The TOWER OF SONG as the Center of Platonic/Romantic Education & the Hermetic Wisdom of John Milton’s Il Penseroso
The poet's persona invokes Melancholy to allow him to make it possible to go to places he has never been to before and to do things he has never done before. In his invocation the persona creates a pastoral setting with his use of language. Because Milton puts himself into Il Penseroso, this poem is more personal, more mature, and ultimately more powerful. On line 86 the persona talks about a “high lonely Towr.” In this tower he imagines his life as an intellect and poet. He also envisions himself spending numerous hours studying the writings of Hermes Trismegistus and Plato’s writings dealing with “immortal souls.” One of Milton’s motives for this poem is said to be his “movement of career.” It was written during a vulnerable time in his life and deals with various ways of coping with different situations; specifically his vocation as a poet. Milton demonstrates the relation of nature to feelings to imagination to ideals to morals to art to God and finally back to nature. By reading Book IV of Paradise Regained one can understand Milton’s similar attitude found in Il Penseroso. He stresses the points of leisure and study, two subjects or motives found in Il Penseroso. With a close reading of the symbolic language found in this poem one can see the direct correlation between the experience in the poem and the experiences in Milton’s own life. This poem is a symbolic description (perhaps “humanist speculum”) of Milton’s ideas of education, which Milton consistently stressed. Milton also stresses that humanist education leads to universal knowledge. This educative poem shows the “Platonic ascent" through all the levels of human experience. In this poem, Hermes Trismegistus and Plato ultimately offer the philosophic experience.
Milton encountered the Hermetic Treatises during his third year at Cambridge in 1628. During that year he wrote a poem entitled, “De Idea Platonica Quemadmodum Aristotles Intellexit.” The speaker in this poem demands to know where he can find the Platonic archetype of a man. Hermes Trismegistus appears in a list of authors in lines 25-28. The reference made to Hermes in “Il Penseroso” clearly demonstrates that Milton incorporated his studies at Cambridge into his written works.
In the Tower of Song, the love of ideas(the love of learning) is mixed with the idea of love. This radio commingling of "love and ideas" creates an "erotic metaphysics," because of Socrates' and Plato's emphasis on eros (erotic mania) as the driving force of the philosopher's (the "lover of wisdom") quest--"a simultaneous knowing and loving by means of imagining.” This imaginative element of "give attention to soul" practically defines the entire philosophy of Socrates and Plato.
Thus Everybody Knows that the Tower of Song is the Tower of Learning--the singing school of the soul:
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing For every tatter in its mortal dress. Nor is there singing school but studying Monuments of its own magnificence . . . (W. B. Yeats)
"Lonely Towr" from Il Penseroso (Palmer 1879)
Oh let my Lamp at midnight hour Be seen in some high Lonely Towr, Where I may oft out-watch the Bear, With thrice great Hermes.
Milton, 'Il Penseroso' (1633)
From my retreat and view Make my own break through And I might see things new From my retreat and view
There's visions to behold Treasures to unfold Home away from home From my retreat and view
Well the higher you go The more that you know you can find Like a memory that's there Stuck in the back of your mind
There's bargains of the soul Dreams that do unfold Now I know it's true From my retreat and view
There's bargains of the soul Treasures to behold Some time to start anew From my retreat and view
From my retreat and view Got to make my own break through So I can see things new From my retreat and view
High up on the mountainside From my retreat and view The place to satisfy From my retreat and view
From my retreat and view Got to make my own break through So I can see things new From my retreat and view
Come pensive Nun devout & pure Sober stedfast & demure All in Robe of darkest grain Flowing with majestic train Come but keep thy wonted state With even step & musing gait And looks commercing with the Skies
And join with thee calm Peace & Quiet Spare Fast who oft with Gods doth diet And hears the Muses in a ring Ay. round about Joves altar sing And add to these retired Leisure Who in trim Gardens takes his pleasure But first & Chiefest with thee bring Him who yon soars on golden Wing Guiding the Fiery wheeled Throne The Cherub Contemplation
Less Philomel will deign a song In her sweetest saddest plight Smoothing the rugged Brow of Night While Cynthia Checks her dragon yoke Gently o'er the accustomd Oak
Il Penseroso is a famous pastoral poem by Blake's mentor, John Milton (written c. 1631-1633). The poem is in praise of the contemplative, withdrawn life of study, philosophy, thought and meditation, and is a counterpiece to L'Allegro, which praises the more cheerful sides of life and literature. Both pieces detail the passing of a day in the countryside according to both philosophies. And, once more, both poems show the influence of Hermeticism. In Il Penseroso Milton not only pays tribute to Lady Melancholia as muse ("divinest Melancholy"), but also to Hermes Trismegistus ("the Thrice-Great Hermes") and Orpheus--all three presiding spirits invoked in the Gypsy Scholar's Tower of Song.
