Sunday, August 31, 2014

THE GHOST MONTH, The Smell of Old Dust & The Fifth Chamber

My Algerian friend, Annie, told me that the French call August the Ghost Month.  I'd never heard that before, though I had heard of the Hungry Ghost Festivals:   traditional Taoist and Buddhist festivals held in Asian countries on the 15th night of the seventh month (Chinese lunar-solar calendar) continuing on thru August till the 24th of the month.

Back in northern California, in the eighties and nineties during the height of spiritual, psychological, metaphysical explorations, there was a lot of hooha regarding les fantômes affamés (the hungry ghosts).  But it was meant in a pejorative sense, not the same hungry ghosts for whom the Buddhist/Taost rituals are being performed, i.e., burning incense, clothes offerings, vegetarian meals and even some bling laid out. People burn paper houses, cars, servants, televisions.(Wiki).

Detail of the Last Judgement Tympanum  (1107 -1125)

On the15th, when the gates of Heaven & Hell open up, the belief is that the deceased/ancestors will be out and about, visiting & rolling around the neighborhood.  This is a chance to pay respects, venerate the dead, and say howdy to wandering ghosts or those you might have not had a chance to say goodbye to.  The Buddhists also think of this time as a "rebirth" of ancestors.  

Later in the month I asked some other French friends about "Ghost Month" in France and they rolled their eyes and said: "Tout le monde est parti en vacances, prendre un coup d'oeil autour, la place est vide." = Everyone has left for the holidays, take a look around, the place is empty.  Uh Duh, indeed, our big city of Angouleme was like a ghost town.  

I did have a rationale though, since our little Village of Charras was hopping.  August is the busiest month of the season for holiday renters & owners who come and stay at the Chateau; oodles of kids lining the pool, filling the Parc with merriment, on vacation from England or Scotland or wherever else mortals escape from to go somewhere else warmer & sunnier, quieter or just plain different.  

Cessy playing in front of main Chateau
Strollers on the back lawn

Cricket game in progress on back lawn

But even in the lemony sunshine, one could feel the presence of ghosts here & there.  The fields were full of them. 

Ghost Flower - Field in Feuillaude

Sometimes I'd walk down a lonely passageway in an ancient building and feel surrounded by other presences, or visit an abandoned mansion like the French urban explorer, Bousure, certain I had seen a figure in a window.   "I like the mood of these places and the light inside."  Bousure.

Unknown photographer

French Urban Explorer, Bousure

Then Kevin set me off on a luxury, ghost hunting storm by sending me a link to the Parisian Belle Epoque Time Capsule below.

The Parisian Belle Epoque Time Capsule - 9th arr.

In 2010, a 91 year old woman, known only as, Madame de Florian, died in the South of France, leaving behind an apartment in Paris. Her family hired a team of auctioneers to visit the flat in the 9th arr., near the Pigalle red-light district and the Opera Garnier, to inventory its contents.  When they unlocked the front door, they found it virtually untouched since before WW II.  "There was the smell of old dust," recalled the auctioneer.  

Perfume bottles, cobwebs and silence

Madame, 23 years old, had fled the city in 1942 as the Germans advanced, locking up the apartment she had inherited from her Grandmother.  For 70 years she paid the rent and upkeep on the home without ever returning.  Beneath the dust the investigators found themselves transported to early 1900's Paris at the height of the Belle Epoque when de Florian's grandmother was the talk of the town.  Born in 1864, she was a certain breed of courtesan known as les demimondaines, famous for lavish lifestyles, parties and lots of high profile suitors.  The apartment was filled with art, gold drapes, chandeliers, a stuffed ostrich draped with a shawl, hairbrushes, perfumes and candle stubs.  One of the experts said it was like "stumbling into the Castle of Sleeping Beauty."  
Screenshot MessyNessy

There were love letters from Prime Minister George Clemenceau, and a heretofore unknown painting by Giovanni Boldini of  24 year old, Marthe de Florian, the apartment owner's grandmother. It was discovered that she was Boldini's muse and lover. The painting ultimately sold for 2.1 million after a bidding war. The location of Marthe de Florian's apartment remains a mystery, as does her granddaughter's true identity.  But, somewhere in the 9th arrondissement, a dusty flat missing a fine Boldini painting may still remain frozen-in-time."  from The Daily Beast.

Marthe de Florian - Painting Boldini

She IS pretty in pink!  If I get to Paris in October, I vow to find her apartment. 

Sigh...back to the reality of Tarot and our own village ghosts.  Yesterday I was invited to read the cards at the Javerlhac Marche Artisnale not far from Charras.  I've always loved the village, it's on the Bandiat River and has a cracking tower and manor house, which looks like they have some of their own dust and mystery.  

