I was never someone who was into art, in fact was one of the only ones in my family who was not. My dad studied art history, as have some cousins. But over the years I have been pulled in the direction of certain renaissance artists especially, like Leonardo Da Vinci, Donatello, Michaelangelo and Raphael. And yes I loved the Ninja Turtles growing up so that is likely a reason these four stand out. But there are other reasons they have caught my attention and it is largely because of the mysteries that surround their works.
Last week in a healing journey I was presented with a face in my minds eyes that was clearly a painting, but not one that I recalled having seen before. I filed it away in my mind trusting that if it was to arise it would arrive with little effort, it would not require me sifting through thousands of paintings online.
In my adventures reading Rudolf Steiner talking about the Templars I stumbled upon material about John the Baptist, much of which I raised in my last blog. One of the comments made by Steiner was that John reincarnated during the renaissance period as the artist Raphael. Something made me pause in that moment and reflect on the painting I had just seen days before in my vision. Perhaps there was a Raphael painting that I might recognise. And I didn't have to look far to find it, the painting jumped out right away. The face was what had been the clearest, even the hair colour. And it was to be found in a painting called "The Woman and The Unicorn." Only the woman's face had been in the vision, I would definitely have remembered a unicorn if I had seen it.
At this point of the quest my mind is not necessarily convinced that John the Baptist became Raphael, but I can recognise a good synchronicity when I see one. I trust the images I see in my meditations to look into them at a later date. In the 20th century this was a painting known as St Catherine of Alexandria (a name I had recognised in conjunction with the Templars), but upon x-ray imaging had revealed a unicorn, and then further testing revealed before that Raphael had originally sketched a dog. Raphael was responsible for the dog and the unicorn but it was an unknown painter in the 17th century who had painted the Catherine wheel symbolic of the martyrdom of St Catherine.
So, working backwards we could look at some possibilities that may provide clues in this ongoing adventure. St Catherine is another saint who has influenced Templar beliefs over the centuries, Henry Sinclair, the Templar who came to North America, having a particular affinity to her due to the well that was near his property in Rosslyn, Scotland. She was a patron saint of learning, but also for unmarried women. Churches dedicated to her were often built at the top of hills, with laterns lit to guide sailors safely. I wonder why the unnamed painter would be inclined to turn Raphael's art into the catherine wheel?
The next layer is the Unicorn, which has long been associated with Grail legends as a symbol of purity. She holds the unicorn in her lap, something that Margaret Starbird speaks to in her book, the Woman With The Alabaster Jar. A unicorn in the lap may seem innocuous to us but when we realise that many medieval paintings included it in reference to the Grail mysteries it changes somewhat, bringing heresy to the fore.
"The bridegroom/king with "lifted head" or "horn" inevitably seeks the lap of the Bride for the consummation of the Sacred Marriage" claims Margaret Starbird in reference to some tapestries "So does the mythical unicorn. Although the tapestries were woven at the dawn of the Renaissance period (1500 AD), the story of the unicorn with his head in the lap of the maiden originated in the classical world, where the imagery of the sacred king and his marriage to the love goddess was familiar." (page 138)
Although she is not referencing Raphael's work, the unicorn in the lap is hard to miss. The medieval painters had put their teachings in plain sight, for those who could understand them. Is it possible Raphael was up to the same? It is interesting also to see the pillars either side of the lady, a symbol often seen in templar and freemasonry in reference to the pillars of Joachim and Boaz.
Starbird also mentions that the unicorn is associated with anointing of the king with oil and is "an echo of the line from the twenty-third psalm, where the king addresses the feminine deity" (page 137).
If we are talking about anointing with oil then we can link back to St Catherine whose wheel once covered over the top of the unicorn. She is also associated with fertility. The Balm Well at Henry Sinclair's home in Rosslyn was said to be an "inexhaustible fountain of healing, for it possessed a black oil believed to be constantly renewed by St Catherine. When Prince Henry Sinclair was born his father immediately anointed him with oil from this well with the belief it would protect him from the plague." This comes from William F Mann in the book The Knights Templar in the New World.
And finally, as Starbird refers to throughout her book, the heretics such as the cathars and templars believed that it was the "horn of the unicorn that would purify the polluted doctrine of the church" (page 140). For those of us in Canada, as we witness the ongoing revelations about the Residential Schools, many of us are filled with emotions around what the Catholic church still does to others in the name of Christ today. As the emotions towards the church are purified perhaps there will be a greater chance of restoring long lost wisdom from the cradle of Christianity.
At this point I am not drawn to look deeper into the dog reference in the very first layer of the painting but I will stay open to any impressions and insights I receive. For now, the unicorn and St Catherine both leave us something to contemplate in reference to the hidden mysteries concealed within art throughout the centuries.
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