Often referred to as the ‘Jewish Hallowe’en’, the holiday of Purim (which is the old Accadian word for ‘lots’, as in ‘chance’) commemorates a grim story of religious persecution in the 7th century Persian Empire. Even so, it is observed as one of more frivolous holidays in the Jewish year, a day when identities are masked by the faces and costumes of players in the timeworn story of Esther, or Ishtar, who would be Queen of Persia.
Instead of rehashing it here, there are many sources online that provide commentary on this holiday and its origins. Here are a few: http://ohr.edu/holidays/purim/ http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/12448-purim. In addition, you can follow this Wiki link at your leisure to the whole Megillah: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Purim.
Considering the power of archetypes as drivers of both Biblical and secular literary works, I find it interesting that Esther’s story is not included in the books of the Torah. Although it incorporates a number of tropes found there such as hidden identities to counter religious persecution and villains whose evil activities have come to be regarded as morality lessons, it is referred to as ‘apocryphal’ primarily because it does not include G-d’s name or tenets of religious observance.
For these reasons, the Megillat Esther is a story that avoids the second commandment creative restrictions and has fired the imaginations and craft of many artists and writers through the centuries. So this alone is for me, as an illustrator, reason to celebrate.
As I prepare for my virtual visit to Shushan this year, here are some of the illustrations that were done some years ago for the Baltimore Jewish Times. As always, comments welcome.