Yin Yang IX

Chart for Philippe Villeneuve, born March 3, 1963, Boulogne-Billancourt, France,

the man in charge of restoration work at Notre Dame that began in 2013.


Chart for April 15, 2019, the day the cathedreal burned.

Transiting Jupiter in Sag was in a square to his natal Jupiter in Pisces, with an orb of less than five degrees. A challenge.

Transiting Neptune, Venus and Mercury were conjunct his natal Sun and Jupiter in Pisces.

There is Art when Neptune, Venus and Mercury are together, and with the Sun and Jupiter in Pisces, it can be Art informed by master artists and artisans of the past. Such a stellium in a square to transiting Jupiter in Sag must have called forth many unremembered dead. They must have surrounded Villeneuve while he looked up at the smoke and the flames,


and he must have heard them whisper, Use our techniques to restore her.


Construction of a Gothic cathedral by Lluís Bargalló

When Villeneuve climbed up to inspect the damage the following day, he found the rooster that had perched on top of the spire lying on a side roof. A miracle. He hugged the crumpled bird and thought, A message from- from-

the messenger of the gods.


He remembered the whispers of the night before, and felt the weight of transiting Saturn and Pluto conjunct his natal Venus in Capricorn. There is commitment and faithfulness in this combination, to tradition and history and the structures that hold us up,

to Notre Dame de Paris.

He felt the spirit of the times in Taurus and the value of heritage, and he had a drawing of the spire tattooed on his left arm, from the elbow to the wrist,


He vowed to see the cathedral restored to her original state and fought against every proposal to modernize her. He fought for authenticity and won.


Carpenters Without Borders using medieval techniques to rebuild Notre Dame

It could take a long time,

as long as it took Odysseus to reach Ithaca,

and how he longed to reach it.

Neptune in Pisces is in his own sign, his element, and he can meander and get us lost, and inspire a good story. With Neptune it isn’t about the destination, but about the journey.


Neptune in his chariot with his horses and his sea men, and the ship of Odysseus in the background, scene 4, by Pellegrino Tibaldi, Palazzo Poggi, Bologna, 1550

Jupiter in Sag journeys too, but he aims to get to his destination, and in a square to Neptune in Pisces, he can keep the ship on course to meet the deadline set by Macron.

Macron wants the cathedral ready in time for the Olympic Games of 2024.

Jupiter moves faster than Neptune, and to keep Neptune and all his artsy types in check, Macron called the French Army General Jean-Louis Georgelin out of retirement to oversee reconstruction.

Georgelin was born August 30, 1948, in Aspet, France,

with Jupiter in Sag. His natal Jupiter will maintain a square with transiting Neptune in Pisces in an orb of less than ten degrees until March 2025.


Chart for April 8, 2022

Today Jupiter is conjunct Neptune in the skies, in Pisces, and Villeneuve has had a Jupiter return.


Blessing by Michael Bergt, 2022

Jupiter and Neptune, the traditional ruler and the modern ruler of Pisces. They can act in the midst of chaos, find clarity in the mist, sift through debris to find treasure.

There is assertion in this combination.

Villeneuve has stood by the use of oak and lead in the restoration, materials used in the original roof and spire that held for over 800 years, materials that are natural to the earth.

They will be used with adequate safety measures in place, like capturing and filtering rainwater that runs off the cathedral.

All that was left untouched by the fire is being cleaned of lead dust. The 7,800 pipes of the organ are being dismantled one by one to be cleaned.


Villeneuve has Saturn Mercury in Aquarius and there is science in Aquarius, and Aquarius likes to clean.

He studied to become a restorer of historic buildings, and in the 90s, he was involved in cleaning the outside walls of Notre Dame of grime and pigeon droppings.

He rose to become chief restorer of the cathedral,

and transiting Saturn Mars are conjunct his natal Saturn Mercury. He is having the Saturn and Jupiter returns that occur around age 60. An time of self evaluation.

There is discipline in Saturn Mars, a coming to terms with limitations, knowing when to hold back. There is endurance, a dance painstakingly learned. In Aquarius, it is societal, in service to society.

Transiting Saturn Mars and his natal Saturn Mercury are at the bending of the nodes, with Rahu in Taurus.

There is technology in Taurus, and there are the resources of the earth, and there is responsibility.

Notre Dame is being restored with public donations, 840 million euros, and he faces the responsibility that comes with spending public money.

A thousand oak trees have been cut for the roof and spire, the oldest planted 200 years ago for the navy’s supply of ship masts, and this has been a controversial matter. He has had to defend it with technical reasoning.

He is reviving medieval building techniques, making the old new again, and aligning them with the technologies available in Taurus, to make them safer, fireproof.

He must have started rebuilding the spire this year. A pivotal moment in his life.

His natal Mars is in Leo, and in Leo we can atone for the mistakes of others, for a short circuit, or a spontaneous spark. He feels responsible for the fire, and he redeems himself by restoring the cathedral exactly the way she was, exactly the way Viollet-le-Duc restored her. It was Viollet-le-Duc who designed the spire in the nineteenth century, and he was the architect who lay the foundation for the restoration of historical monuments in France.

The transiting and natal planets in Aquarius are in a semi sextile to the Jupiter Neptune conjunction in Pisces, and there is here a double dose of Saturn, a coming to terms with reality, with what is possible in a given timeframe. When asked if the restoration will be completed in 2024, Villeneuve is careful with his answer.

Georgelin is careful too. With his natal Mars and Neptune in Libra, and a taste for the arts, the general has immersed himself in the intricacies of restoration and understands there are things that cannot be rushed. He says that the interior will be completed, but the exterior may need more time. He adds that it is still important to set goals, like the president set a goal; it is important to keep heads out of the clouds.


When the Olympic Games begin on July 26, 2024, Jupiter will be transiting Gemini. Jupiter will be conjunct Viollet-le-Duc’s MC in Gemini in May 2025. He was born January 27, 1814, in Paris, at 9 pm. The data is taken from his birth record.

He was 16 during the July Revolution, a revolution that lasted 3 days. 

Chart for July 27, 1830

Neptune and Jupiter were transiting Capricorn, affecting his fourth house of home.

The new government hired his father as chief of the bureau of royal residences, and the family moved into the Tuileries Palace.

Transiting Jupiter and Neptune, and his natal Saturn Mercury in Capricorn, in a quincunx to his MC. He discovered his interest in art and architecture.


Women’s banquet at the Tuileries by Viollet-le-duc, 1835

He was 17 when he read Victor Hugo’s Notre Dame de Paris, published March 16, 1831.

Jupiter Uranus in Aquarius were conjunct his natal Sun in the fifth house of romance.

Uranus awakens a sign, and in Aquarius there are ideas and ideals, and a drink of immortality.

Jupiter conjunct Uranus in Aquarius can trigger a social movement based on an idea, an ideal. They can trigger study and research to make new again.

Hugo’s novel triggered a movement to restore the country’s patrimony, and Viollet-le-Duc was swept up in it.

His family wanted him to study architecture at the École des Beaux-Arts, but the École focused on the nineteenth century neo classical style, and he wanted to study the past. His water houses, the fourth, the eighth and the twelfth, tied him to his roots and to the remembered and unremembered dead.

Saturn Mercury in Capricorn in the fourth speak of erudition, a family tied to the ruling structures and to history. Mars and the Moon in Aries in the eighth speak of remembered dead who were pioneers, who had courage and passion. Jupiter in Virgo in the twelfth speaks of unremembered dead who taught the crafts, and who helped apprentices stay focused.


Jupiter and Mercury by Henry Marinsky

He preferred practical experience and got his training working with architects on restoration projects. With Gemini in the tenth house, he learned on site, touching, seeing, asking questions. He wrote accounts about the restorations and illustrated his writings with his drawings.

He developed arete in the craft, and was sent to restore a church by the inspector of historical monuments, with a warning to stay faithful to the architecture.

He did not. He lightened the roof and built additional arches to stabilize the structure, and as a result, changed the shape of the vault.

He was criticized for it, but the people in charge understood that he hadn’t just restored the church, he had rescued her.  

He became known as the most prominent scholar on medieval architecture, and in 1844, he won the competition to restore Notre Dame de Paris.

Chart for January 1, 1844

She was in a bad state after years of neglect. The 13th century spire had been removed because of instability, and parts of her were damaged and parts of her destroyed during the revolutions of 1789 and 1830.

With Neptune and Jupiter transiting his solar house and trining his MC,

he saw the mess that she was in,

and then he saw her clearly.


Saturn Mercury were conjunct his natal Saturn Mercury in Capricorn, asking for mastery, guiding his tenth house,

to visit other cathedrals built in the 13th thirteenth century to replicate the style of the period,

and to find a solution for the spire.

He searched for knowledge in his surroundings, in Sag in the third house, and put it to practical use in Gemini.


He let his imagination run free wherever he could, in the gargoyles and the grotesques, and in the sculptures he designed for the spire.

His natal Mars Moon conjunction in Aries in the eighth house gave him a taste for the macabre.

Three days before the fire, the heads of the sculptures were removed and they were lifted from the roof.

The Mars Moon conjunction trines Neptune in Sag, and the village that raised him had something to say about them.

YouTube: Notre Dame Cathedral statues flown away for renovation


Viollet-le-Duc grew up when the spirit of the times was in Sag, asking him to break the mould, and he broke the mould with a spire that brought him immortality,

and that has generated a lot of controversy.

Gemini opens doors to discussion, multiple points of view, argument.


Rectified chart for Philippe Villeneuve, born March 6, 1963, 11 pm, Boulogne-Billancourt, France

She is a chatty Moon in Gemini.

Villeneuve     The spirit of the times is in Taurus-

The Moon     Excellent! Wood is ecological, durable, supple.

Villeneuve     They are worried about using lead-

The Moon     Des bêtises! Will they climb on the roof to lick it?

Villeneuve     How did you manage such a big crew?

The Moon     I was everywhere, like the pigeons.

Villeneuve     I felt terrible when she burned. I felt like Hercules must have felt when he accidentally wounded Chiron.

The Moon     It brought out the warrior in you.


Eugène Viollet-le-Duc by Eugène Giraud, 1860 

Before NATO,

Neptune and Jupiter were conjunct in Libra when the United Nations officially began on October 24, 1945, San Francisco

Jupiter Chiron and Neptune Venus in Libra, minding the gap, closing the gap between leaders with principles of cooperation,

and with translators.

Jupiter Chiron were in a trine with Uranus and the Moon in Gemini,

and the Moon is chatty in Gemini. Conjunct Uranus and in a quincunx to Mercury in Scorpio, she can attract multiple languages, multiple clans.

Pluto in Leo promised romance in fields that connected people and opened doors for discussion to establish principles and form relationships.

Saturn Mars were conjunct in Cancer. Mars in Cancer can attract a large audience, and Saturn Mars can restrict the audience, guard the borders.


Before NATO,

Jupiter in Capricorn and Neptune in Libra were in a square when the Soviet Union established the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance with the countries in the Eastern Bloc.

Chart for COMECON, January 25, 1949

Neptune in Libra was weighing the pros and cons of a possible alliance,

when Jupiter Venus squared him.

Jupiter Venus in Capricorn drew heads of government guided by the same set of principles to concretize the alliance.

