Sunday, November 10, 2013

Testing, One, Two, Three

 Nuclear Bomb Test, Operation Castle - Romeo

Tests can be about small things, like testing out a new recipe, and tests can be about big things, like testing out a nuclear bomb.

A test is a trial. You can test something by trying it out, and you can test something by putting it under trial, adding heat, putting a flame to it. When you test something you see what it is really made of. Will it pass the test? Or will it crack under the pressure? Can it stand the heat?

Sometimes you just don't know until something is tried, or put to the test. And sometimes the very act of putting something to the test not only shows you the quality of that thing, but the test itself causes something new to emerge from the ashes of the trial, like a phoenix from the ashes of its burnt nest.
Phonios Phoenix, (depiction by Friedrich Justin Bertuch, 1806)

The word phoenix, from ancient Greek phoinix φο
îνιξ meaning "Phoenician; reddish purple; or phoenix." It is thought to perhaps be derived from the word "Phoenician" by way of  the Greeks' association of the color purple-red with the Phoenicians who produced purple dyes, therefore the word phoinix also had the meaning "(the color) purple," and this color was also the main hue of the bird, a royal purple or phonios "blood-red" scarlet color.  Phoinix was also the name of the date palm. Dates turn from a golden color to reddish or purplish-brown color upon ripening, and perhaps also, the tree looks a bit like a phoenix with its feathery looking fronds.

    Date Palm - Phoenix dactylifera

Clay can also have a reddish hue and is used to make pottery. Pottery is not pottery unless it is fired or heated. The Latin word for "earthen pot" is testum. A testum(pot) is put to the test in the furnace.  If it survives the process it is changed and it is strong and durable. It needs to withstand the pyr/pur πυρ, πυρός "fire" in biblical Greek (pyra/pura  πυρά "a fire"), and it becomes a pot, something that can withstand high temperatures like a  parur "a pot" (Hebrew)Which seems to indicate a certain purity of the vessel after the pure"a fire"- ing  process, or a sincerity after the incineration.

What does it mean for a person to be put to the test? In the Bible there is one word that is translated as either test or tempt. As in, Jesus was "tempted" or "tested" in the desert. Jesus goes into the erémos(Greek "deserted, desolate, desert, lonely place", what we might call an "ered/arid"[from Latin aridus, from arere "to be dry"] place) peirasthenai πειρασθηναι "to be tempted," from peiraso/pyraso πειραζω "trial, temptation, testing". In Hebrew, as well, there is one word, nawsaw that is translated as "test, try, prove, tempt"
And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit for forty days in the wilderness, tempted by the devil . . . And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee, and a report concerning him went out through all the surrounding country  Lk 4:1, 14
    Temptation of Christ - Vasily Surikov, 1872

We see that this forty days of testing or tempting is a time of soul searching, a time of fasting and mental struggle, a dark night. But when it is over, Jesus returns stronger than ever, after his period of purification, pyra-fication, firing, and begins his public ministry in "the power of the Spirit".

The devil, the tempter in the desert, is most often equated with the tempter in the Garden of Eden, i.e., nachash, the snake. So we see the devil is  sometimes shown as a snake, and sometimes with wings, as a fallen angel.  But, as the story goes, he started out as the most beautiful luminous angel, Lucifer, the light bearer. So, bright, "flying", snake/hisser/whisperer are all associated with this tempter/tester.  

We could say that Jesus wrestled with thoughts in the desert brought to him by the tempter. One word for "thoughts" in Hebrew is serappimas in "anxious/disquieting thoughts". Those serappim were brought to him by the whispering voice of the tempter, the voice of the snake, the fallen angel.

We could say then, that Jesus was tested by the snake, i.e., the devil, in the wilderness.  He was tested by the snake like Eve, and maybe we could say he felt the bite of the fiery snake, i.e., tempting/testing, hissing/wispering/serpent, fiery/burning serpentine messenger of the God as did the Israelites when YHWH sent nachash seraphim to them in the wilderness Num 21:6. The simple, but perplexing, translation for nachash seraphim is that YHWH sent nachash "serpents," seraphim(pl.) "fiery serpents"(s.  seraph, from verb seraph "to burn"). It is usually translated as "fiery serpents."  However, what if, instead  being redundant,  we take nachash(serpent) to indicate the form of the seraphim and we equate it with the nachash in Genesis? Then it would be  "tempter seraphim", "seraphim devils" or "fiery/poisionous/burning serpent tempters." And what are seraphim? Are they simply poisonous serpents as is the common interpretation for seraphim in the passage from Numbers?

