Sunday, May 22, 2016

Werner Hornung & Joma Sipe (An Interlude)

Romantic Utopia - digital art - © 2014, Werner Hornung

Well, it's time for another interlude... and as I haven't featured any contemporary (2-D) artists in a long time, I'd like to present two amazing artists I came across recently on the web; each a transdimensionalist in his own way.

The first is the German-born digital artist Werner Hornung, an honorary member of the Russian Academy of Fine Arts, whose artistic career began in Paris in the early 1970s and continues there till this day.

His digital work is intricate, dramatic, surreal and multi-dimensional. I am particularly drawn to Romantic Utopia above, but it represents merely one example of the mysterious and multi-layered magic inherent in his work; most especially when the images come to life in an animated .gif format on his must-see website. He also has an exhibit at MOCA's virtual museum, and more of his enigmatic images can be found here and here.


A sampling of images from Lumine Stellarum - © 2015, 2016 Joma Sipe
(click to enlarge)

The second artist I present to you is the Portuguese visionary, and sacred geometer, Joma Sipe. I don't think I've seen any geometrical work in the past that even compares to his masterful (and meticulous) drawings. He uses gold and silver ink on a black background and then goes so far as to embed small crystals in his images, illuminating them in such a way that the effect is truly breathtaking. His subject matter includes many of the geometric and esoteric symbols discussed in my previous post plus numerous others, so he's particularly relevant here. Above is just a tiny sampling of his work - a visionary's view of the stars - but to truly experience the magic of Joma Sipe, I recommend visiting his website, or his YouTube channel, where the two videos (below) featuring his work were found.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

A Tale of Two Symmetries: A Lover's Pentacle, A Lover's Cross

llustration from "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" - 1907, Arthur Rackham
(All images in this post can be clicked on for larger views.)

Alice Takes Another Leap

"What IS a Caucus-race?’ said Alice; not that she wanted much to know, but the Dodo had paused as if it thought that SOMEBODY ought to speak, and no one else seemed inclined to say anything.
`Why,’ said the Dodo, `the best way to explain it is to do it.’ (And, as you might like to try the thing yourself, some winter day, I will tell you how the Dodo managed it.)

First it marked out a race-course, in a sort of circle, (`the exact shape doesn’t matter,’ it said,) and then all the party were placed along the course, here and there. There was no `One, two, three, and away,’ but they began running when they liked, and left off when they liked, so that it was not easy to know when the race was over."
Excerpt from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (Chapter 3) found here.

"The Dodo is a fictional character appearing in Chapters 2 and 3 of the book Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson). The Dodo is a caricature of the author."
From the Wiki entry for the Dodo in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. (Note: the now-extinct dodo was the first example of humanity's ability to wipe out an entire species.)


Earlier this year, when I was first inspired to write a series of posts on the topic of Love, I was at loss for a central focus. The topic of Love is vast; where to begin... and how? As a visual artist, it's almost as if I needed a metaphorical image, a symbolic embodiment of the myriad ideas and images that began to flood my mind. Had I no muse, no intuition, no relationship with my unconscious mind (and no respect for spontaneous inspirations), the entire project would've floundered from day one. But, this is not the case. I love leaping down rabbit holes! I am the Alice of all Alices, when it comes to pursuing mysterious prompts from the unconscious realm.

As it happened, my first clue arrived in the form of a sudden attraction to an old graphic of mine: a three-headed "sacred" bird I created several years ago as an experiment in creating faux elements; in this case, transforming a plaster carving into a wooden one. (see inset, left). I found myself playing with this image - and, when you come right down to it, unpremeditated play is probably the best way to initiate a dialogue with the unconscious - flipping and juxtaposing copies of the image side by side. I noticed that when the birds faced each other, their necks and their backs formed the shape of heart. I cropped their legs off and this became the first image. But, I also felt the full body mirrored images were intriguing as well and realized I could use all three designs if I created a box in three dimensions.  The idea of making it a music box was the true epiphany - the eureka moment - when the concepts of the language of the birds and the power of Love were united. In other words, I found my metaphor; the Music Box was born...

Monday, April 18, 2016

Hare Interlude...

