Equidistance And Down The Dark Side

With the Winter Solstice looming, I raced through work on the 21st so I could make the sunset on top of the mountain. I hiked quickly and observed many others hiking up as well. Lo and behold, when I got to the top, there was a veritable party going on, people milling about, laughing and drinking cups of steaming beverages. This I had not expected. I moved away from the crowd a bit, looking towards the swollen orange orb of the sun bracketed by clouds. I turned to look back towards the east, towards the Cascades…and was hit directly in the face with the huge, bright disc of the full moon as it sat above the horizon at more or less the same distance as the sun sat on the other side. They faced each other in all of their radiant glory and I spun around between them, arms outstretched, weeping at the beauty and brightness. I made my offerings to each and drank a stout cup of chai as the sun began to sink and sputter out behind the hills. Soon everyone moved to hike down the hill and I joined them.

Halfway down in the growing darkness, I knew I would be peeling off of the group. Partly inspired by my friend and her Year Walk plans, I decided to descend the dark side of the mountain alone. I made the turn, armed only with my trusty hardwood staff and a small flashlight. The moon disappeared behind a crepe-y wisp of cloud. As I entered the tunnel of trees, my grip tightened on my flashlight—but I did not turn it on. I moved alone on the path, the dim outlines of trunks on either side, the silence of the forest only broken by the dripdrip of moisture off the trees and once, the whipwhip sound of some kind of night bird. My feet sounded overly loud as they crunched along on the rocky soil. At one point, a gust of mushroomy smell billowed up from somewhere. I felt alert—but not afraid, and when I eventually saw the end of the forested path, where it came out onto the grassy fields, I felt a small stab of disappointment to be leaving the dark wood.

As I made my way across the fields the moon came out from behind her veil and provided a glow that saw me to my car. Every cell in my body sung with the dance of the spheres in the sky.

Advertisements

Hotel California…and Fairy

Lady-tousled-hair-GraphicsFairy-895x1024 (2)

Several years ago I walked into a bar in Central America and heard the Eagles’ Hotel California playing on the sound system. I turned to my friends and said “Good gods! You can probably hear Hotel California in any bar on the planet!” Indeed, some years before that I was in Europe and heard it in a hostel in Scotland. An iconic song. Which I have always been drawn to, despite not really listening much to what is termed “classic rock”. But still, something about the song always spoke to me.  There is an otherworldly quality…

And of course, that’s it. “Hotel California“, written by Don Henley, Don Felder and Glenn Frey, can be understood as a classic story about a person getting lost in Fairy.

Over the years the song has been picked apart and the theories about what it means have ranged from an allegory about drug addiction, to relationship pitfalls to mental illness to Satan, Hollyweird and the Manson killings. The artists themselves say it’s about trying to get along in California in the 70s, and “excess in America” and the “dark underbelly of the American dream”, all of which could, theoretically, encompass things like drugs, sex, insanity and murder. And cults. But I think it’s more interesting to compare the song to the body of stories that exist in relation to Fairy, and the pitfalls of entering that perilous land.

We know that there are several ways a mortal can enter Fairy.  They can stumble in, say through an enchanted mushroom fairy ring. They can catch the eye of the Good People and be drawn in as Tam Lin was, when he fell from his horse and into the arms of the Fairy Queen or when the Queen of Elfland beckoned Thomas the Rhymer to come to her.  They can be stolen as a child and a changeling put in their place. They could be stolen to do manual labor or to be midwives. They could be caught up in the Wild Hunt. Or they could go looking for Fairyland…

And once someone has entered Fairy, there is usually time distortion—a day passes in Fairy but years have passed in the mortal world. It has long been believed that if a person consumes food or drink offered in Fairy, they will be permanently stuck there. This can happen if they join a Fairy ball, as well—they will dance forever. Things in Fairy are often not as they seem. The shining piles of jewels offered usually turn to dead leaves or dust back in the mortal world. The spectacular halls and dwelling places often are, once the glamour has been removed, simple tunnels in the ground. Those who manage to make it out of Fairy will be forever haunted by what they saw, and may forever hear snippets of song or music from Fairy.

So how does this relate to Hotel California? The first stanza goes:

“On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair
Warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air
Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light
My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim”

First off, “colitas” has been defined as a colloquial term for “little marijuana buds”, so right off the bat we have entheogens in play, another way a person can see fairies, no? Then we have a “shimmering light”, and flickering lights will often show up in fairy folklore, one of the more famous forms being the Will O Wisp  which will draw travelers off the safe paths, getting them lost at best, and dead, at worst.

The next stanzas are:

“I had to stop for the night
There she stood in the doorway;
I heard the mission bell
And I was thinking to myself,
‘This could be Heaven or this could be Hell’
Then she lit up a candle and she showed me the way
There were voices down the corridor,
I thought I heard them say…”

“She” can be read as the Queen of Fairy, who has drawn this traveler off the road in much the same way as Thomas the Rhymer was drawn to the Queen of Elfland, “a lady bright”. Also, in this segment our traveler hears the “mission bell”, and we often have stories of hearing bells in relation to Fairy. As for Heaven and Hell, Thomas the Rhymer at first calls the Fairy Queen “the Queen of Heaven”. Then later on, the Fairy Queen brings him back to the mortal world because she was afraid he may be offered as a sacrifice to Hell, harking to the concept that fairies pay a “tithe” to Hell.

