Category Archives: ART

Tarot artist, Pamela Coleman Smith

 

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“The Blue Cat” by Pamela Colman Smith, 1907, courtesy of Mary Greer

The Ryder-Waite-Smith deck was the deck I used to learn how to read tarot cards, and I think it remains as one of the clearest oracles available. The woman who initially painted the beautiful images on these cards, was Pamela Coleman Smith. She was a true free spirit, and highly talented artist. Here’s a fantastic new article about her life:

Pamela Colman “Pixie” Smith circa 1912
Iconic image from the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot that dates to 1909I never knew much about Pixie except that she was British and had died in obscurity; she never realized any financial security or status from illustrating one of the most popular items of printed ephemera in the world. This is largely due to the fact that the RWS Tarot was not widely distributed until circa 1970 when it was acquired by Stuart Kaplan of U.S. Games Systems, twenty years after Pixie’s death in 1951. In my news-feed last fall, I saw Tarot maven Mary Greer mention that she had collaborated on an in-depth biography of Pixie with Kaplan and some other writers. “Why not?” I thought. “Why not learn about one of the most influential artists in the Tarot tradition?”

Love it or hate it, the RWS Tarot defines what most people think of whenever the subject of Tarot cards comes up. Non-specialists may not be aware that the RWS had many historical predecessors and some noble competitors in its day. For the reason of its mass popularity alone, the RWS Tarot merits our interest and respect. When I was picking out an artist for The American Renaissance Tarot, I had Pixie’s straightforward illustrations strongly in mind. The modern trend in Tarot seems to be heavily embroidered fantasy-scapes, and yet Pixie’s bold outlines of figures in theatrical poses, set against two-dimensional backdrops, conveys the Tarot’s archetypes in a decidedly pure and direct manner. ”

Full article here

Wayne Shorter & Herbie Hancock Pen an Open Letter to the Next Generation of Artists

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Here’s some inspiration for us all from some truly brilliant musicians. ❤

