Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Shapes of Things

Here we are again, standing in the doorway of another calendar year, peering through the mist on the other side to discover what awaits us. As in previous years some of us, most of us, maybe even all of us - manage to get it wrong. Whatever method of peering through future's mist is used, all that can truly be discerned are vague shadows and shapes.
Shapes of things before my eyes
Just teach me to despise
Will time make man more wise
Here within my lonely frame
My eyes just hurt my brain
But will it seem the same
From an old song sung by the Yardbirds, long ago in 1965

Examples of some failed and forgotten 2013 psychic predictions - where "shapes" must've been interpreted wrongly, are listed at a website called Relatively Interesting

Some of the best predictions in any year have come from science fiction or speculative fiction writers, though these focus their sights much further into the future than the next 12 months. For instance, in 1964 Isaac Asimov offered his guess at what might be found if one set foot inside a mythical 2014 World’s Fair. Bringing his talent for envisioning future technology into play, Asimov’s predictions from 50 years ago are weirdly accurate. See HERE for detail of what he got right or almost right.

Mundane astrology can give indication of "atmospheres" prevailing in any given time span, but not of actual events. During the late spring of 2014, there's an astro-indication of some kind of increased and ongoing tension. Around late April, four planets (Mars, Jupiter, Uranus and Pluto) in cardinal signs (Aries/Cancer/Libra/Capricorn) all at around 13 degrees will form what's known as a Grand Cross. This is is made up of planets forming four square (90 degree) aspects to one another, and two 180 degree oppositions. It is thought to indicate, in mundane astrology, times of long-term tension, occasional confrontations, general feelings of discomfort, anger and the facing of challenges. Business as usual then? For more detail, I recommend astrologer Bill Herbst's articles on this. He offers down to earth and all encompassing information on mundane implications of the upcoming Grand Cross for the USA, and general astro-indications for the 2010 decade as a whole in his pdf essays listed and linked on his website. The two articles from 2013 and the first in the 2012 list are most relevant.

At the end of December 2012 a post of mine, "The future Isn't What it Used to Be" may (or may not) have carried some insights for 2013, including my own effort, arrived at via my Tarot deck. The 3 cards I drew in December 2012, in order were:
10 of Swords/5 of Coins/The Moon.
In a nutshell: bottoming out/hard times/anxiety, confusion, misapprehension.
Very vague, though not far off the mark, a similar prediction could apply to just about any year during the last decade.

For 2014 I've drawn 3 Tarot cards, in order they are:
The Devil, The Hierophant and 6 of Cups. First two cards are of the Major Arcana so carry most weight. I've tried to work out the right interpretation for this particular contextof a year's prediction for the nation or for the world at large. Other interpretations, for different contexts, are listed HERE .

The Devil: accepting an unpleasant and unwanted situation, choosing to stay in the dark, in ignorance while over-indulging the senses and focusing on the material. Thinking negatively about the future.

The Hierophant: Seeking some kind of belief system, conforming to its rules. Adapting and fitting in as part of the Establishment and/or some institutionalised organisation.

6 of cups is a strange card to find here, bearing in mind the first two! It usually indicates something child-like with feelings of nostalgia for the past.

So... I'd guess that things will remain much as as they are at present for most of the coming year. People will prefer to remain "in the dark" about much that is wrong, even though they are aware of it on some level. The majority will fit in, go along to get along, even while experiencing feelings of nostalgia for better times in the past.

On another level, The Hierophant card might represent the Pope, who has been quite outspoken recently - perhaps he'll continue this, or be even more outspoken about some crucial issue during 2014?

Any alternative thoughts or predictions, on these cards, or generally will be very welcome.

No matter how the 2014 cookie crumbles.....

Monday, December 30, 2013

Music Monday ~ THE 14s

It'll soon be 2014. As that thought occurred, for some reason a line from an old song popped into my head:
In 1814 we took a little trip.....
(the rest of the verse goes)
Along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Mississip.
We took a little bacon an' we took a little beans
And we caught the bloody British at the town of New Orleans.

That's the first verse of The Battle of New Orleans, a song about a battle in the War of 1812, composed by Jimmy Driftwood, a high school principal and history teacher from Arkansas. He often wrote songs to help students learn about historical events. The song was recorded, originally, by Johnny Horton in 1959. It won a 1959 Grammy for Song of the Year for its composer, and Best Country and Western Performance for Johnny Horton.

In Britain, skiffle star Lonnie Donegan recorded the song, it rose to number two in the UK hit parade. The original version of the song had been banned by the BBC, but Donegan's version was allowed after modification of certain words in the lyrics, for example "bloody" became "bloomin'. Donegan's modified lyrics also contained an error, whether deliberate or accidental isn't known. Instead of "Colonel Jackson" in the first verse he sings "along with Colonel Pakenham", which makes no sense because Pakenham was the British commander.

So...in 1814 a battle raged. In 1914, too, an even bigger battle began: The Great War of 1914-1918. A song to represent that dreadful conflagration?
How about Keep the Home Fires Burning('til the Boys Come Home), composed in 1914 by Ivor Novello with words by Lena Gilbert Ford.

