Saturday, March 17, 2018

"Watch Yourself!" (Zeus to Narcissus)

Not a day passes when I don't read at least a handful of questions at Quora relating to narcissism. For example :
Are relationships with narcissists doomed to fail?

Does a narcissist know they are a narcissist?

Do narcissists know when they are wrong? Mine never admitted he was wrong and never apologized.

Why is there so much unreliable, erroneous and opinionated information about narcissism on Quora?
Narcissism. Can we lay blame on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others, names of which escape me? People use those tools because they are like mirrors - all about them, their need for an audience . Blogging filled that need for some people, for years. Blogging was but the overture to the full-blown symphony!

Is blogging a symptom of chronic narcissism? Is using Twitter and/or Facebook et al a sign that the disease has become acute?

Blogging, for me, is and has been simply a way to experiment with a girlhood dream of being a writer or a reporter or journalist. Maybe there is some retro-narcissism going on.

I've always found Facebook a wee bit creepy, though was never quite sure why. I opened an account early on and almost immediately deactivated it, re-opened it years later, then deactivated it again. As for Twitter, I can see that for some people it could feed incipient or rampant narcissism (and that is a very awkward word to type, I'm finding). Looking in on Twitter has, very occasionally, led to information I'd have otherwise missed, but beyond that, I'm not enthusiastic. If Twitter is a narcissistic pastime, I fear I'm not doing it right!

Here's a ponder-worthy topic on which to close: is perusing one's astrological natal chart the ultimate in narcissism?

Friday, March 16, 2018

Arty Farty Friday ~ A Glance at Impressionism

I've been a little distracted and otherwise engaged for a few days so, instead of my usual arty farty dish with a side order of astrology, today's post is just a brief review of some well known Impressionist paintings. Impressionism isn't my own favourite genre, but it is easy on the eye, that cannot be denied. Impressionism is almost like comfort food, when one is weary of surrealism, abstract art and...well...the outright weird!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Sheepishly Heading for Easter and Springtime

Easter, and the run up to it, brings to mind a rhyme I used to repeat, long ago and far way near the north-eastern coast of England:
Tid, Mid, Miserai (or Misere)
Carlin, Palm, and Paste egg day.

Reciting it as a child, gobbledegook-wise, I didn't care what it meant, I just wanted to get at those chocolate Easter eggs! I later grasped that it had something to do with the Sundays of Lent, and customs attached.

Carlin(g)s are black peas, eaten on Passion Sunday, On Palm Sunday sometimes dried palm leaves were handed to members of church congregations, and Paste eggs (possibly a corruption of Pasch) eggs were what all the kids eagerly anticipated.

As for the mysterious first line of the rhyme, there are two explanations:
'Tid' was the second Sunday in Lent when, it seems, the Te Deum was sung/chanted in church; Mid could refer to a hymn 'Mi Deus', sung on the third Sunday of Lent; Miserai/misere might be the psalm 'Miserere Mei', sung on the fourth. But there's also a very slight possibility, because the purpose of the rhyme was to count Sundays before Easter, that Tid, Mid was a variation of an ancient Celtic-based method/language once used in the north of England for counting sheep. Exact spelling varies with dialects of northern England, but one, two three, four, five = yan, tan, tithera, mithera, pip. Could 'tithera', 'mithera' equal 'tid' 'mid'? I'm not confident about this, it doesn't really fit snugly. Interesting though. It has been noted that even in parts of the United States the old sheep-counting method is not not unknown, possibly brought across the Atlantic by early immigrants.

The full ancient sheep-counting method went like this, with spelling variations.
(My grandmother and neighbours of her generation always pronounced "one" as "yan", by the way.)


The sheep were counted up to twenty, the shepherd then closed one finger and repeated the count until all his fingers of one hand were down = a hundred sheep. Next he would close a finger on his other hand and begin anew. So up to 500 sheep could be counted using this method.

Regarding the mysterious custom of eating black carlin peas during Lent: there's no religious significance, but the tradition is said to be linked to the civil war of 1644. Royalist Newcastle in the north-east of England was under siege from the Scots. People were dying of starvation. The story goes that, either a French ship docked in Newcastle with a cargo of Maple Peas which were distributed to the people out of charity; or that a French ship was wrecked off the coast near Newcastle and containers of peas were washed ashore, much to the relief of starving inhabitants. Either way, a custom was born! Carlin peas are soaked overnight in water, boiled well then fried in butter and served with vinegar and bread and butter. My East Yorkshire grandmother used to prepare carlins that way, each year around Easter time.

Here's the late and much lamented Jake Thackray with one of his self-penned ditties, very appropriate to this post.

