The Mystery of the Bleeding Woman and the Healing Garment of Jesus

blog - bleedingwoman
6th Century mosaic depicting Christ healing the Bleeding Woman – Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna (Image Source: inpress.lib.uiowa.edu)

Creative Commons License D. CATHERINE | 2020
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license are available here.

CONTENTS:

Preface

The following exposition is neither intended to promote any particular religious worldview or stereotype, nor is it offered as any form of ideal hierocosmology or instructional praxis. It is simply a case-based study that explores a foundational totemic ‘type’ and some examples of its adoption and development (or dissociation and polemical distortion) in later allegory, symbolism and mythos. Inasmuch as the article attempts to identify or clarify some of the perceptions, beliefs and history of the periods discussed, as well as to unpack layers of typology*, myth, allegory and symbolism, this should not be viewed as an endorsement or advocacy of those perceptions, beliefs or convoluted layering.

In the interests of comparative typology, the article occasionally revisits and reassesses the typological interpretations of Gerald Massey (1828–1907). Although Massey is a debated figure whose works are at times challenging, particularly his early works, this is part due to the limited sources that were available in the late nineteenth century. As Massey himself noted in his 1907 work Ancient Egypt: “This is but the rough sketch of a pioneering pen;” and it is only as a pioneering rough sketch that his quotes should be viewed and appraised in this present article. The present writer believes that the selected Massey quotes make sense in the context of the article, and it would be a waste of Massey’s often insightful work to “throw the (proverbial) baby out with the bathwater”. Notwithstanding these limitations and Massey’s occasional venture into speculative error, he nonetheless developed a ground-breaking interpretation on early sign language, and the extent to which this mode of representation influenced totemic representation, mythology, uranography (the mapping of the observed celestial sphere), and—by way of typological adoption-reorientation—certain aspects of religious symbolism and allegory. One should also keep in mind that much of the early criticism levelled at Massey’s typological approach—the notion of a comparative typology outside of, functionally related to, and at times foundational to, religious typology (which nonetheless does require context-specific interpretation)—came from the religious and theologically biased Establishment of his time that ironically lacked sufficient ethnographical, paleoanthropological and semiotic education, as well as having an aversion to the historical-critical method that has subsequently proved most valuable in academia. Regarding Massey’s work in general—and the same might be said for this present article—it is ultimately the task and responsibility of contemporary scholars and researchers to review, assess and selectively extract what data is useful; to dismiss or correct where necessary; and to fine tune this otherwise valuable typological approach to interpretation.

On a final note; although metaphysical aspects are briefly discussed in the article, it is not primarily a metaphysical exposition, and these aspects can best be followed in the relevant works of e.g. Henry Corbin, Mircea Eliade, René Guénon, Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, Titus Burckhardt, Martin Lings, Algis Uždavinys, Tom Cheetham, Samuel Zinner, etc.

*Typology is the study of the classification and development of various ‘types’ or ‘kinds’ based on the association of similar characteristics. Characteristic types include e.g. prefigurative signs, symbols, motifs or themes (e.g. mythical and religious typology). From the perspective of comparative typology, it can be said that typological development occurs not only across time, within any given tradition, but includes development across different traditions and across different mediums and modes of representation and communication.

Part I: The Totemic Blood-Mother and the Supra-Totemic Pneuma, Nous or Logos

In the Gospels of Matthew 9:18-26, Mark 5:21-43 and Luke 8:40-56 we read about a woman who had been “bleeding for twelve years” and was miraculously healed when she touched the garment of Jesus. Apart from a literal historical reading of these verses, the present writer will propose another interpretation based on a number of typological signatures which suggest that this episode originates as allegory. Moreover, notwithstanding its explicit faith-based orientation in the Christian canon (faith being the stated reason for the healing of the woman), the underlying typology and symbolism strongly suggest that it derives from a mystical, esoteric or proto-gnostic portrayal of the human:

