Archive for January 6th, 2010


Of Myth and Elegaic Beauty

January 6, 2010

Circe Offering the Cup to Ulysses - 1891, John W. Waterhouse

According to Greek mythology, Circe was a powerful enchantress who lived on an island and amused herself by turning passing travellers into the animals they most resembled, notably pigs and asses.

Ulysses (Odysseus) arrived at Circe’s island palace on his way home from 10 years of fighting in the Trojan Wars. He was wily and wise but Circe was accustomed to having her own way. She rapidly turned his companions into swine, but the great Ulysses had already been given an antidote by the god Hermes. 

She was so impressed by his apparent wisdom and total immunity to her powerfully drugged wine, that she relented and released his crew. They rested and feasted in peace and idleness for a year.

Circe gave him guidance and advice on how to overcome the terrible dangers that lay between him and his home. A voyage he would complete alone after a further 10 years of trials and tribulations.

When Ulysses returned home to Ithica, his faithful wife Penelope was still waiting for him and they resumed a happy and peaceful life together.

That’s the potted version.

John William Waterhouse painted ‘Circe Offering the Cup to Ulysses’ in 1891 as one of several Greek mythological works at a time when narrative painting (i.e. telling a story) and a taste for the exotic were popular. Waterhouse was influended by the Pre-Raphaelites but his handling of paint is much richer and more sensuous.


Taliesin: transformation of the mundane into the spiritual.

January 6, 2010

2010, being a 3 year, is the Tarot year of the Empress.  According to a numerology analysis that I was gifted with a quarter-of-a-century ago, my Personal Year number for 2010 is five, with a three essence. 

It’s easy enough to calculate your Personal Year number. Just add up the day and month you were born with the current year.  So if you were born on 15 June, you would get:  6 + 6 + 2010 (3) = 15 = 6.

One of my Tarot decks, is The Arthurian Tarot by Caitlin and John Matthews, and the fifth Major Arcana card is Taliesin.

The legend of the transformation of Gwion Bach into the poet Taliesin is told in the Hanes Taliesin. We read how Gwion was set to tend the magical cauldron of Ceridwen. This cauldron of inspiration was intended for the drinking of Afagddu, Ceridwen’s son, who was so ill-favoured that his mother wished to compensate for his lack of natural beauty by the gift of wisdom. However, young Gwion’s fingers were splashed with liquid from the cauldron and, to cool them, he trust them into his mouth and so acquired the cauldron’s wisdom for himself. Realizing his own danger through his new-won omniscience, Gwion transformed himself into a hare but Ceridwen pursued in the form of a hound; he changed into a fish and she into an otter; he changed into a bird and she into a hawk; lastly, he became a grain of wheat and she scrabbled him up into her crop as a hen.  (Hmm….remember that Cosmic Chook?)  He was reborn of her womb nine months later as the infant Taliesin.

This story is a parable of bardic initiation in which the young poet establishes his essential links with the Otherworld, in which all levels of reality and wisdom are available. By means of his  totemic associations with the different birds, beasts and fish – each of whom represent a level of knowledge – the poet is able to participate simultaneously in every part of creation in an omniscient way. He knows what has happened in the deep past and what will happen in the times to come.

Taliesin is the guardian of tradition. By means of his insights he is able to impart wisdom by means of song and story so that the youngest child can hear and understand. It is by such means that the mythic impact of the Arthurian Powers has been transmitted to our own century, for the living links of tradition pass into our keeping. While there will always be special guardians, traditional lore is embodied by the people who tell and listen to the stories.

Those who seek earnestly and sincerely for wisdom will encounter Taliesin who, thought his real dwelling place is the ‘region of the summer stars’, is nevertheless ready to aid the seeking and help him or her to contact the living wisdom of the Otherworld.

(Source: The Arthurian Tarot: a Hallowquest Handbook – Caitlin and John Matthews)

The first thing that piques my Aha! with Taliesin, is his feathered cloak, which puts me in mind of the Kahu Kiwi (Kiwi feather cloak) worn by the Maori chiefs of Aotearoa (New Zealand). 

Māori always regarded the kiwi as a special bird. They knew it as ‘te manu huna a Tāne’, the hidden bird of Tāne, god of the forest. Kiwi feather cloaks (kahu kiwi), originally made by sewing kiwi skins together, were taonga (treasures) usually reserved for chiefs. Kiwi feathers, now woven into flax cloaks, are still valued.

The second thing about this card is the echo of the hands and thread imagery with this astonishing sculpture by Lauren Raine, which synchronistically, I found on the Web a couple of days ago.

Weavers Sculpture - Lauren Raine

Lauren tells the story about creating the “Weavers” on her blog.

Curiously, in September last year, whilst creating a batch of SoulCards, I became focused on the word hands, and the concept of holding and wordplays: to have and to hold, stronghold, withholding, helping hands, invisible hands, hold your horses (a reference to The Chariot card in the Tarot).  And come to think of it, in The Mists of Avalon, was not the faery castle called the castle Chariot?

You are Christ’s Hands

God has no body now on Earth but yours,

No hands but yours,

No feet but yours.

Yours are the eyes through which he is to look out,

God’s compassion to the world;

Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good;

Yours are the hands with which he is to bless men now.

~ Teresa of Avila.

The historical Taliesin was a 6th Century Welsh bard, Chief of the Western Bards.  The Rosicrucian Authority, the late Manly P. Hall wrote of Taliesin:

“Taliesin was an ancient scholar and a Druidic priest who had passed through all the ‘Mysteries’ which have been preserved from antiquity.”

Manly Palmer Hall – hmmm, there’s that hand reference.  Born March 18 1901, which numerologically was a five year – Taliesin again.  

Tempora pallet occulta veritas

“In time, all hidden truths shall be revealed”.