The Curiosity of Lurices - sculpture - clay - Ellen Jewett
(click to enlarge)

"Caught up in a mass of abstractions," writes David Abram, "our attention hypnotized by a host of human-made technologies that only reflect us back to ourselves, it is all too easy for us to forget our carnal inherence in a more-than-human matrix of sensations and sensibilities. Our bodies have formed themselves in delicate reciprocity with the manifold textures, sounds, and shapes of an animate earth -- our eyes have evolved in subtle interaction with other eyes, as our ears are attuned by their very structure to the howling of wolves and the honking of geese. To shut ourselves off from these other voices, to continue by our lifestyles to condemn these other sensibilities to the oblivion of extinction, is to rob our own senses of their integrity, and to rob our minds of their coherence. We are human only in contact, and conviviality, with what is not human."

- David Abram... quote (and photo above) found in the Myth & Moor entry, Relationship and reciprocity.


I have a strange dichotomy in my own nature that, on one hand, I've never quite felt wholly of this world, but, at the same time, on a more cellular level, deeply enmeshed in the natural world - the wild world - from which I've always drawn sustenance. And, when I found the beautifully organic clay sculptures by Ellen Jewett (example above) on Terri Windling's (always elegantly eloquent) Myth & Moor blog today, the reality of my present situation sort of came home to me in the same way hearing the video of the thrush's song did a few days ago. In other words, I may be living near the deserts and plains of the American Southwest now - and, that was my choice - but my roots are still in the forests and seashores of New England... where the world outside my door was somehow more intimate, intricate, dense... and magical.

Very much like the entanglement of Ellen Jewett's hare - and really, its expression is a masterpiece in itself - a tribute to the wild women and men in all of us. (Note, too, the moths and/or butterflies on the hare's back!)

Anyway, this is today's (unpremeditated) post. Another "interlude" entry because I'm not really back to blogging yet. You might say I'm just dropping a line as I wander thru the wilds of the most recent interstitial realm I've fallen into.

Oh, you know: Greetings - from the rabbit hole! ;-)


April 28, 2016

Hares are called jackrabbits here in the southwest, and I just saw what looked like the "antelope" variety on the dirt road behind my house yesterday in the early evening. They're incredibly lean, long-legged hares and do have a strangely deer-like quality about them when you see them in action. Very cool! Meanwhile, I just found a YouTube video of a gentle jackrabbit in someone's backyard... and just had to add it to this post.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Language of the Birds: A Musical Interlude

The North American Wood Thrush.

"The last of the light of the sun
That had died in the west
Still lived for one song more
In a thrush's breast.

Far in the pillared dark
Thrush music went --
Almost like a call to come in
To the dark and lament."

- From "Come In" by poet, Robert Frost.

"Whenever a man hears it he is young, and Nature is in her spring; wherever he hears it, it is a new world and a free country, and the gates of Heaven are not shut against him."

- Naturalist Henry David Thoreau, regarding the song of the wood thrush (from the Wiki entry).*


Out here in the west, at least, where I currently reside, there are no wood thrushes... and I miss them. In late spring and early summer, they'd begin singing around twilight in the forest behind my childhood home, and the sound was both haunting and inviting... as in Frost's poem (above).

The thrush's song is also a good antidote for "writer's block". And, I'm afraid, writer's block is a symptom of whatever virus or bug I've been battling for the past few weeks.

And, so, despite having several posts in various stages of completion, I'm taking a break from blogging for a short while. Not really long. Just long enough to go outdoors and remind myself that a.) it's spring, and, b.) I actually live on a planet.

Then again, if you must know, a small, nesting sparrow outside my kitchen window advised me. While a sparrow's song can't hold a candle to the thrush's - it's too repetitious...(although no worse than pop music!) - it still knows how to get its point across. And the sparrow's point was: "Get away from that computer keyboard... now!"

Of course, there are those who would debate whether or not birdsong is even musical... scientists mostly. For instance, you'll note in the quote below that, although scientists have detected certain harmonics in the hermit thrush's song which match human patterns, they are still not convinced that birds "have music"... which is quite the opposite of my own views (see my earlier Language of the Birds post), but, then, no one ever accused scientists of having imaginations! ;-)


"Once described as the finest sound in nature, the song of the North American hermit thrush has long captivated the human ear. For centuries, birdwatchers have compared it to human music – and it turns out they were on to something. The bird’s song is beautifully described by the same maths that underlies human harmonies.

... The study shows a natural bias in the thrush towards certain harmonies, similar to those found in humans and some other birds, says Martin Braun of the Swedish organisation Neuroscience of Music in Karlstad, who says the study is an important contribution to the field.

Others remain cautious. Dale Purves of Duke University in North Carolina points out that it concerns just one species, and one component of music – pitch. “What does it all mean? That’s unclear,” he says. The study may explain why the hermit thrush song sounds melodious to our ear, but the debate over whether or not animals have music, and whether theirs is similar to ours, remains very much open."

