Signatures on Handcrafted Pottery

 

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I don’t have much left from my mom’s estate. Driven by poverty and a need to feed the beast, she sold everything of worth in her final days. I ended up with two categories of items: boxes upon boxes of portfolio (books and magazines she wrote, published or edited going back to the 1970s) and handmade pottery.

My mom had friends of all sorts, mostly writers, and an eclectic bunch they were. A couple of her friends were potters. Out of her love for supporting her friends’ skills, and a taste for handmade decorative and practical items, she ended up with many lovely pieces of pottery.

These days I write, but I’ve yet to publish for a living. One thing I have ended up acquiring is that taste for homemade kiln-fired culinary wares. What I find most interesting is not just the artistry of the items, but the mark the potters leave behind– literally, on the bottom of each handcrafted piece is a stamp, signature, or insignia of some sort.

Here are a few examples of my favourites. No dishes were harmed in the making of these photographs. Ok, one was. It’s fine, I’ve repurposed it :p

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letter on report filed for DC 10/22/2013

Dear Erik,
Carrying bike, Gunsan ruins

It’s been a few years, so I thought I’d write to you. How’s the Great Canadian Novel coming along? I have been typing your name into booksellers’ commercial pages but nothing comes up. I think you need to stop editing and just ship. Real artists ship. That’s what Steve Jobs said. I mean, if that’s the reason you left, you should probably get something from it. You haven’t gotten much else. Not that I blame you for moving to a remote island in the Gulf. We’re incapable of blaming, aren’t we?

In a dossier I sent out to Dokdo Compound I detail the primate act of blaming. I’ve been working there for three years now. I have become their lead primatologist. At first I didn’t think I was right for the job, but it was explained to me that the worst possible qualification for a position in Primatology at Dokdo Compound is a degree in Primatology from a primate University. In primate Universities, the word they use to describe Primatology is “Humanities”. Isn’t that funny?

EPIK treats me well. In response to your earlier question, the intialization stands for “Ethnography of Primate Interaction and Kinship”. They hire mostly primates and some nonprimate anthropoids. Then they send us on cultural expeditions together so that a few of us can write up reports on the others with regard to how they interact with each other and with Koreans. EPIK wants us to capture the experience of how primates behave in an alien culture, because this will be of great use if the reptilian folk decide to travel with primates.

The rest of the job involves interactions with Koreans. I interact with every age from grade one in the school system all the way up to post-retirement. Some employees are assigned to factory workers, business owners, military and so on. I’m assigned to educators and students.

Anyway, blame. Of course I wouldn’t bore EPIK to death with accounts of primates blaming other primates when bad things happen. There’s a file that goes back centuries. By file I am of course referring to an entire room filled with notes that have yet to be digitized. In some ways the NPAs are advanced, but in others… sigh. That’s my next project. Double sigh.

There are perhaps a hundred thousand documented cases, and a speculated 900,000 undocumented cases, of ritual malleus maleficarum slayings in Europe during the early modern period. That was when the state used writers, artists and church authorities (aka the Medieval version of ‘liberal media’) to justify the drowning, beheading, hanging, quartering and impaling of potentially guiltless individuals.

Behind the scenes, European aristocrats were feeling the pressure of the rising bourgeoisie class. Unfettered state control was flying home to heaven as private citizens shot up in caste from pitiable marketplace hawkers to landowners and decision makers. In the rush to maintain some form of authority, affluence and property ownership, aristocrats blamed Europe’s untouchables, beginning with widows and continuing to gravediggers, apothecaries and people who were just considered weird, of having sex with Satan.

This abhorrent behaviour perpetrated by the secular authorities continued from the Middle Ages until about the time of the French Revolution when, paradoxically, liberal media ended the witchcraze crisis and decided that government and the surreal ravings of palm-greased pulpit pilots make dangerous bedfellows.

I used to think that being a professional reader would be a dream job. I love reading. But I love reading about exciting things. I love stories with mystery and intrigue that begin with a bad situation and get better after the main character has an epiphany. A hundred thousand stories of how people were brutally tortured to death without any retribution, never fully understanding what they did wrong, ugh. It just depresses me. Even if they are primates, I still consider them human. I want to believe that there is a right way to do things. I want to believe that everyone has a happy ending to look forward to if they just try hard and have a good attitude. But a hundred thousand stories corrects me.

NPAs don’t believe in statistics. They record everything. Family details, community contributions, locations of travel–nothing escapes the reptilian eye. NPAs have always been there, behind the scenes, hiring people like me to watch and record reality.

I read one story about a woman who assisted the town doctor with remedies. She had a child out of wedlock with a crusader who gave her enough gold to want for nothing. When her child was only five she was accused of the then legitimate charge of Satan fornication by a young aristocrat hoping to make a name for himself. Public opinion changed from hailing her as being a miracle worker, a quasi-saint for her patients and excellent medic, to being a whore and demon-conjurer. She was struck in the rib to produce a third teet as evidence. Her child was chained next to her cell and starved to death while she oscillated from trying to sooth the slowly dying child to hysterically crying for the unempathetic gaoler to take pity. She had confessed many times to many terrible things, and still, her child would not be released. The gaoler, whose emotions had been desensitized, whose humanity had been collapsed, who was nothing more than an unfeeling robot servant of the state, blocked his ears, whipped the defenseless child and continued to torture and defile his prisoner. After the child died, the accused attempted to commit suicide by consuming her own faeces, but the attempt was unsuccessful. It just made her violently ill. Her final words before being made a public example, not of the evils of sin but the power of the state, were croaked out in a hissing whisper to an audience lusting for a repentant statement. She communicated nothing more complex than this: She was the only person on the continent who truly loved God, and His vengeance would terrible, furious, and last for centuries. After that, wise aristocrats started cutting prisoners’ tongues out.

