If we “see through a glass darkly” (I Cor. 13:12), it only stands to reason that shadows of Eternity are everywhere. Maybe that’s why I keep Avram Davidson’s Adventures in Unhistory close by. Subtitled Conjectures on the Factual Foundations of Several Ancient Legends, the book covers the historical or (pseudo-historical) underpinnings of such basic mythological iconography as mermaids, werewolves, mandrake roots and Prester John. It’s a fun read and, gazing through the lens of “ancient legends,” has sparked lots of conceptual brush fires in my noggin.
For instance, Vocal Memnon. It was just a reference, maybe a paragraph in passing, but the story intrigued me. So I did some research of my own.
Two 60 foot Colossi, carved of quartzite sandstone and seated in the Theban necropolis, along the Nile River near modern day Cairo. They were commissioned by one of the Pharaohs to guard a sacred memorial temple. However, an earthquake partially destroyed one of them, fractured it in several places. From that point on, it sang every morning at the break of dawn, at least according to legend, a moan or whistle probably caused by temperature change or evaporation. (The scientific term is Solar Thermal Automata and the concept has been used in the development of specific audio technologies.)
Anyway, pilgrims flocked there to see the singing giant. They said the lucky ones—the ones who heard it—got healed, prayers answered, wishes granted, things like that. For hundreds of years it went on, singing at sunrise, performing for all those sad lost souls. And then it stopped. Just never uttered another sound. Some say it was the Emperor, Septimius Severus. He tried to reassemble the two halves—probably in hopes of currying favor with the oracle. Instead, he incurred its wrath.
Hmm. What a dark, dark glass, and so full of biblical parallels…