Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Trick AND Treat

"You can't put your feet on the ground until you've touched the sky"
       -Paul Auster

It's Halloween, Samhain, Day of the Dead...the time of transitions.  Traditionally the thin place in the fabric of the Celtic World where beings could slip more easily through portals. You can use Samhain to take the thirteenth step:  Transformation.  What is ending for you?  What is beginning?  To quote Mary Oliver:  "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"

THE CROSSING XIII - TAROT DE PARIS deck created by J. Phillip Thomas
Thomas's Angel model - Petit Palais

Today I took my one wild and precious life to Notre Dame, the Pantheon, to Les Jardins des Plantes, to I'sle Saint-Louis, to the Medici Fountain,..  I was looking for costumes & masks, a Rio Carnivale, some Cirque de Soleil action--I would have settled for a witch or a ghost, but all I saw was an American jeune fille with a set of mouse ears at the Monoprix.  But it got better, here's what I saw instead:

Lovers - Medici Fountain
Lovers - Jardin du Luxembourg
Man loving his book - Medici Fountain
 “Each time he took a walk, he felt as though he were leaving himself behind, and by giving himself up to the movement of the streets, by reducing himself to a seeing eye, he was able to escape the obligation to think, and this, more than anything else, brought him a measure of peace, a salutary emptiness within...By wandering aimlessly, all places became equal and it no longer mattered where he was. On his best walks he was able to feel that he was nowhere. And this, finally was all he ever asked of things: to be nowhere.”
Paul Auster, City of Glass

Cosmos - Jardin Des Plantes

Nature as Teacher - Jardin des Plantes

Foraging Dinosaur - Jardin des Plantes

"Every life is inexplicable I kept telling myself. No matter how many facts are told, no matter how many details are given, the essential thing resists telling. To say that so and so was born here and went there, that he did this and did that, that he married this woman and had these children, that he lived, that he died, that he left behind these books or this battle or that bridge – none of that tells us very much.”
Paul Auster, The New York Trilogy

L'Isle Saint-Louis Living Statue
He won't budge  
He bent us to his will

“Deep down, I don’t believe it takes any special talent for a person to lift himself off the ground and hover in the air. We all have it in us—every man, woman, and child—and with enough hard work and concentration, every human being is capable of…the feat….You must learn to stop being yourself. That’s where it begins, and everything else follows from that. You must let yourself evaporate. Let your muscles go limp, breathe until you feel your soul pouring out of you, and then shut your eyes. That’s how it’s done. The emptiness inside your body grows lighter than the air around you. Little by little, you begin to weigh less than nothing. You shut your eyes; you spread your arms; you let yourself evaporate. And then, little by little, you lift yourself off the ground.
Like so.”
Paul Auster, Mr. Vertigo
Light as Air
Notre Dame

A couple of years ago I was standing in front of Notre Dame and a guy walked up to me and spit in my face! I remembered something the poet Rimbaud said (well I didn't really remember, I had to look it up--the pig stuck in my mind):

"I became a fabulous opera: I saw that everyone in the world was doomed to happiness. Action isn't life: it's merely a way of ruining a kind of strength, a means of destroying nerves. Morality is water on the brain.
It seemed to me that everyone should have had several other lives as well. This gentleman doesn't know what he's doing: he's an angel. That family is a litter of puppy dogs. With some men, I often talked out loud with a moment from one of their other lives. - That's how I happened to love a pig."

Halloween Pigs

Ensuite:  more about "LOVE"

Thomas & Rose
Rusty Lock
Indelible Smooch
The "love padlocks" have been a phenomenon all over the world from Belgium to Japan. In Rome the ritual of affixing love padlocks to the bridge Ponte Milvio is attributed to the writer Frederico Moccia from his book, " I Want You".  For those of you who haven't heard of them, here's the story:  A couple writes their names on a padlock and locks it onto one of the bridges. Then they throw the key into the Seine as a symbol of their undying love. Some say the only way to break the seal of love brought on by this love lock act is to find the key and unlock the padlock. Of course, that is nearly impossible, since the keys lie at the bottom of the river. This reality induces many brokenhearted individuals to return with bolt cutters to try to chop off the padlocks. So, on second thought, maybe it wasn’t the government after all that was accused of cutting the locks from the Pont des Arts a few years ago!

