Sunday, August 31, 2014

THE GHOST MONTH, The Smell of Old Dust & The Fifth Chamber

My Algerian friend, Annie, told me that the French call August the Ghost Month.  I'd never heard that before, though I had heard of the Hungry Ghost Festivals:   traditional Taoist and Buddhist festivals held in Asian countries on the 15th night of the seventh month (Chinese lunar-solar calendar) continuing on thru August till the 24th of the month.

Back in northern California, in the eighties and nineties during the height of spiritual, psychological, metaphysical explorations, there was a lot of hooha regarding les fantômes affamés (the hungry ghosts).  But it was meant in a pejorative sense, not the same hungry ghosts for whom the Buddhist/Taost rituals are being performed, i.e., burning incense, clothes offerings, vegetarian meals and even some bling laid out. People burn paper houses, cars, servants, televisions.(Wiki).

Detail of the Last Judgement Tympanum  (1107 -1125)

On the15th, when the gates of Heaven & Hell open up, the belief is that the deceased/ancestors will be out and about, visiting & rolling around the neighborhood.  This is a chance to pay respects, venerate the dead, and say howdy to wandering ghosts or those you might have not had a chance to say goodbye to.  The Buddhists also think of this time as a "rebirth" of ancestors.  

Later in the month I asked some other French friends about "Ghost Month" in France and they rolled their eyes and said: "Tout le monde est parti en vacances, prendre un coup d'oeil autour, la place est vide." = Everyone has left for the holidays, take a look around, the place is empty.  Uh Duh, indeed, our big city of Angouleme was like a ghost town.  

I did have a rationale though, since our little Village of Charras was hopping.  August is the busiest month of the season for holiday renters & owners who come and stay at the Chateau; oodles of kids lining the pool, filling the Parc with merriment, on vacation from England or Scotland or wherever else mortals escape from to go somewhere else warmer & sunnier, quieter or just plain different.  

Cessy playing in front of main Chateau
Strollers on the back lawn

Cricket game in progress on back lawn

But even in the lemony sunshine, one could feel the presence of ghosts here & there.  The fields were full of them. 

Ghost Flower - Field in Feuillaude

Sometimes I'd walk down a lonely passageway in an ancient building and feel surrounded by other presences, or visit an abandoned mansion like the French urban explorer, Bousure, certain I had seen a figure in a window.   "I like the mood of these places and the light inside."  Bousure.

Unknown photographer

French Urban Explorer, Bousure

Then Kevin set me off on a luxury, ghost hunting storm by sending me a link to the Parisian Belle Epoque Time Capsule below.

The Parisian Belle Epoque Time Capsule - 9th arr.

In 2010, a 91 year old woman, known only as, Madame de Florian, died in the South of France, leaving behind an apartment in Paris. Her family hired a team of auctioneers to visit the flat in the 9th arr., near the Pigalle red-light district and the Opera Garnier, to inventory its contents.  When they unlocked the front door, they found it virtually untouched since before WW II.  "There was the smell of old dust," recalled the auctioneer.  

Perfume bottles, cobwebs and silence

Madame, 23 years old, had fled the city in 1942 as the Germans advanced, locking up the apartment she had inherited from her Grandmother.  For 70 years she paid the rent and upkeep on the home without ever returning.  Beneath the dust the investigators found themselves transported to early 1900's Paris at the height of the Belle Epoque when de Florian's grandmother was the talk of the town.  Born in 1864, she was a certain breed of courtesan known as les demimondaines, famous for lavish lifestyles, parties and lots of high profile suitors.  The apartment was filled with art, gold drapes, chandeliers, a stuffed ostrich draped with a shawl, hairbrushes, perfumes and candle stubs.  One of the experts said it was like "stumbling into the Castle of Sleeping Beauty."  
Screenshot MessyNessy

There were love letters from Prime Minister George Clemenceau, and a heretofore unknown painting by Giovanni Boldini of  24 year old, Marthe de Florian, the apartment owner's grandmother. It was discovered that she was Boldini's muse and lover. The painting ultimately sold for 2.1 million after a bidding war. The location of Marthe de Florian's apartment remains a mystery, as does her granddaughter's true identity.  But, somewhere in the 9th arrondissement, a dusty flat missing a fine Boldini painting may still remain frozen-in-time."  from The Daily Beast.

