Chi-Rhos and Frogs and other Unicorns

Firstly I gotta say I love this Unicorn Terrace. I am always seeing Unicorns leaping around my bookshelves. In fact I think sometimes horses go there just to pretend for a while......
If in the adventure, their white paint runs off, they drop their wings and horns- well thats OK, they can dream of a donkey that carried a King. :roll: Which brings me to the subject at hand.......
Chi-Rho the so called Christian symbol of the first two letters of Christ....and frogs.
I have seen in quite a few paintings of the Tarot Birth years a frog on the table. One would be in Bosch's painting of the Conjurer and there is a frog on the table. ... ainting%29
Now here is a picture of some crosses from the late 15th Century on bases.
I have seen a tiny picture of one of these and inside the base was a small carved frog. On the outside was a Chi- Rho- which incidentally was originally a Chaldean symbol for the Sky God before been used for Christ.
I have seen some early Tarot de Marseille (but cannot think which ones) with a shell on the table which I think might have been a frog, but as it has become indistinguishable- so it is presumed to be a spiral shell.
I am trying to get my head around this. What is the connection between what the Conjurer does and the Frog and Christ? Could it be a nod to the magic?
The Universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.
Eden Phillpotts

Re: Chi-Rhos and Frogs and other Unicorns

Hi Lorredan,

Thanks for plopping down and starting a thread!

I had to look up Chi Rho on Wikipedia to see what you were referring to. AH! I recognize that! Here's a sample:

Check out this sarcophagus from Soisson, France. 6th Century!

The side ornamentation looks like something from a pip card on the Tarot de Marseille! Lovely.

Seems there's a lot more information about the Chi Rho if you use the alternate name of Labarum. Here's Wikipedia:

I'm not sure how this is connected to frogs though? I would have thought that frogs would be considered a bad omen. While searching for information on Chi Rho and frogs I stumbled on this passage from Revelations:
Rev 16:13 And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs [come] out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.
On this site I found this quote:
After Constantine had the "vision of the cross," he ahd his army promoted another variety of the cross, the Chi-Rho or Labarum. This has subsequently been explained as representing the first letters of the name Christos, But again, this had a pagan origin. They were found as inscriptions on rock, dating from the year ca. 2500 B.C.E., being interpreted as "a combination of two Sun-symbols, known as the Ax- or Hammer-symbol of the Sun- or Sky-deity, and the + or X as the ancient symbol of the Sun, both of these signs having a sensual or fertility meaning as well. Another proof of its pagan origin is found on a coin of Ptolemeus III from the year 247-222 B.C.E.

A well-known encyclopedia describes the Labarum (Chi-Rho) as, "The labarum was also an emblem of the Chaldean (Babylonian) sky-god and in Christianity it was adopted..." Emperor Constantine adopted this Labarum as the imperial ensign and thereby succeeded in "uniting both divisions of his troops, pagans and Christians, in a common worship...

According to Suicer the word (labarum) came into use in the reign of Hadrian, and was probably adopted from one of the nations conquered by the Romans." It must be remembered that Hadrian reigned in the years 76-138 C.E., that he was a pagan emperor, worshipped the Sun-deity Serapis when he visited Alexandria, and was vehemently anti-Judaistic, beign responsible for the final near-destruction of Jerusalem in the year 130 C.E.

Another dictionary relates the following about the Chi-Rho, "However, the symbol was in the use long before Christianity, and X (Chi) probably stood for Great Fire or Sun, and P (Rho) probably stood for Pater or Patah (Father). The word labarum (la-baar-um) yields everlasting Father Sun."
Both the Wikipedia page and this above quote suggest that the Labarum is, as you noted, probably an older pagan symbol; but it wouldn't be at all surprising, early Christians seemed to borrow a great deal from others in their environment.

So.... I'm not sure how to connect up the Chi Rho, or Christ, with frogs. Frogs and the Magician seem a fairly natural pairing; but I would suspect in a negative connotation.

You mention the frog on the base of the cross, but I can't see it in that image. Is there another image somewhere that would show this? I noticed that there is a very inexpensive catalog of the collection available used on

This entire conversation reminds me very much of the movie Magnolia. If you have not seen it, I'd highly recommend it; I think you'd find it moving and meaningful, and remarkably relevant to this pondering!

It might prove to be a bit of challenge connecting Christ and/or the Chi Rho, with The Magician, via frogs (which is where I'm guessing your heading with this, no?). I'm trying to think if I know of any reference other than the Bosch, and I'm drawing a blank, hopefully others might offer some inspiration on the subject.

The Tarot will lose all its vitality for one who allows himself to be side-tracked by its pedantry. - Aleister Crowley

Re: Chi-Rhos and Frogs and other Unicorns

Hi Robert, I guess I should back up and explain more clearly.
There is a frog on the table of The Conjurer by Bosch (and other paintings in similar vein, same time)
I have seen what I think may have been originally a frog on a Tarot de Marseille card Bateleur and is now in reproduction like a shell.
It seems that on paintings like the Bosch, a frog was symbolic; or was it usual as part of the cups and balls on the juggler/bateleur/magician's table?
Then I saw those little crosses on a cup like base and one was hollow and held a small carved frog. On the outside of the base shaped like a tumbler was the Chi-rho symbol. I wondered why a frog would be inside a cross base that had the symbol of the Cri-rho on it? What does the Frog have to with Christ or on a Magicians table for that matter?
Like you I thought the frog was sinister symbolically. Now I have no idea.
The Universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.
Eden Phillpotts

