Friday, June 27, 2008

The harvest of fools (the sacrifice - part 3)

My tarot deck and I have been good friends for many years. I don't use them much these days, but they sit in my room more than happy to kick around a few ideas should the need arise.

The use of the word 'fool' in this article comes from the image in this tarot deck & as I've been told that a picture paints a thousand words, I set before you an image of a lively, inexperienced youth setting out on the path of adventure. The baby shows us that there is much to learn. The image of the woman has become for me, symbolic of the part that women have played in life thus far - removed from the path of adventure & tending to the needs of others. Now don't run away, I'm not dragging up the fantastical ruse of the battle of the sexes, but this tarot card had a quiet word to me & made me think that had we not been mis-led down that path so completely, perhaps millions of fools would not have died.

(I re-iterate that the use of the word 'fool' in this article is used with respect, to indicate youthful & inexperienced boys or those who believed their commitment was valued & as a sneaky little device to trick your mind briefly out of it's programmed belief in 'heroic soldiers & sacrifice'.)

Figures vary, but going by wiki, twenty million people died in 'The Great War' of 1914-1918. That's five times the number of people who live in NZ or one third of the population of the UK - either way my brain can't comprehend it. Of these, over 9 million were fools - young, inexperienced, adventurous or trusting.

It may seem like a long time ago, a thing dead & buried, & indeed until my attention was drawn there I thought so too. British military historian Lyn MacDonald referred to 1915 as the 'Death of Innocence' & indeed the list of atrocities that bombarded the human psyche that year are something we cannot comprehend. A toxicity grasped the world & squeezed the innocence out of it. I believe that war was a ritual of initiation for the events that are unfolding so rapidly today, & that both the human psyche & that of this planet were in some way shattered or fractured back then. We are the descendants of that generation, their stories flow through our veins.

These articles which I have grouped together under the heading of the Sacrifice have taken on a life force of their own. The initial impetus came from being revolted by a statue called 'the Sacrifice' in the ANZAC memorial in Sydney. Over the last few weeks I felt a strong tug to look at war memorials of WWI. Before I go further I must say at times I feel like I've bitten off more that I can chew on this theme & there's only so much I can point out, so please feel free to go browsing yourself.

My intuition says that there's more to war memorials than we have been herded into believing. Prior to WWI, memorials to the 'military dead' were very rare indeed. Military successes were sometimes recorded (as in Arc de Triomphe or Nelson's Column) but the dead fools of war were simply shovelled en mass into unmarked graves.

I'm told told that war memorials were 'called for' after the war, but I've been wondering if this was not as it was supposed to be. Looking at the colossal size & scope of some of these memorials leads me to feelings of hypocrisy. One of the ways that today's media likes to induce guilt, is by labelling us as a throw-away society - well excuse me but... never in human existence was this more truly so than on the the battlefields of WWI, where human beings were today's equivalent of paper towels - tear off, mop up & throw away. If we were to follow this analogy what is the likelihood in the future that we will build vast monuments to 'the Great Kitchen Towel'.

Mention WWI & most people have a vague knowledge of trench warfare, poppies & names like Flanders & the Somme. Historians talk 'knowledgeably' (& endlessly) of battles & tactics - for myself I can only give my humble intuitive opinion that it's all a mighty load of bollocks. I would call the stupidity of that war criminal, if there didn't come a sense of 'planned bungling', a sense of something drawn out, prolonged, 'set up'. I got this feeling when I looked at Gallipoli & it turns up again on the 'Western Front'.

Historian Lyn MacDonald "If the German command had been able to choose a single stretch of their five-hundred mile front on which to beat an Allied offensive, they would have chosen to meet it on the Somme where their line was virtually impregnable."

If WWI was a ritual of initiation or sacrifice on a worldwide scale then it needed to be brutal, prolonged & savage enough to carve a deep wedge into both the human psyche & that of the land. After the war what better way to keep that wedge open than with huge monuments placed on the sites of horrific bloodshed, their sheer size & magnitude an ongoing thorn in a raw wound.

