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“Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind”: Jack Kerouac, creativity and academic writing

From Jack Kerouac, Belief and Technique for Modern Prose, in the Beats anthology:

  1. Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy
  2. Submissive to everything, open, listening
  3. Try never get drunk outside yr own house
  4. Be in love with yr life
  5. Something that you feel will find its own form
  6. Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind
  7. Blow as deep as you want to blow
  8. Write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind
  9. The unspeakable visions of the individual
  10. No time for poetry but exactly what is
  11. Visionary tics shivering in the chest
  12. In tranced fixation dreaming upon object before you
  13. Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition
  14. Like Proust be an old teahead of time
  15. Telling the true story of the world in interior monolog
  16. The jewel center of interest is the eye within the eye
  17. Write in recollection and amazement for yourself
  18. Work from pithy middle eye out, swimming in language sea
  19. Accept loss forever
  20. Believe in the holy contour of life
  21. Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind
  22. Don’t think of words when you stop but to see picture better
  23. Keep track of every day the date emblazoned in yr morning
  24. No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge
  25. Write for the world to read and see yr exact pictures of it
  26. Bookmovie is the movie in words, the visual American form
  27. In praise of Character in the Bleak inhuman Loneliness
  28. Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better
  29. You’re a Genius all the time
  30. Writer-Director of Earthly movies Sponsored & Angeled in Heaven

The Crooked God

 THE CROOKED GOD      

It may seem strange to refer to a god as ‘crooked’, but gods of the underworld were generally considered crooked in some way. Priestesses wore one sandal when invoking them. Apollo, the bright and handsome sun god of Greece both brought plagues (with hot and feverish weather) and cured them (as god of healing). He was visualized both as shooting plague arrows into cities, and shooting creatures that brought plague. In this role he presided over the sacrifice or expulsion of scapegoats and was titled ‘crooked’. Apollo was the patron of all those cast out from the community, including those who went off to found colonies.

The Irish Crom Dubh is ‘Black Crooked One’ or ‘Black Bowed One’, also called Crom Cruach or Cenn Cruaich (‘the Bowed One of the Mound’) and was a sacrificial god associated with the beginning of August. His importance may be discerned from the fact there are far more stories of Crom Dubh connected with Lughnasa than there are of Lugh. Though many Irish people have never heard of the festival of Lughnasa they have certainly heard its alternate name Crom Dubh’s Day (or Sunday).

Crom Dubh’s Day is the occasion for a pilgrimage up a high hill or mountain such as Croagh Patrick. This was a holy hill in Pagan times, taken over by Saint Patrick, possibly considered a natural harvest mound or Goddess womb in the manner of Silbury Hill.  

The 11th century Book of Leinster states ‘In a rank stand twelve idols of stone; bitterly to enchant the people the figure of Crom was of gold.’  This is thought to refer to a circle of standing stones at Magh Sléacht near Killycluggin (the plain of Tullyhaw in County Cavan) in the sacred number of thirteen- the sacred king and his twelve companions. [32]   It may be that in ancient times a human sacrifice was made here, perhaps selected in the games. It seems likely that the sacrifice would have been haltered and lamed, actually or symbolically. Crom Dubh, the god who presided over the sacrifice was also ‘crooked’. He is thought to belong to the religion of the ancient Irish, before the time of the Celtic invaders. The earliest written account of him refers to an idol at Magh Sléacht worshipped by King Tignermas and his followers, at which human sacrifices were made. This statue is said to have sunk into the ground after St Patrick demolished it, and indeed, the stone circle stands in ruins. In most of the folklore he is called Crom Dubh, characterized as the ‘dark croucher’ or the ‘old bent one’ and was identified with the devil.

It may be that after the sacrifice the victim was identified with the god, becoming a ‘crooked one’ and believed to be dwelling in the mound with the god as king of the dead.

