Thursday, November 13, 2014

A Tower is not a Mast

I spotted this communications tower outside a supermarket in Rome and I couldn't resist the shape and the colours. The shop was on a fast road out of Rome with many commercial establishments and not much else. The tower is quite a symbol. In this case, it's all about communication and reaches skywards - it might be said to join the heavens. All towers have some kind of deep earthworks underneath. But whereas in the past, foundations would have been packed with rubble, they are now stabilised by massive concrete blocks sunk into the earth. So the connection between heavens and underworld is complete. But this tower is topless. It is capped by no dome or any adornment other than antennae and some spotlights - communication and light are directed earthwards. In that sense the tower remains a positive symbol because communication enhances awareness and is part of the acquisition of consciousness. In the symbolism of towers, the ladder is most important. Workers must go up and down to build the tower - but also to carry out essential maintenance. They continually ascend and descend this axis between earth and heaven, complicit in some energetic broadcast. This is a modern tower and it has a close relation to traditional tower structures. It is not a mast. The mast is always tethered by guy wires and thus is a different symbol altogether. It's the free standing tower that connotes solidity and strength. If you dream you're on a tower, then think how you feel. Are you strong or vulnerable? Are you pleased with your view across the city or are you trembling and anxious you may fall?

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Time to say Yes

There comes to a time no matter what, when we have to make a stand. I am always saying that whatever the circumstances, one always loves one's country. Scotland is my country. I have never been happy with its attachment to England. So today is a big day - and like everyone else I can't be certain of the outcome of the Referendum. Jenny is a favourite character in my stories at Follow the Wabbit and it's her face I'm privileging here. She is of course a pirate and a pirate is independent. Pirates were usually in the employ of the state, but they were privateers. They made alliances where they could and took part of the proceeds - the American War of Independence was alive with privateers. Most psychotherapists are freelance and by the same token they are independent. We all value our independence. We continually emphasise that our children should seek independence and break free from the parents. They must give up the parent archetype and the parents must give up the child archetype. The pirate - with all that piracy entails - is free from the parents. But freedom comes at a price. The domineering parent may try to keep control for their own narcissistic reasons. Their children are often mere projections of themselves. But Scotland is more than a projection of England - more than the costumes and the haggis continually trotted out for foreign guests. I did give Jenny the Pirate Chief a Scottish costume though. She is Glasgow post-punk. She's kitsch and a little terrifying, I wouldn't get in her way. She's for Scottish Independence and so am I.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Art and the Suitable Container

This is by way of a nice story. A fellow artist got in touch to tell me she had made a painting from one of my blog entries. It's this one here and I was delighted. Her name is Stefania Vignotto who lives in Thailand and her paintings are at Fine Art America. But the story isn't finished. Stefania wanted to send me a quality print, but there was difficulty that day in getting the right container. Stefania cycled all around and found a tiny post office where a helpful woman said she would make a bespoke package. So the woman made a double envelope then tied the package up with the string her mother uses for home made sweets that she sells in her shop. Duly mailed out, the painting reached me a week later, safe and sound. After I unwrapped it, Otis the cat descended on the string and adopted it as a toy. It was a joyful sequence. Since the painting will now hang in a place of importance, I will recall the story when I pass it. Stefania saw something in my photograph and added her interpretation to create something wonderful. But I liked the story of container and wrapping so much that they became, for me, part of the object. In Jungian psychology, the container provides a protective covering. The persona, for example, is a necessary container that protects the inner self - but problems arise when we confuse the two. Patina as container is something different. Over time, covering and the covered are organically fused. In my case, the container is patina and provenance. Even if I consider the painting alone, I doubt I'll be able to separate my thoughts of painting, container and journey.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Representation in the Lived Space of the City

There are so many things happening in this shot, but I hardly recall I took it. Maybe I composed it, but I don't think so. Street poles arranged themselves and no less than three arrows aligned. Some objects seem to echo each other. And of course we shouldn't neglect the football boy in the mural. What's he pointing at? I know this was before midday, but what is that crowd outside the church? It may have been a funeral, despite the informal dress. I am critical and I'm not content to see a space without looking for a representation of space. This is more than a collection of angles and buildings and street furniture and it's so much more than things in a frame. On one level it's a lived space, but it's more than one single space. We need to recognise the political space of the city otherwise we live an illusion. I mentioned time but is there time in this photograph? We can stare and stare but we won't see time. We see movement, we see shape and we even recognise change but we can never see time. Henri Lefebvre notes that the tree leaves rings as a mark of time and this time is physically inscribed in natural space. If we look we can easily see the time of the tree, but the city hides time. Moreover, time is concealed within the frame of the photograph, which is a fragment of space. I do know the actual time of day of the photo of course - it's 10:16 am. The shutter speed - the fragment of time - is 1/250th of  a second. That occupies a technological space completely hidden from the people within this photograph.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Skulls, Alchemy and Rebirth