- Excerpt from a 2014 New Scientist article.**

Well, I'll let you be the judge, but, yes, it sounds like music to me! But, then again, scientists make a living by having such "debates".

On the other hand, I defy them to listen to the Russian canary (below), without becoming at least a tad persuaded. While it's true that the little birds are trained, the point is... well, many human musicians are trained. The important thing is that the birds have the aptitude... and this tiny creature is positively orchestral!

I actually hesitated before posting the above video... I detest the practice of caging birds. But, this amazing bird was actually performing in front of a small crowd - dig on that, if you will - so I caved. Besides which, now that I think of it, isn't chaining oneself to a computer for hours on end kind of like being trapped in a cage?

And, on that note, um... see ya later! :-)

* Interestingly, also from the Wiki entry: "The male (wood thrush) is able to sing two notes at once, which gives its song an ethereal, flute-like quality."

But, naturally, if one scrolls down in the article, we find the creature, like so many animals, is becoming endangered:

"The wood thrush has become a symbol of the decline of Neotropical songbirds of eastern North America, having declined by approximately 50% since 1966. Along with many other species, this thrush faces threats both to its North American breeding grounds and Central American wintering grounds. Forest fragmentation in North American forests has resulted in both increased nest predation and increased cowbird parasitism, significantly reducing their reproductive success."

This reminds me too much of a similar sad story... that of the starlings in my article about the starling's amazing murmurations.

** For another link to a similar article, and more about the wood thrush, see this past post.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Restoration of Symmetry: The Philosopher's Stone

The illustration for Michael Maier's 21st alchemical Emblem
from Atalanta Fugiens, by Swiss engraver, Matthäus Merian, 1617.
(All images in this post can be clicked for their original, larger size.)

The Philosopher's Stone

"Make of the man and woman a Circle, of that a Quadrangle, of this a Triangle, of the same a Circle and you will have the Stone of the Philosophers.

...In like manner the Philosophers would have the Quadrangle reduced into a Triangle, that is, into a Body, Spirit and Soul, which three appear in the three previous colours before Rednesse: that is, the Body or earth in the Blacknesse of Saturn, the Spirit in the Lunar whitenesse as water, and the Soul or air in the Solar Citrinity. Then the Triangle will be perfect, but this again must be changed into a Circle; that is, into an invariable rednesse, by which operation the woman is converted into the man and made one with him, and six the first of the perfect numbers is absolved by one, two having returned again to an unity in which there is Rest and eternall peace."
- From Emblem 21 of Michael Maier's alchemical test, Atalanta fugiens, 1617.

"The theoretical roots outlining the stone’s creation can be traced to Greek philosophy. Alchemists later used the classical elements, the concept of anima mundi, and Creation stories presented in texts like Plato's Timaeus as analogies for their process. According to Plato, the four elements are derived from a common source or prima materia (first matter), associated with chaos. Prima materia is also the name alchemists assign to the starting ingredient for the creation of the philosopher's stone. The importance of this philosophical first matter persisted throughout the history of alchemy. In the seventeenth century, Thomas Vaughan writes, "the first matter of the stone is the very same with the first matter of all things".
- From the Wiki entry for Philosopher's Stone.

"Dr. Sigismund Bacstrom believed that if a physician could establish harmony among the elements of earth, fire, air, and water, and unite them into a stone (the Philosopher's Stone) symbolized by the six-pointed star or two interlaced triangles, he would possess the means of healing all disease. Dr. Bacstrom further stated that there was no doubt in his mind that the universal, omnipresent fire (spirit) of Nature: "does all and is all in all." By attraction, repulsion, motion, heat, sublimation, evaporation, exsiccation, inspissation, coagulation, and fixation, the Universal Fire (Spirit) manipulates matter, and manifests throughout creation. Any individual who can understand these principles and adapt them to the three departments of Nature becomes a true philosopher."
- From the The Secret Teachings of all Ages by Manly P. Hall, 1929.

"Associated with spontaneous symmetry breaking is the phenomenon of symmetry restoration. If one heats a system that possesses a broken symmetry it tends to be restored at high temperature. ... Above the critical temperature the system exhibits rotational symmetry. Such a transition from a state of broken symmetry to one where the symmetry is restored is a phase transition. We believe that the same phenomenon occurs in the case of the symmetries of the fundamental forces of nature. Many of these are broken at low temperatures. Very early in the history of the universe, when the temperature was very high, all of these symmetries of nature were presumably restored. The resulting phase transitions, as the universe expanded and cooled, from symmetric states to those of broken symmetry have important cosmological implications."
- An excerpt from David J. Gross's The role of symmetry in fundamental physics1996.


