Food, good vibes

Delighted to receive this Valentine’s gift: Lavolio Italian confectionery decadent spiced collection. Beautiful and delicious; gluten-free and lovely creative and thoughtful flavours. And handcrafted in Italy!

Flavours in this selection include orange zest zafferano, pistachio and chilli sorpresa and apple and cinnamon; plus coffee digestifs.


5 Year Memory Journal

Life, Musings


Started keeping this journal last summer, and think it will be very interesting to, at the end of the five year cycle, read back through all my entries…

I don’t tend to follow the prompts – there is one given beneath each date, but I find some of them a tad inane. However, others are quite good, in terms of encouraging the writer to record something about themselves that might evolve over the course of five years. E.g. ‘my favourite artist is…’ – now, I’d probably say Waterhouse. But in five years time, who knows…?

There’s four lines worth of space for recording each day’s entry. But occasionally I might journal more extensively elsewhere. I also keep a dream diary on a laptop – which is sometimes updated from notes made beforehand on loose sheets of paper kept by my bed (ie so I can record and remember the dream before getting to the computer).

The five-year memory journal format is one I find very intriguing, for that eventual bit of delayed gratification on reading it at the end of the five years, and charting the progression of my life, my pursuits, perspectives, perceptions, general interests, etc.

Death’s Garden

books, music, Musings

‘Time is certain: already the man that I will be has the man that I am by the throat, but the man that I have been leaves me in peace. This is called my mystery, but I do not believe in (I do not prize) the impenetrability of this mystery, and no one wholly believes in it for himself. The great veil that falls over my childhood only half conceals the strange years that will precede my death. And I shall one day speak of my death.’

[Andre Breton, Letter to Seers]


Lo jardí de la mort‘ aka Death’s Garden: I cannot find much information about this beautiful, haunting song, other than it is by a contemporary Catalan composer, Bernat Vivancos, and sung by the wonderful Nuria Rial.

10 Techniques of Psycho-Morphology, from Ithell Colquhoun’s ‘Children of the Mantic Stain’

art, Consciousness, Musings, retro

‘It is that branch of Surrealism known as Psycho-morphology which concerns us here. Psycho-morphology is the discovery by various automatic processes of the hidden contents of the psyche and their expression through different media. The principle of all these processes is the making of a stain, by chance, or ‘objective hazard,’ to use the surrealist term; the gazing at the stain in order to see what it suggests to the imagination; and finally the developing of these suggestions in plastic terms.’

Colquhoun gives the example of Leonardo da Vinci ‘staring at the stains of damp in an ancient wall, and seeing in these a hint of the mountains, ravines and phantastic foliage of a dream-landscape.’ Then her own personal anecdote:

‘At the time of a recent house-removal I lay in bed looking at a plaster wall seamed with cracks. It was the day before I was due to move and I thought after today I shall no longer see these marvellous cracks, indeed, no one will, because they will be obliterated by redecoration. So… I sprang out of bed,  glued some large sheets of tracing-paper together, fastened them to the wall, and made a careful tracing of the cracks: this has since become a large mural, Giantesses Undressing to Bathe. Previously I had found the inspiration of another picture, Autumnal Equinox, in the artificial wood-graining of a painted door. In both these processes, the basic stain was discovered and recorded, but not directly made, by myself: so the process involved was a combination of automatism and the ‘found-object.’ It is hardly necessary to point out that the same unconscious process, which makes a mantic stain and recognises its pictorial scope, also selects and illumines that morsel of external reality which constitutes a ‘found-object.’

She goes on to describe several different automatisms in some detail, beginning with 1) (‘Perhaps the most promising’) DECALCOMANIA: the word comes from dècalquer (to trace) and indicates the double image which is ‘traced’ by pressure; used by Dominguez, and Cozens (who called them ‘blots’) as a beginning to his landscapes; Breton also described the process in terms of, ‘How a window may be opened at will on the loveliest landscapes of this and other worlds’.

Black gouache is spread on a sheet of paper, diluted here and there with water, covered with another sheet, pressed together fairly hard, and then removed slowly, by the upper edge. What is then revealed is ‘the old paranoiac wall of da Vinci, but… carried to its own perfection…’ (Breton, cited by Colquhoun), and, ‘you may be certain that you have expressed yourself in the most personal and valuable way.’ (ibid.)

Colqohoun suggests that inks, including coloured rather than black, and/or oil paints or other pigment may be used instead of black gouache; in the case of waterproof inks/paints, instead of diluting with water, one must vary the quantity used in different areas of the paper.