HENCE vain deluding joyes, The brood of folly without father bred, How little you bested, Or fill the fixèd mind with all your toyes; Dwell in some idle brain, And fancies fond with gaudy shapes possess, As thick and numberless As the gay motes that poeple the Sun Beams, Or likest hovering dreams The fickle Pensioners of Morpheus train. But hail thou Goddess, sage and holy, Hail divinest Melancholy, Whose Saintly visage is too bright To hit the Sense of human sight; And therefore to our weaker view, Ore laid with black staid Wisdoms hue. 1 Black, but such as in esteem, Prince Memnons sister might beseem, Or that starr'd Ethiope Queen that strove To set her beauties praise above The Sea Nymphs, and their powers offended, Yet thou art higher far descended, Thee bright-hair'd Vesta long of yore, To solitary Saturn bore; His daughter she (in Saturns raign, Such mixture was not held a stain) Oft in glimmering Bowres, and glades He met her, and in secret shades Of woody Ida's inmost grove . . . . And joyn with thee calm Peace, and Quiet, Spare Fast, that oft with gods doth diet, And hears the Muses in a ring, Ay round about Joves Altar sing. And adde to these retired leasure, That in trim Gardens takes his pleasure; But first, and chiefest, with thee bring, Him that yon soars on golden wing, Guiding the fiery-wheeled throne, The Cherub Contemplation, And the mute Silence hist along, Less Philomel will deign a Song, In her sweetest, saddest plight, Smoothing the rugged brow of night, While Cynthia checks her Dragon yoke, Gently o're th' accustomed Oke; Sweet Bird that shunn'st the noise of folly, Most musical, most Melancholy! Thee Chauntress oft the Woods among, I woo to hear thy Even-Song . . . . Or let my Lamp at midnight hour, Be seen in some high lonely Towr, Where I may oft out-watch the Bear, With thrice great Hermes, or unsphear The spirit of Plato to unfold What Worlds, or what vast Regions hold The immortal mind that hath forsook Her mansion in this fleshly nook: And of those Daemons that are found In fire, air, flood, or under ground, Whose power hath a true consent With Planet, or with Element. . . . 2
But, O sad Virgin, that thy power Might raise Musaeus from his bower, Or bid the soul of Orpheus sing Such notes as warbled to the string, Drew Iron tears down Pluto's cheek, And made Hell grant what Love did seek. . . . 3 And if ought els, great Bards beside, In sage and solemn tunes have sung, Of Turneys and of Trophies hung; Of Forests, and inchantments drear, Where more is meant then meets the ear. Thus night oft see me in thy pale career, Till civil-suitèd Morn appeer . . . . And when the Sun begins to fling His flaring beams, me Goddess bring To archèd walks of twilight groves, And shadows brown that Sylvan loves Of Pine, or monumental Oake, Where the rude Ax with heaved stroke Was never heard the Nymphs to daunt, Or fright them from their hallow'd haunt. There in close covert by some Brook, Where no prophaner eye may look, Hide me from Day's garish eie, While the Bee with Honied thie, That at her flowry work doth sing, And the Waters murmuring With such consort as they keep, Entice the dewy-feather'd Sleep; And let some strange mysterious dream, Wave at his Wings in Airy stream, Of lively portrature display'd, Softly on my eye-lids laid. And as I wake, sweek musick breath Above, about, or underneath, Sent by som spirit to mortals good, Or th'unseen Genius of the Wood. But let my due feet never fail, To walk the studious Cloysters pale. And love the high embowed Roof, With antick Pillars massy proof, And storied Windows richly dight, Casting a dimm religious light. There let the pealing Organ blow, To the full voic'd Quire below, In Service high, and Anthems cleer, As may with sweetness, through mine ear, Dissovle me into extasies, And bring all Heav'n before mine eyes. And may at last my weary age Find out the peacefull hermitage, The Hairy Gown and Mossy Cell, Where I may sit and rightly spell Of every Star that heav'n doth shew, And every Herb that sips the dew; Till old experience do attain To something like Prophetic strain. These pleasures of Melancholy give, And I with thee will choose to live. 4
1. “Melancholy”. Milton's goddess Melancholy is an earlier version of Urania, the Muse he invokes in Paradise Lost 7.1
“with black”. Melancholy was one of ancient medicine's four humours, black bile, under Saturn's influence. Milton allows his personification to appear to have a black face, but this is simply the way she must appear to worldly mortals. Robert Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy (1632) was the standard treatise on this humour and all its effects.
2. “Towr”. Contrast Il Penseroso being inside the tower, while L'Allegro views a tower from a distance (L'Allegro 77-78).
“Bear”. Viewed from the northern hemisphere, the constellation Ursa Major (the great bear) never sets. Thus to "outwatch the bear" is never to go to bed. (Bear is also Orion.)
“Thrice Great Hermes”, or Hermes Trismegistus (three times great), traditionally the author of the Corpus Hermeticum, a body of mystical writings dating from sometime in the first three centuries of the Common Era. Neoplatonists of the Renaissance regarded Hermes as knowing everything.
“unsphear”. To unsphere would be to summon a spirit (in this case Plato's) from his celestial sphere.
“fleshly nook”. An allusion to the Neo-Platonic idea of human souls as trapped within fleshly bodies.
“Dæmons”. Daimons were thought to be spirits, half mortal and half immortal, that served to communicate between the gods and mortals. In Hermetic philosophy daimons presided over the four elements of created things. In Plato's Symposium, Diotima argues that Eros (Love) is such a daimon.
3. “Musaeus”. A mythical poet, sometimes described as the son of Orpheus and a priest of Demeter, and is thus interpreted as the founder of religious poetry. The fifth-century poem "Hero and Leander" is ascribed to him.
