Gorgeous Georgius…

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/2b/Nuremberg_chronicles_f_124v_2.jpg

St George ‘cradling’ or ‘choking’ a baby dragon?

(Nuremberg Chronicle 1493)

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… Like Michael, the St George we know today is something of a construct.

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Historically, George appears to have been a third century greek conscript in the Roman army,

who, having converted to Christianity, was martyred, that is, put to death for his religious beliefs.

His execution, by decapitation, reputedly took place outside Nicodemia’s city wall

sometime between 290 and 305 AD, on the 23rd day of April,

which subsequently became his Christian Feast Day.

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It does seem odd how the day of this event is clearly

and accurately recorded for posterity yet the year is not!

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St George’s cult initially developed in the Eastern Mediterranean.

There is a shrine dedicated to him in Abyssinia

and another in the village of Al-Khudr in Palestine.

Al-Khidr, after whom the village is named, is also venerated there.

The Mohammedans identify Al-Khidr as the Bilblical Elijah

whilst Christians regard him as an ‘avatar’ of St George.

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Al-Kidhr’s Feast Day of 26th April is known as

‘The Feast of Spring which makes everything green’.

Al-Khidr means the green, or verdant, one, or alternatively,

‘the-ever-living-one’.

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The multifarious carvings of leaf disgorging heads

which, to this day, adorn many a church, and cathedral column or cranny

in ecclesiastical buildings the length and breadth of the British Isles,

are believed by some to be representations of Al-Khidr, the green one.

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Here, then, is one, if not two candidates,

for the mantle of that mysterious Green Man

so beloved of the pagan fraternity worldwide.

There are, though, lots of others…

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In Mediaeval times, tales of St George the dragon slayer began to circulate.

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According to some of these stories George was born in Coventry

even though many of his exploits took place in the east.

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His first encounter with a dragon occurred in Egypt…

 

 

An Unseen Presence…

File:Jacob and the Angel, by Gustave Moreau, detail, 1874-1878 ...

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There are other sections in the Book of Genesis

which may be pertinent to our survey of St Michael…

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… ‘Left alone at night, Jacob was attacked by an unseen presence

which wrestled with him until day-break, whereupon his adversary cried,

“Desist, for the dawn is here!”

“Are you then a bandit, that you fear the dawn?” asked Jacob.

“At this time, we angels must sing dawn’s praises!”

“I will not desist until you bless me,” said Jacob.

“What is your name?” asked the angel and when Jacob answered, he continued,

“From this time on you shall be called Israel, for you have struggled

against me without succumbing and fire should guard fire.”‘

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Candidates for Jacob’s adversary include Michael, Gabriel and Samael,

although Gabriel’s water associations might count against him.

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Traditionally, Michael is associated with fire, but it is not

altogether clear why, unless he was originally conceived as

one of the ‘Cherubim with whirling limbs of flame’ which guards Eden?

It is difficult to shake the notion that this phrase

is a ‘poetic-kenning’ for the sun.

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Eden, in this mythology, is envisioned as a heavenly realm

filled with brightly jewelled trees which could easily be

indicative of a ‘solar interior’?

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In magical tradition, Michael is Regent of the South Quarter

 in some temples and when there he represents the Cardinal Point of fire,

which is, in all probability, another veiled reference to the sun.

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If Samael can be equated with Lucifer, head of the Seraphim,

he too would qualify, albeit his fire

consists in white flames not yellow, orange, or red,

which points to astral rather than solar origins,

‘the star behind the sun?’

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Precise angelic attributions are a source of continual contention,

and the ninefold ‘Hierarchy of Angels’ provided by

Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite

does little, if anything, to alleviate such debates.

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Hebrew scholars regarded Lucifer, as Cherub and Archangel

and made him a ‘son of the dawn’!

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Jacob’s new, angelically given, name, Israel, means

‘the gods strive against those who oppose you.’

 

Tobias and the Angel: A dog called Toby…

Domingos Sequeira – Tobias heals the blindness of his father

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…  If Tobias walks a recognised Pilgrimage route when carrying out his Father’s instructions it would certainly go some way to explaining the presence of the two other Archangels in some of the paintings even though there is no mention of them in the story.

