Haloes, East and West

We just started watching the series Warrior Nun on Netflix. It’s rather enjoyable so far. However I couldn’t help noticing that it is wrong about haloes.

In Eastern Orthodox art, a halo is correctly depicted as a glow completely encircling the head of the saint. Here is Saint Seraphim of Sarov talking to a bear.

Clearly the halo is the illuminated aura of the saint. Their enlightened and saintly aura shines golden.

Greek and Roman Pagan art also depicted their Pagan deities with auric haloes. Here’s Apollo with a halo from a second century mosaic.

The same phenomenon is depicted in Hindu art. Here is Shiva meditating with his aura illuminated.

There are many depictions of illuminated auras in Hindu iconography and also in Muslim and Sikh iconography.

Here is the Sikh Guru Nanak with a halo /illuminated aura:

Here’s a painting of the Prophet Muhammad with his aura illuminated around his head.

And here’s another one with his entire aura lit up.

So the people who were painting religious images in the East knew what an aura is and how it works.

Not so in much later Christian art in the West, where the illuminated aura of the saint, guru, prophet, or deity becomes a silly ring hovering over the person’s head. As in this painting by Leonardo DaVinci.

At least Titian, who painted this image below, knew what a halo was supposed to look like.

Popular culture in much of Western Europe seems to be under the impression that a halo is a ring hovering over the head of a saint or angel. (Even the emoji for angel is infected with this nonsense.) That’s clearly wrong. So the angel’s halo in Warrior Nun makes no sense at all.

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