Thursday, 29 October 2015

The Danse Macabre

The Danse Macabre is a medieval allegory of the universal nature of death. According to the legend, the Grim Reaper calls the spirits of the dead across the realms of beyond life every year on All Hallows’ Eve / Halloween, to lead them in a dance of merriment and joy, from the strike of midnight until the break of dawn.
This legend represents the medieval and christian ammelioration of an even older pagan tradition of the dead spirits visiting their earthly kin at this time.

The veil between the world of life and the realms of death is at it’s thinnest between the hours of 12 midnight and 3am which has become known as 'The Witching Hour’ and it becomes even thinner at Beltane and Samhain.... Many pagans believe in a non physical place or state of being called the 'Summerlands' - a place  to go after life, which is like a waiting room for the spirit to contemplate ones life and loved ones on Earth. The spirits here are transformed into the energies of the universe most suited to the energies they have manifested in life, thus changed they brin new life and adventures into existence in the endless spirtual wheel of creation....

Death itself then holds no fear for people of a pagan perspective as we understand that death and birth are intertwined. In this view,  death itself and all goddesses and gods represent aspects of the cycle of birth, growth, death, and regeneration. Just as every good gardener knows that fertility is born out of decay, every fallen leaf feeds the roots of growing trees - so each spirit that passes to the Summerlands or beyond enriches the hearts and lives of their family and friends along the way. 
The Danse Macabre was written by French composer Camille Saint-Saens in 1874, is the most famous of the many musical representations of Death leading the spirits of the dead in dance on Halloween. Although this piece can be played on the piano, it was actually written for a full orchestra. The piece starts with the twelve strokes of midnight. As the church-tower rings the last bell of midnight, Death enters a graveyard, tapping and knocking on all the gravestones, to rouse the dead from their slumber. The wavering, continuous melody throughout the majority of the piece (in orchestral arrangements, performed by a solo violin), represents the personification of Death dancing through the churchyard, playing his violin, with the ghosts and skeletons of the dead dancing around after him.

The piece ends several minutes later, with the gradual rising of the sun, the rooster’s crowing, and the souls and skeletons of the dead crawling back into their graves, to await the Halloween dance of the next year.''

As leaves do fall so shall we all, but our spirits shall transcend us.
If we remember now those who before us go - 
our hearts shall be ever shinning.
If we remember now those who beside us are - 
our lives shall fill with gladness.
if we remember now those who will follow on - 
our legacy shall be only kindness ~

Thursday, 15 October 2015

''Man'' - an environmental poem for our times.

Photograph co Laurence Winram
In the style of Ted Hughes 'Crow'
An environmental poem for our times.

Man - Blacker Than Ever

When Man turned towards earth,
He saw everything on it,
All the creatures alive now and alive no longer,
The dying and dead were expanding,
Eveything was falling apart,
And man was disgusted with man.

But Man nailed everything together.
He made the words which said everthing was alright,
He made countless pictures which showed the rightness of the everythings,
He made many museums and great galeries where he displayed the bones, skulls and skins of things,
The things he had killed and eaten.
Nailing heaven and earth together.

And so man declared himself a great thing.
The greatest of everything,
All other things should fall before his greatness,
And they did.

Then earth cried out...
With one voice from every tongue,
From every mouth of all the everythings that still remained,
Proclaiming the actual horror of man,
A horror beyond redemption.

Man did not listen - he was already the great thing, and heeded nomore.

Yet man could not be man without the earth and the many things,
Without the myriad millions of other people and species,
Man too would be finished.

Earth's agony
Crying: “This is my Creation,”
Flying the empty flag of himself.

c. Titus L 2015.

Remember the ancestors and the ones who have gone before,
Fallen to mankind by climate change and more -
Increasing with speed the tide of fallen begins to roar,
Here are a few of the most recent and there are many more....
Golden Toad (1989),
Zanzibar Leopard (1996)
Po'ouli bird(2004)
Madeiran Large White Butterfly)(2007)
Tecopa Pupfish (1982)
Pyrenean Ibex (2000)
West African Black Rhino (2006)
Javan Tiger (1979)
Spix's Macaw (2004)
Round Island Burrowing Boa (1975)
Dutch Alcomn Blue Butterfly (1979)
Pinta Island Tortoise (2012)
Baiji River Dolphin (2006)
Tasmanian Tiger ( 1936)
Caribbean Monk Seal (1952)
Christmas Island Pipistrelle (2009)
Yangtze River Dolphin (2006)
Chinese Paddlefish (2007)

These Animals Have All Gone Extinct In The Last 100 Years, look here...

