This week I am getting at the blog a bit earlier. It is still frigid in Milwaukee, so we are all staying in. My daughter’s birthday is next week, so there is a host of closed doors, curious eyes, and distressed wails as we try to prepare something resembling a surprise for her. It has been a week of over muggle life, at least that is what I perceived it as at the time. We will go into the particulars of why I was wrong about that in a bit.
We all made it to Half Price Books last week, and I swear the book buyer at this particular HPB must be a Rune Soup Premium Member. I’ve had a note in my Todist for awhile to find some work by the Lovecraft scholar, Donald Burleson, and I was amazed to find his tome of critical essays, Lovecraft: Disturbing the Universe
nestled in between paperback collections of Lovecraft’s stories in the horror fiction section. It didn’t take me long to completely fall in love with Burleson’s approach to Lovecraft the literary entity. For instance, take the following quote:
“We can dispense with ‘authorial intent’, a notion belonging to that old metaphysics of presence that would treat language as having self-present and fixed meaning... as being ready access to the author’s mind, a mind unambiguous and all made up as to its intentions. Even if we could suppose we knew the authors intent (say, through letters describing them), we would have to ask: Did the author really know them?”
While not trained or exposed to deconstruction theory to any significant degree, I have always violently veered away from reading literary texts and the authors that create them in a strictly historical frame. Obviously, history, etymology, etc. has a strong place in even my current critique of the tarot as a form of illuminated hypertextual literature, but when trying to read a literary text with wizard eyes, the depth of archetypes and the weight given to systems thinking eclipses the importance of what the author typically ate for breakfast or what he thought about any specific governmental or societal machinations. In Lovecraft’s case, this is especially so, and I think a deconstruction of his oeuvre actually reveals more about his personality and his views on life, culture and magic then, as Burleson states, even his personal correspondence does.
For those (like me) that are largely clueless about how to go about deconstructing a literary text, Burleson is an excellent primer:
“deconstruction [is] an ordered pair of terms in which the first term mentioned is considered to have privilege… over the second term. A common example is ‘nature/culture’… nature is the original, pure, state, which is ‘supplemented’ by… culture. Deconstructionist reading often reverses the supplementarity, upsetting the order and the privilege afforded the first term, without, however, fully allowing the reversed structure to become privileged… The reader arrives not at [a] dialectical synthesis of opposing terms but rather at ‘aporia’ or impasse: an irresolvable textural oscillation between poles of an opposition or between competing configurations of privilege in a supplementarity… texts, upon closer reading, most uncannily and unwittingly expose their deeper and more subversive workings. A point at which the text deals in a rather subtle ambiguity with some term, for instance - a graft-point, where the text brings together disparate ideas - may be… a point of marginaility…”
Deconstruction reveals the liminal, window space inside every text. The window-space is where the magic is derived from, where the veil between the spirit and the real is the thinnest. This gets at my broad idea of Improbability Informatics, spirits guiding the search, retrieval, and collection of information into a larger whole.
I also managed to get past all of the fascinating historical context offered in the beginning of my copy of the Hypnerotomachia Polifili and into the text itself. From the very beginning, I find that the Hypnerotomachia is built on the same cosmic physics that Lovecraft’s Dreamlands are:
“O high-thundering Jupiter, shall I call it happy, miraculous, or terrible, this unheard-of vision whose memory makes every atom of my being burn and tremble? I seemed to be in a broad plain that was all green and adorned with a mass of various flowers. Despite a gentle breeze, there was a certain silence…”
This reads like a prayer and this silence is the sound of Active Imagination. This passage and others in the very beginning of the Hypnerotomachia have me thinking on sound in a dream; can you recall a dream for me now and try to place the origin of the sounds you thought you heard? It is a disruptive feeling, for those voices and sounds are even more fleeting and from a deeper place than the visions that you are able to recall from a night of dreaming.
The weather has been shifting to something warmer this week and that has made me more tired than normal, so I didn’t get to practicing Active Imagination on Luna’s Day or Mar’s Day. The first morning I was only able to lightly delve into AI while trying to wake up, but after my son woke up I was able to give it the appropriate attention. I walked the seventy steps down to the plateau and concentrated on the two men holding the sword. Their clothing, or the color of their clothing, stood out to me and I realized the the M. and S. could stand for Mars and Saturn, or most certainly Mars as the blue figure doesn’t fit the stereotypical archetype of Saturn as an old terrible man.
