Thursday, August 22, 2013

Sex, Pots and Helter Skelters

I was returning from Bray one evening and the fairground and sky caught my eye. So I took a quick shot on the small camera. The derivation of helter skelter is much debated but a substantial number of people think it originated with the Beatles song of the same name! There are mentions of the term as early as 1593, possibly deriving from Middle English, skelten, to come or go. Then it became the UK name for the popular fairground ride, which in the US is a tornado slide. The symbolism is obvious. It's a phallus and a rather ornate one at that. But if you dream of being on a helter skelter it could mean much more than a sexual encounter. A helter skelter involves a dizzying downwards spiral during which one feels out of control. Yet this fairground ride is completely contained and safe - and these days could be considered rather tame in comparison with other attractions. The phallus might be male but the spiral is lunar and female. So here we have a combination. In some parts of Africa it's a symbol of the dynamic of life. The Dogon have pots (a womb, a female symbol) around which are wound three (male) spirals of red copper (the word). It is thought that during insemination, the word enters the woman (possibly through her ear, which is regarded as a sexual organ) then coils around the womb. All very complicated. You never know what might happen on a helter skelter.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Before the Mast

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.