We must hope, fervently, that 2014 will break the "14" pattern and hold no horrendous unpleasantnesses about which a song would need to be written.

Something more calming, composed by Luiz Bonfa: The Gentle Rain:

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Scattered Thoughts on "Family Values"

Family Values, a term of which I was not aware in Britain, it's one of those weird fuzzy American expressions that make certain types of people feel good about themselves, but when analysed ends up meaning practically nothing - or if found to mean something, meaning it ironically.
Wikipedia defines Family Values thus:
Family values are political and social beliefs that regard the nuclear family as the essential unit of society. Familialism is the ideology that promotes the family and its values as an institution.

Although the phrase family values is vague and has shifting meanings, it is most often associated[by whom?] with social and religious conservatives.[citation needed] In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, the term has been frequently used in political debates claiming that the world has seen a decline in family values since the end of the Second World War.
So, what are family values in laymen's terms rather than in Wiki-speak, politicians' or self-satisfied comfortably off Americans' terms? I doubt there could be any cover-all definition, other than a useless blanket textbook requirement: that family members should love and support one another. That's nice. Do they? Sometimes. Sometimes not. Sometimes members of families hate one another, or certain family members hate/despise one another, or envy each other or undermine each other.

Families are composed of a set of individuals with shared genes, who could possibly blend well, but also have a good chance of inheriting natures which contrast and clash, have vastly different personal opinions on what elements are of prime value in life.

In the best scenario family members do love one another in spite of personal differences of opinion. That's a good "family value", but not universal by any means. If and when it does occur, do those family members practice the same tolerance outside, in the wider world? That is the key question, in my view.

Just this week, coincidentally, I've been reading about a couple of current movies highlighting familial awkwardness or outright dysfunctionality: "Nebraska" and "August, Osage County". These movies seem to be portraying a mirror image of some of those beloved sugary American TV series of the past based around "the family": The Waltons, Little House on the Prairie etc.

Times change, do "values" fade or evolve?

Human values, encompassing the entire human family, are what are sorely needed now, not a set of values narrowly focused on isolated, and rather self-centered, "family" values.

As to the family, I have never understood how that fits in with the other ideals--or indeed, why it should be an ideal at all. A group of closely related persons living under one roof; it is a convenience, often a necessity, sometimes a pleasure, sometimes the reverse; but who first exalted it as admirable, an almost religious ideal?

Rose Macaulay,
The World My Wilderness

Friday, December 27, 2013

Arty Farty Friday ~ Chris Ware

American illustrator, comic book artist and cartoonist, Chris Ware has a birthday coming up tomorrow,
28 December. I like his spare, crisp style and subtle colours. I like the spirit of this illustration and I found in it an echo of his natal Saturn-Uranus opposition - tradition versus modernity. When I looked at his date of birth, having set up a 12 noon natal chart for him, his Saturn-Uranus opposition stood out: Saturn at 5 Aries and Uranus at 29 Virgo, not in opposite signs, but well within orb - or limit - of what is mathematically accepted in astrology as an opposition. Mr Ware's sparse style reflects Sun/Mercury in restrictive, structured Capricorn - and his mode of operation also includes the old and the new. Wikipedia tells us:
"Although his precise, geometrical layouts may appear to some to be computer-generated, in fact Ware works almost exclusively with "old-fashioned" drawing tools such as paper and pencil, rulers and T-squares. He does, however, sometimes use photocopies and transparencies, and employs a computer to color his strips."

A few samples of Chris Ware's work shown below. Much of his work needs a bigger image than I can provide here, in order to do it justice. Type his name into Google Image's search box though, and see many more examples - you'll always be able to recognise his work instantly afterwards!

 Enlarged version of part of this is below

Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s).

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Wine of Life

Writing for wine bottle labels and wine connoisseur magazines has to be a fun job. It must first entail tasting the contents, then dreaming up seductive ways of describing the taste. Nowadays attempts to seduce buyers seems to have hit new heights (or depths). I'm not a wine drinker myself, Scotch is my one and only tipple, wine gives me stomach ache. Husband is a red wine enthusiast. The small collection of labels on bottles in our wine rack usually offers up a few chuckles. In articles over the years I've seen a California cabernet, described by asking the reader to "imagine Naomi Campbell in latex"; an Australian shiraz was described as a "Chippendales dancer in leather chaps—tight, full-bodied and ready for action"; a New Zealand cabernet merlot like "a Victoria's Secret fire sale: smoky charred wood, leather, spicy and very seductive."

James Thurber's classic cartoon :

“Men are like wine-some turn to vinegar, but the best improve with age.”
― Pope John XXIII
People are like wines - all very different, and their " flavour" is somewhat dependent on year and location of production. Perhaps astrologers might, as an experiment, adopt the style of some more colourful wine writers.

