Chimney cats in the last days

chimney cats (07 May 2015)

chimney cats (07 May 2015)

Today (14 May 2015) is the last day for Avid Gallery’s limited edition of the Chimney Cats made to celebrate Bronwynne Cornish’s exhibition of work currently showing at The Dowse Art Museum, Lower Hutt.

Originally intended to guard chimneys from witches coming down them, the first group of Bronwynne’s chimney cats appeared 1982.


Number nine

Temporarily, I’ve been living in Apartment 36 (3+6=9), in a building with a street number of 27 (2+7=9), waiting for my new home to become available. I went to inspect it for the first time a couple of days ago (on the 9th of the month). The new street number is 9.

“Nine is strongly associated with the Chinese dragon, a symbol of magic and power. There are nine forms of the dragon, it is described in terms of nine attributes, and it has nine children. It has 117 scales – 81 yang (masculine, heavenly) and 36 yin (feminine, earthly). All three numbers are multiples of 9 (9×13=117, 9×9=81, 9×4=36) as well adding up individually to 9 (1+1+7=9, 8+1=9, 3+6=9).” (from the Wikipedia article, 9 (number))

“When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.” (from a letter announcing the closing in 2009 of the Tokyo-based, Paris-showing men’s label, Number (N)ine, launched by Takahiro Miyashita toward the end of the nineteen-eighties)


Did it occur to you, at any stage, that “A Twisted Pair” might somehow relate to the double helix of DNA? … and to “the ordinary copper wire that connects home and many business computers to the telephone company”?*

Reading that this blog explores the “twinfulness” of the writer, did you consider implicating Mercury/Hermes, messenger of the gods and ruler of Gemini, the astrological twins?



Which brings me to the reason for today’s title. The symbolism of the caduceus “represents Hermes (or the Roman Mercury), and by extension trades, occupations or undertakings associated with the god. In later Antiquity the caduceus provided the basis for the astrological symbol representing the planet Mercury. Thus, through its use in astrology and alchemy, it has come to denote the elemental metal of the same name. (from the Wikipedia article, Caduceus)

The article also points out that “The caduceus is sometimes mistakenly used as a symbol of medicine and/or medical practice, especially in North America, because of widespread confusion with the traditional medical symbol, the rod of Asclepius, which has only a single snake and no wings.”

The US Army Medical Corps’ confusion notwithstanding, a liberal table of correspondences might well relate both to “the crucified serpent” – an alchemical symbol for fixatio – and to the bronze serpent lifted up by Moses in the wilderness to heal those who had been bitten by snakes (see the Book of Numbers chapter 21). 

You might also want to read about Nehushtan (literally, a piece of brass).  

Connecting closely with this, it is interesting to note that John Donne (Sermons 10:190) uses “crucified Serpent” as a title of Jesus Christ – who, according to the Gospel of St John (3:14-15), said: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

As Walter Burkert asserts, Mercury’s caduceus is “really the image of copulating snakes taken over from Ancient Near Eastern tradition”.

* The definition of twisted pair – “the ordinary copper wire that connects home and many business computers to the telephone company” – comes from 

Looking at the moon

If you look at the moon you will see many flaws but they are not anything but part of its nature. (John Weeren, in “perfected being” on About Zen)

The moon features quite a lot in Zen imagery — often as a reflection in water. The moon connects with many other sources of mythology, wisdom and inspiration.

Ironic, isn’t it? The moon, a satelite of our planet, is not an original light source; it reflects light from the sun — a luminary too bright (and too close) for us to look at directly.

Which reminds me of four lines from my old favourite, Gerard Manley Hopkins:

Through her we may see Him 
Made sweeter, not made dim, 
And her hand leaves His light 
Sifted to suit our sight.

The poem is The Blessed Virgin compared to the Air we Breathe.

Circles and spheres

Quid ergo deus est? Ut ita dixerim, circulus spiritalis, cuius centrum est ubique circumferentia nusquam.

Deus est circulus cuius centrum est ubique, cuis circumferentia vero nusquam.

(God is a circle whose centre is everywhere, and whose circumference is nowhere.)  

Calligraphy by Kanjuro Shibata XX; Ensō ca. 2000

Calligraphy by Kanjuro Shibata XX; Ensō ca. 2000

Various versions and reformulations of this text are to be found scattered in a variety of places on the Internet. Unsurprisingly, we also find a range of attributions, including Empedocles (a Greek pre-Socratic philosopher), Blaise Pascal, Voltaire, and an anonymous 12th century work titled The Book of the Twenty-four Philosophers.

There’s an interesting piece on the subject in 1000 ways of celebrating the human spirit — which its author calls a “meta-blog bringing together several niche blogs”.

The meta-blog suggests: “Here is
one definition that defies that
indefinab[i]lity AND manage[s] to capture the essence of the combined immanence and transcendence of the theological position known as panentheism.”

Another site — — cites a 12th century theologian, Alain de Lille, who borrowed from the Corpus Hermeticum of the 3rd Century [sic]: “God is an intelligible sphere whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.” And there’s a nicely-expressed passage from an itinerant Catholic priest, Giordano Bruno: “We can assert with certainty that the universe is all centre, or that the centre of the universe is everywhere and its circumference is nowhere.”