Pont de L'Archeveche
As you have undoubtedly figured out by now, I'm rather besotted with Paul Auster. He's caught me psychically redhanded & after my longwinded day of traipsing around the city in which I never did figure out how to "lift off", I ended up at the Zig Zag Cafe across from the Pantheon with its unremtting stone, Foucault's :Pendelum, all the grand souls interred there:  Malraux, Hugo, Moulin, the Curies, on and on--I felt crushed by the weight of so many heroic figures. There was some amazing 1952 footage of Braille's crypt being carried to the Pantheon, 6 or 7 blind souls reaching out to touch the stone decoration at the top of the crypt.  The Pantheon has always seemed to me to be one of those iconic places like Mt. don't really enter it, you just gaze into it.
 Spiral Staircase - The Pantheon

At the Zig Zag, I finished the first part of Auster's "The Invention of Solitude" while slowly sipping the Cafe Calypso which cost me my entire day's food budget of $10 euros, but it was worth it--the mingling of rum, amaretto, coffee, creme faiche with tears of pain & joy as I read the last page of "Invisible Man"...Anyhoo the three food groups were amply covered:: alcohol, dairy and caffeine.

Zig Zag Cafe
Cafe des Artistes - Angouleme

Cafe Calypso

Tomorrow I am going to be a good girl and make "Soul Cakes" for  Toussaint and All Soul's Day.  I'll be happy to give you the recipe if you are in the market for some redemption and a "get out of purgatory" card!

Here's the song that goes with the soul cakes:

From, ‘Shropshire: Bye-Gones Relating to Wales & the Border Country’ (1889-1890)

Soul Cakes
“Soul soul for a souling cake                          
I pray you, missis, for a souling cake
Apple or pear, plum or cherry
Anything to make us merry …”

Sung on "All Soul's Day" by soulers

“I had jumped off the edge, and then, at the very last moment, something reached out and caught me in midair. That something is what I define as love. It is the one thing that can stop a man from falling, powerful enough to negate the laws of gravity.”
Paul Auster, Moon Palace

Let Yourself Fall - Lovers, Medici Fountain

Sunday, October 28, 2012

TELESTIKE (or making your statue dance)

Gothic Era Torsos - Musee de Cluny

Bodies & Heads of  Students Sketching

Heads of the Kings of Judah c.1220
The Cluny, in the heart of Paris, or perhaps even one of the heartbeats of Paris, is one of my favorite haunts.  I'm drawn back there again and again.  This time they had me at torsos--by the time I made it to the Lady and the Unicorn, I was undone.  Plato said in The Sophist that, "we make a house by the art of building, and by the art of painting we make another house, a sort of man-made dream produced for those who are awake."  So wake up and smell the marble! The serious students bent over their sketchbooks filled me with envy since I never made it past Stick Figures 101.  But I feel like a powerful God now with my digital Holy Grail.
Since the Italy Tarot Tour, something rather subversive has been whisking inside me, like eggwhites into meringue.  Some might say Je suis "folle" = I'm a madwoman, but NO, Je suis une fana de statues (I'm just a fan of  statues).  I believe if we look more deeply with our eyes closed, we will discover that they are as alive as the person sitting next to us. And I've got some pretty good authorities to back me up.  The eminent art historian, E.H. Gombrich, states in his book:  Art and Illusion, in a chapter on the study of Pygmalion's Power:  "The artist's aim is not to make a likeness, but to create something real." 

