Oi yin yang
Back in the 90s, men were from Mars and women were from Venus. We had conversations about what happened when women travelled to Mars and men travelled to Venus, and the more we travelled to each other’s world, the easier it was for astrology to come into the picture. Because astrology shows us that we all have Mars and Venus in the birth chart.
We’ve come a long way; we’ve become individuals with complicated birth charts. My wife doesn’t discover me; she studies me. She lies in bed looking at my chart and says things like, Your Moon’s in Capricorn, Pluto’s in Virgo and Mars is in Taurus. You’re earthy, honey.
When I try taking the chart away from her to show her how earthy I am, she yells, Oi! Give me a sec; I’m trying to figure something out. So I lay my head back on the pillow with a sigh of missed opportunity, and fall asleep while she figures me out.
In the morning, I go back to surveying the land. The King of Oi wants me to find the perfect place to drill a well.
I’ve been watching him survey the land from my balcony; I have a balcony that wraps around my house and keeps him in view.
He’s not using his instruments and tools today. He’s wandering around as if he senses something, as if he can sense a vein of water running underneath him, and he’s following it. He must have accessed his Neptune; schooling can only suppress Neptune for so long. Judging by the fluid way he’s moving, he must have Neptune at the bending of the nodes.
He senses me looking at him and he looks up and his eyes find me. I wave at him and say, Oi! But he’s too transfixed by what’s happening to him to oi me back. That’s what happens when we access a part of ourselves we’ve forgotten about or had no idea we had. By the look of him, he had no idea his body could sense water running beneath the earth.
Neptune by Gustav Holst, 1915 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oFMXNUHuWug
My wife tried making up for last night and wanted to get earthy the moment I got into bed. This time though, it was me holding my chart and me who yelled, Oi! Give me a sec; I’m trying to figure something out.
I’m trying to figure out the mystic in me because I just had a direct experience of the sacred.
There’s an underground river of water that begins in the heart of the kingdom and flows to the periphery and beyond, and I know it’s there because the cells of my body told me it’s there. I’d have to drill deep into the earth to access it and yet I could hear it, sense it, I’m not sure how.
The Moon in Capricorn, said my wife. She’s helping me locate the sweet waters rising from the abzu.
What about Neptune, I asked her. I felt Neptunian all day, as if I’d been operating in a different dimension.
She looked at my chart and said that maybe I wasn’t as earthy as she’d thought I was. Tonight I seemed to be more watery than anything else. The Moon’s in Capricorn, Neptune’s in Scorpio and Jupiter’s in Pisces. You’re pure water, honey.
She suddenly looked alarmed and asked if I was turning religious; you know how some religious people renounce- I put my chart away and reassured her that I wasn’t.
Before I left for work the next day, she blocked my way and said, Don’t tell anyone. I nodded, and as I walked to my truck, a man on a bicycle passed me by holding a hand drill.
Water ewer sacred to Neptune by John Flaxman, 1780-85
He leaves his truck and follows the vein of water holding a can of spray paint. He must have had a sign that today’s the day he’ll find the right place for the kingdom’s well. I leave my balcony and get in my car. I park behind his truck and walk in a hurried pace until I see him. Oi! I call out to him.
He turns and says oi softly, not wanting his voice to drown the sound of the underground water. I walk beside him and tell him that I can hear it too. He looks at the ground and doesn’t answer.
At one point, a stream of water diverges from the main vein, and I follow the stream and he follows the vein. We meet when the stream joins the vein again, and he now raises his head and looks at me. He kneels down and marks the spot with an X.
You should tell the king, I say.
I’ll tell the king, he says.
We walk back in silence and I get into my truck and the balcony woman gets into her car and we part ways. I drive up to the castle and ask to speak with the king, but before they can announce me, the king leans out of his study window and yells, Oi! Did you find the spot?
“Oi King of Oi! I found it!”
He has me lead him and some of his guards holding shovels to the place I chose, and when we get there, the king asks his guards to dig under the X, but dig carefully, he says. They dig out a statue of a crow and hand it to the king. The king takes the crow lovingly in his hands, cleans it of earth, and says to me, You found the right spot.
Crow, sacred bird of Op-Pollo, by Alan Dun, 2014
He tells me that he woke up one day with the need to revitalize the old, and this need pushed him into the royal library. He pulled out one of the ancient manuscripts, opened it at random, and found himself reading an old garbled prophecy that had an X as the final word. He couldn’t make any sense of it and sent for the balcony woman to translate it.
He sees me turn to look at the balcony woman’s house, and says, You’ve met her then. I nod and he continues. The balcony woman studied the prophecy and told me that once upon a time, there was a sacred temple to Op-Pollo on the outskirts of our valley. One day, there would come a King of Oi who would find the old garbled prophecy that I found, locate the sacred grounds of the temple, and dig a well. The well would become a place of pilgrimage, where complicated individuals could leave their complications behind, have a drink of water, and feel part of the collective. An X would mark the spot and a crow would confirm it.
He’s about to tell me more, when the sound of a motorcycle interrupts us. The king’s son arrives, parks his bike and joins us. Oi dad, he says, and leans down to gently take the crow from his dad’s hands. You found it, he says; you found Op-Pollo’s sacred bird. He strokes the bird, looks at me and asks if I’ll be in charge of the dig, and I say, Yes. He tells me that he’ll be sifting the soil, searching for old relics. He’s interested in the valley’s history, in the old gods, Op-Pollo, Op-Maul and Op-Shiva. He asks if I know about them, and I tell him that I do; I know their stories.
What’s your serif, he asks me.
The Moon in Capricorn, I say.
The Moon in Capricorn knows how to find water that rises from the abzu, he says.
That’s what my wife told me, I say.
He tells me that Saturn, Mars and Pluto in Scorpio are his serifs, and they’re the ruling planets of the Op-Trinity. He says that he’s been waiting for a moment like this all his life; he doesn’t know what he’ll find and where it’ll take him; all he knows is that this is the moment he’s been waiting for.
A sudden bolt of lightning and pouring rain sees us pick up and leave.
Uranus by Gustav Holst, 1915 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lGfwxpuY2jY
My wife’s home before me, and when she sees the state I’m in when I arrive, she runs a bath for me. She sits on the edge of the tub to keep me company and tells me about her day, and when I tell her about mine, she says, The king’s son has tapped into Uranus; Uranus is transiting through Taurus, and in Taurus, Uranus likes to unearth the past.
What about the king wanting to revitalize the old and bring individuals together around a well, I ask her. She says that sounds like Saturn making his entry into Aquarius.
So I’m dealing with the two rulers of Aquarius, I say.
Yes, she says; an air sign that has the symbol of a water carrier.
I thought it was Ganymede, the water bearer-
A clap of thunder startles her and she falls into the tub with me.
Meissen porcelain ewer, AIR by Kaendler, 19th century
Signs were posted in the kingdom announcing a meeting at the site of the future well; anyone interested in participating in the dig was welcome to attend.
I was standing on my balcony the day of the meeting. I could see everyone’s surprise when the king’s son said that they would be digging with their hands, using trowels and hand shovels and other archaeological tools. They would be filling buckets with soil, and every bucket of soil would be passed through a mesh and screened for ancient artifacts. Only after that would the soil be hauled away. Once they reached the water table, work would begin to line the well.
What are you hoping to find, someone asked him.
There used to be a temple sacred to Op-Pollo on these grounds, said the king’s son.
When you start digging, you may awaken the old gods, someone else said.
Nothing wrong with that, said another.
An argument began between people who sided with the dig and people against it, and the argument turned into a fight.
Mars by Gustav Holst, 1914 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cXOanvv4plU&list=RDs8EwBTQhl3Y&index=3
When I got home, my wife tended to my bruises.
How did it end, she wanted to know.
A foul smell rose from the ground and drove us away.
She laughed and said, I guess that means, no fighting on sacred grounds.
I guess so.
Did you fight well?
I did pretty good, I said. I made sure nobody touched the king’s son; took him back to the castle unscathed.
She went to get my chart and said, I didn’t realize how much fire there is in your chart; Mars is in Taurus, Venus and Uranus are in Leo-
This time, I took the chart from her hands, held her tight and said, You mean you didn’t realize how much fire there is in me.
Later on in bed, I wondered, What does it mean for us when Ganymede pours the ambrosia of immortality that is for the gods.
Purification, she said; he’s a mortal purifying us with sacred water-
Water from the abzu is sacred, I said.
The well is a symbol of purification for Aquarius; Aquarius wants to purify.
When I left for work in the morning, she held my hand longer than usual and told me to be careful. I nodded, and as I walked to my truck, I saw a man in the park across the street reach for something inside a trash can.
Ganymede feeding the Eagle, Roman copy of a Greek original, 1st century BCE
He must have had a sign to dig despite what happened at the meeting.
He digs while the king’s son sifts the dug up earth. I’ve been watching them for days, but they haven’t found anything yet. At the end of the day, a truck driver hauls the earth away and remarks on the smell of the earth; there’s no trace of the foul smell that broke the fight; it now smells of something sweet, like peaches.
The truck driver’s remarks are spreading and drawing people to the site, and the smell of the earth makes them pick up a trowel, a shovel, or a mesh and they make themselves useful.
They’ve found something. A gritty rock that has a peculiar shape. They’ve found another. They think they are pieces of a sculpture.
They look like gongshi to me, someone says.
What are gongshi, someone asks.
Scholar’s rocks, someone explains. They’re rocks from nature that inspire contemplation. The more eroded and irregular, the more interesting they are to look at. I think they’re supposed to teach us the dignity of age and time.
This one keeps changing, says the person holding the first piece they found.
No, it doesn’t, say the person holding the second piece. Look how they fit together, he says, and he puts both pieces together, and when he does that, the pieces join and can’t be pulled apart.
Magic! they all cry.
I found a third piece, says the surveyor, and he hands it to the king’s son. The king’s son joins it to the first two pieces and all three become one.
They all put their hard hats on excitedly and dig for more, and at the end of the day, the sculpture has grown and I can see it clearly from my balcony.
We should hide it before the truck driver arrives to haul the earth away, someone says.
We should, or news will spread and the whole kingdom will be here tomorrow.
The surveyor looks around and says, The only place to hide it is back where it came from.
Okay, everyone, says the king’s son; let’s roll it back into the pit.
After the truck driver comes and goes and everyone leaves, I drop the king’s son back to the castle and drive home. It’s late but my wife’s up, and when I walk in, she takes a deep breath to smell the peaches before I shower.
I get into bed and ask her if she knows what a gongshi is. Of course I know what it is, she tells me; I gave you one for Christmas. You did? I ask her in total shock; where is it? Right next to you, she says. I turn to look at my bedside table, and there’s a gongshi staring right at me. Unbelievable, I say.
I tell her that we found many pieces just like that inside the pit, and when we joined them together, they became glued to each other, inseparable.
She looks at me wide eyed and says, Op-Shiva.
That’s exactly how the king’s son said his name.
In the morning, I’m about to get into my truck, when my wife yells, Oi! Can you still hear the water that runs beneath the earth?
I nod, and she says, Water makes gongshi.
I drive away and think to myself that so does fire, and so does air. I realize that gongshi are made of the four elements, and now I understand why the ancients held them in such high regard. I mean, they’re a bit scary looking at first; mine gave me a bit of a scare last night; but the first thing I did this morning was to touch it, to feel its texture and intricacy, and I saw beauty in what appeared to be ugly at first.
I drive to the castle to pick up the king’s son. When we first started digging, he preferred not to go to the well site on his motorcycle; he didn’t want to draw attention, and now picking him up and dropping him off is part of the routine.
When he gets into my truck, he tells me that his father’s study is filled with gongshi, and he tells it to me in a way that reveals he’s had the same revelation I had.
When we get to the site, we all stand around the pit that will be our future well, and when we look inside, the sculpture’s gone.
It must have sunk.
We all put our hard hats on, place the ladders that will take us down the pit, grab buckets and shovels and climb down to dig out the sculpture.
We spend most of the day filling up buckets, climbing up to empty them, and climbing back down to fill them up again, but there’s no trace of the sculpture.
Let’s give it one more go, and if we can’t find it, we’ll call it a day and try again tomorrow, says the king’s son.
So we all get inside the pit to fill up the buckets one last time, and when we try moving toward the ladders, we find our feet entangled in something.
It’s a net, someone says.
We try to free our feet from the net, but the more we try, the more entangled we get.
Hoping that we’re not all inside the pit, I yell, Oi! Is someone up there! But nobody answers back from the surface.
We’ll have to wait until the truck driver gets here, the king’s son says.
The sun sets and we hear the truck driver arrive. He turns the engine off, slams the door and walks toward the pit whistling.
Oi! we yell together.
Oi! the truck driver yells back. Where are you!
We’re stuck inside the pit; our feet are entangled in a net; you wouldn’t have a pair of scissors or a wire cutter or a set of pliers in your truck, would you.
Let me go check, he says.
We wait until we hear him whistle his way back to the pit, and we raise our heads with hope, and what we see makes us bow our heads and hold our hands together.
Op-Shiva raises his head to the heavens and yells, Op-Maul! I found your net!
We hear a screech.
No, it’s not a screech; it’s a laugh.
Gigantic fingers painted red and black rummage the earth around us until they find the handle of the net we’re entangled in, and up in the air we go.
Op-Maul flies around bouncing the net up and down, trying to disentangle our feet, and when he does, we hold on to the net with our hands for dear life.
A black cloud comes toward us, and as it comes closer, we see that they are crows guiding Op-Maul back to the well site. He sets us down and we crawl out of the net and lay on the ground waiting for what comes next.
Then we hear a truck.
The slam of a door.
The truck driver walks up to us and asks, What’s that you found over there. We lift our heads to look at what he’s pointing at, and standing next to the pit, lit up by the crescent moon, is the sculpture.
Someone else approaches, and it’s the balcony woman.
Everyone alright? she wants to know; I saw emergency lights from my balcony; flashes of blue and flashes of red.
Everyone’s alright, we say, standing up and dusting ourselves.
Oh my, she says, walking up to the sculpture in admiration. What a majestic gongshi; did you find it in the pit?
Before we can answer, she bends to pick something up. Look, she says, holding it out to us; I found a small piece of the same rock lying on the ground.
The king’s son tells her to hold it close to the sculpture, and when she does, it becomes part of the sculpture, and she cries, Oi! Op-Shiva!
I want to try, says the truck driver.
I ask him to turn his headlights on so that I can go down into the pit to look for another piece. When he does, I go down, and when I do, I see that the pit is filled with enough pieces for the entire kingdom.
Mercury by Gustav Holst, 1916 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3dcMSNgvxpU
I lie in bed that night, and with tears rolling down my cheeks, I tell my wife all that happened that day. She holds me and listens to me in silence, and when I finish, we get
and with a sigh of relief, we fall asleep.
She comes with me to the well site the following day, and when we pick up the king’s son, the king gets into the truck as well.
We give the king a piece of rock, and when he joins it to the sculpture, he touches the sculpture, closes his eyes, and says a silent prayer to the gods.
My wife does the same.
The king says that he will assign a day for every sector of the kingdom to come here. We will be in charge of giving every person a piece of rock to add to the sculpture. When every person has had a turn, we can continue working on the well.
Pigeon jug, Persian, 19th century
Guards from the castle help us keep order when people from around the kingdom start coming to the well site; they ask them to line up and observe silence.
The surveyor hands each person a piece of rock while I stand next to the sculpture and tell them what to do. Everyone does what my dad did when they see their piece of rock become part of the sculpture; they close their eyes, touch the sculpture, and say a silent prayer to the gods.
A woman standing in line has been looking at me; I’ve been feeling her gaze on my face for a long time, but I’ve controlled myself not to turn around. When it’s her turn, I see that there’s something unusual about her, something I recognize but can’t quite put my finger on. She asks if she can begin a new sculpture with the rock she’s holding; the one we’ve been adding rocks to seems to have had enough.
My first instinct is to say, No. My dad says that my Mercury in Aries makes me combative, that I say No before I even process a question, and when I say No to the woman, the guard closest to me signals for me to look up. I look up and see a woodpecker of massive proportions flying in the sky, a woodpecker holding a- I swallow hard when I realize it’s Op-Maul holding his net, and when I look at the woman, she smiles at me and an eye between her eyes opens up and gives me a wink.
I tell the surveyor that we’re going to start a new sculpture, and he must have Mercury in Gemini because he says, The more, the merrier. I ask the woman where would she like the new sculpture to be, and she says that the one already standing is on the north side of the well, so how about we start the new one on the south side. I agree, and the guard gives me a nod of approval.
I look for the guard at the end of the day, and I find him sitting on a rock watching the sunset. I sit beside him and we sit together in silence until he speaks.
Venus in Aquarius has always drawn me to what’s eccentric, he says.
A god flying in the sky is definitely eccentric, I say.
So is a woman with a yin eye; she kept looking at you, but her yin eye kept looking at me and at the sky, communicating to me what I needed to know.
What you needed to tell me, I say.
You’ve awakened the gods, he says.
They’re bringing magic back into our lives, I say.
You’ve awakened the gods for all of us, so they want a sculpture in each of the four directions.
Oh, I say.
I just figured that out, he says in amazement; I just realized that Op-Maul was doing the dance that the balcony woman does on her balcony. She calls it, the dance of the four directions.
Mercury must be at the bending of your nodes, I say.
The guard pulls out his chart from his pant pocket, unfolds it and shows me that he is.
Mercury helps you make connections.
Oi! someone calls the guard.
Oi! he turns around and replies.
You parked your truck on the corner there and no one can get out!
Coming! the guard tells him, getting up. C’mon, he says to me; I’ll give you a ride back to the castle.
Mercury, Roman, A.D. 172-225, silver and gold
One of the guards has been giving the king’s son a ride back to the castle, so I get to drive home directly after work. I tell my wife that today we started on the fourth and final sculpture, and she says that we’ll soon have to give them names. I hadn’t thought of that, I say; it’ll be difficult to give them names; they’re so- so- I make hand movements trying to describe them, and she says they’re gongshi; we need to contemplate and reflect on their aesthetic qualities and let them inspire us with their names.
We get into bed and I hold my gongshi and contemplate and reflect on its aesthetic qualities, and a name comes to mind, a name that’s more like a phrase; trying to reach the ladder, my feet get entangled in a net.
My wife takes the gongshi from me, and running her fingers through all the holes in it, she repeats the phrase; trying to reach the ladder, my feet get entangled in a net. That’s a very good name for it, she tells me.
When I pick up the king’s son the following morning, I show him my gongshi and I ask him to guess what it inspired me to call it. He holds the gongshi, contemplating and reflecting on its aesthetic qualities, and when we reach the well site, he says, Trying to reach the ladder, my feet get entangled in a net. My jaw drops, and he laughs and tells me that he just found the phrase written beneath the gongshi stand. My wife must have put it there, I say. It’s brilliant, he says; we’re going to do the same; we’re going to let the sculptures inspire us with their names once the fourth one is complete.
The day the last piece of rock is added the fourth sculpture, I hear the underground water gurgling and rising and making its way to us. The others can’t hear it, but they can sense it, and we begin lining the well.
When we take breaks, each of us is drawn to one sculpture in particular, and we naturally divide ourselves into four groups, four groups that rest their eyes on a different sculpture.
Meissen porcelain ewers. All the elements by Kaendler, 19th century
I have lunch on my balcony and watch each group have lunch in front of their chosen sculpture. From time to time, someone rises to say something about their sculpture and someone else takes notes. They must be choosing names for them.
I see one of the groups stick a note on their sculpture and I make my way down there. Lunch break is over and they’re back to lining the well, so nobody sees me. I go up to the note and read, We run across a stream, splashing and covering each other with drops of water, our faces joyful. How original, I think to mysef.
When another note goes up, I do the same; I make my way down there and read, The wind blows, so strong it rips our clothes and sends them flying, free at last. Oh my, I think to myself.
When the last two notes go up, I make my way down there in a hurry, excited to see what they’ve come up with.
One note reads, I promise to keep you company in your old age, no matter how eroded you are by the earth. Why, thank you, I tell the sculpture, and give it a hug.
I walk toward the last note and read,
We run through a desert on burning feet, all of us are glowing, our faces look twisted by Ugo Rondinone, 2009, National Gallery of Canada
I look into the well and call, Oi!
Oi! they call back.
What wonderful names you’ve given them! I’m going to make a plaque for each one!
Thank you! they say.
Old fashioned well by Omaste Witkowski, 2013
When I get home, I tell my dad that the well’s finished and the water’s rising; it’s so crystal clear, we’ll be able to see the gods up in the sky. He cradles my face and tells me that my eyes are glowing; he ruffles my hair and embraces me. Well done, son, he says; we’ll have to plan a celebration, but before we do that, take a seat; I have something to tell you.
He tells me that he was in the library this morning, and one of the ancient manuscripts fell into his hands. I ask him if it was the same one he pulled out of the shelves at the beginning of this story, and he says that it was a different one. He opened it at random and came across another garbled prophecy that ended with-
No, he says; this one ended with a checkmark. He couldn’t make head or tail of it so he sent for the balcony woman to decrypt it. She studied it and said that one day, there will be a King of Oi who will come across this prophecy after completing a well, and when he does, he will make another well where there once stood a temple to the god Op-Maul. A checkmark will mark the spot and something will confirm it.