“Orpheus”. Contrast this reference to Orpheus with that in L'Allegro 145-150. “. . . the superiority of the pattern set by Il Penseroso is signaled by the use Milton makes of the Orpheus myth in the two poems. . . . in Il Penseroso the emphasis is upon the power of Orphean music; in L'Allegro it is Orpheus' failure to return Eurydice to the world.”
4. “Hairy Gown and Mossy Cell”. This phrase reinforces the preceding line's mention of "hermitage." A hair shirt would often be worn by a man doing penance. Cell can mean "a dwelling consisting of a single chamber inhabited by a hermit or other solitary."
“spell”. Spell can mean "to engage in a study or contemplation of something," or "to decipher, with an overtone of its magical sense."
“Prophetic” and “Melancholy”. The superiority of Il Penseroso's accomplishment is subtly asserted by the relative security of the poem's closing couplet. "There is no doubt that Melancholy can give such pleasures; there is some question of Mirth's power."
Saturn seems to have impressed the seal of melancholy on me from the beginning. —Marsilio Ficino
She dwells with Beauty—Beauty that must die; And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips Bidding adieu; and aching Pleasure nigh, Turning to poison while the bee-mouth sips: Ay, in the very temple of Delight Veil'd Melancholy has her sovran shrine ...
—John Keats, "Ode on Melancholy"
Even so We find the sea of sorrow. Black as night The sullen surface meets our frightened gaze. As down we sink to darkness and despair. But at the depths! Such beauty, such delight! Such flowers as never grew in pleasure's ways.
—Ella Wheeler Wilcox, "The Depths"
I fled to the edge of a mighty sea of sorrow Pursued by the riders of a cruel and dark regime But the waters parted and my soul crossed over Out of Egypt, out of Pharaoh’s dream ...
I was alone on the road, your love was so confusing All my teachers told me I had myself to blame But in the grip of sensual illusion The sweet unknowing unifies a name …
—Leonard Cohen, “Born in Chains”
"My melancholy wants to rest in the hiding places and abysses of perfection: that is why I need music."
—Nietzsche, The Gay Science
"Day is fading away, now evening is coming to all things, even to the best things; listen now, and see, you Higher Men, what devil, whether man or woman, this spirit of evening melancholy is!"
—Nietzsche, "The Song of Melancholy" (Thus Spoke Zarathustra)
For the full text of Nietzsche's "The Song of Melancholy," click here
In the"Invisible Landscape" of The Tower of Song, the luminous, dark, sacred night and its Night-Riders are ruled over by the Dark Goddess--the "Queen of the Night" or "Luna."
"Queen of the Night"
For more on the Dark Goddess or "Queen of the Night," see the subpage dedicated to her: "Our Dark Lady"
The People/Phantoms of the Night; the Night-Riders: The Music of the Night in the Dark Side of Town “Floating, falling, sweet intoxication. Touch me, trust me, savor each sensation. Let the dream begin, let your darker side give in to the power of the music of the night.” ―Charles Hart, The Phantom of the Opera: Piano/Vocal
In Europe, during the Middle Ages--around the time of the Troubadours, I may add--, a legend arose about certain mysterious beings, called either "People of the Night," or "Phantoms of the Night." This "good society," as they were oftentimes referred to, magically appeared during the night, usually in forests and high mountain valleys and fields, "accompanied by delightful music of unearthly beauty, which placed human beings under a spell and summoned forth nameless yearning." In fact, their music was so beautiful that it was described by those that accidentally stumbled upon their merry company as "heavenly music," or music that seemed "as if the angels were playing." These "People/Phantoms of the Night" are roughly equivalent to the Celtic otherworldly "fairie" folk (who are, as opposed to today's popular conception, by no means cute little elfin creatures, but somewhat awesome and even terrifying to look upon). Associated with the medieval “Witchcraft” phenomenon, other magical elements accrued themselves onto this folklore complex of the “People/Phantoms of the Night,” such as: (1) the legend of the wild “night-riders” (sometimes led by Herne), who could be heard thundering through the countryside on horseback or even through the air; (2) the legend of the pagan goddess of the Hunt, Diana-Artemis (also, “Holda”), who lured women to “night flying,” or nocturnal travels of riding upon wild beasts—“the game of Diana.”
“The phantoms of the night are the more uncertain and more fantastic beings and in their peculiar form much less well known than the people of the dead. The former are also different from the people of the dead in that with them the usually grim ceremonies of death are replaced with uninhibited joys. These wild phantoms appear on lonely mountain meadows, participating in a joyful roundelay, like the witches. And an invisible music plays movingly beautiful tunes. This music of the night phantoms has been especially praised, being played not only for dances but also for the nocturnal journeys through mountainous gorges and ravines. Whenever a living person hears these wonderful tones, a nameless yearning seizes his or her heart, and he or she must follow the grim procession over mountain and valley until the bells of morning or the first cock’s crow breaks the magic.”
“The appearance of the people of the night or of the night phantoms was usually accompanied by delightful music of unearthly beauty, which placed human beings under a spell and summoned forth a nameless yearning. This music was described as ‘heavenly music,’ or as music so beautiful ‘that it was as if the angels were playing’ . . . .”