Javerlhac-et-la-Chapelle-Saint-Robert - Bandiat River
Javerlhac Tower
And it turned out to be the one sympathetic weather day we had in August.  The organizers did a gorgeous job - a smooth band playing, homemade ice cream and high quality artisan goods.  I spent most of the money I made by the end of the day, no regrets. 

Jazz Band - Javerlhac

I did twenty readings over the course of the day, half of them for les Francais, none of whom spoke a word of English.  It was challenging, not so much for the grammar or comprehension of what they were asking, but rather the cultural/psychological differences & how we perceive emotional frameworks; how we talk about relationships and health and career.  One French man wanted me to advise him about his accounting business, whether he should expand to Bordeaux and Paris from Javerlhac and the environs?  He demanded that I unilaterally make that decision for him!  He's coming for a private reading next week, and I am cramming as much technical French & Gallic sensibilities into myself as I can. It's a lot of pressure - usually the French just ask about love and there IS a universal language for that.  

Marie-Claire + Fish + Dog

My favorite reading of the day was for Madame Marie-Claire, 90 years old, the most serene, gentile french woman, with an aura of light around her that splashed us all with joy.  Her daughter bought the reading for her.  She had had 7 children, three of them adopted.  Her question:  Would her grandchildren find happiness?  Bien Sur!  You can see she pulled La Poisson et Le Chien from the Lenromand Revolution deck (Carrie Paris/Roz Foster  You can also see I've purloined one of Carrie's magical card images for my Tarot Table. 

Me & Marie-Claire - Salle de Fetes Javerlhac

I love the stories of people's lives, the patterns, the bravery, the way they let me into their most cherished and secret chambers.  I am always humbled by the openness and the willingness to embrace the symbols & ancient wisdom that leap from the cards.  I used Ellen Lorenzi-Prince's Dark Goddess* ( deck for the one card readings.  I don't get much call for those, but when I do, the cards are perfect because they provide immediate entry points, along with an emotional template to work with.  Profound, punchy imagery like Nine of Water - Lady of the Lake, Make a wish, Take a vow.

Dark Goddess Tarot

Tarot de St. Croix

This time I brought a third deck, created by my roommate from Italy Tarot Tour**, Lisa de St. Croix - Tarot de St. Croix -  This deck is close to my heart too since I sat next to Lisa in Tuscany and Ferrara as she painted some of the cards.  Her deck with its vivid, rich colors and timeless quality does indeed, "transcend time to portray the tapestry of life."   The Wheel of Fortune card came up twice in readings yesterday. 

But it wasn't all sweetness and light.  The Ghost of Loss was upon us on this bright day in the month of August even as fish were bringing abundance, dogs loyalty and Wheels of Fortune turning.  There were also some very hungry ghosts wishing to be fed.  And haven't we all been starving at times? 

So many querents had lost partners, lovers and friends.  And two friends had lost their dogs:  Adieu Donner, Adieu Rupert.  I talked with them about opening a Fifth Chamber in their hearts where the Beloved could reside for all time.  

In our time there are certain changes taking place in the heart, by which gradually a fifth chamber will develop.  In this fifth chamber man will have a new organ which will allow him to control life forces in a different way than is possible at the moment...All that happens in the moral life, and all that happens physically in the world...the moral and the physical...are found in their real union when we learn to understand all he configurations of the human heart.  Rudolf Steiner

And as it turns out, honey bees already have this fifth chamber.  Aren't they clever?  Maybe if we develop a Fifth Chamber we can make honey too.

"One of the hurdles in developing a five chambered heart in humanty is that our powers as human beings would be spiritually and morally altered. Our connection to the living forces of nature, as the Bees experience the living forces of nature, would plug us into our own feelings of LIFE and Etheric life and the critical psychological, emotional and karmic health of our fellow human beings and the poisoning effects we have inflicted into nature due to our sterile emotional, intellectual distance we maintain, as the safe guard to our freedom to think in whichever way we please about anything. Even if the way we think about nature and the human heart is a grotesque error of education and judgment."

Rileybrad Blog - The Fifth Chamber Heart

"Bee Boy" Born with Bee Heart
Russian baby Vanya Maryin was 
born with a five chambered heart,
a structure only found in bees. Oddly
enough, little Vanya comes from a
family of bee-keepers.  

Vanya Maryin - Bee Boy

Last Night as I was Sleeping

"...I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures,,,

Antonio Machado

See New York Times, August 20th, the excellent piece by Jessa Crispin in the Opinionator  Private Lives Essays,  The Tarot Card Reader.  (thanks Rosita!)

*You can now pre-order Ellen's Minoan Tarot deck, site designed and maintained by Arnell Ando

**Tarot Art & History Tour of Italy with Arnell Ando and Friends - upcoming tour 2015 -

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