The Very Inspiring Blogger Award


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The Annunciation, Fra Angelico, 1437-46 (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

The Annunciation, Fra Angelico, 1437-46 (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

The Very Inspiring Blogger Award


Thank you Petrel14

First, allow me to thank Petrel14 for nominating me for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. I am truly touched. My WordPress family is very dear to me. The internet is at times inaccessible: it slows down, but it allows communication with people all over the world.

If you haven’t the time to follow the rules, please accept this nomination as an expression of appreciation and love.

My kindest regards to all of you.

The link back to my weblog is:

The rules of this award are:

1. Thank the person who nominated you and add a link to their blog.

2. Display the award on your post.

3. List the award rules so your nominees will know what to do.

4. State 7 things about yourself.

5. Nominate 15 other bloggers for the award.

6. Contact your nominees to let them know you have nominated them. Provide a link to your post.

7. Proudly display the award logo (or buttons) on your blog, whether on your side bar, ABOUT page, or a special page for awards.

Seven things about myself in question form

1. Who is your favourite public figure?

United States President Barack Obama.

2. What do you like most?

Music and the fine arts.

3. Do you follow trends?

Never. I avoid trends.

4. What do you do when someone gets angry?

I leave the room.

5. What have you loved most?

My profession and my Nova Scotia home.

6. Do you have causes?

Yes, peace on earth and the end of poverty.

7. What quality do you admire most?



My nominees


Antonio de Simone:


Ashi Akira:

Barbara Monier:

Bite Size Canada:

Dom di Francesco:

Hands on Bowie:

Ina Vukic:


Mélanie Toulouse:

Paul Militaru:



Yvon Préfontaine:

A Very Short Note


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Livre d’images de madame Marie Hainaut, vers 1285-1290 Paris, BnF, Naf 16251, fol. 22v. La naissance du Christ est annoncée aux bergers, aux humbles. “Et voici qu’un ange du seigneur leur apparut [.]. Ils furent saisis d’une grande frayeur. Mais l’ange leur dit : “Ne craignez point, car je vous annonce une bonne nouvelle [.]” The Birth of Christ announced to the Shepherds. (Photo credit: the National Library of France, [BnF])


I had planned to write a long an informative post today, but something is wrong with my computer. It is extremely slow. Moreover, I am feeling unwell.

However, I wish to say that I grieve for the families who lost a child to Taliban terrorists. It appears these terrorists were “retaliating.” The teachings of Jesus of Nazareth therefore make more and more sense. “Turn the other cheek,” or the violence will never end.

The Taliban took one hundred and forty-one lives: children and adolescents mainly: “our children.”

The Very Inspiring Blogger Award

I wish to thank our colleague Petrel41 ( for nominating my blog for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. That is a very kind gesture and I will follow all the rules as soon as my computer gains a little speed.



L’Annonce aux bergers

I used the image featured above in October, in a different context: Natural Histories. Its new context is Christmas and angels. An angel announces the birth of Christ. Marie Hainaut had a book of images. They were enluminures, illuminations. To view more images, click on Livre d’images de madame Marie Hainaut (Flickr).

My kindest regards to all of you.

Veni, Veni Emmanuel, Zoltán Kodály

Canada’s “Van Doos:” Résistance


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Vanitas Still Life with Self-Portrait, Pieter Claesz, 1628. Note the mise en abyme of the artist’s portrait in the glass ball. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) 


I have tried to leave behind me the casualties of the Battle of the Somme, which is difficult: more than 1,000,000 casualties! Lest we forget.

However, while writing the Weeping Angel of Amiens, I discovered the above painting featuring a delightful mise en abyme. The glass ball creates a mirror effect, which is an example of the illusionism of the Golden Age of Dutch painting, the 17th century. Moreover, the violin depicted by Pieter Claesz, was placed between a clock, a substitute for an hourglass, and a skull. The painting is a vanitas as is the painting of our chubby Weeping Angel of Amiens. 

At the foot of this post, I have inserted a video featuring the works of Heda Willem Claesz. He and Pieter were not relatives, but Pieter very much admired Willem Claesz and both painted vanitas, a subject matter of still lifes.

The “Van Doos,” or Royal 22nd Regiment

Writing the Weeping Angel of Amiens, I discovered when and how the Royal 22nd Regiment, or le Royal 22e Régiment, a French-Canadian regiment called the “Van Doos” by Anglophones and aficionados. No, it is not a Dutch name. It’s “vingt-deux” (22).

Members of the regiment called themselves “Canadiens,” as in the Montreal hockey team. The Canadiens hockey team was named after the singing and very strong “voyageurs” who faced death every day, but sang in unison as they paddled their way to beaver felts and accompanied explorers all the way to the Pacific Ocean. Their success is due to a dare-devil mentality, their ability to work as a team, their basic joie de vivre and their close relationship with Amerindians. Amerindians were the voyageurs‘ guides and voyageurs spoke Amerindian languages. Well, the “Van Doos” also sang in the middle of the Battle of the Somme (1st July 1916 – 18th November 1916) and called themselves Canadiens.

Please click on the image to enlarge it.


Mignault communicated with Prime Minister Robert Borden, leading to the creation of the Royal 22nd Regiment

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The “Van Doos”

Traditionally, French-Canadians have refused to go to war. They opposed conscription during both World War I (see War Museum) and World War II (see War Museum) and oppose, but not altogether, Canada’s military engagement in the struggle against Iris, not Islam. However, despite their wish not to join the military, they have on occasion volunteered to do so.

Such is the case with the future Royal 22nd Regiment, which was formed in 1914. In fact, before the “Van Doos” regiment was created, 1,000 French-Canadian soldiers had been recruited and scattered here and there in the Canadian Expeditionary Force  (CEF), in not too honourable a fashion.

“This was not an oversight. Ontario (Hughes’s[1] political base) was in the process of forbidding teaching in French, or of French, in the school system (Regulation 17), causing outrage in French Canada and a lack of support for the war of the ‘King and country’ that was perceived as seeking to destroy the Francophone community in Canada.” (See Royal 22nd Regiment, Wikipedia.)

Matters changed when Arthur Mignault, a medical doctor and a wealthy French-Canadian pharmaceutical entrepreneur, offered to form a French-Canadian regiment which he would fund.

“In 1914, Mignault communicated with Prime Minister Robert Borden[2] to propose the establishment of a solely French Canadian battalion within the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF). According to Mignault, this would allow Canadians of French extraction to circumvent the language barrier of the English-speaking battalions.” (See Arthur Mignault, Wikipedia.)

Dr Mignault’s offer was a godsend, so the creation of the unit was authorized on 14 October 1914 and members of the battalion trained at Valcartier. In September 1915, the division went overseas not as the Royal 22nd Regiment, but as the 22nd Canadian Division.

“The 22nd went to France as part of the 5th Canadian Brigade and the 2nd Canadian Division in September 1915, and fought with distinction in every major Canadian engagement until the end of the war.” (See Royal 22nd Regiment, Wikipedia.)

Many French-Canadians scattered in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) joined the “Van Doos” after the Battle of Courcelette (15 September 1916 – 22 September 1916).


