Loch Hàsco below the Quiraing


A recap


In my previous blog I commented on the implications for the Christian of Chagall’s images in the painting White Crucifixion and also the image of the vividly red barbed wire, one of 5 photos I received from my friend Scott Murray on the day I wrote the commentary on the painting (blog 60).
A brief recap of what happened: I had finished writing the blog on Sunday afternoon of 18th August when the 5 photos came from Scott. He had no idea what the subject of my blog was, yet the images he sent fitted perfectly with what I was saying. It was as if the risen Christ was saying: ‘Look, what you have written is incomplete, I will provide the rest.’ Not only that, but when Scott was taking the photo of the barbed wire that afternoon, the words from a Bob Dylan lyric came to him ‘She walked up to me so gracefully and took my crown of thorns’ etc and also the thought of Easter.


Flower of the Okra plant (2)


(Photo: Scott Murray)


The cross and the rope


Here I want to comment on the 4 other photos Scott sent and their possible spiritual and metaphorical significance. One is of masses of rope tied to the wreck of a boat in Vatersay. The vertical timber and the horizontal strake make a cross. The cross and the strake behind have red paint on them. There are pieces of old dried jagged seaweed on the cross. For me the red paint symbolizes the blood that was missing from Chagall’s cross. The jagged seaweed could symbolize thorns. The rope could symbolize the bondage of the Jews and of mankind. They are everything that Chagall’s sanitized cross is not. His is a tau cross, shaped like a T. This one has an obvious upper arm.


The window-pane with ice drops


There is a photo of a window-pane with icicles and frozen drops of rain. The icicles and ice drops are beautifully coloured, shades of violet and white against a dark background. Considering that the subject of Chagall’s painting is the approaching Holocaust, this image is a powerful memorial of that unimaginable horror.


Cùl nan Cnoc from Rubha nam Bràithrean




Chains on top of a strainer in Vatersay


Of all five images, perhaps this is the most intriguing and, for me, the most profound. The post represents the axis mundi or the cosmic tree. It is a symbol of the connection of heaven, or the world of the Sacred, with earth. Mircea Eliade, a major historian of religion, discusses this symbolism in his book The Sacred and the Profane. He acknowledges the disconnect between how contemporary human beings see the world in secular terms only, in contrast to the past where the world only had meaning in terms of the Sacred.
So, for me, this post in Vatersay represents this axis mundi. But it is in poor shape, as befits a world where the Holocaust could happen. The chains represent the Nazis’ total rejection of the Sacred. They are completely cut off from Heaven and the Sacred. The chains could also symbolize bondage, the bondage of the Jews by the Nazis and also how the Nazis were in their own form of bondage, the bondage of evil.


Sweet pea


(Photo: Scott Murray)


The barbed wire and the web


The last image is the barbed wire and the partial spider’s web. Is it being constructed or destroyed? Whatever, it is a powerful image and it awakens many ideas of what it could mean or represent. A spider’s web is of course a symbol of prey and a victim. That they were a victim was true of European Jewry as it was true of Jesus on the cross. Yet Jesus was victim only temporarily. He is now victor and Lord. He is the true axis mundi.


The apparently weak web is in contrast to the strong and cruel barbed wire. But the web symbolizes love and faith. The wire though strong and cruel is dead. The web is of the living and will survive long after the wire is rust. The Jews survived despite the Nazi onslaught. The Sacred in the end is stronger than the profane, despite all appearances to the contrary.