Wednesday, December 25, 2013
Saturday, December 14, 2013
Thursday, December 12, 2013
. but they are often conceived as representing the whole and sometimes God. "For in and out, above, about, below/ 'Tis nothing but a Magic Shadow-show/ Play'd in a Box whose Candle is the Sun/ Round which we Phantom Figures come and go." The Jungian concept of shadow is deceptive and rather complex. It refers to the unintegrated aspects of the psyche. The shadow is often a projection of these, usually onto other people. If you find yourself disliking someone for no particular reason, the chances are you are projecting parts of yourself that you do not like. That is an unconscious phenomenon it is good to think about. Jung said that recognising one's shadow is so worthwhile that it's ninety per cent pure gold. The other ten per cent - well, that really is darkness at noon.
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Little do ye know your own blessedness; for to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive, and the true success is to labour." (Virginibus Puerisque, 1881:) The journey is the thing, because when I make this trip I usually meet someone of interest and I always learn something. I take photographs on the way, but they come out differently each trip. Plastic and synthetic fabrics may be easier to maintain, but for preference, I like to make this journey on wood.
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
One fine day in the summer, I visited the cheese festival in Bra, Piedmont. Bra is the birthplace of the slow food movement and so the event was heavily attended. I could hardly get near the cheese for a clear shot! The symbolism of cheese defaults to that of milk and even the Bra festival programme is clear - milk in all its shapes! I thought about associations of course. I was a foreign guest and so I was the Big Cheese. I was treated well, so I didn't get cheesed off. The shape of cheese is all important and manufacturers spend quite some time on deciding what shape their product should be. Unlike milk, its solidity means it cannot be sprinkled and it is seldom white. But it does retain the symbolic essential of milk - immortality. Plenty of dream books offer profit and gain as the meaning of eating cheese as a dream symbol. This derives from the work of Artemidorus, a 2nd century Greek diviner and interpreter of dreams, who was quite specific about using context for dream interpretation. Eating cheese in a dream may have quite different meanings depending on the nature of the dream and its connections with the dreamer. Eating half a kilo of cheese before bedtime is likely to ensure that you have dreams that night!
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
I was waiting for a train and had a bit of time to wander around, so I was delighted to come across a carpet shop with many colourful delights. On my first visit to Turin, I was amazed that there was a television channel devoted solely to carpets, so maybe it's a big carpet place. Carpets are rather symbolic in their own right and include many other symbols in their design. Particularly in the east, carpets are very important because they share the same symbolism as the house and garden. They offer a place apart - as in a prayer mat - and given the correct circumstances, they can fly. The colours are also vital to meaning. Yellow and gold speaks of rank and power, whilst white is pure and peaceful. Black is for rebellion and green is rebirth. I can see all of these in the picture. In some cultures, a tuft of wool might be taken from the border and burned to protect against the evil eye. The shapes contained in carpets are also important and all are magical. Dogs, peacocks, trees, doves and camels all symbolise different kinds of fortune for both the weaver and the purchaser of the carpet. So the next time you're looking at an oriental rug shop, have a chat with the owner about designs and what they mean for his or her culture. And may the violet colours in the photo bring you good luck!
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
I am always advising that we should look up. By looking straight ahead or down, there are things that we miss and these can be a such a delight. This is merely a skylight window in Eataly, where I tend to have lunch if I'm in Turin. While I'm waiting for what is always a culinary treat, I do look up at the lattice of window frames. At that time of year, I can usually rely on a blue sky - so my treat is doubled. Blue is possibly the coldest of colours and here it even looks a bit frosty. Translucent blue - the colour of the heavens. Shapes tend to disappear and vanish into blue, so this composition is, for me, as delicious as the food. Maybe these shapes symbolise heaven, which in itself always represents awareness. Sometimes I sit and count the boxes, and imagine them as compartments of an aware and conscious psyche - many separate rooms that lead off into one another. I notice too that some have more light. The pillar is also symbolic, because here is the supporting column without which everything falls - and this column also represents the tree of life forms part of the kitchen below. Directly under this roof, diners sit in a gregarious circle around the edge of the kitchen and serving area. Perhaps some part of me sits there with them every day.