"The conception naturally arises whether there is any common pattern to be found behind these ideas of a 'good society,' regardless of who referred to it or did not refer to it. The conception of a good people existing parallel to the dreary world of daily reality, especially ideas of music of unearthly beauty, played by the night people or by the Saligen Lutt (blessed, i.e., dead, people), carries with it possible traces of a peasant utopia. . . . Synonyms for them were 'the blessed women,' 'the noble maidens,' 'the blessed girls,' or even the 'holy people,' or the 'angelic people.' They were enchanted but peaceful people from the mountains who helped human beings, spoke with animals, rewarded the good and sometimes punished the bad, and they possessed the gift of flight."
(Behringer, Shaman of Oberstdorf)
"The Old Magic"
"Oracle at Dodona"
Diana the Moon-goddess
The supreme Lady of this nocturnal “joyous society" was Diana or the “Mistress of the Good Game” (la donna del bon zogo). One of the peasant women in these nocturnal gatherings could be chosen as “Queen of Angel Land” or also as “Queen of the Angels, Queen of the Elves.” Could the original "Lady" of the "good society" be none other than "Our Dark Lady of the TOWER OF SONG"?
After all, the settings of the "People/Phantoms of the Night" sound as if they could well have been in, or on the grounds of, the Tower of Song: “The phantoms of the night danced joyously on remote meadows and mountain pastures, met in certain houses for sumptuous dinners . . . .” Witches brought to trial reported about witches who healed and helped others. Witches also confessed that at their gatherings they heard instrumental dance music, made contact with angels and the dead, and worked magic; even revived the dead. These meetings took place “mostly on mountain tops, where beautiful and pleasant fields are found, or in delightful broad valleys . . . or in large palaces . . . .”
There is also the connection between the "angelic music" of the "People/Phantoms of the Night" and the wonderful music heard in the Tower of Song.
“There is also a definite connection here between death and music, as the illustrations of the dance of death, common from the fifteenth century onward make clear. From this point on there is a linkage to the devil as well, because death and the devil have been closely related for ages, and there is also a theological tradition that has regularly condemned music. There is reason enough, however, to follow conceptually the music of unearthly beauty played or sung by the people of the night in other directions as well.”
This connection made by the Church between music and evil has had, since the Middle Ages, a long life-span. (The cultural watchdogs of the Church condemned popular music and bemoaned the decadent life-styles of the young, especially the music that was being imported into the Latin world from Arabo-Hispanic Andalusia.) Parallels can be readily seen concerning rock-in-roll in the 50s and 60s and hip-hop music today.
Therefore,"there is reason enough ... to follow conceptually the music of unearthly beauty played or sung by the people of the night [in the middle of the night] in other directions as well"--to follow, in other words the music to theTOWER OF SONG.
Night-Rider's magic circle
The School of the Night & the Night-Riders
Having already described the Gypsy Scholar 's waking dream of the Tower of Song as, among other things, an "anarchist all-night coffee house," here's more scholarly information that will make the connection to "The People/Phantoms of the Night."
The folk belief of a “peasant utopia” acquired new life in the peasant rebellions of the Middle Ages (and recalled at moments in the “Peasant’s War,” 1525). This has been called, as part of the millennialist movements of the time “the world turned upside down.” But we can detect in these popular political uprisings the survival of the magico-pagan beliefs in the “People of the Night” and their wild ceremonies.
“The music of their peasant dances may even have resounded more sweetly at the time of the great uprising than it ever had before. But this time of carnival, this ‘world turned upside down,’ when peasants took control of government . . . .”
This citation points in the direction of the Gypsy Scholar's essays on politics and music--"The Romantic Total Revolution." Yet the significance of this citation isn't exhausted in this aspect only. It also points up the Gypsy Scholar's essays on the politics of new-age religion, where the dogmas of new-age religion are challenged by the feminist inverting ("turning upside down") of patriarchal values. Here, for example, the light (good) vs. dark (bad) metaphysic is "turned upside down." [See subpage, "Our Dark Lady"] In the present re-valuing, the carnival of "The People/Phantoms of the Night" heralds the feminist revolution in the spiritual life. For instance, now the "dark" repressed element is brought up from the underworld/hell and given its proper due; that is, what is historically rejected is consciously re-valued as a positive force ("working with the Shadow")--found in the "dark side of town."
This is part of the revolution that the Gypsy Scholar terms "The Romantic Revolution." Yet, as the folklorist points out (in discussing the importance of the ideas of popular culture--like "The People or Phantoms of the Night"--and about one of the ecstatic virtuosos of the 1600s):
"Real conventicles of heretics, as well as surviving notions of fairies (in both cases, groups who were known as ‘good people’) thus provided a conceptual basis for the witches’ dance. . . . there is much evidence in favor of the view that popular beliefs played an important role in the construction of the idea of the witches’ dance. . . . Here was where the bona societas was transformed into the society of witches. When physical force was deployed against folk magic and when lived folk beliefs and myths were demonized, another stage in their suppression was begun. The people of the night were pushed underground and the fairies took leave of history. . . . When push came to shove, not even his neighbors were able to understand their ‘virtuoso representative of popular culture’ any more. The witch hunt replaced the witch finder, the state replaced magic. The church became part of the state administration, and these myths were transformed into the stuff of legends and fairy tales, falling into unconsciousness until, in the nineteenth century, their souls had once again left their bodies. The Romantics, however, did not really discover them anew, but instead invented something entirely new out of them. . . . And the Romantics in turn have been shoved into the shadows by the bricoleurs of our century. But here we go again, speaking of high intellectuals and politicians, while . . . was only a herdsman who went traveling with the phantoms of the night.”