1. Initially identified with the physical body (the corporeal “flesh”) and its uterine source, primarily in association with the life-giving blood of the mother, which literally provides nutriment for the developing fetus (at the foundation of the human body). It will be argued that the mother-blood or “blood-Mother”, perceived as genetrix and creative source, is to be viewed as totemic; compare “those born of women” in Matthew 11:11, Luke 7:28 and Thomas 46, and partly alluded to in Augustine’s remark (De Civitate Dei, 10.26) addressed to Porphyry: “But you do not believe that this mind [i.e. nous] is Christ; for you despise Him because of the body that He received from a woman, and because of the shame of the Cross.” Further associated with this identification with the blood-Mother are ancient customs, rites and taboos—first established in totemic societies—that originate in a formal recognition of the “coming of age” of the pubescent girl at the arrival of her menarche (first menstrual “period”). In Orthodox Judaism this rite of passage is ceremonially set at twelve years old, and the present writer proposes that this is the typological foundation of what appears to be a garbled reference to the woman “bleeding for twelve years” as per the gospel accounts. In other words, the typical age of the arrival of the menstrual cycle appears to be conflated with an allegorical figure—irrespective of age or sex—totemically identified with the Mother-blood (hence the woman or female ‘type’ as the typical form in the underlying allegory).

2. Yet the bleeding woman is purportedly healed of her supposed physical affliction when she touches the garment of Jesus. Normative Christianity will see in this a medical condition that was miraculously healed in a profound moment of faith. Contrary to this interpretation as per the gospel rendition, we will instead be focusing on the ‘garment’ of Jesus—the evident agency of the supposed ‘healing’—and comparing it with the supersensory “Robe of Glory” as a gnostic vesture and investiture that, for example, we read about in The Hymn of the Robe of Glory from the gnostic Acts of Thomas and in the gnostic Pistis Sophia (where Christ is essentially identified with the Robe of Light and Glory). These in turn can be compared with the “radiant, white clothes” of the transfigured Jesus (Matthew 17:2, Mark 9:3, Luke 9:29), Enoch’s transformative “clothes of [the Heavenly Lord’s] glory” (2 Enoch, 22), as well as the “robes” given to the “Sons of the Light” who are “glorified by those who give glory” in the gnostic Trimporphic Protennoia. All of the above, in their attributes of sovereign light and glory, should be considered ontologically homologous to the Mazdaean Xvarnah/Khvarenah “Light of Glory”, the Manichean “Pillar of Light” or “Column of Glory”, and the Ancient Egyptian “pure garment of the perfect Akh” (i.e. the luminous nous/pneuma).

The allegory of the healing of the bleeding woman is also partly discussed in Andrei A. Orlov’s article “Vested with Adam’s Glory: Moses as the Luminous Counterpart of Adam in the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Macarian Homilies” which provides further evidence for the pre-Christian typology of the luminous ‘garment’ as an agency of ‘healing’. Gershom G. Scholem also discusses this mystical garment (ḥaluq) of light or glory in chapter 8 of his work, Jewish Gnosticism, Merkabah Mysticism, and Talmudic Tradition. Given the strong Judaic elements to this typology and its noticeably mystical or esoteric orientation, one wonders if the motif of the healing garment—as presented in the gospel episode—first originated in a form of esoteric or gnostic midrash? Assuming a Judaic typology, one also wonders if the Christian rendition in the Synoptic Gospels was primarily an attempt to counteract the mystical portrayal of the luminous garment (identified with Christ) that heals or saves? The mystical or esoteric (Jewish ‘gnostic’) interpretation makes more sense as a logical development of the Judaic typology than the canonical or normative Christian account where the garment is merely material and perceived as incidental to the event—its established agency and symbolism becoming redundant and ignored. This of course is not to deny the faith aspects of the Christian verses, but to emphasize that these verses are not drawing from literal biographical history.