King James, whose inkfingered scribes produced the Bible that would be the pew stock standard for centuries, was reported to be deathly afraid of these alleged Satan sex enthusiasts. “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live,” indeed! That James VI of Scotland’s (or James I of England’s) favorite author, one William Shakespeare, envisioned himself as a sorcerer in his final play! O Fortuna! History finds primates condemning each other for much more paltry purposes and with much more brutal force than I could possibly find in a small town in Hanguk. It’s all documented in length at Dokdo Compound.

So why write on blame, you ask? In all my research in the archives in the Dokdo Compound I found very little documentation of something that occurs very frequently among primates. Primates will blame each other when something good happens. They even go so far as to blame inanimate objects for good things.

Example. A primate, on the recorded day, receives very little sensory stimuli that might alter its brain chemistry to produce R, Z or Y, which are naturally-occurring adrenal neurotransmitters in charge of motivating a mammal to change its behaviour, which is psychologically rendered as discomfort.

Said primate enters a cafe cloaked in soft, comfortable lighting, wherein a non-intrusive melody lingers in the background. It orders a milk-infused caffeinated beverage in a big brown bowl and a delicate parfait which when served peeks its creamy head above a petite crystal dish with elegant designs on its rim. The primate who serves the dish smiles, which gives off the illusion that it is friendly. No sooner does the primate take a seat than another primate with whom it appears to be affiliated with takes a seat beside it and awaits its order. The first primate is initially startled by the random encounter, but is quickly comforted and soon elated with the interaction it is having with its companion. Once the encounter is finished, it leaves the building after embracing its companion and smiles as it paces down the sidewalk.

The primate returns home and proceeds to blame its resultant happiness in a story published on a primate social network site: It was a great day. I went to this awesome cafe and ran into an old friend. Word, Jordie, I really missed you man. We gotta hang out more.

An analysis of the primate’s brain chemistry tells a different story. As a result of the limited lighting of the cafe, the primate enjoyed a mimicry of natural light, which after one thousand, nine hundred and fifty centuries of primate anthropoid evolution is a welcome break from the last half century’s introduction of overbrilliant electric lighting. The melody is quiet enough to be calming but loud enough to block out many of the ear-slicing automobile noises from outside that primates no longer notice until they’re absent. The rest of the noises were absorbed by the cement walls of the building. The light and sound reduced the rate of the primate’s heart and thus returning its circulatory system to the level it has been operating at for one thousand, nine hundred and fifty centuries. The ancient circulatory rhythm releases a neurotransmitter K, which is best defined as stasis, which, rendered in the primate psyche, is a state in which the natural fear of predators is not at the moment necessary.

The primate alters its own body chemistry by ingesting the narcotic, caffeine. Caffeine is a natural anti-depressant which, when absorbed by the primate digestive system, stimulates the release of both G and L, which are hormones that are normally released through disciplined postures and breathing techniques previously used by individuals, primate and repitilian, to enhance the brain’s ability to concentrate. At the level that primates currently stimulate the release of the hormone through narcotic use, the opposite effect often occurs, and the primate digestive system, mistaking caffeine for nutrition, becomes subject to irregular bowel movements. The parfait also gets absorbed by the primate digestive system as though it contains real sustenance, which it doesn’t. It contains refined sugars, which produce a similar effect as caffeine, namely, elation. If either or both narcotics are no longer used by the primate, their host will suffer terrible physical consequences for a short period of time, including headaches, stomachaches, paranoid delusions, depression, stress-related illness, echolalia and acne.

The visual stimuli of the crystal dish has been employed by one culture or another for most of the one thousand, nine hundred and fifty centuries that this particular primate has been evolved in this particular form. Likewise with the image of the smile. These are processed in the primate’s frontal lobe, where connections are made between visual cues and expected results from those cues, which is a process known as D, or in other words, “rationality”. D is an adaptation of the modern primate’s brain shape that has varying levels of usefulness for the purposes of its survival. The glint of inscribed crystal is reminiscent of the glint of precious metals, which are longlasting and fantastic conductors not only of electricity and heat, but more importantly of S, or as it has been previously called, aqua incendiaris, the “eternal flame”, or most recently, perpetual energy. Primates would have discovered this a long time ago, but they decided instead to use earth destroying methods to mine those precious metals to create anything from currency to glamour items, which they will kill each other to possess. A primate smile is associated in the frontal lobe with the shape that it suggests and connotes according to NPA research, unlike primate data, which often lead to the conclusion that phenotypical adaptation has bequeathed to primates a unique system of behavioural analysis. Whichever version you accept, the result of the frontal lobe’s acceptance of the authenticity of a smile displayed by another creature, primate or otherwise, is the endocrenal release of B, H and high amounts of O. B and H produce the effect of a physical state of relaxation and O sends a signal to primate’s brain to register trustworthiness.

