Making the Bible Sexy: Top 10 Biblical Bad Girls

angel-of-vice-winged

 

MAKING THE BIBLE SEXY – TOP 10 BIBLICAL BAD GIRLS

 

Making the Bible sexy? Don’t get me wrong – I like the Bible. I just don’t believe it (um, because I’ve read it). However, most people probably don’t think of the Bible as sexy, whereas I do. Firstly, part of that’s just me – I’ve always disbelieved the urban legend that the average male thinks of sex once every seven seconds because I’ve always wondered what those other guys are thinking about in the other six seconds. Secondly, Rule 34!

 

Yes - that Rule 34! Mmm, gummy bears...

Yes – that Rule 34! Mmm, gummy bears…

 

Thirdly, there actually is a lot of sex in the Bible. After all, you don’t get all those begats without a bit of begetting, if you know what I mean. And we’re not just talking softcore New Testament, we’re talking hardcore Old Testament here – including at scenes that would make Game of Thrones look like a church picnic. Indeed, with a few quick fixes, the Bible (particularly the Old Testament) could readily outdo Game of Thrones for backstabbing intrigue, psychotic characters, gore-splattered violence and genital-flashing sex (but that’s the subject for another list).

 

Finally, there’s the Biblical ‘bad girls’. For a generally patriarchal and often outright misogynistic book, it is striking how many vivid female characters are in it. Of course, typically in keeping with the rest of the Bible, the more vivid female characters are portrayed as wanton or wicked temptresses – hence ‘bad girls’. However, I find them far more compelling or interesting (or deserving of their own Biblical spin-offs, yet again a potential subject for another list) than the general boring god-bothering patriarchs and prophets (except for Jesus of course – he was way cool), or for that matter, the more conventional Biblical ‘good girls’ – but then, I’ve always had a soft spot for so-called bad girls. So here’s my top ten Biblical ‘bad girls’ – or Biblical girls gone wild…

 

egypt

 

(10) POTIPHAR’S WIFE

 

My tenth place entry here doesn’t even have her own name. Actually, that’s not unusual at all – there are many Biblical characters without names (the subject for yet another list), typically women, particularly in the Old Testament. (Indeed, there are two or technically three others of my top ten Biblical bad girls without proper names). However, Potiphar’s wife is perhaps more of a bit player than the others – but what a bit she plays! In Genesis (my second favorite book of the Bible), Potiphar was the captain of the palace guard in ancient Egypt, who bought Joseph as a household slave after Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery because of inflated sibling rivalry – that’s the first famous Joseph, the one with the technicolored dreamcoat, not the second famous Joseph, Jesus’ adoptive father.

 

Now you know things are going to get sexy, because quite frankly, Egypt was the sexiest ancient civilization – admittedly perhaps not for its population’s vast majority of peasants who farmed the Nile or worked on those useless tombstones known as pyramids, but certainly for its elite, who pretty much invented style. (You know it’s true – just compare the dowdy Venus de Milo, who admittedly is not helped by her missing arms, to the figures of Egyptian art, who would not look out of place on the modern catwalk).

 

Well, perhaps not all of them...

Well, perhaps not all of them…

 

Sure enough, Potiphar’s wife meant trouble – she eyed off Joseph and decided that she wouldn’t mind a piece of that. He virtuously (and probably wisely, given that she was obviously a hot slice of crazy) resisted her attempts at seduction – and without batting her undoubtedly long lush eyelids, she immediately switched it up to accuse him of attempting to rape her. Potiphar had Joseph thrown into prison (itself something of a refreshing change from the more usual attitudes to rape as well as capital punishment in the Bible).

 

Fortunately, Joseph of course had God on his side, and through his prophetic interpretation of dreams, rose to become the Pharoah’s vizier or overlord of Egypt. Interestingly, Potiphar and his wife are not mentioned again, which suggests that she got away scot free – which, even more interestingly, is something of a recurring theme for our Biblical bad girls. Even if Joseph did look them up offstage from the Bible, the man forgave his own brothers, which bodes well for Potiphar and his wife. I particularly remember Potiphar’s wife because in the illustrated Bible stories of my childhood, she looked pretty damn hot – with her classic Egyptian style in her slinky tight dress. (And a muscular Joseph looked pretty buff in his loincloth as she lunged at him). I mean this was a collection of Bible stories – for children! What were they thinking? Anyway, Potiphar’s wife would not be out of place in her own Biblical spinoff, the Real Housewives of Ancient Egypt – I would totally watch that!

 

enchantress

 

(9) WITCH OF ENDOR

 

Although she is as fleeting a figure as Potiphar’s wife, she is even more fascinating (and equally as nameless) – a deliciously pagan and apparently genuine sorceress in the kingdom of Israel. It is a recurring theme how stubbornly pagan the Old Testament Israelites could be, embracing or clinging to other gods (and being punished for it) – and amply demonstrating the characterization of the Old Testament God as omnipotent but very insecure. One can’t help but feel that despite all the miracles God put out, the other gods – or goddesses – were just more fun. (I’ve always imagined Exodus as a scene with God as a voice screaming for genocide from the Ark, while one Israelite turns to another in the crowd and mutters “I preferred the calf”).

 

Moo?

Moo?

 

The witch of Endor makes her mysterious appearance in the first book of Samuel, which is after the Israelites have bloodily conquered their promised land and have a kingdom under their first king Saul, anointed by the prophet Samuel. Sadly, Saul’s kingship had fallen on hard times. I’ve always felt some sympathy for Saul (indeed, most Biblical ‘bad guys’) – poor manic-depressive Saul, brave but not as bloodthirsty as Samuel (because he literally didn’t kill everything after battle) and so fell from favor for God’s golden boy, David (who had allied himself with Israel’s enemies, the Philistines). So Saul desperately seeks out one last resort before leading his army into battle against the Philistines – having driven all magicians and necromancers out of the kingdom (because they infringed on God’s monopoly laws), Saul now seeks out the remaining witch of Endor (the Canaanite town, not the moon with Ewoks).

