Friday, May 31, 2024

Yeats, Joan, and Claire

Yesterday, May 30, I enjoyed "good luck" all day. Everything just went unusually smoothly, with lots of little good things just happening to happen. Therefore, when I had a few free hours in the afternoon and had a sudden hunch that I should go to a particular used bookstore, even though it meant a 40-minute drive to another city, I figured it was a good day for pursuing hunches.

When I arrived, I realized that I had brought very little cash with me and wouldn't be able to buy much, but I thought I'd look around anyway. I was immediately drawn to a small table with several Tarot decks, including two different editions of the Rider-Waite. I'd been to this store countless times, and they'd never sold Tarot cards before. I know it's basic common sense that you do not buy magical items secondhand, especially if you don't know who the previous owner was, but I'd been without a physical Rider-Waite deck for some years now, and I felt impressed to buy one. "It's okay," put in the helpful excuse-maker on my shoulder (right or left?). "You can just reconsecrate them."

I picked up one of the decks, but the price tag slightly exceeded what I had in my pocket. When I checked the second one, though, I saw that I had exactly the right amount of cash to buy it. That seemed like a sign, and I decided to get it.

Even though that decision left me with exactly zero dollars to spend on anything else, I took a brief look at the books anyway. One I would definitely have bought was W. B. Yeats and His World by Micheál Mac Liammóir and Eaven Boland, which had lots of illustrations. Because of my sword vision earlier that day, my first thought was to wonder whether it included a photo of the poet's magical sword (yes, he owned one), so I flipped through the book to check. No sword pics, alas, but this cartoon caught my eye:


It shows a woman dressed in black, standing atop the globe with two books under her feet, one of which is labeled "Gregorian Chants," and looking out into space at a giant flying Koran. A female Gregory was the main thing that got my attention, as a possible link to Odessa Grigorievna. I also happened to briefly start reading the Quran just a few weeks after the Grigorievna dream. I was vaguely aware that a Lady Gregory had been one of Yeats's associates but knew essentially nothing else about her and couldn't understand what the cartoon was trying to say. Today I went to Wikipedia for a quick rundown, where I read that she had been born on March 15, 1852 -- the Ides of March. This was shortly after reading William Wright's post "'Naming' Joan (and 'Beware this one!')" -- on which much more below -- in which he interprets two things said by a female voice as referring to me: "Beware this one!" and "When I dream, I dream about books!" I was born on the Ides of March (as in "Beware the Ides of March!") and have had many dreams about books. Lady Gregory, it turns out, shares my birthday, and the cartoon looks as if it might depict her dreaming about the Quran.

Anyway, I didn't buy the Yeats book. I took the Tarot deck to the counter to pay -- and discovered to my surprise that I was eligible for a special discount! Instead of spending every bit of my cash, as I had expected, I received $99 (about three US dollars) back -- so I went right back to the bookshelves to browse some more. I found Richard Cavendish's 1975 book The Tarot -- a large hardback full of color photos and certainly far too expensive to buy with my remaining cash. When I picked it up, though, I saw the price sticker: exactly $99. That seemed like another sign, and I bought it.

Flipping through Cavendish's book later, I was surprised to discover a full-page portrait of Yeats!


The use of his full name, William Butler Yeats, is another indirect link to Odessa Grigorievna, as my post "Hey birds, here are cookies!" links her with the biblical story of the Pharaoh's butler and baker. My uncle's song "Fourth Down" directly links Yeats with butling and baking: "I sent my Butler to the Land of Ire / To bring me back some Yeast / Because I needed to bake some bread / For my wedding feast."


Does Yeats really deserve a full-page portrait in a history of the Tarot? He moved in magicians' circles, yes, and knew MacGregor (MacGregor!) Mathers and Waite and Crowley, but what contribution to the Tarot iconography or interpretation did he himself make? The only possible fingerprints of his I've been able to find are on the Rider-Waite Magician and Ace of Pentacles, where his poem "The Travail of Passion" may -- this is my own personal hypothesis -- have influenced Waite to include red roses and white lilies in the imagery. (See my 2018 post "The Rider-Waite Magician.")

This made me think of my February 2 post "What's the second key?" -- the first key being the Rosary. I had written:

One [key] should be gold and the other silver, I guess, but that's not very helpful. Which is the Rosary, anyway, gold or silver? Maybe try a different tack. A rosary is literally a garland of roses, and lilies complement roses as silver complements gold.

Where did this idea come from, of there being two keys, one of which is the Rosary? See my January 23 post "The Green Door finally closes":

I thought to myself [of the Rosary], "It's magic!" and was immediately answered by a mental voice in my head, a woman speaking French: Oui, c'est l'une des clés. "Yes, this is one of the keys."

The voice reminded me of the woman in the dream recounted in "Rapunzel and the True Song of Wandering Aengus." That woman had spoken English, but I had understood that she wanted me to think of her as Claire Delune, and l'une des clés (the final s's are silent) sounds almost like clair de lune in reverse. That dream had prominently featured the Yeats lines "The silver apples of the moon, / The golden apples of the sun," and that combined with "one of the keys" made me think of the gold and silver keys that were recently in the sync-stream. If the Rosary is one of the two keys, what's the other?

In William Wright's post, on which I said I would have more to say, he proposes that the beings I think of as Joan of Arc and Claire Delune are one and the same. He actually ends the post -- which was written on St. Joan's Day (i.e., May 30, the anniversary of her death) -- with "Happy Feast Day, Claire." I had forgotten that in my first encounter with Claire she had quizzed me about the "true" form of a Yeats poem, and specifically a poem about the Irish god Aengus. One of the things I learned today from skimming the Wikipedia article for Lady Gregory is that she used to publish under the pseudonym Angus Grey.

In that post, I also mention that the only keys mentioned in the Book of Mormon are those of Laban's treasury. One of Laban's greatest treasures was the sword Makmahod -- recently connected with Joan and thus perhaps also with Claire.

Now look back at the photo of the full-page portrait of Yeats. Up in the corner is the name of the chapter in which it is found: "The Universal Key."

Does that settle it? Is the Tarot -- particularly in its Yeats-adjacent Rider-Waite form -- the long-sought second key? I wasn't sure until I opened up my new cards and saw what was printed on the backs:


A rose argent. I'd already connected the two keys with the duality of red and white flowers. Symbolically, a white rose is interchangeable with a lily. I thought at first it was the Rose of York, but that should be barbed and seeded proper (i.e., with green leaves and a yellow center). This one is all white, even the leaves, suggesting that it is the blossom of an all-white tree -- with obvious implications from a Mormon or Tolkienian point of view.

Are Joan and Claire the same being, as William Wright suggests? The possibility had never crossed my mind, but my immediate inclination is to think that it may well be true. Serendipitously running into all this Claire-related content on Joan's Day  is obviously a data point in favor of the hypothesis. Another data point is the poem I published yesterday for St. Joan's Day. An earlier draft had ended with the line "And act -- however high the stakes," but then I felt something nudging me to change it to "Clear-eyed -- however high the stakes" -- even though being clear-eyed had no obvious connection with the overall theme of the poem. The French word for "clear" is clair -- or, in the feminine, claire.