Finally, we have the interaction with the fellow primate, which is an exchange of the pheromones T2 and T9. It began with a shock, which was a momentary obstruction to the effects of the neurotransmitter K. Then the pheromones supplied T2 and T9, which would not have diffused if the guest was unwelcome, in which case the primate’s body would have prduced R,Z and Y, thus negating the effects of the environmental controls. T2 and T9 are perhaps the most important body chemicals of all the ones previously listed, for they govern the primate’s states despite interference from other sensory stimuli. Furthermore, the content of conversation, after T2 and T9 are processed by the primate’s endocrine system (which happens in roughly one fifth of a second) stimulates connections between neurons. If the primate’s companion wished to do so, it could take advantage of the pheromonal exchange to incite completely spurious neural connections, and they often do, either out of morbid curiousity, or simply out of ignorance in a process termed L.

The final result at the end of the interaction is that rather than seeing a series of biochemical reactions, the primate blames its friend for the wonderful experience, and becomes addicted. Or it blames the coffee. Or the parfait. Or the conditions of the cafe. That’s a friend the primate will see again, coffee and ice cream it will again consume, a cafe the primate will again visit. The collision of chemicals was the perfect balance to produce what was termed by the primate as, “a great day.” The possibility of this actually happening in the primate brain is so unlikely that the primate will deliberately identify all future experiences with any of these things with the hormones, pheromones and neurotransmitters that were released, even if they are no longer released. Thus, an addiction to an imaginary or symbolic stimulus is formed, although the primate will psychologically render disappointment in the form of desire. With no real stimulus, the primate becomes frustrated and increases the need for doses of the aforementioned stimuli. Often when the primate is accustomed to a drug or neural pattern, dysfunction can occur. The primatological archives in Dokdo Compound are filled with evidence to support this, and are lacking much evidence to contradict this unique form of delusive dependency.

The combination of the aforementioned biological triggers that are activated through the registration of sensory input have a single effect. They produce one chemical in the primate’s body that it is always searching for, and has always searched for over one thousand, nine hundred and fifty centuries.

X.
X comes when you get addicted to heroine.
X comes when you get addicted to people.
X comes when you feel good about donating to a charity.
X comes when you feel good by crying after heartbreak.
X comes when you can smell the rain before it drops.
Or maybe it doesn’t come for any of these things.
The individual primate defines X.
We want to know how to produce X.

We want to know how to trigger the release of X so that primates will take care of the planet and each other. The problem is that when one primate finds X through philanthropy and ecology, that primate becomes the person who finds X by philanthropy and ecology. The one with the most X from this activity hordes it and no other primate can benefit from it. From a reptilian perspective, this is very unusual behaviour.

But now that my telempathy is being activated, I can hear thoughts clearly in Dokdo Compound. I hear other primatologists comment that our work is useless. We will never find X. Most of the researchers at Dokdo Compound have agreed that apathy is the best route, and we ought to save ourselves. How does one compete with that? They are not wrong. Primates have wreaked havoc on the planet and their people. All in the search for X.

If our brains produced X, we speculate that we would all receive its benefit and seek to derive it from the most noble activities. Not possessing it, however, we cannot with certainty say that would be the result. One wonders if NPAs in the past have tried to hybridize the anthropoid species. I’m not funded for that research.

But Erik… you did your own experiment, didn’t you?
Am I it?
Is the experiment working?
Or is it going terribly wrong?

PRIMAL.

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Dear Erik,

How’s that novel coming along? Forget what I said last time. This’ll be your masterpiece, so you should probably make it perfect. I mean, if you’re only going to publish one novel, it should be the BEST novel, right? But I’ll bet if you end up with the Pulitzer you’ll wanna try your luck on a few more. One thing I wonder about. Will yesterday’s Pulitzers speak to tomorrow’s readers? It’s hard to tell. I don’t read Pulitzer recipients. I read terrible stuff, Erik. It’s starting to psyche me wrongly.

Right now, it’s Halloween in Canada. This Halloween is dark. Dokdo compound is a mold-infested cement dungeon when it’s like this. Whatever. I don’t complain.

IM000322Anyway. I’m not writing to you about my physical discomfort. There’s something that is messing with me and I just needed to tell someone. It’s a story about a particular Kazakh civilian, no one notable, except that he possessed a peculiar piece of information that a Russian convoy waiting in Hungary had an interest in obtaining.

The problem for the passengers of the humble convoy on its way back to base was how difficult a time they had extracting the information. They’d set up shop in old Budapest Compound, you know the one. Two interrogators had committed suicide. One had his nose bitten clean off. Another, his neck gouged. The rest were tight-lipped about what had been said to them by the Kazakh, save that they would rather not return to his cell.

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IM000241“Which one is Snitski?”

A guard doing his best not to betray his anxiety nominated himself as the convoy’s spokesperson by answering the Swede. “Snitski, Sir? We don’t have a Snitski.”

The Swede flashed a grin to make your eyes bleed. “I think you do. He is 180, twenty-four years, dark, lasts forty-five minutes to an hour and is waiting when I take bed in half an hour.”