“To the Next Generation of Artists: we find ourselves in turbulent and unpredictable times.
From the horror at the Bataclan, to the upheaval in Syria and the senseless bloodshed in San Bernardino, we live in a time of great confusion and pain. As an artist, creator and dreamer of this world, we ask you not to be discouraged by what you see but to use your own lives, and by extension your art, as vehicles for the construction of peace.
While it’s true that the issues facing the world are complex, the answer to peace is simple; it begins with you. You don’t have to be living in a third world country or working for an NGO to make a difference. Each of us has a unique mission. We are all pieces in a giant, fluid puzzle, where the smallest of actions by one puzzle piece profoundly affects each of the others. You matter, your actions matter, your art matters.
We’d like to be clear that while this letter is written with an artistic audience in mind, these thoughts transcend professional boundaries and apply to all people, regardless of profession.
FIRST, AWAKEN TO YOUR HUMANITY
We are not alone. We do not exist alone and we cannot create alone. What this world needs is a humanistic awakening of the desire to raise one’s life condition to a place where our actions are rooted in altruism and compassion. You cannot hide behind a profession or instrument; you have to be human. Focus your energy on becoming the best human you can be. Focus on developing empathy and compassion. Through the process you’ll tap into a wealth of inspiration rooted in the complexity and curiosity of what it means to simply exist on this planet. Music is but a drop in the ocean of life.
EMBRACE AND CONQUER THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED
The world needs new pathways. Don’t allow yourself to be hijacked by common rhetoric, or false beliefs and illusions about how life should be lived. It’s up to you to be the pioneers. Whether through the exploration of new sounds, rhythms, and harmonies or unexpected collaborations, processes and experiences, we encourage you to dispel repetition in all of its negative forms and consequences. Strive to create new actions both musically and with the pathway of your life. Never conform.
WELCOME THE UNKNOWN
The unknown necessitates a moment-to-moment improvisation or creative process that is unparalleled in potential and fulfillment. There is no dress rehearsal for life because life, itself, is the real rehearsal. Every relationship, obstacle, interaction, etc. is a rehearsal for the next adventure in life. Everything is connected. Everything builds. Nothing is ever wasted. This type of thinking requires courage. Be courageous and do not lose your sense of exhilaration and reverence for this wonderful world around you.
UNDERSTAND THE TRUE NATURE OF OBSTACLES
We have this idea of failure, but it’s not real; it’s an illusion. There is no such thing as failure. What you perceive as failure is really a new opportunity, a new hand of cards, or a new canvas to create upon. In life there are unlimited opportunities. The words, “success” and “failure”, themselves, are nothing more than labels. Every moment is an opportunity. You, as a human being, have no limits; therefore infinite possibilities exist in any circumstance.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO INTERACT WITH THOSE WHO ARE DIFFERENT FROM YOU
The world needs more one-on-one interaction among people of diverse origins with a greater emphasis on art, culture and education. Our differences are what we have in common. We can work to create an open and continuous plane where all types of people can exchange ideas, resources, thoughtfulness and kindness. We need to be connecting with one another, learning about one another, and experiencing life with one another. We can never have peace if we cannot understand the pain in each other’s hearts. The more we interact, the more we will come to realize that our humanity transcends all differences.
STRIVE TO CREATE AGENDA-FREE DIALOGUE
Art in any form is a medium for dialogue, which is a powerful tool. It is time for the music world to produce sound stories that ignite dialogue about the mystery of us. When we say the mystery of us, we’re talking about reflecting and challenging the fears, which prevent us from discovering our unlimited access to the courage inherent in us all. Yes, you are enough. Yes, you matter. Yes, you should keep going.
BE WARY OF EGO
Arrogance can develop within artists, either from artists who believe that their status makes them more important, or those whose association with a creative field entitles them to some sort of superiority. Beware of ego; creativity cannot flow when only the ego is served.
WORK TOWARDS A BUSINESS WITHOUT BORDERS
The medical field has an organization called Doctors Without Borders. This lofty effort can serve as a model for transcending the limitations and strategies of old business formulas which are designed to perpetuate old systems in the guise of new ones. We’re speaking directly to a system that’s in place, a system that conditions consumers to purchase only the products that are dictated to be deemed marketable, a system where money is only the means to an end. The music business is a fraction of the business of life. Living with creative integrity can bring forth benefits never imagined.
APPRECIATE THE GENERATION THAT WALKED BEFORE YOU
Your elders can help you. They are a source of wealth in the form of wisdom. They have weathered storms and endured the same heartbreaks; let their struggles be the light that shines the way in the darkness. Don’t waste time repeating their mistakes. Instead, take what they’ve done and catapult you towards building a progressively better world for the progeny to come.
LASTLY, WE HOPE THAT YOU LIVE IN A STATE OF CONSTANT WONDER
As we accumulate years, parts of our imagination tend to dull. Whether from sadness, prolonged struggle, or social conditioning, somewhere along the way people forget how to tap into the inherent magic that exists within our minds. Don’t let that part of your imagination fade away. Look up at the stars and imagine what it would be like to be an astronaut or a pilot. Imagine exploring the pyramids or Machu Picchu. Imagine flying like a bird or crashing through a wall like Superman. Imagine running with dinosaurs or swimming like mer-creatures. All that exists is a product of someone’s imagination; treasure and nurture yours and you’ll always find yourself on the precipice of discovery.
How does any of this lend to the creation of a peaceful society you ask? It begins with a cause. Your causes create the effects that shape your future and the future of all those around you. Be the leaders in the movie of your life. You are the director, producer, and actor. Be bold and tirelessly compassionate as you dance through the voyage that is this lifetime.”

Empowerment

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It’s (past) time to treat women with respect.

To believe them when they speak out.

To let them live their lives as they choose.

To let them make decisions regarding their own bodies.

To pay them as much as men are paid.

To consider them for positions of power.

To let them love whoever they choose to love.

It’s time to treat women with respect wherever the go.

The new feminism is here.

image: from the artist Karen Hallion.

Here’s her shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/khallion

Hell and back

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“Lost” by Charles Bukowski

they say that hell is crowded, yet,
when you’re in hell,
you always seem to be alone.
& you can’t tell anyone when you’re in hell
or they’ll think you’re crazy
& being crazy is being in hell
& being sane is hellish too.

those who escape hell, however,
never talk about it
& nothing much bothers them after that.
I mean, things like missing a meal,
going to jail, wrecking your car,
or even the idea of death itself.

when you ask them,
“how are things?”
they’ll always answer, “fine, just fine…”

once you’ve been to hell and back,
that’s enough
it’s the greatest satisfaction known to man.

once you’ve been to hell and back,
you don’t look behind you when the floor creaks
and the sun is always up at midnight
and things like the eyes of mice
or an abandoned tire in a vacant lot
can make you smile
once you’ve been to hell and back.

“Lost” by Charles Bukowski, from Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame

 

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Jack Reynor and Bella Heathcoate in “Strange Angel”

Did you see the first season? I loved it. We’re still waiting to hear if the show has been renewed for a second season.

The post below really sums up my thoughts about “Strange Angel” – the CBS series on rocketry scientist and Magick practitioner Jack Parsons. Although many of the ritualistic sequences are presented out of sequence or completely fabricated, I’m thrilled that Thelema is finally being created for a mainstream audience.