Pluto in Leo lying across from Mars Mercury in Aquarius promised romance in Aquarian fields, and in groups that shared resources.

The spirit of the times asked to make connections, and the Moon in Sag asked for a higher purpose, a common goal.


Then came NATO.

Chart for NATO, born April 4, 1949, Washington D.C.

Neptune in Libra was weighing the cons and pros of a possible alliance,

when Mercury, Mars Venus and the Sun pinned him down from across the skies and concretized a military alliance.

A collective defense against Soviet aggression, in line with the principles of the United Nations; the United Nations’ natal Jupiter and Chiron were conjunct Neptune in Libra.

Jupiter in Capricorn was in a quincunx to Uranus in Gemini and Saturn in Leo.

Uranus awakens a sign, and in Gemini there is Castor the horse tamer and Pollux the boxer. There is rescue, and the Dioscuri were always at the ready.


The Dioscuri fighting at the Battle of Lake Regillus by Reinhard Weguelin, 1880

Saturn asks for mastery, and in Leo there is Hercules and his labours. There is Hercules holding the branch of a tree, that could be planted, that could grow roots.


Hercules and Athena by Laurent La Hyre, seventeenth century

Pluto in Leo trined the stellium in Aries and sextiled Neptune in Libra. He promised romance in fields that would uphold the alliance, ensure the survival of the alliance.

A flexible alliance, ready to adapt to the individual demands and conditions of its members. The spirit of the times was in Gemini, and Gemini is a flexible sign.

Diplomacy above all; Mercury at five degrees Aries is a poet.

If diplomacy failed, there would be military intervention; Mars Venus and the Sun in Aries are warriors.

There is the birth of something new when Mars and Venus come together in Aries, and in a natal chart, there is the need to birth new things constantly. It can give rise to scattered energy,

or no energy at all,


until something comes along that grips them and stirs them into action, stirs their passion, something that offers room to grow.


Chart for the Warsaw Pact, May 14, 1955

Two weeks after West Germany joined NATO, the Soviet Union created its own military alliance with countries in the Eastern Bloc.

Neptune got pinned down by Venus in Aries and squared by Jupiter Uranus in Cancer.

There can be great love for the motherland with Jupiter in Cancer, and Uranus in Cancer can awaken such sentiments.

Uranus awakens, Uranus frees. He carries the story of Prometheus, rebel Titan.

Not everyone in the Warsaw Pact considered the Soviet Union to be the motherland.


Prague Spring, Jan. 5, 1968 – August 21, 1968

In 1991, the Soviet Union, COMECON and the Warsaw pact dissolved. NATO did not; it has grown bigger.


Opening ceremonies at the 2018 NATO summit in Brussels

In 1997, NATO had a Jupiter return.   

Chart for January 1, 1997

Neptune was transiting the sign of Enki, law maker, mischief maker, lover of mankind.

When Jupiter was conjunct Neptune, NATO decided on a new course of action, to accept new members, countries previously in the Eastern Bloc.

Pluto and Venus in Sag offered knowledge in foreign lands, in relationship with foreigners,

and the spirit of the times in Aquarius encouraged the spread of ideas, ideologies, and the pooling of resources.

Saturn was beginning his transit through NATO’s solar house; there was work to be done, Boris Yeltsin and Russia to be brought into the fold. On this day, Saturn in Aries was in an opposition with Mars in Virgo, treading carefully, taking the matter of expansion to court.


When Boris Yeltsin signed the Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security between the Russian Federation and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, he said that Russia still viewed negatively the expansion plans of NATO, but it paid tribute to NATO’s readiness to take Russian interests into account.

NATO and Russia have a history together.

Then Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014.

Then Russia invaded Ukraine.

Chart for February 24, 2022

Pluto in Capricorn offers riches digging in the past, studying the patterns of the past.

Pluto was conjunct NATO’s natal Jupiter when Russia invaded Ukraine; it faced a crisis that it saw coming.

When Venus and Mars come together in a sign, in a house, they can seed something new, and conjunct Pluto within a 5 degree orb, it can be something that carries the potential for transformation.

The Venus Mars and Pluto conjunction in Capricorn was in a sextile to Neptune in Pisces, and there is raw material in Pisces.

Chart for March 24, 2022

Venus Mars travelled together through Capricorn and into Aquarius.

They were conjunct Saturn in Aquarius; laying seeds to master fields that Aquarius rules; systems without a centre, cyberspace.

They were in a square to Uranus in Taurus; laying seeds to trigger fields ruled by Taurus; technology, security.

With Jupiter conjunct Neptune and Mercury in Pisces,

NATO issued a statement that concretized the stand it took toward Russia and its invasion of Ukraine, and the enhancements it would make to NATO’s infrastructure.


There is war in the story of Pisces, and Jupiter in Pisces can begin a war, end a war, and Venus in Pisces can give refuge.

Chart for April, 30, 2022

In light.

On this day, the Moon and the Sun meet in Taurus. We nurture in Taurus.

Saturn in Aquarius will be at the bending of the nodes, and Aquarius is a humanitarian sign.

Neptune and Jupiter Venus will be conjunct in Pisces; benevolence. They will be in a sextile to Pluto in Capricorn and to Mercury beginning his transit in Gemini.

There is hierarchy in Capricorn, and Pluto in Capricorn can draw the most powerful.

There is skill in Gemini, and Mercury in Gemini can open doors to a show of skill on land, in the air and at sea,

and in negotiations.

Sextiles bring opportunities.

Chart for May 11, 2022

Jupiter begins his transit through Aries, NATO’s solar house, on May 11. Jupiter can expand what he touches, make NATO bolder,

like in 1999, with Kosovo. Back then Uranus was in Aquarius and Pluto was in Sag. Air and Fire.


Today Uranus is in Taurus, in earth, and Pluto is in Capricorn, in earth,




and Mercury begins to retrograde in Gemini the same day Jupiter begins his transit in Aries, bringing pause and deliberation.


Jupiter will reach 8 degrees of Aries on August 18, and he will retrograde back to 28 degrees Pisces before turning direct.

He re enters Aries on December 21 and stays until mid May 2023.

He will be conjunct NATO’s natal Mercury 3 times, in direct, retrograde and direct motion, before he reaches NATO’s natal Mars Venus and Sun.

That’s a lot of poetry;


well versed

Before they were well versed, they were valleys v and w, a continuation of each other, cut by the same river but separated by letters of the alphabet.

When the king inherited them, he rode through the valleys taking pleasure in their vastness, and his subjects lined up to greet him.

A man dressed in a red velvet coat and smoking a pipe boldly stepped out and caught the king’s attention. “Your majesty,” he said, “you should look for a name that will join the valleys.”

“Very well,” said the king, and people cheered.

The king rode to the highest point he could ride day after day, looking for a name that would join the valleys, and all he came up with was very well.

His retinue of guards and advisors had something to say about very well.

“It will not do, sire.”

“It points to a lack of imagination-“

“a lack of substance. Very well is something you say to be agreeable-“

“Oh, very well, do as you please.”

“It will invite conquest.”

His subjects too had something to say about very well.

“It lacks originality, your highness.”

“It’s common parlance.”

“Why don’t you go to the lowest point and look up for inspiration instead of going to the highest point and looking down.”

“Very well,” said the king, and his retinue chuckled, and the king himself chuckled.

They rode together to the lowest point, where the river cut deepest, and when the king looked up he saw mountains that formed v’s and w’s and w’s and v’s against the sky.

“They’re so well versed,” he said.


(Untitled) by Lawren Harris, 1934

“What are they called,” the king asked.

“They’re untitled, your majesty,” said the man in the red velvet coat. The man had unbuttoned his coat and was kneeling on the river bank, fixing the wheel of his horse cart.

The king recognized him, “You’re the man who told me to find a name; you were smoking a pipe and wearing that red velvet-“

“It’s blue velvet on the inside,” said the man. He put his tools down to take his coat off, reversed it and put it back on.

“Why are the mountains untitled,” the king asked him.

“If you look at them again, you’ll find them gone.”

The king and his retinue looked up, and the mountains had disappeared behind clouds.

“Rarely seen,” the man in the red and blue velvet coat continued. “Legend says they’re the abode of gods. If I were you, with all due respect, I would name the valleys well versed and leave the mountains be.”

With that, the man put his tools away and got on his cart. He took the reins of his horse and bid the king farewell.

The king watched him until he was a speck of blue, then turned and said, “Back to the castle.”


He walked inside the castle and found his personal assistant strutting around with a rooster.

“What’s that you’re carrying, Martha.”

“Why, a rooster, your royalness, to wake you up in the morning. Can’t have the king oversleeping.”

“I’d prefer bells.”

“Bells are for priests and roosters are for kings. It’s in the book I’m reading, How to serve a king.”

“Speaking of books, please show me the library.”

“This way, sire.”

He walked with her, and knowing that she had been raised in these parts, asked her if she knew anything about mountains rarely seen, untitled.

“They are taboo, sire, taboo in the original sense of the word.”

“Could you elaborate.”

She slowed her pace and said that in the beginning, before we gave the forces of nature names, names that became gods, there was the force of the land, the sea, the wind, the thunderbolt. When a thunderbolt hit the ground, no one would come near the place. To come near it would be to meddle with a force more powerful than ourselves. To come near it was taboo.

She stopped and opened a door, “Your library, sire.”

The librarian rushed to greet the king. He asked the king if he’d found a name that would join the valleys.

“Valleys well versed,” said the king.

“Splendid, young majesty, king of the valleys well versed, much better than very well. We should prepare the royal balcony for your announcement.”

“I’ll prepare the balcony while you attend the king,” said Martha, closing the door behind her.


Martha by Andrey Remnev

“At your service, sire.”

“I’d like every book on the legends of the valleys, and any book that mentions untitled mountains.”

“Funny you bring them up,” said the librarian, going through a pile of books. “We got a book a day or two ago about a group of mountain climbers attempting to reach the untitled ones. I haven’t put it in the system yet.”

“Is it a book of fiction.”

“Must be, considering people’s attitude about them. I remember seeing a woodpecker on the cover. Aha, here it is, Chased by a Woodpecker by V. W. Penn.”

“Could I take it.”

“Of course. I’ll cart the rest of the books to your study.”

Martha came to remind the king that before he could get lost in a book, he had an announcement to make.

People had gathered outside expectantly, and they were pleased to hear the name that would join the valleys.

“What inspired you, your majesty.”

“Well,” said the king, “when I looked up, I-“


The rooster interrupted the truth he was about to tell. It sat perched on the balcony railing, catching the last rays of sunlight, and it reminded the king of the red and blue velvet coat, and the man who said leave the mountains be.

“Tell us, your majesty.”

“Well,” said the king, “when I looked up, I thought of all of you, so well versed in so many fields and on so many subjects, and Ronald the librarian tells me that our libraries are some of the world’s richest, and that the castle library is filled with treasures-“

People cheered and the king waved and waved, until Martha pulled him inside and gave him back his book.


The castle library by James Stephanoff

The book was not what the king expected. It was a book that rated valleys for mountaineers, and valleys v and w were given the worst rating.

It described the experience a group of mountain climbers had when they came in search of the untitled mountains. No one would point the way, and when a local finally did, he did not warn the group that the mountains were inhabited by dangerous woodpeckers. When the group reached the mountains, a woodpecker of massive proportions chased them away.

