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.
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!
Everything is connected to everything else: the body is a self-regulating community of minute organisms with the same constitution and provenance in all vertebrates; ideas move around in language like the breeze, coming from somewhere, touching, lingering, and going somewhere else; unconsciousness and conscience weave a dance like featherweight boxers for the entertainment of wealth; the dead are always with us. Every action is a reaction, reverberating in eternity. The sky is connected to the ground, and the stars are connected to the sky. Once upon a time, when disconnection was more horrible than death, our ancestors believed in ghosts.
Within the next two days, two recreational yachts will be found adrift, one in the middle of the Tasman Sea, and the other halfway between the Azores and Portugal. No connection will be drawn, and why would it be? Who could possibly be daft enough to imagine that these two solitary sailors, now disappeared without trace, had been either doomed lovers in a past life, or were spirit partners in each other’s underworld, two shaman ghosts longing for the other’s domain, if not resolution, release and eternal rest? On the other hand, it seems too coincidental for two separate mariners to disappear at precisely opposite locations on the globe, almost as though they were placed by design.
If you are passing through Guildford on the Midland Highway in Victoria, latitude 37.1 degrees south, pull over about 70 metres north of the Loddon, wait until midnight (at this time of year), when the Teapot is in the west, and see if there are any ghosts hanging about. Along the 37th parallel of north latitude the time to look out for restless spirits, and perhaps be one yourself, is when Taurus and Gemini straddle the west, and the ancestors along the Lethe are visible between late November and mid-April. The influence on relationships of the Electric Axis of Jayne and Johndro, the so-called Destiny’s Gate, would be for most people yet another empty astrological superstition, but in a world in which everything is connected it might be wise to hedge our bets, and also reserve judgment on the possibility of lingering Stone Age conceptions of the Milky Way and the cardinal directions. What? You don’t have any?
Consciousness can definitely get lonely in the underworld. What does memory know about dream? What do objectivity and subjectivity have in common? Is the hieros gamos love’s doom? Are love and doom the hieros gamos?
Is it possible that ancient shamans knew how to stand on their heads to embrace the good witch, as you, facing south with east on your left, would need to do to end up with your beloved’s east on your right? All cardinals are transposed in the underworld, therefore the Sun rises at sunset in the west, and sets at dawn in the east, somewhat as one might see what destiny had for breakfast. What does gravity do to the hang of a shaman’s dress?
The Full Earth is in Capricorn, the progenitor of bleating rock-climbers, and the pretender to the inflated profile it projects with Aquila and Aquarius. Mark the focus on the Olympic Games featured in your local media. To this Earth, connection is no more numinous than the measured relativity of difference. Two mariners disappear? Hundreds of thousands die of Covid-19! There is an antidote to preoccupation with ghosts and the afterlife: the measurable finality of death!
After all these centuries of proliferating the lineaments of the human spirit, the tendency survives of connecting the organism as a thing to an environment of things. There is no such thing as the Arctic or Antarctic Circle (+/- 90-obliquity): everything in the sky, everything the sky is above, and everything standing on what the sky is above, right way up or upside down, are instantly ever-changing. The proper term for what connects all those things is ’emptiness’. An instant is over in an instant. A life is over in a life. The dead are ever with us. Destiny’s gate remains open.
Perceived from an angular distance of 180 degrees, the Sun’s awakening to responsibility a fortnight ago seems incongruous, to say the least. She is more humble in Cancer, more attuned to the farcical Bardo of madness wound by the Earth’s solitary rotation which represents on stage for your delectation the irrepressible corruption of its inhabitants. Welcome to the cast, aromantics; so pleasing to see any identity emerge from the wings of limerence! Welcome, demisexuals, please line up with the aromantics towards stage-right where we can all see you in Self-Development. Clinging, quite naturally, should be neither sanctioned nor sanctioned, but expect the audience in the cheap seats to be primed to laugh. An influencer will be with you shortly.
Before influencers there were astrologers, who possibly inherited the wisdom of shamans. Where are we? Everyone wanted to know, but any answer was required to confirm and reinforce power. Has anything changed? Incidentally, the tryst of Venus and Regulus which divides life into eight-year orbits occurred on Thursday. It was invisible in south-eastern Australia, but we know it happened, don’t we? Did you see it? What influence did it have on you eight years ago? Sixteen years ago? Go on, drone, be your own influencer!