Coincidence? Here's another. Last Joan's Day I wrote, but did not publish, a translation of a French poem by St. Thérèse de Lisieux. (This year, by "coincidence," I did another translation from Thérèse just five days before Joan's Day.) I was tolerably happy with it as a translation but felt that its take on Joan was not my own, and thus I never ended up posting it. It's still in my Drafts folder, dated May 30, 2023, so I looked it up. Here's the original:

A Jeanne d'Arc

Quand le Dieu des armées te donnant la victoire
Tu chassas l'étranger et fis sacrer le roi
Jeanne, ton nom devint célèbre dans l'histoire
Nos plus grands conquérants pâlirent devant toi.

Mais ce n'était encor qu'une gloire éphémère
Il fallait à ton nom l'auréole des Saints
Aussi le Bien-Aimé t'offrit sa coupe amère
Et tu fus comme Lui rejetée des humains.

Au fond d'un noir cachot, chargée de lourdes chaînes
Le cruel étranger t'abreuva de douleurs
Pas un de tes amis ne prit part à tes peines
Pas un ne s'avança pour essuyer tes pleurs.

Jeanne tu m'apparais plus brillante et plus belle
Qu'au sacre de ton roi, dans ta sombre prison.
Ce céleste reflet de la gloire éternelle
Qui donc te l'apporta ? Ce fut la trahison.

Ah ! si le Dieu d'amour en la vallée des larmes
N'était venu chercher la trahison, la mort
La souffrance pour nous aurait été sans charmes
Maintenant nous l'aimons, elle est notre trésor.

And my version:

To Joan

The God of Hosts gave thee the field --
The king was crown'd, the foe did yield --
And all the conq'rors France had known
Did pale before the name of Joan.

Yet thy name, too, had paled and died
If not by suff'ring sanctified.
The cup which caus'd our Lord to shrink,
He offer'd thee -- thou, too, didst drink.

Thou wast, like Him, rejected, left
Alone, of all thy friends bereft.
Not one did come to kiss thy chains,
To still thy tears, to share thy pains.

When Charles the Seventh took the throne,
How brightly then thy glory shone!
But brighter still that glory ray'd
In dungeons dark -- alone, betray'd.

Our Lord did, too, to this sad vale
Come down to seek out death, betray'l.
Through Him we see with clearer eyes:
Now suff'ring is our greatest prize.

A note after the poem offers this as "a more literal translation of the final stanza":

Ah! If the God of love had not come to this vale of tears
To seek betrayal and death,
Suffering would have had no appeal for us.
Now we love it; it is our treasure.

So I took some liberties with that final stanza, the chief effect of which was -- to add a reference to clearer eyes that was not in the original!

Thursday, May 30, 2024

Humpty Dumpty sat on the counter

William Wright has a new post up, "Leon Eggbert and Sun-Moon Time," in which he analyzes that name: Leon Egbert, which was included in some of his "words." He begins by respelling the last name with a double-g and interpreting it as Egg-bert.

As I've mentioned before, the TV aspect of my childhood education was sadly neglected. However, one program I did watch religiously was Sesame Street, being a particular fan of the Bert and Ernie sketches. When Q*bert came up back in 2021, I thought of this:


And when I saw Eggbert, I thought of this sketch:


As the scene opens, we see Ernie with a feather duster and what looks like a small stone (cf. Vaughn J. Featherstone) but turns out to be an egg. The egg is just sitting there on the counter, much like Humpty Dumpty on the wall, and Bert asks Ernie to "put my egg away, please" -- that is, to "put Humpty Dumpty in his place again," as in the version of the rhyme favored by Ludovicus Carolus, that most holy illuminated man of God. Ernie begins making excuses and giving reasons for not restoring the egg to its proper place, to the point where we begin to suspect that, like the king's horses and men, he can't. Finally, the exasperated Bert says, "Drop it, Ernie," resulting -- thanks to Ernie's literal-mindedness -- in Humpty's having his great fall. As in my "Humpty Dumpty revisited," Humpty is still sitting on the wall (or counter) when he cracks.


The first element in the name Egbert doesn't actually have anything to do with eggs. It is related, rather, to our modern word edge, and the name as a whole means "bright edge," with the "edge" generally understood to be that of a sword. I think this fits with William Wright's ideas about Pharazôn, who did terrible things but whose story perhaps ends in redemption. In the Book of Mormon, the imagery of a bright sword represents the repentance and redemption of people who were once murderers:

Now, my best beloved brethren, since God hath taken away our stains, and our swords have become bright, then let us stain our swords no more with the blood of our brethren. Behold, I say unto you, Nay, let us retain our swords that they be not stained with the blood of our brethren; for perhaps, if we should stain our swords again they can no more be washed bright through the blood of the Son of our great God, which shall be shed for the atonement of our sins (Alma 24:12-13).

(There is perhaps a link here to "Makmahod in France?" Joan's sword was stained when she found it -- both literally and perhaps also figuratively with a long history of bloodshed -- but she kept it bright and never used it to shed blood herself.)

As in Egbert, so in Schwarzenegger does the egg element mean "edge." Arnold's surname indicates someone from Schwarzenegg -- "Black Ridge." This black edge obviously complements the bright edge of Egbert. Schwarzenegger has featured in past syncs here primarily in his role as Hercules in Hercules in New York. Interestingly, Hercules has recently resurfaced, and in connection with a ridge. In "Pumpkin-eating lizardmen, and Marshall Applewhite," I refer to a passage in Pausanias. Here it is:

On crossing the river Erymanthus at what is called the ridge of Saurus are the tomb of Saurus and a sanctuary of Heracles, now in ruins. The story is that Saurus used to do mischief to travellers and to dwellers in the neighborhood until he received his punishment at the hands of Heracles. At this ridge which has the same name as the robber, a river, falling into the Alpheius from the south, just opposite the Erymanthus, is the boundary between the land of Pisa and Arcadia; it is called the Diagon.


William Wright's identification of Humpty Dumpty as a bright egg possibly ties in with "With?" -- a bit of doggerel riffing on a nonsensical passage in Ulysses. The last two stanzas but one are as follows:

Xinbad the Phthailer maketh oft
Our polyvinyl chloride soft.

And last of all comes Darkinbad,
Who is Brightdayler hight,
Who'll go down in the dark abyss
And bring all things to light.

The sync fairies drew my attention back to this just yesterday. I was talking with a friend who runs a high-end cable company, whom I hadn't seen in six months. She told me about a problem they were having with the jackets of one of their new products, which were formerly made of PVC but recently changed to a different material because of pressure to phase out PVC in the European market for environmental reasons. The problem was that the new material was less flexible than PVC, causing it to crack slightly when the cables are braided. As I said, I hadn't seen her in half a year, and we very rarely talk about manufacturing issues in this kind of detail anyway, so hearing that so soon after I had randomly written about the softness of PVC (because I thought Phthailer suggested phthalates) was a noteworthy coincidence. In the same conversation, she happened to ask how to say "hail a cab" in English, which also ties in with the poem -- "Hinbad the Hailer traveled far / By riding in a yellow car."

