Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Basil the King

I took many photographs of the herbs from Tesco, before I was satisfied and then chose this one. Basil is one of the herbs and tastes a little like anise. In my view it is the God of Herbs and indeed herbs are sacred because they were first discovered by the Gods. This is where herbs obtained their curative properties, thought the ancients. Herbs are very much associated with fertility and are said to ease the pain of childbirth. They increase procreative powers and so wealth and indeed fecundity is assured. I don't know if Tesco basil will assure these things but it is rather nice for a forced herb sold from the counter. It is also said to counteract bad smells and also evil spirits - so it must be good to have around the house! Now basil is said to have derived from βασιλεύς or basileus meaning "king". It is believed to have grown where St Constantine and Helen discovered the Holy Cross and in Christian symbolism, the herb is sacred because it was found growing at Calvary. So it is the King of Herbs and is rightly regarded by many cooks as Royal. It is not hard to grow and I recommend that in March you plant your seeds. The seeds are a little prone to damage so careful with the water and the heat. When the seedlings have come on a little bit, put them in the window ledge in a sunny spot. You will not be disappointed with this celestial archetype!

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Tower

The Tower is one of enduring symbols in the Tarot and this particular tower is a very moody example from Glendalough. Apparently, Hildegaard of Bingen has an interest in this one, but I can't verify that, so perhaps someone else might know of a reference. In the Tarot, the tower is being struck by lightning, signifying that whatever human beings may build is bound to fall at some stage. Hope and love remain nonetheless. But this tower reminds me of Rapunzel's prison tower. Bound to a wicked witch since the age of 12, Rapunzel had to drop a hook attached to her long blonde hair, so that the witch could climb the tower and listen to Rapunzel's beautiful singing. Eventually a passing prince hears her singing and together he and Rapunzel hatch an escape plan. Unfortunately Rapunzel gives the game away. The witch pushes the prince out of the tower and falling into a thorn bush below, he is blinded. But sightless, he continues to search the land - and then hears her singing again. His sight is healed by his tears of joy when they are reunited. They trick the witch who is left imprisoned in the tower, whilst the two are married and inherit the kingdom. Featured in a poem by William Morris, Rapunzel's story takes the form of a dream vision that moves us from fragmentation to integration. So there are many things here to consider - initial disruption or disintegration, the alchemy of the coagulation and transformation - and individuation. Folk tales almost inevitably end in marriage and psychically, this represents integration. The witch represents the trial (composed of shadow elements) that must be endured and overcome before individuation is possible.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

What's left of the Signs

This is what's left of the sign outside the old sign maker's shop, which used to be in Pembroke Lane. I don't know whether the proprietors moved or closed. All I do know is that in the high winds of last year, the rather nice sign blew loose from its chains and disappeared. Perhaps it was a sign of the times? It looked a bit like an inn sign and the stone building could therefore be mistaken for a small pub, a disappointment to some passers by on their way from Baggot Street to the Pembroke Road. All that's left now are the chains - and chains are very big in symbolism, since they link or tie one thing to another. Now there is a very fine Irish reference for describing chains in a symbolic way. The Irish God, Ogma had a chain stretching from his tongue to the ears of his listeners. In this chain of communication, the listeners were tied, spellbound by his eloquence. In contradistinction to the chains of slavery, psychoanalysts sometimes describe chains as adaptive ties to the collective - indispensable bonds without which we cannot relate socially. The chains in the picture seem a little sad without the load they once bore. Does that tell us anything about the psyche do you think?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Bad Day in Blackrock?