Before continuing with these two distinctions and associated identities—and their relation to “what some scholars dub the ‘theology of clothing’ or the ‘metaphor of garment’”[1]—it is necessary to first examine one of the proposed origins of totemic culture as related to the mother-blood, menarche and key associated customs. It is hoped that the reader will be patient with this lengthy exposition, as it is integral to our understanding of the underlying typology of the “bleeding woman” and how this contributes to our understanding and hermeneutics of the broader motif as it might have been expressed in the religious context of the first century. Read more

The Attrition of the Old “Great Mother” Earth and Her Offspring-as-Elements

Mythlogy of Great Mother Earth
Ancient Egyptian deity Taweret (cf. Ipet, Ipy).

Excerpted from Gerald Massey’s Ancient Egypt:

In Egyptian mythology compared with the Babylonian the same types that represent evil in the one had represented good in the other. The old Great Mother of Evil, called the Dragon-horse in the Assyrian version, was neither the source nor the product of evil in the original. The serpent-goddess Rannut [or Renenūtet], as renewer of the fruits of earth in the soil or on the tree, is not a representative of evil … The Kamite [i.e. Kemetic] beginning with the Great Mother and the elemental powers which are definite and identifiable enough in the Egyptian wisdom became confused and chimerical in Babylonian and Hebrew versions of the same Sign-language; the dark of a benighted heaven followed day. Elemental evils were converted into moral evil. The types of good and ill were indiscriminately mixed, pre-eminently so in the reproduction of the old Great Mother as Tiamat. Originally she was a form of the Mother-earth, the womb of life, the suckler, the universal mother in an elemental phase. But the types of good and evil were confounded in the later rendering. The creation of evil as a mis-creation of theology is plainly traceable in the Akkadian, Babylonian, Assyrian, and Hebrew remains. The Great Mother, variously named Tiamat, Zikum, Nin-Ki-Gal, or Nana, was not originally evil. She represented source in perfect correspondence to Apt [or Ipet, Ipy], Ta-Urt [or Taweret], or Rennut [or Renenūtet] in the Egyptian representation of the Great Mother, who, howsoever hideous, was not bad or inimical to man; the “mother and nurse of all”, the “mother of gods and men”, who was the renewer and bringer forth of life in earth and water. Nor were the elemental offspring evil, although imaged in the shape of monsters or of zoötypes. As Egyptian, the seven Anunaki were spirits of earth, born of the Earth-mother in the earth, but they were not wicked spirits. The elements are not immoral. These are a primitive form of the seven great gods who sit on golden thrones in Hades as lords of life and masters of the under-world. Read more

Judas Iscariot’s Solicitation of “Blood Money” from the High Priests: A Case of Character Inversion and Doctrinal Obfuscation in the New Testament and Talmud?

Judas receiving thirty pieces of silver for betraying Jesus, by Mattia Preti, c. 1640 (Image Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Judas receiving thirty pieces of silver for betraying Jesus, by Mattia Preti, c. 1640 (Image Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Creative Commons License D. CATHERINE | 2019
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

The following article is what I understand of Dr Robert Eisenman’s exposition[1] on the “whore’s wages” (Micah 1:7) in relation to Temple donations received from those accused of “fornication” in the first century CE, and Judas Iscariot’s “thirty pieces of silver” solicited as “blood money” from the Chief Priests (Matthew 27:3-10). Please note that the specific focus of this article is not on assessing the moral grounds for the Jewish legal prescriptions, but simply on clarifying some of the associated beliefs, perceptions and history of the time.
Read more

The Effects of Precession on Astronomical Mythology

As a result of the slow, revolving, axial tilt of the earth (“axial precession”), the celestial sphere above slowly shifts relative to our observational point on earth. Accordingly, there is a shift of the (perceived) celestial ‘poles’ that results in a circuit and cycle of approximately 25,800 years known as “the Great Year”.

Axial Precession - astronomical mythology 2
The path of the north celestial pole among the stars due to axial precession (Image by Tauʻolunga via Wikimedia Commons).

