Cardinal Directions and Colour

28 November 2014

What Colour is your Compass?

Most of these admittedly are from wikipedia, which means that they are cited, however, as I don’t have access to the source material I can’t corroborate much of it. If you happen to know of another colour series, feel free to share it and I’ll add it to the pile.

The Cardinal Points, North, East, South, West, and sometimes Centre, have been fundamental ideas upon which much knowledge is built. Often, each direction is assigned a colour. These are often represented by circles divided into four quarters, sometimes with a central circle if appropriate. Like so:

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Mycorrhyza shouldn’t surprise ya

7 April 2012

The biological network – fungi, ,plants, bacteria, micro & macroorganisms.

Way back when, I lucked in to having a roommate who was an amateur mycologist (fungologist I suppose). He introduced me to morels, and let me peruse his library (including Magical Mushrooms Mischievous Molds by George Hudler). I have a degree in biology, yet there was never a course on mycology offered. Botany, sure. Zoology of course. But an entire domain of life was left off the curriculum. It was pretty disappointing. So I made up for lost time. It was completely fascinating.

(also, I’m making pasta with berbere mushrooms for lunch, hence the inspiration…)

Although Paul Stamets isn’t the greatest public speaker, he knows his stuff, and this presentation is astounding. Some of this stuff I knew, but a lot of it is new.

the Network

Fungi are pretty much hyphae, long branching structures that grow and branch in organic matter. Fungi are little biochemical factories, and they are responsible for decomposition. Mushrooms on a rotting log, or mold on your bread are accomplishing the same thing – decomposing the organic matter, and rendering it back to the earth. They also work wonders in a compost heap.

The mushroom part is the reproductive body, (fruiting body) of the fungus, and is a very small part of the overall organism. It releases its spores far and wide, and so continues the cycle of life.

As for the network, the hyphae join with plant roots in what is called the mycorrhiza (meaning fungus-root). The fungus benefits from the plant’s photosynthesis, and the plant benefits from the nutrients broken down by the fungus. Given that one mushroom can create mycorrhiza with several plants, and that plants can have mycorrhiza with several fungi, this interconnective symbiosis can spread as far as the local ecosystem will allow.

In Oregon, is a species of honey mushroom that is believed to be the largest living organism. It’s believed to have colonized the land over 9 square kilometres, and is thought to be about 2400 years old. I believe that this species is edible, and I’ve actually eaten something labelled “honey mushroom” from Oregon. I can only imagine that it was part of this ancient being. As this one entity is spread over such a vast area, what does the mycorrhizal network in Oregon look like?

Also, hyphae grow like nerve cells.

Fun with Fungi

before I forget, check out this Effective Microorganisms site – buy your own living goo to make your plants happier (and lots of other applications).

No idea what species these are, but they spontaneously appeared in a pot with a citrus tree – I fed them a blueberry.

From what I recall in my research, fungus are older than plants, closer in phenotype to animals, and were the original agent for the colonization of land (see lichens). Also, their spores can survive space travel, which some believe is how life on earth began. There’s so much to go on about, but I’d rather leave it with experts, such as the fine folks at the MycoBank.

Here’s some bioluminescent fungi.

theAbysmal Fungi

As you may recall (or not, who am I to judge?), the image below is called the Mycelium of Life, where the mycelium is the body of the fungus, i.e. a bundle of hyphae.

My thought was to remove the hierarchies associated with the various Trees of Life, and use something non-hierarchical. Mycelia are also an intrinsic part of the mycorrhizal network, which suggests interconnectivity as well as mutually beneficial symbiosis. It also suggests a connection with trees, i.e. the hierarchical, such that it is all inclusive and non-discriminatory.

The circles within circles of the above image are also like fairy rings, which suggests something magical, if not mystical (then there’s the whole magic mushroom thing, which is a whole other post entirely).

Mycelium of Life and the Maya Tree of Life

I’d read an account of a Maya myth regarding the tree of life, however, I haven’t been able to find the exact story again. The closest I’ve come is in the  Chilam Balam of Chumuyel (a book of histories, prophecies, myth, healing and so on with variations from village to village, hence of Chumuyel) in which the Gods plant trees according to the four cardinal directions to commemorate rebirth after destruction of the world. I imagine that the story I read also informed the image of the mycelium of life, and so I’ll paraphrase it as I recall (and it’s not such a bad story, I just wish I had the time to compose it properly, or at least find the original).

The Maya tree of life, as many others, has its branches in the heavens, its roots in the underworld, and the trunk is the earth. There are 13 heavens and 9 levels of the underworld, however both the uppermost level of the underworld and the lowermost level of the heavens are equivalent to earth. This corresponds to the 12 outer circles, 8 inner circles and 1 central circle in the Mycelium illustration.

The tree of life bore every fruit, nut and berry from its branches in great abundance. Animals flocked to the tree to feed on them. The fruit and nuts and berries fell to the earth, some to be devoured, others to disperse their seeds far and wide, to cover the earth.

The tree dies, or is destroyed, or is cut down (take your pick), yet four trees (one at each cardinal point) grow out of the earth, and like their parent tree, burst forth with all manner fo fruit, nut and berry.

The important point to all of this is the central point (whether it be a living tree or a stump) and the trees at the four cardinal points. With this image in mind, then the mycelium of life is more like an overhead (or underfoot) view of the trees, one central and one for each direction, interconnected by the mycelia/hyphae.

