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What Would God Drive?

font size="1">sourcehariot of Fire, woodcut for 'Die Bibel in Bildern', 1860, by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld.
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Chariot of Fire, woodcut for ‘Die Bibel in Bildern’, 1860, by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld.

Divine chariots are described quite a bit in the Bible. They are often hard to distinguish from descriptions of Yahweh himself, who was known for making big noisy fiery spectacles in the sky. In fact, as many people have noted, Yahweh behaved a whole lot like a jet airplane.

Below are some descriptions of divine chariots in the Bible (you may also be interested in my post about vehicles of other deities).

Isaiah 66:5 For, behold, the LORD will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire.

Psalms 68:17 The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: the Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place.

Jeremiah 4:13 Behold, he shall come up as clouds, and his chariots shall be as a whirlwind: his horses are swifter than eagles. Woe unto us! for we are spoiled.

Zechariah 6:1 And I turned, and lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and, behold, there came four chariots out from between two mountains; and the mountains were mountains of brass.

2 Kings 6:17 And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.

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'Viktor Vasnetsov. The Flying Carpet (1880). Oil, canvas. 165x297 сm. a depiction of the hero of Russian folklore, Ivan Tsarevich, on exhibit at the Nizhny Novgorod Art Museum.'

In an experience reminiscent of flying carpets, Zechariah reports:

Zechariah 5:1 Then I turned, and lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a flying roll.
2 And he said unto me, What seest thou? And I answered, I see a flying roll; the length thereof is twenty cubits, and the breadth thereof ten cubits.

A cubit is about the size of a typical forearm, about 20 inches.

In the book of Acts, Peter gets take-out delivered by Yahweh:

Acts 10:9 On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour:
10 And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance,
11 And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth:
12 Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.
13 And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat.

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Mystic Wheel (Ezekiel's Vision) by Fra Angelico, circa 1451.

And then there’s Ezekiel’s wheel, the Biblical prophet’s famous encounter with the physical “word of God” and his very detailed (if odd) description of it, which so many people have interpreted as describing a spaceship.

Ezekiel 1:1 Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, in the fifth day of the month, as I was among the captives by the river of Chebar, that the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God.
2 In the fifth day of the month, which was the fifth year of king Jehoiachin’s captivity,
3 The word of the LORD came expressly unto Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar; and the hand of the LORD was there upon him.
4 And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the colour of amber, out of the midst of the fire.
5 Also out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance; they had the likeness of a man.
6 And every one had four faces, and every one had four wings.
7 And their feet were straight feet; and the sole of their feet was like the sole of a calf’s foot: and they sparkled like the colour of burnished brass.
8 And they had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides; and they four had their faces and their wings.
9 Their wings were joined one to another; they turned not when they went; they went every one straight forward.
10 As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle.
11 Thus were their faces: and their wings were stretched upward; two wings of every one were joined one to another, and two covered their bodies.
12 And they went every one straight forward: whither the spirit was to go, they went; and they turned not when they went.
13 As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, and like the appearance of lamps: it went up and down among the living creatures; and the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning.
14 And the living creatures ran and returned as the appearance of a flash of lightning.
15 Now as I beheld the living creatures, behold one wheel upon the earth by the living creatures, with his four faces.
16 The appearance of the wheels and their work was like unto the colour of a beryl: and they four had one likeness: and their appearance and their work was as it were a wheel in the middle of a wheel.
17 When they went, they went upon their four sides: and they turned not when they went.
18 As for their rings, they were so high that they were dreadful; and their rings were full of eyes round about them four.
19 And when the living creatures went, the wheels went by them: and when the living creatures were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up.
20 Whithersoever the spirit was to go, they went, thither was their spirit to go; and the wheels were lifted up over against them: for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels.
21 When those went, these went; and when those stood, these stood; and when those were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up over against them: for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels.
22 And the likeness of the firmament upon the heads of the living creature was as the colour of the terrible crystal, stretched forth over their heads above.
23 And under the firmament were their wings straight, the one toward the other: every one had two, which covered on this side, and every one had two, which covered on that side, their bodies.
24 And when they went, I heard the noise of their wings, like the noise of great waters, as the voice of the Almighty, the voice of speech, as the noise of an host: when they stood, they let down their wings.
25 And there was a voice from the firmament that was over their heads, when they stood, and had let down their wings.
26 And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it.
27 And I saw as the colour of amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it, from the appearance of his loins even upward, and from the appearance of his loins even downward, I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about.
28 As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell upon my face, and I heard a voice of one that spake.

