On the Trail of the Tetramorph

Tertamorph – derived from the Greek words tetra (four) and morph (to shape) it is a symbolic arrangement of four differing elements into one unit.

The Four Royal Stars

In an attempt to bring order and meaning into the structure of their daily existence, the first wise Persian astrologers appointed four royal stars in the sky, otherwise known as ‘the watchers‘, who stood over the universality of divine dominion. These stars were: Aldebaran, the watcher of the east, situated in the constellation of Taurus, corresponding the vernal equinox; Regulus, watcher of the south, situated in the constellation of Leo, corresponding to the summer solstice; Antarus, watcher of the west, situated in the constellation of Scorpio, corresponding to the autumn equinox; and Fomalhaut, the watcher of the north, situated near the constellation of Aquarius, corresponding to the winter solstice. Together they marked the four cardinal directions, the four fixed points of the zodiac, the four elements and the four seasons, or changes within the solar year.

Referenced in the ancient Mesopotamian poem, The Epic of Gilgamesh, were fantastical creatures known as the lamassu. Hybrids, composed from the bodies of bulls or lions, they possessed the wings of an eagle and the heads of men. They were said to have been symbols of the starry heavens and were considered to be protective spirits, because they encompassed all life within them. They were some of the first examples of physical manifestations of the heavens above, and were literal representations of the analogical Hermetic law of magic: that which is Below corresponds to that which is Above, and that which is Above corresponds to that which is Below, to accomplish the miracle of the One Thing, a concept possibly as old as human thought itself.

Lamassu

The lamassu appeared frequently in Mesopotamian art and mythology, either as giant statues that guarded the entrances to the royal palaces, or on engraven tablets that were buried under the thresholds to common houses, as they were considered to be the protectors who frightened away the forces of chaos and brought peace to the home. Every town worth its salt had pairs of the lamassu situated at the city gates set around the four cardinal points, protecting the denizens within against the demons outside with their strength, swiftness and intelligence. Another version of the lamassu were the sphinxes of ancient Egypt, Greece and Babylonia, with their composite physiques (usually a mixture of bull bodies, lion’s paws, wings and human heads), and other similar creatures found within the various early religions.

‘Ezekiel’s Merkabah’, by William Blake

Considering they were the most popular winged iconography at the time, the lamassu would have been known to the Hebrew prophet Ezekiel (famous for his seven visions) while he lived in exile amongst the Babylonians. In his inaugural manifestation, Ezekiel saw God approaching him from a cloud to the north (the north being the home of the gods in ancient mythology), riding upon a battle chariot (or merkabah), that was drawn by four creatures he called ‘cherubim‘ or ‘the four living creatures‘ (khayyot), which he described, “as for the likeness of their faces, each had the face of a man; each of the four had the face of a lion on the right side, each of the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and each of the four had the face of an eagle. Their wings stretched upward; two wings of each one touched one another, and two covered their bodies.” Next to each of the cherubim was a tall wheel set within a wheel (ophanim), which had eyes covering the rims.

Once within shouting distance, God insisted that Ezekiel become the ‘watchman‘ of Israel. In the Bible the cherubim make their first appearance in the garden of Eden ‘guarding‘ the way to the Tree of Life, so the humans could not come back in (Satan was said to have been a cherubim before his rebellion). Early Semitic tradition also perceived the cherubim as ‘guardians‘ or ‘watchers‘, and only later did they receive their angelic status, being possessed of four wings covered with eyes which made them ‘all-seeing‘. Interestingly enough, in the Torah the cherubim were the first objects to be created in the universe, perhaps harking back to the thought of containing all life within them.

The cherubim, only with six wings like a seraph, and called ‘the four living beings‘, appear in John of Patmos’ vision chronicled in the book of Revelations as such, “The first creature was like a lion, and the second creature like a calf, and the third creature had a face like that of a man, and the fourth creature was like a flying eagle. And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within.” Although not included in the Bible, the book of Enoch tells a similar tale, possibly pre-dating Ezekiel’s vision by a century. “And I looked and saw a lofty throne: its appearance was as crystal, and the wheels thereof as the shining sun, and there was the vision of cherubim. And from underneath the throne came streams of flaming fire so that I could not look thereon.”

