Archive for the ‘The Book of Silk’ category

The Dichotomy of Originality

September 24, 2008

Daily Draw September 24th, 2008

Today I am using the Tarot of the Imagination which is one of my favourite story decks. The artist, Ferenc Pintér, has an immediately recognizable style. I like artists like that.

My husband and I were discussing the infamous British artist Damien Hurst this morning. Neither of us respect his work because he makes millions, yet we could not look at a sculpture of an animal preserved in formaldehyde, and recognize it as his. It’s a pickled cow with symbolic doodads and gold leaf. Take it out of a chi-chi art gallery or Sotheby’s art marketing milieu and would people recognize it as **his** artwork? Nope.

The Tarot of Imagination is subtitled “Fragments of perception” which is wild.


Speaking of cloven hooves. . . .Satan gives the age old finger to the world and watches carefully for reaction. The world withers all around but he lives and changes cloaked in passion, temptation, originality, carnality. Odd that originality, which I think of as an extremely positive thing, can here be associated with The Devil.

It depends on what source and impact your originality has. Serial killers, liars, sadists, pedophiles, and artists can all be original, but if the world withers from their dark eye and twisted fingers, then originality becomes an eternally devilish hell.

From The Book of Silk today. . . .

“Documents of this period mention ‘kinkob’, a term adapted from a Chinese word, ‘chin’, designating gold-woven silk.”

Tied in with The Devil, the maxim “All that glitters is not gold” comes to mind. It’s odd how we tend as humans to tune out little homilies like this. We hear them so often and become disdainful. I didn’t start out to mention art or artists, but I pulled out Ferenc Pintér’s art and gasped with delight, and the dichotomy of originality reared up.

I get discouraged in my own art quite frequently, particularly when sensationalism makes millions and I don’t sell a fresh and lively original necklace, or when another artist tells me I shouldn’t outline an illustration when I already have, because that’s my style, but there is also a story in that today.


Au Revoir Philippe

September 24, 2008

Daily Draw September 23rd, 2008

From The Book of Silk:

“The striking colour and design of these silks ensured that the fashion was relatively short-lived, and by the 1740s a taste developed for floral patterns casually scattered with twigs and tendrils, making less remarkable but more wearable dress fabrics.”

This refers to the passing fashion of rococo designs by Philippe de Lasalle with pheasants, bird cages, doves, garlands, ribbons, partridges, rose-entwined columns, baskets of flowers, and musical instruments. Very romantic but impractial fashions, and it reminds me a bit of marriages that eventually become less remarkable but more wearable.


This is from the Nigel Jackson Tarot and has a real feeling of not looking at what’s in front of you. The figure looks out on the windy, cloudy landscape and refuses to look up to see five golden cups shining above her head. So a sense of missing out on things because you’re such a grump you won’t see the good in life.

This also reminds me of marriage in not seeing the good qualities of your spouse. People get weary and down about life, but it pays to notice the good stuff.

So it’s “Au revoir Philippe” and “Bonjour” to plain old twigs and tendrils that nonetheless make a nice pattern.

Sunny Dissemination

September 22, 2008

Daily Draw September 22nd, 2008

I wanted to use the lovely Graven Images Oracle today. A day without iconography is a day without sunshine!


I love this card. Monuments with tree carvings were all the rage in the 19th century and they often had additional carvings of animals and nesting birds on the tree trunk or in the hollows. This is a solid, somber looking duo, twinned in staunchness, I almost expect faces to appear with eyes, nose and mouth. They don’t speak, they write. They are on duty.

The Oaks card in this deck is a shadow of the physical associated with the Earth element. The physical is about recent situations, the base you are working from. Because the branches are broken on this otherwise strong and stable tree, it indicates seeking strength and shelter from a person once strong but now ineffectual, or you may be ineffectual and resistant to change.

I dislike staying in the same place, my mind likes to learn and do, so change is fun and irresistible. However I had someone recently accuse me of staying in the same place, someone I used to think was strong and stable who is not. Broken oaks are no longer living beings; I’m not broken, but someone tried to impose that on me. Well, thanks anyway, but I’d rather be a living oak.

From The Book of Silk:

“But first, to consider the silks of a series of great empires that made their contribution to textile designs and their dissemination.”

Dissemination is the roots of living oaks, winding their way to new soil with new ideas. We go through a series of empires and they contribute to our learning and growth. We seed the ground ahead so it will be fruitful when we get there. Change is sowing those seeds, but results are not apparent to casual onlookers, similar to the growth of tree roots. If I appear ineffectual to others it does not make it so, there are no shadows here.

In fact, it’s a sunny day here, like golden threads of Byzantine silk.

Demeter Reflects Truth in Turkistan

September 21, 2008

Daily Draw September 21st, 2008

I pulled the Mistletoe card from Ogham: The Celtic Oracle today. Although there are few cards in the deck, they are a large size and the atmospheric artwork is stunning.