What something? I ask him.
The balcony woman isn’t sure what the something is; she couldn’t recognize the word.
Mercury in Aries rises in me and I say, No way, dad, and when I say that, I hear a crow caw. I turn around and see a crow perched on the window sill. The moment my eyes touch it, it flies away and I follow its path, and it leads me to- something red and black flying in the sky. I lean out the window to get a closer look, and there’s Op-Maul holding his net, dancing the dance of the four directions.
My dad comes to stand beside me and says that my wish to know the old gods is coming true; it seems to be the wish of many.
When I get home, I tell my wife that the well’s finished and the water’s rising; it’s so crystal clear, we’ll be able to see the gods up in the sky. She looks at me and tells me that my eyes are glowing and she holds me tight. She remembers a letter from the king and wants to go find it, but I pull her back to me and tell her that it can wait; not tonight.
When I wake up in the morning, I see the king’s letter resting on my gongshi. I open it and read it and show it to my wife; the king wants me to find the perfect place to dig a second well.
Jupiter, she says.
I thought I was dealing with Saturn making his entry into Aquarius; making new what’s old, like you told me.
But Jupiter will join Saturn in Aquarius, and he’ll want to make new everything’s that’s old. He’s expansive.
Jupiter by Gustav Holst, 1914 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BUM_zT3YKHs&list=RD3dcMSNgvxpU&index=2
I wake up with a start and my wife wakes up and asks if I’m okay. She caresses my chest and tells me that my heart’s racing; I must have had a nightmare. I don’t remember, I tell her; all I remember is a loud noise waking me up. She didn’t hear anything, she says; it must have been in my head- She stops suddenly and tells me that I should be careful with my head.
Mars just entered Aries and Aries rules the head. He was in Pisces before and Pisces rules the feet and look what happened; your feet got entangled in a net.
I always wear a helmet, I say; can’t do more than that.
I get ready for work, and when I get into my truck, a place that I haven’t been to in a long time comes to mind and I drive there; it’s a place in the peripheries sheltered by an escarpment. I park my truck and walk along the escarpment and I hear the sound of water falling but can’t recall a waterfall in these parts. I walk running a hand along the rocky wall to see if I can feel any wetness, but there’s none. I walk back doing the same, when a stone hits my helmet, and another and another. I bend down to pick them up and see that they are pebbles rounded by water.
I move away from the rocky wall to look over the cliff and yell, Oi! But all I hear is the echo of my voice, Oi! Oi! Oi! Could it have been an animal dislodging them, I wonder; but then another pebble hits my helmet and I know that it’s not; it’s someone aiming them at me and they’re a pretty good shot.
I get back inside my truck and drive to a road that will take me to the top of the cliff, and when I get there, I look around and there’s no one. I walk looking at the ground, looking for pebbles on the ground, and I hear it again, water falling. I stand there hypnotized by the sound, until the sun in my eyes tells me that it’s setting and time to go home.
When I get home, there’s my wife looking pretty hot. Before I can put my arms around her, she says, Get ready; I’m taking you out. On a Monday night? I ask her. Why not? she says; I’m feeling super energized and I want to go out. I grab her chart before we leave, and while we wait for our food at a restaurant, I look at it and tell her that her natal Mars is in Aries, and if Mars is transiting Aries, she’s having a Mars return, which is probably why she’s so energized.
I know, she says; I’m joining the gym tomorrow; it’s now or never.
I tell her about the pebbles falling on my helmet, and that brings her back to me. Good thing you had it on, she says, and takes my hand. I’ve been carrying the pebbles in my pockets, and when I show them to her, she says they’re beautiful; she touches them throughout the meal and puts them in her purse before we leave. I drive us home, and we get into bed and kiss and I fall asleep. Monday nights are never good for me.
Again, I wake up with a start, but this time, my wife does not wake up. She must have stayed up late; she’s stacked the pebbles on my night table, but before she stacked them, she painted them.
When she wakes up, I say, Sorry, honey, I fell asleep, and she says that I can make up for it tonight, after she comes back from the gym. I thank her for the pebbles and tell her that I’m taking them with me, and she tells me to hold them in the sunlight; the glow paint she used gets activated by the sun.
I decide not to drive back to the top of the cliff where the sound of the water falling could hypnotize me again. I reason that it’s best to find the place where the water is loudest at the bottom of the cliff, where it falls from somewhere inside the cliff into the ground, and could rise up in a well.
So I park my truck in the sheltered place like I did before, and walk along the escarpment, listening and running a hand along the rocky wall. When I find the place I’m looking for, I leave the painted pebbles on the ground, and from there, I walk away from the escarpment, hoping to hear the hidden waterfall turn into a stream running beneath the earth.
But when I walk away, there’s silence. I turn around to make sure that I’ve stayed on course and look for the pebbles, and there they are, glowing so wildly in the sunlight that they look like giant rocks.
I walk back to take a closer look, and fall on my knees when I see how much they’ve grown. I’m pretty sure this is not what my wife meant when she said that the paint got activated by the sun. I need to go find her, and when I steady myself to stand up, a pebble hits my helmet, and another, and another and another. I pick them up and run to my truck.
I walk into the house like a wild man holding four pebbles with outstretched arms and my wife yells, Oi!
I say, Honey, please paint these pebbles; don’t ask me any questions; just paint them and get inside the truck.
She paints them and blow dries them and gets in the truck with me, and while I drive to the escarpment, I tell her about the sound of water falling and about the pebbles and how much they’ve grown.
When we get there and she sees them, she looks at them in disbelief and then at me in disbelief and asks, Are these- I nod and say, Yes.
We leave the pebbles she just painted beside the pebbles that are now giant rocks, and we walk away from them holding hands that sweat and tremble. When we turn around to look at them and see how much they’ve grown, we both fall on our knees.
Is it the paint, I ask her.
It’s not the paint; it’s Op-Shiva, she whispers.
I know that it’s not just Op-Shiva, but I don’t tell her that; I don’t want to frighten her. Instead, I ask her if she went to the gym today.
I did, she says.
That’s good, I say; because I need you to run to the truck as fast as you can and wait for me there.
She runs to the truck, and when she’s inside, I stand up and a pebble hits my helmet, and another, and another and another. I pick them up and run to join her.
She lies in my arms that night and I ask her how does it feel to have two god moments in one day.
She laughs and says that I’m much better on Tuesdays than I am on Mondays.
Was there a temple where the pebbles turn into giant rocks, she asks me.
In the letter the king sent me, he said that the second well would be where there once stood a temple to the god Op-Maul.
I don’t think Op-Maul would want a well on his sacred grounds, she says.
What do you think he’d want?
He’s ruled by Mars and I’m having a Mars return and Mars is energizing me. I think he’d want a lively place that energizes people.
He’s the one throwing pebbles at me, you know.
That’s because you always wear a helmet, and you’re the one who found the source of the magic, she says.
The source is where the sound of the water falling touches the ground, I say.
I ask her if she can paint the pebbles that I collected today before we go to sleep, and she does.
With a plan in mind, I drive back to the escarpment the following day, and the giant rocks that were once pebbles are no longer there. I look around and see them dazzling in an open terrain out in the distance, stacked like a pillar.
I get my can of spray paint from the truck, and walk to where the sound of the water falling is loudest, to the source of the magic. I bend down to mark the spot with an X, but the nozzle of the can gets clogged, and I end up with half an X that looks like a checkmark. Oh, well.
Then I drive to the king’s castle and ask to speak with the king, but before they can announce me, the king looks out his study window and yells, Oi! Did you find the spot?
Oi King of Oi! I found it!
The king, the king’s son, and the balcony woman holding an ancient manuscript follow me to the site. When we get there, I give each one a helmet to wear and hand each one a painted pebble. I walk them to the source marked with a checkmark, and ask them to lay the pebbles over it, and after they do that, I direct them to walk away. When we’ve walked far enough, I ask them to turn around, and when they do, they look in amazement at the giant glowing rocks.
Magic! they cry.
They run back to take a closer look and I run after them, and before they stand, I tell them that they’ll be hit by pebbles, but the helmets will protect them, and that’s what happens; they stand up and the pebbles come. I collect them in a bag, and say that these are the pebbles that turn into giant rocks; my wife painted the ones I gave them with glow paint.
What happens next, they want to know, and I tell them that when there are enough giant rocks lying here, the gods stack them and turn them into dazzling pillars, like the one over there, and I point to the one standing in the distance.
The balcony woman touches the rocky wall and says there’s a waterfall inside, and I say that I hear it too, but the water stays inside; it doesn’t create a stream underneath the earth that can be tapped to fill a well.
So the hidden waterfall touching the ground is the source of this magic, says the king’s son.
A checkmark marks the spot, says the king, pointing at the half X.
The balcony woman sits on the ground, opens the manuscript and translates the prophecy, After finding one source, the king will find another. A checkmark marks the spot and a cha-cha-cha confirms it. Could the giant rocks be the cha-cha-cha, she wonders.
In one of the old stories, the cha-cha-cha was the guardian of a temple, I say.
Should I dig under the checkmark, asks the king’s son.
Dig carefully, says the king.
The king’s son uses his helmet to dig under the checkmark, and he unearths a little statuette and cleans if of earth, and when we can see it clearly, we bow our heads and hold our hands together.
Haha! we hear him laugh, and pebbles rain down on the sheltered place, enough pebbles for the whole kingdom.
My dad assigns a day for every sector of the kingdom to come to the sheltered place, and castle guards help us maintain order. They complain to me about the air of excitability that is everywhere on these sacred grounds, and the guard who is my friend tells me to pay no heed; they’re grumpy because they have to arrive early to paint and dry the pebbles that we hand out every day.
The surveyor and I take turns handing out the pebbles, and taking people to witness the miracle of pebbles turning into giant rocks. Today, I’m handing out pebbles.
I’m handing them out, when I feel her gaze on my face like I did not so long ago, and this time, I turn around to look at her. When I do, the eye between her eyes opens and looks at the sky, and I look at the sky, and there’s Op-Maul. He’s flying on the red handle of his net like it were a broom, sweeping over the people who stroll around the dazzling pillars in the open terrain. He laughs when a new pillar appears and people cry out his name,
He laughs a laugh that only I can hear in my head,
When I look back at her, her yin eye gives me a wink, and she disappears, and I see a golden eyed grackle fly away.
Seven Magic Mountains by Ugo Rondinone, 2016, Las Vegas, Nevada
When every person in the kingdom has seen a pebble grow, I let my dad know. I find him in his study reading a petition, but he puts it down to listen to what I have to say. I ask him if we should pick up the remaining pebbles in the sheltered place and secure the grounds, and he says, No; Op-Maul takes care of his own grounds. From now on, if someone picks up a pebble and lays it on the magic source, it’s between them and the god.
Okay, I say, and then I ask him about the petition he’s been reading. He tells me that people in the kingdom want him to address the grackle problem.
We- we have a grackle problem?
Yes, he says; it seems that we do, at least in the spring, when they leave the fecal sacs of their young in people’s water gardens. Very messy.
What are fecal sacs?
The king picks up the petition, and says, I’ve just learned that when baby grackles poop, the poop comes out wrapped in a membrane; it makes it easy for their parents to pick up from the nest and discard. The problem is that they like to discard them in water, and the closest water to their nests is the water in people’s water gardens.
Dad, that’s amazing!
You think so? Maybe I’ll put you in charge of this one, along with the surveyor.
Just then, there’s a knock on the door.
Come in! says the king, and the surveyor walks in,
Oi King of Oi! he says.
Oi! says the king; come in; take a seat. The king tells the surveyor about the grackle problem, and puts him and his son in charge of finding a solution.
Just then, there’s another knock on the door.
Come in! says the king, and the balcony woman walks in,
Oi King of Oi! she says.
Oi! says the king; please join us.
He tells her about the grackle problem, and she says that every spring, she leaves a bowl of water on her balcony, hoping that a grackle will drop a sac or two. They’re guano, you know; bird manure that’s rich in nutrients. I fish them out of the bowl and feed them to my roses. It’s very plutonic, don’t you think? From poop comes beautiful roses.
Grackle by Diane Bradley, 2016
When I get home after work, my wife’s already in bed. She opens an eye when she knows I’m there, and says, Sorry hon; I overdid it at the gym; how was your day. I tell her that the king’s son and I will be working on the grackle problem together. She opens both eyes and tells me that right beside the gym, there’s a small art gallery filled with paintings of grackles; it’s a temporary exhibit, she says. The artist used to have a grackle problem, until the day she ran out of ideas of what to paint. That’s when she sat on one of the splattered rocks in her water garden, and began painting grackles.
I tell the story to the king’s son when I pick him up the following day and drive to the pine forest of Oi. When we get to the forest, I park the truck and tell him that this is where grackles nest. We walk on one of the trails, looking at the nests up in the trees, and he tells me that the king said there’s no body of water here for the birds to drop the sacs. Someone jogging by overhears him and says, there’s a pond further up, and points us in the right direction. We walk to the pond and it’s surrounded by lush foliage and there are reeds growing in the water and the surface is covered with sacs. When the king’s son sees the pond, something changes in him; he walks around the pond in slow motion, looking at the water, at the sacs in the water, and then he stops. He plants his feet slightly apart, arms down by his sides, and remains immobile, with a faraway look, as if in a trance.
I come to stand next to him and I hear him say,
Better than the ethics are the aesthetics of the ethical values tied to the aesthetical field of matter that’s intrinsically and scientifically impossible and godly possible.
When I hear him say that, something happens to me, something happens; my yin eye opens and I understand what he’s saying, I understand this foreign language.
When the king’s son awakens from his trance, he tells me that he felt as if his soul left his body and dipped into the pond to find the answer he was looking for, but he can’t remember what it was.
I tell him that I know the answer, that he spoke it out loud and said what he said. What does it mean, he wants to know. It means, Let them be.
Grackle #9 by Carly Weaver, contemporary
Gibberish! says the king, when I repeat the words his son spoke at the pond.
It’s pythian language, says the balcony woman; the language of an oracle.
Gibberish, I say! yells the king, and when he yells, the library we’re in gives a sudden jolt, and an ancient manuscript falls to the ground. There’s a rumble when the manuscript opens on its own and pages turn, and then it’s quiet and the manuscript is still.
Magic! we cry.
The balcony woman picks it up and reads,
On the sacred grounds of the god Op-Shiva, there will one day be a king’s son who will speak the sacred words of the gods; he will be known as the Oracle of Oi.
A man who knows the land and understands the pythian language will become his attendant, Attendant to the Oracle.
To the king whose son will be the future Oracle, I have these words to say,
Better than the ethics are the aesthetics of the ethical values tied to the aesthetical field of matter that’s intrinsically and scientifically impossible and godly possible.
Let them be.
The balcony woman closes the manuscript and waits for the King of Oi to speak.
The king says, I’ll let them be Oracle and Attendant, but not full time because we have a kingdom to run. Do we all agree?
We all agree, especially me. I don’t think my wife would want me to become full time religious.
Grackle #25 by Carly Weaver, contemporary
I leave the castle and drive home, and when I tell my wife all that happened, she asks me to repeat the details over and over again, and she touches my forehead.
How does it feel to have a yin eye, she wants to know.
I felt it in the forest, but I don’t feel it now, I tell her.
Is your secular side still intact? It doesn’t rob you of-
The only way to find out is to-
After we do, she says that the yin eye enhances my secular side; either that or I’m simply top notch on Fridays.
Grackle #27 by Carly Weaver, contemporary
I get up early, and she asks me why up so early on a Saturday. I tell her that the king’s son will be asking the gods about the grackle problem this morning.
Come back soon, she says, but doesn’t let go of my hand.
I remind her that she always tells me to do my Saturn first and then my Jupiter, remember?
True, she says, and lets go.
When I pick up the king’s son, the balcony woman comes up to the truck and hands us the tripod stool that an oracle traditionally sits on. She tells the king’s son to invoke the gods and to ask his question as he approaches the pond and before he falls into a trance. Then she wishes us good luck and we leave.
On our way to the pine forest, I ask the king’s son if he ever imagined that his interest in the gods would lead him to this.
Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine this, he says; never did I think that my serifs would transmit messages from the gods. I’m in such awe of it all.
Me too, I say.
The forest is quiet as we make our way to the pond, but when it comes into view, we hear a symphony of grackle calls and the king’s son bows his head and invokes the gods and asks his question.
When he falls into a trance, I gently sit him on the stool and stand by his side and wait.
My yin eye opens when he says,
Better than the ethics are the aesthetics of the ethical values tied to the aesthetical field of matter that’s intrinsically and scientifically impossible and godly possible.
The king’s son awakens from his trance and asks me what the answer is, and I tell him that it’s the same one as before, Let them be.
I guess we’ll have to let them be grackles, he says.
We walk back to my truck and there’s a grackle standing on the roof, and before he flies away, a golden eye between his eyes opens and gives us a wink.
Word about the oracular powers of the king’s son has spread throughout the kingdom, and there’s a crowd waiting outside the castle when we arrive. We get out of the truck and the crowd greets us,
Oi Oracle of Oi!
Oi to the Attendant of the Oracle!
What do the gods say about the grackle problem, they ask.
Let them be, says the king’s son; they are the sacred birds of the god Op-Shiva. They nest in the pine forest of Oi that lies on his sacred grounds.
Oi Op Shiva! they say with reverence.
The sun catches an open window in the castle, and the glimmer in his eye makes him look up. He sees the balcony woman looking at him from the king’s study, and he continues,
Use the fecal sacs like you would use guano; fertilize you roses with their nutrients in the spring, and watch them grown into what will be known as- as-
I quickly whisper what they will be known as in his ear, and he says,
as the Grackle Roses of the Kingdom of Oi!
People cheer and thank the king’s son and they leave, and we’re left standing together at the castle entrance.
We laugh and he wonders if the roses will be blue, and then he looks at me strangely and says, I just remembered that the Moon in Capricorn is your serif, and the moon’s been growing in Capricorn; a lunar return can open the yin eye.
I can see yours too, I tell him.
When I get into my truck, I’m surprised to see my wife in the passenger seat. She tells me that she came to the castle with the rest of the crowd to wait for us to come back from the forest. She hands me a rose and tells me that the balcony woman asked her to give it to me; it’s one of her grackle roses, she says. It’s beautiful, I say. She plays a lullaby as I drive us home and I have a feeling she’s about to reveal something important to me.
I look at her and say, Lunar returns can bring revelations.
She smiles and takes my hand.
Venus by Gustav Holst, 1914 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mp5gksq_OEI
Before I go to work, I honour the gods. I first drop by the well on the sacred grounds of Op-Pollo, then I go see the stacked rocks on the sacred grounds of Op-Maul, then I go to a gas station in lieu of Op-Shiva’s pine forest. I tried going to the pine forest a couple of times, but Op-Shiva’s birds don’t seem to want me there before work. Nothing happens if I go on weekends, but the times I showed up before work, an annoyance of grackles flew over me and I had to go home and change.
So now I go to a gas station instead; keeps my uniform clean. I figure, Op-Shiva’s ruled by Pluto and Pluto rules the riches that lie beneath the earth, so a gas station’s a good replacement. I’ve had some revelations standing there, a better understanding, you might say. Pluto doesn’t just rule what’s hidden beneath the earth, but the hidden side of things in general, the hidden side of you and the hidden side of me, the hidden side we cannot see.
I’m talking about soul is what I’m talking about. When I stand in contemplation at the gas station, and watch people fill up their gas tank, I see what I see in the light of the sun or in the light of the moon, but I cannot see the soul, the riches of the soul, what you’ve seen and what you’ve been through and what you have survived, if you know what I mean.
I always finish my morning contemplation with a bit of a stretch and a pull of the pants and a bit of a thought; time to dig, dig, dig; because Pluto’s the miner in us. Then I get in my car and drive to the castle.
Soul by Ugo Rondinone, 2019
When I get to the castle, I’m told to go to the king’s study; the king wants to see me. I walk into the study, and there’s the king and the king’s son. They tell me that I’m the only possible way word got out about the oracular powers of the king’s son; I was the one standing guard outside the library door on that revelatory day.
It certainly was revelatory, I say; I felt the jolt, and heard the rumble and the balcony woman’s words. I told my wife about it when I got home, and she knows not to breathe a word of what I say, but maybe she did.
Venus is transiting Gemini, says the king’s son; she makes us all more chatty and sociable.
Even so, I can’t keep anything from my wife; she has a way with me; she’s a Moon in Aries.
Oi! yell the king and the king’s son; that’s tough, and I agree; she’s hard to please, I say.
There’s something else we want to ask you, says the king; we’d like to use you for an experiment. We’re thinking of changing your name; ‘the guard who is my friend’ has become a bit too long now that we’re getting to know you better. We want to ask the gods what name they would suggest; we want to test them; make sure they don’t come up with the same answer-
‘Let them be’ has come up twice, I say.
Exactly! says the king.
Sure, I say.
Excellent, says the king’s son; I’ll make the arrangements and let you know.
Then the king tells me that the plumber’s coming and asks if I can take him around; they’re having plumbing problems in the castle.
