Saturday 20th April 2024

Home » Frontpage » Currently Reading:

Murdered For A Dance

June 6, 2015 Frontpage No Comments


Many are aware that John the Baptist, whose feast day is June 24, was the one who baptized Jesus. But people may not know about the strange and rather warped circumstances under which he died: While imprisoned by the tetrarch Herod Antipas, John the Baptist was beheaded as compensation for a single dance performed by the king’s stepdaughter.
John the Baptist reportedly was born six months before Jesus. His father was a priest in the Temple of Jerusalem, and his mother was related to Mary, Mother of Jesus. As a young man, John spent much time in solitude in the Judean Desert. He then resurfaced as a preacher who began to attract a considerable following.
Among those who came to hear him preach was Jesus, whom John recognized as the Messiah, and whom he baptized. Though John was the one who baptized Jesus, he knew who was more significant, and began steering his followers toward Jesus.
Both men would have been on the radar of the region’s politically important, such as Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee and Perea, who had married his brother’s wife, Herodias, after her divorce. Of this new marriage, the most outspoken critic was John the Baptist, who viewed the marriage as adulterous and incestuous.
Herodias was infuriated that this man would have the audacity to cast negative remarks on someone of her lofty stature. Owing to his wife’s outrage, Herod Antipas had John imprisoned in his fortress of Machaerus, according to first-century historian Flavius Josephus, who wrote Antiquities of the Jews.
If it were up to Herodias, the prisoner would have been put to death immediately. Herod, though, was quite conflicted about the situation. As said in Mark 6:20: “Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and kept him safe.”
One can imagine that Herodias might have been plotting some way to bring about John’s demise. Her grand opportunity would arrive on Herod’s birthday, when he threw a lavish celebration, which, according to Mark 6:21, was attended by: “his courtiers and officers and the leading men of Galilee.”
There came a point in the festivities when Herod wanted dancing — performed especially for him, and in the form of his lovely young stepdaughter, Salome, who was also his biological niece. The exuberance of the feast and the wine, along with the anticipated stimulation of a dancing Salome, proved too much excitement for Herod Antipas, who — in the heat of the moment — promised to her:
“Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will grant it.” All she had to do was dance for him. Salome, having danced and not knowing what she wanted in return, went to her mother, who knew exactly what she wanted: the severed head of that righteous man they called John the Baptist who dared to criticize her marriage.
When Salome voiced the request, Herod instantly regretted his wild promise. Though Herod was a superstitious and fearful man, he had given his word in front of many witnesses; he felt compelled to honor his part of what turned into a deadly bargain. So he dispatched a soldier of the guard with orders to behead.
The soldier returned with John’s head on a platter. This ghastly offering was given to Salome, who, in turn, gave the platter to her mother, the person who really wanted it.
Artistic depictions of Salome surfaced around the 11th century, with the appearance of medieval carvings and stained-glass windows. She is found on the 12th-century bronze doors at the Basilica of St. Zeno in Verona, and in 13th-century mosaics at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice. Her image was also strong at the time of the early Italian Renaissance; Donatello and Giotto were among the artists who gave her their attention.
For whatever reasons, it would take several more centuries for the story of Salome’s fatal dance to impact literature. Writers have portrayed her as having widely varying degrees of moral culpability. Gustave Flaubert wrote a story, Herodias, in which Salome is a young girl who cannot even remember the name of the man whose head her mother has instructed her to request.
However, in Oscar Wilde’s tragedy, Salomé, published in France in 1893 and seen as the foremost literary work on the subject, Salome is cast as a depraved character who ventures so far as to kiss John’s severed head. Wilde’s Salomé was published with illustrations rendered by Aubrey Beardsley, who provides a vivid, if slightly grotesque, touch. Beardsley had quite the morbid imagination, and in one of his renderings Herodias is carving a slice along John’s decapitated head.
Another prominent artwork was Gustave Moreau’s The Apparition, in which Salome is the predominant figure, tiptoed and bejeweled, whose outstretched arm points triumphantly at the severed head of John the Baptist. This painting was rendered in 1876, a time when the mythic account of Salome’s dance was enjoying a mighty, if somewhat embellished, resurgence. She somehow had become the era’s most prominent femme fatale, a ruthless and calculating icon of gyrating concupiscence.
The real-life Salome would — after her brief but influential career as a birthday dancer — go on to marry twice. Her first marriage was to Philip the Tetrarch, another biological uncle, and the half-brother of the man for whom she had so infamously danced. Philip died not long into the marriage. Salome then entered into a second marriage with Aristobulus of Chalcis, the King of Lesser Armenia. The marriage produced three children; that is about all we know of Salome’s life from this point onward.
Her later life becomes very obscure and receives no mention in the New Testament. Her year of death is placed somewhere between 62 and 71 AD.
Certain apocryphal stories circulated about the nature of Salome’s demise; these tales quite possibly were vengeful fantasies expressed by those who resented her for her role in the beheading of the man who baptized the Son of God. Though John the Baptist has never been formally canonized by the Church, it is understood that he always has been a saint — one whose life was exchanged for a single dance.

