About “The Witch Lord” – A Sculpture by C. Orapello
The Witch Lord is a one-of-kind sculpture that is sure to bring power and presence to anyone’s altar. Shown here in clay (on right) and soon to be available in hot poured bronze. My rendition of The Witch Lord integrates elements from some of my favorite horned god images into one unique work of modern Pagan art.
The primary source of inspiration for the sculpture was Eliphas Levi’s image of Baphomet. Levi was a 19th century French occultist and his image of Baphomet is ripe with esoteric symbolism. Baphomet is not simply an image of the ‘Christian devil’ per se, but instead harkens back to the horned god imagery as found in ancient medieval woodcuts and such artistic works as Goya’s painting of the Witches’ Sabbath.
Though Baphomet references such imagery, the image of Baphomet drawn by Levi is full of deeper meaning, which can be summed up in saying that Baphomet is a union of all things manifest, which in itself is a severely limited explanation. While Baphomet is a primary influence in the design of The Witch Lord, the other sources of inspiration include the Cornish deity Bucca Dhu, Herne the Hunter, and Cernunnos.
Herne the Hunter and Cernunnos are often viewed as being one in the same. One could even argue additional connections between them and Bucca Dhu, and the Anglo-Saxon deity Woden (Odin) as many similarities exists between all four of them, while their cultural and iconographic distinctions still provides them with a separateness each to their own.
As a hunter, Herne resonates back to the hunter/gather civilizations of the past. He is a union between animal and humankind and as a hunter he can also be viewed as the Lord of Animals, similar to Cernunnos. His horns can even be viewed as being branches similar to the later image of the Green Man. The tales of Herne speak of self-sacrifice, death, transformation, and resurrection.
While the deities offer a great foundation to the image, the individual elements in the sculpture bear a complex language of symbolism that serve to further instill the entire work of art with a depth of meaning and power. Imbuing the image with it’s own identity and making this version of The Witch Lord a deity unto himself.
The Spear, reminiscent of the hunter and the wild hunt, represents sustenance and life, but also sacrifice and death. Conjoined with the forked staff, it also alludes to the white crescent moon found in the upper corner of Levi’s Baphomet and even has a torch like quality that illustrates light and wisdom.
The Forked Staff, also called a Stang or the Gwelen is a powerful tool of a witch. Being tree like, the Stang unites the above with the below and serves as a conduit for the serpentine energy if stabbed into the earth as embodied in the sculpture.
The Horned Skull, with the skull being a symbol for death and The Bucca, its role as the head of the figure harkens to Herne the Hunter (spirit of Windsor Forest) and to even Baphomet in that the head is animal based. The antlers of the skull linger between being horns, antlers, and branches of a tree, infusing the image with a multidimensional aesthetic that enhances its implication and significance as they mirror the Stang in profile, but at the same time sprout into three distinct directions.
The Posture and The Goat Legs, are both directly inspired by Eliphas Levi’s image of Baphomet, however, the goat legs, as well as the antlers, relate the images to Pan, Puck, Cernunnos, and other such caprine deities. The union of human and animal ties The Witch Lord to the land and animals while also being a reminder of our personal connection to the land as beings of the earth
The Torc, is a common piece of jewelry associated with images of Cernunnos. It is a circular necklace that is emblematic of Celtic nobility. In the image shown here we see Cernunnos holding and wearing a Torc necklace while holding a snake and being surrounded by animals. The presence of the Torc in The Witch Lord defines him as being of nobility.
The Position Of The Arms, another element taken from Levi’s Baphomet however instead of the hands gesturing to two crescent moons, one white and one black, the one holds the spear symbolizing life, regeneration, and solution while the other gestures down, towards the human skull symbolizing death, degeneration, and coagulation, but it also represents the ancestors, the mighty dead, the beloved dead, and the black crescent moon found in the lower corner of Levi’s Baphomet.
The Serpent, a symbol of the serpentine force of existence, the red serpent or Sarf Ruth is also a common element in images of Cernunnos. The concept of serpentine energy as embodied by the snake speaks of the spirit of the land which dwells in all living things. Similar to the fifth element in its omnipresence, but more tangible and interactive. It is something one experiences within the land. It changes with the day. It changes with the season. It is what one may feel while alone in a forest or in some other natural setting. In a sense, it is the vibe or feeling one gets from the land and their surroundings. Connecting with the local spirits of the land are important in many forms of witchcraft and in this sculpture the spirit of the land is depicted rising up from ground as it embraces and spirals up the seated Lord of the Witches.
In the Qabalah we have the Tree of Life and in many ways The Witch Lord is a tree of life, bearing fruit, standing tall, being a pillar of support to the work of a witch. In the Qabalah, the idea of the Tree of Life functions as a map of the cosmos and an illustration of manifestation down to Malkuth and the physical plane, or if we seek to climb it, then it functions as a guide to reach the source of creation. In the image of the Tree of Life shown here, the snake climbs up from the bottom towards the source of divinity up from the manifested world. Does the course the snake takes reveal a deviation from the specified path or something more?
In other traditions, the snake itself has been used as a symbol for wisdom and enlightenment, but in a biblical context, the serpent is often associated with the Garden of Eden and humankind’s fall from grace; where the serpent is viewed as a corrupter, trickster, and tempter who convinced Eve to eat of the fruit from the Tree of Life. However, could anything go as unplanned in a world design by an all knowing, all present, and all powerful creator? The eating of the fruit may have permitted Eve, and later Adam, to become aware, but we can argue that they perhaps did not eat enough of the tree before assuming they understood everything. It is in this additional way that the meaning of the serpent in The Witch Lord sculpture, not only implies the spirit of the land, but also humankind’s continued pursuit to eat of the tree, for further wisdom, deeper insight, and to transcend creation itself.
How can so many seemingly unrelated things be combined into one image? That’s the beauty and role of being an artist I suppose. The freedom to contribute and further develop imagery, symbolism, and iconography by synthesizing elements to create a new thing. It’s all very alchemical in a way. But in all honesty, I see a common thread at play between all these separate ideas. To me, they are alluding to and referencing one thing which we don’t have to refer to, that is until myself, or some other artist, brings it into being.
Interested in owning a hot poured bronze rendition of this exclusive piece iconic work? If you would like to be added to the list to purchase one of the 30 bronze editions, please contact me for more information. Editions will be first come first serve so be sure to get on the list if you are interested. They will be numbered, produced in actual hot poured bronze (not cold cast resin), hand finished, and mounted on black marble. Only 30 numbered bronzes will be made.
Or if you would like to see a cold cast bronze version made available,