Monthly Archives: October 2018

The Marsh King’s Daughter…

 

P1180148

‘…Hi-ho the Carrion Crow, Fol-de-rol-de riddle…’

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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…

*

Fire-fox

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

The wind was bitter… the first flakes of snow mingled with the rain as we crossed the ridge. It would be a long, cold night, in spite of the flame that burned on the western horizon as the sun sank into the earth. We followed the lights, seeking shelter in the village, a little way beyond the Field of Sheaves.

Moonrise was still hours away, but even so, a pale ghost of music drifted on the wind. This was the place… our mysterious informant had been correct. All we had to do was wait. Crowds were already gathering… shadowy figures, face and form concealed behind scarves, hats and turned up collars… and a darker figure still that ran amongst them.

Moving fast, indistinct, no more than a blur of midnight feathers, he towered over the assembled company. Crow held the dancing ground as an age-old battle was about to begin…

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Songs of the Stone: parchment…

France & Vincent

HM15 732

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Big-Earth…

Little-Earth…

Bigger-Earth:

Earth-Man-Stars.

*

…On its reverse is scrawled in an uneven hand:

“To regain, ‘The Raid’…

“Seek out the Nine Chief Culdees of Erinn.

 Then journey with them to the Ogham Stone of Fergus Mc Roy,

to fast for three nights and three days.

*

If the question, given to each Culdee in turn,

during their fast, be spoken to the Stone of Fergus

as if to that mighty man himself…

*

Then, ‘The Raid’, will be again revealed

in plain and perfect form

for the instruction of the ages.”

A Hag Load of Lard

*

The Red, the White, the Green…

Some things have to be believed

Before they can be seen…

*

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Rites of Passage: Seeing beyond fear

The Silent Eye

A weekend with the Silent Eye

Derbyshire, UK

Friday 13th – Sunday 15th September 2019

We are all afraid of something.

There are the fears of the everyday world, from arachnophobia to a fear of the dark, and the deeper fears of the personality, that play upon the mind and heart.

What purpose might such fears serve, beyond protecting us from potentially harmful situations?

How have our ancestors addressed such fears across the centuries? Can we learn from the past a way to see beyond our fears to a future lit by serenity and hope?

Join us on Friday the thirteenth of September, 2019, in the ancient landscape of Derbyshire as we explore how to lay our personal gremlins to rest.

Based in the landscape around Tideswell, Bakewell and beyond, this weekend will entail some relatively easy walking on moorland paths.

The weekend runs from Friday afternoon to early Sunday…

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Songs of the Stone: wolf…

France & Vincent

HM15 1414

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The Red, the White, the Green…

Some things have to be believed

Before they can be seen…

*

…‘To bring something back into the world that was lost,’ she had said as a prelude to adventure.

‘Kraas’

“We’ll be in touch,” she had said, before drifting into the twilight at adventure’s end…

That was three months ago.

And who was this ‘we’ anyway?

The witch of the wood?

The thought of the old crone and the momentous events of a half moonlit clearing nearly three months ago still make me shiver.

And now?

Nothing…

Except, perhaps, for the odd ‘padding’ sound that appears to accompany my every move.

No one else seems to hear it, although they do keep their distance.

And so, I find myself alone, a lot, now too.

I have been out to the croft a couple of times.

Her croft.

‘Kraas’

Nothing.

Deserted.

I watched…

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Religious Syncretism: a proper priest…

The Silent Eye

*

… “What are you talking about?”

“A question of questions, young Wendolina, the answer to which may serve as a stunning proof of our original assertion.”

Your original assertion, which was posed as a question anyway. And I’m older than you are.”

“Yes, yes, dearest Wendlebury. There was a need for the razor ban, in order, to achieve assimilation. The original model for Samson wasn’t Gilgamesh at all, it was his ‘alter-ego’, the wild-man, Enkidu, who in the words of birds-feet etched into tablets of baked-clay over four thousand years ago, possessed long hair like a woman and an excessively hairy body.”

“In that case the ‘jaw-bone’ may well be a form of boomerang…” muses Wen, and then, “Birds Feet?”

“Cuneiform.”

“If I wasn’t so confused, I’d be tempted to jump up and down,” says Wen.

“Two-thirds animal, one-third man.”

“Ah,” says Wen, the light of comprehension settling…

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The Drums of Affliction…

Ilkwknd 102

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When Nan died she
became a mountain,
I don’t know why and
it seems churlish to ask.

She suffers terribly,
forcing her craggy cave
of a mouth into the shapes
that form words…

It took Gramps a year and a bit to die.

