Friday, September 21, 2012

Vendredi: Chthonian Histories

In a recent post, we discussed the eight forms of Satan as listed in Johan Weyer's Pseudographica Demoniaca. While all of them or curious to the student of historical demonology, there can be no arguing that the big dog among them must be the one known as Satan-el: Lucifer.

Lucifer is a far more ancient spirit than the Big Three patriarchal religions would have us believe. He seems to be part and parcel of almost all the first religions to emerge from the area now known as the Middle East and in almost all of these myths, he is the son/lover - by any other name - of a very powerful goddess.

Lucifer's name means Light Bearer and in this form he is syncratized with the Earth's sun.This makes sense when we look much further back into history than the Bible will generally allow. And certainly much earlier than any Hebrew writings on Lucifer can attest. In fact, we should be looking to his other, more populist, moniker: Son of the Morning Star.

In this, early Semitic peoples were not calling Lucifer the sun itself, but the son of She who escorts the sun. Thus Lucifer would be the offspring of the Sumerian Inanna who becomes the Babylonian and Persian Ishtar. She is personafied as both the morning and evening star. In the morning she is the warrior, ready for battle. In the evening, she is the temptress, perfumed and prepared for love, perhaps even with her son.

This pattern of a goddess represented by the morning and evening star continued in Ancient Egypt. There both Neith, the warrior and Isis (Au-Set), the mother, were linked to the star. Most notably, however, the dual goddess Hathor/Sekhmet took on the celestial persona. Sekhmet, the lion-headed warrior claimed the morning while Hathor, the gentle cow goddess, took over in the evening.

Other goddesses such as the Phrygian Cybele and the Arab Al-Uzza would be similarly personified in the star. Eventually in Hellenistic Greece the star was linked to Aphrodite and so to Venus in Rome. This is the name she still bears in modern times.

It was during Hellenistic times that Lucifer - or the spirit that would become Lucifer - was first written about by the Hebrew nations in exile. It was after the Maccabean revolt of 168 BCE, as Peter Stanford points out in The Devil: A Biography, that the apocrypha began to be written. In these books, Jewish philosophers tried to work out the idea of a good God allowing horrible things happening to his chosen people. In books like Wisdom, which made it into the modern Bible, and even more so in books like Enoch, which did not, the problem became identified as an "adversary" to God. Enter the newly made but already ancient Lucifer.

This is where Weyer's interpretation of Lucifer/Satan-el takes its sustenance. Lucifer, the Light Bearer, is the favorite of God's Archangels. When God determines to make man in his own image, Lucifer refuses to bow down before him. Angels take sides and a war ensues resulting in the casting out of the rebel angels. Lucifer and his band fall into hell where they will reside, working their mischief against God's creation until the End of Days. When he takes charge of Hell, Lucifer becomes Satan-el, the Adversary.

Curiously, another story exists in the Gnostic versions of the Gospels. This one is fed not only by the apocrypha but also by the teachings of Zoroaster. There is light and dark, good and evil and in the perception of the Gnostics, Lucifer was the twin brother of Christ and marched before him in defying the old - and Evil - God. This is a confusing scenario for modern Christians in particular. Having been taught from the get-go that Lucifer is the Devil and the Devil is bad, they pick and chose which of Christ's words to pay attention to. When Christ accuses the Jews of worshiping the "wrong God" in Yahweh, no one pays attention. No one, that is, but the Gnostics who, in teaching pure duality, embrace Lucifer and Christ while rejecting Yahweh who made the most evil of all things: the physical world.

Thus Lucifer is more than the sum of his parts. And certainly more than any of the almost geeky eight Satans. Weyer's depiction of Satan-el as a malevolent, angry monster who plots the destruction of God's most perfect creation, Man (and I mean Man to be gender-specific here), seems puny by comparison. Lucifer, the Son of the Morning Star, is a shining god by any comparison.

Header: Lucifer, Bearer of Light by William Blake via Public Domain Images


Timmy! said...

I've said it before and I'll say it again, Pauline: To quote Jason Newsted of Metallica: "Anything with Devil or Satan in it... is good."


Son of the Morning Star Lyrics by Glenn Danzig:

Do I need
Thoughts so cold
Could I feel more alone
Am I more
Damned than thou
Should I wear tortures crown

Should I live my life a lie
Could I beless alive
Shall I bask in god's light
Shall I fall
One more time

Should I feel lost
Do I feel less than thou
Could I be
Less undone
Could I fall deeper down

Pauline said...

Excellent! Well played, Timmy!