Of course, I say, and when I say that, the plumber walks in.
The toilet by Urs Fischer, 2015
The plumber is a philosophical man, and while he tinkers with the pipes, I tell him the latest thoughts that rose from the gas station.
They didn’t rise from the gas station, he says; your soul descended into the underworld to retrieve them. The ancients thought of the underworld as the place where the soul descended to reflect on soul matters, things that happen to us, the past, the mysteries of life. It’s Pluto’s domain and it’s filled with his riches, but his riches don’t always come easy. He’s the guy who carves our soul so that we can find what really matters, dig where it really matters, make our souls richer with the things that matter to us most.
He asks me to pass him the wood chisel, and when I pass it to him, he says, the soul is made of earth and water; it’s melancholic. The spirit, on the other hand, is made of fire and air; it rises with optimism and opportunity and wants to break from the past and be free.
You just lightened the atmosphere with spirit, I say.
I’m glad, he says; now tell me, what’s this I hear about grackles and poop.
Their poop is a good fertilizer.
So the people of Oi are going to be mining for poop, he says.
They’re going to grow grackle roses with it, I say.
You by Urs Fischer, 2007
When I get home, my wife and I sit together in our snuggle chair, and she tells me about her day and I tell her about mine, and when I tell her about mine, I feel her tense up. She’s upset, I think to myself, and I try to raise her chin so that she’ll look at me, but she gets up and sits across from me and grows quiet. She’s not upset, I realize; she’s jealous; something’s made her jealous. I begin asking her questions, going one step at a time so that I don’t miss anything.
Honey, why don’t you join me on my sacred rounds tomorrow; I’d like you to see the gas station I go to.
No, she says.
Would you like to meet the plumber? Soul talk is his expertise.
Not really, she says.
How about an audience with the king or a tour of the castle; I’d join you.
I’ve done that already.
Then I know what it is, and I ask her, Would you like to see the king’s son as Oracle of Oi, asking the gods about my name change?
Can you arrange that?
I’ll see what I can do, I say, and she comes to sit beside me again, and I ask her if she told anyone about the jolt and the rumble in the library.
I told everyone, she says.
The things I tell you about work are confidential, remember? If you repeat them, I’ll stop telling them to you.
If you stop telling me, we won’t be able to snuggle in this chair anymore.
So don’t tell anyone anything I say; don’t tell them about my name change.
She slowly nods and then asks if I think the name change will change me, and I tell her that I don’t know, and she rests her head on my shoulder.
Our magic hour by Ugo Rondinone, 2003
I stand at the gas station the next day, and every time someone gets out of their car to fill up their gas tank, I look at them and try to see what’s hidden. At first, I only see what’s there in the light, what’s being presented to me, and then something shifts. It’s when I stop trying so hard that something shifts and I can see what was invisible to me before; I can see if a person’s exploring spirit or soul.
That person over there’s exploring spirit.
Sunrise, east, march by Ugo Rondinone, 2005
That person over there’s exploring soul.
Moonrise, east, october by Ugo Rondinone, 2005
I look at my watch and can’t believe the time; time to dig, dig, dig, and I drive to the castle.
At the castle, the king’s son tells me that we’ll be going to the pine forest tomorrow morning, and I ask him if my wife can come along. Sure, he says; the surveyor’s wife will be there too; they can keep each other company.
I look for the plumber who’s finishing up today, and describe to him what happened at the gas station. He asks me to pass him the wrench, and when I pass it to him, he says, You need to hold on to Saturn when you go too deep with soul or rise too high with spirit. Now tell me; what’s this I hear about a grackle rose competition?
No idea, I say.
The person who grows the most beautiful grackle roses will have their name printed on a plaque in the castle, he says.
My wife tells me more about it when I get home, and I can see by the look in her eyes that she’s going to mine this competition; she wants to win. Imagine if my name’s the first one on that plaque, she says.
I give her the news about my name change, that we’ll be going to the pine forest with the king’s son, the surveyor and his wife. I know her! she says; she’s expecting a baby.
She’s too excited to snuggle with me tonight, and she turns her music on and makes me dance, and I watch her spirit soar.
Sunrise, east, may by Ugo Rondinone, 2005
We drive to the pine forest in the surveyor’s truck, and the energy level is high with talk of the baby coming and my possible name change. When we get there, I suddenly remember that I’m going to be walking through the forest before work, and I tell them what happens when I do that. The surveyor suggests that I wear his helmet, and I put it on, and we find the trail that leads to the pond, and it happens; an annoyance flies over us, and I’m the only one the birds target, the only one they drop on.
That’s incredible! everyone says.
Not for me; my uniform’s ruined.
You should rinse it over your roses, says the surveyor’s wife.
moonrise, east, april by Ugo Rondinone, 2005
When the pond comes into view and we hear the symphony of grackles, the women and I stand aside, and the king’s son and the surveyor walk ahead. We watch them walk around the pond in slow motion, and we see the king’s son stop where there’s a tripod stool, and the surveyor gently sits him down.
We wait, and the king’s son says,
The spell of a name is the name of the spell that’s cast on the one who says it and hears it and spells it and therein heretofore and thereof names the spell again.
What does that have to do with me, I ask.
It’s garbled, says the surveyor’s wife; my husband will pull your name out of those words.
We see the king’s son talking to the surveyor and they make their way back to us.
El Caballero is your new name, the surveyor tells me.
You’re a knight! my wife says, and she wants to hug me, but I’m in need of a change of clothes.
When we walk back to the truck, the mood is quiet and reflective. I feel my cells absorbing my new name and changing to accommodate its meaning. ‘El Caballero’ has the potential to become the friend of a lot of people; it could potentially walk me out of this story. Just when the thought of that becomes overwhelming, my wife holds my hand.
Let’s ask them to drop us home, she says.
Love invents us by Ugo Rondinone, 1999
At home, she rinses my clothes over her roses, and I change and go back to the castle.
The king thanks me for participating in the experiment and congratulates me on my new name.
How does it feel, he asks me.
I feel like a different man, I say; my own man.
Excellent! says the king.
I take a moment to look at my chart; Pluto’s in my seventh house, in the house of partnerships, and that’s where I’ve been mining all along as ‘the guard who is my friend.’ Really, ‘El Caballero’ isn’t much different; it’s just bigger. I feel my spirit soar over my new name, but I do my Saturn, like the plumber said; hold on to Saturn.
Back at home, my wife snuggles with me and asks if I could go to the pine forest every couple of days to bring her some guano, and even though she’s in my seventh, where I dig-dig-dig, I say, No way. But the moment I say that, the plumber’s words come back to me; Pluto’s riches don’t come easy.
I look at my wife who’s now sitting across from me, and I tell her that I’ll do it.
Moonrise, east, august by Ugo Rondinone, 2005
When her grackle roses win first prize, and they ask her the name she wants printed on the plaque, she says,
El Caballero’s wife
El Caballero of Oi
I let go of Saturn and walked out of the previous story; I needed a story of my own.
My wife in the previous story said that my name had awakened Jupiter in my chart and was asking for a quest.
The plumber in the previous story said that my name had awakened Neptune in my chart and was asking for enchantment.
When the king’s son asked me what was I going on a quest for, and I didn’t have an answer, the king told us about the juju.
Once upon a time, there was a juju in the Kingdom of Oi, he said.
What’s a juju, we asked him.
An object with magical properties; that’s all we know about it, and that it went missing. Why don’t you go on a quest for the lost juju of the Kingdom of Oi?
Why not, I said.
When I told the plumber about my quest, he asked me if I was sure I didn’t want to hold on to Saturn.
Every time I hold on to him, he puts me back in the previous story, I told him.
I see, he said; then make sure you hold on to some other planet when you need direction, because Neptune alone can be pure fantasy.
He asked me to pass him the socket wrench, and when I did, he warned me, Neptune can make the longing for the juju more appealing than the juju itself.
Knight in shining armour by Tom Shropshire, 2015
I set off on my journey and travel along the river of our kingdom which is the river of many kingdoms, and when it’s no longer the River of Oi, I hear someone cry,
Help! Somebody help me!
I look around and see movement in the bush, and I grab my sword and cut through the bush, and when I reach a clearing, there’s a woman of unusual beauty sitting on a picnic blanket.
Were you asking for help, I ask her.
Yes, she says.
I thought I’d play damsel in distress since you’ve chosen to play knight in shining armour.
Oh, I say.
She asks me to join her, and when I do, she tells me that she’s the daughter of the queen of these parts, and what about me. I tell her who I am and about my quest to find the missing juju of my kingdom.
She laughs and tells me that jujus are a myth.
Are they, I ask her.
They are, she says; why don’t you spend time with me instead, as my guest in our castle.
When she asks me that, the Neptune side of me that’s feeling enchanted wants to say, yes, but Venus interferes; she whispers that I must reject the offer. But I feel the love, I tell her, and she tells me that I may feel the love, but the unusual beauty’s not spiritually connected to me; she laughed at my quest and called jujus a myth.
I remember the plumber’s words about holding on to a planet for direction, and I ask Venus if I held on to her by accident. You didn’t, she says; I rose to help you like Athena helped Odysseus. Imagine going off course right at the beginning of your story.
So I tell the unusual beauty that I can’t stay; I need to carry on with my quest.
Must you, she asks me, touching my arm.
Not really, is what I’d like to say, but I must, is what I say.
When I get back on my horse, I think about why Athena helped Odysseus. I remember that Poseidon who is Neptune was angry at Odysseus for hurting his son the Cyclops, and a six week journey to Ithaca took ten years. Odysseus boasted about hurting the Cyclops, and Neptune didn’t like that; Neptune doesn’t particularly like heroes; he’s not the maker of heroes, he dismantles them. Odysseus returned to Ithaca with nothing; no men, no ships, no hero’s welcome. He sacrificed it all to become a wiser man, with-
With a really good story to tell.
I dismount from my horse, grab on to Uranus and my rebellious side, and go back to the clearing to take up the unusual beauty’s offer.
At the castle, the queen tells me that if her daughter said jujus were a myth, it was only to delay my journey; every kingdom has one; would you like to see ours?
I would, very much, I say.
She brings a string pouch, and from it, she takes out the kingdom’s juju. When she holds it, she closes her eyes and throws her head back dramatically, and then slowly brings it forward and opens her eyes again. She gives the juju to her daughter who does the same as she did, and then the juju is passed to the guards in the room who all do the same.
It’s like having a brief encounter with the divine, the queen says, and she asks me if I’d like to hold it. Yes, I say, and she gives it to me, but I don’t feel anything at all when it’s in my hand.
Jupiter whispers in my ear to play along; just do what they did; don’t disappoint them. But I’ve been holding on to Uranus, and Uranus tells me to tell them the truth; there’s no pretending with Uranus, no matter how sacred the object.
It’s very beautiful, I say, but I don’t feel anything.
Maybe you will tomorrow, says the queen.
But tomorrow comes, and the day after, and the day after that, and I still don’t feel anything when I hold it. In between juju sessions, I spend time with the unusual beauty who takes me around and shows me around. When I tell her that I should leave, she holds my arm and asks me to stay a little longer.
Then one day the queen’s personal guard pulls me aside and tells me that when she holds the juju, she doesn’t feel anything either.
Nothing, she says; I just do what’s customary.
But it’s supposed to have magical properties, I tell her.
Maybe you should ask what its magical properties are the next time you hold it, she says.
The following morning, I hold the juju in my hand, bring it close to my mouth and whisper, What are your magical properties?
The juju says, I speak the truth, and the truth is, you should leave this kingdom and get on with your quest.
I drop the juju and ask the queen if she heard that.
Heard what, she asks me.
I’m about to tell her, when I see the queen’s personal guard put a finger to her lips, and I say that I heard the buzz of a bee instead.
On my way out, the guard tells me that I should leave without announcing my departure, or the queen’s daughter will prevent it. Ride to the salt spring, she says.
I hold on to Mars, whistle for my horse and ride away.
Knight of the night by Hooshang Khorasani, 2020
I ask Mars where the salt spring is, and he tells me to first focus on getting out of here, and getting past that dragon up ahead. What dragon, I ask him, and then I see it, spitting fire on my left.
I’m not going to die, I say.
That’s the spirit, he says; get your shield ready; coming up on the left.
I raise my shield and ride unscathed, and then I see another dragon and another, and I ride past them with my shield at the ready, and keep my horse and myself intact.
This must be the kingdom of the spitting dragon, I say.
Ask that guy over there, says Mars.
Oi! I call out to the guy over there; what’s the name of your Kingdom?
Kingdom of the spitting dragon!
I gallop past it and into a lush and quiet forest, and I slow down to a trot, and then I hear a familiar cry,
Help! Somebody help me!
Stay on course, says Mars.
Don’t fall for that again, Venus tells me; look what happened the last time you didn’t listen to me; I had to get the queen’s personal guard to advice you on my behalf.
Help! Somebody help me!
You should at least go see if she’s okay, says the Moon; she does sound like she’s in a terrible mess; maybe a dragon’s keeping her captive.
If that’s the case and you free her, we could turn this into a hero’s journey, says the Sun.
Not when I’m in charge, says Neptune; don’t forget I dismantle heroes and make them serve a more useful purpose.
Bards are indeed useful, says Uranus.
Who put you in charge, the Sun asks Nep.
Might I remind you that El Caballero’s on a quest for a missing juju, says Nep; that’s why I’m in charge. If he were on a quest for a philosophy of life, for the meaning of life, then Jupiter would be in charge. But our knight in shining armour is looking for a missing juju that’s magical, and that’s my terrain. Plus he’s riding through dangerous enchantment, and that’s my department, and he’s on a horse, and I gave humanity the horse.
What! says the Sun.
Don’t you remember, Neptune asks the Sun; I was trying to create a salt spring, but when I aimed and threw my trident, a horse rose from the earth instead.
I must have had something to do with that, says Pluto.
Bottom line is that I’m in charge, says Nep.
Poseidon on a silver tetradrachm from Macedon, ca 300 BCE
Help! Somebody help me!
If you listen to her, you’ll be lost at sea again, says Venus.
The only way to find yourself is when you’re lost, when you trust my magic, says Neptune; I’m the one who bridges this world with-
Someone clears their throat.
The planets turn around and say, Merc! Where have you been!
Just finished a retrograde and now moving forward, says Merc; nobody, by the way, survives Neptune and his unbridled horses without me, not even Odysseus.
I hold on to Mercury and ask him to remind me what a salt spring is, and he tells me that it’s an access to the sea; Neptune is god of fresh water and the sea, he says; all you have to do is keep going until the river meets the sea.
Before I do that, I find a place to rest my horse and eat, and I hear her cry again,
Help! Somebody help me!
I don’t rush the way I did the first time; I walk to her and when I see her sitting on her picnic blanket, I ask her what brings her here.
I missed you, she says; come sit with me.
She offers me an apple, and Merc reminds me of Snow White, and I say, No thanks.
She offers me grapes, and Merc reminds me of Bacchus and inebriation, and I say, No thanks.
She offers me a drink, and Merc reminds me of Circe and her potions, and I say, No thanks.
Why don’t you just tell her that you don’t trust her and get it over with, says Uranus.
I don’t trust you, I tell her, and she laughs and laughs and slowly turns into one of those winged mythological creatures that can only be described with an invented word.
You look like my biggest nightmare, I tell her, and she opens her mouth and makes a horrific sound.
Mars tells me to take a step back, and when I do, the earth shakes and a sink hole appears behind me, and I’m stuck between my nightmare and the sink hole.
Throw your sword so that it pins her wing to the ground, says Mars, and I throw my sword and it pins her wing to the ground.
Throw you shield at her so that she loses her balance and falls, says Mars, and I throw my shield at her and she loses her balance and falls.
Take your armour off so that you can jump over the sink hole and get to your horse, says Mars, and I take my armour off, jump over the sink hole, and run to my horse and ride away; no sword, no shield, no armour.
I ride for days, and the day I smell sea salt in the air, I feel joyful and hopeful and can’t wait to go back home.
Did you just wish to go back home, Saturn asks me.
Leave him alone, Neptune tells Saturn; he’s not finished yet.
I ride for days, smelling sea salt in the air, and then comes the day when I hear seagulls, and the sea, and waves crashing against a rocky cliff, and voices so melodious that they draw me to them, voices so pure and lyrical that they promise to reveal the mysteries of the- of the afterlife!
Sirens! cries Merc; plug your ears, plug your horse’s ears!
I rip my t-shirt into pieces and plug our ears and make my horse gallop until we’re far and until we’re safe.
Poseidon’s throne by Sean Davey, contemporary
I dismount from my horse and stay there looking at the water and the magnificent waves, and then notice a person not far from me, and sense that he’d like to talk to me.
Oi! I say to him.
You must be El Caballero of Oi, he says to me.
How do you know my name, I ask him.
I heard it in a dream, he says; I often have vivid dreams, and in the dream where I heard your name, someone asked you to wait here in this place that is called Poseidon’s throne; wait to catch the jiji-
The juju, I correct him
Wait to catch the juju that will be thrown to you from the sea; be alert!
You’re a seer, I tell him.
Maybe so, he says.
I thank him and he walks away, and I stand alert, waiting, and then I have a vision like no other vision I’ve had before, and something’s thrown to me and I catch it without taking my eyes from the vision I know I may never have again; one moment it’s there and then it’s foam.
Neptune’s horses by Walter Crane, 1910
I hold the vision for as long as I can, and when it’s a memory tucked in every cell of my being, I look down, and there’s a string pouch in my hand. I open it and inside is a juju like the one I saw before, but this one’s wearing shades.
I hold it close to my mouth and say, Oi juju of Oi! What are your magical properties?
The juju says, I speak the truth, and the truth is, you should be getting home to your wife, your Moon in Aries. She usually can’t be still, but she’s been still, holding herself together knitting sweater after sweater, waiting for your return. She’s knitted a whole pile of them of every colour every shade; it’ll make up for sacrificing your sword, your shield, your armour. She’s hoping you’ll be back in time to help her fertilize her grackle roses, those-
I put the juju back in the string bag and tie it to the bridle of my horse, the bridle Athena gave us. I ride home the way she would have liked Odysseus to sail back to Ithaca, a journey that was only six weeks long. All the time, I hear the juju talking; it never stops, and I remember the plumber’s words; Neptune can make longing for the juju more appealing than the juju itself.
Knightshades by Will Bullas, 2017
I told him that I wouldn’t look good if he walked out to have his own story, and he said, Then come with me. That’s when I realized he wasn’t walking out on me; he really just needed to have his own story, and I considered coming along. But then he bought a sword, a shield and an armour, and a horse!
It’s your name, I said; it has awakened Jupiter.
The plumber thought different; he said it had awakened Neptune, because Neptune’s about going on a quest for something that’s vague. We can’t have a schedule or an itinerary because we don’t even know what we’re looking for. That’s Neptune; he suspends time; he doesn’t care about success or achievements; he cares about-
What does he care about?
He asks me to pass him the pipe; not the straight one; the p-trap over there; and when I pass it to him, he says, He cares about our connection to the gods.
So El Caballero may be gone longer than planned, I say.
Yes, he says; in the meantime, you’ll be like Odysseus’ Penelope, holding the fort while he’s away.
I like that, I say.
Then you should do what she did.
Weave a shroud by day and unravel it by night?
No, no, he says; better knit him some sweaters; I don’t see him wearing much when he returns.
Penelope by Thomas Ehretsmann
I sign up for a knitting class after he rides away on his horse, and that’s where I head to every day after work. A few weeks later, I’m part of a knitting club and have a new group of friends. We sit together and talk and knit and I tell them about the dream I’m having,
There’s a loom on an altar and I’m weaving a carpet that reaches the door of the chapel. Behind the loom, the yarn is tangled up and chaotic, and strings of yarn pour out through holes in the walls and cover the trees and the lawn outside.
You’re having Penelope’s dream, they tell me.
Penelope by Tatiana Blass, 2012
You mean you’ve heard of this dream before, I ask them.
We all had Penelope’s dream when we were initiated into knitting, they say.
What colour is the yarn in your dream, they ask me.
Red, I say.
You must have your Moon in Aries, they say.
Mine was yellow, and I have my Moon in Leo.
Mine was white, and I have my Moon in Cancer.
Mine was also red, like yours.
We always thank Penelope for her dream with our drums, they say, and they ask me if they can come over to my place for some drumming, and singing, and dancing, and I say, Yes.
One day, I come back home and find him asleep, in bed. I caress him and notice the changes in his body; he looks different, but it’s him.
He sleeps for days, as if he did not want to wake anymore, and I tell the king and the king’s son and the plumber, and they all come and sit by his bedside and talk to him. They tell him how good it is to see him, to have him back; they missed him. While he sleeps, tears roll down his cheeks, and the king tells him that it’s going to be okay; it’s going to be okay my friend, the king’s son tells him; and the plumber kisses his forehead and calls him son; you’re going to be okay, son; just rest, rest for now.
The day he wakes up, he calls my name,
I’m here, I say; right here, and we embrace.
Poem by Ugo Rondinone, 2006
Bit by bit he tells me his story, and how he rode back with the juju who wouldn’t stop talking.
Whenever we stopped to rest, I’d take him out of the string bag and pay attention to his words, he tells me.
