Happy New Year!
Today, when the afternoon Sun is 18 degrees above the western horizon, the Milky Way commences its cycle of Underworld visibility. Thanks to the psychological effects of this pandemic, including disturbed sleep patterns, the Underworld is very close to the threshold of consciousness. If you take your mind off the evening news for a moment and listen carefully, you may hear the ceremonial tones of the ancestors as astronomical twilight begins in the Underworld.
If you miss it, you can listen tomorrow four minutes earlier and for four minutes longer.
“You and me babe, how ’bout it?”Romeo And Juliet, Dire Straits, 1981.
“… We’ll love you just the way you are
If you’re perfect.”“Perfect“, Jagged Little Pill, Alanis Morisset, 1995.
Names have been changed to disguise the ressentiment of the protagonists, but may the Earth choke on its ceremonial tea if a word of this tale is a lie.
On this night of December 18 in the Gregorian year two thousand and twenty-one, ten seconds before solar midnight, two tributaries of the River Lethe converge below Cerro Palestina, a short motorcycle ride from Antofagasta in Northern Chile. The first is the intermittent stream known as Justfriendistan Ditch, and the second, ephemeral and as yet nameless, the trickle of urine meandering across the stony waste of the Atacama Desert from the guileless squat of Saiph, the glimpse of whom has arrested the Vagabond for thousands of years as his woe nears its oblivion.
Expect fireworks in the region of the June solstice-point where the southern hemisphere winter signs, ‘Sagittarius’ and ‘Capricorn’, jostle for position (especially when destiny’s gate is in the anguished bardo of self-development), but perhaps the Vagabond is taken unawares because as always, he thinks of himself as just passing through, and when he pulls off his boots and socks and immerses his toes, playfully if a little cloyingly, in Saiph’s twinkle, and she reacts with dignified horror and withdraws immediately to her full distance of 700 light years, he is dismayed. Dante’s Beatrice is as far away as that.
The stony backdrop of the moonlit Lethe is not home to shadows, but gleaming statues, crystalline and petrified. Saiph is 2400 times bigger than Earth, but casts no shadow on the Atacama. No matter, her script doesn’t pay a lot of attention to shadow. She sculpts: indeed, is he not her artefact who has shamefully descended from his plinth and now stands with arms outstretched, claiming horns of a bull on his left and two overbalanced twins on his right, imploring her to be his artefact, his ideal, his life? She de-plores him, and what wets his toes.
By solar midnight she has already replaced the plaque at his feet, which in the first act read ‘Charisma’, with ‘Neediness’. On the other hand, a new title for the idol the Vagabond has kept in his own underworld heaven, ruefully offered by a retaliatory imagination, is ‘Charming Cowardice’. Surely these are labels of resentment? What do they mean? Too timid to animate sculpture? Too impolite to play at intimacy? The leading man, it must be said, is sadly out of touch with postmodernity: men who create statues these days are drones defending their sculpted gender against cancellation, even though their artefacts will not condescend to stand on their plinths. And the leading woman (to unsafely assume a binary gender)? Goddesses have adapted their anguish to the social media market, and the delusion of the complete is so yesterday’s therapy, but how well their sculptures capture their subject a non-binary audience may deride.
This homeless Vagabond will never be readier to embrace his fate, the annihilation unto eternity of intimacy by sanctimony, and beauty by efficacy, than here, as he reaches the Lethe. A howling wind is blowing and the sky is shuddering, for at the sidereal stroke of 6 o’clock destiny’s gate fell below the western horizon into the bardo realm of hell. The stage is set for the powerless to be cowed by autocratic banshees emerging from the underworld, commodifying submission and perfecting convention. The voice of Vergil is a rattle of stones: this is no place for old men. The Vagabond can feel his supplication stiffening. His whole body has become as rigid as a statue. A strong gust picks him up (on invisible wires) … the twins right themselves, and at last onstage, good old Butch the dog prances like a panda bear, as the lead actor topples. It will be three hours before he emerges from the stage door on Lethe’s far shore.
