Memory: To Mnemosyne

img_7369I taught a workshop this weekend on the Art of Memory at EarthSpirit’s annual gathering in Sturbridge, MA, called Feast of Lights.  

This workshop usually follows the same format — I give a little bit of the scientific background of the hippocampus, the studies done on monks, nuns and Sanskrit-reciting pandits, and how these artificial memory-improvement techniques have aided professional shamans, priests, and religious figures for centuries; and how modern people can use these techniques to be more effective human beings.  I then divide those techniques up into the three basic forms: method of image, then method of place, and finally method of gesture. Then we practice those techniques; and I usually select a text that’s appropriate to the audience.

Using the hallways in the conference center, the workshop participants learned Orphic Hymn #76, To Mnemosyne, using the translation by Thomas Taylor:

THE consort I invoke of Jove divine,
Source of the holy, sweetly-speaking Nine;
Free from th’ oblivion of the fallen mind,
By whom the soul with intellect is join’d:
Reason’s increase, and thought to thee belong,
All-powerful, pleasant, vigilant, and strong:
‘Tis thine, to waken from lethargic rest
All thoughts deposited within the breast;
And nought neglecting, vigorous to excite
The mental eye from dark oblivion’s night.
Come, blessed power, thy mystic’s mem’ry wake
To holy rites, and Lethe’s fetters break.

How long does it take you to memorize it?

I didn’t have much time to quiz participants about the text during the next 30 hours before the conference ended, but most people that I accosted were able to recall at least three or four lines; most everyone promised that they’d memorize it more fully, soon.   Taylor’s translations are particularly easy to memorize because of the rhyme and metrical scheme of each poem; it doesn’t hurt that he often repeats couplets in other poems.

By the end of the weekend, I’d walked the particular hallways of the hotel and conference center six or seven times… and I had the piece memorized.  The only bit that got me hung up was “Reason’s increase, and thought to thee belong” and by this morning, I had it.

Other Matters

I also taught the hour-and-a-half workshop I’ve done for four years now, on Sunday afternoon, on Geomancy. I teach the basics of how to be a geomancer, the shield chart, the sixteen figures, and sometimes a couple of advanced techniques.  I think I had eight people show up — which is more than have ever come before.

I also co-facilitated the Poet’s Corner event.  We had about fifteen people turn out for that, with some people participating that had never come before.  We did a round of poems based on the art presented in the Art Salon on Friday night (there were some spectacular pieces on display), and then a round of both original poems and OPP. Then we played a Bardic game from 12th century Ireland called Triads, and one of the poets led us in a round of lightning haiku as well.  We closed out with a couple more poems, and called it a day.

The vending gig did’t go quite so well.  I had a lot of bags made, and I figured that I’d sell more than I did of those cute viking bags. I think I sold two, maybe three, and two of the geomancer’s sticks bags..  Neither quilt sold, and I didn’t get any custom orders for banners, nor for clothes, though they were much admired.  I did rent out two of my coats to people who wanted to wear them for the feast and masquerade ball, which was an income stream I didn’t expect; and someone who HAD one of my earlier projects chose to wear it to the ball.  A nice addition to the work.

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  1. Haven’t read yet, but I believe it’s ‘Mnemosyne’, hence we get ‘mnemonic’. Wouldn-t normally correct someone’s spellinf but with it right in the title, and recreated below, i figured youd like to know

    • Thanks for the catch. You’re right, of course. Mnemosyne, mnemonic. I was so focused on learning to say it out loud, I didn’t learn to spell it right.

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