Friday, November 8, 2013
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Thursday, August 22, 2013
Wednesday, August 7, 2013
This is a mast on the training ship Amerigo Vespucci, one of the finest of its kind. It's a large enough vessel and can carry more than 300 trainees - although I think most have to sleep in hammocks with that many on board! It called in to Canary Wharf when I was there and I made a visit. If it berths near you, do take the chance to explore, because it's fascinating. Now the symbolism is all about ships and boats. Technically, masts, sails and rigging fall within the scope of journeys and voyaging. But I feel that often, symbolism literature fails to take into account of the more prosaic topics. These boats were all about trade and ultimately profit. Particularly in this location, they carried goods that could not be obtained in the destination country - spices for example. I remember in the 1980s, some London docks still carried a faint aroma of the spices that were unloaded there. But ships do symbolise the voyage of life and the life trading that goes on is about the accommodations we make on the way. We make decisions, choices and sacrifices on that journey. Some plunder their way through life like privateers. They're as opportunistic as the pirates of old and that involves a certain amount of risk and danger. Some opt for a safer passage. But the voyage can't help starting with birth and ending in death. It's what we do on the way that matters.
Friday, July 19, 2013
This took my attention because there seemed to be so many soft toys piled into one space. It's an amusement arcade machine, where you can manipulate a crane to grab the toy you want. I think most people don't manage to get anything at all. Clearly this is Mickey Mouse and it was only following a Disney dispute that he emerged as his own character, replacing Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. This gives me an opportunity to correct a mistake. Many works on symbolism only recognise mice as rats. In turn, rats are compared with their "fellow rodents" - rabbits. But rabbits, hares and pikas are lagomorphs, not rodents. That's lucky for rabbits since rats are regarded as unclean. Freud's famous tract, the Rat Man, gives an idea of what rats symbolise. These underground rummagers have connotations of both the phallic and the anal. At the same time, they are signs of money, wealth and plenty. The mouse that spreads pestilence is also a symbol of Apollo, who both sends disease and cures it. Symbols are ambivalent and perhaps Mickey Mouse is too. He's an excellent cartoon character, who's antics give me much pleasure. At the same time, he has become a symbol of a vast exploitation empire. Mickey is very protected in copyright terms, so I hope Mickey recognises my good faith.
Thursday, July 18, 2013
Archäologische Institut. As archaeological digs continue to demonstrate, it's hard to get rid of a wall.
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Follow the Wabbit. Although it's clear that it's a museum puma, killed and stuffed long ago, it was given some life and character by the taxidermist. Once I had a strange encounter with a puma in entirely the wrong place at the wrong time, but we both went our separate ways and I'm here to tell the tale. Shortly afterwards I came across this fellow - and like the taxidermist, I made him a character too. A puma is a cougar, a mountain lion, a panther or a catamount. Although it can be big, it is more related to the cat. So it gets the symbolism of the cat, not the lion. Cats are often regarded unfavourably in symbolism and many cultures see the cat as diabolic. But not in Islam. When passengers on Noah's Ark were disturbed by rats, Noah stroked the lion's face and it spat out a couple of cats. But whether it's a beast of good or a beast of evil omen, you can't ignore a puma. I chose to give this Puma a benevolent character and I made him a bit of a mensch. That's a Yiddish expression describing a principled, decorous and charitable individual. Puma is responsible and dignified - and even if he's a little old fashioned, he does what's right.
