Day of the Cockerel

15 December 2014

Bringing New Years’ Traditions back to the Fore

As Mircea Eliade described in the Myth of the Eternal Return:

It is also because the New Year repeats the cosmogonic act that the twelve days between Christmas and Epiphany are still regarded today as a prefiguration of the twelve months of the year. … [T]he twelve intermediate days prefigure the twelve months of the year…

theAbysmal has a similar structure using 13 as its base.

Today, Month 12, Day 22 (dec 15) prefigures Month 0.

How is your day going? How would you like your new year to unfold? Do you have big plans? How would you lay them out from one month to another? This is the time to figure these things out, or at the very least get the process started.

theAbysmal’s story from chaos to cosmos involves the Cockerel, the tree of life, a black egg, and a host of animals.


the Myth of the Year – return to the Abyss

1 May 2012

the Cycle is done, back for another run.

see previous posts

 

the Myth of the Year and the Calendar

This is my attempt at developing a story to attach to the months of the year (or measures of 13 days, weeks, etc. if you like).

Part of my background is in English literature. I’ve read a lot of stories, and so a lot of this is bricolage of certain cultural traditions (four directions for example). I don’t have a particularly deep knowledge of the stories of other cultures. I have a sense of narrative, and prefer to draw on archetypes for the months.

As this is a work in progress, we’ll see how it evolves. If’n you’ve gone ahead and done the same, and made your own thingy, by all means share it with the rest of us.

234 Days to Dec 21st 2012


the Myth of the Year ~ Flood

30 April 2012

Month 12 – It’s the end. Hope you brought your water wings.

see previous posts

Inspiration

My inspiration comes from a number of deluge myths, including Noah’s Ark (told brilliantly in Not Wanted on the Voyage by Timothy Findley), the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood (although the flood was more a pandemic), and the various North American native creation stories that all seem to start with the water.

Also, the melting ice at the end of the last glaciation (about 13,000 years ago) caused the waters to rise, and North America to be covered in lakes and rivers. The current climate change points to melting polar ice and the rising of the oceans, which may not be trouble for anyone in Urumqi (furthest city from the sea), but Amsterdam and Venice are in trouble, not to mention many Pacific Isles.

the Deluge

the Fifth Sun

Mesoamerican Suns: the previous ends were caused by: jaguars devouring everyone; people transformed into monkeys and blown off the earth by a hurricane; a rain of fire; rain of blood that flooded the earth. Although this world is slated to be destroyed by Earthquakes (get ready Vancouver), the Flood signifies the cataclysmic ending, regardless of the elemental means (flood of fire, of earth, of wind, for example).

the Flood and the Calendar

After our errant (or erroneous) knight is defeated by the mercenary, he is further humiliated by being hung on the blade of the windmill. His added weight puts undue stress on the water pump, which breaks, leaving the errant perched high above. It also causes water to gush out of the mill, pouring out of doors, windows, any crack or crevice.

As you can imagine, the water rises slowly but surely, as the last of humanity run around like the proverbial chickens with their heads cut off, realizing far too late that the errant knight had been right all along, and that the mill would be the cause of the end for them.

And so the water rises, lastly up to the errant, who sighs, and accepts his fate.

The setting sun is extinguished in the deluge, and the world freezes with the return of the cold.

235 Days to Dec 21st 2012


the Myth of the Year – the Mill

29 April 2012

Month 11 – the spin is spun, unless it’s the other way around

see previous posts

Inspiration

As noted earlier, each of the months in black in the image above (Months 1, 4, 6, 8, 11) represents a form of technology: plough, forge, well, cauldron and finally the mill. Each is associated with an element and a blade of sorts: the plough is a blade that cuts the earth, the forge transforms earth to blades by fire, the well is the exceptional centre, the cauldron is bubbling water cut with the blade of a stir-stick, and finally the windmill’s blades cut the air.

