Monthly Archives: October 2014

… Which is Witch? …

‘Which is Witch?’ is the title I coined for a documentary I helped produce for a colleague during our film degree course twenty years back. For my younger colleague the course was the start of a successful career as cameraman, for me it was a three year sabbatical creatively refreshing my existing work.

I’m all for make-believe, having grown up with Grimm Brothers’ tales taught me a few things. The other day I came upon this 80s photo of my son and recalled an incident when his favourite primary school teacher must have become a little too identified with the character of her Halloween Witch role.

Yesh img113His grandma dressing

As Santa Claus was cool fun

Yet his headmistress

Becoming a cackling witch

Stirred his first nightmare

 

Halloween offers a rare occasion when the dropping of one’s regular mask in exchange for another, like the archetypal witch, permits the normally hidden to push up from the shadow world, causing surprise, awe, delicious scares, and even nightmares.

 

There are good reasons to get acquainted with the hidden 90 or so percent of our psyche, the personal and the collective unconscious. This seems a good opportunity to re-share one of my first posts on this site, from March 2011 – well worth reading.

 

A Letter to my Shadow

https://courseofmirrors.wordpress.com/2011/03/25/139/

Without the Shadow I’d only be fluff on the coat of real human beings.

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… hands …

Allow one hand to caress the other, feel the fine sensations through the skin of your fingertips, their manual perfection, capacity to reach out, touch and sense the rough and smooth, warmth and cold. The power of hands to hold, give, heal, remember, receive, express feelings and ideas, inner states – hands that trace shapes and yield to shapes, strong hands that build and destroy, and skilful hands that wield the tool, the brush and pen …

Käthe Kollwitz,  'Zertretene' 1900

Käthe Kollwitz, ‘Zertretene’ 1900

Käthe Kollwitz - Mütter, Krieg, 1919

Käthe Kollwitz – Mütter, Krieg, 1919

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The two drawings by Käthe Kollwitz (July 1867 – April 1945) show the incredibly gentle hands that protect – from a collection of her work in a ‘Die Blauen Bücher’ series, discovered by a friend in a second-hand bookshop in St Just, Cornwall. She posted the book to me this week. I was reminded of the plight of mothers in situations where disease and violence are, once again, out of control. And – how so often, dogmatic politics, religious or otherwise, have programmed generations to de-value the body – its wisdom, beauty and need for expression.

And there remains the question, what is being taken out of our hands? Here a wonderful video I found at the National Film Board Canada site: Faces of the Hand

And the lines from two poets whose tool of passion was the pen.

From ‘Leaves of Grass’ by Walt Whitman

… I am the poet of the Body and I am the poet of the Soul,
The pleasures of heaven are with me and the pains of hell are with me,
The first I graft and increase upon myself, the latter I translate into new tongue ….

From ‘The Marriage between Heaven and Hell’ by William Blake

… The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom …

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… the sorcerers apprentice …

Goethe in Roman Campagna (1786) by J H W Tischbein

Goethe in Roman Campagna (1786) by J H W Tischbein

Science arose from poetry … when times change the two can meet again on a higher level as friends …   J W von Goethe

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

It’s my day – since for once

The old one has gone

So now the spirits shall live

And do exactly as I say

I took note of the words

The custom – the spells

So with strong resolve

I’ll work miracles as well.

Rise up and surge

Across the gap

To the end that

Water may flow

And in rich effusion

Fill the tub for my bath

Come old broom,

Take those tattered rags

Slave you’ve been for aeons

Now let my will be your task!

On two legs stand

With a head atop

Get on with it – hurry

With the water pot!

Rise up and surge

Across the gap

To the end that

Water may flow

And in rich effusion

Fill the tub for my bath

Look – he’s running to the shore

Indeed has reached the river

And with lightning speed

Returns to pour once more

A second time already!

How the pool is brimming!

How each new pail

With water fills!

Stand still!

You’ve done your lot

Richly measured

Were your favours!

Stop! Stop! Oh woe!

The word – I forgot

Oh – the word that in the end

Will make him what he’s been!

There he runs and nimbly drags!

Would you be the broom of old!

More floods he rapidly relays

In quick succession

A hundred rivers

Rush at me

No! I can’t allow

This any longer

I’ll seize him!

This is malice!

I’m growing fearful now

What mien! What scowl!

Oh you hellish brainchild

Shall the whole house drown?

Over every sill I see

Floods of water surging

What a hideous broom!

That will not listen!

Rod that you’ve been

Stand but still again!

So you won’t quit?

I’ll catch and grab you

And with a sharp axe

I’ll swiftly split

The parched wood

Neatly down the middle!

Look – dragging he returns!

I’ll throw myself at you – sprite

Promptly you’re down

Crushing sinks the smooth blade

Bravely aimed indeed!

Look – in two he’s broken!

Now I can hope

My breath is freed!

Oh woe! Oh woe!

Both parts

Stand up in haste

As slaves

Complete and ready!

Help me – oh mighty powers!

And they’re racing on! Awash

Are hall and staircase

What an abysmal span of water

All the wise – hear my plight!

Oh – the old one comes – at last!

Great is the need!

The spirits I have called upon

I cannot now release.

‘Into the corner

With you Brooms!

Be no more!

Since as spirits

For their purpose

Only the wise call you forth.’

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‘Der Zauberlehrling’ by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.                                                                                                      Translation: Ashen Venema, November 2006

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I grew up with Goethe’s work and it still inspires. Occasionally I attempt free translations of German poems. I work on them forever, never satisfied. Those who know other translations of ‘Der Zauberlehrling’ may enjoy the subtleties. The poem is timeless. There are two kinds of ‘Will’ – the personal and the universal, to harmonise them is a lifelong task.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johann_Wolfgang_von_Goethe

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