knossus. The labyrinth's confusing system of passages, from which no one could escape, concealed the Minotaur, which fed on human victims until destroyed by Theseus. The hero imitated its twists and turns in a ritual dance on Delos. A plausible derivation of the non-Greek word from (Lydian) 'double axe' connects the labyrinth with a potent Minoan religious symbol labrys."

The labyrinth is a design and comes to us from pagan Greece and Rome. It was the name given by the ancient Greeks and Romans to buildings, entirely or partly subterranean, containing a number of chambers and passages that rendered egress difficult. (Encyclopaedia Britannica).

Gilchrist Heraldy Cathedral labyrinth
Pliny's Natural History mentions the following four famous labyrinth's of antiquity:
  1. The Egyptian: situated to the east of the Lake of Moeris, opposite the ancient site of Crocodilopolis (Arsinoe) - the word means "the temple at the entrance of the lake". The entire building contained 12 courts and 3,000 chambers. The roofs were wholly of stone and the walls were covered with sculpture. It was the work of Amenenbet III of the 12th dynasty who reigned 1842 to 1797 BC.  Herodotus' Egyptian labyrinth was near the place called the City of Crocodiles (Greeks named it Crocodilopolis). The city worshipped a sacred crocodile (Petsuchos) that was embellished with gold and gems. The crocodile lived in a special temple, with sand, a pond and food. When the Petsuchos died, it was replaced with another. The city was renamed Arsinoe during the 3rd century. The Arsinoite nome contained various pyramids, the necropolis of Crocodilopolis, and a celebrated labyrinth. Today the city remains a titular see of the Roman Catholic Church.
  2. The Cretan: The labyrinth at Knossos, Crete in which the minotaur was slain by Theseus. Greek mythology did not recall that in Crete there was a Lady or Mistress of the Labyrinth who presided over it. A tablet inscribed in Linear B found at Knossos records a gift "to all the gods honey: to the mistress of the labyrinth honey". This implied all the gods together receive as much honey as the mistress of the labyrinth alone. It is possible that the Cretan labyrinth and the Lady were connected with a cult which was transmitted later to the Eleusinian mysteries. 
  3. The Lemnian: similar to the Egyptian with 150 columns. 
  4. The Italian: was a highly intricate series of chambers in the lower part of the tomb of Porsena at Clusium. This tomb is said to be recognisable in the mound named Poggio Gajella, near Chiusi.
With reference to the Egyptian labyrinth, there was an extinct order of amphibians that comprised the dominant animals of Late Paleozaic and Triassic time which were called labyrinthodants (labyrinthodontia). These animals first appeared in the late Devonian. Many were large as alligators, some as small as salamanders. They were aquatic creatures but later some had become terrestrial.

Theseus slaying the minotaur
The main mythical story is of Theseus who slays the minotaur beast found in the centre. The minotaur beast required children to be sacrificed and brought to it. The story has been contextualised in Christianity to mean overcoming the devil in our journey, or Christ harrowing of the devil in hell. The widespread adoption of a four-fold division of the labyrinth with a cross at the centre in an attempt to Christianise a pagan symbol. This was the accepted form for use in the church with obvious Christian symbolism built into its structure. It is reputed that these labyrinth's in churches were walked as substitutes for the long pilgrimages after the popularity of the Crusades had abated; also manypeople could not afford to travel to the holy sites and lands, so these labyrinths were used in prayer and meditation, and when people walked the path they saw it as allegorically ascending toward salvation or enlightenment.
Chartres Cathedraul
It was Christianised via Roman Algeria and has been used numerously in some great cathedrals, notably Chartres Cathedral in northern France. There was also a Christian basilica at Al-Asnam in AD 324 which combined the familiar design of a square Roman labyrinth with a word-square spelling out "Sancta Eclesia" (Holy Church) occupying the central goal, instead of Theseus and the minotaur.

The traditional design is a cross, angles and dots, which are all drawn first and then the remaining concentric circles are simply connected to the points around the central core of the design.

Technique in drawing a labyrinth
Some of the cathedral labyrinths were the scenes of symbolic games and dances; a ball game known as pelota was played at Easter by the clergy on the pavement labyrinth in Auxerre Cathedral, central France. The labyrinth design symbolised the tortuous path that the good Christian followed towards redemtpion, both in everyday life and on pilgrimage.

Chartres Cathedral Labyrinth
Reverend Harry Cheales in 1950 had a dream which he was instructed to build a maze in the rectory garden at Wyck Rissington in Gloucestershire, southwent England. He spent five years planting  his maze and decorated it with signs to remind visitors of the progression through childhood to old age and, finally, death. The choices and turns in the pathway represented the decisions and mistakes inevitably made in life, a tree already in the garden formed the central goal and symbolised heaven and eternity.

In 1968 a hedge maze was opened at the garden in Van Buuren Museum in Brussels, Belgium. It has a cedar tree at its goal and a simple pathway that leads through a series of alcoves containing sculptures that illustrate the Jewish 'Song of Songs'. It contains a wealth of religious symbolism.

In 1980 the Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie also had a dream of a maze which he made into a sermon. The inspiration of this sermon resulted in building the "Archbishop's Maze" at Greys Court in Oxfordshire, central England. The design is adapted from medieaval cathedral labyrinths and can be followed as either a labyrinth or a simple maze to an inscribed pillar with a sundial at the centre; the pillar stands on a Byzantine-style cross of stone, inset with a Roman cross in contrasting stone. The reconciliation of the various branches of the Christian Church was central to Runcie's life work, and the design of the maze, by its very nature and the marking of key points on the path, abounds with Christian symbolism. It also heralded the resurgence of the labyrinth as a tool for spiritual and psychological renewal and growth which has taken off with New Age and the Sacred Geometry religious philosophies departing from Orthodox Christianity. The New Age cult and Mysticism see the dance of Christos and Sophia being the interplay of the sacred masculine and sacred feminine principles, as they manifest in Christian mystical tradition.

Villa Pisanill Labirinto
Meanwhile finger labyrinths are used by spiritual counsellors and mental health workers for its therapeutic benefits. These are tactile objects carved into wood or stone, or made from embossed paper structures or papier mache, which allow the fingers to do the walking. When not in use the wood and stone labyrinths make striking wall ornaments.

(Extracts taken from Magical Paths - Labyrinths and Mazes by Jeff Saward)

Symbolism: protective device, meditation.

Inspiration images:

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Allegory of the Boy Artist

The boy begins as soon as he can see, by taking an interest in everything around him that he sees in ACTION.

It is not by objects in themselves that his senses are excited, it is by their movement, their variation. His indifference to things which give no sign of life is profound. It is only when they move that he is struck by the notion that possibly they might in some way be made to gratify his own passions.

The first enjoyment he receives through his outward instinct is that of DESTRUCTION. When he gets old enough to handle things, the only vent for his desire to assimilate them, to make them part of his ego, is to pull them to pieces, to punish their unresponsiveness by summary execution.

Between this stage and the next there is a period during which the boy does not know what to do or be at. In contrast to him the girl's instinct for nurturing is only feebly developed. He knows no middle ground between destruction and creation. The months between the last wilful disembowelling and the first attempt to MAKE are passed, as a rule, in the persecution of every living thing he comes across.

The Allegory of the Boy Artist visual

(from studies in psychology of the boy artist).
At last the time arrives to give him paints and pencils. What does he do with them? Does he put a vase of flowers on a table and sit down to study its forms? NO; he tries to recreate the life by which he has been fascinated all along. He wearied of his tin calvary because it could not charge. And so he tries to make action of every kind visible. Purely objective fact, has no existence for him. What he wants to realise is his own conception of how things should move and what patterns they should make. If Wellington drew a battle for him, he would insist on more smoke; or Fordham a racehorse, he would want more flush of mane and tail.

The boy who tries for correctness in these early stages never becomes an artist. His untutored ambition, if it is to lead to much, has to be of the subjective, creative, self-assertive kind. Now comes the crisis.
The boy has carried his natural light as far as it will go. He has made men fight as furiously and horses gallop as extravagantly as he can with his scanty knowledge of either.

He begins to see that if he is ever to express himself fully and to satisfy his own nascent critical sense, he must lay aside imagination and turn for a time to ACQUISITION. This is the parting of the ways.
The discovery?

Science ministers to art. The consummation of it all, even with the greatest artists, does not come too soon. It does not come until the scientific foundation is fused, as it were, into the art built upon it. The expressive artist must put his knowledge of form, of structure, of the behaviour of paint or clay, into action, as unconsciously as the writer does his knowledge of grammar.

Then the genius of the artist emerges.

Collages in above visual:
Vanitas 1 Vonny Nasamoto

Vanitas 2 Vonny Nasamoto

Other images used:

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Vanitas, all is vanity

My vanitas collages (which I will post later on in the week) are inspired by my next visual narrative "The allegory of the boy artist". They will also be included in the visual narrative.

So what is a vanitas? It is a genre of the still life painting tradition. The traditional vanitas were painted in the 17th century usually by Dutch and Flemish still life painters, and often contain a hidden allegory. The Latin word Vanitas means 'emptiness', 'unreality' or 'superficiality'; and is not about vanity in the sense of being vain but of the evanescence or emptiness of earthly possessions. These paintings were designed to make the observer contemplate the longevity of life, the frailty of man and the vanity of all worldly things. They were often moralising and filled with elaborate symbolism.

The objects used are reflective of the transcience of the things of this world and the inevitability of death (the 'vanitas' theme) for us all; and by extension often contemplative of the Christian passion and resurrection of Jesus. A vanitas painting contains collections of objects symbolic of the inevitably of death and the transcience and vanity of earthly achievements and pleasures; it exhorts the viewer to consider mortality and to repent.

