Category Archives: Symbolism

The Marsh King’s Daughter II…

 

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‘…The Earth will see you on through this time…’

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…There always is.

The Marsh King sinks back beneath the waters with the unnamed Egyptian Princess in his thrall.

Some time later a green shoot with a water-lily bud appears above the slime.

The bud unfurls to reveal a small girl-child.

The child is spotted by a watching Stork and is taken to a barren Viking couple who, quite naturally, are enthralled with the gift and immediately besotted with the child.

Children normally display both the physical and temperamental characteristics of their ancestors, predominantly their parents, and usually in more or less equal measure.

Here, these tendencies are pronounced.

Helga, for this is the name the Viking couple choose for her, is a beautiful girl-child during the day, albeit displaying a strong blood-thirsty streak, whilst as the sun sets she turns into a compassionate, toad-like monster!

Is the name significant?

How important is it that Helga is the only named character in the story?

Could any device be better chosen to make us consider the diurnal polarity of Day and Night and their profound affects upon our consciousness and its natural tendencies?

Cold mountain…

Warm earth…

If we are in any doubt as to what we are to make of these devices we are introduced to the somnambulistic nature of both Denmark and the nether regions of Marsh-Land later in the tale.

To make matters worse, Helga’s apparent beauty beguiles all those who gaze upon her and blinds them to the reality of her brutish day-time nature.

It is only her adoptive Viking mother who witnesses and begins to see and realise the true nature of the problem presented to both her, and by extension us, in the form and expressions displayed via the mysterious Marsh King’s Daughter.

There is more…

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The Marsh King’s Daughter…

 

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‘…Hi-ho the Carrion Crow, Fol-de-rol-de riddle…’

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Although the second longest of Anderson’s Fairy Tales, The Marsh King’s Daughter is relatively little known and perhaps, even, considered to be one of his ‘lesser’ tales.

It is a huge, sprawling epic of a yarn, which like most of his stories draws liberally from the ancient sagas, legends and folk tales which Hans imbibed in his youth.

Unlike some story tellers, although Anderson approaches the traditional devices with free reign, he never loses sight of their psychological and spiritual import and consequently, whilst sometimes apparently piling device upon device in wild profusion, there is always a satisfying, not to say, profound pay off to his seemingly more fantastical meanderings.

In these posts then, rather than retell the story, we intend to focus on aspects of the tale in order to investigate and elucidate the psychological and spiritual components of the story as a whole.

The Marsh King himself, though central to the plot, plays a comparatively minor role in the story, appearing just once, initially disguised as a tree stump.

It is a cunning disguise which gives the foul fellow the opportunity to drag an unsuspecting princess to her apparent doom beneath the marshes.

But wait, how did such a delicate, pretty one find herself on the edge of a marsh in Denmark?

She was sent from Egypt by her dying father to look for the antidote to his wasting disease.

And how did she get there?

She donned a feathered cloak and flew there as a swan.

Then, why didn’t she simply re-don the cloak and fly away when the Swamp Man revealed himself to her?

Because her jealous sisters, who had flown with her, stole her cloak and destroyed it…

Spatially, the construct is no less dazzling.

Here, as in most traditional stories the horizontal polarity of Egypt and Denmark constitutes a world and its other-realm.

The Outer, wasteland, can only be re-invigorated from the Inner depths which appear to be somewhat murky.

The healing herb reputedly grows in a bog, the domain of the Marsh King.

Already, the mix of natural metaphor and deep psychological insight  begins to weave its ancient magic.

But there is more…

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Infinite Regress…

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THE INFINITE HIGHWAY

If one always returns to where one came from,

then one’s destination is halfway between where

one came from and where one is going to.

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HALFWAY TO INFINITY

Every step along the infinite highway is simultaneously

an equal distance between an infinite future

and an infinite past, that is, it is halfway to and from infinity.

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EQUAL PARTS OF INFINITY

To find the halfway point of any distance,

one first splits the distance into equal parts then,

when the number of equal parts remaining is equal

to those that have passed one has one’s halfway point.

The equal parts of infinity, however, are all infinite.

Infinity is the only thing that can be split into… infinities.

This is known as counting the for evers of forever.

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FOREVER YOURS

Reflecting upon all this it appears…

‘The Ancient of Days’

Is a good poetic name for infinity.

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THE INFINITE HOTEL

A Traveller approaches the Infinite Hotel and asks The Ancient of Days for a room.

Now, there are an infinite number of rooms in the Infinite Hotel, however, the Traveller is informed by the Ancient of Days that all the rooms in the Infinite Hotel are taken.

Q: How does the Traveller get a room in the Infinite Hotel ?

A: The Ancient of Days asks the occupants of Room 1 to move into Room 2 and the occupants of Room 2 to move into Room 3…and so on… and on… Infinitely, thus making room for the Traveller.

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INFINITE EXPANSE

At any one time in the Infinite Hotel then, there will be any number of people on the corridors moving from one room to the next, and this number will be dependent on how many Travellers are seeking a room in the Infinite Hotel…

Consider this…

All the rooms in the Infinite Hotel have a name…

All the rooms in the Infinite Hotel have the same name…

The name of all the rooms in the Infinite Hotel is ‘After-Life’.

