How Yellowstone’s ‘Old Faithful’ became an Angel copulating with a woman

In 1923, American sculptor Daniel Chester French (1850-1931) created the marble sculpture, “The Sons of God Saw the Daughters of Men That They Were Fair”.

The sculpture depicts an unusual episode found in the Bible, narrated in Genesis 6.1-4:

When people began to multiply on the face of the ground, and daughters were born to them,  the Sons of God saw that they were fair; and they took wives for themselves of all that they chose…. The Nephilim were on the earth in those days — and also afterward — when the sons of God went in to the daughters of men, who bore children to them. These were the heroes that were of old, warriors of renown.

The ‘Sons of God’ have often been interpreted as angels, who were so attracted to human women that they came to earth to have sex with them. Daniel Chester French adopts this angelic interpretation of Genesis 6.1-4 in his sculpture, which from 1924 has been on display at the Corcoran Gallery of Art.

According to the museum’s acquisition records, French originally saw the silhouette of an angel copulating with a human woman while staring at the ‘Old Faithful Geyser’ in Yellowstone National Park. Admittedly, there are many people who imagine that they see faces and such things in the clouds and other objects. There is even a term for this: it’s called ‘pareidolia’. So Daniel C. French’s case of pareidolia is perhaps not so unusual. And yet… I can’t say I’ve ever looked at a cloud and thought: hey, that cloud looks exactly like an angel having sex with a woman! And the same goes with the shapes of geysers that I’ve seen. Who knows, there may be a perfectly reasonable explanation for Daniel C. French’s angel-erotic pareidolia. Perhaps he had very recently been reading about Genesis 6.1-4, and this image had simply been imprinted on his mind. Or perhaps he was just really into angelic-human sex, and told his lovers to dress up with feathers. Who can tell?

Side-note: Daniel C. French’s other sculptures are decidedly unsexy. French is best known for the majestic and slightly fascist statue of Abraham Lincoln (1920) at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC, and also for the Four Continents at the Alexander Hamilton US Custom House, New York. None of his other sculptures offer any indication that the artist had an angel fetish.

But after French’s sculpture of “The Sons of God Saw the Daughters of Men That They Were Fair” was put on display at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, along with a notice that it had been inspired by Old Faithful, it came to the attention of photographer Frank Jay Haynes. He noticed that the sculpture not only bore a resemblance to Old Faithful, but to his own photograph of the geyser: “Old Faithful Geyser. Plume. Yellowstone National Park” (1885). The photograph had been sold for decades at Yellowstone as the main souvenir photo of the Geyser:



If you look carefully at the photograph, with the sculpture in mind, you can make out the angel’s right wing at the top left, the heads of the angel and woman at top right, the obscured left wing, the woman’s arse, and even her left leg extended on tippy-toes to reach eagerly up to her angelic lover, with the right leg crossed behind it. It’s all there, in watery geyser form. And on the left-bottom of the geyser and sculpture, you can see the cascade of water shooting up, later to take pareidolic shape as a Son of God about to copulate with a Daughter of Man.

It’s not just me and Daniel C. French seeing these things, is it?

As a result of these similarities, subsequent promotion of French’s sculpture made note that it had been modeled on Haynes’ photo of Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park.

My major source for the information about the sculpture, French, and Haynes was Peter H. Hassrick, Drawn to Yellowstone: Artists in America’s First National Park (The Autry Museum of Western Heritage in association with University of Washington Press, 2002).


Joan Taylor knows what Jesus looks like: he is basically Bret from Flight of the Conchords

Professor Joan Taylor has written a book about what Jesus looks like.

In What Did Jesus Look Like? (T&T Clark, February 2018), Joan Taylor imagines what Jesus would have looked like “as an average man”, reconstructed from the most up-to-date scientific knowledge concerning average first-century-AD Jewish men.

According to Taylor, this is what Jesus would have looked like, “if he was average”:

Jesus, as drawn by Joan Taylor, from What Did Jesus Look Like? (T&T Clark, 2018)
Jesus, as drawn by Joan Taylor, from What Did Jesus Look Like? (T&T Clark, 2018), p. 192 (Figure 76)

So basically, Jesus is Bret from Flight of the Conchords:

Overall, then, we can arrive at a general image of Jesus as an average man: he was probably around 166 cm (5 feet 5 inches) tall, somewhat slim and reasonably muscular, with olive-brown skin, dark brown to black hair, and brown eyes. He was likely bearded (but not heavily, or with a long beard), with shortish hair (probably not well kept) and aged about 30 years old at the start of his mission.

I note that Bret is a New Zealander. So this fact allows us to reach a further significant scientific conclusion: Kiwi men are the most Jesus-like men in the world.

Go in peace.