Telestike is the mystical/magical animation of inanimate statues. In her illuminating paper, "The Secret Lives of Statues", Angela Voss, a lecturer in Religious Studies at the University of Kent in the U.K. as well as director of the M.A. for Cultural Study of Cosmology and Divination (add on to that her diploma in Early Music from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London) talks about the ancient texts of the Hermetic Neo-Platonic  traditions in which statue animation and Theurgic rituals aided in the alignment of human souls with the Gods. "Both humans and statues could become divine through a process of cultivating an intense form of symbolic perception which brought divine and human worlds into single focus."

 See I'm not a crackpot!  And if that's not enough for you, even the musical group "Dead Can Dance" talk about drawing animacy out of inanimacy in their music:  see  Toward the Within - "Rakim".  And if you go to a blog called "Echoes from the Temple", Monte Plaisance reveals to us that he/she concocted a recipe used to animate a lifesized Telestike of the Goddess Hekate--the statue supposedly danced off the altar (and broke into pieces).  I wouldn't want to see that happen to some of my favorite statues so I'm just talking to them (quietly so passersby don't get alarmed).

George Sand - Jardin du Luxembourg

George Sand getting ready to leave the garden

Serendipitously, it was George Sand who brought the famous tapestries to the public attention in her writing. 

The Lady and the Unicorn - à mon seul désir
I've lost my notes on who this is, but I think he is a worthy escort for George

I spent a joyous Sunday in the Luxembourg Gardens.  It was as if all of Paris had shown up to play their parts of lovers strolling, men juggling, women smoking, old and young talking, reading, musing and snoozing with the play of sunlight and shadow on their faces--red, orange and yellow leaves tumbling down around the statues--who also played their parts perfectly--pretending to be simply stone. 

We live in a time where people think they have to be Artists with a capital A. I am reaching back into a time and a history of creation in which works of art were "transmitted or channeled", where creator and creation were inseparable. These days I feel acutely the loss of the fragile world of interiority that Tom Cheetham talks about in his "Green Man, Earth Angel..." book.  Perhaps we can use the "Magus-Magician" (related to the Mercurius of Alchemy), Tarot card to help us descend into the darkness of inanimate matter. 

Jean Dodal deck MAGICIAN
Also from "The Green Man..." - "What alchemists called 'matter' was in reality the unconscious self - 'The Soul of the World', Anima Mundi, (Âme du monde) 'imprisoned in matter'".

Watch how children do it, they haven't forgotten. They inhabit invisible worlds. They embrace the Magical Kingdoms with a sense of wonder, and they don't have to pretend because they "remember".

Girl and her magic tree - Jardin du Luxembourg

Archaic Torso of Apollo

We cannot know his legendary head
with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso
is still suffused with brilliance from inside,
like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,

gleams in all its power. Otherwise
the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could
a smile run through the placid hips and thighs
to that dark center where procreation flared.

Otherwise this stone would seem defaced
beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders
and would not glisten like a wild beast’s fur:

would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star: for here there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.

Rainer Maria Rilke
Still or Kill "The Watcher at the Gates of the Mind"

Thursday, October 18, 2012


The Eye of Morena
"It began in mystery and it will end in mystery, but what a savage and beautiful country lies in between"  Diane Ackerman from "One Hundred Words for Love"

Wheel of Fortune
Each of us saw our own Italy; for me it was often in the back streets and alleyways where psychogeographers tend to hang out. I'm a big fan of Guy Debord's dérive (drifting in French).  Saw three weddings in the lucky is that?! Chatted with Sophia L. while trying on some Ferragamo shoes at the Pitti Palace in Florence; even saw a cherub swimming!
Wedding - Ferrara
Pitti Palace - Florence

 ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER DUOMO (Cathedral) - Photos from my roomie Lisa de St. Croix

It's all a blur to me now.  I spent more time in churches in two weeks than I've spent in my entire life. So many Saints, so many symbols, so many frescoes.  Thank goodness they keep them so clean!

