Send an angel

January 27, 2019

Did you ever notice how in the Bible, when ever God needed to punish someone, or make an example, or whenever God needed a killing, he sent an angel? Did you ever wonder what a creature like that must be like? A whole existence spent praising your God, but always with one wing dipped in blood. Would you ever really want to see an angel?

Thomas Daggett
The Prophecy


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 filthiness of her fornication:

And upon her forehead was a name written, Mystery, Babylon The Great, The Mother Of Harlots And Abominations Of The Earth.

And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration.

Revelation 17:4-6

Dance of the Seven Veils by Gaston Bussière, 1925

It’s now almost impossible to explain the sensual, erotic effect of those words on a young mind: dance of the seven veils!

How old was I when first heard them? Seven, eight? I knew in some remote way the dance was performed by Salomé for king Herod. And that during this sinuous, sensuous dance, Salomé undraped her curvaceous body for Herod’s greedy eyes.

I knew, too, that Salomé’s dance had little to do with the waltz, foxtrot, or cha-cha witnessed occasionally at parental parties, where heavily cosmetisised women danced with slim grey men: their husbands or lovers.

No, Salomé’s dance would have been far more exotic: seductively removing those ethereal silken veils for Herod; much more “One thousand and one Arabian nights” than cocktails in suburbia. Indeed, in my mind’s eye, I saw Salomé as a dusky beauty performing a belly dance, those incredible rolling movements of her taut abdomen arousing me in much the same way as they must have aroused Herod.

I saw her in my imagination wearing transparent harem pants, bare footed, those veils flowing gracefully over full swaying breasts…I had seen (often) my mother and her friends (more than a little intoxicated, usually) in their underwear: seen their stockings and garters, their lacy panties, slightly see-through. Salomé would have been so much more erotic…

Then, growing up, I discovered the dance of the seven veils supposedly originated with the myth of Ishtar’s descent to the underworld. Translations of the Akkadian version of the myth tell us that Ishtar had to surrender her crown, her earrings and bracelets; the Sumerian version of the tale concerns Inanna, queen of heaven and earth, who on visiting the underworld is called upon to give up all items symbolising the power of queenship: her crown, breastplate, royal robes, measuring rod, beads and jewellery.

So, Salomé’s dance was a simple biblical retelling of the myth of Ishtar? She danced for her stepfather and his friends for a rather gruesome reward. Also, reference to the bible story reveals no mention of the number seven!

It is to Oscar Wilde and his play Salomé that we must turn to find a mention of “seven veils”, and that in the English translation of the French stage directions. Hence the description of the dance from Wilde’s play:

HERODIAS. Let us go within. The voice of that man (John the Baptist) maddens me. I will not have my daughter dance while he is constantly crying out. I will not have her dance while you look at her in this fashion. In a word, I will not have her dance.

HEROD. Do not rise, my wife, my queen, it will avail thee nothing. I will not go within till she hath danced. Dance, Salomé, dance for me.

HERODIAS. Do not dance, my daughter.

SALOME. I am ready Tetrarch. (Salomé dances the dance of the seven veils.)

Of course, Wilde was being risqué in portraying Salomé as a bizarre, evil character, sexually obsessed with John the Baptist. This female demands the head of the man she desires – and when it is finally presented to her, she gently kisses the corpse lips.

Undoubtedly, Wilde was influenced by Arthur O’Shaughnessy’s 1870 poem “The Daughter of Herodias”. Here O’Shaughnessy describes Salomé dancing:

She freed and floated on the air her arms
Above dim veils that hid her bosom’s charms…
The veils fell round her like thin coiling mists
Shot through by topaz suns and amethysts.

The poem continues to briefly describe her ‘jewelled body’ as the flowing veils part and fall.

Interestingly, if one digs deep enough into the original bible story two key Greek words dispel any suggestion of salaciousness from Salomé’s dance: firstly the word “korasion” used to describe Salomé, means a very young girl, one not yet old enough to marry, and who has not yet menstruated; secondly the word “orxeomai” to dance, also means a young child at play…

Oh, how swiftly the erotic becomes bland, frigid, dull. All those impassioned, masturbatory visions experienced in boyhood, lascivious and horny, are as dust! The Salomé of my imagination is nothing more than the prurient fantasy of old men who should have known better. How disappointing is that…?