We can’t blame Ezekiel for being confused; it sounds as if he just had no frame of reference for what he was seeing. Even modern-day people having encounters with “UFOs” have trouble understanding and describing what they have seen, and try to make sense of it by comparing it to things they do understand—in Ezekiel’s case, “living creatures” and wheels. For info on various interpretations of Ezekiel’s vision, see the section on the Book of Ezekiel on Wikipedia’s Ancient Astronauts page.

sourceEzekiel's Wheel. Woodcut for 'Die Bibel in Bildern', 1860, by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld.
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Ezekiel’s Wheel. Woodcut for ‘Die Bibel in Bildern’, 1860, by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld.
sourceEzekiel's Wheel in St. John the Baptist Church in Kratovo, Macedonia.
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Ezekiel's Wheel in St. John the Baptist Church in Kratovo, Macedonia.
source'Engraved illustration of the 'chariot vision' of the Biblical book of Ezekiel, chapter 1, after an earlier illustration by Matthaeus (Matthäus) Merian (1593-1650), for his 'Icones Biblicae' (a.k.a. 'Iconum Biblicarum').'
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'Engraved illustration of the 'chariot vision' of the Biblical book of Ezekiel, chapter 1, after an earlier illustration by Matthaeus (Matthäus) Merian (1593-1650), for his 'Icones Biblicae' (a.k.a. 'Iconum Biblicarum').'
sourceThe Vision of Ezekiel, oil on wood by Raffaello Sanzio, 1518.
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The Vision of Ezekiel, oil on wood by Raffaello Sanzio, 1518.
Zechariah sees two chariots come out from between two mountains of brass.
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Zechariah sees two chariots come out from between two mountains of brass.

Zechariah 6:1 And I turned, and lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and, behold, there came four chariots out from between two mountains; and the mountains were mountains of brass.
2 In the first chariot were red horses; and in the second chariot black horses;
3 And in the third chariot white horses; and in the fourth chariot grisled and bay horses.
4 Then I answered and said unto the angel that talked with me, What are these, my lord?
5 And the angel answered and said unto me, These are the four spirits of the heavens, which go forth from standing before the Lord of all the earth.
6 The black horses which are therein go forth into the north country; and the white go forth after them; and the grisled go forth toward the south country.
7 And the bay went forth, and sought to go that they might walk to and fro through the earth: and he said, Get you hence, walk to and fro through the earth. So they walked to and fro through the earth.

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Legend of St Francis, Vision of the Flaming Chariot, by Giotto di Bondone, circa 1300 CE.
In another painting by Giotto di Bondone, circa 1300 CE, St. Francis is receiving stigmata from a divine creature and/or chariot. It's often hard to tell the gods from their vehicles.source
In another painting by Giotto di Bondone, circa 1300 CE, St. Francis is receiving stigmata from a divine creature and/or chariot. It's often hard to tell the gods from their vehicles.
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'God in Majesty' from Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry.
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According to Babelfish's translation from the Russian caption, 'Paternity of icon (Yaroslavl, 17 c.) of.jpeg FATHERLAND Yaroslavl'. Third quarter OF XVII v. Tree, levkas, the tempera.'
A sun god drives his divine chariot across the sky.
A sun god drives his divine chariot across the sky.
This painting is reportedly at the altar of the Visoki Decani Monastery in Kosovo, Yugoslavia, circa 1350.
This painting is reportedly at the altar of the Visoki Decani Monastery in Kosovo, Yugoslavia, circa 1350.
A detail from the above painting.
A detail from the above painting.
A second vehicle from the above painting.
A second vehicle from the above painting.
sourceElijah and the Chariot of Fire, painting by Antonio Cifrondi.
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Elijah and the Chariot of Fire, painting by Antonio Cifrondi.
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Lots of Deities Drove Cooler Vehicles than Yahweh

The Pushpak Aircraft
The Pushpak Aircraft, by Balasaheb Pandit Pant Pratinidhi, 1916.
In addition to the very interesting divine vehicles associated with Yahweh (the God of the Christians and Jews), many gods and goddesses have driven massively cool vehicles. In fact, as I point out elsewhere, many of their avatars (changed aspects) may be the vehicles themselves rather than a transformation of the deity.

Divine chariots are described quite a bit in the Bible, and also are described a lot in religions around the world. For instance, ancient Hindu texts are crammed full of descriptions of various types of flying chariots — vimanas — and information on how to make them, fuel them, and control them.