The mill has two principal functions: to mill grain into flour and pumping water up out of the ground. The energy generated by the wind was also applied to a number of different industrial functions (as with the modern wind turbine that generates electrical energy), however, for our purposes, flour and water make a fine paste.

Tilting at Windmills

The windmill is hard to dissociate from our friend Don Quixote. I’m sorry to say I have yet to read this classic, but intend to get to it. The idea of the delusional knight tilting at windmills is suitable enough for a farce, however, at the same time, the mill is well chosen. It represents a new technology that would replace human effort (and thus jobs) with mechanized work. People must learn to become technicians or face becoming obsolete in the new economy.

In part, his role is a throwback (as to the period of the Forge, when the knight was a vital part of the social order), however, instead of serving as a romantic knight, he is a delusional buffoon. Not because he is any less noble, but simply because his nobility is out of place in a world that does not value it.

the Mill and the Calendar

Our errant knight tilts at windmills, which he sees as the equivalent of the big bad wolf in the Forge episode with the knight. The local townfolks (or his squire, who is unfortunately less delusional), persuades him to give up his assaults. The Millers are upset, and as the rulership is under dispute (with several usurpers, pretenders, bastards, a coup d’etat, a pope, and anti-pope, and many obsequious courtiers waiting for the dust to settle to pledge their allegiance), their petitions for protection go unheeded.

The Millers take matters into their own hands, and hire a mercenary to battle the errant knight when next he tries to tilt at a windmill.

The two cavaliers face off outside a water windmill, and the squire begs to his (or her) last to no avail.

The knights clash, as they must. The mercenary is victorious, but does not slay the errant knight. He simply hangs him by his gitch from one of the mill’s blades to humiliate him. The Millers cheer as they jeer.

But not for long.

236 Days to Dec 21st 2012


the Myth of the Year ~ Spider

28 April 2012

Month 10 – the tricky weaver snares a farcical fly on the wall

see previous posts

Inspiration

the Spider begins the end for the myth and the year, as the dissolution of the social order descends into farce.

Spider Anansi

Anansi, originally a trickster from West Africa was brought through the Caribbean to the Southern US States as ‘Aunt Nancy’. The tales are thought to have originated from the Ashanti in Ghana, and have take root elsewhere, such as in Anansi and the Tar Baby from Jamaica.I was introduced to him through Joseph Campbell.

Although I can’t find the original quote, Campbell tells of Anansi wearing a four-coloured hat: red on the left, yellow in front, blue on the right and white at the back. He wanders along a road and calls hello to two farmers, one on each side. After he walks out of their sight, he turns his hat around, and walks back, so that the same colours are showing to the farmers. The farmers get to discussing this unusual visitor, and one describes his hat as red, the other as blue. The two farmers argue and it escalates into fisticuffs. The two are hauled in before a judge to explain themselves.

Anansi is in the courtroom, and reveals the trick he’s played, explaining simply that he enjoys sowing strife.

Now that’s the spirit for a proper farce.

Weaver

In China Mieville’s outstanding Perdido Street Station, he introduces us to the Weaver. The characters are reluctant to ask for its assistance, as it is multidimensional giant spider that can’t be understood by human logic. It seeks to beautify the world web (which only it can see), and what it decides is beautiful is anybody’s guess. Occasionally, it means dismemberment (it had a fascination with scissors for a while). It represents the incomprehensible nature of the subconscious in many ways.

Old stories would tell how Weavers would kill each other over aesthetic disagreements, such as whether it was prettier to destroy an army of a thousand men or to leave it be, or whether a particular dandelion should or should not be plucked. For a Weaver, to think was to think aesthetically. To act–to Weave–was to bring about more pleasing patterns. They did not eat physical food: they seemed to subsist on the appreciation of beauty.