Following the improbability informatic process, I came to the conclusion that, while the one figure clearly a representation of the archetype of Mars, with his muscles, his red sword, and severe visage, the M.S. on the card could represent one of his instantiations, Mars Silvanus. Allow me to shamelessly quote wikipedia, in order to learn more:
“In the section of his [Scriptores de re Rustica] that offers recipes and medical preparations, Cato describes a ritual to promote the health of cattle:
Make an offering to Mars Silvanus in the forest (in silva) during the daytime for each head of cattle: 3 pounds of meal, 4½ pounds of bacon, 4½ pounds of meat, and 3 pints of wine. You may place the viands in one vessel, and the wine likewise in one vessel... After the ceremony is over, consume the offering on the spot at once... You may vow the vow every year if you wish.”
Italy, it seems, has a pre-historical relationship with Sylvanus, as we discover in the next quote:
“Like other gods of woods and flocks, Silvanus is described as fond of music; the syrinx was sacred to him, and he is mentioned along with the Pans and Nymphs. Later speculators even identified Silvanus with Pan, Faunus, Inuus and Aegipan. He must have been associated with the Italian Mars, for Cato refers to him as Mars Silvanus. In the provinces outside of Italy, Silvanus was identified with numerous native gods…”
We will investigate further, after the break.
I have a lot to offer for imbrications this week and have moved into a bit of a more cosmic space as I followed Carter into the Northern Wastes. For our first offering, please join me in worship at the feet of the psychospace musings of Nodens Ictus:
And then, because this week has been such a power metal in the airpods to drown out the world and get shit done kind of week, I offer you two hyper relevant videos from Ultar, which I may or may not have posted previously. Regardless, follow me into their chalk circle as they invoke two of the primary forces in our Dream Quest:
And then finally, I would like to spin the below track from Sinoa Caves and their Beyond the Black Rainbow soundtrack. If Beyond the Black Rainbow is new to you, find a way to watch this film and you will be forever altered:
I’d also like to give my first ever Honorable Mention to an ‘out of a clear blue sky’ recommendation from my friend Kerian Nox. Check out the link below to Nibana’s new Lovecraft inspired album, Tales of the Uncanny. It powered the writing of this entire post. Thanks Keri!
THE FIRST TOWER
I wanted to make a note that after a month of off and on Active Imagination sessions, I am starting to see things, things that match that surprising character that I reserve for ‘events’ or ‘entities’ in an Active Imagination session. I am seeing these things while fully awake and sometimes with my eyes open. And when I say ‘see’ things, it is in that peculiar quality that AI visions have, black outlines on a black background, or in the case of a waking vision, transparent outlines against my environment in-the-real.
Last night there was one of a terrible wolf like creature, but with a type of ornamental headdress, and before that, during the afternoon, I saw a woman in rags with long hair standing in the doorway between the library and the kitchen. This entity felt very real and in retrospect I realized this is the area of the kitchen, in the doorway space, that both my wife and I have identified as being the most prone to accidents and outbursts of frustration. When we bought the house, we had a Santera come through and bless it, and she mentioned there was a woman in that area of the kitchen at that time.
Does Active Imagination break down the veil in many areas? Do these attempts at communication in the subjective space of the mind thin out the barriers in-the-real as well?
The vision of the wolf was fleeting, but occurred around Valentine’s day; could this have been a flash leading me, via AI’s improbability informatics process, to Lupercalia? For those (again, like myself) that reside(d) in ignorance of this Roman festival that, as does Sylvanus, have pre-historical origins, I offer (again, from the wikisphere, I know, I know…) the following:
“[Lupercalia] a very ancient, possibly pre-Roman pastoral annual festival, observed in the city of Rome on February 15, to avert evil spirits and purify the city, releasing health and fertility. Lupercalia was also called "dies Februatus", purified (literally "februated day") after the instruments of purification called "februa", which give the month of February (Februarius) its name…”
I had no pre-existing knowledge of this festival prior to having the vision and performing a search for “Wolves in February”. Additionally, one of my brothers (I have very strong mental synchronicity with both) independently sent me a link to a page describing the same festival. What led him there, I could not say, it isn’t his usual path of inquiry being a front-end developer and a buddhist for the most part.