This skull resides in the workshop in Nürnberg where a good friend practices her craft. The workshop is rather unusual because it houses a printing technique known as Xylography.A design is cut out in wood, then a limited run of imprints are made using a special machine. You may know of the artist and political thinker William Morris. He was a famous xylography artist but I know my friend is his equal for fine cutting! This is the web site of artist Anke Vogler  so that you can see the kind of detailed work that's possible. Nürnberg is famous for Albrecht Dürer, another xylography artist. You may even have seen his famous picture of a hare, which is a symbol of Nürnberg. But that doesn't tell us about skulls! The skull is a repository of life and is part of alchemy. The scene above looks quite alchemical doesn't it? The skull is the seat of control, centre of operations and ultimately the womb of knowledge. Most famous for its place above the St Andrew's crossed bones in which skull and crossbones represents the four quarters of nature and perfection. The reason for the symbol's adaptation as the pirate "Jolly Roger" is not known - but "giving no quarter" springs to mind. As an alchemical symbol the skull connotes putrefaction, but putrefaction involves rebirth and the cycle of life and death. In alchemy, the new man arises from the crucible in which the old was annihilated. There are only a few people left who can do this kind of skilled work. Perhaps the skull is there to remind us of that.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Things come around: Fairground Attraction

This big wheel isn't unusual except for its position. It's to the rear of the old Nazi Party Rally Grounds in Nürnberg. I guess if you visit Nürnberg you have to go there - although I did find it uncomfortable. It's rather a massive place, although much was demolished after the war and more recently in the sixties. I hadn't realised it was used as a prisoner of war camp. Many Allied prisoners helped to build this daunting place until they were replaced by German prisoners - the wheel of time revolves. In the thirties, the Nazi Party even had a funfair housed in wooden building within the site. But I was feeling a little sad after I explored the interior where the museum is housed - and when I saw the Big Wheel I snatched a shot because I had to. It's the sky that makes the picture - it was that kind of day and I reflected. The ceaseless turn of the wheel leads to renewal but nothing can stop the direction of the wheel. We may not turn it back, yet it always moves. Unlike the circle however, spokes suggest the sun. In Hinduism, the wheel is not only solar. It is cosmic and hence intergalactic. A single horse pulls a single wheeled chariot like a voyaging star. But perhaps this particular wheel means something more - wheel symbolism also includes the wheel of fortune and of course the Tarot springs to mind. Where Jungian thought is concerned, the rise and fall of the cars connote alteration and compensation. Some say this means justice.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Feuerbach's Beard. The point is to change it


I find it interesting to come across the grave of someone I've read. This is the resting place of Ludwig Feuerbach, a teacher of Karl Marx and the subject of one of his most famous works. Long years ago, my old college chums would amuse me by criticising Feuerbach for not being a Marxist. Of course, it's hardly possible that he would be. Without Feuerbach, there would be no essay on Feuerbach and that was seminal to Marx's development and outlook. It is within "Theses on Feuerbach" that we meet the famous line, "Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it." Marx emphasised the practical activities of humans and to some extent psychoanalysts do also - although we can often sink into the marshes of ideology. Thought on its own doesn't go anywhere. It emerges in practice and only then is it a vehicle for change. People in analysis want to change. So the contemplation process that we encourage must eventually be practiced in the real material word by the real flesh and blood person. Feuerbach himself was a great thinker but I'm afraid I was more fascinated by his beard than his writing. A beard is a sign of bravery. Many cultures insist on them and the greatest of gods are depicted with beards. In Ancient Egypt, they were often imitation with a curled point at the end. I'm not a beard person - I'm a moustache person and I appear to be in luck, because the symbolism is much the same. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Trains, names, numbers and life

The shot was taken from a platform seat in Fürth metro. I modified it a little because it was nearly monochrome and I wanted the roof to stand out. But what symbolism should I employ? Seats, roofs, holes and maps - there's a lot to chose from. The train itself is recent addition to symbolism and the received opinion is that certain structures apply - structures of timetables, regulations and authority. I take a different view. Every train has a number and attached to that is a departure time (from somewhere). The train is always called strictly by it's departure time, not the actual time it left. For example, a train might be the 3.20 from Fürth and so it remains even if it's late. The name of the train contains the nominal time. Now that may be a semiotic point, but theory is grey and green is the tree of life. Isn't it a wonderful feeling when you're satisfied you are on the right train? You look at your watch and hear the guard's whistle blow. The wheels screech and very slowly the train moves off. It's not long before it picks up speed and begins to glide across the city. The destination station is set - but of course it can and occasionally does change. Instead of arriving at our chosen station, we find ourselves somewhere else and have to make new arrangements for our final destination. It doesn't matter where the train ends up. It's still the 3.20 that left from Fürth.And so it is with people. Our date of birth, a number, is the one we have to carry. A name can always be changed but never your date of birth. That's the time you left on your journey. You know where and when you departed but the destination is up to you.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Judging the Round of Time

This is a clock I saw in Nürnberg in the National Museum. I love old clocks like this, with faded paint and numbers. Something about the duration of time is encapsulated in a way that a brand new clock can't attain. That clock has certainly seen some time, but I don't know much about the clock. Perhaps there was a picture there in the centre, because it looks a bit like an atlas. That's our reference to space, because time and space are bonded. Clock and watch makers often feature square frames - said to be an attempt to get away from the endless wheel of the clock face, a design to join time and space. Old grandfather clocks often had graphics, a pictorial view of time and duration - day and night, sun and moon. In mythology, Kronus, one of the most important Titans, seized world dominion and swallowed all his children. He was a destructive God, representing time as all-consuming - the past tries to stop the future. It points to the ravages of time, which are really the ravages of duration. The experience of time leads us to judge it. Think back. Have you been having a good time? It's always about judgement! If we dream of clocks, are we judging our experience of temporal phenomena in our lives?