Seraphim are mentioned two other times in the bible. In Isaiah it is transliterated to English simply as "seraphim" and not "fiery serpents". The seraphim are described as heavenly beings with six wings who sing "holy, holy, holy" before YHWH Sabaoth, that is "Lord of Hosts"Isaiah 6:2 And in Isaiah 14:29 an uwph seraph,  uwph "brandishing, flying, shining forth, waving" seraph is translated as a "flying serpent".

      Seraphim 12th Century Fresco

It seems that to say a seraph is simply a poisonous serpent is to really be missing the point. 

Serpents have been important symbolically from the beginning of civilization. 

Here is pictured an ancient Sumerian goddess statue from around 5000 B.C. Notice the serpent-like features of this mother goddess nursing a baby. Very odd.
      Sumerian Goddess, Ubaid Period c. 5000 B.C.

In Babylonian mythology Sarpanit "the shining one" is mother goddess and consort of Marduk.
I don't know which goddess this Ubaid period staue is supposed to represent. But it is interesting, nevertheless, that the name Sarpanit is very close in sound to the word "serpent".

In Sanskrit naga is "cobra", or generically it can mean "snake." It is similar, then, to the English word "snake", like (s)+naga. Another common word used for snake in Sanskrit is sarpa/sarpah "snake." This is similar to saraph meaning "serpent".  The ancient Indian Sandskrit epic, the Mahabarata, calls the class of deity beings that take the form of snakes "Nagas". They are not generally considered to be negative beings, 
Naga (Sanskrit: "serpent") in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, a member of a class of mythical semi divine beings, half human and half cobra. They are a strong, handsome species who can assume either wholly human or wholly serpentine form and are potentially dangerous but often beneficial to humans. Naga, Hindu mythology, Brittanica

however the Nagas are described in book one of the Mahabharata as "persecutors of all people" and, 
Indeed, as the snakes were of virulent poison, great prowess and excess of strength, and ever bent on biting other creatures . . .  Bk.1: Adi Parva, sec.20

     Nagas Carved on a Temple

So, we can see from the Nagas, that snakes are not always just snakes, but sometimes they are meant to represent divine beings. And, as in this case, they cantering about what is perceived as adverse or unpleasant.  

One of the oldest ancient Egyptian goddesses was called Wadjetwdyt "the papyrus/green colored one," called Uto/Buto by the Greeks(which is actually from the name of her city, Buto). In her symbolic form of the rearing cobra she was called the Uraeus ούραîος by the Greeks, from ouraîos "on its tail," a translation of the ancient Egyptian, iaret j'rt meaning "rearing cobra," "the raised up one/one who rears up." Wadjet was protector of Lower Egypt.  

The serpent was the symbol of deity and sovereignty in ancient Egypt. Therefore Pharaoh was recognized by wearing this symbol as his crown or on the crown. As a symbol it conveyed legitimacy of the rightful ruler.

      Wadjet, Uraeus with Red Crown

Because the different gods and goddesses merged over long periods of time the Ureaus is sometimes shown in varying aspects. Some attributes given to Wadjet are also attributes of other goddesses as well. Sometimes the Uraeus is shown with the sun disk, and is called the "Eye of Horus, or the Eye of Ra", she was said to spit poison and flame to protect Pharaoh as wepset "who spits flame", she was also called nesert "searing one", and in her role as protector of Ra, "Lady of Flame" perneser, pr nsr(punisher?) This was in her association with as a lioness(Wadjet-Bast). After unification of Upper and Lower Egypt she was combined with the vulture goddess of Upper Egypt. The protective qualities of Wadjet were joined with the protective qualities of, Nekhbet, the goddess of Upper Egypt, who was represented by a Griffin vulture, rather than a cobra. So, at times, the goddess was called nebty "two ladies" and was represented by a combination of serpent and vulture. 

