Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween! Ancient critters at the Capitol

Halloween is a holiday full of mythical creatures and ancient symbols, from greedy ghouls to flame-lit gourds. But did you know that the Capitol has some of its own mythical creatures and ancient symbols?

The head of a ram adorns light fixtures throughout the Capitol, symbolizing solar energy and fire. Rams were valuable sacrificial animals in ancient times. When used classical architecture, they represent determination, leadership, and authority - fitting for a government building!

Can you spot the oval shapes underneath the light? This classical molding pattern consists of alternating eggs and darts, perhaps to symbolize the duality of life and death. Eggs are ancient symbols of new life, luck, and health; darts can be quite lethal.

Kids love finding the eight wyverns that crouch in the corners of the Capitol atrium. In medieval heraldry, a wyvern was a guardian figure with magic powers of protection for warriors serving a powerful lord in battle. The Capitol wyverns are fierce two-legged dragons with serpent tails and bright orange wings.

And check out the egg-and-dart molding underneath the wyvern!

Some scholars say that Halloween has roots in ancient Celtic harvest festivals. The pine cones shown above are ancient symbols of agricultural growth and bounty of the earth. In the architectural style of the Capitol, the pine cone stands for spring and rebirth.

While all of those symbols were purposefully included in the Capitol architecture, some appeared quite by accident. On the second floor, large panels of diamond-cut Georgia marble boast beautiful symmetrical patterns. These patterns are nothing more than the natural swirls and veins that develop during rock formation, but some people like to look for pictures in the marble.

Do you see anything peculiar in the marble pattern, above?

Photos taken by Joanna Oldham, Director of Visitors Services. Blog post inspired by Romy Mahyera, Capitol Docent.

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