How would my husband fare if described by an astrologer-cum-wine connoisseur? Let's see: born in Kansas, early Aries, Leo rising, Leo Moon. Mercury /Saturn in Pisces. Venus in Taurus.
From the lush wheat striped, cloud shadow dappled plains of northern USA comes this sunny, enthusiastic little number. There are hints of grandeur here, a glance which tells of royal pretense, yet beneath it all a lingering, arty, softness and sweetness. Think Laurence Olivier in pink tights, carrying a camera.
I ought to attempt my own wine-flavoured interpretation. Born in a port on the North East coast of England, Aquarius Sun, Aries Moon, Cancer rising. Mercury in Capricorn, Venus Sagittarius
The grey, storm-tossed North Sea coast of England has brought forth this somewhat obtuse and mentally energetic product. Travels well, but reacts instantly when upset. A hard working, capable little number when enthused. Think bright purple Mini-Cooper with wire wheels and political bumper stickers.
Wouldn't it be fun if we all came out of the womb with an inscription such as this on our backsides, like a bottle of wine?

Back in 2008, when I originally posted along these lines, blog-friend R.J. Adams added his personal wine-label description, I loved it, so will add it here:
Vintage '46 RJ Adams: Old fart from prunes picked on the east side of a Liverpool vineyard. A somewhat bitter taste. Lacking clarity and with just a hint of 'behind the gasworks' on the nose. Can be drunk with large bowls of scouse, but probably best used to disinfect the toilet bowl.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas and Peace on Earth

A 1939 original animation film and an updated, 1955 version. These short films could be familiar to people in the USA, I'd never seen them before but accidentally stumbled upon a link to one of them; the Wiki page led me to the later version.

From 1939

From 1955

I wonder if someone will do a second re-make for the 21st century?

Warm good wishes to all passers-by for a peaceful and happy Christmas-time, or whatever festival you are celebrating, even if your celebration is simply being alive.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Little Women v The March Sisters at Christmas

Last week, while searching the TV schedule for something to watch later that evening, I noticed a film listed on Lifetime channel titled The March Sisters at Christmas. The film had already started but curiosity led me to switch on and see what this was all about. It's a re-working for the 21st century of Louisa M. Alcott's classic novel Little Women. As a longtime fan of the original novel and all its sequels, I simply had to discover what indignities had been inflicted upon it. I'd missed the first half hour or so, but being still so familiar with the original story after too many years to count, I quickly gathered who was who and what was going on. Dang though! Four girls adept with Smartphones...Twitter....this was not going to be easy for me! Once I forced myself into the atmosphere of this adaptation I can't say I didn't enjoy it, but my enjoyment was based in curiosity and comparison rather than in the film or performances.

Placing the storyline of the original novel into today's USA could easily have been achieved in a more authentic way, I think. The good feeling present throughout Little Women just wasn't present for me in The March Sisters at Christmas. One of my favourite parts of the original novel - the introduction of Professor Bhaer as romantic interest for Jo, is completely messed up; the Professor's character becomes a weedy young editor instead of an enigmatic wise and much older man. On that alone I'd mark The March Sisters film a failure. In some ways it came over for me as more of a rather cynical "spoof" than a re-working.

Anyway, all of that had me re-reading my own post on Louisa M. Alcott and Little Women, from 2009. I'm going to copy it here. I still ponder over possible Sun and Moon signs of the girls. In The March Sisters at Christmas Amy has a birthday between Thanksgiving and Christmas, making her a likely Sun Sagittarian. I don't think this is mentioned in the original, and it's not the Sun sign I'd have imagined for her either. As will be seen below, I had imagined her with Leo prominent, though a commenter considered Libra a better match due to her artistic leanings. There's more below on this.


Apart from the opening lines of Dickens' Tale of Two Cities ("It was the best of times, it was the worst of times....."), the only first lines of a novel I have engraved upon my memory are:
"Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents," grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.

"It's so dreadful to be poor!" sighed Meg, looking down at her old dress.

"I don't think it's fair for some girls to have plenty of pretty things, and other girls nothing at all," added little Amy, with an injured sniff.

I received Little Women as a gift one Christmas long ago. After reading it with much delight I sought out its sequels Good Wives, Little Men, and Jo's Boys. Louisa May Alcott wrote much else, but these books brought her international fame. I've read the books, several times, seen all versions of the movies based on them, and in my first few weeks of blogging I wrote about Ms Alcott and her Little Women. I've fished out my old post, polished it up and here it is, refreshed and revived:

Louisa May was one of four daughters of transcendentalist and teacher Bronson Alcott, and Abigail, his wife, a vocal proponent of women's rights. They settled in Concord just outside of Boston. Louisa May and her sisters were educated mainly by their father. They were often in company of his friends who included such luminaries as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne and other literary figures, all of whom lived nearby. The Alcott family was not materially prosperous however, the children grew up in basic poverty, but surrounded by intellectual richness.