What did he talk about?
Me; he knew my whole life; the games I played when I was a kid; my dream of becoming a knight-
Your dream came true, I tell him.
Yes; in a way that I could have never imagined.
Where’s the juju?
When we were a day’s ride from the kingdom, he asked me to put him back in the river that becomes the salt spring; I had to return him to Neptune.
For the next person who goes on a quest to find the missing juju of Oi.
What will the king say?
He already knows.
What about the plumber?
He knows too.
And the king’s son?
He’s probably next.
I tell him about my knitting and show him his sweaters, and he tells me that each one is a masterpiece. Then he asks me about my grackle roses, and I tell him that I didn’t join the competition this year.
She tells me that she didn’t join the grackle rose competition this year, but she’d love it if I could get her some guano, at least once, and I promise to go to the pine forest in the morning.
I wake up early, get ready for work, and drive to Op-Shiva’s sacred grounds. When I step inside the forest, I see a helmet lying on the ground and consider wearing it to save my hair. I pick it up and I’m about to put it on, when I see an annoyance flying my way, and I think to myself, What does it matter; what does it really matter. I hold the helmet in my hand and bow to the grackles with a flourish, and say, Bring it on grackles! They fly over me, and nothing happens; I straighten up and look at my uniform and it’s clean. Then I look at the helmet and it’s filled with their droppings; I’m holding a helmet-cup of guano. I look up to say, thank you, and I see him with his net, dancing in the sky, dancing the dance of the four directions.
Oi! Op Maul! I say.
Haha! he says; haha!
It’s good to be back.
Knight in shining armour by Dennis Chan, contemporary
The king’s son
The king’s son is looking at old pictures in the king’s library
Dad, how was I when I was a kid?
The king looks up from the manuscript he’s reading and says, Radiant.
Really? That’s not how I feel at all; I feel like my light’s fading, like I’m living under a shadow.
The shadow of the Op Trinity?
Do you want to change your name? You’re the Oracle; you can ask the gods.
The king’s son is silent; the idea doesn’t animate him
Why don’t you go on a quest to find your name, the king suggests.
Why not, says the king
I’m the king’s son! I’m the Oracle of Oi! I’ve got responsibilities!
That’s your Moon talking, your Moon binding you. You can take time off; go find your name. As a matter of fact, I’ve noticed that you don’t do the things you love anymore; you don’t ride your motorcycle anymore. Go find a name that awakens your Sun; he’s the creative force in your chart-
Rolls of thunder and grinding rain drown my dad’s words. I walk to the window, and as I walk toward it, all I can see is my own reflection. I open the window, and before me is a curtain of water that hides the kingdom from me; I could lose it by changing my name, by asking for more. A flash of lightning blinds me and I close my eyes to recover, and hear the rain abate. When I open my eyes again, I can distinguish the gardens below, the entrance to the castle, and a bright light outside; it’s someone on a motorcycle.
Oi! Who goes there! I ask.
Daphne! she says, and rides away.
It’s a sign, says my dad who’s come to stand beside me; Daphne was-
She was Apollo’s unrequited love, I say; destined to become the laurel tree, symbol of Apollo, god of the Sun.
He was god of the Sun, but not the Sun himself, he says. The Sun’s bigger and more central; he’s our day consciousness, and when the Sun sets, the Moon reflects his light and we have night consciousness. Of course, the Moon’s always waxing and waning and doing her thing, and consciousness at night takes on a more artistic and imaginative quality, but it’s consciousness nevertheless. Imagine having no consciousness at all at night!
That’s what happened to Apollo, dad; he fell in love and his consciousness went out the window; Eros beat the Sun god.
In a situation like that, the plumber would tell us to hold on to Saturn-
A crow comes to perch on the window sill right next to where my dad rests his hands, and my dad looks at the crow and finishes saying, Either that or ask the god Op-Pollo for help. Now tell me son, will you go on your quest?
I’m not sure, dad.
He tells me that he’s not sure, that he’ll think about it, and leaves the library. When he leaves, I reach to close the window and see a crow feather lying on the sill. I pick it up and ask El Caballero to tuck it somewhere on my son’s bike.
Radiant Baby by Keith Haring, 1990
I wake up the following morning and find the plumber tinkering in my bathroom; plumbing problems in the castle, he tells me. He asks me to pass him the flashlight, and when I pass it to him, he says, What’s this I hear about not feeling so radiant anymore?
My dad says I should go on a quest to find a name that will awaken my Sun.
A Sun quest is all about self-knowledge, he says.
I know who I am, I say.
In your mind you do, he says; but self-knowledge isn’t just in the mind; it’s in the heart. You should go dance with Apollo and the muses and get to know your heart, your wishes and your dreams and how you imagine yourself to be. I’m sure a name will come to you when you use your imagination.
I’m scared to leave, I whisper to him.
Then take this flashlight with you, he tells me, giving me his flashlight; it turns darkness into light. He gets up, puts his things away and says, I’m done over here; time for me to go see the balcony woman; her niece Daphne’s visiting-
Yes, that’s her niece; she visits every year and has me come over to do some repairs for her aunt.
Can I come with you?
You’re still in your pyjamas!
I’ll be ready in 5.
Untitled by Keith Haring, 1988
The balcony woman introduces me to Daphne and leaves us on the balcony, while she and the plumber go inside. I tell Daphne that I saw her at the gates of the castle the night of the thunderstorm, and I ask her what brought her there.
I came to see the Oracle of Oi, she says; but got caught in the rain, and when it cleared, it was too late and I was too wet.
I’m the king’s son and the Oracle of Oi, I tell her.
Yes, I know that now; my aunt told me.
I ask her if she has a question for the gods, and she says, I want to ask them if I’ll ever be able to love someone.
What do you mean?
Do you know the story of Apollo and Daphne, she asks me. I nod and she continues, I think Eros pierced my heart with the arrow that routs love, just like he did Daphne, the water nymph. Because every time someone’s interested in me from afar, I’m okay; but as soon as they come close, I run away.
Are you afraid that you’ll turn into-
I don’t know what I’m afraid of. All I know is that when someone who’s interested in me comes close, my body takes off.
It’s like you’re caught in the myth, I say.
My aunt teases me and says that one day, someone will come and break the spell.
I tell her that I’m make the arrangements for us to go to the pine forest, and she thanks me for listening and taking her seriously. Of course, I say; we all have our troubles.
What’s yours, she asks me.
I look at her and know that I can trust her, and I tell her what’s troubling me, and what I’m afraid of.
The king’s son and the Oracle of Oi are not proper names, she says; they’re descriptions of who you are, and it’s true, they bind you to the kingdom. You’re afraid that a proper name will unbind you, but what if it just gives you your own style, your own way of doing things.
There are changes I’d like to make, but my descriptions tie me to tradition, I say, and I rise feeling energized all of a sudden.
Wait, she says, sitting me back down, Do you think that if I changed my name from Daphne to something else, I’d be free of the water nymph’s myth?
I don’t want you to change your name, I tell her.
I’d like you to have your own, she tells me.
Untitled by Keith Haring, 1989
I walk back to the castle thinking, Daphne, Daphne, Daphne, Daphne, and I walk into the closed gates.
Oi! cries my dad who’s walking in the gardens; where’s your consciousness!
When I tell my dad about Daphne, he tells me that I’m in serious trouble, What if she senses that you’re falling in love with her, and she runs away?
I’m in serious trouble, dad.
Get a hold of yourself, son, and make the arrangements with the Attendant to go to the pine forest.
I’m picking her up on my motorcycle, dad.
You shouldn’t, son; she may put her arms around you, and bodies transmit messages. You should wait until after the gods answer her question.
As difficult as it is, I listen to my dad, because I’m afraid to lose her. It’s easier when I step inside Op-Shiva’s sacred grounds and become the Oracle, a vessel of the gods. When the pond comes into view and I hear the symphony of grackle calls, I bow my head and invoke the gods and ask them Daphne’s question; Will she be able to love someone; will she stop running away from love. I fall into a trance and feel my soul dip into the pond and find the answer, and when I awake, the Attendant says,
Daphne will love a man who carries her great great great, great great great, great great great grandfather’s name.
There’s hope for me! she says when she hears this, and she hugs the Attendant and me. I’m going to have to work on my family tree; I’m going to have to remember my unremembered dead.
When we drop her off at the balcony woman’s house, she says goodbye, and she promises to have the name of the man she’s going to love by the time I come back from my Sun quest.
Keith Haring Sun Tarot
You look forlorn, son. Did she run-
No, she didn’t; she’s oblivious to my feelings; she hugged the Attendant and me the same.
I tell my dad all about it, and he says, Go find your name; maybe it’ll match the one she digs up of her ancestor.
So that’s what I do; I pack a few things and leave.
I let my motorcycle take me; I let it lead the way not really caring where I go, and my mind goes blank. I’m lost in space until a crow feather covers one of my eyes and startles me and brings me back in time to see that I’m about to go over a cliff. I pull the brakes and yell, Op-Pollo! and my bike stops inches before going over. I get off my bike and stumble to the ground, and I see that I’m on the cliff overlooking Op-Maul’s sacred grounds. I haven’t even left the kingdom yet; I must have been going in circles; I need my consciousness back!
You sure do, says Merc; why don’t you tuck the feather in your helmet so that you can see it from the corner of your eye. That’s like having Saturn watching you.
Yeah; and now back up from this cliff and lead the way, says Mars.
I lead us out of the kingdom and into the forests of other kingdoms, and when the sun begins to set, I find a place to rest. I roll out my sleeping bag, lie down and miss my bed. Maybe I should look for an inn-
Stay put and get some rest, says Mars; you’re going to need it.
It would be nice to have a nice warm bed to snuggle in, says Venus.
I hear something, says Mars.
I hear something coming toward me, rustling the leaves on the ground, crawling, and I call out, Who goes there! and whoever goes there hisses in reply-
Get your flashlight, says Merc, and I get my flashlight and turn darkness into light and-
Run for your life! says Mars; faster! You can run faster than that!
Snake chasing radiant man
The snake chases me all night and when dawn’s about to break and I’m about to collapse, Mars says, A quiver full of arrows would come in handy in a situation like this.
That’s how Apollo killed the python that wouldn’t let him establish his Oracle at Delphi.
Why wouldn’t the python let him, I ask.
Because he was used to giving oracles himself.
I feel a jolt and sudden flash of inspiration and I stop running.
Why are you stopping! Run! yells Mars.
Wait, I say, and turn around to face the snake, shining the flashlight in his eyes.
Oi to the Snake Oracle! I say.
Hiss, he says, closing his eyes.
The light’s bothering him, says Merc.
I take a step forward and the snake crawls back, and I take another step forward and the snake crawls back, and we keep doing this until I reach my bike, and I say to the snake,
Oi to the Snake Oracle! Lead me to Apollo and the muses!
The snake slithers where there’s a path and I get on my bike and follow the snake.
Good thinking, bro, says Mars.
That wasn’t me, says Merc.
T’was me, says Uranus.
The snake leads me to a clearing in the forest that is illuminated in golden light and I stop my bike, and the snake disappears. I hear music and lively voices and walk toward them, and there’s Apollo dancing with the muses. I watch them and know what it is to be alive and joyful and full of spirit. When Apollo sees me, he says, Oi to the king’s son who’s come in search of his name, and I say, Oi to Apollo, god of the Sun.
Dance of Apollo with the nine muses by Baldassare Peruzzi, 1500
So you’ve fallen in love with a Daphne, like I once did, he says.
Yes I have, but she’s caught in the water nymph’s myth.
He laughs and says, Every Daphne is, until a man with my spirit comes along. You see, my Daphne was destined to be the laurel tree, but no other Daphne is; no other Daphne runs away from me.
Then I need the spirit of the god of the Sun, I say, and the god of the Sun snaps his fingers and holds a flame and says, This is my spirit that I give to you.
He holds the flame to the crown of my head and then to my heart and calls me, Phoebus, which in the language of the gods means to be radiant. He says, Phoebus, son of the King of Oi and Oracle of Oi.
Caw! Caw! Caw!
The god of the Sun looks up to see the crow cawing, and says, Op-Pollo! Do you always have to interrupt my ceremonies! You’re such a party pooper!
The crow lands on the ground and transforms into the god Op-Pollo, and Apollo embraces him.
What would you do without me, brother, Op-Pollo says to Apollo.
What would I do without you, brother, Apollo says to Op-Pollo; you saved me when I fell in love with Daphne and my consciousness went out the window.
I saved Phoebus too, says Op-Pollo, looking at me; he almost fell off a cliff.
I bow my head and hold my hands together and say, Oi! Op-Pollo!
When I look up again, the clearing is now a forest, and the crow is perched on a branch, still looking at me.
I’d say that’s a clear sign to leave, says Merc.
I agree; time to go home, says Mars.
Untitled by Keith Haring, 1987
I ride my motorcycle with my full consciousness on; I feel it in my head, my heart, my fingers tips, my toes, my bones; it’s exploding out of my body-
It’s seeping into your motorcycle, says Merc; I’ve never seen your motorcycle respond to you this way before.
This is getting intense, says Venus.
He’s ready to mate, says Mars.
When I get to the balcony woman’s house, I stand beneath the balcony like a Romeo and call her,
She comes to the balcony and asks me,
Who are you?
Phoebus! I say.
She screams and runs back into the house, and I’m thinking that I blew it, that I’ve lost her, that I’m a-
She bursts out of the front door, jumps into my arms, and tells me that Phoebus was her great great great, great great great, great great great grandfather’s name.
A winner, says the Sun; you’re a winner.
I carry her to my motorcycle and say, Let’s go tell my dad.
I can’t believe you just said that, says Merc.
Who carries a girl and says, Let’s go tell my dad, says Mars.
She wraps her arms around me and we ride to the castle, and my body talks to her body and her body talks to my body, and when we stop at a red light, we see an inn, and she holds me tighter.
Wait for the light to change, says Saturn.
Wait, says Saturn again.
Won’t be long, says the Sun.
If anyone else had asked me not to change my name the way he did, I would have run away, but I didn’t; my body stayed calm; it recognized his.
That night, I saw the dream I’ve always had differently. The woman in my dream wasn’t running away terrified; she was running away the way that I’ve been running away, unable to control her body. When the man in my dream reaches her and she turns into the laurel tree, she knows that was her destiny, to give the god Apollo his crown and his medicine.
My aunt called it a Jupiterian dream; the revelations some of us seek so desperately during our lifetime are finally revealed when we die.
She called it Pluto’s dream before, when I focused on the fear and the metamorphosis. This time she said I spoke of knowledge, the ultimate knowledge that comes when we look back at life.
Why don’t you grow a laurel tree, she suggested, and the day I saw the king’s son leave the kingdom on his motorcycle, I planted the tree right next to where he’d stand like a Romeo and call my name, and tell me his.
I already knew my great great great, great great great, great great great grandfather’s name the day he left. My aunt told me that I carry my ancestor’s name in my surname, Daphne Phoebus.
Now my Phoebus is asleep by my side, and I run my fingers through his hair, and I know that I’ll make him a chaplet of laurel each time he goes to the pine forest to give an oracle.
When he wakes up, he’ll tell me his story and I’ll tell him mine, and we’ll go to the castle to tell his dad and my aunt who will also be there.
She’s always there, isn’t she, he says.
She goes there often, I say.
I see them make a left turn and park at the inn, and then I look at the balcony woman’s house and she’s there on her balcony. She looks at me and waves with the arm I’ve come to know so well.
I wave at her to come over to the castle, and she tells me that she’ll be here in 5. While I wait for her, I check to see where the Moon is today. The balcony woman is teaching me the language of the Moon.
It started off when I began paying attention to how she greets me; she says, Oi King of Oi, and then tells me where the Moon is. I began to notice a pattern between the location of the Moon and her behaviour.
We usually sit side by side in the library to read and decipher old manuscripts, and when the Moon’s in Aries, she doesn’t like it when my arm touches hers. The hair on your arm is tickling my arm, she’ll say, and I’ll give her more space.
When the Moon’s in Taurus, and the hair on my arm tickles her arm, she’ll rub her arm to take the tingle away, but then she’ll put it right back next to mine and doesn’t complain.
When the Moon’s in Gemini, she can’t keep still. She’ll touch my arm when she’s clarifying something or expressing a point, and when she’s reading, she’ll play with the hair on my arm, which drives me mad; I can hardly concentrate.
She’s possessive when the Moon’s in Cancer and glues her arm to mine. It makes me want to hold her hand and close that final gap, but I’m afraid that if I do, she’ll unglue her arm altogether. So I don’t risk it; I just savour the warmth of our arms so close together.
She’s sometimes flirtatious when the Moon’s in Leo, and sometimes sensitive. Either way, she lets my fingers touch hers, briefly, and then again.
The last time the Moon was in Virgo, she noticed that my skin was dry, especially around the elbow. She checked my other arm too and said the same. So she took a cream that she carries in her purse and moisturized my arms, and boy oh boy.
When the Moon’s in Libra, I try asking her if she would consider- if she’d be my- my- She gets nervous waiting for me to find the right word, which I am too, and she elbows me to pay attention to the text we’re working on.
I don’t know what her arm’s like when the Moon’s in Scorpio or any of the other signs, because after I try asking her to be my wife when the Moon’s in Libra, she doesn’t come back to the castle until the Moon’s in Aries, and when the Moon’s in Aries, the chase begins again.
Untitled by Keith Haring, 1983
When she walks into the library, she says, Oi king of Oi, and before she can tell me where the Moon is, I say,
The Moon’s in Scorpio, and this is the first time you’ve come here when the Moon’s there.
That’s because the Moon in Scorpio is an all or nothing Moon, she says.
All or nothing, I repeat, trying to understand what she means.
Relationship or no relationship at all, says Venus.
Either way, it’s the end of the chase, says Merc.
Tell her that you hope it’s all, says the Moon.
I hope it’s all, I say.
Then she shows me what her arm does when the Moon’s in Scorpio; she reaches for me. I run to her, take her hand and then take her in my arms, and we close the gap at last.
When the Moon’s in Sag, her arm’s adventurous and exploratory and we have fun. We begin making plans, and when the Moon’s in Capricorn, I show her the engagement ring and she shows me her ring finger.
She has second thoughts when the Moon’s in Aquarius, and won’t let me touch her arm. She tells me that she doesn’t want to give up her name and become the castle woman. I tell her that she doesn’t have to; we’ll build a balcony that wraps around the castle so that she can keep her name.
What about the olive tree, asks Daphne.
We can transplant it, says Phoebus.
No, I’m keeping my house, she says; I’ll marry you but I’m not moving in.
Oh no, I say.
When the Moon’s in Pisces, she changes her mind about keeping her house and her arm clings to mine, and we make love, and after that,
we watch a movie.
Untitled by Keith Haring, 1989
We finish the movie and he asks me, What went through your mind all those times when the Moon was in Scorpio and you stayed away.
Something held me back, I tell him. I didn’t understand what it was until the day Phoebus rode away with Daphne. I watched them from my balcony, and then saw you looking at me from the castle, and knew that I was now free to choose all.
Some things had to happen first, he says.
The things that had to happen first held me back, I say.
Untitled by Keith Haring, 1989
My balance isn’t so good, never was. I went from a tricycle, to a bicycle with training wheels, to a three wheeled motorcycle; it was a natural progression, especially when you consider that I couldn’t tolerate wearing socks or shoes. I could have kept on going with the training wheels on my bicycle or even an adult tricycle, but try pedalling without socks and shoes when you grow up and you’ll know why I ended up riding a trike. I take off with my bare feet resting comfortably on the foot rests, and my balance secured by the two wheels in the back.
We’ve got to look back to understand the things we do now. So when people tells us not to look back, they’re not interested in getting to know us. That’s my ongoing philosophy.
If someone says to me, Oi! I love your trike!
And I say, You know, my balance isn’t so good, never was. I went from a tricycle, to a bicycle with training wheels, to this beautiful trike; It was a natural progression, especially when you consider that-
And they cut me off and say, Oi! Don ‘t look back, man; just keep on going.
I know they’re not interested in getting to know me.
The king’s father was interested. I’d go to the castle with my dad who was the plumber of the Kingdom of Oi before me, and the king’s father would drop by and talk to us. Why are you barefoot, he’d ask me, and my dad would tell him that I couldn’t tolerate anything on my feet. Neither can Op-Pollo, the king’s father would say, and he’d give me stories to read about the ancient god Op-Pollo while my dad did his work. That’s how I got to know that Op-Pollo loves to feel the earth beneath his feet.
If the king’s father saw me crying, he’d ask me, Why are you crying, and my dad would tell him that I was upset because I couldn’t balance myself on a bicycle. Op-Maul doesn’t like limitations either, the king’s father would say, and he’d give me stories to read about the ancient god Op-Maul and his love of action.
After that, my dad put training wheels on my bicycle and padded the pedals; he helped me add adjustable panels that would help me go with the wind or cut through the wind.
What’s that you’re doing to your bicycle, the king’s father would ask me, and I’d tell him that I was trying to make it more aerodynamic. Op-Shiva likes to change things too, he’d say, and he’d give me stories to read about the ancient god Op-Shiva and his magic.