+ + +

(Ray Cavanaugh has written for such publications as Celtic Life, History Today, and New Oxford Review, as well as for The Wanderer.)

Share Button

2019 The Wanderer Printing Co.

Vatican and USCCB leave transgender policy texts unpublished

While U.S. bishops have made headlines for releasing policies addressing gender identity and pastoral ministry, guidelines on the subject have been drafted but not published by both the U.S. bishops’ conference and the Vatican’s doctrinal office, leaving diocesan bishops to…Continue Reading

Biden says Pope Francis told him to continue receiving communion, amid scrutiny over pro-abortion policies

President Biden said that Pope Francis, during their meeting Friday in Vatican City, told him that he should continue to receive communion, amid heightened scrutiny of the Catholic president’s pro-abortion policies.  The president, following the approximately 90-minute-long meeting, a key…Continue Reading

Federal judge rules in favor of Gov. DeSantis’ mask mandate ban

MIAMI (LifeSiteNews) – A federal judge this week handed Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis another legal victory on his mask mandate ban for schools. On Wednesday, Judge K. Michael Moore of the Southern District of Florida denied a petition from…Continue Reading

The Eucharist should not be received unworthily, says Nigerian cardinal

Priests have a duty to remind Catholics not to receive the Eucharist in a state of serious sin and to make confession easily available, a Nigerian cardinal said at the International Eucharistic Congress on Thursday. “It is still the doctrine…Continue Reading

Donald Trump takes a swipe at Catholics and Jews who did not vote for him

Donald Trump complained about Catholics and Jews who did not vote for him in 2020. The former president made the comments in a conference call featuring religious leaders. The move could be seen to shore up his religious conservative base…Continue Reading

Y Gov. Kathy Hochul Admits Andrew Cuomo Covered Up COVID Deaths, 12,000 More Died Than Reported

When it comes to protecting people from COVID, Andrew Cuomo is already the worst governor in America. New York has the second highest death rate per capita, in part because he signed an executive order putting COVID patients in nursing…Continue Reading

Prayers For Cardinal Burke . . . U.S. Cardinal Burke says he has tested positive for COVID-19

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke said he has tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19. In an Aug. 10 tweet, he wrote: “Praised be Jesus Christ! I wish to inform you that I have recently…Continue Reading

Democrats Block Amendment Banning Late-Term Abortions, Stopping Abortions Up to Birth

Senate Democrats have blocked an amendment that would ban abortions on babies older than 20 weeks. During consideration of the multi-trillion spending package, pro-life Louisiana Senator John Kennedy filed an amendment to ban late-term abortions, but Democrats steadfastly support killing…Continue Reading

Transgender student wins as U.S. Supreme Court rebuffs bathroom appeal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday handed a victory to a transgender former public high school student who waged a six-year legal battle against a Virginia county school board that had barred him from using the bathroom corresponding…Continue Reading

New York priest accused by security guard of assault confirms charges have now been dropped

NEW YORK, June 17, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — A New York priest has made his first public statement regarding the dismissal of charges against him.  Today Father George W. Rutler reached out to LifeSiteNews and other media today with the following…Continue Reading

21,000 sign petition protesting US Catholic bishops vote on Biden, abortion

More than 21,000 people have signed a letter calling for U.S. Catholic bishops to cancel a planned vote on whether President Biden should receive communion.  Biden, a Catholic, supports abortion rights and has long come under attack from some Catholics over that…Continue Reading

Bishop Gorman seeks candidates to fill two full time AP level teaching positions for the 2021-2022 school year in the subject areas of Calculus/Statistics and Physics

Bishop Thomas K. Gorman Regional Catholic School is a college preparatory school located in Tyler, Texas. It is an educational ministry of the Catholic Diocese of Tyler led by Bishop Joseph Strickland. The sixth through twelfth grade school provides a…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for 150 years in our weekly print edition.

  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to su
bscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 150 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1


Today . . .

Kamala Harris Heads to Arizona to Promote Abortions Up to Birth

Kamala Harris is visiting Arizona today to showcase the Biden-Harris Administration’s radical support of unlimited abortion. “Kamala Harris has become the abortion czar of the Biden Administration,” said Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee. “Instead of joining with the pro-life movement to build programs and safety nets to help promote real solutions for women and their preborn children, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have engaged in fearmongering and propaganda,” Tobias continue

May Everyone Have a Blessed and Joyful Easter

Is Easter being replaced with the ‘Transgender Day of Visibility’?