Not one to do things by half he died three times:
the first time he said, “You know I didn’t feel a thing,
it was just like I was floating.”

Somebody at the hospital brought him round;
the second time his eyes turned into the top of his head,
Mum went hysterical, and the ambulance men
asked her why Gramps was so grey…

He had started that grey thing the summer previous.

Mountain Ana made his left hand to swell,
so that he could no longer grip, and when holding
with his right, the cup, on his saucer, shook.

Nan’s way of saying, ‘Hello, I’m missing you,’ perhaps,
was to try and turn Gramps into a mountain too.

When Great Uncle Tom started shaking cups…
he lasted a month.
But for Gramps such mortality was an affront. “It’s come
on me in a week, all this,” he said with angry eyes.

And in time the swelling eased, his grip returned
and the tremors no longer troubled him.

“It’s the pain that turns you grey,” said Dad…

His face flush again and sitting up in bed Gramps
said, “The doctor wants to know why I’m in here.”
Mum thought she was going mad:
“Do people think I’m trying to kill him?”

That third time the morphine proved fatal.

“They’re going to give you something Dad, to rest you?”

A nod of the head.

***

When Gramps died,
the knot in Mum’s stomach dissolved,
and the weight fell off her.

She grew old in one day.

Now, she looks like Nan.

When she is offended she speaks like Gramps:
she raises her right hand,
and projects her voice above it,
directing her gaze upwards and beyond.

Her fingertips tremble in the air.

***

When Gramps died,
the crying god laughed.

He laughed from the top,
left-hand corner of the chapel of repose,
where he crouched on the upright coffin-lid.

His laugh gave me an inkling:
the divine comedy is real life,
and the world is a womb.

Hysteria.

***

How small we are without
the animating principle
to make us big.

How dull and cold,
like overworked wax.

To look on the dead is to confirm,
that things could not have been
any other way…

***

In olden days it was the family’s place
to dress the dead for their curtain call.
Would we have turned Gramps out like
this – his ‘tash and ‘brows unthinned?

“He looks better,” says Uncle Jim’s Maeve.
I keep expecting his wink.

Too frail for our duties we can only complain:
“Did it look like him?” asks cousin Fran.

The strangled shake of a head,
“He isn’t there any more, is he?”

***

Here comes the coffin.

The lid is down but I back away as it wheels passed.

The crying god is in there just as surely as Gramps is not,
and if he starts to laugh again the congregation will panic:
our unreality manifest, the performance will have nowhere left to go…

From now until the wooden box enters the earth we follow the dead.

There is no laughter but Mum stands on the wrong side of the hall, and when the music starts up, over loud, I wish there was.

“What tunes did he like? Not these.”

The vicar’s summing up is formal and unfamiliar but we cry anyway.
The sense of futility feels immense yet not quite true.
“At least he got our names right,” says Uncle Jeff.

***

The young and the old handle things best.

Great Aunt Evelyne talks in the hearse like she is out to shop…
‘Show some respect,’ I shout in my head but say nothing.

Little Becky thinks the ceremony
a part of our Nathaniel’s birthday.

At last, the Cemetery makes sense:
a place where the dead are not.

My clutch of sand
bangs on the coffin lid.

An answer to the fear of laughter.

***

Three nights later,
and Gramps is standing
in a field full of light.

Mum is with him.
He seems quite calm but the rings under his eyes have darkened, “Not long now,” he says, as Mum tidies his clothes,
and touches his hair as if expecting company.

The beating of wings overhead dwarfs us all…

Mountain Ana is pleased:
her cavern mouth,
become a golden flower,
breathes out clouds of pollen.

Religious Syncretism: iconotropy…

The Silent Eye

*

… “Is he meant to be a giant?”

“In the story he is two-thirds divine, one third-man.”

“Which doesn’t actually answer my question.”

“I don’t know, is he meant to be a giant?”

“Ah, I see… Well, if that is a full grown lion, then he is very definitely a giant.”

“The Hebrew story-tellers saw fit to make the lion, a cub.”

“With the express aim of de-gigantisising him I expect.”

“Is that a word?”

“I shouldn’t think so.”

“So why would they downsize him?”

“Because the strength of their hero didn’t come from his size. It came from God.”

“The Spirit of the Lord.”

“The Spirit of the Lord, that’s right.”

“But if Gilgamesh is two-thirds divine, doesn’t his strength come from ‘God’ too?”

“Gilgamesh has a divine mother, Ninsun, and a father who was born human but later became divine.”

“Ninsun, is a name to conjure with,” murmurs…

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