It wasn't such a bad day in Blackrock. It's just that the old abandoned swimming pool, now covered with graffiti, is one of these public facilities that seemed to resist development or renewal. It sat out the economic boom, getting shabbier as time passed. Something reminded me of the classic film, a modern western called "Bad day at Blackrock" that starred the great actor Spencer Tracy. Maybe it's the laconic manner of the young man on the left, as he ignores the passage of the couple making their way along the side of the railway line. Somehow it made me think of Tracy's John J. Mccreedy saying to his adversary, "You're not only wrong. You're wrong at the top of your voice." Sometimes memories just trigger and then we want to dig into the archives and explore a book or film from the past. Often clients bring such material to psychotherapy. Describing a book or film can present an opportunity to explore unconscious material that may be surfacing. Pictures like the one above can also stimulate dream-like material. Making up stories about a single image can produce dream-like material to analyse. So what is happening in the image? Who are the people? Where are they going? What happens next?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Mother, Daughter and the Deep Blue Sea

I took a jaunty spring trip down the coastline, stopping at various places en route. This is at Blackrock, just south of Dublin. I spoke with this friendly youngster with her mother just briefly, but in a civilised fashion that seems to have disappeared during these times. Existentially we have consider the epoch, don't we? It's hard - even impossible at times - to wage a battle against an environment. But just when friendliness seems out of fashion, something happens to change the point of view. I made the blues a little deeper in the picture because I wanted to be reminded of Scilla in the South of Italy. In mythology, that was where a monster lived. If you came to close to either side of the Straits of Messina, a monster called Scilla would get you. So the saying grew up that you could find yourself between Scilla and Charybdis - a bit like saying you're between the devil and the deep blue sea. Odysseus managed to escape Scilla on his famous voyage. A good thing too, because Scilla, the sea monster, makes Alien look like a nice little kitten. With six tentacles with six heads and three rows of vicious teeth she would make mincemeat of sailors in a trice. In reality Scilla is a lovely place and on a day such as this the colour of the sky is near the colour of the water in the picture. I thought mother and daughter looked very nice against the blue sea. I am sure they would melt into modern-day Scilla's blue embrace.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Double Protection

Garlic and chili peppers offer a double whammy to serpents, vampires and all manner of Satanic pests. There are no prizes though for guessing at the symbolic values of these fabulous ingredients. Chili is hard for the tongue to handle and garlic so smelly that it won't do your PR much good. These Calabrian good luck charms are so positioned to keep away the evil influences. Chilies are a great Calabrian favourite and in this part of the world where Greek, Spanish and even Asian influences meet, it is no surprise that they are part of the culture. However, garlic is a moveable feast and if you are reading a cookery book written in northern Europe, regard so-called Calabrian recipes with some suspicion. Any mention of Vespas should alert you to shadow projections! In ancient Greece, women chewed garlic at festivals due to the sexual abstinence required during festival time. So beware. In ancient Rome, those who had chewed garlic were not allowed in temples and that does continue in Islam to the present day. When Satan left the Garden of Eden, garlic sprung up from one of his footsteps. The garlic here always delights me. I am unduly fond of my Calabrese portafortune. They continue to protect!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Rainy Day Cappuccio

After a mild day, the rain came. Some of were prepared like our subject and some were not. A few that I saw thought it would be as mild as yesterday - and were dressed for summer. I had a hat so I was OK! This person is so well prepared that he has a kind of fisherman look with the long coat and hood, which brings me to the subject for today, the hood or cappuccio in Italian. The Capuchin Order (Friars Minor) of course gave their name to cappuccino coffee, which is not to be drunk after 11. a.m. You don't believe me I am sure, but it will upset your stomach and you may receive a visit from the Food Police. Jung felt that the hood was of the celestial and a person so cowled evoked death - because in wearing the hood, you vanish, a bit like the monks in religious orders do. The recent trend for teenagers to wear "hoodies" infuriates adults because youngsters cannot be recognised. But their invisibility is specifying the hidden and the obscure. They are saying "You cannot recognise me or my state, which is close to death. That is the way I feel and yet you adults callously disregard my needs and feelings, calling me names." That is typical of youth culture. Young people express identity in a variety of ways and here some irony is employed. It's the apparent lack of identity that draws our attention. Historically, the head gear of the assassin is a hood and he of course brings death. Dagda in Celtic mythology has no less than seven hoods of invisibility that he wore in battle - all at the same time. Now that is going too far!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

That was the year, that was.