The Great War saw the advent of 'technology' on the battlefield - machine guns, devastating fire power & poison gas, enough to mop up (kitchen towel analogy) thousands of fools in minutes & decimate the land. The fields of Belgium & France were force fed a diet of the blood & bones.

A belief found in many societies throughout history, is that the soul of a person remains in their bones after death. They were considered sacred & believed to have great power -
"Elisha died and was buried. Now Moabite raiders used to enter the country every spring. 21 Once while some Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the man's body into Elisha's tomb. When the body touched Elisha's bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet."

The care & tending of bones was of great concern;
"8:1 At that time, saith the LORD, they shall bring out the bones of the kings of Judah, and the bones of his princes, and the bones of the priests, and the bones of the prophets, and the bones of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, out of their graves:
8:2 And they shall spread them before the sun, and the moon, and all the host of heaven, whom they have loved, and whom they have served, and after whom they have walked, and whom they have sought, and whom they have worshipped: they shall not be gathered, nor be buried; they shall be for dung upon the face of the earth."

Wandering around the internet firther I found mention of Assyrian Kings who would hold the bones of their enemies up to sunlight as the worst possible punishment that could be inflicted on them. From earliest times bones have been used as amulets & charms & for magic.

So I have been wondering if our ancestors understood bones a lot better than we do, & if the soul really could reside within them. Matthew Delooze's latest article boldly questions the afterlife & who's to say that we do actually shuffle off this mortal coil, perhaps we sleep within our bones & merely dream of bright lights, tunnels & pearly gates...

I think the blood & in particular the bones of a generation of fools impregnate the lands where they died, with vibrations of fear, hate & anguish. So is it by accident that a great portion of these are embedded in Belgium which houses the seat of both the European Union and NATO. Indeed Belgium has been called the Cockpit of Europe because more battles have been fought there than any other country - there is perhaps a great deal more to this are than we currently understand. It is interesting how often Belgium seems to be the butt of jokes as a boring country, could this be to keep attention away from this little hot spot?

So lets take a look at some WWI memorials that we have taught to honour.

This little beauty (I'm joking) is the Douaumont Ossuary in France. A memorial that contains the bones of 130,000 unidentified French & German fools who died on the battlefield during the Battle of Verdun. The erection in the centre is huge. Click on link for another image.

The Battle of Verdun lasted for 300 days during 1916. It was considered the greatest & lengthiest battle in the history of the world, fought on an area less of than ten square kilometres & causing over 700,000 causalities (dead, wounded, missing) - that's a lot of kitchen towels.

"Through small windows [in the ossuary], the remains of unidentified soldiers can actually be seen filling small, windowed alcoves around the edge of the building...The tower is 46 meters high and has a panoramic view of the battlefields. The cloister is 137 meters long and contains 42 alcoves. The tower contains a death-bell, 'Bourdon de la Victoire', which is sounded at official ceremonies and the lantern of the death (WTF) which shines on the battlefields" (wiki). Does this perchance sound a little ritualistic - I know I would not wish a the skeleton of a fool I had loved, to lie in this closet.

Did you know that war memorials are big business now, there are companies who specialise in tours 'a la sacrifice'... please note the only charge for this trip is a mind that is willing to wonder. I myself, may simply have an over-active imagination - you must locate & use your own gut feelings.

That said, everybody back on board, bloody hell there's always someone in the toilet...

Our next stop is the British Menin Gate Memorial located at the eastern exit of the town of Ypres (now called Ieper).

Ypres interested me. The town was decimated. In truth I think it deserves a whole article on it's own, but for now this must suffice. I wondered about this town being expunged from the face of the earth. Something about the the Cloth Hall cried out for attention.

"Over 5000 years ago the Egyptians named it [linen] "woven moonlight", due to its very singular beauty... grown in Egypt as early as the 4th millennium BC. Art works from that time depict the progression from the harvesting to the treating of flax, to retting, hackling etc as a sequence of ceremonial actions. Linen was considered to be a symbol of purity."

"In Ovid’s "Metamorphoses" the Egyptian goddess Isis is addressed as dea linigera which means the Linen Goddess. The linigeri (wearers of linen) were the priests belonging to the Isis cult in Rome. Full article here if interested."

