Enoch, wild man and wizard … of sorts

Enoch, wild man and wizard … of sorts October 8, 2010

So I have become intrigued by aspects of the figure of Enoch in the Book of Moses: the wild man and seer who is slow of speech by human standards yet utters a divine language that allows him to command nature.

First I happened to notice some books on the literary stereotype of the wild man, such as Wild Men In the Looking Glass: The Mythic Origins of European Otherness by Roger Bartra. This set to me wondering whether there might be some connection with our wild man Enoch in the Pearl of Great Price.

A search on google books showed that there was, curiously enough, at least one native North American in the late 1800s with the name of Enoch Wildman, though this would seem to be coincidence. The only other lead was a vague association between Enoch in the ancient parabiblical texts and Enkidu from the Epic of Gilgamesh, archetype of the wild man.

Of course, the term ‘wild man’ is used of Ishmael in the KJV. But that does not really satisfy. I kept reading in Bartra’s book. One of the wild men he discusses is the famed sorcerer Merlin. Grieved at the death of his brothers, Merlin takes to life in the forest. When dragged backed to civilization he is found to possess the ability to reveal the past and future. He escapes once more to the forest, only to be seen again at his wife’s second marriage. He appears riding a stag in the company of many animals. Though now a hermit, the sight of his replacement enrages him so he tears off the stag’s antlers and casts them like javelins at the head of the groom.

Little of this fits our Enoch. Yet some of it does. The ability to control animals. The wild man’s visionary powers (whether religious or magical). And then there’s language. As Bartra writes:

The wild man did not have language, but took words by storm in order to express the murmurings of another world, the signals that nature gave society. The wild man spoke words that did not have literal meaning, but were eloquent in communicating sensations that civilized language could not express. . . . The medieval wild man was a stranger in his land, and his voice, gestures, and mimicry revealed a form of language shared by the wild beasts, a secret network of passionate messages emitted from the deep wells of nature.

Our Enoch is also slow of speech. But he does not learn the language of nature by living in the forest, even if he is a wild man. He gets it from God. Incidentally, Enoch and the notion of an all-powerful divine language can be found outside the Pearl of Great Price. There is an entire cottage industry of Enochian magic stemming from the work of John Dee and Edward Kelly in the 1500s, who used scrying techniques to communicate with angels.

I am not sure what to make of all this and am wandering pretty far from my field here. Hopefully others will be able shed some light (paging e.g. Steve Fleming … any instances of Jesus’ method for healing of the blind man being used in the middle ages and later in order to obtain revelation?). One of the things that intrigues me is that in the Book of Moses there is no explanation as to why Enoch should be called a wild man—at least not that I can see (by all means point out what it is I’m missing). The literary stereotype of the wild man helps some, though in many ways it does not fit. So what’s the deal?

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