Friday, August 26, 2016

Arty Farty Friday ~ Michelangelo...(and those horns! )

We've recently watched, courtesy of Netflix, the 1965 movie The Agony and the Ecstasy, the story, partly based on Irving Stone's biographical novel of the same name, deals with the conflicts of Michelangelo and Pope Julius II during the painting of the Sistine Chapel's ceiling. It's a reasonable depiction of likely events, I guess. The film was made in the then current style used for epic stories (Ben Hur, El Cid, etc.) but the film comes over, in 2016, more as a lush, expensive documentary; but I'm glad to have seen it, at last.

I had in mind to blog arty-fartily about Michelangelo, but he is too huge a figure in the art world to reduce him to a tiny blog post. Michelangelo's astrology has been picked over many times. His natal chart can be seen at Astro-databank HERE.

A few pointers to his nature, as shown in his natal chart are indicated in a book, DESIRE and DESIGN: A Look at Venus and Mars in Action by Mary Jane Staudenmann, excerpt below from Google Books, HERE.
(Click on images for clearer views).

The sight of one of Michelangelo's masterpiece sculptures in the movie, that of Moses, brought back a question: those mysterious horns on Moses' head! I'd noticed these in the past, but never had the time, or resources, to investigate the mystery. This time I had Google at my finger-tips.

There appear to be two possible explanations for the horns: a mis-translation, or a symbol of power.

From HERE:
What about the horns? Scholars believe this was a mistranslation of Hebrew scriptures into Latin by St. Jerome, called the Vulgate. It was the Latin translation of the Bible used at that time. Moses is described as having “rays of the skin of his face.” Jerome translated it to horns from the word keren, which means either radiated or grew horns.

Horns were a symbol of wisdom and rulership in ancient times. Was Moses a descendent of antediluvian kings, those who reigned before the flood, as some interpreted it?

Michelangelo was not the only artist to put horns on Moses. Several paintings and sculptures from the medieval and renaissance era depict him this way and can still be seen on the streets and in museums.

In her book The Horned Moses in Medieval Art and Thought (Los Angeles, UC Press, 1970), Ruth Mellinkoff describes how prominent this “mistranslation” became in depicting Jews physically, as well as metaphysically, as being in league with the Devil. Of course, the best known – but certainly not only -- example of this depiction is Michelangelo’s magnificent Moses.

Most commentators have simply said that Jerome mistranslated “keren” as “horned” rather than “radiant.” But Bena Elisha Medjuck, a McGill University Department of Jewish Studies graduate student, offered a more complex explanation in his 1988 thesis “Exodus 34:29-35: Moses’ ‘Horns’ in Early Bible Translation and Interpretation.”[1] Medjuck explains that Jerome was well-acquainted both with the variant meanings of “keren” and with the prevailing translation of his contemporary Jewish scholars – with whom he consulted! Jerome chose the “horned” translation as metaphor faithful to the text: a depiction of Moses’ strength and authority, and a glorification of the Lord! Jerome even explained this in his accompanying commentary!

Horns were almost universally viewed by ancient civilizations as symbols of power, not as the negative or demonic symbols they became for Christians thousands of years later. For example, both Alexander the Great and Attila the Hun were described as wearing horns. Mellinkoff reminds us that horned helmets were often worn by priests and kings, with the horns connoting that divine power and authority had been bestowed upon them.

I can't help wondering why horns were seen as a symbol of power. Several attempts at explanation can be found on the internet, Wikipedia's page on Horned Deities is probably the most reliable and factual. In a nutshell, it appears that horned animals were held in great esteem in ancient times - rams and bulls for instance. The first two zodiac signs (Aries the ram and Taurus the bull) even depict these animals, as do the astrological glyphs for the signs, with associated astrological ages, BC.

 Isis, Goddess of Ancient Egypt
Power and virility were thought to reside in animals' horns - or so the story goes. Ancient warriors are said to have worn helmets bearing the depiction of horns. See HERE. Egypt was likely the source of continuation of an earlier belief, from there spreading through Greece, to Rome and beyond. With the rise of Christianity, though, horns slid into disregard becoming, in time, a pagan symbol of Satan and darkness, even became a common hand symbol for "the cuckold" (index finger and little finger extended, middle fingers bent to palm).

