Tag Archives: Saturn

A Response to ‘The Last Battle’.

On the right is a photo of (from left) Dr Charles Stephens, Atzi Muramatsu, Adam Brewster and me, after our event on Saturday yesterday in association with the exhibition ‘The Planets. The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C.S. Lewis’ for which Adam, Charles and Atzi responded to C.S. Lewis’ The Last Battle with an animation, a reading and a cello performance. (Links below).

 

 

 

Saturday is of course associated with Saturn, and the corresponding book in the Narniad, influenced by Saturn, is The Last Battle.

Here are the performances (thanks to Adam Brewster for videos) …

Animation by Adam Brewster (BAFTA nominated for best animation in 2010) in response to themes of the exhibition (2 minutes):

Cello performance by Atzi Muramatsu (who won a BAFTA for best new composer in 2016) in response to ‘The Last Battle’: (10 minutes, starts 0:20)

The exhibition ended today and the launch last Thursday was a great success thanks to Dr Michael Ward’s fascinating talk about the Medieval cosmos and its influence on C.S. Lewis, explored in his book Planet Narnia.

As ‘The Last Battle’ describes the end of Narnia, it is a moving and at times ominous book – the seventh in the series. After the animation, reading and music performance yesterday, I asked viewers to contemplate the numbers seven and eight – eight being the symbol of infinity. I’d also been thinking of the following beautiful poem by C.S. Lewis:  What the Bird Said Early in the Year

Warm thanks again to Michael Ward, Adam Brewster, Atzi Muramatsu, Dr Charles Stephens, who so movingly read the excerpt – ‘Night Falls on Narnia’ – from  ‘The Last Battle’. (excerpt below) … Also Richard Demarco and Terry Anne Newman for hosting the events at the Demarco Galleries, and lastly thanks again to Fernanda Zei for her excellent curation of the exhibition and talk.

Here’s hoping we can develop the exhibition and related performances for a future exhibition and event!

Night Falls on Narnia, from The Last Battle, by C.S. Lewis

They all stood beside Aslan, on his right side, and looked through the open doorway.

The bonfire had gone out. On the earth all was blackness: in fact you could not have told that you were looking into a wood, if you had not seen where the dark shapes of the trees ended and the stars began. But when Aslan had roared yet again, out on their left they saw another black shape. That is, they saw another patch where there were no stars: and the patch rose up higher and higher and became the shape of a man, the hugest of all giants. They all knew Narnia well enough to work out where he must be standing. He must be on the high moorlands that stretch away to the North beyond the River Shribble. Then Jill and Eustace remembered how once long ago, in the deep caves beneath those moors, they had seen a great giant asleep and been told that his name was Father Time, and that he would wake on the day the world ended.

“Yes,” said Aslan, though they had not spoken. “While he lay dreaming his name was Time. Now that he is awake he will have a new one.”

Then the great giant raised a horn to his mouth. They could see this by the change of the black shape he made against the stars. After that—quite a bit later, because sound travels so slowly—they heard the sound of the horn: high and terrible, yet of a strange, deadly beauty.

Immediately the sky became full of shooting stars. Even one shooting star is a fine thing to see; but these were dozens, and then scores, and then hundreds, till it was like silver rain: and it went on and on. And when it had gone on for some while, one or two of them began to think that there was another dark shape against the sky as well as the giant’s. It was in a different place, right overhead, up in the very roof of the sky as you might call it. “Perhaps it is a cloud,” thought Edmund. At any rate, there were no stars there: just blackness. But all around, the downpour of stars went on. And then the starless patch began to grow, spreading further and further out from the centre of the sky. And presently a quarter of the whole sky was black, and then a half, and at last the rain of shooting stars was going on only low down near the horizon.

With a thrill of wonder (and there was some terror in it too) they all suddenly realized what was happening. The spreading blackness was not a cloud at all: it was simply emptiness. The black part of the sky was the part in which there were no stars left. All the stars were falling: Aslan had called them home.

The last few seconds before the rain of stars had quite ended were very exciting. Stars began falling all round them. But stars in that world are not the great flaming globes they are in ours. They are people (Edmund and Lucy had once met one). So now they found showers of glittering people, all with long hair like burning silver and spears like white-hot metal, rushing down to them out of the black air, swifter than falling stones. They made a hissing noise as they landed and burnt the grass. And all these stars glided past them and stood somewhere behind, a little to the right.

