Moravian tradition features frequent sexual imagery, and this is comparable to Blake’s rather horrifying description of the Leviathan’s mouth. It is all incredibly strange. A large portion of Moravian theology focuses on the wounds of Christ. These include the wounds of circumcision and the wound of the spear in the rib. These wounds are highly sexualized, as Marsha Schuchard describes in the article “Young William Blake and the Moravian Tradition of Visual Art.” Schuchard asserts that Moravians “focus intently on the bloody wounds of the crucified Jesus, which he interpreted in highly eroticized language—i.e., as the centurion’s phallic spear penetrated the vaginal side-wound, new souls were birthed in the gushing blood from this mystical intercourse” (Schuchard). The emphasis on the strange juxtaposition of the wounding of Christ against the phallic sexual imagery of the spear is both curious and applicable to Blake’s writing. In The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Blake describes the Leviathan that faces him, using the same semi-sexual imagery. The Leviathan approaches, and Blake sees its “mouth & red gills hang just above the raging foam tinging the black deep with beams of blood, advancing toward us with all the fury of a spiritual existence” (Blake 77). This passage uses the same semi-sexual imagery to describe the events that cause the growth of Blake’s narrator. The description of the Leviathan as a kind of reddish, bleeding, flesh-frilled, hole-centered maw is simultaneously horrifying, as well as reminiscent of the miracle of birth. The erotic imagery of Moravian biblical study is perfectly captured in Blakeian demonic study, showing William Blake’s influence by a possible Moravian childhood.

 

Hey, this is disgusting and I hate when William Blake makes me think about stuff.

Ross Koppel