Because of this, the worst rating a valley could get in the world of mountaineering was no longer half a star or no star at all, but the expression “chased by a woodpecker.”

“It’s given us a bad reputation,” the king told Ronald when he came to the study with the rest of the books.

“A woodpecker can always be appeased, your majesty.”

“How,” the king asked him.

“That’s a questions for the Oracle.”

“What Oracle,” the king wanted to know, but before Ronald could answer, Martha made her presence known.

“Your bath is ready, sire.”


Splish splash by Edward Fielding

“Can you hear me, Martha.”

“I can hear you,” she said, sitting behind the closed door.

“Tell me what an Oracle is.”

“It’s someone who meddles with a force more powerful than ourselves,” she said. “When the forces of nature were given names, and the names became gods, places that were taboo became sacred to the gods, and only the priests and priestesses of the gods were allowed to enter, to perform rituals and ask for favours from the gods, and to appease them, and some of them, very few, brought back messages from the gods, oracles, and they became known as Oracles.”

“Do we have one. Is there an Oracle of the untitled mountains.”

“I’ve never seen the mountains,” Martha continued, “but from what I’ve heard, they contain a primal force, the force of survival. Your majesty said that a woodpecker of massive proportions chased a group of mountain climbers away. The woodpecker made war. There is the force of survival and war in the mountains, and the name of that force is the name of a god, and the god won’t let anyone near.”

“What’s the name of the god,” the king asked her.

Martha wrote it on a piece of paper, slipped it under the door, and asked him not to say it out loud.

The king took the piece of paper and read the name. “How do you pronounce it,” he asked her.

She didn’t answer, but he felt her smile.

“Is there an Oracle in a more peaceful taboo and sacred place.”

“Yes, your royalness.”

“Whose force does the Oracle meddle with.”

“The force of Op Pollo,” she said. “He is the force that holds back impulse and unreflective urges, the force that makes us wait for the fruit to ripen before we bite.”

She heard him come out of the tub, put his bathrobe on, and lean against the door, “What if you wait too long and miss your chance.”

“If the chance is yours to take, the force of magic propels you forward when the time is right.”

“What do you call the force of magic.”

“Op Shiva.”

“Are the three related.”

“They are brothers.”

“I’d like you to ride with us tomorrow.”

“Very well, your majesty.”

He didn’t answer, but she felt him smile.


Composition No. 3 by Piet Mondrian, 1913

He woke up with the call of the rooster.

Before leaving the castle, he took Chased by a Woodpecker back to the library and asked Ronald if V.W. Penn was a local. The book didn’t say.

“I’ll make inquiries-“

“We need to find him.”

When he stepped outside, his retinue of guards and advisors and his personal assistant greeted him.

“We should discuss securing the borders, your highness-“

“and building an army.”

“Why,” he asked them. “Are we under threat.”

“The valleys have become valuable since you inherited them, sire. They are regarded as an extension of his majesty.”

“I must say I feel possessive of them. They were criticized in a book and it infuriated me.”

“Chased by a Woodpecker,” said one of the guards.

“You’ve read it already,” the king was surprised.

“We’ve all read it, your majesty.”

“It could deter troublemakers from coming to the valleys.”

“It could attract troublemakers up for a challenge.”

“That’s why securing the borders-“

“and building an army-“

The king stopped them, “Let’s go back to the place that inspired the name well versed.”

When they got to the place where the river cut deepest, the king asked Martha to stand beside him, and following his intuition, he whispered the name of the god of war, “Op Maul.” Martha covered his mouth with her hand, and with his, he gently took her hand away and raised her chin. “Op Maul,” he whispered again, and the clouds parted, and then drew back.

“They are so well versed,” she said.

“A man dressed in red and blue said they may be the abode of gods.”

“The raw energy of war tamed by Op Pollo and shaped into mountains well versed by Op Shiva.”

“The man also said to name the valleys well versed but leave the mountains be.”

“V. W. Penn didn’t, sire,” said a guard in his retinue. “If you look closely, you will see people setting up camp at the foot of the hills surrounding the untitled ones.”

The king’s advisors came up with a plan.

“We will send guards to warn them that they need permits to set up camp and do any sort of mountaineering-“

“We will limit the number of permits-“

“Or not give any at all-“

“Bog them down with bureaucracy-“

“No,” said the king. “We’re going to talk to them first. I want to talk to them.”

They rode to the foothills, and when the people setting up camp saw the king, they lined up to greet him.

“Where do you come from,” the king asked them.

A young man was pushed forward to speak on everyone’s behalf.

“We come from different valleys, your highness. Some of us come from a, and some from d, and some from k-“

“What brings you here,” the king asked him.

“Somewhere yonder,” said the young man, pointing at the clouds, “there are mountains rarely seen, and we’d like to climb them.”


“We read a book, and in it, people who tried climbing those mountains got chased by a woodpecker of massive proportions.”

“Have you come to kill it. There will be no killing in these valleys.”

“Oh no, your majesty, nothing like that. We believe that the people who got chased away forgot to ask the mountains permission to climb.  Climbing mountains without offering prayers and asking permission is like declaring war. The mountains feel they’re under attack and they fight back. But if you offer prayers and ask permission, and the signs are good, then it’s a go ahead and there’s peace.”

“What’s your name.”

“Kouros, your majesty, and we are the Kouros Climbing Group.”

“Kouros,” said the king, “what if I told you that legend says the mountains are the abode of gods, and that it is best to leave them be.”

Kouros was speechless.

The king continued, “There’s a stack of books on the legends of these valleys lying in my study. You’re welcome to come to the castle and look through them.”


Kouros, Greek, 530 B.C.

The king asked his retinue if they still thought permits were necessary, and the discussion that ensued animated the ride back to the castle.

Then someone ran past them.

“Who’s that.”

“I think it’s Kouros.”


Kouros stopped and waited for them to catch up, but it wasn’t the Kouros who’d spoken on everyone’s behalf.

“We all take the name Kouros when we join the Kouros Climbing Group. That’s what the ancient Greeks called the statues of young men with one leg forward. We’re way ahead of those statues, in the sense that we don’t just step forward, we climb, but that’s how we start, with the initiative.”

“What about the women in the group,” asked a woman in the king’s retinue.

“They take the name Kouros too. Ancient Greek statues of young women have their legs together.”

“So how do you distinguish yourselves.”

“By valley. The Kouros who spoke on everyone’s behalf is from valley a. I’m from valley d.”

“You’re a fast runner,” said the king.

“We’ve been practising, your majesty, in case we get chased by the giant woodpecker.”

“Where are you headed.”

“To your castle, to take a look at your books, your majesty.”

“We’ll set up a place for you to look at them, and you’ll let me know if you find anything on the mountains.”


Kouros, Greek, 500 B.C.

The librarian stood waiting for the king at the castle entrance.

“Any news on V. W. Penn, Ronald,” the king asked him.

“I found him, your highness. He’s in the library.”

When the king walked into the library, Penn said he was deeply sorry for the effect his book was having. What was happening was really an unintended consequence.

“What is happening,” the king asked him.

“All those climbers making their way to your valleys, sire. It’s a good thing you’ve set up a check point.”

“What check point-“

“The person in charge is turning hundreds of climbers away. Need a permit, he tells them. I thought he was going to turn me away too, but he knew who I was and let me in.”

“Who exactly was in charge,” the king asked him, raising his voice.

“A man in a red velvet coat. He made it a point of telling me that it was blue on the inside.”


“Have- have I said something wrong,” Penn asked him, trembling.

“No, no,” the king said, controlling his emotions. “It’s just that I never set up a check point.”

“Aren’t you glad somebody did, your highness. When things like that happen, I always say it’s the force of magic.”

“Op Shiva,” the king whispered to himself.

“If I were you, with all due respect, I would set up a check point right away, before the magic disappears.”

Just then the library door flew open and Martha appeared, “Excuse me, your majesty, your council would like an emergency meeting.”

“I’m on my way,” said the king, heading out the door.

“May I leave,” Penn called after him.

“No,” the king called back. “There is something we need to discuss.”


Pipe by Bhavin Mehta

The king and his council decided on how many check points the valleys would have, how many guards in every check point, and how many more guards they would need to train.

Only one climbing group at a time would be given a permit, beginning with the Kouros group, and there would be rules to follow.

When the meeting was over, the king was glad to sink into a bath.

He asked Martha if she could hear him.

“I can hear you,” she said.

“Today we meddled with the force of Op Pollo. We set up barriers to hold people back, and established a system that makes them wait before they can take a bite.”

“You did your duty to your people, sire.”

“What about the mountains. He- the man in red and blue told me to leave them be, but the book has proven more powerful than-” The king stopped himself.

“He told you not to name them, not to possess them.”

“Not mine to defend,” he asked her.

“They defended themselves in the book,” she said.

He was quiet, and she suggested he seek the advice of the Oracle.

“I will tomorrow,” he said, and got ready to dine with Kouros d and V. W. Penn.

He entered the dining room and they were already there. They spoke about Penn and his book, and about Kouros and his climbing group’s philosophy.

“We’re going to appease the woodpecker,” said Kouros.

“Legend says the mountains are the abode of gods. Did you know that, Penn,” the king asked him.

“I had no idea.”

“I found a story, your majesty,” said Kouros, opening a book. “It’s about three gods who were brothers, the god of war, the god of order, and the god of magic. Their mighty father gave them a place on earth to play and to practice their skills. The god of war would crack open the earth, and he’d mold the fire and lava that spewed out into volcanoes. The god of order tamed the volcanoes until they grew quiet and green with pasture. The god of magic transformed them into crystal peaks of white.”

“Ah,” said the king, “not an abode, but a playground. That makes more sense.”

Penn and Kouros looked at the king, hoping for an explanation, but the king said, “Never mind.”

“There was something you wanted to discuss with me, sire,” Penn reminded him.

“Yes, Penn. I’d like you to accompany the Kouros expedition and write about it.”

“But I’ve never climbed before-“

“You should join us too, your majesty,” said Kouros. “We can get our very best to train you both in a matter of days. He’s a pro, Pro Kouros.”

“I’m tempted,” said the king, “but I first need to seek the advice of the Oracle.”

Penn and Kouros looked at the king again, hoping for an explanation, and this time the king told them what he had learned from Martha, about the three brothers, three gods, three forces, like in the story Kouros told. People brought up in these valleys were taught never to speak the name of the god of war, because he was so powerful. Then he told them about oracles, and that the Oracle of the valleys well versed meddled with the force of Op Pollo.

They wanted to go see the Oracle with the king, and the king said, “Very well.”


Martha led the way. She told them that the Oracle planted four posts on the ground to create a square, and sat in the middle of the square. She waited until someone approached, and put a carnival mask on as a signal for them to tell her why they’d come.

“You can tell her all you want,” Martha told the king, “but end what you say with a yes or no question. If she takes the mask off, it’s a yes, if she doesn’t, it’s a no.”

“How do we thank her,” the king asked her.

“With this fruit basket,” she said, lifting the fruit basket she was carrying, and a crow carried an apple away.

They approached the Oracle and the king knelt down, and the rest knelt down behind him. Martha gave him a nudge to start talking, and the king talked for a long time, telling the Oracle  all that had happened and all that he had learned since he became king of the valleys well versed. He asked her if it was correct to permit people, including himself, to come close to, and to try and climb the untitled mountains.


