Tuesday, 27 November 2007


Above: Wolstonbury Hill seen looking south, the hill I had in mind for The Flight of Taliesin : A Downland Chase, below.

The Flight of Taliesin : A Downland Chase

Following a request to give some info as to what this painting is about: during the story of Taliesin, the Welsh mythical/magical bard, he is chased by the witch/giantess Ceridwen, just after he has received his powers of inspiration from the liquor in the cauldron. He changes into a hare to run away swiftly, but she changes into a grey hound and takes up chase. This is repeated every Winter in the stars as Canis Major the Hound with bright Sirius for eye chases Lepus the Hare, located just below Orion. These are low constellations and so the chase can actually be seen running over the tops of hills of the southern horizon, such as the Downs. I live in Westmeston on Black Dog Hill from which the chase can be viewed over the high ridge of Ditchling Beacon, but in my painting the hill recalls nearby Wolstonbury, chosen because the dome shape echoes the curve traced in the sky by the constellations as they move from East to West. 

I've written a poem about this mythological episode: 

At first I was a normal lad like you
My gift was knowing how to make ale brew
The art of making liquor froth and foam
Then one day I wandered from my home
And met two witches round their cauldron seated
I showed how, without it being heated,
Liquor can be made to boil and rise
Seeing this the two showed great surprise
They turned to me and then began to ask
If I would do for them a certain task
They had to go and gather herbs of power
And to find a soothing yellow flower
While away they could not tend their brew
This simple task I then agreed to do
The purpose of the brew I’ll now explain
One of them, Ceredwen her name,
Had a crow-child, harsh upon on the eyes,
To compensate she thought she’d make him wise
Once imbibed the potion would impart
Great beauty to his words, and great art.
Ceredwen was clear as she could be
The contents of the cauldron weren’t for me
But while they were away the bubbling broth
Spat drops onto my thumb, which I licked off
At once an eloquence instilled my mind
And knowledge of a strong prophetic kind
Such that on returning they could see
What had occurred, and I was forced to flee
I changed into a hare and quickly raced
She, a black grey-hound, angrily chased
I dived, a darting fish, into a lake
And she an otter-bitch’s form did take
Then, a little bird, I rose in flight
She followed as a hawk of piercing sight
I saw a barn and flew in through the door
And there I saw a pile upon the floor
Of winnowed wheat for use in making beer
I quickly hatched a plan to disappear
I shrunk down to a grain of tiny size
And fell into the pile in this disguise
Ceredwen came in, a fire-red hen
She searched and searched until she found the grain
Now there was no place for me to hide
She gulped the grain down into her inside
As this seed I journeyed through the gloom
And found my way into the witch’s womb
Seeding myself there inside the hen
And in this chamber I was formed again
And so, grown from that little seed of corn,
I, of second mother, was reborn
A mother’s kindness cooled the witch’s wrath
Towards the one who’d drunk her magic broth
But still she would not raise me as her own
Into a leather bag I was now sewn
This bag she placed inside a little boat
There upon the river’s flow to float
In that darkness secrets I was shown
A wisdom without words was then made known
And just as I was running out of air
Suddenly, fair Elffin, you were there.



DOWNSPOEM: Lines Composed Upon Recalling that Mammoths Actually Roamed the Slopes of the Downs, as did the Magdalenians (Cave-Painter Types)

This, too, is Arcadia

Where the Woolly Ganesh became the hills

Long-haired trumpeters sat down and said:

“We shall become this place;

It shall become us, dream us,

And we it.”

Mount Caburn, East Sussex, seen from the floodplain south of Lewes. One seems to see the upper profile of a mammoth, the long back, the hump of the head, the trunk extending off to the right.
Magdalenean Cave Painting from Roufignac, around 15,000 BC

A similar profile is presented by Wolstonbury Hill, further west along the Downs, (due North of Brighton) when seen looking west from Ditchling. For a beautiful but rather small photo of
this see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolstonbury_Hill

Mammoth piece in ivory, one of the oldest pieces of art ever found, about 35,000 years old.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007


Above: Sainte-Victoire Mountain : Leonine Guardian of Atlantis

Above: Aithiopika Book Ten : The Divine Interruption

Above: Taurokathapsia

Friday, 9 November 2007


a close up of Camelopardalis from my painting: Aithiopika Book 10 - Divine Interruption

a close up of Theagenes and the Bull of the Sun from my painting: Aithiopika Book 10 - Divine Interruption

Mini Bull-Leaper Painting

My Painting Aithiopika Book 10 - Divine Interruption


Poetic musing written a few weeks back in what must have been, oo, mid Octoberish, somewhat in the style, it now occurs to me, of Alex "Henry":-

Here on the edges of the Amazon the cacophany is not great
A distant squeak - 
A hedgehog?
- Is all the Sussex jungle manages, 
An outer ripple from an epicentre half a planet distant.
One tiny call is the sole vivfier of a landscape that answers with silence.
But the night is alive.

My lamp casts a soft golden glow upon the wall as I pen this diary entry of sorts,
And objects thickly strewn on my bedside table make a still life - 
They will not be ordered until well into tomorrow.
My laziness tonight is at least artistic,
My eye sharing the contentedness of my yoga-happy limbs.

I shall put down my pen,
Lamplight shall give way to candlelight,
Candlelight to darkness,
I shall sleep in comfort in this shelter of wood and tile bivouacked these several centuries since, 
In this quieter northern zone of the Amazon.

-   -   -

That's that one, then there is a short thing that I wrote in goodness knows what kind of a mood, and which, I now notice, has something of the turn, counterturn and stand structure of an Epode:-

X-Mass Soup

And so the fires return to the pubs,
Cheering my heart.
But what is this about X-Mas bookings?
With such notices they cast their stinking nets across Autumn
As if their subservience to competition has beaten all dignity from them.

