Friday, February 9, 2024

A cross between two antlers, and the Liahona spindles

(Please note the disambiguating comma in the title. This post is not asking "What do you get if you cross a pair of antlers with the Liahona spindles?")

On January 26, I took this photo of the interior wall of a restaurant in Taichung:

This is just part of a larger mural. Besides what you see here, there's a cup of coffee, a basketball hoop, a soccer ball, a club sandwich, that sort of thing -- all appropriate for a restaurant and bar that has lots of TVs always playing sportscasts. And then there's this stag wearing sunglasses, with a shining cross between its antlers. It seemed totally out of place, which is what caught my attention and made me photograph it.

The only place I had seen that sort of imagery before was on Francis Berger's blog, where this is part of the header image. I believe it's a reference to some Hungarian folklore, but I've never really been too clear on the details:

What such a symbol could mean on a restaurant wall, I had no idea. (They don't even have franks on the menu, though they do sell burgers.) The next day, completely by chance, I found myself drinking Jägermeister for the first time in my life. In fact, until then I hadn't even really known what it was. I'd heard the name when I was in college (and a teetotaler) but had vaguely assumed it was a brand of beer or something. This, it turns out, is what the logo looks like:

So that's obviously what the restaurant mural is alluding to. It now fits in with the other pictures of beverages.

Today I went back to the same restaurant, after my recent post about crosses and keys, and my attention was drawn to the deer and cross again. I noticed something I had somehow missed the first time: that the deer is inside a cartoon bomb of the type one associates with Boris Badenov. (Google has since informed me that there is a mixed drink called a Jägerbomb.) I noticed that the rays coming from the cross divided the circle of the bomb into twelve segments, like the face of a clock, and that the cross suggested hour and minute hands, leading me to the idea of a "time bomb."

Then I remembered that I had actually posted about cartoon bombs before, in my 2021 Tarot post "The emperor's orb." I looked it up on my phone. Directly under an image of Boris and Natasha with bombs was this paragraph, saying that the strange-looking orb on the Rider-Waite Emperor card also reminded me of something else besides a cartoon bomb:

The other thing it reminds me of is the Liahona, described as "a round ball of curious workmanship; and it was of fine brass. And within the ball were two spindles; and the one pointed the way whither we should go into the wilderness." (1 Nephi 16:10). Despite the clear statement that there were two spindles within the ball, artists' depictions of the Liahona invariably show a single protrusion extending out from the top of the ball.

The italics are in the original post. I specially emphasized that, though artists' depictions tend to make the Liahona look like a golden Boris Badenov bomb without a fuse, the Book of Mormon text actually specifies "two spindles within the ball." Well, why do those have to be mutually exclusive? In the restaurant mural we have a cartoon bomb and within it two spindles (the cross, which I had noted looked like the two hands of a clock.)

Later, walking around the city, I passed a pharmacy and snapped a photo of the logo because it had a white cross on a green field, just like the Jäger logo:

Then I passed the front door of this pharmacy, which had of course been decorated for the upcoming Chinese New Year holiday; the Year of the Dragon begins soon. The white cross is no longer on a green field, since red is the traditional New Year color, but it's now between two antlers -- albeit those of a dragon, or a Shiba Inu dressed as a dragon or something:

It was also interesting to see the cross neatly bisected by the sliding doors. It reminded me of a bit of doggerel I wrote when I wasn't even a Christian but couldn't pass up an irresistible bit of wordplay:

One of Jesus' one-liners, and far from his worse,
Says the first shall be last, and the last shall be first.
In the tongue of the Angles, it means something more:
That the Law is a wall, but the Rood is a door.

When I was reading Calvino today, I had to look up the word hirocervus. It's another word for a tragelaph -- a mythical cross between a goat and a stag. I remembered that I'd posted about that before, too, so I looked it up: a December 2020 post called "Year of the Tragelaph." I had woken up with the word tragelaph in my head, leftover from an otherwise forgotten dream, and had free-associated from there. The post ended with a photo of a red logo that said "Phoenix Empire" in both English and Chinese.

Now look back at the pharmacy sign. It's Chinese New Year (also implied by the post title "Year of the ..."), there's a chimerical creature which is part stag ("his antlers resemble those of a stag" is one of the Nine Resemblances which define a Chinese Dragon), and there's the Chinese word for "phoenix." Of the four characters on the red lozenge, 龍鳳呈祥, the first means "dragon" and the second means "phoenix."

This evening, at home, I brought up YouTube so I could listen to something while exercising. One of the top videos recommended by the algorithm was called "What the Liahona REALLY Looked Like!" Not normally the sort of thing I would have clicked on, but the sync fairies had already brought up the Liahona.

In my 2021 Tarot post linking the Liahona to a cartoon bomb, I had quoted the Book of Mormon's statement that the Liahona had two spindles and that one pointed the way they should go. What the other spindle does is never mentioned. Incredibly, the bulk of the YouTube video deals with the question of what the second spindle did:


William Wright (WW) said...

Rood as a door... I like that.

I had just posted on "X marks the spot" while thinking (though not stating) that the X in question may not necessarily lead to the actual 'place', but a door or entrance to that place.

In the Chronicles of Narnia, the Pevensies hunt the White Stag, which eventually leads them back through a doorway (the wardrobe) to their own world.

In other words, following a Stag, much like the White Rabbit, might get you to where you need to go. You may not need to know where the X is, just follow the one who does (they might even have a liahona in their possession).

Francis Berger said...

Interesting post.

Being led to where one needs to go by pursuing or following a stag during a hunt is indeed a part of Hungarian folkore, but it also appears in the myths of other people/nations. As WW notes above, C.S. Lewis employs the trope in the Chronicles of Narnia.

The cross between the antlers also involves hunting/pursuing a stag. St. Eustace and St. Hubertus both pursued stags, and when they approached them they were astounded to see crucifixes between the antlers. This sign inspired St. Eustace to convert to Christianity and St. Hubertus to lead a holier life.

Both saints are now patron saints of hunters (among other things), which helps explain why Jagermeister (master of hunting/hunting master) features the stag/cross on its label.

I like the stag-antler-crucifix symbolism because it includes the notion of actively pursuing something/following something to where you need to go, coupled with the reality that, ultimately, Christ is the "where" that you "need to go."

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