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Welcome to The New Pangea

The Peaceable Kingdom by Edward Hicks (1780-1849)
Pangea or Pangaea, was in early geologic time a supercontinent that incorporated almost all the landmasses on Earth, with an ensuing acessibility of all species to each other that had a direct impact on the evolution of exisiting life forms. As the continents drifted apart over vast periods of time, diverse, unique and in their own ways quite fragile eco systems and species have evolved.

In her book The Sixth Extinction, Kolbert points out there is an evolutionary arms race in which each species develops defences against their predators in order to survive - which is not news. A species correspondingly has no defense whatsoever if it encounters a new fungus, virus, bacterium or preadatory creature that did not previously feature in its biological evolution - such as invasive species introduced by various means from other land masess and continents. Such invasions can be extremely deadly, as occurred in the case of American bats killed by the psycrophilic fungus Geomyces destructans. Another example of this occurred in the eighteen hundreds. The American chestnut was the dominant deciduous tree in the eastern forests. Then, a fungus (Cryphonectria parasitica) started to cause chestnut blight. It was nearly 100% lethal. The fungus was unintentionally imported to the U.S.

In the Uk we can more recently consider Dutch Elm disease which destroyed most of our ancient Elm trees, the New Zealand Flatworm - which devours the English Earthworm( with all the consequences that loss will have for earth integrity and soil drainage and crop growth), the Grey Squirrel which has virtually displaced our indigenous Red Squirrel - there are countless more .....

Kolbert points out that global trade and travel are creating a virtual "Pangaea", in which species of all kinds are being redistributed beyond historical geographic barriers and faster than evolutionary safeguards can be developed by nature to protect species biodiversity. Rapidly deployed invasive species which have travelled with mankind on ships and trains, more recently in planes across oceans and to far laying islands faster still, are a mechanism of species extinction.

Down from the verge of heavene, Richard Whincop

One of the artworks submitted for the theme of animals, called Bali Turner, Photograph by Joel Singer - The Guardian

It’s hard to say how much nature will change on our New Pangaea, but there is evidence that ecosystems also get more vulnerable to droughts and other calamities when they lose their ecological biodiversity. The network of connections that keeps ecosystems intact becomes simpler and thus easier to tear down, with resulting loss of species and the ability of nature to support them. New Pangaea may even affect the future of evolution itself. With less genetic variation, species are less likely to adapt to a change in the climate or some new predator....

Art featured at top of post, The Peaceable Kingdom by Edward Hicks (1780-1849). Hicks meant the beasts to typify human traits in line with his view of contemporary Quaker politics: the lion symbolized power gained through wealth, the leopard a suave, threatening worldliness. Occasionally animals are in conflict. But even when they aren't, the assemblies have a jumbled, restive feeling. The ground beneath them is eroding; a fissure in the earth separates them from Penn's treaty with the indigenous native people behind.

In a more modern viewing, Hicks' inclusion of the varied animal species along with the invaders from Europe speaks more directly to the rising tides of ecological change, the biodiverse and cultural conflicts and extinctions that preceed the new Pangea....

Rather than a cause for panic and dismay over loss of species diversity and ecologies, an awareness of this situation places us in a position of power - whilst such processes are inevitable given the mobile state of species in the modern world, we might nevertheless at this late stage become guardians of our biological and ecological heritage. We might protect those species and ecologies that we still have and guide future developments of the biosphere for the well being of all.

Dodo skeleton cast and model based on modern research,
at Oxford University Museum of Natural History

Monday, 5 October 2015

Animism and the Elves

Animism is the worldview that natural physical entities—including animals, plants, and often even inanimate objects rocks, geographic features such as mountains or rivers, or other entities of the natural environment, including thunder, wind, and shadows. or phenomena—possess a spiritual essence. Animism can be said to be the experience of being part of the living biosphere (or even the whole "animate" universe)

A great book for apprehending an awareness of the residents of such a wider world is Serena Roney-Dougal's The Faery Faith: An Integration of Science with Spirit; A book about the worldview of people who experience faery reality.
First of all be aware that its nothing to do with Tinker Bell and a Disneyesque commerce driven world populated by pocket sized saccharin coated child focused toy 'pixies and elfs'. 
Serena Roney-Dougal who has a PhD in Parapsychology (the exploration of psychic phenomena; telepathy, clairvoyance and psychokinesis etc) presents her accounts which incorporate the latest views of quantum science, which identifies that our own cognition is a causative effect influencing the outcome of physical events, with the earlier magickal traditions which by various means sought to interact and cooperate with these energies at an elemental level and beyond, drawing on her scientific work with the pineal gland sometimes called the third eye...

