[ by Charles Cameron -- always on the watch for the symbolic ]
First, let’s admit that the cattle-rancher archetype has immense popular appeal. Here’s the header from the Bundy Ranch website:
That’s pretty hard to beat, no?
As ever, I’m concerned to keep track of the symbolic side of things, the emotional tugs, the flags, rituals, and stratagems which gather morale to a cause — in this case, the standoff at the Bundy Ranch.
Again in this photo we see cowboys, and this time one of them is carrying the American flag held high…
What other flags were in evidence?
I’m pretty sure I can see the US Army, Navy and Marine Corps flags here, along with the US flag —
There’s another flag, just above the Corps flag in the photo above, that I couldn’t identify — a flag which was also captured in this Guardian shot –
I didn’t recognize it, but our blog-friend and frequent commentator Grurray did… And here’s where things get really interesting, and I learn what I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t decided to look into this matter of the flags at the Bundy Ranch showdown.
It’s a Latter-day Saints banner known as the Title of Liberty, and it dervives from a passage in the Book of Mormon, Alma 46 verses 12-13 and 36-37, wherein Captain Moroni…
rent his coat; and he took a piece thereof, and wrote upon it — In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children — and he fastened it upon the end of a pole … and he took the pole, which had on the end thereof his rent coat, (and he called it the title of liberty) and he bowed himself to the earth, and he prayed mightily unto his God for the blessings of liberty to rest upon his brethren …
it came to pass also, that he caused the title of liberty to be hoisted upon every tower which was in all the land, which was possessed by the Nephites; and thus Moroni planted the standard of liberty among the Nephites. And they began to have peace again in the land…
Here it is, raised for an event in Washington DC:
And here it is, catalogued for sale as a 3′ x 5′ flag:
Finally, there’s the Gadsden flag:
— flown here at the Bundy Ranch protest alonside the US flag:
That’s it for flags, for me, at least for now… It has been an interesting ride.
I mentioned stratagems, though. Here’s one that strikes me as less than chivalrous — but which, if push had come to shoot, would have made quite a media splash. The stratagem? Simple — put women in the front line…
[ by Charles Cameron -- in mental preparation for tonight's lunar eclipse, together with some quick eschatology, plenty of blood, and an Incan jaguar ]
The upper panel, above, shows a detail of Hieronymus Bosch‘s Ghent representation of Christ carrying the Cross to his crucifixion, the focus here being on three of Bosch’s contemporaries depicted as citizens of Christ’s Jerusalem, mocking Christ as he moves through the crowd…
… while the lower panel has substituted for one of them the face of John Hagee, televangelist, senior pastor of the Cornerstone megahurch in San Antonio, TX, and (eventually disowned) endorser of Sen. John McCain‘s 2008 presidential bid.
Hagee is in the news at the moment as a major promoter of the “Four Blood Moons” end times theory, according to which tonight will witness the first of four total lunar eclipses announcing — like four dots the style-books suggest when an ellipsis follows a period — the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord referred to in Joel 2.31:
Hre is Hagee, interviewed on this subject:
There are numerous biblical references to Joel 2.31:
The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come.
I shall not list all of them, but have selected those which most closely address the topic at hand.
Luke 21:25 picks up the theme:
And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring;
And in Acts 2:20, the same author specifies these signs:
The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come:
Unsurprisingly, the Revelation of John, 6:12 locates the blood moon in the sequence of Seven Seals that David Koresh was so concerned with…
And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;
And lest there be any doubt, Joel himself in the same chapter at 2:11 makes it clear that the Great and Terrible Day will in fact be both Great and Terrible…
And the LORD shall utter his voice before his army: for his camp is very great: for he is strong that executeth his word: for the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; and who can abide it?
It is something of a relief, then, to turn to NASA, where “signs in the skies” are considered more as opportunities for star-gazing than as precursors of Doom.
These things happen, NASA might say — tongue in cheek, perhaps — once in a blue moon…
NASA’s eclipse website draws its data from Goddard astrophysicist Fred Espenak, whose “Mr Eclipse” website offers the following diagram of tonight’s eclipse and blood moon…
April’s eclipse is the first to two total lunar eclipses in 2014. The second eclipse is on October 08 and it too is visible from the USA. In this case, the western USA sees the entire eclipse while the eastern USA misses the end of the eclipse because the Moon sets while the eclipse is still in progress.