Once, some intelligence brooding over the slow-evolving primordial sludge 
Found need of immense patience, 
Waiting amid the slow popping and slurping of the sleeping slime.

It seems sometimes that patience is needed still
For this prattle about Xmas is to me little more than a continuance 
Of that same-old tame-old popping and slurping
The belching of that old soup still not ready to assume a higher order.
But I shall feel better no doubt after I have had my dinner. 
Soup, I think.

More Masterpieces from the TEFL Whiteboard

Monday, 5 November 2007

Escape from Time's Labyrinth?

In the acknowledgements of her most recent book, Barbara Hand-Clow expressed her gratitude to me for helping her "understand about Theseus and Ariadne and the light in Galactic Centre." What did she mean by that? An article by myself on the subject was published in The Sedona Journal of Emmergence, but it is possible to give the outline in a concise manner, as in the following.

Arthur Koestler, in his insightful philosophical book The Act of Creation, noted that breakthrough ideas in science and art, in common with jokes, tend to come as the result of links being made between previously unlinked horizons of reference. Archimedes wanted to find a way to determine if an object was solid gold. He took a bath to relax, displaced his body's volume, 'bissociated' between this and the question on his mind, and the rest is history. It is in light of this that we can cast our minds across a certain mind-boggling curiosity. We were long told that black holes were hungry monsters swallowing all around them, and that they were prisons from which nothing could escape, not even fleet-footed light, hence "black". We were also told, in the hypothetical 'second conditional' tense, that if light could escape, it might do so in rather an interesting way, since time, relatively speaking, slows down as gravitational field increases. For example, in fact the field in a black hole is so strong that, some hypothesized, the light, if it could escape, might somehow do so 'before' it went in, somehow changing the past.June 2004 was noteworthy not only because Venus transited the Sun in the constellation of Taurus, but also because Stephen Hawking made known that hewas now of the opinion that superstrings inside a black hole might not be destroyed, but only tangled, and there was speculation that radiation emitted from black holes might contain some information about these superstringsinside.Then we take our metaphorical Archimedean bath, for meanwhile, in the Ancient World, Greek children are being told by their grandmothers about a dark stronghold called the Labyrinth from which no-one had ever escaped, and within which there was a hungry bull-headed monster called the Minotaur which swallowed everyone who went in. But, they were told, a certain hero called Theseus managed to find his way out again by following the path of an unravelled string that had been given him by a Minoan princess through the maze of passages.But the point where it gets really interesting is where we recall that Theseus' father placed certain tokens under a rock, saying that when the lad was strong enough to lift it and recover them he was to come to Athens with them to be recognised as the future king. He grew strong, managed the feat, retrieved the tokens, went to Athens and was recognised by them in a moment that was 'the happiest there had ever been in Athens.'Why is this so mind-boggling? Well, in human terms, how could it be proved that information had come from a future time? This could be achieved if theinformation was only available in that future time, such as information from future science, for example. In other words, were an ancient story to be shown to contain encoded information based on science that did not then exist, we might conclude that it had come from the future, and of course it would not be until that future time that it could be decoded. In precisely the same way, Theseus's father told his mother that their child could not be recognized until that future time when he was grown to manhood and the rock could be lifted and the tokens of recognition uncovered. How amazing to find this metaphor for timed-release tokens within the very same myth that has the black hole and superstring allegory.But there are more amazing tokens still. The hungry Minotaur, spiralling labyrinth and the super-string of Ariadne are just the start. Enter Plutarch.Plutarch was a Greek from the time when Hadrian was Roman emperor, and he was a high priest of Delphi, that sacred site of the Ancient World more famed than any other for receiving information from the future, and his essay on the Greek hero in his book Lives is a primary source for us of the Theseus myth. According to Plutarch the name Theseus is based on an etymological pun in Greek where it refers to both the 'Tokens Deposited' under the rockand also to his 'Acknowledgement' when he arrived in Athens. But that's not the half of it; this Delphic priest also noted, quoting Hesiod via Hereas,that there was a version of the story in which the princess with whom Theseus had escaped from Minos' realm was named 'Aegle', which means, simply, 'Light':-There are yet many other traditions about these things. Some relate that he fell in love with another:-"For Aegle's love was burning in his breast"; a verse which Hereas, the Megarian, says was formerly in the poet Hesiod's works, but put out by Pisistratus.So not only do we have the spiral prison, the hungry monster at the centre and the unravelling string, but we even have the escape of light.Then there is the black sail. It was a white one which was supposed to be flown on the return journey to signal success, but from the mainland a blackone was seen, just as those Ancient Greeks could not themselves possibly have decoded the story to reveal its light, since they knew nothing of blackholes or relativity, and just as back holes seem to be black in the sense of not letting even light escape.We, however, have, demonstrably, the scientific strength to lift the rock, but what on Earth are we to make of it all? How should we rethink our conception of time? And may we consider this some kind of validation of Delphi's oracular process, or more generally of the potentials of the intuitive faculty? Delphi itself features prominantly in the Theseus myth. His father had been to ask the oracle how he might have a child. By way of answer the Delphic priestess gave him a wine sack and told him not to open it until a different time. This can now be seen to represent the story itself, which would one day reveal its significance, but not until after a certain time.
Or will we prefer exclusively left-brain explanations for this, according to which the myth must have been given to the Greeks by E.T.s or technologically advanced Atlanteans or some such? Ask any archaeologist: Delphi was an oracle site, not a landing pad for alien craft, and no technological Atlantis has been found. An acknowledgement of intuition seems a great deal more sane to me, not least because this was how this extraordinary decoding of the myth occurred to me in the first place. I shall not, however, be asking the Athenians to crown me as their king.