Thus, it could be said that part of the nineteenth-century Romantic project of the cultural recovery of the repressed values of the "Nightworld" today is to recover Romanticism itself! And now that we have heard about the "School of the Night," let's seek the connection of this Renaissance esoteric school and the medieval/Renaissance phenomenon of the "Night-Riders" with the Gypsy Scholar's quest for the alternative academy--that "singing school of the soul." Because he moved from the Ivory Tower to "that tower down the track," he now takes academic liberties in mixing classical culture and popular culture--takes special pleasure in mixing the high and the low. This is part of the Gypsy Scholar's (Re-Vision Radio's "ecstatic virtuoso") serious programme of bringing Romanticism out of the "shadows" and "playing with knowledge," mixing with music, as scholar-artist in-residence--in the TOWER OF SONG, where listeners can go "traveling with the phantoms of the night" or "night-riders."
". . . / if the backbeats born in hell / then that's the place I want to be / gonna be a midnight rider / gonna to burn my candle down / following that driven beat / to the dark side of town / . . . gonna celebrate the mystery of the hole I've fallen in / 'cause I'm a midnight rider / gonna burn my candle down / follow that driven beat / to the dark side of town. . . ." (Eliza Gilkyson)
"Pleasure is frequently, if not always, the disavowed motivation for even the most serious and scholarly studies, studies that denounce the assertive and playful pleasures of popular culture as frivolous. . . . Since popular culture has the audacity to make pleasure ( or "enjoyment" ...) its purpose, cultural studies and the study of popular culture can inspire students and intellectuals to affirm the pleasures of critical analysis, to confront not only the cultural politics of pleasures, but also the pleasures of cultural politics." (Prof. Carla Freccero, Popular Culture)
The Benandanti ("Good Walkers") were an agrarian fertility cult in the Friuli district of Northern Italy in the 16th and 17th centuries. The first coherent description of the Witch’s Sabbath invoked popular ideas of the people: “the game of the good society (ludus bonae societatis) and conveyed a vague impression of banquets, dancing, and music . . . .”
The Witch's Sabbath contained many elements of pre-Christian pagan motifs. Of course, the motifs of “heavenly music” or the “resurrection of the dead” occurred in a Christian context, but “despite the strength and institutional spread of Christian mythology, a set of ides circulated through the whole alpine region that cannot really be called ‘Christian.’ Another set of ideas was the myth of a ‘good society’ that existed parallel to the evil condition of the world.”
"Male and female witches met at night, generally in solitary places, in fields and mountains. Sometimes, having anointed their bodies, they flew, arriving astride poles or broom sticks; sometimes they arrived on the backs of animals, or transformed into animals themselves. . . . There would follow banquets, dancing, sexual orgies. . . . Two themes emerge from them: the processions of the dead and battles for fertility. Those who declare that they participated in them in a state of ecstasy were, in the case of the processions, predominantly women: the battles, chielly men. Both called themselves benandanti. The uniqueness of the term suggests a background of shared beliefs . . . connected with myths commonplace over a large part of Europe (the followers of Diana, the 'wild hunt'). . . . In fact, in both cases, the exit of the soul from body--to join night battles or the processions of wandering souls--was preceded by a cataleptic state which irresistibly suggests comparison with a shamanistic ecstasy.
More generally, the tasks of the benandanti assigned themselves (contact with the world of the dead; magical control of the powers of nature) seem to amount to a social function very similar to that performed by shamans. . . To this mythical nucleus are also linked folkloric themes such as night flying and animal metamorphoses. . . With the end of the persecutions, the Sabbath dissolved. Denied as a real event, relegated to a no longer threatening past, it fed the imagination of painters, poets and philologists. But for a period which was ultimately quite brief (three centuries), the very ancient myths merged into that composite stereotype and have survived its disappearance. They are still active. The unfathomable experience that humanity has symbolically expressed for millennia through myths, fables, rituals and ecstasis, remains one of the hidden centers of our culture, of the way we exist in this world. The attempt to attain knowledge of the past is also a journey into the world of the dead." (Carlo Ginzburg, Ecstasies, Deciphering The Witches Sabbath) [My emphasis]
The People/Phantoms of the Night & Shamanism “The connections between ecstasy, soul travel, fortune-telling, and powers of healing, which we find here united but still only in fragmentary form, have been brought together in other cultures into a type of religious expertise called shamanism . . . . Shamanistic ecstasies can be found in Europe from the early Middle Ages down to today.”
One example of shamanistic techniques in the phenomenon of the “People/Phantoms of the Night” is found in Sicily, with women called “Ladies from Outside” (donni de fori). “They loved children and harmed no one, except perhaps when they defended themselves. Luck smiled on those whom they visited. Anyone who went “traveling” with them, by having souls that left their bodies on certain nights, obtained the capacity to heal and to foretell the future. Their assemblies were enlivened by wonderful music and frolicsome dancing, and wherever they went there was plenty of food and drink. Sometimes they helped people with their work.”