"The truly gigantic Cloth Hall overlooks the Market Square, the political and economic heart of Ypres.

So we could perhaps say that the Cloth Hall was the goddess heart of Ypres. I think the land itself in Belgium & Northern France is somehow very important.
There were three Battles of Ypres, and as any good little follower of fairy tales knows, three is the magic number - the hero/heroine is the third offspring & must overcome three obstacles to achieve their destiny. The third Battle of Ypres is also known as Passchendaele, perhaps re-callingto mind the Passion of Christ (& echoing his threefold temptation by Satan & his thrice denial by mate, Peter).

from wiki: "At 125 meters in breadth, with a 70-meter-high belfry tower, the Cloth Hall recalls the importance and wealth of the medieval trade city...The belfry, capped with four turrets and a spire, houses a carilon with 49 bells. From a pole atop the spire a gilded dragon overlooks the city. In less enlightened times, cats, then associated in some way with black magic, were thrown off the belfry for reasons that are not clearly understood. Today, a jester commemorates this act by tossing stuffed toy felines from the tower during the triennial Cat Festival."

Across the blogosphere as I was working on this I came across an interesting snippet at Thuther Thoughts "Friday the 13th is not about Templars. The templars want you to believe that. Don't. It is actually the High Holy day of the goddess Frigga. She is the goddess of Love. On Friday the 13th she came down and gave a coven of 12 Northern Witches a cat so their coven would total 13". View whole article here.

Happy to chariot this little synch & see where it led, I took up my surfboard & headed for the net & a little game of word association. The first synch wave blew me away - from the book 'Unholy Alliance -A history of Nazi Involvement with the Occult' by Peter Levenda. Try this on for size

"And Frigga, Isis, Mary are merely names
Transient veils of the hallowed womb

The aforementioned womb being the one that renewed the Fatherland (Germany) in the succeeding war when they dropped back uninvited on Belgium & other European neighbours.

How very interesting then to also find the the patron of Ypres is Our Lady (Mary) of Thuyne (a thuyne being a sort of palisade fort) - bringing Mary, together with Isis & Frigga in the town of Ypres.

To return to the Menin Gate Memorial, we find it is a triumphal arch built at the eastern exit of the town of Ypres which marks the starting point for one of the main roads to the front line. It was designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield, built by the British Govt & opened in 1927. It's inner walls are encrusted with the names of over 50,000 missing fools. Atop the memorial sprawls an unconcerned lion representing, we are told the the Lion of England & Flanders, for it seems that region is also symbolised by this ubiquitous beastie.

On completion, we are told, the Menin Gate was found to be too small to contain all the names of the missing & an “arbitrary cut-off point of 15 August 1917” was chosen. Because I no longer believe everything I read I checked out that date & was so not surprised to find that it is the feast day of the Assumption of Mary - Our Lady of Thuyne/Isis/Frigga.

Every evening at 8.00pm since 1928 (apart from the German Occupation during WWII) traffic is stopped & buglers play the Last Post. Apparently the suggestion was made by the Superintendant of the Ypres Police (I’ve gotten a bit cynical lately & tend to see the word ‘Mason’ these days instead of ‘Police).

Here we have the absolute 'must have' for all Rememberance services - the blood red poppy, see here floating through the roof of Menin Gate - did they fall or were they pushed?

In a great article on Rememberance Day, Matthew Delooze looked at it's symbolism "the poppy is really symbolic of the ancient gods and represents hypnosis, sleep and dreams."

The Menin Gate is only one of many memorials whose walls contain the names of tens of thousands of fools whose broken bodies were never found - but I wonder how much that matters symbolically. In Romeo & Juliet, the fated heroine learns that there is a lot more to a name than she originally thought - a name does matter.

In the annals of yesteryear our ancestors were very much wiser than we are allowed to be today. There were many societies who believed that to know the name of someone was to have power over them, ‘to know something intimate about them’. For this reason people often had two names, one they were known by & a sacred name they kept to themselves.

