Archive for April, 2015

Walpurgis Night- observed on April 30th in Germany, Czech Republic, Finland, Estonia, Sweden and elsewhere.  A night when children light candles and play tricks on their neighbors.  A night in which Catholics honor Saint Walpurga.

Celebrated by modern day pagans as the night of witches.

“Walpurgis Night was when, according to the belief of millions of people, the devil was abroad—when the graves were opened and the dead came forth and walked. When all evil things of earth and air and water held revel.” ~ Bram Stoker, “Dracula’s Guest”

Gustav Meyrink's Walpurgisnacht

“WILD HUNT (Ger. wilde or wüthende jagd; also wildes or witthendet heer, wild or maddening host; nachtjäger, night huntsman, etc.), the name given by the German people to a fancied noise sometimes heard in the air at night, as of a host of spirits rushing along over woods, fields, and villages, accompanied by the shouting of huntsmen and the baying of dogs.” from 1900 The International Cyclopaedia: A Compendium of Human Knowledge, Volume 15.

Occuring exactly six months after Samhain, Walpurgisnacht is considered to be, the “other Halloween”, as it is also a time when the veil opens between the worlds of the living and the dead. It is on this eve that German witches were said to meet upon the Brocken.  This, the highest of the Harz mountains,  famous for casting enormous shadows of a person into the mists below.   There they would pay honor to their “devil” and celebrate the coming of spring. It is also on this night that the Wild Hunt ends. The collected souls, taken by the Goddess Holda into the earth so they may be reborn.

it is a time for speaking to those on the otherside.  Of divination and magic.  Of daring a glimpse into the dark.

Goddess Holda wild hunt

Walpurgisnacht- A lovely time to call upon Hecate as she has also long been associated with the Wild Hunt.  Roaming the nights with her sacred black dogsGoddess of the crossroads, the moon, sorcery, and ghosts. She who rules in the underworld, earth, and heaven.  She, Queen of the Witches.

hecate

Goethe’s Faust: “To the Brocken the witches ride…” (“Die Hexen zu dem Brocken ziehn…”)

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John_Henry_Fuseli_-_The_Nightmare

“Even if she be not harmed, her heart may fail her in so much and so many horrors; and hereafter she may suffer–both in waking, from her nerves, and in sleep, from her dreams.” ― Bram Stoker, Dracula

“Thus fortified I might take my rest in peace. But dreams come through stone walls, light up dark rooms, or darken light ones, and their persons make their exists and their entrances as they please, and laugh at locksmiths.” ― Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, Carmilla

As I continue my study of The Bohemian Gothic Tarot deck, it occured to me that it would make sense to discuss the cards in some chronological order.  However, since I’m not at all a linear thinker, that idea was quickly eschewed in favor of a more  instinctive bent. Hence, I’ll just be writing about whichever card strikes my fancy. And on this new moon, it is:

Nine of  Swords

keyowrds: Nightmares. Visions.  Terrors of the mind.   Delusions. Phobias and hysteria.   Fear of going mad.

bohemian gothic tarot nine of swords

Brings to my mind the works of Poe and Jackson. The artistic horrors of Bava and Argento.

Reflections on the card: While certainly most would consider this a negative card (and in many aspects it is), it also invokes in me a singular excitement. No doubt  because dreams and nightmares often fuel my own stories.

“I delight in what I fear,” Shirley Jackson once said.  Her Eleanor vance could have posed for this card.

We all have fears.  They can control us, or we can turn them into our own works of art.

Alexander Scriabin’s Black Mass (Piano Sonata no. 9)

Not horror, but a dark fairytale retelling I wrote a bit ago on a lark…

Sleeping Beauty of the Witching Hour

Written under my pen name: Tasha Harlow

A Retelling of Giambattista Basile’s “The Sun, Moon and Talia” from the Pentamerone– 1634

sleeping_beauty by Victor Gabriel Gilbert

The now dusty chateau was once filled every Friday with hundreds of

masked dancers.  It was indeed at one of these balls that the host met his future

bride.

This Lord and Lady imagined for themselves a child, and after many fruitless

summers, conceived a daughter whom they named Evara.

She came out screeching at the first blush of three- nature’s most enchanted hour.    Her hair and smile dusted with gold, she filled their days with starlight.

However, they found their joy short-lived when wise men cast her horoscope.  “She will one day prick her finger on a splinter of flax, and henceforth be of the dead.”

Thereafter, no such seed was allowed into the castle, and the Lord and Lady prayed their daughter safe.   Toward this endeavor, never was she permitted to leave the grounds; and this walled dwelling became a world.