Those explanations, on the face of it, are plausible; something doesn't sit well with me though. Extremely early man could well have held his fellow Earth creatures in high regard, but for such a belief to have bled into later, more sophisticated civilisations, such as those of Egypt and Greece, seems less plausible. But then, I look at this through a 21st century lens. Donning my sci-fi hat (no horns) I could imagine a quite different source: something broadly similar to that Arthur C. Clarke wrote about in a novel I read a few years ago: Childhood's End. Arthur C. Clarke visualised an Earthly memory, surviving in mangled form, from man's earliest hazy days, half-forgotten, half-retained, its source way, way further back in the history of our planet than we are able, currently, to investigate. Fanciful? Sure it is!


mike said...

Your horny post reminded me that I have Daniel Radcliffe's "Horns" on my watch list. I looked and it's gone. Netflix removed the title...darn...snooze and lose. Did you and anyjazz view it?

I have always thought it strange that religion, more specifically Christianity, depends extensively on evil and the devil. Live and lived spelled backward, as Isabel Hickey said. The antipodal necessity of us mortals caught between heaven and hell. I get a kick when some religious leader or politician is caught with their pants down, then declares they were tempted-succumbed to the devil. Such convenience having the devil around to surrender our free-will, but only if caught...otherwise, it's plain ol' fun until discovered. Hhmmm...bad decision, blame it on Mr Baphomet...good decision, a child of Jesus.

I suppose that horns or some other type of bony anthropomorphic structure may have arisen in some humans along the route of evolution. There are those around us now that have them implanted for aesthetic effect, such as Devil Man:

Our knowledge of natural, Earthly things is extremely limited, some knowledge lost as we "advance". It's possible that animals with horns receive vibrations or energy that is beyond our detection. Maybe our ancient forebears knew much more about natural processes.

“...the devil doesn't come dressed in a red cape and pointy horns. He comes as everything you've ever wished for...” Tucker Max, Assholes Finish First

Twilight said...

mike ~ No, we didn't see "Horns" - I doubt we'd have been tempted, had we looked at the synopsis. :-)

YIKES! (Your link)
has black tattooed eyeballs and horns attached to his head and arms.
But this is no Halloween costume or a clever make-up trick, it's a way of life for Colombian born Caim Mortis.

His natal chart could be of interest!

Yes, I guess there could be a lot more to it than horns simply being inbuilt weaponry - maybe not so now, but once upon a time.

Re my reference to "Childhood's End":

Enter Arthur C. Clarke’s seminal novel Childhood’s End and you get a fascinating thought experiment. What if aliens showed up and looked like demons, traditional demons straight out of Hell – horns, tail, red skin, etc.? The collective vision of demons humanity has had, throughout the centuries, has actually been us gleaning info from a far away race, a far away planet of demons.
This is a gross simplification of the novel.......
(Yes, it is!)

mike (again) said...

Who needs demons when we humans are able and willing doppelgangers, with proven skills? Clarke's novel may have some substance, but I'm more inclined to believe the devil is in our genes. Not sure how it got there, maybe a mutation gone sour, or a hybrid merging somewhere in our distant past.

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~ Another plausible explanation - yes! I like the idea of a hybrid of some kind. :-)

Coincidentally - you mentioned the term "cuckservative" in yesterday's comments - a derivation from the word "cuckold", and cuckold is indicated by gesture of horns via index and little finger extended (as was mentioned in this post). :-) Quinky-dink - or maybe a horndoggle.

Anonymous said...

Seeing the movie poster above reminded me of an interview with Charlton Heston in which he said he had probably worn more false noses in his roles than any other actor.

About the horns, while trying to recall the hand gesture taught me by a university Calabrian chum to ward off the devil, I came across this 'horned moon goddess' story below. (Age of Taurus stuff?) Coincidence that Moses comes down the mountain with the tablets and orders destruction of the golden calf Ba'al, often depicted with horns?

Twilight said...

Sabina~ Really? LOL - I didn't even notice he had a false nose in this movie - I did wonder if they had somehow, by clever use of makeup, made his nose appear to be a bit more bony and crooked than usual. :-)

It certainly is interesting how these stories seem to "bleed" into one another.

I've often wondered about the significance of those horn pendants - didn't realise it depicts a horn. The evil eye antidote ritual is/was an awful lot of effort! Giving the unpleasant starer a worse "eye" back would be my choice. ;-)