Friday, May 16, 2014

Wine, Inoxication and the Psyche



The cherub with grapes is in a small park in Nürnberg. There are two of them and they appear to guard the way to a beer garden. Wine is the blood of the grape and so cross culturally, intoxication from alcohol (and wine in particular) is associated with immortality, knowledge and initiation. Muslim mystics called wine the divine love (The Wine Ode: Ibn Al-Farid). Wine was so much the elixir of the Gods that consumption of alcohol was part and parcel of the ancient Gods’ fabric. Christianity followed suit and placed wine at the centre of ritual. The bearer of grapes looks similar to the way that Eros is depicted and since there are two, that would make sense. Eros lost his space in mythology and became relegated to the world of art, where there would be more than one of him and most likely winged. Gilbert Durand (1963) pointed to the connection between wine and youth as secret and triumphant. The archetype of both wine and milk contain sexual and maternal qualities. If you dream of wine, it’s unlikely to be about drinking as such. From an archetypal point of view, wine is divine. It’s a miracle that transforms from plant into free spirit. So within the psyche it may be connected with a higher state and a positive inner life.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Archetypal City, Steeples and the Phallus

The Frankfurt city skyline is almost archetypal. It's all about the money and the phallus. The banking centre reigns supreme over what's left of the medieval city post war. The picture is taken from an old church tower, nearly as high as the bank buildings. Both reach to the sky and in that dynamic, similar things are at stake. In medieval times, the city is the centre of the life force. The city is a protective mother. Yet the church steeple thrusts up to the heavens as a sign of power. In every society a single class claims universality - that is, it claims to stand for all citizens, not merely those of the ruling order. So do the bank buildings. In this brash and impressive display, they seek to convince us that we all share in the power of capitalism. As we have seen recently this is an illusion.  "The phallus hardens or softens in the presence or absence of energy." Single-sided to the last, the banks seek the comforting power of patriarchy - but are entirely oblivious to life and to the interests of the majority. The energy they draw on is fake, self manufactured and ultimately it dries up. The medieval tower also rose to the heavens and signified an altogether different power that was more than each individual, more than the sum of their parts. The aristocracy and the church offered itself as universal, just as the banker class does today. But the medieval city represented mother and children. What now does the city represent?

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Green Cans of Life

I was visiting a graveyard in Nürnberg and the gardener was very active indeed. She had assembled these watering cans into a rather fetching design and so I made my contribution to her art. Watering cans are always about gardens and gardens are paradise on earth. Even - or maybe especially - when they are graveyards. Graveyards have the symbolism of tombs and are female in principle, offering safety, growth and comfort. It was certainly so in this graveyard, a perfectly tended garden with many volunteers. Here in this place, the body changes - the life and death cycle contained within the bounding walls of the garden. Watering cans these days are usually plastic and almost always green, the colour of hope, of pastures and eternal youth. There was something ordered about the watering cans that I really liked. They were poised and ready to water the grass, flowers and the vases placed on graves. Indeed, the watering can is something like a vase, always open to the heavens and carrying the elixir of life - in this case water. We place flowers on graves as remembrance but in so doing we salute memory of a life. Without water, life does not continue - so water something is very precious, a natural, caring act that belongs to humanity.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Dalkey - the Enchanted Island

This is Dalkey Island. It's about 15 kilometers from Dublin's centre and it's quite the most interesting place on this coast. The picture was taken from Killiney but I'd rather have taken it from the rather lovely Victorian hotel that used to overlook the island. I regularly took guests there, but unfortunately it was demolished to make way for a foreboding concrete apartment complex that Stalin would have admired. It's difficult to find a photograph of that old hotel and it's almost like it never existed. Fortunately no one wants to develop the enchanted island! In symbolic terms, islands have clarity and lack ambiguity. Islands are a place of mystery and often in the old myths they could only be reached at the end of an arduous voyage. We often imagine the desert island as a seductive, idyllic place, but it's no joke if you're marooned there. No matter how nice the island is, after a while the mystery begins to pall. The isolation of the island is attractive though. Psychoanalysis concentrates on islands as places of withdrawal - the island is both a spiritual retreat and a sanctuary. So here we can find refuge from the unconscious just as the rocks provide a barrier against the ocean. So if you dream of an island, you may be defending against something powerful in your unconscious. You may need time to retreat and consider, because the ego defence is there for a reason. You can consciously will a refuge from the waves for a while - but it's temporary, because you can't (or shouldn't) stay there for ever.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Four Rabbits and Play

These are gifts sold in supermarkets for Easter, but they give me the opportunity to make a point. These are the only rabbits one should buy as presents. Rabbits are routinely given to children at Easter and this often ends in tears. When children find them difficult (and expensive) to look after they grow tired of the necessary dedication. So domestic rabbits are often abandoned. They are the third most popular pet and without a doubt, the most abused. Yet rabbits are rewarding creatures. Although they generally don't like being picked up, they are quite social and lots of fun to watch - because rabbits are naturally happy creatures and jump into the air with joy. This is called a binky and it's quite a gymnastic feat. Rabbits like company and prefer to have a mate. They need a lot of space, not a cramped hutch. And although they like carrots, hay is best for a rabbit diet. Rabbits, like their hare cousins, are of the lagomorph species. They are all gentle creatures, but it's wise not to torment them. They do fight and there was a famous incident when an enraged swamp rabbit attacked President Carter's fishing boat and tried to board. Symbolically, rabbits are of the moon and they come out to play at night. Once, we were heading for a very early ferry near Ayr in Scotland. Suddenly we noticed hundreds of rabbits, maybe thousands, running in the fields alongside the car. They were pacing us and I hear it's not uncommon. Rabbits like to play and we should all take a leaf out of their book.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Cherry Trees, Indifference and Prosperity