Young Louisa began writing early, first for her sisters, in the form of poems or plays which they would perform. She was forced to take any kind of work available for a few years in order to help the family finances, but she continued writing short stories and poems which were published in popular magazines. At age 22 her first book, "Flower Fables" was published . It was not until age 35 that she wrote "Little Women". The tale is partly autobiographical, drawing broadly from the experiences of herself and her sisters during childhood. At least 30 of her books were published, "Little Women" has never been out of print.

Louisa never married. In later life she became an advocate of women's suffrage and was the first woman to register to vote in Concord, MA. Her health had been permanently damaged when serving for a short spell as a Civil War nurse. Louisa contracted typhoid fever, she recovered but suffered the poisoning effects of mercury from a drug used at that time to cure the disease . Her health failed gradually, she died, aged 56, two days after her father had passed away. Interestingly her father was born in 1799, on the same day and month as Louisa May - 29 November.

So, does Louisa May Alcott's astrology fit? Born 29 November 1832 in Germantown, Pennsylvania at 12.30AM (Astrodatabank).

Sun and Mercury in Sagittarius with 19 degrees between them. Sagittarius is the sign of philosophers and free thinkers. It has been said that Louisa May, though surrounded by transcendentalist philosophies in her young life, did not ascribe to them herself - she followed her own free-thinking, possibly fuelled by her Moon and Uranus in Aquarius.

Saturn is in Virgo, squaring Mercury within 2 minutes of arc - the writer's Saturnian link: discipline and structure.

There is a Grand Trine in Earth linking Mars in Taurus, Saturn in Virgo and Neptune in Capricorn. I believe that this accounts for Louisa May's determination to provide for her poverty stricken family, which she continued to do throughout her lifetime. If she had any ambition or inclination to write worthy intellectual tomes, she decided to forego it in favour of writing what she was sure would sell and provide for her loved ones.

Jupiter, the publishing planet and traditional ruler of Pisces, lies strong in that sign, it squares Louisa's Mercury in Sagittarius, and opposes Saturn in Virgo, producing dynamic energy between the writing and publishing planets.

Pluto in Aries trines her Sagittarian Sun, but exactly squares her Venus in Capricorn. Perhaps while powerful Pluto may have aided her deepest ambitions, did the powerful, if diminutive, planet place an obstacle to her love life ?

She is quoted as having said "I have fallen in love with so many pretty girls, never once, the least bit, with any man". Whereas nowadays that statement might be thought to imply a certain sexual orientation, in the 19th century I very much doubt that was the case.

My longtime interest in astrology inspired me, when much younger, to try to categorise the sisters in Little Women according to their archetypes. I decided that Jo, who I'm sure was Louisa's alter ego had to represent Aquarius (reflection of her Moon). Meg, the homemaker seemed to me to depict Taurus (Cancer would fit well too though). Amy, the spoiled, vain sister was typically Leo. Beth the gentle one fitted Pisces well, I thought. However, after I'd posted the original of this piece, in December 2006, astrologer April Elliot Kent of Big Sky Astrology
commented as follows, with an alternative, and probably more accurate view.

April said...
Thanks for a fine post about the author of one of my favorite books! But I must object: Amy didn't have the fiery spunk of a Leo! (Well, perhaps I'm biased, being a Leo myself.) I'm thinking she had to be a Libra with all her paintbrushes and that fine sucking-up ability. And Jo was such a Sag to me (the character even says she was born in November!) - but had to have Mercury in Scorpio with that temper of hers. But yes, let's give her an Aquarius Moon!

December 15, 2006 12:37 PM
Twilight said... Thanks, April!

Sag. was my second choice for Jo, Aquarius (my own prejudice) was decided more on the content of the sequel books I guess, on her disinterest in marriage, and general obtuse-ness. lol! I'd forgotten about her birthday having been mentioned.

You're probably right about Amy, too. Libra would better fit her arty side.
That clothes peg got me though !!
If LW were set in today's world Amy would be at the head of the queue at the plastic surgeon's office! :-)

Thinking about this again now, I reckon additional Aquarius flavour in the novels comes from Prof. Bhaer, who Jo eventually married, her Aquarius Moon and his Aquarius Sun would be a good combination.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Music Monday ~ Winter's Tales

Sidling past the dozens of choices of Christmas music available at YouTube, but wishing to stay "in season", how about A Winter's Tale sung by David Essex? The song was written by Mike Batt and Tim Rice in 1982 in response to a request from David Essex. I don't know how well the song was known in the USA, my husband had never heard it before - that's not necessarily a useful yardstick, he being a jazz enthusiast (but an avid Beatles fan too).

The song's title has to bring to mind Shakespeare's play, The Winter's Tale, about a jealous king who suspects his pregnant wife of unfaithfulness, imprisons her, banishes the baby girl to whom she gives birth, causes her to be taken to some far shore by his friend. His friend is then killed by a bear. The play contains Shakespeare's most famous, and decidedly quirky, stage direction at this point: "Exit, pursued by a Beare". There's a happy ending though. In the second half of the play, 16 years later, the girl, now a young woman falls in love....and somehow everything comes right in the end. David Essex's song doesn't have a happy ending, though he does seem resigned to his lonely fate.

