| up a level
from the thyrsis!-coiled-again dept.
When I think "Beast" (which I do, far more often than most people would consider healthy), there are two visual images that come to mind. The first comes from a series of Jehovah's Witnesses tracts published in the mid '80s, wherein some inspired fundamentalist artist beautifully rendered several powerful images of a seven-headed, ten-crowned, snarling Beast of Revelation, accompanied by a brazen Scarlet Woman bearing a calculated resemblance to Jessica Hahn. The second (and foremost, really) is the Lion-Serpent depicted in the Thoth tarot deck, in the trumps "Lust" and "The Tower." I'm not certain why, but there is something in that image which evokes some primal response deep within me.
Of "The Tower," Crowley writes in The Book of Thoth:
Nor let the fools mistake love; for there are love and love. There is the dove, and there is the serpent. Choose ye well! [ . . . ] Bathed in the effulgence of this Eye (which now assumes even a third sense, that indicated in Atu XV) are the Dove bearing an olive branch and the Serpent: as in the above quotation. The Serpent is portrayed as the Lion-Serpent Xnoubis or Abraxas.
Of course, the Lion-Serpent appears prominently in the Gnostic Mass, where "O Lion and O Serpent that destroy the Destroyer, be mighty among us" replaces "O Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us" from the Christian mass. As the conjoining of the fiery force of Leo with the watery serpent of Scorpio (who is more fully eagle-serpent-scorpion), it is the reconciliation of opposites, as Eliphas Levi's representation of Baphomet conjoins man and animal, and the Masonic double eagle conjoins the consciousness of God and Creation.
Now, Abraxas as the Lion-Serpent I was already familiar with, from the striking color plate in Manly Palmer Hall's The Secret Teachings of All Ages, among other places. But Xnoubis? Shortly before the inauguration of The Beast Bay, I enquired of the learned throng over at the Thelema 93-L mailing list. Frater RIKB had this to say:
The lion headed serpent is Chnoubis or Chnouph. It's of Egypto/Grecian/Alexandrian origin, just like Abraxas. The "ch" is pronounced as in Scottish "loch" or German "buch." then "-noobis" like "Anubis." Equals 1332 = 2 x 666, same as "Alpha - Omega" (Alpha spelled out, Omega not, as it is in Revelations).
Around the same time, I discovered this passage and illustration from "A Discourse on the Worship of Priapus" by Richard Payne Knight (1786, reprinted in A History of Phallic Worship, 1992, Dorset Press, NY):
On a gem, published in the Memoirs of the Academy of Cortona, this union of the destroying and preserving attributes is represented by the united forms of the lion and serpent crowned with rays, the emblems of the cause from which both proceed. This composition forms the Chnoubis of the Egyptians.
The figure also shows the initial letter Xi in the name, which could be legitimately transliterated as either "X" or "Ch." A web search under "Xnoubis" turned up only Crowley-related items. But "Chnoubis" is a more fruitful keyword, turning up interesting images here and here, for example.
Ultimately, the power, the mystery, and the all around beastliness of the Xnoubis archetype made it the perfect choice for The Beast Bay's mascot. (Actually, we asked the Pets.com sock puppet first, but he already had a gig.)
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