The following is a revised and expanded version of “A Glossary of Terms, Names, and Concepts in Blake” in The Cambridge Companion to William Blake, ed. Morris Eaves (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), pages 272-87. This resource is best used when Blake is making you dizzy, but as soon as you regain your equilibrium, you should return to reading Blake on his own terms. Blake’s names are particularly likely to inspire vertigo, but if he wanted us to depend heavily on glossaries, dictionaries, and other learned devices he would have provided them. That he did not suggests that he wanted his readers to trust him and trust themselves rather than “experts,” though he seems to have overestimated how well most us would know the Bible and the other traditions to which he alludes. Many of his characters correspond roughly to more familiar beings from various mythologies, but by renaming them Blake indicated that we should start afresh with them as characters, before someone has told us what they mean. At the same time, most of his characters are multivalent allegorical beings corresponding simultaneously to such things as mental faculties, emotions, psychological categories, political figures or positions, geographical entities, body parts and so forth. Don’t ignore the various polyglot etymologies that have been proposed for their names elsewhere, for these often appear to contribute to Blake’s own conception of characters, though most names are primarily puns in English with echoes of familiar mythic names. Bear in mind that Blake’s characters may change in radical fashion, especially when separated from their emanations, and characters from one context may be presented from a very different perspective elsewhere, even in the same work, and may be known by several different names; these complexities are greatly oversimplified here.
This glossary silently incorporates suggestions and discoveries by Morris Eaves, Michael Ferber, John E. Grant, Cate McClenahan, E. B. Murray, G. A. Rosso, Daniel Stempel, and of course S. Foster Damon, who did it all first; when this glossary fails, try Damon’s Blake Dictionary.
Abel: Abel is the second child of Adam and Eve, murdered by his brother Cain in Genesis 4. Blake referred to the voice calling for vengeance in 4:10 as the Ghost of Abel, a phrase he used as the title of a late etched work (1822) inspired by Byron’s Cain and Gessner’s Death of Abel. Elsewhere Blake treated this incident as the origin of the law of retribution rather than forgiveness.
Adona: Adona is the name of a river in The Book of Thel; it appears to be a feminized version of “Adonis,” who in classical myth is a beautiful youth with whom Venus was smitten, as told in Ovid, Metamorphoses 10; she mourns his early death, then transforms him into the short-lived windflower, the anemone, the species of flower shown on the title page of Thel.
Ahania: Ahania is an emanation of Urizen. Her name suggests Urania, the muse associated with astronomy and the heavens (and an epithet of celestial Venus), and also the surprised laughter of discovery: “Aha!” She is associated with pleasure (Urizen calls her “sin”) and also charity, and her twelve sons correspond to the signs of the zodiac.
Albion: Albion is a traditional name for England and also a mythical English giant. In Blake, the giant Albion is the country and its inhabitants, but is also identified as the fallen personification of all humankind, the Eternal Man. Jerusalem is his emanation and his Daughters are the women of England.
Albion’s Angel: Albion’s Angel is Blake’s designation in America for the British politician (someone like Lord Bute), who debates the thirteen colonial angels, represented by Boston’s Angel (someone like Samuel Adams).
Ariston: Called the “king of beauty” in America, Ariston also appears briefly in The Song of Los and The Four Zoas. The name, which is related to a Greek root meaning “best,” may have come from Herodotus.
Ark: Arks are vessels that preserve the divine against the dangers of the fallen world, such as Noah’s ark and that in which Moses was found among the bulrushes. The Ark of the Covenant (an elaborate chest wrought by the artists Bezaleel and Aholiab) held Moses’ broken tablets of the Law, Aaron’s rod, and a pot of manna; it was kept in the innermost sanctuary of a tabernacle (see veil). Blake’s uses of arks reflect several interpretive traditions.
Augury: Roman augurers made prophecies by observing birds in flight; an augury can be any kind of divination, usually based upon signs in nature.
Ball: See globe.