Seasons passed without rebuke or cause for sorrow.   The portent, though, remained in the air, and the child obeyed her parent’s rules with a child’s need to please.   Daytides passed with marionettes and toy soldiers.  Yet the age always comes when make-believe with dolls is cast aside for dreams of a more cardinal rapture.

Evara- whose hair and snow-white complexion fooled people into thinking her thoughts were just as pure- now passed many hours gazing into looking glasses and out of windows.   Her flesh somehow longingly remembering the touch it had not yet known.  Her heart, beating with a devil’s trill.

One day her lover would come.  Thundering he would ride in, bringing with him stories from beyond the gate.   His callused hands as strong as that of any knight.   His kisses, as inviting as the witching hour.

So it was written in the pages of her books.  So would it be in the pages of her

life.

She kept these fantasies hushed so they should belong to her alone.  For from

early youth she’d surmised that no one can steal the dreams you never share.

Rather than grow sulky or morose at her imprisonment, she revelled in these unspent desires that clung to her like the bougainvillea of the castle walls.

So it came to be that shortly after her sixteenth birthday, she was dancing about the great passages when she came upon the door which opened up to a long, narrow staircase leading up to the garret.  Never having before dared to climb these forbidden  steps- today she affirmed she was a woman and must free herself from the bonds of parental love.

As she ascended, oft heard warnings returned, clanging like the church bells from afar.  Never go unchaperoned into the attics or catacombs.  You could fall.  You could become lost.  You could prick your finger.

But with every prideful step, she brushed aside these auguries as she would any flea.

At last she came to the landing and beyond the door she discovered an elderly maid sitting at a spindle.

“What are you doing?”

“I am spinning flax into linen, my Lady.”

Only a few years ago at these words Evara’s body would have gone lax with terror.  Now, instead of slumping, her shoulders straightened.  Her eyes kindled with the desire to test fate.  And before the servant could stop her or even realize what she meant to do, she reached forward and grazed the unspun fiber.

She sucked in her breath and withdrew.

“Oh.” The servant cupped her hands around her mouth as Evara stared at the blood dripping off her forefinger.

The elan vital froze in her veins.  Her lips paled to ceruse.

She fell.

The servant, who’d only been disobeying orders in hopes of making pretty dresses for her granddaughters, let out one strangled sob before fleeing.

Upon finding poor-fated Evara, the grieving parents dressed her in silk and lace.

“My daughter.  My daughter,” the Lady cried while placing the girl onto her velvet-draped bed.   “Never shall you be buried with vermin.”

“ Come.” The Lord, choking back his own tears, took his wife’s arm, and they

departed.

Evara  slept.

#

It was difficult to breathe.

The second thing she became aware of was an unbearable weight pressing

upon her body.

A pain she never could have dreamt.

Her eyes popped open.

The man- the unbearable weight- shifted just enough for her to draw in much needed air.

“Mother.” The first remembered word slipped out in a hoarse whisper.

“They said you were dead, but as soon as my eyes fell upon your face, I knew you’d only been entranced.”  He leaned forward to kiss her.

She screamed.

#

At last when he was gone, she gathered herself together and went running down the cobwebbed halls.   Where were Mother and Father?  Wherever had all the help gone?  Her calls were greeted with an unrelenting silence.  She ran room to room, now occupied by spiders composing their traps.

Her flight brought her outside to the inner courtyard.  There she burst into tears and wept till her heart became bone-dry.

Birch and elder reached into the sky, their branches gnarled and interlocked.  The bougainvillea coiled with poisonous ivy to mask the gates and walls.  There was no longer even an opening leading to that mysterious other world.

A hundred years might have passed.

Too weary to attempt the climbing vines, she surrendered to the idea of existing alone.   Enough wood was chopped to endure many years if she lit a fire only in one chamber.  There was no fear of going hungry.   The entire staff must have fled in a hurry, for the castle held enough food to last her beyond silvered hair.

Her dreams of love vanquished, her desires churned once again.  It was her mind she cultivated as carefully as she tended the flora.

In the richly paneled library, she poured through the thousands of books, discovering the different personalities within.  Every book had its own time, its own season.  There were the books to relish in the sunlit garden.  And those to be enjoyed while curled by the hearth.  Elegiac tales to fit the autumnal sadness.  Dark velvet prose for winter.  Those with twisting, ornately-inked lines to unravel during those long nights. The light, airy stories of spring- blooming with wistful hope.  The romances of summer, which she now perused with detached amusement.

