sábado, 31 de agosto de 2013


Let's be honest: some aesthetes/epicureans, like Lord Wotton, are just cozy-hearted. But there is another breed (let's call it Wallensteinian, for an obvious reason), that are corrupted by such a carefree lifestyle. Here you can find, pêle-mêle, drug addicts, Wallenstein-like social climbers whose thirst for earthly enjoyment can't be quenched, and many other depraved subspecies.
One such corrupt scoundrel was depicted by General Lew Wallace, the creator of Ben-Hur, in a lesser-known novel of his.
Dear readers, cross your fingers and hold tight, for Miss Dermark is proud as a peacock to introduce... (Drum rolls)... Demedes the Epicurean!

A genius thoroughly wicked—such was Demedes.
"Nature is the lawgiver; the happiness of man (read: of humankind) is the primary object of Nature: hence for youth, Pleasure; for old age, Repentance and Piety, the life hereafter being a respectable conjecture.", he said.
This was the motto in full, known only to the initiated—"Patience, Courage, Judgment in the pursuit of Pleasure".
Neither the money nor the time spent in this part of the preparation was begrudged; on the contrary, Demedes took delight in the occupation; it was exercise for ingenuity, taste, and judgment, always a pleasure to such as possess the qualities. In fact, the whole way through he likened himself to a bird building a nest for its mate.
Here we have a Palace of Pleasure illustrative of Epicureanism according to Demedes. The expense and care required to make it an actuality beget the inference that the float, rough outside, splendid within, was for a whole harem. Whosoever the favorite of the hour might be, the three pavilions were certainly the assigned limits of their beings; while the getting rid of her would be never so easy—the water flowing, no one knew whence or whither, was horribly suggestive. Once installed there, it was supposed that longings for the upper world would go gradually out. The mistress, with nothing to wish for not at hand, was to be a Queen, with Demedes and his chosen of the philosophic circle for her ministers. In other words, the Academic Temple in the upper world was but a place of meeting; this was the Temple in fact. There the gentle priests talked business; here they worshipped; and of their psalter and litany, their faith and ceremonial practices, enough that the new substitute for religion was only a reembodiment of an old philosophy with the narrowest psychical idea for creed; namely, that the principle of Present Life was all there was in man (read: humankind, as before) worth culture and gratification.


Let´s look at this article, that I published two months ago, in particular at the Gatty excerpts included! Shall we?

Forgotten Victorian author Margaret Gatty wrote a series of "Parables from Nature", that is, moral and religious stories based upon natural phenomena.
One of them, "The Deliverer", set before the birth of Christ, tells of humankind's hope for a messianic redeemer. While most people expect a royal palace to be his birthplace and courtiers or royals for parents, "the lovers of pleasure hoped for a Deliverer in scenes of earthly enjoyment":
The conquering spoken of is but the overcoming of all wish for strife; the rule in store, the sovereignty of love, suppressing all desires but that for universal joy.
Ah! surely, when the Deliverer came it would be to make all people happy alike, and pour a healing balsam into every wound! Then would all the old griefs be buried and forgotten, and the soothed minds of the contented trouble themselves no more with struggle.
Oh for the dawning of that morn when the world should resound once more to the songs of rejoicing which gladdened the golden age! Had not the Sybils so spoken, and had not the Poet so sung? Then should everyone sit under his own vine and his fig-tree, and poor and rich alike cease from the land, for all should be equal and all happy.
"But whence should such a Deliverer be looked for—where be expected to arise?—Ah! surely only in some happy spot of Nature, some valley peaceful and beautiful as that of Cashmere, among a race of pastoral simplicity; in some perfect household, where disturbance was never known, and one mind prevailed. Thence alone could come He who would cause the cruel swords of war to be turned into ploughshares, and spears into reapinghooks, and animate and inanimate Nature to join in one general song of joy.
So these looked to the lovely valleys and the quiet nooks of Nature for the magic spot where discord had never entered. But they, too, looked and waited in vain—yet looked and waited on as before, and called upon Nature herself to confirm their hopes."
They looked and waited in vain because the Lord "had chosen base things of the world, and things which are despised, that no flesh should glory in His presence." And the Earth remained in suffering and oppression because "not many wise men after the flesh" are called by the Lord. That's why, according to Mrs. Gatty, Jesus was born in midwinter:
"Thus, thus, thus—while Nature lay torpid and hopeless, and half the world was winter-wrapt in snow. Thus, thus, thus—with healing on His wings, but not the healing they sought for: not a deliverance from death or sorrow, not a freedom from toil or pain, not even a ransom from temptation and sin." And, to add more fuel to the fire, the village inn where he was born and near which his carpenter father came from was located in a warzone (something Gatty never came to mention!).
Mrs. Gatty was a devout Christian, while I am a pacifist, an epicurean (i.e., a "lover of pleasure"), and a freethinker. The idea of "the magic spot where discord had never entered", so dismissed by the author's realism and spirituality simultaneously, is tantalizing to people like me in spite of its lacking foundation; for the problem of pain was and is a riddle without an answer.

