Tuesday, November 25, 2014

ALCHEMY & A Paris Hangover - Ça vaut la peine, Part I

ALCHEMY: Any seemingly magical process of transmuting ordinary materials into something of true merit.

"Tarot is a finite system of infinite possibilities" - J. Philip Thomas
Tarot de Paris - J. Philip Thomas

1325 - 1375; Middle English Alkamie, from Old French alquemie, from Medieval Latin alchymia, from Arabic al - the + kimiya; chemistry from Late Greek, Khumeia.  "He wondered by what alchemy it was changed, so that what sickened him one hour, maddened him with hunger the next."  (Marjorie K. Rawlings)

Motto:  Nutrisco et Extingo -  I nourish & I extinguish  - The crest and salamander amidst flames on the Tarot de Paris Alchemy card, is the badge/emblem adopted by Francois 1er, King of France, 1515-1547. It refers to the medieval legend of salamanders living in flames. The ancients, dating back to Pliny & Aristotle believed that salamanders could extinguish the flames with their bodies as virtue could triumph over the fires of passion.

Salamanders performing Alchemy by Go Insane.deviantart.com

Francis was born in a chateau, died in a chateau; built and restored many in between, most notably Chambord, Fontainebleu, Blois, and the Louvre.  He installed hundreds of salamanders throughout his residences; Chambord has 800 carved into the ceiling of the main hall.  At Fontainebleu, they are on chairs, facades, carved upon gilded wainscoting, modeled in stucco above picture frames, on fireplaces. The ones I am particularly fond of, are both in the gallery at Fontainebleu - the gold charmer below, and the one on the forehead of the fantastical Royal Elephant fresco. You can't quite make it out, the emblem with the plumes sprouting fire -  easier to see the stucco one above, between the angels, surrounded by flames.  

Salamander - Galerie - Fontainebleu

Royal Elephant - Galerie - Fontainebleu

Whenever I am lucky enough to score a trip to Paris along with a cozy place to stay (thank you Dan, Mila & Marsha), I choose a card from one of my favorite decks:  the "Tarot de Paris", step into my Nancy Drew persona, and try to ferret out the statues & monuments that Thomas collaged onto each card. He has given clues to the whereabouts of many of the elements, but has admitted he has forgotten quite a few.  It's like a treasure hunt and even when I come up empty handed or photograph-less, I have discovered new facets of the gem & mystery that is the "eternal" Paris.  

Mila & Dan's 14th Arr. apt.

The genesis and creation of Thomas's deck: 3500 photographs, twenty years in the making (though sixteen of those years were not spent physically working on the deck) is best described in an interview he gave to Aeclectic Tarot's Alex B. Crowther:*  

"My highest intentions were to draw fresh parallels between the mystical art/architecture of Paris and its intimate influence on tarot in history while allowing the city to expose its subtle mysteries...my views on the cross pollination of Paris and Tarot were formed during the experiential process of physically 'walking thru the city and the symbols' taking photos for the TDP deck.  As improbable as it may sound, the city's veil was lifted before me and I was allowed to briefly glimpse the subliminal forces that have sustained its existence over thousands of years.  What I saw was an eternal Paris - a living archetype - fashioned by revolutions of chaos, creativity and conservatism." 
- J. Philip Thomas - www.tarotdeparis.com

La France Renaissante - France Reborn, Le Pont de Bir-Hakeim

With Mila as my tireless guide and companion, we quickly found the statue that Thomas had photographed for his Alchemy card above.  "France Reborn" is on the island next to the Bir-Hakeim bridge in the 15th arr.  The rider astride the horse is Jeanne d'Arc, a political symbol in France since the time of Napolean.  A channel named Lazaris told me many years ago that I had been burned at the stake for heresy, so I feel a special kinship with Joan; an additional charge against her was "cross-dressing" -  they didn't pin that one on me.  She was burned at the stake in 1431 at the age of 19. 

Jeanne d'Arc
Bonus shot of Japanese couple posing for wedding photographs - love the red dress!

Seems unfair to place Jeanne so near to the happy couple, but she's earned her place in history.
Joan of Arc Death at the Stake by Herman Stilke - 1843

Next I dragged Mila to the Musée de l’Armée at the Hôtel national des Invalides to find the salamander emblem that Thomas hinted was on one of the canons amongst the 500,000 artifacts of military hardware, armor and weapons in the collection. 

Musée de l’Armée

Me & my Arsenal

We took dozens and dozens of photos, mais hélas, could not find the salamander "badge".  Oh la la, I never thought I could fall for a canon, but I did.  They are works of art, created and christened by individual artisans, with names like Le Souffleteur (the boxer of ears) made by J. Bérenger, 1772, and Le Gentil, 2782 kg of canon par Jean Maritz, 1746.

Time to say goodbye to the canons & all the pretty horses...

And the papier mâché  Napolean...

Napolean's Tomb
Time to get some caffeine & "faire la queue" (stand in line) for Niki de St. Phalle at the Grand Palais

"I want to go ever deeper into the poetry of it" - Niki de St. Phalle

...to be continued in Part II

Upcoming tarot events for those in France:

I will be reading cards at Le Perroquet Verte Noel Fete in Chalais, November 29th
and at Aubeterre-sur-Dronne Christmas Market on Nov. 30th - Cartomancy & Tarot

Happy Thanksgiving to our friends in USA, save us some leftovers. 

No comments:

Post a Comment