Here, it was evident to the shaman, but that question remains, oblique and disconnected in ways foreign to one intimate with the underworld. And isn’t that all of us? Do we not dream? Do we not do hourly battle with our emotions? Do we not have loved ones on the other side of the world? And yet we remain transfixed by the power of the tangible, grooming our diet, appearance and performance for a flight into history which someone else will probably make. Where others are is circumstantial, but here in the south-east of New Holland, where country is the answer to the question, we are amongst the first blooms of early Spring, if you hadn’t noticed. What? The seasons are changing? Get out of town!
In the beginning was the Emu, and among other coincidences, the right angles of Aquarius and Enif, and of Adhara, Wezen and Aludra, the diamond facet of Denebola, Spica and Arcturus, and the relationship of stellar visibility to the seasons. The beginning came before meaning, and yet it ordained meaning. You were ordained, how about that? No, not your sexuality, which was always fluid, and yours to play with as the influencers saw fit. But you know what? The way you felt when you got up this morning was ordained! The workers fed you in your wintry underworld, or they did not. Stand by, an influencer will be with you shortly.
At the risk of throttling another fish with its ordained plastic balloon, the obvious must be stated:
Check out the Signs and Houses. Yes, it would appear that it was ordained in the beginning that we would all be in this together, and that influencers would be needed to spell out our differences. Drones are such ‘warrior‘ wannabes, don’t you think? What do your influencers think? Careful! Try to avoid being struck by an emu when the Milky Way is in the Warrior configuration.
Is that not the very picture of us? Did you fear a shameful image of biomass annihilation? Totalitarianism? Corruption saturation? Don’t be perverse. Hearken to your influencer.
So that’s where we are! Confused? Wait please, good inhabitants of Sichuan with genealogies going back thousands of years, your influencer will be with you presently, whether or not you want your country and underworld validated. No doubt about it, he’s done well for himself.
Bring me my gun, and I`ll shoot that bird dead
That`s what your mammy and pappy once said
The crow on the cradle, what can we do
Ah, this is a thing that I`ll leave up to you
Sang the crow on the cradle.
Sydney Carter, “The Crow On The Cradle”.
And down from there he spies
this little spot of earth that with the sea
is embraced, and begins to despise
this wretched world, and hold it vanity
compared with the true felicity
that is in heaven above. And at the last
down where he was slain, his gaze he cast.
And in himself he laughed at the woe
of those who wept for his death now past:
and damned all our work that follows so
on blind lust, which can never last,
when we should all our heart on heaven cast.
And forth he went, briefly to tell,
where Mercury appointed him to dwell.
Chaucer, Troilus and Criseyde, Book V, trans. A.S. Kline.
Responsibility dries on the skin like nakedness as the first thing we remember on the lee shore of the Lethe. The silent voice which asks who we are belonged once to the god, and then for many centuries we recognized it as our own. Enslaved to inattention, we are vaguely aware of the crisis of irresponsibility which engulfs us now. We listen in vain for our calling. The earth we tread is sealed. The heavens are curtained by our artificial light. We must wake up, consult a map or an instruction manual, dispel the suspicion we are sleepwalking. Can it be that the tear in the fabric of our journey-commemorative teatowel is irreparable?
How did we never notice before, with the Gemini Sun on our skin, that the tumult of the Acheron was beneath us?
Can we bear the thought that the oasis of difference is a mirage?
This is the beginning of what might be called Southern Hemisphere Miserere Season, from July to November, roughly 4 minutes earlier each day, when the Milky Way is visible in a dark sky between astronomical twilights as a ring around the horizon. (The Northern Hemisphere season is between January and May.) This configuration, exact at the latitude of the declination of the Galactic South Pole, gives the Emu a chance to have a lie down, which is something awesome to see at a location further south such as Apollo Bay on Victoria’s Surf Coast. However, at the latitude of the angle between the planes of the Galaxy and the Solar System, namely approximately 63°, the Emu is a busy bird.
The Emu’s job there is to point East. Country inherited its cardinal directions from the Emu, finding their nocturnal lyricism preferable to the glare of equinoxes over its eternal landmarks.
There is not a moment to lose, if the power of the Emu is to be invoked to get us out of the mess we’re in: the last Kyrie is upon us! Heaven be praised: our dire predicament cannot efface Galactic synchronicities: so let this Emu Moon begin!
The Siberian child staring at the strange figure lying full-length face-down on the sodden turf sees him move, and asks her parents what he is doing. They do not notice any movement. “Come along, quickly,” they urge the child.
Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.
Oscar Wilde, De Profundis,1905.