According to Russian folklorist, Vladimir Propp, shamanism survives in the substrate of magical fairy-tales. As another folklorist observes: “It is fairly clear that no pre-Christian cults survived the thousand years of Christian acculturation. The Celtic, Germanic, Slavic, and Roman myth repertoire was broken up, dissolved, and partially extinguished. . . . Even so, the surviving fragments of myth, these vestigial mythologems, were powerful enough to generate the myths over and over again.”
Yes, these myths "are still active" and activated, where "those funny voices" of the ancestors (the dead) still feed the imagination of the poets--that "visionary company"--who compose one of the "hidden centers of our [counter-] culture;" still active, that is, in that imaginal center that is shamanically "sung into existence." Legend has it that only certain individuals could hear “the music of the night people.” These individuals are those that have discovered
The Tower of Song.
Some of the "People/Phantoms of the Night" as seen from the Imaginal Window in the Tower of Song, where you can "hear those funny voices."
"Evening Star" (Venus)
"Night & Sleep"
"Queen of the Night"
In the middle of the night when all is quiet and a magic sleep falls upon the land, the "Queen of the Night," whose other name is Hecate, Goddess of the Underworld, haunts the "Invisible Landscape" of the Tower of Song.
And we fairies, who all run As members of Queen Hecate's team From the presence of the sun, Following darkness like a dream, Now are happy. (Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream)
"The Scent of Magic"
"The Night of Enitharmon's Joy (Hecate)" by William Blake
"The Magic Circle"
"Diana of the Night-Hunt"
"Wizard of the Tower"
"Riders of the Sidhe" (Duncan)
The people known as "The Sidhe" or people of the mounds, or "The Lordly Ones," or "The Good People," were descended from the "Tuatha de Danann" who settled in Ireland millennia ago. Being defeated by the Milesians, they retreated to a different dimension of space and time than our own, believed to be living under mounds and fairy raths and cairns, and also the land of "Tír na nÓg," a mythical island to the west of Ireland. Place names in Ireland with the pre-nouns Lis, Rath, and Shee are associated with these otherworldly; people for example: Lismore, Lisdoonvarna, Sheemore, Rathfarnham, and etc.
Down through the ages the Sidhe have been in contact with mortals giving protection, healing and even teaching some of their skills to mortals; smithcraft or the working of metals being one such skill. Cuillen (Culann) is one such sidhe smith who has been told of in the legends of Cúchulainn and the later legends of Fionn mac Cumhail.
The Gaelic word sí or síog refers to these otherworldly beings now called fairies. The Irish fairy is not like the diminutive fairies of other European countries, the Sidhe are described as tall and handsome in all accounts, also they are dressed very richly and accounts of their halls are of richly decorated places with sumptuous foods and drinks.
The Sidhe are generally benign until angered by some foolish action of a mortal. Many trees and mounds are considered under their protection and if a mortal destroys or damages these then a curse is put upon himself and his family. In some parts of the countryside people would not build their houses over certain "fairy paths" because of the type of disturbances which would ensue. Whenever a host of the Sidhe appears there is a strange sound like the humming of thousands of bees also a whirlwind or shee-gaoithe is caused.
Re-Vision Radio would invite its late-night listeners to tune into its airwaves and follow the enchanted music in order to find these fairie-type folk, these angelic musicians--these "People/Phantoms of the Night." So Re-Vision Radio's listeners can ask to come along on this magical Night-Ride: "Take me with you on this journey / Take me dancing, take me singing / I'll ride on till the moon meets the sea"
. . . Ride on through the night Ride on, ride on through the night Ride on, ride on, ride on . . .
There are visions, there are memories There are echoes of thundering hooves There are fires, there is laughter There's the sound of a thousand doves
In the velvet of the darkness By the silhouette of silent trees they are watching waiting They are witnessing life's mysteries Cascading stars on the slumbering hills They are dancing as far as the sea Riding o'er the land, you can feel its gentle hand Leading on to its destiny
Take me with you on this journey Where the boundaries of time are now tossed In cathedrals of the forest In the words of the tongues now lost
Find the answers, ask the questions Find the roots of an ancient tree Take me dancing, take me singing I'll ride on till the moon meets the sea
(Loreena McKennitt, 'Night Ride')
click for "Dream Vision"
To read Novalis' entire "Hymns To The Night," click here
For the philosophers of Renaissance occultism, the night sky was an image of the soul (anima mundi).
So get on Re-Vision Radio's Mercurial-Neptunian wavelength to hear the "unearthly music" and join the wild dance "with the Great Goddess of the Eternal Wisdom / and the Lord of the Dance / in the daring night"--from the Tower of Song.