In later ages Crom Dubh’s human sacrifice may have been substituted with a bull.  On the north shore of Galway there is still a tradition that a beef animal must be roasted to ashes in honor of Crom Dubh on his festival day. It is possible that the bull was an avatar of the god, and that there was a yearly sacrifice of this bull with the substitution of a new bull, in the manner of the Egyptian Apis. In various versions of the story Patrick is said to have overcome or converted a Pagan called Crom Dubh, in some versions by resuscitating his dead bull.

According to another Lughnasa story Crom Dubh was buried up to his neck for three days and only released when the harvest fruits had been guaranteed. Crom is associated with the ancient mounds as an old agricultural god of the earth who caused the crops to ripen, as are the sidhe (‘people of the mounds’) or fairies of Celtic lore who are the descendants of such gods. They also have to be offered regular sacrifices in the form of milk. Crom is possibly an underworld god, like the Greek Hades (Roman Pluto) who captured Persephone (Proserpina). Hades/Pluto was both the guardian of underworld treasure (the minerals of the earth) and grain, which sprouts in the underworld.

In many parts of the world the festivals celebrated around our Lughnasa period relate to the effects of the Dog Days which make vegetation brown and wither, signaling the death of summer.

The Dog Star Sirius, called Alpha Canis Majoris by astronomers, is one of the brightest in the night sky and can even be seen in the daylight. Sirius is three times the mass of our Sun and ten times as bright. In mid-May Sirius sets in the west just after sunset, then is no longer visible for seventy days. It then appears rising in the east at sunrise and this is known as the heliacal rising of the star, occurring in late July and early August. The ancients believed that it added its own heat to that of the sun, causing very hot weather and exerting a baleful influence- dogs became mad, people became listless or ill, [33] streams and wells dried up, while plants withered and turned brown. It signaled the end of the period of growth, and therefore the end of summer. It seems that Lughnasa was celebrated at the end of this period (12th August) and marked the first day of autumn.

In the tale of Lugh we encounter his enemy and grandfather Balor, a tyrant who must be defeated. He is described as having a single baleful eye that poisons and withers all it looks upon. Dr. Ó HÓgáin reconstructs the original name of Balor as *Boleros, meaning  ‘the flashing one’ from the ancient root *bhel meaning ‘flash’. [34] The name of Sirius comes from a Greek word meaning ‘sparkling’ as it radiates a blue-white light, but when it is low on the horizon it can shimmer with all the colors of the rainbow. Balor is also titled Bailcbhéimneach (‘strong smiting’) and Balar Biirug-derc (‘piercing-eyed’). [35]

Ancient classical writers, including Ptolemy and Diodorus Siculus, associate him with a promontory called Bolerion in Cornwall, England. This was most probably Land’s End, to the southwest of the country. Balor is said to have died at Carn Ui Neit (the ‘Cairn of Net’s Grandson’), Mizen Head in County Cork, Ireland- again the furthest south west point of the country. This association with south-western promontories is generally taken to indicate that Balor is some kind of deity associated with the setting sun- which sets in the west- but the south-west is also the setting point of Sirius.

 Balor tried to trick Lugh into placing his head on top of Lugh’s own, and this may be a metaphor for the effect achieved when Sirius rises with the sun. Another one-eyed tyrant caused the death of King Conaire, who died with a raging thirst in his throat, perhaps a reference to the effects of the Dog Days.

Lughnasa is the time of year associated with the sacrifice of the sacred king or the death of the corn god, marked with wakes and funeral games. In many legends the dog is considered to be a psychopomp- a creature that conveys souls to the Otherworld. The Egyptian jackal/dog headed god Anubis, for example, is concerned with conveying the dead to the afterlife. In Greek myth the three headed dog Cerberus guarded the entrance to the Underworld. It can be no coincidence that the constellation of the Dog appears at the end of summer to convey the soul of the sacrificed sacred king/vegetation god to the Otherworld.

[32] Janet and Stewart Farrar, Eight sabbats for Witches,  Hale, 1981

[33] Most cases of tarentella are reported at this time of year.