Because names are oft repeated - how many people do you know called say Tom, Dick (I think that one is probably dying out) or Harry, likewise with surnames - Smith, Jones, Robinson - so it's quite likely that one or both of your names are recorded on memorial walls somewhere in the world. I can't help but wonder how much the energy of our names are hijacked or used as just one more method of control - & who made up these names in the first place. To check the power of a name just notice what happens when you hear someone call out your name, even if they are not referring to you, you still stop & turn, your actions are affected in a very real way and think also of those lovely bills that appear with increasing regularity in your mailbox - those companies don't know you, but they have your name & that is enough.

See here for how Isis found the secret name of Re

Ok everyone back on board & lets head to Vimy Ridge Twin Towers oops I mean the Canadian National Vimy Memorial, sorry don't know what came over me.

This vast memorial inscription commemorates 60,000 fools who did not return to their homes at the end of the war ( in actual fact the figure is 66,000). The Battle of Vimy Ridge began on 9th April, 1917 which was Easter Monday & in true Easter timing it ran for 3 days. It was a military offensive against the German Sixth Army.

The names of 11,285 fools whose bodies were never recovered are carved into the walls & the same number of Canadian trees & shrubs are planted in the 250 acres of land that surrounds the monument. It took 11 years to build. It rests on 11,000 tonnes of concrete. The towering pylons & twice life-size statues contain almost 6,000 tonnes of limestone which took one year to transport from an abandonned Roman quarry near Split in present-day Croatia. The pylons are each 30 metres high.

Behind all those interesting numbers lies a strange dream by the Canadian sculptor Walter Seymour Allward - "he dreamed the Great Memorial well before the government competition was announced. He saw the huge twin pillars commemorating those who spoke French and those who spoke English, the allegorical figures with downcast or uplifted faces, and in the valley beneath the work of art, the flesh and bones and blood of the dead stirring in the mud. And then the dead themselves emerged like terrible naked flowers, pleading for a memorial to the disappeared, the vanished ones... those who were unrecognizable and unsung. The ones earth had eaten, as if her appetite were insatiable; as if benign nature had developed a carnal hunger, a yawning mouth, a sinkhole capable of swallowing, forever, one-third of those who had fallen. A messy burial without a funeral, without even a pause in the frantic slaughter."

In one of the innumerable books I've browsed through over the last few weeks I found a strange statue of a half naked women in an unusual pose.

I was rather surprised because of the amount of holier than thou material I'd waded through regarding sacrifice. I found it hard to link this image with that. Further browsing leads to these images, this one is France apparently...

while this lady who is "Canada Mourning" is so deeply upset she fails to notice the downward drift of her nightdress. "It has been suggested that the statue is a reference to traditional images of Mater Dolorosa (theVirgin Mary in mourning)" (wiki) - I'm not sure what the Pope would say, but then again now that he is a big star he may look to give the royal holy family a re-vamp.

I think the likliehood of a woman mourning like these images is pretty slim, about the same as a guy getting his tackle out a a funeral. For me it reinforces the idea that these memorials are so 'sacred' that no one even thinks to question what might be behind them.

I do hope I don't sound like a prude, & I'm sure there are many who would inform me that this is art, but these statues make me uncomfortable. I'm sure that had they lived, the majority of the 66,000 fools, would have thoroughly enjoyed these statues. But this is about sacrifice & gruesome death & as I'm looking at memorials from a slightly different angle I have to wonder what the sum of grief, guilt (inspired by memorials) & sexual arousal might be. What energies might it attract?

You may recognise this visitor from 2nd June, 1940

Interesting little read here

That ends the voyeristic part of the tour. We head now to the Somme for the last leg of this journey.

