Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Black Madonna of East Thirteenth Street

The Black Madonna of East Thirteenth Street. Good article by Joseph Sciorra from the magazine of the New York Folklore Society, from back in 2004.

Although a very focused look at the veneration of a Black Virgin among NY's Sicilian immigrants, it includes a few well-considered introductory comments about the phenomenon in general.

Related: Item 1 about St. Conus

Monday, August 23, 2010

Toilet for Sale

Sorry for all the potty humor around here lately, and, well, you've probably already heard this, but JD Salinger's toilet is for sale on eBay, advertised as "used" and "not cleaned". You only have eight days left to bid on this item, which has a "buy now" price of one million pounds.

With a price like that, the seller outta consider offering it as buy to let (groan).

To put this in perspective, back in 1999, a signed copy of Duchamp's "Fountain" sold for 1.7 million dollars.

Still unsold, to the best of my knowledge, is a toilet that Hemingway "rescued" from, if memory serves me, the demolition of one of his favorite Key West Bars, and set up as a fountain or birdbath in the courtyard of his Key West home.

Curiously, there's a webpage about the world's most expensive toilets, which includes something in outerspace, but which lists none of these three artist-related commodes.

One last piece of toilet trivia to ponder the next time you're perched upon the throne: Leave it the US to build two-story outhouses.

Egypt, 1898: A Daydream

I've been reading a bit lately on the "modernization of Egypt". I place the term in quotes because I have no idea how Egyptians refer to the period, circa 1880 - 1915. I've mostly read fictionalized accounts that were sympathetic to Egypt though written by non-Africans, plus some newspaper articles & diaries that are overtly racist by today's standards. Basically, just enough bits of this and that to mull over, daydreaming, during a couple of 5 hour solo car trips last weekend.

During this period in Egypt, there was a "cotton bubble" caused when the US Civil War interrupted European supply thereby raising the prices that Egypt could command. The Khedive used the boom to launch a series of "modernizing" efforts without raising taxes, like the Suez Canal and the Royal Opera House.

Accounts of the Khedive's re-workings of Cairo described the newly re-done city in chess-board terms, gridded out with equestrian statues lording over squares. I imagine that slave labor also helped the Khedive keep taxes low, which is ironic when you consider that the end of slavery in the US triggered the re-opening of the US cotton market which burst the cotton bubble: Bad news for Egypt.

The Khedive, unable to raise taxes due to political opposition and the economic downturn, borrowed, largely from England and France, until he couldn't afford the interest. Britain and France stepped forward and pretty much took over Egyptian finances. (Bear in mind that I'm daydreaming this history, so take it for what it's worth.)
The British imposed a fellow called Lord Cromer. He didn't officially run the country, but apparently, to paraphrase a Spanish diplomat, Egypt's leaders went to Cromer to ask his opinion on all important affairs, and they "just happened" to always agree with Cromer's advice.

As Europe took control, the Khedive's mad desire to Europeanize his nation was more fully realized than he had envisioned. A deal with the devil perhaps.
Well, I've skipped over all the bloodshed by European forces, but believe me, there was no shortage. I've also skipped over talking about the true victims, the Egyptians who suffered under tessellating forces of power.

Most accounts, or perhaps just my daydreams, suggest that the locals helped Britain dispose of the Khedive in disgust, but check out this picture of his funeral in opera square:

Not long after the Khedive's death, locals were plotting Cromer's assassination, hoping to switch power over to France. The plan was to start a mob while Cromer attended an opera in the Khedive's beloved opera house--and lynch Cromer in the chaos. Cromer caught wind of the plot. He invited the French diplomat to attend the opera with him, and he posted heavy security in the opera square, clearly visible from the opera house windows. Though history doesn't record this detail, there were probably horse-mounted British troops beneath the statue of horse-mounted Ibrahim Pasha in opera square.

At the key moment when the lynching was begin, a move that was to shift power to France, the would-be assassins were thrown into confusion by the sight of Cromer walking through the opera house beside the French diplomat like two comrades in arms--and further thrown off by the sight of the British troops out the window.

Had the assassins succeeded, it's likely that France and Britain would have launched into full-scale war against each other, triggering what would have been World War I in 1898--a scenario that was prevented when the France inexplicably joined ranks with Britain and slyly helped prevent Cromer's assassination.

The assassination attempt, in retrospect, looks like a trial run for the larger Fashoda incident. In my daydreams, and perhaps in history, the British were expanding north/south and the French were expanding east/west. Their paths happened to meet in Fashoda, south of Egypt in the Sudan. Both nations felt that control of Fashoda was their key to controlling Africa. Once again, France backed off when offered a diplomatic solution.

It's hard to know how the world would have turned out if World War I had occurred at the turn of the century, but in my daydreams, which here turn into nightmares, I see Britain and France weakening themselves in battle and opening up a path for Germany to seize control.

