this page was composed and posted without reference to and in virtual ignorance of the structuralism of Claude Lévi-Strauss
the surface of his work is scratched on here: Myth, Language, Structure, Etc


The Structure of The Seafarer
Form & Content
shiploads of souls

second page

exeter cathedral

A few quotes

An observation made in about 98 AD: "Some of the Suebi sacrifice to Isis also. I cannot determine the meaning of this foreign cult, but her emblem, made in the form of a light war-vessel, proves that her worship came in from abroad." Tacitus, Germania 9, H.Mattingly's translation, Penguin 1948, p 108.

"The mythology of the Lightship was a central part of Manichaean belief. Souls were lightsome and after death migrated to the moon (which was the Lightship), thence to be transported to the sun after full moon (when the ship was thought to be fully loaded). This was an original feature of Mani's belief ... " Mani was born in 215 AD, and died in chains in 276. His heresy was essentially dualistic. "In the (Manichaean Homilies, recovered from the Coptic in 1934) there is a prayer which starts with a curse on the body: 'May I go forth from this world ... may I cross over in the Lightship and come to rest'." Quotes from Father Joseph Crehan, SJ, in Life after Death, a collection of essays published 1976 by Weidenfeld & Nicholson, p.115.

"An ingenious piece of machinery was contrived. A gigantic cosmic wheel .... resembling a water-wheel, drew up the particles of light to the moon and to the sun. During the first half of the month the rescued particles of light rose in a pillar of light, known as the column of glory, towards the moon, which, filled and swollen with particles of light, became full. During the second half of the month the particles of light were conducted from the moon to the sun and thence to the paradise of light." From Mani and Manichaeism, Geo Widengren, Weidenfeld and Nicholson 1965, p.55.

william blake: jerusalem 1804

   Blake a Manichaean?

Both the poem and these picture-stones seem tinged with Manichaean concepts. St Augustine converted from Manichaeism to Christianity, at the age of 33, in 387 AD; and Manichaean ideas did, and still do, permeate Christian thinking. Consider this abjuration of the Manichee on turning Christian: "Anathema to those who say that human souls are consubstantial with God; that they are swallowed up by matter and that God now sits and draws them up through moon and sun, which they call ships". Quoted by Father Joseph Crehan, SJ, as above, p.116.

Bro stone coloured and reconstituted with waves from Vallstena


men ne cunnon secgan to soðe selerædende
hæleð under heofenum hwa þæm hlæste onfeng

Beowulf, ll 50-52

Grave stone at Leon, Spain (right). Picture, after Lindqvist 1941, from Stones, Ships and Symbols, Nylén & Lamm, 1988. Erik Nylén notes that the origin of the Gotland stones has not been fully explained. "Roman grave stones must have been extremely influential, the best parallels being those from Spain.... The possible association of the Gotlanders with the Visigoths may be relevant in ... connections with Spain."
Is the lower central motif
a ship, or a crescent moon
or neither ? Or an ark ?
According to Widengren, op cit p.117: "From Egypt Manichaeism spread to northern Africa and Spain, from Syria via Asia Minor to Greece, Illyria, Italy and Gaul. .... Gaul and Spain were probably penetrated from north and south." The sect was viciously opposed by both the Christian church and the Imperial Roman executive. In 297 Diocletian issued an edict to burn the leading Manichees, their tracts and their authors.

another view of bro church from:
the previous view is from:

go to gotland

back to first page       go to third page
back to "this version: structure"
back to main index

© Charles Harrison-Wallace 2001, 2014, 2018