It recites what sounds like stream-of-consciousness poetry, and as such, it may be this aspect that works most effectively in a farce setting.

the Black Widow

No spider has received more attention than the black widow. Its hour-glass design suggests the end of time (at least for those poisoned to death). Its name suggests a femme fatale, and in our little myth of the year, this may well be a role she once again assumes. The northern black widow is found in Canada (and well south of course), and weaves a web, both qualities important for the Myth of the Year.

Although the black widow’s bite is not necessarily lethal, it certainly is uncomfortable to say the least (especially since they like to hide under outhouse seats). The neurotoxin travels through the lymph into the blood where it makes its way to the nerve endings in the muscle tissues, causing forcible cramps and contractions.

In no small way, this action is similar to the end phase of a civilization, as the forces that refuse to let go (the cramping & seizing) are at odds with the forces that accept the end and look forward to the renaissance (the relaxation).

the Web

The spider is inseperable from its web (sorry wolf spiders, we’re not talking about you). In the case of the farcical decline of a culture, (such as the state of the ‘West’), there is a period of writing everything down. I suspect in no small part this is what the Internet is for (remind me to print hard copies before the end of modern technology). As a spider can sense what occurs within it based on vibrations, so we can sense what occurs in the world through ripples in the Internet (call it viral videos, or repost (riposte?)). Nevetheless, this sense of weaving stories for later is in no small part tied in with the image of the spider web.

At least as far as I’m concerned. But there’s an even larger web to consider.

the Vedic god, Indra‘s net is a metaphor used in Buddhism. It is an infinite net (or web, for our purposes), in which there are gems at every junction of thread. Each gem reflects every other gem.

Imagine a multidimensional spider’s web in the early morning covered with dew drops. And every dew drop contains the reflection of all the other dew drops. And, in each reflected dew drop, the reflections of all the other dew drops in that reflection. And so ad infinitum. That is the Buddhist conception of the universe in an image. —Alan Watts

Far away in the heavenly abode of the great god Indra, there is a wonderful net which has been hung by some cunning artificer in such a manner that it stretches out infinitely in all directions. In accordance with the extravagant tastes of deities, the artificer has hung a single glittering jewel in each “eye” of the net, and since the net itself is infinite in dimension, the jewels are infinite in number. There hang the jewels, glittering like stars in the first magnitude, a wonderful sight to behold. If we now arbitrarily select one of these jewels for inspection and look closely at it, we will discover that in its polished surface there are reflected all the other jewels in the net, infinite in number. Not only that, but each of the jewels reflected in this one jewel is also reflecting all the other jewels, so that there is an infinite reflecting process occurring. –Francis Harold Cook

Buddhism uses a similar image to describe the interconnectedness of all phenomena. It is called Indra’s Net. When Indra fashioned the world, he made it as a web, and at every knot in the web is tied a pearl. Everything that exists, or has ever existed, every idea that can be thought about, every datum that is true—every dharma, in the language of Indian philosophy—is a pearl in Indra’s net. Not only is every pearl tied to every other pearl by virtue of the web on which they hang, but on the surface of every pearl is reflected every other jewel on the net. Everything that exists in Indra’s web implies all else that exists. –Timothy Brook

the Spider and the Calendar

As with any good farce, the social order descends into the ridiculous. The spider, as the irrational weaver sets the tone, and the droplets caught in the web reflect the players back upon themselves and one another. The end is nigh, so there’s a good dose of chicken little, Noah’s arc, conspiracy theory & dismissal, pleas for sanity, and cries of dispair.

The spider has chosen a cosy corner of the abode of the rulers, who have degenerated into orgies of self-indulgence at the expense of everything, including themselves. There is a distinct undercurrent of self-devouring. The spider bites the ruler, the poison renders him delirious, and he dies, leaving his wive a widow. The scrambling for the vacant seat of power (throne, or what have you) ensures. The spider feasts on the flies that accumulate over the dead body of the ruler, which everyone seems to have neglected.

All in all, it’s like a Thomas Pynchon scene played out by the Marx Brothers.

