Saturday, June 18, 2011

Gargoyles and God's Eyes

Originally a gargoyle was a water spout, mounted on the eave and directing water away from a building so that the water would not erode the mortar. If a stone carving carries no water and has a face or resembles a creature, these are technically called grotesques.

Over the passage of time the word gargoyle became the term used to describe any and all the fantastic creatures on a cathedral or other building. Folklore held that gargoyles are good luck and frightened away evil spirits.

During the 1200's when gargoyles first appeared (and at many other times), the Roman Catholic Church was actively involved in converting people of other faiths to the Catholic, often very keenly indeed (as the Christian but non-Catholic Cathars could testify). The argument for decorated gargoyles runs as follows:  Since literacy was generally not an option for most people, images were very important. Since the religious images (if any) that non-Christians were accustomed to were of animals or mixtures of animals and humans (e.g. the horned god, the Green Man), then putting similar images on churches and cathedrals would encourage non-Catholics to join the religion and go to church, make them feel more comfortable about it, or at least ease the transition. 

Myths held that gargoyles come alive at night and return to their place when the sun comes up! Some believed that these figures on the cathedrals would come alive at night to protect.....ward off evil and such. The ones with wings were believed to fly around at night keeping watch from the sky.   Some of the explanations of the symbolism of gargoyles are found to have sexual connotations. Oh my!

The Washington National Cathedral has many gargoyles and even offers a gargoyle tour!  If only we lived closer! If anyone takes this in, be sure to let us know all about it and what you learned.

Julie's Gargoyle chart has used the God's Eye stitch for the eyes of her gargoyle - which helps him gain a grotesqueness - otherwise, he kind of looks like a happy little puppy that someone put some wings on!  

"May the eye of God be upon you."
The God's Eye Stitch is an isolated stitch used on even weave fabrics.  It is similar in construction to the ribbed spider's web and makes a bold raised diamond shape with a long tail. It is a great accent stitch where texture or color is needed. One of my favorite sources for learning the stitch is, The Complete Stitch Encyclopedia by Jan Eaton.  I have also included some web sites that show how to create this stitch.
God's eye or Ojo de Dios on Quemado Mountain, San Luis Potosi,Mexico, photo by Anaroza, 2007
You may remember making God's eyes as children, with two sticks as the base and wrapping the colorful yarns around them. This is a craft many of us enjoyed in our scouting days.  Ojo de Dios is Spanish for "eye of God." It is pronounced "oh-ho-day-Dee-ohs" (the "j" is silent or sometimes has a light "h" sound). The " Ojo de Dios" or God's Eye is an ancient symbol made by the Huichol Indians of Mexico and the Aymara Indians of Bolivia. Ojos de Dios (plural) were discovered by early Spaniards when they encountered the Huichol (pronounced "wettchol") Indians in the Sierra Madre mountains of Mexico.  The four points of the crossed sticks represent earth, air, water, and fire. In Bolivia, "God's Eyes" were made to be placed on an altar so that the gods could watch over the praying people and protect them. When one makes a traditional Ojo de Dios, one is expressing a prayer that the "Eye of God" will watch over them or the person they are making it for (oftentimes a child). The Ojo de Dios is also a physical representation of praying for health, fortune, and a long life. To some Christians, it means a prayer for "May the eye of God be upon you."  In Mexico, The central eye was made when a child was born. Each year, a bit of yarn was added until the child turned five at which point the Ojo was complete. 

In folk art, the God's Eye has been taken to new levels - even a God's Eye Quilt.

As usual, click on the photo of the chart to get to the freebie chart, or click on Freebies in the sidebar and look for A Dark Alphabet on the Freebie page of our website.

Julie has been stitching, and has C and F stitched!  

She still hasn't caught up to Jo, but  she's pretty happy.


  1. These are such gorgeous, great fun! Love all the stories! Keep shining, Jacqueline

  2. Thank you, Jacqueline - we are having fun!


  3. The large boy guessed Ghosts for G but we already had one in EEK! Gargoyle is great. I haven't started F yet as I have some obligation stitching this month but I'll be back on a roll soon!

  4. Oh, we ran the "gamut" trying to come up with G - Ghouls, Ghosts, Goblins - it all boiled down to what I could actually draw, hahahaha. And you're right - Ghosts was too recently used. Now H drew itself, hahahaha.


  5. Just popped back to see how to stitch the God's Eyes. F and G now completed and will post pics over the weekend.
    You may now post H whenevr you're ready :-)

  6. Hahaha - well, as you probably saw by the background, we are almost ready...


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