Bard: Bards were ancient prophets and poets of Britain, often associated in Blake’s day with the Druids and with native opposition to invading Romans or Normans, as in Thomas Gray’s The Bard (1757). The Bard of Songs of Experience has a presiding role paralleling that of the Shepherd in Songs of Innocence.
Behmen: See Boehme.
Beulah: Beulah (“married”) is the happy country with which the Lord is delighted, according to Isaiah 62. Blake’s Beulah land is a dreamy paradise in which the sexes, though divided, blissfully converse in shameless selflessness. Beulah is available through dreams and visions to those in Ulro, the utterly fallen world.
Bird/Birds: Like his references to flowers, Blake’s representations of birds often draw upon myth and folklore as well as behavioral characteristics of particular species. See for instance Dove and Lark.
Boehme: Jacob Boehme or Behmen (1575-1624) was an engaging mystical philosopher whose works, as translated into English by William Law, profoundly influenced Blake’s thinking throughout his career. Like Swedenborg, Boehme interpreted the Bible in a radical spirit.
Boston’s Angel: See Albion’s Angel.
Bromion: Bromion evokes “Bromius,” an epithet for the Greek god Dionysus meaning “roarer.” As a character in Visions of the Daughters of Albion, he sometimes acts like another roaring rapist, Boreas, the North Wind, as in Ovid, Metamorphoses 6. See also Palamabron.
Butterfly/moth: Moths and butterflies were both called “flies” in the eighteenth century, and are treated very similarly (but distinguishably) by Blake, who followed the classical tradition of associating moths and butterflies with the soul. See also worm.
Cain: Cain, the first murderer, causes the initiation of the law of retribution that is supplanted by Jesus’ law of forgiveness. See Abel.
Cart: A cart that accompanies a plow carries dung as fertilizer.
Chafer: The cockchafer is a large beetle that navigates by light, and thus tends to fly into lamps at night. Its larval stage is spent underground.
Classes: Milton’s Puritan theology distinguishes between the Elect, saints for whom salvation is guaranteed; the Redeemed, those saved by Jesus Christ; and Reprobates or Transgressors, who are damned. In Blake’s Milton Jesus is a Transgressor who challenges the stuffy Elect.
Contrary: Contraries are mirroring entities or principles that are mutually essential to each other though in apparent opposition: justice and mercy, innocence and experience, etc. See also negation.
Converse/conversation: Like most people in his day, Blake used the word “conversation” to include all kinds of interactions, especially intimate ones, between individuals. In law, “criminal conversation” was adultery, but in Blake the word is always positive in connotation.
Covering Cherub: : Blake’s term for dangerous false versions of the divine, especially those calling for human sacrifice.
Devil: Blake’s Devil is a satirical foil who argues against conventional piety in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell; he is not the same as Satan.
Dinah: Dinah is a form of Erin. In Genesis 30-34 Dinah is the daughter of Jacob and Leah; her rape or seduction is deceitfully and brutally avenged by her brothers.
Divided Man: When fallen, Man is divided into the humanity, the emanation, the shadow, and the spectre.
Dove/Pigeon: Doves and pigeons are notable among birds in that (unlike robins) they are happy to inhabit shelters that humans build for them.
Druid: Druidism, the religion of pre-Christian Britain, featured nature-worship and human sacrifice, but also had a place for Bards. Blake regarded Druidism as a universal proto-religion.
Eden: Eden is a state of mind as well as a place.
Edom: The arrival of the “dominion of Edom” in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell suggests that hairy, primitive Esau (“Edom”) will reclaim his birthright as the elder son, of which he was defrauded by his smoother twin Jacob (“Israel”); see Genesis 27.
Elect: See classes.
Emanation: An emanation is a feminine counterpart that has separated from an integrated masculine entity, as when Eve was created out of Adam and given a will and consciousness of her own. But this separation is itself a stage or an aspect of a fall, as it leads to conflict between the formerly undivided aspects. Many of Blake’s female characters have emanated from male characters, and their relationships often resemble that between Adam and Eve. In Jerusalem, where the concept of emanations is developed most fully, both male and female emanations exist even within the integrated beings in eternity. See also spectre/spectrous, shadow, divided man.