This has imagery about time and birth and death and rebirth on it. I thought initially the bird was a mistle thrush, although it looks more like a robin, another type of thrush. It’s not a frightening card, just a bit dark like the season of winter when the earth sleeps and waits. Bracing rather than cold, and the ghostly flight of a barn owl against dark trees seems like a dream watched by the sentinel in the bottom right corner.

The world might be cold and bare but things are still moving and the mistletoe blooms in this season, its wreath enfolding hibernating lizards. There’s a real feeling of a pregnant pause to this; a season, a cycle; watchful, waiting. The keyword for this is “Truth and the unknown.”

This is an extra day in the Celtic tree calendar, and reflects who you really are and life-path potential. Core energy and fears long buried to be faced and overcome with the dreamy discernment of the owl. You can walk in your dreams and bring dreamtime into reality. You can meet and deal with any situation because you carry the wisdom of your ancestors. Mistletoe grows where it wills, fertile and healing.

And The Book of Silk reveals this today:

“Carpet-making was not a great Chinese tradition, but was born of the wool-weaving skills of nomadic Turkic tribes. The earliest Chinese silk carpets date from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and they usually have the designs and colours of eastern Turkistan, or are small shaped ‘throne’ mats.”

Carpets grow where they will. While ancestry plays a part, people pick things up as they go along–chicken and egg, birth and life, and which came first? It is a puzzle of fertility. I read in my other draw that the Chinese had tried to hold the territory of Turkistan in 751. They were there for a time so must have picked up the skill then, yet we only find carpets from them 800 or 900 years later, probably because they disconnected for centuries. They were hibernating, long buried, assimilating the tradition of others, a pregnant pause before birth, yet underneath, ever growing and dreaming, watchful, waiting.

In our Society of the Instant Fix, we assume people must be lazy or sick if they take time to pause and reflect. The cool, bracing season of Demeter is just a fairy tale they say, we should keep busy, busy, busy. The busy-ness is only a relentless facade of energy, unlike core energy stoking fire and birth. Cycles of death and renewal are part of the natural world, an essence of biology.

The cycle holds long buried seeds in the unknown, waiting on Truth, The Robin’s Return; ever a mystery of fertility and potential.

In Which Narcissus is Chastened

September 20, 2008

Daily Draw September 20th, 2008

I find daily draws to be like creating art: one day or week you’ll be creating, exploring, and things will hang together and you feel like you’ve really nailed it; another day or week you’ll feel trapped in the mundane, desperately searching for things to fit together or inspire you, and it doesn’t happen. Like creating art, you simply roll on making stuff and practicing until the next mind-soaring experience comes to you.

Today I happened upon the book for the Whimsical Tarot and decided to use that deck. I don’t use this often but the cards are very nice with their storybook characters and art by Mary Hanson-Roberts, so it will be interesting to use something fresh and see what comes up.


I think of this as the “miser” card. Someone clutching wealth to himself and not letting the world in. This card has an echo of Narcissus as well, with self-involvement, vanity, and ignoring others. It is a depiction of the fable The Dog and His Shadow, where the doggie mistakes his shadow for another dog who is trying to take his bone, and then drops his bone into the water and loses it while trying to protect it from the shadow dog taking it.

If you don’t use things, get rid of them, this includes dysfunctional relationships as well. Don’t stay out of habit, get a move on.

From The Book of Silk:

“In contrast to the large regal patterns, a small-scale repeating spot or circle, often contained a pointed star, woven in velvet or gold brocade, was popular in Spain, notably in the fifteenth century, for doublets and breeches worn under armour or half-armour.”

Someone wearing armour with a repeating pattern under it certainly ties in metaphorically to this card! The pointed star can be a bit prickly. Oh dear, well if I’m honest I would say that describes me today; I even mentioned narcissism to a correspondent this morning. Yes, I do feel a bit miserly, but I also feel unburdened of relationships that were upsetting. There is a vague sense that what you dislike in others could be that which is found in yourself, a reflection.

Maybe an awareness that it works both ways? Yes, so let us embrace the humility of boxing at shadows and thereby dropping the prize. I feel chastened by universal admonishment, but nonetheless happy to move on, outside the box.

The River Eunoë

September 19, 2008

Daily Draw September 19th, 2008

I went to grab a card deck to use today and my eye fell on a book: Flaxman’s Illustrations for Dante’s Divine Comedy. John Flaxman was a contemporary of William Blake and they both created artwork pertaining to the Comedy, but Flaxman’s were line drawings in the classical style favoured in the late eighteenth and early 19th century when they were drawn, and they look very much like Blake’s style, as well as somewhat reminiscent of the silverpoint drawings for Dante’s book that Botticelli did in the 15th century.

So I picked the book up and opened to a random illustration from Purgatory (with translation by Longfellow):

Canto XXXIII, lines 124-129

“And Beatrice: ‘Perhaps a greater care,
Which oftentimes our memory takes away,
Has made the vision of his mind obscure.
Lead him to it, and, as thou art accustomed,
Revive again the half-dead virtue in him.'”

