Friday, 13 April 2018

Lion killing snake



I came across this very interesting object on edgarlowen.com auction site:

9764. ROMANESQUE MARBLE SCULPTURE. France or Northern Italy, Romanesque period, c. 11th-13th century. A free standing triangular sculpture, likely from an early church, with a man with unkept hair, most likely Jesus, grasping the head of a lion which in turn holds a serpent in its mouth. Clearly a highly symbolic piece though the exact meaning is somewhat obscure. 5.5 x 10.5 x 19 inches. Excellent condition, all original with no repair or restoration. Extremely rare and a very remarkable piece of early Christian iconography.

Though not certain, the symbology of this piece most likely refers to Psalm 91:11-13 "Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet." which is traditionally taken to refer to the defeat of Satan (represented by the serpent and the lion) by Jesus. The passage led to the Late Antique and Early Medieval iconography of Christ treading on the beasts, where beasts were most often depicted as lion and snake, both of which represented the devil, as explained by Cassiodorus and Bede in their commentaries on Psalm 91.  

The earliest and one of the most beautiful example of the depiction of the "Christ treading on the beasts" scene can be found in the "Basilica of San Vitale" in Ravenna which was built by Ostrogoths and completed by the 27th Bishop of Ravenna, Maximian, in 547 AD.


In my post "You will trample the great lion and the serpent" I wrote that this scene could actually have a secret meaning linked to the solar cult, which Christianity was trying to replace at the time when this scene started to appear. 

Summer starts on the 6th of May, Day of Jarilo, Beltine. Jarilo represents the sun's heat, symbolized by the snake and the dragon. Funnily Jarilo was Christianized into St George, the Dragon killer :) In Serbia, St Jeremija who is celebrated at the beginning of May is known as the Snake Saint. His day (1st of May according to the Julian calendar, 14th of May according to the Gregorian calendar) is the time when people perform magic ceremonies for protection from snakes...Interesting both names Jarilo and J(a)eremija have the root "jar" meaning "bright heat".

Summer ends on the 2nd of August, Day of Perun, Lughnasadh. Day of Perun falls in the middle of the Leo (Lion) zodiac sign. 



So summer is the period between the Day of Jarilo (Snake) and the Day of Perun (Lion). And in the middle of the summer is Day of Svetovid, the Summer solstice. The point when Sun in the northern hemisphere reaches its highest point above the horizon. 

Now have a look at "Christ treading on the beasts" scene again: 

Christ standing with his legs spread, with one leg on the snake (the beginning of the summer) and the other leg on the lion (the end of the summer). His head, with the solar halo is right at the point of the summer solstice, when Sun god is the most high...

If you make the Most High your dwelling...you will trample the great lion and the serpent...

You will be in the summer on the northern hemisphere...



How look at the above artefact again.


Christ is gone, and instead we see a head with what looks like dreadlocks. I believe that this head is the head of Helios, the old Titan Sun God. On Ancient Greek coins, he is portrayed in three different ways:

A man with dreadlocks hair and long sun rays



A man with dreadlocks hair and short sun rays



A man with dreadlocks hair and no sun rays



The sun's heat increases all the way through the summer until we reach the hottest point of the summer, the 2nd of August. This point marks the end of the summer and the beginning of autumn, the end of the heating and the beginning of the cooling of the northern hemisphere. I talked about this in my post "Two crosses".

The 2nd of August, is when Serbs celebrate Sveti Ilija (St Elijah) who is Christian version of Helios.

This is Helios



This is Elijah



As I already said, the sun's heat is represented by a snake. And the 2nd of August, the end of summer, the end the heating of the northern hemisphere, falls in the middle of the zodiac sign Leo, lion. 

The Serbian folk tradition says that every year at the end of the summer, St Elijah gets so angry that he wants to "burn the whole world down". But he never does, because right on the day of St Elijah, the summer ends, the lion kills the snake and the autumn begins...

Very interesting, right?

3 comments:

  1. I have to admit, I kind of changed my mind on (re)interpreting such things. As it seems, most people back then had a more or less different perception of Christianity then today’s withered people. You have monks who cure the sick through crystal-gazing, to influential occultists in the Catholic clergy like Johannes Trithemius. What I am saying is that Christians’ of the past, definitely saw more in these types of things, then the modern eye can grasp.

    On the side,I’d rather have a Gnostic-Scientologist as a neighbour than an American evangelist. :-)

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    1. I agree with you. The thing is that this is a common motif and which appears all over Eurasia since Bronze age. Another variant is the lion killing bull. The summer starts in Taurus, so both bull and snake are symbols of Jarilo, Jara, heat of the summer. It is definitely worth exploring.

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  2. Fascinating. I look forward to reading more of your posts.

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