Aphrodite’s Child’s 666: Revelation Allusion

The theme of the Apocalypse is abundant in the fields of literature, film, and music. The end times pervade our modern culture as deeply as Christianity does; the human race seems to have a fascination with the end of itself, whether it be violent or passive. As I sought a topic for my Revelation allusion, I turned to the popular culture I had been immersed in. What I found was nestled away in my music collection; for this week’s blog, I chose to write about an album produced by the psychedelic/progressive art rock band Aphrodite’s Child entitled 666.

666’s cover

This controversial, nearly blasphemous album was released in 1972, only to be highly censored and banned from radio play (Vangelis Lyrics). This entire album is a musical adaptation of the Book of Revelation, with song titles such as Seven Bowls, Babylon, The Beast, The Battle of the Locusts, and Seven Trumpets. I figured I would break down two songs from the twenty-four track album.

Track four on the first cd is entitled “The Four Horsemen,” most obviously a reference to the four horsemen in Revelation 6. The lyrics mention the lamb (Jesus) opening the first four seals and the corresponding horseman to each seal.

The lyrics from the first verse, “I saw the first horse / The horseman held a bow,” references Rev 6:2 or, “And I looked, and behold, a white horse! And its rider had a bow…”

The next verse mentions, “I saw the second horse / the horseman held his sword,” which is an obvious reference to Rev 6:4, “And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider…was given a great sword.”

The third verse’s lyrics include “I saw the third horse / The horseman had a balance,” referencing Rev 6:5, “…and behold, a black horse! And its rider had a pair of scales in his hand…”

The final and fourth verse references Rev 6:8, “…and behold, a pale horse! And its rider’s name was Death….given authority…with pestilence…” which the song interprets as “I saw the fourth horse / The horseman was the pest.”

The final lyrical interpretation of Revelation worth mentioning is a direct statement of each horseman in the chorus: “The leading horse is white / the second horse is red / the third one is a black / the last one is a green.” Obviously, in Revelation, each horse’s colour is listed, being white, red and black; traditionally, the final horseman, Death, is known for his pale horse, which can be translated from pale to a ghastly, sickly green.

 

Track six on the first cd, entitled “The Seventh Seal”, references the latter portion of Revelation 6, or verses 9-17. It features the lamb again (Jesus) as opening seals five, six and seven, and the consequences that correspond with each seal.

The first verse focuses on the fifth seal. The lamb opens them, and “We saw the souls / we saw the martyrs / we heard them crying / we heard them shouting / they were dressed in white / they’d been told to wait.” This first part of lyrics mentions white robed martyrs that had been told to wait even though they cried. Revelation 6:9-11 covers this imagery perfectly as it describes “the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God…each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer…” as they had “cried out with a loud voice.”

The second verse describes the various physical aspects that will come with the sixth seal. It describes a black sun, a red moon, falling stars, a trembling earth, and a population seeking refuge from hunger and thirst. Revelation 6:12-17 is the basis for this imagery: “There was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth…everyone, slave and free, hid themselves…calling to the mountains and rocks…‘hide us from the…wrath of the Lamb…’”

 

The final reference to point out about Revelation that Aphrodite’s Child used for this album is the title, 666. Known as the mark of the beast, the number 666 is listed in Revelation 13:18, “This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.” This exact quote can be found on the interior design of the vinyl album’s sleeve. In addition, at the very bottom of the quote, in parentheses, the actual book of Revelation is cited by its alternate name: The Apocalypse of John.

Interior Sleeve

The more one listens to this album, the more one realizes how fascinating the book of Revelation truly is. Its imagery is so easily translatable to any medium, and it leaves a lasting impression upon its observer. Aphrodite’s Child did a fantastic job of capturing the spirit of Revelation, and one would not be able to understand the entirety of the album without having read Revelation first.

Roman Greed: Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Bithynia

After reading through 1 Peter to 3 John, I noticed several places listed, particularly in the opening lines of chapter 1 of 1 Peter:

“To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia…”

I knew these places to be Roman provinces. We have read about the Romans and inferred their cultural influence on the early Christians and on the Jewish people throughout the New Testament; there is even an epistle dedicated to the Romans! But what we have never really discussed exactly is the historical significance of the Roman Empire as it expanded its territories throughout the known world and its affect upon these areas in the terms of Christianity. I sought an answer to a few questions. What is a province? Why would Rome choose these areas? Why are they important to the early Christian church underneath Roman rule?