 

 

The Book of Kells

Although the attributions of the tetramorph to the four Evangelists were credited to Saint Jerome, they were fully realized by the Frankish Benedictine monk, Rabanus Maurus, who cemented their various layers of meaning during the Carolingian age. Matthew the Evangelist, the author of the first gospel, symbolized by the winged man, represented Christ’s human nature and stood for reason. Mark the Evangelist, author of the second gospel, symbolized by the winged lion, represented resurrection (possibly because it was thought lions slept with their eyes open, like Jesus in the tomb) and stood for courage. Luke the Evangelist, author of the third gospel, symbolized by the winged ox, represented Jesus’ crucifixion, as well as Christ being the High Priest, and stood for sacrifice. Lastly, John the Evangelist, author of the fourth gospel, symbolized by the eagle, represented Jesus the Logos (because it was believed eagles could stare straight into the sun) and stood for the notion of keeping an eye cast upon eternity. Of course, if one wanted to pull these four ideas together – nature (planting), resurrection (the crop), sacrifice (the harvest), and eternity (the never ending cycle of nature) – it is not that far of a stretch, based upon the findings of the predecessorial Persian astrologers (in which the meaning of the tetramorph functioned as a sort of agricultural clock) that Rabanus Maurus meant to interpret them as metaphorically sowing the spiritual seeds of Christianity.

In the late Romanesque period, images of the tetramorph fell out of favor and were exchanged for their human counterparts. But in the 15th century a new card game, known as the tarot (tarocchi), or carte de trionfi (triumph cards), came into fashion. In one of the earliest decks, the Sforza Castle deck, the tetramorph make an appearance on The World card XXI. On another deck, from the 16th century, the World card is depicted with a man standing on top of the world (mondo, which could also be read as universe) with symbols for the four elements divided within. A century later, on the same card, the iconography had changed, and man stood within the center of the world, the tetramorph appearing in the four corners surrounding it taking the place of the four elements. Curiously enough, the enigmatic Sola Busca deck from the 18th century depicts the World Card as Nabuchodensor (Nebuchadnezzar) fighting a dragon, which brings one back to Babylon.

In the 18th century began the great Tarot revival and, along with the popularity of the Marseille deck in Southern France, tarot changed from a mere card game to being used for divination as well (although there are sporadic accounts of it being used earlier for such). The occultist Papus (Gerard Encausse), the first to coin the term ‘The Marseille Deck‘ in his book Tarot of the Bohemians (1889), explained the symbology of The World card as thus, “a nude female figure, holding a wand in each hand, is placed in the centre of an ellipsis, her legs crossed (like those of the Hanged Man in the twelfth card). At the four angles of the card we find the four animals of the Apocalypse, and the four forms of the Sphinx: the Man, the Lion, the Bull, and the Eagle. This symbol represents Macrocosm and Microcosm, that is to say, God and the
Creation, or the Law of the Absolute. The four figures placed at the four corners represent the four letters of the sacred name, or the four great symbols of the Tarot (the sceptre, cup, sword and pentacle).” He goes on to explain the sceptre is ‘yod’, representing fire, the cup is ‘he‘, representing water, the sword is ‘vau‘, representing Earth, and the pentacle is the second ‘he‘, representing air. Formulated together they formed YHVH, the unutterable name of the God of Israel , or the tetragramatton, which in kabbalah pertained to the mystery of the four directions, the four worlds, and the potentiality of being. Papus also stated that the World card was the key to the year, philosophy (encompassing logic, epistemology, metaphysics, and ethics) and to the kabbalah.

Twenty years later, in his seminal book Pictorial Key of the Tarot (1911), mystic and scholar, A.E. Waite  (of the popular Rider-Waite deck) wrote about the World card thus, “It represents also the perfection and end of the Cosmos, the secret which is within it, the rapture of the universe when it understands itself in God. It is further the state of the soul in the consciousness of Divine Vision, reflected from the self-knowing spirit… But it is perhaps more especially a story of the past, referring to that day when all was declared to be good, when the morning stars sang together and all the Sons of God shouted for joy.

The tetramorph also appeared in the corners of the Wheel of Fortune card X in the Rider-Waite deck, along with a sphinx sitting at the top of a wheel. A.E. Waite described the card as, “the symbolic picture stands for the perpetual motion of a fluidic universe and for the flux of human life. The Sphinx is the equilibrium therein.” In this age, the tetramorph have been adapted from an earlier spiritual Christian function, to a metaphysical one; as a gateway between the conscious and unconscious mind, perhaps in an attempt to find the divine within the ancient rites of renewal once again. The morning stars singing together, and the sons of God shouting for joy, are a definite clue, given that each of the original four royal stars of Persia would have functioned as the morning star, depending upon the season, and in Medieval Judaism the sons of God were those individuals who possessed divine power by means of astrological knowledge, which bring one full circle. But that is the circumnavigational point of totality, in which the symbolism of the tetramorph and its other composite compatriots (the lamassu, sphinx, cherubim, etc.) are represented, isn’t it? Cycles of the harvest, patterns of existence, layers of meaning, to bring chaos into structure, and to make the unknown known. Perhaps those ancient, wise, Persian astrologers knew a part of our humanity was written in the stars after all.