 

Boo?

Boo?

 

He attends her in disguise to ask her to call up the ghost of the dead Samuel. The Bible seems to suggest that she was deceived by his disguise, although I prefer to read between the lines that she saw through it, pointedly stating that King Saul had made witchcraft a capital offence and seeking to avoid entrapment. Saul gives her immunity and her magic totally works! However, death hadn’t changed Samuel or his bloodthirsty ways, as after complaining about being disturbed, he direly predicts defeat and death for Saul. (“So, no change then?” Saul should have asked). The witch even showed more basic compassion than most (and excellent service), letting Saul rest on her bed and giving him a hearty meal. Saul headed off to bravely lead his army to their and his doom, while for all we know, the witch continued to ply her trade in Endor, yet another Biblical bad girl to get away with it.

 

Necromancy - it's in the Bible!

Necromancy – it’s in the Bible!

 

What I like best about the witch of Endor are the tricky questions she raises (heh) for the Bible. Above all, is she actually doing magic? Fully functional magic not licensed or powered by God? What is its source and how does it work? (I prefer to see her as serving some pagan goddess). Why is it powerful enough to pluck God’s own prophet back from beyond death? How does that work? Is it actually Samuel (and if not, what is it)? It certainly does a damn good impression of Samuel. Of course, there is more than a suggestion of smoke and mirrors or stage magic about it – and it surely wouldn’t be too hard to predict Saul’s impending defeat. Even so, it’s still pretty impressive that she can pull it off in Endor, ripping off the rubes. How has she endured in Endor, despite widespread word of mouth for her presence extending to Saul’s very servants? (Maybe she’s just that good). Whatever the case, she totally deserves her own Biblical spinoff…

 

sexy_shadow_silhouette_girl_shower_curtain

 

(8) BATHSHEBA

 

Like all classic works of art, what’s the Bible without a shower scene? That is how our next Biblical bad girl, Bathsheba, is introduced – as King David spied her bathing from the roof of his palace. (It’s good to be the king). It was also how I was introduced to her in my childhood collection of illustrated Bible stories – again, what were they thinking? (Whatever it was, I thank them). As we saw before, David was God’s golden boy who succeeded Saul as king of Israel and basically became the model of the Messiah, despite his flaws – women wanted him and men wanted to be him (or wanted him – it’s not quite clear with Saul’s son, Jonathan).

 

This guy

This guy

 

Since David was incredibly bad at keeping it in his pants, naturally he hooked up with her and since he was also incredibly manly, impregnated her. The problem was that she was the wife of one of his elite soldiers, Uriah the Hittite – which was of course a much bigger affair back then, given that it broke the Seventh of the Ten Commandments and had the penalty of stoning. So David settled on arranging divorce with extreme prejudice, ordering his general to send Uriah into the thick of battle and then – ahem – abandon Uriah there. David even had Uriah deliver his own death warrant order.

 

Dick move, David – and for once so dickish that even God called him on it, through the prophet Nathan. Typically, God didn’t punish David, at least not immediately or directly (because God can hold his grudges – eternity is a long time to burn), or even Bathsheba, but their innocent newborn child, who died from illness shortly after birth. Even so, David took Bathsheba as his wife (or more precisely one of his many wives and concubines). And once again, Bathsheba proved to be another Biblical bad girl (by Biblical definition of adultery) who prospered (apart from the death of her first child), proving remarkably adept as a social climber to maneuver David into nominating their son Solomon his heir as king…

 

Queen_of_Sheba_Lions_w

 

(7) QUEEN OF SHEBA

 

The Biblical kingdom of Israel rose to its golden age under King Solomon, with his legendary wealth and wisdom, but leaving little, if anything, by way of actual historical record. As for his wisdom, Kurt Vonnegut observed that the most famous example of it in the Bible is somewhat unimpressive – cutting a baby in half. His most famous visitor is far more intriguing (and with more than a hint of pagan goddess about her) – the queen of Sheba, nameless but for her royal title, yet standing out from his Biblical 700 wives and 300 concubines, arriving with her cargo of spices, gold and precious stones from her fabulously wealthy homeland. The book of Kings portrays the queen of Sheba as something of a wisdom groupie, although it still somehow sounds salacious – “she came to test him with hard questions” while “he gave her all she desired and asked for”.

 

The queen of Sheba earns her place as bad girl not so much from her actual Biblical references, but tradition which has identified her as the greatest Biblical prn star – the dark-skinned Shulamite or female protagonist of the Song of Songs (or Song of Solomon). This book is without any reference to the law or wisdom or even God and is just pure prn gold in the middle of the Old Testament – a male and female lover waxing lyrical to get it on in increasingly lurid imagery, as she invites him into her garden to taste her choice fruits…

 

TheBlackQueen

 

(6) JEZEBEL

 

And so we come to Jezebel, the archetypal evil queen of the Bible. After Solomon , the kingdom of Israel split into two, with the southern kingdom of Judah breaking away from the northern kingdom of Israel. Jezebel was a Phoenican princess, who married King Ahab of Israel. She brought her native religion with her, the worship of the god Baal and goddess Asherah, and as the Bible tells it, incited Ahab and the kingdom to join in the pagan fun (which again in that recurring Biblical theme, proved ridiculously easy). As usual this incurred the wrath of God’s squad, in this case the prophet Elijah and his disciple Elisha. However, their wrath was pretty useless, until Ahab died in battle and was succeeded by his sons, with Jezebel as queen mother (and probably high priestess of Astarte).

