A Gorey Fading Light

Image

Edward Gorey, from “The Iron Tonic: Or, a Winter Afternoon in Lonely Valley,” 1975.

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Oracular Head of Orpheus

Orpheus just cannot be shut up …

Despondent in his failed quest to rescue his wife from Hades, Orpheus spurned human contact. This did not set well with some Dionysian Maenads, who tore him to pieces. His head washed up on the shores of Lesbos and prophesied to the people. This is a scan of a black-and-white image of an Attic red-figure vase depicting the bizarre event. The image is culled from Aspects of Death in Early Greek Art and Poetry by Emily Vermeule (Sather Classical Lectures, Volume Forty-Six; University of California Press, 1979).

There is a better, in-color image of this vase painting at the unsurpassed Theoi site.

Dangerous Fairies

“He shall find the thornies set
In his bed at night.”

Be careful: Not all fairies are benign, ethereal sweeties. The Fairies, by 19th-Century Irish poet William Allingham, is a dark-themed children’s poem that includes the abduction (and eventual death) of a child. This artwork by Boris Artzybasheff adds to the creepiness. The poem and illustration were included in the Collier’s Junior Classics’ The Young Folks Shelf of Books, Volume 1 (“ABC GO!”; 1962) under the heading “Best-Loved Poems.” As a pre-schooler, I found the picture especially disturbing. It always comes to mind when I think I feel something scratchy in my bed at night.

Here are some excerpts from the poem:

Up the airy mountain

Down the rushy glen,

We daren’t go a-hunting,

For fear of little men;

Wee folk, good folk,

Trooping all together;

Green jacket, red cap,

And white owl’s feather. …

 

They stole little Bridget

For seven years long;

When she came down again

Her friends were all gone.

They took her lightly back

Between the night and morrow;

They thought she was fast asleep,

But she was dead with sorrow.

They have kept her ever since

Deep within the lake,

On a bed of flag leaves,

Watching till she wake.

 

By the craggy hill-side,

Through the mosses bare,

They have planted thorn trees

For pleasure here and there.

Is any man so daring

As dig them up in spite?

He shall find the thornies set

In his bed at night. …

You can find the entire poem at Poetry Archive

More from “Dreadful Folktales”

Video

Last month, I posted regarding the exhibition/book release in Norway for Dreadful Folktales from the Land of Nosferatu. The book is authored by Gina Sandulescu and illustrated by Costin Chioreanu, both of Romania. Costin has now posted a short movie about the exhibition, including interview clips with members of the bands Einherjer and Vulture Industries:

Some Thoughts On Divination

Watch out, lady — there’s a floating spirit head right behind you…

I first saw a Ouija board when I was a very little kid and was fascinated with the images on it. Several years after that, I got one for myself but, despite the enticing promises of the movies and religious folks, the spirits stayed silent for me. It turned out to be the most boring board game that I’ve ever played (even worse than Scrabble). Better pictures than Scrabble, though.

Back then, I dabbled with several other divination methods, including astrology, playing cards, and automatic writing. But I mostly spent time on dream recollection and recording of dreams, and I still find that to be the most effective way to get a glimpse past the surface of the physical world. Whether it’s gaining insight into a problem, meeting new people, visits with loved ones who have passed on, or exciting video game-type adventures, you really can’t beat the first person perspective of the dream world.

When it comes to other forms of divination, I’ve given a lot of thought to what I’m really looking for when I do it. When I was younger, I mostly thought of it as a prediction system, but I don’t think of it in that way any more. Obviously, the idea is to gain answers, but it seems a futile and negative past-time to look for definite answers about the future. At best, a divination method may give some general characteristics of what the future might hold, based on the present conditions, but expecting an exact answer negates the reality that the future might be malleable, at least to a degree.

What I found through practice is that divination can lead me to consider a direction or solution that I hadn’t considered before. An example came a few years ago: I had been waking up much too early in the mornings, unable to get back to sleep, so I was drained later in the day and felt kind of bad every day. At that time, I was reading the book Seeking the Spirit of The Book of Change by Master Zhongxian Wu, which offers a unique, shamanic system of the I Ching. I wasn’t putting it to practice, but decided to use it to get some insight into my sleep and health problems. The trigram that resulted was Kun (Earth). Although there are a few body parts that relate to Kun, I sensed that the spleen was the relevant focal point.

Apart from knowing that I had a spleen, I knew nothing else about it or its function. So I looked up information about it from a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, and learned that its function is related to the digestive system, and that cold, raw foods are not very good for it. The recommendation was to eat mostly hot foods. Now, a few months earlier, I had cut meat, dairy and eggs out of my diet, and had been eating a lot of raw fruits and vegetables, with relatively little cooked food. In light of this information about the health of the spleen, I began eating mostly hot food again. One night later, I began sleeping sounding throughout the night again and felt much better as a result.

I can’t say whether there was anything to the divination itself, or not, but I can say that, by doing it, I found a solution to the problem, a solution that I never would have thought of on my own. Despite my interest in matters of the unseen, I tend to be pretty skeptical about the paranormal, and quick to dismiss it as a factor when a physical, logical explanation is more likely. But I like results that work, and at least in that particular case, whether coincidence or not, there was indeed a working result. It doesn’t matter whether it’s “real” or not; it was real for me.

Site Status Update

Status

This is just a short update on the site, mostly in order to kick-start some renewal on adding to the content. When I began the blog several years ago, I had a certain vision for it that changed over time. As my own experiences morphed, backtracked and sidetracked, I either lost interest in doing more or didn’t really know what would be useful to add. I don’t see a real point in putting up content just to pad things out, as this is not a money-making blog (any ads you might see are put up by WordPress for their own revenue). I want the content to be something that I can stand behind, that is written well and that has the potential to be of value to the reader who comes across it.

I’m working on some new posts now, including some short reviews of favorite dark-flavored shopping sites and musical works, discussion of some liberty-related themes, and some essays on esoteric themes, among other topics. I might also move over a few of the old posts from the sister-site (grundfus), which I abandoned.