Moses’ Horns: The Perils of Mistranslation

William Keckler
3 min readJun 7, 2020

How strange.

I was reading up on the concept of terribilità in relation to Michelangelo.

Then it struck me that I had never really questioned why Moses is depicted with horns by Michelangelo. I suppose I just let it sink into my subconscious as M.’s typical flair for the hyper-dramatic in form. Maybe I had thought it was part of a stylized crown, the rest of which was out of sight in Moses’ thick hair. Rather than appearing Luciferian, the horns evoke creatures which existed in pagan stories. Pan had horns. Fauns and satyrs had…

William Keckler

Writer, visual artist. Books include Sanskrit of the Body, which won in the U.S. National Poetry Series (Penguin).