Oracle by Andrey Remnev

Pro Kouros trained the king and the author on the castle grounds. He anchored rope to the castle walls and taught them to climb on these fixed lines.

Martha watched him train them and found herself in ancient Greece.

1985 – Kouros   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4K2IY6MAe50

She felt him touch her shoulder, and when she looked up, it was really him.

“Would you like to train, miss,” he asked her.

“I’m too self conscious,” she said, colour rising to her cheeks.

“It would help the king stay focused if you joined us. He keeps looking down to see you and loses concentration.”

His words brought her back to reality, and she stepped forward. She shook the Greek fantasy out of her head to train beside the man she could handle.

The four would picnic together after every session, and on one occasion, Pro asked Penn what V. W. stood for, “Were you named after the valleys.”

“No, I’m not from around here. I was named after a dream my mother had right before I was born. She often had dreams of things to come.  In the dream about my name, she was travelling in a typical horse drawn carriage, when a horseless carriage pulled by an invisible force cut in front of her. There was a small circle drawn on the back of the magical carriage, and inside the circle were jagged mountains that looked like the letters V and W-” Penn stopped in shock.

“You’re living your mother’s dream,” said Pro. “It’s happening now.”

“So it is,” said Penn in wonder.


Seated scribe, Egyptian, ca 2,400 B.C.

The Kouros Climbing Group, the king and the king’s guards, Martha, Penn, and Ronald who decided to come along at the last minute, set out for the untitled mountains on a clear morning. Ronald brought Chased by a Woodpecker to use as reference, and he calculated that they would reach the mountains in ten days.

They trekked during the day and set up camp at night, and after ten days the mountains were nowhere in sight.

“How curious,” he said.

They trekked during the day and set up camp at night for ten more days, and the mountains were nowhere in sight.

“Preposterous,” he said.

They trekked during the day and set up camp at night for another ten days with the same result.

It brought strife among them. There was a lot of how dare you, and who said that,  and get out of my way, to be heard.

It dawned on the king that the mountains were defending themselves. He picked up the book and told everyone that in it, the mountains had defended themselves with a giant woodpecker. Perhaps they were defending themselves now by becoming unreachable and bringing strife among them.

Kouros from valley a suggested they carry on for ten more days, but this time, asking the mountains permission to climb.

There were nods of approval, and they carried on for ten more days making up songs that asked the mountains permission to climb. Some of the songs rhymed, and some were spiritual, and some were outright bawdy.

They became so engrossed in writing and composing songs that they forgot time.

Then one day they woke up and heard Ronald say, “Magnificent,” and they left their shelters to see and to touch the untitled mountains.

“Let’s climb,” said Pro Kouros, reaching for his equipment.

“Let’s run,” said Kouros d, pointing at the sky.

There was something red and black descending upon them.

“The woodpecker!”

“We should try to appease it-“

“We did that for ten days already!”

“Have courage!” said the king’s guards.

The guards stepped forward and spoke to the woodpecker, “Peace! His majesty the king of the valleys well versed comes in peace!”

“Ha ha!” they heard it say.

“That’s not a woodpecker.”

“You’re right, a woodpecker’s call is not haha.”

“Then what is it.”

“It’s a he, and he has stripes of red and black painted on his face.”

“Stripes of war-“

“The god of war!”

“Op Maul,” whispered the king.

“He’s holding something in his hand-“

A net swooped them all up, all except the king.

“Ahh! ” they screamed.

“We should have told him we all come in peace, not just his majesty!”

“Tell him now!”

“God of war! We all come in peace!”

“Hold on!” they heard the king say. “I think he just wants to play!”

Op Maul flew up the mountains with all of them screaming inside the net, and then he flew above the mountains and over them, and the view was-

“Spectacular,” Ronald said. “He’s giving us a tour.”

“Haha!” said Op Maul, flinging the net up and sending them flying.

The king watched from the ground. He saw the great god catch them with the net and throw them up again. There was nothing he could do to make him stop. He stood there feeling powerless, when the crow he had seen before, still carrying the apple, came to rest on his shoulder.

“I’ll build an army, like my advisors have asked me to,” he said to the crow. “I’ll have a force to protect my people.”

The crow dropped the apple into the king’s hand and said, “Caw!”

It flew up and turned into a thousand crows that surrounded Op Maul and brought him down to the foot of the mountains. The god of war gently lay the net on the ground and everyone crawled out, everyone except a Kouros who wouldn’t let go of the net. The god turned the net around and shook it until the Kouros let go, and then he was gone.


The crow and the apple by Sarah Irwin

“Sire, I don’t think I should write about the expedition,” said Penn.

“Best to turn it into a work of fiction,” said Ronald.

“Best to say we didn’t find the mountains,” said Kouros.

“You are so quiet, your majesty,” said Martha.

“I’ve decided that the valleys well versed will have an army,” said the king. “Kouros, can you train an army,” he asked.

“Not us, your highness. We have a tendency to look up, and you will need someone who can look at the enemy straight in the eye.”

“Like the guard who saved you from the net, your majesty.”

“This guard here.”

They pushed the guard forward, and the king asked him what happened before the net swooped them all up, all except him.

“I made eye contact with the great god, your highness, and the god raised an eyebrow and pointed to the right with his chin, and you were on my right. I asked him if he meant you,


and he gave me a quick nod and gestured for me to push you away. I did a quick check to make sure there wasn’t anything sharp on the ground, and pushed you away-“

“How long did this interaction between you last,” the king asked him. “There wasn’t much time.”

“I don’t know, your highness. It was like time stopped. Next thing I know, I was flying.”

“You trusted him,” the king said.

“My feelers said I could trust him.”

“Your feelers,” the king repeated.

“That’s what we call the sixth sense. We’re trained to awaken the sixth sense and the yin eye.”

“Which eye-“

“If I may, your highness,” the guard said, placing his thumb on the king’s forehead, between the eyes.

“What’s your name,” the king asked him.

“Kore Dave,” he said.

“Who trained you.”

“Kore,” he said. “The king’s guards are trained by a Kore. They take the name from the ancient Greek sculptures of maidens with their feet firmly on the ground. They stand like columns, but they have an arm extended, holding an offering to the gods, open to messages.”


Peplos Kore, Greek, 530 B.C.

The king looked at the apple he was holding.


Cast of the Peplos Kore, imagined as she stood in 530 B.C.

“The training is rigorous, your highness,” Kore Dave continued. “You know how we are one way out in public and another in a bath-“

The king looked at him sharply.

“With all due respect-“

The king softened and told him to carry on.

“Well, it combines both ways, defensive and receptive. That’s as brief as I can put it, your highness. When we finish our training, we add Kore to our names.”

“Could you train an army,” the king asked him.

“Not alone.”

“If you were partnered with the Kore who trained you-“

“Yes, but she’s training guards for the check points, your highness.”

“I’d like to see her when we get back.”


Kore 670, Greek, 520 B.C.

“They’re imitating roosters,” Kore told the king.


Golden Rooster by Assi Ben-Porat

The king remembered seeing a woman in the net imitate a bird. She would spread her wings each time Op Maul sent them flying.


Diagonal Flying by Assi Ben-Porat

Kore watched him remember and said, “The exercise gives flexibility. It helps loosen the molecules and send out the feelers.”

“It looks like play,” the king said.

“Nothing wrong with play,” she said. “Even the gods play.”

“Did you invent it,” he asked her.

“When I started training the king’s guards, I’d notice that if I had ten recruits, there would be the same number of roosters or rabbits or cranes in the field. I would start the day with drills, but the animals or the birds would interfere and make us laugh. I let the recruits play and imitate them, and I noticed that at a certain point, they stopped imitating and knew the next move they’d make. The exercise evolved from there.”

“Today you have four roosters per recruit,” the king said.

“Yes, I must be getting more recruits.”

“As a matter of fact, I came to ask if you could train an army-“

Something made the king stop. Across the field was the man in red and blue. The king ran toward him, raising his hand, asking him to wait, but the man disappeared.

Kore ran after the king, “Your majesty-“

“Did you see him,” he asked her.

“I saw him. He was there and then he wasn’t.”

He looked at her and felt her sense who he was.

They walked back and she asked him how strong would the army be, and he wasn’t sure. He realized he needed to do some research on the subject.

“Become well versed,” she laughed.

“Or wait to see how many roosters show up in the field,” he laughed.

Before he left, he told her that Kore Dave would partner with her, and she was pleased.

Martha met him halfway to the castle, holding his timepiece, “His majesty forgot this, and the meeting with his council.”

“I was in the training field with Kore,” he said, and he saw a change come over her. “Are you jealous,” he asked her.

“What- Of course not, your royalness,” she said.

“Where’s the apple I brought back from the untitled mountains,” he asked her. “I meant to-“

“Too old to bite into, sire. I left it out for the birds.”

“I should get another one,” he said, taking her hand.


Reassurance by Aaron Griffin

He dreamt of columns that night, and so did another king in another valley. The other king had inherited valley c and was looking for a name that would give the land more character, and valley of the columns gave the land more character.

He stood on the royal balcony and said they would build two columns at the entrance of the valley to commemorate the name, and people cheered.

“We will then build a forest of columns on the highest hill,” he continued, “and each column will be of a different design and a different material, sandstone and marble, red granite and-“

“Crystal!” someone shouted, and people cheered.

The king waved with one hand, and with the other, motioned to a guard to come close.

“The man who shouted,” the king said to the guard.

“The one in cochineal red,” the guard asked the king.

“Is that the red he’s wearing,” the king asked him.

“I’m pretty sure it is.”

“Bring him to my receiving room,” said the king, giving a final wave and stepping inside.

He made his way to the first floor, and by the time he got to his receiving room, the guard was already there with the man who shouted beside him.

The man bowed and said, “Your majesty, I hope I did not offend.”

“Where have you seen a column made of crystal,” the king asked him.

“Nowhere, your majesty. Crystal just popped into my head and was out of my mouth before I could stop it. Perhaps because of a book I read. It’s about a group of mountain climbers who went looking for mountains rarely seen, crystal peaks of white-“

“Chased by a Woodpecker,” said the guard. “That’s the name of the book.”

“I must read it,” said the king. He then turned his attention to the man’s shirt, “The shade of red you’re wearing stands out more than any other red I’ve seen.”

“I traded my old violin for this shirt. I was on my way to visit family in one of the neighbouring valleys, when I came across a woman selling wares. She was a foreigner, your majesty. Said she came from lands where the cacti grow. She showed me this shirt and told me that the red dye came from bugs that live on the cacti, They’re called cochineal. I said I liked the shirt but didn’t have a sou on me, and she asked if I would trade my violin for it.”

“You traded it,” said the king.

“I couldn’t say no, your majesty. She was enchanting.”

“How did you know about cochineal red,” the king asked the guard.

“I came across the same woman, sire, and she tried selling me a shirt of the same colour. But I was doing my rounds and checking for permits. She didn’t have one, didn’t know she needed a permit to sell wares in the valley. I helped her pack her things and showed her where to get it.”

“Did she get it,” the king asked him.

“I’m not sure. I didn’t see her again.”