These two eclipses of  are the first of four consecutive total lunar eclipses (each separated by six months) – a series known as a tetrad. The third and fourth eclipses of the tetrad occur on April 04, 2015 and Sept. 28, 2015 .
During the 5000-year period from 2000 BCE through 3000 CE, there are 3479 total lunar eclipses. Approximately 16.3% (568) of all total eclipses belong to one of the 142 tetrads occurring over this period. The mechanism causing tetrads involves the eccentricity of Earth’s orbit in conjunction with the timing of eclipse seasons. During the present millennium, the first eclipse of every tetrad occurs during the period February to July. In later millennia, the first eclipse date gradually falls later in the year because of precession.
Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli first pointed out that the frequency of tetrads is variable over time. He noticed that tetrads were relatively plentiful during one 300-year interval, while none occurred during the next 300 years. For example, there are no tetrads from 1582 to 1908, but 17 tetrads occur during the following 2 and 1/2 centuries from 1909 to 2156. The ~565-year period of the tetrad “seasons” is tied to the slowly decreasing eccentricity of Earth’s orbit. Consequently, the tetrad period is gradually decreasing (Meeus, 2004). In the distant future when Earth’s eccentricity is 0 (about 470,000 years from now), tetrads will no longer be possible.
Far from seeing them as signs of Doom, Espenak views them as inherently lovely:
Although total eclipses of the Moon are of limited scientific value, they are remarkably beautiful events
Nota bene:If Hagee is prophecy’s Espernak, Espenak is science’s Hagee.
Tibetans, like those from many other cultures, take eclipses seriously, though they seem to see them more as opportunities than as prophecies of doom. A dear friend pointed me to this invitation to practice from the Tibetan meditation master, Chojje Rinpoche:
On a lunar eclipse, please accomplish practice because whatever you do at this time, good or bad, multiplies many, many times over. It is therefore a great opportunity for you to accumulate merit which is really needed for the betterment of our lives and for our enlightenment. So, whenever an opportunity like this comes, we should not waste it but rather focus on practice, charity and all good works.
According to National Geographic, on the other hand, the blood red moon seen during a total lunar eclipse was attributed by the Inca to a jaguar attacking and eating the moon:
The big cat’s assault explained the rusty or blood-red color that the moon often turned during a total lunar eclipse.
Okay, enough. There’s positive contempt dripping on Pastor Hagee from whoever placed him in that photoshopped version of Bosch’s painting:
Gary DeMar is President of American Vision, where this headline and a more recent attack on Hagee — Why John Hagee is certainly wrong about “blood moons” — can be found. DeMar, following Rousas John Rushdoony, hopes for the eventual imposition of “Biblical Law” in America, and like Rushdoony holds a post-millennialist view of the end times. Wikipedia gives this brief explanation:
Postmillennialism expects that eventually the vast majority of men living will be saved. Increasing gospel success will gradually produce a time in history prior to Christ’s return in which faith, righteousness, peace, and prosperity will prevail in the affairs of men and of nations. After an extensive era of such conditions Jesus Christ will return visibly, bodily, and gloriously, to end history with the general resurrection and the final judgment after which the eternal order follows.
You can see, then, why post-millennialists hold the pre-millennialist enthusiasms and “soon coming” expectations of the likes of Harold Camping and John Hagee in low esteem…
Let’s return to the Bosch painting itself. Arguably missing both from the detail (upper panel, above) and its use by American Vision (upper panel, below) is the face of Christ — which in fact appears twice in Bosch’s original painting…
… once just above and to the left of the three who mock Christ, and once more imprinted on the veil with which Veronica — according to a legend enshrined in the sixth of the Stations of the Cross — wiped Christ’s face, lower left. In the mind and heart of Bosch, too — amid all the brute human throng he sees so clearly — that one face leaves its unforgettable imprint…
I leave you with Albrecht Durer‘s images of the Veronica:
Québec officially doesn’t seem to like what it terms “conspicuous religious symbols” — including the pictured “large” crucifix, hijab, and dastar (upper panel above, top row, left to right) and niqab and kippa (bottom row, left to right).