Two observances — Easter and the recently contrived “International Transgender Day of Visibility” — fall on Sunday, March 31 this year, causing some to wonder “Is Easter being replaced with the ‘Transgender Day of Visibility?’” It’s a valid question. For more than a few, it certainly will. Others might dismiss this as nothing more than a coincidence. That would be a mistake. On the last day of this month, we will witness a clash of religions as…Continue Reading

Abortion Advocates No Longer Consider It “A Necessary Evil,” They Celebrate Killing Babies

Last week, Kamala Harris became the first vice president in U.S. history to make a public visit to an abortion clinic. Though the Democratic party’s support for abortion is nothing new, Harris’ Planned Parenthood appearance does illustrate how that support has become a flagrant celebration of abortion as a public and personal good, essential to both “freedom” and to “healthcare.” At the appearance, Harris proclaimed,  It is only right and fair that people have access…Continue Reading

Wisconsin Supreme Court says Catholic charity group cannot claim religious tax exemption

The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that a major Catholic charity group’s activities were not “primarily” religious under state law, stripping the group of a key tax break and ordering it to pay into the state unemployment system. Catholic Charities Bureau (CCB) last year argued that the state had improperly removed its designation as a religious organization.  The charity filed a lawsuit after the state said it did not qualify to be considered as an organization…Continue Reading

The King of Kings

Cindy Paslawski We are at the end of the Church year. We began with Advent a year ago, commemorating the time awaiting the coming of the Christ and we are ending these weeks later with a vision of the future, a vision of Christ the King of the Universe on His throne before us all.…Continue Reading

7,000 Pro-Lifers March In London

By STEVEN ERTELT LONDON (LifeNews) — Over the weekend, some seven thousand pro-life people in the UK participated in the March for Life in London to protest abortion.They marched to Parliament Square on Saturday, September 2 under the banner of “Freedom to Live” and had to deal with a handful of radical abortion activists.During the…Continue Reading

An Appeal For Prayer For The Armenian People

By RAYMOND LEO CARDINAL BURKE (Editor’s Note: His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke on August 29, 2023, issued this prayer for the Armenian people, noting their unceasing love for Christ, even in the face of persecution.) + + On the Feast of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist, having a few days ago celebrated the…Continue Reading

Robert Hickson, Founding Member Of Christendom College, Dies At 80

By MAIKE HICKSON FRONT ROYAL, Va. (LifeSiteNews) — Robert David Hickson, Jr., of Front Royal, Va., died at his home on September 2, 2023, at 21:29 p.m. after several months of suffering and after having received the Last Rites of the Catholic Church. He was surrounded by friends and family.Robert is survived by me —…Continue Reading

The Real Hero Of “Sound of Freedom”… Says The Film Has Strengthened The Fight Against Child Trafficking

By ANA PAULA MORALES (CNA) —Tim Ballard, a former U.S. Homeland Security agent who risked his life to fight child trafficking, discussed the impact of the movie Sound of Freedom, which is based on his work, in an August 29 interview with ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. “I’ve spent more than 20 years helping…Continue Reading


Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Catholic Replies

Editor’s Note: This lesson on medical-moral issues is taken from the book Catholicism & Ethics. Please feel free to use the series for high schoolers or adults. We will continue to welcome your questions for the column as well. The email and postal addresses are given at the end of this column. Special Course On Catholicism And Ethics (Pages 53-59)…Continue Reading

Color Politics An Impediment To Faith

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK The USCCB is rightly concerned about racism, as they should be about any sin. In the 2018 statement Open Wide Our Hearts, they affirm the dignity of every human person: “But racism still profoundly affects our culture, and it has no place in the Christian heart. This evil causes great harm to its victims, and…Continue Reading

Trademarks Of The True Messiah

By MSGR. CHARLES POPE (Editor’s Note: Msgr. Charles Pope posted this essay on September 2, and it is reprinted here with permission.) + + In Sunday’s Gospel the Lord firmly sets before us the need for the cross, not as an end in itself, but as the way to glory. Let’s consider the Gospel in three stages.First: The Pattern That…Continue Reading

A Beacon Of Light… The Holy Cross And Jesus’ Unconditional Love

By FR. RICHARD D. BRETON Each year on September 14 the Church celebrates the Feast Day of the Exultation of the Holy Cross. The Feast Day of the Triumph of the Holy Cross commemorates the day St. Helen found the True Cross. It is fitting then, that today we should focus on the final moments of Jesus’ life on the…Continue Reading

Our Ways Must Become More Like God’s Ways

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Twenty-Fifth Sunday In Ordinary Time (YR A) Readings: Isaiah 55:6-9Phil. 1:20c-24, 27aMatt. 20:1-16a In the first reading today, God tells us through the Prophet Isaiah that His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways. This should not come as a surprise to anyone, especially when we look at what the Lord…Continue Reading

The Devil And The Democrats

By FR. DENIS WILDE, OSA States such as Minnesota, California, Maryland, and others, in all cases with Democrat-controlled legislatures, are on a fast track to not only allow unborn babies to be murdered on demand as a woman’s “constitutional right” but also to allow infanticide.Our nation has gotten so used to the moral evil of killing in the womb that…Continue Reading

Crushed But Unbroken . . . The Martyrdom Of St. Margaret Clitherow

By RAY CAVANAUGH The late-1500s were a tough time for Catholics in England, where the Reformation was in full gear. A 1581 law prohibited Catholic religious ceremonies. And a 1584 Act of Parliament mandated that all Catholic priests leave the country or else face execution. Some chose to remain, however, so they could continue serving the faithful.Also taking huge risks…Continue Reading