The Whore of Babylon

In one of the previous lectures (I think the February 14th one, but, as of this time, the lecture about the rise of Lutheranism hasn’t been uploaded yet) Professor Stuart briefly showed an image of the Whore of Babylon.

Since this class doesn’t focus on the Book of Revelation or mythology in general, the image was only shown because of the artist, Lukas Cranach. The image shown was “The Pope as the Whore of Babylon” (1545). Depicted in the woodcut (a colorized version of it is posted below) is, as the title says, the Pope as the Whore of Babylon.

The image is a strong anti-clerical piece, and ties in with Lutheranism, as Luther’s doctrine of “sola gratia, sola fide, sola scriptura” went again Catholic beliefs. In short, Luther believed in salvation by scripture alone, that only God’s chosen ones could be granted salvation and that purgatory was a fabrication made up by the clergy. Thus, he believed in predestination and that people could not change the outcome of their lives. This went directly against the Catholic Church’s selling of indulgences, which could reduce the amount of time people would spend in purgatory, and Luther grew to see the Pope as the Anti-Christ.


*To be honest, if this image is supposed to represent the Pope, I think he doesn’t look all that bad in drag.

Image source:

Mother Harlot


Here is SMT’s version of the Whore of Babylon, called “Mother Harlot” due to the character-count limit in earlier games allowing names up to only 14 letters long. In my opinion, the name “Mother Harlot” fits her well, after all, in Revelation 17:5, “upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH”.

Thus, SMT’s “Mother Harlot” can be considered to be a title for Babylon the Great, which is the actual name of the Whore.

Thematically, Mother Harlot follows the same concept as the Whore, which is a given, as they are the same character. Both images depict her as a woman dressed in red and purple, accented by gold and some precious stones. In addition, she holds a goblet “full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication” (Revelation 17:4). The beast on which she rides is red and has seven heads and 10 horns – these features are mentioned in the Book of Revelation and present in Kaneko’s art, but missing in Cranach’s woodcut, presumably due to the angle in which it is drawn. A curious feature about Mother Harlot is her skeletal visage: presumably, Kaneko added this feature to make her fit in with his versions of the Four Horsemen, who are also from the Book of Revelation.

Design-wise, there’s no doubt that Mother Harlot represents the Whore of Babylon. She sits upon the Whore’s iconic seven-headed and ten-horned scarlet beast, is dressed in red and purple, and holds a goblet full of “filth”. The veil, red toenail polish, skeletal face, and provocative manner of dress are all elements of Kaneko’s stylistic flair, and I feel it works well in this image. All of the fancy adornments combined with her relative lack of clothing is fitting for a prostitute, and the diamond patterns, strong underbite, vaguely human-like face and blank white eyes really blend together to make her beast look demonic.

Now, all this is great and all, but what does the Whore represent? Well, what she represents is actually unclear and up to people’s interpretation of her. Usually, she is said to represent nations who persecute Christians or churches that spread false gospel. Many also believe that her beast’s seven heads represent Rome’s seven hills. Since she’s a strong anti-Christian image, I can only imagine that the connection with Rome is due to how the Romans persecuted Christians at first.



The Four Horsemen (pt. 3)

While I dislike Peasant Fires the most out of all of our assigned readings so far, one of the quotes in the book were burned into my mind. This in part is due to our wonderful TA Mark, who brought it up once in discussion. Paraphrased, the quote was:

“Peasants stand up to their necks in water, so that even the slightest ripple will drown them”.

By this, the author meant that peasants lived in constant fear of “drowning”. A peasant lived in a constant balancing act – he had to pay the taxes forced upon him by his landlord, manage his crops and livestock, find the time to pray or be shunned by their peasant community, socialize and haggle with the other peasants, and so forth. If even a single one of those balancing acts were to be disturbed, such as a drought killing off all of their crops, the peasant’s life would be in peril. The peasant wouldn’t be able to feed themself, their family, their livestock, have anything to trade or sell, or pay their landlord with. Thus, drought is an example of one of the “ripples” that can “drown” a peasant.

If a drought were to last long or be harsh enough, it would cause famine. This leads to the third horseman of the Apocalypse: Famine.


“When He broke the third seal, I heard the third living creature saying, “Come.” I looked, and behold, a black horse; and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard something like a voice in the center of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; but do not damage the oil and the wine.”

— Revelation 6:5-6


In times of famine, staple food crops would be in short supply, but the demand for luxury items would stay relatively the same. This explains the quote above – the prices of wheat and barley were greatly inflated due to famine-related shortage, while oil and wine, being more “vanity” type food items, wouldn’t need to have their prices changed.

Thematically, Famine’s design in the SMT series matches the other two Horsemen already mentioned on this blog. He wears the typical Grim Reaper’s robes, and rides a horse color-coordinated to match himself. A fact that I have not put on the other two is that all of their horses have the same eye color: a striking and unnatural blue.

