A Medieval Meme: Pedobear and Antichrist

Discarding Images, a common source of crazy medieval images for me, often labels their images in a very straight-forward manner, such as “Jupiter Castrates Saturn,” which is exactly what it sounds like, and is in no way safe for work.  Every once in a while, however, I encounter an image with a name like “Pedobear Satan.”

Satan Looking Like Pedobear

Which, really, is still exactly what it sounds like.  Who holds a baby like that?  (From Psalmi David cum hymnis et letaniis atque calendario. Germany 1236. (München, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Clm 11308, fol 10v) )

pedobear

Pedobear

For those of you unfamiliar with the meme, this is Pedobear –>

There are about a zillion memes out there with pedophile jokes featuring this cuddly yet creepy image.

The Satanic image above really does have at least a passing resemblance.  One of the reasons for that is he is so unlike what we expect in a Satanic image.  This creature has neither horns nor wings, is covered with hair, and has big floppy ears.  He’s at least as comical to us as he is awful.

In fact, Satan has been depicted in a wide variety of forms over the last 2000 years, many of them quite alien in comparison to our expectations.   Here, he is chained to his throne, as he sometimes is in other images.  Hell is not his kingdom but his prison as punishment for rebelling against God.

Inversion of Religious Imagery
Here Pedobea…er, Satan…holds a small child.  It’s probably actually supposed to be an infant, but no one in the Middle Ages bothered figuring out how to draw a baby, so they just made them tiny adults.  The imagery is a mockery of the common image of Virgin and Child: the most impure creature taking the place of the most pure, holding Jesus Christ’s opposite, Antichrist.

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Seriously, no idea how to draw a baby.

Religious images are often divided into three parts, with the main subject in the center and notable figures on either side.  Here, what I am guessing are anonymous figures praise the false prophet as predicted in the Bible.  I am also guessing the naked figures behind Pedo-Satan are probably Adam and Eve, who committed the first sin.

Antichrist

Antichrist is mentioned by name only in the Gospel of John, who is also the writer of Revelations, where much of the information about Antichrist is found.  Antichrist is a liar and deceiver who will come in the End Times to tempt believers away from the true God.  He’s very closely associated with Satan, the ultimate liar, tempter and deceiver.

Like Jesus, he will have mortal form. The search for the woman who will bear Antichrist has been the subject of many works of fiction, including Rosemary’s Baby.

Birth of Antichrist via C-Section

C-Sections were commonly performed with a vertical incision rather than a horizontal one, which made it easier to remove the baby but was more destructive to the mother, who was already dead (16th century woodcut.)

Caesarean Birth

Although not described in the Bible, the birth of Antichrist came to be associated with Caesarean birth.  C-sections were occasionally performed in the Middle Ages but only if the mother was dead.

Rather than experiencing a natural birth, as God intended, Antichrist was expected to be ripped out of a corpse which will never hold or nurse or care for the child as the Virgin Mary, the pinnacle of motherhood, did for Jesus Christ.

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Conception of Antichrist

The conception of Jesus is commonly illustrated as the Holy Spirit, either as a dove or a tiny, ghost-like figure, descending from heaven to impregnate Mary with a divine child.

Below, we see another inversion of the holy birth.  Here, a demon force-feeds a soul into the mother’s mouth where it incarnates into the infant pulled from her womb, perhaps reminiscent of Satanic images in which Satan swallows souls through his mouth and then spits them out through another mouth located where genitals should be.

Birth of the Antichrist - 14th century

This image is marked © Erica Guilane-Nachez, but it’s also labeled “Birth of the Antichrist – 14th century,” so either Ms. Guilane-Nachez is claiming copyright on something in the public domain, or she’s falsely identifying the image. I am presuming it’s the former, although Europe wasn’t making woodcut prints (which this appears to be) until the 15th century. In any rate, you have been sufficiently warned of the lack of good sourcing here.

 

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