 

Jezebel

 

Elijah had been taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire (like that scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark except less face-melting and more chariot), but his successor Elisha effectively led a military coup by anointing the general Jehu as king. Jezebel is one of the few Biblical bad girls that the Bible actually smacks down, but when the Bible does smack someone down, it does it hard. As Jehu entered the palace, Jezebel “painted her face” (a pointed detail the Bible sneeringly includes, to mark her as a harlot or W-H-O-R-E!) and confronted him. He had her servants (eunuchs!) defenestrate her (a word you don’t often get to use, as it means throwing someone out a window) – she fell to her death and her body was literally eaten by dogs. Thereafter, her name was associated with false prophets (although she was true to her own gods) and even more so with fallen or promiscuous women (in characteristic Biblical slut-shaming) – she “did evil in the sight of the Lord”. But then – who doesn’t? That guy’s on edge…

 

The Assorted Fruits of Wrath - from the webcomic Oglaf

The Assorted Fruits of Wrath – from the webcomic Oglaf

 

Except…some readers beg to differ from the traditional interpretation. The actual historical and archaeological record suggests that the legendary wealth of Solomon should be more correctly attributed to the northern kingdom of Israel under Ahab and his father Omri – and Ahab’s marriage to the daughter of the Phoenician empire (effectively an association of wealthy trading cities) shows the power and prestige of his kingdom (as well as brilliant international diplomacy). The Biblical books of Kings were written much later, by a writer or writers with an axe to grind against the northern kingdom of Israel – and anything other than a monopolistic cult of God. Jezebel was more a cosmopolitan and sophisticated woman of the ancient world, promoting her own religion (as everyone else did, including the Biblical authors) and coming up against the rednecks of Israel (and a rebel military commander). As for Elisha, he was not exactly balanced – this was a man who, when taunted by boys or youths about his baldness, cursed them in God’s name to be eaten by bears. Bears!

 

BEARS!

BEARS!

 

And as for Jezebel “painting her face”, one might compare it to putting on her ‘war paint’ – deploying the only weapon at her disposal against a military coup by invoking her full appearance as queen mother and head of the royal household. Jezebel went down swinging, with a deliberate symbolic act assuming her dignity and determination to die like a queen.

 

 

 

delilah

 

(5) DELILAH

 

For our next Biblical bad girl, we go back to the book of Judges, one of the more brutal and Tarantinoesque books of the Bible. This was after the Israelites had, ah, exodused out of Egypt and bloodily conquered their promised land, but before the kingdom of Israel under Saul, David and Solomon. “In those days, there was no king in Israel; every man did that which was right in his own eyes”. So in other words, it was like the Wild West of the Old Testament, with the ‘judges’ as lawmen – except that Israel in the Book of Judges made the Wild West look like Sunday school. One of the greatest judges was Samson, known for his legendary supernatural strength given to him by God. Amongst other feats, he tore a lion apart with his bare hands and killed an army of 1,000 Philistines, those perennial enemies of Israel, with only the jawbone of an ass. In short, he was the Israelite Superman, but like Superman he had his kryptonite, which was…a haircut?!

 

Although a haircut was his incredibly lame weakness (not to mention God’s ridiculous limitation on supernatural strength), his real weakness was that he was a sucker for pillow talk. Enter Delilah – the Biblical femme fatale he picked up at the Brook of Sorek. The Philistines showed how Batman beats Superman by bling over brawn – paying Delilah silver to betray Samson’s secret of strength to them. She wasn’t terribly sophisticated about it either, just a combination of pillow talk and nagging. He initially fobbed her off with false weaknesses – being bound by different things, like some sort of party game. She then nagged him to the effect that if he truly loved her, he would tell her his true weakness – so he did, even though she had consistently tried to use the other weaknesses against him.

 

Although the fro was a bit of a give away...

Although the fro was a bit of a give away…

 

So he had barely fallen asleep with his head in her lap when she had him shorn. The Philistines subdued and blinded him, before enslaving him grinding grain on a millstone. However, the Philistines lapsed into their own idiocy, when they forgot to give him another haircut and brought him to their temple. His hair grown luxuriously long again, he prayed to God for one last burst of strength and pushed on the central pillars, bringing the temple down on himself as well as the Philistines and dying as much an idiot as he had lived. Intriguingly, Delilah is not mentioned again after she got paid, so one can only presume she was yet another Biblical bad girl to get away with it – enjoying a luxurious retirement with her silver, sipping cocktails by the Mediterranean…

 

pole dancer

 

(4) SALOME

 

So far we haven’t seen any Biblical bad girls from the New Testament, because the Old Testament is more hardcore. For one thing, the New Testament is shorter, but it also doesn’t help that almost half of it is correspondence from or attributed to everyone’s favorite hitman turned evangelist, Paul, who really didn’t like sex and begrudged marriage. (“It is better to marry than to burn with passion” – burn, baby, burn!). So Salome is even more striking for her appearance in the New Testament, dancing her way to the heart of a king and the head of a prophet. Technically, she is yet another nameless Biblical figure, identified in the Gospels only as the daughter of Herodias, although fortunately she was named by Jewish historian Josephus (one of my favorite rogues of history, who survived the suicidal Jewish war with Rome by changing sides to the Romans). She was the stepdaughter of King Herod Antipas of Galilee, who had imprisoned the prophet John the Baptist, the New Testament’s “voice crying in the wilderness”, for crying a little too loud about Herod’s marriage to his brother’s widow, Herodias.