Firstly, I wanted to define a province. The first definition given by Merriam-Webster literally includes the Roman Empire in its definition of province: “a country or region brought under the control of the ancient Roman government”. The next definition clarified a province as “an administrative district”, which implied that breaking parts of the Empire into provinces meant administrative ease of government for the Romans. Each province was ruled by a governor who was responsible for maintaining financial stability by collecting taxes, maintaining infrastructure by supervising building projects and overseeing major cities’ accounts, maintaining justice by acting as supreme judge, and maintaining order by commanding the Roman legions stationed in the territory (UNRV History). These provinces served as a funnel of money, trade, people, and ideas into and out of Rome.

Asia, Bithynia, Pontus, Cappadocia, and Galatia

Secondly, I wanted to know why Rome would choose these areas as provinces. Obviously, expansion of territory by a country has historically been for a specific reason, usually beneficial to the invading country; normally expansion is for trade, to eliminate border skirmishes, and to further prosper a country. In other words, greed of government expands territory. Rome was no stranger to this greed. Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, and Bithynia are in the same area, Asia, which is now modern Turkey. Pontus was the northern coast along the Black Sea (UNRV History) with Bithynia to its west, often joined as a single province (Britannica). Galatia and Cappadocia were further inland, to the south (UNRV History). These areas were perfect for trade and commerce needed by the Romans; the lands were known to have fertile land (Bible Hub), deal in slaves (Ancient History), or be on the sea as in the case of Pontus.

Beneath Roman rule, the early Christian church managed to form, flourish, and establish itself as the next global religion. Pontus had a well-established church system by the year 100 CE (New Advent), and because of its location, was a perfect springboard for launching Christianity into the Middle East including Armenia, modern Syria, Iraq and Iran. The sometimes-attached-sometimes-separate Bithynia also has its place in the early Christian Hall of Fame; one of its major cities, Nicaea, was the birthplace of the Christian profession of faith, the Nicene Creed, in 325 CE (Nicene Creed). Galatia was one of the first areas to have a Gentile Christian community form, as the religion set up shop a mere couple of decades after the death of Christ (Daily Bible Study); the epistle written to the people of this church became known as the “Magna Carta of Christian liberty” as it solidified the Protestant argument during the Reformation (Hermeneutics). Cappadocia became a stronghold and safe haven for persecuted Christians during the Byzantine era; the people of various Cappadocian cities began tunneling underground caves together to form cities with every amenity necessary to live while in hiding (Cappadocia, Turkey). Each of these Roman provinces proved influential and important to the development, sustainment, and success of the Christian Church.

In conclusion, a province is a territory ruled by a larger, more powerful country, in this case Rome. Rome chose to expand into these areas for the lucrative trade possibilities, while Christianity spread further and established a basis for the growth of the religion.

Healing Mud: Jesus and Misty Day

As I was reading along in John, verse 6 from chapter 9 sparked my neurons to produce a vivid reminder of a particular character from a television show I had seen a few weeks earlier:

“Having said these things, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “ Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.”

Obviously, a miracle performed by Jesus is described. Jesus heals a man from blindness by using mud. The character I thought of was Misty Day from the third season of American Horror Story, a swamp witch with significant parallels to Jesus Christ. For a little bit of background, American Horror Story is a television show produced by FX that focuses on individual horror tableaus for each season. Each season is self-contained, meaning that each has its own set of characters, setting and plotline. The third and most recent season was entitled Coven; it featured a prominent coven of witches that battled against a group of voodoo practicioners in New Orleans, Louisiana, taking place in the late 1800s as well as current time. The coven is run by a witch known as the “Supreme”, a witch born every generation that is the most powerful of all, and able to achieve the Seven Wonders of Witchcraft. These Seven Wonders include telekinesis (manipulating objects with one’s mind), transmutation (transporting physically from one area to another), divination, concilium (mind  control), pyrokinesis (controlled arson with one’s mind), vitalum vitalis/resurgence (reanimation of the dead), and descensum (spiritually descending and returning from hell). The current Supreme is dying, so the next must be found. The entire season follows the coven as they search for the next Supreme; murder, manipulation, and finally a test of the Seven Wonders makes the Supreme apparent.