The Battle of Courcelette (Photo credit Canadian War Museum)

The Battle of Courcelette

“The Canadian soldiers managed to capture Courcelette. The success earned the Quebec 22nd Regiment a reputation as a stellar fighting force and several officers and soldiers were decorated for their courage. But it was at a bloody cost.” (The Bloodiest Battle, [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, CBC/Radio-Canada])

On 15 September 1916, two Canadian regiments, the 25th Battalion, the Nova Scotia Rifles, and the 22nd Battalion, the future Royal 22nd Regiment, were ordered to capture Courcelette, “a village in the Somme Valley occupied by Germans.” The objective of the Anglo-French forces was not achieved. In other words, no “hole was cut in the German line” that would allow moving men and equipment. (See Courcelette, Wikipedia.) However “[d]espite thousands of casualties, it was a victory, one of the few for Allied forces on the Somme.” (See Battle of Courcelette, Canadian War Museum.)


A photograph of the Royal 22nd Regiment leaving Quebec in 1915. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The Royal 22nd Regiment parading on Parliament Hill in Ottawa in 1927 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The testimonials tell a horror story:

“We were walking on dead soldiers… I saw poor fellows trying to bandage their wounds… bombs, heavy shells were falling all over them. Poor Angéline, it is the worst sight that a man ever wants to see… All my friends have been either killed or wounded….

My dear wife, it is worse than hell here. For miles around, corpses completely cover up the ground. But your Frank didn’t get so much as a scratch. I went to battle as if I had to cut wood with my bayonet. When one of my friends was killed at my side, I saw red: some Germans raised their arms in surrender, but it was too late for them. I will remember that all my life.” (See The Bloodiest Battle, Frank Maheux, lumberjack, to his wife.)

It was a “nearly suicidal” attack. “We know very well… that we are heading to the slaughterhouse[,]” wrote Lieutenant-Colonel Louis-Thomas Tremblay in his diary. (See The Bloodiest Battle.)


On 20 May 1919, all battalions of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) were disbanded, including the 22nd Battalion. However, following World War I, Canada reorganized its military forces. As you know, many Québécois are separatists, but they will have their place in Ottawa, especially in the Canadian Military Forces.

There was public pressure and the Legislative Assembly of Quebec as well as the City Council of Quebec City “demanded that a permanent French-language unit be created in the peace-time Regular Force, and accordingly a new regiment was created, made up of veterans of the 22nd Battalion, on 1 April 1920.” In June 1921 King George V approved “the renaming of [the 22nd Battalion] as The Royal 22nd Regiment.” In 1928, the Regiment was given its French name: le Royal 22e Régiment. (See Royal 22nd Regiment, Wikipedia.)

The Royal 22nd Regiment remains to this day. It served in World War II, and a large number of French-Canadians soldiers have died in Europe. Their participation in both wars is understandable. During WW I and WW II, many were fighting for France. On D-Day, French-Canadian soldiers could communicate easily with the citizens of Normandy. Naziism was an evil. Moreover, survival means doing one’s best. It is “résistance.”[3]

“We know very well,” [Louis-Thomas Tremblay] wrote in his diary, “that we are heading to the slaughterhouse. The task seems nearly impossible, considering how ill prepared we are, and how little we know the layout of the front. Even so, morale is wonderfully high and we are determined to show that we Canadians are not quitters.”

(Lieutenant-Colonel Louis-Thomas Tremblay, The Bloodiest Battle)

Baptiste, the Goat (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Baptiste, the Goat: the mascot of the Royal 22nd Regiment  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Sources and Resources


[1] See Sir Sam Hughes (Canadian War Museum)

[2] See Sir Robert Borden (Canadian War Museum)

[3] Micheline Bourbeau-Walker, “La Patrie littéraire: errance et résistance,” Francophonies d’Amérique (Nº 13, 2002, pp. 47-65).

Antoine Forqueray – La Buisson – Heda Willem Claesz


© Micheline Walker

The Weeping Angel of Amiens


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Tombeau du chanoince Luc Gillain, cathédrale d'Amiens

Tombeau du chanoine Guilain Lucas, cathédrale d’Amiens (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Little Angel, the Hourglass and the Skull

L’Ange pleureur, Notre-Dame d’Amiens


Nicolas Blasset, monument de Gédéon de Forceville datant de 1874 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Weeping Angel of the Amiens Cathedral is described as a cherub, but were it not for his tears, we would mistake him for a putto (plural putti), a plump little angel hovering above in a Nativity scene, in Christian iconography, or above lovers, in secular iconography. In the Tale of Cupid and Psyche, Cupid is an oversized putto who does not belong to religious angelology.

L’Ange pleureur is the work of French sculptor and architect Nicolas Blasset (1600 – 1659). According to Oxford’s Grove Dictionary of Art:

“[Nicolas Blasset] became famous when, as a result of losing a lawsuit, he was obliged to execute a statue of a Weeping Angel (marble, 1636; Amiens, Cathedral) for the funerary monument of Canon Lucas.” Read more:

The angel’s right hand is set on an hourglass symbolizing the brevity of life. As for his left elbow, it rests on the skull of a skeleton, a symbol of death. The statue of the weeping angel adorns the funerary monument of canon Guilain Lucas who died in 1628.

The Death of Children

In the 17th century, before advances in medicine and hygiene, children often died at an early age. Youth and death were therefore closely linked, the two being at all times the opposite sides of the same coin. Dead children are still called “little angels.” Blasset himself executed the funerary monument of his eight-year-old son.

“His favourite theme, childhood, is treated with astonishing mastery and unusual sensitivity, as in the funerary monument of his eight-year-old son Jean-Baptiste Blasset (polychromed stone, c. 1647-8; Amiens, Mus. Picardie).” Read more:

The Battle of the Somme

Amiens is the capital of the French Department of Somme, in Northern France, where one of the bloodiest battles in history was fought. It opposed Anglo-French forces and German forces and took place between 1st July and 18th November 1916, wounding or taking the life of more than 1,000,000 soldiers.

On 1st July alone, British forces sustained 60,000 casualties. Field Marshal Douglas Haig and General Henry Seymour Rawlinson took much of the blame for the loss of so many lives, but war is war. The Battle was meant to be an Anglo-French offensive. The Battle of the Somme — the Somme is a river, is considered the beginning of modern all-arms warfare. (See Battle of the Somme, Wikipedia.) For the first time, a tank, un char d’assaut, was used. The French account of the Battle of the Somme has yet to be translated  into English.

The Weeping Angel: W. W. I Memorabilia

Beginning with the Battle of the Somme and throughout the remainder of World War I, soldiers who survived death started buying memorabilia featuring the Weeping Angel: various items, but post cards in particular. These they sent to family, fiancé(e)s, and friends throughout the Commonwealth, including Canada.

Until recently, young men who had survived childhood often died on battle fields in the prime of life. This would explain, I am told, the low birth rate in France following the Napoleonic Wars. War followed war, so why have children who could be cannon fodder. Napoleon’s grande armée (FR) was decimated. In fact, several soldiers who had survived the journey to Russia did not return to France, fearing for their lives. They did not have winter garments and therefore settled in Russia.

César Cui (18 January 1835 – 13 March 1918), one of “The Five” Russian composers, was a descendant of a soldier who would not undertake the march back to France. “The Five” aimed at creating a special idiom for Russian music. Tchaikovsky (7 May 1840 – 6 November 1893), however, composed European music.


Although L’Ange pleureur became very popular during World War I, it is a sculpture dating back to 17th-century France. The grande armée and the vanitas constitute central themes in the age of the divine rights of kings. No one but God stood above Louis XIV, the Sun King. Therefore, only the sermons of eloquent preacher Bossuet, could instil fear of God—not reverence—in his king. Louis would have to answer to a superior power: God.

