Posting vignettes based on great postcards found in my mail box and elsewhere.

Monday, December 15, 2008

An Angel of the Lord

This is a "Whitney Made, Worcester, Mass" antique card from the golden age of postcards. I thought it was a fitting card for the Christmas season. It recalls the biblical story of the angel announcing the arrival of the Christ child. Though in the biblical account the glory of the Lord shines around the angel, in this image the angel glows in pastel colors, accompanied by a couple of children or maybe cherubs.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said to them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

In other words the angel scared the hell out of them. This is a reasonable reaction to meeting otherworldly beings. “Fear not,” is usually the first words out of any self respecting angel’s mouth, especially those of a biblical variety. These angels were not cute, instead they terrify, thus the need to reassure their human audience with some reassuring words. In some ways I think the bible was the first instance of alien encounter narratives -- otherworldly beings communicating directly with humans on earth. Like anyone who wishes to communicate effectively, you must quell your subject’s fear before you can gain trust to impart a message.

In the twentieth century art and popular culture angels and heavenly beings generally get a cutesy make over. In recent years a few American films have helped to reestablish the fearsomeness of the angelic presence. Movies like Constantine and The Prophecy have restored fearsomeness to the angelic host.

While this image shows a rather cute angel, there is a wolf in the picture too. The shepherds’ focus is transfixed on the angel. Meanwhile, the wolf runs between them and the flock. Perhaps the unknown artist has made an allegory of the twentieth century church. While the shepherds are mesmerized by a sentimental vision, the wolf (a popular symbol of Satan or Satan’s son) picks out his prey on earth. Another possibility is that the wolf is frightened also and hightails it out of the picture.

(I am at a loss as to the words at the bottom of this card. I thought it was German but can not seem to get a translation on the Internet. Maybe someone could help. I apologize for the print quality of images on this blog. I hope to purchase a scanner soon.)


  1. I *think* it may be Danish: Glædelig Jul is Merry Christmas and Godt Nytår is Good New Year.

  2. Thanks Sheila. I tried German using an online translator but was unsuccessful. Kris