Then I grew up and bought my trike and felt ready to know more than I already knew, and that’s when I had a vision.
Can he see me, Jupiter asks the others.
He just called you a vision. says Saturn.
At first, I thought it was a kite.
Flap your wings so he doesn’t think you’re a kite, says Uranus.
Jupiter flaps his wings
That’s better, says the Sun.
Then I knew it was angel.
Icons 3 by Keith Haring, 1990
I rush home to tell my mom.
Mom, I just had a vision; I saw an angel in the sky.
Sit down, plum, she says, and I sit by her side.
She pulls out my birth chart and shows me Jupiter in my twelfth house. He’s a guardian angel when he’s in the twelfth, she says; but not everyone sees him. You, however, have a religious bent-
I saw the shrine in your closet, the shrine to the ancient gods.
I know the stories, plum! The crow is Op-Pollo’s sacred bird; the effigy is Op-Maul, and the icon you painted is Op-Shiva’s yin eye.
Mom! You’re not allowed in my room!
I was dusting the house; I didn’t think about it; I just went in to dust and saw your shrine and thought, How beautiful.
Don’t go back in!
Now what do I do?
Jupiter is strong in your chart, but Mercury’s the ruler, and Mercury keeps our stories flowing and moving along by bringing us messages. Maybe your destiny is to be a messenger of the gods.
You still haven’t told me what to do.
Savour the moment, she says.
I go up to my room and look out the window at the sky and remember the angel. I take a canvas and paint the angel, and I lean the canvas against the window sill across from my bed, and I go lie down to watch it dry. I turn my music on, a gregorian chant that lulls me to sleep.
Now’s a good time, the Moon tells Neptune, and together they weave a dream.
I dream of the angel telling me where to bury Op-Pollo’s crow, Op-Maul’s effigy and Op-Shiva’s icon, and I tell the angel that I hope I remember when I wake up, and I wake up and hear my mother knocking on the door, and she peeks in and tells me that the king’s father has sent a message. His son, the future king is going to journey across the whole kingdom and wants me to accompany him. He needs an immediate answer, she says, and I look at her and nod, and fall back asleep.
I wake up before daybreak and pack the items that make up my shrine. I find a shovel and my dad’s flashlight, and then I go to the foyer where my mother once left me a pair of sandals.
The priests of Egypt used to go barefoot, she told me; but on special occasions and when their feet might get hurt, they wore sandals like these, made of papyrus.
Put them on, says Saturn; I’m in Sag in your birth chart and anything made for a priest won’t hurt your feet.
I put them on and feel no pain no discomfort, and I leave the house and let my feet lead the way.
I come to a place in the peripheries and see leaves that form an X on the ground, and I dig a hole where the leaves are and-
That’s where you bury the crow, says Saturn.
I place the crow inside the hole with the earth beneath its feet, and then I cover the crow with the dug up earth and the earth with the leaves and walk away.
I walk to a cliff and see a rivulet of water that rises from the ground close to the edge and pours over the cliff and-
Let Op-Maul’s effigy go down the rivulet, and where it lands by the escarpment is where you bury it, says Mars, and that’s what I do.
I walk to the pine forest after that and come to a pond and walk around it, and I see a ribbon snake scurry away and cross the surface of the water and-
That’s a good place for it, says Pluto.
I bury the small copy I made of Magritte’s eye where the snake left its mark on the ground.
The false mirror by René Magritte, 1929
I leave the pine forest and make my way to the castle, and all along, I see yellow warblers fly and they bring to mind my angel. When the castle comes into view, so does a gaggle of geese, and one of them leaves the group and runs toward me flapping its wings. I’m about to get out of its way, when something that glints and glimmers in its beak catches my eye and I wait for it to reach me. When it does, it touches my hand with its beak and I open my hand to receive a gold coin. I look at the goose and ask if it’s for me and the goose flaps its wings and then turns around to join the others. I tuck the coin away and continue my way.
The guards tell me that the king’s father and the future king are waiting for me in the study and that’s where I go.
Oi to the king’s father and the future king of Oi! I say.
That’s the problem with not having names, says the king’s father. Since my son is the king at the beginning of this story, best to call him the young king, and me, the old king.
Noted, old King of Oi, I say.
The old king tells me that the people of Oi are complaining about the young king; they say he’s a recluse, more interested in the old manuscripts than in the affairs of the kingdom. They worry whether he’ll be a good king in the future. So, he says to me; you’ll accompany the young king to every sector of our kingdom where he’ll prove that he’s affable and fit to rule.
I’d much rather go on a quest for the meaning of life, dad, says the young king, and when he says that, a goose bursts through the open window and lands on the study floor. Something glints and glimmers in its beak, and once it ruffles itself up, it waddles to the young king and deposits a coin in his hand.
For me, the young king asks the goose, and the goose honks.
What magic is this! cries the old king.
Op-Shiva’s magic, I tell the old king, and show him my coin.
Oi! Op-Shiva! says the old king, and then he tells his son, Go on your quest; maybe that’s what you need, a quest that will awaken your Jupiter. You need a strong Jupiter to share with others all that you’re learning from the old manuscripts.
The old king then asks a guard to escort the goose to the castle gates.
Meidum Geese, wall painting from the tomb of Nefermaat, 4th dynasty, old kingdom of Egypt
The day our journey begins, the young king and I decide to set off on foot, and he’s quiet for hours and hours until I ask him,
What are you thinking?
I’m pondering on certain matters.
Origins; we can’t change our origins. There’s no point in my asking who would you have been were you not the plumber’s son or who would I have been were I not the old king’s son, because we can’t change our origins.
You got a point there. What else were you pondering about?
Who I want to be, he says; within the limits imposed by my origins.
Who do you want to be?
A scholar king, he says.
What do scholars to?
They study the past-
No better way to understand the present, I say. My ongoing philosophy is that if you want to get to know me, you’ve got to get to know my past.
Who do you want to be, he asks me.
A guru, I say.
A guru! What do gurus do?
They initiate people into the next stage of their lives by giving them a key-
How are you going to do that as the plumber of the kingdom?
I haven’t figured that out yet.
Help! Somebody help me!
Cries for help! says the young king, running to where the cries are coming from, and I run after him.
We see a woman chasing a goose, and she says, My goose is getting away! Help me catch him!
What do you want the goose for, the young king asks her.
Food! she says.
Don’t kill the goose! we tell her.
What will I eat! she says; help me catch my goose!
Here, I say, giving her my gold coin; feed yourself with this, but don’t kill the goose.
She asks us if we’re gods in disguise, and we tell her that we’re not.
Why do you think we’re gods, the young king asks her.
There’s a story of Jupiter and Mercury going around a village in disguise asking for hospitality, she says. Nobody would give them any, except for an old couple. The old couple offered the gods whatever food and drink they had, and were about to kill their only goose, when the goose flew to Jupiter’s lap for protection. The gods told the couple not to kill the goose and revealed their true identity. They thanked the couple for their hospitality and left them a gold coin.
Mercury and Jupiter with Philemon and Baucis by Peter Paul Rubens. 1630
Before we leave, the woman thanks me for the coin; she says it reminded her of the story of the gods, and she won’t be killing any geese anymore.
You just gave her the key to the next stage of her life, the young king tells me.
I ponder about this until we reach a mountain.
Let’s climb it, says the young king; Jupiter lives on a mountaintop; perhaps I’ll find the meaning I’m looking for up there.
We begin to climb and when we’re half way up, a honking goose passes us in a hurry and we hear a man asking for help,
Help me catch that goose!
When the man reaches us, we tell him to let the goose go.
But that’s my lunch! he says.
Let me tell you a story, says the young king, and he tells the man the story of Mercury and Jupiter with some added elaboration. He tells the man that when Mercury and Jupiter sat in disguise at the old couple’s table, the old couple served them wine and the jug of wine kept refilling itself. The old couple grew suspicious and the husband whispered to his wife, What if they’re gods? We should kill the goose, the wife whispered back, and she went to get the goose but the goose took refuge on Jupiter’s lap. That’s when the gods revealed their true identity and told the old couple not to kill the goose. Buy some food with this gold coin instead.
The young king gives his gold coin to the man and the man sees the young king’s ring and says, Oi young king of Oi! Protector of geese. I’m a bard and shall sing your praises and spread the word to the people of Oi not to kill the geese.
When the man leaves, the young king chuckles and says, That went pretty well, don’t you think?
It did, I say with a chuckle myself; you’re beginning to share your scholarly knowledge.
Mercury and Jupiter in the house of Philemon and Baucis by Jacob van Oost, 17th century
We continue our climb and when we reach the top, the view is breathtaking.
This view is worth living for, says the young king.
We spend a couple of days on top of the mountain in contemplation, and I ask the king if he’s found meaning.
I’ve found beauty, he says.
Me too, I say; it’s beautiful and peaceful up here, but the work’s down there.
We make our way back down and when we reach the ground, we see a woman standing outside her house, asking for help,
Help! I need a plumber!
What’s the matter, we ask her.
My toilet’s clogged, she says.
What did you eat, we ask her.
A goose, she says.
I tell her that I can help her if she gives me a bucket of hot water and a plunger, and when she does, I get to work, while the young king tells her the story of the gods and changes the ending. He doesn’t say that the gods left the old couple a gold coin; instead, he says that the gods told the old couple that they would grant them a wish because they were the only ones in the village to show them hospitality. We don’t want to be separated, said the old couple; even after we die. Your wish will be granted, said the gods; now make your way to the highest point in the village and don’t look back until you reach the top.
I flush the toilet to make sure that the water clears, and the young king continues,
When the old couple reached the top and turned around, the village was flooded and all that stood above the water was the temple of the gods.
We’re good to go, I tell the young king, and before we leave, the woman thanks us and says, I’ll be sure never to eat a goose again.
Philemon and Baucis by Ron Orpitelli, 2020
We initiated her into the next stage of her life, her goose free life, without a coin, I say.
Asking her for the plunger did it; the plunger was the key, the young king says.
I think it was ending the story with a flood; the flood was the key.
I didn’t even know I was going to end it with a flood until you flushed the toilet, he says.
Mercury and Jupiter are travelling with us, I say.
They’re an ensemble, he says.
You bet we are, says Jupiter.
I’m the one making sure you pay attention to what’s important on this journey, says Merc.
I’m the one helping you develop your gifts, to become the scholar king and the guru you want to be, says Jupiter.
We continue the quest for meaning and walk through every sector of the kingdom, and sometimes we climb a mountain to get a higher perspective, and then climb back down again.
One day we hear the bard sing the story that they young king of Oi told him, of the gods and the old couple, with a warning not to kill the geese of Oi. In the story he includes the coin, the wish and the flood, and ends it this way,
When the flood waters receded, the old couple made their home in the temple, and when they died, they died in each other’s arms, and the gods turned them into vines, and the vines grew around the entrance columns of the temple and intertwined to form an arch above.
Good ending, I say.
Time to go home, the young king says.
A bread seller holding a basket full of buns overhears the young king and says, Bread for the journey?
Two please, the young king says and extends his hand to pay for the buns, and the bread seller sees his ring and says, No charge for the young King of Oi and his companion.
When the castle comes into view, we get hungry and bite into our buns and when we do, something glints and glimmers inside.
We got our coins back! says the young king.
They’re different, I say; they’re engraved; look!
There’s a goose on each coin, and we bow our heads and hold our hands together to the gods.
Op-Shiva’s magic, whispers the young king.
He was the bread seller, I whisper back.
The old king greets us at the castle gates and asks what’s that we’re holding, and we show him the coins, and he says, The goose must have given meaning to your quest.
It did, we say; it was all about the goose.
He then tells us that the juju of the Kingdom of Oi is missing and-
What’s a juju, we ask.
I’m not quite sure, says the old king; I was going to see it for the first time this morning and it’s missing. Some say it’s a relic-
Relics are my department, says Jupiter.
Others say it’s a music box that’s enchanted in some way-
That’s my department! says Neptune.
A magical relic, perhaps, the old king concludes.
We’ll find the missing juju, we say; we’ll go on a quest for the missing juju of Oi.
When I tell my dad about the quest, he disapproves and says that it’s time I began my plumbing apprenticeship, and my mom intervenes and tells him to let me go; I may not get this chance again.
What will you be questing for, they ask me.
The missing juju of Oi, I tell them.
An orphic quest, they say.
What’s an orphic quest, I ask them.
Questing for something that’s gone missing, they tell me.
You’ll be travelling on a full moon, says my mom; you should take your music to appease whatever the full moon awakens.
That’s right, says my dad; a full moon can awaken strong emotions, passionate love, and most of all, lunacy.
You’re scaring him, says my mom.
He does scare me; a feeling of apprehension envelops me and I pack my gregorian music before I head out to the castle to meet the young king. We set out on foot and aren’t sure in which direction to go, when suddenly, a ferocious dog appears in front of us and chases us all the way to the River of Oi. When we get to the river, the dog stands still and barks and barks at us, and we decide to walk along the River of Oi that is the river of many kingdoms.
Untitled by Keith Haring, 1982
What was that about, says the young king, out of breath.
That was me getting your heart going and putting you on the right path, says Mars.
The full moon awakens lunacy, I say, and then I ask him if he’s heard of Orpheus. My parents called going on a quest for something that’s missing an orphic quest.
Orpheus, son of Apollo and the muse Calliope, fell in love with the mortal Eurydice. She got bitten by a snake and died and Orpheus went looking for her in the underworld. He played music on his lyre that rekindled the love between Pluto and Persephone, king and queen of the underworld, and Pluto was grateful for it. He was so grateful that he let Orpheus take Eurydice back to the upper world, on one condition, Don’t look back until you reach the top.
Orpheus leading Eurydice from the underworld by Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, 1861
He looked back, I say.
Some say he looked back because Eurydice didn’t want to leave the underworld and he wanted to see her one more time. Others say he didn’t trust that she was behind him, and looked back to make sure that she was.
Either way, he looked back, I say.
Yes, he says; he looked back and lost her and forever after, he played music that longed for her. They say all songs of longing derive from his music. Like Toto’s Africa; I was listening to it this morning.
We sing the song together until we reach the part about wild dogs crying out in the night, growing restless and longing for solitary company.
Maybe the dog wanted to be our friend, I say, and when I say that, the dog comes growling back.
Maybe not, he says.
Untitled by Keith Haring, 1982
What are you doing to my dog! a young woman cries, and the dog runs to her, and we tell her that her dog was attacking us!
Must be the full moon, she says; he’s always nervous around a full moon. You should come to the castle to freshen up and change your clothes.
We look at our clothes all torn up and accept her invitation.
She leads the way to the castle and tells us that she’s the daughter of the king of this kingdom and asks us who we are and what brings us to these parts. I answer her questions because the young king is silent and acting strange. I think he’s still recovering from the dog attack, but he tells me later on that it was love at first sight when he laid eyes on the young woman; he felt a quickening of the pulse and a fluttering in his heart when he walked beside her, and the more she chatted away, the more seduced he was by her charm.
The king receives us when we’re fit to be received, and when we tell him that we’re on a quest for the missing juju of Oi, he tells us that the juju is hard to define; it’s whatever the gods want it to be for the ones who go looking for it. In the middle of his conversation, the young king wanders off, and the king asks me if he’s alright. I tell him that the young king’s quite taken by his daughter, and he says that his daughter’s already taken; to be married when her fiancé returns in a year’s time.
When I tell this to the young king, it’s as if he doesn’t hear it. She’s the one, he says, and I’m going to confess my love to her.
As a consequence, we stay longer than intended, and when the young king finally confesses his love to the young woman, she tells him that she too feels an attraction for him, but she’s already engaged.
Break the engagement, he tells her, and she says that she can’t, He’s gone for a year and I promised to wait for him.
The young king tries to convince the king that he’s a better match for his daughter than the absent fiancé, and the king tells him to carry on with his quest and to return to his castle when he finds the juju of Oi. If the love you feel for her persists when you return, you can ask her again to choose you, he says.
When we leave, the young king is broken hearted and keeps looking back. He keeps stumbling because he keeps looking back, and I let him stumble because I’m a firm believer in looking back. Look back to know yourself, look back to remember, look back for meaning is my ongoing philosophy.
He keeps looking back when the castle’s no longer in view, and when we’re in someone else’s kingdom, and when we come across a trinket peddler who asks me, What’s wrong with your friend?
Love sick, I say.
Untitled by Keith Haring, 1988
I have trinkets to soothe the heart, the trinket peddler says; a music box, perhaps.
He rummages through his trinkets and hands me an ornate music box and engraved on it are letters in a foreign language.
What letters are these, I ask him.
He looks at them and says, Looks to me like the runic alphabet. There’s a priest in the next kingdom who may be able to decipher them.
I pay him for the box and he wishes us luck and we part ways, and when we part ways, I try opening the box and it’s stuck.
Oi! I call after him, but he’s gone.
When we get to the next kingdom, I find the priest and show him the music box. The priest looks at the foreign alphabet and says that it’s not foreign at all; the box is just full of grime. He wipes it clean and reads, Juju of Oi.
Ju- Did you say, Juju of Oi?
See for yourself, he tells me, handing me the box.
I see for myself and jump in my seat and tell the young king, but he doesn’t react.
What’s wrong with him, the priest asks me.
He’s in love with a woman engaged to another.
The priest checks the young king’s eyes and says, He’s under Neptune’s influence; a condition exacerbated by the full moon.
What does Neptune do?
He dissolves Saturn and our hold on reality.
Is there an antidote?
Neptune’s like the call of the wild, and you need something that will tone it down and let Saturn rise; something Jupiterian; a hymn of some sort-
How about a gregorian chant, I say, and play my music.
I see Saturn rise in the young king and he asks me what’s that I’m holding and I tell him that it’s the juju, but it’s stuck. He takes it from me and tries opening it and it opens in his hands, and I wouldn’t call what comes out of it a call of the wild, but a song of longing that’s so Neptunian, it dissolves his Saturn and he dissolves in tears.
She promised to wait for her fiancé and I know that she’ll keep her promise, the young king says; she won’t choose me.
You can suffer and long for her forever, like an Orpheus, the priest tells him, or you can do what Jupiter would do in a situation like this.
What would he do, the young king asks with hope flooding his eyes.
Ask her for one night.
I look at the priest and know that’s what he did before he took his vows; he asked a woman for one night, and he looks back and remembers it, and the memory of that one night sustains him and his celibate life.
Leda and Jupiter disguised as a swan, 16th century copy of a lost painting by Michelangelo
I’m going to ask her for one night, the young king says, standing up and heading out. I thank the priest and catch up with the young king, and when we’re half way to the young woman’s kingdom, we realize that we left the juju behind.
It doesn’t matter, he says.
When we get to her kingdom, I leave him at the castle gates and tell him that I’ll be at a nearby inn. He picks me up the following day, and we walk in silence, and as I walk beside him, I can feel him relive the night that will sustain him until his romance with the balcony woman, until his second Saturn return.
Back at the Kingdom of Oi, I begin my apprenticeship in earnest, and he becomes the King of Oi, and we don’t see each other until a few months later, when he calls me to the castle in the middle of the night.
She brought me a gift, he tells me.
I look at the gift that the young woman brought him, and say, It’s the sort of gift Jupiter brings.
It changes everything, he says.
It does, I say, and when I say that, the baby begins to cry. The king doesn’t seem to know what to do about it, and I tell him that he should pick him up and rock him, and when he rocks his baby, I tell him that he’s going to need help.
The king’s son by Keith Haring, 1983
The whole time the king kept looking back during the quest for the missing juju, I kept wondering, What does it feel like to fall so madly in love, and will it ever happen to me.
As if in response to my wonderings, the gods send Isolde to care for the king’s son.
A woman older than me, a woman who bewitches me.
I go see the king’s baby every day, but only when I know that she’ll be there, and at home, I paint her.
When I can’t take it anymore, I go tell the king; I find him in his study and say, I’m in love with Isolde.
Do you know the story of Tristan and Isolde, he asks me.
They were lovers, I say.
Yes, he says; she was married to the king of Cornwall, and when he found out that they were lovers, he forgave Isolde but banished Tristan.
The king touches his ring finger and is about to tell me more, when there’s a knock on the door, and Isolde walks in.
Oi King of Oi! I bring you your son, she says.
She hands the baby to the king and I see the ring on her finger.
I follow her outside and ask her if she’s married.
I was married for one day, she says, and when she says this, I know by the look in her eyes that the one day she was married has sustained her until now.
Why for just one day, I ask her.
Do you know the story of Tristan and Isolde?
I do, I say.
Do you know what happens to Tristan after the king of Cornwall banishes him?
He dies, I think.
Not in my version, she says; in my version, he courts another woman, another Isolde, hoping to erase the first one from his memory. The Isolde he courts falls in love with him but he doesn’t fall in love with her, and he confesses the truth, that he’s still in love with the first Isolde. He tells her that he’s going to become a priest and asks her to forgive him.
Does she forgive him?
I forgave him, she says; but I asked him for one night before he became a priest.
I’m about to tell her that I know her priest, that I met him, but my Mercury in Pisces silences me. There are things better left unsaid; understood but unspoken. I take her hand and kiss it and take her ring off.
He takes my hand and kisses it and takes my ring off, and frees me to marry him. He’s been courting me for a long time, courting me in silence, with his presence.
