Previously in this series
- Bob Dylan: Who Died On The Cross Anyway?
- Bob Dylan: Who Died On The Cross Anyway? (Part II)
- Bob Dylan: Who Died On The Cross Anyway? (Part III)
By Larry Fyffe
New Testament Mary Magdalene, mythological Zeus, and an Old Testament Daniel-like image appear in the following song lyrics, giving the cowboy-western narrative a quality of timelessness.
It is not at all clear if the central characters in the story will survive; neither God, therein associated with the serpent Satan, nor the Olympian God of Thunder, appears to be on their side; this time, the two drifters may not escape. Nevertheless, there’s hope that the piece of writing itself, along with its music, will outlast the critics.
Oh, oh, oh, Jokerman:
The way is long, but the end is near Already the Fiesta has begun The face of God will appear With His serpent eyes of obsidian .... Quick Magdalena, take my gun Look up in the hills, that flash of light Aim well my little one We may not make it through the night (Bob Dylan: Romance In Durango ~ Dylan/Levy)
The Daniel-like image above appears in another set of song lyrics. The ancient jackal-headed Egyptian goddess Anput is assigned to protect the body of Osiris. Symbolizing chaos, Seth, his brother, be a jealous god, associated with snakes, akin to the Christian Satin. Seth, at one time depicted as a nice guy, cuts his brother to pieces. Osiris is a symbol of order, married to their sister Isis.
In the lyrics below, imitating the Post Modernist style, the singer/songwriter messes up the Egyptian mythology even more:
His eyes were two slits that would make a snake proud With a face that any painter would paint as he walked through the crowd Worshipping a god with the body of a woman well endowed And a head of a hyena (Bob Dylan: Angelina)
So it goes – them times, they are a-changing – in the following song lyrics, it could be argued that the nursery rhyme “big bad wolf” is protecting the cat who’s stuck down the well (Dylanologist David Weir tends to put a Christian spin on Dylan lyrics that he looks at; Kees de Graaf always does):
The cat's in the well, the wolf is looking down He got his big bushy tail dragging all over the ground ( Bob Dylan: Cat's In The Well)
In the Holy Bible, though not Gnostic per se, the book of Ezekiel and the book of Revelations are certainly gnostic-like in style and content.
The Old Testament verse below is said to be about the inter-relationship of Jehovah’s creations – humans, wild animals, domesticated ones, and fowls:
As for the likeness of their four faces They had the face of a man And the face of a lion on the right side And they four had the face of an ox on the left side They four had the face of an eagle (Ezekiel 1:10)
The New Testament verse below is said to be about a lion king who saves mankind by fathering a lamb who then ascends to Heaven:
And the first beast was like a lion And the second beast was like a calf And the third beast had a face as a man And the fourth beast was like a flying eagle (Revelation 4: 7)
Inspired by an Irving Burgie song, the following lyrics links a love relationship gone sour to the two biblical verses above; the song’s Creator, a mixer of myths, determined not to be sacrificed:
Beat a path of retreat up them spiral staircases Pass the tree of smoke, pass the angel with four faces Begging God for mercy, and weeping in unholy places Angelina (Bob Dylan: Angelina)
Angelina’s the modern Whore of Babylon; that is, America sitting sidesaddle on the Golden Calf.
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