“You’re shaking, your majesty,” said the man

“I don’t know why,” said the king, “but I suddenly feel afraid that I’m going to lose her before I find her. I didn’t even know she existed until now, and yet I feel- ” The king stopped, unable to explain what was happening to him.”

“Sounds to me like you just fell under the spell of Op Cypris, your majesty,” said the man.

“Whose spell,” the king asked him.

“The goddess of love,” said the guard.

“Has it happened to you,” the king asked them.

“Yes,” they both answered.

“It has to run its course.”

“It can be a thorny ride.”

The king sank into a chair.

“I’ll find out if the woman of the wares got a permit,” said the guard. “I’ll find out if anyone knows where she is.”

“I’ll bring you my copy of Chased by a Woodpecker, your majesty,” said the man. “Best thing to do when you’re under the goddess’ spell is to keep busy.”


He kept busy. When the columns commemorating the valley’s name were finished, he focused on planning the forest of columns. His royal architect, master Wu, said he would walk through valleys a to z pounding the earth with his walking sticks. The sound of the sticks would tell him the stones the valleys had to offer.

“King, you should come with me,” Wu said. “It will help cure your maladie.”

“Wu, have you read Chased by a Woodpecker,” the king asked him.

“I have. I picked it up when I saw people flocking to the valleys well versed to climb mountains guarded by woodpeckers. The king acted fast though.”

“How so.”

“He set up check points immediately. The only way to access the mountains is by going through his valleys, and he’s made it so that only one climbing group can enter at a time.”

“Do you remember the man who shouted crystal-“

“I do.”

“He told me the book described the mountains as crystal peaks of white, but the book doesn’t describe the mountains.”

“When I read it, I imagined them to be sharp edged and soaring high. Maybe he imagined them as crystal peaks of white.”

“I wanted to talk to him again, but couldn’t find him.”

“Did you get his name.”


“The man in cochineal red,” said Wu.

“You know the colour too,” the king said.

“I visited lands where the cacti grow during one of my travels. My guide showed me the bugs that live on the cacti, the cochineal bugs. He called them love bugs. He warned me that if I kissed a woman whose lips were painted with cochineal red, I would catch the love bug.”

“But I didn’t kiss her,” said the king. “I haven’t even seen her.”

“You, my king, are dealing with a force more powerful than yourself. Will you come with me to look for stone for your columns,” Wu asked him.

“Could mountains be made of pure crystal,” the king asked him.

“No,” said Wu. “Mountains shelter crystal-“

“My council tells me that the king of the valleys well versed is building an army.”

“You have one too,” said Wu.

“Yes, but there’s something suspicious about mysterious mountains guarded by woodpeckers, check points and an army. I think I’m going to visit the valleys well versed.”

“I’d like to join you, if I may,” said Wu. “I’ll walk through valleys z to a, instead of a to z, and meet you at w and v.”


The king rode to the valleys well versed with the guard, and the guard got a chance to give him an update on his search for the woman of the wares.

“She didn’t get the permit, sire, didn’t step inside the bureau.”

“Why would she when there are valleys that don’t require a permit to sell wares,” said the king.

“I’ve covered all of them except two.”

“Which ones are left.”

“Well versed.”

The king’s heart beat faster the closer he got to the valleys, and almost stopped when he got there. Two columns greeted him at the entrance, carbon copies of the columns he had just raised in his valley.

“What’s this,” he cried in anger.

“They are columns,” said a check point guard.

“He copied my columns!”

“His majesty the king well versed saw them in a dream and put them here.”

“I saw them in a dream too-“

“Only soul mates have the same dream,” said Wu, coming round the corner. He spoke to the check point guard, “Please announce to his majesty the arrival of the king of the columns.”

Well Versed greeted Columns on the castle grounds, “Welcome to my kingdom. I hear we had the same dream.”

“I’m sorry I lost my calm out there.”

“Understandable. I can paint mine to distinguish them from yours.”

Columns had a vision of cochineal red columns and said, “No, I’ll paint mine.”

“Very well,” said Well Versed. “What brings you here.”

Columns looked around to see the hills, and above the hills a thick layer of clouds. “Where are the mountains rarely seen,” he asked.

Before Well Versed could answer, they heard screams and saw people running down a hill screaming.

“Chased by a woodpecker,” said Well Versed, pointing at them. “The mountains would be that way.”

The two kings faced each other, and the guard didn’t sense a soul mate connection between them.  He sensed a palpable tension, mistrust, the raw material for war.

Op Cypris had put his king under the spell of desire, the desire for a woman from foreign lands, the desire for crystal columns, the desire for something to happen that would quench it. Why not war, he thought to himself.

He intervened and reminded his king that the valley of the columns’ permit bureau was looking for a woman who sold wares, to grant her a permit.

“Why don’t we walk to the market place,” said Well Versed. “Martha, my wife, can accompany us.”

Martha led the way and asked Columns if the mountains had brought him here.

“Yes,” said Columns. “Someone described them to me as crystal peaks of white. I’m planning to build a forest of columns and would like a column made of crystal.”

“We issue permits to climb the mountains,” said Martha. “There is a long line waiting, but I’m sure the king well versed could issue you a special permit.”

“If the mountains are not part of the kingdom, should you not set land aside for people to access them at will,” Columns asked.

Well Versed came to stand in front of him and said, “No.” He held up his thumb that was the width of an inch and said he was attached to every inch of his inheritance. “Have you come to war with me, Columns,” he asked, and before Columns could answer, he called his guards.

Guards from the market place came to surround their king, and the king asked them to escort Columns and his retinue out of the kingdom.

On his way out, Columns heard the violin. He looked to where the music came from and saw her.

“Is her hair red,” he asked the guard.


They mounted their horses and Wu picked up his sticks. Wu looked at his childhood friend and said, “King, you must repair the gaffe.”


Two riders fording a river by Samuel Jackson, 1834

In an emergency meeting with his council, Columns drafted a letter of apology that was reworked until all he desired was to lay down and sleep.

Well Versed wrote back and said that before the people of the valley of the columns could enter his kingdom freely, their king had to come with a climbing group and search for the untitled mountains. A special permit was attached to his letter.

“This is serious, your majesty.”

“People have family in the valleys well versed.”

“We trade with them.”

“You will have to make an announcement, sire.”

Columns stood on the royal balcony and told his people that relations with the valleys well versed had become strained because of a comment he made.

“What was the comment,” his people wanted to know.

“I suggested land be set aside for people to access the untitled mountains at will.”

“A diplomatic gaffe that can be fixed,” said a voice he recognized. He looked for the voice and saw the man in cochineal red. He waved to the man and motioned to him to come inside. The man shook his head and held up his timepiece. He had to go.

“How will you fix it,” his people wanted to know.

Columns held the balcony railing tight to stop himself from running after the man and said, “Before the king allows us to enter his kingdom, he wants me to join an expedition to the untitled mountains.”

“You need a permit to go there, your majesty, and it’s almost impossible to get. My climbing group tried.”

“What’s your name,” Columns asked him.

“Emanuel, your majesty.”

“The king of the valleys well versed has sent me a special permit, Emanuel.”

“Take us with you, your majesty,” said Emanuel, putting his arms around the people standing next to him. “We’re the best. Trained by my dad, El Cristo Negro himself.”

“Who’s El Cristo Negro,” Columns asked his advisor.

“Famous mercenary. A real Don Juan.”




Columns told the climbing group to come inside the castle.

He met them in the receiving room and asked them why they wanted to climb the mountains.

“We got curious after we read Chased by a Woodpecker,” Emanuel said. “My dad used to tell me stories about the Op gods, and the god of war’s bird was the woodpecker.”

“Tell me a story,” Columns asked him.

“Well,” he said, choosing one in his mind. “There’s the story of Op Cypris, goddess of love and desire, who fell in love with Op Maul, god of war and survival. She loved him, but he was too busy playing with volcanoes and didn’t pay attention. So she busied herself scenting the earth, colouring the earth, adding textures and music, and the creatures of the earth added her scents and colours, textures and music to their survival skills.

When Op Maul found out about this, he got really mad, because survival was his department, and survival was about fight or flight, and not about scents, colours, textures and music. So he went after her, ready to war, but when he saw how beautiful she was, he dropped his weapons and fell in love.

To get back at him, she ignored him, and to get her attention, he used her tools and discovered himself through her. He found out that his favourite colours were red and black, and his favourite bird was the pileated woodpecker, and he painted his face to look like it and wooed her, until she paid attention.”

“You think the woodpecker in the book is the god of war,” Columns asked him.

“It could be. But I guess we’re going to find that out together.”

“And if it chases us, we’ll run,” Columns laughed.

“If he chases us, we’ll do magic. Back in the old days, people did magic to appease the gods and ask for favours.”

“What kind of magic are you talking about, Emanuel.”

“We’re going to dance.”


“And the music-“

“My girlfriend’s bringing her violin.”

The guard saw the king’s heart break and said, “Your majesty should discuss the date of departure.”

“Yes,” said Columns. “How soon could you leave.”


“Too soon. We need to inform the king of the valleys well versed in advance and wait for him to agree. Let’s say a week from today.”

He asked the guard to accompany them out and went to see his council. On his way there, he felt the weight of being a king, and on his way out, the guard and Wu were waiting for him.

He looked at them and said, “You’re both coming to the mountains with me.”

They started off a week later, and by then, the king was rid of his desire for the woman of the wares and columns made of crystal and columns painted in cochineal red. All he wanted was to re establish relations between the two kingdoms and move on.

They set up camp on the foothills, and Emanuel asked the king if he could go look for a violin player because his girlfriend couldn’t come. The king would not allow anyone to move away from the camp, and so Emanuel waited for him to fall asleep and snuck away. When the king woke up in the morning, he saw the woman of the wares, with the red hair.

“You must be Emanuel’s girlfriend. I’m glad you made it.” the king said.

“I’m not his girlfriend, your majesty. She couldn’t make it, so I’m coming along instead.”

She walked beside him and showed him her violin.

“I met the man who gave it to you,” the king said. “He told me he traded it for the red shirt he was wearing.” The king pointed at the guard and continued, “The guard was with me and remembered seeing you selling shirts of the same colour in our valley. He took you to the permit bureau to get a permit, but we know you didn’t get it.”

“I wasn’t sure if I wanted to stay, so why get a permit. It was when I left that I met the man who gave me the violin. He asked me my name, and when I said my name is Crystal, he told me that in the valleys well versed were untitled mountains that looked like crystal peaks of white. He said I should go see them, and so I came. But they wouldn’t show themselves to me, and to get a permit to do what we’re doing now is almost impossible. Then Emanuel showed up in centre town last night looking for a violin player-“

“He what!” the king cried out, staring at Emanuel.

“Sorry, your majesty, but we needed a violinist. The only thing we play are the drums, and imagine if we drum a war dance by mistake.”




They walked during the day, and when they set up camp for the night, they danced. It wasn’t the dance in the painting, but a dance carefully considered, individualistic, acrobatic, that united the body with the feelings the violin music aroused.

On the eighth day, someone in the group said that according to Chased by a Woodpecker, they had two days left to go.

“Are you scared.”

“I’m scared.”

“I’m more scared after Emanuel told us the woodpecker is Op Maul’s bird.”

“Me too. Crystal should play a waltz when we reach the mountains.”

“What’s that you’re putting on your lips, Crystal.”