This was a great advantage, because otherwise, now that there were no stars in the sky, everything would have been completely dark and you could have seen nothing. As it was, the crowd of stars behind them cast a fierce, white light over their shoulders. They could see mile upon mile of Narnian woods spread out before them, looking as if they were flood-lit. Every bush and almost every blade of grass had its black shadow behind it. The edge of every leaf stood out so sharp that you’d think you could cut your finger on it.

On the grass before them lay their own shadows. But the great thing was Aslan’s shadow. It streamed away to their left, enormous and very terrible. And all this was under a sky that would now be starless for ever.

The light from behind them (and a little to their right) was so strong that it lit up even the slopes of the Northern Moors. Something was moving there. Enormous animals were crawling and sliding down into Narnia: great dragons and giant lizards and featherless birds with wings like bat’s wings. They disappeared into the woods and for a few minutes there was silence. Then there came—at first from very far off—sounds of wailing and then, from every direction, a rustling and a pattering and a sound of wings. It came nearer and nearer. Soon one could distinguish the scamper of little feet from the padding of big paws, and the clack-clack of light little hoofs from the thunder of great ones. And then one could see thousands of pairs of eyes gleaming. And at last, out of the shadow of the trees, racing up the hill for dear life, by thousands and by millions, came all kinds of creatures—Talking Beasts, Dwarfs, Satyrs, Fauns, Giants, Calormenes, men from Archenland, Monopods, and strange unearthly things from the remote islands or the unknown Western lands. And all these ran up to the doorway where Aslan stood.

This part of the adventure was the only one which seemed rather like a dream at the time and rather hard to remember properly afterwards. Especially, one couldn’t say how long it had taken. Sometimes it seemed to have lasted only a few minutes, but at others it felt as if it might have gone on for years. Obviously, unless either the Door had grown very much larger or the creatures had suddenly grown as small as gnats, a crowd like that couldn’t ever have tried to get through it. But no one thought about that sort of thing at the time.

The creatures came rushing on, their eyes brighter and brighter as they drew nearer and nearer to the standing Stars. But as they came right up to Aslan one or other of two things happened to each of them. They all looked straight in his face; I don’t think they had any choice about that. And when some looked, the expression of their faces changed terribly—it was fear and hatred: except that, on the faces of Talking Beasts, the fear and hatred lasted only for a fraction of a second. You could see that they suddenly ceased to be Talking Beasts. They were just ordinary animals. And all the creatures who looked at Aslan in that way swerved to their right, his left, and disappeared into his huge black shadow, which (as you have heard) streamed away to the left of the doorway. The children never saw them again. I don’t know what became of them. But the others looked in the face of Aslan and loved him, though some of them were very frightened at the same time. And all these came in at the Door, in on Aslan’s right. There were some queer specimens among them. Eustace even recognised one of those very Dwarfs who had helped to shoot the Horses. But he had no time to wonder about that sort of thing (and anyway it was no business of his) for a great joy put everything else out of his head. Among the happy creatures who now came crowding round Tirian and his friends were all those whom they had thought dead. There was Roonwit the Centaur and Jewel the Unicorn, and the good Boar and the good Bear and Farsight the Eagle, and the dear Dogs and the Horses, and Poggin the Dwarf.

“Further in and higher up!” cried Roonwit and thundered away in a gallop to the West. And though they did not understand him, the words somehow set them tingling all over. The Boar grunted at them cheerfully. The Bear was just going to mutter that he still didn’t understand, when he caught sight of the fruit trees behind them. He waddled to those trees as fast as he could and there, no doubt, found something he understood very well. But the Dogs remained, wagging their tails and Poggin remained, shaking hands with everyone and grinning all over his honest face. And Jewel leaned his snowy white head over the King’s shoulder and the King whispered in Jewel’s ear. Then everyone turned his attention again to what could be seen through the Doorway.

The Dragons and Giant Lizards now had Narnia to themselves. They went to and fro tearing up the trees by the roots and crunching them up as if they were sticks of rhubarb. Minute by minute the forests disappeared. The whole country became bare and you could see all sorts of things about its shape—all the little humps and hollows—which you had never noticed before. The grass died. Soon Tirian found that he was looking at a world of bare rock and earth. You could hardly believe that anything had ever lived there. The monsters themselves grew old and lay down and died. Their flesh shrivelled up and the bones appeared: soon they were only huge skeletons that lay here and there on the dead rock, looking as if they had died thousands of years ago. For a long time everything was still.