On March 17th, 1931, the first St Patrick's Day Parade was held in the Irish Free State. The photograph is a detail from Donnybrook Garda Station

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Promenade Attention

On my way along the Bray promenade, I literally "snapped" some shots of walkers, drifting along. I chose this one because there was so much happening in the frame. Mother and daughter have spotted me by this time. The lovely grouping of youngsters by the pram couldn't care! Their attention is elsewhere. I wonder what they are looking at, but probably I will never know. I'm turning to Maurice Merleau-Ponty here because I really didn't notice what was going on, other than a group of people were passing. Some psychologists (of whom I might not approve) would say that was "inattention", that there is some kind of moment when the approaching objects begin to be "seen". This doesn't take account of our own subjectivity and dismisses it as if it were unreal or "false". Yet here, the visible is what is "seized upon by the eyes". It is my own construction too, not a "real" object that could be seen in common by a number of possible observers". The people have noticed the camera too, so reality is made up of a whole grouping of noticing and attention. And of course, psychotherapy is made up of noticing and attention. For client and therapist in the psycho-therapeutic space, the interaction of two fields of view will produce a third. This is one description of what Jung regarded as an "alchemical process". Merleau-Ponty in his seminal work, the Phenomenology of Perception may have found a point of agreement with Jung's phenomenology in asking the question, does consciousness ever really perceive itself and "itself in the world"?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Merrily We Roll Along

This Merry-go-Round was doing good trade at Bray seafront. Amidst all the technological marvels, it's pleasing to see it still around. The horses are painted in such a vibrant way that they present he most pleasing sight in all the fairground. I chose a filter that would make the image look like a 1960s postcard from the seaside and it did give it an old look. A fairground is pleasing because it is an old form that continues to function in towns that no longer make their own "real" space. Nowadays, space is an abstract world of commodities. But the fairground confronts the world of banks, building societies, rent, loans and mortgages that dominate every city and town. The latter is an illusory and abstract space represented by a television and electronic media industry that daily suffuses our lives. Yet the fairground's temporary space of enjoyment fills this normally empty green promenade with shrill cries of excitement, and constitutes a formation of pleasure that refuses to go away.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


The funfair at Bray precedes the St Patrick's Day celebrations and offered the chance for a few pictures. I liked this one because the configuration looked nice and it wasn't a difficult shot to take - simplicity is often best. People certainly looked like they were having fun after the longish cold spell and Spring came rather late for Ireland this year. The circle and the wheel loom large in symbolism and also at the funfair where everything is pretty much in a circle where we all arrive back where we started, perhaps somewhat dazed and confused. We get some excitement from what appears as dangerous, but within boundaries it's perfectly safe. The term fairground comes from the Latin feria, meaning holiday and when I was a child the Fair was a two week summer break, when factories, offices and many shops closed for the duration. This has largely disappeared, since it is no longer economical for companies to shut down completely. St Patrick's Day too has changed into a week's festival, but I wonder how many people preferred that single day when rules slackened and bacchanal prevailed. In the middle ages, the day followed the Lent period so the drinking of ale celebrated the end of fasting. A week just doesn't seem quite the same.

Wicklow Water

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Pot Shot

I spotted this at a Wicklow garden where there this giant clock was part of a collection of salvage material. I wonder where the hands are now? The question of time is always important to psychotherapists and "we have to finish now" is a typical end of session closure. Too often it's at a most productive moment, yet holding the material over until next week can also be productive. It's always a balance. Clocks are very important to us all and it's not only psychotherapists who have issues about time. There are "punching in" clocks in factories and offices and even if there are none, we work to the clock. It is said that citizens who took over Paris in 1871 during the Franco-Prussian war took pot shots at the clocks - because they regarded them as exercising a tyrannical control over their lives. They wanted to be rid of the constrictions of time that their employers enforced. In psychotherapy, time is a boundary and it is also related to work. The client must use his or her time productively and it is up to the psychotherapist to encourage that duty. Psychotherapy offers an ethical space, where the client is not invited to "waste" money or indeed time in fruitless labour. This would be what William Morris regarded as "useless toil". So when I see the clock without hands, it is saying something to me about the place of time in our lives. Time is there to be used and in some sense we would all like to shoot the clock.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Top of the Chimney

