The Stone Institute

Menorahs and Obelisks

What is next on the horizon for Merigian Studios? Menorahs and Obelisks. Why? I'm not sure. Better yet, Why not?

Over the past several years, I have been contemplating my personal practice of lighting candles when I believe a Divine presence is needed to either protect someone, heal someone, or give guidance to a situation which appears complicated. Lighting candles in church was a tradition I experienced when I attended St. John's Armenian Church in Detroit, Michigan as a child and adolescence. The church was dimly lit during the worship service (four hour long liturgy) and candles were lit everywhere. The odor of incense added to the candlelight, accentuating the raw mysticism of the celebration of Jesus Christ. I enjoy the candle lighting ritual to this very day.

The flicker of fire on a wick embedded in wax seems to me to be a metaphor of Divine light emanating from the Heavens and penetrating the thick atmosphere of Earth which is filled with billions of humans who appear to be unfolding into insentient beings. Every day, the news is preoccupied with conflict, terrorism, and the struggles of the common man to stay afloat of the tyranny of our leaders and governments around the world. I am concerned that many of us have given up and simply shrug our shoulders at the constant barrage of disparaging remarks and crude behaviors of our leaders of both the religious and secular worlds. Some have confused religion for politics. Others have condemned government wanting desperately to allow religion to replace government. We are not a Christian nation, but we have many flavors of Christianity existing and/or thriving in America. There are also many other religions that have great traditions related to celebration of the Divine.

The Menorah is traditionally a seven or nine branched candelabra of Jewish tradition. The original seven candle Golden Menorah was made for the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. The Menorah is also a symbol closely associated with the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah (Chanukah). According to the Talmud, after the Seleucid desecration of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, there was only enough sealed (and therefore not desecrated) consecrated olive oil left to fuel the eternal flame in the Temple for one day. Miraculously, the oil burned for eight days which was enough time to make new pure oil.

The Talmud states that it is prohibited to use a seven-lamp menorah outside of the Temple. The Hanukkah Menorah therefore has eight main branches, plus the middle ninth lamp set apart as the Shamash (servant) light which is used to kindle the other lights. I believe this type of menorah is called a Hanukkah Menorah in Modern Hebrew.
I have been fascinated by the Menorah since I was twelve-years old. It has been one of the symbols of the Jewish faith; however, I believe it transcends the Jewish faith. There's a non-linear element embedded in the candelabra's construction which appears linear. I enjoy the linear illusion. It's another perfect metaphor of life.

The Obelisk is a tall, tapering, needle-like pillar with a square base and a pyramid on top. Most often, these structures are associated with Ancient Egypt. They also existed in Rome, Assyria, and Ethiopia. One place you can see Obelisks are cemeteries and graveyards around the Mid-South.

Convention requires that the height of the Obelisk is to be at least eight to twelve times the width of the base. My first wooden prototype was eleven inches wide and twelve feet tall. I am in the process of constructing a prototype made of mild-steel with the intention of eventually building them out of Corten-Steel. Ultimately, I hope to populate our local community with an array of Obelisks of different heights and colors. I intend on engraving the sides of the structures with ancient and modern symbols. Perhaps one will have the emblem of Michigan State University (Spartans) on it. 

Some believe Obelisks symbolize the rays of the Sun, which get broader as they reach the Earth. Therefore the Obelisk might be considered a Sun symbol. I see the Sun as creative energy, hence I like the idea of constructing creation energy in a world which, at times, seems to be deconstructing before our eyes. There are many Obelisks that have had crosses placed on top of their pyramids symbolizing Christianity. I suspect I could place any number of religious and/or secular symbols on the top of an Obelisk which would arouse both celebration and condemnation at the same time. These are mighty ancient symbols which seem to provoke strong archetypal emotion.

I have the desire to create both Menorahs and Obelisks, two ancient and highly recognized symbols of faith and reverence to the Divine order of our world. This fall, I hope to have a gallery opening displaying twenty different Hanukkah Menorahs and several Obelisks. I hope to see you there!

Kevin S. "Kiki" Merigian

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