237 Days to Dec 21st 2012


the Myth of the Year – Cat

27 April 2012

month 9 – the indifference of the miaowser


see previous posts

Inspiration

The Cat is opposite the Hound, and I couldn’t help but put the one across from the other. As the Hound stands for the pack, as a coming together  in communal effort, the Cat signifies an emphasis on individual accomplishment and reliance. The Cat also follows the cauldron, which also keeps with its role as a witch’s familiar.

In theAbysmal scenario, the Cat creeps away under cover of darkness, abandoning the innate threat stemming out of the social order coming apart to fend for itself in the fields (or something like that). It’s just as likely to distract itself among the catnip.

Vietnamese Cat

In the Chinese Zodiac, the rabbit is used instead. In the Vietnamese zodiac, we find the cat.

 Lively yet tranquil, peaceful yet realistic, you use your intelligence to create a burrow made just for you, where everything you hate is banished forever: disorder, quarrels, indiscretion, anguish, tumult, and haste. You are a diplomat in society: highly courteous and with an elegance that charms those around you. You know how to listen to others who gladly tell you their secrets. Still, you think that everyone must solve their own problems and don’t get involved in the affairs of others unless you have to. Underneath you soft, silky skin is a calm, highly determined person who can get out of any situation. Effusive sentiments and tumultuous emotions make you feel uncomfortable. You face agitated situations with logic and a certain detachment that can make you seem indifferent or cynical. In fact, your aspiration for peace is above all others. You look for the tranquillity of a place that will least upset your inner world: after long reflection, you can build the universe that fits you best. An aesthete and erudite, you love to plunge into books and long evenings near the fire in company of those close to you. Your fault: A tendency to go back into to your burrow the moment a cloud appears and to run away like a Cat when conflicts arise.

Japanese Beckoning Cat

Cats play an interesting role in Japanese iconography. The Beckoning Cat (which goes by many names) is a good luck charm believed to bring good fortune and prosperity to the shops where it is displayed.

Says Katherine M. Ball, author of Animal Motifs in Asian Art (1927): “While the cat,  with many nations, has been associated with women, particularly old women, in Japan, the geisha, ‘singing girl,’ appears to have been selected for this distinction, doubtless due to the witchery she exercises over the opposite sex.”

Although Hello Kitty originated independently of the Beckoning Cat, the two are seen as having some common elements, particularly the relationship between beckoning and “hello,” but these have been attributed after the fact.

Witch’s Familiar

Cats have long been associates of humanity (not as long as dogs, and certainly not in an equivalent role), and as a result, they have long held places in our myths and legends. From their divine role in Egypt to their devilish associations in European Witchcraft, they’ve long been associated with the great beyond. However, it appears that Shakespeare offers a parallel to the Cat’s link to the oldest profession.

The traditional black cat accompanying the witch derives from the tradition that a witch would be given a ‘familiar’, that is an animal helper from the Devil, to help her in her magical workings.  Most of these familiars would have a name (just like ordinary pets) but the very natural fact of giving a loved pet a name and occasionally talking to such a pet was already an implication that one is involved in ‘witchcraft’.  Most might recall that one of the witches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth calls her cat Grimalkin, (Gri meaning ‘grey’; and malkin meaning ‘cat’ but also meaning promiscuous or eccentric woman)

the Cat and the Calendar

The second half of the Calendar is not as clear in terms of story as the first half. Here we are at the end of the melodrama. The investigator is betrayed by the people he is trying to help, punished for raising the spirits of the dead, and cast out. A cat accompanies the investigator into exhile.

They head out beyond the city walls, out into the wilderness, and out yet further into the wastelands. The cat is unbothered by all of this, despite the lack of mice, birds or catnip. The exhile sinks into dispair, finally cursing their fortune, and waiting to die.

The cat, however, waits patiently. A crow descends on the moribund investigator. The cat, stealthy even in the wasteland pounces, kills the crow, and leaves it for the dying investigator. Satisfied, the cat moves on.

