The River and the Moon

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There is no camera gear in the world that was up to the task of capturing the moon shimmering on the western water this morning, as we cruise eastward under cover of night toward Portland, OR. A little after 4:30 there was a knock at my door: dad, in his underwear, beckoning me from our cabin to the stern deck, there to see the setting Moon framed between mountains. A bend in the river took it behind those self-same mountains, a few minutes later.  But it was enough — the Moon is capable of shattering our unhappiness, our fear, our terror, especially if we encounter it in the right state, half-asleep yet startled from our beds.  We wake thoroughly to encounter the world in silence.

It was the same at Multnomah Falls. Despite the crowds, the rain, the place was tremendously green and lush. Despite the fact that we spent an hour round-trip on a bus that smelled of diesel to get there, and had maybe 30 minutes at the Falls, there was a serenity there, a joy. A bus load of kids from some school trudged up past us on their way to the upper bridge, looking lonely and wet in plastic ponchos. They came down the hill again cheerful, connected, peaceful. They were collecting high-fives from complete strangers on the way down. I myself got twenty-seven high-fives; it felt like a reunion with humanity.


Water and the Moon both reconnect us to ourselves and to each other. They remind us of our humanity, our connection to each other.  And it’s often enough to wash away loneliness and fear. The Moon has a tendency to remind us that everything will be all right, eventually. Give it time. Give it another go-round. This too shall pass.

Tai Chi Y2D308: I had a great title

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I had a great title yesterday.  I don’t remember it this morning.  Oh, well.  A year ago on this day I was muttering about the value of 80% competence and the 22nd mansion of the moon (currently the moon is in the 11th mansion). And I kind of feel plateau’ed at the moment — l’m definitely more competent now as  a tai chi practitioner than I was a year ago.  What was 80% competence then, is probably like 30% competence now. And Maybe now is 80% competence, for real?  I wouldn’t bet on it. Call it 40%?  It’s hard to know for sure.

This past Wednesday’s Archdruid Report had a lot to think about. I’ve been teaching students about palace of memory; they’re working on memorizing around 15 lines apiece from Vergil’s Georgics in Latin, because it’s a great way to help learn the feel and rhythm of the language.  It’s also a skill well worth learning — and having some poetry stuck in your brain is a great way to entertain yourself on long cold nights when there’s no television. As there never is in my house.

Tai chi today wasn’t anything particularly special this morning.  It wasn’t hard, and it wasn’t easy.  It wasn’t all very slow and fluid, but neither was in particularly fast.  Very much it was a middle way.  A plateau.  We all reach them.  It’s not always easy to push up the stairs from one level of capability to the next one.  We don’t get anywhere in a linear progression; most learning processes are a matter of climbing a little ways, resting, climbing and resting again.

Following Drawing Scripts


Eighth Mansion of the Moon
Originally uploaded by anselm23

When I realized that today’s Mansion of the Moon image involved drawing an eagle with a man’s head, I went to, and I looked for a template or step-by-step tutorial in how to draw an eagle, and then I massaged it by adding a human face to the eagle body instead of a beak. Once the eagle was completed, I tried to imagine the view behind it, and was rewarded by a sense of what mountains and mesas and desert might look like to the eagle, or rather, from above the eagle. And so it came to pass.

I’m reluctant to impute deep philosophical meaning to these images, but I think it’s significant that I drew these, and a number of friends contacted me out the woodwork and scaffolding of my life, on a day devoted to love and friendship and fellowship. I don’t think I won any wars today, and my imprisonment isn’t confirmed in any way, but I did get up and make art today, and rather successfully, I think.

Which is what’s on my mind—

My mother the artist (Gordon has his mother the psychonaut, I have my mother the artist) is afraid of drawing. So guess what? I taught her Dave Gray‘s Semigram:

[ width=”550″ height=”443″]

Artist, magician, teacher, poet, whatever you are that reads my blog: get out your pencil and your notebook, and learn this lesson by heart. Drawing is thinking, and your drawing will be crippled like my mother’s has been crippled, if you don’t learn some of the cartoonish basics like line and shape. Learning to draw images will improve your sigil work and your divinations if you’re a magician. It will improve your board notes, if you’re a teacher. If you’re a poet, well… maybe it will improve your poetry to know how to make visual art, it’s hard to say; but it will deepen your love and appreciation for visual symbolism, which will deepen the quality of your use of language. Tony knows this well. You can make great birthday presents with your artwork, eventually. And, it will allow you the chance to delight children of all ages and maybe impress people. Just don’t be creepy about it.