2) STILLOMANCY: a more limited form of the above; it consists in folding a piece of paper over a splash of ink, so producing a trace. The ‘limitation’ is on account of the symmetrical nature of the forms produced (because of the fold); ‘in spite of this, I have known the most remarkable suggestions to result’ (ibid.)

3) FUMAGE: Hold a piece of paper or board almost horizontally just above the flame of a candle or oil lamp, passing it to and fro rapidly and without conscious direction. Spray with fixative the resulting smokey trace (to prevent smudging). Gaze intently at it, to see what themes emerge. ‘The chosen forms are then stressed [ie emphasised, made to stand out, or highlighted] either in ink, water-colour, or oil, and the irrelevant passages painted over with a background or otherwise erased.’ This technique was invented by a Surrealist painter, Wolfgang Paalen.

4) FROTTAGE: aka rubbing – the placing of canvas or paper over an uneven surface e.g. stone, wood, woven fabric etc, and rubbing it over with charcoal, chalk, paint, or carbon-pencil, similar to taking a brass rubbing; ‘the resultant marking may be looked into and interpreted in the usual way’ (ibid.); this technique was used particularly by Ernst.

5) ECREMAGE: aka ‘skimming’; cover the surface of water in a large bowl with oil paint or an ink with an oily base; pass a board or stiff piece of paper just below, lifting it out of the water which drains off it, leaving it marked by the skimmed-off oil; this is a very similar process to that used in the production of ‘marbled’ end-papers; a variation of this method developed by Colqohoun is named PARSEMAGE, or scattering – in which powdered charcoal or the dust of coloured chalk is skimmed on the surface of water, yielding a different type of stain than that of the oil.

6) COLLAGE: the sticking or glueing together of various elements, which have been cut-out (and taken out of their original context), and are then re-combined automatically to form a new synthesis, without any rational intent. See for example works by Ernst, Luca.

7) HYNAGOGIC MOVEMENTS: Close your eyes; allow your hand to draw or paint blindly, using materials previously prepared.

8) ENTOPTIC GRAPHOMANIA: mark with a dot any slight irregularity of colour or change of surface on a black sheet of paper, and then join the dots by lines.

9) SUPERAUTOMATISM: painting or drawing completely at random, ‘letting a line go for a walk’; ‘the deeper layers of the unconscious consist of just such uninterpreted and perhaps uninterpretable images’ (Colquhoun discussing a point originally made by Trost, ibid.).

10) VAPORISATION: in which a pool of ink or diluted paint on a resistant surface is blown in all directions by means of a fixative spray (or similar).

Each technique tends to produce its own characteristic forms, which may accompany or suggest its own particular thematic emphases. For instance, dècalcomania relates itself to landscape, ‘with foliage, feathers, scales and marine life’; fumage to semi-human figures or larval forms; while entoptic graphomania ‘leads one towards the most austere kind of geometric abstraction’.

All processes are highly dependent upon the unconscious state of the operator, so that if a number of experiments are undertaken over the course of a day, similarities of form are likely to emerge; while on another day, a different series of images will be produced; although these latter will share what Colquhoun calls a certain ‘family likeness’ – and it is for this reason that she believes these stains to possess a mantic or divinatory power; cf. various processes of clairvoyance such as tea-leaf reading, crystal-ball, or indeed any of the various forms of  scrying. She links all this to the “great work” of alchemy, briefly mentioning Jung’s discussion of the alchemist watching the contents of the alembic, and releasing the contents of his own phantasy world (aka ‘projection’).

Near the end of her essay, Colquhoun makes an intriguing suggestion that there may be a correspondence between the four elements of earth, air, fire, water, and some of the automatisms e.g. fumage being related to elemental Fire, processes involving water to Water, vaporisation to Air and dècalcomania to Earth.


