A great conjunction~
Another moon has begun to grow above us, ever pregnant with possibility.
June 21st this year is the new moon, Father’s-day, and also it is the height of the suns power, the summer solstice. They all happen to coincide with one another today and so it makes writing this all the more special and perhaps potent with portents of power. It seemed when I began The Craneskin Bag last month, that I wondered, would I have enough to share with you all, to warrant this bag of skin? I feel the answer is yes. A drop in the pond is a month in cosmic time, yet if we discount time altogether, (And why should we not?) I find much has happened.
Illumination Tales, Supernal Maytime ~
Below is the first of five videos I am working on for Illumination Tales. They are snapshots of scenes which tell the tale of Finn mac Cumhaill’s search for the three poetic qualifications. I finished writing Illumination Tales this month and although the entire story/song cycle takes well over an hour to tell, I hope these short glimpses over the next several months will anticipate interest for the full length published production that is to come. Film created by BEAN.
As promised, I found myself putting the finishing touches upon the newest member of our family this month, Dortchen Wild. This name first belonged to a woman whom lived next door the Brothers Grimm and who related many fairy tales to them for their collection, one of which was Rumpelstilzchen. This Dortchen Wild ended up marrying Wilhelm Grimm and was a truly fascinating figure behind many of the most well-known and beloved fairy tales in the famous Grimm collection.
I wish to honor Dortchen and her storehouse of stories in my own special way. I am writing an opera based on an original back-story of Rumpelstilzchen. In the opera it is Dortchen Wild whom rears the infant Rumpel and teaches him the magic arts which includes the alchemical magic of gold… Her humble home is in the forest, where in her poison garden she grows many strange, forbidden and nefarious herbs. She is in effect the Yoda of my story and special attention was brought to the fore when crafting this crone you can be sure.
A few details which may escape notice are~
In an effort to make her lighter I hollowed out her head and body, then filled her with dried witches herbs from past gardens, datura, mandrake, monkshood, belladonna, henbane, etc. Her single tooth is one of my own wisdom teeth. The book which grows out of her head is filled with hand written music notation of the songs she sings in the opera as well as bits of poetry and alchemical lore. She stands naked, defiant of convention, untamed by law and she is very much brimming with new life.
Dortchen Wild Photos by Douglas Hooper
I also found it bewilderingly surreal that while finishing her carving, costume, etc I was at the same time building my own witches garden in the back yard. It was something that had been in the back of my mind to do for four years since we moved here, Dortchen was manipulating me into actualizing this procrastinated task. I dare not ignore her and as of now I have Belladonna, mandrake and henbane planted.
Witches Garden Photo by Douglas Hooper
International Puppetry Week at the O’Neill~
On June 8th-12th, the O’Neill theater center based in Waterford Connecticut hosted zoom master classes from these internationally renowned puppeteers~
Ronnie Burkett, Canada, Dissecting the mysteries, marvels and designs of the puppet theater.
Yael Rasooly, Israel, Creativity and compassion.
Jim Kroupa, USA, The mechanics of muppets, puppets and more.
Bernd Ogrodnik, Iceland, The ABC’s of professional puppeteering.
Fabrizio Montecchi, Italy, The profound meaning of the shadow puppet theater.
There was one class a day for five days and I took my notes, scribbled my ideas and asked my questions. I learned something from each of these puppet masters but it was Bernd Ogrodnik who really pulled my thought string. He seems to be something a puppet shaman, a man devoted to “going deeper.” He reminded me you can always go deeper with whatever art you are focused on. He made comparisons between ancient Japanese Samurai and modern-day puppeteers, stating that both disciplines require pre-meditated movements, stillness, awareness and devotion towards a higher level. He had a philosophy behind his puppets that brought him certain arcane insights, such as,
“If your puppet does not breathe, your puppet is dead.”
So simple, so pure, so succinct and beautiful to me was that one sentence. I will be taking his master classes again in the future. Here is a link to view his work~ http://worldsofpuppets.com/
It is a strange time to be an artist. Perhaps that is always a true statement, yet it seems to be much truer today. I asked a friend recently, “Do you think my music, my art, or anyone else's for that matter, is falling on deaf ears these days? If creative offerings do not pertain to the cataclysm of current events, i.e the political/pandemic/racial issues, are people still interested?” His response was, “I think so, people want a distraction from all this upheaval, they want an escape.”
This answer made me think. Art as a distraction and an escape from life? Or rather art, as an inspiring creative force that illuminates, uplifts and opens the door to new worlds within worlds? Both simultaneously? What is your answer? What are your thoughts? Has your view of the arts been altered in the current climate? Has your artistic appetite grown voracious or stagnant in light of worldly changes? Should art be a distraction from “reality"?
A film, which I dare say increased my awareness upon the world and its myriad entities and which astounded the senses with delight and awe~
Fantastic Fungi, directed by Louis Schwartzberg, 2019. This film traces the path of the fungal kingdom in mind altering ways. You will think upon the fruits of fungus with deep respect and reverence if you dare to ensnare yourself within the web of majestic mycelium. Did this film make me smarter? Did it altar my brain chemistry? Well, yes it did actually. Upon returning home from this cinematic experience, I played my piano, pieces I had been working on and developing for years, suddenly my fingers found solutions to musical conundrums which had hitherto eluded me or escaped my awareness that they needed solving altogether. My consciousness was opening its inner eye and seeing the light of a new dawn rise over the threshold of awareness. Paul Stamets is a new hero of mine. If you don’t know who he is, all you have to do is take a one hour and twenty minute dose of Fantastic Fungi.
Word to the Wise~
Euhemerism~ The Interpretation of myths as historical events. The etymology comes from a
4th century b.c. mythographer, Euhemerus.
I learned of this word while reading God’s and Heroes of The Celts by Marie-Louise Sjoestedt. I devoured this book in a few days this past month, it is one of those tomes always mentioned, always referenced with much respect in the scholarly world of Celtic mythology. Now It has found a lasting place not only in my thoughts, but also within the Illumination Tales bibliography, feel free to check this out on the storytelling page of my website. I will indulge one excerpt from the book which I found particularly ponderable and which will hopefully enable a better understanding of euhemerism.~
“The Romans think of their myths historically, the Irish think of their history mythologically…The Irish describe their God’s as pre-historic tribes who once labored and fought upon the soil of Ireland and still dwell there invisibly present, side by side with human inhabitants... Every strange feature of the soil of Ireland is the witness of a myth, and, as it were, its crystallization. The supernatural and the natural penetrate and continue each other…”
They continue each other, hmmm… I like that.
Farewell for now~
Until the next new moon brings us together again within the Craneskin Bag, Happy Solstice! Merry meet, merry part and merry meet again,
Tall and thin,
Through thick and thin once again,
New Moon, June 21st, 2020