Symbols - What does heaven look like
A birthmark is a benign irregularity on the skin which is present at birth or appears shortly after birth, usually in the first month.
Birthmarks can occur anywhere on the skin. The exact cause of most birthmarks is unknown from a scientific or medical point of view.
There are both literal and symbolic beliefs related to birthmarks.
The literal beliefs are associated with people who actually have a birthmark, the symbolic beliefs are related to destiny, astrology, high emotion, curses and a whole gamut of other interesting aspects.
The theory of impressed emotional trauma
The first theory related to actual birthmarks is based on the idea that any emotional trauma experienced by the Mum during pregnancy is expressed as a birthmark on the baby. Much of the folklore surrounding birthmarks is based on this belief, that events that happened to the Mum, translate as marks onto the baby.
In Dutch, birthmarks are called moedervlekken, in Danish modermærke and in German Muttermal (mother-spots) for this reason. Birthmarks are called voglie in Italian, antojos in Spanish, and wiham in Arabic; all of which translate to "wishes" because, according to folklore, they are caused by the unfulfilled wishes of the mother during pregnancy. Some beliefs associated with birthmarks are that they are caused when an expectant mother sees something strange, or experiences a great deal of fear, sometimes called a maternal impression. In Iranian folklore, a birthmark may appear when the pregnant mother witnesses a solar eclipse.
Although one may classify this as folklore, there is scientific evidence that such things can happen, for example:
Psychol Rep. 2000 Dec;87(3 Pt 2):1067-74. An unusual birthmark case thought to be linked to a person who had previously died. Keil HH, Tucker JB. School of Psychology, University of Tasmania, Australia.
The following case report describes a Burmese subject with an unusual birthmark and birth defects thought by local people to be linked to events surrounding the death of his mother's first husband. The nature of the link is explored, including how the assumption of a linkage could have led to subsequent events. PMID: 11272746
The theory of past life trauma
According again to folklore and even to modern American folklore, birth marks sometimes indicate the site of traumatic injuries in a past life.
Psychol Rep. 2001 Aug;89(1):142-4. Ropelike birthmarks on children who claim to remember past lives. Stevenson I.
Description of birthmarks having the pattern of strands of a rope in a second known case includes some verification of the correspondence between the birthmarks and injuries from ropes on an identified deceased person. PMID: 11729534
In reincarnation, the Higher spirit plus all the perceptions it has accumulated over many lives survives death, although memory, and learnt function all disappear. In effect, whereas consciousness resides with the Will and ego during life, it transfers back to the Higher spirit on death. When a person is born, consciousness transfers back from the Higher spirit to the Will and ego/Personality again. There is a theory that in some people the death was so sudden and unexpected, or traumatic to the person, that the perceptions of the past life – particularly that of the death, are not ‘capped off’ adequately and the baby and young child has access to these perceptions, believing them to be his or her own. This level of trauma experienced in the womb has the effect of producing the birthmark.
The theory is in fact much the same as the previous one – an impressed emotional trauma – but this time the trauma does not come from the Mum, but comes from the uncapped perceptions of the baby.
Reincarnation and Biology: A Contribution to the Etiology of Birthmarks and Birth Defects (Praeger, 1997) – Dr Ian Stevenson
."the subject's marks or defects correspond to injuries or illness experienced by the deceased person who the subject remembers; medical documents have confirmed this correspondence in more than forty cases. Many of the birthmarks are not just small discolourations. They are often unusual in shape or size and are often puckered or raised rather than simply being flat. Some can be quite dramatic and unusual in appearance."
The theory of destiny
Palm reading is used in some societies to try to establish what one’s destiny will be, and there are other types of ‘body reading’ that are also employed to determine the same thing.
'.....all happens here below as it does above.....on the firmament which envelops the universe, we see many figures formed by the stars and planets. They reveal hidden things and profound mysteries. Similarly, upon our skin which encircles the human being there exist forms and traits that are the stars of our bodies.'
In the theory of destiny, it is not trauma which marks the person, but the imposition of a destiny and challenge which are exceptionally difficult. Thus if trauma there be, it is trauma of being allocated a job which is nigh near impossible, or if not impossible bears with it considerable sacrifice and not a little pain.
Although the book ‘Moles or Birthmarks and their Signification to man and woman’ by Maud Wheeler does have its more comical side, there is a part of her theory which supports the notion of destiny having an impact, as well as the theory of the effect of trauma. Her book was written in 1894, hence the rather interesting use of language. Destiny is connected to astrology. In theory one’s birth chart maps out one’s destiny and Maud wrote:
PERHAPS few persons know that the " Doctrine of Moles " and their signification was regarded as a science in the seventeenth century. And an old writer on the subject, whose work was published in 1653, asserts that the Doctrine of Moles is a part of Physiognomy, being a subject of the same nature by reason of its affinity, seeing Physiognomy is nothing else than the discovery of the affections of the mind………….A modern writer, Mr. James Bonwick, who has carefully collected facts of Egyptian lore, remarks, " Science now regards the stellar influence on health, especially on the development of animalculae, as not so very improbable. If an effect on health, why not on fortune?”