    Mask From the Tomb of Tutankhamen, Showing the Nemes Crown with "Two Ladies"

At times the Uraeus is even shown with wings.

    Winged Uraei with Sun Disks

It appears that Uraei, actually have a lot in common with the nachash seraphim. We should remember that the Israelites had just come out of Egypt(and Moses himself had been raised in the house of Pharaoh) and would have been familiar with the symbolism of the Egyptian Uraei. When the Exodus took place, sometime around 1446 BC, Upper and Lower Egypt had been unified for a quite a long time. Unification took place c. 2686 BC. To an Israelite the Uraeus symbolism of the Egyptians, divine winged serpents, could have been connected to their understanding of the seraphim, which seem to be divine beings of mysterious and enigmatic appearance. They are at times said to be serpentine, bright, fiery, burning, bitting, waving/flourishing, capable of speech and praise of God, sent by YHWH, so are messengers or angels of God. 

After the Israelites grumble against God and are bitten or stricken by the nachash seraphim they believe they are being punished for sining and ask Moses to pray to YHWH to take away the nachash(the snakes who are testing, tempting, accusing, the people, i.e., the devil, Satan the punisher, perhaps?). YHWH then tells Moses to make a seraph and put it on a nes "pole/standard/flag," so Moses then makes a nachash nechosheth "serpent bronze" and puts it on the pole. Why would Moses make a bronze serpent when YHWH told him to make a seraph? Moses obviously meant to represent a seraph by the bronze snake, just like the goddess Wadjet in Egypt was represented by the raised serpent, the Uraeus. 

    Bronze Serpent, Uraeus 305-30 B.C.

So the Uraeus is a "brazen" serpent meant to represent the goddess. Maybe the brazen serpent, nachash nechosheth, of the Israelites was supposed to represent a heavenly being as well, i.e., a seraph.

Jesus compares the symbol of the "seraph", nachash nechosheth, i.e., the serpent put on the pole, to the symbol of "lifting up" or "exhalation"(hysopsen in the Septuigent) of the son on man, while talking to the Pharisee Nicodemus.

 "And as Moses lifted up the serpent
 in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life." John 3:14  

It seems to be the act of exalting the symbol or "sign of deliverance" as it is called in Wisdom of Solomon 16, and the very belief of the people in its power to heal them, that enabled them to receive the healing of God. The sign, i.e., the serpent, did not heal them, as it states in Wisdom, but the Savior healed them. 
They were terrified only for a little while as a warning, since they had a sign of their salvation as a reminder of the command of your law. Those who turned to that sign were saved not by what they saw but by you, the savior of all. Wisdom 16:6-7
Just as belief in the ability of a man who is God, and desires to save us, allows for the belief that it is possible to become like him, a Christ, and be saved.

So should we say, then, that the lifted/exhaulted "serpent", was nachash, a "snake, tempter, devil" that was up on the pole to save the people, or was it a raised "serpent", as in a seraph, "heavenly being, fiery serpent, angel, Uraeus"? 

Jesus as Messiah and Son of God is often equated with "the Son of man", and there are also certain stories of Jesus making appearances in the form of a seraph. Boneventure writes about St. Francis of Assisi who is said to have had an encounter with Christ crucified under the appearance of a seraph some 1800 years after the time of the Exodus.

    St. Francis and Seraph, Wood Carving

Jesus also appears to John, in the book of Revelation, as a wondrous fearful messenger of God, not unlike a seraph. 
. . . his eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined as in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of many waters; in his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth issued a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. Revelation 1:15-16 

So Jesus is associated with the seraph, who seem to be fearful fiery angels/heavenly beings, who are at times described as having a serpentine appearance, but Jesus is not usually associated with the serpent/snake, the most prudent of all wild creatures, i.e., the most arum(Hebrew from arom "shrewd, crafty, sensible," also arom "bare, naked" ) one from the garden, the devil, Satan, bringer of adversity, testing/temptation.

    Alpha and the Omega - by Peter Olsen

There seems to be a lot of overlap and mixing between the symbolism of the snake, the vulture/hawk/eagle, and lion with representations of the divine. The griffin-like creature depicted in ancient Egypt, a lion with head of a falcon, is named with srf or sfrr, sefermeaning "the one who tears to pieces".