The guard’s eyes widened. “Oh, that Snitski.” A raised hand sent four guards off to prepare as the Swede sat and drank alone before the fireplace. She finished meat and lit a pipe. The Swede was perched, satiated, and mesmerized in thought.

information
This is the first principle the Swede wrote in her leather extraction log before each profile. The purpose of civilization: to lower the threshold of resistance an enemy of the state has to revealing information. The more civilized the civilian, the more likely he is to betray any secret. To civilize is to weaken the individual for the benefit of the state.

This Kazakh and his atavism would be hard to reach. Some former districts, stans and their surrounding territories, now loosed from the Soviet empire’s control, had no true civilians left. Even old Persia was to be part of New Rome’s economic plan. What went wrong?

“Now I need a Litovich!”

The guard began, “We have no…” and exhaled quickly, letting his shoulders fall. “Litovich, Sir?”

“You must be he. I need to know from you what the men say about the Kazakh and further on the information in the dossier. The cypher is as well as useless, the message no more informative decrypted.”

The guard cowered into his words. “It seemed as clear?”

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“As it sounds, Sir. A ghost in words.”

“And Rus Prima wants it why?”

“A weapon, Sir.”

“But WHAT is it?”

“That’s what we’re trying to find out, Sir.”

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Evening descended further as muffled conversation emanated from the corridor by the antechamber. At first pleading could be heard. Eventually, it was desperation. This information was not easily parted with.

All information can be extracted.

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“On second thought, Litovich,” she began. The guard opened his eyes widely and held his breath. The Swede cleared her throat. “I’m weary from the day. Please keep these safe.” The guard pulled on the folder but the Swede kept a grip. He stopped pulling but kept his hold. “Litovich.”

“Sir?”

“I review them 7 AM over thick black coffee and rye toast with pig meat. Eggs are nice also, but I’m sensitive to your conditions.”

“Sir.” The guard nodded and pulled lightly at the chocolate brown. The Swede did not relent. She just looked into his eyes. He took a quivering breath.

She grinned, “Thank you for your help, Litovich,” and gently let go.

IM000666

“Snitski, out!”

The clump hastened to make a diaper of the white bed sheet it was shrouded in.

“Tell Litovich it’s 7 AM.”

“But it’s…” The Swede drew her lips together the same way she had last night when her entertainment said he couldn’t do a headstand. After a start, “…it’s 7 AM.”

“Why tell me? Tell Litovich!”

The diapered man hurry-scurried out the door. Soon breakfast came with the wafting smells of well-fried pork and fresh butter for rye bread.

The Swede finished scanning the reports as she pulled shells from boiled eggs. As she ate each part of each egg she pawed the Kazakh’s portfolio: a picture of him smiling with two children, a harsh typewritten profile, details, widower, children deceased, formerly a mechanic, now a derelict.

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The Swede shook her head as she concluded her re-briefing and finished her egg. “Useless,” she barked. “Superstition, conjecture, fairytales, melodrama.”

She rose to her feet, gave a scratch and let out a satisfied belch. She threw on a comfortable suit and rejoined the men. “Litovich! How far down does this compound reach?”

“It is one of former NPA headquarters so… pretty damn far, Sir.”

“Litovich.”

“Sir?”

“Mind the expletives. This isn’t a naval bar, it’s a military installation. We respect decorum.”

“Sir.”

“Take me there.”

“Sir.”
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Funny place for a Russian convoy to keep a Kazakh, don’t you think, Erik? You were in that one, weren’t you? You know how deep it goes. Oil wells in Texas are shallower. Fracking doesn’t go as deep. Gotta keep hidden, right? I just wonder why we don’t have elevators.
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“He is tortured now, Litovich?”

“Protocol is persuasion level only.”

“I know protocol. This is why I’m confused. Report states detention detail is five days for smuggling with interrogation at standard comfort, persuasion only. Release to embassy with report on our officers injured and concessions for reparation. So, why is he screaming?”

“Verbengeist, Sir.”

“Enough verbengeist! I want real answers!”

“I guess… I don’t know. You should see for yourself.

“Wait.” The Swede stopped right before the door to the room where the Kazakh’s bestial howling was a deafening, cacophonous gale.

“Sir?”

“How long have I been here?”

“Eight hours, Sir.”

“In that eight hours, Litovich, how many times have I told YOU you SHOULD do something?
“Oh, for our former glory. Please wait outside, all of you.”
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The Swede stood silently until the men, lifted by the dread noise, shuffled up the stairs grey and blunt like flung tools from an otherwise useful set of wrenches.
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There the prisoner flailed away, screeching nervously between gasps. The Swede shrugged her shoulders and entered briskly. The prisoner stopped screeching as she passed his line of sight.

The Kazakh broke the silence with a muted croak of a voice. “Thynally, thomeone who lookth thomewhat wathonal. It theemth a mithtik hath been made… AAAAAHHHHHHHRRRGGGHHHHHH!!!!”

The Swede blinked inquisitively. The Kazakh burst into spasms, rocked back and forth, and screamed his voice raw. The Swede’s face did not change as she stood, peering at the restrained ape. “How would you like me to loosen those ties?”