I suppose the "Restoration of Symmetry" seems like a rather coldly analytical approach to Love, but, for a "geometer moth"  - that is, those of us for whom connecting-the-dots, so to speak, is an integral part of our nature - finding the hidden codes which help describe the world in which we live is not so much what we do, but what we are. And, like the geometrid, we do not tenaciously hide this information from view - as if it were knowledge we, alone, had access to - but, instead, wear the information on our metaphorical wings... or the skin of our backs. That is to say, we display information; we are unable to secret it away.

A contemporary glyph for Maier's diagram shown in his 21st emblem (above).*

Symmetry is a word that has tremendous importance in the world of science - in physics, chemistry, mathematics, biology, and, yes, even philosophy - in which its definition varies somewhat, but, ultimately, refers to the similar phenomenon one finds in art and geometrical figures. Basically, it refers to physical parts, properties, or processes which are equivalent in two or more directions. The circle is a figure which, for instance, is geometrically equivalent in all directions, and is thereby described as having rotational symmetry. The Philosopher Stone glyph shown above - a modern interpretation of German alchemist (and counsellor to Emperor Rudolf II) Michael Maier's emblem (circa 1617) (artist unknown) - has bilateral symmetry, in that if a line is down its center, each side is exactly equivalent to the other, although seen in reverse. This can also be referred to as reflective symmetry as one side effectively mirrors the other.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Language of Birds & the Alchemy of Love: The Music Box

Still Life With Music Box - digital - © 2016, DS
(Click on any image this post to enlarge.)

"At the beginning there was only Chaos, Night, dark Erebus, and deep Tartarus. Earth, the air and heaven had no existence. Firstly, blackwinged Night laid a germless egg in the bosom of the infinite deeps of Erebus, and from this, after the revolution of long ages, sprang the graceful Eros with his glittering golden wings, swift as the whirlwinds of the tempest. He mated in deep Tartarus with dark Chaos, winged like himself, and thus hatched forth our race, which was the first to see the light. That of the Immortals did not exist until Eros had brought together all the ingredients of the world, and from their marriage Heaven, Ocean, Earth and the imperishable race of blessed gods sprang into being. Thus our origin is very much older than that of the dwellers in Olympus. We are the offspring of Eros; there are a thousand proofs to show it. We have wings and we lend assistance to lovers."

- Excerpt from "The Birds,"  a comedy by the Greek playwright Aristophanes, 414 BC, found here.

"... This thought leads to another, which takes us into unexplored and perhaps unexplorable regions of Greek religious history. The chief claim made in Pithetaerus's preposterous speech to the Birds is, after all, partly true. The Birds were objects of worship to the Minoans and the early inhabitants of Greece before Zeus and his Olympian commando descended upon the peninsula. Birds were not gods; Pithetaerus does not quite say they were. Yet the bird perched on the sacred Double Axe or the pillar-tree was the Numen of the axe or the tree. The Minoans believed, as Nilson says, that the gods - or, to put it more exactly, the divine power - appeared in the form of birds. Again, the most important and wide-spread method of communication with the divine power was by augury. The birds knew the weather; they knew when good luck or bad was to be expected; they gave clear warning of the future to those who could read their messages. Could they have known what was coming so well unless indeed it was partly they who made it come? "

- Gilbert Murray from the introduction to his translation of Aristophanes' "The Birds,1950.

"Sometimes mythological birds create more than the physical world. Cultures in northern Europe and Asia credited birds with establishing their social orders, especially kingships. A golden-winged eagle was said to have put the first Mongol emperor on his throne. The Japanese believed that sacred birds guided their second emperor in conquering his enemies before the founding of his dynasty. The Magyar people claimed that a giant eagle, falcon, or hawk had led their first king into Hungary, where he founded their nation. The Magyars looked upon this bird as their mythical ancestor...

Many myths have linked birds to the arrival of life or death. With their power of flight, these winged creatures were seen as carriers or symbols of the human soul, or as the soul itself, flying heavenward after a person died. A bird may represent both the soul of the dead and a deity at the same time. Some cultures have associated birds with birth, claiming that a person’s soul arrived on earth in bird form."

-  From Mantrik Garudika's  Bird Figures in Mythology.

