Friday, March 16, 2007

Vesica Piscis

The Mandorla, a symbol that is all but unknown today. It was used during the times of medieval Christianity. It is an ancient symbol of two circles coming together, overlapping one another to form an almond shape in the middle. Jensen (1996) describes the Mandorla as similar to the image of two Mandalas(Sanskrit word for circle) merging together until an almond shape is formed in the center. Also known as the "Vesica Piscis", symbolizing the interactions and interdependence of opposing worlds and forces. The circles may be taken to represent spirit and matter or heaven and earth(Baldock, 1990). Mandorla is the Italian word for almond. According to Biedermann (1994), the almond is an ancient symbol for the closing up of valuable contents in a hard, almost impenetrable shell.

During the medieval times, the almond was interpreted as a symbol of the embryo enclosed in the uterus. The form of the almond which suggests a stylized vulva may have contributed to such an interpretation(Biederman, 1994). It is also a variant of a halo which surrounds the whole body of the holy person(Bruce-Mitford, 1996).According to Fontana(1994), the Mandorla symbolizes power as well as spirituality, and is often appeared around the body of Christ to represent the Assention (Fontana, 1994).

In Pagan times, this glyph was associated with the Goddess Venus, and represented female genitalia. Early depictions of Christ depict him as an infant within the vesica (usually called a mandorla, meaning 'almond shaped.'), which represented the womb of Mary (and often, the coming together of heaven and earth in the body of jesus- part man, part god). As such, it is also a doorway or portal between worlds, and symbolizes the intersection between the heaven and the material plane. The shape of arches in gothic architecture is based on the vesica.

The shape of the vesica pisces is derived from the intersection of two circles, the Pythagorean "measure of the fish" that was a mystical symbol of the intersection of the world of the divine with the world of matter and the beginning of creation. To the Pythagoreans, the whole of creation was based on number, and by studying the properties of number, they believed one could achieve spiritual liberation. The vesica pisces was the symbol of the first manifestation, the dyad (reflection) that gives birth to the entire manifest universe. Within the vesica can be found the triangle, the tetrad, the square, the pentacle, and many more polygons, making the vesica a true symbolic womb.

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