“… In this immeasurable darkness, be the power
that rounds your senses in their magic ring,
the sense of their mysterious encounter.
And if the earthly no longer knows your name,
whisper to the silent earth: I’m flowing.
To the flashing water say: I am.”
Rilke, Rainer Maria, Sonnets To Orpheus, Second Part, XXIX, trans. Stephen Mitchell.
Flow, raindrop, in a trickle of raindrops, into a creek, and thence to the unfathomable swell of the sea: habitat, sacrificial altar and sewer, but the parched hermit’s rain. Is there such a thing as an individual absence? Do water droplets exist in the ocean? Country reveals answers to both these questions, at the crucial time of the year when their answers require the doubt we are harbouring that anything else matters. We approach the 107th anniversary of the Christmas Truce, remember. What do we know of Christmas, of truce?
Quite obviously, the practice of sincere new year’s resolutions doesn’t come out of nowhere, but out of a reassessment of the spiritual confines our anxious solutions have placed us in, and serious doubt about the person they might be making us. If only we could see it, this is neatly symbolized by the astral background of today’s partial eclipse. In the context of our reflections on yesterday’s 167th anniversary of the Battle of the Eureka Stockade, it is noteworthy that no law yet exists, in an abundance of caution to prevent the overwhelming of publicly-funded ICUs, to punish people for looking at the Sun. A surreptitious glance shouldn’t hurt if the eclipse is low on the horizon, but it won’t confirm the celestial position the experts are giving us, or allay any suspicion about the data upon which they base their claims. The rule of law may be unable to guarantee freedom, but it does harbour doubt.
Is there any observational basis for the belief that Ophiuchus is a shield protecting us from the Scorpion, other than “I flow” and “I am”? Look up at it one winter, and if the Shield doesn’t leap out at you, as in oh-phew-cuss, then the ancestors will cry, ‘Stone the flamin’ crows! Are you blind?’ If you’ve been present for a few thousand years, you’ve seen for yourself the effect of precession, of the Equator and the Ecliptic, on the Shield: for thousands of years at transit it has not been more fairly and squarely beneath the Scorpion than now. Rather than the Age of Aquarius, we might well name our time the Age of Anxiety.
Flow on, raindrops, and let country repeat, I am, absent! Is the Earth country? A drop in the ocean, is it absent too? Its seasons are: look up at solar midnight to see that your heliocentric Signs are opposite those you place the Sun and Moon in. The Earth is in Taurus, where the Antisolar Point is, nowhere near Ophiuchus or Scorpius. Why bicker about Signs? Let us doubt our solutions. Country is the sacred, coming into being in absence. The stars really are our ancestors, all of them absent, timelessly. Words are all that remain of presence, because presence is the absence of words.
What you egg!Macbeth, Act 4, Scene 2.
Love yourself, Menkar says. Work on your stuff. Don’t take it personally, she says, but people say negative things about you. You lack humility, she says. Every wife is a challenge.
The Peasant looks forward to jumping between the sheets with Alcyone, after the peculiarities of Hamal and Menkar, the daunting accomplices of his descent from the high places. Be mindful of your tendency to aggression, Peasant, and don’t inflate your expectations. There are puppeteers offstage, and this is a pantomime about freedom, not intimacy.
It is harder to be a peasant these days than when princes and priests ruled the land. Three levels of government with 16-20% of the workforce administering control exert a lot more energy than the muscles of yore, and yet you never know when the power or water will go off, because every politician and bureaucrat is a prince and a priest. For a guest of a mid-Autumn mansion in mid-Spring things are further complicated by a plethora of boundary ordinances.
A bureaucrat thinks nothing of drawing a boundary on paper, like the Local Government Areas which located restrictions of movement during Victoria’s infamous lockdown, but like the limits of nationalities and territorial waters, they usually involve conflict when marked on the ground. The horizon is a boundary, but you try pegging it. Where is the coastline? Where does a mangrove swamp end, or a eucalyptus forest? Celestial boundaries are no less nebulous, for all that they may be precisely defined, because they move, and so do the herds they enclose.