We have finally come to the concluding quarter of the Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath, a magico-literary critique a month in the making. Thank you for coming along on this journey. Following the attack that Carter administered on the outpost of the moon-beasts, a counter-attack was launched from the moon, creating an all out war that lasts, if Lovecraft were from the 100 Acre Wood, several pages in time. Our card, the Ace of Swords, is an image of two men, both holding a giant sword. One, in red, is labelled with an M. and the other, in blue, is labeled with an S. If M. is indeed Mars, this would map well to the portion of dreamquest we are discussing. If the entire image maps to Mars Sylvanus as the Lord of the Wilderness where wilderness is defined as a place untouched by man, we have a clear match to this final quarter.
After Randolph Carter, The Ghoul That Was Pickman, Tigger and Piglet hop across that vast expanse of pages where Lovecraft revels in the description of a supernatural war of monstrosities, we find ourselves on the winning side and being carried along by a legion of Night-Gaunts, Ghouls, Pickman and Carter past the final range of impassable mountains to the Northern Wastes. We are dogged by gigantic Easter Island headed sentinels and finally find ourselves pulled by a phantom gravity into the onyx castle of the Great Ones at the end of Earth’s dreamland. Upon our approach we find that the castle is crowned with one lone black tower, the primary tower, that is the Aleph for all of Lovecraft’s literary window spaces:
“Carter had come to unknown Kadath in the cold waste, but he had not found the gods. Yet still the lurid light glowed in that one tower room whose size was so little less that that of all outdoors, and whose distant walls and roof were so nearly lost to sight in thin culring mists. Earth’s gods were not there, it was true, but of subtler and less visible presences there could be no lack… the onyx castle of castles was far from tenantless.”
The Tower is the preeminent magical space for anyone seeking to have a practice with a Lovecratian aesthetic, it is the one architectural feature, the detail in the built environment, where communication between spirit and demon and man is the most efficacious. Carter, who arrived flanked with some of the most powerful creatures in Earth’s dreamland, and in their greatest numbers, finds himself alone after a series of phantom trumpet blasts. From that first tower comes Nyarlathotep in his pleasing human manifestation, flanked with musicians. This scene alone tells me that Lovecraft had to have had a deep knowledge of classical grimoires. The fact that Nyarlathotep can choose his shape depending on the effect it wishes to have on the human receiving the vision and his procession are details that can be found in countless iterations in grimoires, especially those that purport to invoke the Four Kings. This is their modus operandi. Nyarlathotep addresses the now singular and vulnerable dreamer:
“You, Randolph Carter, have braved all things of earth’s dreamland… these gods kept you from the marvelous sunset city of your dream… they craved the weird loveliness of that which your fancy had fashioned… They are gone from their castle on unknown Kadath to dwell in your marvelous city… The gods love your marvelous city, and walk no more in the ways of the gods. They have forgotten the high places of earth, and the mountains that knew their youth. The earth has no longer any gods that are gods, and only the Other Ones from outer space hold sway on unremembered Kadath. Far away in a valley of your own childhood, Randolph Carter, play the heedless Great Ones. You have dreamed too well…
Fain would the powers from outside bring chaos and horror to you, Randolph Carter, who are the cause of their upsetting, but that they know it is by you alone that the gods may be sent back to their world… only you can send the selfish Great Ones gently out of your marvelous sunset city, back through the northern twilight to their wonted place atop unknown Kadath…”
Here is reinforcement of Lovecraft’s dreamland and dreaming physics. There is a shared dreamland in which both man and spirit reside, but there is also, inside us all, a personal dreamland, which the gods covet.
Carter is given a steed and instructions on how to reach the Sunset City at last, and without delay, he makes off for that destination. The Crawling Chaos had other plans, however, and Carter found that his pleasing form and golden tongue were only a container for lies and subterfuge for Nyarlathotep only sought to cast the dreamer into the furthest reaches of space, into the maw of Azathoth:
“and as that music grew, the shantak raised its ears and plunged ahead, and Carter likewise bent to catch each lovely strain… Then came too late the warming of the evil one… Only to taunt had Nyarlathotep marked out the way to safety and the marvelous sunset city…”
Our final archetype, our mapping to the Ace of Swords, is none other than the onyx Castle of the Great Ones at Unknown Hadath, that final wilderness where dwells a strategic and lying demon-god. From within his black tower, the first tower, Nyarlathotep looks into all the other Towers on earth that hold his crystal or speak his name aloud, gazing and longing for humans and their own Gods. This tower represents our own inner selves, and the quest represents mastery or slavery to our own unconscious.