[34] Dáithí Ó HÓgáin, The Sacred Isle, The Collins Press, Cork, 1999

[35] Daithi O HOgain, Myth, Legend and Romance: An Encyclopaedia of the Irish Folk Tradition  Prentice Hall Presss 1991

 

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I survived, though whether I’m actually a changeling now remains to be seen! I’ve written very briefly about my experience on my weekly column at Patheos Pagan, A Sense of Place : A Night In The Mound

As you can imagine, a 1000 word column doesn’t allow more than a scratch of the surface for an experience like that, while still including substantive background information. One concept I wanted to speak more about is the unequivocally Ancestral focus of the mounds. Yes, they may have significant alignments (solar, lunar, and stellar); yes, they were actively engaged with by their living communities (ritual use); yes, folklore sprang up regarding them because their original function slipped from active use and memory to nostalgia (fairy), but they remain first and foremost Ancestral.

This YouTube video, while all over the shop with its focus, and anglophilic tone, does correlate the Stones, themselves, to the Ancestors in a direct and literal way, which is how I interact with them as well. It is also a view expressed by more than one presenter at The Archeology of Darkness conference last hear at Sligo IT (I promise, I will post those notes eventually). Have a look:

I was struck most, on the day, by the elusive Otherness of the mounds and the way they were sited on the land. They slipped in and out of view, in unexpected ways. As you walked along the trail, a mound would suddenly appear before you. A few steps later, it vanished from sight. Some mounds were visible while standing in front of a certain cairn, that were unseen when you moved to another. The necropolis is home to an estimated 14 passage cairns, which are oriented differently. I stayed in one that opens to the North.
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In the recess, or side ‘bed’, where I slept, I had a sense of downward momentum. You do crawl down to enter the cairn, and it is a tight fit before opening first to the somewhat larger antechamber, then to the main chamber with its tall corbeled roof (you can easily stand in there). In cruciform shaped cairns, there are three recesses off the main chamber–small side ‘rooms’, if you will. I only spent time in my western recess, as my intention was to become familiar with a specific energy (I have a feeling each recess was used for different functions and has different energy). The western recess, where the Reek stone is, had its own mini corbeled roof. Because I know Croagh Patrick is sacred to Crom Dubh, that chthonic deity was on my mind heavily.

At one point I strongly felt an underground presence, specifically looking for sacrifice. I won’t say anymore about that here.

I slept more easily than I imagined I would. With nothing but rock for cushion, I thought I would toss and turn. I also thought I would be awake longer: drinking, feasting, being With the Ancestors, but I was asleep by 21:00! My sleep did seem to happen in cycles though, and each time I woke I had a sense of light in the cairn and found myself disoriented as to the source of the light, i.e., I thought I knew the source, which in hindsight could not have been the case. I also did not wake until almost 11! And even then, it took longer to gather my things and leave, than I thought it did. Time was distorted. I think I could have easily spent 3 days and nights there! It was a very ‘sleepy’ –pulling you down–energy.

When I left though, I had an amazing sensation of lightness. As though my atoms were effervescent. The experience was very like a sensory deprivation chamber (another point made during the Archeology of Darkness symposium). I would like to see descendants of these wonderful ancestors visiting these sites to commune with their dead in a real way. However, some prohibitions:

  • do NOT climb on the cairn
  • do NOT scorch the rock with candle
  • do NOT take rocks away as souvenirs
  • DO clean up, take your rubbish and any you may find
  • A Night On The Mound

    I’m going to spend a night on the mound.  If I don’t come back, I’m dead.  If I do, I may be mad…. or a poet.

    I must apologize, again, for my tardiness in completing these notes.  I am preparing to return to the US, and will be spending a month or more with a friend who is having her first child.  Times are hectic!

    The next presentation of the first day was by Joanne Findon, of Trent University.  I was excited to hear her based solely on the title!

