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Gekruiste Benen * Henry MacGillavry (2000/2013)

I ran into this book ‘by accident’ and was mostly caught by the subtitle which is (translated) “a study of the functioning of symbols”. However there is indeed information about symbolism in general, the little book (100 pages) is mostly about the symbolism from the title: crossed legs.

The author was born in 1908, this book was first published when he was 92. This slightly revised reprint was printed a year after MacGillavry passed away, at the age of 104! MacGillavry was a Freemason and however he did publish books (at the same publisher) about Masonic subjects, “Gekruiste Benen” is not one of those.
The author starts by mentioning earlier investigations into the subject, but the present title mostly continues with the works of Gotthold Lessing (1729-1781), A. MacLaine Pont (1883-1955), W. Kat and… Frans Farwerck! Initially the author mentions Farwerck only briefly, later he goes into more details about Farwerck’s theories which he posed in an article in the periodical Nehalennia of 1959 about the same subject. A nice surprise.

MacGillavry refers to his named predecesors on the subject and decided to not use a massive amount of images like Farwerck usually does, but to stick to a few good examples. These are printed in not-smashing quality in the book (a few in colour in the reprint). There are many, many examples of people depicted with their legs crossed (while standing, sitting or laying) both from ancient history and more recently on paintings. The author treats different theories such as that these images refer to the God of Sleep (Hypnos) and/or the God of Death (Thanatos), to a border-crossing (Kat) or to a Cosmic cycle (Farwerck), but since none of these theories can be used at all known images, the author comes to the conclusion that they refer more generally to a transition. This idea does not rule out the other theories.

Along the way you can Egyptian, Roman, Mithraic, Christian, etc. symbols surrounding the figures with crossed legs. It makes this little book a nice read.

2000/2013 Uitgeverij De Steensplinter, isbn 9789057170331

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