In the next stanza, Darkinbad the Brightdayler goes "down in the dark abyss." In "Pumpkin-eating lizardmen," I had cited Aleister Crowley's reading of "Humpty Dumpty":

Humpty Dumpty is of course the Egg of Spirit, and the wall is the Abyss -- his "fall" is therefore the descent of spirit into matter . . . .

It's a little weird to say the wall is the Abyss -- surely he falls from the wall into the Abyss? At any rate, when I wrote the Darkinbad quatrain, I had no thought of Humpty's being "bright" or going into an "abyss"; these links were later supplied by William Wright and the Great Beast, respectively.

Makmahod in France?

Sometimes while I am praying my daily Rosary -- my discursive mind preoccupied with rattling off the Latin formulae, my imaginative mind centered on Christ -- I will receive flashes of extremely vivid mental imagery. These are typically very brief but of such intense clarity that they seem somehow clearer than ordinary physical vision. I received such an image today.

It was essentially the image seen on the Ace of Swords in the Tarot: a luminous hand holding aloft a sword with a gold crown hovering like a halo around the blade. This is a very familiar image to me, and I was not surprised to see it today, as it closely resembles the coat of arms of Joan of Arc, my patron saint, who was executed 593 years ago today. A novel feature had been added, though: Something was written on the blade, in capital letters separated by centered dots. I have reconstructed the inscription as follows:

· L · R · D · M · E · R · A · N · S · E · A · S · C ·

The image was only visible for a fraction of a second, so it was impossible to take in and remember the exact sequence of letters. However, I am 100% confident that I have reconstructed it correctly, triangulating from three different impressions about what it means.

My first impression was that it essentially said, in somewhat garbled spelling, "Lord, me answer. Ask." I understood this to mean that if you want to receive knowledge from God, it is necessary to formulate and ask a specific question -- though that point is somewhat undercut by the fact that I received what is in this post without asking anything in particular!

My second impression was that it was an anagram of "Arc's realm ends." Given the context, I of course thought first of Joan of Arc and the Kingdom of France. That kingdom did indeed end, and Joan's banner was burned in the Revolution. Joan was never known as Arc in her lifetime, though, and arc also means the rainbow, l'arc-en-ciel. As I mentioned in my 2018 post "The Throne and the World," for me a rainbow represents the word world:

In my very early childhood my thinking was mostly visual, and abstract words generally each had a specific mental picture associated with them. I remember that I often used to pray "Thank you for the world," and that the image that always accompanied the word world was a rainbow.

"Arc's realm," then, refers not only to France but to all the kingdoms of the world.

My third impression was that each of the letters stood for a word -- and no sooner had I formulated that thought than I knew, conceptually if not literally, what words they stood for. As soon as I'd finished my Rosary, I went straight to a French Bible to confirm my hunch. The inscription stands for this:

Le royaume du monde est remis à notre Seigneur et à son Christ.

The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ (Rev. 11:15).

I'm sure many of my Mormon readers will immediately have recognized the significance of this being written on a sword. According to a discourse by Brigham Young, this very phrase was written on the blade of the Sword of Laban:

When Joseph got the plates, the angel instructed him to carry them back to the hill Cumorah, which he did. Oliver says that when Joseph and Oliver went there, the hill opened, and they walked into a cave, in which there was a large and spacious room. He says he did not think, at the time, whether they had the light of the sun or artificial light; but that it was just as light as day. They laid the plates on a table; it  was a large table that stood in the room. Under this table there was a pile of plates as much as two feet high, and there were altogether in this room more plates than probably many wagon loads; they were piled up in the corners and along the walls. The first time they went there the sword of Laban hung upon the wall; but when they went again it had been taken down and laid upon the table across the gold plates; it was unsheathed, and on it was written these words: "This sword will never be sheathed again until the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our God and his Christ."

We call it the Sword of Laban, but it may well be of nobler origin than that. According to several secondhand reports, collected by Don Bradley in his indispensable book The Lost 116 Pages, it was also the sword of Joshua, wielded in the conquest of Canaan, and was very likely originally made for (or even by) Joseph in Egypt and carried out of that country in the Exodus with his bones.

Can we add Joan of Arc to the list of possible bearers of this storied blade? Perhaps. The origins of her sword are mysterious. She found it behind a church altar, having been led to it by her voices, and it appeared to be of great antiquity. Who knows who put it there or where it originally came from? At any rate, whether or not Joan's sword was literally and historically the Sword of Laban, it seems undeniable that today's vision is identifying the two, at least symbolically.

For Joan on her feast day

This lesson from the Maid I’ve learned:
Align with God whate’er the cost.
You may be killed, you may be burned.
You’ll still have won, they’ll still have lost.
Be good and true, do what it takes,
Clear-eyed — however high the stakes.

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Pumpkin-eating lizardmen, and Marshall Applewhite

I ended my post "Giant undead vultures and Bretonnia Spears" by expressing the hope that the sync fairies would develop the Aztec lizardmen theme introduced there. They immediately obliged, at least in part, by sending William Wright a dream about "Deer Hunting, Dir Hunting, and the Lizardmen High-Stakes Trading Company." No Aztec angle yet, but I'm sure it's only a matter of time.

In the dream, William shot a large number of deer that had come to eat his pumpkins, and he understood that this group of deer was known as the Lizardmen High-Stakes Trading Company.

William's interpretation involved the assumption that the deer were a sort of rebus referring to the Elvish word dîr, which means "man" -- not the race of Men as opposed to Elves, but an adult male of any race. I thought that was kind of an anticlimactic decoding. That animals in a dream might represent people almost goes without saying; using a bilingual pun to convey it scarcely seems worth the trouble.

I immediately thought of a different homophone, though. In my May 17 post "Pumpkins are dear" -- referring directly to William Wright's pumpkins, the same pumpkins the deer wanted to eat in the dream -- I repeated an old joke I had heard in the 1990s about the Egyptian politician Boutros Boutros-Ghali. Boutros is the Arabic form of the name Peter, so the joke was that Ghali must mean "pumpkin-eater" -- as in the nursery rhyme "Peter, Peter, Pumpkin-Eater." What the name Ghali actually means, though, is "dear." So dear/deer are directly equated with pumpkin-eaters, and in a post that specifically references the pumpkins on William Wright's farm. Total bull's-eye.

In his dream post, William writes, "What was interesting to me is that Lizardmen were explicitly and very clearly in my mind linked to the deer in my dream.  What do Lizardmen have to do with deer?" All he comes up with in answer is the dîr thing, which only addresses the men part. The lizard element remains unexplained.

Last night I read this in Adrienne Mayor's The First Fossil Hunters:

Nearby, on the north bank of the Alpheios River, Saurus's ("Lizard's") Ridge was named after a giant killed by the mythical Heracles.

I looked up Saurus in Pausanias (apparently the only source for this story), and he is described only as a robber or bandit, with no indication that he was anything other than a man -- a man named Lizard.