Enitharmon: Enitharmon is the beautiful emanation of Los, the Poet, and her name is probably intended to suggest “Harmony” and a combination of Tharmas and Enion. In Europe Enitharmon is the church, offering a religion of chastity, guilt, and retribution that lasts eighteen hundred years.
Enion: As the emanation of Tharmas, the body, Enion personifies bodily or maternal impulses. See also Enitharmon.
Eno: Eno, an anagram of “eon,” is an “ancient mother” who represents the seven thousand years of human history in the fallen world. See also Erin.
Erin: Erin is Ireland. Her forms include the maiden harp, a traditional symbol of Ireland and its arts (a harp incorporating the form of a woman/fish/bird), the rape victim Dinah of Genesis 30-34, and the “old woman,” or Shan van vocht, traditional personification of Ireland in tribulation.
Eternal Great Humanity Divine: The Eternal Great Humanity Divine is Jesus as perceived by the imagination, all humanity in one man.
Eternals: See Four Zoas.
Eternity: For Blake (and Milton), eternity was not simply an infinite amount of time but rather the absence of sequential time—from an eternal perspective, all events are simultaneous and all space is the same place. The vertigo that one experiences when reading Blake’s prophecies subsides when one recognizes that they offer something like an eternal perspective.
Experience: See innocence and experience.
Female Will: See will.
Fiber: Blake knew that nerve cells were fibers, and because the sensations of the body are conducted by fibers, bodily existence has an essentially fibrous quality. See also weave/weaving/woven, veil, Vala.
Flowers: Flowers in Blake represent transient beauty and femininity, especially the female genitalia, but one should also pay attention to the species of each flower he mentions or depicts, since many of his flower images draw upon myths, folklore, poetic conventions, and/or the humanized botanical narratives in Erasmus Darwin’s The Botanic Garden (1789-91). See Birds.
Fly: See butterfly/moth.
Four/fourfold: Blake adapted the mystical habit of thinking in terms of sets of four that correspond to compass points, seasons, humors, bodily organs, and so forth.
Four Zoas: Revelation 4 describes four “zoa,” Greek for living creatures or beasts; Blake appropriated the term for his fourfold division of the aspects of humanity. The four are Los/Urthona (imagination), Urizen (intellect), Luvah/Orc (passion), and Tharmas (instinct).
Generation: Generation is the cycle of birth and death through which living things survive in the fallen world.
Genius: Genius once meant a personifying or epitomizing spiritual being rather than a brilliant person. See Poetic Genius.
Globe: Objects such as the earth or the human heart, viewed from ordinary (fallen) perspectives, appear to be globes, folded in on themselves rather than infinite. See also vortex.
Gold: As a literal metallic substance, especially as coins, gold is usually represented by Blake as one of the roots of evil, but he used “shell gold” and gold leaf in his art and in general goldenness is a positive attribute when not in the form of guineas.
Golgonooza: Golgonooza is a city representing the human body as seen by the imagination.
Greeks/Romans: Blake admired the work of many individual Greek and Roman authors, especially Ovid, and, though he suggested that much of it was copied from older originals, Greek and Roman art. But he saw Greek and Roman culture as a whole as being poisoned by militarism, materialism, slavery and sexual aggression.
Har: In two early poems, Har and Heva are an aged Adam and Eve in a (neo)classical garden world; in The Book of Thel, the vales of Har seem to be a special version of Arcadia, traditionally a land of pastoral simplicity populated by amorous idle shepherds.
Harrow: In agriculture, the harrow breaks up the earth turned over by the plow. The harrow is the tool of Palamabron. The roller follows the harrow.
Harvest: The Harvest is the culmination of Blake’s agricultural master-metaphor, un-creating the created world at the end of time; it includes the Last Judgment.