Marthe de Florian - Painting Boldini

She IS pretty in pink!  If I get to Paris in October, I vow to find her apartment. 

Sigh...back to the reality of Tarot and our own village ghosts.  Yesterday I was invited to read the cards at the Javerlhac Marche Artisnale not far from Charras.  I've always loved the village, it's on the Bandiat River and has a cracking tower and manor house, which looks like they have some of their own dust and mystery.  

Javerlhac-et-la-Chapelle-Saint-Robert - Bandiat River
Javerlhac Tower
And it turned out to be the one sympathetic weather day we had in August.  The organizers did a gorgeous job - a smooth band playing, homemade ice cream and high quality artisan goods.  I spent most of the money I made by the end of the day, no regrets. 

Jazz Band - Javerlhac

I did twenty readings over the course of the day, half of them for les Francais, none of whom spoke a word of English.  It was challenging, not so much for the grammar or comprehension of what they were asking, but rather the cultural/psychological differences & how we perceive emotional frameworks; how we talk about relationships and health and career.  One French man wanted me to advise him about his accounting business, whether he should expand to Bordeaux and Paris from Javerlhac and the environs?  He demanded that I unilaterally make that decision for him!  He's coming for a private reading next week, and I am cramming as much technical French & Gallic sensibilities into myself as I can. It's a lot of pressure - usually the French just ask about love and there IS a universal language for that.  

Marie-Claire + Fish + Dog

My favorite reading of the day was for Madame Marie-Claire, 90 years old, the most serene, gentile french woman, with an aura of light around her that splashed us all with joy.  Her daughter bought the reading for her.  She had had 7 children, three of them adopted.  Her question:  Would her grandchildren find happiness?  Bien Sur!  You can see she pulled La Poisson et Le Chien from the Lenromand Revolution deck (Carrie Paris/Roz Foster  You can also see I've purloined one of Carrie's magical card images for my Tarot Table. 

Me & Marie-Claire - Salle de Fetes Javerlhac

I love the stories of people's lives, the patterns, the bravery, the way they let me into their most cherished and secret chambers.  I am always humbled by the openness and the willingness to embrace the symbols & ancient wisdom that leap from the cards.  I used Ellen Lorenzi-Prince's Dark Goddess* ( deck for the one card readings.  I don't get much call for those, but when I do, the cards are perfect because they provide immediate entry points, along with an emotional template to work with.  Profound, punchy imagery like Nine of Water - Lady of the Lake, Make a wish, Take a vow.

Dark Goddess Tarot

Tarot de St. Croix

This time I brought a third deck, created by my roommate from Italy Tarot Tour**, Lisa de St. Croix - Tarot de St. Croix -  This deck is close to my heart too since I sat next to Lisa in Tuscany and Ferrara as she painted some of the cards.  Her deck with its vivid, rich colors and timeless quality does indeed, "transcend time to portray the tapestry of life."   The Wheel of Fortune card came up twice in readings yesterday. 

But it wasn't all sweetness and light.  The Ghost of Loss was upon us on this bright day in the month of August even as fish were bringing abundance, dogs loyalty and Wheels of Fortune turning.  There were also some very hungry ghosts wishing to be fed.  And haven't we all been starving at times? 

So many querents had lost partners, lovers and friends.  And two friends had lost their dogs:  Adieu Donner, Adieu Rupert.  I talked with them about opening a Fifth Chamber in their hearts where the Beloved could reside for all time.  

In our time there are certain changes taking place in the heart, by which gradually a fifth chamber will develop.  In this fifth chamber man will have a new organ which will allow him to control life forces in a different way than is possible at the moment...All that happens in the moral life, and all that happens physically in the world...the moral and the physical...are found in their real union when we learn to understand all he configurations of the human heart.  Rudolf Steiner

And as it turns out, honey bees already have this fifth chamber.  Aren't they clever?  Maybe if we develop a Fifth Chamber we can make honey too.