The Peasant has a motto: we’ll make it work. That does not satisfy the princes and priests whose province is value, despite never having to jostle for position on a fishing ground. It doesn’t satisfy the Sun either. Despite moving around the galactic centre at 230 km/sec, she has never accepted the momentum of her planets, and any notion of one of their satellites having a mind of its own is anathema. On this occasion when earthbound astronomers and astrologers are at loggerheads over divisions of the Ecliptic, and the Moon is intensely trying to make it work, she will put her own stamp on things.
This otherwise significant event for Moon and observers is only 5 1/2 minutes before the upstart’s most comprehensive diminishment.
“Peekaboo! Assertiveness is it? A fig for your hemispheric Signs, Earthlings! And while we’re at it, a pox on the enclosed absolute sanctimony of your social media! And I will be anthropomorphized if I feel like it! What does Earth’s moon know about seasons? He may have rhythm, but what of it? I’ve got gravitas.”
The motto of the Peasant takes another form: She’ll be right, mate! Though dictators demand heartlessness and investors in change rant about the apocalypse, and though Underworld insecurity undermine and render transparent the independence the Southern Moon is obliged in Taurus to revere, that motto will resound.
Peasant into shadow and Vagabond out, but she’ll be right! The lasciviousness of Alcyone is ambiguous enough! And so the shadow retreats and Earthlings reinhabit their narcissistic boundaries. In suburban Brisbane, the ancestors line the outer of the Underworld, supplicating the referee of a game the Sun simply does not understand, and all know that a fair referee only gets it right half the time.
Was it a dream in a cusp?
Is that not a dragon’s tail coming to sweep us back into the urgency of our predicament? Give it to me, she says. Make it right. And yes, she’ll be right!
It may or may not be obedience to biological imperatives in the Southern Hemisphere as it climbs toward summer, when protected snakes are everywhere under the tractors cutting hay and firebreaks, but it seems to be universal as the year grows old for a compelling tendency of human beings to manifest itself, namely, having to be right. How fitting for the celebrated beneficiaries of slavery and colonialism to jet into Glasgow to offer the developing world milder climatic extremes in exchange for the same energy that made them stinking rich.
You can cry out for roadmaps, Covid-Normal, Nett Zero, as loudly as you like, but what good are they going to do if you don’t know where you are? And is there a roadmap for finding the businesses which have closed during lockdown? Is there a roadmap for negotiating your first conversation with a stranger in almost two years? Like an insect, you might have to do some fancy remembering, left, right, straight for two blocks and another left, in reverse, just to make it back home. It might take a while to get used to being whom others think you are, and behaving accordingly.
Would you agree that fundamentalism is just a fancy word for navigational disability? I mean, it’s not studies in comparative religion which promote harmony in multicultural communities, but the practised art of sidestepping difference, copping an act of rudeness which doesn’t mean the end of the world, and doesn’t come close to cancelling out the courteous responses our clumsy enquiries don’t deserve. Put another way, why would you go out of your way to cultivate even a fleeting relationship with a different perspective to that which you already possess at home? Or, when will you ever go to an intimately shared movie theatre again, now that you’re streaming? And again, why would you become a Taurus, or a Libra, when you’re accustomed to being a Scorpio?
It will come as no surprise to you, knowing how easily it can happen, that the Moon has rather lost his way. He seems to resent the task before him, and is too often obscured by cloud, as though deliberately. The Sun herself has expressed concern over the Moon’s performance as an eye. What is this fixation on the Circlet of Pisces, for example? Two Monk Moons indeed! Disciplinary correction at New Moon is called for. His cooperation with geocentricism is pandering to the unwillingness of human beings to navigate the Bardo!
