Lucifer Chiropter


No meditation on cave mythology can continue without a discussion of the Christians’ Hell and their eidolon, Satan, who presides there in a form that appears half human and half bat. The topic is suggested by the calendar, with Michaelmas falling this last week. Michael, in Revelation 12:14 at least, is the one who casts Lucifer out of heaven and so inaugurates the general Satanic revenge narrative. Now, the wings of archangels and the lower angels appear to be modeled on the wings of storks, and Lucifer must have sported this style in Heaven. However, at some point, and it’s not exactly clear when, he trades these in for, or they are spontaneously replaced by, bat’s wings, though they are necessarily so large that they might be better thought of as dragon’s wings (and indeed in depictions of Michael’s triumph his adversary is either a leather-winged anthropoid or dragon).

On modern occasions of masquerade there is a clear preference for feathery over leathery wings, even though natural history neutralizes both, and teaches us reverence for both birds and bats. The only explanation for this persistent post-Christian prejudice is a simplistic bat/cave metonymy. Even though there are birds who live in caves and bats who live in trees, the “hellishness” of caves perennially brands our innocent bat friends with a mark of murky evil.

To combat this bias I intend a plastic surgery in which the skin of my back will be carefully and partially flayed, and left to soften and cure while a new layer regenerates. The free layer is then divided in two, and stretched with the aid of bone-like struts into the shape of chiropteran wings. Such appendages are easy to hide beneath clothing when not needed, but unfold with a fiercely benevolent magnificence when the occasion demands.

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