Tag Archives: William Blake

Magic And Miracles (4)

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The Magic Circle by John William Waterhouse

Following last week’s thread, what is the difference between praying for a miracle and casting a spell? I can only give you my impression/opinion. Let’s start with magic. One of the characteristics of magic that strikes me as different from Christianity has to do with manipulation. It seems to me that the sorcerer, sorceress, warlock, or witch sees himself or herself as mastering a skill or craft which makes possible the manipulation of people, nature, circumstances, and even supernatural entities.

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Sorceress by Frank Frazetta

To the extent that Christians try to cajole God for favors, I think they are behaving more like magicians than disciples. God is not a trained animal act, and he does not perform at our bidding. Does this mean that he should not be asked to intervene? Not necessarily. It depends on three things as I see it: what we are asking for, our motivation for doing so, and our attitudes about ourselves in relation to God.

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William Blake: Jesus giving sight to Bartimaeus

Without requiring all of my readers to believe as I do, I think it is helpful to look at how the scriptures describe (often by implication) the nature and purpose of miracles. In my own reading and contemplation I have settled (again) on three characteristics. First, miracles provide genuine help to those who need it. Second, they reveal some aspect of the character and nature of God. Third, as a result of this, they require something of us in the way of humility, commitment, and submission to a higher authority. Assuming (again, as the scriptures imply) that this authority is benevolent and has our truly best interests at heart, God should not be expected to conform to our limited and often misguided agendas. You may not believe he exists, but if you do, this has to be considered.

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Grace by Rhoda Nyberg (painting from 1918 photograph of Charles Wilden taken by her father, Eric Enstrom)

Some of you may remember that in a previous post (THE GODDESS MENTALITY – PART 3 from this same Myth and Reality category) I stated that I do not respect powerful people simply for being powerful. Seeking supernatural empowerment in and of itself can be very destructive. What if we get what we want? Will we use it for good or ill? Are we even in a position to be able to tell the difference?

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The Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes by Giovanni Lanfranco (1582-1674)

It makes sense to me that God’s gifts, however commonplace or unusual, would be granted on his terms. Finally, by asking for the wrong things or for the right things for the wrong reasons, do people simply delude themselves and thereby compromise their abilities to function in the real world? On my ABOUT page, I say something to the effect that fantasy can give us a beneficial perspective  from which to examine reality. When fantasy becomes too much of our reality, the balance shifts toward distortion and dysfunction.

Okay, enough of the heavy stuff. I promise to  lighten things up and have more fun next week. Teaser: So what does Wonder Woman look like?

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Mythological Beasts And Spirits: Lindorm

The term, Lindorm, is both Danish and Swedish. Depending on its use, it can be synonymous with Lindworm, used in reference to any giant serpent, or used to represent a sea serpent.

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I’m sure there’s a plausible answer, but I wonder how cultures from cold, northern climates developed mythologies with huge, reptilian monsters.

There is an interesting folktale called Prince Lindorm (also King Lindorm, Prince Lindworm, and King Lindworm) that has been called Danish, Norwegian, or Swedish. Let’s just say it’s Scandinavian. This tale has generated a bit of modern fan art. It has also been portrayed by professional illustrators. I especially like the older examples. I’m not entirely certain as to who did the following illustration. Owing to its similarity to the next one, I’m inclined to attribute it (tentatively) to Henry Justice Ford, but I could be wrong.

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You can find various versions of this tale in their entirety and for free by typing in the title on a word search. I won’t provide links due to their number. One element they all seem to have in common is the one shown above. A prince under a curse exists as a Lindorm and demands a bride. A number don’t make the cut and are messily dismembered. Finally, one tries a different approach. Wearing multiple gowns, she insists first that the snake shed his skin when he orders her to undress. He does so, and she removes one gown. This process is repeated until the Lindorm is an almost shapeless mass. The maiden then scrubs away the offending flesh to reveal a handsome prince.

The theme of serpents and maidens is VERY old  and rather widespread in mythology and in folktales. Here is an image which I can attribute to Henry Justice Ford:

The Beautiful Woman Soothes The Serpent King (1900) by Henry Justice Ford.
The Beautiful Woman Soothes The Serpent King (1900) by Henry Justice Ford.

I know it’s not the same thing, but I can’t help but notice the similarity of these images to the Genesis account of the serpent tempting Eve in the Garden of Eden (one version of how all the trouble started, but keep in mind that Adam was also described as culpable in that account). This has been represented so many times that I suffered from choice anxiety when choosing images for this post. I opted for variety, including selections from William Blake…

(c) Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation. Eve Tempted by the Serpent by William Blake.
(c) Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation.
Eve Tempted by the Serpent by William Blake.

… to this interesting, more cartoonish, and different cultural perspective by David-Dennis…

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…to this oddly chimeric take by Jon Roddam Spencer Stanhope…

Eve Tempted by the Serpent (c. 1877) by Jon Roddam Spencer Stanhope.
Eve Tempted by the Serpent (c. 1877) by Jon Roddam Spencer Stanhope.

… and a similar but older adaptation by Michelangelo on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

From the Sistine Chapel ceiling (1508-1512) by Michelangelo.
From the Sistine Chapel ceiling (1508-1512) by Michelangelo.

This seems like as good a place as any to stop (or would it be better to say begin?).

p.s. For moral purposes, let me say that Eve is portrayed without clothing in all of these examples because, well… she was.

Next week: something else suitably scaly.