What is it that evokes so many different responses to the sight of either horns or skulls? …and most of them are negative. Horns and skulls were things to be treasured, appreciated, and sometimes venerated before and until the time that religion decided it could make money from a frightened and controlled population.
Horns were not considered a sign of evil or demonic until the Romans were forcing Pagans to give up their gods such as Hathor, Moloch, Pan, Baal, etc. Around that same time Christian art began portraying Jews as evil and depicted them with horns. Until then they were a symbol of wisdom and a sign of being a ruler.
In 1505 Pope Julius II commissioned Michelangelo to sculpture Moses to adorn his tomb. Michelangelo created his work with Moses adorned with horns. They represented his “glorified” head as he descended Mt. Sinai with the 10 Commandments – – for the second time.
There are other depictions of Moses with horns, also. There is a fresco in St. Andrews Church in Westhall England, a sculpture in Vilnius, Lithuania, and The Well of Moses in a museum in Dijon.
Skulls were another representation of strength, wisdom, and power. They were neither demonic nor evil until about the same time that horns fell into discretization.
A few examples of this are the Celts use of skulls to depict the seat of the soul. Winged skulls such as those on old grave markers were considered a sign of life beyond death. Skulls have historically been used to repel evil and achieve wellness and success. The skull & crossbones symbol represented spiritual rebirth through transformation of a greater spiritual understanding of how the world works.
Some cultures practiced drinking from skulls. For them, it represented acquiring the traits of the deceased they respected. The skulls of their relatives were cleaned and gilded to drink from in a ritual of honor for the dead. This practice is similar to the Mexican Dia de los Muertos – Day of the Dead – when skulls are decorated for festivities to revere those that have gone on before. This celebration begins at midnight on 31 October and runs to 02 November. It coincides with All Saints Day, in Christian lore, and with our much celebrated Halloween.
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