In Winter's Tale , song or play, the season itself isn't the lead player. Stories known as winter's tales were stories told by firelight during the long dark nights of a medieval winter. In dramatist George Peele's play of 1595, The Old Wives' Tale a woman is asked to "tell a merry winter's tale" to pass the time "trimly". These winter's tales were, it seems, something akin to fairy tales, peopled by kings, queens, princes, princesses, courtiers, peasants, lost children, jealousy, love, death...all that good stuff, but always with a happy ending.

I took the long-winded but scenic route to arrive at this Winter's Tale: the video!

David Essex is still around in the UK, acting, touring, recording. See Wikipedia here. "Essex spent six years as an ambassador for Voluntary Service Overseas, which earned him an OBE (Order of the British Empire) in 1999. On that he said: "That was a big day. I took my two eldest kids, and me mum even went out and bought a hat"

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Up a Lazy River Without a Paddle?

Ted Rall's diatribe posted at Smirking Chimp this weekend encouraged me to break my self-imposed rule not to post political and depressing stuff during this season of traditional warmth and goodwill. I feel that Mr Rall's words would be exactly what I'd write - if I had the talent and knowledge.
Obama's Governus Interruptus

Points made in this piece seem harsh, but they do reflect the truth, in my opinion, and ought not to be buried.

Dude went to Columbia and Harvard. He seems smart. What’s wrong with him? Is he — as his former colleagues at the University of Chicago, who noticed that he never published — lazy? He’s certainly a far cry from the LBJ who, according to his biographer Robert Caro, routinely burned the midnight oil committing every sentence of every bill, ever, to memory.

Obviously, a president who finds time to watch sports, play golf and kick off for vacations for weeks at a time — while the global economy is melting down — hell, while his signature legislative accomplishment, Obamacare has all but completely imploded — is lazy as all get up. Still, there’s nothing new about presidential sloth. Reagan, Clinton and Bush all worked less than the average minimum-wage worker whose misery they were steadfastly ignoring.

Obama is unique, though. It goes beyond laziness. He doesn’t follow tried and true practices of presidential governance that have served his predecessors for more than two centuries. Intentional? Who knows? It seems more than likely that (and this is so outlandish that I’ve literally waited years to write these words) he is so ignorant of history that he doesn’t know why and how previous presidents have failed and succeeded. Because, let’s face it, if this is three-dimensional chess, he’s down three queens.

Regarding the "lazy" accusation. I suspected as much way back in 2008, even though I did vote for him in that election. In one of the presidential debates I clearly recall his answer when asked a question on which part of presidential duties he'd dislike most. He responded along the lines that he doesn't enjoy routine office-type work and leaves all that to assistants. Which is alright, on the surface of it, most managers do the same, but for me it clanged a warning bell

Ah well, three more years......"we might have someone worse in 2016" I hear someone whisper - or shout. We might indeed, but that doesn't excuse the now.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

SOLSTICE & A Look at Lewis Spence

I've posted this poem at Winter Solstice once before - 5 years ago. I like it a lot, so here it is once more:
Toward the Winter Solstice
by Timothy Steele

Although the roof is just a story high,
It dizzies me a little to look down.
I lariat-twirl the cord of Christmas lights
And cast it to the weeping birch’s crown;
A dowel into which I’ve screwed a hook
Enables me to reach, lift, drape, and twine
The cord among the boughs so that the bulbs
Will accent the tree’s elegant design.

Friends, passing home from work or shopping, pause
And call up commendations or critiques.
I make adjustments. Though a potpourri
Of Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Jews, and Sikhs,
We all are conscious of the time of year;
We all enjoy its colorful displays
And keep some festival that mitigates
The dwindling warmth and compass of the days.

Some say that L.A. doesn’t suit the Yule,
But UPS vans now like magi make
Their present-laden rounds, while fallen leaves
Are gaily resurrected in their wake;
The desert lifts a full moon from the east
And issues a dry Santa Ana breeze,
And valets at chic restaurants will soon
Be tending flocks of cars and SUVs.

And as the neighborhoods sink into dusk
The fan palms scattered all across town stand
More calmly prominent, and this place seems
A vast oasis in the Holy Land.
This house might be a caravansary,
The tree a kind of cordial fountainhead
Of welcome, looped and decked with necklaces
And ceintures of green, yellow, blue, and red.

Some wonder if the star of Bethlehem
Occurred when Jupiter and Saturn crossed;
It’s comforting to look up from this roof
And feel that, while all changes, nothing’s lost,
To recollect that in antiquity
The winter solstice fell in Capricorn
And that, in the Orion Nebula,
From swirling gas, new stars are being born.

(Find it HERE.)

