The greatest forces lie in the region of the uncomprehended

Consciousness, current reading, music

“A fairytale, like a butterfly or a bee, helps itself on all sides, sips every wholesome flower, and spoils not one. The true fairytale is, to my mind, very like the sonata…. if two or three men sat down to write each what the sonata meant to him, what approximation to definite idea would be the result? …. We should find it had roused related, if not identical, feelings, but probably not one common thought. Has the sonata therefore failed? Had it undertaken to convey, or ought it to be expected to impart anything defined, anything notionally recognisable?….

“A fairytale, a sonata, a gathering storm, a limitless night, seizes you and sweeps you away: do you begin at once to wrestle with it and ask whence its power over you, whither it is carrying you? The law of each is in the mind of its composer; that law makes one man feel this way, another man feel that way. To one the sonata is a world of odour and beauty, to another of soothing only and sweetness. To one, the cloudy rendezvous is a wild dance, with a terror at its heart; to another, a majestic march of heavenly hosts, with Truth in their centre pointing their course, but as yet restraining her voice. The greatest forces lie in the region of the uncomprehended.”

George Macdonald, “The Fantastic Imagination”

Bodies of Water (Hillman, 1979)

Alchemy, Ancient Greece, books, Consciousness, current reading, Dreams, Symbols
Wolvercote lakes, photo Copyright © 2019 c l barton all rights reserved

Concerning bodies of water in dreams (oceans, lakes etc), take a lead from Heraclitus: “To souls, it is death to become water…” (or Freeman, frg 77: “It is delight, or rather death, to souls to become wet…”).

Jung, Rosarium Philosophorum (CW 16) also offers a host of psychological insights on the many implications of water.

We can connect Heraclitus’ statement above with the alchemical motto: “Perform no operation until all has become water.”
Ie the opus begins in dying.

Hillman: “When a dream image is moistened, it is entering the dissolutio and is becoming, in Bachelard’s sense, more psychisized, made into soul, for water is the special element of reverie, the element of reflective images and their ceaseless, ungraspable flow. Moistening in dreams refers ton the soul’s delight in its death, its delight in sinking away from fixations in literalized concerns.

“Entering the waters relaxes one’s hold on things and lets go of where one has been stuck. The “waters” that one goes into may be like a new environment or a new body of doctrine that wraps one round and which may both hold one up or suck one into its deeps. It may be like a new sexual relationship… a river that carries one rushing along… on on which one floats feeling a deep and moving support. … as Bachelard says, the language of water is rich for metaphorical reverie.

“…an impersonal elemental quality” of water; “If one looks carefully at the dream, the emotion is usually located in the dry ego-soul as it dissolves, not in the waters, which often are simply there, cool, dispassionate, receiving.”

“So the image-soul’s delight is the ego-soul’s dread…. it fears drowning in torrents, whirlpools, tidal waves….

Heraclitus, however, like alchemical psychology, sees death in water as the way of dissolving one kind of earth while another kind comes into being. Fragment 36 (Freeman) continues:
To souls, it is death to become water;
to water, it is death to become earth.
From earth comes water, and from water, soul.

“Literal fixations in earthbound problems do stop the soul’s movement, and so “it is death to become earth.” The soul does want to flow on and move through. Now, since death also means the perspective of soul, these very same fixations put soul into earth and earth into soul, giving to matters a new psychic sense. A psychic matter forms ie “from earth comes water.” We begin to see and feel psychologically what matters in the soul’s fixations. This regenerates water, as well as soul.

“Literalizations that kill the flow and bury the soul always need dissolving; at the same time what is dissolved always finds new earthworks to stop flow. This is an ever-recurring process, as in alchemy, describing a cycle of soul making, for which dissolution in water is necessary. To fear the dream’s waters is to fear being surrounded and sunk into the body of this cycle in which the soul delights.”

Notes and quotations from Hillman, The Dream and the Underworld pp. 151-153

Patanjali, Yoga Sutras

Alchemy, Consciousness, Meditation, Spirituality

25.तदा णववके णनम्नं कैवल्यप्राग्भायं णचत्तभ ॥२५॥
tada vivekanimnan kaivalyapragbharan chittam
Then bent on discriminating the mind attains the previous state of Kaivalya (isolation).
Thus the practice of Yoga leads to discriminating power, to clearness of vision. The veil drops from the eyes, and we see things as they are. We find that this nature is a compound, and is showing the panorama for the Purusa, who is the witness; that this nature is not the Lord, that the whole of these combinations of nature are simply for the sake of showing these phenomena to the Purusa, the enthroned king within. When discrimination comes by long practice fear ceases, and the mind attains isolation.