In the daring night when all the Stars are shining bright Squeeze me don't leave me In the daring night Galactic swirl in the firmament tonight Oh with the Lord of the Dance With the Lord of the Dance In the daring night
I see Orion and The Hunters Standing by the light of the moon In the daring night In the daring night And the heart and the soul As we look up in awe and wonder at the heavens Oh and we go with the Lord of the Dance With the Lord of the Dance, the Lord of the Dance In the daring night
In the daring night when all the stars are Shining bright Oh baby squeeze me don't leave me in the daring night In the firmament we move, we move and we live And we have our being Squeeze me don't leave, leave me in the daring night
In the firmament we move and galactic swirl And we live and we breathe and have our being Baby in the daring light Darling squeeze me squeeze me Don't ever leave me in the daring night When all the stars are shining bright And don't let go, and don't let go Don't let go don't let go in the daring night And we move and we move, and we move and we move Baby don't let go in the daring night
In the daring night when all the stars are Shining bright Baby squeeze me don't leave me in the daring night Capture it all oh with the Lord of the Dance Oh with the Lord of the Dance in the daring night With the Lord of the Dance in the daring night With the lord of the dance and the great Goddess Of the eternal wisdom Standing by the light of the moon in the daring night
And the bodies move and we sweat And have our being Don't leave me in the daring night In the daring night when all the stars are Shining bright Squeeze me don't leave me Baby in the daring night Squeeze me don't leave me In the daring night In the daring night . . .
(Van Morrison, 'Daring Night')
Great Goddess of Eternal Wisdom
Lord of the Dance
"The Sacred Dance"
"Dance To the Music of Time"
"Dance of The Graces Directed By Apollo"
"Dance of the Hours"
“Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.” “Everything in the universe has a rhythm, everything dances. ” ―Maya Angelou
“Our biological rhythms are the symphony of the cosmos, music embedded deep within us to which we dance, even when we can't name the tune.” ―Deepak Chopra
"Do not cease your dance, sweet girls! No spoil-sport has come to you with an evil eye, no enemy of girls… And with tears in his eyes, he shall ask you for a dance; and I myself will sing a song for his dance. A dance-song and a mocking-song on the Spirit of Gravity, my supreme, most powerful devil, who they say is 'the lord of the earth'. And this is the song Zarathustra sang as cupid and the girls danced together … Thus sang Zarathustra."
—Nietzsche, "The Dance Song" (Thus Spoke Zarathustra)
“I would believe only in a God that knows how to dance.”
“And we should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once. And we should call every truth false which was not accompanied by at least one laugh.”
—Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra
“I do not know what the spirit of a philosopher could more wish to be than a good dancer. For the dance is his ideal, also his fine art, finally also the only kind of piety he knows, his 'divine service.'”
—Nietzsche, The Joyous Science
For the full text of Nietzsche's "Dance Song," click here
The Horned God
The Horned God, "Lord of the Dance," & the Green Man
He is the Lord of the Dance, and His ways are wild and bountiful. He is Lord of the Hunt; King Stag; the Green Man, Lord of the Forest;
King of the Land, and Lord of the Underworld; Warrior, Enchanter, and
Wild Thing. To different cultures, He was known as the bull, the stag,
the lion, the bear, the eagle, and the ram. He is named Dionysus,
Osiris, Dumuzi, Herne, Apollo, Cu Chulainn, Aengus Og, Yeheshah,
Baphomet, Cernunnos, Llugh, Lucifer, Zeus, Baal, Shamash, Shaitaan,
Odin, Thor, and Pan. He is Arthur, Merlin, Lancelot, Gwidion, Galahad,
the Green Knight in the Arthurian story of Sir Gawain, and most
definitely, Robin Hood! Many of the planets are allotted one of His
many names. Most of the days of the week are named for Him. He is known
as the Lord of Life and the Lord of Death, is both the good guy and the
bad guy, defender and destroyer. He is consort, brother, son ally, and
enemy of women, and He is the archetype of all men. As Lucifer, he is
considered the "Morning Star," or Venus! And Venus is also the
Goddess, whether as Stellar Maris or Mari Lucifer.
legends of the Wild Men--dressed in leaves, living in the forest--have
been connected with the Green Man. In some stories of Robin Hood--the
robber and hero dressed in green--he attains godlike status and links
with the Horned God Herne. There is an intimate connection
between the Green Man and the Goddess. Present-day Western pagan
thought identifies the Green Man as the symbol of the qualities of
godhood within the male, as well as being an expression of the
life/death/rebirth cycle and its relationship with the transcendent
life-force, the Goddess, the female expression of godhood.
The Celtic Triple-Goddess
The Indian Black Goddess
The Gypsy Scholar's program --"in the middle of the night"-- takes its listeners on a nocturnal journey into the TOWER OF SONG. And, like the magical phenomenon of the People/Phantoms of the Night, as day breaks the Romantic "Nightworld" (myth, magic, mysticism, music, the feminine) radio magic (mercurial-neptunian) fades, and the Tower of Song disappears back into the hidden dimension of the "invisible landscape." (Link to "Invisible Landscape" at bottom of page.)
"Fairy Princess Titania Sleeping"
If we shadows have offended, Think but this, and all is mended, That you have but stumbled here, While these visions did appear. And this weak and idle theme, No more yielding but a dream, Gentles do not reprehend: If you pardon, we will mend....
Every fairy this must do: Each and every chamber bless Give the palace peacefulness. With the owner of it blessed, Ever he'll in safety rest. Trip away and don't delay; Meet me all by break of day.
If we actors have offended, Think only this, and all is mended: That you've only slumbered here While these visions did appear. And this weak and pointless theme Was nothing better than a dream.... So, good night unto you all!