In a search for something else to add to this Solstice posting I noted a quotation from a book by one Lewis Spence, "British Fairy Origins":
“...some evidence seems to exist that an idea prevailed that in the fairy sphere there is a reversal of the seasons, our winter being their summer. Some such belief seems to have been known to Robert Kirk, for he tells us that 'when we have plenty they [the fairies] have scarcity at their homes.' In respect of the Irish fairies they seem to have changed their residences twice a year: in May, when the ancient Irish "flitted" from their winter houses to summer pastures, and in November, when they quitted these temporary quarters.”
A passing reader might decide this blogger has temporarily slipped "away with the fairies". Not so - well no more than usual anyway. I looked further into the author of that whimsical quote, and his book.

Lewis Spence
, ( 1874-1955) a Scot, journalist and fairly prolific author on such fascinating topics as occultism, druidism, the magic arts, Atlantis, mysteries of Mexico, mysteries of Egypt, Scottish folklore, British fairy lore....and much more. Some of his work is still in print but much is now forgotten, although many recent authors have likely used his work for reference, inspiration or as a spring board.

A couple more fairy-related quotes from his book British Fairy Origins

“In my view the study of fairy origins assumes a greater degree of importance than popular opinion is wont to concede to it. Indeed, the ideas associated with it strike at the very roots of human belief and primitive methods of reasoning. It is scarcely to be questioned that the explanation of fairy origins is of the utmost value to the better comprehension of primitive religion. Later it will be made clear that, for the writer at least, the whole tradition of Faerie reveals quite numerous and excellent proofs of its former existence as a primitive and separate cult and faith, more particularly as regards its appearance and tradition in these islands.”

Another ....

“But this is not to say that a highly specialized body of belief such as that associated with Faerie is not capable of subsidiary explanations apart from this very general conclusion, specially in connection with those later and accretive ideas which must have grown up around it. Admittedly there is a common basis for the origin of all beliefs associated with the origin of spirits, which is to be found alone in the doctrine of animism. This notwithstanding, and with all due respect to the warnings of Krappe, Hartland, and others concerning the risks accruing to the scientific classification of spiritual forms, certain types of spirits with markedly separate characteristics have assuredly been conceived, and have been given diverse denominations and descriptions by those who believed in their existence. Of this the fairy type is indeed a case in point; and however correct it may be to say that it cannot basically be separated from the ghost, the goblin, or the demon, it has, in the course of ages, assumed characteristics which in a secondary sense distinguish it sufficiently from all of these to permit the scientific observer, and to some extent the peasant or the savage, to rank it as a separate variety of spirit, if not as a distinct species.”
― Lewis Spence, British Fairy Origins

More information and illustration of some of his book covers can be found at Controversial.com here.

His natal chart with data from Astrotheme:

Early Sagittarius Sun with Moon in Gemini and Libra rising, in a chart capable of multiple patterns: oppositions, trines, sextiles, sufficient to form what my software calls a Seer Geocentric pattern, made up of Grand Trine (3 harmonious 120* aspects), two oppositions (180*)
four sextiles (60*) all tightly or in some cases a little more loosely linked. I have one of these in my own chart but have never been able to find out exactly what it signifies other than a chart with lots of links, most fairly positive in interpretation. Astrologers would interpret this pattern as, I guess, a mix of the interpretations of two patterns contained within the "Seer": Grand Trine and Mystic Rectangle.

In Mr Spence's case the planets involved are: Venus, Jupiter, Uranus, Moon and Neptune. The artistry in his writing (Venus in Sagittarius) is well-linked and in more than one way, to Jupiter (ruler of Sagittarius) for philosophical ideas and the spread of his writings; Uranus, his interest in "out of the ordinary" subjects - thought by some to be somewhat eccentric; Moon in Gemini: Moon his inner self; Gemini from whence the inspiration to write arises; and Neptune - his creative imagination. Many harmonious links are involved, held together by a couple of oppostions: Jupiter/Neptune and Venus/Moon which, rather than opposing in the usual sense, might more positively be seen as offering a balancing effect.

His natal Sun in Sagittarius doesn't form part of the "Seer" formation, but tunes him into the general feel of "harmony" through sign and element.

Saturn at 9 Aquarius opposes Uranus at 15 Leo - the two rulers of Aquarius, one balancing the other - a tricky job indeed: new thought attempting balance with the old and well-established is one way to put it. In Mr Spence's case, though, he was actually making the truly old become new again: ancient beliefs polished up and brought to the fore.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Arty Farty Friday ~ Back Views

On glancing through some of the works of French artist and lithographer Nicolas Toussaint Charlet (1792–1845) born this day in fact, 20 December in 1792, I noticed he had drawn a portrait of Napoleon, back view - "Napoleon with Folded Hands, Seen from the Rear".

That sent me down an arty farty rabbit hole looking for other "back views". I've been fascinated by sketches, paintings and caricatures of anyone showing just a view of their back ever since a work friend from long ago, a fine artist too, sketched a back view of one of our senior tribunal judges. He held it up for all to see asking, "Who's this?" We all recognised him immediately, just from a few lines. I used to have a copy of that sketch, but as yet I've been unable to find it.

My husband, among paintings he did when much younger, has an example of a back-view portrait too, of Jackie Gleason - in typical walking away mode.