Saurus is a Latinized spelling of a Greek name more properly transliterated as Sauros -- or, in the accusative form, Sauron. "Lizardmen" are Sauron's men. This fits with William Wright's interpretation of his dream, in which the deer represent Númenóreans under the influence of Sauron, coming to buy pumpkins. In "The 96, the 48, and the white bull," posted just after "Pumpkins are dear," I note that buy, sell, and trade all have the same S:E:G: value. It's perhaps worth noting that in Chinese, 蜥蜴人 ("lizardmen") is pronounced exactly the same as 西異人 ("strange men from the West").

Remembering that "Peter, Peter, Pumpkin-Eater" was one of the nursery rhymes Aleister Crowley subjected to tongue-in-cheek Kabbalistic analysis, I looked up his commentary. I found that it is discussed immediately after "Humpty Dumpty," and that he even mentions Humpty's belt or cravat:

This is so simple as hardly to require explanation. Humpty Dumpty is of course the Egg of Spirit, and the wall is the Abyss -- his "fall" is therefore the descent of spirit into matter; and it is only too painfully familiar to us that all the king's horses and all his men cannot restore us to the height.

Only The King Himself can do that!

But one can hardly comment upon a theme which has been so fruitfully treated by Ludovicus Carolus [i.e., Lewis Carroll], that most holy illuminated man of God. His masterly treatment of the identity of the three reciprocating paths of Daleth, Teth, and Pe, is one of the most wonderful passages in the Holy Qabalah. His resolution of what we take to be the bond of slavery into very love, the embroidered neckband of honour bestowed upon us by the King himself, is one of the most sublime passages in this class of literature.

In my May 3 post "Hometo Omleto," I quote a speech from Mormon leader Vaughn J. Featherstone where he says that, while the king's horses and men couldn't put Humpty together again, "the King could, and the King can, and the King will if we will but come unto him." How funny is it that this respectable Mormon general authority was unwittingly cribbing from the Great Beast himself?

Another of the rhymes Crowley expounds upon is "Little Bo Peep" -- and here we have at least a tentative Aztec link. As I have discussed in "Tezcatlipoca and John Dee," Dee possessed an obsidian mirror of Aztec origin, on the leather case of which is this inscription:

Kelly did all his feats upon
The Devil's Looking Glass, a stone;
Where playing with him at Bo-peep,
He solv'd all problems ne'er so deep.

The person referred to is Dee's disreputable partner Edward Kelley, of whom Crowley very credibly claimed to be the reincarnation.

Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles, the leaders of the Heaven's Gate cult, used to go by the pseudonyms Bo and Peep. Applewhite is a strange name, but I guess it means the "white" of an apple -- the inner part, under the skin, which becomes visible when you take a bite out of it. This ties right in with my (recently linked) 2020 post "Yes, lizard people are Mayincatec," where I quote this passage from a Whitley Strieber novel:

One [of the reptilian aliens] had a New Sex Pistols T-shirt obviously from home, another a shirt with a big green fruit on it in the shape of a bitten apple, and in the bite an image of a squeezed human face. This one carried a brutal weapon, an Aztec sword made of steel with obsidian blades jutting out of it. The squeezed face was instantly familiar. It was Adolf Hitler.

There's a person in the form of an apple white, on the T-shirt of a lizardman with an Aztec sword.

Just after writing the above, I went on YouTube to look for something and was greeted by the face of none other than Marshall Applewhite himself:

The video is from a popular anti-Mormon channel which normally focuses on that religion but occasionally does episodes on other soi-disant "high-demand religions" (one of their favorite buzzwords) so that they can imply that Mormonism is basically the same thing. Today, of all days, they decided to do Applewhite, of all people.

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

From MacGyver to Grigori

Yesterday or the day before, while I was out on the road, I suddenly thought for no apparent reason of the TV character MacGyver. I never watched MacGyver growing up (we watched very, very little television) but had a general idea of who he was. My wife was a big fan of the show, though, and shortly after we got married -- so around 14 years ago -- we rented and watched all seven seasons together. At that time, I had looked up the lead actor on Wikipedia, but yesterday I found that I couldn't remember his name, only that his first name might have been Richard. I also remembered that Wikipedia had said that before he played MacGyver he had been in a soap called General Hospital, which I had never even heard of. That one biographical detail, and nothing else, had stuck in my mind all these years. For a few minutes, I was repeating "MacGyver, Richard, General Hospital" in my mind, hoping the rest of the actor's name would come to me, but it never did.

Later that day, I saw on the news that an actor known for being in General Hospital -- all the headlines mentioned the show -- had been shot dead in an attempted robbery. Had I not looked up the star of MacGyver all those years ago, I would not so much have suspected the existence of a TV show called General Hospital.

This morning I checked blog comments and found a new one on my latest post, "Giant undead vultures and Bretonnia Spears." Jason had this to say:

The Aztec lizardman appears to have a facial horn, like Gregole (Gregor as pronounced by the Japanese) from the anime Guyver, https://monster.fandom.com/wiki/Gregole

Guyver is an alternate spelling of Gyver, as in MacGyver. I hesitated to click the link, though, because most anime triggers a mild (and sometimes not so mild) disgust reaction in me.White guys who like anime are called weebs, and I remembered once saying in an email that "whatever the opposite of a weeb is, I'm that." Today, I thought, "Well, what is the opposite of a weeb? Weeb spelled backwards? Beew?"

That reminded me of my recent post "There's more than one way to spell a bee," in which the idea of a "mirrored bee" came up. Weeb is almost a mirrored bee, except that there's an extra w thrown in.

Eventually, I got around to looking up those two General Hospital actors. The guy who played MacGyver was Richard Dean Anderson. The one who was recently shot was called Johnny Wactor. That's right, he was an actor whose surname was just actor with an extra w thrown in.

Wactor comes from the German Wächter -- which means "watcher" and is the German name used for the Grigori, the Watcher angels from the Book of Enoch. In other words, it's a German translation of the name Gregory/Gregor/Grigori.

Giant undead vultures and Bretonnia Spears

I ran across this tonight in a /pol/ humor thread:


I know absolutely nothing about Warhammer, so this was all new to me. What first caught my eye was Bretonnia -- "The fr*nch but they're humans" -- because the name is obviously based on Brittany (home of the Bretons), and William Wright just posted "Nyarna and Brittany Spears" and "The Brittany Spears: A quick follow-up." These posts are not about the singer but about spears from the French region of Brittany. In Warhammer, apparently, Bretonnia is known as the Land of Chivalry. Image searches turn up lots of knights, many of them armed with spears:


The Tomb Kings -- "The egyptians but they're skeletons" -- also caught my eye because the giant vulture Odessa Grigorievna has recently been associated both with a giant skeletal bird and with the story of the Egyptian Pharaoh's baker. No bird angle, but Egyptian skeletons still seemed somewhat relevant.

An image search for warhammer tomb kings turned up several pictures with big birds in the background:


The scraggly wings reminded me of Gregor from The School for Good and Evil, the giant skeletal bird mentioned above:


Searching for tomb kings bird, I found that these birds are called Carrion. According to the Warhammer Wiki:

Carrion are terrifying Undead birds of prey that resemble reanimated Giant Vultures which feast upon the carcasses of those that have fallen within the lands of ancient Nehekhara, now the Land of the Dead.