 

Herod also tipped big

Herod also tipped big

 

Salome danced for Herod on his birthday – subsequently eroticized by Oscar Wilde as the Dance of the Seven Veils – and Herod was so, ah, enthused that he offered her any gift she asked for, “even unto the half of my kingdom”. Salome asked her mother and Herodias was not one to miss an opportunity for payback – she prompted Salome to ask for the head of John the Baptist (as in on a platter, not his shoulders). Herod had tipper’s remorse, but could not go back on his word. Sex versus religion, bad girl versus mad prophet, dance of the seven veils versus a voice crying in the wilderness? No contest – John the Baptist lost his head. And once again, the Biblical bad girl won out in the end. Josephus recorded that Salome married well to rise to queen (fortunately away from Galilee) and have three children…

 

nebezial-9

 

(3) MYSTERY BABYLON

 

Few books in the Bible or elsewhere loom so large in their visual imagery as the Book of Apocalypse or Revelations (my favorite book of the Bible, an acid-tripping wild ride in which the New Testament gets fully hardcore). Mystery Babylon (the Scarlet Woman or her full nastier title, the Whore of Babylon) is the ultimate Biblical bad girl, or at least the one with the most lurid portrayal:

 

“I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations…And upon her forehead was written MYSTERY BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH”.

 

lusta

 

Babylon is obviously a symbol for Rome, although of course others have since seen her as a symbol for other things, such as the Roman Catholic Church (as in some Protestant belief), or even the modern world (as in Rastafarian belief). Indeed the Book of Revelations is a favorite source of symbols for role-playing games by fundamentalists, essentially playing Dungeons & Dragons with the Bible. As one Biblical scholar has quipped, “Revelations either finds a man mad, or leaves him so”. And unlike other Biblical bad girls, Babylon is just too lurid not to come to a sticky end – angels trumpet her fall, while all the corrupt kings and merchants of the earth lament her…

 

Ebas_Witchblade_by_Mystic_Oracle

 

Of course, other readers of Apocalypse might suspect a heavy dose of sexual repression in its author, who protests a little too much. D. H. Lawrence (who was fascinated by the Book of Apocalyse) pointed out that Babylon is a titillating figure, perhaps intentionally so:

“How they envy Babylon her splendor, envy, envy! The harlot sits magnificently with her golden cup of the wine of sensual pleasure in her hand. How the apocalyptists would have loved to drink out of her cup! And since they couldn’t, how they loved smashing it!”

 

scarlet woman

 

Hmm, golden women and cups of pleasure…is anyone else as turned on right now by the apocalypse as I am? Other than Christians waiting for their rapture of course.

 

sexy-lace-up-nun-costume

 

(2) MARY MAGDALENE

 

Mary Magdalene is the most definitive female figure in the New Testament (with the exception of that other Mary, mother of Jesus) and Biblical bad girl turned good. She is the foremost female disciple of Jesus – and the focus of those seeking to sex up the New Testament, going well beyond her actual role in the gospels. In the gospels, she is introduced as a female follower of Jesus, from whom he had cast out seven demons, and any sexuality is limited to the suggestive nature of that. However, she has also been identified with the repentant sinner who anointed Jesus’ feet with her hair as well as “the woman taken in adultery” that he saves from stoning by a lynch mob.

 

belluccimagdalene

 

This has allowed some to wax lyrical about her as repentant sinner or even prostitute (so becoming the patron saint of wayward woman). Pope Gregory the Great equated the seven demons cast out of her with the seven deadly sins (which to me conjures all sorts of heated images of her writhing in their grasp) – and identifying her as the woman anointing Jesus’ feet, declared “it is clear that the woman previously used the unguent to perfume her flesh in forbidden acts”.

 

foot

 

Beyond the gospels, she has even been seen as the lover or literal bride of Christ, as well as mother of his secret children or bloodline.

 

Sigh...

Sigh…

 

Of course, in the gospels, she is beautifully loyal to Jesus, even when he is betrayed, denied and doubted by his male disciples. She is one of the last there at his crucifixion and the first at his resurrection – such that she has been hailed as apostle to the apostles. To be honest, I’ve always had a mythic crush on her – and she particularly appeals to those who prefer to see Jesus as a son of the goddess or the tradition of the three Marys (including the Magdalene) as another manifestation of the triple goddess. And it is hard not to fall in love with her modern incarnations, whether singing “Everything’s Alright” in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Jesus Christ Superstar” or played by Italian siren Monica Bellucci in “The Passion of the Christ”.

 

monica

 

 

(1) EVE

 

Could there be any other as first woman in our top ten? No other female figure in the Bible is as iconic, as evocative as Eve – the original Biblical bad girl and primal woman.  And few have as many faces. She has posed as the definitive femme fatale and temptress of Western art and literature, the Bible’s original sinner and siren of paradise lost.  As such, she has been the focus and symbol of much misogyny (conveniently forgetting that without her role in it, there’d be no Bible), but as the iconoclastic Camille Paglia has noted, the Biblical story of Eden at least gave her a male accomplice in the serpent. However, even this has been reversed in Western art (notably during the Renaissance), which has even given the serpent Eve’s face – and breasts! That’s some deep Freudian kind of mixed-up right there. Although there’s something else equally as mixed up (albeit not quite so much in the Freudian sense) that’s easily overlooked which is implicit in the very bible narrative itself – the serpent had legs!  (God curses it to crawl on its belly as punishment for its crime). If I came across a walking talking snake, I’d listen to whatever it said too – and quite frankly, the whole Garden of Eden set up smacks of a classic two-man con played by God and the serpent.

 

apple

Where-the-apple-reddens

 

She has also posed as sexual temptress, the naked woman for all seasons. Religious tradition saw Eve and Adam as models of physical perfection, befitting those shaped by God’s hand as opposed to those born into this world (or the reality of our ancestral African hominids). And although the Garden of Eden is a tangled jungle of symbolism (that deserves its own list), let’s not forget the steamy sexual symbolism of original sin. There is the temptation itself – Eve is tempted by the phallic serpent and Adam is tempted by the lush fruit offered to him by Eve (in the words of John Milton, “emparadis’d in each other’s arms”). And then there are the consequences – consciousness of their naked state of nature, Eve is punished by the pains of labour, and Adam is punished by the pains of a different labour, working the earth to feed his family. To paraphrase Kurt Vonnegut, it all smells of apple juice…

 

Eve-with-apple

 

Finally, she has posed for those who would reclaim her as a figure of female power or even divinity – Promethean heroine plucking the knowledge of humanity from divinely imposed ignorance or goddess of paradise and mother of life. Some have seen the myth of a fall from paradise as an echo of each of our own experience of prenatal bliss (or at least childhood) – we all fall from the womb into the world. All hail Eve, God the Mother! She is the goddess and this is her body.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stark Ravings – The Meaning of Life

1-the-temptation-surreal-painting-by-salvador-dali_preview

 

STARK RAVINGS – THE MEANING OF LIFE

 

As for my stark ravings in my revamped blogs, they remain much the same – the meaning of life, the art of war and the days of future past.