Hayley: William Hayley was a famous, successful and shallow poet who patronized Blake, setting him up in a cottage at Hayley’s seaside country estate at Felpham. Blake included the intellectual and spiritual struggle with Hayley in his epic Milton, in which Hayley appeared as Satan.
Hell: Blake’s Hell is mostly a state of mind. As Dante reported in Inferno, a mighty earthquake accompanied the Harrowing of Hell.
Heva: See Har.
Holy Thursday: Holy Thursday is not the Thursday before Easter (which is called Maundy Thursday in England), but rather Ascension Day, the sixth Thursday after Easter. In Blake’s adult lifetime there was a procession each year on a late spring Thursday (not actually Holy Thursday) in which all the charity-school children of London were marched in variously colored uniforms from their schools to a church, usually St. Paul’s Cathedral, where they heard sermons about how lucky they were, and sang thanks to God, King, and Country.
Imagination: Imagination is the faculty that perceives the divine, even is the divine. See Los, Eternal Great Humanity Divine.
Innocence and Experience: Innocence and Experience are contrary states, ways of seeing and dwelling in the world. Individuals in Innocence are sustained by confidence in the redemptive presence of the divine, perceived as both sympathetically human (often like a loving parent) and somehow nearby, though they may also be aware of the darker aspects of life. Those in Experience are profoundly conscious of the limitations of fallen life and its sorrows; for them the divine may seem inhuman, inscrutable, impossibly distant, and cruel, though experienced visionaries, like the Bard, may be indignantly or transcendently aware of the infinite and eternal.
Jealousy: Jealousy is a fearful reaction of the selfhood; Blake rejected the “jealous God” of Exodus 20.
Jerusalem: Jerusalem is the emanation of the giant Albion, though she is also the city of the same name and has an assortment of symbolic attributes and associations. She is Blake’s true church, the “Divine Vision,” and Liberty itself. See Enitharmon.
Joseph of Arimathea: Joseph of Arimathea buried Jesus in a tomb he built, according to legends, and later founded the first Christian church in England (at Glastonbury); he was for Blake an archetypal Christian and English artist.
Lark/skylark: The lark responds ecstatically to the morning, and unlike most birds it sings while flying. It can fly so high that one may hear it singing when it is not readily visible.
Last Judgment: A last judgment definitively separating truth from error is scheduled for the end of time, but is also possible whenever one achieves an eternal perspective. See eternity.
Leutha: In Visions of the Daughters of Albion “Leutha’s vale” seems to designate the female genitalia; in Milton Leutha is something like the character Sin in Milton’s Paradise Lost, Book 2. In The Four Zoas she is the emanation of Bromion, and as sin or sexual guilt she is associated with several other characters.
Limits: Limits might suggest impediments to reaching the eternal and infinite, but in Blake the word itself usually refers to a merciful limit upon various kinds of falling, as in the Limits of Opacity (blindness) and Contraction.
Los: Los is one of the Eternals or Four Zoas, the imagination, and his work as a blacksmith is to form poetry with creative beating. He is the temporal manifestation of Urthona, his emanation is Enitharmon, and as the spirit of revolution he is the father of Luvah/Orc, passion and revolutionary energy respectively.
Luvah: Luvah suggests “lover,” and in The Book of Thel and elsewhere in Blake he is an amorous Christ-like figure, sometimes associated with the sun, but in his most ardent form he is Orc. He is the third of the Four Zoas. See also Los.
Lyca: Lyca suggests “wolf-girl,” perhaps reflecting her sojourn among wild animals.
Marygold: The marigold grows new flowers when old ones are plucked, and in poetry it is associated with renewable virginity.
Memory: See Mnemosyne.
Mill/Miller: A grinding mill processes the fruit of the plow and other agricultural tools; it is also a complex but dead mechanism, and became Blake’s figure for Newton’s materialist model of the universe. The Miller not only grinds but also buys and sells the produce of the Plowman.
Milton, John (1608-1674): Milton was for Blake his most important creative predecessor, though he objected to Milton’s theology—the satirical The Marriage of Heaven and Hell and the epic Milton indicate both Blake’s admiration and his reservations. Blake illustrated Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, Comus, On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity, and L’Allegro and Il Penseroso, and Blake’s poetry and art in general owe almost as much to Milton as to the Bible.