But allowing yourself some creative freedom to make mistakes and develop confidence in your abilities as an artist is critical. I used a drawing tutorial today for an eagle. So what? I’d still be struggling without the prior efforts of another artist to help me over that first hump. To paraphrase Isaac Newton (insulting Robert Hooke, as it happens): We stand upon the shoulders of giants.

Get drawing.

Via Flickr:
The eighth mansion of the moon is ruled by the angel Amnediel, and it is imaged as an eagle with a man’s head. It conduces to victory in war, and the moon in this mansion signified love, friendship and society from fellow travelers; it drives away mice and afflicts captives.

I’ve imagined the image as a floating eagle, high above the desert landscape, with the curvature of the earth in sight, and a Mesa and a mountain visible below. The dots help contrast between the eagle and the background. Paint or ink might improve the line quality — birds’ plumage is more color than line, even on an eagle. The base design of the eagle came from

7th Mansion of the Moon.

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Today is the 7th Mansion of the Moon, or Al-Dhira… an image of success and good fortune. I’m working on trying to create the images of the Mansions in a variety of media, partly because I’m interested in drawing, and partly because it’s good practice, and partly because it’s good magic on so many levels.

This one is going to take a while, because I don’t feel I’m very good with figure drawing, even in this cartoonish style that I’m trying to work in these days. I’m also using Paper which I think is an awesome app, but I lack any sort of stylus to use instead of my finger.

The image of the 7th Mansion is supposed to be a man praying with his hands clasped to his chest. I’ve done a very Medieval thing here, high-Gothic really, of having a scroll come off his body with the request. I’ve also used the floating scroll shape to identify the major names or elements of this particular Mansion. It’s a technique that I’m gradually mastering… not as useful as vine work or celtic knot work, but not so horrible a visual element to use.

Via Flickr:
Made with Paper

I’m a little happier with the use of the marker, now that there is some watercolor around the man. Still not entirely happy with the results, but not bad, especially with no prior planning of the image.

1st Mansion of the Moon

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1st Mansion of the Moon

Originally uploaded by anselm23

Via Flickr:
I went to a dance on Saturday night in honor of, and for the healing of, a woman with cancer. One of the stations at the dance (including, you know, dancing) was a small table set aside for making artwork. After checking the auspices, I created this image of the current Mansion of the Moon — the First, the Horns of Aries. Normally, this Mansion is an image of a black man in a hair shirt throwing a spear at an enemy; and it’s used magically to bring down an enemy. Generally, this Mansion is considered unfavorable for many things, but healing and taking one’s medicine are among the things for which it is favorable. The image is supposedly good for destroying enemies, and it seemed to me that it was a good talisman to destroy cancer.

So, I made this prayer flag of a warrior, loosely based on the Maasai (I forgot the red cloak) of Kenya. The text around him says, “Geniel, great and powerful angel — Strike down cancers of the body, and the soul, and of the nation.” Drawing on cloth with permanent marker was an interesting experience. Once a line was drawn, that was it; I couldn’t go back and correct or fix it.

Accordingly, I worked from the outside in — first I drew in the frame, then the rough shape of the man, then the rough lines of the horizon, then the tree, then the sky and grassland, and finally the shield and then the man himself. It’s certainly not perfect, but I like the idea of creating “art on the fly” like this. It probably took me less than an hour to make, and it serves as a powerful talisman against cancer — as well as being a beautifully quick way to provide someone with a piece of art.

I think this is one of the powerful potentials of the Mansions of the Moon — the notion of carrying around the tools to make twenty-eight images or their variants in quick order, depending on a variety of circumstances, strikes me as a very powerful way to do Art Magic for people. It’s more intense and requires more investment in the work than burning incense or doing candle magic, but it does have the benefit of creating artwork that lasts a little while.