Tobias’ destination is just given as a ‘far distant land’ in the version we have but it,

maybe, cannot be too far distant if Tobit is related to the family Tobias stays with, which he is.

Curiously, all the angels look decidely feminine.

Michael could at a push be described as Androgenous,

Raphael and Gabriel are definitely Gyandros.

Gabriel’s ‘lily’ is orthodox…

Raphael’s ‘vial’ presumably holds eye ‘salve’ for Tobit…

The fish by this stage is purely symbolic…

But what of Michael’s golden apple?

An allusion to the Garden of the Hesperides, guarded by the many-headed dragon.

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https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/1e/Francesco_Botticini_-_I_tre_Arcangeli_e_Tobias.jpg

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Ninevah and ‘large fish’ appear to be related and that is what originally excited us.

We were following the Johannine link, Jonah swallowed by the ‘Whale of God’ et al.

‘Make straight the way of the Lord!’

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And the dog?

The dog in some of the depictions seems almost transparent.

Like a Phantom Dog!

Whatever, we shall call him Toby for he has to do with threes,

and is the right provenance and time,

and tradition for the link with the theatrical puppet-play to be sustained.

We were quite right about the word play on that one, all those years ago.

‘To be or not to be…’

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It may even be that our Guardian Angel is three-fold.

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Threes, in this tale certainly play their part.

Not least in the age of Tobit when he dies,

but I am not altogether sure whether a fish actually posseses

the attributed organs, which in itself maybe suggestive,

but if Sara ‘gets’ the ‘heart’ and Tobit gets the ‘gall’, who gets the ‘liver’?

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The dog!

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Whether or not ‘Toby’ gets the liver, he always gets the sausages…

Tobias and the Angel: Grateful Dead…

William-Adolphe Bouguerea

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… If a story is canonical in one tradition and uncanonical in another

it immediately raises two questions.

What makes it ‘canonical’ for one tradition?

What makes it ‘uncanonical’ for the other?

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In this case it might have been supposed that it would have been more likely

to be canonical for the Hebrews, considering its age and subject matter?

Not so!

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Many years ago when I and a fellow writer, and friend,

first became aware of Apocryphal Bible stories,

we got very excited about this tale when we heard about it,

especially in view of the fish connection.

We immediately procured a copy of said Apocrypha,

at no little expense, and looked at this story first,

fully expecting to be accosted with highly significant arcane knowledge.

But drew a blank!

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And now?

Well now, I strongly suspect that there is highly significant arcane knowledge within it.

The trouble with arcane knowledge; it is very difficult,

if not impossible, to transmit in mundane terms.

An attempt, though, has to be at least made…

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Perhaps the first clue to the importance of this story

is to realise that it is a Grateful Dead tale…

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Before Tobit sends his son, Tobias, on the ‘errand’ there is a long introduction to the tale which establishes Tobit in, for wont of a better term, ‘righteousness’. He lives in Ninevah, a place which does not recognise his religion, and yet he continues to practice that religion despite persecution from the ‘local authorities’. As part of this practice he comes across a dead man who has been flung out into the street and his body left to rot. Tobit, an old man, single handedly buries the body and performs the funeral rites of his religion but then falls asleep by the side of the grave in exhaustion. As he sleeps, sparrows fly over him and their droppings land in his eyes so that when he wakes up, he is blind.

*

…At this stage it does not appear that the ‘dead’ were overly ‘grateful’.

But all good things come to those who wait.

It is at this point in the tale that Tobit, now having lost his sight,

and the means to a livelihood, decides to send out his son

on an errand to bring in what he is owed.

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Now, although, ‘errand’ is an interesting enough term

for Tobias’ journey, in and of itself,

what if we were to deem it a ‘pilgrimage’, instead? …

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Tobias and the Angel, Davide Ghirlandaio (David Bigordi) (Italian, Florence 1452–1525 Florence), Tempera and gold on wood

David Ghirlandaio  circ. 1479

Jude the Obscure…

Solved by Walking…

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While the initial idea was to consider all the scriptural references to Michael,

the General Epistle of Jude promised to be problematic.

