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Lucifer, the Morning Star and a Poetry Challenge
A Powerful Symbol
The word "lucifer" is a powerful symbol in our language. It has two dramatically different meanings, however. When the word begins with a capital letter it generally represents the devil or Satan; when it begins with a small letter it sometimes refers to Christ.
For many people, Lucifer is synonymous with the devil. This wasn't the original meaning of the term, though. Lucifer is a Latin word that means bearer of light. In Ancient Rome it referred to the planet Venus. This planet is often called the morning star since it is very bright and is visible just before dawn.
The term morning star is also used in some Christian documents to represent Christ. If these documents are used in their Latin versions, as is sometimes the case, "lucifer" replaces "morning star". Therefore we end up with the very odd situation in which the word lucifer can represent both good and evil.
In this article I explore the meanings of lucifer using both prose and poetry. The poem was written for a poetry challenge established by another writer in honour of National Poetry Month, which takes place in April of each year.
Venus: Music From The Planets Suite by Gustav Holst
The photo at the start of the video above shows Venus. The planet is so bright because it's covered by thick clouds that reflect sunlight and because it's the closest planet to the Earth.
The Morning Star
Venus received its alternate name of the morning star because it's the brightest object in the night sky, apart from the moon, and because it appears in the eastern sky just before dawn. It also shines brightly at dusk in the western sky, when it's referred to as the evening star. Early astronomers were unaware that the morning star and the evening star were the same object. They were also unaware that the "star" was actually a planet.
In Ancient Rome, people used the word lucifer for the morning star and seemed to have had no concept of the word as a representation of evil. In fact, Lucifer was sometimes used as the first name of a male.
In the Easter Proclamation or Exsultet used by the Catholic and Anglican churches today, the term "morning star" is used to refer to Christ. Jesus also uses the term to refer to himself in Revelation 22:16. In the Latin version of the Exsultet, the word lucifer is used for both the morning star and Christ.
How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!— Isaiah Chapter 14, Verse 12 (King James Version)
Lucifer Reference in Isiah 14:12
The only biblical reference to Lucifer occurs in Isaiah 14:12 in the King James Version of the Bible. Modern Bibles use the terms shining one, shining star, day star or morning star to replace the word Lucifer.
The beginning of Isaiah 14:12 seems at first glance to be talking about the fall of the devil from heaven. However, Chapter 14 of Isaiah isn't about the devil, even though Isaiah 14:12 is often quoted to support the use of Lucifer as one of the devil's names. The chapter is in part a criticism of the King of Babylon. Like Christ and angels, kings were also known as morning stars.
Although many biblical scholars say that the word Lucifer isn't justified as a name for the devil, it's widely used in this sense. Some people use the word to refer to the devil while he was still in heaven but not after he was cast out.
National Poetry Month
Poetry challenges can be fun at any time of year, but they are especially meaningful during National Poetry Month. The event is celebrated every April in the United States. It was created in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets and lasts for the entire month of April. The goal of poetry month is to increase both the awareness and the appreciation of poetry. National Poetry Month was established in Canada in 1998 by the League of Canadian Poets and is also celebrated in April of each year.
Many organizations hold special events during the month of April, including publishers, booksellers, libraries, literary organizations and schools. Events include poetry readings and festivals, poet interviews, book displays, media reports, workshops, contests, writing challenges and special lesson plans in schools.
A Poetry Challenge
Writing challenges can be very useful for both prose writers and poets. They often trigger new ideas and can encourage people to write in a new genre. Although the rules of a writing challenge may at first seem restrictive, they can sometimes stimulate creativity as a writer tries to follow the requirements while still expressing their thoughts.
The idea behind the challenge in which I participated was to create a story with a series of poems written by different people. The first poem in the series established the setting, characters and theme of the story. The last one presented the conclusion. The poems in the middle told the story. A similar challenge could be performed by other writing groups. A writer's position in the poetry chain could be chosen voluntarily or by choosing random numbers. It's very interesting to see the final story that's created when the poems are read in the correct sequence.
Even when multiple elements of a story are established in the first poem, it's still possible for writers to be creative, depending on the rules of the challenge. In my challenge, a poem had to follow these rules.
- Each poem had to be no longer than ten lines.
- The theme of the first poem presented to the writers had to be followed. This theme was the goal of the devil to obtain the soul of a woman who had just died. Another element of the first poem that I followed (although this wasn't essential) was the presence of a church.
Meaning and Symbolism of Lucifer and Fire
In the last line of my poem, I've chosen the word "Lucifer" for its double meaning. The reader can choose which interpretation they prefer. Lucifer could represent Satan and indicate that the demonic force is tightening its grip on April, the woman who has died. The word could also symbolize the light of the morning star and might even suggest that April is being protected or saved by the Light.
The word "fire" is also an interesting symbol in literature and has multiple connotations. It often represents destruction but is also used to symbolize desire or cleansing. In addition, it is sometimes linked to rebirth, as in the legend of the phoenix. This mythical bird periodically dies in a fire, but a new phoenix is always born from the ashes.
The flames of darkness glowed
and sent out tongues of lust,
empowered by desire
to grasp life's severed souls.
The ringing church bell choked,
smothered by the surge
of hatred for the loved;
and April's dead eyes shone,
her mind fed full with fire
by the light of Lucifer.
© 2014 Linda Crampton