One of the forerunners of the group is Misty Day who is introduced to the viewers as a beautiful, humble girl and member of a rural Pentecostal church. In the first episode, she brings a small bird back to life in the middle of a baptismal ceremony. Her fellow church members declare her a necromancer, drag her to a swamp, and burn her at the stake for her biblical crime. This is the first instance of her parallelism to Jesus; murdered for playing outside of the established religious community’s guidelines.

The second parallel is that she can resurrect the dead. This small bird isn’t the last of her resurgence gift being displayed. Misty resurrects two people from the dead over the course of the season; one is Kyle, a fraternity boy who falls in love with one of the witches, and the other is Myrtle, another powerful, older witch who had also been burnt at the stake.

The most significant parallel between Misty and Jesus, in terms of resurrection, would be the resurrection of herself after death. After being murdered by religious extremists for her abilities, she sinks into the swamp mud, and is shown being healed by the mud that encases her. The show later explains that Misty’s power of resurgence is what brought her back to life.

The other feature of Misty Day’s character that is similar to Jesus is her ability to heal, particularly with mud as evidenced by the above-mentioned verse from John. Misty uses the mud late in the season to coax a nearly dead plant back to life, practicing her gift of resurgence. But plants aren’t the only things healed by the mystical mud. Kyle’s resurrection was a mess; his body had been in parts from a bus accident caused by telekinesis, and sewn back together by two young witches who attempted a guilty resurrection spell. Misty Day arrives at the morgue where the necromantic trio are, and is deemed responsible for having the power to bring Kyle back to life. She then takes him back to her cabin in the bayou to nurse him back to health, as he is in a zombie-like, scarred state. Various episodes show her coating Kyle with mud, and when asked if the mud will really work, she is quoted in the second episode: “I know it will. This stuff is the shit. Literally. Louisiana swamp is full of Spanish moss and alligator dung. Amazing healing properties.” She also uses this mud concotion when healing Myrtle, whom she resurrected as well.

Misty Day has obvious similarities to Jesus as evidenced by her actions and traits throughout the third season of American Horror Story. Other characters recognize this quality, as Myrtle later compares Misty to Jesus: “She brought more people from the dead than Jesus Christ.” Between her murder for being abnormal to her religious community, her ability to heal through swamp mud, and her resurrection, Misty Day could be deemed a messianic type character.

Why is Anna the Prophetess significant?

In this week’s reading, I particularly focused on Anna, the prophetess from Chapter 2 in Luke.

“And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.”

I wondered why Anna was mentioned, with her short biography which included her geneology. Was the mention of Phanuel or the tribe of Asher significant? Why is this elderly sibyl significant?

I found that Anna was the only female prophetess in the New Testament to be given a name, an honor that her husband is not granted within the verses above. This in itself mandates an importance to her mentioning within the text. Her interaction with Jesus and his family is to confirm the messianic prophecy and obviously spread the word that he had come (Biblical Archaeology).

I then explored Anna’s heritage. The man Phanuel was rarely mentioned in any sources, but the angel Phanuel had scores of documents and articles for me to search through. Phanuel, the angel, is considered the angel of repentance and hope, encouraging people to be forgiven of their sins (Angels & Miracles). His name also means “face of God”. He is listed as a possible fourth archangel in the Book of Enoch (Archangels-Bloggy), an influential yet apocryphal book to the Torah, and is considered the ruler of the Ophanim, or the “wheels” which guard the throne of heaven (Angels & Miracles). Perhaps the redactors knew to draw the conclusions between the redemptive angel and Anna, as a way to point out the nature of Christ’s message of forgiveness of sins, the pure hope that he gave some of the Jewish people, and that Jesus was the literal face of God.

A depiction of the Ophanim—-which wheel is Phanuel?!

The second listed point of Anna’s geneology is the tribe of Asher. Asher was the eighth son of Jacob and the second son of Zilpah (Judaism 101). According to Gematria or Hebrew numerology, eight symbolizes new beginnings while two denotes witnessing; together, the witnessing of a new beginning occurs (The Twelve Tribes of Israel). This is most definitely what Anna is doing at the time of these verses. She sees a youthful Jesus beginning his path as messiah, and dares to declare it, confirming the prophecies of the Old Testament. Historically, the tribe of Asher was truly loyal to David, going to war in his favour at the time of his coronation (Biblehub). Knowing that the messiah is of the Davidic lineage, it makes perfect sense that the prophetess would be an Asherite. The New Testament redactors are again pointing out the confirmation of Jesus as messiah according to Old Testament parallels.