Consider this…

All the corridors in the Infinite Hotel have a name…

All the corridors in the Infinite Hotel have the same name…

The name of all the corridors in the Infinite Hotel is ‘Life’.

By extension…

The occupants of each room in the Infinite Hotel have names…

The occupants in the room before yours are called ‘Parents’

The occupants in the room after yours are called ‘Children.’

The act of moving from room to corridor is called ‘Birth’.

The act of moving from corridor to room is called ‘Death’.

‘Life Duration’ in the Infinite Hotel can be defined as,

the amount of time spent in the corridor

 before moving into the next room…

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IN FIN…

Once one

Never none

Forever one.

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Ars Geometrica: Seal…

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‘For God created man immortal, and made him in the image of his own eternity.’
– The ‘Twentieth’ Leaf

The preceding image we had to own did not seem to us particularly god-like.

We turned the leaf:

7The Twenty-First Leaf

…Although that description most definitely did.

Finally we came to the last leaf of the little gold-plated book.
It did not come before time.
Already a golden dawn was beginning to blaze through the blinds of our study window.

The Twenty-Second Leaf looked like this:

8We walked to our bedroom in a daze, collapsed on the bed, and fell into a fitful sleep.
We dreamed of two rooms the exact reverse of each other.
One was in shadow.
The other was lit.
We awoke around Noon.
We walked into the living room to find the window open and the little golden book gone.
We fell to our knees and sobbed.

On the study desk were our rough copies of the material we had found in the book.

How had she done it?
Where had she been?
And why didn’t she use the door?

The door may be watched, came the answer.

We remembered our dream and walked back into the bedroom.
We opened one of the mirrored doors to our wardrobe.
There on the floor lay a leaf from the little golden book.
Was it ‘the missing leaf’?
If it was, it was not what we were expecting.

The Twenty-Third Leaf:

9On the back was a seal:

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Ars Geometrica: A Corn of Wheat…

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‘…then a triangle and finally a circle……’
– The ‘Eighteenth’ Leaf.

…This to our mind pretty much makes the earth feminine and the moon masculine which we expect also makes the sun feminine and the star behind the sun masculine. And that is pretty much how the Egyptian’s had it.
We surmise that at this point there maybe at least one missing leaf to the book delineating in much more detail the geometries of earth and moon.
…But what of the sun?

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We turned the ‘Eighteenth’ Leaf…

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‘…Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die it abides alone…’

The ‘Nineteenth’ Leaf

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Which we must assume is referring to the sun.

We turned the ‘Nineteenth’ Leaf aware somewhere in the recesses of our overstretched brain that the moon and sun cycles are conjoint in their nineteenth year.

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The ‘Twentieth’ Leaf

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‘…But if it dies it brings forth much fruit.’

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…Which leaf, incidentally, concludes the geometric designs contained in the book.
The ‘Twenty-First’ Leaf introduced a picture of sorts which to us again appeared to echo some of the Egyptian ideas:

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Ars Geometrica: Atalanta…

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…The ‘Sixteenth’ and ‘Seventeenth’ Leaves.

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‘…From a man and a woman make a circle…’

‘…And then a square…’

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We thought again of The Officers Of Law who appeared to see the girl as a man?

‘The Spirit as Inner Fire is ‘Agni’ for the Vedic and ‘Hermes’ for the Greek.

The vessel defines the content which is a perception.

Make the vessel transparent in order to ‘see’ clearly.’

Clearly, this sequence of directions related to a famous alchemical engraving. We dashed to our library…

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‘The Flight of Atalanta’ by Michael Maier…

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‘The squaring of the circle represents a marriage of opposites. It can be accomplished in two ways, by area or perimeter. The circle is a symbol of the eternal element in creation, whilst the square represents solid matter and human works… The largest squared circle in the natural world is the earth and moon. Earth’s mean radius is 3960 miles and the Moon’s is 1080 miles which makes 5040 miles. With a radius of 5040 the circumference of any sublunary circle is 316180 miles, which is the same as the perimeter of any square containing the earth.’

Blimey, they’re all ‘nines’ save the last which is a ‘one’.

We smile, and then consider that it seems to us somewhat incredible that the planetary bodies should possess such accurate geometric proportions by accident.

‘This combination of heaven and earth, or spirit and matter, is a founding pattern in sacred temples from time immemorial the world over.’

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Ars Geometrica: Rose of Sharon…

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The ‘Fifteenth’ Leaf.

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Operation Three:
‘I am the rose of Sharon as the Lily among thorns
so is my love among the daughters.’
– Song of Songs 2:1

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In our mind’s eye we saw her:

She was deep in the earth…
…But far deeper than the deepest imaginable depth.

She moved in a Sanctum of Silence hewn from Living, Breathing Stone.
And she was three:
One was Movement and transcribed the geometric figures in air…
One was Heart and recited the formula with utmost precision of tone…
One was Mind and meditated on all that occurred.

