Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Devil's Gateway - the evils of makeup!

I'm reading Tertullian's "On the Apparel of Women" for chapter 4 of my book, which is about the forbidden teachings the fallen angels hand on to their human wives. (The book itself will be called Angels' Tongues and Witches' Curses: Jewish Women and Ritual Power in Late Antiquity). Among these forbidden teachings are magic and sorcery, but also all kinds of adornment and makeup. Tertullian, who is a 3rd century CE father of the church, has written the most misogynistic statement I have come across in ancient literature. It appears in chapter 1 of "On the Apparel of Women."
“And do you not know that you (each) an Eve? The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives in this age: the guilty must of necessity live too. You are the devil’s gateway; you are the unsealer of that (forbidden) tree; you are the first deserter of the divine law; you are she who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack. You destroyed so easily God’s image, man. On account of your desert – that is, death – even the Son of God had to die.”
He then goes on to argue that on this basis, women should not get dressed in pretty clothes and put on eye makeup, since of course, we should go around miserable and clad in rags, to expiate the sins of our mother Eve. One would think that the sin of bringing death to the world and causing the death of the Son of God would deserve a worse punishment than wearing ugly clothing, but there it is.

While Tertullian blames the sin of Eve on all subsequent generations of women, he also believes that the fallen angels handed down various kinds of knowledge to women.
"For when to an age much more ignorant (than ours) they had disclosed certain well-concealed material substances, and several not well-revealed scientific arts—if it is true that they had laid bare the operations of metallurgy, and had divulged the natural properties of herbs, and had promulgated the powers of enchantments, and had traced out every curious art, even to the interpretation of the stars—they conferred properly and as it were peculiarly upon women that instrumental mean of womanly ostentation, the radiances of jewels wherewith necklaces are variegated, and the circlets of gold wherewith the arms are compressed, and the medicaments of orchil with which wools are coloured, and that black powder itself wherewith the eyelids and eyelashes are made prominent.”
The fallen angels revealed metallurgy, the properties of herbs, knowledge of enchantment and the interpretation of the stars - and on top of that how to make necklaces with jewels on them, circlets of gold, orchil for coloring wool, and black eye-makeup (kohl).

Tertullian bases himself on 1 Enoch, which describes just such teachings being passed on to women, but he goes farther - much much farther - on the evils of self-adornment. For just a few examples, randomly chosen:
"For they who rub their skin with medicaments, stain their cheeks with rouge, make their eyes prominent with antimony, sin against HIM."
God, that is. He goes on to argue that putting on makeup is Satanic:
"Whatever is born is the work of God. Whatever, then, is plastered on, is the devil's work. To superinduce on a divine work Satan's ingenuities, how criminal is it!" 
He also thinks that dyeing the hair is evil, especially dyeing it blond! He writes:
"I see some (women) turn (the color of) their hair with saffron. They are ashamed even of their own nation, (ashamed) that their procreation did not assign them to Germany and to Gaul: thus, as it is, they transfer their hair (thither)!"
He also condemns men's self-adornment:
"if this sex of ours acknowledges to itself deceptive trickeries of form peculiarly its own - (such as) to cut the beard too sharply; to pluck it out here and there; to shave round about (the mouth); to arrange the hair, and disguise its hoariness by dyes; to remove all the incipient down all over the body; to fix (each particular hair) in its place with (some) womanly pigment, etc."
So: remember that drab clothing, wild beards, and scraggly hair are all desired by God and lead to salvation!

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