On the Trail of the Tetramorph, published in Issue of 11 of The Heretic Magazine.

Beauty in Ruin

I’ve only got an hour but I wanted to share a couple things.

This is what happens when I am left to my own devices for periods of time. I’ve been house-sitting for a friend who had a family emergency. In the midst of my quiet time in the canyon, all hell broke loose. Fires raging from all sides, no sleep, high alert, ash raining down like snowflakes, the skies turning dark at midday — it was all quite biblical. I couldn’t leave, so I hunkered down with the animals and tested new electronic things to amuse myself. First, I taught myself to record and edit audio — the digital way — the 21st century way. I’ve needed to do this for quite some time. The last time I learned to record and edit audio was in the early nineties at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where I have hazy memories of being deep within the under recesses of the school, plugging cables into sockets and unwrapping and rewrapping miles of wires (last year an old friend told me he was the one who set up the miasma of audio equipment down there and we laughed while reminiscing how one could get stuck in those endless, winding, corridors editing for days, like troglodytes never seeing the sun, passing out in the hallways, and watching the cockroaches climb out of the vending machine one just bought coffee from. Chicago has its own brand of humor). Anyhow, I put together my first spoken work piece for Sisters of the Wasteland. This will not be the project’s final form, nor am I about to start writing poetry, or doing spoken word for that matter, but it’s a test. I will be doing a lot more audio like I used to do, but I suspect it will end up more as lyrics and songs. Also, I love to mix found sounds. Always have. I tend to listen to the world in an odd way. Ask anyone’s who’s ever been in the car with me as we go under a freeway underpass and motorcycles race overhead, and I’m transfixed by the distorted echo, wishing out loud they would do it again. Beauty in ruin. Generally, that’s about the time someone asks me if I’m tripping balls with a worried expression on their face, but I digress.

Here’s the link if you want to give it a listen:

https://soundcloud.com/scarlett-amaris/sisters-of-the-wasteland-audio

I also did some test shots for the upcoming series, Lux in Tenenbris, on the seriously mysterious goings on in fin de siecle Paris, which will make it’s debut in the middle of August on Patreon (yes, it was originally scheduled for the beginning of August, but I missed the first window of filming thanks to the unscheduled arrival of the hellacious Sand Fire). These are actually the wrong contacts. I could have sent them back, but once I opened them — I had to give them a go. I know they’re a little much — but still…………..

Before I run, I wanted to share this as well as the ‘so-called real world’ is swimming in the zeitgeist and we step closer toward the black iron prison every day (of course, one could argue we’re already there. I might agree.) It’s a short film by my friend, director and writer, Eric Shapiro, called HOAX, which you can watch for free on Amazon – just press HERE

The hour has struck. Time for me to go.

Much love from where the worlds touch,

S – xx

p.s. Here’s the link to the Patreon page where the new series will be happening – Lux in Tenebris

Un rêve dans un rêve…

Nicola Samori, School of Pan, 2011

Often when I wake out of dreams the first thing I do is write down the fragments floating around in my head. The problem is if I don’t do so sometimes the dream scenarios become trapped and refuse to make way for what I need to be thinking about and working on. There’s about twenty or so ragged and dog-eared notebooks full of these which I revisit from time to time. I thought maybe I would start sharing some of them here because sometimes these scenarios blossom into bigger things. There’s stacks of them in the third Saurimonde book where I took written pieces of my actual nightmares, rearranged the elements of six or seven separate instances into one semi-cohesive supernatural nightmare sequence, then I added in the mythology and remixed them again (sort of a mild version of the cut-up technique). I think maybe that’s why when they work, they have resonance.

So here’s the fragment from this morning. I find the idea being trapped or lost within the cycles of incarnation is a theme which often permeates my subconscious.
“The room was lit by the muted television set and a haze of bluish smoke hovered in the air from the cigarette they shared between them. She didn’t think she had ever stared into someones eyes and seen herself so clearly before. The feeling frightened her because it spoke of other times and places where they had known each other. Stroking the plane from his eyebrow to cheekbone with her fingertips, she chose her words with care. “I know you.”
“So you are beginning to remember…?”

Burying her her head into the nape of his neck, she whispered against his skin, “You are not the only accidental guest on this darkened planet — I was never meant to be here either.