[Update: See Joan Taylor’s short article in the Irish Times, “What did Jesus really look like, as a Jew in 1st-century Judaea?“, 27 February 2018]

The Original Sausage Fest: The Swiss Reformation in 1522

The most interesting thing to come out of the Refo500 celebrations is a cantata produced to celebrate the beginning of the Swiss Reformation – an event which has become known as the “Affair of the Sausages”.

Back in 1522, the Catholic Church made it compulsory that every Christian should fast for Lent, the 40 days leading up to Easter. But the reformer Ulrich Zwingli believed that fasting should be voluntary – a matter of individual choice. So while most of the town of Zürich was fasting, he joined in a rebellion at the house of Christoph Froschauer, a printer, in which two smoked sausages were cut up and distributed among his workers.

A cantata was written last year by composer Edward Rushton and lyricist Ulrich Knellwolf, to commemorate what might be considered the most momentous sausage-eating act in all of Christian history. The piece is called… “Geist und Wurst”.

Yes: “Spirit and Sausage”.

Here are some excerpts:

Performances in Switzerland over the last year have been followed by a celebratory sausage-eating:

Foetal Dystocia resulting from Watcher-Human Sex: Eric Ondina’s Art

In a piece entitled “Fall of the Watchers”, artist Eric Ondina has managed to capture an aspect of the myth of sex between Watcher angels and human women that usually gets glossed over in renditions of the story.

Eric Ondina, “Fall of the Watchers”

The Book of Watchers tersely summarises that the Watchers “took” the women, “went into” them, and “defiled themselves with” them (7.1ab). The twenty named Watchers are contrasted with the anonymous and unnamed women who they “choose for themselves”. The Watchers act, and the unnamed women are acted upon. Their identities are suppressed, irrelevant to their function within the plot. Their reactions here are limited to their childbearing function: they “became pregnant” and “bore to them gigantic offspring” (7.2).

But what did giving birth to “gigantic offspring” do to these women? The text falls silent, in contrast to the cries of anguish which would have accompanied such extreme foetal dystocia. The birth canal is only important in the story insofar as it satisfies the Watchers’ desires – for sexual intercourse and for children.

But in Ondina’s “Fall of the Watchers”, the effect on the Women is brought to the fore in the artist’s portrayal of an evidently painful, bulging womb. But this pain is combined with a comical characterisation of the women as obsessed with the jewellery that the Watchers gave to them. The combination of extreme discomfort and vain satisfaction is, of course, absurd. And this absurdity provides a visual critique of the tendency in the Watcher myth to belittle or even blame women for the actions of the Watchers.

Ondina himself comments:

I have extracted multiple motifs from this story and melded them into a dynamic composition. The piece is painted in oil on a hand molded, cresting, reinforced plaster slab, which is bordered by a deep cradle frame. It was my intention to make a painting which mirrors this mini-epic in scale, drama and abject gruesomeness. With this in mind I decided to invoke the compositional and painting techniques found in the dynamic baroque of the 17th century while emulating the decisive moment found in 18th century Romanticism. There is also a clear reference to the Northern European Renaissance in the detail, cathedral-esque shape of the substrate, insider humor, and violence. These fuse into a style I have developed in this series which is both contemporary and historically reinforced. While my painting seeks to provide a portal into the past, I seek to do so through a modern lens, injecting subtle to sardonic satire into my subjects. This is readily apparent along the bottom of the painting; in the lower right hand corner an oblivious woman pampers herself with gold and makeup, her stomach bursting at the seams as her hulking half-angel broodling slithers out. She is a sarcastic embodiment of how our contemporary sensitivities are want to perceive this story. The Abrahamic religions are not renowned for their justice towards women, and The Book of Enoch once again exemplifies this ancient trend. Women are the seductresses and the baby factories, the intermediaries and cause of the sinfulness pressed upon the world; because of their erotic allure, mankind suffered nightmarish consequences. My painted jezebel is a mocking testimony to this ancient fear-mongering.

In portraying this extreme foetal dystocia in this manner, Ondina’s “Fall of the Watchers” has drawn attention to an aspect of the Watcher myth that has escaped many commentators, as well as critiquing that very failure to take account of the effects on women implied by the Watcher myth.

Writings by Ancient Rephaim Found! The Lost Book of King Og

King Og of Bashan depicted against ordinary Israelite
King Og of Bashan depicted against ordinary Israelite

It has been long rumoured that a work by King Og, the last of the Rephaim/Giants, was hidden in the Secret Vatican Library in the Department of Ancient Documents and Surviving Occult Findings

In the past few days, the existence of the Lost Book of King Og the Giant (dated ca. 1400 BCE) has been confirmed by the murkier recesses of the internet. A new website, The Lost Book of King Og has made available an English translation of the largely extant Chapter 7 of this ancient seven-chapter work.