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It is the first and only scriptural text to refer to Michael

as an Archangel and is important for that reason,

but that aside, for a long time, there seemed little else to commend it,

apart that is for an apparent obscurity.

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The quotation in full runs thus:

‘Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil,

he disputed about the body of Moses,

dared not bring against him a railing accusation,

but said, “The Lord rebukes you!”

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A couple of things present themselves…

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Firstly, ‘contending’ may not necessarily be ‘warring’ so

that the devil here accords more readily with the ‘Old Dispensation’

notion of Satan as accuser or prosecutor in a court of Law,

a disputant, as it were, in a legal confontation.

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From such a notion, presumably, springs

the age old tradition of playing, ‘Devil’s advocate’.

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And secondly, Michael, albeit, a mighty Archangel

relies exclusively upon ‘The Lord’s’ power in order to ‘win the day’.

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We are here, it seems, a far cry from the, ‘war in heaven’ of Revelation,

and perhaps a little closer to the Hebraic conception of a more orderly

and seemingly purposeful expulsion from the heavenly realms by God.

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But why should the body of Moses be key?

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The body here could be symbolic of the earth realm,

and as such would be the point at issue in any sought after transformation.

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The Old Dispensation relied soley on purification

and a raising of the earthly body through initiation.

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This process was symbolised by a new, clean raiment.

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The New Dispensation appears to have ‘upped the ante’,

by insisting upon a ‘World Apocalypse’,

which eventually results in The New Jerusalem…

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And nobody has ever seen that!

A Gnostic Chapter?…

Ancient of Days, William Blake

Left Hand Paths?

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… The concluding sections of Chapter Twelve are by far its weakest.

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In them much of the previous story is restated in far greater detail.

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The woman is given eagle wings with which to evade the ‘serpent’

and bring her to a place beyond it’s sight where she may safely feed?

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There is though some ambiguity here which rests on an

interpretation of the phrase ‘…from the serpent’s face’.

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Serpents ‘see’ via the vibrations carried on air waves,

and can hypnotise prey, with their gaze, before striking…

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The biblical flood is then unleashed by the ‘serpent’

but the Earth comes to the woman’s rescue

by swallowing the flood waters.

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If earlier sections have blurred the distinction between St Michael and Christ,

then this episode surely does the same for God and the Devil?

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The rest of time is to be played out with the ‘serpent’ persecuting

the remnants of the woman’s seed that have survived the flood…

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None of which accords particularly well with previous scripture,

although Moses is given ‘eagle’s pinions’ at one stage

in order to get him to where he needs to be!

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The chapter, taken as a whole, has a distinctly Gnostic aspect to it

with the Earth populated merely by

heaven’s discarded remnants,

and overseen by a wrathful demiurge railing against time.

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The time-phrase riddle for the ‘New Dispenation’,

resolves itself into a designation of the mystery woman

as Venus, the Pagan Goddess of Love,

which in the light of much that has transpired

in the last millenium makes a lot more sense than most other solutions –

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Of the ‘half-time’ planetary beings only the Moon and Venus

are conceived as Feminine and as the woman symbolically

‘stands-on-the-moon’ she cannot be the moon.

There are also some very persuasive

astronomical reasons for this designation…

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– The only way out of the nightmare is by death or, as St Michael proclaims,

by ‘the blood of the Lamb,’ and by the ‘word of testimony’,

which is, perhaps, not the clearest of ‘road maps’ for people to follow…

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Heaven by design, Earth by default,

has ever been the cry of those irrevocably lost at heart.

 

‘Heaven’s loud voice?’ …

Blake’s Angel neatly encapsulates aspects of the Books of Daniel and Revelation.

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… “Now is come salvation and strength, and the kingdom of our God,

and the power of Christ: for the accuser of our brothers is cast down,

which accused them day and night…

Therefore rejoice you heavens and you that dwell in them.

Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and of the sea!

For the devil is come down to you, having greath wrath

because he knows that he has but a short time.”

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Are we to conclude that this is the voice of St Michael?

I think we are meant to.

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We may wonder after the inhabitants

of the earth and sea on the third day of creation?

And Christ’s participation at this early stage?

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The argument, presumably, would be that as the heavenly realms

are beyond time, they include all time, and the passages

we have considered so far are certainly consistent with this theme.