Moving on a little we have these lines:

“Her mind is Tiffany-twisted, she got the Mercedes bends
She got a lot of pretty, pretty boys, that she calls friends
How they dance in the courtyard, sweet summer sweat.
Some dance to remember, some dance to forget”

“Tiffany-twisted”  relates to the luxury jeweler Tiffany, and that, plus the Mercedes reference, can be seen as a nod to the “glamour” that surrounds fairies and Fairy itself. Then there are the “pretty, pretty boys” who could be other mortals lost in Fairy, collected by the Fairy Queen, or could be other fairies. Fairies, on the whole, tend to present themselves to mortals in beautiful, human-like forms. These “pretty, pretty boys” are dancing in the courtyard, and dancing, as I have mentioned above, is a common theme in fairy lore.

The next lines say:

“So I called up the Captain,
‘Please bring me my wine’
He said, ‘We haven’t had that spirit here since nineteen sixty nine’
And still those voices are calling from far away,
Wake you up in the middle of the night
Just to hear them say…”

Here our traveler commits a major faux pas in Fairyland, partaking of the drink. Then there are the voices, calling, waking one up, beckoning…

Moving on, we’ve got:

“Mirrors on the ceiling,
The pink champagne on ice
And she said ‘We are all just prisoners here, of our own device’
And in the master’s chambers,
They gathered for the feast
They stab it with their steely knives,
But they just can’t kill the beast”

Here we have mirrors, classic magical portals and implements of confusion, a feast, yet another pitfall of Fairy, and reference to “prisoners”, which is what many mortals who enter Fairy become. The lines “They stab it with their steely knives,
But they just can’t kill the beast” is often read as a nod to Hollywood Satanism, as in Anton LeVey, however, for this discussion, it could be seen as a reference to the afore-mentioned tithe to Hell that some fairy stories talk about. I, however, prefer to see it in light of the elemental nature of fairies, wonderfully described in Susanna Clarke’s 2004 novel “Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell”, when the odd, but genteel fairy lord of Lost Hope “began to lose his resemblance to humankind: his eyes grew further apart, there was fur upon his face and his lips rolled back from his teeth in a snarl”. Often, creatures of the Otherworld cannot ultimately be completely destroyed, only bound or dismembered and cast down into abysses where they remain, ready to rise again at some point.

Finally, we have:

“Last thing I remember, I was
Running for the door
I had to find the passage back
To the place I was before
‘Relax,’ said the night man,
We are programmed to receive.
You can checkout any time you like,
But you can never leave!”

Our traveler is trapped in Fairy, is trying to find the passage back to the mortal world and is prevented from doing so by a guardian. All fairy tale themes. Delightfully, the guardian here is the hotel night man who is “programmed to receive”. This makes me think of another modern fairy-like story, the original movie “Westworld“, where the android denizens are preventing the mortal parkgoers from leaving and are, in some cases, killing them. (I can’t speak to the 2016 Westworld series—I only watched a few and never went back to it). The original movie came out in 1973—Hotel California was written in 1977, so Westworld may well have been an inspiration on this last stanza. Regardless, “you can never leave” is an obvious Fairy parallel.

So, do I think Henley, Felder and Frey sat down and wrote Hotel California about Fairy? Well, no, they themselves say they wrote it about California culture and it’s pitfalls. But there are common themes at play here for sure, and Jungians would likely say there are certain archetypes repeating in this case. I will just say I think it’s something I term an “everlasting thread”, wherein a line of experience or worldview keeps running through everything. There is enough “thread” in Hotel California to make the case that it lives one life about the seamy side of American culture—and another as an old, old story of imprisonment in Fairy.

 

This essay copyright 2018 Chronicles of a Liminaut

 

Scrying the Spiderweb

web

I have been marginally aware of Spider’s place in myth and religion. The most obvious places Spider shows up are as Arachne in Greek Myth, Spider Woman in Navajo tradition, and Anansi the Spider in African Ashanti stories. Spider is sprinkled here and there throughout other traditions as well—the Christmas Spider of Ukrainian folklore, for example. And then there is Little Miss Muffet and the spider.  I’m mostly kind to spiders—they are allowed to live in my house if they are orb weavers or jumping spiders. Some, even if they are harmless, have to go outside, though (Giant House Spider, I am looking at you!). But I never really considered Spider as a means to connect with the Otherworld.

Until today. An early morning hike revealed a lot of what I call “tent spider webs” shining in the bushes. These are webs that do not look like the pretty, symmetrical classic spider webs of the orb weaver. These “tent” webs are somewhat chaotic, and often three dimensional, making a tent shape or sometimes even a globe shape. I don’t know what kind of spider makes them. Something for me to research. However, today, the sun was glinting just right as it rose over the backside of the mountain, and the many short little strings that make up the tent webs were glittering and pulsing in the slight breeze and it was almost like a spider disco, what with all the shining and the many colors moving along each little strand….