When I first posted on this old counting method, 4 years ago, some comments received added more interesting tid-bits:

David: "Hickory, dickory dock the mouse ran up the clock" is from the same counting scheme

Hi! I didn't know that - but now you've mentioned, of course! The rhythm is the same and..."hovera dovera dik" - Wikipedia: Westmorland shepherds in the nineteenth century used the numbers Hevera, Devera and Dick.

JD : Still used by shepherds in Cumbria (it was on the BBC's 'Country File' not so long ago). Base 20 counting system goes way back to the Babylonians, I think, and was used by the Maya.

Twilight: I suppose 5, 10 or 20 counting methods were an inevitable consequence of humans finding themselves with 5 fingers on each hand - and 5 toes on each foot. :-)

Kaleymorris: This reminds me of a 10-based counting method called Chisanbop. Yours seems a bit more efficient.

Twilight: Hmm - I'd never heard of that one - clever stuff!
Looking for generally related information on finger counting, I came across the fact that, well into the Middle Ages, the Greeks and Romans seem to have used fingers for computations. The Homeric term for counting = "pempathai", which means to count by fives. It's interesting that in the sheep-counting language in my post the word for five is "pim", so it could possibly be a left-over derivation from words used by the occupying Roman legions back in the mists of time?

Monday, March 12, 2018

Music & Movie Monday ~ Russian Around

In a flea market or thrift store, when we were last out and about, I bought a DVD containing two lesser-known films starring the late and much lamented Robin Williams : Jakob the Liar, and Moscow on the Hudson. Neither title was familiar to us. We eventually got around to watching them last week, one after t'other. It's interesting, and probably the reason they are bundled onto one DVD disc, that Russia has a "supporting part" in each movie.

It's a relief to think about Russia in different lights; all the current, and seemingly endless, Russiagate stuff flying around media and internet got old for me many weeks ago.

In these two movies, Russia plays different characters - in the first Russia wears the white hat and is a factor for good - as was Russia for us in the UK during World War 2. We ought never to forget that if not for their brave armies opposing Hitler's regime, keeping him busy in eastern Europe, Britain might not have survived uninvaded.

In the second movie Russia itself isn't the bad guy in the black hat, it's the KGB and the Soviet regime then in power. Russia itself never is the bad guy - or at least never should be. Ordinary Russians are, I feel certain, just like us. They want peaceful lives, families and friends and to live without undue fear from day to day.

In Jakob the Liar, a 1999 movie set in Nazi-occupied Poland during World War 2, Jakob (Robin Williams) finds a way to combat the overwhelming depression pervading the ghetto, and causing regular suicides among its inhabitants. He lies. He claims that he hears regular news broadcasts claiming that Allied advances, in particular Russian troops, are very close, so relief is near. His plan does lift hearts and refresh optimism - but...and there's always a but... (no more detail!)

Slow, interesting, well played, but ultimately leaving one feeling a tad depressed.

In Moscow on the Hudson, a 1984 film, a younger-looking Robin Williams plays Vladimir Ivanoff, a saxophonist from a Soviet Circus touring in the USA with his troupe. He decides to defect while in New York, and finds refuge with the family of a black security guard he met in a luxury department store. In the same store he also met a lovely young Italian woman working in the makeup department. He is introduced to a shrewd Cuban immigration lawyer to help with his asylum application. So, from these brief details it's already clear that this movie had a diverse cast, and a positive feel for immigrants of all stripes! It's really a multi-cultural romantic comedy with hints of some earnest flag-waving efforts, especially in the later scenes.

Enjoyable movie in spite of the flag-waving potential.

It's Music Monday - and the flavour of the day is...Russia! Enter my favourite Russian composer, Aleksandr Borodin.

Liatoshinsky Ensemble , Kiev, plays Borodin's nocturne during ICF (International Conductors' Festival) under the conducting of Christophe Rody (Switzerland). This piece, and other pieces of Borodin's music was used in the 1955 movie "Kismet". With lyrics added this piece became "And This is My Beloved".

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Saturday and Sundry Thoughts on Neptune, Halfway Through a Transit of Pisces

Mysterious Neptune is currently around halfway through its transit of Pisces, its home sign in modern astrology. When Neptune entered Pisces, in the spring of 2011, I was wondering whether, during its sojourn, we might see a revival or "re-working" of something even more mysterious than we're accustomed to experiencing (which is mysterious enough, at any given time!)