Tuesday, July 2, 2013
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
This is a departure from the usual style, simply because I am tying in with my other blog - which is all to do with keys. It set me wondering how many keys we possess for all sorts of things. Houses, rooms, cars, padlocks and compartments - we need keys for them all. Of course, how many of us throw away keys when we no longer require the object they secured? I'm betting we've all got old keys here and there. So why the reluctance to throw them away? Perhaps it's because they play such an important function in keeping things in and shutting them out, that they possess their own authority - and ultimately power. The Bambara said "all that is said and all that is done to the individual, in the state and in the world at large, is a gate." * To hold the key is to have been initiated. So the key does not only concern access, but implies a spiritual state where one is allowed access. Having the authority to have access or being empowered to have access is the way of the key. Folk tales often feature three keys and they allow access to three different stages of purification and initiation on a journey. In the case of the folk tale, the three keys will help solve a mystery and that is always about enlightenment. There are many keys in the picture above, but I feel they all conform in some way to these general principles.
*Zahan Dominique, "Societies d'initiation Bambara le N'domo, le Kore", Paris and the Hague, 1960
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
This is part of a statue in Turin's University district. Now for preference, I don't bother with iron sculptures. I feel they are clunky and often out of keeping with their environment - then they rust and look dreadful! But this one made me stop to have a look. In in this case I didn't feel impelled to melt it down to make something more useful. What is symbolic about the figure - man, hands, mouth or shout? In this shot he does look like he's made from Lego pieces. So there are overtones of construction and, by the same token, deconstruction. Let's go for shout, because it's unusual for a symbol. A shout has some kind of formal association (often unwelcome) in all traditions. There's the Town Crier in England and Night Criers and Night Whistlers in France. The Greeks and Trojans gave shouts of halala as they charged into battle. For Romans it was the clamour! But in the Koran the shout is all about disaster, perhaps a whirlwind to punish the unjust. As is the way with symbols, the opposite can apply. In the procession along the Sacred Way from Athens to Eleusis, shouts of celebration accompany the Hiera (holy mysteries). One god in particular, Iacchos, personified the shout. In this case, his association with Demeter means fecundity, love and life. When a new born baby is born what's the first thing it does? A lot of shouting!
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
St Peter's is in my neighbourhood in Rome, so I cross this square frequently. There's often opportunities for good photos that are a little different. This was taken when the new Pope was about to appear officially for the first time, and all the chairs were formally laid out. I took many shots but liked this the best. Many areas set aside for particular functions are in the form of a square. A square is created and earthly as opposed to heavenly (which is round). A square, like the setting of the chairs, is formal and intellectual - a product of human engagement with the universe. To be on the square is to be honest and to square up with someone is to balance a debt. I am uncertain why the recent term "square", denoting a dull and regimented person, came into being. I guess it's because each side of the square is the same. The chair of course denotes some kind of privilege - and these seats were reserved for the ticket holders, the invited few. Chairs always have four legs for stability, so the picture is all about the number four. Again this is earthly - the created and the revealed. That's why there are four corners of the globe - something that used to confuse me as a child. In some cities, particular areas are know as quarters. There's no mystery really, because these places are solid and knowable - just like St Peter's Square for me, accessible and on my beat.
Tuesday, April 9, 2013
I think I've featured thistles before, but I came across this picture lurking in a file I hadn't used for a while. The file comprised my photos of the gardens attached to the Madama Palazza in Turin - one of my favourite spots to hide away. Visitors are quite likely to miss these gardens in favour of palace exhibits, so it can be very peaceful there. You can see how closely related are thistles and artichokes. In fact, the artichoke is derived from a variety of thistle. They are prickly plants and central to the legend of the Scottish army being fortuitously disturbed by advancing Norse invaders - who stood on them. I don't know if that's true, but it would certainly be a painful experience. Symbolically, the thistle defends the heart. Nemo me impune lacessit - no-one touches me unharmed! It set me wondering about conflict - and the tendency these days to discourage critical expression. We just don't want to allow the prickles to prick us, so anything we say must pass through a neutralising filter. And if we don't do it for ourselves, then surely someone will do it for us. I had the privilege of hearing Augusta Boal, founder of the Theatre of the Oppressed, before he passed on. In a riveting lecture in London's ICA, he elaborated the concept of the "cop in the head". We are all encouraged to have this censor, he argued. In maintaining it, we immunise ourselves against exclusion and injustice. So I think we need our critical prickles so that we may better stay aware. If it moves, prick it.