"Select characters in medieval Icelandic literature are able to comprehend the language of birds. Ranging from Sigurðr’s tasting the blood of the dragon Fáfnir to Óðinn’s daily dialogue with the ravens Huginn and Muninn, numerous sources will be examined from a comparative perspective. Birds consistently offer important information to individuals associated with kingship and wisdom. The wide chronological and geographical range of this motif will be explored as well as the fascinating theoretical questions regarding why birds are nature’s purveyors of wisdom. With their capacity to fly and sing, birds universally hold a special place in human experience as symbols of transcendence and numinous knowledge; Old Norse tradition reflects this reality."

- Timothy Bourns, from his introduction to The Language of Birds in Old Norse Tradition. (.pdf)

The Hindu God Garuda. For a list of other avian humanoids, try here.

The Language of the Birds

Technically, the Language of the Birds - as it was often described in folk tales and myths in general - literally referred to what anyone might assume it did: the way birds communicate. And, to be able to understand this language endowed one with special powers, knowledge and abilities. As time went on, however, the phrase took on more occult implications. in medieval France it became the secret "Green Language" of the Freemasons and Knights Templar - la langue des oiseaux - and was possibly also utilized by the Troubadours (or Trouvères). During the Renaissance, there were apparently a number of musical languages inspired by birdsong, although at least a few of these were probably composed of simple signals in ways similar to those used by the indigenous peoples of the Americas and elsewhere.

When I first began using the phrase "the Language of the Birds" to describe my own understanding of mysticism, I had almost no formal knowledge of the phrase's history; I had initially found it in reference to a Sufi text, and was attracted to it in a poetic sense. After all, the phrase has a nice resonance to it.  Eventually, however, I began to equate it with language of the higher consciousness, specifically that of the creative muse and its role in automatism. At the same time, I began to intuit there was a transdimensional aspect to it, which I referred to as "the memory of sound". That is, while there is the physicality of sound and its effect on our senses, there are also immaterial, subliminal codes embedded in sound which effect us both emotionally and spiritually in ways that are not currently understood. In this sense, music is, in fact, magic.

Friday, February 12, 2016

A Music Box - Series Introduction & Menu

A Music Box (Lid) - Digital (Revised) - © 2016, DS
(click on images  for enlarged views)

"But, then, I had my answer. As I had maintained to myself from the beginning, love is love. Or, if you prefer, all love is Love. Add to this the Language of the Birds - a mystical language, wherein love is a fundamental force as well as an emotion - and we are presented with a new landscape, a new equation. And, in this alchemical Land of Love, all experiences are authentic, and all activities of the psyche are allowed."

- Quoting myself from text which previously appeared here (under the title: The Language of Birds and the Alchemy of Love: A Music Box).


Well, it's official: this post has now formally been divorced from its original purpose. But, don't fret, because the series it was meant to introduce has survived and, in fact, has been expanded (!).

You'll note I've updated the music box panel images here. This to reflect the virtual object's present state, which will be revealed shortly in my next post. Also, I'm going to repurpose this post by adding a some music box miscellanea... specifically a video which explores a unique phenomenon created by music box tunes punched into a paper tape as opposed to the steel pins, combs and discs used in vintage music boxes...

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Vale, Man from Mars (...)

Rolling Stone February cover - photo credit: Anton Corbijn/Getty Images
Article: David Bowie's Final Years
(click to enlarge)
For more recent Rolling Stone articles about DB click here.

At your newsstand: this recent TIME publication.
(Click to enlarge.)

Along with so many people, I've been grappling with the death of David Bowie - America's resident alien - since Monday of last week. I think it's amazing just how many of us, all over the world, were not merely saddened or surprised by his death, but truly devastated. That is, we took it personally.

For the past few days I've been struggling to put into words the various ideas that have begun running through my head regarding this transformative event in our collective consciousness, but "words" seem increasingly inadequate. If a miracle occurs and I can finally gather my thoughts into something comprehensible, I'll post again. But, don't hold your breath(s). Meanwhile, I found this charming little video clip from Charlie Rose's 1998 interview with David, that I'll post here... and I'll be replacing the Bowie tunes on the sidebar with some others. At this moment, it's the best I could do.

Bliss to David, and peace to you all.


"A pair of wings, a different respiratory system, which enabled us to travel through space, would in no way help us, for if we visited Mars or Venus while keeping the same senses, they would clothe everything we could see in the same aspect as the things of the Earth. The only true voyage, the only bath in the Fountain of Youth, would be not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes, to see the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to see the hundred universes that each of them sees, that each of them is; and this we do, with great artists; with artists like these we do really fly from star to star."

- Marcel Proust. Quote lifted off yesterday's Daily Grail news page, along with this announcement.

