Poetry Break: Samael, The Imaginary One
All this recent talk about "the deep things of Satan," the olam ha-tohu, and Jewish Kabbalah brought to mind a 'gnostic' poem that I wrote about 20 years ago when I was preparing myself for doctoral work on parallels and differences between Johannine and Gnostic thought.
I had been reading the Apocryphon of John, a Gnostic text found in the Nag Hammadi Library, and had discovered that one of the three names of the evil demiurge was "Samael," which the text defines as "the blind god."
However, according to Wikipedia's discussion of the this character as he occurs in the Jewish tradition, the name means "venom of God." I suppose that Wikipedia must have this point correct since the online Jewish Encyclopedia confirms it:
His name is etymologized as . . . [sam-el] = "the venom of God," since he is identical with the angel of death (Targ. Yer. to Gen. iii. 6 . . .). (i.e., Jerusalem Targum to Genesis 3.6)I didn't know much about Jewish tradition at the time (1986), and thus had no knowledge of Samael's appearance in the Jewish Kabbalah, but the figure of Samael described there generally coheres with the description of this figure in Gnosticism.
Thus, it also fits with my poem:
Samael, The Imaginary OneWhen Samael reigned,
great cracks broke deep into the crusted earth;
cool springs ran inconceivably dry;
dulled ground drummed hollow under hooves.
When Samael spoke, his acrid tongue curled
and slipped among his teeth and cloven lips;
his coiled words traced spirals through the air
and of himself impersonally declaimed:
"This is smoke that was his eyes;When Samael was gone,
of his lips are greyed coals made:
the world around him suffers change
into something cruel, and strange."
I remember waiting only for the rain.
(Horace Jeffery Hodges, 1986)
Lest anyone misunderstand, I am neither a Gnostic, a gnostic, nor a Kabbalist. Just a wordsmith.