A Fourth there was which oversaw each station and which also took her form.

And what a form it was:
A form transfigured by each Atu…

We were again minded of our studies:

THE GREAT ESCAPE

A man is tasked with liberating prisoners.
He finds them deluded.
Their history is prison history, their lives are prison lives.
They think and act accordingly.
Instead of hoarding bread they mould it into dominoes and play games with it.
The rats in prison are treated as pets instead of being trained to communicate with the outside world.
Alcohol is drunk in order to produce hallucinations rather than drug the guards…
The prisoners confuse common words…
‘Provisions’ to them means prison-food…
‘Journey’ means walking to and from cell blocks…
‘Escape’ means avoiding punishment…
When their would-be liberator says, ‘we need provisions for our escape to the outside world,’ he sounds like a madman.
To the inmates their prison is the world.
The liberator dies without accomplishing his task.
Those who tried to understand his words turn them into a prison cult and find questions for the next liberator who comes to set them free…
Nonetheless, occasionally there are some prisoners who escape.
– A Sufi Parable

Is that what she was?
Was she an ‘Escapee’?
The Rose of Sharon…

What did it mean?

Ars Geometrica: White World…

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We turned the ‘Eleventh’ leaf of the book:

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Operation Two:
’… to him that overcomes will I give a white stone, and
in the stone a new name written…’
– Revelation 2:17

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…The ‘Twelfth’ Leaf.

Albedo: A White World.

Was it a coincidence?
Twelve Tribes of Israel… Twelve Jewels on the High Priest’s Ephod…
Twelve Disciples of the Christ…
…Twelve Gates into the New Jerusalem.
Twelve Months of the Old Year.

It certainly suggested that thus far the leaves were in fact in the correct order.
Scratch that.
All it really suggested was that the Twelfth leaf was in the correct place.

But why this headlong career though the leaves of the book?
And why did we feel the need to so hastily transcribe its contents?
Something told us it was not ours to keep.

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The ‘Thirteenth’ Leaf:

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‘…One becomes Two, Two becomes Three…’

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In terms of number symbolism alone that really was very clever…

We decided to be audacious;
‘Why are you wanted by The Officers Of Law?’
We did no more than frame the question in our mind.

Silence…Nothing… and then:

‘Because the Dead Letter always seeks to contain the Spirit,
Whilst the Living Word seeks only to set it free.’

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The ‘Fourteenth’ Leaf:

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‘…And out of the Third comes One as the Fourth…’

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…As Indeed was that.

And that is without even considering the geometric forms.
The one here certainly resembles a seed…
…A Diamond seed sown at the heart of conjunction.

Our brain was now again beginning to fire yet simultaneously to tire.

It was all we could do to get the thing down as accurately as we could.
We were onto the Third Operation already…

And finally we saw her…

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Ars Geometrica: Ask…

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‘…We shall all be changed for this mortal,
must put on immortality.’
– The ‘Eleventh’ Leaf.

…Our respect for the stranger at our door grew.
This little device appeared to effectively marry the elements and directions in a four-fold equilibrium…
And as any aspiring psychoanalyst or psychologist knows the four-fold equilibrium of the psyche represents optimum health for the individual…
…Butterflies as souls.
We thought again of the girl whose book we now perused but who had appeared much too young to know this…
And then her voice rang out clear in our mind.

‘There is a sense in which one is one self:
There is a sense in which one is also every one else.
Such thinking is alien to the personality:
Cultivate it!’

It could have been an auditory hallucination.
We had been studying now long into the early hours.
It certainly made very little sense in conventional terms.
As if to compound our possible insanity we answered her back:
‘We will follow your instruction if you can answer a question.’

Nothing… Silence…and then…
‘Ask’
‘Why the Blind Seer?’ we said, thinking ourselves very clever.

‘Not difficult,’ was the response, ‘If one already knows what is to happen one hardly need see it transpire.’

It was a good answer.
It was an exceptionally good answer…

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Ars Geometrica: Many Tongues…

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Leaves ‘Seven’ and ‘Eight’:

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‘…What is sown ingloriously is raised in glory…’

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‘…What is sown in corruption is raised incorrupt…’

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But no, as it turned out, many were the tongues and many the hands employed in the endeavour though the Mind alone appeared to be one…

The illustrated operations were clearly linked to that first image and to the directions and descriptions of the ‘second’ leaf.

For ‘glory’ read gold, the incorruptible metal…

The symbols were those familiar to any magician as the elements, Water, Air, Fire and Earth.

What deeper meanings did they contain?

What lay behind the reflected image?

We turned the ‘Eighth’ Leaf…
…And found the earlier reflection split.

Leaves ‘Nine’ and ‘Ten’

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‘…The first Adam was made a living soul, the last shall be a quickening spirit…’

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‘…What is sown a natural body will be raised a spiritual body…’

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Is the First and Last Adam even a concept in, ‘The Book’?

Nature and spirit, sowing and being raised…
Souls alive and Spirits quickened?

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