I want to both acknowledge and challenge, or rather nudge, the interpretation given for the Ace of Swords in Peter Mark Adams’ Game of Saturn. From the text:
“The Ace of Swords depicts two male figures, one partially behind the other. The larger figure is looking sharply to the right, as though on the lookout whilst his right hand hovers over the other’s groin. The open hand is suggestive of a caressing movement where the hilt of the sword ends in a ball-like shape. The other figure firmly grasps the upper part of the hilt. A third, dislocated hand grasps the forelock of the front figure. This symbolic arrangement contains a coded reference to Kairos also known as Occasion or Tempus, the spirit or daemon of ‘opportunity’ and of ‘right or propitious time.’
His defining characteristic was one long lock of hair hanging down from his forehead. The fable concerning him is that it is necessary to grasp his forelock as he is approaching since once he has passed, there is nothing to hold him. The card’s imagery appears to allude to an act of ritual masturbation. When performed intentionally, and at an astrally propitious time (as suggested by the reference to Kairos), the intent is to produce a talismanic ejaculate, sperm charged with the energies of the specific astral bodies that align with and support the purpose of the rite at the time of their greatest strength.”
I am not here to offer a strong academic argument against PMA’s interpretation of the Sola-Busca. I would, however, like to point out that his interpretation of the Ace of Swords completely ignores the colors used, the fact that it is two men or one two headed being in one bi-color suit of armor, and the two letterforms of M. & S. I find it very difficult to believe that these are of no significance. To strengthen my own interpretation, I would like to point out that Aldus Manutius and his Aldine Press, of whose books would have been the most accessible and the most in demand by both patron and artist of the Sola-Busca, the Aldine Press published multitudinous volumes of Scriptores de re Rustica, or Roman books on Agriculture.
Mars in his instantiation of Mars Sylvanus was connected to the wild, wild animals, and by extension, agriculture. As is seen in the descriptive catalog records below, Cato was a popular author of de re Rustica, Cato was also one of the principle writers to connect Mars and Sylvanus as one and the same:
109. 1514, Scriptores de re rustica
Title: LIBRI DE RE RVSTICA . . . [Aldine anchor device]. . . .
Colophon: VENETIIS IN AEDIBVS / ALDI, ET ANDREAE / SOCERI MENSE MA / IO M. D. XIIII.
Collation: quarto; *8, aa-bb8, cc10 (-cc10), a-h8, i4, k-z8, A-Q8; italic; 39 ll.; 308 numbered ff.; contains drawings
Contents: f. *1r, title; f. *1v, Leo Papa X, privilegium; f. *2r, Ioannes Iucundus, Praefatio in libros de re rustica; f. *3r, Aldus Manutius, Epistula lectori; f. *3v, Aldus Manutius, Epistula lectori; f. *6v, errata; f. *8v, blank; f. aa1r, internal title page; f. aa1v, Georgius Alexandrinus, Epistula Petro Priolo; f. aa2r, Enarrationes priscarum vocum Catonis; f. aa4r, Enarrationes nonnullarum dictionum Varronis; f. aa7r, Annotationes Columellae; f. bb7v, Georgius Alexandrinus, Epistula Bernardo Iustiniano; f. cc1r, index; [f. cc10, blank]; f. a1r, Cato, De re rustica; f. 23r, Varro, De re rustica; f. 69r, Columella, De re rustica; f. 227v, Idem, De arboribus; f. 237r, blank; f. 237v, Palladius, De re rustica; f. 305v, Idem, De insitione; f. 308r, register of gatherings; colophon
Illumination: gold initial, f. 1r
Provenance: 1) inserted slip, 19th-cent. hand, explaining that this copy once belonged to Remondini, then came to Payne; 2) card and catalogue description, George M. Fortescue (1791-1877), sale of his books, Christie’s, 24 Mar. 1971, lot 45, to Maggs; 3) flyleaf 2 recto, Uzielli bookplate
Binding: 19th-cent. blue stained calf gilt, gilt anchor on sides (H)
Reference: Renouard 66 (6)
Notes: partial blue-paper edition, ff. cc1r-finis, mentioned by Renouard (66); beginning leaves were supplied from a white-paper copy in Naples during the 19th cent.