I imagine this story had some influence on the development of the mycelium image, however, as they both rely heavily on the four cardinal points, I assume that’s a good part of the symmetry. The 12 + 1 + 8 equivalence is unintentional (as far as I’m aware), and the 52 paths was also unintentional (but as 52 is a key number in Maya numerology, a welcome coincidence).

All this to say, the mycelium of life as a symbol bears much in common from the mycorrhyza of life, and as such, I’m happy to keep posting it around (even though I’m still not sure what it is, or what it represents – something to meditate on if necessary).

258 Days to Dec 21st 2012

Mycelium of Life

7 March 2012

Trying to figure out where this image came from.

See that thing at the centre of the circle above? It’s like a cross, kind of, with circles, and lines between them. That was part of the original design for theAbysmal Calendar (as were the 13 months around it). I developed it while studying the Qabalah (moreso the Hermetic one than the Hebrew Kabbalah). I still haven’t assigned any particular significance to it – only general ideas. The swirly circle at the centre is the Abyss, the centre, the unknowable.

I just wanted to review the process, and see if I can’t stumble on a greater significance for this thing. I’ve been calling it the mycelium of life, as I derived it from the tree of life. But as the mycelium isn’t hierarchical, I named it after the mysterious mushroom.

So above we have the Qabalah tree of life. There are 10 circles and 22 paths between them. The circles, called sephiroth, represent different “enumerations” of divine creation. The tree is also arranged in three columns – the left is the divine feminine, the right the divine masculine, and the centre is balance. In the Hebrew origins, each path was associated with one of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. It’s worth noting that each letter has a number associated with it (see gematria – the assigning of meanings to words through numbers).

One can spend a lifetime (and some do) studying and learning all there is to learn about the Kabbalah (or Qabalah). When I looked at this, I focused on two aspects – the four worlds of the tree of life, and the central sephiroth – Tiphareth, Beauty, Balance, Compassion. In the traditional symbology, the four worlds are each represented by a tree of life in an overlapping hierarchy. Imagine four trees of life, interlinked one above the other, each part of the hierarchy of the path from the divine to the mundane.

That’s about as much as I care to delve into the Qabalah, because frankly, I only ever scratched the surface, and I found that after a period of time, the complexity reinforced a particular approach, and I preferred to use its basic structure as a starting point. What I wanted to develop was a radial image, instead of a hierarchical one.

All fourth-dimensional functions are radial in nature and imply a principle of centre from which the structure is projected…
V.I. Vernadsky

So to begin, I focused on Tiphereth as the centre of balance, and looked at the part of the tree above it.

Here, the sephiroth Da’ath is usually invisible, or defined by a dotted line. It has its own special significance as the Abyss (in a sense). The next step was to take this part of the Qabalah and rotate it around the central sephiroth, which is similar to the idea of the four worlds, only in a radial sense instead of a hierarchical one.

And the final step is cramming these four together, with the central Tiphereth overlapping, as well as the sephiroth around it.

This is the final result of my toying around with the Qabalah Tree of Life. It has no relationship to its inspiration at this point, but I thought the process was worth sharing.

The Hermetic Tree of Life assigns a card from the major arcana of the Tarot Deck to each of the 22 paths. These are trump cards, numbered 0 to 21, that follow their own progression from the Fool to the World. (mind you different decks use different cards – see Thoth Tarot designed by Aleister Crowley). These have their own esoteric richness which I shan’t belabour here. I’d recommend Alan Moore‘s Promethea graphic novel series for a tutorial on Hermetic Cabalah.

The Mycelium of Life has the central Abysmal sphere, surrounded by an inner circle of 8 spheres and an outer circle of 12 spheres. It has 52 paths altogether.

When I illustrated the 13 months of theAbysmal calendar, a commenter suggested I put the central month in the centre of the circle of 12 months to see the symmetries it created between them. So I did this, drawing lines between the months across from each other laterally, diagonally and vertically. Here’s the result.

The resulting paths describe the Mycelium of Life. As a result, it’s become a symbol of sorts for the entirety of the calendar system.

The 12 outer spheres + the central abysmal one represent the 13 months. The 8 inner spheres can stand for the eight cardinal directions as well as the eight planets, with the sun at the centre.

the 52 paths are equivalent to the 52 weeks of the year.

The numerology of this also ties into Maya numerology – 13 and 20 are key numbers. There are 20 spheres (plus the abysmal centre). The outer spheres + the abysmal are 13. It’s flexible that way. The 8 inner spheres + the abysmal are the 9 lords of night (another cycle to the Mesoamerican calendar), however, it is also a key number in the Long Count. There are 52 named years in the Mesoamerican Calendar system, consistent with the 52 paths.

The 12 outer spheres can also stand for the 12 months of the Gregorian, Coptic, Persian and Islamic Calendars, and has the flexibility to stand for the 12 (or 13 including the abysmal sphere) months of lunisolar calendars.

So that’s where I’ve left it for now. There’s possibility to formalize this symbol, but I haven’t committed to it, as I’m hoping it can remain a flexible enough symbol to work for a variety of systems, and not have to become overly rigid to the exclusion of anything. I’ll likely post more on this as I give it more consideration in future.

Happy days.

P.S. Mycelia look an awful lot like nerve cells, and more importantly, in mycorrhizal fungus, they form a vast natural network between trees, plants, bacteria and other fungi.

289 Days to Dec 21st 2012