 

For the meaning of life, I rant and rave about random mythology, science and philosophy:

  • Roll up for my magical mystery tour of mythology, from my godless enjoyment of sex and violence in the Bible to my godful enjoyment of classical paganism, and from the zen applause of one hand clapping to playing poker with tarot cards.
  • Open wide the maw of science, as I look at our Darwinian life on earth as human animals (and how nature is full of crap – nature is the predator picking out your brains and the parasite chewing out your guts). What are we but fish that couldn’t swim and had to crawl and apes that couldn’t climb and had to think?
  • Gaze into the navel of philosophy, as I live in a Nietzschean world with a Freudian mind.

As for upcoming features, my focus will continue to be on mythology, the precursor of fantasy, as I set out explore the most interesting underworlds and apocalypses.

I continue to celebrate my godless enjoyment of the Bible, because it’s the book that keeps on giving, even when you stop believing. Following on from my Biblical bad girls, I keep bringing the Biblical sexy back with my observations of the sexiest, goriest and most ridiculous parts of the Bible, as well as all the Biblical heroes who were actually losers.  It’s not all Bible-bashing – I also look at my biblical fixes that would actually make it readable, and bigger than Game of Thrones. (It may be the word of God, but He badly needed an editor). And how can I resist the Apocalyptic Seven and my favourite Biblical beasts?

I will also celebrate my godful enjoyment of classical paganism and other mythology, following up my classical bad girls with the misadventures of Hercules and Thor (those Nordic gods tended to drop the ball a lot), as well as dropping out all the death cards in the Tarot.

However, I will also have the occasional quips about science and philosophy – such as ranting about Plato’s mystical fascism and how we’re still fighting the Peloponnesian war, how someone should have smacked Descartes in the head and while Wile E. Coyote is the modern existential hero…

 

Bare-Assed and Half-Baked Ideas: Bee Dancing (or How I was Cheated by Evolution Yet Again)

bee18lq1ph92i4l8jpg

 

BARE-ASSED AND HALF-BAKED IDEAS: BEE DANCING (OR HOW I WAS CHEATED BY EVOLUTION YET AGAIN)

 

Goddamn evolution!

 

And like the Lord it replaced, it giveth and it taketh away.

 

Actually, it doesn’t really do anything but slap things together on the assembly line and throw them out there to sink or swim.

 

Platypus

 

I mean, philosophers and theologians used to argue that nature showed design – but if life were cars, then evolution wouldn’t be a designer in the sense of carefully planned engineering like a German or Japanese car company, but more like competing warlords throwing together the bizarro jury-rigged vehicles in Mad Max and seeing which cars ate each other best in the desert. You know – cars with spikes, cars merged with other cars, cars with excavators on them, cars with those swinging pole-things to attack other cars…

 

mmax

 

Which is why we have appendices, wisdom teeth, bad backs and so on. And damn it, I miss my tail! My sexy, prehensile tail – for that extra hand when you need it, and for the ladies…

 

You know you want it!

You know you want it!

 

Evolution. What are we but fish that couldn’t swim and had to crawl – or monkeys that couldn’t climb and had to think? Or worse, talk? And that’s where the trouble began. O evolution – why do we have to communicate through speech, fumbling and groping each other with words? When people talk about the birds and the bees, I don’t think about sex. Well I do, but that’s only because I think about sex for everything. It’s been said that the average male thinks of sex one in every seven seconds. Personally, I think that’s crap, because I have no idea what all those other males are thinking about in those other six seconds.

 

So when people talk about the birds and the bees, yes, I think about sex – although not so much that boring bird sex, but kinky BDSM bee sex between a drone and his queen. But I also think about how birds and bees communicate through dance. Birds are the divas of nature, albeit typically the male birds – with their beautiful plumage, songs, and above all, their elaborate preening and strutting courtship dances. Even more so, bees communicate through dance. After a bee finds flowers with pollen, it flies back to the hive and performs the so-called waggle dance, hypnotically wiggling its bottom while moving in circles before all the other watching bees to show the location and distance of the flowers from the hive.

 

bee dance

 

Ever since I read that, I have always communicated through dance in my nightlife, flitting into pubs or nightclubs like a bee into a hive and heading wordlessly to the dancefloor to gyrate or wiggle my hips at all onlookers – “The honey is this way!”

 

It’s…not terribly effective.

 

Not even when you dress up like this

Not even when you dress up like this

 

Goddamn evolution.

 

Bare-Assed and Half-Baked Ideas: Nature is Full of Crap

Conan enjoying the taste of nature and vice versa

Conan enjoying the taste of nature and vice versa

 

BARE-ASSED AND HALF-BAKED IDEAS: NATURE IS FULL OF CRAP

 

Nature is full of crap.

 

Literally, when you come to think of it (which is, as I like to joke, what puts the organic into organic food).

 

But metaphorically as well. Nature is the predator picking out your brains and the parasite chewing out your guts.

 

I have a pet peeve against people who use ‘natural’ or ‘nature’ in general as synonymous for good or as some sort of ideal – to quote Eric Cartman from South Park, hippies!