In an incident reminiscent of our celebrations kicked off with a fireworks extravaganza, the Battle of the Somme was ushered in at 7.28am on 1st July, 1916 by what was at the time, the two biggest manmade explosions in history. One of these, Lochnagar crater was created by 60,000 lbs of Ammonal explosive -

"The whole earth heaved and flashed, a tremendous and magnificent column rose up in the sky. There was an ear-splitting roar drowning all the guns, flinging the machine sideways in the repercussing air. The earth column rose higher and higher to almost 4,000 feet. There it hung, or seemed to hang, for a moment in the air, like the silhouette of some great cypress tree, then fell away in a widening cone of dust and debris." - 2nd Lieutenant C.A.Lewis

Lochnagar Crater
is one of the few remaining visible wounds to the land. It is a massive 300 feet wide & 90 feet deep. It was purchased by Richard Dunning in 1978, who feared it would be filled in & now attracts 300,000 visitors a year.

I find this image disturbing - just what energy is being 're-called'

The last & largest Memorial to the Missing on this tour, is Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme. It is a massive arched structure that dominates the local countryside. Made from bricks & stone in a colour combination I seem to be finding with more & more frequency - red & white.

Unveiled in 1932. Actually I wonder what that is about - this concept of unveiling, & if we should not perhaps read that in the opposite way - a symbol of the wool being pulled over our eyes, not lifted. Sorry got side-tracked.

Being ignorant of architecture, I must defer to the more knowledgable who seem to agree that it is an amazing structure - from Gavin Stamp's book The Memorial to the Missing of the Somme "When viewed on one of the principal axes, the Thiepval Memorial can be appreciated as a composition of open arches, yet when seen from an angle, up close, it seems intimidatingly solid, with cubic masses of masonry building up on alternate axes to create a vast, pyramid-like structure" - in other words a ziggurat.

Thiepval's walls hold the names/souls of around 73,000 fools whose bodies were never found. In front of the Memorial lie 600 graves -300 crosses for French fools & 300 gravestones for the English. It was opened on the 31st July 1932 -the same date that saw the grand opening of Passcehndaele in 1917. This is the 212nd day of the year & the death/feast day of St Ignatius Loyola. Having a slight rainman ability when it comes to numbers, I recalled that I'd recently spotted 212 elsewhere - sure enough June 2nd, the day that Herr Hitler visited The Vimy Memorial is the 153rd day of the year with 212 days remaining.

One thing that bothers me about these memorials is the time, planning & expense that went into them, when the lives of millions of fools were throw-away - since using the paper towel analogy earlier in this article, I have not been able to use them without thinking of the 'liberally sacrificed' - I now think that would be a very good way to remember, IF re-membering is a good thing.

The whole 'memorial thing' began, I'm told with a man with a long name - Major General Sir Fabian Arthur Goulstone Ware, KCVO, KBE, CB, CMB founder of the Imperial War Graves Commission (IWGC) to record the whereabouts of graves. From wiki "As the war continued, Ware became concerned about the fate of the graves after the war. With the help of the (then) Edward, Prince of Wales, in 1917, he submitted a memorandum on the subject to the Imperial War Conference. On 21 May 1917, the Imperial War Graves Commission was created by a Royal Charter, with the Prince of Wales as its President and Ware as its Vice-Chairman, a role that Ware held until his retirement in 1948

The IWGC recruited three of the most eminent archtiects of the day to design it memorials & cemetries - Sir Edwin Lutyens (Thiepval, The Cenotaph at Whitehall), Sir Reginald Blomfield (Menin Gate) & Sir Herbert Baker.

I believe that knighting confers upon royalty, an ownership of that person & their achievements, thus the war memorials are the property of the crown, so where does that leave the names or bones of the fools? These men created huge memorials & a standard form of military cemetery. The rectangular headstones so well known these days were the creation of Lutyens. He also envisioned the altar-like 'Stone of Rememberance' (found in Commonwealth cemetries with 1000 or more burials) in rather biblical proportions "that it shall take the form of one great fair stone of fine proportions, twelve feet in length, lying raised upon three steps, of which the first and third shall be twice the length of the second; and that each stone shall bear in indelible lettering, some fine thought or words of dedication" (from the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme-Gavin Stamp).

There was an outcry against the cruelty of not letting families having a say in the burials of their loved ones, indeed the exhumation of bodies from foreign lands was prohibited. A heated parliamentary debate in May 1920 crushed all opposition when it was decided that once a man had enlisted, his body, alive or dead, belonged to the King.