I like to keep a record of my cherry tree. It was a birthday present given to me more than ten years ago and now it's grown very tall. Every year I like to take a photograph when it's in full bloom and I try to catch the moment just before the wind detaches the blossom from the branches. The tree is associated with Spring and all that this season implies for the cycle of birth and death. In Japan, the scattering of cherry blossom symbolises a kind of indifference to the so-called good things of the world. It's life and death, all in one breath. But it remains a sign of prosperity. The amount of blossom presages and predicts the size and quality of the rice harvest, which takes place in Japan shortly thereafter. This variety of cherry is not the ornamental size like its sisters in the street. It's a full blooded tree and it intends to be massive. I recall how disappointed I was one year when I couldn't be here through March to April. I missed the whole thing from start to finish, but what I missed most was the scattering of a multitude of tiny white leaves across my neighbourhood. So many trees have been cut down lately, I am pleased we planted this one, because a tree symbolises life. The needless felling of trees represents exactly the opposite.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Killiney and the Great Mother

We had expected better weather but resorted to shopping and a picnic lunch in the car. Killiney provides a decent view and a place to stop, so we made a few rolls and looked out at the rain. It looked like a monochrome day, but I hopped out of the car and tried the Pentax Q on a landscape. Now I had resolved that the Pentax Q wasn't great for this kind of shot, but this has a natural look I liked. Killiney Bay is often compared to Sorrento, which is the most awful tosh that does justice to neither. They are quite different and equally beautiful. But in both cases, it's true that the sea does meet the land - and it's a powerful symbolic meeting. The waters were present at earth's beginning and represent the undifferentiated mass. But the earth has a different place in the cosmos as the producer of all living things, The earth is about seeds and ploughing and fertility. The Earth is Gaia and the Great Mother - but I'm reminded of the song The Holy Ground. Both Christans and Jews refer to Palestine as the Holy Land and Plato talked of the Pure Land (The Pure Land School is also an enduring form of Buddhist practice). But the Holy Ground of Irish folk song is thought to be the Cobh red light district to which sailors longed to return. There is a link, as Erich Neumann has pointed out. Behind the archetype of the Great Mother lies many things including sacrifice, sorcery and prostitution. Poseidon, God of the Sea, remained in the hands of his mother, Aphrodite, the sacred prostitute. Unable to break away and fully individuate, he had to do her bidding. Now here's the rub. The sea is also female.

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Colour of the Huts

This looked like an attractive shot, but it was the most difficult job, with difficult choices. First of all, exactly what is straight in the picture? After much work, I had to admit that the beach huts are probably less than straight and settled for what I had. And what colours should be included? Cropping out the right hand colour didn't work well and leaving it does suggest that the line of colours continues. You can get away with a lot on a beach - seaside architecture doesn't have to conform with general rules and almost anything goes. Yet these are huts and therefore symbols. Those who have no permanent dwelling - such as hermits - live in huts that are a sign of the precariousness of life. Like most things built on the beach, impermanence and weakness is the thing with some instability thrown in for good measure and the hut is hardly more substantial than a tent. Here, annual storms arrive to destroy many beach structures like this one. It's just an accepted part of life that they have to be rebuilt. So the huts have to be good enough for the purpose and no more. If you dream of a beach hut there might be many associations. But it is in essence a hermit's hut. Consider if detachment from the world is leading you to re-balance what you have. Consider the hermit in the cramped confines of his hut. He is the very master of space because his attachment is to the broad arch of heaven and his hut merely temporary earthly protection.
[Picture credit: Camilla Galli da Bino: Pentax Q]

Monday, March 24, 2014

Wake up, wake up you sleepy heads

This was a temporary acquaintance who came to see me when I was sitting in Herbert Park. I was fiddling around with a new camera - the tiny Pentax Q with the interchangeable lens - and trying to get the settings right. The robin helped me discover how good that camera is at this range. Naturally, birds just keep moving around and they're never easy to capture, despite the many photos of birds we see. The robin hopped on the park bench beside me and hung around so much that passers-by were commenting. It just wouldn't go away, so eventually it was left to me to bid goodbye. The robin has the reputation of being rather friendly, especially with gardeners with whom it shares a common interest - the eradication of small pests. The Christmas association for robins is thought to derive from red-coated postmen in Victorian Britain, nicknamed "Robins". But the tale of the plain bird who comforted Jesus on the cross and acquired some of his blood on its breast remains part of British folklore. With its rosy chest, the robin is very much a solar symbol in many cultures - because its breast suggests the sun rise. So if you dream of a robin it might just be the words of the popular song calling you. Wake up, wake up you sleepy head/Get up, get out o' bed/Cheer up, cheer up the sun is red/Live, love, laugh and be happy.
[When the red red robin goes bob bob bobbin’ along. Harry MacGregor Woods, 1926 as recorded by Al Jolson, June 1st 1926]

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Down in Limbo Land

I've done tunnels before and probably I'll do them again. This kind of shot, taken from the front of a metro train, I find difficult, so I keep returning to try again. The train has to be moving but that means camera shake, so I brace the camera against the front window and release the shutter a moment after the train leaves the station. You do need an automatic metro system for this, otherwise the driver is in the way - and somehow the rear of the train is slightly different. Once when I was using this metro, there was an minor earthquake and the train slowed down to a snail's pace - it was very unsettling indeed. For a while I felt as if I was in Limbo until the all-clear came. The concept of Limbo is an in-between place. It's part of the Orphic tradition, and describes where souls of still-born babies waited at the entrance to the Underworld. (Later this idea was adopted by Christians, but it remains the subject of much theological argument. Unborn babies are born with original sin but no way of dealing with it but to remain in Limbo.) Yet this is a tunnel and tunnels are what dreams are made of. Tunnels inhabit a ghostly space where anguished passageways promise a fulfilment of desire. When we use the tunnel, we move from light into the Limbo of darkness and back to light. If you dream of  being in a tunnel, it could be about transition. And maybe psychoanalysis is like a tunnel - a passageway from one state of being to another.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Ha'penny Bridge and the Devil's Due