At last something white—long, level line of whiteness that gleamed in the light of the standing stars—came moving towards them from the eastern end of the world. A widespread noise broke the silence: first a murmur, then a rumble, then a roar. And now they could see what it was that was coming, and how fast it came. It was a foaming wall of water. The sea was rising. In that treeless world you could see it very well. You could see all the rivers getting wider and the lakes getting larger, and separate lakes joining into one, and valleys turning into new lakes, and hills turning into islands, and then those islands vanishing. And the high moors to their left and the higher mountains to their right crumbled and slipped down with a roar and a splash into the mounting water; and the water came swirling up to the very threshold of the Doorway (but never passed it) so that the foam splashed about Aslan’s forefeet. All now was level water from where they stood to where the water met the sky.

And out there it began to grow light. A streak of dreary and disastrous dawn spread along the horizon, and widened and grew brighter, till in the end they hardly noticed the light of the stars who stood behind them. At last the sun came up. When it did, the Lord Digory and the Lady Polly looked at one another and gave a little nod: those two, in a different world, had once seen a dying sun, and so they knew at once that this sun also was dying. It was three times—twenty times—as big as it ought to be, and very dark red. As its rays fell upon the great Time-giant, he turned red too: and in the reflection of that sun the whole waste of shoreless waters looked like blood.

Then the Moon came up, quite in her wrong position, very close to the sun, and she also looked red. And at the sight of her the sun began shooting out great flames, like whiskers or snakes of crimson fire, towards her. It is as if he were an octopus trying to draw her to himself in his tentacles. And perhaps he did draw her. At any rate she came to him, slowly at first, but then more and more quickly, till at last his long flames licked round her and the two ran together and became one huge ball like a burning coal. Great lumps of fire came dropping out of it into the sea and clouds of steam rose up.

Then Aslan said, “Now make an end.”

The giant threw his horn into the sea. Then he stretched out one arm—very black it looked, and thousands of miles long—across the sky till his hand reached the Sun. He took the Sun and squeezed it in his hand as you would squeeze an orange. And instantly there was total darkness.

Everyone except Aslan jumped back from the ice-cold air which now blew through the Doorway. Its edges were already covered with icicles.

“Peter, High King of Narnia,” said Aslan. “Shut the Door.”

Peter, shivering with cold, leaned out into the darkness and pulled the Door to. It scraped over ice as he pulled it. Then, rather clumsily (for even in that moment his hands had gone numb and blue) he took out a golden key and locked it.

They had seen strange things enough through that Doonvay. But it was stranger than any of them to look round and find themselves in warm daylight, the blue sky above them, flowers at their feet, and laughter in Aslan’s eyes.

He turned swiftly round, crouched lower, lashed himself with his tail and shot away like a golden arrow.

“Come further in! Come further up!” he shouted over his shoulder. But who could keep up with him at that pace? They set out walking westward to follow him.

“So,” said Peter, “Night falls on Narnia. What, Lucy! You’re not crying? With Aslan ahead, and all of us here?”

“Don’t try to stop me, Peter,” said Lucy, “I am sure Aslan would not. I am sure it is not wrong to mourn for Narnia. Think of all that lies dead and frozen behind that door.”

“Yes and I did hope,” said Jill, “that it might go on for ever. I knew our world couldn’t. I did think Narnia might.”

“I saw it begin,” said the Lord Digory. “I did not think I would live to see it die.”

“Sirs,” said Tirian. “The ladies do well to weep. See I do so myself. I have seen my mother’s death. What world but Narnia have I ever known? It were no virtue, but great discourtesy, if we did not mourn.”

‘Saturn’ (September ‘Planets’ exhibition 2019)

‘Saturn. Planets Series’. Oil on 30×30″ panel. Rose Strang 2019

This is the final ‘Saturn’, created for the upcoming exhibition on the 12th September this year. This one was painted purely in oils since black is such a tricky colour to work with and oil pigment has more depth of pigment and versatile texture.

This is a continuation of the Planets Series I’m creating this year, which takes inspiration from the planets as understood in Medieval cosmology, and the seven books of Narnia which were each inspired by the seven planets, as discovered by Michael Ward, author of ‘Planet Narnia’.