Neptune, astrologically, has keywords attached relating to aspects of its name: the sea, water, liquids, oil, then, for some reason, illusion, creativity, film, photography , and delusion, fog, mist, mystery - maybe because the sea sometimes brings fogs and mists to its coastlines; fog or mist can cloud judgment, lead to some type of addiction, or illusion.
During the 1960s, for the whole decade Neptune was transiting Scorpio, one of the three Water signs where Neptune is said to "feel most at home". What happened then? Neptune's "influence" was made clear in the prevalence of hippie culture and fairly widespread ingestion of mind-altering substances among members of the young generation. Some iconic music came forth from that decade, and that's no coincidence I feel sure.

In Pisces Neptune will be feeling even more "at home", this transit will last until early 2025. With Pluto travelling through Capricorn and Uranus in Aries the outer planetary "atmosphere" is different now from the way it was in the 1960s..

Pisces, the zodiac sign ruled by Neptune in modern astrology - I think of it as gentle, non-threatening, sweet rather than bitter, sensitive but not clingy, emotional but not paranoid. That's a stripped down version, various possibilities and potentialities are there. Keywords such as spiritual or religious, dreamy, prone to addiction, creative.....on and on have been attached to Pisces the sign.

What, to date, in Neptune's journey through Pisces has become significantly related to this Watery, foggy transit? It will not become perfectly clear until there's benefit of full hindsight, but it's worth taking stock at this half-way mark of the transit. "Fake News" is a definite candidate! What else? Underhand dealings inherent in the 2016 presidential primaries and general election. Suspicions of Russian meddling in the run-up to the election. The result of the election, though a shocking surprise to many is hardly Neptunian - more Uranian - unexpected, eccentric, and not in a good way! Investigations, currently undertaken by Robert Mueller, in the hope of uncovering secret Neptunian-type dealings, past or present, of POTUS and/or members of his administration. Though Pluto in Capricorn could be seen as a better reflection of that investigation, suspected past Neptunian doings are the reasons driving it.

Perhaps ever-growing concern about the oceans is in line with Neptune in Pisces. Encroachment on land due to rise of sea level consequent on climate change; increasing worries about plastics and other garbage fouling up sea and shores, poisoning fish; destruction of coral reefs. The ongoing mystery of lost flight MH370 - still no sign of the crashed plane thought to be on the seabed of the Indian ocean.

Heightened concern about drugs (very Neptunian) - not new this, it never abates. Currently the "opioid epidemic" is being labelled "the most perilous drug crisis ever". In the United States, the epicenter of the opioid epidemic, overdose deaths have quadrupled since 1999, killing 91 people every day. Pharmaceutical pain relief is an essential clinical tool, but with physicians writing some 240 million opioid prescriptions to Americans every year, the potential for addiction is enormous.(See HERE)

Neptune's earlier transits through Pisces have been investigated by several writers online. A reliable source of such data is astrologer Steven Forrest's website here:
Timeline of dates and notable events under the transit of Neptune in the sign Pisces. Though interesting, I'm undecided as to how much of astrological use can be gleaned from this. During each of Neptune's trips through Pisces other patterns, made by the slow-moving outer planets, would have been different and would have to be factored in to any conclusions reached about Neptune-in-Pisces-related events.

During Neptune's previous transit of Pisces, 1847-1862, not long after the planet was discovered, there was a surge of interest in spiritualism in Britain and Europe.

Spiritualist churches were founded, and spiritualism's attendant mysteries were on the the minds of many. At that time Uranus and Pluto were either in, or about to move into, Taurus. Though Taurus and Pisces are quite different "flavours", both have a strong creative side; Neptune in Pisces would not have been overly watered down by the other outer planets' transits.

 Looking back
The Neptune-Pisces transit before 1847-62 was during 1664-1698. Neptune was undiscovered at this time, but the planet was there! Though we have dry, factual history books to guide us, we can't imagine quite as clearly the general atmosphere of those times. I don't see that religious wars and expulsion of Hugenots relate to Neptune in Pisces. Religious wars had been more or less continuous for centuries. Witch trials seem to relate to the opposite of Neptune in Pisces. The other two outer planets during mid to late-17th century moved: Taurus and Cancer were quite friendly to Pisces; Gemini and Leo, less friendly to Pisces. Perhaps the witch trials reflected the tone of those moves?

One more step back in time: 1520 - 1534: Factually: Martin Luther condemned as heretic, excommunicated...Henry 8th cutting ties with church of Rome...Religious Peace of Nuremburg...Calvin's Protestant movement in France...etc. All religion all the time! Religion is traditionally Pisces territory, though I'd have said more linked to Pisces' traditional ruler, Jupiter than to Neptune. But religion is...well... something of a mystery itself isn't it, and therefore overseen by Neptune also! During that 16th century span the other two outer planets were in Taurus and Capricorn in the early stage, and had moved to Cancer and very early Aquarius by the end of the transit. Neptune's Pisces position didn't blend at all well with Pluto in logical Capricorn and early Aquarius, but got along reasonably well with Uranus in Taurus and Cancer (though not as well while Uranus traversed Gemini). So religion and its mysteries won some and lost some!

