Tag Archives: Judeo Christian

Mythological Beasts And Spirits: Cherub

new project 27
From The Fear of a Farmer (Copyright: 2017 Robert Lambert Jones III).

I must start by admitting that the above picture is inaccurate, but I will get to that later. The following painting by Raphael shows what cherubim (plural for cherub in the Old Testament) are not: fat babies with wings.

cherubs by raphael
Cherubs by Raphael

I am only familiar with these creatures from the Judeo Christian tradition. They are described as guarding the entrance to the Garden of Eden (Genesis) and as appearing to the prophet Ezekiel in a vision he had during the Babylonian captivity (Ezekiel). The latter account also refers to them as “living creatures” stationed around the throne of God. They are described as having four faces: that of a lion, that of an ox, that of an eagle, and that of a man. They also have four wings full of eyes, the hands of a man and the feet of a cow. It has been suggested that their appearance is symbolic (e.g. ox as servant, lion as ruler, etc.) and should not be taken literally.

This description may seem grotesque to some, intriguing or even cool to others. It also defies artistic representation, but this hasn’t stopped people from trying. A golden sculpture of two cherubim facing each other on the Mercy Seat ( or lid) of the Ark of the Covenant is described in the Pentateuch (first five books of the Old Testament). In the photograph of a re-creation below, each is shown as a kneeling human figure with two wings, and both are shown facing each other with their wingtips touching. The truth, however, is that we don’t really know exactly what these figures looked like.

cherubim 1

By the way, the above image might remind you of what the Ark looked like in Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark. The movie version shows pretty good agreement with scholarly opinion, but all scriptural accuracy in the movie ends there.

Large statues of two cherubim  were stationed behind the Ark in the Holy of Holies, the inner and most sacred chamber in the temple built by Solomon. They were allegedly human figures, each with two wings, and two of their wings touched in the center between them while the other two extended to the walls. Again, we cannot be entirely sure of what they looked like.

Depicting the description from chapters 1 and 10 of the book of Ezekiel is more problematic. Here is an attempt from around 1200 (A. D. or C. E., depending on your preference of notation).

cherubim 4
From the Cathedral of Cefalu, Sicily (c. 1200).

Oops! On closer examination this looks more like a seraph with six wings instead of four, but I’ll keep it, anyway, because I like the colors.

Here is another from a different church, as nearly as I could make out the rather obscure reference I found. Well… the heads of an eagle, an ox, a lion, and a man are shown as described in the book of Ezekiel, but it appears to have six wings. Is this a cherub-seraph hybrid?

cherubim 2
From St. Stefans Romanian Orthodox Church.

The following illustration is one for which I could not obtain a credit, but it shows what I said about the difficulty and aesthetics (or lack thereof) of portrayal earlier in this post.

cherubim 3

In my drawing at the top of this post, I chose to take a simpler approach. Honestly, I just wanted to draw this concept (I like eagles, as did my mother when she was still alive), and I found a way to include it in my story in a way that added some additional meaning to the plot. I envisioned a huge, four-winged, four legged eagle and left it at that. I will conclude with the following drawing of a cherub being placated by Anni, the Valkyrie.

new project 30
From The Fear of a Farmer (Copyright: 2017 Robert Lambert Jones III).

 

Graphic Mythology: An Impersonal God

Allow me to jump back into the DC universe and a graphic novel which was a critical sensation. Watchmen was highly regarded (perhaps too highly) and garnered all kinds of superlatives when it came out. The artwork for this limited series now seems dated, but it is good enough to stimulate the imagination and move the story (a strong one) forward. It’s a bit dark and violent for my tastes, but it was well-written and different, especially for the time it was published. I could see what at least some of the excitement was about.

docmanhattanass

For the purposes of my blog, I will focus on one character and leave the rest of his dysfunctional cohorts to struggle with their humanity. Doc Manhattan was once a man named Jon Osterman until a nuclear accident at the research facility where he worked turned him into a god. He is no longer bound by time, space, or mortality. He can control energy and matter, has mastered the quantum universe, and can change his dimensions at will. He is invulnerable. As can be seen, he has many of the characteristics one would attribute to God. His character is another matter.

tumblr_ng6tvoeH0s1rur0aro1_500

Doc is detached to the point of indifference. Though he has the power to prevent it, he watches in bland astonishment as another “hero” called The Comedian kills a pregnant Vietnamese woman. In his post-human state, he has sexual relations with first one woman (Jenny Slater) and then another (a fellow superhero named Laurel Juspeczyk, a.k.a. Laurie Jupiter) but feels nothing for either of them. Selfish preoccupation and insensitivity are among his hallmarks, and he is a god the U. S. government mistakenly thought they could control.

Uf2FF

This is not the God of the Judeo Christian tradition. His behavior squares more with that of the male members of the Greco Roman pantheon – most notably Zeus (Jupiter). The graphic novel was a good, albeit uncomfortable, read for me, but if you’re shopping for a god or even just a hero with whom to identify, I prescribe someone other than Doc Manhattan.

tumblr_inline_nzdud5EFto1sqx52u_540