Mne Seraphim: Mne Seraphim suggests a hybrid of the classical mother of the muses Mnemosyne and the angelic, inspirational Seraphim of the Bible. Thel’s older sisters, the other Daughters of Mne Seraphim, are active shepherdesses like the Heliades of classical myth, who tend the flocks of Helios, the sun. See also Luvah, Mnetha.
Mnemosyne: Mnemosyne or Memory was the mother of the Greek Muses, who inspired poetry inferior to imaginative, prophetic poetry like that of the Bible.
Mnetha: Mnetha, whose name evokes both Mnemosyne and a scrambled Athena, the Greek goddess of learning and warfare, sustains the degenerate Har and Heva in their neoclassical Eden.
Moth: See butterfly/moth.
Mundane Egg/Shell: The material world and its universe constitute the mundane egg; the mundane shell is the sky. See vortex, globe.
Nameless Shadowy Female: The Nameless Shadowy Female is a daughter of Urthona and consort of Orc; she is a fallen Mother Nature, somewhat like Vala.
Nature: Nature is an illusory projection of the fallen senses for Blake; individuals perceive the connection of nature with themselves and with the divine through the imagination.
Negation: A negation is the absence of a positive principle, as cruelty is the negation of mercy; justice, by contrast, is the contrary of mercy.
Newton, Isaac (1642-1727): Newton was not just a mathematician and scientist, but was also important as a philosopher; Blake charged him with narrow-minded mechanistic materialism.
Nobodaddy: The silliest-sounding of Blake’s gods, Nobodaddy is a comical reduction of imaginary, abstract, paternal sky-gods on the model of Zeus, Jupiter and other scary and punitive God-the-Fathers.
Of: As a word that occurs in many of Blake’s titles and other critical phrases, “of” should be considered carefully—does it mean “pertaining to,” “composed of,” “composed by,” “derived from,” “owned by,” “based on,” “characterized by,” a combination of these, or something else?
Ololon: Ololon, whose name suggests “all-alone,” “ululation,” or “alleluia,” is Milton’s “Sixfold Emanation” (his three wives and three daughters); also, a river, the river-dwellers, a mountain range, and a lonely twelve-year-old girl.
Oothoon: In Visions of the Daughters of Albion, Oothoon is “the soft soul of America,” and in Blake’s later works she plays various roles as a woman frustrated in love. Her name evokes James Macpherson’s Ossianic heroine, Oithona, who fought back after being raped. See also Dinah.
Orc: Orc in Blake embodies revolutionary energy, an aspect of Luvah or passion. The so-called “Orc Cycle” in which rebel and tyrant eternally overthrow each other is not really Blakean. Outside of Blake an orca or orc is a killer whale or, on land, a humanoid monster.
Ox: The powerful patient masculine (if neutered) ox is the antithesis of tiny, aggressive “Jenny” wren. When they were too old for labor, oxen were often tortured for entertainment and to tenderize their work-toughened muscle tissue so it could be eaten.
Palamabron: Palamabron is the son of Enitharmon and Los. Like his brother Rintrah he emerges in response to oppression, but he is “mild & piteous” rather than loud and angry, and is distinguished as well from Bromion and Theotormon. In Milton, Palamabron struggles with the Miller/Satan. His tool is the harrow.
Piper: The shepherd-poet of Arcadia traditionally whiles away his days playing a homemade panpipe and making up songs of love, loss, and the natural world.
Plow/Plowman: A Plowman does the assigned masculine work of the fallen world, as specified in Genesis 3; women (the “distaff” side) weave or spin. Blake thought of engraving as a kind of plowing and himself as Chaucer’s Plowman, but in his poetry plowing can also be a metaphor for the disruptive aspects of revolution or even the processes of mutability. Various characters use plows, including Urizen, Los, Rintrah, and others. In Isaiah 2:4, the destructive alternative to the plow is the sword. See also harrow and mill/Miller.