In portaits from front or side view it must be difficult enough to capture a likeness. The artist needs a very sharp eye for detail, and something of an intuitive eye also - seeing just beneath the surface. From the back it's even more tricky to catch a likeness, I guess. Tilt of shoulder, slant of hip, how the head is typically held, minor detail but very telling when depicted well.

I searched around the net for more examples. A few are below, some caricature-like, some are not meant to portray a specific person, some are by world-famous painters.

 La Promeneuse by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

 Mary Cassatt at the Louvre - Edgar Degas

 Illustration from "The Magic Pudding" by Norman Lindsay

 Figure of a Man  by George B. Luks

 H.R.H. The Prince of Wales by James Gillray

  Also by James Gillray

 Intérieur  by Gustave Caillebotte

 Back View of Countrywoman in Hat and Shawl by James Ward

 A Pair of Lovers by Vincent van Gogh

Thursday, December 19, 2013

That Star in the East....

A Star in the East by William Ladd Tayor (1854-1926)

Adding to an already well-filled library of conjecture about the origin of the tale of that brilliantly bright Star of Bethlehem, I've copy-typed most of a piece from an old volume I once found in an antique store. I doubt there's anything here not already "out there" on the net in some form or other, still I think it's a piece worth preserving. I've omitted the first few paragraphs of introduction, which simply paraphrase the standard Christmas story:

From: The Star of Nativity, an article by Ann Barkhurst in a volume of The Best of the Illustrated National Astrological Journal 1933 and 1934.

What was the Star? Who were the mysterious strangers?

The Star of Bethlehem has always been a fascinating enigma for modern astrologers. Present day believers (1933) in the star-legend are inclined to think the "Star of the East" might have been one of the transient stars which occasionally flare up in the heavens and then die away, often marking the death throes of a sun. Or, they say, it may have been a variable star; one which flares up for a few days or hours into great brightness, then sinks back into its usual dullness as though nothing had happened.

An increasing number of students, however, do not look to any star not in the usual course of the heavens. Quoting the "Zohar" we find the following: "When the Messiah is to be revealed a star will rise in the east shining in great brightness and will remain in the east fifteen days". So many of these ancient Jewish teachings have a foundation in the Egyptian that it lends corroboration to the claims of a modern school of astrological thought which identifies the Star of Bethlehem with the sacred Star of Egypt, Sirius, which is in the mid-heaven on Christmas Eve, at the time when the constellation Virgo, the Celestial Madonna, stands over the eastern horizon.

According to "Religion of the Stars", Sirius is the star that led the Wise Men from the East to the site of the blessed nativity. For ages prior to the time now allotted to that event, Sirius had been the star that indicated the coming of a Savior. At the present time (1933) Sirius rises on Christmas evening about seven o'clock, taking five hours and three minutes to reach the meridian. Thus now it stands directly overhead at midnight of Christmas Eve. This has not always been the case but for many thousands of years Sirius has been the most conspicuous object in the heavens Christmas night.

Jesus' birth, like that of all the other Messiahs, was the fulfillment of the promise foretold in celestial configuration. It is also stated in the Hebrew legends that a brilliant star shone at the birth of Moses, and was seen by the Magi of Egypt who immediately informed the King. Again it is said that when Abraham was born this star shone in the heavens eclipsing all other stars in glory. In his teachings to the Persians, the great teacher, Zoroaster, foretold the birth of the Christ-child at which time a shining star would be seen in the heavens. The Wise Men always knew precisely the time when the Sun would be in a direct line with that great fixed star, Sirius, the Dog Star.

In the "Celestial Ship of the North" the Magi - commonly call the Wise Men - are shown as astrologers who had pure, unassailable knowledge found in the Zodiacal heavens and the fixed stars. They were said to come from Arabia, but the word Arabia at the time of Jesus' birth meant not only Arabia Felix, but northern India, i.e. the Himalayas. These Magi were Mahatmas or Masters from India who had calculated astrologically the advent of Jesus and journeyed for two years or more to visit him. In the fifth chapter of the "Aquarian Gospel", by Levi Dowling, is found the following confirmation of this statement: "Beyond the River Euphrates the Magians lived; and they were wise, could read the language of the stars and they divined that one, a master soul, was born." Their number, three, is derived from the fact that they offered three gifts, but tradition had it that there were twelve or twenty Magi, and that the entire journey from India and a return took nearly five years. They fully realized that great planetary conjunctions are always coincident with critical periods on earth, at which time Mundane changes take place that are universal.

Kepler claimed positively that all the planets were in conjunction in Pisces when Jesus was born. Every eight hundred years Jupiter and Saturn are in conjunction the same as was thought to be in effect at his birth. The sign, Pisces, was generally connected with the Messiahs - called by the Kabalist "The Constellation of the Messiahs". Sephariel, an English astrologer of the present (20th) century, gives as convincing proof a chart for this birth, placing the Moon and Uranus in conjunction in the sign Pisces, with the Sun in the opposite sign, Virgo, that of the immaculate Mother. Arbanal, in his commentary on the prophet Daniel, claims with others that the Jews, who called their Messiah "Dag" or fish, connected him with the sign of the Fishes "which indicated the land of Judea." He states that his authority is from ancient and reliable sources.