This is just about perfect. Like Gregor, they appear undead -- William Wright says Gregor "looks like a vulture made out of bones, sinew, and feathers." Like Odessa Grigorievna, they are giant vultures and feast upon carcasses.

The first image in the Wiki article is this, captioned "A pack of Carrion attack a Bretonnian mounted expedition":


Only two weapons are visible in this image: a pair of Brittany spears.

I do hope the sync fairies will do something with the Aztec lizardmen, too. I mean, that's kind of badass. Not quite as badass as an Aztec lizardman in a New Sex Pistols T-shirt, but still.

Monday, May 27, 2024

Hey birds, here are cookies!

Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad stories came up in my attempt to describe my recurring dream of break-dancing frogs. Our parents read us those stories countless times when we were kids, and one line from them became a family catchphrase. In Frog and Toad Together, Frog and Toad bake some cookies that are so delicious that they lack the will power to stop eating them. They try various ways of forcing themselves to stop, such as putting the cookies high up out of their reach, but nothing works. In the end, Frog takes the cookies outside and shouts, "Hey birds, here are cookies!" Birds come and eat up all the cookies, and Frog comments that now that the temptation is gone, he and Toad "have lots and lots of will power."


That's really the only Frog and Toad story I have any clear memory of. To me, Frog and Toad are synonymous with "Hey birds, here are cookies!"

In a comment, William Wright connects my break-dancing frogs with Gregor the Stymph (skeletal bird-monster) and Odessa "Sally" Grigorievna the vulture. Both are humans who have been transformed into animals. Gregor is a prince who doesn't want to be called a prince, and Odessa Grigorievna resists being called Sally, which means "princess." The usual animal for princes to be transformed into is of course the frog. (My 2021 post "The Emperor's orb" begins with birds of prey and ends with the Frog Prince.) I think the stereotypically "Russian" garb of my break-dancing frogs (black and white Adidas tracksuits) also suggests a connection with this vulture who is actually a Russian woman.

The Odessa Grigorievna dream begins with my seeing "in the distance some kind of large carcass with carrion birds flocking around it." That, combined with the Frog and Toad story, made me think of this passage from the Book of Revelation:

And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God; That ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great (Rev. 19:17-18).

Notice how close Arnold Lobel comes to the biblical language of "cried with a loud voice":

He shouted in a loud voice, "HEY BIRDS, HERE ARE COOKIES!"

Birds came from everywhere.

The main difference of course is that Frog and Toad's birds eat baked goods, while John's eat human flesh. However, there is biblical precedent for equating the two:

When the chief baker saw that the interpretation was good, he said unto Joseph, I also was in my dream, and, behold, I had three white baskets on my head: And in the uppermost basket there was of all manner of bakemeats for Pharaoh; and the birds did eat them out of the basket upon my head.

And Joseph answered and said, This is the interpretation thereof: The three baskets are three days: Yet within three days shall Pharaoh lift up thy head from off thee, and shall hang thee on a tree; and the birds shall eat thy flesh from off thee (Gen. 40:17-19).

I know that's kind of a dark direction to go with something as charming as Frog and Toad, but it does seem to be what the sync fairies have in mind.

It has not escaped my notice that both cookie and cake (Toad plans to bake a cake after the cookies are gone) suggest the Egyptian frog-god Kek, who is also called Kekui. Kek has been explicitly connected with cake in memes -- e.g. forty keks and topkek. Topkek is particularly interesting, since Pharaoh's baker specifies that his cakes were "in the uppermost basket."

Break-dancing frogs

Twice in a row now, my dreams have featured a segment where a voice delivers a message while I watch a pair of cartoon frogs break-dancing. These aren't Pepe-type frogs. They look more like the characters from Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad stories, except that they are wearing sunglasses and black Adidas tracksuits of the type one associates with Russian gopniks.


I have zero recollection of the spoken message, only of the break-dancing frogs themselves. I log it here just because I've dreamed it twice now, and it's so bizarre.

Note added: I generally avoid using AI image generators these days, but I'll make an exception for this. Stable Diffusion gets tolerably close to what I saw:

The griffin as a guardian angel again

Cleaning out some folders this morning, I happened upon a copy of Seth, God of Confusion: A Study of His Role in Egyptian Mythology and Religion (1967) by the Dutch Egyptologist Herman te Velde. Looking him up now, I find that te Velde died on May 26, 2019, so I narrowly missed discovering his treatise on the anniversary of his death. (I found it at around 7:00 this morning, which is 1:00 a.m. in the Netherlands.)

Glancing through the opening pages, I was surprised to find quite a lot of references to griffins, of all things!

Osiris, Seth's victim, is sometimes called tštš. Allen translates this: "the dismembered one". . . . We shall see below that Egyptian representations show there was a close relationship between the Seth-animal and the griffin. The name of a griffin with an animal body, wings and a falcon's head, is tštš. Leibovitch has translated this name as: "celui qui déchire, qui met en pièces" [the one that tears in pieces] (p. 5).

I had actually thought of the unidentified "Seth-animal" a few days ago, while reading Adreinne Mayor's The First Fossil Hunters, wondering if it, like the griffin, might trace its origin to fossils. I figured the Seth-animal would be beyond the primarily Graeco-Roman scope of Mayor's book. but doing a word search now shows that it is in fact mentioned in a part of the book I haven't read yet, where she cites Herbert Wendt's theory that Seth's head "might have been based on the skull of the Libytherium (a large giraffid similar to Samotherium)."

Although I had recently thought of Seth while reading about griffins, I never knew until today that the Seth-animal was associated with actual griffins, or even that griffins appeared in Egyptian art at all.

Te Velde goes on to describe art from the tombs at Beni Hasan, where the Seth-animal is repeatedly depicted together with a griffin and a snake-headed creature.


Te Velde floats the hypothesis that these three fantastic beasts might represent different aspects of Fate:

Fate in the shape of the Seth-animal at Beni Hasan, however, does not seem to represent the good fortune, but the bad fortune of the hunter, accompanying his guardian angel, the falcon-headed griffin. The animal with the snake's head might stand for a synthesis of both aspects. Psais or Agathos Daimoon was afterwards represented in the form of a snake (pp. 23-24).

He means that the griffin represents good fortune, but the use of the phrase "guardian angel" is synchronistically interesting. Starting with my May 1 post "Armored vultures and cherubim," I have been identifying griffins with the Cherubim of the Bible (popularly thought of as "angels") and particularly with the Cherubim in their role as guardians of the Tree of Life. Vultures have also been identified with griffins, and the "armored vulture" of that post's title is a cartoon character whose sidekick is a snake, just as the griffin of Beni Hasan is accompanied by a snake-headed animal.

The vulture entered the sync stream in April 28, with my dream about "A vulture named Odessa Grigorievna, and Joseph Smith in a spider mask." William Wright recently referenced this in his May 25 post "Good and Evil, and a large bird named Gregor" -- referencing the movie The School for Good and Evil, with its large vulture-like bird whose name suggests my own vulture's patronymic. In the clip he posted, the vulture-like Gregor is interacting with a character named Agatha. This is the feminine form of the Greek word agathos, "good," the same word used in the te Velde quote above.