To this writer we are indebted for the information that an astronomer and contemporary of Hippocrates — the great physician — wrote, " Hippocrates has so lively a faith in the influence of the stars on animated beings and on their maladies, that he very expressly recommends not to trust to physicians who are ignorant of astronomy."
The curse of Yacob
According to the writings of the Israelite prophets, the descendants of Yacob who were chosen to be stewards of the earth would bear a mark ( or curse), if they did not keep the covenant commandments decreed by the Creator. That “mark” would be so prominent, in fact, that it would be recognizable. The idea of a mark being a birthmark has come to be added to this curse, although the original description did not mention a birthmark – all it said was ‘mark’. In some Bible translations the word mark is not used eg
Deuteronomy 28King James Version (KJV)
45 Moreover all these curses shall come upon thee, and shall pursue thee, and overtake thee, till thou be destroyed; because thou hearkenedst not unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which he commanded thee:
46 And they shall be upon thee for a sign and for a wonder, and upon thy seed for ever.
47 Because thou servedst not the Lord thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things;
In some respects this is like a ‘blackmark’, or a stain on one’s character and thus more symbolic than actual. Although if it causes trauma, who knows?
The descendants of Yacob were said to have been spread all over the world, as such this ‘curse’ is a world-wide one. In effect, the Mark can appear anywhere and on anyone who does not keep the faith – the faith in this instance being faith in the existence of the Creator, preservation and protection of the creation, a rule of Don’t hurt and a belief in the realm of spirit – not religious faith.
The story bears interesting parallels with that of the idea of the birthmark of destiny. The descendents of Yacob were charged for all time with a destiny of keeping the faith alive and ensuring knowledge and belief in the spiritual world was continued. This task has become progressively more difficult in recent centuries, as such the destiny of the sons and daughters of Yacob is no picnic. It is indeed a curse in some senses, and if the person believes in their challenge, or their Mum did, then the trauma would be all too real. It may even erupt as a birthmark.
The curse of Cain
The symbolism here comes from the Bible and the story of Cain and Abel:
Genesis 4King James Version (KJV)
4 And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the Lord.
2 And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.
3 And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord.
4 And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering:
5 But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.
6 And the Lord said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen?
7 If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.
8 And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.
9 And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother's keeper?
10 And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground.
11 And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand;
12 When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.
13 And Cain said unto the Lord, My punishment is greater than I can bear.
14 Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me.
15 And the Lord said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.
Again, it says mark and not birthmark, but the symbolism has been extended in some cultures.
The story and its symbolism has been discussed endlessly, but one of the interpretations is that this was a record of how farming took over from the hunter gatherer and pastoral ways of survival, thus Cain symbolically killed Abel’s way of life – the farmer took over from him, but was destined to have to roam all over the earth looking for new land to colonise and reclaim.
Sheep and fat are symbols. Fat is spiritual input whereas sheep are followers. Thus the pastoralists tended to be more in tune with the spiritual world and more faithful. Cain on the other hand as a farmer appears to lose some of his faith and in addition has no followers. Thus this is a record of how the gradual move away from the ‘good shepherd’ was destined to lead men away from belief and faith, but also peace of mind and contentment. Those who chose the path away from faith – the materialists and the non-believers would be driven and isolated and ‘marked’. Thus an atheist or modern scientist [!] is symbolically a marked man.
There is an added symbolic meaning here because Cain was destined to become the man of intellect, whereas Abel would have remained a man of love and emotion, who lived with nature and did not battle it [as farmers do]. This is also a tale of the Conscious and the Subconscious. As the Conscious Intellect became more and more dominant, man was driven further and further away from ‘God’ cursed to roam the world forever to try to make a living, and having no sense of peace or connection with ‘home’.
Moles or Birthmarks and Their Signification to Man and Woman (1894) by Maud Wheeler
For iPad/iPhone users: tap letter twice to get list of items.
- Chaim Vital - Sha'ar Ruach ha-Kodesh – On Isaac Luria’s abilities #021434
- Cohen, Leonard - First we take Manhattan #016055
- Father Bernabe Cobo - Inca Religion and Customs - The celebration of diversity #011750
- Plutarch - On the delay of the divine justice - Birthmarks #021437
- Seleucos, founder of the Secloid Dynasty - birthmarks #021438
- Stevenson, Dr Ian - Birth marks and past life trauma #005020