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Patron Saint of Flying Saucers

I often go to library book sales because I sell books online and also collect. At many of these sales, the books are literally free at sale's end, and in imminent danger of being dumpstered so it's hard to pass up some that are interesting just for their pure physicalities—their illustrated endpapers, strange, ciphered notations in pencil, lovely gilded boards.

A few days ago I was going through some old books and papers I'd set aside for use in collages and art projects. I found one that I'd forgotten about—a lovely, neat little red volume entitled, Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints. I believe I was attracted to it originally because of its promising embossed and gilded scarlet boards, hinting at further, sweet aesthetic treasures inside.

Considering it more closely, I was getting a strange, provocative, sci-fi, atomic age kind of vibe from it and it was a very peculiar feeling, quite anachronous. I knew from the book's feel, particular materials, fonts, and agewear that it was older, an interbellum relic. Inspecting the title pages, I was correct—1925. What could this more mod feeling be, then?

I sat down with the book and considered the feeling and the answer hit me suddenly in a flash of recognition—the bottom Saint-scene transformed before my eyes: it's a classic UFO form.

Inspecting it further, I found there were even corresponding details. The window/doors of the coliseum, are fairly close to the place where portholes are described, and there are even spectators in the places where UFO occupants have been described.

There are poles descending from the bottom of the coliseum, relating to descriptions of UFO landing gear. A male figure stands close to center, tied to the front of a stake that recalls the light beam ubiquitously displayed on contemporary UFO imagery.

I've explored the UFO light beam aesthetic before: it literally transforms the UFO craft into the silhouette of a giant mushroom*, and serves symbolically to tie the UFO to the earth. Often, a human form is shown in the midst of the light beam, in an obvious altered state: sometimes a question mark or scrolls/squiggles/ stars above the figure's head indicate confusion; often the figure looks as if it has been struck—arms thrown up, back arched, etc.

In this book cover imagery, the depicted Saint is Ignatius of Antioch. He is shown here in the midst of his martyrdom at the Flavian Amphitheatre, in which he was eaten by lions. It fits somewhat with the idea of being in an altered state, as he is a liminal state of existence, near his death.

Because the imagery on the book is so blatant, I expected to find huge issues of liminality and reflexivity tied in with Saint Ignatius but the best I can come up with is that on somewhat of a stretch, the idea of martyrdom fits within the UFO narrative, aligned with abductees' reports of being held captive, tortured, being physically manipulated and controlled, having things removed, being part of some kind of grand scheme.

In shows like the currently airing Ancient Aliens series, UFO images are often pointed to in antiquated religious paintings as some kind of proof of their nuts-and-bolts tangibility and enduring presence through time. But finding the UFO image on a contemporary, 20th century religious text like this might be just as informative in that we know the modern artist was not purposefully indicating a landed spaceship.

This UFO shape itself is a loaded signpost, an aesthetic archetype--whether it be noted as mushroom, mandala, “the feminine,” or literal alien space vehicle-- aligned naturally with myths we've collectively appointed as our most sacred—our religions.


*Mushrooms are quite liminal themselves, neither animal nor vegetable. In addition, psychedelic mushrooms and their associated phenomena are quite tied to the UFO experience as noted by Terence McKenna and Graham Hancock.

Note that a fair caduceus form is also incorporated in the borders around the UFO/coliseum in a vine and twig motif. This symbol has been noted as very similar to and possibly representing symbolically the DNA double helix. DNA is a part of the UFO narrative on several levels. Looking closely at the image here, the top of the UFO/coliseum form itself is constructed of what becomes one of the ”helix's” strands.

Contact Richelle Hawks

Visit Richelle's blog: Beamships Equal Love