Sunday, May 26, 2024

A monstrous bird and a murderous Tedros

Today I read William Wright’s post “Good and Evil, and a large bird named Gregor,” in which he discusses a scene from the movie The School for Good and Evil in which a character called Tedros kills a monstrous bird, thinking he is heroically saving others from it. However, it turns out that he has inadvertently murdered a boy named Gregor, a good person who had been transformed into a bird-monster by magic.

Just after reading that post, I checked another blog, where an image of a monstrous bird was prominently displayed:


I clicked through, and the post thus illustrated begins with an embedded tweet calling out “murderous Dr. Tedros”:
In the 2020s, Tedros can only mean one person: the WHO director and one of the main villains of the birdemic. The School for Good and Evil is based on a novel published in 2013, though, well before Dr. Tedros was a household name. Why that character, who is King Arthur’s son and is played by a White actor in the movie, was given such a distinctively Ethiopian name is anyone’s guess.

p-value: 7.723973643673481e-17

Most intriguing thread on /pol/ right now. NSFW, read at your own risk. Clicking the link may result in a five-year prison term if you live in Australia.

Saturday, May 25, 2024

With?

Sinbad the Sailor ate the meat
Of rocs, and rocs destroyed his fleet.

Tinbad the Tailor killed some flies
Which in the telling grew in size.

Jinbad the Jailer's job had glamour:
He kept the inmates in the slammer.

Whinbad the Whaler was delish
And not unlike Filet-O-Fish.

Ninbad the Nailer -- there he stood
And did the only thing he could.

Finbad the Failer's ship was small,
And thus it failed, and that is all.

Binbad the Bailer helped to bail
The ships that were too big to fail.

Pinbad the Pailer was the bloke
Who had a crown, but then it broke.

Minbad the Mailer was a Jew
And wrote a lot of novels, too.

Hinbad the Hailer traveled far
By riding in a yellow car.

Rinbad the Railer, in a sleeper,
Traveled just as far, and cheaper.

Dinbad the Kailer was the man
Who wrote the script for Peter Pan.

Vinbad the Quailer brought delights
For manna-weary Israelites.

Linbad the Yailer, in the Crypt,
Did something, but his lips are zipped.

Xinbad the Phthailer maketh oft
Our polyvinyl chloride soft.

And last of all comes Darkinbad,
Who is Brightdayler hight,
Who'll go down in the dark abyss
And bring all things to light.

These few are named in verses few:
Name, title, and the thing they do.
May every "ailer" thus be prized
And "in bad" verse immortalized.

Saint Thérèse's bee poem

The original, as published in Histoire d'une âme:

Aux premiers feux du matin,
Formant son riche butin,
On voit la petite abeille
Voltiger de fleur en fleur,
Visitant avec bonheur
Les corolles qu'elle éveille.

Ainsi, butinez l'amour:
Et revenez chaque jour,
Près de la crèche sacrée,
Offrir au divin Sauveur
Le miel de votre ferveur,
Petite abeille dorée!

My English version:

See the little insect which is
Gathering its daily riches
In the morning hour.
Joyful, it the petals waketh,
Enters and the honey taketh,
Flies to the next flow'r.

Be thou, too, a bold collector,
Taking love in place of nectar,
All that thou canst hold.
Gather thou of all that pleases,
Off'ring up the whole to Jesus,
Little bee of gold!

There's more than one way to spell a bee

William Wright's May 22 post "What is even more amazing than a talking dog?" included a picture of a worksheet where you have to do sums to solve an anagram, the answer being "a spelling bee."

The red and green boxes are my own addition. I first noticed that the second column of letters -- ABIL -- suggested the French word for "bee," abeille. Then I noticed that the missing letters are right there to the right, and that if you take all the letters in the green box, you can spell abeilles, "bees."

What about the remaining letters, in the red box? The only phonotactically plausible way of stringing them together is peng. My first thought was that this might be an abbreviation for pengolodh, "lore master," an Elvish word which has come up on William's blog before. Then I realized that it was awfully close to the Mandarin for "bee" (or "bees," as Chinese nouns are not marked for number) which is transliterated feng. Linguistically, it's usually a fairly safe bet that any word with /f/ evolved from an older form with /p/, and such proves to be the case here as well. The Old Chinese for "bee" began with a /p/ sound, and this is still preserved in some non-Mandarin dialects. Unfortunately, the vowel has changed, too, so no modern or historical dialect of Chinese actually has peng for "bee." Still, it certainly suggests that Chinese word in its various forms.

In writing this post, I also noticed for the first time that William's son actually misspelled spelling on the worksheet as speiling. According to Google Translate, that's the Norwegian word for "mirroring." Not sure if that means anything. My first thought in connection with a "mirrored bee" was Thérèse de Lisieux, whose autobiography I recently bought and whose name contains a mirrored deseret.

Thursday, May 23, 2024

The minds of corvids, and tigers

Two books in my study caught my eye the other day. The first was this, which I bought secondhand some time ago but haven't read yet:


It's called Mind of the Raven: Investigations and Adventures with Wolf-birds. The subtitle caught my eye because of The Tinleys. In that story, the two knights named Tinley are pursuing a griffin and end up on an island inhabited by numerous "griffin" (bird/mammal hybrid) species, from the diminutive titmouse (half tit, half mouse) to the domestic short-tailed chow (chicken-cow). The "wolf-birds" of Heinrich's subtitle would obviously fit right in.

In writing the above paragraph, I popped over to Bruce Charlton's blog so that I could get a link to his "Great Tits" post, and I found that his latest post there -- very recent, as it wasn't there this morning Taiwan time -- is about corvids and their remarkable minds: "Won-over by magpies in Newcastle upon Tyne," in which he mentions "that magpies (and Corvids generally) were indeed one of the most intelligent of native British birds." I had already given this post its title before seeing Bruce's post. The magpie is a black-and-white corvid, like the pied crow in my Odessa Grigorievna dream. In Britain it is, anyway; in this part of the world, the magpies are blue:


Also as I was writing the above, I had a vague memory of having mentioned Mind of the Raven on this blog before, and even noting "wolf-birds" in connection with griffins, but I guess it was in the comments, as a search came up empty. Looking at my posts tagged "Corvids," though, led me to "Precognitive dream: Carrying a pet in a room where it's raining" (August 2022), where one of my comments referenced tigers and William Blake:

Tigers are part of this, too . . . . My hippie uncle, also called William Tychonievich, used to rock and roll under the stage name Billy Tyger, a handle intended to reference both his (our) own name and William Blake. One of Blake’s Proverbs of Hell is "The crow wished everything was black; the owl that everything was white."

As you will read below, I had already been thinking about tigers and William Blake, and had already decided to put the Blake/tiger syncs in the same post as the corvid syncs, before discovering that comment.

The other book that caught my eye was one of the many secondhand children's books my wife bought in bulk some years ago: The Ghost of Fossil Glen by Cynthia DeFelice. This was also vaguely griffin-adjacent -- I am currently reading Adrienne Mayor's book The First Fossil Hunters, in which she makes the case that Protoceratops fossils in Scythia gave rise to the griffin of legend. The word glen also got my attention because it recently appeared in "'Come buy,' call the goblins" -- the next line after that being "Hobbling down the glen."