"One of the hurdles in developing a five chambered heart in humanty is that our powers as human beings would be spiritually and morally altered. Our connection to the living forces of nature, as the Bees experience the living forces of nature, would plug us into our own feelings of LIFE and Etheric life and the critical psychological, emotional and karmic health of our fellow human beings and the poisoning effects we have inflicted into nature due to our sterile emotional, intellectual distance we maintain, as the safe guard to our freedom to think in whichever way we please about anything. Even if the way we think about nature and the human heart is a grotesque error of education and judgment."

Rileybrad Blog - The Fifth Chamber Heart

"Bee Boy" Born with Bee Heart
Russian baby Vanya Maryin was 
born with a five chambered heart,
a structure only found in bees. Oddly
enough, little Vanya comes from a
family of bee-keepers.  

Vanya Maryin - Bee Boy

Last Night as I was Sleeping

"...I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures,,,

Antonio Machado

See New York Times, August 20th, the excellent piece by Jessa Crispin in the Opinionator  Private Lives Essays,  The Tarot Card Reader.  (thanks Rosita!)

*You can now pre-order Ellen's Minoan Tarot deck, site designed and maintained by Arnell Ando

**Tarot Art & History Tour of Italy with Arnell Ando and Friends - upcoming tour 2015 -

Sunday, August 17, 2014

THE SANGLIER JUMPED OVER THE MOON, Les Abat-Jours & yet more Angels

...and the Hare did too, but as you can see, the Goose flew...

Jodie Tucker - Expo - Chateau Saint Catherine - Montbron

Lamps, Plants, Cushions, Screens, Fabric
Back view of La Galerie

Large Floral Painting

Jodie Tucker, Bermudian Artist*


Jodie Tucker, resident artist at Chateau Sainte Catherine, has transformed La Galerie into a "Fantasie Salon" for her current one woman show, which runs till end of August.

Interspersed with the paintings are hand painted screens, lampshades, cushions and fabric.  Her creations also include prints and cards taken from her original designs. My photos do not do the show justice.  Come see for yourself!

Detail Large Floral

The salon-like atmosphere is enhanced by the gorgeous bamboo and floral arrangements installed by Christophe from Parc Colonial** (see below, info for visiting the Parc)   

Christophe - Parc Colonial**    Photo by Jodie Tucker

La Galerie Sainte Catherine - On the route to Montbron


  LES ABAT-JOURS (The Lampshades)

In July, Jodie held a lampshade making course in her garden at Charras.  It was a magical day - I took a few photos; les abat-jours were everywhere, growing from trees and springing from the ground & beneath people's hands.  



End of Day
If you are "turned on" or "lit up" by the idea of making your own lampshade, there's a second chance on August 22nd.  Jodie will be offering another course in her atelier at Chateau Sainte Catherine.

Jodie Tucker Atelier - Chateau Sainte Catherine

The day will begin at 10 a.m. with a welcome tea or coffee and homemade biscuits, followed by a demonstration by Jodie. You will select your material and 2 - 3 hours later, you have created your own bespoke 12" lampshade.  The price of this course is 40 euros per person and is limited to 6 people, all materials are included. Please contact the chateau on 05 45 23 60 03 or Email:
You can also visit the website at

Below is the lampshade Jodie made for my last Gemini Birthday. She used my photo from the series I have been working on (inspired by Angela Voss and Carrie Paris), "The Secret Life of Statues." 

The photo in front of the books is of my mother as a young girl. I've been trying to bring her back into my soul in a new mother staring out into the moment, not knowing what lay ahead, not seeing the 4 somebodies growing inside her -  the seeds and sway of her life - a mystery yet to unfold. 


Angels DO exist!
believe me, I know, I
can see one standing in the
doorway right now; this is not an
flight of fancy, I swear it is a
genuine card carrying
heart-beating angel, and if
I can see it, so can you.
John O' Donohue said we are all
knocking on Heaven's Door, even when the
lights are out and the
moon is hiding behind the clouds.
Nothing can stop
our Guardian angel from
protecting us,
quietly, while
rearranging the furniture so we don't trip on the
stairway to Heaven,
tucking us in at night
under a sky studded with starry cousins
visible to anyone
willing to look hard enough to see their
xylem and their
yearning to save us from ourselves,
Zany as this all might sound.