Everyone must be thinking I am obsessed with chimneys. It wasn't intended this way. The chimney belongs to a house in Wicklow that borders gardens that are open to the public. A large sign on a bridge over the river says "Private", which makes it all the more intriguing. I knew there was a weather vane but I couldn't see it properly until I had enlarged the photograph. There is a very nice fish on top! The effect was achieved by stripping out the colour and using a red filter, then mixing black and white and polarised colour settings together. It was a bit of an accident but there was no turning back. I don't think I could do it again since it was achieved with Virtual Photographer and I cannot use that and Photoshop layers together successfully. In Ancient Greece a weather vane depicting the God, Triton, was placed above the Tower of Winds in Athens. Weather vanes are all about breath. The Druids sought to repel invaders' ships by literally exerting their magic upon them, breathing winds into, but not above their sails. In dreams, experiencing a wind may indicate a change of some kind. The winds are a symbol of energy, so if you do dream of them, check out which way they blow, whether you are in a sailing vessel or in a familiar street. What would that mean to you?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Backyard Industrial Shed

I was a little early for a visit to my GP so I decided to walk around instead of using the waiting room. Around the back near Kiely's Pub I spotted this shed - and had a rather industrial chimney amidst a number of intersecting angles. I was delighted, because as readers of this blog know, I admire a good chimney. The sky was indeed this colour blue and it saturated everything. I didn't even try to Photoshop it. It wasn't worth it! The spaces at the rear of parades of small shops are often interesting. A number of sheds often huddle between the rear of the shops and residential units, defying tidiness. This one set off my memories of film and cameras, when if you wanted to edit Super 8 movie film, there was little that could be purchased to help you. One man however - and I forget his name - ran a small business from a shed such as this. He made all sorts of gadgets that would help you synchronise vision and sound and even construct a dissolve (or "mix") using a bottle of developer and critical timing!. I wonder if such businesses exist in these days of more stringent planning. Industrial spaces like this blur the concepts of function, structure and form. We would be the poorer if they were removed for the sake of the visual. Architecture these days likes to conceal such things and in so doing lacks transparency. So here is the object - the industrial shed.

Monday, March 8, 2010

From the Water's Depth

There is always something of death in these kinds of pictures. Inland waters conjure up a melancholy all of their own, despite the surrounding of colourful foliage and their limpid blue reflections. I cannot think of any other than Ophelia when I see the photograph, perhaps because the long lens lends it this strange look. Perhaps strangeness in nature reminds me of Ophelia. Ophelia's narcissistic ritual of creating fantastic garlands - did it sponsor or merely modify the manner of her demise? Poor wretch, she was dragged dead from the mirror of the brook where symbol and reality merge. Shakespeare is suggesting that Ophelia's odd behaviour is unconscious. The real, the imaginary and the symbolic are here welded into one. Nothing is known unless it is dragged, screaming and kicking from unconsciousness, just as Ophelia is pulled from her watery grave. Being in the grip of an archetype as was Ophelia, is a bit like the image suggests. Making sense of it is difficult and it is hard to tell which way is up. Following Hamlet's rage at Ophelia's grave, he becomes a trifle more aware and for a while it looks like he is the only one that knows what's going on. For a while that is. What speaks from the water's depth speaks from the unconscious.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Burned Stack

I saw this and thought that perhaps I had a shot like this already. But that chimney was new and shiny and this one has suffered from the heat and the rain. I saturated the picture a little because I wanted to reveal the burned metal at the top. Many moons ago, as a shipyard apprentice, I had to temper tools in an open forge. It was rather exciting to watch the metal change colour and this reminded me of these early days when I wore a blue boiler suit with a blue AEF union card in the breast pocket! I will refrain from mentioning the date, but I will say that we were rather organised. We had to buy two boiler suits and after a week, the first would be quite shiny with oil and grease. It would be delivered to the dry cleaners and the second clean one would come out for the next week. The cleaners specialised in boiler suits and I think that was all they did. At one time a factory would be identified by the chimney and the corrugated roof with a chimney stack became the iconic image of industry. In current times, it's almost as if factories didn't exist. The factories and the workers inside are a bit hidden from popular culture. Where is Norma Rae?