Sunday, April 15, 2012

Fishing for Fallen Light

It is twilight here:

     1.  The soft glowing light from the sky when the sun is below the horizon, caused by the reflection of
           the sun's rays from the atmosphere.
     2.  The period of the evening when this takes place between daylight and darkness.

The french word for twilight is crypuscule, a word not nearly as romantic-- crypuscule conjures up images of crypts, death, pustules, lesions, maybe even vampires and stakes through the heart.  Perhaps it is where the "Twilight" book & film series' (gobbled up by legions of teenyboppers), author got her idea. I love words and hate it when a word gets hijacked.  Usually I can rely on the french translation of any word to be  melodious and evocative.  Picture the word "désabonnement"--non-renewal or cancellation of one's subscription--I see jet black hair tossed back in wild abandon, clothes in disarray,  or "se derocher"= from the rock, the reflexive alpiniste falling off a rock face.  A single French word commonly replaces a string of words in English. 

The Japanese word  Kotodama or Kototama refers to the cultural belief that mystical powers dwell in words and names. And that sounds can magically affect objects. Koto means "word, speech" and tama means "ghost, spirit, soul". The ritual use of words can alter our state of being and touch the soul of a landscape.  Chanting, affirmations, blessings. Years ago I was part of a group blessed on the Burren  (the Great Rock) in County Clare Ireland, by the remarkable priest and poet, John O'Donohue.  In his book "Stone as the Tabernacle of Memory", he talks about the special nature of ruins, "protrusions of past time into our present...memorials of a past that was never our present." John wrote about the 12th c. Cistercian Abbey in Corcomroe in the Burren where the monks bound the stones one to another and hallowed the countryside and the Abbey with their chanting, liturgy and spirit. It was as though the stones had imbibed the spirit and life of the monks. 

Since I've come to France I've been chasing down the Cistercian monasteries, irresistibly drawn to them, glorious ruins that appear like mirages or ghostly phantoms in the woods or at the edge of a farm. Which makes sense since the Cistercian monks followed the rule of St. Benedict and returned to manual labor, field work.  They were the main force in technological diffusion in Metallurgy, hydraulic engineering and agriculture--move over Friar Tuck! And their architecture is one of the most beautiful styles of all the Medieval architecture. 

One twilit eve last week, driving to Villars in the Perigord Vert to see the prehistoric Grotte with its blue horses, sorcerer and bison painted in manganese by Cro Magnon man  17,000 years ago, I fell upon the  12th c.Abbaye de Boschaud, asleep in the hollow of a valley.   The earth is full of thresholds, and I felt as though I had crossed an important one.  In special places I like to see what the Tarot might have to say. As the light changed and the sky began to darken, I pulled the card "La Pances" from the Jean-Claude Flornoy deck.  Jean-Claude, the master card maker who recreated two decks from the earliest Marseille decks, Jean Noblet c.1650 & the Jean Dodal c. 1701, died suddenly just before the St. Suzanne Tarot Conference last fall, so sadly I did not get a chance to meet him, but was happy to add his deck to my collection.  

In most decks the II card is the High Priestess or La Papesse (the Popesse) only the Dodal has called her La Pances.  No one's quite sure why nor if there even was a female Pope though a few sources
mention "Pope Joan". One clever Hans said that it might be french homophony for "pensee", reflection or thought, though not widely used word in 18th c. France. More commonly the word is "belly, womb, stomach" or kangaroo pouch.  

But more importantly what does she have to say?  If light is the Priestess of Landscape,  the High Priestess serves to remind us to follow our own "lights", intuition, inner wisdom.  She is representing spirituality as opposed to religious conformity.  The monks found divinity in their fields and the stones that bound them to their land. Carole Sedillot writes in "Ombres et Lumieres du Tarot":
"Spirituality isn't defined by the enclosure of the spirit in a dogma - whether religious or otherwise, but by opening the spirit to vast and new horizons that offer it evolution and elevation."
As light turned to shadow, I thought of Neruda's poem about fishing for light:
                                               If each day falls
                                               inside each night,
                                               There exists a well
                                               where clarity is imprisoned.
                                               We need to sit on the rim
                                               of the well of darkness
                                               and fish for fallen light
                                               with patience. 


  1. This is such a shivering pleasure. I noted several subjects to look up so I could stay longer in this trance.

    1. Marcia darling, I never replied to your gorgeous comment back in 2012. Now revisiting this blog entry which seems timely five years later, i see what you have written and am so appreciative you took the time to comment so thoughtfully. love, RA