Poetic Genius: The Poetic Genius is Blake’s term for the ultimate imaginative entity, at once God and the “true Man.” See also genius.
Polypus: A polypus is a cuttlefish, octopus or tumor, with additional characteristics in Blake’s work suggesting a jellyfish, squid, or sponge; it usually represents vegetative institutions such as religions and governments.
Prophecy: A prophecy is a visionary account of reality, future, past, and present, not a prediction. See Imagination.
Rahab: Blake’s Rahab, who has the name of both a (usually redeemed) harlot and an allegorical dragon of Empire in the Bible, represents false Religion, hid in War.
Ratio: Blake punned on “ratio,” in the modern sense, meaning “fraction,” and the word as used in older philosophy, meaning “reason,” which in Blake’s terms apprehends only a fraction of reality.
Redeemed/Reprobate: See classes.
Rintrah: Rintrah appears first in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, personifying revolutionary wrath. Later books represent him as the son of Los and Enitharmon and group him with Bromion, Palamabron, and Theotormon, each of whom represents a different response to oppression/repression.
Romans: See Greeks.
Satan: Satan is Error, the accuser of sin, who blinds the mind to the divine. He is not the same as the Devil, a satiric character. See also Hayley.
Selfhood: The selfhood is the perception of oneself as being essentially separate from the divine and from other beings, leading to self-centeredness and selfishness. Blake probably found the concept in the writings of Boehme. See also spectre/spectrous.
Self-Annihilation: Self-annihilation is abandonment of the selfhood, which may seem like suicide from erroneous perspectives.
Sense/Senses: The fallen senses are the narrow inlets through which we dimply perceive the infinite—their limitations make us believe that we inhabit a material body.
Sexes: Sexes are a consequence of the Fall. See also emanation, Beulah.
Seraphim: The seraphim are an order of angels who inspire prophecy. See also Mne Seraphim.
Shadow: The shadow is the aspect of the divided man that results when desire is repressed.
Shepherd: In the Golden Age shepherds lived without the comforts and commodities (and compromises) of civilization; Blake’s good shepherds are often typologically related to Jesus; a shepherd has it easier than a Plowman. See also Piper.
Sin: Sin is a form of erroneous thinking rather than acting for Blake, and sin and disease are closely related, as if all diseases are manifestations of misplaced guilt about sin.
Spectre/Spectrous: The selfhood of the divided man generates the Spectre, a parodic version of the self characterized by self-defensive rationalization, especially in opposition to an emanation.
Spinning: See weave/weaving/woven.
States: States are stages of error or partial consciousness associated with particular times in one’s life, such as Innocence and Experience. States persist but apply only temporarily to any given individual. See also classes.
Swedenborg, Emanuel (1688-1772): Swedenborg was a scientist, mining engineer, and mystical philosopher. Blake briefly joined and then repudiated a Swedenborgian alternative church as a young man, but his thought and writings were strongly influenced by Swedenborg’s writings even after he left the New Church. See also Boehme.
Tharmas: Tharmas is the self governed by instinct, and one of the Four Zoas.
Thel: “Thel” is often glossed as an obscure reference to a Greek root meaning “will” or “wish,” but it is more likely that this name was suggested to Blake by the title of a controversial book by Martin Madan, Thelyphthora (1780), which means “destruction of the female,” in which case the name, if it means anything, means “female.”
Theotormon: Theotormon suggests “god-tormented”; the autobiographical narrative of a mercenary who fought half-heartedly to suppress a slave revolt may have inspired his character in Visions of the Daughters of Albion. In later books Theotormon is grouped with Rintrah, Palamabron, and Bromion.
Tiriel: Tiriel is the son of Har and Heva in Blake’s Tiriel.
Tirzah: Tirzah figures in a late addition to Songs of Innocence and of Experience as the “mother of [the speaker’s] Mortal part”; she is more closely related to the sexual torturer Tirzah in The Four Zoas, Milton, and Jerusalem than to a woman and a city of the same name in the Bible. Blake may have chosen the name because it sounds Biblical and yet suggests “tears” and “teaser.” See also weave/weaving/woven.