We have seen in earlier posts that the still-lifes of 17th-century Dutch artists were also vanitas. The props were skulls (crânes) and hourglasses (sabliers).

Also associated with these themes is the carpe diem: Gather ye rosebuds while ye may. The carpe diem enjoins humans to enjoy life to the full as they will grow old and die. The carpe diem (seize the day) is the reverse side of a memento mori (remember death).

Mortality is the human condition and, in particular, the condition of soldiers we send into battle. Angels weep…


Sources and Resources 

Gregorian chant by the Chant Group Psallentes, directed by Hendrik Vanden Abeele

amiens_weeping_angel_z© Micheline Walker


The Arnolfini Portrait: mise en abyme


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The Arnolfini Portrait, Jan van Eyck, 1434 (National Gallery, London, UK) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A year ago, I wrote a post on Magical Realism and used Marc Chagall as an example of a strange blend of the real and the unreal and, the “unreal.” I then quoted Professor Matthew Strecher. Magical or magic realism is “what happens when a highly detailed, realistic setting is invaded by something too strange to believe.”[1]

Apuleius‘ (c. 125 – c. 180 CE) Golden Ass features magic realism. The Golden Ass is a short novel and the only novel to have come down to us from Greco-Roman antiquity. It has an ‘outer tale’ within which are inserted several ‘inner tales,’ called “digressions,” most of which reflect the ‘outer tale,’ with the possible exception of Cupid and Psyche.

The story of Cupid and Psyche is a subject-matter borrowed from Greco-Roman mythology (See RELATED ARTICLES, below) Cupid (in Latin, ‘desire’) makes himself invisible, an underlying wish in most human beings, and flies to Milet with strict instructions from his mother Venus, the goddess of love and the Roman counterpart to Greek mythology’s Aphrodite, to kill Psyche, called Psyches in Apuleius’ novel. The story resembles a fairy tale. Instead of killing Psyche, Cupid takes her to a castle, they make love, and she eventually becomes an immortal.

Cupidon, William Bougereau

Cupidon, William-Adolphe Bouguereau (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cupid and Eros

Although Cupid is a winged creature as is Eros, one of the Greek primordial gods and the god of love, Cupid, Cupidon in French, never quite rises to the stature of Eros and is not a god in Roman mythology. In Greek mythology, Eros’ name is associated with eroticism (sensuality and sexuality). However, Cupid belongs to Jean-Antoine Watteau(10 October 1684 – 18 July 1721) ethereal Pilgrimage to Cythera, a painting in which Watteau all but created the fête galante or fête champêtre.

Eroticism (adj. erotic) is a word associated with Greek mythology’s Eros. As for Cupid, he hovers above as lovers exchange vows waiting for the ship that will take them to Cythera, the birthplace of Venus, a locus amœnus. He is the little “angel” whose arrows make people ‘fall in love.’ There is very little room for Cupid in angelology, the study of angels, but Cupid has wings, as does Pegasus, and he is a rather lovely departure from the realm of angels. Falling in love, in amorous literature, is like falling ill. Once stricken by one of Cupidon‘s (FR) arrows, one cannot recover.

Mise en Abyme or the Droste Phenomenon

In literature, in-set tales are usually linked to the outer tale. Sometimes, a teller makes a story-teller tell the tale. This technique is sometimes called a mise en abyme,[2] but in the visual arts, such an effect is the image within the image, repeated ad infinitum. It is the box within the box, within the box. There is no end to that picture. It is a vanishing point: a point de fuite. (See Cupid and Psyche, Wikipedia.)


The woman holds an object bearing a smaller image of her holding the same object, which in turn bears a smaller image of her holding the same object, and so on. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mise en abyme: the Mirror Effect

Mise en abyme is perhaps better called the picture within the picture or the mirror effect. The concept was presented to me when I studied the fine arts. We were discussing the Arnolfini Portrait. In Jan van Eyck‘s (before c. 1390 – before c. 9 July 1441) painting, a small round mirror reflects the larger picture and gives it dimensionality. We see the people the Arnolfini couple are looking at, one of whom may be the artist. We also see the objects that are behind the Arnolfini couple, not all of which belong together.

For instance, the frame of the mirror has images showing the passion of Christ. Moreover, the head of the bed features a carving reminiscent of a misericord  showing two elements, one of which is a winged animal (zoomorphism) There is a tassel and a set of beads. I think these objects are symbols. Jan van Eyck‘s rather large signature is on the wall: writing on the wall!

Genre Painting and Illusionism

The Arnolfini Portrait is one of the visual arts’ most intriguing and complex images. It includes oranges, a little dog, slippers, a window, an oriental rug, a chandelier, a bed… These are the mostly ordinary elements of genre painting[4]. The Arnolfini Portrait may in fact be the first example of “genre” painting. However, the convex mirror creates a mise en abyme, which may serve illusionism or mimesis.[5] According to Wikipedia, it is a painting that gives the impression that the artist “shares the physical space with the viewer.” (See Illusionism, Wikipedia.)

There can be no doubt that the artist strives to create as representative an image as possible. However, techniques are required to guide the eye, such as “trompe-l’oeil,” literally “to fool the eye,” or foreshortening which “is basically concerned with the persuasive projection of a form in an illusionistic way, it is a type of perspective.”[6] There had been little depth or dimensionality to previous paintings and these had not featured mise en abyme: one little convex mirror that does “shar[e] the physical space with the viewer.”

The Arnolfini Portrait, Jan van Eyck

The Arnolfini Portrait (detail), Jan van Eyck (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The Arnolfini Portrait dates back to 1434, an early date, but a time when Flanders was part of the Duchy of Burgundy and the cultural hub of Europe. There was a Giovanni di Nicolao Arnolfini (c. 1400 – after 1452). He was an Italian merchant from Lucca, Tuscany, who lived in Bruges with other members of his family. He traded in fabrics and the manner in which he and his wife are dressed demonstrates wealth. Both are wearing fur-lined garments. Arnolfini’s wife is not pregnant, but is holding her “full-skirted dress.” (See Jan van Eyck, The National Gallery, UK). It was customary at that time in history to receive guests in a bedroom.

The Golden Ass is an outer story with inner stories called “digressions,” but these stories within the story, may be mises en abymeThe Golden Ass was first entitled Metamorphoses, but Augustine of Hippo gave it its current title. Ovid‘s (20 March 43 BCE –  17/18 CE) Metamorphoses is the better-known Metamorphoses and one of world literature’s most influential texts. However, The Golden Ass is an ancestor to such authors as Chaucer (see Apuleius’ Cupid and Psyche, RELATED ARTICLES below) and its tales within tales may also make it an ancestor to mise en abyme.

If a text is penned by one author, the same author, can there be such a thing as a true digression? It could be a subtle reflection of the text, a mise en abyme. It is all so mysterious.

As for the Arnolfini Portrait, its mirror is the instrument of a mise en abyme and a possible key to its meaning.

My kindest regards to all of you.


Sources and Resources


[1] Matthew C. Strecher, “Magical Realism and the Search for Identity in the Fiction of Murakami Haruki,” Journal of Japanese Studies (Volume 25, Number 2 [Summer 1999], pp. 263-298) p. 267.

[2] Lucien Dällenbach, Le Récit spéculaire. Essai sur la mise en abyme (Paris, Seuil, 1977).