I read The Ghost of Fossil Glen today and, out of idle curiosity, looked up what else Cynthia DeFelice had written. A picture book about a highly intelligent corvid, it turns out:


This afternoon, I had some free time, so I went for a brief hike on Eight Trigrams Mountain, this being the perfect time of year to go there. We don't get much in the way of autumn foliage on this subtropical island, but sometimes I still get the chance, like Humpty Dumpty, to look down on a multicolored forest canopy.


As I was walking, for some reason one of William Blake's Proverbs of Hell popped into my mind: "The tygers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction." Seconds after thinking of that out of the blue, I rounded a bend in the trail and passed a couple walking with their young son. The boy was wearing a T-shirt with a cute cartoon picture of a tiger, helpfully captioned, in English, "TIGER CUTE."

The tiger was a bit of a sync, obviously, but I thought at first that a cute tiger was still rather far removed from Blake's menacing "tygers of wrath." A moment's reflection, though, reminded me that the word cute had originally meant "shrewd, discerning, clever" -- i.e., wise, like Blake's tygers.

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Behold, the Lord esteemeth all flesh as one

I was listening to an audio recording of the Book of Mormon, and when it got to the part where Nephi says they "did live upon raw meat in the wilderness" (1 Ne. 17:2), I wondered how the word meat was to be understood. Certainly by Joseph's time it had already acquired its modern meaning of "animal flesh," but the language of the Book of Mormon is patterned after that of the King James Version of the Bible, which even in its time was very linguistically conservative. For example, even though the KJV was written in Shakespeare's day, and Shakespeare commonly uses singular ye/you after the French fashion, as a more formal or respectful alternative to thou/thee, the KJV follows the older Anglo-Saxon convention, in which ye/you is always plural and thou/thee is always used for the singular. (This is an extremely helpful feature of the KJV text, making it much less ambiguous than modern thou-phobic translations.) Joseph Smith mostly imitates the KJV, but imperfectly so, and there are many unambiguous instances of singular you in the Book of Mormon. Sometimes the two groups of second-person pronouns almost seem to be in free variation -- for example, "And now Zoram, I speak unto you: Behold, thou art the servant of Laban." (2 Ne. 1:30). Would even Shakespeare have countenanced singular you when addressing a servant?

In another case of its linguistic conservatism, the KJV always uses meat to mean "food" and never in the narrower sense of "animal flesh." How aware was Joseph Smith of that usage, and how closely did he follow it in the Book of Mormon? Need we imagine the Lehites chowing down on steak tartare, or did Nephi perhaps mean salad?

I'll post my conclusion on that question later, on my Book of Mormon blog. Here I just want to note a striking synchronicity occasioned by my preliminary research into it.

While the audio recording was still playing, I used my computer to search the Book of Mormon text for meat, then for food, and finally for flesh, trying to get a sense for how the text uses those words. Since the search function on the website formerly known as lds.org is unusably bad -- I believe "an abomination in the sight of the Lord" is the technical term -- I was doing Ctrl-F searches on a text file from Gutenberg. That means that rather than seeing a whole list of search results on the screen at once, I had to click through them one at a time.

When I clicked for the second search result for flesh, it was 1 Ne. 17:35:

Behold, the Lord esteemeth all flesh in one; he that is righteous is favored of God. But behold, this people had rejected every word of God, and they were ripe in iniquity; and the fulness of the wrath of God was upon them; and the Lord did curse the land against them, and bless it unto our fathers; yea, he did curse it against them unto their destruction, and he did bless it unto our fathers unto their obtaining power over it.

The exact instant I clicked, and the screen jumped to this verse with the word flesh highlighted in orange, the audio recording also said the word flesh -- and then I realized that it was reading this very verse! My curiosity had been piqued, you will recall, by 1 Ne. 17:2, and now the audio had gotten to verse 35. I had been listening with half my attention and skimming search results with the other, and now suddenly the two came together, and what I was reading on the screen was exactly the same as what the recording was saying.

This is similar in kind, though not in content, to the sync recently documented in "A loaf of bread is dear."

Monday, May 20, 2024

Griffins (Cherubim) and apples (forbidden fruit) come from the same place

In my May 1 post "Armored vultures and Cherubim," I note the etymological theory that the word griffin may be related to Cherubim. In Genesis, the Cherubim are stationed as guardians to keep the exiled Adam and Eve from returning to Eden. This was after they had eaten the forbidden fruit, which tradition overwhelmingly identifies as the apple.

Today I was reading the 2011 edition of Adreinne Mayor's seminal book The First Fossil Hunters: Dinosaurs, Mammoths, and Myth in Greek and Roman Times. In building her case that griffin legends originated with Protoceratops-type fossils (quadrupeds with eagle-like beaks), Mayor traces Greek griffin lore back to Scythia:

The territory of the Issedonian Scythians where Aristeas learned about the griffin in about 675 B.C. is a wedge bounded by the Tien Shan and Altai ranges, in an area that straddles present-day northwestern Mongolia, northwestern China, southern Siberia, and southeastern Kazakhstan.

Compare this to what Wikipedia says about the origin of the apple:

The original wild ancestor of Malus domestica was Malus sieversii, found growing wild in the mountains of Central Asia in southern Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and northwestern China. Cultivation of the species, most likely beginning on the forested flanks of the Tian Shan mountains . . . .

I thought it was an interesting coincidence. Tian Shan is Chinese and literally means "Mountain(s) of God," which fits with what Ezekiel wrote about Eden and the Cherub:

Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God . . . . Thou art the anointed cherub . . . thou wast upon the holy mountain of God (Ezek. 28:13-14).

I was going to say I don't think anyone has ever proposed that Eden was in Central Asia, but actually someone has: Apparently, the Chinese Australian Christian Tse Tsan-tai proposed that it was in Xinjiang -- i.e., northwestern China, griffin and apple territory.

"Look at that pumpkin!" the visitors say

In my May 16 post "'Come buy, come buy,' was still their cry," I mention an anecdote from Whitley Strieber about an alien going door-to-door selling squash. I also note that I had initially misremembered the story and thought that it was pumpkins the alien was selling, but that in any case the Chinese language does not distinguish between the two: 南瓜 can mean either "squash" or "pumpkin."

Although most people would say Strieber's books are about "aliens," he himself almost never calls them that. In an effort to be neutral and avoid jumping to the conclusion that they are of extraterrestrial origin, he prefers to refer to the Other People as visitors. In the anecdote in question, quoted in my 2021 post "Cucurbits from an alien land," Strieber describes his friend Michael Talbot talking to a stranger at the door at five in the morning:

The idea that this was a visitor certainly hadn't crossed Michael's mind. . . . Then I heard him say, "are you trying to sell those vegetables?"

It stunned me practically senseless. Then I saw that the visitor was holding a big paper shopping bag full of squash.

This quote highlight's Strieber's idiosyncratic use of the word visitor. Obviously Michael was well aware that the stranger standing at the door was a "visitor" in the ordinary sense of that word; what Strieber means is that Michael didn't suspect it was an alien.