Friday, March 1, 2013
This is old rope on the beach - no more no less. I ventured to the sea one fine Thursday with the expressed intention of looking for texture - and this was the very first shot of the day. Perhaps it's truly remarkable only when enlarged because the detail is most intricate. Thrown away things often make the best shots and reminded me that it's easy in everyday life to lose track of detail. Our eyes skim over things, because if we fully appreciated the texture of everyday objects we'd do little else. It made me think of the implicate order - and quantum physics may yet reveal to us this order of which Jung and the quantum scientists speak. We see the explicate order with no difficulty, but the weft and weave of the implicate order is something else again. If we concentrated on it too much, we might never throw anything away and disappear under a mound of kept objects - including our unconscious and conscious processes. David Bohm is one of my science heroes and he would appreciate this picture. He realised that the whole encompasses all things, including structures, abstractions, and processes, Things may be physical but also abstract entities. Thought would be included in this - and that of course is anathema to the many scientists who live in a world of material certainty. So let look at the image again and consider it as a representation of actual thought. Does it look a little woolly to you?
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Thursday, February 14, 2013
I found these flasks lying at the side of the local wine co-op in Casorzo, Piedmont. I'm at the limit for distortion on the wide angle lens but I didn't feel like cropping the image too much. The flasks looked a useful size for taking home. Here, you can roll along to your local co-op, buy wine in bulk then bottle it yourself. It's a civilised approach to wine. The symbolism of wine is very much about intoxication - not the general drunkenness that bedevils cities of northern Europe on a Friday night, but the sacred intoxication of the Gods. Blake said that the path of excess leads to the palace of wisdom. I believe that's a knowledge and wisdom, imparted through the sacred aspects of wine. As usual symbolism is uneven and even contradictory. Wine in most cultures represents strength and life but sometimes it can represent God's wrath. "He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored. He has loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword." And wine is also a symbol in Islam with many references in the Koran. "Choice wine shall be given to them to quaff." [76:21]. In general, wine is a positive life-giving symbol, The Sufi believe in the pre-existence of souls and moreover that "these souls we intoxicated with immortal wine." (Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī). We arrive with the natural mysticism of the drink! But not the Gods of the Underworld. They are disallowed wine - as are the Muses, who rely on memory. And dreams of wine? It all depends. It could be a very positive pointer to transformation. Wine liberates the earthly and frees the spirit.
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
People are advised that from this date, the country is under the operational control of the Joint Chiefs General of the Armed Forces. We recommend to all inhabitants, strict compliance with provisions and directives emanating from the military, security or police authorities, and to be extremely careful to avoid individual or group actions and attitudes that may require drastic intervention from the operating staff. Signed: General Jorge Rafael Videla, Admiral Emilio Eduardo Massera and Brigadier Orlando Ramón Agosti."
The lighthouse marks the boundary between the light of humanity and the dark forces that stand ready to assault it.
The lighthouse marks the boundary between the light of humanity and the dark forces that stand ready to assault it.
Friday, February 8, 2013
Monday, February 4, 2013
This is an impressionist piece! I tried for a long time and on many metro trips to get this right. I used the small camera and gave it a steady resting place against the rear window of the train - then I squeezed the shutter and hoped for the best. There were many failures, but this one seems to have some sense of speed to it - even if the train in the image is braking for he next station! A tunnel is usually associated with a quest and as well as darkness, can involve anguish and punishment. Tunnels frequently appear in dreams, but as usual, the symbol is ambivelant - there may be light at the end of the tunnel. Being in the tunnel is stressful, yet the task of exiting demands thought and consideration. Once when I was in this very tunnel (and near enough this location) I experienced an earthquake, It was unusual for Turin. The train slowed nearly to a standstill and there was a most curious atmosphere. That truly might have become an underworld adventure. In many ancient cultures, there was a belief in an underground highway. The dead and the Sun would travel along the highway and emerge to a new dawn. But in these times, millions of commuters disappear into dark highways under the city every day, In this case they soon return to the familiar world they know. But in the dark Tunnel of the Underworld, one can only emerge to a new place of light, a fresh birth.