[3] “fête champêtre”. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2014. Web. 03 dec.. 2014

[4] “genre painting”. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2014. Web. 03 dec.. 2014

[5] Erich Auerbach, Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013 [1946]).

[6] “foreshortening”. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2014. Web. 03 dec.. 2014

Arcangelo Corelli – Concerto Grosso in D Major – Mov. 3-5/5

The Arnolfini Portrait (detail) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

© Micheline Walker
3 December 2014
(Revised 4 December 2014)

Angels & Archangels: Michael, Lucifer…


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Archangel Michael wears a late Roman military cloak and cuirass in this 17th-century depiction by Guido Reni (Caption and Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Angel bearing Veronica’s Veil by Cosimo Fancelli at Ponte Sant Angelo

Angel bearing Veronica’s Veil by Cosimo Fancelli at Ponte Sant’ Angelo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Angelology, the study of angels, is an extremely complex area of knowledge. Consequently, this post is a limited discussion. In fact, I will write a rather informal account of my findings, as though I were addressing students who have first been given the full written text.

First, angels are supernatural creatures and, therefore, immortal beings found in several religions and mythologies. In the beginning, they were members of a divine council and were referred to as “sons of God.” Later on, the term “sons of God” was applied to angels who engaged in sexual intercourse with women, mere mortals. (See Fallen angels, Wikipedia.) These angels could not return to heaven. They were “fallen angels” and, henceforth, mortals. However, most angels have fallen led by Lucifer.

A War in Heaven

the Dragon

According to certain Muslim accounts,[1] Lucifer fell from grace because he would not bow to Adam, the first human being. In Greco-Roman mythology, hubris “extreme pride or self-confidence” leads to the demise of Icarus. (See Hubris, Wikipedia.)

And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war, and they were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven… ” (The Apocalypse or Book of Revelation, 12.7)[2]

For most members of the Western Church, Lucifer fell from grace when, as the leader of rebellious angels, he was defeated by the archangel Michael, God’s “holy fighter.” There was a war in heaven, and Michael proved a stronger warrior than Lucifer. In Western Christianity, the archangel Michael is St. Michael. His feast day, the former Michaelmas, is 29 September and it coincides with the fall equinox. In 2014, the fall equinox–equal daylight and darkness–occurred on 23 September.

However, the Islamic and Christian interpretations of Lucifer’s downfall do not contradict one another. One does not rebel against God. Lucifer, the defeated archangel became Satan, and he and his troops were sent to hell: infernoInferno is the title of the first book of Dante‘s (c. 1265 – 1321), Divine Comedy, Lucifer’s story parallels the fall of man and is also told in John Milton‘s (9 December 1608 – 8 November 1674) Paradise Lost.

These two books are monumental literary works and both have been illustrated by French engraver Gustave Doré (6 January 1832 – 23 January 1883) who portrayed Lucifer not as a dragon, evil incarnate, but as a human being with wings resembling  those of a bat (la chauve-souris or, literally, the bald mouse).

In both Dante’s Divine Comedy and Milton’s Paradise Lost, the account of the fall of man is associated with that of the fall of angels. God told Adam and Eve not to eat at the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and the archangel Raphael re-warned them. But they defied God’s directives, hubris, and thus lost their immortality. They were driven out of Paradise and Eve gave birth to Cain and Abel (evil and good).

Angels as Zoomorphic Creatures

In appearance, angels are zoomorphic, a blend of animal features or human and animal features. In the eyes of some early Christian Church fathers and lesser Christians, this was not altogether acceptable. Certain fathers of the Western Christian Church did not like the fact that angels had wings, an animal feature.

One reticent early saint was St. John Chrysostom (c. 349 – 407). How could nascent Christianity be burdened by so many winged creatures, all of whom were males?  However, the opposite could be just as embarrassing. How could a sacred text not shelter supernatural beings, despite their wings? Fortunately, it occurred to John Chrysostom that wings gave angels “sublimity.” Moreover, without wings, how could an angel be an intermediary between God and mere mortals? (See Angel, Wikipedia)

“Not that angels have wings, but that you may know that they leave the heights and the most elevated dwelling to approach human nature. Accordingly, the wings attributed to these powers have no other meaning than to indicate the sublimity of their nature.” (See Angel, Wikipedia.)

At any rate, we do swear on the Bible despite the presence of angels. As for Satan,[3] the “shining one, morning star, Lucifer,” (see Strong’s Concordance  [1822–1894], Wikipedia) he did lead rebellious angels. However, despite his fall from grace, Satan retained his name and, as Lucifer, the “morning star,” he remains the Christian counterpart to Roman mythology’s goddess Aurora, the goddess of dawn.


Gustave Doré, Depiction of Satan, the antagonist of John Milton‘s Paradise Lost, c. 1866 (Caption and Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Gustave Doré, illustration to Paradise Lost, book IX, 179–187: “… he [Satan] held on /His midnight search, where soonest he might finde /The Serpent: him fast sleeping soon he found…”   (Caption and Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Historically, angels originate in Zoroastrianism, a monotheistic religion that arose in the ancient Persian Empire in the 6th century BCE. Zoroastrianism is named after the philosopher Zoroaster, also called Zarathustra, as in Friedrich Nietzsche’s Also sprach Zarathustra, set to music, a tone poem, by Richard Strauss.

Angels also originate in Abrahamic religions or Semitic religions: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and the Bahá’í Faith. However, the notion of angels and demons is rooted in Zoroastrianism, a religion that postulates a constant struggle between good and evil. It resembles the Manichean heresy.

Angels and Archangels

Michael and Lucifer are archangels, a higher realm than angels. In Judaism, there were seven archangels. (See Archangels, Wikipedia.) The Eastern Christian Church also has a larger number of archangels than the Western Christian Church. But Catholicism has  three archangels: Michael, God’s fighter, Gabriel, God’s messenger, and Raphael, “God who heals.” (See Raphael, Wikipedia.) A fourth archangel was Lucifer or Satan, a fallen angel.

Raphael would be an ancestor to Christianity’s “ministering angel” a female angel. There is a “ministering angel” in Shakespeare’s Hamlet (1598-1602): “a ministering angel shall my sister be[.]” The same words are used by Sir Walter Scott in Marmion (1808):[4]

When pain and anguish wring the brow,
A ministering angel thou!

Raphael would also be an ancestor to guardians angels. Angels have always been guides or counselors and this role has become their chief duty, a duty performed by a female.

As for Uriel, a post-Exilic Rabbinic angel, he could be the fourth Catholic archangel, but he belongs to other Christian traditions, not Catholicism.

Roles Angels Play

Michael is God’s fighter, Gabriel (Jibra’il or Jibril in Islam), God’s messenger, and Raphael, a healer. The archangel Gabriel announced to Mary that she was bearing Jesus. Gabriel therefore straddles Judaism and Christianity or the Old Testament and New Testament.

In Islam, angels are often made to carry messages from God to his prophets, one of whom is Muhammad, and another, Jesus. (See Prophets in Islam, Wikipedia.) Muhammad was also visited by Gabriel. (See Muhammad, Wikipedia.) But as messengers, angels and archangels have, at times, also been counsellors or guides. Had Adam and Eve listened, they would have retained their immortality.


