Salomé: dancing princess – 16 July 2018
Her dance is over, she has asked for her prize. Maybe that is what she is looking at and considering – the head of John the Baptist. She is beautiful, young and pale – modern looking to our eye, her hands resting on her hips. She is privileged, a princess of Judea. She has learnt that the male gaze is everything. She is both hyper-sexualised and infantilised. Her power is expressed through her dance; for her, eroticism and appearance are everything. History tells us her name is Salomé, today her name might be Kylie or Kim.
Where has she learnt all this? Who has tutored and groomed her? St Mark’s gospel tells the story of a mother (Herodias) and surrogate father (Herod) who use her for their own purposes. In the end the story is a tragedy, in which John might be the major victim, but he is not the only one.
We might use this story as a prompt to pray for all who are part of the sex industry, for those who think of themselves as empowered through the allure of their bodies, and for those who know that really they have no power at all.
This painting is Salomé by Vardges Sureniants (1907). Sureniants was Armenian, born in modern day Georgia, his father a presbyter in the Armenian Church who later served in Moscow Diocese. Sureniants played a significant role recording the Armenian genocide (1915) through the painting survivors. In the early years of the twentieth century he painted in Persia, where he was particularly interested in the decorative feel of painting. This picture of Salomé comes from that time.
They cast lots for my people
and traded boys for prostitutes;
they sold girls for wine to drink.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.