What do you think of it?

Here’s the article by Peter Pendragon:

“Be blessed in the name of man. And if any god deny you for this, I will deny that god.”
– Jack Parsons

“On June 14, 2018 e.v. the CBS All Access service premiered Strange Angel, a streaming series based on George Pendle’s book, Strange Angel: The Otherworldly Life of Rocket Scientist John Whiteside Parsons.

There have been several reviews from the usual media outlets (Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, etc.) as well as some preliminary dismissive comments online from my fellow Thelemites with regards to its historical accuracy, and the critics, Thelemic and otherwise, have been decidedly mixed in their opinions. So was the show any good? This first ever media portrayal of one of the most prominent Thelemites in the 20th century, who helped found the Jet Propulsion Laboratory — how was his history, his memory treated in this first of its kind program?

Yes, it was a fictionalized account with most of the characters names changed from their real life counterparts, or in some cases new people invented out of whole cloth. But the pilot’s inherent narrative, its juxtaposed elements of science and Magick, and its full throated embrace of Thelema itself is what stood out to me. “Do what thou wilt” is not just used in the show’s advertising as a summer series catchphrase — it actually provides a link to the narrative that is important in establishing the main themes of the pilot.

The cast is solid, the writing is allowed to take its time and explore the world of the series, and, visually, the show is a typical treat we have come to expect from Ridley Scott, who also produces The Man in the High Castle, which shares this show’s high end production values. Honestly, it was weird, surreal watching this, after having been in the O.T.O. for so long, recognizing the many easter eggs left for Thelemites, it seems, a small group of fanboys and fangirls to cater to, but what the hell. I noticed that they were quoting Class A stuff directly, and, God love ‘em, they even got the “A Ka Dua” mantra right. Now, they did modify the rituals, of course, which I frankly expected — it’s that the pilot was able to get so much right that was surprising. Yes, it’s weird watching what is essentially a streaming soap opera set in the early world of Magick and Thelema, but maybe now, after all these years of dwelling in the countercultural underground, perhaps it is time for the story of Jack Parsons and the O.T.O. to come out of the shadows.”

Frater From Another Mater

via Strange Angel: Darker Than You Think

Mountain of Truth

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Monte Verita, Ascona Switzerland

I came across the most amazing piece of history the other day: the free spirits of the art community at Monte Verita in 1915. These people created an open society of artists and philosophers; people that wanted to explore the potential of the human spirit.

What strikes me are the huge similarities between this story and our current society in 2018. These people that escaped to the mountains of Switzerland were rebelling against mass consumerism, war, intolerance, and celebrity culture. They created the first alternative community, assimilating all groups of people under the banner of pacifism and free thought. Many accomplished philosophers and radicals joined them – including Hermann Hesse.

This movement is one of the catalysts for the original hippie movement in 1967. It’s not about obliterating your mind with drugs, or trying to escape reality, it’s about creating a free, human, utopian society on earth. Article below.

There’s a movie about it that came out in 2014 called “FREAK OUT!” if you’re interested in learning more about it!

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Article:  “Monte Verità: “The place where our minds can reach up to the heavens…
In the nineteenth century and at the beginning of the twentieth, the Ticino republic became a gateway to the south, and favourite destination of a group of unconventional loners who found in the region, with its southern atmosphere, fertile ground in which to sow the seeds of the utopia they were unable to cultivate in the north.
The Ticino came to represent the antithesis of the urbanised, industrialized north, a sanctuary for all kinds of idealist. From 1900 onwards Mount Monescia above Ascona, Switzerand, became a pole of attraction for those seeking an “alternative” life. These reformers who sought a third way between the capitalist and communist blocks, eventually found a home in the region of the north Italian lakes.

The founders came from all directions :
Henry Oedenkoven from Antwerp
the pianist Ida Hofmann from Montenegro
the artist Gusto
and the ex-officer Karl Gräser from Transylvania.

United by a common ideal they settled on the “Mount of Truth” as they renamed Monte Monescia. Draped in loose flowing garments and long hair, they worked in the gardens and fields, built spartan timber cabins and found relaxation in dancing and naked bathing, exposing their bodies to light, air, sun and water. Their diet excluded all animal foods and was based entirely on plants, vegetables and fruit. They worshipped nature, preaching its purity and interpreting it symbolically as the ultimate work of art: “Parsifal’s meadow”, “The rock of Valkyrie” and the “Harrassprung” were symbolic names which with time were adopted even by the local population of Ascona who had initially regarded the community with suspicion.
Their social organization was based on cooperation, and through it they strove to achieve the emancipation of women, self-criticism, and new ways of cultivating mind and spirit with the unity of body and soul.