Now look that I have color-coded some words: those related to suffering in red (like flesh and blood), and those related to enjoyment in pink (like cotton candy, sunsets, rosy cheeks, and Pinkie Pie). Try to find out what the theses displayed by a) Gatty and b) the "lovers of pleasure" are, respectively.

martes, 20 de agosto de 2013


There was this incantation in a Grimm story that kept me intrigued... the moon and this Zachiel whose name is a hapax in the whole Grimm folktale corpus. It's a liberation spell, used to free victims of magical paralysis (they cannot move a limb or speak, but I assume their vital functions remain unchanged during paralysis):

[···] erlöst [···] mit einem Singsang, ebenfalls schwere Jamben. Die Vokale sind dunkler, die Verse abgebrochen und plump, besonders am Schluss. Manche Herausgeber druckten sie ebenfalls als Vierzeiler:
„Grüß dich, Zachiel,
wenn's Möndel ins Körbel scheint,
bind los Zachiel,
zu guter Stund.“

"If the moon shines on the cageZachiellet him loose at once." (Olcott)
 'Good evening, Zachiel; when the young moon shines in the basket, you are freed early, Zachiel.' (Lang)
 'When the moon shines into the basket, Zachiel, set him free.' (Pullman)
“Greeting to thee, Zachiel! When the moon shines upon the cage, unloose the captive, Zachiel!" (Kliros)

 -¡Hola, Zaquiel! ¡Cuando la luz de la lunita brille en la cestita libéralo, Zaquiel, en buena hora!
—Hola, Zaquiel, cuando la luna se refleje en el cesto, desátalo, Zaquiel, en el momento preciso (This was the version I grow up with)
–¡Hola, Zaquiel! Cuando brille la lunita en la cestita, desata, Zaquiel,
y que te vaya bien.

The interpretation I see of "wenn's Möndel ins Körbel scheint,/when the young moon shines in the basket" is of the moon's reflection in a well bucket (after all, the version I grew up with has 'se refleje' translated for 'schien' --'shines'--). The moon would then vertically be right above the well.
While the Lang version speaks of the young moon and the verse Grimm of the diminutive Möndel (moonikin, little moon), both of which refer to a one-day waxing crescent, while the lunar phase most traditionally laden with supernatural lore is the full moon. But still this Möndel/young moon is not bereft of symbolism either: haircuts, for instance. It's believed that the hair grows more rapidly if cut under a waxing moon, and slower if it grows under a waning moon. Thus, this young moon/Möndel in its very first waxing crescent may be the best of phases to disenchant/free a paralysed person.
Wells lead to the underworld in tales like Dame Holle and The Tinderbox; in both of these, the hero/ine returns to the surface with a boon/treasure after their descent into the underwell (something like the rabbit hole of Alice fame, but as a dry or nearly dry well).
There are archangels named both Zadkiel and Zachariel in the Heavens, and often identified as one and the same (their name meaning "thought GOD"), but why a sorceress of the night should invoke heavenly powers sounds a bit ironic.
According to Friedel Lenz, "wenn's Möndel ins Körbel scheint,/when the young moon shines in the basket" refers to the offering to Persephone in the Eleusinian mysteries; the moon had to shine in the basket of offerings (Persephone was considered, in some traditions, one of the three faces of Artemis, aside from Selene [moon goddess] and Mistress of Beasts [huntress].)
The archangel Zadkiel is associated with Jupiter, ie Zeus, the father of Persephone and Artemis.
Zeus in his youth was a liberator, who freed his siblings by giving Cronus an emetic to drink, and then freed the Cyclops and the Hundred-Handers from their captivity in Tartarus.

The chant, or Singsang, is iambic like Shakespeare's verse, giving the rhythm of a heartbeat. Compare with two Shakespearean examples below and see!

„Grüß dich, Zachiel,
wenn's Möndel ins Körbel scheint,
bind los Zachiel,
zu guter Stund.“

To be or not to be, that is the question...

That Cassio loves her, I do well believe...
This heartbeat effect may be the reason why we prefer iambic to trochaic verses (example, Poe: Once upon a midnight dreary), which strike us as being far more sinister and unfamiliar (again, Poe uses trochaic lines so often because they sound so eerie and uncanny). 

If broken down verse by verse, we can see the following structure:
Verse I: Salutation to Zachiel (=Zadkiel)
Verse II: Conditions necessary for the incantation (when the young moon shines into the basket [reflected in a well bucket?])
Verse III: wished-for effect (releasing the paralysed)
Verse IV: blessing, wish for the spell to be efficient (in the right time, in the precise moment)

According to Magyar aristocrat Árpád von Nahodyl, Zachiel ("think of GOD"archangel corresponding to Zeus-Jupiter) is the name of the ward in the fairytale, this ward being the region where tresspassing causes paralysis in the first place. He reiterates the Zeus-Zadkiel connection and stresses the power thereof, also adding that the name "Zachiel" of the magic ward warns trespassers to think of the heavens, both Abrahamic and pagan, in a masterful tour of syncretism (I am thinking of Lorca: "Acuérdate de la Virgen, porque te vas a morir"), establishing the status of this land as sacred ground.
He furthermore alludes to Friedel Lenz and her mention of the offering in a basket in which the moon has to shine.

Laut der Anthroposophin Friedel Lenz wurde bei den Eleusinischen Mysterien eine Opfergabe in einem Korb dargebracht, wobei der Mond in den Korb scheinen musste. Sie vermutet, dass in Zachiel der Erzengel Zachariel anklingt, also eine eigentlich gute, aber hier verstümmelte Göttlichkeit. Zachariel (Zadkiel) kommt in apokryphen Schriften vor. Gefallene Engel gibt es sowohl im Alten Testament als auch im Gnostizismus.

viernes, 2 de agosto de 2013


So far, Theresa, Francis, eldest son Joseph, and daughter-in-law Isabella have appeared, aside from Antoinette... the first-person narrator!
Read Queen of Hearts here: http://q-of-hearts.com/