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Strength in relation to St Michael we already know about.

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Salvation is a lifting of veils, or scales, from the eyes:

an awakening into that living realisation which alone grants freedom.

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If some of the traditional attributes of Christ seem to fit Michael,

like casting out devils, then some of the traditional

attributes of Michael can also be seen to fit the Christ.

 

Shadow of the Earth…

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… The Book of Revelation is a notoriously difficult text to understand

because of its symbolism and iconography,

however, chapter twelve, which concerns us here,

is relatively straightforward.

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It commences with a vision: ‘And there appeared

a great wonder in heaven, a woman clothed in the sun,

and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars…’

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This is an astrological description of Virgo, but wait,

‘…And she being with child cried, travailing in birth,

and pained to be delivered.’

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If the Virgin is to give birth then it must be the Great Goddess Isis or the

Virgin Mary, or at any rate the Star of the Sea, Stella Maris…

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Already we start to see the problem.

 The iconography may be precise,

but its interpretation can still be ambiguous,

or could the ‘images-of-heaven’ encompass all of these exemplars?

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‘…And there appeared another wonder in heaven,

a great red dragon, having seven heads

and ten horns and seven crowns upon his heads…’

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Lying alongside the constellation of Virgo in the night sky,

coiling around her, is Hydra, and in Greek mythology,

Hydra appears as a many headed snake, but wait,

‘…And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven

and did cast them to earth.’

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Not all the stars of the firmament are visible at any one time,

about a third of them move in and out of view over the rim of

the earth’s horizon during the course of a year.

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Just as the ‘night-time’ at any one location

is caused by the shadow of the earth

passing across the face of the sun,

a third of the night sky

is also obscured by the earth’s horizon.

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Bodies, planetary or otherwise,

moving through space are shadowed.

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But what to make of this psychologically?

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The ‘shadow-side’ of our personality, obscured by a continually

attention seeking conscious mind,

resides in the unconscious, and whilst lurking there,

shrouded in shade, it can be regarded as our own ‘personal devil’.

Menorah?…

Hanukkah Menorah Jewish Judaica Israel Vintage Brass Chanukah ...

Menorah as Chalice

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… The Book of Revelation can be described

as a book of arcane symbolism.

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It seems to me astonishing that such a work should have been

accepted into the recommended canon when so many

other far less controversial texts are regarded as apocryphal –

this word which now has connotations of spuriousness or falsity

is derived from the Greek word for ‘hidden’ –

Apocryphal works, then, can be regarded

as those books which possess hidden wisdom.

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It will be useful to consider the opening few paragraphs

of Revelation and compare them to Daniel’s vision of Michael

which we looked at in earlier posts

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“It was on the island of Patmos.

I was meditating on the seventh day

when I heard behind me a voice as of many waters,

“I am the beginning and end, first and the last.”

I turned to see who it was that spoke,

and I saw a figure resembling the Son of Man.

He was standing in the middle of seven golden candlesticks.

His beard and his hair were like white wool.

His eyes were flames of fire.

His countenance was bright, as the sun when it shines at its height.

He was clothed in a long white robe.

About his breast went a golden girdle.

In his right hand he held seven stars.

His words rang out of his mouth clearly

with the poignancy of a double-edged sword:

“I am he that lives and was dead.

I possess the keys to death and hell.

I shall live forever more.”

I fell down at his feet and they were like fine-brass forged in a furnace.

He laid his hands upon me, “You must write down all you see in a book,

and send it to the Seven Churches of Asia.

Let all the churches know that I am he who searches

the reins of the heart and gives to every one, according to their works.

Tell them to remember from whence they have fallen,

to return to their first love lest I come upon them like a thief

and remove their candlestick from its place,

thus speaks the ‘Amen’: ‘I know your works, I know that you have a name,

I know that you live, and yet, you are as the dead!'”

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It might be difficult for St Michael to be described as the,

‘one who is living but was dead’, but

he could certainly lay claim to being regarded as

‘the first and the last’ and also as possessing,

‘the keys to death and hell’…

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In the Book of Daniel, we may recall,

St Michael was described as a Great Prince,

as a Chief Prince, and as Daniel’s Prince.