“A bit of my dye, cochineal red. Do you want some. It’s natural.”


“Warning,” Wu said. “Someone told me that if you kiss a woman whose lips are painted in cochineal red, you will catch the love bug and fall under her spell.”

“Is that the same red Op Maul used on his face to attract Op Cypris. You know, like in the love story, when he painted stripes of red and black to attract her attention.”


“Yeah, maybe that’s the red he used and she fell under his spell.”


“Could we have some of that too, Crystal.”

Crystal gave them the bottle of dye, and some painted their lips, and some painted stripes on their cheeks, and they kept going.

The king and Crystal always walked together, with Wu and the guard directly behind. Wu and the guard had watched a conversation develop between the king’s left hand and Crystal’s right. In the beginning they were careful not to come into contact, then they brushed against each other, and that was followed by fingers that touched. Now they saw a caress of the thumb.

“What are you thinking,” he asked her.

“Where I come from, we say that Op Maul is a warrior on the battlefield, but when he’s not on the battlefield, he can have a slapstick sense of humour.”

She said this, and the mountains revealed themselves.

At the summit of the tallest peak was a woodpecker of massive proportions, showing them his profile. His crest was a shade of red that stood out more than any other red.

“Cochineal red,” they whispered.

Another bird appeared, but this one was flying.

“A magpie.”

“Op Cypris bird.”

She was flying to the woodpecker, to the peak where he stood waiting for her. But something on the ground caught her attention, and she diverted her flight, and flew toward them.

“She’s coming to us!”

Puzzled, the woodpecker looked down, and screeched when he saw them. He spread his wings and flew to block the magpie’s path, telling her, It’s me you want.

But she evaded him and kept flying down, and the woodpecker screeched louder than before, and flew down with her.

“Rub the dye off!” Crystal yelled. “He thinks we’re rivals!”

“It won’t rub off!”

“They’re getting closer!”





They ran, and magic cut the distance between the mountains and the hills of the valleys well versed.

When Well Versed saw Columns running down a hill, he chuckled. He was having tea with Martha on the royal balcony, and Martha noticed that Columns was holding hands with Crystal. She remembered the day she met her. She had gone to see the Oracle, and Crystal was standing there.  

“Who is she,” Crystal asked her, and Martha explained who she was, and that she only answered yes or no questions.

Playfully, Crystal asked the Oracle if she would marry a king, and the Oracle took her carnival mask off.


The violinist by Gisela Velásquez, 2022, Panamá

Say a thought out loud, give it shape with words, and the spoken words roam free for others to hear, and other kings in other valleys heard Columns’ words that said land should be set aside for people to access the untitled mountains at will.

Their letters began to arrive, one after the other, and Well Versed and Martha read them while they drank their tea.

Then Columns came into view.

Well Versed sent guards to invite him, the violinist and the climbing group to the castle.

They were asked to wait in the library where Ronald gave them a tour.

“This is where the books on legends are,” he said, pulling a book out. “There is a legend about the mountains in this book. It says they were the playground of the gods, the three Op brothers,” and he told Columns who they were, and Columns sat down to read it.

“Could you read it out loud, you majesty,” the guard asked him, and Columns read it out loud.

When he finished, Well Versed and Martha came in and they greeted each other. Martha asked Columns and Crystal how they met, and Columns said, “A man in a red shirt brought us together.”

“It wasn’t blue on the inside, was it, if I may ask,” said Ronald, remembering his king’s experience with red and blue.

“How did you know,” Martha asked him. “The dye I used made the fabric coarse, so I lined the inside with a thin blue felt. That’s why he liked the shirt so much. He held it up and said that you could always take something coarse, and then he reversed the shirt and said, and transform it into something else.”

“Sounds like something the god of magic would say,” said Ronald.

“Columns,” said Well Versed, “other kings in other valleys are writing me letters demanding that I set land aside for people to access the mountains. My council tells me they have brought their armies together to do military exercises, and I fear they may have formed an alliance to conquer my lands. Will you assist me,” he asked.

Before Columns could answer, Kore rushed into the library.

“Sire,” she addressed Well Versed, “we’ve never had bulls in the training field before, and today there are enough bulls for two armies.”

“Yours and mine,” Columns told Well Versed.

They walked together to the field, and for a brief moment, amidst the bulls, they saw a man in a red velvet coat, a man in a cochineal red shirt.

“Op-Shiva,” the kings whispered.

Kore came to stand beside them. She told Columns about the imitation exercise she had her trainees do with the animals and birds that appeared in the field. She was going to make some modifications to the exercise when they worked with the bulls.

When the armies came together in the field, she taught them to


Intercept the bull by Assi Ben-Porat

and to


Guide the bull by Andrés García-Peña

They marked a path that led from the entrance columns to the foothills with a fence on either side, and they guided the bulls up and down the path, intercepting any that went astray.

When the armies of the other valleys arrived, some on horseback, some on foot, the path was cleared, and the armies saw a clear path awaiting them. Trained as they were to follow orders, they followed the order of the path, with the generals leading the way, each one holding their kingdom’s flag. The movement of the flags in the wind called forth the bulls, and the bulls came charging after them.


Bull stampede by Manuel Sanchez

When the armies turned to see what the racket was about, they saw the bulls and hurried up the hills,


and up the hills were the armies of the valleys well versed and columns at the ready.

The armies well versed and columns had always guided the bulls back to the entrance when they reached the foothills, but the bulls were so excited, that they followed everyone up the hills, and their guides and interceptors found themselves running away from them as well.

Kore Dave and Kore watched from the training field.

“Didn’t see that coming,” said Kore Dave.

“Me neither,” said Kore.

There were no more fences up the hills and everything fell into disorder. The bulls did as they pleased, and the attacked and attacking armies became indistinguishable in their flight for survival.

A sudden tremor of the earth brought male and female, bull included, to a halt, and the clouds parted to reveal the untitled mountains. There were exclamations of beauty and splendor, and then a blob of red and black emerged from the mountains and blocked the view. Could it be the famous woodpecker from Chased by a Woodpecker, they wondered. It looked more like a man of massive proportions flying toward them. He had stripes of red and black painted on his face, and only the unmentionable god had stripes of red and black painted on his face.

The  bulls knew who it was before the people did, and the bulls were already running to the entrance of the kingdom. They had a history with the god of war.


Lascaux caves, estimated to be up to 20,000 years old

They didn’t go too far before Op Maul reached them. He dove down and scooped them up with his giant net, and the bulls bellowed, “Be a good lad, Op Maul! Put us down!” Op Maul carried them into the sky and threw the bulls up in the air, and caught them in his net.

“Haha!” he said, “Haha!”

He then flew to the training field and put the net gently down, and the bulls rolled themselves out, and the god disappeared, and the mountains disappeared behind clouds.

The generals rolled their kingdom flags tight and led their armies back home, and the armies of the valleys well versed and columns dismantled the fences, and things went back to normal. There was no more talk of land being set aside to reach the untitled ones.

“What comes next,” Well Versed asked Columns. They were taking a stroll on the hills where a battle never took place. He was holding Martha’s hand, and Columns took Crystal’s hand and said, “A wedding.”

“I’ve composed our wedding waltz,” Crystal said, “inspired by all that’s happened.”

“Play it for us,” Martha said.

“Play it for them,” Well Versed said, pointing in the direction of the untitled mountains.




She finished playing and they heard someone clap. Kore Dave from well versed and the guard from columns whose name was Max stepped forward to check who it was.

“What do your feelers say,” Max asked Dave.

“Not a threat,” said Dave. “What do yours say.”

“He may be lost.”

“Hello,” said the man who clapped, “I didn’t mean to scare you. The sirens in the music drew me here. Could you point the way to the valley of the columns. I thought it was this one because of the columns at the entrance.”

“It’s that way,” said Dave, pointing the way.

“Well Versed and Columns are soul mate valleys and have the same columns at the entrance,” said Max.

“What takes you there,” Columns asked him.

“I’m looking for the Oracle that meddles with the force of Dionysus.”

“An oracle in my valley!” Columns exclaimed. “I had no idea.”

“Yes, your majesty,” said the man, realizing he was in the presence of kings.

“The Oracle that meddles with the force of Op Pollo is in this valley,” said Martha.

“Then it’s true that opposites attract,” said the man, “because Op Pollo is order, clarity and reason, and Dionysus is passion, ecstasy and intoxication.”

Columns eyes widened.

“Well,” the man continued, picking up his things, “I should be on my way.”

“What’s your name and what’s all that you’re carrying,” asked Well Versed.

“My name’s Roh, and these are my instruments. Drums, tambourines and finger cymbals. I need to find people who will join me and help me find the Oracle-“

“You’re not going anywhere until you tell us more,” said Columns.

Roh told them more. He told them that Dionysus could loosen the rationality of Op Pollo through wine and music, like in the painting of the dancers. He could make us forget ourselves and put us in a trance to connect with him. There was a hill in the valley of the columns that had once been wooded, where poets gathered to make music and dance and find regeneration.

They asked him if he was a poet, and he said that he wasn’t. He was a student. A madness had come upon him one day and he had broken the thumb of a warrior-

“How could you!”

“Don’t you know the thumb’s the measure of a warrior!”

“And a carpenter,” said a passerby.

The warrior was an ancient statue made of terracotta, and the owner of the statue put Roh behind bars. Soon after, the same madness that he’d experienced came upon the owner who owned, not just that one statue, but a hundred of them.

“Everyday he’d break a thumb,” said Roh, “until someone decided to take me out of jail, and the owner’s madness disappeared.”

“It’s the way of Dionysus,” said Max. “If you don’t accept a little of his irrationality, he makes you.”

“So the owner’s forgiven you,” Columns asked Roh.

“He has, your majesty. He’s really the one seeking advice from the Oracle. I’m helping him.”

“What kind of advice.”

“He wants to know if it’s okay to replace the thumbs.”


Terracotta warrior, 210 BCE, Shaanxi, China

Martha and Crystal said they would join him, and as a consequence, Dave and Max had to go.

“I’m coming too,” said the passerby they had seen before. “My name’s Pablo. If I were you,” he addressed the guards, “I wouldn’t drink any wine. Drinking wine when the person leading us wants an oracle from Dionysus is like drinking the god’s spirit.”

Pablo took a tambourine from Roh and told the story of Dionysus in song. He sang that Dionysus was twice born, from a mortal mother’s womb and an immortal father’s thigh. Mortal and immortal, one of us and one of the gods. That’s why he could lead us to the gods, he was a guide of souls for the living, an irrational guide of souls.

Roh drummed his story and sang that when he finished exams and had a sip or two of wine, he felt liberated-

Liberator, they all chanted.

He felt liberated and he snapped the thumb of an ancient warrior statue made of terracotta, just like that-

Just like that, they all chanted.

And just like that, he ended up behind bars, and when they freed him-

Liberator, they all chanted.

When they freed him, he decided to become a student of law.

Irrational guide of souls, they all chanted.

The kings watched the growing procession leave the valleys well versed. They saw people loosening their clothes, and a man take off his belt and drop it on the ground.

“What’s he doing that for,” Columns asked Well Versed.

“They’re dancing, they’re getting comfortable,” said Well Versed.

