Symbology and Iconography


A keen observer may have noticed some interesting motifs that we've included on our label. Some are obvious, but others are rather more obscure. 

The Cherub

A traditional representation of a cherub in early Christian Iconography

There is no specific origin for the idea nor for the symbolic form of the Cherub. They were originally conceived in the days of early civilization when mysticism served as the basis of religion and theology. This resulted in the formulation of a wide variety of mystical creatures that derive their form from combining aspects of various animals. The Cherub, Griffon, Sphinx, Minotaur, and Hippogriff are all the product of this early mystical speculation.

Over the course of history, there have been numerous and conflicting ideas on the appearance of cherubs1. Some Early Hebrew writings suggest they had youthful, human features. In the Old Testament's Book of Ezekiel, the cherub is said to have to have wings and four faces. In Early Christian iconography, even as early as 5th century, cherubs were typically represented this way.

By the early 15th century, Western European Christians came to distance themselves from this interpretation, and instead depicted cherubs as the putto, as seen in Classical and Baroque art, and with the Greek God Cupid.

In the Abrahamic religions, Cherubs are known as one of the unearthly beings who attend directly to God. Over the centuries, numerous depictions have shown them in many different roles, but their original duty was to protect the Garden of Eden. A 5th Century text, De Coelesti Hierarchia, discussed the place of the cherub in the hierarchy of angels. This later influenced Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica, who stated that the Cherubim were second only to the Seraphim in order of proximity to God.

Chi-Ro

This early form of christogram is simply the combination of the Greek capital letters Chi (X) and Rho (P). Early in the 4th century, Roman historian Lactantius wrote that its form came through divine inspiration to Emperor Constantine, where he and his army observed a cross of light imposed over the sun on the eve of a major battle. The emperor also confirmed that that same night, Christ appeared to him in a dream and told him to replicate the sign he had seen, as a lucky charm for defense in battle.

Eusebius wrote later that Constantine swore an oath that the events were indeed true, but he also points out that

"Indeed, had anyone else told this story, it would not have been easy to accept it."2

After this, the Chi-Rho was incorporated into the imperial insignia. Archeological evidence indicates that it was found emblazoned on Labarii, helmets, coins, medallions, frescoes, and sarcophagi of the Late Roman era. Examples of these were observed even as far away as Roman Brittania, in Dorset, Lullingstone, and others.

As such, it has become one of the most important motifs in a wide variety of religious works, including the famous Books of Kells and Lindisfarne.

 The Wheel of Life

Although The Chi-Rho symbol is often super-imposed into a circle, the fundamental form has even older origins. In Plato's Timaeus, the letter chi is explained to be representative of a crossing of two bands that form the "anima mundi" (World Soul):

"This entire compound divided lengthways into two parts, which he joined to one another at the centre like the letter X, and bent them into a circular form, connecting them with themselves and each other at the point opposite to their original meeting-point; and, comprehending them in a uniform revolution upon the same axis, he made the one the outer and the other the inner circle."

-Plato. Timaeus, 8.36b and 8.36c

 A more detailed interpretation is given by Rahner & Bertshaw, who further expound:

"The two great circles of the heavens, the equator and the ecliptic, which, by intersecting each other form a sort of recumbent chi and about which the whole dome of the starry heavens swings in a wondrous rhythm, became for the Christian eye a heavenly cross."

Rahner & Battershaw 1971, "Mystery of the Cross", pp. 49-50.

This interpretation is not unique to Christian theology. The concept of resurrection as it is suggested in Buddhism has parallels to views on death and resurrection in Christian thought as well. In Buddhist teachings, the wheel is often used to symbolize the cyclical nature of life. The name in Sanskrit, Bhavacakra, roughly translates to "Wheel of life".

Legend has it that Gautama Buddha himself was the first to introduce this symbol in this context, sometime between the 6th and 4th centuries BC.

The California Bear

The last important symbol is today the most recognizable. We felt that it was important to include, as a way of paying homage to the home state of both founders of Juniperra Beverages, Michael and Charlie.

Sources

  1. Wood, Alice. Of Wing and Wheels: A Synthetic Study of the Biblical Cherubim. pp. 2-4. ISBN978-3-11-020528-2.
  2. Eusebius of Caesarea, Church History (manuscripts), Tertullian.org.