Guardian Angel by Pietro da Cortona, 1656 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Angels now

“Notre Seigneur en pauvre” (folklore)
the “ministering angel”
the “guardian angel”

Angels have long been “ministering angels.” Their role as healers dates back to Raphael. Moreover, the following sentence points to godliness in the humblest among humans:

“Forget not to show love unto strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (Hebrews 13:2)

In French Canada, leaving a place at table for the beggar who might knock at the door was a tradition. One also left a bench at the door for the beggar (un gueux) to sleep on. The bench was a chest. I suppose there were blankets inside the chest. That beggar could have been Jesus himself.

Sir Ernest MacMillan set that legend to music, but very few people remember the story. Sir Ernest entitled his composition “Notre Seigneur en pauvre (Our Lord as a poor man). I have inserted an untitled video at the foot of this post. It may be untitled, but that piece of music is Sir Ernest’s “Notre Seigneur en pauvre.”

Most importantly, however, angels are guardian angels. Guardian angels are sometimes portrayed looking after children who are about to cross a narrow bridge over a precipice or are standing near a precipice.

Schutzengel (English: "Guardian Angel") by Bernhard Plockhorst depicts a guardian angel watching over two children

Schutzengel (Guardian Angel) by Bernhard Plockhorst depicts a guardian angel watching over two children (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Where are seraphs and cherubs? Well, there simply was not enough room to include seraphs and cherubs in this post. Nor was there sufficient room to mention putti. These “angels” can be discussed at a later point. I was somewhat surprised to see that the entire Middle-East harboured angels. Equally surprising is the degree to which North-Americans believe in angels. That figure, nearly 75%, is their true measure. The prominence of the fallen angel as an archetype is also astonishing.

Apologies and my kindest regards to all of you.

Sources and Resources


[1] The Fallen Angels

[2] In the Book of Revelation, also entitled the Apocalypse, the bad angel is a dragon, a mythical and zoomorphic being, but above all a symbol of evil. However, St. George slays a dragon.

[3] In Hebrew, Satan means adversary.

[4] Water Scott, Marmion (1808), quoted in Elizabeth Knowles, ed. “Ministering Angel,” The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000).

The Alcan Quartet performs Sir Ernest MacMillan‘s “Notre Seigneur en pauvre”


Mosaic of St. Uriel by James Powell and Sons, at St John’s Church, Boreham, Wiltshire. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

© Micheline Walker
November 30, 2014

Winged Creatures: Pegasus and Icarus


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Pegasus: the Winged Horse

Pegasus: the Winged Horse, 1914 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is within the nature of the human mind to invent what is lacking. We cannot fly, but birds fly. Flying is so powerful a wish that we have invented angels and archangels who inhabit not only the Old and the New Testaments, but also belong to other cultures. For instance, there are Islamic angels and their role is that of messengers, or oracles. According to the Old Testament, Gabriel is the archangel who announced to Mary that she was bearing Jesus. In Islam, Gabriel (Jibra’il) is one of four archangels whose duty it is to deliver God’s messages to prophets. We also have “pagan” angels.

The Wish to Fly

The wish to fly has led to the invention of aircrafts. Humans can now fly to the moon. However, this post is not about the history of aviation. It is about the wish to fly as expressed in Greco-Roman mythology. Not that such a wish begins with Greco-Roman mythology but that Greco-Roman mythology tells the story of Pegasus and Icarus and, by the same token, that of their entourage: Bellerophon, who rode Pegasus, Daedalus, who crafted wings for Icarus, not to mention Medusa and Chimera, female monsters.  

Medusa, by Caravaggio

Medusa, by Caravaggio (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Chimera

The Chimera on a red-figure Apulian plate, c. 350–340 BCE (Musée du Louvre) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pegasus & Bellerophon

Pegasus is the son of Poseidon, a god, and the Gorgon Medusa, a monster
Medusa was slain by Perseus 
Pegasus, a winged horse, was tamed by Bellerophon 
Bellerophon, a slayer of monsters, tamed Pegasus
Pegasus helped Bellerophon kill the Chimera, also a monster

There are many winged creatures in Greek mythology, but the most famous are  Pegasus and Icarus.

Pegasus,[1] is a winged horse whocarrie[d] the thunder and lightning of Zeus [Jupiter].”[2] He is the son of Poseidon,[3] the “god of the sea, earthquakes, storms, and horses.” (See Poseidon, Wikipedia.) His mother, however, is Medusa,[4] a mortal Gorgon and a monster. She had living venomous snakes in place of hair. The coupling of gods and mortals sometimes led to the birth of “monsters.”

Medusa was killed by Perseus, who, like Bellerophon, was also a slayer of monsters. In order to destroy Medusa, Perseus was provided with “winged sandals, Hades‘ cap of invisibility and a sickle.” As mentioned above, Hades is the god of the Underworld, but he is also capable of making himself invisible, another one of mankind’s wishes.

Pegasus was born from the blood flowing from the severed head of Medusa, his mother. A lesser sibling, Chysaor, was also born from the blood pouring out of Medusa’s head. Both were Poseidon’s offsprings. (See Gorgon, Wikipedia, and Gorgo/ Medusa, the Oxford Classical Dictionary.)


Perseus, bronze sculpture by Benvenuto Cellini, 1545–54 (Photo credit: Art Resource, NY, and the Encyclopaedia Britannica)

Bellerophon and Chimera

Pegasus was tamed by Bellerophon, who slayed monsters. In fact, Pegasus helped  Bellerophon kill Chimera, a female and mortal sibling of Cerberus/ Kerberos (GR), the three-headed dog who guarded the entrance to the Underworld.

Bellerophon’s story 

Bellerophon was falsely accused of trying to rape Anteia (later called Stheneboea). Anteia’s husband, Proetus, sent him to Iobates, king of Lycia and Anteia’s father. Bellerophon was to deliver a sealed letter in which Proetus was requesting that Iobates kill the bearer of the letter, Bellerophon.

Convinced that Bellerophon would not survive what seemed an impossible mission, Iobates asked him to slay Chimera. He also asked him to fight the Solymi and the Amazons. With the help of Pegasus, Bellerophon performed the tasks assigned to him successfully. Iobates therefore married him to his daughter.

Bellerophon died when he flew Pegasus to Olympus, home of the twelve Olympians. Flying to Olympus was hubris, or “extreme pride and self-confidence,” on the part of Bellorophon. (See Hubris, Wikipedia.) The gods of antiquity always punished hubris. Pegasus, a zoomorphic being, did not perish because he was born a winged creature. No god would punish him for being what he was. After Bellerophon’s death, Pegasus became a constellation and was made a symbol of immortality in Latin Mythology. 

“In late antiquity Pegasus’s soaring flight was interpreted as an allegory of the soul’s immortality; in modern times it has been regarded as a symbol of poetic inspiration.”[5]


Daedalus and Icarus, c. 1645, by Charles Le Brun (1619–1690) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Icarus and Daedalus

Master craftsman Daedalus had a son named Icarus. Daedalus had built the labyrinth inside which the Minotaur, part bull, part man, was held. Daedalus crafted wings for his son Icarus who wanted to fly, which was hubris. Icarus defiantly flew so close to the sun, the god Helios, that the wax used to attach wings to his body melted. He therefore fell to his death into the sea of Icarus, named after him. Mere mortals cannot fly.

Daedalus had accompanied Icarus, but managed to land in Sicily and he became an Etruscan, ancient Italy, celebrity. His image appears on a gold coin or seal called a bulla. However, there are divergent accounts of Daedalus’ fate. Greek historians differ. According to one account, Daedalus became jealous of Talos, his nephew and apprentice, who invented the saw, thereby surpassing his mentor, Daedalus.