     Pharoh as a Griffin, srf - Middle Kingdom c. 2050-1700 B.C.

So is a griffin/srf/sfrr, a seraph(servant of God), serf(as in slave/servant?) The ruler is servant of God for the people, "If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all"Mark 9:35. A sefer-ing servant? To suffer is to be pained or grieved. To experience grief is to suffer. A grieving(or "griffon") servant?  

    Marduk Pursues Anzu after Anzu steals the "Tablets of Destiny"

Anzu(from An "heaven" and Zu "to know"), Zu(Akadian) or Imdugud(Sumerian "heavenly wind" written with ideogram for bird at the end[what we might call a bird emoji]) who is depicted in a griffin-like way, son of the bird goddess Siris, was servant(or heavenly/divine messenger) of chief sky god Enlil. Anzu steals the "Tablets of Destiny"(which give one authority as ruler of the universe) from Enlil, and Marduk ends up retrieving them.  Apparently, Marduk had a gripe(from greipanan Proto-Germanic, greifen, meaning "to seize") with that griffin-like seizer of the tablets, Anzu.

Just as the Word of God, the sefer/sepher in Hebrew, meaning "text", of the bible is a servant of God. And another similar word, sephirot(Hebrew "emanations", the ten sephira) is the way the infinite reveals itself to us and how it continually creates the physical and metaphysical realms, which sounds a lot like the Word of God as well, OM. Notice it has something like three pairs of wings, as does a seraph(or we might say even, three projections, side areas, as in "wings" like wings of a building). 

    Sepherot of the Ein Sof or Ain Sof("No End, Infinite") - Three Different Versions

So, the serpent, bird, and lion symbolism were morphed together, this way and that, all around.  

The sphinx is another hybrid creature. It is usually said to have the head of a woman, body of a lion, and wings of an eagle.

  Oedipus listening to the Riddle of the sphinx, c. 467 B.C.

And this is Mušḫuššu, associated with Marduk, the sun god, here he looks to be part serpent, bird, and lion, but he is often described as a dragon.

    Mušḫuššu - Ishtar Gate, Babylon 575 B.C.

The name, Mušḫuššu, comes from the Sumerian for "reddish snake" or "fierce snake". Dragon is from the Greek drakon meaning "serpent, giant seafish", with the root derkesthai "to see clearly"(so here again cunning, knowing, wise). Or, in other words, Anzu, i.e. "to know heaven," perhaps? So dragon has the meaning of a wise serpent, not just any snake, but a more mystical connotation. 

Dragons in some stories like to ask riddles, as well, like the sphinx. A riddle is a kind of test, or in the old sense of the word, a tempting. Many dragons are fire breathing as well witch helps when you put something to the test, it needs to be heated. 

Whew, all this was a big hunk of clay! Let's fire it up and see what happens! I hope it doesn't torment you, or cause dis-ease.

Bombs away!


  1. Dragons, mystics, serpents, quests, women...all have something in common. They are anchored in another realm. It isn't a realm of logic & science, but of the supernatural. What does that word mean anyway, to be supernatural? Nature, creation, is the most natural miracle. Nature is supernatural.


    1. It seems to me, after thinking about what you said, that we use the term "supernatural" because of the veil. We have forgotten, and at times, have been completely asleep. When there is a dissolving of the veils, liminal experiences, moments of bliss, that is when existence seeps through, and we say it's supernatural. It probably comes from the notion that this 3d world is everything, there is nothing more to experience, however, some people claim to, or dream to, and it is called the supernatural.
      Also, I think there is a lot of the supernatural going on in nature, like you said, but people just take it for granted. There are so many wonders and mysteries there that haven't been explained, but people fail to be impressed by this because there are so many know-it-alls out there who like to think that their dogmas, i.e, theories, explain everything. It's all figured out, everything is under control(and they can be pushy because they really are afraid), until their dogmas don't appear to be sufficient anymore, and at that point you should just close your eyes and listen to how they say it is. . . because the "supernatural" does not exist, at least not for us now, maybe when we die. . . but we won't think about that now.

  2. sigh.... i love you guys. julie you rock my world!

  3. not talk about such things now, might disturb the stagnus quo
    (a joke, not a typo)