As it happens, I've just located a number of applicable quotes by Proust on the Goodreads pages. Here's another:

“Everything great in the world is done by neurotics; they alone founded our religions and created our masterpieces.”


"Barnbrook loved working with David Bowie, he was simply one of the most inspirational, kind people we have met. So in the spirit of openness and in remembrance of David we are releasing the artwork elements of his last album ★ (Blackstar) to download here free under a Creative Commons non-commercial share alike licence. That means you can make t-shirts for yourself, use them for tattoos, put them up in your house to remember David by and adapt them too, but we would ask that you do not in any way create or sell commercial products with them or based on them.
Any questions or commercial licence usage please contact us

(The Blackstar image above is my own modification of the download. Click to enlarge, and feel free to grab it for your personal, non-commercial use.)


For those interested, Reality Sandwich has DB's natal astrology chart online. Interestingly, he, like myself, was born with his Capricorn sun in the 12th house (a more in-depth description). Unlike myself, he had a lot of fire and air in his chart, which is reflected by his incredible charisma and success as a performer.


(May 4, 2016) This just in: Apparently a fan discovered that the Black Star gatefold inside the interior of the DB's (vinyl) Blackstar album is not solid black after all. When held in the sunlight, a starry view of the night sky appears. I wonder if it's a real photo, and what area of the galaxy it is. Maybe he was trying to tell us something... ;-)

Sunday, January 3, 2016

A Mojo Magic Square (with update)

Mojo Magic Square - digital - © 1981, 2014, DS
(click to enlarge)

"Mojo is magic, magical ability, and the power to get things done. "Mojo" first appeared in the 1920s in the southern United States from the Gullah word "moco" (magic), Gullah being Creole spoken by some groups of African-Americans.  The ultimate root of "mojo" was the word "moco'o," which means "shaman or medicine man" in the African language Fulani.  "Mojo" spread first into mainstream Black English and then general usage primarily through the popularity of jazz and blues music.  Muddy Waters got his 'Mojo working' and Jim Morrison of The Doors called for the Mojo Risin'."
- Quote found here.

"Think joie de vivre, that sense of being alive, joyful, and fully present in the moment. The path to finding your mojo differs for everyone. For some, mojo is a sense of purpose and meaning in your life. For others, it’s reclaiming optimal health or sparking their creativity. Some seekers find mojo by getting in touch with the divine, while others get their mojo by getting in touch with their sexual prowess. For many, it’s all of the above."
- Quote found here.

"So what is a mojo? It is, in short, the staple amulet of African-American hoodoo practice, a flannel bag containing one or more magical items. The word is thought by some to be a corruption of the English word "magic." Others state that it is related to the West African word "mojuba," meaning a prayer of praise and homage, as it is a "prayer in a bag" - a spell you can carry. A third possible derivation is from the Bantu/Kongo word "mooyoo," the magically-charged ashes and ground up bones of an ancestor that are encased in the front of a nkisi ndoki - a fetish-statue made in the form of a human being or animal. This connection with the bones of the dead is interesting, because historically, many mojo hands have indeed contained small bones, either of animals or of humans.

Some root workers top off their mojo bags with parchments upon which are printed medieval European grimoire seals and sigils of talismanic import, particularly the Jewish-derived seals from the Greater Key of Solomon and The 6th and 7th Books of Moses, both of which are sold as sets of seals printed on parchment paper, and are used without reference to the rituals given in the texts of the original grimoire books.

These last items surprise many Caucasians, who are unaware that a strong vein of Germanic and Ashenazi Jewish folklore runs through traditional African-American hoodoo. Still, however strange it may seem to cultural anthropologists in search of "African survivals" in hoodoo practice, it is a fact that John George Hohman's "Pow-Wows or the Long Lost Friend" - first published in America in 1820 and translated into English in 1856 - has long been a staple source of inspiration for conjure-workers in both the African-American and European-American Appalachian traditions, and many a black hoodoo practitioner can cite chapter and verse of "Albertus Magnus," "The Black Pullet," "Secrets of the Psalms," "The 6th and 7th Books of Moses," "8th, 9th, and 10th Books of Moses," and other occult books of European origin."
- From an article found on Lucky Mojo.

A Sator Magic Square in Oppède, France.

"The earliest dateable Sator Square was found in the ruins of Pompeii, which was buried in the ash of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. Examples may be found carved on stone tablets or pressed into clay before being fired. Its translation has been the subject of speculation with no clear consensus.

