Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Art and Iconography 2

This post is a continuation of the theme developed in the article "Art and Iconography 1." The story of Moses raising the brazen serpent as a type of Christ was important enough to Book of Mormon peoples that a variant of it appears at least seven times in the text. Eight narrative motifs are standardized across these relevant passages.

1 Nephi 17:41
a. flying serpents
b. bitten
c. healed
d. look, labor
h. rod of Moses

1 Nephi 19:10
b. crucified
e. lifted up
f. three days

2 Nephi 25:13
a. wings
b. crucify
c. healing, saved
e. rise from the dead
f. three days

2 Nephi 25:20
a. poisonous serpents
b. bitten
c. heal the nations
d. cast eyes upon
e. raise up
g. serpent

Alma 33:19-23
c. live, heal
d. look, casting about your eyes, behold
e. raised up
h. tree, springing up in you

Helaman 8:14-15
c. live
d. look
e. lifted up
g. brazen serpent

3 Nephi 27:14-15
d. draw men unto Christ, stand before Christ
e. lifted up
h. cross

Izapa Stela 25 has a fascinating version of all eight motifs blended with Popol Vuh mythology.
Izapa Stela 25
Norman 1973 Plate 42
First, the Popol Vuh connection. 1 is Seven Macaw, aka Principal Bird Deity. 2 is Hunahpu, one of the Hero Twins. 3 & 4 are Hunahpu's severed arm and the bleeding shoulder from which it was torn.
Izapa Stela 25 with Popol Vuh Motifs Identified
Next, the Book of Mormon connection. The letters a - h are the eight narrative motifs itemized above.
Izapa Stela 25 with Book of Mormon Motifs Identified
a. wings, feathers, serpent
b. figure is wounded, bitten, sacrificed
c. conch shell represents life, breath, birth, power over the earth monster
d. figure is looking at, drawn to, standing before the raised bird serpent
e. figure is raising, lifting up the bird serpent
f. three branches
g. serpent
h. crocodile morphs into a tree, rod, cross

Other aspects of this correlation:
  • The twined serpent evokes a vine as in 1 Nephi 15:15 and Alma 16:17. The arboreal green vine snake oxybelis fulgidus is native to the forests of Central America.
  • The headpiece on the Moses figure evokes the bird deity's tail implying a god/man relationship.
  • The "m" emblem inside a cartouche attached to the raised serpent's body is generally regarded as a Venus symbol as in Revelation 22:16.
  • Crocodile represents the earth, evil, and death as in 2 Nephi 9:10, 19, 26.
  • The crocodile's snout is under the ground panel denoting that he is a denizen of the waters under the earth as described in Mosiah 13:12.
  • The upward ascending scrolls above the small bird's head evoke the idea that the tree leads to eternal life as in Alma 32:41 and Alma 33:23.
  • The crocodile tree and the raised staff are parallel tracks, one temporal and the other spiritual as in 1 Nephi 15:32,  Alma 12:16, etc. Ten passages in the Book of Mormon discuss temporal/spiritual duality. See also the article "Kaminaljuyu" point no. 27.
  • The Book of Mormon links a rod and a tree 1 Nephi 8:19 as does the Pentateuch Numbers 17:8.
  • Jesus Christ has avian characteristics as in 3 Nephi 10:4-6 and 3 Nephi 25:2.