Owing to the same axial phenomenon, there is also a “precession of the equinoxes” that occurs on the solar ecliptic. The ecliptic is a projected circular path on the celestial backdrop that the Sun appears to traverse over the course of a year. However, because of axial precession the sun also slowly precesses in the opposite direction over the course of the Great Year. This is the reason why—relative to our observational point on earth—every +/- 2150 years the sun at the vernal equinox enters into and is said to ‘rise’ in the successive, adjacent constellation (zodiac house) on the solar ecliptic. Read more

The Naassene “Perfect Man” and the Islamic “Insan al-Kamil”

Creative Commons License D. CATHERINE | 2018
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Regarding the gnostic Naassenes and their doctrine of the “Perfect Man” (seemingly equated with Christ), the Christian theologian Hippolytus of Rome (170 – 235 AD) in his work Philosophumena (Book V, 3) writes:

. . . [Jacob] was astonished at the celestial Gate, exclaiming, “How terrible [full of awe] is this place! It is nought else than the house of God, and this (is) the Gate of Heaven.” On account of this, he [the Naassene] says, Jesus uses the words, “I am the true Gate.” (John 10:9; Matthew 7:13.)[1] Now he who makes these statements is, he says, the Perfect Man that is imaged from the unportrayable One from above [compare ‘the Reality of Muhammad’ al-Ḥaqīqah al-Muḥammadīyah as the first self-determination of the ineffable One al-dhāt al-aḥadiyya] . . . Jeremiah likewise utters lamentation for Jerusalem below, not the city in Phoenicia, but the corruptible generation below. For Jeremiah likewise, he says, was aware of the Perfect Man, of him that is born again—of water and the Spirit not carnal. At least Jeremiah himself remarked: “He is a man, and who shall know him?” In this manner, (the Naassene) says, the knowledge of the Perfect Man is exceedingly profound, and difficult of comprehension.

This “knowledge of the Perfect Man,” which is “exceedingly profound, and difficult of comprehension,” can be compared to the Sufi and Shīʿa ʿirfan (gnosis) of Insān al-Kāmil ‘the Perfect Man’ and ultimately ‘the Reality of Muhammad’ al-Ḥaqīqah al-Muḥammadīyah. Read more

Was the Magi Prince Izates (Izad) the original ‘Sultan Ezid’ revered by the Yazidi ‘Cult of Angels’?

Izates Izad Yazidi
A man prays at the door of the holiest shrine in the Yazidi faith, the tomb of Sheikh Adi, in the town of Lalish in northern Iraq. Photograph by David Honl, ZUMAPRESS.com/Corbis (Image Source: nationalgeographic.com)

Creative Commons License D. CATHERINE | 2018
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license are available here.

There are some intriguing parallels between the birth-exile-return narrative pertaining to the first century Prince Izates (as per Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews XX ch. 2.1–2[1]) and the birth-exile-return narrative pertaining to “Sultan Êzîd”, who, according to Yazidi oral tradition,[2] was purportedly the seventh century Umayyad Caliph, Yazīd ibn Muʿāwiya. There are also intriguing parallels between the divine conception of the “only begotten” Izates (born circa 1 CE) and the “only begotten” Jesus (John 3:16) whose miracle of turning water into wine (John 2:6–11) was evidently adopted by the persona of Yazīd ibn Muʿāwiya in the Yazidi narrative where he reportedly turned river water into wine. Note also that the birth of Sultan Ezid is commemorated at or near the winter solstice in proximity to the date of birth of both Mithras and Jesus.

