Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Bringer of light

Some time in 1865 a sculptor named Frederic Auguste Bartholdi was inspired to build a giant lighthouse in the form of an ancient Egyptian woman holding a torch above the Suez canal in Egypt. Bartholdi's lighthouse was based on the Colossus of Rhodes a giant bronze statue of the Greek god of the Sun, Helios.

At the time, the Egyptian economy was booming because of the American Civil War and blockade on exportation of Southern cotton which just so happened to be one of Egypt's primary exports. After the Civil War Egypt's economy crashed and Bartholdi came to the realization his lighthouse was not going to happen.

Liberty enlightening the world.

When Bartholdi realized the Egyptian statue was no longer a possibility he made a deal with Gustav Eiffel to build the statue in 350 pieces in Paris financed by the French Government and have the pedestal financed by American donors. If you haven't figured it out yet, Bartholdi's Egyptian statue morphed into an American statue of Libertas. The symbolism used in the statue is intriguing, the Statue of Liberty eventually took on some features of the Sun god, Helios, just like Bartholdi originally intended for the Egyptian lighthouse.

Helios and Lady Lib, separated at birth?

"Since the 1940s, it has been claimed that the seven spikes or diadem atop of the crown epitomize the Seven Seas and seven continents...Apollo (read: Helios/Sol/Horus) was represented as a solar deity, dressed in a similar robe and having on its head a "radiate crown" with the seven spiked rays of the Helios-Apollo's sun rays, like the Statue's nimbus or halo." Ever wonder why Lady Liberty's face looks like a man? Well, there is speculation that her face is based on the face of the Rhodes Helios.

Newsflash: Helios was a cross dresser...just kidding...sort of.

Originally the Statue was to wear a Pileus or Phrygian cap like her French interpretation: Marianne. "The pileus (Latin, plural, pilei) — also pilleus or pilleum — was a cap worn in Rome and later in Ancient Greece (where it was the pilos or pilidion). It was a brimless, felt cap, somewhat similar to a fez. The pilleolus was a smaller version, similar to a skullcap." The phrygian cap has traditionally been associated with certain gods. "The Phrygian cap identifies Trojans such as Paris in vase-paintings and sculpture, and it is worn by the syncretic Persian saviour god Mithras and by the Anatolian god Attis (both members of the life-death-rebirth club) who were later adopted by Romans and Hellenic cultures."

Attis and Marianne wearing phryigan headgear.

In lady liberty's right hand she proudly holds a torch which Bartholdi intended to represent progress. Bartholdi was no stranger to the torch symbolism given the significance placed on this symbol by Freemasonry and Bartholdi himself being a Freemason. However, Freemasonry is one amongst many that place a heavy significance on the power of fire and it's relationship with mankind and the gods.

Liberty and Prometheus...both sure.

Fire has come to represent knowledge; the power to shed light in darkness. But, according to many religious myths mankind came about this knowledge illegitimately. According to wiki:

  • According to the Rig Veda (3:9.5), the hero Mātariśvan recovered fire, which had been hidden from mankind.
  • In Cherokee myth, after Possum and Buzzard had failed to steal fire, Grandmother Spider used her web to sneak into the land of light. She stole fire, hiding it in a clay pot.
  • Among various Native American tribes of the Pacific Northwest and First Nations, fire was stolen and given to humans by Coyote, Beaver or Dog.
  • According to some Yukon First Nations people, Crow stole fire from a volcano in the middle of the water.
  • According to the Creek Indians, Rabbit stole fire from the Weasels.
  • In Algonquin myth, Rabbit stole fire from an old man and his two daughters.
  • In Ojibwa myth, Nanabozho the hare stole fire and gave it to humans.
  • In Polynesian myth, Maui stole fire from the Mudhens.
  • In the Book of Enoch, the fallen angels and Azazel teach early mankind to use tools and fire.

There is an obvious parallel between these stories and the concept of the "forbidden fruit" of the tree of knowledge of good and evil from the Bible.

The "colossus" of Rhodes.

Back to lady liberty and the torch. Bartholdi intended for lady liberty to resemble what the Colossus of Rhodes, the sun god Helios, is thought to have looked like. There is even a reference to the Colossus in "The New Colossus" by Emma Lazarus, written in 1883 and inscribed on a plaque located inside the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

More to come on this one...

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