Symbols: the Labyrinth

So it took some explaining for me to appreciate the labyrinth. Mazes, I could understand the appeal, as those “require acute attention to choices at intersecting paths and a high degree of critical awareness to remember detours and dead ends. Mazes do not grace those who enter; they taunt, tease, and challenge.”

Cretan Labyrinth

Cretan Labyrinth (pg. 81) “Exploring the Labyrinth” by Melissa Gayle West, Broadway Books NY 2000. ‘It is the oldest (…) form of the labyrinth, dating back at least 3,500 years.’

Labyrinths, in Melissa Gayle West’s case studies, do grace those who work with them. They provide a time and shape-of-space set out for liminality, for psychic (as in, pertaining to the psyche) development—yet, the structure is open enough that anyone can travel in them at their own pace, in their own way, with any approach they have. I find two common processes in the cases included in Exploring the Labyrinth: The first is those who have been harmed and hardened (into “small selves” as West describes it; having created a complex or intense focus around a specific issue) travel a labyrinth and gain a bigger perspective through that walking meditation; that intensity, or that defensiveness that precludes healing, tends to soften and release. The second are labyrinth-travelers who enter too lofty, too cerebral, and find the travel grounding—the labyrinth has an opposite effect of focus and integration.

Mentioned often, too, is the benefit of Second Thinking. If a traveler can catch how they approach the labyrinth, they can examine how they approach life. I’d considered labyrinths pretty but pointless. From entrance to center and out again, it’s too easy to be worth working with. It took more explaining before I could appreciate it.

Three labyrinths featured in the book included the organic, off-center Cretan labyrinth above, drawn from an equal-armed cross axis. West presented the Chartres labyrinth below as an innovation in labyrinth design that diverged from labyrinths throughout world history, but I can’t help but expect more than a surface scratching of art or architectural history would show the lineages and influences of it.

chartres

Chatres Labyrinth (pg. 96) “Exploring the Labyrinth” by Melissa Gayle West, Broadway Books NY 2000. ‘Named after the permanent stone labyrinth set into the floor of Chartres Cathedral in France during the thirteenth century…It is a distinctly Christian pattern, an equal-armed cross visible in its elegant layout.’


The third labyrinthine pattern, a simple spiral, made a brief mention.
spiral

Ibid.


My one’s more like a spiral, really, as the path doesn’t ebb to the periphery before flowing towards the center again. It just zigzags towards the center.
combinationlock
While the full-sized labyrinths are meant for walking meditations, I very much like the idea now of having a hand-held labyrinth to work with. The meditative mind state can be done while the labyrinth-traveler traces the path with their fingertips. Made out of pottery clay or salt dough, that would provide a tactile component, and of course the same time and symbolic shape-of-space that labyrinths make, to invite or facilitate that meditative mindset.

Advertisements

Candle Spells

20161207a

Here’s this 5000-word essay from Cantrap that traces the history of candle making; comparisons between bayberry oil, tallow, beeswax, and whale oil; and how late in candlemaking history oil-soluble dyes came in. It describes the dipping rack, to which would be tied hand-knitted cotton or flax candle-wicks, for dipping repeatedly in hand-gathered animal fats melted in a vat or cauldron.

It definitely gave me an appreciation for contemporary candle wishcraft. My housemates keep some in stock for power outages during monsoon season, whether because candles are cheaper or seem more environment-friendly than battery-hungry torches. Sometimes the candles might also be vividly colored, or made of see-through solid gel, or some crystalline metallic kind of wax, shaped in many other amusing ways than “candle-shaped”, scented like citronella (which keeps some kinds of pesky insects away) or ocean breeze (how did that even happen wait what)…most stores stock some fancy novelty varieties like these.

The glamour of candle spells comes at me from…the fact that a naked flame is more of a process than it is an object; that the candle as an object is something I can hold and move around, so this externalizes my intent and anchors it in symbolic action; maybe even an echo of the sort of children’s birthday parties in which ritual leaders traditionally set cakes on fire and then challenge the celebrant to put a stop to this devastation (as the cake belongs to the celebrant’s age-peer community. In extinguishing the flame, the celebrant displays their heroism and commitment to serve the tribe, as well as their willingness to keep silent about their personal desires or “the birthday wish.” Perhaps this privacy also encourages integrity and independence, or is otherwise a lesson or test in maturity.)

I voice my wish to the candle, and let it burn for as long as I can attend it, until it puts itself out.

The tea light pictured above is magenta-colored and rose-scented. The spiky twigs are dried cloves that I’d arranged on the candle before lighting it. Each part mentioned is associated with a notion active in this spell, as well as some I haven’t mentioned or kept in the picture.