Vanitas - Frans Hals (1628)
Collage for The Allegory of the Boy Artist visual narrative

The memento mori is the skull, reminding us we must due.

Here is a list of some of the more frequent objects and their meanings:

An hour-glass, clock or candle:  all allude to the passing of time;
An overturned vessel (cup, pitcher or bowl): alludes to the literal meaning of vanitas - emptiness.
A crown, sceptre, jewels, purse or coins: alludes for the power and possessions of this world (represented by a terrestrial globe) that death takes away
A sword or other weapon: reminds us that arms are no protection against death.
Flowers, especially with drops of dew: symbols of short-livedness and hence of decay.
Glass of wine or pitcher and a loaf of bread: the eucharistic elements.
A vase of flowers: points the contrast between life on earth and in the hereafter.
Ivy, being evergreen: signifies death by the resurrection
Pelican or phoenix: used as Christian references often painted on vessels.
Crucifix or rosary: symbols of Catholicism.
A bird: symbol of the human soul, a meaning familiar in antiquity; and extended to other winged creatures such as the butterfly.
Apple, pomegranate, black and white grapes, nut and other fruit: commonly used as traditional Christian symbols.
A bird's egg (especially with the shell broken): implies resurrection and life.
Exotic shells: were a symbol of wealth, as only a rich collector would own such a rare object from a distant land.
Books: celebrated human learning.
Musical instruments: celebrated the pleasures of the senses.
Purple silk cloth: was doubly symbolic - silk was the finest material, while purple was the most regal colour.
Arms and armour: represented both military power and superb craftsmanship, beautiful and deadly at the same time.
Storage jars, glasses and carafes: contained water, wine or oil; they were symbolical elements that held the products that sustained life.
Chronometer: marked the length and passing of life.
Extinguished oil lamp or candle: also marked the length and passing of life.

Other objects:
Mirrors, bones, burning candles, soap bubbles, decaying flowers, flickering candles, smoke, pipes, fruit, vegetables, plants, red wine, bread, tattered books, maps, jewellery, broken pots and crockery, insects, animals, time pieces, the hour glass, sun dials, cards, dice and other games of chance.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

In the Year 20 Eleven - The Year of Destruction

This is a very apocalyptic based visual narrative with inspiration taken from the book "Number in Scripture" by E. W. Bullinger.

Numerics is the study of numbers in relation to scripture and their symbolism; not to be confused with numerology where numbers are sought to affect a person's characteristics or life events. Numerics is applied to events and provides a picture of their symbolism and what they are signifying. Bible numerics looks at the spiritual significance and symbolic connotation of numbers which abide by the Law of First Principle in relating to contexts within the sacred bible.

The number eleven marks disorder, disorganisation, imperfection, disintegration, destruction and chaos.

The number ten signifies the perfection of order; then eleven is an addition to it, it's adding something extra to it and adulterating it. It is subversive of and undoes that order.

Twelve is the number which marks the perfection of government, then eleven falls short of it. It takes away from it, subtracts from it, making it not whole.

Author advises that this piece is not prophetic nor intends to forecast or predict any major catastrophy, but is a picture signifying the relevance of number in scripture.

Conflict in the Middle East - will history repeat itself?
Historically Nebucchadnezzar came up and began his destructive work on Jerusalem (2 Kings 23: 36, 24:1, 2 Chronicles 36: 5, 6), during Jehoiakim's reign of 11 years.

Nebucchadnezzar put an end to Israel's rule in Jerusalem for "in the 11th year the city was broken up." (Jer 39:2).

For a more modern example we can think of 9/11. 9 in bible numerics means finality. This was about final destruction on American soil, in order to engage them into war.

Still it was the eleventh year in which Ezekial prophesised against Tyre (Ezek 26: 1) and against Egypt (30:20 and 31:1) was the 11th year Zedekiah, in which Jerusalem was broken up.

Eleven hundred occurs twice in the bible, both referring to days of defective administration, marked by the fact that there was "no king". It signifies ruin and loss of government. Now we only have to think about the Middle East to see these spiritual forces coming into play as governments and monarchies disintegrate.

Armistice - 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month (so close to 12), that it was then the end of that destruction, ending the end of WWI.

Leviathan Stirs
In the ancient Near East a monster is a common symbol to represent a water chaos that threatens life.

The Akkadian creation epic Enuma elish - introduces us to the battle with chaos in creation.

Rahab and Leviathan the sea monsters combine to battle it out, creating major storms as they restlessly try and encroach on the land.

Yahweh's control of the cosmic waters (post primeval waters) is simply a job for the angels; apocalyptically the great beasts representing the nations, will emerge from the waters crying peace, peace but only for a while before a great war breaks out.