A Dose of Luther

“It’s October, time for your annual dose of Luther.”  That’s the way a friend once prefaced her monthly column in our church newsletter.  In that spirit, I offer an appropriately autumnal image of Martin Luther in his disguise as a knight.

On this postcard a single star shines above the parapets of the Wartburg Castle as the solitary scholar scribbles away by candlelight.   I especially like the artist’s depiction of the birds and other creatures of the Thuringian Forest as well as the demonic figures lurking outside that oak-leaf border.

In Kingdom of the Birds, the events of a chapter titled “Tricks of the Devil” occur in October.  Five months of exile have taken their toll on a man who thrives in the company of friends and colleagues.  As October of 1521 wanes, a significant date approaches: All Hallows’ Eve marks the anniversary of the Reformation begun four turbulent years earlier when Luther posted his 95 Theses in Wittenberg.

During the ongoing political and religious struggles in Germany and beyond, the outlawed professor can communicate only through letters written from his hiding-place in the mountaintop castle, which he calls “the Wilderness” or “the Kingdom of the Birds.”

The postcard shows Luther engaged in his most famous literary activity at the Wartburg, translating the New Testament into the German language.

But that momentous endeavor would not begin until after the dark nights of October.