It is your reticence as much as anything which has facilitated a transition to the heliocentric perspective, and an overdue erasure of tropical differences into the bargain. Why would your heaven trust you, keeper of secrets, who clings to a personal universe couched in sleepwalking terms like lavatory, refrigerator, service station, supermarket and plate? Your country calls you from its horizon! Weather, after all, is in all likelihood psychoconvected. The Sun is 16m 23s fast. Can you find a dark sky at midnight?
Anti-Vertex, Bardo Emotions, Electric Axis, False Dreams, Kyrie, Limerence, Lockdown, Lover Archetype, Miserere, Narcissism, October Moon, Pisces Constellation, Southern Hemisphere Astrology, Spiritual Bypass, Vertex
Fifteen million people in Australia’s south-east are emerging from lockdown, and a monk is on the ridge which overlooks the vast reaches of suburbia sloping down to the Lethe, peering into the heart of anyone emerging long enough from social media to return his gaze, and looking for stirrings of love and kind intentions, so long constrained.
Is it just a coincidence that the monk is back? Where is this Moon? Why is the Moon where it is? Is that even a sensible question?
The monk will not discourage any romantic impulse or narrowly focussed desire, because he too has had a lonely time of it. He is the archetypal lover, you see, the Libran Moon of the Southern Hemisphere, and while nothing might overcome his buddha-nature, he is occasionally disturbed by thoughts unbecoming in one sworn to celibacy, and by memories of not-quite innocent, and consequential, passions of the past.
Permanence, idolatry; completion, fantasy; idealisation, delusion; submission, convention; seduction, narcissism; eternity, cynicism: every angle the westerly zodiac makes with the horizon has its opposite. The anti-vertex is both the weakness which empowers the vertex wish, and the compensatory mechanism for the absolute unattainability of that wish.
The electric axis is, as the passport out of herein, a powerful tool for the self-congratulation of the spiritual bypass we have for so long indulged in lockdown. The weeds of narcissism are luxuriant.
And where is it to be found, this tool? In the cosmos, in the dreamtime or the moment? In the warp of imagination? In the pages of pseudo-science? In the gaze of a dead Moon? Does it only exist because we narcissists, or whomever we are wholly not, have invented it to cocoon our unreality?
Are we, on this dangerous axis, committing ourselves to the impossibility of being ourselves? For an entire generation, isolation might become the elephant in the room.
Everybody’s mad. Go out and give someone the hug you need from them. Let’s do it. Let’s fall in love. Embrace your muse. Cling if necessary. Enjoy any limerence which can survive helpless altruism!
Idealize a future and idolize its impossible permanence. Be seduced by the reflection of your agoraphobia. Submit your difference to self-help. Believe in your cynicism. Is totalitarian surveillance intimidating you? Check out the monk’s skimpy g-strings on the line!
Hope is not passive. Hope is not blah, blah, blah. Hope is telling the truth. Hope is taking action. And hope always comes from the people.Greta Thunberg.
Would you rather be a Libra or an Aries? Have you of sidereal Virgo birth decided which season you were born in, or committed yourself, though energetically and impatiently, to a refined, compromising northern tribe? Somewhere in Web-Rot we have previously encountered the astrological migration southward of Indigenous Australians, and suggested that (a) our planet is divided into two astrological hemispheres by the declination of the Sun and whether noon shadows are falling north or south, and (b) that any meaning ascribed to the Vertex, where the Ecliptic intersects the Prime Vertical, must derive from the limits imposed by latitude, namely, the increasing angle of the Vertex with the zenith as distance from the Equator increases.
In other words, epiphany retreats south and north, according to hemisphere, into ever less mystical and more pusillanimous wish-fulfilment, until it exhausts itself in idealization and submission; or alternatively one could say, the limerent finally reaches a quarter-acre block and a triple-fronted brick-veneer. Mountebank, charlatan, you cry! How dare you draw a line between North and South Island of New Zealand, Tasmania and the mainland of Australia, the Mediterranean and Northern Europe, the United States and Canada? Please, no offence intended: the atrophy of limerence is a good thing, isn’t it?
