The Nine of Wands in my first ever Tarot deck, the Arthurian Tarot, is called the Wind Harps of War. Merlin set Aeolian harps along the coastline that would play when war was approaching.
Today, war is so obvious and crass that he probably would not need such a sophisticated solution. Just set up Homer’s drinking bird.
- The day after the Senate fails to extend the bulk recording provisions of the Patriot Act, there are 17 (!) ‘bomb threats’ grounding United Airlines as a not so gentle reminder of the terrifying, cartoon supervillain waiting to pounce the very second the most heavily-armed and defended country in human civilisation lets its guard down.
- The day after Greece signs a Memorandum of Understanding with Russia for the Turkish gas stream -which I told you they would- all of a sudden Assad is fighting on the same side as ISIS, which is the kind of steaming bullshit you need to finally collapse the country by war and allow the competing Qatari gas pipeline back into Europe.
This isn’t exactly the kind of high imperial statecraft that requires Aeolian harps. It’s base, one-note, bullying and fearmongering. MTV reality programmes demonstrate greater intellectual maturity.
We must not blame the harp for this. The harp -used regularly by Romantic poets to describe the human’s relationship with his or her source of inspiration- is also a useful metaphor for how concepts, motifs and High Strangeness move through culture. Chris Knowles, recently:
I can say without reservation that you can expect High Weirdness (and let’s restore the “High” to its original perch as opposed to run of the mill weirdness) to rush back in with the tide. During the Cold War, the relatively serene flow of information (three networks, a relatively limited number of major newspapers and magazines) was able to control it, but today it’s going to make its presence known in a way that only normality bias and ridicule will be able to diminish.
Rather than some oddball pursuit, High Weirdness is going to intrude into our lives and demand a reaction.
It is one of the curious things about blogging that the posts you think are the most important rarely garner the same cut through as the ones you just sort of dash off. To wit, this post about palaeolithic pattern recognition… consciousness effects moving simultaneously through the Aeolian harps of disparate tribal groups tens of thousands of years ago. Here we move close to a model for understanding spectacular incidents of High Strangeness and also the appearance of occult or sacred symbols in art and culture across a few dozen countries and language groups. The described and the description are inseparable. How can you hear the described without the catgut strings of the description?
Such a model allows you to laugh deservedly at the frankly moronic idea that the Illuminati/Brotherhood of Saturn/Thelemic Cheney is using the Superbowl halftime show to do… something. (Question: what is this ‘Illuminati’ ritual supposed to do? I have some little experience with magic ritual and just throwing a bunch of Biblical allusions together doesn’t actually make one, anymore than throwing eggs and flour at a wall make a cake. You fucking idiots.)
But the model also allows you to do something else. It allows you to metaphorically walk down to the Cornish beach and pivot the harps in the sand, so instead of war they pick up notes that do not debase you. Hearing the Music of the Spheres is not listening harder, it’s listening better.
Have some harp pivots:
- Siberia’s resurgent Shamanism.
- In flight: pilot’s eye view of the world.
- Maya Deren.
- Follow the swallows: Hitchhiking to the Sun.
- Ancestor Work: Start Simply, Simply Start.
- Jodorowsky on God, Anti-Semitism and the Uses of Poetry.
- Terence McKenna on Philip K. Dick. (Found via Scarlet Imprint.)
- John Steppling on Magical Thinking.
- Beth Moon photographing the World’s Oldest Trees at Night.