It's crazy to see Cromer--who organized the British control of Egypt and symbolized a key European pillage of Africa--as someone who prevented Nazi takeover by negotiating his way out of assassination with sheer gumption and hoo-za bravado, delivering himself right into his plotters' trap. It's also crazy to see the end of slavery in the US as helping to trigger the British take-over of Egypt.

It's all crazy because connecting the lines between such seemingly unrelated blips in history draws patterns we rightly refuse to accept: We don't want to see bad lead to good or good lead to bad.

It's all crazy because these are the connections drawn by paranoia. Is linear history called into question? If so, is this because there are larger, unseen forces in control?

Of course not, silly.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Piss in a Cup

There's some new FaceBook thing going on where people "like" this statement:

"If I need to take a drug test to get a job, then you need a drug test to get welfare!"

Well, the way I figure it is, is people oughta pee in toilets, not cups.

But god bless ya for gettin' your kink out there in the open.

Fare thee well.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Found Symbol

In a comment following our Staff of Life post, the Gid pointed out the similarities between the iconography of Saints Agatha and Lucia, one holding a platter of eyes (Lucia) and the other, of breasts (Agatha). I responded that "....a circle with a dot in the middle could be an eye....or a breast....", proposing that perhaps there was a visual metaphor at play here.

But Gid, ever clever, responded with an entire post (Eye Nipples: What is This) and a comment on that post with a very good link to an article about the origin of the eye/breast association (Before the Milk of the Word: Nipple-Eyes). It's a good survey and has very interesting pictures, all the more fun to look at cuz, well: boobs.

The circle with a dot in the center, however, has also appeared on LoS in the past, a fact I forgot at the time. It was first mentioned in a post about the Voortrekker Monument in South Africa (Hier staan ons voor die Heilige God van hemel en aarde) as a solar symbol, that of Ra. I then stumbled across the same symbol upon the grave of Scouting's founder Lord Baden-Powell (not the Brazilian musician!). In traditional Scouting trail signs it means that the trail has ended and the Scout has gone home; a meaning BP used to mean his own death.

The symbol, it seems, kept....keeps....popping up. I've just received Terry Melanson's book on the Bavarian Illuminati, Perfectibilists (so far, so good, btw) and in the prologue what do I see but the very same symbol. Apparently the Illuminati chose it perhaps because of this very solar connection: power--Illuminating power--radiating outward from a very definite center.* This solar symbolism can be found in a variety of revolutionary contexts--a sun graces the flags of Uruguay and Argentina, for example. It goes without saying Freemasons played an integral part in the independence movements of both countries.

It occurs to me this symbol is also the origin of such Masonic, Revolutionary and other Enlightenment-era symbols as the Eye of Providence (here seen as a nipple!) and the radiating triangle, earlier defined on LoS:
" is most usual in the Masonic symbol, the rays emanate from the center of the Triangle, and, as it were, enshroud it in their brilliancy, it is symbolic of the Divine Light. The perverted ideas of the Pagans referred these rays of light to their sun-god and their Sabian worship.

But the true Masonic idea of this Glory is, that it symbolizes that Eternal Light of Wisdom which surrounds the Supreme Architect as a Sea of Glory, and from Him as a common center emanates to the universe of His creation."

So, aside from being an Egyptian (and ancient Chinese?) solar symbol, the "circled dot", or circumpunct, has a variety of other meanings, many from the mystic arts. (It is also Dan Brown's Lost Symbol). Apparently, according to Wikipedia, Freemasons themselves use it to symbolize control over the passions, although I've never seen it used in this context.

I consulted my copy of Mackey's Encylopedia of Freemasonry (a tattered, two-volume deal) and it makes no such claim about passions and the control thereof. What it does describe in the Masonic context is more startling because it refers back to the idea of double pillars and serpents, two other obsessions from past LoS posts, but not before outlining what "we may collect from the true history of its connection with the phallus of the Ancient Mysteries".

Copied/pasted from our pal Dave Lettelier at Phoenix Masonry, here's Mackey's take on the Point Within a Circle:
" is useless to multiply examples of the prevalence of this symbol among the ancients. Now let us apply this knowledge to the Masonic symbol.

We have seen that the phallus and the point within a circle come from the same source, and must have been identical in signification. But the phallus was the symbol of fecundity, or the male generative principle, which by the ancients was supposed to be the sun, they looking to the creature and not to the Creator, because by the sun's heat and light the earth is made prolific, and its productions are brought to maturity. The point within the circle was then originally the symbol of the sun; and as the lingam of India stood in the center of the lunette, so it stands within the center of the Universe, typified by the circle, impregnating and vivifying it with its heat. And thus the astronomers have been led to adopt the same figure as their symbol of the sun.

Now it is admitted that the Lodge represents the world or the universe, and the Master and Wardens within it represent the sun in three positions. Thus we arrive at the true interpretation of the Masonic symbolism of the point within the circle. It is the same thing, but under a different form, as the Master and Wardens of a Lodge. The Master and Wardens are symbols of the sun, the Lodge of the universe, or world, just as the point is the symbol of the same sun, and the surrounding circle of the universe.

