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Ezekiel’s Wheel

12 November 2016

I like this story – a nice conclusion after four years of research. It derives from an archaeological exploration in Maryland, at the site of a former plantation which used African slaves – see www.nytimes.com/2016/11/08/science/ezekiels-wheel-ties-african-spiritual… (see also http://phys.org/print397895615.html). The Biblical figure of Ezekiel seems to have appealed to pagan Africans proselytised by Christians. Why? The conclusion here is that the wheel has a parallel in African myth – and we may note Native Americans had their medicine wheels too. Hence, the wheel provided a prop, a link between the old world and the new world,  a nice idea. Also discovered was a cosmogram figure molded into the lid of a canning jar (and the wheel itself seems to possibly come from a cart or barrow laid out in a symbolic manner). This idea of circles within circles is interesting as it occurs across many cultures – including European. However, in the 18th century Christianity had long pushed aside European pagan motifs and therefore one has to assume an African slave labour association, a marrying of two cultures (in one way) or a means of clinging to some of the older traditions. 

Apparently, the wheel (or circles within circles) had a powerful resonance with African slaves. The wheel of Ezekiel became the subject of a famous spiritual sung during church services, 'Zekiel Saw the Wheel' – and taken up by gospel singers into the present day. The wheel apparently symbolises the presence of God we are told – or symbolises, we may add, a feature of deity – a spinning object (wheels within wheels). 

The artifacts and findings are on display in the University of Maryland's Hornbake Library (until July 2017).

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