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.


Christmas tree 2014

Christmas tree (16 December 2014)

Christmas tree (14 December 2014)

On a very busy 16 December 2014, I somehow managed to post this image on my Facebook page, together with the following text: “The Christmas tree went up about five days ago, and I’ve made several attempts at photographing it, but none of my shots are outstanding. I like this one, taken on 14 December 2014.”

Year by year, my ideas about my Christmas tree have evolved, and my collection of ornaments has grown. The majority are blown glass, but there are also items made from wood, paper, and cast plaster. And the tree itself is a cleverly woven cone of bamboo strips wound with a length of synthetic pine – something I’ve been able to re-use, year after year. Readers might recall my taste for eclectic, East-meets-West décor.

This year’s budget for new items is already over-subscribed, but I’ve a hankering for a few touches of gold to warm up the restrained palette I’ve favoured over the past few years.

PS: Here’s a nice Better Homes and Gardens video about decorating Christmas trees.




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 

White lily

But Shakespeare also says, ’tis very silly / To gild refinèd gold, or paint the lily. (Lord Byron)

white lily (12 Jan 2012)

white lily (12 Jan 2012)

Visiting a friend’s garden after a spell of gentle summer rain, I was fortunate to capture these pristine blooms early in their flowering season. My internet research suggested that they might be a variety of Madonna Lily (Lilium candidum), but – judging from the various photographs I have viewed on the web – this name appears to refer to a number of variant forms.

I have long associated these demure white trumpets with Easter – despite their appearance in florists’ windows in time for Christmas, during our New Zealand summer.

white lily (12 Jan 2012)

“The lily was a popular flower in ancient Jewish civilization and is mentioned in the Old and New Testaments,” (according to a journal recording the meanings and legends of flowers – see

Among Christians, it is a symbol of chastity and virtue. “Through its association with the Virgin Mary, it also became the symbol of virgin martyrs and saints.”

“In ancient Greek and Roman marriage ceremonies, the priest placed a crown of lilies garnished with ears of wheat on the brides head, as a symbol of purity and abundance.” (Read more at

Incidentally, for many New Zealanders, the proper Christmas lily is the Royal Lily, Lilium regale – but I much prefer the pure white flowers in my friend’s garden.

PS: The flowers I photographed are, in fact, Lilium longiflorum (see the comment from Barbara below).

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.

Urbomancer – city witch

Urbomancer. City witch. Selma Özgün had been Ayşe’s tutor in Ottoman divan calligraphy but discovered that a better living could be made just walking the city’s streets charting mental maps, recording how history was attracted to certain locations in layer upon layer of impacted lives in a cartography of meaning; … (Ian McDonald, in The Dervish House)

The Dervish House by Ian McDonaldThere’s been, I’m sorry to say, a bit of a break in my reading of The Dervish House. The book had to go back to the library before I’d finished it, and I’ve had it back again only a few days. But it’s a big box of Turkish delight.

Here (once again) is a link to what reviewer Cory Doctorow wrote about it on Boing Boing.

McDonald, Ian. 2010. The dervish house. Amherst, NY: Pyr (Prometheus Books [p115]

O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum

tree with a twist (21 Dec 10)

tree with a twist (21 Dec 10)

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
You give us so much pleasure!

(from the German carol, O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum)

Here is one of a number of images of my newly-constructed ‘tree with a twist’ – captured this morning whilst a summer storm was building.

Numerous websites offer a range of materials concerning the origins of the Christmas tree. On one, The Holiday Spot, I found a plasuible summary:

“Like the majority of practices associated with Christmas, the tradition arose from the intermingling of ancient Roman beliefs and the spreading Christian religion. Early Christians believed certain trees flowered unseasonably on Christmas Eve as homage to Jesus’ birth. This belief combined with the Roman practice of decorating their homes with greenery for the New Year formed the basis of our modern fascination with icicles and fancy angel tree toppers.”

Paganism still flourishes

In the Preface to ‘Sexual Personae’, Camille Paglia asserts “that Judaeo-Christianity never did defeat paganism, which still flourishes in art, eroticism, astrology, and pop culture.” And never, in my view, was this more clearly visible than in the social media.

I’m very much enjoying being a spectator/participant in the arena – this blog being my little pagan flourish.

Paglia, Camille. 1992 [Copyright © Yale University, 1990]. Sexual personae : art and decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson. London: Penguin Books.