Sunday, May 16, 2010

Oran, Orante, Orans, What Is In A Posture?

Sometimes I go off on these tangents of knowledge. This is one of those.

Livia in the Basilica of Otricoli

Orant is a type of gesture during prayer in which the hands are raised, set apart, and the palms face outward. It was once common in early Christianity, and can frequently be seen in early Christian art. For example, orant gestures are depicted in Roman catacombs as vault frescos that date to the 4th century C.E.
In modern times, it is most common in Pentecostal and charismatic churches. The gesture is also seen in Catholic worship, esoteric sects, and in certain forms of exorcism ritual. It is commonly used in small group renewal weekend settings such as Cursillo. It is common in some charismatic churches during praiseful singing as well.
In more radical thought, the orant gesture is seen as a way of surrendering to the powers that be and submitting to the intrinsic patterns of the universe. As a component of cosmic religion, orant is almost a form of meditation, and a symbol of conscious change. In looking up with arms spread open, an orant practitioner would theoretically feel the chaos of the universe, and yet remain in perfect solace.


Orans (Latin, praying), (or Orante) is a female figure with extended arms [1] or bodily attitude of prayer, usually standing, with the elbows close to the sides of the body and with the hands outstretched sideways, palms up.

The Orante is a figure with open arms, a symbol of the soul at peace in paradise, a representation of the soul in the other world as a figure (orante) with arms extended in prayer.


Daniel (with lion cubs?)

Symbolism is a marvelous thing. Often we adopt a symbol for one reason and then explain away that reason as we move further away from it in time.

Yes the Orans Posture is pre-Christian but was every bit of a religious symbol as it is now. But, what did it mean?

Snake Goddess Crete (did they keep a snake under that bell like skirt?)


Dove Goddess

German Minerva

Astarte (my personal favorite)

Gilgamesh (He is cheating, he is using the lion's legs for the upright portion of the posture.)

Knossos Mycenae Horns of Consecration
(Did the Hebrews adopt theses for their alter?)
This is from the same place, notice that the horns have changed names but could this orans be mimicking the horns? Does this go back to the bull stuff after all?

Poppy head, guess what she used to predict the future.
This goes on and on and on...


Carol said...

That's quite a collection of images. Very cool.

drlobojo said...

Actually there are many more from all over the world and back in time at least 7000 years. You know I like to collect Gods and their entourage.

TStockmann said...

reat post.

Is there a term for another typical charismatic prayer posture - the hands down on the lap and the fingers curled, or is this just a variation of orante?

drlobojo said...

I'm assuming you meant standing with hands clasped at the waist, head bowed, and eyes averted or closed:
"This is the traditional posture of a shackled prisoner of war who is brought before the conquering king. The hands are clasped at the waist as if they were shackled in chains. The eyes are averted—in ancient times, looking directly at one’s captor was insolent and a good way to get killed on the spot. This posture is for submissive petitions or for intercessory or penitential prayer, as we see in Luke 18:10-13:
Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I want to thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’"

The Eastern Orthodox call this the little bow or Poyasny.

drlobojo said...

Ah, fingures curled. I'll have to research that one. Sorry. I'll be back.

drlobojo said...

Yes, it means "gimme".

Feodor said...


Priests still use the orans posture when consecrating the elements.

drlobojo said...

TS asked: "Is there a term for another typical charismatic prayer posture - the hands down on the lap and the fingers curled, or is this just a variation of orante?"

Notice the Crete Snake Goddess picture. The figure on the right is using that gesture. Just saying...

Woofyo said...

Great images! Yes it must be an archetype. Powerful symbol. Might it also relate to the cup? The arms or horns symbolizing a devotional cup, inviting the cosmic power to fill the cup? Just wondering...

drlobojo said...

The upright horns do go back at least 7,000 years. They are too close to each other to be much of a coincidence. Where as it might have meant a Bull symbol during the "age' of Tarus, it might have survive into age of Aires in the same form and by the early Pisces age simply meant an honorific salute. Remember that religion/astology/astronomy/and alchemy were all the same thing up till recently and that the "astrological ages" are real shifts in the zodiac to fixed positions of earth every 2160 years, it is possible that such a worship posture would survive that long. Even in this Pisces Age, the astrological symbol for Pisces is )-( which is not dis-similar.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed your selection of Orans. I was googling images of Oran to show my daughter what I was talking about and your blog came up. - nice.

drlobojo said...

Thanks, some things need to be remembered and thought about.