Will it go into the next book? Maybe. Speaking of the next book, I’ve got the outline down and it will center around the enigmatic north porch of Notre Dame de Paris, the Belle Epoch alchemists, signs, portents, and chance encounters — some of my favorite pet obsessions. Most likely it will be a supernatural thriller which I am kind of excited about writing. I feel the need to re-root myself back into the twenty-first century for a while, and put the puzzle pieces together in a different configuration. It might not work. One never knows. I loved the outline and the ideas behind Demon Priest, and it had a cracking opening, but three chapters in I realized I had made a fatal error — I’m not a strong enough writer to narrate a whole book from a male perspective. At least not that kind of book. But that is how you learn, and possibly I’ll use that first chapter for something else one day, or figure how to come at that story from another point of view when the time is right.

Here’s the prologue from Demon Priest: (another snippet of a dream).

“There was that noise again. The throbbing of drums echoed across the valley punctuated by faraway screams. Stirring, she opened her eyes to see the bright spots of firelight glowing like fireflies in the distance. Smiling to herself, she shifted on the ground near the mouth of the shallow cave. Let them celebrate me, she mused. Let them have this night to shout and dance and to make love under the stars. Soon they would be no more, like the others who came before them. She was tired now — so very tired. The time was near when she would retreat into the cool earth where she would slumber and dream in endless darkness. No one would find her there. She knew these lands like no other and indeed, she had been here before the mountains had been formed, when there was only a vast, endless ocean. Then, the tectonic plates crashed together and what was molten soon cooled as slow moving glaciers formed the first valleys. Like herself, the terrain changed and was born anew, only to become old again. The humans called out to her, shouting her name while waving their cups in the air. A giant effigy burned sending sparks flying out into the night sky as the smaller bonfires were extinguished. I will return, she promised as the weariness took hold of her again. I always do. These humans mean little more to me than insects now. Sighing one last time against the dirt, she murmured, But first, please grant me oblivion…”

There’s not a huge amount of news to be had. Currently, I’m finishing up a project I should have completed ages ago. It’s tricky and complicated and doesn’t want to follow any known set of screenwriting rules — but it is a challenge — and I do love a challenge. I only have a certain amount of time out here to get it completed so it’s been occupying most of my waking attention.

The sun is rising, the desert is stretching its sun-kissed skin, there’s coffee brewing in the kitchen, and I need to get down to writing for the day…

Much love from where the worlds touch,

S – xx

SAURIMONDE III — C’est Fini!

What a month it’s been so far! I’m sitting here in Los Angeles, basking in the hot February sunshine. It’s such a blessing after so many winters in the freezing cold of the Pyrenees, and as much as I may miss my home, I will never miss the cold.

So first —  the very good news — Saurimonde III is finished! It’s currently available on Amazon Kindle (the physical copy will be out next week) and it’s the first book launched on our newly formed Lux in Tenebris Publishing label. There will be lots more about that development in the near future — so keep an eye on this space!

Saurimonde III:

 Safety is but an illusion…
In the search for a young woman who may already be dead, the tragically lovely Saurimonde, along with her handsome consort, Sordel, travel deep within the mysterious zone where she comes under the spell of the powerful cult leader, Na Dag’ma, who, after initating her into their strange faith, sends her on a quest to find a dangerous ancient relic.

Amid a quagmire of lies, dulplicity, and collusion the veil between worlds becomes threadbare – one existence bleeding into another – as Saurimonde and Sordel wander further into a supernatural web. Upon finding what they seek, will they be able to break free? Or be forced to become the ultimate sacrifice?
It’s available here: Saurimonde III Amazon Kindle

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Even though it’s been an age (not really, it only feels that way) since I’ve been sequestered in the back beyond, Melissa and I managed to record a new podcast at the BTS studios as soon as I hit the ground yesterday.

In our sixteenth episode we try to get back into the swing of things after our month long break with: a show dedicated to wine lovers, like how red wine is great for sex, as well as another book by Mandy De Sandra, Fox News Fuckfest, for all your bizzaro political erotica needs! (And, yes, we forgot to turn off the A/C at the BTS studios again, damn it!).

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Tomorrow, we’ll be filming for our brand new super secret project that I am so excited about! Maybe I’m finally starting to travel out of the crossroads. I say this with cautious optimism because I’ve thought the same thing a couple of times over this last rather surreal and harsh year only to be knocked back to square one and told to wait. Still, all I can do is follow the signs wherever they may lead…

Much love from where the worlds touch,

S – xx