I also like the modern translation by Mandelbaum which I copy for comparison:

“And Beatrice: ‘Perhaps some greater care,
Which often weakens memory, has made
his mind, in things regarding sight, grow dark.
But see Eunoe as it flows from there:
lead him to it and, as you’re used to doing,
revive the power that is faint in him.'”

I haven’t read Purgatory as closely as Inferno, but “greater care” refers to the incident where Matilda,a lady introduced earlier who represents Wisdom or earthly wisdom, tells Dante about the functions of the streams Lethe and Eunoe. The first is the river of forgetfulness, and the latter is its twin, the memory of good. So drinking from the first stream makes you forget everything and drinking from the second stream makes you remember the good. These streams are a cleansing, healing aspect of Purgatory, and restoration and revitalization of the soul.

After this part of the Canto where Beatrice tells Matilda to lead him to it, Matilda leads Dante to Eunoe where he takes the sweet draft of the river, and thus is purified and renewed, ready for the journey through Paradise.

It’s a famous and lovely part of the Comedy, for what human wouldn’t like to forget the bad and remember the good of life, and feel healed and cleansed?

Today’s passage from The Book of Silk:

“Pile carpet weaving was first introduced to India at this time, and some of the most breathtaking examples were woven in silk, or fine pashmina wool knotted on silk warps. In some cases these are so finely knotted that they have been mistaken for velvets.”

The warp and weft of carpet weaving remind me of the two streams in Purgatory and their uses. You need both to build the whole, you need to forget the bad and remember the good, and become a breathtaking example of a human on a journey to Paradise. We are all finely knotted and might appear flawlessly smooth, but it isn’t quite so.

Forgetting, doesn’t mean forgetting completely, to be balanced you must remember the good. That winnowing aspect again of a previous draw of mine, and also the reiteration that forgetting completely is not ideal because we forget the good as well.

See Dante sipping from the river; he thirsted to remember the good.

But for Talas. . .

September 18, 2008

Daily Draw September 18th, 2008

Today from The Book of Silk:

“China suffered a devastating defeat by Islam at the Battle of Talas 751, and many skilled Chinese craftsmen were taken as prisoners of war and resettled in Persia and Mesopotamia. Records list certain Tang master weavers named Yue Huan and Lu Li who were sent to Iraq, where they taught local weavers their silk-weaving techniques. Under constant attack, China began to close herself off from the West.”

Very interesting. I always had the impression that China had been closed off completely until the travels of Marco Polo and his family in the 13th century, but apparently hundreds of years earlier during the Tang dynasty, the Chinese were open to trade and visitors, but withdrew due to increasing violence against them.

The Battle of the Talas River is not mentioned much, but it did decide which civilization predominated in the region, the Islamic rather than Chinese. Most importantly, this battle is a marker on the timeline of when the knowledge of how to produce paper spread from China. Similar to weaving skills, paper-making was taught by Chinese artisans captured during the battle. By the year 794 CE, a paper mill was operating in Baghdad. From there the Islamic world sent it on to the West.The knowledge of weaving silk and making paper, thus came to us from China. It took hundreds of years, and the wars of The Crusades interrupted production and the flow of knowledge, but eventually in Islamic Spain the first paper mill in Europe was created in 1120.

It is interesting to speculate that if there had been no Crusades, or no takeover of Spain by Islam, just when we might have been using paper in Europe. Sooner or later, who can tell? If sooner, we might not have had the richly decorated European illuminated manuscripts on animal skin, and perhaps the printing press might have been invented earlier? Or if later, perhaps the Islamic world might have invented the printing press first instead of a German? And from there, Islamic rather than Latin texts might have become freely circulated, and thus Islam rather than Christianity might have eventually predominated in Europe. Who can say? This is why authors and readers find alternate histories so fascinating. As John Prine says in a song: “It’s a big old goofy world.”

My card for today is from the Circle of Life Tarot:


He is an intellectually able chap and astute leader and warrior. He looks pretty gung-ho in this card, ready to slice through enemies and strike terror into their hearts. Is that a European Medieval hat or an Islamic turban, or a snake that he is wearing on his head? Perhaps if he had led the Battle of Talas, the world might be speaking Chinese and Buddhism or Taoism might be the predominant religion? I like the blurb for this card: “Those who are capable of imagining the future can often decide it.”

The King tells us to think things over before acting, to map our future out in our own minds. I once had a casual acquaintance label me as a hopeless sad sack, swimming in depression and locked to the past because I was still working through the pain of losing my dream job. Nonsense, where do people get this junk thinking? A day tinged with sadness here and there is not depression, that fatuous attitude is what we reap for championing the Dr. Phils of the world. I have never understood why people think it their right to arbitrarily impose such a silly psycho-babble label on me or anyone else.

My future is mapped out differently. The King recognizes the reality of life circumstances, the sadness, the changes, and he walks through them, acknowledging that they exist, but he always has a handle on things, always has a grip on his sword, ready to cut through the nonsense and labels other people impose on him, and he capably imagines his own future.

Capable, imaginative, decisive. Do not dare to tell him otherwise.