The exhibition launch takes place at 6pm on the 12th September at the Demarco Archives Gallery in Edinburgh’s Summerhall. (The rest of the series in progress can be viewed Here)

 

I’m particularly looking forward to the accompanying talk by Michael Ward (author of Planet Narnia. The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C.S. Lewis) which begins at 6:30pm 12th September in the Main Hall at Summerhall, Edinburgh, as part of the exhibition launch.

Michael Ward is one of the world’s leading experts on the works of C.S. Lewis. It was his particular interest in the Narniad that led to his unique discovery that each of the Narnia Chronicles corresponds to the seven planets as understood in Medieval imagination.

Michael studied English Literature at Oxford, Theology at Cambridge, and has a PhD in Divinity from St Andrews. His PHD focused on the Narnia Chronicles, and it was during PHD research that he chanced upon the link between the books and Medieval planets. Only someone steeped in the entire works of Lewis, including Lewis’ poetry, would have recognised these associations.

Towards the end of 2018 I was exploring medieval symbology when I discovered one of Michael’s lectures on You Tube (see link below) which explored the Narnia/Medieval planets connection. Having been a Lewis aficionado since childhood I was immediately intrigued, so I ordered the book and have been attempting an artistic response ever since.

It has proved highly challenging, but I know I’ll be exploring these themes further in future. It has been richly rewarding, not just artistically but absolutely as part of exploring life’s experiences – difficult to explain why until you yourself have explored these rich associations, which reach back into pre-history in many ways, yet have contemporary and individual significance.

I never imagined I’d be delving so deep into these ideas and I’m grateful that Michael has responded so positively to the artworks, and I was of course delighted when he agreed to give the talk this September.

I was also delighted that Richard Demarco was enthusiastic about hosting the exhibition and event at his gallery in Summerhall, since Richard’s life’s work in the arts touches on many of the themes explored in this exhibition and talk (such as a non-linear concept of time, connections between the arts, sciences and faith, and ways of imagining or perceiving our experience of life).

I highly recommend watching this documentary (link below) for a taste of why it’s so fascinating as a subject. Michael Ward is an engaging and humorous speaker, and I’m sure that people from all walks of life, whether from a creative, historic, literary or theological perspective (not to mention the many people across the world who simply appreciate the Narniad as engaging and compelling stories) will really enjoy the talk this September, and I hope, the exhibition of my paintings too!

Sun

‘Sun. Planets Series’. Mixed media on 10×10″ wood. Rose Strang 2019

‘Saturn. Planets Series’. Mixed media on 10×10″ wood. Rose Strang 2019

Today’s small paintings, of Sun and Saturn in preparation for the larger Planets Series.

I’m creating Planets series paintings for two exhibitions this year – a smaller series of studies for a June exhibition at my studio in Abbey hill, in preparation for an exhibition and talk to take place in Autumn this year.

This is a continuation of the Planets Series I’m creating this year, which takes inspiration from the planets as understood in Medieval cosmology, and the seven books of Narnia which were each inspired by the seven planets, as discovered by Michael Ward, author of ‘Planet Narnia’.

Info about June exhibition Here

(I’ll post more about the September exhibition and talk soon, once some more details are confirmed).

I’ve already posted a lot about the associations and mythology of Saturn during winter when I tackled a larger version, so I won’t write much about that here. This smaller Saturn was a lot easier as it’s so much more easy to experiment on this smaller scale before I tackle the big paintings later this year.

The Sun corresponds to C.S. Lewis’s Voyage of the Dawn treader, which has possibly the most vivid, beautiful and mystical imagery of the entire series. It’s also hilariously funny, also moving, thanks to the character of Eustace Scrubb, who’s introduced in this book for the first time.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is mostly about Eustace when it comes to profound character development in the story – his metamorphosis into dragon, then back to human with Aslan’s intervention, being the pivotal part of his character development.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s the final scenes though that are the most mind-meltingly beautiful and strange; white lilies stretching to the horizon on a deep green sea that becomes sweet and drinkable, ‘like drinkable light’, so that the characters are able to experience more light . You just have to stop reading the story at that point, to drink in, appreciate and experience the imagery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s classic Lewis –  layers of imagery, literary reference and spiritual connotations.