In the same way that he courts me, I hear him call me his queen.
King and Queen by Keith Haring, 1988
I’m dusting the house and even though plum doesn’t like me going in his room, I go in his room to dust and find myself surrounded by portraits of the same woman.
I call my friend who’s the mother of the balcony woman to come over and take a look.
She takes a look and says, Uranus!
He has a sudden way of reminding me that I’m getting old!
What do you-
When was the last time you fell in love like this, she asks me, pointing at the portraits.
My eyes open. It’s been ages, I whisper.
Remember the guy with the ebony hair? He looked like the male version of snow white; remember him? You wrote him poem after poem, dozens of them.
I nod and walk around plum’s room; I look at the portraits closely and ask her if she knows who the woman is.
She’s the woman looking after the king’s son, isn’t she?
She’s older than plum! Ten years at least!
Look at you; you’re all twisted.
I’m not twisted, I say, trying to straighten my face.
You look like the queen in snow white.
Don’t be mean.
If you object to the woman he loves, you’ll lose him.
I don’t want him to make a mistake.
Illustration from the 1913 play Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
We should go on a quest, she tells me; like old times.
To awaken Uranus in your chart; he’s our progressive side.
I better stick around and keep an eye-
We’re going, she says.
We leave in the morning and walk through the Forest of Oi that becomes the forest of other kingdoms, and she tells me that some believe the story of Prometheus to be the story of Uranus. Prometheus fashioned us out of clay, and the gods were angry at his creation and told him not to awaken us, but Prometheus went against the will of the gods; he stole their fire and awakened us with the gift of fire-
An innovator and a rule breaker-
Yin yang, says Uranus.
He was punished for it; the gods tied him to a rock, and every day, an eagle ate his liver and his liver grew back, ready to be eaten the following day. Until Hercules freed him and he reconciled with the gods.
We’ve always punished people for awakening us, she says; like the first people who said the earth revolved around the sun instead of the other way round; they were made to recant their views.
But they opened the doors for the changes to come, I say; Uranus does that.
Prometheus brings fire to mankind by Heinrich Friedrich Füger, 1817
The path we’re on divides, and we can’t decide whether to go left or right, when a wild turkey appears on the right and that’s where we go.
Why not, we say.
The right path leads us to a small inn where we could spend the night, and we knock on the door and when the door opens, there’s nobody there, until we look down and there are seven dwarfs looking at us.
You’re kidding me, I say.
Kid you not, they say; come in.
You’re like the story of snow white and the seven dwarfs, we tell them.
We fashioned ourselves around that story, they say; it gave our lives meaning. We thought, Why not have an inn in the forest where people running away from a mean queen can stay. Previous to that we were like Hephaestus. Do you know his story?
Remind us, we say.
He was the son of Hera, born lame, with his feet turned backwards, and Hera couldn’t tolerate his imperfection and she cast him out of Mount Olympus; she threw him down to Neptune’s realm and the sea nymph Thetis caught him and raised him and protected him. With Thetis, Hephaestus learned to work with fire and metal, and he fashioned such magnificent creations that word of his craft reached Mount Olympus and the gods wanted him back.
Sounds like a story that could be linked to Uranus, I say.
It does, doesn’t it, says Uranus; I’m a bit lopsided, a bit of an outcast.
The dwarfs continue their story and say, Before Hephaestus came back to Mount Olympus, he took revenge on his mother. He sent her a throne so beautiful that she couldn’t resist sitting on it, and when she did, mechanical locks bound her legs and arms to the throne, and she couldn’t move and she couldn’t speak.
None of the gods could break the locks and they begged Hephaestus to free her; they promised to give him anything he wanted if he freed her, and Hephaestus asked for the most beautiful one, and the most beautiful one was-
Is, says Venus.
The most beautiful one is Venus, but Venus loved-
Loves, says Venus.
Hephaestus asked for the most beautiful one who is Venus, but Venus ended up running away with Mars, her eternal love. So thereafter, Hephaestus concentrated his energy on his creations and inventions; he forged weapons for the gods and made all their attributes; he made Apollo’s golden chariot and Mercury’s winged helmet; he even made the girdle that makes Venus more desirable than she already is.
Is that what you did, we ask the dwarfs; you worked with metal?
No, they say; we mined for precious stones, the very stones encrusted on the throne that held Hera captive until Hephaestus freed her.
Ah, we say.
But now we run an inn, they say.
Right, we say; we’d like a room for the night; how much-
We don’t take any currency, they say; a room in exchange for housecleaning.
A room in exchange for housecleaning, they say.
No thank you, we say; we’re on a quest and the last thing we want to do is houseclean.
Snow white had no objections to housecleaning.
Well we do, we say. When Uranus transited Libra and Scorpio, he freed us from unwanted domesticity; he first helped us push open the door that led to the warring side of Venus, and then he helped us with the door that led to Mars.
Portrait by Nadya Mitskevitch after Jan van Eyck’s Portrait of a man, 1433
The dwarfs lead us out of the inn and say, If you’re not going to houseclean, you can’t stay with us.
Oi wait! we say, holding the door open. Uranus is transiting Taurus these days; he’s awakening the earthy and sensual side of Venus in all of us. Isn’t he helping you open her door?
They close the door on us.
The Birth of Venus by Lance Essner, after Sandro Botticelli’s, 1485
We turn to leave, and across from the inn is the wild turkey standing in a clearing in the forest. We decide to camp there, and we build a fire and eat, and we roll out our sleeping bags and talk.
You okay, she asks me.
Yes; the whole thing made me realize how far we’ve come.
Far enough to marry a younger man?
I laugh and say, I’ve just been called a mean queen, and told that if I cast my son and his older bride out, they’ll take revenge and hold me prisoner in a bejeweled and magical throne, which in modern terms probably means that I won’t see my grandchildren.
Yes, she says; and his older bride may be carrying your first.
What! I say, rising.
I saw her walking with plum from my balcony, and I’m sure she’s with child.
I fall back on my sleeping bag, and instead of the sky, I see the wild turkey and I scream, and when I scream, the earth begins to shake.
We run to the inn and the door flies open and all seven dwarfs run out and the inn collapses.
They spend the night around our fire and tell us that every time they don’t allow guests who won’t houseclean, there’s an earthquake and the inn collapses.
Haven’t you learned your lesson yet, we ask them.
We’re in a fairytale, they say; the lesson is for you.
Oh, we say. We offer to help rebuild the inn, and they point at the inn and it’s the way it was before the earthquake.
We say goodbye, and when we leave, the wild turkey walks beside us.
Are you glad we went on a quest, she asks me.
Yes, I say; it prepared me for the changes to come.
Hercules freeing Prometheus, relief from the Temple of Aphrodite at Aphrodisias
At dinner, my wife tells us that she’s going on a quest with balcony woman senior, a quest to awaken Uranus, she says.
I’ve never been on a quest to awaken Uranus, plum says.
I tell him that if the opportunity hasn’t arisen, it’s because Uranus is working fine in his life. I know he’s working fine in my life because just the other day, I was doing the dishes, when I thought of getting in touch with so and so, and the moment I was going to put the thought away and leave it for another day, an insect stung me right there in the kitchen; it flew out of nowhere and stung me on my soapy finger. Now that’s Uranus; he has an interesting way of communicating. I left the dishes and got in touch with so and so and was glad that I did.
When my wife leaves on her quest, it’s just plum and me having dinner, and he asks me, Why can’t mom stay out of my room.
I put my fork and knife down and say, Because of Pandora, the one who received gifts from the gods.
I tell him that the gods were worried about the people that Prometheus had created on earth; they were made in the image of the gods and awakened with divine fire, and divine fire has the gift of foresight; Prometheus means foresight.
Rivalry, says Uranus.
They must have been worried that the people on earth would rival them, he says.
They were, I say.
Prometheus creates man from clay by Constantin Hansen
They came up with a plan, and asked Hephaestus to fashion a woman with the same clay Prometheus had used to make his people, and Hephaestus-
Didn’t he make automatons, he asks me.
Yeah; he was a bit of a geek, says Uranus.
He was a man of ideas and ideals, I say.
Hephaestus in his forge by Pompeo Batoni, 1750
He fashioned the most exquisite woman, and the gods breathed life into her. Each one of them gave her a gift, a bit of themselves, and every bit had their light and shadow, and they called her Pandora. Then they realized Mercury was missing, and Mercury’s gift was crucial to their plan.
Jupiter Anyone seen Merc?
Hephaestus He’s trying out the new winged helmet I designed for him.
Sun Couldn’t he wait to do that later? Merc!
Hephaestus You said that after you’re done gifting Pandora, he has to carry her to earth, and he can’t carry a person to earth with his old helmet. His old helmet’s like a regular car, and to carry a person he needs a helmet that can carry a load, so I upgraded him to what you would call the pickup truck version of a winged helmet. He’s got to make sure-
Saturn Do me a favour Heph and go find him; wear his old helmet and find him and tell him it’s his turn to gift Pandora.
When they found him, Mercury gifted Pandora with curiosity, an essential ingredient for acquiring knowledge, and before he carried her to earth, the gods gave her a pithos and told her never to open it, like you tell your mother never to open your door.
On his way to earth, Mercury flew over the rock that Prometheus was tied to, and when Prometheus saw Pandora holding the pithos, he knew what was coming. He asked Merc to leave Pandora with his brother Epimetheus whose name means hindsight. He’ll be a good husband to her, he told Merc, and that’s what Merc did.
Pandora married Epimetheus, and one day while she was dusting her house, curiosity got the better of her, and she opened the pithos.
My son laughs and says, I’d probably open it too.
When she opened the pithos, she released everything that makes people mortal, and when Prometheus felt the mortality of his people, he replaced their foresight with hope, and so they say that to be mortal is to have hindsight and hope.
I disagree, says Uranus; because you have me.
And me too; just wait till I cazimi the Sun, says Merc.
It’s curiosity that did it, dad, not Pandora.
Isn’t it, I say; we’re most curious and knowledgeable where Mercury is in our charts.
Knowledge gives foresight, he says.
Ask her about the girl, says Uranus.
Now tell me, who’s the girl in the portraits?
Isolde, he says.
Invite her over when your mom gets back.
Pithos by Keith Haring, 1981
I’d cry if my mom didn’t buy me blue headphones; they had to be blue; and if I’d put them on and could still hear her, I’d cry some more.
I can still hear you, I’d say.
My sensitive indigo child, she’d say, caressing my cheeks; I’ll get better ones.
I finally grew old enough to say, It’s not because I’m sensitive, mom.
They why is it?
The best way for me to explain it is to have you tell me something’s that’s on your mind, a question you have.
I’ve been wondering what to call you, she says; ever since Daphne and Phoebus gave their child a proper name, I’d like to do the same.
I’ll bring you my name, I say.
I put my headphones on and ride my bicycle to the busiest market place in the Kingdom of Oi. I stand amidst all the stalls and all the people, and I ask in silence, What’s my name, and then I take my headphones off, and the first word I hear is idealease.
I ride back home and tell my mom, My name’s Idealease.
Ideal Lease; I love it, she says. How did you find it?
When I tell her, she tells me that’s how the ancients got oracles from Mercury. When they had a question, they’d put wax in their ears and go to a busy market place and take the wax off, and the first word they’d hear was the answer to their question, the oracle from Mercury.
I’ve always done that, I say. Remember I couldn’t decide what instrument to play?
She nods, and I say, I went to the market place every day, until the first thing I heard was the sound of a musical instrument, and it happened to be the bagpipes.
She looks at me as if seeing me for the first time, and it dawns on her what I may do next.
That’s not how you’re going to choose your profession, she says; they’re always yelling after a pickpocket in the market place.
Imagine if I go there and ask, What should I do in life, and I take my headphones off and hear, Oi! Pickpocket!
Send him on a quest, says Merc.
You’re going on a quest, she says; go figure out what you want to do. Take your bike and your bagpipes, but leave your headphones behind.
The day I leave on my quest, I visit the three sacred sites to ask the Op-Trinity for protection, and then I ride my bike through the market place of Oi that becomes the market place of other kingdoms.
When I stop for a bite to eat, I eat and then play my bagpipes, and a person very much like me asks if he can borrow me for a minute.
Sure, I say, and when I look at him closely, I tell him that we’re wearing the same blue.
Yes, he says; that’s why I asked you and not anyone else.
How can I help you, I ask him.
I’m trying to get some cattle into my cave and they need to go in backwards; I need the hoof prints to appear going forward.
Why, I ask him.
Because I’m stealing them, he says, nonchalantly. This way the person I’m stealing them from will think the cattle left my cave instead of the other way around.
He feels my apprehension and tells me not to worry, When the person I’m stealing them from figures out that it was me, I’ll appease him with a gift worth more than the stolen cattle-
What gift, I ask him.
A lyre, he says.
Sounds like Mercury’s story, I say; Mercury stole Apollo’s cattle and appeased him with a lyre that he made out of a turtle’s shell, and Apollo was so charmed by the lyre that he made Mercury the god of trade.
We reach the cattle and I help him get them into his cave backwards, and he thanks me, and I leave.
Apollo receiving the lyre from Mercury by Annibale Carracci, 16th century
I ride onward and wonder if I have what it takes to be a merchant; would I be fair, would I get tricked, would I be a trickster, and most of all, would I enjoy the hustle and bustle of it all. Maybe not, I think to myself, and I see something shiny on the ground up ahead, and I stop my bike to pick it up and it’s a dime.
I pocket the dime, and to settle my mind, I play my music, and a person very much like me asks if he can borrow me for a minute.
Sure, I say, and when I look at him closely, I tell him that we’re wearing the same blue.
True, he says.
He tells me that he needs help putting a giant to sleep; the giant’s guarding a heifer that he needs to free, and he thinks my music will do the trick.
Sounds like the story of Jupiter and Io, I say. Jupiter was in bed with Io one day, when his wife Hera suddenly appeared, and to cover up his act, Jupiter quickly turned Io into a heifer. What’s going on, Hera asked, and Jupiter said, Nothing, my love; I’m just hanging out with this heifer. What a beautiful heifer, Hera remarked, and asked if she could keep it, and Jupiter said, Of course, my love, you can keep it.
Jupiter, Hera and Io by Gerbrand van den Eeckhout, 1672
Jupiter watched Hera take the heifer away and put it under the watchful eyes of Argus Panoptes, the many eyed giant. So there was Io, turned into a heifer and under the watchful eyes of Argus, until Jupiter could rescue her, and to rescue her, Jupiter sent Mercury. He told Mercury to put Argus to sleep and to kill him- You’re not going to kill your giant, are you?
Of course not, he says.
When we reach the giant, he tells the giant stories, while I play the bagpipes, and the eyes of the giant begin to close one by one, and when they all close, he leads the heifer away and I follow.
Good rescue, I say.
The mission’s almost complete, he tells me; I now have to deliver the heifer to-
Sirens cover his words and draw my attention, and when I look back at him, he’s no longer there and neither is the heifer.
Mercury slaying the giant Argus Panoptes, 5th century BC
Prometheus You did kill the giant back in BC Greece.
Merc I carried out the will of the gods, Pro. Besides, people don’t want an argus panoptes prowling the neighbourhood.
Prometheus You got a point there.
Merc You never carry out the will of the gods-
Prometheus You’re fate and I’m free will, Merc.
Merc Gets you in a lot of trouble. Remember you got chained to that rock?
Prometheus Hard to forget.
Hephaestus Sorry I had to be the one to chain you, Pro; but let me tell you, it gave me a chance to test my grade 80 lifting chain made of heat-treated alloy steel-
Prometheus Spare me the details, Heph.
The gods Merc! Go back to your story!
Prometheus being chained by Hephaestus by Dirck van Barburen, 1606
I continue my quest and ride through the market place of many kingdoms, and when I’m tired, I stop to rest and fall asleep, and in my dreams, a person very much like me asks if he can borrow me for a minute.
Sure, I say, and when I look closely at him, I tell him that we’re wearing the same blue, but his blue is stained.
I’ve been trying to rescue a baby, a fetus that’s not yet full term, he says. The mother died but the baby’s alive in her womb, and I want to take him out of her womb and sew him into his father’s thigh.
Sounds like the story of Jupiter and Semele, I say. Jupiter had an affair with Semele and Semele got pregnant, and when Hera found out, she came to Semele disguised as a friend to plant a fatal seed of doubt. When Semele confided in Hera and told her that she was carrying Jupiter’s child, Hera said, Are you sure? You should ask him to reveal himself to you to be sure.
Semele asked Jupiter to reveal himself to her, and Jupiter told her that he shouldn’t. He said, you’re a device operating on 120 volts, my love, and I’m a device operating on a much higher voltage. If I were to reveal my entire voltage to you, you wouldn’t bear it. That’s why gods take on a human form or an animal form or any other form of nature, or they come in dreams.
But Semele insisted.
Death of Semele by Peter Paul Rubens, 17th century
When we reach Semele, I help him take the baby that is Dionysus, and we sew him into Jupiter’s thigh, to be nurtured by Jupiter until he’s ready to be born.
I cut the thread of the needle he’s holding, and I wake up.
Mercury assisting Jupiter with the birth of Dionysus, 5th century BC
I open my eyes and a person very much like me is sitting beside me.
We’re wearing the same blue, I tell him.
That’s why I’m here, he says. Can I borrow you for a minute?
Sure, I say; how can I help you?
I’m going to guide a friend across the market place to the tent over there, he says, pointing to a tent far away. His life’s in danger, but he’ll be safe once he’s inside that tent. If you make your own way to the tent playing your bagpipes, your music will draw people’s attention to you and away from us.
I tell him that reminds me of Priam, king of Troy, trying to cross the Greek camp to reach Achilles’ tent. Achilles had killed Hector, son of Priam, and instead of returning the body for the proper funerary rites, he tied the body to his chariot and dragged it around the battle field, breaking a sacred rule of war.
Mercury helped Priam cross the Greek camp unseen, and he whispered to Priam the words that would move Achilles to return Hector’s body.
Priam begs Achilles to return Hector’s body by Alexandr Ivanov, 1824
When he leaves to help his friend, I make my own way to the tent playing my bagpipes, and people offer me coins and I point at my pockets, and people drop coins in my pockets and I play with more pomp. When I reach the tent, I turn around and I play my bagpipes walking back to where I started.
I make ready to leave and before riding my bike, I reach inside my pockets to empty them out and they’re already empty. Oi! Pickpockets!
I ride my bike, and someone very much like me catches up to me.
Our bikes are the same, I tell him.
But you play the bagpipes and I play the trumpet, he says.
I see a trumpet sticking out of his knapsack and he tells me that he’s a herald.
I herald things to come, he tells me. You can’t herald with the bagpipes; they’re too melancholic; they wash the soul clean. But you can herald with the trumpets; trumpets pierce the skin.
What kind of things do you herald, I ask him.
Did you know that walnuts are good for the brain, he asks me.
I heard that somewhere in the market place, I say.
I heralded that, he says, and when he says that, pigeons fly our way.
Are you heralding something today?
I’m announcing a wedding, he says.
Every wedding is the marriage of Eros and Psyche, don’t you think? The Soul finds a reason to live; the Soul finds Eros-
That pregnant space between the two snakes of Mercury’s caduceus, I say.
The excitement of new possibilities is in that space, he says.
Mercury heralds the wedding of Eros and Psyche by Raphael, Villa Farnesina, 1518
I pay for a cup of kopi luwak and before it touches my lips, someone yells, Molly! Stop!
I turn around and see a person chasing after their dog.
Sir, the coffee peddler says, taking my cup away; you must eat moly before you drink kopi luwak coffee.
That dog, I ask him, pointing at the dog.
No, no. This plant is also called moly, he says, showing me the plant. People who drink kopi luwak for the first time should eat moly first or they’ll suffer great stomach pains.
I eat the plant and sip my coffee and remember Circe.
She turned Odysseus’ men into pigs, and when Odysseus went looking for them, Mercury came to him as a young man and told him that his men were in the pigsty, turned by Circe into pigs. Mercury gave him moly to eat, to protect him from turning into a pig when he drank Circe’s magic potion.
Mercury protects Odysseus from the charms of Circe by Annibale Carracci, 1590
I ride my bike until I reach the last market place, and after that is the ocean, and I look at the waters of the ocean and play my bagpipes, and a person very much like me asks if he can borrow me for a minute.
Sure, I say, and I look at him closely and recognize him.
He tells me that a woman is crying in the temple; she misses her daughter.
Could you play your music for her, he asks me; I think it will soothe her. I’m going to go fetch her daughter.
Where is her daughter, I ask him.
Do you see that cave over there, he asks me, pointing to the cave over there.
It looks like the entrance to the underworld, I say.
It’s called the cave inn, he laughs.
Remember Demeter, I ask him.
Of course I remember Demeter, he tells me.
She cried in the temple and asked the gods to bring back her daughter Persephone. Some say Pluto forced Persephone to eat the handful of pomegranate seeds that tied her to him; others say that she ate them willingly.
Mercury would say that both things happened; he can hold a paradox; it’s the paradox that runs parallel to Jupiter’s true or false, right or wrong.