The Cross of Sacrifice was designed to add an apparent Christian element to what was perceived by some as rather pagan memorials & cemetries. It to has an interesting design, consisting of an octagonal stepped base, supporting a tall stone cross upon whose face is fixed a bronze sword.

If you've made it thus far thanks for sticking with me.

I first got interested in War Memorials when I saw the Sacrifice at the ANZAC memorial in Sydney last year. Then Ellis Taylor posted a letter re memorials in Auckland -

I started looking there but my attention drew me to these sites instead. There are some things in this world that have been painted so 'sacred' that we see them only as we are told. While I was growing up the Catholic religion was one of these for me. Well now I've opened my eyes to look at memorials & what they symbolise & why they're there. It's really a huge topic & I can only touch on a few right now without wearing out my keyboard & your goodwill.

We have learned our history lessons well, a convincing thread has been woven through the last hundred years & tied with a bloody bow. We are told of man's inhumanity to man & we've been given memorials to remind us 'lest we forget'. Our neighbours are forever a threat to us, the savage nature of the human simmers just below the surface. I believe the only answer to this is here

We've also been told that it was the World Wars that allowed women new freedoms & responsibilites - I'm going to suggest differently. Long before WWI, women were starting to open their eyes & seek a needed freedom. The women's sufrage movement began around the mid 1800's. Now because men & women belong to the same human race, an awakening in one sex would surely have coincided with some change in the other. It is my suggestion that WWI & its partner WWII were at least partly created to delay & warp the partnership of the sexes which is striving to manifest in these times.

War memorials carry the masculine energy of hundreds of thousands of fools - could it be that they are energetically plugged into the 'earth mother' to keep open a wound male v female that needs to heal?

In the book Divine Beauty by John O'Donohue, he sugges that the landscape, the first beauty of the earth 'has been waiting for centuries for the recognition & witness of the human eye'. He quotes Rilke

Perhaps we are here in order to say: house
bridge, fountain, gate, pitcher, fruit-tree, window...
To say them more intensely than the Things themselves
Ever dreamed of existing.

O'Donohue continues "How can we ever know the difference we make to the soul of the earth? Where the infinite stillness of the earth meets the passion of the human eye, invisible depths strain towards the mirror of the name. In the word, the earth breaks silence. It has waited a long time for the word. Concealed beneath familiarity & silence, the earth holds back & it never occurs to us to wonder how the earth sees us. Is it possible that a place could have a huge affection for those who dwell there?...We tend to think of death as a return to clay, a victory for nature. But maybe it is the converse: that when you die your native place will fill with sorrow."

Are these not beautiful thoughts. If O'Donohue is right I would surmise that the architects of war & suffering understand these ideas all too well, & that partnership of land & human (just as with human & human) must be repelled at all costs in order to retain their bloody control.

Last week I lost half of this article after pouring a great deal of hard work & energy into it - it left me literally shocked. I know that you who are reading this will have suffered far greater traumatic shocks in your life, somewhere I have read that shocks cause lesions in the brain - you know how it feels & you know the importance of recovering from it. What would four years of incalculable shocks have done to our great grandparents & the earth they lived in?

World War I is really outside the awareness of most of us who are alive now. It has been transformed via movies, historic 'fact' & the industry of Rememberance into an heroic myth. Coincidentally (yeah right) other great changes happened at the same time. 1917 saw the Russian Revolution, another radical destruction & rebirth & the US became a new focal point of the world... and last but not least one of the greatest inventions for the control of humanity was taking it's baby steps towards meglomania - the movie industry.

I really don't know whether 2012 is worth the hype, but certainly control is the game now & there is the feeling of a rush towards a final showdown - if this is the case then I think the titles WWI & WWII are a tad misleading and in fact what we've been experiencing is more like a 'hundred years war' that began in 1914.

I leave you with thought from Divine Beauty "Fashioned from clay, we carry the memory of the earth. Ancient, forgotten things stir within our hearts, memories from the time before the mind was born. Within us are depths that keep watch."