“RRRRRRRRAAAAAARRRRRRRGGGGGHHHHH… No, ma’am, thank you fo the denereth otho…BWAAAAAAAHHHHHRRRRGGGGGHHH… but I highly doubt that’th a… GAAAAHHHHHHHHH… wythe idea.”

“I could easily restrain you.”

“I don’t doubt hit… GGGGGRRRRRAAAAAAAAA… a womim of your builb… UGGGGGGGGGHHHH… but thomething tellth me… YAAAAAAARGHHHHHHH… he woul want to figh ta tha death.”

“You know what? This thing drives me nuts. Let me help you.” The Swede pulled out the mouth restraint. The Kazach’s eyes widened.

“NNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO….” His mouth clamped shut on his tongue like a bear trap on a careless hunter. He smiled and squealed with glee, regret, satisfaction and remorse. The Swede had to move to the left to avoid the blood spray.

Soon the Kazakh was banging his hand against the arm of the chair violently. He balled up a fist and scribbled furiously in the air.

“A pen?”

He nooded and shook, refused and accepted. He leapt a bit. The chair came crashing to the floor, the Kazakh nose-first. The Swede calmly rose to her feet, walked to the other room and returned with stationery. She kicked the chair back to its original position and pulled up a desk. After a few broken pens, there was at least SOME result, though nothing very coherent.
kazach1kazach2

The Swede read through the scribbles twice. She looked at the Kazakh tied to the chair and blinked twice quickly.

“So, the convoy picked up a crazy Kazakh. Great.
“Superstition. Fairytales.
“Oh, for our former glory.”

She walked out of the room, her voice echoing through the hallway. “Don’t worry, you’ll be out in a few hours. I’ll tell them to sew you back up.”

“YYYYYYYAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!”

“Well, if you want to thank me, send me a card.”

The Kazakh just sat in the room, listening to the Swede’s footsteps becoming gradually softer as she ascended the stairs. He ingested blood, which he felt becoming dry as soon as it made contact with the back of his throat. He thought about angling himself so he could choke to death on his own blood. Then he realized something and thought better of it.
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la mortessa

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Illustration from brightbaekart.tumblr.com, drawn by the talented and powerful Bright Baek.

There was once a woman named Fia who loved reading. She loved reading so much that she read every approved book, even though in the thirteenth century, no book was approved for a woman to read. It didn’t matter to her. The rules were not strictly enforced in the South. In the North they would have burned her as a witch. In the South, folks just told her, “In the North you’d be burned as a witch.” Her response was to shrug her shoulders.

After finishing reading every approved book three times over, she was bored. So she read an unapproved book. She wouldn’t have, but reading was already prohibited to her, so the prohibition didn’t strike her as being very important.

The book she read had three parts. The first part was about a king who learned to turn things into gold, but ended up turning everything into gold and died alone and miserable. The next was about a woman who enslaved herself to a king after learning how to turn hay into gold and died miserably slaving away at the king’s behest. The third part was a instructional manual on how to turn things into gold.

She finished reading the book, and she was bored again. So she tried turning some things into gold. She did it until she had a great, giant pot of gold, so heavy that her mule could barely carry it. While she thought it was interesting that she was able to make gold, she recalled the stories about kings who really liked gold. It seemed that kings were irretrievably drawn to the substance, although it inevitably lead to misery and death. So she halted her travail and set out to bury the treasure below a tree, high up on the hill of Buscliagini, a land now forgotten by the chronicles of history.

She had kept, however, a small portion of the gold and descended into the vale with it. She walked into the osteria to buy a meal. You can well imagine that the innkeep eyed the unaccompanied woman askance. He said nothing, but delivered her meal in hopes that she would eat quickly and leave.

The vale was not lively, owing to the fact that so many were lost to la pestilenza. A group of three burly, well-known heroes entered the osteria and released their hilts, dressing a square table in the centre of the room. They called for three fiascoes and let their weight drop into their wooden chairs ruefully.

The burliest cried out to no one in particular, asking who had brought la pestilenza to the vale. Fia replied, “la mortessa.”

The men, noticing Fia for the first time, approached her and asked where they could find this mortessa, for clearly they could not understand her dialect. Remembering the stories of how gold led to misery and death, she told them the location of her treasure. The heroes vowed to kill this mortessa and return with his head on a lance, thus saving the town from la pestilenza.

The heroes started in to ravage Fia, as was the customary treatment for unaccompanied women at the time. Before they could lift her skirt, the innkeep mentioned that if the men should want to catch la mortessa, they would need to make haste. The heroes agreed and asked the woman to kindly wait for them to return so that they might ravage her after they saved the vale. She gave them her word.

She waited all night, but the men did not return. She waited a few days after that, though the innkeep insisted that she leave. She did not listen to him because she was accustomed to doing prohibited acts, and also because she vowed to always be true to her word. She was fed well, for her small bag of gold was valuable enough to buy many meals.

After one week, she announced to the innkeep that she would be marrying him in order to await the heroes who were scheduled to ravish her. At first, the innkeep refused, but when it became apparent that Fia didn’t intend to budge, he called the vicar in to perform the ceremony.