Transgressors: See classes.
Tyburn: Tyburn was the site for public hangings in London throughout most of the eighteenth century. Blake saw the “Tyburn Procession” of doomed men and women as a vestige of Druid ceremonies of human sacrifice. Tyburn was rarely used after 1780, but executions continued at a somewhat reduced rate elsewhere.
Tyger: In the eighteenth century tigers epitomized bloodthirstiness.
Ulro: Ulro is the dreariest form of the fallen material world, where the happiness of Beulah can only be glimpsed in dreams and visions.
Urizen: Urizen is one of the Eternals or Four Zoas; he is associated with the intellect and with various forms of rationalism, literalism, and materialism. Urizen is usually tyrannical or at least wants to be so, but he is often weak and pathetic, and occasionally heroic. The name suggests the Greek god of the heavens, Uranus, and a pun on “Your Reason” and “Horizon,” which is the limit on perception imposed in this world by Your Reason. Not all the old men with beards in Blake are Urizen, and Urizen is not always the bad guy.
Urthona: Urthona is the original manifestation of Los, one of the Four Zoas. The name suggests “earth-owner,” and like Los (and Hephaestus/Vulcan) he is a blacksmith, associated with the Imagination; he forges the plow, making him an artificer if not an artist.
Vala: Vala is Nature, and the emanation of Luvah. The name is like that of a Scandinavian earth-spirit, but punningly suggests both “vale” and “veil,” associating her with both the natural world and seductively coy beauty. See also veil, weave/weaving/woven.
Vegetable/vegetative: Vegetable or vegetative is Blake’s term for the state of ordinary material being, slow growing and merely temporal and temporary. See also Polypus.
Veil: In Blake the veil is typologically related to the temple veil between the holy of holies and the worshippers, traditionally rent at the moment of Jesus’ death on the cross. Veils are also associated with coyness, blindness, selfishness, self-enclosure, the body, and the hymen. See also Vala, weave/weaving/woven.
Vision: Vision is a term encompassing ordinary “single vision,” mere optical reality in sequential time, and higher forms that perceive things prophetically, metaphorically, imaginatively, and eternally.
Vortex: The philosopher Rene Descartes (1596-1650) describes a vortex as a whirling object appearing as a sun or star in space, throwing off light centrifugally as it spins. A vortex can also be a whirlpool or whirlwind, and thus can suck things beyond itself to another dimension. For Blake, the vortex was a way of explaining how a “Wild Flower” can open up to be “a Heaven” (E 490). Everything has its own vortex and appearance as one approaches it; as one passes through, it unfolds progressively on the other side like a globe or a sky or a man. In The Four Zoas Urizen constructs a mechanistic heaven of Cartesian vortices.
War: In this world human energies are perversely consumed in physical warfare, but in Eternity warfare is an intellectual and creative struggle.
Weave/weaving/woven: The traditional work of Eve in the fallen world is spinning or weaving, as opposed to Adam’s work, plowing or digging (see plow/Plowman). Blake often represents the material body as having been woven; Auguries of Innocence says it is woven of alternating threads of joy and woe. See also fiber.
Wheels: Most of the many wheels in Blake are associated at some level with the gears of a clockwork, suggesting a mechanism like an orrery, but some are charged with other references, such as the eyed wheels described in Ezekiel’s account of the creatures Blake called the Four Zoas, or with the spinning wheels of Enitharmon (see weave/weaving/woven).
Will: The will is the impulse of the selfhood. The female will is the impulse to self-protection and resistance to reintegration of the emanated feminine aspect. See emanation.
Worm: Anything from a caterpillar to a maggot, a cankerworm or an earthworm; some of Blake’s characters refer to Man as a worm of sixty winters or of seventy inches.
Wren: See ox.
Zoa: See Four Zoas.
By Alexander S. Gourlay