Russia Religion Subjects Old Testament The Fiery Ascent of Elijah

The Fiery Ascent of Elijah

Elijah (Hebrew: Yahweh is my God) was a prophet in the Old Testament. When he was born, his father had a vision of handsome visitors greeting the infant, swaddled with fire and fed by the flames. The prophet was later taken up into heaven in a chariot of fire as a reward for his ascetic lifestyle and battle against paganism and nature-worship (II Kings 2:1–14).

The worship of Elijah came to Russia from Byzantium. According to popular belief, Elijah was the master of the elements, capable of taming fire and sending rain down to earth. In this respect, he was assimilated to Perun, Slavic god of storm and thunder.

The fiery ascent of Elijah was often depicted in the icon-painting of Novgorod and northern Russia in the sixteenth century. Three horses draw Elijah and his chariot up into heaven. Elijah’s disciple and witness of his fiery ascent, the prophet Elisha, is depicted below on the hills, grasping onto the end of Elijah’s mantle. When Elijah’s cloak fell to the earth, Elisha allegedly received double the gift of prophecy promised to him by Elijah.

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