It is written elsewhere what happened to the heroes. Should you want to find a moral in this story, I am afraid to say I am rather lost on it myself. As soon as I discover it, I will loudly proclaim the answer to this mystery in the local osteria should you be there to hear it.

trance stories: underworld I

 

I brought up fidelity. I got a lot more than I expected. Here it is, do with it what you will.

Go to your base camp

Filled with the beginnings of some questions to ask brother Snake in the underworld, I travel to my base camp, a mead hall in a forest clearing. I have an image now of three longtables, a brilliant, fiery hearth, and but a few items in the hall. First off, there are wide-bottom earthenware mugs, a bowl with a ladle and a lid, a set of runes coloured with red and gold, a couple of staffs for faring out, several small cups and horns for mead, a bowl and grate for heating the cups for spiced mead, slices of wood on the tables to put cups on, and some wood to burn for incense. I sit at the longtable alone, wearing brown linen tunic and drawstring pants, warmed by a woven multicoloured cloak of bamboo-thread yarn, tied with the protective bindrune burnt into wood my friend made.

Take a staff, and cloak, and fare forth into the forest.

I wander out into the snows, my boots leaving footprints in the ground. I walk through trees made of brush that grow past my boots as I walk. The tree tunnel transports me to tundra from which a wide world-tree springs up, Yggdrasil, offering portals to all terrains on Earth. I take the portal to Rishikesh Valley in India, where I first met Snake.

I do not meet Snake. There are all kinds of cratures around now, mostly humans, cows and monkeys. The hoary-haired monkeys of Laxman Joola sit on fences, peering wisely at pedestrian traffic as it goes by. Cows wander into stalls and are beaten by the storeowners with brooms and brushes made of woven straw. It’s hot here, and I need to remove my woven cloak and boots, faring forth with only my tunic, linen pants and bare feet.

The sight of a wanderer wearing a tunic, with pale skin and green eyes, beard braided and seax at his side, is not a bit strange for shopowners here. They’re used to seeing travelers on pilgrimages, come to the self-proclaimed yoga capital of the world. Many travleers come from France, specifically Normandy, from Germany and Denmark, and the young of them all look like Nordic comrades, dressed as they are in natural fibres and plain colours. There are no branded t-shirts on this side of the bridge connecting Laxman Joola and Rishikesh proper. This is a place where we come to learn about trance, meditation and the secrets of the soul.

I look still for guide, and he beckons: Walk to the Valley where the idol of Laxmi overlooks the forest and streams along the cleft of the vale. The landwights here are not the same as the ones of my Frozen Northern home. They don’t even call them landwights. Locals call them Divas or Asuras or even just by their purely energetic name, Prana.

I worry that this place will not offer an authentic connection with my spirit-world animal, a guide on the Northern Path. Why could my animal not be something more… Northern? Something like a wolf or bear, a crow or raven, or, something more Canadian like an elk or moose?

Are these considerations of fidelity useful for this procession on the Northern Path? If I commit myself to meeting my spirit animal here, am I being unfaithful to the Old Gods of my ancestors? Or will my resistance to this vision only scare away its authentic nature, and prevent me from walking the path with faithfulness to my true experience? This was one of the questions Seithkona posed to guide me on my journey: Ask your spirit animal about fidelity. I would love to hear a snake’s perspective.

Monkeys jumped and barged through the buses as I strode out to the valley. Insects chirped and jumped through the grasses. I had to stop for refreshment along the way. Finally I reached the valley basin, where grass huts sit on a tributary of the great Mother Ganga.

One, two, three times brother Snake slithered by until he was right before me, filling up all my view. “Hello, brother Snake, I have some thoughts to share with you.”

“Yesss, yesss, I’ve already seen them in your head. You spend more time on the garden of Eden than I would. But since it’s on your mind, let’s clear it.

A symbol is a symbol is a symbol. Forget what people have said over the ages. People say things. Those are things that people say. Thigns people say are the evidence, the witness of the symbol that runs through the rivers of the valley, just like tributary you see out there that flows into the Ganga. If you think the Ganga is the pure and faithful story of the water contained in it, look up “chemical properties of the River Ganga.”

Water flows from the glaciers; it descends from the sky. Where clouds hold water, you find the pure symbol of water and what it means at its source. To illustrate: If you see the details of the Garden of Eden, without all the morality that the story picked up along its rushing path through valleys and streams and rivers and tributaries, you see a Paradise you could even use for your own home camp in trance states. You see a pristine garden with all things contained there. You see animals walking and flowers blooming, plants all over the ground and a bright, powerful sun in the sky.

You see a tree of the knowledge between good and evil with a serpent crawling about it. Is this not a universal symbol? What of the Cadaceus, a staff standing as tall as a tree, two snakes intertwined at each energy point? What of the Ouroboros, the great Serpent that consumes its own tale perpetually? What of the serpents of Greek and Roman myth, who struck against the bold hero, and whose defeat was the proof of the hero’s might? What of the serpent that Cleopatra VII held close, and in her final act of freedom, accepted its venomous fangs for a swift and dreamlike death?