This is the ‘Sun’ excerpt from C.S. Lewis’s poem ‘The Planets’

The heaven’s highway hums and trembles,
Drums and dindles, to the driv’n thunder
Of SOL’s chariot, whose sword of light
Hurts and humbles; beheld only
Of eagle’s eye. When his arrow glances
Through mortal mind, mists are parted
And mild as morning the mellow wisdom
Breathes o’er the breast, broadening eastward
Clear and cloudless. In a clos’d garden
(Unbound her burden) his beams foster
Soul in secret, where the soil puts forth
Paradisal palm, and pure fountains
Turn and re-temper, touching coolly
The uncomely common to cordial gold;
Whose ore also, in earth’s matrix,
Is print and pressure of his proud signet
On the wax of the world. He is the worshipp’d male,
The earth’s husband, all-beholding,
Arch-chemic eye.

Arch-chemic eye might refer to the Alchemist’s dream of turning ordinary matter to gold (the sun’s associated metal) and this is referred to in the story when the characters arrive on an uninhabited island where they encounter a pool that turns everything that’s immersed in it to gold.

King Caspian and Edmund are affected by this. Imagining the unlimited wealth and power such a pool might bring, they argue about which of them has the highest status in order to own the island and its magic pool – Lucy brings them up short with a rebuke, then Aslan appears on the hill beyond the pool, appearing gold as if it lit by the sun, though the day is overcast. They come to their senses and decide to name the island ‘Death Water’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Michael Ward’s Planet Narnia explores the most extensive and fascinating associations with the sun in the story and I can’t recommend it highly enough. I think his chapter on Sol is extraordinarily rich and profound in its interpretation, also in its myriad, meaningful associations – truly illuminating.

Put in my simple terms, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is about light and spiritual illumination gained through the challenge of truth. I don’t think my small painting anywhere near does justice to it really, but it’s good practice for the larger work later this year!

Planets Series – Saturn

‘Planet Series, Saturn’. Oil and mixed media on 40×40″ wood panel. Rose Strang 2019

Above – the final, definitive actually complete version of ‘Planet Series, Saturn’!

I’ve struggled a lot with this painting, which is the first in a series of seven paintings inspired by a Medieval view of ‘the Planets’, and the seven books of Narnia (which, as the writer and philosopher Michael Ward discovered in 2008, are each inspired by one of the seven planets).

Black is a tricky colour, or tone, to work with when the entire painting is based on black, and the trick to feeling happier with this final painting is deciding to focus on texture.  I used some indigo pigment, salt and an area of gloss varnish as well as black oil paint, other areas are given a cloudy feel with gesso. I think it makes the painting interesting from a variety of angles depending on light …

 

 

 

 

The reflection of a mysterious source of light in the water refers to something I’ll include in all the planet series, I’ll post more about that later.

It was something of a challenge to work with black every day. I do love black and the way it enhances textures of matt and gloss, but there’s no denying that brighter colours are more uplifting, so I’m very happy to be into Jupiter subject matter now. I started the Jupiter painting today and will explore ideas about Jupiter in the next post

Bye bye Saturn!

Planet series – day 6

‘Planet Series, Saturn’. Oil and mixed media on 40×40″ wood panel. Rose Strang 2019

The Saturn painting updated. I felt it going a bit sci-fi so I’ve simplified it and it works better for me! Its really difficult to colour-balance and contrast with very dark paintings, but this is close. It’s less obviously Saturnine, but the constellation of Capricorn is back in there!

Here are stages of its development …

 

Planets series in progress – day 5

‘January, Nightscape (Planets Series – Saturn)’. Oils and mixed media on 40×40″ wood panel. Rose Strang 2019.

Above – today’s painting in progress – January, Nightscape.

This painting is part of my ‘planets series’, inspired by ‘the Narniad’ and the Medieval view of the cosmos, which you can read about in these previous posts 1  2, 3 and

I think the painting is pretty much there now, which is a relief. I wanted to have it finished by the end of this month since this painting relates to the planet Saturn –  connected to December and January. A bit more detail maybe (I might pick out the constellations of Capricorn and Aquarius in very fine lines) then a couple of layers of varnish will give it a rich, glossy finish.

I feel it’s suitably Saturnine, without being too oppressive, and maybe there’s also a subtly medieval atmosphere. I think the finely scratched lines bring metal-plate etchings to mind anyway.