This detail, along with each Horseman’s skeletal visage, is meant to make the viewer feel uneasy – yes, it is a humanoid figure on a horse, but something about both horse and rider is wrong.

While Conquest’s white horse can be interpreted as the glory of a newly-conquered land and War’s red horse the blood and violence of battle, Famine’s black horse is something much less extravagant. To me, the black color of the horse represents rot. Yes, black is a color typically attributed to Death, but the black of Famine’s horse can be interpreted as representing the ruined crops his arrival had caused.

Famine’s scales represent how the scarcity of food has resulted in higher prices, likely caused by the actions of the previous two Horsemen.

Famine’s pose isn’t quite as exaggerated as War’s. His is much more serious: he rides forward, veering to the side to show off his scales. Unlike the first two Horsemen, he doesn’t sit up tall, but rather leans forward. This detail adds in with how he appears to be riding towards the viewer, spreading his blight across the land.

Again, all art on this blog, unless stated otherwise, is made by Kazuma Kaneko.

Albinus’ Skeleton

In my Design 14 class, we were required to draw one of Dutch anatomist Bernhard Siegfried Albinus’ skeletons. While our class lecture about the Bubonic Plague was something in the distant past, it appeared on our recent midterm. The skeleton’s pose, with its leaning to its right side (our left) and welcoming arms reminded me of Hans Holbein’s Danse Macabre woodcut prints. Its left hand, in particular, with its pointing index finger, is what reminds me of Holbein’s prints.

To me, that gesture appears to make it look as if the skeleton is welcoming the viewer into the realm of death, as if it were a waiter at a restaurant would direct his customers to their table. It’s a very casual pose, and shows off the bones in the arms while adding some charm.

The drawing was done by me on 18 by 24 inch Bristol paper, with brush and ink pen.



In the Feb. 7 lecture, Professor Stuart mentioned indulgences.

An indulgence was an item that could be purchased by a person in order to reduce their sin, meaning that they’d spend less time in hell if they bought some.

The buying and selling of indulgences eventually went commercial by the Late Middle Ages, and went out of the Church’s control.

Eventually, the buying and selling of indulgences was repressed, partially due to the Protestant Reformation that we’ll soon learn about.

Interestingly, or perhaps not very interestingly, indulgences are exactly what Hans of Peasant Fires would’ve urged people to burn. Hans believed that any items indicating wealth (like fancy clothes and pointed shoes) should be burned, as they contributed to sin. Since indulgences were items purchased in order to reduce a person’s sin, they go counter to Hans’ beliefs.

I believe that Hans would’ve believed indulgences to be heretical, as they were something only the wealthy could obtain many of. Therefore, they’d be but another item thrown onto the communal bonfire.

The Four Horsemen (pt. 2)

In prof. Stuart’s Jan. 31st lecture, we learned a little about Milan, an aggressive and expansionist state.

Their goal was to expand their territory by conquering the nearby, weaker Italian states that surrounded them. With the amount of military strength they had, they must’ve believed this would be easy.

To achieve that goal, they hired mercenary soldiers. However, mercenary soldiers aren’t always loyal to their contractors…

The most prominent mercenary they hired was Francesco Sforza, who, in the battle against Milan and Venice, betrayed Milan to fight for Venice. After siding with Venice, his forces took over Milan, ruling over them and creating the Sforza dynasty.

In hindsight, Sforza’s betrayal is quite Machiavellian, and exactly the reason why Machiavelli himself, in his work, The Prince, urged princes to not rely on mercenaries. After all, mercenaries, according to Machiavelli, only care about the amount they get paid, and aren’t loyal to anyone other than themselves.

“When He broke the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, “Come.” And another, a red horse, went out; and to him who sat on it, it was granted to take peace from the earth, and that men would slay one another; and a great sword was given to him.”

— Revelations 6:3-4


War is certainly one of the more “popular” horsemen, and tends to get more time in the limelight than Conquest. Since I’m sure most of the people in this class know what the 4 Horsemen are about already, I’ll just go on about some things about his design.

To start with, his pose is very fitting. Even while dressed in traditional Grim Reaper robes, you can tell that he’s sitting tall and proud on his horse, which is rearing up on its hind legs. To me, it looks as if he’s either doing a victory pose or declaring war on the world. The raised-up sword adds to this, giving his art some extra height and a shiny object that can become the center of attention. Another thing I like is the sinister appearance his hood gives him. Unlike Conquest, who shows most of his skeletal face, War’s face is mostly hidden, making him look more dastardly.

Yet, War isn’t in the midst of action in this art. His depicition in SMT is quite calm — sure, he’s the one who’s going to take all peace away from the Earth, but that doesn’t mean he has to be perpetually angry and irrational.