That’s why Jupiter sent Mercury to the underworld to talk to Pluto and his queen, and Mercury struck a deal with them; Persephone would visit her mother during spring and summer, and at harvest time, she’d return to her husband.
Pinax of Persephone and Pluto enthroned, 450 BC
He’s the only god who can travel to the underworld at will, I say.
He’s a psychopomp, a guide of souls, and he guides without judgement, he says.
That’s why I pray that he be the one to guide my soul one day.
Mercury as psychopomp guiding a soul to the underworld, 430 BC
He walks to the cave, and I walk to the temple and play my music until he returns, and when he returns, he gives me a gift and tells me that’s it’s time to go home.
I ride my bike to the Kingdom of Oi, and before I get there, I take his gift of wax and plug my ears, and when I’m in the middle of the market place, I ask him, What should I do in life.
I take the wax off and hear him say, Astrology, and then the market place grows quiet. They say that when Mercury walks by, it grows quiet; it’s his signal for us to change place and start a new topic. It’s very brief, only a moment, and then the hustle and bustle begins again and we forget that a god walked by.
I stand there in the middle of all the noise, until I hear my mom call my name,
Mercury’s winged sandal, plaster cast of bronze original, 1st century BC
I begin my journey into astrology by plugging my ears and riding my bicycle to the market place. I find a busy corner and unplug my ears and the first thing I hear is, Flush away.
I go through every sign of the zodiac to see which one fits best with the action of flushing away. We flush away what we don’t want to see, what we want to get rid of; we flush away obstructions and we flush away when we clean.
Virgo, I think.
Planets in Virgo flush away excess.
Virgo’s story is Demeter’s story and every character in Demeter’s story is Virgo; she’s Demeter and Persephone and Pluto’s queen.
She’s also Baubo, an ancient entertainer. When Demeter wept for her daughter, Baubo consoled her with her bawdy entertainment and made her smile.
There’s a bawdiness to Virgo that only those who come close discover, and as soon as they do, Virgo flushes it away; she’s discreet that way.
I leave the market place walking my bike, when a young girl asks if I can help her.
Sure, I say.
Catch that frog; quick! she says, handing me a net.
She points at a puddle of water and in the middle of the puddle is a frog. I catch the frog and she asks me to close the net with my hand, Don’t let it get away! I want to kiss it!
I’m still in Virgo mode and ask her if that would be necessary; I mean, would it be hygienic.
Step closer to me! she says, and when I step closer, I step away from Virgo and into Pisces, and in Pisces, the matter of hygiene engulfs me like a wave of fear, and then washes away completely. It begins to surge again, and before it engulfs me, I let her kiss the frog.
She kisses the frog and the frog escapes from the net, and the girl looks at me in awe and asks if I’m a prince. She calls her mom and tells her that she kissed a frog and the frog turned into a prince, Look!
The mom comes running to her and there I am holding the net, and the mom asks me if I’m the frog prince and she cues me nodding her head.
Yes, I say, following her cue.
Oh my, she says, taking the net from me and handing me a cupcake, and walking her daughter away.
The princess and the frog by Edward Frederick Brewtnall, 1890s
When I get home, I find my mom knocking on my sister’s door, telling her that it’s time to get a job. My sister locks herself up in her room to read fantasy novels and avoid reality.
I tell my mom that she and my sister are having a Cancer Capricorn relationship.
Cancer, ruled by the Moon, doesn’t want to grow up; she wants to stay in the safety of the womb reading fantasy novels. And across from Cancer is Capricorn, ruled by Saturn, telling her that it’s time to grow up and be responsible.
I tell my sister that she’s playing Captain Hook in Neverland, and my mom’s the crocodile pursuing her with the ticking clock-
Tick tock, you’re getting too old for the part, says Saturn.
She needs to slide closer to Capricorn, says my mom.
Not all the way, though, I say; slide all the way and she’ll end up-
Knocking on her mother’s door, says Saturn.
Losing touch with her inner child, says the Moon.
Saturn devouring his inner child by Peter Paul Ruben, 1636, and Saturn tending to his inner child by Keatches
I go back to the market place the following day, and when I take Mercury’s wax off, I hear the words, Going in all directions and separating.
That’s Gemini and Sagittarius.
We’re students when we’re in Gemini. It’s here where we explore, do research, gather information, and learn to think for ourselves.
We step into Sag when we separate the information we’ve gathered. In Sag, we sit on a mountain top and decide what’s meaningful to us and worth integrating into our lives.
One goes with the other.
Gemini and Sag form the student teacher relationship. Sagittarius is the teacher guiding Gemini, until Gemini can step into Sag and decide for themselves what they believe in.
The relationship ends when the student and the teacher become equals.
And sometimes a new type of relationship is born between them.
I ride my bicycle thinking about radicalization; it skips the Gemini step of the learning process; it takes the student directly into Sagittarius and tells the student what to believe in. These are my thoughts when red slows down beside me; red is a man dressed in red, wearing a red helmet and riding a red motorcycle.
What’s the name of your kingdom, he asks me.
Oi, I tell him.
I’m on a quest to awaken Mars in my chart-
You’re dressed appropriately, I say, and he laughs.
Can you tell me where Op-Maul’s sacred grounds are?
Sure, I say, and I leave my bicycle in a safe place and ride with him.
On the way, he tells me that every time he comes up with a new idea, something new he’d like to do, he ends up thwarting the idea with thoughts and feelings and material considerations that colour the idea as not feasible.
Aries, I say.
Aries what, he says.
Aries is where ideas begin; Aries holds our creative fire. But across from Aries is Libra, and Libra is a social sign; Libra brings social, aesthetic and ethical considerations into the picture that can thwart a new idea.
Plus Aries is squared by Cancer and Capricorn, and Cancer brings other people’s feelings into the picture, and Capricorn brings what’s best for the community into the picture.
Then there’s Taurus right beside Aries showing him his bank balance.
Keep going, he says; nothing you say can thwart me now.
He tells me it all began the day he wore his red boxer shorts; his wife said they looked funny, and when she said that, something rose inside him.
Mars, I say; red is his favourite colour.
I went out that day looking for a red outfit, this very outfit, he says, pointing at his red outfit. I left the store wearing it, and I didn’t care when people glanced over at me and when my wife said that she was going to die of embarrassment.
You put Mars back in Aries and asserted yourself, I say.
I told her that I was going on a quest, and when she asked me what would Cancer, Capricorn and Taurus think, I told her that I’d be back before they knew I was gone.
Was she upset?
No, I say; she reached into Aries and found the courage to go shopping with me, and together we bought my red helmet and red motorcycle. She rode home with me, telling me that she felt like a rebel, defying fashion and colour coordination.
Mars is contagious, I say.
We get to Op-Maul’s sacred grounds and when he’s about to take his helmet off, I tell him that it’s preferable to keep it on for the full experience.
Thanks, he says.
I run back to my bicycle, and when I run, I restore the mercurial nature of my soul, and when I get home, I take my bagpipes outside and put Mars into playing my music.
The house of Mars and Venus, Pompeii, 1st century AD
When I finish playing, I go back inside and my little sister is watching Beauty and Beast, and I join her.
When I see the beast protecting his rose, Taurus comes to mind. Taurus has the ability to bear difficult situations, to go through fire and find something of beauty to comfort them. There is stoic self sufficiency and self reliance in Taurus.
Then Belle comes into the picture and reaches out to the beast, and this reaching out and relying on another is Scorpio; transformation through relationship is Scorpio.
When Belle and the beast finish their ballroom dance, they’re no longer the people they were when they first met; they now have feelings for each other.
Love allows the beast to let Belle go, and we’re back in Taurus.
But Belle comes back, and before the last rose petal touches the ground, she tells the beast that she loves him, and the beast turns into a prince, and we’re back in Scorpio.
Then it’s the wedding feast and we’re back in Taurus.
It’s a back and forth thing.
When the movie ends, I’m left with Aquarius and Leo, the mind and the heart.
From a mountain top, Aquarius stands for forward thinking and progressive ideas; it makes new what’s old; it invigorates and builds on what already exists, and it encourages innovation and experimentation.
It’s a sign that supports the creative fire of Aries and the knowledge in the fire of Sagittarius, and has a back and forth with the fire that burns in the heart of the lion.
Leo’s heart informs Aquarius; it takes into consideration how new ideas will affect people’s lives.
Portrait of a heart by Christian Schloevery, contemporary
The best ideas come from a heart that has laboured to find its strengths and individuality, and in the process, becomes attuned to the needs of others, the needs of the group.
Leo is the individual and Aquarius is the group.
I think of the old movie Top Gun; Maverick is Leo in the movie; he goes through a hero’s journey, a rite of passage that fine tunes his strengths and opens his heart to the people around him.
Every hero’s journey has a fall, a fall that if supported can rise up to make a contribution to the group.
Iceman in the movie represents the group mentality; he is Aquarius.
Many hearts beat as one by Christian Schloevery, contemporary
From the ground, Aquarius and Leo form the relationship of friendship; it’s how we measure our thoughts and words and actions to please a friend.
It’s the mind and the heart working together.
The balance by Christian Schloevery, contemporary
I go to the market place, and the first thing I hear and then see are horses, and the horses bring to mind the story of Aquarius.
When Jupiter took Ganymede, prince of Troy, to be cup bearer to the gods, Tros, king of Troy, was left behind missing his son. Jupiter consoled Tros by putting the ever youthful Ganymede in the stars, and by gifting him a pair of horses that could walk on water.
Water is the realm of the emotions, and horses that live in water belong to Neptune.
Horses that walk on water remain in the air, and air is the realm of ideas.
They say that Tros is Aquarius ruled by Saturn. He’s idealistic, but able to have an earthy existence, accept limitations and be part of the group.
They say that Ganymede is Aquarius ruled by Uranus. If he’s an architect, he will not compromise his design for the group; he will prefer not to build at all than to see his design marred.
That’s why they say that Saturn binds and Uranus separates. Saturn stands up for the group and Uranus stands up for the individual. Aquarius is the group made up of individuals.
Ocean ride by Christian Schloevery, contemporary
Aquarius defines the eleventh house as the house of the groups we belong to-
I’m thinking about houses, when I see a mosquito buzz van, and I think of summer, and I think of Leo.
The story of Hercules is Leo’s story, and Hercules was the son of Jupiter and the mortal Alcmene. When Hera found out that Alcmene had given birth to Hercules, she tried getting rid of him, but couldn’t; he was too strong.
Hercules grew up and had a family of his own, and one day, in a fit of madness induced by Hera, he killed his family. He then laboured to atone for what he had done, and the labours were given to him by King Eurystheus, under Hera’s command.
Hercules’ story is the story of a hurt child who became a hero and an immortal, and his story makes Leo the protector of children.
Leo defines the fifth house as the house of children.
Gemini in the fifth house will protect children one way, and another sign there will do it differently.
Leo protects with heroic acts.
If Leo sees a snake, he does this.
Hercules choking a snake, Roman, 2nd century AD
If Leo sees a lion, he does this.
Hercules and the Nemean lion, Greek, 500 BC
Leo’s ruled by the Sun, and the light of the Sun is energizing and creative and play-
I’m going for a run now, my sister says. Are you coming?
She gathers her hair as high as she can and ties it in a ponytail.
It’s my mana, she tells me.
What kind of mana is that, I ask her.
A lion’s tail, she says; to embody the power of Leo.
I remember that she’s a Leo and I ask her what’s the power of Leo.
The heart, she says; Leo leads with the heart.
What’s your route, I ask her, putting my shoes on.
Wherever my heart takes me, she says.
We go running, and she’s faster than me and runs up ahead, and I notice that she catches people’s attention. There’s liveliness in the way she runs, and there’s artistry in the way her ponytail swings; left right left right, and then it does something unexpected, like a cartwheel. It’s fun to watch.
Leo by Keith Haring, 1983
I see a mom cycling with her kids and think of Cancer.
The ancients only left a fragment of Cancer’s story.
The story of Cancer is the story of Karkinos, the giant crab that lived on the shore of Lake Lerna, the lake that had a passageway to the underworld. In this lake lived the Lernaean Hydra that Hercules was sent to slay, and when Hera saw him succeeding in his labour, she asked Karkinos to nip his feet and throw him off balance.
The relationship between Hera and Hercules is tied to Cancer’s story.
Before she was queen of the sky and Jupiter’s wife, Hera was a great goddess. There are stories of her tenderness toward children and small animals, and she was the goddess of childbirth and breastfeeding. They say she breastfed every child that was born, and when she breastfed Hercules, she came to know who he was and pushed him away, and the milk that spurted from her breast created the milky way.
The birth of the milky way by Peter Paul Rubens, 1637
Some say she pushed him away because he bit her breast. Either way, there is a woman betrayed and a wounded breast in the story, and yet Hera never left Jupiter; she took her rage out on the women he loved and the children they bore him.
Jupiter and Hera by James Barry, 1790
When Karkinos did what Hera asked him to do and nipped Hercules’ feet, Hercules stomped him; he couldn’t afford to lose his balance; the hydra would have killed him.
Hera then put Karkinos in the sky to thank him for his help.
Karkinos nipping Hercules’ feet, 525 BC
The story of Karkinos makes Cancer the protector of the mother goddess, and Cancer defines the fourth house as the house of nurture, early childhood and home.
The Moon rules Cancer, and the Moon absorbs. She makes Cancer exquisitely sensitive, and so Cancer moves sideways and checks things out first, and holds us tight with their claws if they like us, and if they don’t-
I hear someone scream and go to the living room, and there’s my sister of the fantasy novels watching Attack of the crab monsters. It’s a movie about giant crabs bent on breaking up an island and making it disappear into the ocean.
I ask her if she found a job, and she tells me that she’s going to be working with our dad.
Our dad builds and repairs well pumps.
I think of him and remember the story of Enki-Ea.
Enki-Ea was the god of wisdom and magic; he was a shamanic god, half goat and half fish, of the earth and of the abzu.
Marshlands were sacred to Enki, because it was here where the sweet waters of the abzu rose to the surface of the earth.
When he was summoned for help, people imagined him going into the abzu for answers, and when he went into the abzu, he conferred with his priests who were fish people, and he brought back earth wisdom; the name of the herb to cure an ill; whether to cut a tree that was bearing no fruit; the job a person would be best suited for. He was a resourceful god.
Priest of Enki-Ea, Mesopotamia, 2250 BC
Enki’s story is Capricorn’s story, but it’s a story that the Greeks and Romans did not tell. During Greek and Roman times, Capricorn and Saturn became interchangeable.
Capricorn-Saturn was a four legged solitary goat on a mountaintop; needing nothing and wanting nothing.
Capricorn is a sea goat, reaching for the abzu; they take their inner child wherever they go.
Wherever you go, I will go
Capricorn defines the tenth house as the house where we’re most resourceful. Forrest Gump was in the tenth house when he dove into the abzu and brought back his mom’s earth wisdom; life is like a box of chocolates; stupid is as stupid does; dying is part of life.
The whole movie is filled with humour; the reference to the kkk, Bubba’s overgrown gums, the buttocks wound; that’s Enki humour; he was a shaman with a sense of humour. It’s Saturn who keeps Capricorn from going overboard with it.
The movie begins with a pigeon’s feather floating in the sky and landing on Forrest’s foot, and he picks it up and puts it in one of the pages of his Curious George book. After that, he gallops through the movie, and everywhere he goes, he leaves behind unintended consequences.
That’s Gemini; the need to keep moving and to keep searching is Gemini. They hold Mercury’s caduceus and trigger people’s stories to unfold; Elvis, Nixon, the bumper sticker man.
Then there’s Lieutenant Dan, and he’s Sagittarius. In the middle of a hurricane, sitting on top of the mast of the shrimping boat, he has it out with Jupiter.
How could you take a centaur’s legs away! Take me as well!
Jupiter responds with a gift of shrimp.
In Sagittarius, we take a gift of shrimp and turn it into something significant for ourselves and others.
Gemini defines the third house as the house where we ride many horses, try different things; football, the army, ping pong.
Castor and Pollux, 3rd century AD
Sagittarius defines the ninth house as the house where we choose our horse and make it part of who we are.
Centaur drawing a bow in a landscape by Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo, 18th century
I see a man running; he’s not running like my sister and I run; he’s running like we run to win a race, to finish first, and I think of Mars, and I think of Aries.
The story of Aries is the story of Chrysomallus, the divine ram that was golden and that could fly. He was sent on a mission to rescue two children about to be sacrificed, and that’s what he did, he rescued the two children and flew to Colchis, his final destination.
Helle and Phrixus were the children he rescued, and one of them survived flying on a ram and the other one didn’t. Helle lost her balance, and Phrixus tried to save her but he couldn’t, and he had to make a choice; stay on the ram or fall into the water below with her, and he stayed on the ram. It was a matter of survival, a matter of instinct.
Mars rules Aries, and Mars is our will to live. Mars in Aries defends and protects, and makes Aries courageous and bold; he pushes Aries to be decisive.
Aries asks us to make choices and move forward. There’s a necessary imbalance when we make a choice, because we choose one thing instead of the other; we leave something behind when we take a step forward.
It’s through the choices we make that we get to know ourselves, and Aries defines the first house as the house of Self.
Back of a silver mirror, Roman, 5th century AD
When Phrixus got to Colchis, he sacrificed the ram to the gods and the gods put the ram in the sky. He then exchanged the ram’s golden fleece for the king’s hospitality, and the king married him to his daughter. The king kept the golden fleece in the grove sacred to Mars; it was a grove protected by a dragon that never slept.
Many years later, Jason of Iolcus travelled to Colchis to take the golden fleece.
Jason’s uncle sat on the throne that was rightfully his, and when Jason came of age and claimed it, his uncle said that he’d give it back in exchange for the golden fleece. Jason could have killed his uncle; his instincts cried, Kill him! But Jason removed himself from his instincts and walked around the throne with his scales, weighing the air, weighing the action that would cause less upheaval, less bloodshed, and after much consideration, he decided to go on a quest for the golden fleece.
Jason avoided confrontations.
When he got to Colchis, he walked around the dragon with his scales, weighing the air, looking for a way to get past the dragon. He did this for many moons, and while he did this, Medea, daughter of the king of Colchis at the time, watched him and fell madly in love with him.
She watched him and studied him, and she understood that he was avoiding a direct confrontation with the dragon, and she told him that she could make a potion that would put the dragon to sleep. Why don’t you partner with me, she said; marry me.
Jason’s instincts told him not to partner with her, not to marry her, but he weighed his options and found no other way to avoid the fire of the dragon, and so he removed himself from his instincts and partnered with Medea and promised to marry her one day.
He watched her make the potion, and his instincts told him how dangerous she was; run away! But he did his thing, he removed himself from his instincts, and focused on the good parts of Medea; her alchemy, her ingredients so carefully measured and arranged on the table; she could make poison look aesthetically beautiful.
Libra, I think to myself; Jason holds the scales, and Medea holds the claws of the scorpion that were the scales before.
Venus rules Libra, and Venus in Libra arranges and capitulates and manipulates, and tries to maintain harmony.
Libra defines the seventh house as the house of partnerships.
Medea by Frederick Sandys, 1866
I take my bagpipes outside and play my music, and I think about the claws of the scorpion, and I think of Scorpio.
The story of Artemis is the story of Scorpio. She was mistress of the animals and a great huntress, and she was wild and she was chaste.
A maiden who killed Actaeon when he came upon her by accident while she bathed in a lake. Her indignation over his unplanned intrusion was such, that she threw the hide of a stag over him and her hunting dogs tore him apart.
Artemis and Actaeon, 5th century BC
Her twin brother Apollo was her companion, until she spotted the giant Orion hunting in Crete. He was a masterful hunter and she was drawn to him. A friendship was born between them that separated Apollo from Artemis; Orion took his place.
Apollo disapproved of Orion; he told Artemis that his company sullied her, but she didn’t care and she carried on.
She carried on, until that critical moment that happens in every friendship happened. It’s that moment when there’s a disagreement, a hurt, or a betrayal, and the rosy period ends. If things can be worked out and forgiven, the friendship continues, and if they can’t, the friendship ends.
That critical moment came when Orion either violated a priestess of Artemis, or run off with the goddess of dawn, or Apollo told Artemis that he did one of these things.
Apollo and Artemis, 470 BC
Artemis felt betrayed; her feelings overtook her and she called upon Scorpios and killed Orion.
Like Medea killed the children she bore Jason, when Jason told her that he would not marry her.
Medea killing her child, 330 BC
The story of Artemis makes Scorpio the protector of the mind, and Scorpio defines the eighth house as the house of our psychology.
Mars in Scorpio digs beneath the surface to find cause and motivation.
Pluto in Scorpio goes to the depths of the human psyche to heal and transform.
We do soul work in the eighth.
The ancients said we do soul work in the underworld, and the entrance to the underworld is the eighth house.
King Minos lifted the lid of the eighth house to throw the minotaur into the underworld, and we now call the minotaur, Prince Asterion, the starry one.
The story of the starry one is the story of Taurus.
From the eighth house, Prince Asterion made his way across the sky through a maze, and he peeled off every layer of his soul in the process, and hidden beneath every layer were his family’s shame and his family’s secrets.
He laid bare all the buried shame and all the buried secrets of his family, as he wandered through the maze across the starry sky.