The Halo is Real

Consciousness, Musings, Tarot



‘We cannot imagine the eternal…. And if we cannot understand the universe, we are ignorant and limited. You ask me about the sense of all this, but surely it is our descendants who will be able to understand it. We are here to produce descendants who will be able to understand it… descendants who will use the same brain that we already have but be more evolved. If the reptilian brain evolved into our three human brains, I sincerely believe that we are creating a fourth brain – and it doesn’t have to be material.
In the Middle Ages they intuited this. They painted the fourth brain in the form of a halo because that’s how they saw it, as a golden circle around the head. What reason is there for painting a halo? Why would they invent a halo? Well, because the halo is real.’
[Jodorowsky, Psychomagic: ‘Lessons for Mutants: The Invisible Bridge’]

Image: Pamela Coleman Smith, 1909: The Hanged Man from the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck. Card scanned by Holly Voley ( for the public domain (from wikipedia)

Walter de la Mare

Dreams, Musings, poetry

Mrs. Earth makes silver black,
Mrs. Earth makes iron red
But Mrs. Earth cannot stain gold,
Nor ruby red.
Mrs. Earth the slenderest bone
Whitens in her bosom cold,
But Mrs. Earth can change my dreams
No more than ruby or gold.
Mrs. Earth and Mr. Sun
Can tan my skin, and tire my toes,
But all that I’m thinking of, ever shall think,
Why, neither knows.
[Walter de la Mare, Collected Poems 1901-1918, Vol II: Songs of Childhood: Peacock Pie]

Had a curious dream in the wee small hours: in which I was looking intently at a large photo portrait of Walter de la Mare. He was seated in a wicker chair in a conservatory, looking melancholy, and holding a small oval framed photo of his late grandmother out to face the viewer. I could directly perceive his thoughts and feelings – he was missing his grandmother (‘Violet’ in my dream, I have no idea what her name was IRL), remembering how she used to read him stories and how much he loved her. She had a sweet, warm and gentle face, with large dark eyes, and long snowy-white hair in a bun.

I decided, on waking, to do a little research about W de la M – being unfamiliar with his life and works, other than some poems he wrote for children, which I read when I was a child; and was charmed to find that he ‘was born an old-lady watcher’; is quoted as having said, ‘I must have been dead myself once – it seemed so homely’; and, in his writing or inspirations at least, ‘inhabited’ an imaginary country where ‘the heart of England bordered on another, numinous realm.’

(All quotations come from a review by Stan Smith of Theresa Whistler’s biography of W d l M, in The Review of English Studies, Volume XLVI, Issue 181, 1 February 1995, Pages 118–119)

Altogether he sounds like someone I must investigate post-haste!

Incidentally, google images and wikipedia bring up photos which show him exactly as he looked in my dream – I think he must have been in his 50s in my dream-portrait.

‘How beautiful they are, the Lordly Ones…’

books, Consciousness, Magic, music, Mysticism

Taverner joined me at the bedside…. He looked steadily at the man on the bed for a moment, then he said in a low voice, as if uttering a password:
“I am a friend of your people.”
The dark eyes took on again their curious filmy look.
“What are my people like?”
“They are very beautiful,” replied Taverner….

to my mind came the words of a seer–

How beautiful are they –

the Lordly Ones, in the hills, in the hollow hills–

“How do you know about my people?” said the man on the bed.
“Should I not know my own kind?” said Taverner.

I looked at him in amazement. I knew he never lied to a patient, yet what had he–cultured, urbane, eminent–in common with the wretched man lying on the bed, an outcast, for all his rank? And then I thought of the solitariness and secrecy of Taverner’s soul; none knew him, not even I who worked with him day and night; and I remembered also the sympathy he had with the abnormal, the subhuman, and the pariah. Whatever mask he might elect to wear before his fellow men, there was some trait in Taverner’s nature that gave him the right of way across the threshold into that strange hinterland of existence where dwell the lunatic and the genius; the former in its slums, and the latter in its palaces.’
[Dion Fortune, The Secrets of Dr Taverner]

The lyrics quoted in Fortune’s extract above are from Faery Song in Boughton’s opera, The Immortal Hour:

“How beautiful they are

the Lordly ones,

who dwell in the hills,

in the hollow hills.

They have faces like flowers,

and their breath is a wind

that blows o’er summer meadows filled with dewy clover.”

‘In his left hand the lyre…’

Ancient Greece, current reading, poetry

‘In his left hand the lyre

Was a model, in magical code,

Of the earth and the heavens –

Ivory of narwhal and elephant,

Diamonds from the interiors of stars.

In his right hand he held

The plectrum that could touch

Every wavelength in the Universe

Singly or simultaneously.

Even his posture

Was like a tone – like a tuning fork,

Vibrant, alerting the whole earth,

Bringing heaven down to listen.’

[Ted Hughes, Tales From Ovid – extract from ‘Midas’, describing Apollo’s playing in a musical contest with Pan – which Midas is about to interrupt, and which will result in his sprouting donkey ears.]