Is the symbol of the Cadaceus more powerful than the single snake hanging from the tree of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil? Or do they have different purposes? Cadaceus has balance, a balance bewteen binaries, between dark and light, good and evil, hot and cold, attrraction and repulsion. The tale of the Snake in the garden is unbalanced: there is a choice to be made. Would you say that the Hebrew Yaweh, or the First Man that god created, were the protagonists in this story? By no means! We always speak of the First Woman, and the choice she had: to be faithful to her deity, or bring her gifts to a mortal man. 

I’ll reveal it: the serpent is neither good nor evil. The serpent is ever a symbol of power. Power alone is neither good nor evil. The serpent in this land of Mother Ganga, of Shiva the serpent-tamer, is the inner snake of the kundalini, which is power manifest in the Greater Body. The serpent in the garden is the First woman’s power. It may suggest that she give her power to the glory of her universe, to her god, to her soul, to her journey, or it may suggest that she give her power to a mortal, whose mind is not expansive enogh to appreciate her magick. We all know how that story went, and need not waste more time on that. The tree in the garden was unbalanced compared to our tempered Cadaceus, and as in Shakespeare, when time is out of joint and fate is without balance, the story is a tragedy.

Let’s return to fidelity and the serpent you did not picture when you conjured a tunnel to come and meet with me. Your fidelity may be to unfaithful mortals, whose whims change with their emotions, whose fancied trends reflect their place on the path, not the truth of their whole path. Would that be a faithful choice? To rise and fall with today’s politician, with today’s celebrity, with today’s well-publicized guru or pop-psychologist? Yuk! You know in your soul this is Yuk! Will you be able to spot when you’re giving yourself away, giving away your power?

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The serpent you did not picture was the one on your own path, Great Jörmungandr! Exercise your fidelity and find out what you can about this ancient and powerful serpent! Be wary of the voices of the men who told the stories of endtimes, the Asgardians who fought the serpent, the serpent who was the progeny of Loki, and all other negative associations that the human fear of snakes can sully such a rich and vibrant symbol, a true guide filled with all things this world can offer! If you can give faithful voice to my expresison, then try! But be ever conscious that as Christians put their words into Heathen tales, so do

you put your words into my mouth. I have no words, but only eternal images, all of which turn from gold to lead in the physcial realm of Miðgarðr where mortals give voice to the sights they’ve seen, using the tools stitched into their physical brains! If you see the serpent as a symbol for power, than you will see the true scales of Mighty Jörmungandr above you when you walk down the street! Look up into the sky more often and appreciate the glittering dome of the stars that sit in my scales! Why! why do you not look up to the sky and see me, see me everywhere and in everything! Where is your faith? Where is your fidelity? Jörmungandr is the greatest earthly creature and teacher, wound round the circumf

erence of the globe, can’t you see him? Or do you mindlessly tune into the consciousnesses of zombies propelled by fear, and not Wisdom!

This! is fidelity! To see me everywhere and in everything, and to OWN your own uses of my symbol! To walk all other paths is to learn their mythos, nod your head, and pretend to understand what their mortals’ saviours stories mean! To walk this path is to have a true connection to the symbol, to your deity, and not to the frailty of flesh! Drink from the Ganga or drink from the Glacier, I care not! But to pain yourself with minor fidelities, when the great fidelity is there in the sky! In the trees! It is the life force of all that is and all that wil be! Do you have fealty to a king? To a manager or supervisor? To a social media platform? To a partisan divide? The only truth you are shutting yourself out from is the truth of what is. The only person you damage is your own innenr self. Fidelity is not something you do for oth

ers, it is what you do for yourself to live a pure path, not purity of the flesh, but purity of the symbol, of your chosen Gods, and your path in life! Never did we cry out and ask for the Gods to solve our problems! Always did we hear them laugh and say “the strength is within!”

So there. I can hear your mp3 drumbeat is coming to an end, and when it does I know you will be plucked and thrown back into a world that is much more materially-binding than this land, or so you perceive. But when you come to meet me here again, come pure, and not fettered by infidelity!

My own voice on the mp3 recording sucked me back, tore me from my travels in Rishikesh Valley and threw me quickly onto the forest path back to my base camp. I enetered my base camp, thinking now that the words, base camp are starting to diminish the power of this place, and I want to give it a new name. I shall consider it.

I sit on a bench and throw back a final horn of mead. I have no idea who is serving me thi

s mead, because I am the only one here. I don’t question it.

The air of that world becomes the world of this world.

I wake in a home that is the residence where I work. My friend is beating a druma nd smiling. I wonder where he went. I smile at him and make us both coffee. The symbol. After all that, I don’t even know what it means.

Here’s the recording I used:

trance stories: a change in the air

Dream… but I feel these dreams will start fading into another form….

I’m eating and doing some work on my laptop in a restaurant owned by my coworkers. I idly chat with the server and somehow get home without my vehicle (must have had a drink?) I return the next morning and someone has brutalized my van. They’ve smashed two side windows, ripped up and thrown around everything, I clean up all the glass and put the interior in order. My laptop is missing. The cubes of smashed glass and ripped fabric all seem so real, so correct in look and feel. On my to check the restaurant, I run into a man with glasses, a bald head, and a radically straight-laced disposition who talks to me as though he’s my employer, which I soon realize he is. I recall that he was interviewing my friend Andrew to work at the restaurant, and he’s very impressed with Andrew’s realistic views on things. I become internally aware that I am by no means realistic, and silently despise people who are. I feel gross just for talking to this man, even though I don’t show it, or show him any hostility whatsoever. I return to the restaurant. I’m there before any of the servers show up. I see that all of my dishes are still out on the counter. Hidden behind those dishes is my laptop, and I’m relieved. This really cool person I work with, Tara, walks up the stairs (there are many) to the restaurant. I become aware that I’m in a tropical location, somewhere with lots of palm trees and the like. We talk about the van, and I show her the damage. I wake up and it sets in that my van is in the driveway outside, and it’s fine.