Columns looked at Well Versed, and Well Versed told him that Martha had reassured him that Dionysus wasn’t a sexual god. He was the god of wine, sacred music and sacred dance. Op Maul on the other hand-

They saw a woodpecker of normal proportions fly to one of the entrance columns and drum his beak against it.

“He’s attracting a mate,” said Well Versed. “The louder they drum, the higher the chances of enticing a female-“

“I’m going with them,” said Columns, pulling Well Versed toward the revellers, “and so are you.”


Two satyrs and a maenad, Greek, 4th century BCE

Although Dave and Max did not drink, the mood was contagious. It was communal that way, but also an individual experience, a personal surrender. Their bodies were no longer theirs. Their muscles sought unity with the divine.


More joined in the valley of the columns, some carrying wood, and they went to the hills.

“Do you feel a tingling,” Dave asked Max.

“I feel it. This must be the poets’ hill.”

They built a bonfire on the poets’ hill, and everyone joined hands and danced.

“In ancient times they would have sacrificed a bull,” said Max.

“No one’s sacrificing a bull on my watch,” said Dave, thinking of the bulls that had momentously appeared in the training field.

When the fire was raked down to coals, Pablo asked Roh to sing the story of the owner of the statue, the owner of one hundred statues, and Roh sang that the owner had been struck by madness-

Madness, they all chanted.

He’d been struck by madness and broken many thumbs, and he wanted-

Illumination, they all chanted.

He wanted to know if he could replace them, if it would not offend the great Dionysus.

Dionysus, they all chanted.

“I’ll ask him,” said a woman. “I’ve brought back oracles before. Give me something of yours.”

Roh gave her a broken thumb, the one that he had snapped.

“Are you the Oracle,” he asked her. “What’s your name.”

“Maenad,” she said.


Maenad, Roman, 27 BCE

She held the thumb in her hand and went back to the music, and the music and the dancing grew frenzied, and she fell into a trance and ran over the embers, once, twice, thrice.


She sat beside Roh and told him that she saw one hundred warriors with their thumbs intact. But one of them was holding something between his forefinger and thumb.

“Like this,” she said.


“I know what it is,” she continued. “I recognize it. It’s a toy. It’s a yo yo!”

“A terracotta yo yo,” they all chanted.

Roh shook his head. The yo yo part didn’t make sense. He asked her again if she was the Oracle.

“All of us here are meddling with the force of Dionysus, even you.” she said. “All of us could potentially bring back oracles. When you sang the story about the owner, I felt that I could.”

“But why would the god want a warrior to have a yo yo. It’s absurd.”

“Weren’t these warriors made for the tomb of an emperor,” Pablo asked Roh. “The owner has a hundred, but I think there are thousands of them.”

“It’s true,” said Roh.

“Maybe one of the artisans in charge of making the statues had an irrational moment-“

“Like you did, Roh.”

“Maybe he went out and had a sip or two of wine, and when he was walking back to the workshop-“

“he found his daughter’s yo yo in his pocket.”

“He had put it there to remind himself that he had to make her a new one. The old one he was holding was chipped here and there.”

“In those days, yo yos were made of terracotta and chipped easily.”

“When he entered the workshop, he gave the old yo yo to the warrior he was working on-“

“Just like that.”

“The warrior wasn’t dry yet, and the yo yo became part of his hand.”

“The following day, the artisan saw what he’d done, and he tried pulling the yo yo out, but the warrior wouldn’t let go.”

“There were so many warriors that he hoped no one would notice.”

“But the emperor noticed. The emperor arbitrarily chose that particular artisan’s workshop for an inspection. He wanted to see how the statues that would accompany him in the afterlife were coming along. He walked through rows and rows of freshly made warriors, all of them holding weapons, and he suddenly came to a stop. There was a warrior with a spear in one hand and a yo yo in the other.”

“The emperor wondered if it was an act of irreverence, but anger didn’t rise in him. Instead, he had the realization that when he sent a warrior off to battle, he sent a child who once played with a yo yo.”

“I must be a wiser emperor, he thought to himself.”


“Meanwhile, the artisan prayed to the gods to save him.”

“He prayed for a miracle-“

“and a miracle happened. The emperor decreed that all the warrior statues would hold a weapon in one hand and a toy in the other, and he put the artisan in charge of overseeing this.”

“When the emperor died, the toys were scraped off the hands of the warriors before they were buried with the emperor-“

“They were ordered to be removed by people who thought the emperor had been struck by madness.”


Roh asked Maenad if she had seen any of the other statues holding a toy.

“No,” she said. “Just the one. The original one.”

By then the revellers weren’t revelling any more. They were lying on the grass, limp, some asleep and some in contemplation. It was the time between night and day, the twilight before sunrise.

“Seems to me Dionysus has been joined by the other guide of souls,” said Pablo. “Mercury, rational guide of the living, and guide of souls of the dead. He must have guided the emperor into the afterlife, and later on, the emperor’s artisan. He waited all this time, two millennia, for the statues to be dug out, for the owner to acquire a hundred of them, and for Roh to finish writing exams and have a sip or two of wine. He waited until this moment to pass on the emperor and his artisan’s message.”

A wind began to blow, and they looked in the direction of the wind, and saw a man making his way to them. The man waved his hat and they waved back.

“I’m looking for Roh!” he said. “Is he with you!”

“Yes!” they said, pointing at Roh.

Roh stood up to see who it was and recognized the owner of the one hundred statues.

“Mr. Owner!” he said. “You made it!”

The owner hurried up the hill. “The markers at the entrance made the valley easy to spot,” he said, shaking Roh’s hand.

Roh introduced him to the kings, to Martha and Crystal, Dave and Max, Pablo and Maenad.

“Has the great Dionysus given me permission to replace the thumbs,” the owner asked. “I don’t want him pricking me with his thyrsus again.”

“He has,” said Roh. “Maenad had a vision. She saw one hundred statues with their thumbs intact.”

“Thank goodness,” said the owner, with a sigh of relief. “They belong to me, but they’re still the country’s cultural heritage. Every now and then they send inspectors to make sure I’m preserving them well. They called before I left and I feigned illness. Let’s see if I can get them fixed before they call back.”

The wind blowing was a cold wind, and people began to leave the poets’ hill, and the king of columns invited the small group to breakfast at the castle. There was something else the owner needed to know.

Around the breakfast table, Maenad told the owner that she saw one of the warriors holding a yo yo, and she told him the story behind it.

The story brought tears to the owner’s eyes.

“We believe Mercury worked with Dionysus to pass on the emperor and his artisan’s message,” said Pablo.

“They want us to restore the yo yo,” said Roh.

“I cannot give a terracotta warrior a yo yo without proof that he had one before,” said the owner, “and as far as I know, there is no proof and no record of the story you’ve told me. If the inspectors were to see one of my warriors holding a toy, they’d think me mad and irreverent and take them all away.”

“Then we must find proof,” said Roh.

“May I suggest you begin your search in the libraries of well versed,” said Well Versed. “I will put Ronald the librarian at your disposal.”

Roh, Pablo and Maenad thanked the king. They’d heard his libraries were some of the world’s richest.


“None of the warriors were found intact-“

“except one.”

“They were reassembled and restored before they were shown to the world.”

“I know this,” said the owner.

“One of the restorers found a hand with a piece of terracotta between the forefinger and thumb-“

“The restorer conjectured that it belonged to something the warrior was holding-“

“something that was carefully chipped and scraped off.”

“Other hands show marks that indicate abrasion.”

“Any mention of toys,” the owner asked.

“No mention of toys.”

“Ronald says it’s time to stop the research and find a practical solution. He says Mercury is a god of practical solutions.”

“What do you suggest,” the owner wanted to know.

“You should make a copy of a warrior and give him a yo yo.”


the only terracotta warrior found intact

When the inspectors came to the owner’s exhibition hall, they were satisfied with the preservation of the statues.

The owner had built a workshop beside the hall, and they were curious to know what he was up to.

“I’m making a copy of a warrior,” he said, and invited them inside.

The lower half of the warrior’s body was ready and made of solid terracotta clay. The rest of the body would be hollow, and the owner had made the molds for the different parts of the torso, arms and head.

The inspectors watched him pack clay inside the molds.

“When they are dry, I will join them together with a clay paste,” the owner told them. “Then I’ll carve the details, and the warrior will be fired in a kiln.”

“They were painted when they came out of the kiln,” an inspector said.

“Yes,” said the owner. “Even the toys were painted in vibrant colours.”

“What toys,” they asked him, and the owner told them the story of the artisan and the emperor, how an artisan gave a warrior statue his daughter’s old yo yo, and why the emperor decreed that all the warrior statues would hold a weapon in one hand and a toy in the other.

“Is it true,” they asked him.

“It’s true. Unfortunately when the emperor died, someone who disagreed with him ordered all the toys to be chipped away and scraped off.”

The inspectors looked dubious, and so the owner took them back into the exhibition hall. He showed them pieces of terracotta between forefingers and thumbs, and abrasions on the hands of his one hundred statues.


Inspectors and government officials and scholars began to visit the owner daily. They came to hear him tell the story of the artisan and the emperor.

The story did the magic of Mercury’s caduceus. It set things in motion.

Archaeologists went back to the sites of the ancient workshops to sift through the debris. They went back to the emperor’s burial site to look at the fragments they had not been able to piece together.


“They found small terracotta figures of animals and birds and dragons,” Pablo told the owner excitedly.

“And believe it or not, they found a terracotta yo yo that is still intact,” said Roh.

“It’s because it rolled away,” said Maenad. “It was getting dark, and when an artisan reached for a lamp, he accidentally brushed against a yo yo lying on the table. It dropped on the ground and rolled away, and the artisan couldn’t find it in the shadows. He hadn’t painted it yet or attached a string to it yet, and he thought he’d look for it in the morning, but he forgot about it.”

“He left us the proof we need,” said the owner, taking a terracotta yo yo from his worktable. He signalled to them to follow him, and they followed him into the exhibition hall.

They watched him place the yo yo between the forefinger and thumb of the original one.


What are you eating


Give me some

Grapes embody a living god

Dionysus, a subterranean god

Subterranean Jupiter

Mercury stitched him with a craftsman’s precision under his skin

inside his thigh

He limped until the babe was born

until the stitches came undone


Birth of Dionysus, attic red figure krater, classical, ca 460 BC

Mercury’s a common god

Don’t be disrespectful

I meant available to all

Koinos Mercury

When we gathered stones to mark a grave, we felt his force in the heap of stones

Guide of souls

When we gathered stones to mark the way, we felt his force in the heap of stones

Guide of travellers

We added a stone to the heap and asked for his protection

Anyone could add a stone

Anyone could meddle with his force and be his Oracle

Look, someone’s coming

What’s he wearing

Must be the cochineal red we heard about

The man in red waved and said he was looking for the valley of the benches. “Am I walking in the right direction,” he asked them.

“Never heard of the valley of the benches.”

“Me neither, but what we can do is gather stones. Help me gather stones.”

The man in red didn’t ask why. He joined them and they piled up stones. They looked to the left where the man had come from, and they looked to the right and saw a turtle.

“The first thing Mercury did when he crawled out of his crib was to turn a turtle shell into a lyre,” said the man in red.

“You were walking in the right direction. Just keep going the way of the turtle.”

“What takes you there, if you don’t mind me asking.”