Patanjali Yoga Sutras: 25: Sanskrit text with Translation and Commentary by Swami Vivekananda

The ninth emblem from The Book of Lambspring: the King of the Forest seated on his throne with his feet set upon the Dragon he has overcome. See more at:

A Matter of No Consequence

amazing places, books, Folklore, Musings

In Gosseldange, a village on the Alzette across the divide from Schoenfels, the Little People came back again a year ago in a new incarnation. Women huddled about their fireplaces and men scoured rusty firearms and diffidently set themselves against a new menace.

Up in the forests on the top of the ridge an evil was afoot – an intangible, indescribable thing, that made the woods a dangerous mystery by day and an echoing terror by night. A wildman, some called it; an ogre, declared others; a ghost of one of the Little People, perhaps, or an agent of the devil.

For five dreadful days it howled in the woods and children were afraid to cross their door-steps after night-fall. Then the burghers, despite certain superstitious misgivings, organized a posse and scoured the woods.

They had no success.

The Thing laughed at them as they beat through the brush, flitted to the tree-tops when they thought they had cornered it, howled derisively behind them when crackling twigs had led them to believe it in front. For the greater part of one night they chased it back and forth through the patches of beech and oak and pine. Then – worn out, disheartened, mystified, and a bit afraid they plodded back to the village, and down the road the Thing came after them, jeering and howling like the fiend that it was.

It is too bad that this tale must end with an anticlimax. As a true, twentieth-century sort of ghost-story, it should end with the laying of the ghost. But it doesn’t. Gosseldange met over its hot rum about the porcelain stove in the cafe and evolved many new theories concerning the nature and source of the Terror, but never found out what it really was.

It made the nights hideous for a month or so, until the men who had failed to rout it with shot-guns seriously considered asking the assistance of the clergy with bell, book,and candle. Then one night the spook departed. Since then has been peace. Gosseldange has ceased to worry about it. A single ghost in Luxemburg is like a fleck of foam on an ocean, a matter of no consequence.

[R. J. Casey, The Land of Haunted Castles (1921): Ch XIII: ‘Schoenfels’, pp. 216-217]

“… a mysterious, unseen world…”

books, Folklore, Intuition, Musings

Every one is conscious of the strange influence upon life of omens and dreams, and of days when the malific powers, whose mission seems to be to torture the human race, are fearful and strong, and ruthlessly crush all our wishes and resolves, showing us how weak and powerless we are to order life as we desire, or to gain control over even the simplest events; of days when all things are fatally unlucky; of the presence of certain persons who chill the heart and stifle the eloquence of the lips; or of others who pour a warm flood of genius into the veins and make us divine for the moment that we are under their magic spell. So we may sympathise with the Irish peasant, who has given definite forms to the superstitions that we only dimly feel, and recognise the kinship of all races and classes by the universal intuition, common to all humanity, of a mysterious, unseen world of spiritual beings around us. These are for ever influencing our actions or directing our destiny, though we cannot hear them playing their sweet music on the hills, or see them dancing under the scented hawthorn…

Lady Wilde, Irish Cures, Charms and Usages of Ireland pp103-104

Copyright © 2021 by c l barton
All rights reserved.

If the Universe is a great mind…


“Now, the performer of magic, who is an expert in natural determinism, also knows that there are gaps in natural determinism, that there are propitious times for his will to produce changes in the events of the universe. The human condition has its limits, which the magician can transcend.”

Ioan P. Couliano, Eros and Magic in the Renaissance, 111

“If the universe is a great mind, it may sometimes have its absences.”

Hilary Mantel, Beyond Black, 451

The Black Sun – Trismosin, Splendor Solis (an alchemical treatise). Full digital coverage available for this manuscript: see Digitised Manuscripts at

My new Arabian pennywhistle

good vibes, Life, music
This is my carbon fibre whistle handmade by Erik the Flutemaker.
I store my whistles in a drum stick bag;on the left, the Arabian penny whistle; on the right, my Tony Dixon traditional brass whistle in D

I put together a brief guide for those new to the world of tin whistle.

To begin with, whistles come in a variety of keys, though D is usually considered the most useful, especially for traditional Gaelic music.

Here is a brief summary of the situation with different whistle keys:
C: F and G;
Bb: Eb and F
A: D and E
G: C and D
F: Bb and C.

So you see that on a D whistle, you can also play in G and A; while on an Eb you can play in the keys of Ab and Bb.

If accompanying a singer, a range of whistles can be useful for playing in an appropriate key. This enables you to select which whistle you need to both play in a particular key to have both the range and tone you require. The lower whistles can be considered especially useful for this sort of performance.