Here are a few photos showing its development …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m not only relieved about this painting nearing completion, I’m also glad that January is on its way out as I find it an oppressive time here in the northern hemisphere. The next planet in focus is Jupiter which rules Pisces and Sagittarius. (Medieval astronomers were limited in what they could see , so Pluto, Neptune and Uranus had not yet been named as planets, hence why nowadays Pisces is said to be ruled by Neptune).

Just to confuse matters further, there’s Sidereal astrology (Indian Vedic approach, and some western astrologers use it) and Tropical astrology. Tropical astrology uses a constellation map from around 2000 years ago, but due to the earth’s wobble this is now about 30 degrees out.

Modern-day astrologers using the Tropical charts say that the constellations relate still to time of year, therefore seasonal influence, sidereal astrologers claim that the influence of the planets is important, therefore a current map of astronomy is important.

If this interests you, I recommend the Skymap mobile app, which shows you the exact position of the stars and planets in real time. You can also search by date going back or forwards in time. I’m a Sagittarius going by the Tropical system, but according to Sidereal astrology I’d be born with the sun in Scorpius (in real time/our time the sun is in Scorpio from the 23rd to 29th November). But, the old-school Tropical system splits all the zodiac constellations into equal segments of the night sky so each is given approximately 30 days.

Make of all that what you will! I’m no expert and I have no idea if planets can actually influence our birth and personality. I am interested in the moon though, which does influence the earth.

The next planet in my series is Jupiter – the medieval planet associated with learning, theology, philosophy and joviality, which governs Sagittarius (centaur) and Pisces (fish). Its associated colours are greens, blues, aqua, silver, purple and blue, its animals horses and fishes, also dolphins – I find these subjects and colours very appealing ! I’ll begin the new painting next week.

I’ll leave this series of posts about Saturn with a suitably profound, mysterious and decidedly eery video (below) by (Capricornian) David Bowie from his last album Black Star (which is in fact an alternate name for Saturn) .

The video and song are laden with symbology and hidden meaning (there are thousands of Bowie fans out there busily attempting to decipher all of this. Good luck to them, ha!) Remember though, that among the themes of Saturn are death, renewal and liberation, giving way to the influence of Jove, Jupiter and happier days! The Narnia book relating to Jupiter is The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe – the end of long winter and the coming of Spring.

A quick sketch, made in biro this very minute ..

Flower illustration, copied from sketch by Pauline Baynes from the Narnia Chronicles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Planets series in progress – 3

(In progress) January. Nightscape. Oil on 40x40" wood panel. Rose Strang

(In progress) January. Nightscape. Oil on 40×40″ wood panel. Rose Strang

Above, today’s progress on ‘January. Nightscape’, which needs a few more days work …

As mentioned in the last two posts, I’m working on a series inspired by the Medieval view of the planets and cosmos – a complicated yet harmonious and imaginatively inspiring view of the ‘heavens’ as they were known.

My current painting in progress is on the theme of Saturn and its related qualities. (the themes of this post are also entirely related incidentally!)

I’m currently reading Michael Ward’s ‘Planet Narnia’ in which he describes and explores his discovery that each of C.S. Lewis’s Narnia Chronicles correspond to each of the seven planets.

In Medieval times these were:

Sol (Sun), Luna (Moon), Mercury, Mars, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn. (Neptune, Uranus and Pluto weren’t viewable with the naked eye).

‘Planet’ meant ‘wandering star’, so they classed the sun and moon as planets in that sense. These were the objects in the night sky that moved in regular patterns, against a fixed, un-moving backdrop of stars, which were mapped into recognisable patterns or constellations. This was a world-wide practice of course, given that watching planets and stars enabled people to predict seasons, or navigate seas and so on.

Names of the constellations varied around the world, but it’s fascinating to read about the equally varying myths that surrounded, for example, constellations such as Orion. I’m exploring western ideas and mythology for now though, which is enough to be going on with!

 

 

My tiny mind is currently absorbing a wealth of complicated information about the Medieval view of the cosmos, from a variety of sources – not just Michael Ward’s excellent book, but also books, ideas and explanations suggested by several people I’ve encountered in the last five months or so. Precisely why it fascinates me so much I’m not fully able to explain even to myself as yet, but the mythology is enchanting, and if nothing else I’m learning to recognise constellations.  (Incidentally, star gazers might recognise the two appropriate constellations in my painting above).

My exploration has taken me ‘around the houses’ as it were, and led me back to the Narniad I suppose, but by way of explanation on how I became interested ..