An addition to the above may be given, by referring to one of the oldest symbols among the Egyptians, and found upon their monuments, which was a circle centered by an AUM, supported by two erect parallel serpents; the circle being expressive of the collective people of the world, protected by the parallel attributes, the Power and Wisdom of the Creator. The Alpha and Omega, or the Will representing the Egyptian omnipotent God, surrounded by His creation, having for a boundary no other limit than what may come within his boundless scope, his Wisdom and Power. At times this circle is representedby the Ananta (a Sanskrit word meaning eternity), a serpent with its tail in its mouth. The parallel serpents were of the cobra species.

It has been suggestively said that the Masonic symbol refers to the circuits or circumambulation of the initiate about the sacred Altar, which supports the three Great Lights as a central point, while the Brethren stand in two parallel lines."

 As for those Parallel Lines, Mackey writes: 

"In every well-regulated Lodge there is found a point within a circle, which circle is imboridered by two perpendicular parallel lines. These lines are representative of Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist, the two great patrons of Freemasonry to whom our Lodges are dedicated, and who are said to have been "perfect parallels in Christianity as well as Freemasonry" In those English Lodges which have adopted the Union System established by the Grand Lodge of England in 1813. and where the dedication is "to God ad his service," the lines parallel represent Moses and Solomon. As a symbol, the parallel lines are not o be found in the earlier instructions of Freemasonry. Though Oliver defines the symbol on the authority of what he calls the Old Lectures, it is not to be found , any anterior to Preston, and even he only refers to ne parallelism of the two Saints John."

So, I apologize for not extrapolating on this in a convoluted essay, but I'm in the first third of three of my five weeks paid vacation. Vive la France!

Notes: A post script....

* I mentioned this reference to the circumpunct to Terry in a private email and he had this to say (quoted with his permission, natch): 

"I only mentioned the circumpunct a few times in the book - twice I think. Later on though, I write a bit about Weishaupt's philosophic debt to Leibniz. The latter was a bit obsessed with the symbol, which he called the Hieroglyphic Monad....Weishaupt, as a philosopher, would have been alluding to the Monad more than anything."

A further email: 

"Also, Einige Originalschriften is online for the first time; scanned and posted at Scribd. It includes copious examples of [the circled-dot's] use in the wild. The square too was used in their communications, to symbolize a Masonic Lodge."

A few days later....

You will recall that I referred to my copy of Mackey's Encyclopedia (Revised 1917 version) as "tattered". An old pair of volumes, they are bound in embossed leather; trouble is, the leather on the spines, still tenuously clinging to the binding when I got them, has since fallen off in several pieces (I bought them to use, not to look at on the shelf!) This is why I failed to notice that the circumpunct, with the two parallel lines, is embossed on the leather of the spine. Fortunately I still have those scraps of leather lying about.

One must only assume that Mackey, or at least his publisher, found that this symbol was worth using to represent the entire book at a glance as it sat on the shelf. The front cover, incidentally, features the square and compasses with an Eye of Providence in place of a "G", the sun and the moon, a hand bell and a Delta. Funny thing is, this is the first time I've ever remarked upon the circumpunct as a Masonic symbol (there are so many, after all), triggered by reading about the Illuminati.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

An intellectual regarded disparagingly, as being impractical, officious, pedantic, etc.

Back in March we looked at some photos which appear to project an aura of sanctity around political figures; whether this is propaganda to make politicians seem holy or merely photographers goofing about--my take--is another question.

In light of that precedent, I wanted to post this pic, from Drudge Report (yeah, I peep it regularly).

I assume Drudge chose this pic in order to:

  • Link Obama with the triangle and/or pyramid in order to reinforce the idea among readers that Obama is a tool of the NWO.
  • Or, alternately, he's using a visual metaphor to say Obama's a pointy-head, aka an intellectual. You know, one of those out-of-touch liberal types who want to force you to pay for like, other peoples' abortions n' stuff.
  • Or, because it kind of implies a Klan robe and hood, but in black! Whitey beware!
  • Or all the above....or none.
Maybe, obsessed by triangles, I'm seeing something meaningful in a standard photo taken at a speech. Given the strong association of the symbol with Freemasonry and/or the Illuminati, however, I doubt it. A message is being sent....and if it's garbled, all the better....plausible denial....

Previously, on LoS:

Clown Therapy

Those of you read my recent post, English Closed Triple Compound Words, will not be surprised to learn that I am pleased by a phrase that holds three distinct meanings: Clown Therapy.

Once upon a time, the phrase referred exclusively to the notion that laughter is the best medicine. Gelotological practitioners dressed up as clowns and visited sick children in the hospital, bringing them a spot of cheer.

But the word was just begging for this great interpretation by the Simpsons that refers to, of course, therapy for clowns.
And just when you thought the phrase had been through the wringer, along comes a new definition: Therapy for people who are afraid of clowns. Yep, Coulrophobics have a new cure -- but in a sick, sick twist, the therapy is delivered at a circus, by, you guessed it: Clowns.

How wrong is that?