I guess many photos have been taken of the Ha'penny Bridge in Dublin and this one is just a snapshot. Light was beginning to fade but the water looked interesting so I just took a pot shot.  This is not the official bridge name. Originally it was Wellington Bridge and later the Liffey Bridge, which formally is its correct name. In 1816, before the bridge was built, a rather unsatisfactory ferry company plied this spot. But it was told to improve vessels or build a bridge - and here it is to this day. The bridge is one of these universal symbols that indicates transition - it allows us to cross from one side to another. The bridge story I like best is the "Devil's Bridge". Satan is promised the soul of the first person to cross his bridge. Since he built it, he expects his due reward. It indicates the perilous nature of crossing from one thing to another - this is a danger which must be tackled and conquered. If you dream of bridges - and I believe this is quite a common object to appear in dreams - you may have  an important decision to take. The choice is yours, one thing or the other. Will your decision and its consequences lead to salvation or damnation? Even if you live in Dublin and cross the bridge regularly, your dream of the Hal'penny Bridge retains the same symbolism. It's still a journey over a dangerous place. But who was the first person to cross the bridge? They are long gone, but does the Devil still have their soul? 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Signature Symbolic Sandwich

I couldn't help but take a photograph because the filling looked like writing. Now as I recall, this is the Caffè Torino, a place of Belle Epoch splendour. You'll find it in the Piazza San Carlo in Turin - and if you're there, don't hesitate to plunge straight in. The Caffè Torino promises old world elegance and it delivers - although pricey compared with others, it's well worth the experience. It might come as no surprise that there is no particular symbolism for a sandwich. It would have to be either about the bread or the filling. But the sandwich has an ancient lineage. People have always wrapped food in bread and at one time a slab of coarse bread was regarded as a kind of plate. In the Middle Ages, a trencher was stale bread carrying other food. Like the edge crust of a Cornish pastie, it allows the eater to consume the food without necessarily touching it. In 110 BC, at Passover, lamb and herbs were sandwiched between two pieces of soft matzah, flat unleavened bread, which brings us back to symbolism. The above picture features is a rather more sophisticated arrangement and unlike bread, isn't old enough to have any symbolic value. But in Christianity, bread is nourishment and life. For the Eucharist, it is the sacred bread of eternal life. Traditionally, unleavened bread with no yeast refers to origins and purity, whereas bread made with yeast is about the active principle and spiritual transformation. All that aside, I do remember just how good it was to eat that sandwich.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Spider who came to Breakfast

This is by way of a domestic story and slightly icky. This inter-dental brush is vital to hygiene and so I was using it after breakfast. But the phone rang, so I abandoned it then returned. This is what I met. It was rather a shock, since the attached spider was in quite an open space on an empty table. I watched it nibbling for a while then got my compact camera and danced around it. Later I found it was a false widow, which can pack quite a sting. Even odder, I was writing a story about spiders and an orange phantom so there was some synchronicity. Symbolically, the spider packs a heavy punch too. Because its spins thread, it is regarded like the Fates. The web it spins is the fabric of life, but although it looks fragile, this is illusory. Webs are tough as old boots, especially for the fly. Spiders have properties of divination for many cultures and are sometimes seen as psychopomps, carrying souls on a boat made from webs across rivers to the Underworld. Yet it's the spider that swings on a thread that is important for psychoanalysis, because it can easily raise itself - a symbol for spiritual realisation and self-actualisation. If you dream of a spider, ask yourself what it's doing. Is it building or swinging? Or did it come for breakfast?

Friday, February 28, 2014

Bundles preserve the Roof.

This is a technical depth of field picture and deliberately so. It's relatively close up and at the very end of a long lens, so very little has any depth - except at the very centre. This is part of a beach roof and it's a kind of thatch. It reminded me of a young unemployed man in London a few years ago. I asked him what trade he would like to go into and he answered "thatching". We were all amused of course, but there are quite a few thatched buildings in England and relatively few thatchers. He might have been onto a good thing. This kind of thatch is composed of bundles rather than being weaved. It's waterproof and can be repaired easily enough. A bundle is heavily symbolic, especially in Christianity. The Bundle of Life is a place where life is preserved and represents salvation. A bundle is like an inventory, a kind of accounting - putting coins in a purse is "bundling". It goes without saying that I have to mention the fasces (from Latin fascis, bundle). Originally Etruscan, the term  passed to the Romans and it became a military and magisterial symbol. Although it suggested a unity that couldn't be broken, the fasces rod was also about the power of life and death over the citizen. Yet somehow the fasces avoided its modern association with fascism and bundles are on coats of arms everywhere - even on a door in the Oval Office. If you dream of such a bundle, it's likely your dream has some connection with preservation. There's something about yourself that you feel needs to be preserved.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Narrow Sky and Heaven.