 

For one thing, the whole ‘unnatural’ thing strikes me as a misnomer. If it was truly ‘unnatural’ (or in contravention of the laws of nature), it wouldn’t exist. In that sense, ‘natural’ is a tautology. If it exists, it’s natural – and that includes things built by humanity, as part of nature and subject to the laws of nature. Of course, people who use ‘natural’ as synonymous for good tend to do so to distinguish it from the ‘artificial’, or those things that admittedly only exist as a result of the actions of humanity – and tend to swoon over the things that are ‘natural’ or ‘nature’ in general.

 

Which brings me to my main point. Nature doesn’t give a dinosaur’s ass about anything in it – which is why you’ll only find dinosaur asses in museums (or the ground or the fossil fuels you pump into all those cool ‘artificial’ things). Nature simply is – and isn’t too concerned about what it isn’t. Like every extinct animal ever – and every animal eaten by another animal.

 

dinosaur-butt

 

As I said, nature is the predator picking out your brains and the parasite chewing out your guts – an endless arms race of reproduction against predation and parasitism, with extinction as the bottom line.

 

And sure, humanity may be the world’s apex predator, generally eating rather than being eaten, although there are exceptions to the rule – but without all humanity’s ‘artificialities’, I’d bet that wouldn’t be the rule with our soft plush defenseless bodies as the walking snacks of the savannah. Parasites on the other hand still loom large despite all humanity’s artificialities. I haven’t tallied it up, but again I’d bet nature’s diseases have killed more people than all of humanity’s wars – the Black Death killed an estimated 75-200 million people worldwide including 30-70% of the European population, the majority of the indigenous American population were killed by disease and influenza in the wake of the First World War killed more people than that war (and possibly both world wars combined).

 

Don’t get me wrong – nature may be potentially admired, certainly respected and ideally preserved by humanity, but our comfortable civilization exists by keeping nature tamed or at bay.

Making Paganism Sexy – Top 10 Classical Bad Girls: (1) Aphrodite (Amazons & Nymphs)

Greg Horn's Emma Frost as Aphrodite

Greg Horn’s Emma Frost as Aphrodite

 

MAKING PAGANISM SEXY – TOP 10 CLASSICAL BAD GIRLS: (1) APHRODITE (AMAZONS & NYMPHS)

Is there any contest? Aphrodite (Roman Venus) is the archetypal goddess of love and beauty – born of the morning star, the sea’s foam and the world’s desire. Her very name gives us aphrodisiac and her planetary sign for Venus is the universal symbol for the female sex. The Olympian goddesses Athena and Hera were foolish enough to compete against her for the prize of the golden apple inscribed “to the most beautiful”. No contest – the gods appointed Trojan prince Paris as the judge and he awarded it to Aphrodite. (He then took Helen as his reward and the rest is mythic history – the Trojan War). She was married to Hephaestus, the limping craftsman of Olympus, in one of the most ill-matched matrimonies in mythology, but sought out a number of consorts for her divine pleasure – most notoriously bad boy god of war, Ares. Hephaestus had his vengeance by trapping the amorous couple in a magically crafted net and displaying them before the other Olympians – although I tend to agree with Hermes, who declared that he wouldn’t mind any number of nets to swap places with Ares. Mighty Aphrodite! She is the goddess and this is her body!

Ed Bene's suitably Amazonian Red Sonja

Ed Bene’s suitably Amazonian Red Sonja

 SPECIAL MENTION – AMAZONS & NYMPHS

Special mention to those definitive female figures of classical mythology – Amazons and nymphs. The Amazons were a legendary nation of all-female warriors (which may have had some basis in history), who recur throughout classical mythology, individually or collectively (even fighting at Troy – on the Trojan side). Their name has become synonymous for female warriors or empowerment in general and they have continued to provide a source of inspiration throughout art and popular culture, including the Amazon princess of comics, Wonder Woman.

Nymph

On the other hand, nymphs were the divine female spirits of nature, most notably trees (dryads) and bodies of water (naiads and nereids). Of course, something of their sensual nature is suggested by their modern derivation of nymphomania, although it does somewhat cheapen their classical stature. Some have seen them as originating from animistic goddesses or even sacred priestesses. Personally, I was enamoured of them upon reading Bulfinch’s Mythology. Even Christian writer C. S. Lewis was so enamoured by them in his original classical studies that he populated his fantasy Narnia with nymphs – earning his place in my saints of pagan catholicism. (Hot damn – he even had Dionysus and his maenads, albeit without the pagan sex and violence!)

TOP 10 CLASSICAL BAD GIRLS

(10) TYCHE FORTUNA (NEMESIS)

(9) ZEUS GIRLS (EUROPA & LEDA)

(8) ANDROMEDA & ARIADNE (MAENADS)

(7) PENELOPE

(6) CIRCE & CALYPSO (SIRENS)

(5) PERSEPHONE (HECATE)

(4) ARTEMIS DIANA

(3) PANDORA

(2) HELEN OF TROY

(1) APHRODITE VENUS (AMAZONS & NYMPHS)

 

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Making Paganism Sexy – Top 10 Classical Bad Girls: (2) Helen of Troy

helen.troy

 

MAKING PAGANISM SEXY – TOP 10 CLASSICAL BAD GIRLS: (2) HELEN OF TROY

Foremost among the women of classical mythology is Helen of Troy. I mean, come on – they fought a war for her! Greece’s greatest heroes fought the Trojan War for ten years – and in the end, Troy burned for her. Apart from Eve, she is the other definitive femme fatale of Western art and literature – without her, there would be no Iliad or Odyssey, the epic heart of classical literature and birth of Western literature. And at the end of the war, when her husband Menelaus went with sword in hand to kill her for ten years of adultery, he had only to gaze at her as she dropped the robe from her shoulder and the sword fell from his hand. Her legend has continued to enrapture throughout history, even occasionally tempting Christianity. The apostles had to compete with the cult of Simon Magus, who toured with his showgirl Helen of Troy, posing as an incarnation of the eternal feminine. And Christopher Marlowe’s Faust famously marvelled at his Helen of Troy, one of hell’s temptations to seal the demonic pact for his soul – “Is this the face that launched a thousand ships?” Of course, he burned for her as well. Such was Helen of Troy…