In a recent article in the "Psychical Research Journal" is a statement "that the birth of the Babe at Bethlehem took place in the late summer, probably a few years BC. The form of the constellation was that of a cross, the shaft of which was formed by three planets in a vertical line - the Moon at the head, Mars at the center, and Venus at the foot. These were seen in the sign of the Crab (Cancer) whose principal stars formed the two arms of the cross. The sign of the Crab was visible before dawn in the eastern skies over Jerusalem, and the configuration reached exactness about one hour before dawn. The group of stars to the right or southern side of the cross were most important. It was called by the Romans the "Praesepe" or "Manger". From this description it is assumed that the moment of the birth would be the moment at which the Moon would come to a right line with the other two planets, Mars lying centrally between two clusters in the Crab. One of America's leading astronomers has checked all these details and made the following report:
"This configuration actually took place on September 27th BC6-7. It is a recurrent combination and liable to occur on the average once in thirty-one and four-tenths years; though not always with equal perfection. This "constellation" may probably have been seen in recognizable form some sixty times since the date first given. It is interesting to note that it occurs again this year, and will be seen in very perfect form on the morning of the 28th of August 1932."

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A Horse, a Horse.....

 A relief of Epona,  from Roman Macedonia.
Horses. Today, December 18, second day of Saturnalia in ancient Rome, marked also the feast of Eponalia dedicated to Epona. Epona, originally a Celtic and Gaulish goddess, was patron deity of horses, and the whole equine family: donkeys, mules, ponies. Those working with these animals also came under Epona's protection. Worship of Epona was widespread across Europe and Roman Britain. As well as a holiday and festival in her honour, a temple in Rome was dedicated to her and shrines to Epona were commonly found in stables.

Epona's Celtic/Gaulish origins are understandable. Ancestors of the Gauls of Northern France and of the Celts came from nomadic tribes who spread from the East throughout Europe. Horses, for them, were of prime value in facilitating travel. Later, in ancient Rome, the horse in war - one of Rome's favourite pastimes - became priceless. Even later, and for centuries on, horses became a natural dynamo of agriculture. So, a means of transportation, a symbol of wealth and power, a part of religion, and a necessity in war and in agriculture - no wonder horses were eligible for their own goddess!

The Greeks, never shy of inventing a good story, had a tale about the birth of Epona. A Greek writer, Agesilaos, came up with this: Epona was the daughter of a man named Phoulonios Stellos, who, not interested in women, mated with a mare. That mare gave birth to a human-shaped daughter, Epona.

Though I've never had much to do with horses myself, I do enjoy looking at 'em - I have a small collection of horse sculptures. Maybe a little of the ancient horse worship is in my genes. My two maternal great-grandfathers worked with horses as both grooms and carters, a discovery made while researching my family's history.

So...Hail to Epona then!

Here are a couple of my horses, and a painting by my husband:

See also epona.net

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Io Saturnalia ....Eeee-0h Eleven

Saturnalia has come around once more. What to write about this ancient Roman festival that hasn't been written before by many and many more, including me (here).
Casting around for an idea I noticed this on a blog called No Gods No Masters:
To celebrate Romans would untie the ropes on the statue of Saturn that usually bound him the rest of the year. The traditional greeting for the holiday was 'Io, Saturnalia!" (pronounced ee-oh), which means "Ho, Glory to Saturn!"

My butterfly mind skipped immediately to Sammy Davis singing Ee-oh Eleven in the 1960 "Rat Pack" movie Ocean's Eleven. Hmmm. It seems unlikely that Sammy D. was singing "Ho Glory to Eleven", even though certain members of the Rat Pack had Italian roots and could possibly have inherited the expression "Io"; they definitely inherited some of the debauchery of Saturnalia, carried it out, and not just in December - so rumour has it!

I searched for information on "eee-oh eleven" and found these gambling-related answers :
The eleven in craps is referred to as a 'Yo, an abreviated version of a dealer yelling out "Eeeeeeee-yo-leven", harking back to the old days in the gambling halls in the West and on Mississippi riverboats.

When an eleven comes up on the dice the "stickman" says it this way so it does not confuse the players and other dealers with the similar sounding seven.

A player might call, "$1 on the yo," and throw a dollar chip to the stickman. This "yo" is the shortened version of "eee-ooo-eleven" which players often yell at the thrown dice if they have money riding on the eleven.

An eleven can only be rolled (dice) by a combination of one even and one odd (specifically, one six and one five). So, E-O Eleven, means even, odd, eleven. E-O has turned into Yo because it's quicker to say.
So no connection between Io and eee-oh then. Pity!

Er....Saturnalia....there's a nice blog post on it at the Meme Merchant "Oh and One More Thing" And another at the link already mentioned above for No Gods No Masters "Io Saturnalia".

That song I mentioned - nothing to do with the festival at all, but it's catchy: