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  Jeffrey Vallance 
  Chapelle de Poulet


     AN ESSAY IN XIII PIECES


Jeffrey Vallance
Divine Mother Hen (2018) Stained glass
24 x 24 inches

#1


Sacred chickensDinosaurs to the New TestamentPoultry industry in ancient JudeaJesus as mother henA chicken in the mangerIn the lord’s flock



For thousands of years, humans have lived in close association with chickens. From much observation of the traits of poultry, such as the cocks crowing at the rising sun and the mother hen protectively spreading her wings over her chicks, chickens have become potent symbols. The rooster crowing at dawn became so significant that it led some to believe the rooster himself had the power to raise the sun. The rooster became a universal solar symbol, and the hen became the emblem of motherhood. Since antiquity, chickens have been a sanctified animal, deeply embedded within belief systems and worship. Thus, over time, chickens were raised to the status of sacred animals in the world’s religions.

Chickens are the descendants of a group of two-legged dinosaurs known as theropods, which include the formidable Tyrannosaurus rex. Dinosaurs and chickens share many apparent anatomical similarities, but it was not until 2003, when scientists discovered some unfossilized collagen inside a T-rex bone, that hard scientific evidence proved that chickens are directly related to dinosaurs. Barnyard chickens (Gallus domesticus) were domesticated over eight thousand years ago from a wild form called red junglefowl (Gallus gallus) of Southeast Asia. However, there may have been other domestication zones, such as Pre-Columbian America, as DNA from chicken bones found on the coast of Chile suggested that Polynesian sailors from Easter Island introduced the birds to South America. Chickens were first commercialized in Israel during the Hellenistic period, around 2,300 years ago. Large quantities of chicken bones unearthed in Judea point to the beginning of a massive poultry industry. Jesus was born in Judea and started his ministry there, so he had ample opportunities to observe the behavior chickens. In the New Testament, Jesus compares himself to a chicken when speaking of the people of Jerusalem: “How many times I wanted to put my arms around all your people, just as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings.” (Matthew 23:37) This passage echoes a similar verse from the Old Testament, “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge.” (Psalm 91:4)

The symbol of Jesus as a chicken just didn’t fly in patriarchal Christianity, because it presents Jesus as feminine—a mother hen—and as a chicken, which is thought by many to be a silly and weak creature. However, Jesus was born in a manger, a type of biblical barn or stable, which in ancient Judea was commonly a cave used for feeding and sheltering livestock. The word manger (from the Greek phatne, from pateomai[“to eat”) means stall or feeding trough. Feed troughs for cattle are usually quite sizeable; however, in traditional nativity scenes, the manger in which Jesus is laid is about the size and shape of a hen’s nesting box. Maybe it all makes sense, as Jesus the Hen would be placed in just such a nesting box. A nativity set by artist Thomas Kinkade (2003, Hawthorne Village) called In the Lord’s Flock: Witness to the Miracle, features a porcelain figurine of the poultry holy trinity: rooster, hen, and chicks. Animals such as the sacrificial lamb and the ΙΧΘΥΣ fish (the other Jesus meat symbols) have been more accepted than poultry, perhaps because society has had over two thousand years to get used to these divine animals, but it still may shock us to see a chicken lying in the manger.


2019

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Hotel is a magazine for new approaches to fiction, non fiction & poetry & features work from established & emerging talent. Hotel provides the space for experimental reflection on literature’s status as art & cultural mediator. The magazine is bi-annual, the online archive is updated periodically.

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2019
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