Could be part memory of a similar story a painter told me yesterday, could be an analysis of how I view interactions between people, or the things I value. I’m told that a vehicle is the means to do something, home is your frame of mind, and a workplace represents your contribution to the world.

Am I jealous of my roommate’s realistic perspective? Perhaps I just know that I will soon be moving on with my level on contribution to the world.

Today had an odd air about it. Electric devices were breaking down in every store I visited: the ATM in a convenience store, the computer and debit machine in a grocery store, and I even couldn’t find my drumstick, which is my technology, at my workplace.

Now safely home, I reflect on the many things that have developed over the last month.

The beating of drum is a daily reality for me.

I need to write some drum stories.

There are these groups, online.

They cry out, “Hail Tyr! Hail Odin!”

“Hail Frey and Freyja!”

What brought us here, Ouroboros?

Oh, yes.

That’s a story I need to tell you.

Perhaps another time.

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trance stories: the mariner

The world is begging to know! How’s it going with your practice? Okay, the world is not really begging to know. But there was a strange one last night. Warning: what you are about to read may get graphic.

I was sitting on a couch. There was this woman, roughly my age and disposition, sitting next to me. We were casually talking, and she leans over and kisses my lips. I look over and she’s returned to her side of the couch with a coy look on her face. I lean in and we kiss once more. She gasps, tells me she has a boyfriend and storms off.

So, this is what it’s come to: I’m a homewrecker. I’m not sure if this dream was there for the drama, or if I just needed to feel what it was like to kiss after all this time. When I say that, I mean, I could actually feel it. It wasn’t exactly as I’d remembered, but it wasn’t entirely unpleasant. One detail that was clear: she was subtle and hesitant, whereas I was rushing forward like a locomotive. Yeah, super hot, right? Nope. 

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So anyway, we were supposed to write a few lines of poetry about a picture, scene or object. Okay, this needs to be preserved for posterity. I was on a ship with a madman helheim-bent on loosing a giant wolf from its tether. For reals. I mean, like really really. In fact, it felt more realer than the realest reals, like, totally, literally, ever.

Oh boy.

It started out as a little collaborative poetry. Which was all good and nice. The image was text written on a titel card on a facebook post reading something along the lines of I offer my wrist. Oh, okay. He’s playing Tyr and Fenrir. I’ll check that out.

I jump in, pop in a few lines, make a few jokes, why not? Cool beans, I think to myself. I’m doing the thing Paxson told us to, and it’s fun. The he starts talking about the sun going down, and someone else brings up the Beast. Some sort of dark disposition is coming over everyone, and they are crying for the moon. Then I suggest that the moon is bringing madness, and all of a sudden, we’re on a ship going through choppy waters. The beast is raging and the leader of the group is talking about cutting its rope.

I just remember being there, and seeing things that I don’t know if others saw. I’ll bet if you looked back at the poem, you wouldn’t get the impression of what I’m about to illustrate, not at all.

We’re in a mead hall in the evening, and the sailor, some conflation of a mighty Beowulf with the ghostly presence of the Ancient Mariner sits at the table, drinking his mead, going on about a prophesy he has that he will be offering his wrist to the Beast.

Various other patrons of the hall sit around, alive with idle chatter about the old stories, laughing and riffing on each others’ sentences, asking of where so-and-so is, or what are the words of the day. These people laugh and drink, but the man in the corner has a gravity that’s unspeakable. It’s almost as if the light banter around him was a rustic dance compared to the fierce and fearful gaze this man had towards the dimming of the sun.

I finish my cup, he calls, and the sun is lost! Oh where are those that were once among us? Why does this fate come nearer?

Mani, mani! The people cry. Come save us with your magic! Mani, the moon, has no salvation in store. Instead, the madness of the Night Wanderer brings all festivity to an end. A shield-maiden enters the hall and says, now, what of the Beast?

Instantly, the man in the corner, the shield-maiden, a Freysgotha and a library-keeper are transported to the deck of a ship. I am there, but I’m not. I’m a crewman on board, but I’m a wight circling in the sky. At some point, I am even Mani himself!

Water from waves sprays across the deck! The smell of saltwater permeates our nostrils! It’s all so real, and so rich with sensory images! I feel the chill, and hear the growl! The Mariner is cutting the tether, the beast is gnashing its teeth, the librarian, shield-maiden and Freysgotha are hollering to come to shore and quit this lunacy! Yet we stay adrfit, tossled around by the waves, the great wolf almost loosed upon the inhabitants of the vessel and then… and then…

I had to close my computer and go to work for a five o clock shift.

I could have stayed to reach the conclusion.

But is that the point of the journey?