The Temple curtain – and the Temple itself – has always played an important role in folkloric stories for both Jews and Christians, as shown by the amount of apocryphal and Midrashic literature starring myths and legends of both the Tabernacle and the Temple, in which the curtain played an important role. A good number of the myths focusing on the curtain revolve around the mysterious figures woven in the curtain itself; the cherubim, and their significance.
Scholars believe those mysterious creatures might have been derived from the Akkadian karabu or the Assyro-Babylonian shedu – called askiribu in Assyrian; or that they might have been cousins to the Egyptian sphinx or Hittite griffin. All of those creatures, almost always described as winged bulls, lions or hybrid creatures with wings, were considered to be protectors and guardians of deities, palaces, and temples. This protective nature seems to be the same of the cherubim in the Bible, which kept guard at the gates of Eden [Gen 3:24], or in the Tabernacle and Temple, where they seem to guard first the Ark and then the Holy of Holies.
The cherubim of the curtains were not only thought of and depicted as guardians of the Temple, however, keeping watch from the walls and curtains; they also symbolised the relationship between God and Israel. While in the Bible their gender is not specified, in the Talmud those particular cherubim were considered to be male and female and disposed in couples; and as long as Israel followed God and his precepts, they would keep gazing into each others' faces lovingly like a couple, while they would turn towards the walls and against each other if Israel was to disobey God.
While the legends of the cherubim and of the curtain are usually found more in the Talmud and in the Mishnah and tend to have somewhat mystic undertones, more Christianized myths usually revolve around the creation of the curtains themselves. A famous example is a 13th century mosaic in the Chora Church in Istanbul, which shows the Virgin Mary weaving the curtain while an angel is providing her with food, although in the Bible the curtain is said to be woven by Oholiab of the tribe of Dan, whom God gifted with the ability to weave. [Exodus 31:6]
A number of other assorted myths, and possibly the best known, revolve around the episode of the torn curtain at Jesus’ death; but small stories of mysterious and bizarre happenings in the Temple – such as the myth concerning a group of leopards which would repeatedly break into the Temple and eat the sacrifices – give the idea that both the Temple and its curtains have always been the subjects of many stories from different times and situations, and revered as clear indications of Israel’s status with God.