Daedalus was known as the best craftsman. Talos’ invention therefore aroused Daedalus’ jealousy. So envious was Daedalus that he pushed Talos off the Acropolis. The goddess Athena saved Talos by turning him into a partridge, a metamorphosis. Talos acquired a new name, Perdix (partridge or une perdrix [FR]). As for Daedalus, he left Athens. (See Daedalus, Wikipedia.)


Pegasus could fly. He was a beautiful white and winged horse. But in Greek mythology, one does not defy the gods with impunity. Bellerophon tried to fly Pegasus to mount Olympus, attracting the wrath of the gods. He therefore fell to his death. For his part, Icarus soared so high that the sun, Helios, melted the wax that kept his wings attached to his body. So he too fell to his death. 

The story of Pegasus is an interesting case of zoomorphism. Only his wings differentiate Pegasus from a horse. Similarly, only their wings differentiate angels from human beings. However, Chimera combined many features and was viewed as a monster. She was in fact grotesque but not in the same way as gargoyles and the large number of figures ornamenting misericords. The Medieval Bestiary is its own world. Or is it the other way around? Greco-Roman Mythology is its own world? 

I should note that:

“Chimera, or chimère, in architecture, is a term loosely used for any grotesque, fantastic, or imaginary beast used in decoration.”[6]

Zoomorphism is a complex subject. For instance, we have yet to discuss shapeshifting  beings: lycanthropy or the werewolf (le loup-garou), a dual incarnation with a human literary counterpart, Robert Louis Stevenson‘s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

With apologies for not being able to post earlier and my kindest regards.

The Chimera of Arezzo, bronze, Etruscan, 5th century BCE; in the Museo Archeologico, Florence. (Photo credit: Scala/Art Resource, New York & Britannica)

Sources and Resources


[1] “Pegasus”. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2014. Web. 15 nov.. 2014

[2] Simon Hornblower and Antony Spawforth, revised and edited, The Oxford Classical Dictionary, 3rd edition (Oxford University Press, 2003).

[3] “Poseidon”. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2014. Web. 15 nov.. 2014

[4] “Medusa”. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2014. Web. 19 nov.. 2014

[5] “Pegasus”, op. cit.

[6] “Chimera”. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2014. Web. 19 nov.. 2014

Christoph Willibald Gluck, Orfeo ed Euridice, 1774
Luciano Pavarotti (12 October 1935 – 6 September 2007), tenor
© Micheline Walker
19 November 2014

President Obama, Vladimir “Poutine,” and the Canadian Arctic


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Our next topic is angels and archangels. They are zoomorphic beings because they combine the features of a human being and those of an animal.

So this post is an in-between update.

I had to devote the last few days to politics. I accepted to do some writing. Canada will be electing a Prime Minister next Fall and the choice is growing clearer as the days grow shorter. I believe it will be a victory for the Liberal Party of Canada, led by Justin Trudeau who is energetic, young and has a great deal of charisma. However, by then, the Russians might have moved in.

US President Barack Obama

I will discuss briefly President Obama’s Republican Congress. The results of the mid-term election were devastating. Mr. Boehner’s goal is to get tax-cuts for the rich. It is as though former slave owners wanted to be compensated for the loss of their slaves. They are wealthy once again, but they buy and elect candidates who are anti-tax extremists.

At any rate, the gap between the rich and the poor will be wider and too many Americans will be lining up in soup kitchens. Americans can also expect a more robust military engagement in the Middle East. There may not be money to feed and house the citizens of the United States, but hardline Republicans have not progressed beyond the Civil War and Manifest Destiny. There’s money for wars. Getting on one’s horse, armed to the teeth, and rushing into wars is behaviour anti-tax extremists in Congress will not object to. They live in the past.

It could also be that Congress will attempt to jeopardize the Affordable Care Act, which means that Americans who are diagnosed with cancer will be left to die in pain because an Insurance Company will look upon their illness as a pre-existing condition. There may be a rapid end to the Affordable Care Act.

Countries depend on the Middle East: Oil

Many countries depend on the Middle East because of its oil. Europe does. Besides, Isis is a group of demented terrorists who are not necessarily citizens of Iran and Iraq, but come from other countries and behead innocent civilians. President Obama did not want to engage in warfare but found himself caught between a rock and a hard place. At any rate, whatever he does, he’s always wrong. As you know, Iranian President Bashar al-Assad is probably receiving advice from Russian President Putin.

But how does one let Jihadi John torture and kill?  Therefore fighting him and other jihadists seems an obligation. But Jihadi John may not be a true jihadist, but a trouble-maker. Military engagement in the Middle East is very dangerous and Canadians have joined the Coalition.

the Consequences

The citizens of the United States have an extraordinary president, one of very few American presidents the entire world respects, but on a gloomy day in early November, he was treated as though he was garbage. Money allowed more Republican candidates to enter Congress and further sabotage the social programmes President Obama wishes to put into place and the economy of the United States. So, the rich will indeed get richer, the poor, poorer, and the middle-class will shrink into nothingness. There may be two more years of obstructionism, scapegoating, and various unpalatable games.

The Choice

The choice was obvious. If Mr. Boehner would rather die than allow a raise in the minimum wage, one had to put an end to a Republican-led Congress. It seems that the greater problem facing America is not Isis, but American extremism and materialism.

The results of the mid-term elections also seem a vote against intellectual superiority. Could it be un-American to be exceptionally intelligent and have values! Why support a President who knows what he is doing? Un-American! Born in division, living accordingly.


President Vladimir Putin

‘Our interests are concentrated in the Arctic,’ said Russian President Vladimir Putin at a youth camp outside Moscow on Friday. (Alexei Nikolskyi/RIA Novosti/Reuters)

Russian President Vladimir Putin: a Threat

This is old news. But would you believe Russian President Vladimir Putin plans to take what he claims is his: the Canadian Arctic? Oil!

This is our territory, and we will renew our infrastructure and the infrastructure of the Emergencies Ministry, because we need to provide security for convoys and shipping along the trade route,’ the Russian news agency quoted him as saying.

Vladimir Poutine

When he gets here, we will, of course, feed him poutine. After all, in French, Vladimir Putin is Vladimir Poutine. Poutine is a combination of oily French fries, cheese and a rich brown sauce. It’s lethal but legal. All arteries get clogged and one has a stroke.

So there we are, Russian President Vladimir Putin is moving in, and if he survives French Canada’s ultimate weapon, greasy poutine, it could be that he will find his way to the White House.


President Obama did not lose. The loser is the average American. That is a tragedy and I am truly saddened. Millions of Americans voted for the Democrats and must also feel the end has come. But the end has not come, not if one doesn’t want it to come.

Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country. JFK

President Obama heard President Kennedy and he has been serving his country. He has been serving men and women. He is the foremost leader in the world, but he now needs you. In a democracy, everyone paves the road to the future.

As for racism and guns, put these away. They belong to a past Americans must bury. All of us are first and foremost human beings who want to live in peace and harmony.