It seems that, in all early examples, it is a Rotas Square that reads "ROTAS OPERA TENET AREPO SATOR" from top to bottom, and from left to right.

The Sator Square is a four-times palindrome, and some people have attributed magical properties to it, considering it one of the broadest magical formulas in the Occident. An article on the square from The Saint Louis Medical and Surgical Journal, vol. 76, reports that palindromes were viewed as being immune to tampering by the devil, who would become confused by the repetition of the letters, and hence their popularity in magical use....

The square has reportedly been used in folk magic for various purposes, including putting out fires (the spell is "TO EXTINGUISH FIRE WITHOUT WATER" in John George Hohman's Long Lost Friend), removing jinxes and fevers, to protect cattle from witchcraft, and against fatigue when traveling. It is sometimes claimed it must be written upon a certain material, or else with a certain type of ink to achieve its magical effect."
- From the Wiki Sator Square entry.


Well, it's officially a new year in the western world, but, in the Far East, the lunar new year doesn't occur till February 2nd. (More about that later...) So, it's a relative thing, and if your "mojo" isn't quite working the way you'd like it to, you've got a whole month to get yourself in gear. Now, while "gear" isn't necessarily the operative term when defining the word mojo, dynamo, or dynamic kind of is; so, in the last analysis, you know your mojo is working when your inner world is moving seamlessly in synch with the outer world. My guess is, if one can get that down, then, regardless of all the circumstances beyond one's control, he or she will be A-OK... and as much of a contender in this game of life as anyone else is.

As it happens, mojo is a word that's been used - in various corrupted forms - quite a lot in recent years. Originally it was Hoodoo charm (although not to be confused with this hoodoo) bringing good luck and psychic protection to its bearer. Now, it's a catchword most commonly utilized by motivational speakers, executive coaches, "life" coaches, and self-help gurus when describing formulas for increasing ones productivity*, particularly in the workforce.

But, just exactly what do I mean by the word Mojo?

Mojo is animism... the dynamic energy fluctuation that makes an organism tick. If ones wiring is in top form, ones inner force pulls back and then moves forward in sync with ones conscious desires and motivations. In other words, ones Mojo is "working". On the other hand, if ones wiring has gone awry - for instance, in the case of a series of set-backs, intense trauma or injury of any kind, or just plain chronic disappointment - then ones Mojo is thrown off its game. It isn't as if you've lost it... it's that it's blocked from true expression; in other words, it's broken.

Case in point: the magic square (first image above) is something I've had on my desktop for the past 2 years. Why is this? Well, that's a good question! Before this period, I had just gone through a series of unfortunate events, and was holed up in an unfamiliar town with absolutely no clue - and no hope - for a "brighter future." Without going into details, my mojo was, in fact, at the lowest point of its existence...

Friday, December 11, 2015

Wild Orchids; The Tribal Green Woman (& Two Triangulations)

Wild Orchids - Digital - © 2015, Dia Sobin
(Click to enlarge)

"The genus name Cypripedium is derived from the Greek words "Cypris" an early reference in Greek myth to Aphrodite, and “pedilon” for sandal. This is because the fused petals that form the orchid’s pouch or modified lip (labellum) resemble a slipper or shoe. The staminode (sterile stamen) is often showy and seems to welcome the insect into the pouch where it makes its way to a back-door exit and in so doing transfers pollen to the stigma.

...The Cypripedium orchids of North America are hardy terrestrial plants that can grow in cold climates and flower in early to mid-spring when there is plentiful moisture and cool temperatures. Species such as Cypripedium guttatum and C. passerinum that grow in Alaska are so well adapted to cold their shoots sprout up under the snow in the spring.

For centuries Cypripedium species have been sought after and collected not only for their unique beauty but also for the medicinal trade. Widespread collection, attempts at transplantation, and loss of habitat have drastically reduced their numbers. Wild lady’s slippers have special requirements that make them difficult to cultivate, and rarely survive transplanting from the wild. Because of that, on federal lands it is illegal to dig or pick the orchids."

- From the U.S. Department of Agriculture cypripedium page: Meet the Ladies, the Slipper Orchids 


Way back when - roughly about twenty years ago - there used to be a small, hidden patch of pink wild orchids in the woods behind (what was then) my parent's house. Mysteriously, one day, the lovely flowers vanished, and were never to be seen again. Perhaps, someone picked the blossoms; along with transplanting them, it's a sure way to kill the plant.