I suppose that’s one way to achieve uniformity — maybe peacocks should be asked to tone down their feathers until they’re more in line with pigeons, too — but it’s instructive to note that most of the folk in the Bangladeshi march for religious harmony (lower panel, above) would be banned from wearing their identifying symbols if they tried to hold a similar parade in Montréal, Québec.
In the tiny middle panel of my DoubleQuotes graphic, where you’ll usually find a pair of spectacles or binoculars, the Swayambunath Buddha, just outside Kathmandu, Nepal, looks on, bemused — having seen so much, so very much, of human nature.
[ by Charles Cameron -- a brief note on my own bi-focal vision, with appreciation to Marina Warner ]
I was just reading Marina Warner‘s recent essay On Magic — and protective magic in particular — and was struck by the phrase:
Calligraphic blazons act as icons, gems are incised with prayers to release their talismanic powers, phylacteries hold tightly wound documents written all over with blessings and invocations…
My oh my! Only a click away, IHS, the “global information company” that brings us IHS Jane’s Intelligence Review, was tweeting me something or other and naturally, their avatar showed up (above, upper panel) on my screen, then in my eyes (etc), and finally (after a couple milliseconds?) in what Coleridge called the “hooks and eyes” of memory… where they hooked up very nicely indeed with the logo of the Society of Jesus (above, lower panel).
Jane’s and the Jesuits. I mean, they’re both in the security business, right? The Jesuits want to protect us from sin, heresy, and other matters which will make life hot for us in the next world, while Jane’s wants to protect us from VBIEDs, CBRN weapons and other such things — widely considered more pressing — which might make life hot for us in this one.
Let’s skip the Jesuits and the seculars for a moment, and turn to Judaism and Islam. Marina writes:
Kabbalistic beliefs share common ground in this love of letters as potent, active powers in themselves: “Every word an angel, every letter an angel, and the spaces between them” was a tenet of the mystical Isaac Luria in Prague. According to analogous Muslim practices involving inscription, the right words work even when they’re hidden, indecipherable, or have disappeared altogether: they need only to have made contact, for their presence lingers in the substances where they were once inscribed, transferred by means of the magic operation of writing.
That last is, as cultural anthropologists know, a homeopathic concept — compare this, from the US (NIH) National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicinebackgrounder:
The alternative medical system of homeopathy was developed in Germany at the end of the 18th century. Supporters of homeopathy point to two unconventional theories: “like cures like”—the notion that a disease can be cured by a substance that produces similar symptoms in healthy people; and “law of minimum dose”—the notion that the lower the dose of the medication, the greater its effectiveness. Many homeopathic remedies are so diluted that no molecules of the original substance remain.
The thing is, there are two worldviews at work here, and Marina very nicely finesses the pair of them when, discussing the “talismanically protective clothes” in a Paris exhibit of “Ottoman princes’ wardrobes from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries”, she says:
Looked at from one angle, the Turkish practice was rankly superstitious, a fabulous, extreme, and crazy example of human fantasy in the doomed quest for mastery of natural forces. But looked at from another angle, the attempt to activate blessing and security through acts of writing rather than simple speech acts, and then by wearing the texts on one’s body, shows us a new dimension of word power and communicates an extraordinary degree of trust in the active literate imagination.
Superstitious, fabulous and crazy in enlightened scientific terms, yes — and yet seen from another angle, an extraordinary degree of trust in the active literate imagination…
John Donne opts for both, compressing two worlds into a mere four words:
At the round earths imagin’d corners, blow
Your trumpets, Angells…
Okay and Amen.
I’d now like to broaden the subject from word to world, and to deepen it from magic to sacrament.
Jan Valentin Saether favors the Vesica Piscis formed where two circles overlap as the visionary aperture in the ninth image of his Viloshin Letters:
And the Olympic rings, as befits a logo heavily associated with advertising, might be the most banal of them all — had it not been redeemed one night by the gracious moon hanging low under London Bridge:
But let us return to Ezekiel’s angelic wheels, which are related to early Jewish “mysticism of the Chariot” or Merkabah:
Can we find some echo of those wheels, perhaps, in the roadwheels of the IDF Armored Corps’s Merkava IV tank? Pictured here is the Mark I, from 1979.
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