The pictures below show the cloves sinking into melted wax, the miniature clove bonfire that formed after the wax ran out, and the charred cloves after the wick burned down.

20161207b 20161207c 20161207d

The last time I tried one of these things, it was with a white unscented tea light. I’d scored a minus symbol on the metal cup and wished at the flame to burn away my depression. As it burned, I could feel the misery and fogginess growing—the exact opposite effect I’d wanted. I wouldn’t say that I’d done it wrong so much as I didn’t really know what I was doing, I was just hoping.

When it came to the spell in the pictures, it felt so much less like (ha, ha?) backfire. I still haven’t figured whether candle spells work like distance-defying sympathetic magic, or whether the flame razes or unleashes and magnifies what the wax was told to symbolize, or if candle magic is better suited to area spells that can see the light or feel the warmth or smell the paraffin, or if it’s more like a communication beacon to someone otherworldly who’d just so happen to have any interest in getting something along those lines to happen.

I’d like to cast like this more often, though. I’m already imagining cocoa powder on a cinnamon-scented candle for a housewarming spell (or cinnamon powder on a chocolate-scented candle), a way to invite healing numinous dreams that might include lavender and milk scented candles burning at the same time, and I could probably figure out something to do with ocean breeze once I figure out how the manufacturers got something like that into a candle in the first place. Right now I’m going with “they employ wizards”—of course candles are magical.

Wishcraft, Stagecraft, and Pepper’s Ghost

The following entry may contain triggering material.

Wishcraft looks like it goes: believe in something and it will happen—maybe do something to express that belief, like a lot of wishing superstitions. Maybe that’s enough.

I examine my belief system, though, to make sure it’s still working (and I wonder with what I’m examining it, which keeps me paralyzed in a philosophical paradox until something sudden distracts me.) I’ve found two separate processes in action: 1.) making sense out of nonsense, and 2.) making more sense out of something that makes sense.

This comes up when I cast Ogdoad glyphs based on chess pieces. I’m casting them onto whatever poetic metaphysical equivalent of a chess board there is, and I have a specific idea of their nature and purpose—but not always the rules of the game, or that this vocabulary has the correct Glamour, or that who or whatever I address would listen and understand enough to join in on reinforcing this belief system by effective response. (Linguist Ferdinand de Saussure made a better connection between speaking or parole as the chess pieces, and language or langue as whatever it takes to make those chess pieces more than decorative.)

Fairy Chess changes the rules: that the pawns can now move like kings without having the value of a king, or that every move transports a piece to a corresponding square on a parallel board, or that there’s one extra piece on nobody’s side whose move is determined by the roll of an eight-sided die and so help your pieces who can’t get out of the way fast enough.

In a way, I’ve come to recognize these more as Proscenium stuff. A chess game can be theatrical, full of errant knights, flying castles, bishops moonlighting as assassins, and pawns that can rise to power as royalty. It’s not a frequent courtesy of the game I’ve seen, that players ever give one another the satisfaction of striking down the king. When such is a mathematical certainty, there’s no point in acting it out. The loser tumbles the king, and the players shake hands on it. Of course, the loser can flip the table over in a snit, instead, but that very real act somehow cannot undo the loss never enacted: “offstage” as it is, in the rules of the game, somehow less real. (If a player flipped the table over when so many other possibilities in-game remained, that would have a different effect.)

So, I’ve come to another distinction. The one is Conjecture Proscenium, which claims all those mathematical certainties of the downfall of chess kings, and the maths, and whys, and hows, of symbolic meanings, and all in a space where it really is just a game. The other is Conjure Proscenium, which I’d touched on when defining a deliberately created Scape (although I called both concepts Proscenium, then.)

I see the same process in the way I cast glyphs in the Otherreal, which is really very much like projecting a Pepper’s Ghost.

In the sidereal or otherreal, I sometimes feel qualities of otherwise undetectable billows in the air. They don’t change meaning or quality according to what shape I’ve put them in by waving my hands about, though—I’ve tried, and maybe that way simply doesn’t work for me. I build glyphs below the stage, the back of my mind or the bottom of my heart, and then play them out on the plane I perceive. I still wonder how it works, how it doesn’t, what is it about the world that has metaphorically conducive properties? But that’s applauding the scenery. Belief moves somewhere between the players and the props.