And there were the thick, dusty tomes- mysterious and abstruse.

She read.

And she learned.

Her stomach grew.

#

They were born in pools of blood.   She bit off their cords.

She named them Raphael and Anabentine.

#

 

Overnight, seeds sprung into marigold.

She sang lullabies to her children.

The vines grew ever higher, furious in their design.

After sunset, her favorite jackdaw would often flitter through the window.   He would dart about, picking up the shiny trinkets she’d left out for his amusement.  Then, from time to time, he would perch on her shoulder to see what kept her so engrossed.

A passionate librarian and restless student, she sat clothed in robes of black and silver.  Tome after tome searched for their hidden keys.

Shrouded night by night, she learnt of the stars and of the prevailing moontides.

She heard voices in the wind and understood.

#

 It was in the embers of August that he returned with men bearing swords that

slew her beloved vines.  In he came through the revealed gate, a pack of hunting

dogs at his side.

 The prince- for that was his title- kissed her hello as though he’d been invited,

and picked a room for his own.  “For this shall now be my special retreat.”

 As he and his attendants infiltrated her home, she soothed her babies with

aphotic promises.  She planted wisteria around the castle proper.

Three days into his stay he came upon her as she sat by the fountain.

“Ah, there you are, my dear.”

She slid her book onto the ground and kicked it aside.

“Good morning, your Highness.”

  “Now, how many times must I tell you that there is no need for you to use such  formality?” He smiled softly.  “You are angry.  As is your right.  How lonely you must have been.  But let me tell you what transpired.   On that day, I was hunting in these forests when my falcon flew from me.”

Without lifting her head, she cast a sideways glance.

“I raised my eyes to follow his flight and my gaze fell upon these towers.  Naturally, I asked who lived there and was warned of a young Lady who died tragically and now haunted its premises.”  He remained standing, while bending one knee on the bench. “According to tales, no one was ever able to make it into this  earth.  The vines themselves were said to come alive and strangle any trespasser. “

He paused to drape an arm over his bent thigh.  “I knew I must see you for myself- what an adventure that should be.  I climbed the creeping plants into the yard.  Room by room I searched.  And then, in that great gold room, I found not a ghost, but you.  I never should have left afterwards.”

She bowed her head further.

  “To think you have cared for them all alone.  Yes, you have every right to your anger.”

“I thought you would never return.”  She twisted the pearl bracelet around her wrist.

“Tis true that I left here and returned to the businesses of my own city.  But the memories of your sweet cries oft invaded my mind.   I never should have left you.   And now that I am here and see what I begot, I know you must never leave my side again.”

“But your wife.  The Princess Grisel.”

 “Has brought nothing to my home.   There is a cottage by the sea in which I shall send her.  And you shall take her place upon the throne.”

“I don’t think I am worthy of such an honor.”

  “How could you ever think such a thought?  Look at them.” He smiled down at the two enjoying their nap under the bushes where thorns of brier and thistle sage interlaced.  “The most lovely of all my gifts.”

Evara shivered as he lifted her chin.  His hands, so horribly clean and smooth.

Hideous with their perfectly trimmed nails.

  “Don’t worry, my love.”  Deep within his overcast eyes- a hunger

gleamed.  “Soon, I shall be rid of the hag, and you and I will be together as we

should with our Sun and Moon.”

She  went frigid as a thousand Decembers.

  He kissed her immobile lips, before merrily heading off to join his friends for their daily hunt.

    Her children continued to sleep peacefully.

      She plucked a rose from the nearest bush.

        The thorn cut into her finger.

         She did not bleed.

#

She caressed her bird’s tender plumage as he perched on her finger.

Knock.  Knock.

“Go now,” she whispered and he took off, flapping his jerky wings.

Her chamber door opened before she announced for the prince to come in.  Not that she’d expected him to wait.  He swept in, his chest protruded, his doublet unbuttoned.  After taking her hand to his mouth and making a false pretense of asking after her day, he came about announcing the matter at hand:

Princess Grisel.

“Reports from home indicate that she has heard rumors of you.”

Evara raised her chin.

In the distance her bird let out a metallic kak-kak.

 “I will depart in the morning so as to allay the situation.” He put both hands on her shoulders.  “I will not allow her to cause you any concern.”

“Thank you.” Evara reached out and stroked his cheek.

#

“By my word, this is delicious.”  The prince shoved another piece of meat pie into his mouth. “Will the cook be serving this tonight?”