“They need a carpenter to fix benches,” said the man in red. “In the old days, a heap of stones showed the way. Now we have roads, and a heap of road signs show the way, and we keep adding signs to the heap. Seems like a strong wind sent them flying and they damaged some of the benches, including the principal bench.”

“Who does it belong to,” they asked him.

“That’s what I’m going to find out,” he said, springing up and leaving.

I’d like to go there too

I thought we were going to see the untitled mountains

I’ve changed my mind

If we hurry, we can walk with that man

No. I don’t want to impose. Let’s wait for a while

Bea and Chip waited for a while with the stones, and then went the way of the turtle.


“No way!” they both exclaimed when they reached the entrance gates to the valley of the benches.

“Yes way,” said the guard. “It’s an original.”

“Where did you find it.”

“The queen acquired it.”

“It’s missing its phallus,” said Bea.

“Maybe for the best,” said the guard. “Can’t imagine having it out here with a phallus. In the old days, everyone understood it to be a symbol of the god’s fertility. They’d bring him offerings and ask him to ensure the fertility of their flocks and herds, and to bring them luck in trade. But now a days, it’s different. The herm would have to be in the museum with a proper explanation.”

“Do people ask what the hole is for,” Chip asked him.

“All the time. I tell them that’s where you put a copper to get an oracle,” the guard said, handing Chip a copper.

Chip put the copper in the hole and stopped his ears with his fingers. He leaned toward the herm and whispered a question. Then he walked through the gates and unstopped his ears. The first thing he heard was Bea ask him, “What did you ask him.”

“I asked him why I’m here.”

“What’s the answer.”

“You. I’m here because of you.”


The Oracle of Hermes Agoraios, Hermes of the market

They went back outside the gates to ask the guard if he’d seen the carpenter.

“I just started my shift. You’re the first people I see.”

“He came to fix benches, including the principal bench.”

“Last thing I heard, the queen doesn’t want it fixed. She likes it better after the damage. You should go see it. It’s in the main plaza.”


Principal bench by Pablo Reinoso

Looks to me like the wind unravelled the wood and played with it

Makes me think of turtle shells and string

He’s the son of a nymph

the eldest of the Pleiades

Maia’s son


The Pleiades by Elihu Vedder, 1885

He must have had a hand in this.

“That’s what the carpenter said.”

They turned around and saw the queen. “Your majesty,” they greeted her.

“I was in total shock when I saw the bench,” she said. “Could the wind really do such a thing, such a beautiful thing. Then I felt something, like a tingling, and knew that I was in the presence of a force greater than myself.”

“Why is it called the principal bench,” Bea asked her.

“For a silly reason,” she said. “We were painting all the benches in the valley, choosing colours for each one, the bench in the lovers park, the bench outside the candy shop, and when I came to this one, I couldn’t remember the word for plaza, the bench in the main- I just couldn’t remember the word, so I called it the principal bench, and the name stuck.”

“It looks like the principal bench now,” said Chip.

God of words

skilled in speaking

Jupiter made him herald and messenger of the gods

and when Greece went to Egypt, he was joined with Thoth, inventor of letters and numbers, keeper of the sacred texts, the mysteries



A trickster and a magician

The dual nature he has


“What happened to the other benches,” Bea asked her.

“Minor things for the most part. Dents and scratches and chipped corners that can be easily fixed. But the bench in the lovers park has to be replaced. Come and see it,” she said, and they went with her.

“It doesn’t allow room for romance anymore.”


“I would add another bench and leave that one there, said Chip. “Call it heartbreak, the heartbreak bench.”

“I may be reading too much into this,” Bea said to the queen, “but do you think he’s giving you a hint. I mean, Hermes at the entrance gates. You know, because he’s missing his phallus.”

“I thought about that too when I saw the heartbreak bench,” said the queen. “Does he want me to restore him, I asked myself. So I went to the gates, stopped my ears and put a copper in the hole, and asked him, Do you want it back. When I crossed the gates and unstopped my ears, I heard someone say, Look at me. I turned around to look, and there was a man holding a copper in the hole, his arm suspended, waiting for his picture to be taken.”

The queen asked Bea and Chip if they got a visual of the scene, and they said yes.

“We give it back to him every time we drop a copper.”


Herm on an attic red figure lekythos, ca 475 BC

Maia’s son

Maia’s mother was Pleione who presided over the multiplication of the flocks

Son and grandson of nature nymphs


He’s not like the fertility goddesses

No, not like the Venus of Willendorf

She offers her body, her milk


He offers to multiply the flocks through animal husbandry

through the use of the intellect

He’s the way we think

Maia’s father was the Titan Atlas, brother of Prometheus and Epimetheus

When Mercury brought Pandora from Mount Olympus to the home of Epimetheus, he watched Prometheus warn his brother of things to come if he took her as his wife

He watched Prometheus give forethought

Epimetheus took her as his wife anyway, and gained the gift of hindsight


The story of Prometheus and Epimetheus by Hermann Julius Schlösser, 1878

“It’s how we learn, isn’t it,” said the queen.

They walked back to the main plaza, and the queen sat on the principal bench.

“You look tired, your majesty,” said Bea.

“I am a bit tired,” she said, “but I have delighted in your company. He’s an old Arcadian god, Mercury, but he is the god of youth, and he sent two young people my way to share his magic.” She ran her fingers over the strings of wood, and asked, “What brought you to the valley of the benches.”

“He pointed the way,” said Chip. “He rose from a heap of stones and pointed the way.”


Woodcut from the Emblematum Libellus, Andrea Aciati, 1534

He rises from the underworld too

Guides us back after Pluto has pulled us in for some soul making

during a crisis

a heartbreak

“Did someone break your heart, Chip,” the queen asked him.

He nodded and said, “She put a hole through it.”

“He was in a terrible state,” said Bea.

“Bea’s helped a lot, ” said Chip. “Coming here’s helped a lot.”

“I’m glad to hear it,” said the queen, rising. She felt something in her pocket and took it out. It was a gift from the carpenter, thanking her for the job to fix the benches.

She opened it and inside was a tube of woodfiller. She took it to her heart and then offered it to Chip. “Do you need it,” she asked him.

He laughed and said, “Not anymore.”

Bea and Chip said goodbye to the queen and made their way to the gates of the valley.

He rules spaces in between

makes us whole again in the spaces in between


Hermes by Howard David Johnson


Mercury holds a caduceus with two snakes entwined. Their tails are tied with the knot of necessity, and their heads almost touch. It is in this in between space that his magic lies, this place of tension, of almost being fulfilled, complete, whole. It’s what keeps us moving and doing and learning.

It’s what keeps him telling his story.



Chart for Frank Abagnale, Jr, born April 27, 1948, Bronxville, NY

Mercury is a morning star in his chart, in a lesser zodiacal degree than the Sun. Going clockwise, he would rise before the Sun. Mercury the morning star is promethean.

He’s at home in Taurus. Reminds him of Arcadia. He leads the way here, learns about technology, what works and doesn’t work,


The fall of Icarus by Jacob Peter Gowy, 1638

and he learns about security, how to ensure it and how to bypass it. At 5 degrees Taurus, he’s a smooth talker, puts people at ease and smells nice.

In the early years, there can be mischief when Venus and Uranus are together in Gemini. They can bring out only what lies on the surface of the sign. Venus can bring out Helen, the ability to be everyone’s Helen, and Uranus can bring out the quick thinker, ready to improvise, mimic and multiply.

Abagnale says that things happened to him by chance. He simply grabbed opportunities that came his way. He was an adolescent and just went with the flow, never doubting himself and never fearing that he’d get caught. When he saw a flight crew come out of a hotel, he thought it would be good to pose as a pilot, easier to cash his forged cheques. Posing as a pilot opened doors to free travel and free stays abroad.

He went to prison in 1969 and served time in France and Switzerland. Then the United States gave him 12 years. After serving 2, they told him he could complete the remaining years working undercover with the FBI. The FBI could use someone with his talents.

He met his wife the year of his Saturn return. A Saturn return activates the house it’s in and the sign it’s in, and Saturn is in the fourth house in Leo.


The choice of Hercules by Annibale Carracci, 1596

Mercury at the crossroads is a guide. Hercules at the crossroads has a moral dilemma, a choice to make between virtue and vice.


Abagnale’s wife is a psychologist. She was born in 1954, when Saturn transited Scorpio. Her natal Saturn in Scorpio squares his planets in Leo and opposes his planets in Taurus.

He had Saturn in all directions the year he met her, and he welcomed it.

It settled him.


Saturn looks to the past, and he had to look at his past.

He has dedicated his life to counteracting the kinds of crime he committed, and informing the public how to protect itself. With Pluto and Mars in Leo, he digs in Leo and labours in Leo.

In many ways, his life is a life of atonement, but that doesn’t mean he’s not having fun.

Jupiter in his own sign is high god. He’s in retrograde motion and has had to work hard to be a figure of authority. He had to wait for Venus Uranus to mature, for the kid to get caught, and for Mercury to guide him back from the underworld with an offer from the FBI. A clan to belong to. That’s when he began using the planets to fulfill his destiny, working undercover, improving security, and teaching. The Moon in Sag can entertain an international audience.

Then Steven Spielberg came along and made a movie.


Catch me if you can, released December 25, 2002

Jupiter brings opportunities, the opportunity to explore an aspect of the sign he’s in. In Leo, he can drop us off at the crossroads.


Once he chose the path he’d take, Mercury guided the way.

In Capricorn, Mercury learns from the bottom up. The sign brings out the scribe in him, inventor of letters and numbers, and the sign brings out the Pan in him.

Ancient stories say that he loved a wood nymph and fathered Pan. When the wood nymph saw her child, half goat half man, she gave a cry of panic and abandoned him.


Mercury lovingly wrapped the child in rabbit skins and took him to Olympus. In Olympus the child brought joy to all the gods and became god of the wild and the companion of nymphs. He is the wild in all of us, and Pan means all.


With Saturn in Gemini, Abagnale was meticulous in his research,

and so was Hanratty.


He studied Abagnale’s mind and sleight of hand, and kept a track of his whereabouts. He didn’t know he was a kid until a young waiter gave him an oracle.


There is rescue in Gemini, and Mercury, ruler of Gemini, rescues children.

To rescue Abagnale, Hanratty had to chase him, and the more he chased him, the better Abagnale got at

frolicking with nymphs,


and climbing the ladder of financial fraud.

He’d become a pro.


There are moments when the Dioscuri meet in the sky, moments of elucidation.

There were moments when Abagnale reached out to Hanratti, and Hanratti told him there was no escaping the punishment for the path he’d taken. He waited for Abagnale to give himself in, but Abagnale wouldn’t stop running

until Hanratti caught him.

Hanratti didn’t handcuff him. He asked Abagnale to handcuff himself.

He would have to do a lot more to close the gap in authority in Abagnale’s life.

He would have to extradite him to the United States, prove to the FBI that he had something to offer the bureau, and take him under his custody.

When he saw him running again, he told him that nobody was chasing him anymore. The chase and rescue were over.

To release some of the tension in Mercury’s caduceus, Venus Mars in Scorpio in the eleventh were offering him entry into a new social group, one that investigated crime.

He could choose the other path in Leo, the one that labours to be of service to society.

He could chase instead of running away.