 RA Martin
From Jodie Tucker Exhibition

*You can see more of Jodie's work on her website:

* *PARC COLONIAL DE CHARRAS in Grosbot is now open on Wed. and Sunday afternoons for tea and tour of the gardens and purchase of plants.  There will also be Open Days in the garden on September 6th and 7th.  

Christophe in Bamboo Forest - Parc Colonial

Sunday, August 10, 2014

COLLABORATING WITH THE UNKNOWN - A Field of Bunnies dancing on the head of a pin.

Derek Kinzett - Chicken Wire Sculpture - Inner Spirit Collection

We don't receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us.  Marcel Proust

I'd been watching the corn grow and the sunflowers do their thing while the summer got stranger and stranger.  I felt like Alice wandering in circles inside a box. I made the mistake of looking too often at a computer monitor instead of thru a Looking Glass.  And found myself staring at wildfires and planes falling from the sky; listening to the interminable Obama bashing; Wall Street's Bulls/Bears charging & growling, and a plethora of kidnappings followed by more Drone attacks.

In France the little sweet that comes along with an espresso disappeared overnight, as if every bistro and cafe had suddenly called for a cookie embargo.

Three tarot events in a row were cancelled due to rain, rain, rain...

Pluie Pluie Pluie - Chateau de Charras

Then I found a lump on my neck: OOPS &?!^+ @#$%^!&*. I began shrinking rapidly until my shoulders were nowhere to be found. I felt suspended between Yesterday and Tomorrow, while Today ceased to exist. All my consternation about the world...all my big talk about "living in the present".  I just wanted to go back in time: pre-lump, when I was complaining about the lack of cookies and the crap weather.

It finally stopped raining for a nano-second, so I jumped on Antennae II, my trusty bike, and took off on the path between confusion and conviction -  the road less traveled -  which is so easy to find in rural France. 

On the way to Les Graulges
I spun-pedaled past hectares of cornfields, sunflowers & chickens studiously pecking away behind chicken wire enclosures, Jacquie's photogenic duck in his cozy hand-hewn kingdom

Jacquie's Duck

All the chicken wire reminded me of these photos I came across of Parisian artist Benedetto Bufalino's repurposed 1970's police car, turned into a fully functioning chicken coop (La Voiture de Police Poulailler). The only difference between cops & coops is one little "o".

Benedetto Bufalino

The joke here is that the French call cops "les poules" (chickens). A little less derogatory than our American "pigs", but still...

Luxury digs for Les Poules

A queue of curious cows reminded me of another piece from Stephanie Marlis's "Fine":

Country Cows

Queue - a line of waiting people or vehicles, from the Old French cue, tail - and what about polymory? You have your string of hearts albeit stretched out over time.  And hasn't each preceding love, bright or faint, enriched the next? Is Pluto any less dear now that we know it's not a single planet but simply the largest of sixty-odd ice and rock cometlike objects?  - Stephanie Marlis

Derek Kinzett - Chicken Wire Sculpture

I kept pedaling deeper into the paysage, across les champs, down overgrown forestry roads, the ones that are posted:  Chasse Gardée - private hunting ground.  But I'm not hunting for mushrooms or sanglier; I'm hunting for the world beyond human control, the invisible world. I thought maybe if I kept shrinking like Alice or became transparent like these ghostly Kinzett sculptures I could slip thru the veil...
I'm searching for answers to questions raised by Thomas Aquinas's riff in "Summa Theologica" like "how many angels are dancing on the heads of pins?"  Perhaps there are simply no answers to settle those kinds of thorny "double theory" debates, the ones that masticate and circle endlessly around faith & reason. And what kind of dance? Hip hop, ballet, tango, polka, waltz? And what size are the angels? Are they ethnically diverse?
My faith
is a great weight
hung on a small wire,
as doth the spider
hang her baby on a thin web,
as doth the vine,
twiggy and wooden,
hold up grapes
like eyeballs,
as many angels
dance on the head of a pin.
Anne Sexton

