Jul 3, 2012

No, It is Not a Vagina

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

I like Cracked. They're fun. And they do set the record straight on many commonly accepted canards. But on this one, they're just wrong.

Apart from the cross, the most ubiquitous symbol of Christianity is the ichthys, known to us as the Jesus Fish, and today it appears predominantly in its natural habitat -- car bumpers. The ichthys actually dates right back to ancient times, when Christianity was still an obscure sect, and considering that fish and fishing were frequently used as symbols in the Bible, you could argue that it's a more appropriate symbol for the teachings of Christ than the device used to torture and kill him.

. . .

It's a vagina.

One of the names given to the pre-Jesus Jesus Fish is the vesica pisces (vessel of the fish), and it was used as a symbol of every female fertility god ever, from Atargatis (the Syrian fertility goddess), Aphrodite/Venus (the goddess of love and sex) to the pagan Great Mother goddess, where it symbolized her life-giving vulva. Basically, whenever you encountered an image of fish in the pre-Christian world, it was probably an opposite-of-subtle metaphor for lady parts.

No one loves Goddess mythology more than I. And I can truly understand the temptation to tweak sexist, paternalistic, patriarchal, evangelicals by telling them they've put vaginas on their bumpers. But it's a gross oversimplification of a very rich symbol.

And, no, it's not really about Jesus making "fishers of men," either. (Matthew 4:19)

The symbol is, indeed, a vesica piscis. And it is the shape of the vaginal opening. But it is also the shape of the opening of the penis. And the shape of the eye. And the shape of a myriad of other things. It is a seminal shape in sacred geometry, replicated over and over, particularly associated with acts of creation, where things are birthed -- transitioned between planes of existence.

While it is not simply the vagina, it is the mother, or womb, of all manifestation. As one divides into two, the spheres overlap and form the vesica piscis. And from there a plethora of geometric forms become possible.

In A Beginner's Guide to Constructing the Universe, Michael S. Schneider explains:

The "parents" of numbers, symbolized by the Monad and Dyad, one and two, point and line, when united as a vesica piscis generate the mathematical "root relationships" underlying the shapes and patterns of the natural world. When the distance between centers is one (unit) then the relationships reveal themselves. They're responsible for the basic two-dimensional shapes, the triangle, square, and pentagon. When constructed on paper the shapes may be folded to make the five equal divisions of three-dimensional space known as the "Platonic volumes."

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And as Robert Lawlor explains in Sacred Geometry, that spirit into matter symbolism is quite reasonably tied to the Christ myth.

Jesus as the center of the Vesica carries the idea of the non-substantial, universal 'Christic' principle entering into the manifest world of duality and form. The Piscean Age has been characterized as that of the formal embodiment of spirit, manifesting a deeper penetration of spirit into form, with a concurrent deepening of the materialization of spirit: the Word becomes flesh.

Vesica Piscis is universal. It is woven into spiritual symbolism from faiths all over the world in the form of fish and eye symbols, and sometimes in its simple, clean, geometrical form. It can be neatly and repeatedly excised from the Flower of Life, the symbol of manifestation that has been found in temples all over the world. It can even be seen on ancient Jewish ossuaries which have been tangentially linked to the time of Christ.

In the following video, the wonderful Charles Gilchrist demonstrates with an artistic journey through the geometry of the vesica piscis.

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