And I felt myself falling into trance. That thing happened where things narrow and they open up at the same time. I was locked on that web and while my vision narrowed to only the shards of color moving along the strands, the “space” around my head yawned wide.

And then, the vigilant part of my subconscious, whose ears are always pricked, let me know that my mad space, staring into a spiderweb, was about to be breeched. And indeed, a stern looking woman in an excruciatingly pink workout top came down the trail with her two golden retrievers. I jolted back to the here and now. And realized that a highly traveled trail was not going to be a good place for web scrying. But holy arachnids. I touched on something today that I know I will revisit in the future. Sometimes the thing you are least focused on as a tool is the very thing that is perfect for the job.

Forest Path Gift

Sometimes a gift from the Otherworld just appears right at your feet. I’ve been looking for naturally occurring runes on the forest path, but I received an even greater gift recently, and one likely from the One who drew the runes into the world. A gift made out of tree bark, no less. This wonderful, one-eyed “mask” was just sitting there in the middle of the path, waiting for me as I rambled up the mountain.

mask 1

Fits perfectly. I’ll add some ribbon on the sides and wear it soon.

A Psychogeographical Take on Landscape Through Billboards

I came across Jennifer Bolande’s DesertX project recently, where she took the typical eyesore of the highway, the billboard, and used it to replace the part of the landscape that is blocked by said billboards.

Desert-X-Billboards-Landscapes-They-Block-4-1-759x500

Jennifer Bolande

This project has really gotten me to think about things like what we perceive as real/unreal, what we take for granted in the vistas we see everyday, how much so many of our byways are cluttered with the advertising that we are subjected to in every facet of life, and that hazy liminal zone of the “replacement” world. For example, there are some esoteric schools of thought, like the Qabalah, that state that we are living in a secondary world, the first one having been destroyed or defective. Even the title of Bolande’s project, DesertX, makes me think of Jeff Vandermeer’s “Area X” trilogy (they made a movie of the first one, Annihilation–haven’t seen it yet) where an alternate land exists just over a liminal border where “nature” is aggressively re-claiming reality.

Sadly, the project seems to have only been temporary and the art has been taken down and the billboards presumably returned to their former usages. But, what a great art project!

Letting In The Vampires

wood iron door

A recent conversation about Amazon’s new key function, whereby delivery services can be let into your house to leave a package when you are not there, prompted me to make a folklore analogy—in many ways, this is like inviting the vampire over the threshold. The USA Today article I linked to above even phrases it in a similar way:

“The new service could represent a shift in how consumers think of Amazon. Not just as the source of packages left on their porch, but as an entity they’re comfortable letting into their homes.”

an entity they’re comfortable letting into their homes

Indeed. It’s amazing how folklore and mythology often harbor truths that are applicable to modern life.

For many people, especially millennials, this service makes sense and will be met with open arms. No stolen or wet packages! The convenience! After all, a lot of families have already invited the entity over the threshold by installing Amazon Echo and Dot in their homes, and are used to calling on the genies Siri and Alexa to answer their questions, guide them somewhere, dim their lights, adjust the thermostat, etc. Those genies know everything about what you want..,

But again, folklore comes in handy because genies can be a fickle lot, no?

Many people have watched with growing unease the march of Amazon (and, in some people’s minds, the other 3 horsemen of the apocalypse, Google, Apple and Facebook) towards utterly ruling over everything in our lives. And how easy it has been, all in the name of “convenience”. People accept the soundbite refrains without a second thought. “I can’t keep in touch with people without Facebook.” “Google’s search engine is the best” “Amazon is the cheapest, the most convenient, and has everything”.

One shouldn’t be surprised when, after inviting the vampire over the doorstep, one is completely drained dry. I’m not talking about the individual delivery people who will put your package safely inside your door. I am talking about the entity that has convinced you this is a normal, safe thing. The entity that has collected reams of information about you, that manipulates your shopping habits, that categorizes you and stores all of that knowledge somewhere you don’t even know or have access to, and for use by people you don’t know or generally have access to.

To live in this modern world, one has to make concessions and drive bargains that seem ever more costly. It seems it’s no longer “Will I let the vampire in or not”, but “which vampires will I let in?”.

 

 

 

Forest Runes—Wunjo

I’ve mentioned before that I look for naturally occurring symbols when I practice spiritual wandering. The latest was this path-fallen twig that forms the rune Wunjo:

 

rune

This rune is connected with happiness, joy, fulfillment, satisfaction. I’m not a rune mistress, so I have yet to get into the deeper meanings of the “bones”.  All I can say is, I am definitely happy that my favorite season, Autumn, is just about here, and that the hordes of neon and spandex-clad summer people will soon diminish. And once hunting season has passed, the woods will truly be more sparsely traveled, at least by the human kind.

One time, in very late Winter, I was hiking in a torrential downpour. I saw no one until near the end of my ramble when one lone woman passed me on the trail. She gave a knowing smile, a thumbs up, and said “Now we know who the hardcore people are”.  I am proud to count myself amongst those tenacious pluviophiles who are happiest when they have the rain and the woods mostly to themselves.