The thing I like about the angel/head/pin debate is that Aquinas wasn't questioning the existence of angels.  Delving a little deeper into dusty archives, I found out it wasn't even a pin they were dancing on.  It was a "needle."  In 1648 William Chillingworth wrote of clergymen disputing, "Whether a million of angels may not sit upon a needle's point,” which in turn may refer to Swester Katrei's, fourteenth century German mystical work, in which a character observes, "doctors declare that in heaven a thousand angels can stand on the point of a needle." Dance, sit, stand, needle, pin?  Tell that to the poets - Ouch!

Count the Angels

A Birmingham man, Graham Short, carved the Lord's Prayer onto the head of a pin.  If a human being can do that, imagine what an angel could do if she (or he) put some toe shoes on?

Graham Short's Lord's Prayer Engraving - MailOnline

We'll get to the bottom of this later. 

After approximately 12 kilometres, I wound my way into Les Graulges, a commune (population 80), with a Romanesque church (of course), a Maire, and a telephone booth.

Working Phone Booth - Les Graulges

I couldn't imagine it worked, although it was a mere 6 or 7 years ago when Kev & I immigrated to France, and we were still using phone cards in these booths, now an anachronism.  I gingerly picked up the receiver & found mold growing under it, but then I dialed les "poules" and huppé! it worked.  Of course it does, because most of the older French who populate these communes and villages do not have cell phones.  

Les Graulgians best be en garde - Since  2007 Buffalino and lighting designer Benoit Deseille have been turning these booths into Aquariums in places like Biarritz, France and Gent, Belgium.

Evasion Urbaine - Bufalino, Deseille

Aquarium Booth
What if you wanted to call Jacques Cousteau?  I guess he's not under water anymore, perhaps in the clouds dancing on the head of a pin?

But there's more to Les Graulges then first meets the eye.  A narrow road flanked with poplar trees and high stone walls beckons. 

Antennae II chills while I investigate
The road leads to the river Lizonne, bordering the southern end of Les Graulges & a community garden, a chair to sit in. There are caves and campgrounds.

Les Graulges - Cave

It's not easy to get to the river, but I find a way to slip thru a fence and crawl down to the bank.

Les Graulges - Lizonne River
Derek Kinzett - Faerie

A sense of reverence slips in here with the riffling river music and the soft breeze nuzzling the willows and the leaves.  Recently, I was listening to some passages from priest/poet John O'Donohue's Celtic Wisdom collection, and I'm happy to report that he believed in angels, especially the guardian kind - said we've all been assigned our very own.  He also said that instead of seeking out the supernatural or flapping about in search of the ecstatic/exotic, we'd be better off looking for the divine in the ordinary.

It's not as though magic doesn't exist- we tarot practitioners are big on magic - but maybe sometimes what we think of as magic is simply awareness and attention.  It's funny how important these distinctions have become since the "lump" showed up.  Turning from the desire to escape or get "high", now seeing what is in front of me creates an expansive & holy space. My heart is not exiled. I feel a sense of belonging within this cathedral of nature.  Annie Dillard says it so well in her poem based on Vincent Van Gogh's letters:      "I Am Trying to Get at Something Utterly Heart-Broken" - A few passages below:

At the end of the road is a small cottage,
and over it all the blue sky.
I am trying to get at something utterly heart-broken.

The flying birds, the smoking chimneys,
and that figure loitering below in the yard--
If we do not learn from this, then from what shall we learn?

A patch of brown heath through which a white
Path leads, and sky just delicately tinged,
Yet somewhat passionately brushed.
We who try our best to live, why do we not live more?

The branches of poplars and willows rigid like wire.
It may be true that there is no God here,
But there must be one not far off...

...What I want is more beautiful huts far away on the heath.
If we are tired, isn't it because
We have already walked a long way? ...

A ploughed field with clods of violet earth;
Over all a yellow sky with a yellow sun.
So there is every moment something that moves one intensely...