Anna is significant because of her heritage and her duty as a prophetess. Her entire life has been spent dedicated to prayer, as denoted in the previously listed verses. She fasts, never leaving the temple, remaining in a holy state. Luke’s mention of this old woman is to not only confirm the Messiah’s identity, but to spread the redemption message as well.

Levitical Extremism in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”

cover of the book

For our allusion this week, I chose to cover the first book of the Millennium Series by Stieg Larsson, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”. Known especially for its dark, feisty heroine, Lisbeth Salander, the book takes place in Sweden in the early 2000s. The plot focuses around Lisbeth and Mikael Blomkvist, an investigative journalist who had recently been convicted of libel, as they investigate the 35 year old disappearance of a young girl from a prominent family, the Vangers. Her uncle believes that she has been murdered by a member of the Vanger family because she disappeared during a family party. However, the deeper the detective duo digs, they discover a darker secret connected to the Vanger family—a string of brutally gruesome murders.

  

 (Rooney Mara from the American film on the left versus Noomi Rapace

from the Swedish film on the right: Who is the better Lisbeth?)

Though Sweden was officially neutral during World War II, the Vanger family was connected to the Nazi party, and its anti-Semitic ideas leached into the younger generation, including Harriet’s father, Gottfried, and her brother, Martin. In addition, the Vanger family owns one of the wealthiest corporations in the country, for which both Gottfried and Martin travel to work. Gottfried sexually abused both of his children, introducing Martin to a taste for violence towards women. Both men then started to murder together, but in a most peculiar fashion. Every girl was brutally killed according to a verse found in the book Leviticus; in addition, every girl had a name of Jewish origin. Lisbeth and Mikael had found this information within Harriet’s journal, listing the names along with numbers. At first thought to be phone numbers, and next dates, the two struggled to put together what the possible significance of the list could be to Harriet. The information they worked with looked as such:

Magda—32016

Sara—32109

R.J. —30112

R.L.—32027

            Mari—32018  (213)

How were these two sleuths supposed to decipher such a code from the depressed, twisted mind of an abused young woman? Typically, the Swedish population lacks a belief in God, though many religions have a following in the country. The book addresses this by having every character in the book seemingly atheist, except for two women, Harriet Vanger and Mikael Blomkvist’s daughter Pernilla. Both of these women are religious, therefore quite familiar with the Bible’s contents. As every other character seems to lack an intimate knowledge of this holy book, these two characters are the key to solving the mysteries of the identities of the serial killers as well as the disappearance of Harriet. During a visit with her father, Pernilla notices the list of names and states that quotes on his wall are “gloomy and neurotic” (317).  Mikael is nonplussed until he finds a Bible to look up the verses. What he finds is staggering.

 

(Michael Nyqvist in the 2009 Swedish film v. Daniel Craig in the 2011 American film: Who does Mikael ‘Kalle’ Blomkvist better?)

The phrase, Magda—32016, translates to 3:20:16, or Leviticus (the third book of the Bible), chapter 20, verse 16 which states: “If a woman approaches any beast and lies with it, you shall kill the woman and the beast; they shall be put to death, their blood is upon them.”

Sara—32109 translates to Leviticus 21:9, or: “And the daughter of any priest, if she profanes herself by playing the harlot, profanes her father; she shall be burned with fire.”

R.J. —30112, in turn, translates to Leviticus 1:12, or: “And he shall cut it into pieces, with its head and its fat, and the priest shall lay them in order upon the wood that is on the fire upon the altar.”

R.L.—32027, is found to be Leviticus 20:27, which states: “A man or a woman who is a medium or a wizard shall be put to death; they shall be stoned with stones, their blood shall be upon them.”

And finally, Mari—32018, is decoded as Leviticus 20:18, or: “If a man lies with a woman having her sickness [period], and uncovers her nakedness, he has made naked her fountain, and she has uncovered the fountain of her blood; both of them shall be cut off from among their people.”

Each of these phrases is connected to a murder that one of the Vanger men committed during Harriet’s teenage years. Lisbeth Salander is the one who tracks down each murder from the surrounding towns closest to the Vanger family residence. Each murder that occurred coincided with a business meeting at which Gottfried or Martin Vanger was present. The killers were never caught because the murders were never connected due to the lack of an obvious pattern, which our two investigators linked with Leviticus.