helen.troy2

HONOURABLE MENTION – WOMEN OF TROY

  • Cassandra a Trojan princess so beautiful that the god Apollo wooed her with the gift of prophecy, but when she spurned him he cursed her so that no one would believe the prophecies. Hence, no one believed her when she warned her city about the Trojan horse, nor did her captor Greek general Agamemnon believe her when she predicted his (and her) death at the hands of his faithless wife
  • Clytemnestra the aforementioned faithless wife and femme fatale, who plotted with her new lover Aegisthus to kill her husband when he returned home, although her role is unclear in some versions and can be attributed to her husband sacrificing their daughter when the gods commanded it for victory in Troy
  • Briseis & Chryseis – Trojan women captured as spoils of war, who are the starting point for Homer’s Iliad as a parallel to the Trojan War itself, fought over a woman. Greek general Agamemnon captured Chryseis. Fortunately for her, her father was a priest of the god Apollo, and Agamemnon was forced to return her to her father when the god sent a plague through the Greek camp. Agamemnon then commandeered Briseis, the captive of Achilles, the greatest Greek warrior at Troy. Achilles then sulked and sat out the fighting, so that the Trojans turned the tide of battle – “sing, goddess, of the wrath of Achilles”

TOP 10 CLASSICAL BAD GIRLS

(10) TYCHE FORTUNA (NEMESIS)

(9) ZEUS GIRLS (EUROPA & LEDA)

(8) ANDROMEDA & ARIADNE (MAENADS)

(7) PENELOPE

(6) CIRCE & CALYPSO (SIRENS)

(5) PERSEPHONE (HECATE)

(4) ARTEMIS DIANA

(3) PANDORA

(2) HELEN OF TROY

(1) APHRODITE VENUS (AMAZONS & NYMPHS)

 

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Making Paganism Sexy – Top 10 Classical Bad Girls: (3) Pandora

pandora_large

 

MAKING PAGANISM SEXY – TOP 10 CLASSICAL BAD GIRLS: (3) PANDORA

The Eve of classical mythology, except that her primary chronicler Hesiod would have thought that the snake got a bum rap – he blames it all on the woman. Originally, men lived in paradise free from pain or sorrow – but then the gods created woman. (As Friedrich Nietzsche quipped, “woman was God’s second mistake”). The creation of woman, at least, is more beautiful than the messy spare rib in Genesis. Olympian craftsman Hesphaestus shaped her from clay and all the Olympian gods bestowed divine beauty and other gifts on her (hence her name Pandora or “all-giving”), but the end result is a “beautiful evil”, a seductive sleeper agent to bring sorrow to the world – she brought with her a jar, or more commonly translated, a box, full of pain: “burdensome toil and sickness that brings death to men” and “a myriad other pains”. Pandora succumbed to her innate curiosity and opened the box (in a scene I tend to imagine like opening the Ark of the Covenant in Raiders of the Lost Ark, except without all the face-melting) – its contents escaped so that the “earth and sea are full of evils”, leaving only hope captive in the box, although it is not clear whether that is a boon or bane.

Pandora by Dorian Cleavenger

Pandora by Dorian Cleavenger

A “beautiful evil” for Hesiod, she has been seen or cast differently by others – as the bearer of a box containing only good things or blessings (which a foolish male released, leaving only hope), or as a bountiful all-giving goddess of nature or even paradise itself.

TOP 10 CLASSICAL BAD GIRLS

(10) TYCHE FORTUNA (NEMESIS)

(9) ZEUS GIRLS (EUROPA & LEDA)

(8) ANDROMEDA & ARIADNE (MAENADS)

(7) PENELOPE

(6) CIRCE & CALYPSO (SIRENS)

(5) PERSEPHONE (HECATE)

(4) ARTEMIS DIANA

(3) PANDORA

(2) HELEN OF TROY

(1) APHRODITE VENUS (AMAZONS & NYMPHS)

 

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Making Paganism Sexy – Top 10 Classical Bad Girls: (4) Artemis Diana

artemis_by_perhaps_twine_by_dark_knight_wolf-d79fs5e

 

MAKING PAGANISM SEXY – TOP 10 CLASSICAL BAD GIRLS: (4) ARTEMIS DIANA

In fourth place, we have one of the classic Olympian goddesses. Greek Artemis (Roman Diana) was the primal goddess of the hunt and the wild, mistress of the animals, generally accompanied by her exclusive retinue of huntress nymphs. Her temple in Ephesus was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, where she rivalled even Christianity, as in the Acts of the Apostles, where her followers rallied against St Paul – “Great is Diana of the Ephesians”. (The Church subsequently soothed them by placing the last home of the Virgin Mary there). She was her own woman, chaste goddess of the chase, although I prefer to interpret that as eternally single rather than virginal – not without some merit as she was also the goddess of childbirth and animal fertility.

actaeon

However, her classic mythology certainly presented her as a virgin goddess – look but don’t touch! Actually, best not to look either…in one of her more famous myths, hapless hunter Actaeon chanced to see her while she was bathing. She promptly turned him into a stag, and he was pursued and killed by his own hunting pack. A little harsh perhaps, but it is always dangerous to look upon naked divine power (as God told Moses before He showed Moses His ass) and it seems an apt metaphor for the effect that some women can have on men – torn apart by the dogs of your own passion.