Back in September, I took a trip with a couple of friends to Roslin Chapel outside Edinburgh (famous these days for its association with the Da Vinci Code!) I’ve been there many times of course since it’s a short drive from Edinburgh, but this time it was (bizarrely, by my usual standards anyway) in a chauffeur-driven limousine, and our driver happened to be a Grand Master in the Freemasons.

 

I’m cognisant of all the conspiracy theories around Freemasonry, but I think if there is some sort of Illuminati elitist group at the head of the organisation I can safely say our driver wasn’t in on it, as far as I know!

 

 

 

 

I could also digress into my view that such a system has it’s dark side in terms of undue influence, but suffice to say, I was typically just very curious as to what he might know about Roslin Chapel (also known as Rosslyn) given its connection with freemasonry since Medieval times.

He simply said ‘have a good look at the crypt’, which I did. The chapel has an abundance of symbology and beautiful stone carvings, but the crypt is relatively very plain, what I did notice were all the rough markings and symbols that had been graffiti-ed onto the walls. So I took several photos and later showed them to our driver on our way back to Edinburgh.

Photo, Rose Strang. Graffiti on Roslin Chapel wall

 

 

 

 

 

 

He explained that most of these were simply stone masons marks, they helped the overseer to tally up which stone mason had worked on a particular area, and for how long etc. This seemed to me a very prosaic explanation, but I’ve no doubt it’s partially true. The symbols themselves though, spoke of a more ancient system of knowledge – pyramids, circles, inverted or overlayed triangles and so on.

My eye being tuned in to these symbols,  on the way back to Edinburgh I saw them carved into old walls and ancient kerb-stones everywhere, it was surprising I hadn’t noticed them before but that’s syncronicity of course. A search online didn’t yield many results, and mostly led to fairly tedious reports by freemason organisations, or varying conspiracy theories.

I already knew the history of the Knight’s Templar (and their connection with Scotland) which is easily findable online, but it was clear to me that freemasonry involved symbols and practices related to occult (hidden) knowledge. Given the organisation’s Medieval origins I began to search for Medieval occultism.

This research happened informally over a couple of weeks, just something I’d have a look at in spare moments, then one day I was sitting in a taxi on my way to an event (I don’t normally get chaffeur-driven rides around town, or habitually catch taxis, but I was late that day, hence the taxi, and the chauffeur thing was simply that a friend had won it at a charity auction).

I can’t now remember how I got into a conversation about freemasonry with the taxi-driver, but he spoke about his former affiliation with them, and the fact he’d decided to give it up since he felt (as I do) that it leads to un-due or unfair influence. In his case this was in a low-level way, regarding the police, in a situation where he knew he’d benefit from the connection, but admirably chose not to. He felt that though the organisation was committed to some genuinely helpful charitable causes it could lead to corruption.

Anyway, after I’d asked him a few more questions he said ‘Read Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa, and take note that he was an early feminist’. This was intriguing, but I didn’t rush out to buy it, as I felt I was probably just meandering down a route that would lead to vague ideas of out-moded magical or theological thought, which it has in a sense, but this is my art diary, so I’ll continue to indulge my explorations here!

I looked up information about Agrippa online, and discovered a fairly eccentric practitioner of occultism living in Texas whose videos and articles went into some depth about what he termed ‘classical Renaissance magic’. I’m not particularly interested in becoming a magician, but clearly he knew his stuff, so I emailed to ask him about Agrippa. Despite the fact he was, no doubt, an evil Satanist, he politely and in friendly manner answered my query and asked why it was I was interested, and what I hoped to achieve through practising classical magic. I replied that if anything I’d quite like to be a better artist, or to perceive more meaningfully, but in the meantime I was just curious about the subject.

He replied that the clear place to start in any such endeavour, is to read Agrippa’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy, and that understanding the planets or Medieval view of the cosmos would probably actually be a good way of perceiving the world and becoming a better artist. As it turned out, he was in fact Christian, but felt that these studies enhanced spiritual practice or understanding. (one thing he has in common as it turns out, with C.S. Lewis).

(Tangentially, any female readers of this post might feel that this is a very male-oriented world I’m describing. It certainly is, and this is something I’ll explore more fully later, when I create a Venus related painting later in the year. Venus – planet of love and classed as female – is probably the most complex planet in terms of its mythology – presumably because love is the most complex, transcendent yet painful experience or endeavour).