Re: Chi-Rhos and Frogs and other Unicorns

I have been looking for some connection. In the Notes on symbols(via the web) it says....
The Frog represents the transition from the element of earth to that of water and vice versa. The Frog figures in many rites invoking rainfall. Frog-gods were once placed upon mummies and the early Christians incorporated them into their symbolic system.
I have not heard of Frogs in a Christian symbolic system EVER!
The Universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.
Eden Phillpotts

Re: Chi-Rhos and Frogs and other Unicorns

Ferguson writes:

"Because of his continuous croaking and the fact that a rain of frogs was one of the plagues of Egypt, the frog has been given a devilish significance, and has sometimes been likened to heretics. Usually in paintings it conveys the repulsive aspect of sin. More loosely, it is interpreted as a symbol of those who snatch at life's fleeting pleasures; hence it represents worldly things in general."

Signs & Symbols in Christian Art George Ferguson, p19.

On Bosch's The Conjuror see for example: ... NLpTAo&hl=

Illusion and Deception: Construction of a Proverb in Heironymus Bosch's The Conjuror Elinor Gertsman: ... rtsman.pdf

Magic and the Medieval Magician by Ray Eden:

On the illustration of proverbs by Bosch there was a recent discussion over on aeclectic that may be of interest here: ... ge=1&pp=10

Bosch's The Conjuror has also been discussed at aeclectic in the past, for example here:
Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.
T. S. Eliot

Re: Chi-Rhos and Frogs and other Unicorns

Thank you SteveM for the fulsome and read-some links. :P
Now it would seem to me that the Cross on the hollow base holding within a frog is more an enigma than before.
I wonder whether this was a Heretics cross? Now you see me, now you don't!(same reasoning for Frog and Moon)
Some sort of insider's joke against the Church. Wish I could show you the item. It looks like an inverted chalice- very ornate. I wondered whether it had to do with the resurrection- but I could not find Catholic things about Frogs!
It is somewhat like throwing the anti-entertainment lobby back in the clergy's face.....
For, in truth, such instruments are to be banished from the temperate banquet, being more suitable to beasts than men, and the more irrational portion of mankind (about music) from Clement of Alexandria.
The Cross with base is c.1490-1540 just about the right time for Heretics and reformers. I am becoming more and more convinced Tarot was a cynical sideswipe at the rites and rituals of the Roman Catholic Church- more than Renaissance re discovery of classical ideas or even Good Government versus bad Government, which was the way I was heading. Tarot seems to be a sarcastic mirror of the Gaming Pilgrim reflecting the Christian Pilgrim; it has all the same proverbs/rites/rituals/vices/virtues but presented askew. Tarot makes me laugh with a knowing ring to the laughter.
The Universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.
Eden Phillpotts

Re: Chi-Rhos and Frogs and other Unicorns

Hullo Lorredan.

I quite like frogs.

The Unicorn Tapestries in the Cloisters Collection at the Met Museum have been seen as an allegory of the life of Christ. In the final scene, "The Unicorn in Captivity", you can see a little frog. (Everyone loves to search for it in the mass of flowers.)

Here is a detail view: ... ipt_21.htm

Here is an overall view: ... etail7.asp
(If you zoom in to the lower right, you can find the frog centered above the "A", about one letter-height away.)
I am not a cannibal.

Re: Chi-Rhos and Frogs and other Unicorns

Nice to meet you again Lorredan and of course the others goods (Gods) Comrades here...
You bring to us a deep topic and I think related to LE ROVE DE FORTVNE card.
Here I attached the François Chosson vision of it,and his green X crossed rays.That s drives me to the earliest Christ symbol and also to the Labarum as Robert mentioned.

The X card as we know has a middle place at the sequence (Just for me XXI it s a conclusion of the sequence),so it s seems as divided two groups,so first microcosmic and the second macrocosmic.
Somewhat close what Monsieur Flornoy (BTW,when Monsieur are you going to come to the "friendly fire encounter ? )
He talks about the Compagnon Rene and how he "cross the bridge " to the other world.
-The X as an iconographic ideogram pre dated Christianism and it s cnected to the symbol of the Sun as a wheel.(Hindu Svastika )
Sun as the center could mean Christ himself and that also remind to me the square and compass of the Masons as the V and it s inverted,so the macro and micro,so the Solomon Seal.
So the upper divine world going toward to meet the lower world,and also of course on the another turn returning to God.
BTW / Allways I saw strongly pointed that the figure at the top of the card many look as an sphinx...
For me is a gryphon (BTW,thre s came the sense of the surname Griffin ),and on Medieval times it was respected as the guardian of the divine. ( And also see the depict of him at WIki...)

-Also we can see X (So V + inverted V) as an the purest erotic penetration (On a highest spiritual sense of course ) make by God to his Universe (So not unlike with ours bodies...)/The Creator make a divine signpost .

-The purest sexual meet between the two polarity (male/female) I think it s out of discussion...
-Well and ending,if we see the Ace of Cups as shown to us at Visconti,we I just think think about the connection with the 8 number.
-Please,could you sketch an 8 beginning at your lower spine and ending at your cerebellum...

BTW... / Who is IVSTICE (V) - She is a Human Justice ? (Or Justice at all )- So Why ?-
We have an Emperervur,an Impreratrice
So could the Historian Masters here could me (if they want of course,explain to me why "she is there for what ? "
Isn t here an Empereur ? / After All ?

The Universe is like a Mamushka.

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