Beyond that time, I believe Neptunian mists become much too dense, and Neptunian mysteries too "far out", to allow translation into 21st century language.

Friday, March 09, 2018

Arty Farty Friday ~ A Pre-Raphaelite Feminist

Pre-Raphaelite art has been a longtime favourite of mine. I don't know quite why - it's not "cool" it's not surreal, it's not abstract, yet it's not exactly 'real' either. The richness of the images attracts me, the skill of the painters has to be obvious to any with good vision! There are several relevant posts around my archives (see "Pre-Raphaelites" in the label cloud in the sidebar).

 Marie Spartali Stillman by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
Marie Spartali Stillman, however, is a name I had not come across before seeing it in the list of birthdays for 10 March (in 1844).

A few snips from an article by by Claire Komacek titled Marie Spartali Stillman – A Pre-Raphaelite Feminist Paints Empowered Women.

Although she is considered to be the greatest Pre-Raphaelite female artist, Marie Spartali Stillman is still virtually unknown and underrepresented in the canon of art history. One of a small number of professional women artists working during the second half of the nineteenth century, her work has largely been overlooked due to the fact that most of it resides in private collections, but moreover that her status as model to the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood overshadowed her career as artist. Drawing upon her own Greek heritage and experience modeling for the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Spartali painted images of active, empowered women that challenged the male gaze.

Spartali was born into an affluent Greek merchant family in London. Her father, Greek Consul-General to the United Kingdom and patron of the arts, frequently hosted garden parties to which he invited young, up-and-coming artists and writers; this is undoubtedly how Spartali’s exceptional, unique beauty came to the attention of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. They regarded her as a ‘stunner,’ ‘a woman so beautiful she ought to be painted, and throughout her lifetime Spartali would come to ‘be most valued for her role as an artist’s model.

Discontent with being purely the recipient of male gazes, Spartali desired to become an artist herself, and in 1864 she begged her father to allow her to study drawing and painting under Ford Madox Brown, the eldest member of the Pre-Raphaelite circle. She trained with him for six years, during which she continued modeling for her artist-friends, and sat for Brown for several drawings

It doesn't come as much of a surprise to discover that this lady was from a wealthy family. In the 19th century, trying to find news of a female painter from among ordinary folk, working class, poor and underprivileged - and there were a whole lot of them - would be petty darn fruitless. If a young woman of poor or working class background had spectacular looks, the best opportunity she might have had, if living in certain areas, would be to act as a model for painters. If she happened to have an innate artistic talent herself - good luck with that - she could draw and paint to her heart's delight, if she could afford the materials, but nobody outside of family and friends would ever see her work.

For a selection of Marie's paintings do take a look at this website:



Born in London on 10 March 1844. Time of birth unknown, chart set for 12 noon, ascendant and Moon position will not be correct.

Brief notes only:
Natal Sun and Jupiter in Pisces, Moon almost certainly in Sagittarius - Pisces and Sagittarius are, traditionally, both Jupiter-ruled signs. I don't know exactly why, but I've always felt that the Pre-Raphaelites' style was kind of Jupitarian in nature - rich, sumptuous, big. Seeing their paintings in real life may be necessary to get this effect fully, however. I'm lucky enough to have done so, back in Manchester, UK.

Marie was "ahead of her time" in that she managed to shine and become well-appreciated as a painter, in times when women found it nigh on impossible to succeed in the art world, other than as models. It's no surprise to find in her chart 3 planets, Mercury, Neptune, & Saturn in Aquarius, sign of the avant garde. Saturn is in sextile to Uranus in Aries, linking the traditional rulers of Aquarius rather helpfully. While Saturn represents traditionalism and Uranus all that is modern - here we have a female painter painting in broadly traditional style while being herself, whether she realised it or not, on the leading edge of a feminism still to come to full maturity.

The cluster of 3 planets: Pluto, Venus (planet of the arts) and Mars in late Aries (ruled by Mars)& early Taurus (ruled by Venus) adds to the feel that this is the chart of a forward thrusting initiator.

Click on the image of these two paintings by Marie Spartali Stillman for a larger, clearer view.

 The Enchanted Garden of Messer Ansaldo, 1889

 Love's Messenger