Grisel ran her finges along the edges of her fork.  “No.  He has other plans for dinner.”

“I was thinking, my dear, that before autumn sets in that you might enjoy a visit to the-“  He started to cough.  His spoon clang onto the floor.

“How does your poison taste?”  His wife’s lips, usually puckered as though

sucking on sour lemons, now twisted with amusement at their corners.

“You.”  He toppled out of the chair onto the floor.  “How?”

“I have friends in the most unlikely places.”  She loomed over him, her hands against her ample hips.

“My-“ His body writhed and he let out one last groan.

#

Princess Grisel sauntered into the kitchen, her long red hair flowing down her

back.  The cook was alone at his stove.  His workers currently tending to other

matters.

“Thank you, Henri.”

“It’s a simple recipe.”

She touched his arm.  “Good.  For I hope you shall not be too tired this night.”

He stirred the thick stew.

He smiled.

#

“You will kindly tell our guests that I have a headache and shall have to excuse myself from the night’s festivities.”  She rubbed her temple.

“Yes, your highness.” The maid curtsied.  “Will you be wishing to have anything brought up?”

“I don’t believe so, but shall ring if there is need.”

And so Grisel retired to her chamber while the prince’s friends sat down to dine.

#

Evara unfolded the note which her bird had returned with.

“It is done.  Never shall the prince be found.   As for you, I shall make sure the tales spin only wilder.   No one shall dare approach the enchanted castle.  But if you ever have need of anything, you know how to send word to me.”

#

“Hush my children.” Evara sat by the side of her children.

“Tell it again.  Tell it again!” Raphael insisted as Anabentine smiled in agreement from her own bed.

“Of course.” She kissed both their foreheads.  As she settled back into her chair, the back of her neck prickled.   She closed her eyes for a moment.  Yes, the ivy and bougainvillea were uncoiling, alert, ready…

Another one.   How many in these past four years?   Dear Grisel had underestimated the curiosity and pure stupidity of mortals.

Ah well.

   She pressed her hands together.  Do your thing, my lovelies.

     “Mommy?” Raphael fidgeted.

“Shh…listen to this tale of a wicked prince.  Once upon a time ago…”

Kak-Kak.        

The jackdaw flew in and perched on her shoulder to listen to this story again.  The children’s favorite as it always soothed them to sleep.

#

Outside, a fool approached.   The light of his lantern pale in comparison to that of the full moon.  Fretful nights filled with dreams that would not disperse in the morn, had led him to embark on this journey.

With each step, his heartbeat increased.

Ever nearer, he crept toward the castle.

He’d fought his way through the thicket of hedges- those which according to lore had entrapped many men to their lamentable deaths.

His own face and hands bled from the thousands of thorns.

Still he pressed on.  Only sometimes glancing back when the moon cast deceptive shadows.

One foot landed in a small hole.  Set off balance, his body lurched and he fell  forward onto the grass and dirt.   Despite hitting his head, he was aware of the vines springing from below the earth and wrapping their tendrils around his ankle.  He remained conscious as they coiled around and around, tighter and tighter, up his legs and thighs.  Squeezing and constraining his chest.  Teasing his throat like a pair of strangling hands.

-The end

Reflections upon The Hermit:

The moon and the lantern- illuminations upon the dark. Hooded cloak- keeps oneself hidden until they wish to be seen. Eyes focused on what’s ahead. Unlike the Fool who is often accompanied by a dog, the Hermit walks alone. He is solitary, not lonely. He has chosen to take his own path.

The blueness of the cloak- water/spirituality/serenity/lucidity. The redness- fire/passion. A passion for spirituality/knowledge/growth/transformation

Bohemian Gothic Tarot hermit

As I continue my studies of The Bohemian Gothic Tarot, I came across a method of discovering one’s major arcana card. Combining numerology with tarot, this highlights what issues and themes predominate during this lifetime.

To find out your numerological birth number, add up the digits of your birthday. For example: April 12, 2015. 4+1+2+2+0+1+5=15.

A person born on this date would have 15 as their birth number. The 15th card of the major arcana is The Devil.

0- The Fool
1- The Magician
2. High Priestess
3. Empress
4. Emperor
5. Hierophant
6. The Lovers
7. Chariot
8. Strength
9. The Hermit
10. The Wheel of Fortune
11. Justice
12. The Hanged Man
13. Death
14. Temperance
15. The Devil
16. The Tower
17. Stars
18. The Moon
19. The Sun
20. Judgement
21. The World

Which Card are you?