We will now discuss angels and archangels…

Joni Mitchell sings “Both Sides Now”

1409496208205_wps_2_Out_of_touring_the_coffee© Micheline Walker
14 November 2014

Mostly Misericords: the Medieval Bestiary


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Stalles Église Saint-Pierre de Coutances
Choir Stalls at Saint-Pierre Church in Coutances
Stalles de choeur en l’église de Saint-Pierre de Coutances (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

Choir Stall with a Misericord Beverley Minster, Church of St John, Yorkshire (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


anthropomorphic: humans in disguise or the lion is a king
zoomorphic: fantastical creatures blending the features of many animals or combining animal and human characteristic (anthropomorphic, allegorical)
allegories (allegorically)

If you have seen gargoyles, you are already acquainted with the grotesque (from the Latin: grotto [caves]). Gargoyles (gargouilles) are ingenious drain spouts, or water spouts, built in the shape of grotesque animals. They prevented and still prevent the erosion of exterior walls. Most gargoyles are zoomorphic.


Centaurs and the Minotaur
the Mermaid
the Unicorn

Zoomorphic beings combine the features of several animals, which is the case with the gargoyle shown below. However, they may also combine the features of an animal and those of a human being. In Greek mythology, the Centaur and the Minotaur are both man and beast, as are biblical angels. (See RELATED ARTICLES.)


Reynard the Fox
Isengrim the wolf
Bruin the bear

Anthropomorphic animals are humans in disguise. For instance, Reynard the fox and Isengrim the wolf are anthropomorphic animals. They are not zoomorphic animals because they look like a real fox and a real wolf. However, the foxes and wolves of literature and art are all alike in temperament, by “universal popular consent” (George Fyler Townsend). They are stereotypes or archetypes. (See RELATED ARTICLES.)

Zoomorphic & Anthropomorphic

You may find books, articles and internet sites that challenge the above classification, i.e. anthropomorphic versus zoomorphic. My classification is based primarily on the physical attributes of an animal in literature or art. If the animal combines the features of various animals or is both beast and man, that animal is first and foremost zoomorphic. Other considerations are secondary.

Allegorical and Symbolic

As for the denizens of the Medieval Bestiary, the majority, if not all, are allegorical animals, or metaphors. They represent a human attribute, such as a virtue, or a vice, which, strictly speaking, does not make these animals anthropomorphic, or humans in disguise. They are symbols. For instance, the mermaid is the symbol of vanity

Gargoyle, Autun, France

Gargoyle, Autun (Photo credit: The Rusty Dagger, BlogSpot)

  • The amphisbaena, with the small head seeming to threaten the large one. Misericord; Limerick Cathedral (St. Mary’s), Limerick, Ireland; late 15th century.
  • A dragon with four legs and bat wings. Misericord; Cartmel Priory, Cartmel, England; late 14th century.
  • Two doves biting at foliage. Misericord (number 30); Exeter Cathedral, Exeter, England; third quarter of 13th century.
  • dragon fights with a lion, while two other dragons watch. This combination is unusual, though the meaning is clear: the lion is Christ, the dragon is Satan, and the lion is winning the fight.  Misericord; Carlisle Cathedral, Carlisle, England; early 15th century.[1 & 2]
Misericord (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Misericord (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


the choir stalls
the Canonical Hours
sitting while standing
kathisma, in the Byzantine rite

As for Misericords (from miséricorde [mercy]), they are ornamented “mercy seats,” narrow wooden seats that fold up when they are not in use. Consequently, the carvings are underneath the seat and hidden when the seat is folded down. It seems they were first used as choir stalls in the quire, by monks living in monasteries and observing the Canonical Hours. Monks who lived in a monastery were called Cenobites. Several monks were recluses and were called eremitical. Others live in a small group.

The Benedictine order, or confederation, is 1,500 years old. It was founded by Saint Benedict of Nursia (c. 480 – 543 or 547). Benedictines have therefore sung the eight Canonical Hours, Christian horaefor centuries, which meant standing up for a long time in choir stalls, hence our “misericords,” or mercy seats.

Some monks could survive the ordeal, but many couldn’t. A way of sitting while standing was therefore devised, much to the benefit of church architecture and art. (See Misericord, Wikipedia.) In the Byzantine rite, Eastern monasticism, a misericord is called a kathisma, literally a seat, but it is not as ornate as misericords. In the Western Church, cathedra also means a seat. Cathedrals are the seat of a bishop. Interestingly, Eastern monasticism precedes Western monasticism.

In Western monasticism, monks have used Gregorian chant, a plainchant (unison), as opposed to polyphonic compositions. Gregorian music was developed by Saint Ambrose (c. 340 – 4 April 397) and, to a larger extent, by Saint Gregory or Pope Gregory I (c. 540 – 12 March 604).

Benedict of Nursia wrote the Rule of Benedict, a text which many consider foundational to monasticism in general. The Rule of Benedict is observed by other monastic orders as is the Rule of St. Augustine, written by Augustine of Hippo (13 November 354 – 28 August 430).

I saw several misericords at Beverley Minster, in the Yorkshire. Ironically, Beverley Minster is the church where a large number of my husband’s ancestors have been laid to rest. I also saw several misericords in the “cathedral” at Coutances, in lower Normandy, where we lived for nearly a year. Many of Beverley Minster’s misericords are sexually explicit and some, quite repulsive. One does not expect to see such carvings in a church or a cathedral.

Les Andelys Église Notre-Dame

The Mermaid, a symbol of vanity, Église Notre-Dame, Les Andelys, Eure (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Camel (?) Sant’ Orso, Italy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Reynard the Fox

Misericords often featured animals from Le Roman de Renart (Reynard the Fox). I have seen pictures of these, but Reynard misericords and misericords on fox lore require their own post.[3]

A Revival of the Grotesque & the Gothic

Both gargoyles and misericords, gargoyles mainly, are architectural and functional elements, but ornamented. They do, however, revisit our standard or “classical” view of beauty. There was a revival of the grotesque in 19th-century France and elsewhere. Romanticism was, to a large extent, a rejection of the classicism of the 17th and 18th centuries, considered a foreign element.

The grotesque and the Gothic (fiction, architecture, and the Gothic revival) are related to one another. Victor Hugo‘s 1831 Hunchback of Notre-Dame (Notre-Dame de Paris) is one of the foremost literary examples of this blend. Notre-Dame de Paris will be discussed in a future post.

St. Benedict delivering his rule

St. Benedict delivering his rule to the monks of his order, Monastery of St. Gilles, Nîmes, France, 1129 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Misericords were used from the 13th century to the 17th century, but the later ones, those carved in the 17th century, were often copies of earlier misericords. Elaine C. Block writes that:

“[a]t the dawn of the Renaissance, tens of thousands of medieval misericord carvings must have existed. Since then only about ten thousand historiated carvings remain.”[4]

Many were destroyed with the rise of Protestantism and through acts of vandalism. There are modern misericords, but they are not included in G. L. Remnant‘s 1969 catalogue, reissued in 1998.[5] 

They are a collector’s item and most are beautifully carved. The Coutances choir stalls, shown at the top of this page, also feature the endless knot motif, a characteristic of Celtic art.

With my kindest greetings to all of you.




[1] Francis Bond, Wood Carvings in English Churches (Oxford University Press, 1910). [EBook #43530]

[2] David Badke, The Medieval Bestiary (Caption and Photo credit)

[3] Elaine C. Block and Kennett Varty, “Choir-Stall Carvings of Reynard and other Foxes” in Kenneth Varty, ed. Reynard the Fox: Social Engagement and Cultural Metamorphoses in the Beast Epic from the Middle Ages to the Present (Oxford & New York: Berghahn Books, 2000), pp. 125-163.

[4] Op. cit., p. 125.

[5] G. L. Remnant, Misericords in Great Britain; with an essay on their iconography by Mary D. Anderson. (Oxford University Press, 1998 [1969]).