On watch, with travelling sheep, my comrades all asleep,
Neither moon nor star illumed the summer sky:
My eyes I scarce had closed, tho’ I know I must
have dozed When a very strange procession passed me by.
First came a kangaroo, with a “swag” of blanket blue,
With a dingo, likewise loaded, for his mate ;
They saluted me and passed, saying they’d travelled rather fast.
And could not stay, as it was growing late.
An opossum and a crow sung a song,”The long ago,”
A frilled Jew lizard listened with a smile;
An emu, straying near, held his claw up to his ear.
Saying,”The prettiest song I’ve heard for quite a while”
… Just here there came a crash, as if creation had gone smash,
And leaping up I found I’d been asleep.
Twas the boss from ‘neath the cart, who woke me with a start,
Crying -“Charlie! where the blazes are the sheep ?”
From the original “Drover’s Dream”, Folkstream.com
“O Lieb auf grüner Erden.
Ich zieh’ in Krieg auf grüne Haid,
die grüne Haide, die ist so weit!
Allwo dort die schönen Trompeten blasen,
da ist mein Haus,
mein Haus von grünem Rasen!“
Woe to the Sagittarius Moon! At his highest in the Southern sky, yet can he find no human spirit to soar with him. No romantic poet remains to march us gloriously out of our past; in fact, unable or unwilling to identify with the poverty and sins of the past, regardless of where we migrated from, we have wandered aimlessly into a Google dreamtime, uninitiated. Community is a strange label for populism. Who lives in our old bark hut? Who owns our land? What are they going to do with it? We don’t know, do we? Do entrepreneurs and their propagandist administrators whose nest-feathering has betrayed our trust–sold us down the river, as it were–belong in our community?
Cheer up. Yes, Winter’s here, bringing its usual privations, including Seasonal Affective Disorder, to add to those the whole world is experiencing in lockdown, and Jupiter’s gone retrograde. But that’s no reason to be overwhelmed by self-criticism projected onto the casual judgments of those significant others sharing your retreat from the cold. You are not a waste of your birthright if you have been doing what you were supposed to do, and even if you haven’t, isn’t that what you were supposed to do? Who in the visa queue dares know the contribution to carbon emissions justified by the urgent need to conjure their birth country in an eternal present?
The conventional Sign lumped on Sagittarius is partly right. Natives can tend towards withdrawal and melancholy, but not because of single-minded ambition to surmount arduous conditions, rather because their imagination is enthralling. They might actually achieve very little for that reason. Well might you label them prodigal, and deplore their self-absorption and waste of talent. However, at this time of year we all appear to be in Sagittarius, which ought to inspire some circumspection.
Authenticity has people by the tail, provoking narcissistic condemnation of inertia. To whom does it matter whether the Centaur represents an archer with a bead on the Scorpion, or a brew of tea? Is it not just a bunch of invisible stars? What does an implied Pleistocene fascination with the Milky Way matter under a washed-out sky? The morbid anxiety exuded by a prodigal Underworld is dreadfully infectious! Come out! Be someone! Be remembered! Do something! Psst, whispers the Prodigal, shouldn’t you be wondering what you will meet this side of the Acheron? What irrelevant self do you leave back there? No wonder that the ferryman disdains your obol, this desecrated planet, your millions of unhallowed dead. Why do you keep returning here? Welcome to country, he says.
Acheron, Animal Realm Surprise, Bardo Emotions, Cultural Appropriation, Emu, Gemini New Moon, Genocide, Hell Realm Shame, Lethe, Nationalism, Populism, Prodigal Moon, Racism, Sagittarius New Moon, Sexism, Southern Hemisphere Astrology, Taurus New Moon, Tree of False Dreams, Underworld
Populism has completely disappeared, because it is now absolutely everywhere. Everyone is an activist Sagittarian wannabe, and a world which places supreme value in presence is a very dangerous place.
A picture is worth a thousand words. Sorry to be Abliq … you have to be careful what you say, because in the shadows of your meaning lurk innumerable barrow-pushers looking for clickbait.
You couldn’t make this stuff up!
The world is intersectionally sick, and no top-down therapy is going to heal it.
Denizens of the Northern Hemisphere need not feel deprived of the splendours visible down here.
You were looking in the wrong place. Leave your -isms under your bed, and be at peace with your underworld. The antidote to populism is not neutrality, or equanimity, but sorrow.