It was just chance that made me look up and notice the geometry of the buildings and the sky. This kind of shot doesn't always work and so I was pleased. It didn't need adjusting and when I tried to improve the contrast, the photograph lost its charm. This is a very small back street in Rome, near a restaurant district. It can be quite a pain getting along this type of road because there are always people that insist on driving cars there, and it's hardly worthwhile in such a narrow space. But the buildings give a nice sense of enclosure that makes the sky look like a floating pond. In symbolism, skies are invariably about the heavens. I like to think of heaven as being the upper bit and we are down here in the lower bit. There was supposed to be a link between the two, but mostly that is symbolically broken. Some cultures have many heavens - as many as nine - and heroes could fly between them like eagles. but there's something by Blake that keeps coming into my head. A Heaven could be built on earth that would destroy the "dark Satanic Mills". Generally, heaven is felt to act upon the earth, but this entails the formation of a new heaven and a new earth, a concept that derives from the Book of Revelations. You can't change one without the other.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Eagle-eyed and Pure of Heart

I was at the Pet Show last year and an eagle took my interest - or maybe I took his. He was with a handler who was most keen to tell me all about eagles and his eagle would perch on heads in what seemed like an amiable fashion. But with eagles you never know and I tried various photo shots without luck. Finally, my eagle was calm for a time, and this allowed me to get this shot of his splendid head feathers! In general, birds of prey glance behind them before swooping on prey, but not the eagle. The eagle is king of the birds and indeed the collective father-figure extraordinaire. In Roman antiquity, Christianity and in Asian and Amer-Indian myth, the eagle reigns supreme. Eagles always had a symbolic connection with fire and the eagle is said to be able to stare into the sun because its heart is pure. This suggests a contemplative mental enlightenment so in general if you dream of an eagle, it is most likely to have a positive meaning. But there is a dark side too. An eagle may carry off victims to an inaccessible eyrie from which there is no escape. That kind of dream may indicate an overwhelming thirst for power. But if you dream of a descending eagle with two outstretched wings like lightning flashes, it is all about illumination. An eagle may dive out of the sun with nary a backwards glance, so make sure you're also pure of heart (and not in its path).

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Niceness of the Spiral Staircase

This is just a staircase in a shop, probably in Grafton Street.  It may even be from the recently demised HMV store. I collect these for collage purposes but occasionally they offer a nice geometry. I use the word "nice" as mathematicians do when they want to describe something elegant, useful or even easy to work with. According to Abhijit Mehta, "nice" describes a way in which a mathematical function feels. In this photograph I feel I know the way the lines are moving and I know I can work with this picture to produce something ... well, nice! The word nice was one that was subject to amelioration - it was upgraded from the Middle English meaning of foolish or absurd. Delving back to 3500BC it could have its origins in the Proto Indo-European "skei", meaning split or divided. This moved through Latin to its current form. The spiral itself is universal in all cultures and describes a single movement which is both in equilibrium and disequilibrium. Maybe you can feel that when ascending a spiral staircase - it's not for nothing that the spiral became a motif of animated films in portraying an altered state such as dizziness or drunkenness. To walk on a spiral staircase in a dream involves something of a journey. It does have a predetermined start and finish, but how does it feel to be on that path? Many ancient societies believed that was the journey of the soul - unknown but preordained.

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Circle and the Square

This picture is rather late but we still have the murky weather. It was taken in Turin at New Year, decorations were still around and something about the January light and the ball made me set my compact on telephoto and brace myself against a wall. Then I forgot all about it. Many people assume Italy is always light and sunny and more often than not, it is. But Turin is near the Alps and it gets cold and grey. That light with a lack of colour makes us more aware of the geometry - it's the squares in the picture that I like. With shutters and blinds, all the windows seem a little different too. Quadrangular forms are common in the city and often the city is of the same form. But whereas the circle is eternal the square is somewhat temporary. I'm sure these buildings will give way to something else, although certainly they're comparatively recent. The relationship between the square and the circle is complicated because the square is the perfection of the heavenly circle, but on an earthly plane. So there's a kind of connection between the apartments and the decorative sphere and perhaps I was  unconsciously aware of that when I became interested enough to compose the shot. Dreaming of apartment blocks can mean many things. castles, passageways, windows and doors. But this real life construction offers the viewer the circle and the square together - and trying to square the circle is an impossible mathematical task

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Rough Sculpture in Wood

The structures were on a back lot at Cinecittà Roma. I'm not sure what they're for exactly. This is basic carpentry for something temporary and the bits look sturdy enough. Wood is quite a fascinating material, because although it may not last as long as stone or bronze, it's closer to a living thing. Malleable and lightweight, wood remains the choice for much building. Symbolically it has always been associated with life and renewal. Lyle, an Ancient Greek word meaning wood, implies primordial matter. It's certainly versatile. I've seen a car made from wood and recall that Second World War Mosquito fighter planes were made mostly from wood. It was lightweight, which gave extra speed to the craft If you dream of wood, you are in good company. Regarded as a source of regeneration, wood often featured in the dreams of ancient Romans. Supposing you were to have a dream about this stack of wooden supports. Are you looking at it or in you inside it? Do you feel anything concerning the stability of the structure? Are you happy to be there or do you feel anxious? And of course if you were keen on Do it Yourself, you might add another layer of meaning to your interpretation!
[Photo: Camilla Galli da Bino Pentax Q]

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Whisky Galore - The Word and the Name