(If there’s a story in this, I’ve yet to figure it out).

238 Days to Dec 21st 2012


the Myth of the Year – the Cauldron

26 April 2012

Month 8 – double, double, toil and trouble

see previous posts

Inspiration

The idea for the cauldron came from the element of water (bubbling away), and the blade, which cut the earth as a plough, cut fire in the forge and here cuts through the water as a stirring paddle, spatula, or somesuch. I was struck by the two objects in the I ching, the Well, and the Cauldron, both of which are central to the social order. The well for the wider society, in the form of the water of life, and the cauldron for the hearth, the centre of the household.

In any case, the image I’ve had of the cauldron is of three women, witches, fates, kindly ones, stirring the pot, which of course brings me back to my first encounter with these, the three witches in Macbeth.

I Ching Hexagram 50 – the Caldron

Here is an interpretation of the Cauldron hexagram (spelled Caldron in the book I used. In Chinese it is called a ting). It represents the culmination of religion, although in theAbysmal its role is different. It is a central figure, and the notion of sacrifice is absolutely part of it, however, the sacrifice is not necessarily in the name of religion. Ultimately, it is for the social order, which at this stage is starting to come apart.

Hexagram 50

While THE WELL relates to the social foundation of our life, and this foundation is likened to the water that serves to nourish growing wood, the present hexagram refers to the cultural superstructure of society. Here it is the wood that serves as nourishment for the flame, the spirit. All that is visible must grow beyond itself, extend into the realm of the invisible. Thereby it receives its true consecration and clarity and takes firm root in the cosmic order.

Here we see civilization as it reaches its culmination in religion. the ting serves in offering sacrifice to God. The highest earthly values must be sacrificed to the divine. But the truly divine does not manifest itself apart from man. The supreme revelation of God appears in prophets and holy men. To venerate them is true veneration of God. The will of God, as revealed through them, should be accepted in humility; this brings inner enlightenment and true understanding of the world, and this leads to great good fortune and success.

Shakespeare’s Weird Systers

The three witches work around the cauldron, summon Hecate (as in the invocation below), and prophecise. In theAbysmal narrative, the cauldron is multi-faceted, as it is used to cook food, medicine and poison. It is a font, a mirror, and a scrying pool.

Macbeth Act IV Scene i

A cavern. In the middle, a boiling cauldron.

Thunder. Enter the three Witches

First Witch

Thrice the brinded cat hath mew’d.

Second Witch

Thrice and once the hedge-pig whined.

Third Witch

Harpier cries ‘Tis time, ’tis time.

First Witch

Round about the cauldron go;
In the poison’d entrails throw.
Toad, that under cold stone
Days and nights has thirty-one
Swelter’d venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i’ the charmed pot.

ALL

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.

Second Witch

Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg and owlet’s wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

ALL

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

Third Witch

Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,
Witches’ mummy, maw and gulf
Of the ravin’d salt-sea shark,
Root of hemlock digg’d i’ the dark,
Liver of blaspheming Jew,
Gall of goat, and slips of yew
Silver’d in the moon’s eclipse,
Nose of Turk and Tartar’s lips,
Finger of birth-strangled babe
Ditch-deliver’d by a drab,
Make the gruel thick and slab:
Add thereto a tiger’s chaudron,
For the ingredients of our cauldron.

ALL

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

Second Witch

Cool it with a baboon’s blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.

the Cauldron and the Calendar

the investigator brings the spur-blade to the three cauldron keepers, in exchange for a raising of the dead. They raise the spirit of the dead knight, that he might be interviewed. He gives his account of the incident with the lady and the rascal (which is at odds with other accounts). The knight’s spirit wishes to be left to its suffering in the underworld, and it is put to rest.

The investigator has violated a fundamental taboo, and as such, has drawn the attention of supernatural forces that are less than kind.

239 Days to Dec 21st 2012