It was good therapy.
He freed himself of the guilt and began to see himself in a new light.
Bull Leaping Fresco, Great Palace at Knossos, Crete, 1400 BC
His unremembered dead were Jupiter and Europa. His story began the day Jupiter came in the shape of a bull and carried Europa off to Crete. They loved each other so much that they populated the island with their offspring.
Many generations later, Minos was born, and when Minos grew up, he wanted to be king of the island, and he prayed to the gods to send him a divine bull that would make him king, like the golden fleece made Jason king.
Neptune sent him the bull that made him King Minos of Crete, and Neptune expected him to sacrifice the bull back to him; that was the custom. But Minos was a lover of natural grace and beauty, and the bull was a personification of the natural grace and beauty that Minos loved, and he kept it for himself, and sacrificed a lesser bull to Neptune.
This angered Neptune, and to teach Minos a lesson, he asked Venus to make his wife Pasiphaë fall in love with the bull.
She did, she fell so madly in love with the bull, that she asked Daedalus the inventor to build a contraption that would allow her to mate with the bull.
He was the result of that union.
He was a hybrid made of love.
When he got to the other side of the maze, he opened the lid and found himself in the second house, and he defined the second house as the house of unearthed resources.
His resources were the following;
He had the patience, stamina and agility to make his way through a maze
His story no longer felt like a burden on his shoulders; he was learning to embrace his story
Venus, ruler of Taurus, makes Taurus a lover, and he was going to spread the love.
It starts to rain and I’m about to go inside, when someone drives by and makes the peace sign.
The peace sign reminds me of Pisces.
Pisces retreats to find peace, like Venus and Eros did.
But there’s another side to Pisces, the side that mobilizes Pisces into action, the typhonic side.
It all came to be during the turn of the ages, when the Titans fought against the Olympians, and as a last resort, created Typhon.
He was a monster made up of all monsters. He was a cacophony.
Typhon got loose and became a force of destruction that the Titans couldn’t control, and Typhon went after Venus and Eros, and Venus tied a cord between her and her son, and they jumped into the river and turned into fish.
The water buffered mother and son from the chaos of the world, until the Olympians trapped Typhon underneath Mount Etna, and order was restored.
It’s what happened to George Banks in the movie Father of the Bride.
He starts off as the protective father of Annie, keeping her away from all the dangers of the world, until the day she tells him that she’s getting married. He doesn’t see her as a 22 year old telling him that she’s getting married; he still sees her as a 7 year old with pigtails.
You’re not getting married and that’s final! he says, and the Typhon inside him begins to awaken.
The Typhon is full on when Howard, the wedding coordinator’s assistant, tells him that the wedding estimate is 250 ahead.
The world becomes a chaotic and uncontrollable world and George begins to mobilize as chaos.
He needs to escape, like Venus and Eros escaped; he needs to drive away and mellow out, and get his mind off the wedding, but his wife asks him to go to the supermarket.
He enters a supermarket and starts tearing open packages of buns. There are eight wieners in a package of wieners and 12 buns in a package of buns, and he tears off 4 buns to make the numbers match.
It’s a conspiracy! he yells, and he loses control and ends up behind bars.
Typhon is trapped beneath Mount Etna, and before he’s let out, his wife makes him repeat these words,
I, George Stanley Banks, promise to pull it together and act my age. I will stop hyperventilating, rolling my eyes and unbuttoning my top collar button. I will stop making faces in general and tell everyone I meet how much this wedding is costing. I will try to remember my daughter’s feelings, and how with every roll of my eyes, I’m taking away a piece of her happiness.
George promises all of the above, and the promise restores him. He goes back to being the Venus Annie needs him to be. When Annie calls the wedding off because Brian gives her a blender, he brings them back together. He extends the cord that ties him to Annie to include Brian.
Pisces can retreat, but Pisces is also a place of retreat; Pisces is the river that Venus and Eros jump into to get away from Typhon. Neptune in Pisces gives refuge.
Pisces can mobilize like a typhon, but Pisces can also feel the weakness of a typhon and capture it. Jupiter in Pisces gives leadership in crisis situations.
Pisces defines the twelfth house as the house of retreat; it is the house where we restore, replenish and find inspiration.
Pisces also defines the twelfth house as the house of dissolution; we end up here when we become undone.
Ivory Aqvik by Tim Pitsiulak, 2013, coloured pencil
Tim Pitsiulak found inspiration in his twelfth house, the land of his ancestors, the Thule. He drew this bowhead whale in ivory colours because the Thule made ivory images, like the mask on the belly of the whale.
He was in the twelfth when he wandered about the land and when he went hunting, but he took the third house with him, to gather information, and he took the ninth with him too, to make sense of it all.
His first was always with him, because the land can be dangerous. A polar bear can be dangerous.
Sated bear by Tim Pitsiulak, 2014, stonecut
There is intricate detail in his drawings, but his drawings are uncluttered; he finds the essence of everything.
Virgo does that, Virgo finds the essence of everything; the essential, the most important.
Loss teaches us to do that, to hold on to what is most important, and Virgo’s story is Demeter’s story, which is a story about loss. There is grief in her story, and then acceptance, and in the acceptance, she finds joy.
Like Hera, she was a great goddess, goddess of the earth and goddess of agriculture. She wanted to keep her daughter Persephone innocent and pure, but Pluto took her to be his wife, and she plunged into grief, and the earth grieved with her.
Without her daughter, she felt lost, and she needed to feel useful, to have a purpose, and she took a human form and called herself Doso. Celeus, king of Eleusis, and his wife Metanira hired her to be the nurse of their son Demophon.
When Demeter held their child, she decided to make him her own; if she couldn’t have her daughter back, Demophon would be her child, and every night. she laid him on the hearth to burn off his mortality.
When Metanira caught her doing this, she threw her out, and Demeter revealed her true identity and asked that a temple be built in her name, and when the temple was built, she shut herself inside.
The earth became barren, and people prayed to the gods for help, and Jupiter sent Mercury to the underworld and Mercury struck a deal; Persephone would spend half the year with her mom, and the other half with her husband, and Demeter settled for this; she settled for half.
The seasons came to be with Persephone’s return; when she returns, Demeter’s joy gives us spring, and when she goes back to the underworld, we have fall.
Virgo feels the rhythms of the earth, and holds knowledge of the rituals that come with a fall and a return, with a death and a birth.
Demeter’s Eleusinian Mysteries were tied to Persephone’s story; the loss of purity, her fall and her return, and the ancients were initiated in these secret mysteries, and they remain a mystery to us, but Virgo holds them in their story; the sense of loss, the grief that comes with it, and the acceptance.
Virgo tries to make things perfect, to restore, to heal to perfection, but with time, the mysteries reveal themselves to them.
It isn’t possible to recreate purity of form. If we take something sacred and give it form, something is sacrificed in the process; the result will not be perfect. With time, Virgo accepts this; it is humble acceptance and there is grief at the imperfect result. But Virgo works to make it as intricate and beautiful as possible to honour its sacredness.
Bowhead whale by Tim Pitsiulak, 2015, coloured pencil
Mercury rules Virgo, and Mercury in Virgo subtracts what is not needed, what is superfluous, to better focus on the essential.
Virgo defines the sixth house as the house of work; we perfect our craft in the sixth, and when we try to make it perfect, the mysteries reveal themselves to us, and we accept our limitations, we settle for the best that we can do.
We learn to find joy in the result.
Family of eight by Tim Pitsiulak, 2008, National Gallery of Canada
Virgo has easy access to Pisces. If we do too much Virgo, too much focused attention and too worried about perfection, we attract the other side of the polarity that is Pisces. We let go of all control and find refuge, and when we are restored, or when Pisces begins to feel chaotic, we slide back to Virgo. Pisces is medicine for Virgo, and at the same time, Virgo is defined against Pisces.
Tim Pitsiulak lived a Piscean life; the North was his refuge; he knew the land, the animals of the land, he followed the ways of his ancestors when he hunted, and he was a guide to many people who came to visit him; he showed them what he knew. He never left for more than two weeks; two weeks was as long as he could stay away.
The North was his inspiration, the source of his work, and when he got down to work, he slid to Virgo; Virgo was his studio. In Virgo, he chose what was necessary and unnecessary to convey essence.
We feel the polarities we’re living in, the polarities most active in our lives, where our hearts beat the strongest, and birth charts may reveal to us why.
Tim Pitsiulak had a stellium in Pisces and two planets in Virgo; he slid back and forth the Pisces Virgo polarity.
But we also play polarities in other people’s lives, other people’s birth charts.
I go for a bike ride and a man’s profile catches my eye; his head is clean shaven and Picasso pops to mind.
Picasso had a grand stellium in Taurus; Taurean to the core.
If his peace was disturbed
the Minotaur would rise
his temper made a show.
Too much Taurus attracts Scorpio, and he attracted women who played the Scorpio part he needed them to play; strategic women, protectors of his mind. They took revenge on his behalf; restored the peace he needed to paint.
soothing hands caressing his bald head.
Jonas Salk had more hair than Picasso did in his later years.
He was a Scorpio, and he fell in love with a woman who was hard to get.
When she was young and with Picasso, Françoise Gilot played Scorpio.
With Jonas Salk many years later, she played Taurus; she was headstrong, independent, stubborn and demanding.
She was a challenge, and Scorpio likes a challenge.
He agreed to her demands. We can make it work, he said, and they were together till the day he died.
Jonas Salk was a virologist who studied the influenza virus and then the polio virus, too dangerous to use live for immunization.
In the lab, his Aquarius Leo polarity was activated; he had Uranus in Aquarius and he thought outside the box. Could a killed virus provide immunity, he asked himself, and his experiments showed him that it could.
He developed the killed-virus vaccine that eradicated polio.
When people asked him if he would patent the vaccine, he replied from Aquarius, Can you patent the Sun?
In Aquarius, there is no patent; the vaccine belongs to everyone.
Wherever Jonas Salk went, he was applauded as the protector of children; people applauded his heart in Leo.
When Salk came up with the idea of the Salk Institute of Biological Studies, he went looking for an architect and found Louis Kahn. He told Kahn that he wanted to build a piece of architecture to which he could invite
He asked Kahn to step into his Aquarian house, and Kahn stepped inside and looked around and came up with the final design.
Equal structures on either side, and in the middle,
a plaza for all
to look at the vastness of the Pacific Ocean.
When Louis Kahn was a little boy, he was captivated by the orange glow of lit coals in the stove, and one day he reached for one, and his clothes caught fire and his face burned. His grandmother wrapped him up and put him in a wheelbarrow and rushed him to the medicine woman.
The medicine woman healed him, but he carried the marks of fire.
He was an architect made of fire. He said architecture begins with fire,
light comes from fire,
and there’s light
and spent light.
Architecture is spent light, and it allows light that is not spent to come inside.
He was in Sagittarius when he explained his philosophy of architecture to Jonas Salk, and then he walked to Gemini, with Salk explaining to him what he wanted,
the play of light and spent light that he envisioned.
One of my sisters announces that her new perfume is
daughter of Picasso.
He had two children with Françoise Gilot; Paloma and Claude.
When Picasso married Jacqueline Roque, the children still managed to see their father. But when their mother published a book about Picasso against Picasso’s wishes,
Jacqueline barred them from Picasso’s life.
Paloma knows why he allowed it; she never spoke to him about it, but she knows. She knows that he was growing old and needed Jacqueline to take care of him. If he had stood against Jacqueline and she had left him,
would Paloma have taken care of him?
When he allowed Jacqueline to bar them from his life, he gave them their freedom, and Paloma took it.
She flew to Aries to find out who she was without her dad.
A jewelry designer, a woman of taste; what she wore attracted attention.
Soon, famous couturiers joined her in Libra; they commissioned her to design accessories to accompany their collections.
She came up with new designs in Aries and accommodated them in Libra, to suit her clients’ needs.
She became an astute businesswoman,
she learned how to carry her name.
Claude tried flying to Aries like Paloma did, but his mother gave him a responsibility that landed him in Capricorn. She gave him all the money she earned from her book about Picasso, and told him to go to court; fight for yourself and Paloma, born out of wedlock, to be legally recognized as Picasso’s children.
He stayed in court for a long time, because Picasso died and didn’t leave a will, and dividing his estate was a messy process. But at the end of it all, he became the court-appointed administrator of Picasso’s estate.
He walked from Capricorn to Cancer, and established the Picasso Museum in Paris to house his dad’s estate.
He now walks back and forth from Capricorn to Cancer protecting Picasso’s oeuvre and archives; he approves and sometimes prevents exhibits, films and books written about his dad. His team of lawyers around the world handle reproduction rights, merchandising and any sort of marketing that uses his dad’s name.
He’s a walking catalogue of Picasso’s work.
I never imagined that this would be my destiny, he says; but who better than me to take care
of my dad.
A taxi driver drops a passenger off and then makes his way to a park to do some lunges.
There he is doing lunges, when three men working in a construction site nearby take a break and sit on the grass across from him to have their lunch.
They take their helmets off and open their coolers and take out their food, and they’re about to take their first bite, when they notice the taxi driver. The taxi driver isn’t doing lunges anymore; his mouth is watering and he’s watching them, and the men offer him something to eat. They each offer him something different, and the taxi driver says no to the first and no to the second, and yes to the third.
Like the judgement of Paris, I think to myself. Replace the three men with three goddesses, and the taxi driver with a herdsman, and that’s what the judgement of Paris was about.
It was supposed to be a beauty contest, but it really was about making Paris the right offer.
The Judgement of Paris by Peter Paul Rubens, 1636
There’s Hera with her peacock, symbol of Argus Panoptes, the giant she created to keep eyes on Jupiter. She offered to make Paris king of Europe and Asia.
There’s Athena with her aegis. She offered to teach him strategy in war.
And there’s Venus with Eros. Venus offered him the most beautiful woman in the land, even though she knew that the most beautiful woman in the land was married.
Helen? Isn’t she married to the king of Sparta, Paris asked her.
I was married to Hephaestus when I ran away with Mars, she told him; we’re all scandals, and scandals make good stories, don’t they, Mercury?
They do, said Mercury.
Mercury had taken the three goddesses to bathe in the spring of Ida before the contest, and he was still there, standing behind Paris.
Venus advised Paris to run away with Helen and take refuge inside the walls of Troy, and Mercury revealed to him that he wasn’t a simple herdsman, but a prince of Troy. His mother had dreamt of a burning torch the night before he was born, and the dream scared her, because a burning torch is a symbol of war. That’s why he was left exposed on Mount Ida to die, but a herdsman found him and raised him as his own.
The revelation made all the difference; the title of prince gave Paris confidence.
But what if she doesn’t want to run away with me?
Give me the prize, and Eros will make sure that Helen follows you wherever you go, Venus said.
Venus is a planet of desire, and her desires can initiate wars.
Mars is a planet of the instinctive life; suppress Mars and-
Not far from the park is the river, and there’s a man sobbing by the river bank, and people ask him if he needs help; you look unwell; should we call an ambulance; we should call an ambulance just in case.
We wait for the ambulance, and the man tells us his story between sobs.
He’d been living a responsible life, a cerebral life, ignoring his unhappy marriage and focusing on work. He was the Prometheus in his industry; professionally, a success. Then one day, he met someone who awakened his long suppressed Venus and Mars, and he found himself living in an exalted state, in the throes of passion and desire.
An obsession, someone says, and the sobbing man nods.
You lost all sense of reason, someone else says, and he nods.
Ended your marriage, a third person says, and he nods.
Neglected your business, a fourth person says, and he nods.
Bankrupted you, a fifth person says, and he nods.
Homme fatal or femme fatale, someone asks him.
Femme, he whispers.
She disappeared when you had nothing left, the paramedic says, and he nods.
Happened to me too, the other paramedic tells him; best thing that happened to me, best experience of my life.
Me too, the sobbing man says, blowing his nose.
What are you going to do now, I ask him.
Live a more authentic life.
Don’t suppress your Venus and Mars.
You need to find an outlet, like the director of Wild Tales; he unleashes Venus and Mars in that film. He says his film’s about the explosive release of tension and the pleasure of losing control.
It’s about desire and doing what you feel without measuring consequences.
A film by Damián Szifron
A woman walks by pushing a stroller, oblivious to us, in her own bubble, and I say, Neptune; the kind of experience you’re talking about, the exalted state, drugged with desire and the letting go, is a Neptune transit. It’s when Neptune in the sky touches our natal Saturn in some way and dissolves it.
Everything I built got washed away, the sobbing man says.
When Neptune dissolves Saturn, the savage side of Venus and Mars awakens, and we find the courage to reach for something we wouldn’t have dared touch before.
Something forbidden, someone says.
Saturn saves us from temptation, and without Saturn, we fall, someone else says.
The Temptation of Saint Anthony by Salvador Dali, 1946
We don’t always fall-
We release old control patterns-
The talk of temptation and freedom brings Jupiter to mind, and I say, It could have also been a Jupiter transit; there’s a wild side to Jupiter, the side that’s always on the lookout for-
A well rounded-
The woman pushing the stroller walks by again, and we stop talking until she’s out of hearing.
Leda and the Swan, mosaic, 3rd century AD
He gives plenty. When he came to Leda as a swan, she laid two eggs, and in each egg, there was a set of twins, the Gemini twins.
He heightens anything he touches. If he touches our natal Venus and Mars, the ferocity of our emotional drive and sexual drive engrosses the mind and can override Saturn.
I overrode Saturn and dismantled my life, but I had the best sex and I have no regrets, says the sobbing man who’s not sobbing anymore. He’s now wearing his shades and looking more sure of himself.
We hear geese, and we look up and there are geese flying in formation, and a paramedic says, Jupiter has a carnal way of changing the direction of our lives.
We watch the geese until they’re gone, and I’m about to leave, when a wild turkey appears out of nowhere and I say, It could have been a Uranus transit.
That depends, someone says, and they ask the man who’s not sobbing anymore if his meeting with the woman felt fated, because when Uranus touches our natal Mars or Venus, the encounters we have can feel that way, like she’s the one I’ve been waiting for, or he’s the one I’ve been waiting for.
They can feel like an electric shock.
It did, says the man who’s not sobbing anymore; I was driving and I never give hitchhikers a ride, but for some reason, that day I did, and when I stopped my car and she got in, we looked at each other and recognized each other on some level, and there was chemistry, and there was steam.
Seems to me like you were having multiple transits when you met her
I get distracted and don’t hear the rest of what they’re saying. My attention is drawn to the three men at the park heading back to work, and to the taxi driver walking back to his car, and to another car that’s parked, and even though I can’t see clearly from where I am, I know there’s someone inside that car. An empty car is an empty car, but when there’s someone inside, they fill the car with soul, and that makes me think of Pluto. The man who’s not sobbing anymore must have been having a Pluto transit as well.
When I join the conversation again, they’re comparing the man who’s not sobbing anymore’s experience with Saint Anthony’s experience in the desert.
The saint was probably having the same transits you were; Neptune’s exaltation and Saturn’s dissolution-
Don’t forget Pluto, I say; when Pluto touches our natal Venus and Mars, we crave intensity, an intense experience that will change us and make us feel alive again.
His soul must have reached out for intensity, and he was besieged with lustful dreams that he felt were demonic and destructive, and he turned to prayer. He prayed and prayed and rid himself of temptation and was purified.
The Temptation of Saint Anthony by Hieronymus Bosch, detail, 1470-1516
I fell into temptation and was purified, says the man who’s not sobbing anymore; I prayed for more, for all of it.
What’s your name, a woman asks him.
Anthony, he says, and when he says that, we all grow quiet for a brief moment, and the conversation changes, and I know that a god just walked by.
The woman offers him her cottage in the country, where he can get organized, update his CV, apply for a job, and he accepts her offer.
He rises to talk with her, and the air changes with the new story that’s about to unfold.
I unpack my bagpipes and find a place to play, to mark this spot with music.
My music tells of Anthony’s journey through the eighth house; how he lost his mind and paid the price of his material well being, but he resurfaced through the second house purified. The riverbank was his second house, until we showed up and turned it into his third; we became his village, telling him that he wasn’t alone, and we brought in the ninth house to make sense of his story. When a woman among us offered to help him, the rest of us moved away and made room for a partnership to form between them.
I stop playing when I hear someone call my name,
He’s an old friend, and he tells me that he had a strange dream. He was a pigeon in the dream, the kind of pigeon that lives in the market place, but he wasn’t in the market place; he was alone on a country road, pecking at the ground. Then he went back to being human, doing push ups on that same country road.
That’s a Mars retrograde dream, says a man from the construction site who’s been listening to us.
You think so, I ask him.
He nods and says, I got a headache when Mars began his retrograde in Aries, and a dream told me that I needed to get more sleep.
But I don’t have a headache, my old friend tells him.
You’ll get one if you don’t start eating healthy and getting more exercise. That pigeon left the comfort of the market place to go foraging in the countryside just for you.
A Mars retrograde can be hard, I say; he asks us to be more disciplined, to put more effort where we’ve grown lax, to be more strategic when we act.
He gives us the willpower to break bad habits and to complete difficult tasks, says the man from the construction site, going back to work.
He goes back to work and my old friend goes for a run, and I put my bagpipes away.