TOP 10 CLASSICAL BAD GIRLS

(10) TYCHE FORTUNA (NEMESIS)

(9) ZEUS GIRLS (EUROPA & LEDA)

(8) ANDROMEDA & ARIADNE (MAENADS)

(7) PENELOPE

(6) CIRCE & CALYPSO (SIRENS)

(5) PERSEPHONE (HECATE)

(4) ARTEMIS DIANA

(3) PANDORA

(2) HELEN OF TROY

(1) APHRODITE VENUS (AMAZONS & NYMPHS)

 

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Making Paganism Sexy – Top 10 Classical Bad Girls (5) Persephone (Hecate)

Hades and Persephone by Saraya S

Hades and Persephone by Saraya S

 

MAKING PAGANISM SEXY: TOP 10 CLASSICAL BAD GIRLS: (5) PERSEPHONE (HECATE)

We go down into the underworld for our fifth place entry. Persephone was the queen of the underworld, consort of its dark lord, Hades, in the characteristic courtship style of the classical Olympian gods – abduction. Hades spied the beautiful daughter of earth mother Demeter picking flowers with her companion nymphs, burst through a cleft in the ground and took her back to the underworld as his bride. One of the most moving stories in classical mythology was Demeter’s search for her daughter and the origin of winter in Persephone’s annual bridal sojourn in the underworld – the story also became the heart of the Eleusinian mystery religion of death and rebirth, which rivalled and possibly influenced Christianity.

rosario

Interestingly, Persephone has featured in Hollywood beyond what one might expect of an Olympian outsider – demonstrative of the appeal of underworld goddess as bad girl. The lovely Rosario Dawson was the high point of Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief as an alluring Persephone, in an underworld literally within Hollywood.

perseph001

The equally lovely Monica Belucci was a somewhat more metaphorical Persephone in the Matrix sequels, consort to the Hades-like Merovingian in an underworld (Club Hel!) within the Matrix (and equally one of the few high points of the sequels, certainly compared to the endlessly expository Architect).

Hecate by Luis Royo

Hecate by Luis Royo

Of course, I have used some poetic licence to merge her with another underworld goddess, Hecate (although some would argue that both goddesses are forms of the same goddess). Hecate was portrayed as the dark goddess of magic and witchcraft – ‘queen of ghosts’ and goddess of the crossroads between worlds. She was accompanied by supernatural hounds and her presence was signified by the barking of dogs. She has continued to be associated with witches, commanding the three ‘weird sisters’ in Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

8589130573373-the-five-faces-of-hecate-5-metal-luis-royo-heavy-wallpaper-hd

Decadent Victorian poet Algernon Charles Swinburne was particularly taken with the dark queen of the underworld as symbolic of classical paganism (with characteristic undertones of the Hellfire Club thrown in for good measure):

What-ailed-us-O-gods-to

TOP 10 CLASSICAL BAD GIRLS

(10) TYCHE FORTUNA (NEMESIS)

(9) ZEUS GIRLS (EUROPA & LEDA)

(8) ANDROMEDA & ARIADNE (MAENADS)

(7) PENELOPE

(6) CIRCE & CALYPSO (SIRENS)

(5) PERSEPHONE (HECATE)

(4) ARTEMIS DIANA

(3) PANDORA

(2) HELEN OF TROY

(1) APHRODITE VENUS (AMAZONS & NYMPHS)

 

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Making Paganism Sexy – Top 10 Classical Bad Girls: (6) Circe & Calypso (Sirens)

circe3

 

 

MAKING PAGANISM SEXY – TOP 10 CLASSICAL BAD GIRLS: (6) CIRCE & CALYPSO (SIRENS)

And now for the bad girl goddesses of the Odyssey, Circe and Calypso (tied in sixth place, but if I had to choose between them, I’d place Circe). Circe was daughter of Helios, god of the sun, and divine enchantress on the poetically named island of Aeaea. She used her magic to transform men into animals, changing Odysseus’ crew into pigs (no surprise there really). Fortunately, Odysseus was made of stronger stuff as he set out to rescue his men with a little help from the gods – he resists her magic and has her swear him no harm by the gods. She changed his crew back and they stayed on Aeaea for a year, while she and Odysseus became lovers (so much for Penelope, although in fairness to Odysseus, it is dangerous to get on the wrong side of a goddess). At the end of the year, she helped him with advice for his quest back home (through the underworld). She has continued to be a model femme fatale for Western art and literature, not least as the immortal adversary of DC Comics’ Wonder Woman…

calypso

On the other hand, Calypso was a nereid or sea-nymph on the island of Ogygia, who kept Odysseus ‘captive’ as her lover even longer on her island – for seven years (the large majority of the ten years of his odyssey to return home). Again, so much for Penelope, but these goddesses are tricky, and in fairness to Odysseus, she wanted to make him her immortal husband but he pined for his mortal life with Penelope – “now he’s left to pine on an island, wracked with grief”. Again it takes the intervention of the gods to release him, and she sorrowfully sends him back on his way home.

siren3

Close runners-up are those other bad girl goddesses of the Odyssey – the Sirens, who lured men to death with their beautiful voices or siren song. Forewarned, Odysseus ordered his crew to deafen themselves by placing wax in their ears – although he had himself tied to the mast to hear their song. Interestingly, Homer depicted them as horrific bird-women in appearance. (“It is strange and beautiful that Homer should make the Sirens appeal to the spirit, not the flesh”). Subsequently, however, they were depicted as beautiful women or mermaids, whose bodies were as seductive as their voices, so much so that the word has passed into common usage for seductive females, especially in cinema (directly invoked as the singing sirens in the Coen Brothers adaptation of the Odyssey, O Brother Where Art Thou?).

I-have-heard-the

TOP 10 CLASSICAL BAD GIRLS

(10) TYCHE FORTUNA (NEMESIS)

(9) ZEUS GIRLS (EUROPA & LEDA)

(8) ANDROMEDA & ARIADNE (MAENADS)

(7) PENELOPE

(6) CIRCE & CALYPSO (SIRENS)

(5) PERSEPHONE (HECATE)

(4) ARTEMIS DIANA

(3) PANDORA

(2) HELEN OF TROY

(1) APHRODITE VENUS (AMAZONS & NYMPHS)

 

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