Arrows and an Archer...

Students of design will understand that there are basic elements underpinning all motifs: these building blocks are the visual equivalent of the Jungian archetype that is hardwired into every human brain. Give a child a stick, or even their finger in a sand tray and they will produce a dot, a line, a cross, a spiral.

The arrow is one of these basic conceptions. Linear, and making the most of the plane in which is it formed, the arrow is easily recognised,  it focuses the eye to the direction of travel and quite literally makes a point.

Why am I telling you the obvious about arrows? The reason is that they crop up in ecclesiastical graffiti all the time, and I have no idea why. This particularly bothers me when I'm presented with a doorway full of the things, like at Buxhall church.

The arrows travel up one side, with maybe the remains of a couple of short arm crosses interspersed for good measure; carry on over the top and then do the same on the other side. If I let my imagination go I could believe that the whole doorway is literally being "covered by protective arrow fire". If indeed arrows mean protection at all!

They could just as easily mean "this way up" to the builder putting together the arch.


Then there is the Archer (this was the graffiti I had come to find). There is something a little risky about archers. They are dangerous and dangerous isn't too far from desirable in the dictionary. Archers don't have to get up close and personal to do damage, they are quite capable of piercing you from a good way away before you even realise what is happening. I suspect this is the reason Cupid was given darts.

 It didn't take long to find the archer in question - although I can't quite equate him with dangerous, not with that almost Halloween pumpkin shaped head and pointy carrot nose....
...and here is his "target".
So now I am now going to quote from the church information leaflet "At the time of the Great Plague of London in 1665, an Act of Parliament ordered that every public building in the country be given two coats of whitewash. During restoration work in 1923, as the pillars were brushed down removing the whitewash, several drawings and carvings were revealed on the pillar of the tower arch......One of these shows an archer with his bow and target and probably refers to the Beau-Archer family recorded as living here in the seventeenth century".

Christ as craftsman of the cosmos
Cathedral Museum Toledo 1252-70
Here is the crux of the thing. Like everyone else, I interpret things through my own particular sociocentric lens. I don't think any of us are trying to mislead, it is just we see what we want to see. We can't help it.

My problem is, having looked at a few churches now I've seen that "target" often enough *not* to recognise it as a target.

It is a series of concentric circles, possibly (but not exclusively) drawn with a pair of compasses....and it might mean a lot of things.

For instance - a microcosm (think of Dante's circles of heaven and hell). God is sometimes shown drawing the world into being with a circle, or maybe it is a perfect form, an unbroken line, a protection mark, an illustration of the celestial music of the spheres....

Then there is the archer himself.  We look for clues in the areas around a graffito. But what if there is no relationship between them? If that bow wasn't there then the "target" looks less like a target.

I'm not convinced yet.