Popularly known as the Lady Slipper, or Moccasin flower, this orchid is one of the more strangely secretive denizens of the forest... blatantly wild, deceptively fragile, quietly erotic, it's always a pleasant, somewhat magical experience to happen upon them. Although I've always considered the plant a primarily North American flower, it's actually found in Europe and Asia as well; the ones illustrated in the image above, however, are a North American variety.

About the illustration: well, I did previously mention designing my own versions of a Green Woman and Three-Hare symbol (at the end of this post), predominately for carved reliefs. As it happens - and it always does regarding ones creative plans - while I was designing the Green Woman, I suddenly had the overwhelming epiphany that my Green Woman called for - no, demanded - tattoos. Perhaps, this was because I had recently considered getting a tattoo myself. As to why I'm suddenly drawn to illuminating my torso at this time in my life - well, that's another story. But, regarding the Green Woman, suffice to say, the tattoo idea changed the playing field, and, for good or ill, a full color digital image was required.

Moreover, as the tattooed person began to emerge, I had another inspiration. For whatever reason, Art Nouveau posters* by the Czech illustrator Alphonse Mucha (24 July 1860 – 14 July 1939) resurfaced in my middle eye. And, whatever your artistic taste dictates, poster art in the days of Mucha were phenomenal expressions of the marriage between art and commerce, and Mucha's images, in particular (see examples below), were awesomely designed and elegantly executed.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Vive La France - Updated (Again!)

"Paris is our capital. We love music, drunkenness, joy."
 - from a series of cartoons by Joann Sfar

... and we love La Ville-Lumière (the city of enlightenment)!

From Libération:  some much-needed humor (in both French and English). For a listing of other Parisian news sources (in both French and English), try here.

Hawkwood writes: "So why, of all the major European cities, did Islamic State last month choose to target Paris?"

- Read the rest of the quote here (above the Afterword), or from the original source.*

Monday, November 9, 2015

Leonora Carrington...

1961 Oil Paintng by Leonora Carrington (click to enlarge)

... on PBS's "Antiques Roadshow"!

Caught this show on the tube a couple of weeks ago... and just had to post about it.

Here's a transcript from the show (found here):

I know there's an artist by the name of Leonora Carrington and that she lived in Mexico. Originally she came from Europe, but she came to Mexico after the Second World War. Much more than that I don't know, except I know that she was a surrealist.

Surrealism is understood most prominently by the work of Salvador DalÌ, someone like that, these images of the imagination and dreams and in some cases nightmares, which may apply to what we have here. Do you know about her background at all?

I believe she was born in England. I read somewhere that she painted in her early 20s and that she was the mistress of Max Ernst.

Right. She did run off with Max Ernst. She's a student and then ran off to France, and after the war, she suffered a nervous breakdown, and I think these pieces are very personal. I think that's part of it, is her coming to grips with the nightmares and the imagery in her life. And you look at this piece, it's all very macabre and surreal. The central piece here is this large sort of wolf-like figure with multiple arms and legs all around it. And then distributed throughout the bushes are figures. You see this wolf-like face here and bats sort of looming. And then down at the bottom, you have these creepy fellows with a spider. Overall, she had a fairly normal life, it seemed, but she was haunted by these visions. You mention she did go to Mexico, and that's where she did most of her work.

Not until after the war, she had her first showing down here.

She signed "Leonora Carrington" in 1961. Now, where did you get this?

It was originally my parents', and they had a large house, and they had a rather extensive collection of art. When they got this, I fell in love with it, and finally when they downsized, they knew that it was the one piece of all their artwork that I really adored, and so they gave it to me, and that was about 40 years ago.

That's great. Obviously, this was '61, so this is over 50 years old, and it was probably purchased around the time it was painted. Did they go to Mexico, or...?

I believe so. I believe they had friends in Mexico City who knew collectors. They were able to go to people's homes who had more paintings than they needed, literally warehousing them, from Mexican artists. And this came out, and my father dug deep and he bought it.

Right, well, it's a fabulous example of her work, and really relates that personal angst that she had. Now, she painted in a variety of different mediums. This is a piece on canvas, so it looks like it's primarily oil. Recently, her value has come up a bit because she has passed away. She died in 2011. She lived to be 94, I believe. Her works are sold mainly in Latin American sales. There's a lot of interest in those. Have you had it appraised?

I have not. I do know what my parents paid for it. I believe they said they bought it somewhere around $7,000 to $10,000, which was a big price to pay for a painting. I'm sure my father had to think twice about it when he did it.

Right now, I would expect an auction estimate of $200,000 to $300,000 these days.

They bought well. Amazing."


To view this portion of the show, go to this PBS page.

What a fabulous painting!