I love so much, so very much, the effect
Of yellow leaves against green trunks.
This is not a thing that I have sought,
But it has come across my path and I have seized it.

                                                                       - Annie Dillard

And so I too have seized this moment to look around me.  Into the marvelous I've ridden and discovered cultural treasures in a quiet little commune.  Paul Woodruff says in his book, "Renewing a Forgotten Virtue": 

"You need not believe in God to be reverent, but to develop an occasion for reverence you must share a culture with others, and this must support a degree of ceremony."  Reverence in classical Greek society then motivated the populous to act rightly and be humble to improve society. "We feel awe for what we believe is above us all as human beings, and this feeling helps us to avoid treating other human beings with contempt."

Ed Ruscha Rabbit - 1986

But what about those "bunnies" I promised you??  When I first pedaled down the narrow road with the stone walls I saw a rabbit dashing into a large hole right in front of my eyes. Off to my left, in a large field, several pairs of ears flashed by.  But at twilight as I headed home I looked again and the same field was chock full of bunnies.  At first I thought maybe they were domesticated (you know like the lapins they sell in the markets).  But I could see they were wild and there were no fences.  I jammed to get my camera going & set up a shot, but as soon as I zeroed in they leaped & scattered into the undergrowth as rabbits will do, so I only captured a few stragglers,...I swear there were dozens, though I know it sounds like a fish tale. 

Les Graulges field - Three Slow Bunnies
Temptation of Eve - Ely Cathedral, Cambridgeshire, England

This is how it really looked

Mary Baxter - Wire Rabbit Sculpture

But then it was time to leave the river, the caves, the bunnies, the gardens, the church & the community of Les Graulges. Next week in the Open Pavilion where they have held Foires for almost a hundred years, there will be an Indonesian night - Ikan balls, Gado Gado, and fried bananas.  I'll come back for that & bring some friends to share a meal and watch the angels dancing with the bunnies in the lush green fields. 

End of Day, Leaving Les Graulges

Les Graulges Cimetière


When I was a child
I lived in a chicken coop
in a cornfield in Illinois
with my mother, father,
two brothers and "dog".

I hated the smells and how
the feathers floated up my nose,
and the way the ceiling
hit my Dad's head
whenever he stood up straight.

And if anyone was looking for me
I hid in the slaughter room
behind the chickens
and read and read and read.

And here I am now
living among old stones
in rural France
eating roasted chickens from the market
and reading and reading and reading

Heart+Child+Sun - Lenormand Revolution- Carrie Paris & Roz Foster

 Don't forget the SuperMoon tonight.  It should be a doozy!

Bonus Section for those who want to conduct a scientific experiment to see how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.  This experiment comes courtesy of Orange Julius at

What was once just a rhetorical illustration to demonstrate the futility of out of the touch theological debates is now an exciting scientific experiment you can conduct in your very own home.

What you will need: 

Pencil & paper
One Pin
A large number of Angels
Note:  Seraphim and Cherubim 
most desirable, but almost any angels
will do.  The garden Anaheim variety of
angel should be avoided. 
One copy of "The Song that Doesn't End"
(Extended Version.)

Instructions:  Insert the pin upright into a sturdy surface such as a pin cushion or a Styrofoam block.  Begin playing the song that doesn't end and instruct the angels to step onto the pin and begin dancing. Count each angel, stopping only when no more angels can dance on the pin, and remembering to make sure that all the angels are dancing on the pin and not just hovering above it, so as to avoid a potential source of error.  Repeat several times, removing all angels from the pin after each trial. From these trials determine the average number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin.

Additional Exercises:

Procure a copy of  Maurice Duruflé's, "Ubi Cantas et Amor" and repeat the experiment.  Discuss the effect that music religious in nature has on your results. 

Does the type of dancing affect the number of angels who can dance? Experiment with such dancing styles as the Foxtrot, the Electric Slide and the Clueless Male Arm Flail.

Discuss possible sources of error, such as pin imbalance, drunken angels who keep falling off the pin's head, or angels who won't dance if they don't know the song.