O Sancta Mater Begga (Gregorian Chant by Chant Group Psallentes, directed by Hendrik Vanden Abeele)

Stalles, Cathédrale de Meaux (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Stalle, Cathédrale de Meaux (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

© Micheline Walker
8 November 2014

Canada’s Role in the Coalition: a New Role


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Woman with a Spray of Flowers, Safavid Iran, 1575 CE (Photo credit:

I have updated my last post. I wanted to make it very clear that I understood the Canadian Parliament’s decision to enter the Coalition fighting Isis. However, I would have been one of the 134 members who voted against military involvement in the Middle East, and I am not alone. The vote took place on 7 October 2014: 157 in favour and 134 against. Members of Parliament were therefore divided over this issue. Irwin Cotler, the Liberal Member of Parliament for Mount-Royal, abstained from voting, which was significant.


Traditionally, Canadians have opposed “military engagement.” However, Canada has provided humanitarian relief to victims of wars, famines, dictatorships, genocides, natural disasters, etc. To a large extent, Canada is a country of refugees and this has influenced its role on the international scene.

We have served as peacekeepers or casques bleus, blue berets, for the United Nations and many Canadians have died performing their peacekeeping duties or have returned home profoundly distressed.

Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire

Retired Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire (Chris Wattie, Reuters) (old news)

The Rwandan Massacre: Roméo Dallaire

For example, retired Lieutenant-General and Senator Roméo Dallaire[1] was the United Nations Force Commander posted in Rwanda during the Rwandan Genocide that took place in 1993-1994. The Rwandan genocide claimed approximately 800,000 lives in the conflict between Hutu-led extremists and moderate Tutsis and Hutus. (See Rwandan Genocide, Wikipedia). It was a civil war. Roméo Dallaire’s international forces could have curbed the genocide considerably, were it not that, back at the UN, former colonial powers were arguing.

“There were early signs that something was amiss when, on January 22, 1994, a French DC-8 aircraft landed in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, loaded with ammunition and weapons for the Rwandan Armed Forces (FAR). Through an informant, Dallaire learned that these weapons were to be used for an attack on Tutsis after the Belgians would have been forced to withdraw by violence orchestrated by the Interahamwe [Hutu-led army]. Despite his telegram to the UN, Dallaire was not permitted to seize the weapons, as this was deemed to be an action beyond his UN mandate.” (Roméo Dallaire, Wikipedia)

The Belgians were withdrawn after the torture and murder of ten members of the 2nd Commando Battalion (Belgium). Dallaire considered the Belgians “his best-trained and best-equipped” soldiers. (See Roméo Dallaire, Wikipedia.)

Women were raped, HIV disseminated, and Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire could not help because he was not allowed to do so by the United Nations. He returned home suffering from Post-Traumatic Disorder, but he wrote a complete account of the genocide: Shake Hands with the Devil (Random House Canada, September 2003). Roméo Dallaire was assigned duties he was prevented from carrying out.

The United Nations

de-personalizing members of the Coalition

In theory, it was the United Nations’ role to allow Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire to seize the weapons. A genocide may have been averted, but the UN failed its Force Commander. However, it is not my role to point a guilty finger at the UN because it cannot do what its members oppose. The UN is not guilty.

Yet, it would be for the UN, or a similar agency, to lead the fight against Isis. At the moment, the conflict is personalized. The Coalition is described as a US-led Coalition. Because the United States has an immense arsenal, the world seeks its assistance. Canada, however, has its own arsenal, humble as it may be. Besides, it will be working with the United States fighting a genuine threat. The United States would not be fighting Isis if it did not have to.

As for Canada, given that would-be Isis militants killed two Canadian soldiers, Canadians know that extremists can inflict considerable harm, which is what Isis is doing in the Middle East. Zehaf-Bibeau found his way to the Parliamentary Library. Isis must be defeated and its leaders will have to face the International Court of Justice. The world can no more tolerate Isis’ barbaric beheadings than it could tolerate Hitler’s atrocities.

The Players

the “players”
Syria 2013
Bashar al-Assad
Vladimir Putin

On 21 August 2013, Syria “gassed to death” 1,429 of its citizens, including 426 children, using a chemical weapon, or weapon of mass destruction. Syria’s purpose was unacceptable and the use of a chemical weapon, sarin, prohibited by international law.[2]

The world community condemned Bashar al-Assad who was let off the hook when he accepted to get rid of his chemical weapons, a solution proposed in an off-the-cuff remark by US Secretary of State John Kerry. Assad’s main ally at the time was Russian President Vladimir Putin who suggested to Assad that he could get rid of his chemical weapons.

Is Isis taking advice?

Is Isis taking advice, and if so, whose advice is it taking? The US, Canada, and other members of the Coalition are fighting Isis only. However, there could be other “players.” If there are other players, they should be identified because we have to see the big picture. Canadian authorities must therefore be very thorough in their current investigation.

The Strategy

Moreover, Canadian authorities must ascertain that Canada’s intervention is successful in a not-too-distant future. We have all read or heard that the US may be at war for a very long time. That should not be. I believe the Coalition can devise a strategy that is focused, swift and as definitive as it can be.

In early October, retired Lieutenant-General and Senator Roméo Dallaire stated that air strikes would be ineffective. There must be “feet on the ground.” He said: “Whack them, and whack them good.”

I would not use the same words, but feet on the ground may be necessary and terrorism is a great evil that must be uprooted.

Locating Isis’ Recruits

locating Isis’ recruits

Given that Isis attracts terrorists who travel to the Middle East to join its ranks, investigators must also locate Isis’ membership. “Jihadi John” is a Londoner and Martin Couture-Rouleau, who rammed his car into two soldiers, killing one, was a French-Canadian “convert.” We have to know what is happening.


Canadians in various wars, minimal participation
good reasons for joining the Coalition

It is extremely difficult to make sense of Isis. I have described “Jihadi John” as a person incapable of feeling remorse, but this description also fits his cohorts. The distance between London and Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu is considerable. Yet Couture-Rouleau killed in cold blood after being denied a passport that would have allowed him to serve the same cause as “Jihadi John.”

I do not like the fact that Canadians have joined the Coalition and that air combat has begun. Canada fought in both World I and World War II. However, during my lifetime, Canada’s military has avoided wars. Yet, Canadians fought in the Korean War (1950-1953) and in the Gulf War (1990-1991). Canada also played a limited role in Afghanistan (the 2000s), but it did not declare war on Iraq. (See Canada in the Korean War, Wikipedia.)

However, we have been peacekeepers and have brought humanitarian relief. We are now at war and it would be my wish that the Coalition be just that: a Coalition. If the Coalition is not successful in eradicating Isis and in bringing its assassins to justice, there could be retaliation. This is a danger the Coalition should avoid.

Yet the violence must end and Canada will be joining US President Obama whom most Canadians very much admire and respect. The House of Commons was divided, but President Obama can count on us.


Needless to say, we will have to review the manner in which children are brought up and educated. There must be an attempt to make their life more meaningful and they must be taught the Golden Rule.

I will not be writing about this conflict anymore because of its complexity. I am including a list of my posts on the Middle East.

My kindest regards to all of you.

[1] See also Roméo Dallaire:

[2] United Nations, International Law, Wikipedia.

Quand les hommes vivront d’amour,” Raymond Lévesque


The Umayyad mosaics of Hisham’s Palace closely followed classical traditions

© Micheline Walker
5 November 2014
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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