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  1. Francisco Goya - “Saturn Devouring His Son”, Black Paintings, 1819-23

    Having looked at Conquest, War, and Famine, in the finale of the Apocalypse series, we look at Death.

    ***

    Fearful of being usurped by his children, Saturn ate his progeny’s immortal flesh. In usual Greco-Roman style, this succession myth was adopted from Greeks, namely the Titan Cronus. He castrated his own father Caelus (Gr. Ouranos) with a flint sickle which separated the sky from the earth, his chthonic mother, claiming this new world as his own. While associated with agriculture, the harvest, and the Golden Age, his conflation as a personification of time (Chronos) and ultimate fall also makes him a deity of mortality, unyielding judgement and hardship, melancholy, avarice, and the passing of time itself.

    Saturn’s suppression of the pattern he set into motion ultimately resulted in his fears becoming reality. His youngest child would escape being eaten, protected by his sister/wife and raised by their mother, only to come of age and defeat him. The price of his own selfish preservation of the status quo and repetition of the faults of his predecessor was eternal imprisonment in Tartarus, associating him with similar gods of the underworld. Many of these attributes would enter popular lore in the European folk characters of Death, Father Time, and the personification of the Old Year.

    The festival of Saturnalia in mid-December is meant to represent the return of the Golden Age for a brief time. During this time Saturn is unbound, and his bountiful age is commemorated with social distinctions being removed or reversed, gift exchange, and feasting marking the winter solstice as well as the end of the year.

    Francisco Goya - “Saturn Devouring His Son”, Black Paintings, 1819-23

    Having looked at Conquest, War, and Famine, in the finale of the Apocalypse series, we look at Death.

    ***

    Fearful of being usurped by his children, Saturn ate his progeny’s immortal flesh. In usual Greco-Roman style, this succession myth was adopted from Greeks, namely the Titan Cronus. He castrated his own father Caelus (Gr. Ouranos) with a flint sickle which separated the sky from the earth, his chthonic mother, claiming this new world as his own. While associated with agriculture, the harvest, and the Golden Age, his conflation as a personification of time (Chronos) and ultimate fall also makes him a deity of mortality, unyielding judgement and hardship, melancholy, avarice, and the passing of time itself.

    Saturn’s suppression of the pattern he set into motion ultimately resulted in his fears becoming reality. His youngest child would escape being eaten, protected by his sister/wife and raised by their mother, only to come of age and defeat him. The price of his own selfish preservation of the status quo and repetition of the faults of his predecessor was eternal imprisonment in Tartarus, associating him with similar gods of the underworld. Many of these attributes would enter popular lore in the European folk characters of Death, Father Time, and the personification of the Old Year.

    The festival of Saturnalia in mid-December is meant to represent the return of the Golden Age for a brief time. During this time Saturn is unbound, and his bountiful age is commemorated with social distinctions being removed or reversed, gift exchange, and feasting marking the winter solstice as well as the end of the year.

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