Divine Housekeepng
In Milan we visited Osvaldo Menegazzi, Tarot artist and publisher at his fabulous shop, Il Meneghello, where we indulged our lust for tarot decks like, well like--Mad Hatters:  "There is a place.  Like no place on Earth.  A land full of wonder and mystery, and danger! Some say to survive it:  You need to be as mad as a hatter."  Alice in Wonderland

One of Osvaldo's creations

Gorgeous, Enchanting Osvaldo
On the bus, off the bus, into the museums, into villages, the cities, the cafes (for the latest Italian addiction:  Cafe Ginseng), the restaurants - EAT, through the streets of Milan, where the Dolce & Gabana Fashion show was taking place outside the Gothic Cathedral we were exploring; Florence, where I ate the best sesame rose gelato ever & tripped through Galileo's Musee, photographing the astrological symbols embedded outside the museum, found Giovanni Fusetti's Clown and Mask School, where a friend of a friend, Cynthia Kneen, is doing a two year training--closed alas; design drenched cosmopolitan Bologna, where the Cabinets of Curiousities were just out of reach, but stilt walkers in Cirque de Soleil regalia sashayed down the avenues, & we fell upon the Bologna Water Design Expo--a celebration of water & outdoor spaces kicked off by an irreverent, edgy piece:  Breve processo all’eccesso del cesso ('short but overflowing history of the loo') which took place in one of the 15c.rooms in the Palace on Via d'Azeglio better known as "The Hospital of the Little Bastards";  

Ferrara, where Lucrezia Borgia is buried at the Convent of Corpus Domini and where, in the dark of night, our Italian tour guide, Morena took us to the mysterious, silent, church of San Giacomo which is purported to be the final resting place of Hugo de Paganis, one of the "alleged" founders of the Order of Knights Templar; Siena, known for its penis shaped pasta and its fanshaped Piazza del Campo where they hold the famous summer horse race, Il Palio. I saw it on a video loop outside a bar--looked like the Daytona 500 with horses--round and round the piazza they flew; Arezzo:  the Etruscan city of gold where I lit candles at the Basilica of San Francesco and wept for friends and family now departed PRAY;

Enfin to the Castle Montalto in Tuscany, where the Merry Band spent a blissful week creating magic with the scent of lavender all around us and always always telling fortunes, reading the signs, entering the "Mouth of Truth", taking off our masks or putting them on depending on your point of view.  The highlight of the week being the trip to Capalbio, our spiritual pilgrimage to visit Niki de Saint Phalle's Tarot Sculpture Garden, situated on a rocky bluff high above the lappingly blue blue Mediterranean sea.  It's an interactive garden and Niki herself lived in the mirrored glass house she created during the 20 years it took to accomplish this monumental feat: Dozens of astonishing sculptures & 22 Trumps fashioned and created with LOVE.

The Lovers

Niki's Kitchen for Domestic Goddess's

Mouth of Truth

                                Oh dear diary, this is just the beginning of the journey; so many more tales to tell! I must devote an entire blog to the Museo dei Tarocchi (Tarot Museum) a 400 year old building in Riola, perched on a hilltop in the mountains behind a beautiful mission style church with bell tower.  A vast collection of rare decks shelved on tree trunks and hidden behind tiny doors in stone walls enchanted us (where else could you find "Tarot Paper Dolls" or a hand painted Capri deck in limited edition of ten?) It is also the home of our guide Morena Poltronieri & Ernesto Fazioli, who threw a garden party for us & several fantastic Italian artists who shared their creations.

BUT the hour is late, and I am packing for another trip to uncover "The Secret Life of Statues" (Angela Voss)* - thanks to Carrie Paris - for introducing me to her work.  I will be using the J. Phillip Thomas, Tarot de Paris deck, designed around the art, architecture, monuments and statuary of Paris.    But while I am away remember this:


Bitten by the Serpent - Photo by Lisa St. de Croix

Siena's Many Faces

The "Devil" made me do it from Piazza Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II - Milan