Sunday, May 6, 2012

LA LUNE - The Moon

Last night I was "gazing" at the super duper, low-hanging moon, the "perigee" moon, the moon we've all been waiting for (especially the Armageddon hopefuls) in a field near Souffrignac--a small French village with no particular histoire aside from being beautiful.  I wonder if the name comes from "souffrir" which means "to suffer":  Il faut souffrir pour etre belle - you have to suffer to be beautiful, no pain no gain! The moon did look unnaturally large.  I could have touched it if it hadn't moved behind the inky clouds. Despite what NASA predicted, the dogs didn't bark long and the seas didn't rise up. At least not in beautiful suffering Souffrignac.

And why is it always "gazing" at the moon, into the stars or someone's eyes?  We don't just look or stare or gape or gawk or peer or glare...we look long and intently, which is a sure indication of our fascination, awe, wonder and admiration.  Something is much bigger than we are.  An awe tied up with love and possibly mental illness.  The idea that the full moon causes mental disorders goes back to the Middle Ages.  And recently a friend who left a marriage of 40 years--falling in love with a rapscallion--told me her shrink said that falling in love is a form of mental illness...yes, truly, madly, deeply.

I was a horror film junkie when I was a kid (along with professional teehee wrestling)--growing up in a converted chicken coop (not as squawky as it sounds) incites the imagination. The ceiling was a couple of feet lower at the back of the house which meant that anyone, i.e my father, over 5'8" would hit their noggin if they walked to the back of the house/coop.  I wrote a poem about growing up there, but can only remember one line about feathers floating up my nose.  Luckily we had a front window, glass instead of wire.  Somebody must have read Dr. Prince T. Woods's 1924 "Fresh Air Poultry Houses:
the classic guide to open-front chicken coops for healthier poultry.  He shows you how to keep your flock healthier and happier.  He also describes how you can retrofit existing houses to fresh-air principles, by creating larger openings or even by knocking out a whole wall and replacing it with chicken wire!

"Darkness forces chickens, like parrots, to be artificially inactive.  They won't eat or drink properly if they can't see.  Fresh-air houses solve this problem with a large screened window area that brightens the whole coop, even on winter days.  A large window makes the coop cheerful."
And it was true:  part of the house/coop was cheerful with that large window that gazed out onto the crab grass and Maple tree in the front yard.  But most of my time was spent either reading under the tree or in the dark utility room in the back of the coop where the RCA 12" B&W TV lived. We didn't get a television till I was 9 or 10 & before that, my brother and I would watch The Ed Sullivan Show through the closest neighbor's picture window, about a mile away (too bad they didn't have wire, it  would have been more fun with the sound).  I did most of the cooking for our family so no one complained or even suspected when I fried up greasy cheeseburgers to gorge on at midnight, which is when "Shock Theater" came on, & I could embrace the genre that had me swooning:  Dracula, Bride of Frankenstein, all the Hammer films.  But none of them pumped my heart like the werewolves and Lon Chaney, Jr.

Lon is superb as Larry Talbot in "The Wolf Man", a practical man who returns to his ancestral home in Llwenny Wales to reconcile with his estranged father, is attacked by a creature of folklore and infected with a horrific disease his disciplined mind tells him cannot possibly exist.  I especially liked the 1941 version (well, the only version at that time) with Claude Rains as Sir John Talbot. Larry becomes romantically interested in a local gal named Gwen who runs an antique shop where he purchases a silver-headed walking stick decorated with a wolf.  Gwen tells him that it represents a werewolf (which she defines as a man who changes into a wolf "at certain times of the year.")  That sentence alone is ripe for discussion, but I won't even attempt an analysis.

At the tender age of 9, I didn't care that much about the romantic subplot or Gwen, though I did feel deeply connected and compassionate toward Larry.  All the good stuff happens when the moon comes out and Larry turns into the proverbial Werewolf. I read in a horror magazine that I subscribed to at the time, that the process for Lon Chaney, Jr. to be made up as a wolf was excruciating.  He claimed he was forced to sit motionless for hours as the scenes were shot frame by frame and was not even allowed to use the bathroom.  And that the special effects men drove tiny finishing nails into the skin on the sides of his hands so they would remain motionless during close-ups.  Talk about "suffering" for Art. 

Throughout the film, various villagers recite a poem, whenever the subject of werewolves comes up:

Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.
Later films change the last line of the poem to "And the moon is full and bright". Sometimes I would fall asleep after the film ended, waking up to the test pattern.  I'd leave the dark utility room, slinking out into the fields behind the house/coop where there was a fast moving creek that ran between stands of shadowy trees, home to owls, bats & other night creatures.  I'd look for wolfbane, listen for howling, but really I was waiting for some kind of transformation, a sign.  I was moonstruck.

The Moon -XVIII in the Major Arcana symbolizes the unconscious aspect of the feminine. In "The Mirror of the Soul" it is described as "shadowy, moist, changeable, seductive, possessing an eerie attraction. Everything appears mysterious, doubtful and bewitching."
There are cyclic patterns of lunacy, split personality of light and shadow, associated with fits of passion and paganish behavior.  All light is reflected and the mood is wild and intoxicating.  Imagination intensifies & we are swimming alone in the dark, along the straits of our subconscious.  Fear of the unknown has a magnetic pull, an attraction, like the howling we hear in desolate places, repelled and frightened we still want to find the source.  The lessons of this card are mystical and deeply personal.  We need to confront our fears, whatever form they may take. The trick is to stay awake even when dreaming. 

Le Loup et La Femme

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