Ogdoad2016

The Proscenium

The proscenium is a category I gave to a Scape in the Surreal, also to the process of creating it. It’s one of the turnkey concept-methods between the receptive liminal activity—receptivity?—and active liminal…activity. The preceding sentence is why I don’t like dualism, by the way, it gets everywhere into everything when the concept I’m trying to get at is really just one (third?) thing with differing things in the thing.

The library I call my “third chamber” originated as a visualization exercise called the Memory Palace, or the method of loci. As I recall, it’s ancient Roman, but I can’t recall when it became a thing and who authored what specific information about it. As I understand, concepts should become easier to remember if symbolized by an object that occupies spacetime, in the imaginary sense. While I could imagine this place that I’ve never been to, I couldn’t attach specific ideas. I ought to have been able to attach a grocery list to the banister, for instance. Instead, while I could see the banister clearly, I couldn’t help but think there was—because my mind’s eye could see, because my fetch-heart knew—this hoary old man with an eyepatch named Odin (the man’s name, not the eyepatch’s) rattling his cane impatiently against the bars and referring to me as ‘sonny’.

So, that’s one possible example of how something mundanely imaginary can overlap with spiritual significance. I could understand, at least I anxiously anticipate, the embarrassment of interacting with a symbol of my oedipal issues as though they were a cosmic power personified. I could also understand the frustration of hearing something, “Oh, you’re Jung’s Wise Old Man archetype!” over and over again by mortals who want to claim so much is just in their heads that it almost becomes a humblebrag—having so much more in yer noggin’ than most other people, eh?

However an individual decides—or feels is the best way—to interpret it, though, is probably the right way. Even if that inclination towards the psychic-like-psyche or psychic-like-psi-phenomena changes during the process, as the individual gains experience.

I liked that it was a round room. Sometimes, it would develop corners. Rather than wonder what the change in architecture symbolized, what self-work I ought to do so that my imaginary room would be round again the next time I glimpse it…I would make an effortful visualization of the room being round again. That would work well enough. It wasn’t so effortful to get it there in the first place, though, so I wouldn’t say that the mental effort alone makes it -real in the Surreal.

My Proscenium appears to operate on the wishcraft of a fiction. Once, two regular residents of that room vanished with all the furnishings. I re-established the third chamber as it used to be, but I still believe that happened. Am I deluding myself that the third chamber is still fully furnished? It feels awkward, but it doesn’t feel wrong.

I have never attempted to domesticate the landscape of Erstvale like this. I control my fetch when I quest. I wield Eidems like Heartwrench and the something Of Doom (with the pointy bit). We all have stories, and inaudible names I know, and some kind of vibrance. That’s what I experience, and whether I decide it’s in my head or some otherworldly journey, it helps to keep that possible.

~

It would feel wrong for me to summon those two residents back to the third chamber. I thought I could deliberately visualize a ghost-guardian person in Erstvale, the same way I rounded the walls of the third chamber…and, she simply wouldn’t take. I decided not to make the effort anymore, and a year or so later had an unsettling dream about her being melted (something alive or at least moving within the slurry of what used to be form.)

I write stories. I shape my mind for them: plot, aesthetic, voice and style. I let images form in my mind, emotional beats, manifesting potentials like a lucid dream (or, when writer’s block comes around, like a nonlucid dream or dreamless sleep. Is it a mineral deficiency, or do the muses leave me? Whatever.) It’s so common to speculate on the psychology of creators—while that is not the only literary analysis approach that exists, I took for granted that that would keep them safely contained.

But then Captain Marigold fired the cannons through the walls of our realities, so if I thought I made her up (which I shouldn’t have been able to—poor ghost-guardian of Erstvale,) she’s fairly self-made now.

That’s part of the Proscenium process, too: metaphorical thespians, characters, scripts and improvisation, rehearsal and orchestra, backdrops and backstage, costumes and makeup and lighting and masks. None of it strictly real; some level of it always true. Detached, we know it for what it is. Immersed, we know it for what it is.

On the Pledge, Turn, and Prestige

These are what I call the phases of wishcraft. I would write ‘stages’ of wishcraft, but I’m not a stage magician, although these terms come from a stage magician in a movie. (The Prestige, 2006.)

The Pledge refers to the statements of intentions or motives. What makes it a wish is the simplicity and authenticity. A stage magician would direct the audience to find that there is nothing under the performer’s sleeves, and while that’s more of a distraction to the ulteriors, a pledge in wishcraft is more genuine about what the caster doesn’t have and does have, and ultimately is a statement of attending to the potential. The caveats and precautions come into play in this stage for that reason.

The Turn refers to how it’s done. There are too many levels and ways to get a thing done that hasn’t even been specified in this entry (the thing), but basically the pledge is set into motion at this part.