Friday, February 1, 2013
It was an unusual expedition because the next day I took a short trip in this balloon. The shot is taken from the top of the Mole Antonelliana which houses the film museum in Turin, and I thought I was lucky to see a balloon. But it transpires that this is a permanent Turin fixture and if you look closely, you'll see the balloon is tethered. Passengers are loaded and then it slowly rises, attached to its line, for about twenty minutes. Part of the basket's floor is transparent - so if you're nervous of heights it might not be for you. But if there's an opportunity, I feel compelled to go up on high things and look around. A balloon is a sphere and has a special place in symbolism - because it is the "cube of the circle" and adds another dimension to it. Domes in temples are hemispheres and express a wholeness that is the combination of the circle and the square. If perfection must be pictured, it would have to be in the shape of a sphere. But something else appeared in the photo and I hadn't realised it was there until today. A helicopter is making it's way to a landing pad at the Centre for Orthopedic Trauma, a Turin hospital that I know extremely well. It was a day of photographic coincidence - or perhaps as Jung believed, there really is no such thing.
Monday, January 28, 2013
Friday, January 25, 2013
Thursday, January 24, 2013
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
I just love emergency vehicles. I think it's a bit child-like but I refuse to give up! If I see an emergency vehicle, I make for it immediately. This was part of an exhibition of emergency vehicles exhibition in Piedmont and I arrived before everything was properly set up. I was like a child with free reign in a sweet shop. Manitou is not only a brand of very fine work vehicles. It's a spirit of the Algonquian native Americans. Christian missionaries appropriated the name to help them work with Native Americans and used it to mean God. but the difference is that Manitou is a contactable person that inhabits all manner of objects - even machines. Maybe this vehicle has the spirit of Manitou and we could stroll over and engage it in conversation. What's the worse that could happen? The notion of a spirit within all things is not uncommon. Shamanistic culture specifies a common connection between the totality of things and quantum mechanics may prove that is so. In Christianity, all things are part of the nature of God, but he doesn't seem as accessible as Manitou. That is a more a case of projection of our hopes and fears and wishes, than an acknowledgement of a life force that binds us witin a universe. So if you see me speaking to a vehicle, have no worries. I'm just having a chat.
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
I think I mentioned these ruins on Facebook but I am somehow drawn back. It is extremely difficult to photograph ruins - the result is never what one expects. In this case I used many filters and adjustments but eventually returned to the original colour, complete with orange sodium lights. I used available light, so apologies for any camera shake - it was an eighth of a second. This is La Città dell'Acqua, the City of Water in Rome and it was discovered during the renovation of a cinema. Now the cinema and the ruins co-exist and you can see them at almost any time at very low cost. It's one of the best deals in Rome and most tourists pass it by - so don't miss it! Popular culture and Ancient Rome are sad bedfellows these days. We hear more about bloodthirsty events, rather than civilisation. Great and lasting architecture, mercantile trade, excellent plumbing and indeed, early democracy are savaged in an ahistorical tirade that rubbishes the ancients and (at least on television) privileges more dubious events of recent times. Jungians would describe this as the shadow. We point at others and fail to recognise ourselves. It's poor science to compare the mores of ancient civilisations with ones that developed over a further 2000 years - it's akin to blaming Archimedes for having not the slightest clue about quantum mechanics. My lecture is over! But if you want to see the fascinating Città dell'Acqua, it's at Vicolo del Puttarello 25. From the site of the Trevi Fountain, exit from the east side of the square, turn right, and walk a few meters to the Vicolo dei Modelli. Turn left onto the Vicolo dei Modelli, then turn right at the next corner. La Città dell'Acqua is mid-block.