The present writer suspects that the Yazidi account of their putative founder Yazid (ibn Muʿāwiya) may have originated as religious dissimulation during a time of increased persecution against pagans, the non-Abrahamic traditions and the Shīʿa communities. In a religious environment that was likely hostile to the Yazidi, they would’ve needed to disguise and safeguard their (clearly) controversial doctrines, as well as the person they perceived to be their founder, who I propose is the first century CE (Zoroastrian or Yazdani) Prince Yazd/Izad (“Izates” in Antiquities) who became King thus “Sultan” following the death of his father, King Monobaz I. The two narratives also suggest that the Yazidi biography of the seventh-century Yazīd ibn Muʿāwiya has assimilated certain biographical details from the lives of the first-century Prince Izad and Jesus. Read more

Mount Kenya and Mwene Nyaga: The Ostrich as an Ancient African Symbol of Darkness and Light?

Ostrich darkness and light
Autruche Struthio Camelus (Photograph by Gerard Lacz | Source: fineartamerica.com)

Creative Commons License D. CATHERINE | 2018
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license are available here.

In the origin myth of the African Kikuyu people, their ancestral ‘first man’ Gĩkũyũ (meaning ‘Great Sycamore-fig Tree’) first appeared under a sycamore-fig tree (mũkũyũ) at the foot of Mount Kenya, which was known to the Kikuyu as Kĩrĩ Nyaga—the ‘Mountain of the Ostrich’. The term ‘ostrich’ here alludes to the variegated black-and-white or light-and-shade as specifically seen in the patches of white snow against the dark rock on the mountain. This place of origin under the Great Sycamore-fig Tree at the foot of Mount Kenya, as well as the immediate lands to the south-west, was considered a type of paradise to the Kikuyu people.

Mount Kenya and Mwene Nyaga ‘Lord Ostrich’

Historically, Mount Kenya was also considered sacred to the southern Oromo tribes who made “periodical pilgrimage to the mountain, making offerings as to their mother.”[1] In much the same way that Kaphiri-Ntiwa in east-central Malawi is the mount of origin for the Maravi-Chewa people and the seat of their god Chiuta, and much like Mangochi (Mulanje?) in southern Malawi is the mount of origin for the Yao people and the seat of their god Mtanga (elsewhere Mulungu), we likewise find that Mount Kĩrĩ Nyaga is considered the seat of the Kikuyu deity Ngai (elsewhere Murungu), especially in his aspect as Mwene Nyaga—‘Lord Ostrich’. It could be argued that the ostrich here alludes not merely to the patches of white snow against the dark rock on the mountain, but likely symbolically extends to the cosmological ‘World Mountain’ and the primordial elements of darkness and light, which Ngai, as Mwene ‘Lord’, would surely preside over. Read more

The Lunar Ass and the Typology of Darkness and Light in Early Mythos

Typology of Darkness and Light
The solar Ra (or perhaps originally a lunar consort — note the hare- or donkey-like ears) depicted as a cat, slaying ʿApep the serpent of darkness. Tomb of Inherkha, at Deir el-Medina (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Creative Commons License D. CATHERINE | 2018
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

“On every line of research we discover that the representation of nature was pre-anthropomorphic at first, as we see on going back far enough, and on every line of descent the zoomorphic passes ultimately into the human representation … Primitive men were all too abjectly helpless in [the] presence of these [nature] powers to think of them or to conceive them in their own similitude … Also they themselves were too little the cause of anything by the work of their own hands to enter into the sphere of causation mentally. They could only apprehend the nature-forces by their effects, and try to represent these by means of other powers that were present in nature, but which were also necessarily superior to the human and were not the human faculties indefinitely magnified.” (Gerald Massey)

In human perception as well as in astro-mythology, darkness and light are primordial. The earliest mythical representations of these two elements were zoomorphic; for example: the snake of darkness and the bird/cat of light, or the night jackal and the day hawk, or the wolf of darkness and the raven of light, etc. Alternatively we might find these two elements combined in e.g. the black-and-white ostrich or sacred ibis, or more symbolically in e.g. the double-headed bird (i.e. this symbol possibly originated in the alternating display of darkness and light perceived in the skies above; later adopted in the solar mythos to represent the setting western sun and the eastern rising sun—compare the Ancient Egyptian Hor-akheti as “Horus of the Horizons”). Read more