Lisbeth discovered that each girl was killed exactly in accordance to Leviticus. The first murder was of Rebecka Jacobsson, listed as R.J., in which she was killed by having her head placed on smouldering coals—Leviticus 1:12. Next was Mari Holmberg, a prostitute who was strangled with a sanitary napkin—Leviticus 20:18. Third was Rakel Lundel, listed as R.L., had a hobby of reading tarot cards and palms, which got her stoned as she was tied to her laundry-drying frame—Leviticus 20:27. After Rakel was Magda Lovisa, a farmer’s wife who “approached” animals daily, brutally tortured and killed in a horse stall—Leviticus 20:16. The fifth murder was Sara, the daughter of one pastor and the wife of another, was found strangled and her apartment set ablaze—Leviticus 21:9. The victims on Harriet’s list were the first of many, as Lisbeth discovers three other possible murders from around the same time, with each one dealing with a verse from Leviticus.

Each woman’s name was of Hebrew origin. Rebecka equated Rebecca. Mari is the Swedish spelling for Mary. Rakel, when Anglicized, become Rachel. Sara needs no explanation. Madga is paired with another one of the later cases, Lena, as both names are short for Magdalena, a name taken from Mary Magdalene. Another to mention is Lea, or Leah in the Bible. The final victim was named Liv, meaning to live, which can also be traced to the name Eva, or Eve. These names of Jewish heritage made these women targets to the serial killing pair of Vanger men. Their “crimes” that led to them being victims were obviously warped perceptions of the fanatically tainted biblical knowledge of the killers.

 

(photograph of Harriet Vanger from the American film adaptation)

Harriet knew her father and brother were murdering women across the country according to their extreme anti-Semitic and violent tendencies. Because she knew this, she was targeted with harsher abuse by her father, Gottfried. In an instance of desperate self-defence, Harriet killed her father and had to flee Sweden to avoid anyone suspecting her involvement with his death. This is why she disappeared so suddenly from the family gathering—she wasn’t missing, she relocated to avoid any criminal implications. The biblical samples of Leviticus within “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” are most obviously an allusion because the truth of Harriet’s disappearance would never have been revealed without having the familiarity of the book’s verses.

The Holocaust of Asherah

Upon reading Deuteronomy this week, I noticed two related words separated by a mere four chapters: “Asherah” and “Asherim”:

“You shall tear down their altars and dash

in pieces their pillars and burn their Asherim with fire.” (Deut 12:3)

“You shall not plant any tree as an Asherah

beside the altar of the LORD your God that you shall make.” (Deut 16:21)

Chopping Asherah into teeny little pieces.

I was curious as to the definitions of these words. What was an Asherim? What is an Asherah? Why were the Israelites forbidden from planting a tree next to the altar of the Protagonist? What is to be obliterated by fire? One of these key questions remained a “what”, while the other became a “who”.

 Starting with Asherah, I discovered that she was the most influential female deity worshiped in Canaan, Syria and Phoenicia (Questions.org) and was called a variety of names. She was considered the consort or wife of the supreme God though archaeological evidence has paired her with both Ba’al and El—also known as Elohim or Yahweh (Britannica). Mother goddess Asherah ruled over the moon, fertility, and all living things (Jewish Women’s Archive). All living things, eh? That sounds like the Protagonist has a rival or even an equal. The worship of Asherah continued in Canaan, even after the Protagonist’s decree against her, as noted in Judges 2:13:

“They abandoned the LORD and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth [Asherah].”

Asherah figurine

I paused in my research and thought for a moment. Worshipping Ba’al is strictly forbidden by the Protagonist but He insists the Israelites worship Him. He is technically married to Asherah who is a powerful goddess that could rival Him—wouldn’t it make sense to worship Asherah as well? Apparently not, as the cult worship of Asherah started to die out after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem around 586 B.C.E., bringing about a stricter monotheism (Discovery News).

A possible reason to eliminate Asherah from this male-dominated society was to remove the Israelites from the cultural connotations associated with worshipping her. Asherah of Deuteronomy had evolved from an amalgam of other goddesses from the surrounding areas. One example was Hathor, or Balaat, Egyptian goddess of sex and love who was represented by a pillar or a tree. One method of worshipping Hathor involved a drunken orgy at the end of the year (Esoteric). This was a form of worship which had already been punished by the Protagonist in Exodus 32 as the Israelites worshipped Ba’al.  Mesopotamian Ishara was another; she was the goddess of love and divination, which we all know was also already forbidden by the Protagonist in Leviticus 19. Asherah became associated with these condemned practices, in essence condemning her worshippers in the eyes of the Protagonist.

