Monday, 20 June 2011

Barbelo: development and symbolism

Photo, concept, manipulation, frame design: GothicNarcissus
Model, make up, hair: Federica
Styling: Federica and GothicNarcissus
Assistant: DamaInNero
Additional resources: Myruso (wallpaper), (throne, wings)

This work is the first one in which I took so much freedom from the traditional Christian and Jewish mythology and mostly relied on other sources to create a character. Indeed, Barbelo is not listed anywhere among the classic Demons. The Barbelo is actually the supreme Gnostic principle of femininity, who helped God create the universe, and from whom Yahweh (seen as the Demiurge, a lesser figure, in the Gnostic conception) stole the light, forcing her to steal that of other Aeons in return. The only mention of her I found in anything related to the Christian and Judaic traditions is in the apocriphal gospel of Judas, while the one and only instance of her being a Demon comes from Kaori Yuki’s Angel Sanctuary, where she’s the Demon of Wrath and Lucifer’s first bride.
Barbelo from Kaori Yuki’s Angel Sanctuary
Barbelo from Kaori Yuki’s Angel Sanctuary.
At the beginning of the project, I established that I would avoid both using figures foreign to the Jewish and Christian imagery and copying too much from Angel Sanctuary. Nevertheless, differently from all the other works, this time I built the figure already knowing who was going to portray it: my friend Federica. I know her well from high school and her temper would simply match that of the Demon of Wrath. Hence, an exception had to be made in this case.
At very first, when I had to decide about the Demon of Wrath, I found out that, according to Peter Binsfeld, it was either Satan or Amon; I identify the former as Lucifer, who is above all the Demons and could not be one of the Deadly Sins (not to mention that in my cosmology the word “Satan” generically identifies the First-Level Demons and is an honorary title rather than a proper name), while the latter just sounds too much like the related Egyptian god, so neither were suitable. Secondly, Hell needed a Queen to match the Whore of Babylon figure from the Book of Revelation; she had to be a high-placed Demon and since Lilith was not part of the First Level not bearing one of the Deadly Sins, she was unavailable for the role. Thirdly, I would prefer a female Demon of Wrath aniway, as I see it much more as a feminine sin: male wrath is just brute, female one is much subtler and more consuming. However I put it, Federica did fit and Barbelo was just around the corner. I asked her if she wanted to pose, and she agreed. The photoshoot was postponed from August to November, and further to December, but at least this gave me the time to get a decent whip.
The Whore of Babylon, a strong argument supporting Barbelo
The Whore of Babylon, a strong argument supporting Barbelo.
When developing my own Barbelo, I tried to avoid as much as I could Kaori Yuki’s character and to rework the Gnostic principle instead. After all, back then the Italian edition of the manga hadn’t progressed up to Barbelo’s appearance and, as I avoided spoilers as much as I could, I only knew of her existence without any clue of what she did. The fact that both carry a whip is purely a coincidence, and besides their other powers are completely different.
So I took the general idea of aprimordial feminine figure who at some point clashed with Yahweh and further developed her as a former Angel, planting the unavoidable Angel Sanctuary references (Lucifer’s bride, Demon of Wrath) on this ground. Once the character was done, the symbolism came up by itself: the whip is a perfect symbol of both wrath and power; the leather dress emphasises her badass personality; the throne and the rich wallpaper represent her Queen status; the red gems represent her elemental connection with Fire; the dark and gloomy atmosphere, as well as the coal-black wings, symbolise her being one of the most evil Demons of Hell. Most obviously, Barbelo doesn’t have a seal of her own; I found the one I used looking for the Seal of Azazel but I don’t know where it originally belonged. The theme-colour is a shade of lavender to recall femininity and make the red parts stand out. The theme-song, Empress by Nemesea, needs no explanation, I guess: it was just the perfect fit for the work.

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