Whistles do not require washing in water; in fact, that can cause brass or tin to rust. Just make sure to wipe the whistle dry after playing, e.g. with a soft cloth, and then put the instrument away and store it safely. (Erik the Flutemaker also says that, once in a while, he will take some alcohol on a paper towel to clean the mouthpiece, especially if someone else plays it, or if he is not feeling well.)

I keep mine stowed in a drum stick bag, which is suitably padded, and a convenient size, as well as lightweight and portable, in case I want to take them out with me for some al fresco playing. This bag can also fit several whistles and other things e.g. music manuscript/notation, cloth for cleaning, etc.

The tin whistle a very simple and easy instrument to play. There are plenty of free music scores e.g. on The Session

I’m also having lots of fun creating some original compositions, such as the one I’ve uploaded here.

My latest volume of poetry is now available: Arcana

art, books, Life, Meditation, Musings, poetry, Symbols, Tarot, writing
Arcana: 78 poems inspired by meditations on the Margarete Petersen Tarot deck

I’m delighted to announce that my second volume of poetry was released at the end of 2020.

Arcana was inspired by meditations on each card of the Margarete Petersen Tarot deck. Margarete Petersen, a Berlin-based painter who has been painting Tarot cards and images since 1979.

I find the myriad influences from contemporary art and the wealth of syncretic symbolism from cross-cultural spiritual traditions which abound in Petersen’s radical re-visioning of traditional tarot imagery extremely inspiring.

Having received a deck as a gift in December 2018, I had been working with tarot for about 5 years at the time, and was immediately struck by the beauty and power of these particular cards.

The deck as a whole is a profound spiritual tool as well as an exquisite objet d’art, whose beautiful, haunting, mysterious and allusive images cannot fail to capture one’s imagination.

As part of a process of getting to know my new deck, and establishing an intuitive connection with the cards, I sat down each night to meditate with a single card at a time; repeating this as many times as needed, in order to develop insights, clarity, etc. Some cards I felt I immediately “got”, whereas others I needed to sit with over many nights. I jotted down notes during and after each meditation, and noticed that these notes seemed mostly to emerge in the form of poems.

Over a period of two years, I honed and refined the original understandings which emerged, as well as organising the material into a volume of poetry; then came the meticulous work of editing, proof-reading, formatting, and so on; and of course creating the perfect cover design.

I am particularly thrilled to have been granted Ms Petersen’s permission to use an image from her tarot deck for the front cover to my book. The card I selected is VIII: Justice; my selection process was actually to shuffle the deck and draw a card – and I was struck by the synchronicity of the beautiful image of Justice, conceptualised as the Goddess Maat in her temple, drawing and dealing tarot cards.

My deepest gratitude to Margarete Petersen; as well as to her publishers at Königsfurt-Urania, especially Felicia Gaertner and Jennifer Lorenzen, who were most helpful.

Finally, a few words about the title of my book: the word “arcana” is the plural of “arcanum”, a noun which derives from the Latin arcānus (“hidden, secret”), from arcēre (“to withhold”), arca (“a chest”). As a word it has evolved to take on connotations of deep secrecy and mystery – see also the word “arcane” – and specialized knowledge or details unknown to or misunderstood by the average person. It is also the word used to describe the cards of tarot, which are classified into Major – namely, the 22 cards with titles such as “Death”, “The Lovers”, etc – and Minor Arcana; these latter are sub-classified into 4 suits: Wands, Cups, Swords, Coins; with 10 cards, from Ace to 10, in each suit.

Rather predictably, I’ve not yet managed to devote enough effort to promoting it. In the meantime, if any of you seeing this feel so inclined, please do support this independent poet and writer by purchasing copies for yourself and others via Amazon! Feel free also to spread the word to anyone you think might be interested. And thank you all, dear Readers, in advance 😉

Arcana is available for Kindle/ebook reader, as well as in paperback copy. The paperback proof I received looks beautiful, although I say so myself; and for the Kindle edition, I am happy to report that the formatting worked out perfectly.

I am quite the perfectionist when it comes to my writing, not least in terms of everything graphics, design and formatting – yet my book in both versions is just exactly as I envisioned; moreover the entire process was so seamless; so I must just take a moment to recommend Vellum, for anyone interested in indie/self-publishing.


current reading, Folklore, poetry
Turquoise sphere, C L Barton 2020 all rights reserved

“If cold December gives you birth

The month of snow, and ice, and mirth,

Place on your hand a turquoise blue;

Success will bless whate’er you do.”

(traditional rhyme; as cited in Diane Morgan’s Gemlore: Ancient Secrets and Modern Myths from the Stone Age to the Rock Age, ‘Turquoise’ p184)