According to Wikipedia, a vimana is:

A chariot of the gods, any mythical self-moving aerial car, sometimes serving as a seat or throne, sometimes self-moving and carrying its occupant through the air; other descriptions make the Vimana more like a house or palace, and one kind is said to be seven storeys high.

The pushpaka (“flowery”) is the vimana of Ravana, who is the hero of the great Hindu epic The Ramayana, which describes the pushpaka as follows:

The Pushpaka chariot that resembles the Sun and belongs to my brother was brought by the powerful Ravana; that aerial and excellent chariot going everywhere at will …. that chariot resembling a bright cloud in the sky … and the King [Rama] got in, and the excellent chariot at the command of the Raghira, rose up into the higher atmosphere.

Rama being welcomed back to Ayodhya. He is also shown flying in the celestial flying machine, the Pushpak Vimana.
Rama being welcomed back to Ayodhya. He is also shown flying in the celestial flying machine, the Pushpak Vimana.
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The Thunderbirds of the Native Americans are similar to the flying things called “gods” by very many ancient cultures — and similar to the United States Air Force Thunderbirds of today. See my post on Thunder Gods, Such as Yahweh….

The Persian king Kai Kavus built himself a Flying Throne and flew it to China.

King Solomon reportedly had a flying carpet 60 miles square that could “get from Damascus to Medina within a day”. The wind once caused the carpet to drop 40,000 people to their deaths, due to Solomon having too much pride.

The Greek god Helios drove the Chariot of the Sun across the sky every day; it was drawn by fire-darting steeds. Phaëton, his son, borrowed the chariot, but lost control and plunged into the river Eridanos. Thor drove his Chariot of Thunder across the sky; it was pulled by his two magic goats, Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr. Poseidon frequently drove his Chariot of the Sea through and atop the ocean, pulled by hippocampi (sea-going horses with fish-like hindquarters).

Kali with her chariot Vitthakalai.
Kali with her chariot Vitthakalai.
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Maa Kali drives a gold-decorated chariot called the Vitthakalai. Sol, the Norse sun goddess, flew in a chariot pulled by the horses Arvak and Alsvid, whose manes shone like the sun. Dionysus’s chariot was pulled by panthers, tigers, or centaurs, or by a bull, a panther, and a griffin, or something — as usual, no one was exactly clear on what they were seeing.

Dinoysius driving his chariot pulled by a bull, a panther, and a griffin.
Dinoysius driving his chariot pulled by a bull, a panther, and a griffin.
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Thunder Gods, Such as Yahweh…

Thunder gods, such as Yahweh, are popular all over the world. Making big noise and throwing lightning bolts, they get people’s attention, and fearful obedience. Wind gods and sky gods may also be thunder gods—sky gods tend to speak with voices of thunder and cause strong winds. There is further overlap between thunder gods, weather gods, storm gods, war gods, fire gods, and sun gods. A lot of deities tend to be noisy and flaming, up in the sky.

japanese thunder godSource
This Two-Fold Paper Screen, from the Tokyo National Museum, painted by Tawaraya Sota in the 17th century, shows the Japanese thunder god, left, and Wind God, right.

Thunderbolts as divine retribution are popular not only in the Bible, but in many ancient cultures. The Hindu lightning god Indra has the thunderbolt Vajra as his preferred weapon. Teshub, the Hurrian sky and storm god, has a triple thunderbolt; Zeus has his thunderbolt, given to him by the Cyclopes; and the Norse thunder god Thor has his magic hammer, Mjölnir (Pulverizier), which not only zaps what he aims at, but returns to him so he can fire again. The Mayan god Huracan is sometimes depicted as three bolts of lightning, and, as his name suggests, he was known for creating powerful whirlwinds.

Amadioha, the thunder and lightning god of Nigeria’s Igbo people, administers justice using thunderstones he hurls down to Earth. He is still a popular god these days, and, as with Yahweh, people swear the truth of what they’re saying by asking the god to strike them dead by lightning if they lie. If Amadioha strikes someone dead with lightning, the priests reportedly see it as the god’s will, and take the dead person’s property, leaving the body unburied. If a person has been cursed in Amadioha’s name, he can only release himself by transferring the curse to a goat that he releases into the wild. This is reminiscent of the Old Testament scapegoat, to whom the high priest of Israel confesses all his people’s sins, before releasing it. The Igbo phrase that translates as “Amadioha will punish you” is like the “God will get you” of Yahweh’s followers.

