The Radiance and the Cherub
Old Scottish gravestones are often carved with symbols of our certain mortality and possible immortality. The reminders of our mortality include corpses, skeletons, skulls, crossed femurs, coffins, grave-diggers' tools, hour glasses, angels of death, Father Time, and the Deid Bell.
The immortality symbols are somewhat more cheerful, one of the commonest being the winged soul, or cherub. In Scotland the cherub represents the soul leaving the body at the time of death and ascending to heaven to await the Day of Judgement when the body will follow to be reunited. Winged souls vary greatly in form, some look cheerful, others less so, some are young and innocent, others look old. This one has more than a passing resemblance to our dear leader Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson!
This chubby cherub is to be found in the old graveyard of St Deavanach at Methlick, on the banks of the River Ythan, upriver from Newburgh. The stone, dated 1748, is most beautifully carved and skillfully lettered.
The cherub, with its feathered wings and flowing locks, is shown emerging from a cloud with the rays of the sun behind. The cloud and sun-rays represent the Glory of God. A glory in this context being the circle of light surrounding the head, or the whole figure, of the Saviour, the Virgin, or one of the Saints.
27 I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire; and brilliant light surrounded him.
28 Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. When I saw it, I fell face down, and I heard the voice of one speaking.