…I am part of where I think I am…
…because I surround myself…
…with the environment I want…
…in order to protect the image…
…of myself I have made.
“There are a lot of ugly looking lions in Portmeirion.”
We shrink from wondering whether or not one of them is devouring the Buddha’s missing right forearm.
“And lots of steps.”
“Number Six spends a lot of time in the village running up and down steps.”
Run up one set of steps in Portmeirion and a Mansion becomes a Two-up-Two-down.
Run down another and one is accosted by a plaster-cast-christ declaiming on a balcony from which depends a black sheep.
“Perspective. One is spatial, the other, intellectual.”
Here, the ridiculous jostles with the sublime to unfeasibly pleasing effect.
“It’s nothing more than a clutter and jumble of odds and sods, lovingly reassembled into, well, something, uncluttered and well ordered.”
“Much like memories, perhaps.”
“Or what memory makes of experience.”
In the corner of that courtyard there, a manicured tree sprouts in-front of a doorway.
Or rather, a doorway, which leads nowhere, has been constructed behind a tree which is then kept manicured.
Its the perfect place in which to reconsider one’s cardinal points and be reminded of one’s priorities.
‘…The Earth will see you on through this time…’
…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?
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…
‘…Hi-ho the Carrion Crow, Fol-de-rol-de riddle…’
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…
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.
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.
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.
Reflecting upon all this it appears…
‘The Ancient of Days’
Is a good poetic name for infinity.
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.
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…
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’.
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’.
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…
“Sure, ’tis a terrible thing to choose one or t’other.”
The Aurally Man
Alchemy as process has a number of stages.
And nobody seems able to agree on how many!
This might not though be a disagreement of number but of measure.
An hour possesses sixty minutes and three-thousand-six-hundred seconds, after all.
If we make our focus three, we get…
A point worth considering: all the triangles are of equal size.
Individually this seems obvious but, perhaps, not quite so, relatively.
A shortcoming alluded to in the phrase, ‘vagaries of the human eye’.
Which is another point worth considering.
The human eye follows lines like a moth to flame.
This is one of the reasons why the ‘Blessed Head of Joshua’ is eyeless.
…The Tetrahedron is the magical symbol for elemental fire.
Fire has always carried with it a mystery.
From earliest times it was thought the proper preserve of the Divine.
For man to have gained this dangerous boon took especial cunning, courage and skill.
The fire-bringer in the old stories was a demi-god, a hero, a trickster…
In Vedic Mythology, which arose from the Indus Valley Civilisation, the fire sacrifice is regarded as a mental operation, an operation of the mind or of consciousness.
It has the aim of transcending the three worlds beneath the sun which are subject to the endless round of birth and death… and of reaching the realm beyond the sun where dwell the immortals.
Its practitioners are Agni (‘fire’) Vayu (‘spirit’) and Aditya (‘sun’).
Contemporary descriptions of Agni vary; some give him seven hands and tongues but only two heads, others depict him with three heads and as many golden bodies.
Whatever Agni actually looks like, if he can actually be seen, you would not perhaps expect to meet his like in the classical world.
And yet there is one figure whose ‘story’ bears comparison with that of Agni.
Seven Flaming Tongues
Over time Hermes became patron of the western mystery tradition and so we may surmise that for the Vedic culture too Agni was a patron of an esoteric science.
The word is cognate in our culture with ignite, ignition and igneous though not with iguana.
What kind of Fire traverses Three-Worlds and leads to a realm beyond the Sun?
…”My musk-sac… my power,” cried Skunk as he drifted along the river on his raft of logs.
Someone hailed him from the river-bank, “Yes, your musk-sac came floating past here,” they said, “we tried to retrieve it, but it was floating down the middle of the river.”
“My thanks, nonetheless,” shouted Skunk, “I will return and show you my good will.”
Skunk continued to wail about his lost musk-sac and a little further on somebody else hailed him from the river-bank, “As a matter of fact your musk-sac floated ashore here, but we pushed the filthy thing back into the current.”
“My curse upon you,” shouted Skunk, “I will pass back along this way and you will feel my vengeance.”
So it went with Skunk on his journey.
Some there were who, sensing its power, had attempted to retrieve the musk-sac for him whilst others, thinking it repulsive when it drifted to the shore, had thrown it back into the current of the river.
Skunk promised boons in abundance to those who had tried to help and the force of his wrath to those who had not.
By now, Skunk had drifted on his raft of logs to the lower reaches of the river.
Here, he went ashore to continue his search over land. …
to be continued
In truth, it is certain and without doubt that whatever is above tends toward that which is below and whatever is below tends toward that which is above for the accomplishment of the One Perfected Thing.
As all things are discovered by one, alone through contemplation so all things are born from this one, alone by permutation: its Father is the Sun, its Mother is the Moon, the Wind bears it in its Belly, the Earth nurtures it in its Heart; Power of all powers it contains the subtle and penetrates the solid and is the progenitor of all wonder in the world yet its efficacy is only perfected through embodiment.
In order that the little world may be re-created in the image of the great world the Spirit must be separated from the Body gradually by the regulated heat of a gentle flame: it rises to heaven from earth and falls back to earth from heaven and thus it acquires the inferior and superior powers for the glory of the whole world and the dissipation of all darkness…
This is the Way of Perfection…
I alone transmit this threefold wisdom which is why I am called The Thrice Raised Hermes.
– The Emerald Tablet
One is All…
In Alchemy there are no short cuts.
Many are those who have spent a life-time seeking its treasure in vain.
On the other hand, everything it promises to reveal is freely given at the outset.
One need only attend properly to its stories and dictates to succeed in the quest…
THE TREASURE OF ALEXANDER
In my native land where I was an orphan there stood a stone statue upon a golden column on which was written:
‘Behold! I am Hermes, he who is three-fold in Wisdom. I once placed marvelous signs openly before all eyes; but now I have veiled them by my wisdom so that none should attain them unless he be a sage like my good self…’
On the breast of the statue one could read:
‘Let him who would learn and know the secrets of creation and of nature look beneath my foot.’
I reflected on what this might mean and started to dig beneath the plinth…
Before long I came to a dark underground chamber in which winds arose and blew without ceasing.
I could go no further.
Exhausted by my toil and full of chagrin at my failure I sat down to rest and immediately fell asleep.
It was then that an old man appeared, resembling myself in build and appearance.
‘Arise and enter into this chamber so as to obtain a representation of nature!’ He said.
‘I cannot,’ I replied, ‘for I can see nothing in the darkness, and the winds that blow there will put out every torch flame.’
‘Then why don’t you put your light into a glass vessel…’ He said.
I immediately awoke, set a light inside a glass, as instructed, and entered the chamber.
There before me sat an Ancient Man on a Golden Throne, holding in his hand an Emerald Tablet on which was written:
‘This is the secret of the world and nature… the knowledge of creation and the cause of all things’…
Could anything be clearer or simultaneously more obscure?
How many Fairy Tales commence with a ‘Native Orphan’ who ends by first recognising and finally realising their ‘High Estate’?
And what should be made of our immobile Stone Figure which stands upon Gold?
He is a God, no less, yet he points not at heaven above but below to the earth.
Or of the Old One who appears in dream as our ‘bodily’ twin?
Nature’s representative advises we still the flickering, buffeted flame of our minds eye in order to see…
Deep in the Dark of our Earth the enthroned kin who holds…
A Jewel in the Crown…