Mar 5, 2014

The Phantom Brand of Certainty

What a morning to fight the blackest child of the ancient world!

The soldier’s horse cantered on and the sun lit the forward path like a warm prayer. And the soldier ran a doubting hand over the shaft of his spear.

A girl screamed; a devil chirped like a bird.

by John Magnet Bell

   "Cappadocian", or, St. George faces the dragon. I made the figures with play dough. 
   St. George’s sword is a nail, his shield a penny, and he sports a blue jay feather on his head. 
   The dragon bears a complement of sparrows’ feet and blackbird feathers.

St. George* was born in Lydda on Roman Palestine to a Cappadocian father. Cappadocia, land of fairy chimneys and the churches of Göreme, dug out of soft rock, boasts Yılanlı Kilise, the Church of the Snake, where a painted St. George forever triumphs over the dragon.

Sant Jordi
by Bernat Martorell (d. 1452, Barcelona)

The saint has remained popular because he embodies an archetype. Not only is he Joseph Campbell's Hero with a Thousand Faces but also an especially electrifying version of that hero, the hunter and protector, the spear-wielder, the saintly warrior and warrior-saint.

Others have preceded George and did exactly as he does. Bellerophon slew the Chimera; Perseus killed Cetus and Medusa; Susanoo, brother to the Japanese sun goddess Amaterasu, got a monstrous eight-forked snake drunk with sake and then cut it to pieces to help the poor people of Tori-kami.

Bellerophon vs. the Chimera
by orion35

I grew up on a steady fictional diet of people fighting monsters of various descriptions, and St. George formed a part of that diet. We tend to root for the underdog, as tales of struggle and victory become more compelling when the outcome is uncertain. We want heroes to prove themselves. What better way to test your heroes than to have them go up against something dark, threatening, fierce and voracious?

Andromeda Chained to a Rock
by Gustave Doré

*Or Giwargis in classical Syriac. Is that a badass name or what?

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