About the ‘Legend of Saint Christopher’
Christophoros in Frankenberg’s’ Via Veterum’.
Today’s sharing from the Blue House of Via-HYGEIA is our evocation of the legend of Saint Christopher and of its Orphic roots, a re-vision of a 2017 article from our former blog. Like many popular saints and holy figures of the Christian culture, Saint Christopher legend shows us how a very ancient sacred presence, fulfilling a societal role, survived deliberate obliteration and whose story-line ingeniously adapted to the imperative guidelines of a new dominant culture, here Christianity.
The legend of St. Christopher is a very good example of ancient mythology going ‘ridding the tiger’ of the dominant culture that made it go ‘underground’ to protect its integrity. The ‘saints’ of Christianity are a vibrant testimony of this process of how an hegemonic and dominant culture ‘digest’ pre-existing cultures. It is the same with so many symbols that we now know mainly through their ‘post-digestion’ phase, like the pelican, for instance, which is mainly known for its christo-centric symbology.
To the Christian communities, St. Christopher is the patron of travelers and is being prayed for safe passage and journey. The hierarchy of the Roman Catholics is not unanimous about St. Christopher, whose ‘public’ presence per-se appeared consistently in the late Middle Age. It’s name, Christopher, is the English version of a Europe-wide name derived from the Greek name Χριστόφορος (Christóforos). The constituent parts are Χριστός (Christós), “Christ” or “Anointed”, and φέρειν (férein), “bear”: the “Christ-bearer”. It is a clear cross-interference of cultures. It’s Greek origins reminds us of the ancient times, especially of the Orphic mysteries. In the legend, Christopher is a later name given to the ‘giant’ Offerus. Offerus, is a clear hint at Orpheus, the ‘Greek Christ-like’ figure.
In the legend, Offerus searches for a master to serve, but a master he can respect, being fearless. He tries a few kings but was disappointed, eventually serves ‘the devil’ and to his surprise, discovers it is also fearful of a greater figure: Jesus Christ. He then wanders searching for such a person, meets an hermit that tells him that this ‘Jesus’ is everywhere in this world and by serving the people Offerus will be serving this ‘Jesus’. The Hermit even gives Offerus a new name: Christopher, the Christ-bearer, as his new appointed task is to help people cross a river. One day a child wants to cross to the other side and ‘Christopher’ takes him on his back, as he does for everyone he helps cross the river. At middle point, Christopher feels like the weight of his ‘passenger’ is becoming dramatically heavier and he says to him: “It is like I am now carrying the entire world’ and the child ‘Jesus’ answers: ‘Yes, the world I made’. Thus, Christopher recognizes the ‘Jesus’ he is serving and is being confirmed through his deeds.
This is the legend in a nutshell and its content suffices to excite any mythologist, as it is packed with layers of meaning. As we wrote in a post describing our work at Via-HYGEIA, ‘the philosophical path is about ‘creating meaning together’. Let’s start:
Offerus, hints at Orpheus, and also to Apollo. As they are symbols of the path of the sun on a yearly basis. This is also, why we have also some ‘Christopher’s with a dog head, pointing at specific events in the astrological and planetary calendar.
‘Jesus’, ‘Jesus-Christ’, is the principle of cosmic love being incarnated, hence Jesus representing the human aspect and Christ representing the cosmic aspect. Jesus-Christ is the activation of this incarnation of a cosmic principle and he is showing us how it is done. The new man is the one that has realized this incarnation of the cosmic principle and Jesus Christ is showing us the way by his own example, basic teaching method. He can do so may we. And this is the ‘good news’ heralded by Christianity and inside which the mythologist can read ageless ‘truths’, as the alchemist would read this legend, about ‘their gold’ and ‘their stone’, as in Fulcanelli’s ‘The Mystery of the Cathedrals’: The Adept, in his book, fully describes a lost artwork located in Rocamadour, France, highlighting the alchemical point of view of the legend of St. Christopher. He further links the remaining ‘Durandal’ sword shown in the below picture as, back then, being an integral part of the vanished statue.
The crossing of the river does not need any commentaries, as it is self-explanatory… The journey makes us go through experiences that grow us from our divided and divisive selves into a conscious unity that may be called essence, our nurtured root being. ‘Moses’s crossing of the red sea’ is another famous example and it implies ‘changes’ happening throughout our journey to consciousness. At the underworld level, Charon and his boat helping the newly deceased souls to cross the river Styx and Acheron to reach the underworld. ‘As above so below’ again here: Moses and his pilgrims on their way towards consciousness, St. Christopher serving struggling Humanity and Charon serving the deceased souls.
In the middle of the waters, feeling his passenger heavier and heavier, hints also to Atlas supporting the world. There is a stage of the opening of the heart, where we FEEL (at our little levels) as God Feels and it is unbearable! We cannot stand this FEELING, bearing the sufferings and hope of the entire sentient beings on Earth, put us back to our finitude and humbles us to strive and play our part, as only joining with others can we ‘relieve the sorrow of our common father’.
The ‘giant’ is a reminder of a sociality that is long gone, where individuals (people who have found their balance that cannot be divided) were serving the community through the expression of their virtue. There were Giants, Patriarchs, Elders, etc. The history of modern society (as opposed to the nomadic communities) is about dividing people so that a minority can manipulate the majority and the whole layout of society is made to ensure this setting stays forever, unless the majority wakes up and become conscious of it true unitive powers. In the hermetic tradition, a giant is a realized master who has chosen to re-incarnate into our world to serve humanity ‘crossing’ the river towards sustainability and consciousness through the expression of one (sometimes more) virtue.
The ‘Friends of God’ in the Christian and Islamic traditions, the Immortals of Taoism, the Luohans of Ch’an Buddhism-all these archetypal figures-are the giants walking among us to help us cross the river towards ‘adulthood’, throughout the risky and conflict-ridden childhood and teenage periods. Blessings, Nalan and Nicolas for Via-HYGEIA.