Community is the elephant in the room. Can community exist through Destiny’s Gate? Of course not, by its very nature, despite the fact we all yearn for something. Perhaps Bass Strait celebrates the division of two different tribes yearning for dry land. There is an undercurrent of anarchism among the opponents of compulsory vaccination, mandatory restrictions such as mask-wearing, and lockdowns. Two tribes are facing off. Prisoners of society, each resents being told what to do by the other, but fundamental to their antagonism is belief in community. Community is the original top-down concept of a balance of paranoia and relativity.
Conversely, the acquiescence of the majority in the removal of their liberty speaks to the tenuous nature of tribal relationships and the extent to which their neighbours have been replaced as helpers by experts, professionals and institutions. Ironically, people in lockdown are rediscovering their neighbourhood, while confronting the tribal fracture of multicultural community: unanimity abides about the need for the freeways, hospitals, airports and police forces whose ownership they have handed up.
If Christianity and Islam could not meld tribes into a community, what chance does astrology have? The Vertex does determine hemisphere at least, as the noon Sun in the Tropics crosses the zenith to the south, but can you picture how difficult it is to ascertain the direction of zenith shadows? Would the transfiguration of cynicism into the yearning for permanence give the clue? What other compensation could a secessionist acquire for the blistering heat of being here now, especially being unable to breathe?
On 15 September 1788, at a little after 11pm in the penal colony at Sydney Cove, from which, incidentally, Friendship had already departed on its last voyage, the blaze of a Full Moon in the eyes of watchful observers, indigenous and transported alike, extinguished the stars around it in the Circlet of Pisces. This exceedingly rare extinguishment, comprehensive in most skies, is, in a nutshell, the Monk’s identity.
Whether it is some form of cosmic enthronement or Assumption he seeks, or the lost domain of a compulsive limerence of mystical import, he is exercised year after year by the Divine Hand which moves the lunar nodes and his ecliptic latitude, and every few hundred years when syzygy, latitude and Circlet coincide (in a cluster of a half-dozen or so September Full Moons nineteen years apart), he represents the eternal question, who and where am I absolutely?
Are we not in awe of the Monk? His intention is clear: to transcend country, where life projects its absence, but lived example might still swing the vote on whether the world is spirit or matter. How do you see yourself? Are you an intersection of connections, or a hierarchy of systems? And what do you think of the Vertex? Is it out there, or in here, a cyclic projection of separateness, or a theoretical synthesis of hormonal fictions? Undeniably, since it turns the Zodiac upside down, the Vertex is the star of the show in the Tropics!
The Monk’s grace appears to transcend anxiety and comfort, of day and night and birth and death, and so the gratitude of locals for spirit is his trade. On the other hand, who these days encounters monks at all, for that matter? Is it possible that feckless relativism might erase them altogether along with the escarpments of Pisces? Certainly, one must ask the question, when the Monk next attains his goal in 212 years (though he will come tantalisingly close several times, e.g. 2032), will there be anyone left to map his ghostly presence, if not see it?
As a patron of this installation, you might wonder if light pollution makes it less successful as a stimulus to self-discovery, or in fact more so. The stars which coincidentally comprise the crown, or ruins, or abyss, or whatever the shadows on the wall resemble, occupy a range of classifications and distances, but how has data like this ever cultivated meaning? The artist’s intention is clear: to other us. Look through the Circlet at a Monk who is not there, and after two years of not sharing the finite time of your grandchildren, you are gazing into the soul of your emptiness, an underworld universe inhabited by nobody who knows you.
Of course if you cannot see anything, that might be the creator’s point. Are you sure that you, regular user of that commuter platform or aimless passerby of that noisy, garishly lit alleyway, are not part of the installation? While anti-vaxxers and other oppressed minorities wrestle for centre-stage, and fires visibly burning throughout the Galaxy hundreds and thousands of years ago share no warmth, the Circlet might as well be the root of blame for human languishing, and the Monk its quarantined bureaucrat. What a way to fortify socialism!