The Prestige refers to the acceptance of the wish into truth. The perception of this result runs the gamut between intuitive and evidential, but I have this vague idea that thinking of the doing of the thing should either have this from the get-go. Or that meeting this standard will eventually come up.

Wishcraft: Truth Behold

I only put up with the bard at all because Emilie Autumn likes him. Sure, I’ve read about how he invented modern English (in any case, influenced more than all the Jutes ever could), that every story is just one of his stageplays rearranged, and that his works are absolutely the only way to remain human in a Huxleyan Dystopia.

Maybe I don’t like him because I was lucky enough to be tasked to comprehend his greatness in 10th grade English literature class. Mostly, though, I don’t like his stuff because I just don’t like his stuff. It’s rarely given me all of the feels to snuggle into. Relating to Sonnet 121 provided a bit of an ego boost? Appreciated it. Otherwise…

Okay, otherwise, it took some footnote rant in an academic-seeming paper about how there is no connection between Shakespeare’s King Lear and Manannan mac Lir to get me to read a Shakespeare play voluntarily. My immediate reaction was that I had better start reading King Lear to search for any connections between the Lear and the Lir. You know…to keep them properly apart.

I didn’t find Lir. I did find Cordelia. In a striking similarity to many surviving versions of the Beauty & the Beast (most not-Disney ones of that) and Cinderella fairy tales, Cordelia had two wicked sisters. Cordelia herself was supposed to be The Good One, but I felt the text itself welcomed the interpretation that Cordelia is initially kind of a jerk. “I cannot heave my heart into my mouth.” Integrity isn’t only about your personal feelings, Cordy! Communication maybe matters in a relationship? Heave your heart into your mouth, girl, and tell your dad you love him he is clearly the most insecure thing to breathe air and your country will collapse into an anarchist democracy or something if you don’t…oh, fine, be that way.

Really, though, I read this at the time that I sought refuge with my extended family, and my uncle was putting the pressure on for me to convert to Catholicism and forgive a self-righteously unrepentant Miasma for abusing me. On my life with a roof over my head, I couldn’t heave my heart into my mouth either.

What’s re-occurred to me lately has been this couplet:

Time shall unfold what plaited cunning hides
Who covers faults, at last shame them derides

The strict cadence is known as iambic pentameter, an iamb being any two syllables that pair unstressed to stressed. Compare the English words “desert” and “dessert”. The latter is an iamb. Pentameter refers to five (penta) such two-syllable iambic meters.

I could chant Cordelia’s couplet over and over like a curse, although it would only be a curse or a blessing in the contexts that it should be. If this spell works for the truth to out, then it should by nature rebound on the caster. Whether that risk is worthwhile is not the question: My god of Truth is a hungry warrioress.

I could take a representation of all the illusions and distractions that can be met in life…

…and draw a unicursal pentagram on it with my finger, two syllables per stroke like a metronome.

I feel that a similar spell could possibly be found in Edgar Allan Poe’s The Telltale Heart. To counter these, however, there’s Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s…most stuff I guess. There’s also the real-life story of then nine-year-old Maria de Sautuola who discovered the cave paintings of Altamira in the 1870s. Her father was ostracized for fraud, the authenticity of Maria’s discovery only vindicated after his death. It’s that last story gets me staring at the wall with the corners of my mouth turned down.

What if there is no magic spell to summon truth? Whether it’s science or crime investigation there could be only work, luck, more hard work, all too easy to override if enough people can lie loudly enough or even silently pass it on.

But back to Cordelia. She was apparently a historical figure originally mentioned in The History of the Kings of Britain by Geoffrey of Monmouth, without any corroboration outside of it. Shakespeare retold Cordelia’s invasion as an utter failure, probably for expedient tragedy’s sake, and Tate later gave everybody a happy ending and made Edgar a mustachio-twirling creeper. If it happened at all, it might be something in between. Monmouth’s King Leir sought asylum with Cordelia after Cordelia’s sisters usurped him. (Cordelia’s sisters usurped Leir after he disowned Cordelia and married her off without a dowry.) In response, Cordelia raised an army and battled to reclaim the throne. Of course, after Leir died of old age, he left the throne to the one daughter out of three that didn’t usurp him, even though Cordelia was the youngest. The throne that Cordelia essentially won in battle was lost mostly to politics: that her elder sisters made legitimate baby heirs with the dukes of neighboring countries, and that they probably begrudged her more than they did each other, sealed Cordelia’s fate.

That version would well serve as a lesson to talk less, smile more, and not let them know what you’re against or what you’re for. I’m more inclined to work with Cordelia in hopes of gaining some reinforcement so that I never make that mistake again.

Aristotle’s Poetics and Finally Some Structure to Wishcraft

Tune in for Aristotle being such a sexist!

Lately, I’ve been thinking of Poetics. The word reminded me that I never got around to reading Aristotle’s lecture notes on Greek theatre, The Poetics, so I finally got around to reading it.

It didn’t have much to do with my Poetics, or my ideas of what it would be as these ideas form, but it was an interesting read.

Much of it pertained to the technicalities of Greek theater, specific meters, how the Chorus should be treated, dramatic beats defined as Reversal of the Situation (Peripeteia) and Recognition and the necessary setups for that (I’m guessing that’s now like the chase scene as a narrative convention that Charlie Chaplin rebelled against in his time, which is not to say that narrative conventions such as “chase scene” or a “main character” aren’t worth exploring the significance of in its context or even today), but a lot of it could be applied to any narrative. It’s definitely dated, although interesting that Aristotle made the distinction between that which was virtuous, that which was appropriate, and that which was “ennobled”: so, characters in a play must be good and even a woman who is also a slave and doubly lowly can technically be so; but must also be appropriate, and valor and cleverness in a woman was inappropriate to show to audiences onstage (while learning something new would be a big draw, on some levels individual audience members do expect some validation of some of their worldview as-is); and yet, every defect of character preserved and presented onstage is necessarily ennobled by a poet. There were also some recommendations for information that must be left offstage, even as it affects the story shown onstage. The definitions and history of comedy versus tragedy were also interesting, with the comedy having no history according to Aristotle because it wasn’t taken as seriously (ba-dum-bam) as epics and tragedies.

The Poetics proposed that the stageplay was an imitation of life, and there was a whole chapter on how to address critics of a play on the basis of how the imitation went. To me it spoke of how artistic license and the tumultuous relationship between the work and the audience have been issues for a very long time.

*

Six parts of a drama that determine the quality according to Aristotle (translated by S.H. Butcher here): Plot, Character, Thought, Spectacle, Diction, and Song. I conjecture that they go in order, when Aristotle continued that two constitute the medium of imitation (so, I’ll guess that’s Plot and Character), one constitutes the manner (Thought, or perhaps theme as the political and rhetoric), and three constitute the object (Spectacle, Diction, and Song.)

I think of it more like the story as medium versus the story at large and at small. If we start small, a story is primarily description, dialogue, and narrative (or spectacle, diction, and song.) As a medium, audiences infer characterization and plot development or plot twists from the primary. I sometimes think of narrative as broader than plot, so they should switch places in size rankings, but I’ll position Song in a special way in my own system later. Thought, or what I could call Theme, positions the work in the context of society, which is the larger view of storytelling.

I recognized notions as both the basis of a belief system and generated or synthesized by the same. Beginning to think in ritual structure, now, the qualities in parts of a drama can serve as placeholders of a structure that can synthesize notions, the filler of the structure being the Ogdoad (and the application in Ways, that I haven’t yet written about.)

(Developments in Ogdoad can be followed here, although I recently decided to just do away with affricates and plosives already and just make a language with what’s left.)

I have thought about some significant differences between the Animist approach to mystic elements (that treated these powers as animate) and the Ceremonial (that tended to treat these powers as inanimate or resonant worldly extensions of the elements within oneself). Ogdoad would be neither, rather themselves being a perception filter construct, strengthened by recognition of how these notions (or elements) invite or apply to the greater world.

A one-to-one correspondence of narrative parts to Ogdoad definitely made it simpler, but I guess if intuition moved for a ritual that was all Pawn, or all Castles (even in the song, plot, and character positions) then that’s how it would go.

At first, I figured that the Pawn would always be in the position of Song, if I think of Song more as the connections that make the whole more than the sum of its parts. Depending on the notion to be synthesized, (which would only be complicated if one thinks in categories that would then fracture the notion rather than activating a whole that can then only be described in what would once have fractured it) the “plot” of the spell can either be imbued Kingly, Queenly, or Pawnly; same as the “character”. And the final three qualities would be imbued with the remaining pieces, for balance of the spell, and compatibility with that which the spell applies to.

Outside of this, where most modern spellcasters would put a circle, I’d put a triangle instead: sea, sand, and sky; the pledge, the turn, the prestige; or craven’s, maven’s, and haven’s ways. Craven’s Way applies more to personal development, Maven’s Way applies more to external entities on the same wavelength, and Haven’s Way applies to external forces and entities not on the same wavelength.