Shelf Mark: Uzielli 103
109a. 1514, Scriptores de re rustica
Provenance: 1) front pastedown, 16th-cent. hand, Laurentij Carpanessij habitatoris Loci cremonae, and Laurentij carpanessii; 2) front pastedown, 16th-/17th-cent. hand, Pietro Antonio: probably Pietro Antonio, author of De interdicto Pauli V pontificis (Venice, 1606); 3) front pastedown, 17th-cent. hand, Alexandri Bonetti ptrii; 4) front pastedown, 17th-cent. hand, Laurentij berlasinae et amicorum
Binding: contemporary North Italian (Bologna or Lombardy?) blind-tooled dark brown sheep (H)
Shelf Mark: PA/6139/R8/1514/cop.3/HRC/ALDINE
109b. 1514, Scriptores de re rustica
Provenance: 1) back flyleaf recto, bookseller’s notation dated 12 Jan. 1929, Maggs Brothers, Cat. 509 (Bibliotheca Typographica, 1928), nr. 1642; 2) front flyleaf, Parsons bookplate Binding: 18th-/19th-cent. brown calf, blind-tooled covers, rebacked
Notes: gatherings aa-cc bound at end
Shelf Mark: PA/6139/R8/1514/cop.2/HRC/ALDINE
109c. 1514, Scriptores de re rustica
Notations: scattered, 16th-cent. hand, washed
Provenance: 1) title page, 16th-cent. hand, washed, Andrea Man . . . ; 2) front pastedown, Parsons bookplate
Binding: half tan sheep, paste paper boards, gilt spine
Shelf Mark: PA/6139/R8/1514/cop.1/HRC/ALDINE
109d. 1514, Scriptores de re rustica
Rubrication: pages ruled in red
Provenance: 1) f. *1r, stamp, Mary Bryant Brandegee (d. 1956), given on 9 Nov. 1908 to Harvard; 2) front pastedown, bookplate, Harvard Univ., with stamp on f. *1r releasing book; 3) card, University Place, sold in Sept. 1954 to Uzielli; 4) front flyleaf 1 recto, Uzielli bookplate
Binding: russia, decorated in gilt and blind, by Bozerian jeune (H)
Shelf Mark: Uzielli 102
While I deeply appreciate PMA’s interpretations and research, in this instance, I’m going to go with my instinct (and keep within PMA’s own assertion that the Sola-Busca is a type of grimoire) and say that the Ace of Swords is a representation of the duality of Mars and Sylvanus.
Also, a final note on the Active Imagination process and magical praxis in general. This month has taught me a great deal. I had a lot of anxiety surrounding this post in particular because I felt that I had really failed myself and you, dear readers, by not committing to praxis and falling short on the majority of the days this week. I felt that I only managed one, maybe one and a half sessions in which I was not able to communicate or investigate the archetype sufficiently. I let prime astrological days pass with not a word of prayer. This month of purging, what an apt description of February that is by the way, a month of mental purging through the manifestation of D-vitamin deficiency related anxiety, This month always, always gets the best of me. I never as tired or as filled with frustration, anxiety, and generally bad decisions then I am during this month. 2018 was no different than the forty odd Febuaries that preceded it. This exercise, Gnome School, really does bring my practice to the front lines. I feel it when I don’t do it and that just added to my layers of guilt and stress until I realized something.
I had been using magic to cope with my everyday life. Through active imagination I was establishing real contact with entities both inside my own mind, such as the Wolf and February and, in the instance of the woman in rags that stands in my kitchen and causes glasses to drop from stable hands and arguments to appear out of nowhere, in the real.
It is this contact, this dogging of my steps by these unlovely allies, this bleeding into the real of this communication that has kept my mind in a space of enchantment.
It was within this space that I, on multiple occasions, had the forethought to pull out from my stash a sigil each time this week when I was feeling the worse anxiety, focusing on it that intense emotion, as Peter Carroll dictates in Liber Null, and really, very much, feeling much better for it. There was one instance where a petty and vindictive email from a supervisor had me shaking, you know the kind, but I went to lunch and in the middle of a large food commons filled with people I focused on a sigil, pouring all the negative emotion into it. I folded it up afterwards and put it in my shirt pocket, which is were is stayed during my meeting with the same supervisor. He no longer had the upper hand, I was calm, collected, and articulate. At the end of this week, when preparing to write this post I realized that my practice is not falling to the wayside but is, instead, really becoming a normative, implicit part of my everyday life and thinking.