Perkele, the name of the Finnish thunder god, is a frequently used swear word in Finland. “Management by Perkele” is an expression for a Finnish leadership approach that takes fast action instead of considering everyone’s point of view.

raijin netsukeSource
The Japanese Thunder God Raijin, right, is in the form of a netsuke, a kind of button used in 17th- and 18th-century Japan to fasten men’s purses to the sashes of their robes.

The Australian Aborigine god Mamaragan typifies thunder gods in that he speaks with a voice of thunder, rides a storm cloud, and throws lightning bolts. But his abode is not the high mountains or heavens like most thunder gods, rather just a puddle. The Chinese god Lei Gong specializes in thunder; he has four assistants to help him produce lightning, clouds, rain, and winds, including his wife, Dian Mu, the goddess of lightning, who uses mirrors to flash bolts across the skies. The Roman historian Pliny the Elder writes of nine Etruscan gods who were able to shoot thunderbolts of various colors.

mayan serpent godSource
A Mayan Serpent God Scene from the ruins at Yaxchilan.

The ancient Roman religious deities, the Novensiles (sometimes identified as muses or as members of a divine council), specialize in “lightning readings”—revealing the divine intent behind lightning. Reportedly, Jupiter (or the Etruscan version, Tinia) can wield three types of lightning, from three different celestial regions. The first type, which he can use at his discretion, is perforating lightning,1 which is mild and meant as friendly persuasion or dissuasion.2 Crushing lightning, which is harmful, can be used only by approval of the Dii Consentes, a group of 12 major deities. Burning lightning, which is deadly, is used only by approval of the Dii Superiores et Involuti (hidden gods of the higher sphere).3



1. Massimo Pallottino, “The Doctrine and Sacred Books of the Disciplina Etrusca,” Roman and European Mythologies (University of Chicago Press, 1992), 43–44; Stefan Weinstock, “Libri fulgurales,” Papers of the British School at Rome 19 (1951), 125.
2. Georges Dumézil, La religion Romaine Archaïque (Paris 1974), 630, 633 (note 3), drawing on Seneca, Naturales Questiones 2.41.1–2 and 39.
3. Weinstock, Papers of the British School, 127.

codex borgia page 10Source
The Aztec Codex Borgia always has something interesting going on. These scenes constitute page 10 of the 1898 facsimile edition. See all 76 pages at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Codex_Borgia
marutsSource
Maruts. These Hindu storm gods number from two to 180 depending on the story. They are extremely warlike, with lightning, thunderbolts, and iron teeth. They roar like lions as their fiery red horses pull their golden chariots through the skies.
Dios Cocijo ( Zapotec god of the rain ) found at Monte Alban, in the Valley of Oaxaca, circa 200-500 CE.source
Cocijo, Zapotec god of the rain, from Monte Alban, in Oaxaca, circa 200-500 CE.
chariot of zeusSource
Zeus, the Greek version of Jupiter, is shown in his chariot, preparing to launch a lightning bolt.
chacSource
Chaac, the Mayan god of rain, lightning, and thunder, is shown here reproduced from the Dresden Codex, the oldest known book written in the Americas, from the 11th or 12th century CE.
falling thunder godSource
Falling Thunder God.
thunderbirdSource
Native American Thunderbird.

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Thunderbirds Shooting Lightning, old sign.

modern-day thunderbirdsSource
Modern-Day Thunderbirds follow the leader.

thorSource
The Norse Thunder God Thor, above, in his Germanic version as Donner, uses his hammer to summon the storm clouds in Richard Wagner’s opera, Das Rheingold.
sami offering to diermes or thorSource
Horagalles is the god of sky, thunder, lightning, the rainbow, weather, oceans, and lakes for the northern European Arctic indigneous Sami people. He is usually shown with a nail in his head and holding a hammer.
blackhawk spiritbeingSource
Haokah, above. In about 1880, the Lakota Sioux Chief Black Hawk illustrated a vision he had of himself as the horned thunder god Haokah, 'changed to a destroyer and riding a buffalo eagle.' The rainbow shown is the entrance to the spirit world, and the dots are hail.
papa and rangiSource
Papa (left) and Rangi. This Māori carving likely represents the primal creator couple, Papa the Earth Mother and Rangi the Sky Father, locked in embrace.
chromesun-mississippiansource
Mississippian birdman. 'A digital illustration by the artist Herb Roe, based on a S.E.C.C. design whelk shell engraving from Spiro, Oklahoma.'