(It’s worth mentioning that I learned about the Mansions from my friend Chris, who is a student of Christopher Warnock, esq. — he of Renaissance Astrology fame. I’m not an astrologer by any means, but I am an artist who likes to work with image and art as magic.)

Colonizing the Moon


It’s typical — I find out that we’re (NASA) going to work with the Russian and European space agencies to colonize the moon, from a blog about magic.

We live in an age of miracle and wonder, when we’re learning as much about the past as we are about the future, and our sense of the world in which we live is being shaped and re-shaped by all sorts of weirdness, regularly.  Gordon at Rune Soup does an irregular feature where he points at the prior history of our planet as being full of serious oddities.  There is a dominant narrative of history in the Western world, and the evidence has been accumulating for quite some time that the World History course I taught for 15 years (while more or less knowing it was full of holes), needs to be elaborately re-narrated.  Not with crazy stories of ancient aliens or visitors from Sirius, necessarily, but at least to acknowledge that the Americas were probably settled (fully settled) more than 100,000 years ago, and that this is not the first time that people on opposite sides of the planet have been able to communicate and trade with one another.

And now we’re talking about going back to space, and going with the intention to stay.  I think of the miracles and wonders that may lie ahead, and I’m hopeful.  I’m also a little fearful, because voices I respect suggest that this is yet another bubble to inflate that may all yet come crashing down.  Still, Dum spiro… spero.

Poem: Jupiter and the Moon

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I went out on the porch last night, and saw the Moon and Jupiter very close to one another. I’m not sure they meet the technical definition of conjunction in astrology, but they were beautiful together.  One can see that Jupiter is this incredibly bright point, but the Moon is much larger, a curving shape in the sky.  I know how they’re of different sizes, of course, and how they spin in different orbits and around different bodies (the Moon around the Earth; Jupiter around the Sun). All the same, I felt like it made a good poem subject:

The king of heaven and the priestess dance,
edging closer still on successive nights;
at first the huntress drew near, as in trance,
now, she appears to have the brighter lights,
as king accepts the darkness of her robe,
and comes within the compass of her arms.
Yet majesty refuses half-dark globe,
processes in grace past her wanton charms.
Around them, all the courts of whirling stars
appear to pause, to watch the king seduced.
Kidnapped sisters ride to their dying hours
track the same bridleway the couple’s traced:
down to the West: there, Pisces descending
augurs precession and winter’s ending.

So, this is me attempting to work out poetically something that I’m just beginning to understand about the structure of our planetary orbit vis-a-vis the Precession of the Equinoxes, and grasp about both astronomy and astrology.  The signs of the Zodiac are moving counter-clockwise across the sky, 1° every 72 years or so.  But they’re also moving clockwise at a regular rotation rate… That means, right now, that Pisces is setting at around 11:15pm and over the course of the winter it will gradually vanish from sight during the latter months of February and March, only to rise with the Sun in April and May for a while.

Pisces IS Pisces in part because it lies on the plane of the Ecliptic — that narrow band of star field where the Sun makes its daily course, and all of the planets also orbit (the Moon has a very weird orbit that varies around the planet… reading about major and minor lunar standstills makes my head hurt, by the by).

Underlying all of this is the underlying mythology of our night sky, in which Jupiter is a king of the gods, and in Kabbalah one of the ministers of grace or mercy, hence the appearance of that word in one of the lines.  The moon is sometimes a major and sometimes a minor goddess.  Is this a meeting of priestess and huntress?  Father and daughter?  Lovers?  Is the Moon a queen? A priestess? A seductress?  The ancients are not always clear.  The “Kidnapped sisters riding” are supposed to be a reference to the Pleiades, but I’m not sure it’s specific enough; in one myth, the seven sisters are actually the kidnapped sisters of Europa, riding on the bull back as Orion chases Taurus to rescue them… except that Taurus is facing the wrong way in the sky; he’s constantly backing away from the Winter King (another Orion reference).

All of this is much explanation for a poem that I feel is now done, for the moment.  Enjoy!

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