Insulting nods to Asherah?

To address the “Asherim,” I did not have to research much further. Due to the fact that Asherah was associated with trees to represent fertility, her followers planted groves of trees or erected wooden pillars near her temple or altar. These sacred poles were near the Israelite “high places” as well as altars dedicated to Ba’al (Yahweh and Asherah). The Protagonist had already banned Ba’al, so to continue with the equal but seemingly pagan worship of Asherah would be to spit in His face against His commandments. The easiest way to destroy wood and therefore destroy the holiness of Asherah would be by holocaust; Asherah was set afire and drifted away on the winds of time like ash.

What’s the big deal about body hair and skin markings?

Reading through Leviticus was slightly tedious. All of these laws, demands, and rules for living under the covenant of God must have weighed heavily upon the Israelites. In Chapter 19, God very explicitly lays out his blueprint for the day-to-day lives of the Israelites. This chapter covers a variety of pragmatic matters from servant wages to keeping two kinds of cattle from breeding with each other. The verses of 27 and 28 caught my eye in particular:

“You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard. You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the LORD.” (Lev: 27-28)

I recalled that this whole book’s purpose was for the Israelites to be holy as their Lord was holy—in other words, to be different because the Protagonist was different. So what was it about body hair or markings on the skin that the Protagonist wanted the Israelites to set themselves apart from? What culture was so displeasing to the Protagonist that the Israelites were to be completely different from them?

 

Let’s start with the beards and the hair. According to certain historians, the time period of Leviticus can be set between 1495 to1455 BCE (Bible World History). Coinciding with this was the Dynastic Period of Egypt, in which body hair was a big deal. The priests of Egypt saw body hair as unclean (History of Shaving), which would be an offense to the gods, so it was entirely shaved off. Even the pharaoh removed parts of hair, regulating his beard shape. The people of Egypt spent a great deal of time and effort policing their body hair (Art of Manliness). Now if I were the Protagonist who wanted to have my people, the Israelites, set apart, wouldn’t I want for them to stop using the cultural norms of another people, especially the people I had just rescued them from? By not marring the beard nor shaping the hair at the temples, the Israelites would be distinguishable from the Egyptians, their former enslavers. In addition, the Israelites’ less rigid depilation schedule freed up time to focus their attentions on all of the other rules of the covenant.

 

Hebrews = the Duck Dynasty of their generation.

Amunet’s tattoo placement

 

 

As for tattooing, this again could be tied to the Egyptians. Amunet, a mummified priestess of Hathor, was discovered with extensive tattooing around her lower abdomen and on her arms and legs (Tattoos of the Egyptian World). Hathor, the goddess of fertility and sexuality, is believed to have been honoured by the tattooing of Amunet. Though not widespread, the tattoos of the Egyptians seem to have been a form of ritualistic practice to celebrate the gods (Tattoo Temple). Tattooing was considered a mark of slavery or submission to a deity, so it is obvious that the Israelites were to avoid this form of dedication to a false idol (Jewish Virtual Library). The people of the Protagonist were to be dedicated only to Him and His covenant, not to the gods of a bygone era of their lives.

 

Mmm, mummy flesh.

Mummy tatts.

To continue the idea of marking the body, Leviticus states that the Israelites may not cut their bodies for the dead. The Amorites were a culture who often cut their flesh if a member of their household had died (Torah Insights on the Weekly Parsha). The Amorites, a Semitic tribe, were extremely well known for their military prowess, as they helped contribute to the downfall of the Sumerian empire’s Ur (Egypt Origins). They also worshiped a god other than the Protagonist (Who Were the Amorites). Obviously, the Protagonist isn’t going to allow his chosen people to align themselves with another culture’s religious practices or to seek out human glory over revering Him.

The Protagonist set the rules of the covenant before the Israelites in Leviticus to differentiate them from the surrounding cultures of the area. By following these rules, the Israelites would be holy as their Lord was holy, and then gain the benefits of being in a contract with the Protagonist: as a nation, they are promised a fruitful existence protected from their enemies.