painting by Otecki
Whilst Serena is a qualified researcher in parapsychology and does by the way provide relevant references in the extensive index of her book, she also succinctly and simply portrays an enlightening insight into how the myths and legends of yore present an insight into other levels and realms of existence coexisting with our own reality and goes on to provide many inspiring accounts of how the same Fae and elven energies of earth and beyond are now resurgent in more modern myths and experiences of fairy and elven visitations, ghostly presences and Ufo abductions.
I particularly liked this quote that she included which describes a 'place' outside of physical space 'Faeryland exists as a super-normal state of consciousness into which people may enter in dreams, trance, ecstatic condition or for an indefinite period at can have no other limits than that of the universe itself' (Lady Gregory 1979).

art by nick mann
In my opinion Serena successfully portrays the result that the many ancient mythological and modern accounts as well as the scientifically studied psychic phenomena do demonstrate when considered together, that each of us is potentially aware at some level of the natural magic and interconnectedness of ourselves with the earth and infinite universe. ''I feel the faery faith today to be a resurgence in animism, a love of the earth, of nature, aware of spirit immanent in all matter, aware that my body is the temple of my soul, that I am spirit made manifest, that everything I do reverberates throughout the whole universe, that I am a part of the whole and contain the whole within me.... (&) the deities are understood in their abstract mythical form...'' (my review here )

I recommend this accessible book to everyone who has ever wondered,
and who is able to follow Fae reasoning as it skips into the new vistas of the para-normal.

Enchanted We Are & Blessed Be ~

Sunday, 4 October 2015

When the Wind Blows ~

Anyone remember 'When the Wind Blows (1986 film) '?

''Adapted by Raymond Briggs from his graphic novel, “When the Wind Blows” concerns an elderly English couple in rural Sussex. Warned that nuclear war is imminent, the moon-faced pensioners Jim and Hilda Bloggs (voices supplied by John Mills and Peggy Ashcroft) do their gently dithering best to follow government instructions, laying away supplies and building a rudimentary fallout shelter. 
Hilda is doubtful, but Jim is resolute: “Ours is not to reason why — we must do the correct thing,” he explains more than once.

When the Wind Blows” is more satirical than sentimental in evoking the traditional stiff-upper-lip stoicism of Britain’s salt of the earth. Mr. Murakami, a Japanese-American animator who worked largely in Britain, handles the bomb’s impact with impressive restraint — a delicately throbbing conflagration rendered in a monochromatic wash — and the onset of the Bloggses’ subsequent radiation sickness is quietly relentless. (Moral: There won’t always be an England.)
Mr. Murakami introduces elements of photographic reality into his animation — most subtly in his use of a miniature model for the Bloggses’ cottage. The presence of flat, animated characters in a three-dimensional set produces a subliminal neutron weapon effect. The rubble of their hitherto cozy lives appears more substantial than their increasingly ghostly presence.

Perceived by some as propaganda for Britain’s unilateral nuclear disarmament, “When the Wind Blows” came in for a measure of political criticism — a smug film, one commentator wrote, made not for people like Mr. and Mrs. Bloggs but “radical yuppies” who took their children to peace marches''. ( Original article may be found here )


The Polar DEW 

( Distant Early Warning Line )
has just warned that
A nuclear rocket strike of
At least one thousand megatons
Has been launched by the enemy
Directly at our major cities.
This announcement will take
Two and a quarter minutes to make,
You therefore have a further
Eight and a quarter minutes
To comply with the shelter
Requirements published in the Civil
Defence Code - section Atomic Attack.
A specially shortened Mass
Will be broadcast at the end
Of this announcement -
Protestant and Jewish services
Will begin simultaneously -
Select your wavelength immediately
According to instructions
In the Defence Code. Do not
Tale well-loved pets (including birds)
Into your shelter - they will consume
Fresh air. Leave the old and bed-
Ridden, you can do nothing for them.
Remember to press the sealing
Switch when everyone is in
The shelter. Set the radiation
Aerial, turn on the Geiger barometer.
Turn off your television now.
Turn off your radio immediately
The services end. At the same time
Secure explosion plugs in the ears
Of each member of your family. Take
Down your plasma flasks. Give your children
The pills marked one and two
In the C D green container, then put
Them to bed. Do not break
The inside airlock seals until
The radiation All Clear shows
(Watch for the cuckoo in your
Perspex panel), or your District
Touring Doctor rings your bell.
If before this your air becomes
Exhausted or if any of your family
Is critically injured, administer
The capsules marked 'Valley Forge'
(Red pocket in No 1 Survival Kit)
For painless death. (Catholics
Will have been instructed by their priests
What to do in this eventuality.)
This announcement is ending. Our President
Has already given orders for
Massive retaliation - it will be
Decisive. Some of us may die.
Remember, statistically
It is not likely to be you.
All flags are flying fully dressed
On Government buildings - the sun is shining.
Death is the least we have to fear.
We are all in the hands of God,
Whatever happens happens by His will.
Now go quickly to your shelters.

