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Reload the Canons!

This series of articles is an attempt to play through The Canon of videogames: your Metroids, your Marios, your Zeldas, your Pokemons, that kind of thing.

Except I'm not playing the original games. Instead, I'm playing only remakes, remixes, and weird fan projects. This is the canon of games as seen through the eyes of fans, and I'm going to treat fan games as what they are: legitimate works of art in their own right that deserve our analysis and respect.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Sparkle of the Icons of the Lord

I haven't talked about this much on here, but one of my minor interests is Byzantine art. Hence, for example, the Hagia Sophia example in my article on iconic color schemes. So, periodically, because I am a colossal nerd, I look through various books of art and manuscripts and architecture and so on. When looking through a book recently, I came across manuscript transcript, accompanied by images of the original text (which I need to scan in--I'll do that at the end of the month, probably). It's remarkable because it claims to be an actual account from Byzantium, an account written by a commoner, no less. And the content is pretty bizarre--more in line with modern urban fantasy than a medieval manuscript. The book I pulled the transcript from, though, claims that the manuscript was a hoax created by Anglo-Saxon missionaries as part of their cultural break away from the Byzantines in the East. Still, there are some elements to the tale that might be eerily familiar to modern readers.

Here is the transcription:

I once was a poor girl from a poor family, and we made our home in Constantinopolis, and my father and mother worked hard for the Glory of the Lord and for our food. I worked with them and prayed to God that misfortune should not take the blessing of my three siblings or my parents away from us, that we might continue to serve our Lord on this earth. I went to the basilica and saw the golden images of the Theotokos1 and Christ, I saw them built again in defiance of the image breakers2, and I saw the glory of God erected in light upon the walls, as though in a crystal. I was filled with the grace of God.

And then the Emperor was called back to the side of the Lord and the streets were filled with riotous fury as the successors rallied their sides. And in the chaos I lost my family, my mother, my father, my sisters, my brother. I walked through the burning streets of the city of God. For a day and a night I walked through the city of God, until it was morning once more. And there, in the road, I beheld a man, enshrouded all in hood and cloak of black.

He spoke to me: "Fear Not", and drew back his hood. And in the light of dawn his skin shone like an icon, and I knew that he was a Messenger of God.3 He gestured for me to follow, and I followed him back to a hermit's dwelling far outside the city of god. There, he named me chosen of God and led me in prayer. Our flesh became one flesh, our bone one bone. At the height of our ecstacy he pierced my throat with his teeth. He told me that my blood was holy blood, that my blood smelled of myrrh. He drank my blood as sacrament, as the blood of Christ, and took my body as the body of Christ. I was lost and fearful and believed in his splendor. I believed him and committed this sacrilege, and my body underwent awful transfiguration, and I was damned.

In the morning of the next day, he arose, sated, having given me his blood after drinking of mine, and he laughed at my nakedness and cast me out into the world, and I saw that my flesh was like unto the Angel's flesh, and like unto the icons of the Lord. And I wept and I hid from the sun out of fear.

And now a long century has passed and I behold the Emperor in his gold robes, and I see that his face is pale and his teeth are long, and I tremble, for here, in the City of God, rebellious Angels prey on the weak.

And I am so very thirsty.

As always, feel free to leave comments, complaints, or, best of all, your own interpretations, or e-mail me at . And, if you like what you've read here, share it on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Xanga, Netscape, or whatever else you crazy kids are using to surf the blogoblag these days. Oh, and I'm looking for guest entries this month, so if you have something interesting to say about things that generally fit the theme, send them my way.

1The Mother of God, literally--the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus Christ. Byzantine icon art is noted for its scintillating reflective properties, a sparkling quality attained by the overlaying of glass onto gold.

2Iconoclasts, who believed the worship of icons to be akin to Idolatry.

3A rather literal term for "Angel". Note that biblically angels tend to announce their presence with the same phrase here: Fear Not.


  1. I do not recall where I heard it -- probably from you -- but angels typically announce their presence with "Fear not" because they are MIND-SHATTERINGLY UNFATHOMABLE.

    Kind of like Cthulhu. >_>

  2. I didn't know you were into erotic stories..

  3. All my stories are erotic stories.

    And yeah, Seraphim glow with a light that will literally shatter your mind and destroy you instantly... Cherubim are giant balls of wings, animal heads, and eyes... Thrones are huge non-euclidean wheels covered in eyes... Angels are scary things.

    So, we can assume that our unfortunate narrator mistook her seducer for something like a Seraphim, without the usual six wings.

    Incidentally, is it obvious enough what story I'm responding to here?

  4. This was very interesting. And this is an actual text, not something you fabricated? Even more interesting. And actually compellingly written.
    And maybe you should do an article about angels someday, enlighten those that are ignorant about the true shapes of these divine beings. (like me)

    I'm not sure if it's really obvious, but I think I have an idea, but I don't want to tell, in case I'm wrong.

  5. Main character is a girl of not much character, "Sparkle" is in the title, there is drinking of blood, and the main character just kind of lets things happen... Harry Potter, right?


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