In which I explain: Why do Christians affix fish decals to the backs of their minivans, and why does the Pope wear a vagina hat for special occasions?
I want to go back to the symbol that started all of this, the one that haunted my daydreams and night dreams and nudged me and pestered me until I finally dug into research to see what the heck it was trying to tell me.
The Venn diagram.
It makes sense that this is the image that bombarded my thoughts as I’ve agonized over the state of our country and its heartbreaking divisions. If only a circle representing Republicans could do the Venn thing with a circle representing Democrats, just think of what could be learned in the place where they join—the place called mandorla, meaning “almond” in Italian. Within the mandorla, the two sets can clearly see the ways in which they are inexorably the SAME.
This is a good place to interject that another image that keeps nudging me is that of a lens or a filter, something through which information can be brought into pure, lucid focus. If only we had such a lens, we could clearly see through the metaphysical malfeasance stuffed down our throats by unscrupulous people in power. We could see through our own potentially warped views of the world. I’m talking about a lens capable of clarifying Truth. Man, how useful would that be?
With these two things demanding a closer look, I began my research.
The definition in Wikipedia started with what we already know about Venn diagrams: they reveal similarities between different sets, a concept conceived by English mathematician, logician and philosopher John Venn in 1880.
I learned that another term for the almond-shaped place in the middle is vesica pisces, (or piscis) Latin for “bladder of a fish”, reflecting the shape’s resemblance to the conjoined dual air bladders found in most fish. (Aaaand it also looks like a fish…more later on that…)
When I looked up vesica pisces, I read these words: “Mathematically, the vesica pisces is a special case of a lens, the shape formed by the intersection of two disks.”
Gaaaah, and there it is. I almost fell off my chair. A lens! If we can figure out a way to peer through the lens-place where we connect, we can see things more clearly. Because that’s what lenses do. Holy crap!
This felt like a significant revelation, but the Venn diagram was far from done with me. As I’ve mentioned, I discovered that in pre-Christian times, people believed the vesica pisces represented the vagina of Venus. When I first read this, the hair on the back of my neck prickled. I’d been calling my female nighttime visitor Aphrodite, after the Greek goddess of Love. Venus is the Roman counterpart, the same goddess by a different name. It seemed like a sign that I was on the right track.
So…let’s talk for a moment about vaginas. I’m a fan. It is literally the passageway to life, its opening designed to accommodate an infant’s skull as it enters the world. No wonder ancient people viewed the vesica pisces as a sacred symbol. It is fecundity, procreation, renewal. It represents the baffling miracle of life itself.
The Greeks and Romans were not the first to embrace the vesica pisces as a mystical symbol. Long before John Venn conceived of his diagram in terms of mathematics, the Buddhists took note. The fish shape is a symbolic footprint of Buddha, and Buddha himself is described as a Fisher of Men. The vesica pisces can also be found in the history of Judiasm, Islam, Hinduism, Mitraisim, Zorostrianism, as well as the Celtic, Pagan, and Mayan cultures.
And Christians? The Christians went crazy over the vesica pisces.
It makes sense. One circle of the Venn is EARTH. The other is HEAVEN. The union of both creates the Son of God, Jesus Christ, Fisher of Men. In fact, early Christians scrawled fish drawings on the outside of houses where fellow believers lived, so they’d know how to find each other and find shelter from persecution.
And this, my friend, is also why we see fish decals on the back of minivans on the highway to this very day. The Christian driver may not be aware of its history, but there it is.
Why are there so many pointy-arched windows and doors in the Gothic architecture used in cathedrals and churches? The vesica pisces. Why do you so often see an icon of Christ or Mary, angels or saints, depicted inside an almond shape, such as Our Lady of Guadalupe? Now you know. It is a fish, it is a womb, it is the passageway to life, it is Christ, it is sacred.
Huh. I wonder if Pope Francis knows that the pointy hat he wears for special occasions is based on a symbol that is also the vagina of Venus? Ha. Frankly, I hope he does. I like to imagine he’s evolved enough to celebrate the symbolism.
This is a lot. But it all seems to verify, at least to me, that my obsession means something, and I am set on a journey to understand more fully what that is. One reason I’m so hungry to share this with you, is because I believe that’s what this assignment has been about all along. To share, to generate thought and conversation, to plant seeds of inspiration and to create a Venn place to explore this concept together.
But there is still more to tell.
To catch up on past entries of this blog journey, click on this link and scroll down. Thank you for joining me! https://calarmistead.com
(Christ in Majesty, in a mandorla, surrounded by emblems of the evangelists. From the 13th Century. In the Musee de Cluny, Paris, France.)