People of the Book have been fighting over wells since the dawn of technology, and such disputes continue, in the sense that as we retreat from inequality we are bulldozing the repositories of wisdom controlled by dead white men. How meekly did so many submit to the truism, ‘Control the water, control the community’, as though mindfulness of their descent from victors at the well might absolve them of any further enquiry into the principles of excavation, water-tables and climate change, if only they could include themselves among the historically controlled. Xeromorphism as a drive towards relative independence from water allocation is just one more example of how relativity, and dependent arising, and shame, file their claims to reified identity.
We are accustomed, are we not, to imagine the night as a well, or welling, of the personality, and the horizon retains the same power over the unconscious it enjoyed hundreds of thousands of years ago. As attractive as we may find it to put our post-colonial selves in another’s shoes, can we still look between our own shoes at the ground of our being beneath the horizon? Ah, would that we could gaze into our own well, and from that well we could draw our place, our country, our belonging, our bucket of creation!
Instead, the place we occupy is becoming transparent as we multiply its perspectives. Is it distance from the immediacy of remembering which clouds the well? Are old people doomed to relativism by the acceptance of loss? Or is the Other the joyous birthright of the ageing bereaved? The inhabitants of the Moon can see all but a fingerwidth of what lies beneath our horizon. ‘We’re the Hekawi!’ we might joke to our loved ones up there, but they’ll be trying not to get splinters in their fingers, as they absolve themselves of our ancient history.
I am going to migrate to country which is sacred, in which relativity’s deconstruction of absolutes such as subjects and objects releases me from good form, bad form or any kind of form, to laugh at my reflection in the well, here in the cross-hairs of bullseye.
You know exactly where you are if you know where the Sun is. That is one benefit of the bottomless relativity which constantly unravels Fourth House negotiations: reputation is where your critics are coming from. We are located at the bottom of the Sun’s well, a dot against the background about 4 thousandths of a degree wide, or one five-hundredth of the width of an outstretched human finger.
It feels good to be on the road, finding my way to the shortest shadows with Stellarium in my pocket. You, my fellow-travellers through the Constellations defined by the IAU, black, white or brindle, rich or poor, man, woman or child, Fourth House or Tenth, will be with me today in Leo. But top of the yin metal beef Southern Late Summer morning to you.
“Superfluous lags the vet’ran on the stage…”, Samuel Johnson, l. 308, The Vanity of Human Wishes, 1749, derived from Juvenal, Satire X.
Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations: ask thy father, and he will shew thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee. Deuteronomy 32:7, King James Bible.
It’s no use. The Veteran cannot hide from the truth. It’s not just that his triumph in Northern skies comes in the middle of a Coronavirus-infested winter, as humanity struggles to celebrate the turning of the year with breaking heart, or that in Southern skies his diminutive opposition to a searing Sun needs the compensation of the un-moonlit symmetry of the Eurocentric mythical Twins to impress, but having crossed the Lethe immediately before syzygy, he realizes in his curtain call only the magnitude of the reintegration which lies ahead for the audience (who are yet oblivious to the Acheron River which daytime has just crossed), and the possibility that he no longer has the will to help. Oh God, not more feelings!
On the other hand, the Veteran has died and been reborn so many times that the Bardo provides his second name: “The Hell You Say!” The Tenth Bardo House of Boredom is one he particularly enjoys, where the cleansing of the Lethe affords him the luxury of staring out of the window of the Northern Tropical Indolence bus on his way to Total Withdrawal, paying no attention to dark continents rolling him around their clocks. His fellow-passengers cannot wait to get off: being bored is akin to being boring; the emissions from the bus out-thrust its propulsion; grasping is mindfully consuming acceptance; and forests of wild viruses are being cleared for the graduation of sated ignorance. “We must alight at centre-stage,” they cry. Not the Veteran. He is indifferent to the footlights, and to his demotion from a starring role for the next twenty-four times he appears on this stage: you will not see a Full Moon in Gemini (the Constellation) until January 2023.
What tortuous labyrinths of despair might just squeeze a sleeper up to the surface? What convulsions of suppressed hatred, what intestinal convolutions of corruption and deliberate pain? What catacombs of memory, what collapsed and utterly expunged escape routes out of anxiety? What tectonic shifts of catatonic stress? And reversing direction, the Ngaanyatjarra Lands in the Australian Central Ranges is no country for old fish.
It is time and memory which stamp Veteran country, a duration of exile from the permanent present. Aligned with the course of the Moon’s progress across the faintly visible constellations between Sagittarius and Gemini, Woe and Forgetting, and irrevocably past Regulus and Spica and Antares to the Acheron again, an artesian underworld meanders beneath a landscape dotted with caves, one of which is yours, another mine.