    Medieval Irish stories in which a mortal hero forms a liaison with a ‘fairy mistress’ have been much discussed, particularly in connection wit the theme of the ‘sovereignty goddess.’ However, not all such relationships work out well; in a few cases (tales in which the encounter or its aftermath are focalized through the perspective of the Otherworld female herself, even if only briefly) the meaning of the encounter is destabilized.  The presence of the Otherworld woman’s speech shifts the ground of interpretation and opens up the interaction to more complex social and cultural implications. Fand in Serglige Con Culainn, Macha in Noínden Ulad, and Becfhola in Tochmarc Becfhola are examples of such women whose mortal-therworld remances end badly.  Fand gets the man she desires, but ultimately loses him to the hero’s determined wife Emer.  Macha chooses her mortal mate and seems to live happily with him until he foolishly boasts about her racing skill.  Becfhola forms an unsatisfying union with a mortal man who does not appreciate her, and eventually leaves him for an Otherworld man who is a much better match for her.  In each case, the woman’s words open a window onto the female perspective regarding the perils of such mortal-Otherworld relationships.  This discussion will consider the significance of these women’s words and the effects of female subjectivity in light of the larger social and literary contexts of these tales.

    She began the talk by offering the idea that the theme of  ‘Otherworld’ girl and ‘mortal’ boy may have a possible connection with an increase in men / women relationship [discussions, cultural /religious changes, problems, issues] during Early Medieval Ireland.  A few of her points include:

    Fand and Emer believe a man can not love two women.

    ‘Ah, youth,’ she said, ‘we were together with honour once, and we would be again if you still desired me.’ ‘By my word,’ he said, ‘I do desire you, and I will desire you as long as you live.’  “Leave me then,” said Fand. (Dillon, ll. 722-26)

    Are these tales seek to discuss the outcome of ‘erotic’ love vs the ‘traditional’ marriage structure?

    There was a demand of secrecy, in order for the ‘Otherworld’ relationship to continue.

    ‘You shall not go,’ the woman said, ‘ lest danger dog you from mentioning us, for our union will be at an end if you mention me in the assembly.’ “I shall not speak there at all,” Crunnchu said. (Hull, ll. 21-23, trans p. 37)

    The tales may indicate conflict between ‘women’ and the ‘warrior class’.   Woman speaking truth to power.

    “The shame that you have inflicted upon me,’ [she said,] “shall be indeed a disgrace to you from now on.  When things shall be most difficult for you, all those of you who guard this province shall have only the strength of a woman in childbirth; and as long as a woman is in childbirth, so long shall you [likewise] be, namely to the end of five days and four nights, and moreover, it shall be on you unto the ninth [generation], that is to say, for the lifespan of nine persons.” (Hull ll. 59-63, tran p. 38)

    Liminal boundaries, edges.

    “They beheld a woman coming from the west across the ford in a chariot.  She wore rounded sandals of white bronze, inset with two jewels of precious stone; a tunic covered with red-gold embroidery about her; a crimson mantle on her; a brooch in fully-wrought gold with shimmering gems f many hues fastening the mantle over her breast; necklets of refined gold around her neck; a golden circlet upon her head.” (Bhreathnach, 72, trans. 77)

    It seems, having the power to choose their own lovers does not mean happiness.  This, more than anything, may have been the theme of these various tales and offers a social commentary on the changing landscape of relationships in the Early Medieval period.  

    zpage188

    A fly-through tour of Dowth’s northern and southern chambers based on laser scanning gives you a real sense of what it’s like inside. The survey work was carried out by David Strange-Walker of Trent & Peak Archaeology and Marcus Abbott of ArcHeritage. Thanks to Dr Steve Davis of University College Dublin, and the Office of Public Works, Ireland, for funding this project.

    With the northern chamber now off bounds, those who might never get the chance to go inside it can now do so virtually. Also see Mythical Ireland’s visit to the northern chamber.

    from Ultra Culture: UK censorship of a esoteric sites

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