Today I saw this in one of my students' textbooks:


The first sentence on the page is, "'Look at that pumpkin!' the visitors say." These are of course visitors in the ordinary sense -- Cheng is locally famous as an excellent gardener, and "people come from all over to see the beautiful plants" -- but the word still jumped out at me due to the synchronistic context. Note also that the story is set in China, and it is in Chinese that "squash" and "pumpkin" are interchangeable. I had mentioned Chinese only because I live in Taiwan and speak that language every day. This book, though, is published in America and distributed worldwide, so the fact that this story happens to be about Chinese people is a coincidence. (Visitors of the Strieberian type are often described as looking "Chinese.")

In the story, the Emperor of China holds a gardening context. Each gardener is given a seed to plant and told that the one who grows the most beautiful plant from it will be the next emperor. In the end, it is revealed that all the seeds were dead and that the contest was actually a test of honesty. Cheng, the only one honest enough to bring the emperor an empty flowerpot, wins and is chosen to be his successor.

In Alma 32 in the Book of Mormon, the "word" -- an idea or belief -- is compared to a seed  which is planted in the heart, and if the seed grows, that means "that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me" (Alma 32:28).

When one has invested a lot in a particular seed, there is a temptation to trick oneself into believing it has borne fruit even if it hasn't -- perhaps, like the dishonest gardeners in the story, by introducing other seeds into the pot and pretending that what grows from them has grown from the original seed. Resisting that temptation is a difficult but important form of honesty.

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Spaghettified monkey

I’ve just finished M. D. Thalmann’s novella Europa Affair, which is absolutely terrible. It ends on a synchronistically interesting note, though, as the character Peter, who is a genetically enhanced baboon, activates an app called Monkey-B-2, which results in his “spaghettification.” What exactly that means is not really clear, as the writing is so atrocious, but it obviously ties in with William Wright’s monkey named Spaghetti.

Peering deep into the hat

I watched a few minutes of a video YouTube recommended, “Showing the Mormon Church NO MERCY w/ John Dehlin & Carah Burrell,” but pretty quickly got bored with their midwit takes. The video begins with a clip of what they apparently thought was one of the highlights, Carah saying this:

Joseph Smith was a sincere believer in this, like Christian mysticism, this Christian occult practice or this treasure digging? The fact is that Mormons themselves, you guys don’t believe that that’s an actual believable practice of how to find things within the earth, to put rocks into hats and say, Yep, God’s making the words appear here on this rock. Write it down. This is the most holy scripture of all time. You know that that’s not how your God would actually bring you the most correct scripture on earth, through the same mechanism that Joseph Smith was doing these illegal treasure digs in.

To drive her point home, she took out an actual hat and demonstrated how silly people look when they’re staring into hats. I don’t think she actually had a rock in there, though. The hat was empty.

I then turned to the final chapter of John Keel’s book The Eighth Tower. He compares scientists to audience members trying to figure out how a conjurer pulled a rabbit out of his hat:

A rabbit cannot spring from a hat, they reasoned, if it is not first introduced into the hat somehow. They could not grasp the ancient truth that even though the hat always seems empty, it is always full. The rabbit does not come from the sorcerer’s sleeve but only crosses from one delusion to another.

Dr. [Maurice] Bucke peered deep into the empty hat and found only a rose-colored mist that had to be God.

Peering deep into a hat is a pretty unusual thing to do. Joseph Smith literally did so and saw the word of God. Immediately after hearing a reference to that, I read it, as a metaphor this time, but still with reference to divine revelation and the production of a spiritual book. (The “rose-colored mist” reference is to the mystical experience that led Bucke to write Cosmic Consciousness.)

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Muhammad sync

Today I finished the New Testament and started reading the Quran, which I've only read once, more than 15 years ago. Other than the Quran itself, I don't think I've ever read any books about Muhammad or Islam, unless you count The Satanic Verses. Islam-related stuff isn't exactly a staple of my literary diet.

Yesterday I'd nearly finished John Keel's The Eighth Tower, having read 23 of its 25 chapters. Today, just minutes after reading the first few suwar of the Quran, I started Chapter 24. It begins with a history of computers, but about halfway through it suddenly has a lot to say about Mecca and the Kaaba and Mohammed (it was still Mohammed back in 1975) and the rise of Islam. The last words of the chapter are "we will defend our Kaaba to the death."

There is not a single solitary reference to anything Islam-related in the first 23 chapters of The Eighth Tower. The day I pick up the Quran for the second time in my life also happens to be the day I read Chapter 24.

Friday, May 17, 2024

The 96, the 48, and the white bull

In his May 15 post "Alpha and Omega, and the 144 or gross," William Wright writes that in Tolkien's writings there were originally 144 elves who were invited to Aman. Two-thirds (called the Eldar) accepted the invitation, while one-third (called the Avari) declined. (As the Babylon Bee recently complained, "every time a group of elves does something they get a new name!") Two-thirds of 144 is 96, a number which William goes on to discuss extensively. He doesn't mention the number 48, but that's how many Avari there would have been.

The number 48 is potentially interesting because of the recent emphasis on the word buy. ("'Come buy, come buy,' was still their cry.") In Simple English Gematria (S:E:G:) -- where you add up the value of a word by counting A as 1, B as 2, and so on -- we get these interesting equations:
  • buy = 2 + 21 + 25 = 48
  • sell = 19 + 5 + 12 + 12 = 48
  • trade = 20 + 18 + 1 + 4 + 5 = 48
I was thinking about this as I ate my lunch today. After lunch, I went to the place where I had parked my motorcycle, only to find that a big white SUV had parked me in. Motorcycles are maneuverable, and I was able to wriggle my way out, but it took some time and was annoying.

The thought popped into my head, "Parking you in was a good way to make sure you notice this particular car." Then I realized that I hadn't really processed the car at all beyond "white SUV," so I turned and looked at it:


I noticed the number 96 first and then the word bull. (The numeral 1 looks like a lowercase l -- so if you wanted to write "BULL 96" in ABC-1234 format, this is how you'd do it.) The moon Europa has been in the sync-stream of late, and what is the Europa of mythology best known for? Being carried away by a big white bull:


This event is commonly known as the Rape of Europa. Speaking of rape, after discovering the novella Europa Affair (about the moon, not the mythical figure), I checked its Amazon page. The top review gave it one star, citing "violence against women":


For William Wright, Europa has to do with Númenor, while the number 96 has reference to elves, so I'm not sure what to make of seeing them together on that SUV, but I note it for future reference.


Note added (May 18):

The YouTube algorithm served up this video, a commentary on the symbolism of Under the Silver Lake, a 2018 movie I'd never heard of:


In Under the Silver Lake, there's a scene with a white Volkswagen Rabbit, and the video emphasizes that this is a white rabbit, as in Alice or The Matrix:

Sam's whole journey begins after Sarah disappears by trying to find her following three girls literally driving around in a white Rabbit -- you know, a redhead, a blonde, and a brunette that drive a white convertible Rabbit, so he's following three women in a white Rabbit. He's following a white Rabbit.

This is conceptually very similar to my post above, where a white SUV with bull on its license plate represents the white bull of Greek myth.

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