This is another shot from the archives. A few years ago, I took a trip to Islay for New Year and since Laphroaig is one of my favourite whiskies, a visit to the distillery was top of my list. On the day I visited, there were no tours, but it was possible to wander around on a crisp winter's day and take in the scene. It's hard to ignore the giant letters of the name on the wall. Letters can make up a word or a name, but they descend from the Word. The Word is about law, but the name is something else entirely. The ancient Egyptians felt that the name was much more than identification. It was an essential part of a person. There is a primitive belief that to know someone's name is to have power over the person and in ancient China, naming a person was to exercise control over them. I'm not certain about having power over a whisky. Some do and some don't. But if whisky has power over you, then it ceases to be what it is - an enjoyable drink. Yet if drunkenness ensues, that may also be a symbolic state. Drunken states were once considered spiritual and constituted a renewal of the life force. Uisge beatha is the water of life, aqua vītae in Medieval Latin. Group drinking filled in gaps between calendar years, a tradition carried on at Scottish Hogmanay. And for this good reason, the 2nd of January is also a public holiday in Scotland!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Intersection of the Constellation

I was passing a station entrance in Rome and I liked the angles and stripes. Then somehow I lost track of the photograph but although I couldn't locate it, I remembered the image. It's in a shopping district not far from the Vatican, but you wouldn't ordinarily pass it unless you had an appointment there for something or other! Geomancy was something of a long serving cosmological tradition - the art of shapes and locations. Design on the ground was supposed to be in a relationship with the positions of stars in the sky and the shapes here reminded me of exactly that. It's a linking of earth, space and heaven. Bachelard thought that "The Zodiac is the Rorschach Test of mankind in his infancy." (1943) Humans projected their stories onto cosmic structures where object shapes were part of the stories - and somehow the shape in the photograph reminded me of the constellation Aquila, the eagle. Constellation is a term much used in psychoanalysis and it means roughly the same as in astronomy. Psychological factors constellate to form a complex, just like stars cluster in a group within a galaxy. In building terms we have something of a complex in the photo. So what might be constellating here, amongst the lines and stripes and shapes? And in a dream what might it mean to stand on that point of intersection? 

Friday, January 31, 2014

Free Mountain Sheep

I took this photograph rather a long time ago, probably in 1989. So I guess this denizen of the hillside is long gone. I came across the photo in my archives and it took me a while to recall what project had taken me to a valley in South Wales. I do like the sheep though - it seems quite stalwart and is clearly going somewhere. The symbolism of the sheep does not differ from that of the lamb. It is a sacrificial victim, killed to ensure its own salvation. In suffering the sacrifice, the Lamb ensures its own renewal - overcoming death and the powers of evil, a  pre-Christan symbolism now shared by Christians and Muslims alike. The Lamb was once portrayed on the Cross, flanked by the sun and moon but this changed in 692 in Constantinople and it was ordered that Christ as man should be on the cross. I wanted to draw a parallel here. I was surprised to learn recently that across the globe, 2 out of every 3 farm animals are factory-farmed and never see the light of day. This is an appalling statistic from many points of view. In mistreating our animals we are mistreating ourselves. Livestock farming has been around since 5000BC but never have farm animals been so dreadfully abused. Poor animal husbandry has become the rule not the exception. An organisation called Compassion in World Farming is campaigning against this and I stand with its members. What a fortunate creature that sheep was, to be out in the open, wandering at will.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Disturbed Trams and Red Red Lights


Here's the story. I was paying a lightning trip to Milan just after New Year and was trying to get a picture of a tram. So I braced the compact against a lamppost and waited. But a police car came for a closer look at what I was doing and I fumbled the shutter. So the police car left a red light trail across the shot, which was pleasing enough. The rule in this kind of shot is that movement can be blurred, but not anything else - like the buildings. Lots of symbols here - lights, crossings, junctions and three forms of transport. Red stands out because it is the colour of fire and blood and as a symbol it has considerable power. External lights on a car, boat or plane signify danger. They are the warning of an object ahead and akin to the traffic lights, port lights or a red sign barring the road.  In the poem "Sir Patrick Spens", the Captain Spens is called to captain the King's ship. "The king sat in Dunfermline town/ Drinking of the blood red wine/ "Where can I get a good sea captain/To sail this mighty ship of mine?" Spens takes the job, but alas a mermaid appears and the ship is sunk. Thus the drinking of the blood red wine foreshadowed the tragedy. It was a warning and so Spens was always doomed. When blood red is hidden, it suggests life but when exposed, it means entirely the opposite.

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Wheels, Power and Change


The wheel suggests perfection but I always feel it's about power. A wheel's turn refers to energy and in the case of "not having done a wheel's turn", you produced little of significance in an allotted period. This is part of an old power station in Rome. When decommissioned, it lay abandoned for a while, until it was adapted as museum that also houses Roman antiquities. There are so many of the latter in Rome, no-one knows where to put them. Wheels are also about movement. But here movement is driven by steam and that's really displaced movement from somewhere else. Movement of electrons makes the steam, but I'll spare you an explanation  of steam turbines for now. I was interested in the name Brown Boveri, on the housing. It is a Swiss company founded in 1891, many of who's subsidiaries became larger than the parent company. It's still going. When the power station was built, the company making the diesel unit was late and so two steam turbines were provided quickly by Brown Boveri.That's industrial movement!  I processed the original photo in black and white because it reminded me of working in a shipyard in the sixties and it showed the detail well. So if you dream of something like this, consider your relationship with machinery. Perhaps you need to transfer your energy elsewhere or use your power in a different way. Is the wheel moving? If it is, it could be about change.
[Photograph by Camilla Galli da Bino on Pentax Q]

