07 January 2007
"Sacred vessels" ATOP Posts, Page 14
In my hurry to change subjects to the "crown of thorns" motif, my transitional wreath/tires atop post page reminded me that I had skipped an important wreath/post category above - the flowery captial atop the column (meaning that we will probably skip the newer Antebellum phallic columns that line the vulvic entrance porches of the Southern United States, but may not skip the more esoteric Boaz and Jachin of Solomon's Temple)-
from our trusty Encyclopædia Britannica - "CAPTIAL, in architecture, the crowning member of a column or other columnar form, providing a structural support for the horizontal member (entablature) or arch above.
"Two kinds of simple stone capital have been found in the stepped-pyramid complex at Saqqārah (c. 2890–c. 2686 BC). One, a saddlelike shape, suggests bent reeds or leaves; the other, an upturned bell, derives from the papyrus plant. Later Egyptian architecture used capitals derived from such plant forms as the palm and lotus,
"Three widely used forms of the capital were created by the Greeks. The Doric capital consists of a square abacus surmounting a round form with an egg-shaped profile called the echinus, below which are several narrow, ridgelike moldings linking the capital with the column. The Ionic capital—probably related to the volute capitals of western Asia—has a tripartite design consisting of a pair of horizontally connected volutes inserted between the abacus and echinus - its echinus is carved with an egg-and-dart motif. The Corinthian capital is basically an abacus supported on an inverted bell surrounded by rows of stylized acanthus leaves.
"Design of capitals in medieval Europe usually stemmed from Roman sources. Cubiform, or cushion, capitals, square on top and rounded at the bottom, served as transitional forms between the angular springing of the arches and the round columns supporting them. Grotesque animals, birds, and other figurative motifs characterize capitals of the Romanesque period. At the beginning of the Gothic period, exotic features tended to disappear in favour of simple stylized foliage, crockets, and geometric moldings, particularly in France and England." from "capital." Encyclopædia Britannica 2006
Notes on motifs used on captials atop columns above - generally, feminine; all - of regeneration and immortality:
reeds - Wilkinson, 1992 - the "emblematic" reeds or "sekhet" is "a symbol of 'that which is produced by the fields'. . .the sekhet is thus sometimes personified as a goddess bearing offerings" such as "ducks, goslings, eggs" and other "'food and provisions' for the god."
papyrus - Posener, 1962 - "the papyrus became the vigorous symbol of the world in gestation;"
palm - Chevalier, 1969 - "palms. . are regarded univerally as symbols of. . . regeneration and immortality". - Walker, 1983 - "the palm branch signified the virility of the god, Osiris, in union with his mother-sister-wife, Isis. . . or Tammuz, united with his mother-bride, Ishtar". Wilkinson, 1992 - "the palm branch was the symbol of the Egyptian god, Heh, the personification of eternity."
lotus - Walker, 1983 - "Before creation, the Hindus said, all the world was golden lotus, 'Matripadma', the Mother Lotus, womb of nature. In Egypt, the great goddess was called the lotus from whom the sun was born at his first rising." Chevalier, 1969 - "the lotus is pre-eminently the archetypal sexual organ or vulva, a pledge of the continuity of birth and rebirth." Wilkinson, 1992 - "as a symbol of rebirth, the lotus was closely associated with the imagery of the [Egyptian] funerary cults."
eggs and darts - Walker, 1983 "its original meaning was an endless line or circle of men (darts) and women (eggs). . .the ancient sexual connotations are even more clearly portrayed in the Egyptian versions which alternated downward-pointing phallic symbols with narrow oval slits each topped by a diamond-shaped 'clitoris'."
inverted bell - we have discussed the vulvic bell in earlier blog.
acanthus leaves - Chevalier, 1969 - "the acanthus motif was used extensively in funerary architecture to designate the trumphant conquest of the trial of life and death, symbolised by the thorns on the leaf of the plant. As with thorns in general, the acanthus is the symbol of . . .virginity - and that too implies another sort of triumph."
Jean Chevalier et al, Penguin Dictionary of Symbols, 1969 London isbn 0140512543
Barbara Walker, Woman's Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects, 1988, Harper Collins San Francisco isbn 0062509233
Richard Wilkinson, Reading Egyptian Art, 1992, Thames & Hudson London isbn 0500277516