Friday, January 18, 2013
These columns mark a circumference around St Peter's Square and probably many of you are familiar with walking underneath them. I took the picture with this blog in mind - but also because I liked the crushing of perspective. I used the small camera with as low an aperture as I could get - hence a high shutter speed. Columns are a big time symbol. They provide support, but they are also a bit like trees with roots. So like the trees, they support life. Columns frame gateways and mark boundaries yet mostly they represent a passage from one state to another. Now while Hercules was a great raiser of columns (the Pillars of Hercules), they can be shaken. Samson was one of these shakers and although he died in the process, his temple-demolishing skills defeated his Philistine enemies. Jung tries to make things clear. The column or pillar is about the cross. Jung* quotes Robertson on "Evangelical Myths," (p 130) observing that he contributes interestingly to the symbol of the carrying of the cross. Samson carries the pillars of the gates from Gaza and dies between the columns of the temple of the Philistines. But in ancient art, he is depicted carrying the pillars in such a way as they resembled the cross. If we accept Jung's proposition, then this is in all likelihood the origin of the story of Jesus, who carries his cross to his execution. No surprise then, that these columns surround St Peter's.
*Jung, CG (1916) Psychology of the Unconscious: A Study of the Transformations and Symbolisms of the Libido (A Contribution to the History of the Evolution of Thought ) Moffat, Yard and co. New York
Thursday, January 17, 2013
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Tuesday, January 8, 2013
Saturday, January 5, 2013
Many castles are often stately homes built by rich aristocrats to show off their wealth. This one in Ostia is far from that. Begun in 1483, by the future Pope Julius II, it was the seat of the Papal Custom Houses and regulated excise payments on goods entering the Roman Port of Ostia. It was besieged by the Spanish at the end of the Franco-Spanish War and substantially damaged. A flood ended its prominence in 1557, after which it was used variously for agricultural storage and then a prison. Convicts were conscripted to assist in archaeological excavations in the ancient port and the castle became their prison. In symbolic terms the castle is usually defensive. It’s a fortress and attack is not part of its business. If you dream that you are in castle, it’s just possible you are being defensive about something in your life or feel imprisoned. But there is another interpretation. It might be something about yourself that you are unable to access. This castle is very traditional – it has quite a deep moat. It was difficult to get out, but also extremely difficult to get in. In Kafka’s novel, the Castle, the hero “K” tries to obtain access to authorities in a castle. He is completely unaware of why he has been invited there and the more he tries to reach the castle, the further away the castle appears. K is doomed to wander aimlessly outside rather than inside the castle. It’s all about the seeking after Self, the darkness of the unconscious and our continuing attempts to become aware.
Thursday, January 3, 2013
Wednesday, January 2, 2013
The roundabout or carousel is usually the province of fairgrounds but this one seemed to have escaped! It was on the banks of the Tiber, near the Palace of Justice. It's rather a nice example, so I paused to take a wide angle photo on the basis it would look a bit wild against the architecture of the buildings. It reminded me of childhood and the atmosphere of fairgrounds, which should be exciting and dangerous and other-worldly. Fairgrounds are usually temporary. They come and go - and that transitory state is exciting for the young. Children can find impermanence threatening, but the fairground provides a relatively safe container for these feelings. Children like the dizzying motion of rides especially when they stagger off-balance afterwards. "Swings and roundabouts" is a relatively recent expression describing the futility of winning and losing. It's always about balance. The up and down of the swings is somehow balanced by the circular movement of the roundabout. I don't think about that one too much, because it makes my head spin! Yet the Buddhist notion of continuity, of birth and rebirth, springs to mind. I avoid the more aggressive fairground rides these days but this one looks gentle. Dreaming of fairground rides is another matter and depends on how you felt in the dream. Was it fun? Were you dizzy? Were you losing your grip? A vast territory for the dream analyst!