Friday, January 17, 2014

Facing Artifice - the Periscope and Dreams

Well of course I thought it looked like a face with little arms. It's a submarine periscope viewer in its housing and it belongs to Cinecittà Roma Studios. It's part of a submarine set available to film makers that sits in a cradle so that it can be rocked, as if at sea. I did a bit of ferreting. This sub was used in Jonathon Mostow's second world war film, U-571 (2000). I liked the periscope viewer so much that I wanted to give it a name. So the face's name is Perry. Of itself, the face is quite a symbol and if you're looking for the sign of the ego, look at the face. The face means so much more than merely the housing for the senses. In China "loss of face"is a serious business. It's often forbidden to look at the face of a deity, because it is divine. Danger lies there too. No-one can look on the face of God without damage (... for there shall no man see my face and live: Exodus 33:20). But we can look at Perry, he's just metal and optics. And if we do we can see above water without being seen ourselves. That's the stuff of dreams. A submarine is a boat - it's a U-boat not a U-ship - and the boat voyages around, often in the underworld. If you dream of being in a submarine, it could be part of a voyage of discovery, a transition perhaps. But the vessel itself is womb-like with the sonar pings standing in for the heartbeat of the mother - or maybe you just watched "The Hunt for Red October".

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Rome on a Good Day

Can there be a bad day in Rome? Oh yes. There can be a bad day anywhere. But it's hard to beat Rome for views like this. Again, this is taken with the Canon compact camera and it's at the end of the zoom lens. It's an optical zoom all the way - and for a camera that size, it does a creditable job. This is a view from halfway up Gianicolo Hill. You can climb a series of steps from the Ospedale Chiostri di Santo Spirito In Sassia and there's a nice church to see on the way. Once regarded as the centre of the the empire and the known world, Rome is a city of contrasts. In psychoanalysis the city is a symbol of mother and just as the city contains inhabitants, a mother contains her children. But despite her beauty and centrality to Christians, Rome was, for the Book of Revelations, Babylon the Great. Depicted as the mother of harlots she was regarded as the opposite of heaven. But Rome transforms and survives and despite later turmoil, much of antiquity remains. On a clear, crisp day like this Rome bathes in the light. It lends it a heavenly appearance. So of you dream of Rome, it just might be that you dream of the city, mother and survival.

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Rabbit the Pig and the Dog

I spotted these three in an exhibition on painter, Modigliani. They were hiding out in the gallery bookshop and with these colours, I couldn't resist a quick shot on the compact camera. It occurred to me that someone might have a dream about a rabbit a dog a pig, and I wondered how it could be interpreted. Now there are plenty of dream interpretation dictionaries and web sites but frankly they're hopeless. There is no standard interpretation for a dream. If only life was that simple. The dreamer might live in the countryside where these animals would mean something different from a city dweller. A person interested in animal rights would have different associations. All these would be worked through in dream interpretation. So is there any certainty in the symbolic? The dog is one of man's greatest allies, yet always associated with the underworld and death. The much maligned pig is allocated gluttony, greed and filth. The rabbit is a mysterious lunar creature who can appear and disappear at will. It is fecund and so connected with plenty and fertility. But any symbolic certainties are modified by the experiences and psychological life of the individual. Colours have symbolic meaning but what meaning for the dreamer? So in dream analysis, we move psychically inwards and outwards, considering not only archetypes and folk tales, but the dreamer's associations and life experiences. It's a long process and in theory nothing should be neglected. There is one certainty however. In the analysis of any dream, only the dreamer can really know if an interpretation is correct.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Sweet for the sweet

I used to do more shots like this. It's kind of art trouvé and the simplicity appeals. It was a tray of confectionery outside a small artisan shop in Rome. I'm not claiming to be either Picasso or Duchamp, who were masters of that sort of thing. But found objects have their own charm and I like to think I can spot them. Symbolically, sweets (or candy in the US) represent food, despite the damage to the teeth! They can also represent favours. But in this case they seem to be a collective of somewhat differentiated objects. It could therefore be a sign of partial individuation, especially since each sweet is wrapped in its own container. In individuation we stress that the individual achieves distinctiveness and wholeness through a psychological process of transformation. Unconscious material is bought into consciousness and acknowledged. I rather doubt the sweets are going to make it, but human beings can always try. It's a life-long process that can be expensive in many ways and it's not the easiest of paths. Yet I have never met anyone who had made the attempt and came to regret the hard work. We're all different shapes and colours and sometimes living in society can make us feel that we compromised the individual attributes and qualities of our being. But it's what we mean to ourselves that is probably the most important thing to recognise.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Of Canals and Kids

I'm uncertain how many times this Dublin picture may have been taken. It's certainly a pleasant view and there are worse places to look at. It's a shame the canal isn't used a little more. I recall in my childhood that safety issues that led to the Forth and Clyde Canal being rendered unnavigable. There were always worries that children might fall in and drown. This is a shadow concern of course, because there is danger everywhere and it can't be controlled. This nursery rhyme sums it up:

Three children sliding on the ice,
All on a summer's day,
As it fell out, they all fell in,
The rest they ran away.

Now, had these children been at home,
Or sliding on dry ground,
Ten thousand pounds to one penny,
They had not all been drowned.

You parents all that children have,
And you that have got none,
If you would have them safe abroad,
Pray keep them safe at home.
 
The lesson is that parents have to give up the child archetype and the child has to give up the parent archetype. Otherwise the kids might be in prams until they're 30. Children are in training to be functioning adults and have to be allowed to explore.