Poem by Peter Porter 

 Arguments for nuclear abolition;

The humanitarian case;
The abolition of nuclear weapons is an urgent humanitarian necessity. Any use of nuclear weapons would have catastrophic consequences. No effective humanitarian response would be possible, and the effects of radiation on human beings would cause suffering and death many years after the initial explosion. Eliminating nuclear weapons – via a comprehensive treaty – is the only guarantee against their use.
Even if a nuclear weapon were never again exploded over a city, there are intolerable effects from the production, testing and deployment of nuclear arsenals that are experienced as an ongoing personal and community catastrophe by many people around the globe. This humanitarian harm too must inform and motivate efforts to outlaw nuclear weapons.
“Nuclear weapons are unique in their destructive power, in the unspeakable human suffering they cause, in the impossibility of controlling their effects in space and time, and in the threat they pose to the environment, to future generations, and indeed to the survival of humanity.” – International Committee of the Red Cross, 2010

The security case;
Nuclear weapons pose a direct and constant threat to people everywhere. Far from keeping the peace, they breed fear and mistrust among nations. These ultimate instruments of terror and mass destruction have no legitimate military or strategic utility, and are useless in addressing any of today’s real security threats, such as terrorism, climate change, extreme poverty, overpopulation and disease.
While more than 40,000 nuclear weapons have been dismantled since the end of the cold war, the justifications for maintaining them remain largely unchanged. Nations still cling to the misguided idea of “nuclear deterrence”, when it is clear that nuclear weapons only cause national and global insecurity. There have been dozens of documented instances of the near-use of nuclear weapons as a result of miscalculation or accidents.

It’s OK for some countries to possess nuclear weapons. When it comes to nuclear weapons, there are no safe hands. So long as any country has these weapons, others will want them, and the world will be in a precarious state.
It’s unlikely that nuclear weapons will ever be used again. Unless we eliminate nuclear weapons, they will almost certainly be used again, either intentionally or by accident, and the consequences will be catastrophic.
Nuclear weapons provide a useful deterrent against attack. Nuclear weapons do not deter terrorists. Nuclear-armed nations are actually more vulnerable to pre-emptive strike and terrorist targeting than non-nuclear countries.
Nuclear weapons can be used legitimately in war. Any use of weapons would violate international humanitarian law because they would indiscriminately kill civilians and cause long-term environmental harm.

The environmental case;
Nuclear weapons are the only devices ever created that have the capacity to destroy all complex life forms on Earth. It would take less than 0.1% of the explosive yield of the current global nuclear arsenal to bring about devastating agricultural collapse and widespread famine. The smoke and dust from fewer than 100 Hiroshima-sized nuclear explosions would cause an abrupt drop in global temperatures and rainfall.

“Climate change may be the global policy issue that has captured most attention in the last decade, but the problem of nuclear weapons is at least its equal in terms of gravity – and much more immediate in its potential impact.” – International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, 2009

The economic case;
Nuclear weapons programmes divert public funds from health care, education, disaster relief and other vital services. The nine nuclear-armed nations spend in excess of US$105 billion each year maintaining and modernizing their nuclear arsenals. The US alone spends more than US$60 billion annually, and the British government’s plans to replace its ageing fleet of nuclear-armed Trident submarines could cost taxpayers over £100 billion.
Despite renewed commitments by nations to achieve a nuclear-weapon-free world, all of the nuclear powers continue to invest exorbitant sums of money in their nuclear forces. Funding allocated to national disarmament efforts is minuscule by comparison, and the principal UN body responsible for advancing nuclear abolition has an annual budget of just over $10 million. It is time to redirect money towards meeting human needs.

This blog reposted from The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) page.
ICAN is a global campaign coalition working to mobilize people in all countries to inspire, persuade and pressure their governments to initiate negotiations for a treaty banning nuclear weapons. 

 “Who is to decide which is the grimmer sight: withered hearts, or empty skulls?” 
 Honoré de Balzac.