Puck, Midsummer Night's Dream
The Archetypal Theme of the Enchanted (Dionysian) "Romantic Nightworld" and its disappearance at the dawn of the (Apollonian) Dayworld: How the Gypsy Scholar became a 5-year-old Animist.
Before the new materialistic-mechanistic worldview of science and even before (way, way back) the one it replaced--the Christian monotheistic worldview--, the archaic/shamanic worldview was what is called "animistic." The term animism originally meant "belief in spiritual beings," but it has come to mean the view of the universe and nature as alive with spirit(s), or an indwelling spirit in all things--the ensouled cosmos (personified as the Anima Mundi or World Soul). Thus, animism (from Latin anima "soul," or "life") is nature "animated," a philosophical, religious or spiritual idea that souls or spirits exist not only in humans but also in other animals, plants, rocks, natural phenomena, geographic features, or other entities of the natural environment.
From the Romantic 19th century into the early 20th, this archaic worldview was revived and given the name "neo-vitalism" (cf. Bergson's philosophical "elan vital"), since Aristotle is first credited with philosophic "vitalism." (In Celtic mythology, this would be the world of the "Faerie.") Today, as far as religion goes, the animistic worldview is more genrally recognized by neo-Pagans.
This is a very simplified version of the history of animism, but it will suffice to give you a background in understanding how the GS, although he hadn't the faintest idea of what "amimism" was at the time, became a 5-year-old Animist. This was before reading and books, before any cognitive understanding.
As a child, the GS used to watch "Merry Melodies" Cartoons. Two that he can remember were entitled "Pagan Moon" (1932) and "The Dish Ran Away with the Spoon" (1933).
The plot of "The Dish Ran Away with the Spoon" is especially significant, since it takes place at midnight when everybody in the house is asleep and the inanimate objects--kitchen appliances and utensils--come to life. They are very "animated," singing and jitterbugging around the countertops and table (to jazz music). This Bacchanalian scene gets more and more wild and crazy, and soon the revelers spill out into the night--everything joins in the wild-night revelry; lampposts, cars, plants, trees--, and all is alive and boogying to the music. Here's the plot synopsis I found online for the cartoon: "It's after midnight at "Ye Olde Bake Shoppe"--just the right time for the kitchen utensils, pots, pans and every other inanimate object to come to life for some musical fun. Amidsts the whistling kettles and a salt-pepper-sugar shaker singing trio, a fork takes a shower, and a mixmaster motorboat embarks upon an voyage in the kitchen sink. The highlight of the evening is the courtship of Miss Dish and Mister Spoon, sung to the tune of "& Shuffle Off to Buffalo". Spoiling everyone's fun is a mutant yeast monster who attempts to kidnap Miss Dish, but the other kitchenware rallies together for a last-minute rescue."
This animistic world was immediately recognizable to the 5-year-old Gypsy Scholar. And he was thus a neo-Pagan until the dis-enchantment set in with the later indoctrination he got at church and school. But why do I call that 5-year-old animist the "Gypsy Scholar"? The answer is simple: these animated cartoons were as much about music as they were images--in fact, maybe more about the music:
"The Merrie Melodies cartoons were designed to showcase songs from Warner Bros' vast music library. The title of each cartoon was also the title of the song featured in it. Some, like 'Smile, Darn Ya, Smile!', incorporated the song into the action effortlessly, creating a highly enjoyable mix of the two. . . . The Merrie Melodies soon became a series of one-shot cartoons, with no common thread linking them except for the focus on music." [Emphasis mine.]
Significantly enough, today the grown-up Gypsy Scholar has a radio program (and it is noted that these early animations of the 20s and 30s on film and TV were dubbed as "Illustrated Radio") that (as stated on this website) doesn't just play songs; it "showcases songs" from its "Musekal Library" in the TOWER of SONG. Once more, the GS's Essay-with-Soundtrack (as stated in the "Manifesto & Visionary Recital") seeks to "incorporate(d) the song into the action effortlessly, creating a highly enjoyable mix of the two," as it "focus(es) on music." The synergistic mix and music and image is why the GS calls the concept behind his radio program "Re-Vision Radio."
Is this all just a mere coincidence, or is there something more at work here? In any case, the GS would suggest that we all start out as young animists and then the dis-enchantment sets in. This is true both on the individual and collective levels (ontology recapitulates phylogeny); that is, every individual in its development from child to adult repeats in miniature the dis-enchantment of the world--from the animistic worldview to the industrial mechanistic worldview. (The "Romantic Nightworld," like in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, gives way to the dawning of the Apollonian dayworld of the modern era.)
However, the GS is here to say that all is not lost; that there is a neo-Romantic, neo-vitalistic movement afoot in our dis-enchanted world, calling for (with the help of "new science") a "re-enchantment of the world" (literally, re-en-song-ment).
Thus, the grown up Gypsy Scholar has recovered his childhood religion of animism and meets the the 5-year-old Gypsy Scholar in that special place of en-song-ment--the TOWER of SONG (with its own "Merrie Melodies"). And so the GS invites listeners to meet him there every Sunday/Monday at midnight in the archetypal "Romantic Nightworld," before all the Orphic music magic disappears at dawn of the work-a-day world.