I then ordered Agrippa’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy and because I was heading off to Iona for a two week artist’s residency at the Iona Youth Hostel at Lagandorain, decided to take it with me. My magician friend had recommended I read just one chapter a day, meditate on it, live with it and see what ideas or experiences came up.

I had so much to do – painting a series of ten works for an exhibition deadline, meeting people there and exploring the island, that in fact I just read one page during the two weeks! It included the following beautiful verse by Virgil:

The Number and the Nature of those

things, Cal’d Elements, what Fire, Earth,

Aire forth brings: From whence the Heavens

their beginnings had; Whence Tide, whence

Rainbow, in gay colours clad. What makes

the Clouds that gathered are, and black, To

send forth Lightnings, and a Thundring

crack; What doth the Nightly Flames, and

Comets make; What makes the Earth to

swell, and then to quake: What is the seed of

Metals, and of Gold What Vertues, Wealth,

doth Nature’s Coffer hold.

Rainbow on Iona, Rose Strang Oct’ 2018

 

 

 

 

 

Dipping randomly into the book, it also explored the planets, and influence or phases of the moon. Chatting about this with the manager at Iona Hostel, he mentioned that he used a mobile app called ‘Skymap’ to observe phases of the moon, also that on this evening the moon was entering full moon phase, and going  from Pisces to Aries.

I forgot all about that, carried on with my painting, then, at about 5:20, went to clean up and have a lie down for half an hour. I couldn’t rest though and after ten minutes, feeling emotionally agitated and restless, I decided to take the two minute walk to the north beach of the island.

If you’ve observed the sea at high tide, or during changes in tide, you’ll maybe have observed the strange shifting effect – it looks almost hallucinogenic. I stood entranced, gazing at the sea for half an hour until it got dark, then returned to the hostel, checked the Skymap app and realised that the moon became full at precisely 5:45pm. I’d walked on to the beach at about 5:40pm!

North Beach Iona. Photo, Rose Strang October 2018.

Sold. ‘Pisces Moon, Isle of Iona’. Mixed media on 10×10 inch wood panel. Rose Strang 2018 (£450)

‘Moonscape, Isle of Iona’. Oil and acrylic on 10×10″ wood panel. Rose Strang 2018/2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was an interesting experience; a reminder that the moon does cause the tides, and that we too are made up largely of water. I’m not so particularly interested in the science behind this at present (some of which I know) For my purposes I’m more interested in lived experience and observation, so this felt valuable to me as an artist.

On my return to Edinburgh, I learned more about the Medieval view of the cosmos, and as I’ve mentioned it’s a complicated system, but here is a brief overview for now …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Medieval philosophers believed that the cosmos had three levels; the heavens – beyond the planets, where the gods resided, or ‘the divine realm’, the celestial realm where the planets resided, and the earth where everything was a reflection of the heavens.

Anything beneath the moon is termed ‘sub-lunar’ and the gods are separate from this realm, but Medieval philosophers believed we connected with them through energies of the celestial bodies – planets and stars.

The term ‘as above, so below’ refers to the idea that on earth, everything (plants, animals, stones, minerals etc) is a reflection of the heavens. They classified these physical things according to each planet, then each planet connected to the divine realm – the planets were in a sense ‘go-betweens’. So, to evoke their influence by using a talisman (i.e. objects/plants/minerals etc related to a particular planet) you could bring that planet’s influence to bear on your life or events.

That’s it very briefly for today, but since my current painting related to Saturn, below is a very brief description, or flavour at least, of its qualities and related things on earth.

In the next post I’ll explore the mytholgy surrounding Saturn, and C.S. lewis’s literary treatment of it in ‘The Panet’s Trilogy’ and ‘the Last Battle’.

Saturn:

January. Winter. Winter Solstice (21st December). Saturday. Black

Qualities and associations: Time (father time), structure, form, renewal and liberation, brooding, melancholy, death, the occult (hidden, veiled, secret), teaching, pedantry, oppression, rules and boundaries.

Earth, water, lead, all ‘dark, weighty things’, ‘those things which stupifie’, dark berries, the black fig tree, pine, cypress, trees used at burials, owls, crows, animals that live by night.

Zodiac signs of Capricorn and Aquarius.

Roman feast of Saturnalia: held at winter solstice on 21st – all people celebrated, executions were cancelled or postponed, gifts were exchanged.

Capricorn and Aquarius contsellations.