The contents are fascinating. Chapter 7 begins with taunts from King Og to Israel, in which the former appears to compare Israel to ants buried in fecal matter. There are also tantalizing references to “my brethren” which seem to refer to the antediluvian Nephilim (Gen 6:4).

Are the tales of my [exploits] not [traveling] to you O [fecal worm?] of Israel? Of my power [. . .] renowned fields of my [Pre-Adamic/Pre-Watcher][Nephilim] brethren? [. . .murder. . .] How we turned our wrath [. . .mercy. . .a foreigner. . .] the old world stood.

In another section of the chapter, King Og declares that his age is 800 years – confirming the great age attributed to Giants in other ancient texts. This puts his birth a little after the Flood, according the Bible’s internal chronology (which suggests the “translator” may have miscalculated a little).

It is a truly incredible find. Read the published translation of Chapter 7 of The Lost Book of King Og here.

The publication of The Lost Book of King Og provides further evidence of the existence of giants at the time of the conquest. It may be compared to the letter sent by the Confederation of Giants to Joshua, found in Book 27 of the Samaritan Book of Joshua, the original of which may well date as early as the invasion of the land of Canaan in ca. 1456 BCE.

The translator of The Lost Book of King Og, Demmon, is also the author of an online serialized werewolf story, The Gonteekwaa much longer work of fiction.



N.T. Wright sings “When the Ship Comes In”

Freewheelin’ travelling bard N.T. Wright has taken his heartfelt folk-singing to the masses. One of his most-loved tunes – judging by his many renditions – is Bob Dylan’s “When the Ship Comes In”.

We believe it is significant that Wright has chosen a song which ends with the notable line,

… And like Goliath, they’ll be conquered

Is Wright, then, a secret gigantologist? We suspect so.

May 7, 2012, the Rabbit Room

May 12, 2012, Hearts and Minds Books

And the version that Wright remembers:



The Book of Giants: Ancient Jewish Literary Creativity beyond the Bible

Slaying Humbaba - by Leonard Greco
Slaying Humbaba – by Leonard Greco

Philip Jenkins has written two useful posts on the Book of Giants, the ancient Jewish work which is found in different versions at Qumran and in Manichaeism.

In his first post, Philip provides a brief introduction to the Book of Giants. In his second post, Philip offers his comments on the significance of the Book of Giants for understanding ancient Judaism, Christianity, Gnosticism, and Manichaeism. In particular, I was interested in Philip’s comments on how the Book of Giants sheds light on the development of ancient Jewish literature. Philip refers to works like the Book of Giants as “fan fiction”:

Religious debate and speculation increasingly took the form of writing new texts and pseudo-scriptures, which took the familiar canonized stories and developed them according to contemporary needs and interests. It is scarcely too much to describe some of these pseudepigraphic and apocryphal works as fan fiction.

He then considers the level of invention involved in composing this “fan fiction”:

Not only are writers developing stories, but they are doing so in amazingly florid form, creating whole new mythologies packed with abundant names and titles. Presumably, some authors are sitting down and inventing these names of demons and giants afresh, while others are taking those and adding their own contributions to the expanding mythos. As we know from modern-day fantasy writers, once that process begins, it rapidly spreads and expands.

This is a good point about the Book of Giants, which bears little resemblance to any biblical passage. In fact, while much of the content shares common material with the Jewish work, the Book of Watchers (1 Enoch 1-36), other parts, such as the names of the giants “Gilgamesh” and “Hunbabis” draw from Babylonian myth. Moreover, the story-line in the Book of Giants, so far as it can be reconstructed from the fragments, introduces some highly original and inventive traditions about the giants. So we can’t accurately categorize Book of Giants as “rewritten Bible”: it neither derives straightforwardly or substantially from biblical traditions nor involves mere “rewriting”, but creatively uses older traditions within a new and original narrative.

Philip’s brief comments complement Eva Mroczek’s view in a recent article published in the Journal of Ancient Judaism, “The Hegemony of the Biblical in the Study of Second Temple Literature”.

Mroczek urges that we seek to appreciate early Jewish literature on its own terms, without assuming that its authors were primarily interested in the texts which later became parts of the Bible. She writes:

The absolute centrality of the biblical is a theological, not a historical axiom: a concern with the biblical in the texts that we study must be shown with evidence, not assumed by default. While the history of the field is a history of people seeking the origins, development, and meaning of these iconic texts, the subjects of our study were not necessarily preoccupied with the same things; they were not marching to the biblical finishing line, but living in a culture whose intellectual, religious, and literary creativity cannot be assimilated into one dominant icon. Recognizing this will help us see Second Temple literature more clearly on its own terms.

Mroczek applies these principles to ancient Jewish David traditions. But they apply well to the Book of Giants, too.

Have a read further: