The setting for the Madonna is the Chapel at Crac des Chevaliers which was given by the King of Jerusalem to the Knights Hospitallers - it dates back to the 12th century.
In creating the image of the Madonna Serpentum I am attempting to combine a number of different traditions surrounding the symbol of the serpent which has had almost nothing but evil attributed to it by Christianity. To begin, the snake or serpent is probably the most widely revered creature in world mythology. It is associated not only with the primal waters from which all life was created, but also with the Earth - which makes it the chthonic symbol par excellence. In fact, for many ancient civilizations, the serpent symbolized the underworld and the realm of the dead - hence, its infernal aspect.
The biblical serpent, the embodiment of Satan in the Garden of Eden, later becomes the serpent of brass in the Book of Moses. This is eventually interpreted in the Book of John as an archetype of the crucified Christ. Jungian psychology views the snake as a symbolic creature going back to the earliest stages of the Earth and the human race. It is an image of exceptional primordial forces...it is a major symbol of psychic energy.
Moreover, in Asian philosophic systems the Kundalini Serpent, coiled at the base of the spine (like the caduceus of Hermes and the wand of Asklepios), symbolizes the vital energy to be awakened through meditation.
The Minoan Goddess in the background seen clutching two snakes dates back to 1800 BC.
The serpent appears in many ancient icons, either as a companion of the goddess, or as an accoutrement - a wand, a belt or head-dress. The icon in the upper right corner is the Greek gorgon Medusa whose visage would turn men into stone....clearly a very negative attribute of this ambivalent symbol. Conversely, the anguipede - an early Ophite symbol exhibits goddess-like traits such as feet made of serpents (see icon in upper left corner). It appears on a great number of engraved stones called Gnostic or Basilidean Gems. They are the Christos-Sophia of the mystic gnostics....which symbolizes divine wisdom and intelligence.
John Meluch was born in 1948 in the once industrial town of Lorain, Ohio. His earliest memories include the nightly fireworks of a nearby steel plant, the rumble of locomotives in his backyard, and the distant chatter of shipyard riveters......all a distant memory now. He has worked at several careers including: teacher, shipyard worker, graphic artist. He presently resides in
Lakewood, Ohio where he teaches High School English and also does freelance
digital graphics and photography. He has most recently collaborated with
British 3-D digital artist Tom Grimes.