The intensity of the single ideals fused in this community were such that word of it soon spread across the whole of Europe and overseas. Gradually over the years the community itself became a sanatorium frequented by theosophists, reformers, anarchists, communists, social democrats, psyco-analysts; followed by literary personalities, writers, poets, artists and finally emigrants of both world wars: Raphael Friedeberg, Prince Peter Kropotkin, Erich Mühsam. They declared Ascona “the Republic of the Homeless”: Otto Gross who planned a “School for the liberation of humanity”, August Bebel, Karl Kautsky, Otto Braun, even perhaps Lenin and Trotzki, Hermann Hesse, Franziska Gräfin zu Reventlow, Else Lasker-Schüler, D.H Lawrence, Rudolf von Laban, Mary Wigman, Isadora Duncan, Hugo Ball, Hans Arp, Hans Richter, Marianne von Werefkin, Alexej von Jawlensky, Arthur Segal, El Lissitzky and many others.
After the departure of the founder for Brazil in 1920 there followed a brief bohemian period at the Monte Verità which lasted until the complex was purchased as a residence by the Baron von der Heydt, banker to the ex-Kaiser Willhelm II and one of the most important collectors of contemporary and non European art. The bohemian life continued in the village and in the Locarnese valleys from then on.

The Mount, now used as a Hotel and park, still maintains its almost magic power of attraction. Along with the proven magnetic anomalies of geological formations underlying Ascona, it is as if the mount preserves, hidden away out of sight, the sum of all the successful and unsuccessful attempts to breach the gap between the “I” and “we”, and the striving towards an ideal creative society, thus making the Monte Verità a special scenic and climatic micro-paradise.

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The Monte Verità is also however a well preserved testimony for the history of architecture. From Adam’s hut to the Bauhaus. The ideology of the first settlers demanded spartan chalet-like timber dwellings with plenty of light and air and few comforts. Shortly after 1900 the following buildings began to spring up: Casa Selma (now museum), […]1, Casa Andrea with its geometrical façade, the sunniest of the buildings (now converted), Casa Elena and the Casa del Tè – Tea House (now demolished) and the Casa dei Russi (hideout for Russian students after the 1905 revolution and now undergoing renovation). The Casa Centrale was built for the community and allowed for maximum natural light. Ying-Yang symbols were worked into windows and balconies. (In 1948 this building was demolished to make way for a restaurant and only the curving flight of steps remains).
Henry Oedenkoven built Casa Anatta as living quarters and reception rooms in the theosophist style with rounded corners everywhere, double timber walls, sliding doors, domed ceilings and huge windows with views of the landscape as supreme works of art, a large flat roof and sun-terrace.

Miyazaki’s Shinto spirits

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Excellent article on one of my favorite filmmakers.

The Gods and Spirits (and Totoros) of Miyazaki’s Fantasy Worlds

“There’s a moment in Hayao Miyazaki’s film My Neighbor Totoro that’s stuck with me since I first watched it a decade ago. Satsuki Kusakabe is searching for her missing sister, Mei. Looking for help, she sprints towards the huge camphor tree where the magical creature Totoro lives. She pauses for a moment at the entrance to a Shinto shrine that houses Totoro’s tree, as if considering praying there for Totoro’s help. But then she runs back to her house and finds her way to Totoro’s abode through the tunnel of bushes where Mei first encountered him. Totoro summons the Catbus, which whisks Satsuki away to where Mei is sitting, beside a lonely country road lined with small statues of Jizo, the patron bodhisattva of children.

It’s Satsuki’s hesitation in front of the shrine’s entrance that sticks with me, and what it says about the nature of spirits and religion in the film. We don’t really think of the movies of Hayao Miyazaki as religious or even spiritual, despite their abundant magic, but some of his most famous works are full of Shinto and Buddhist iconography—like those Jizo statues, or the sacred Shimenawa ropes shown tied around Totoro’s tree and marking off the river god’s bath in Spirited Away. Miyazaki is no evangelist: the gods and spirits in his movies don’t follow or abide by the rituals of religion. But the relationship between humans and gods remains paramount.”

Miyazaki’s gods and spirits aren’t explicitly based on any recognizable Japanese “kami” (a word that designates a range of supernatural beings, from the sun goddess Amaterasu to the minor spirits of sacred rocks and trees). In fact, whether Totoro is a Shinto spirit or not is a mystery. He lives in a sacred tree on the grounds of a Shinto shrine. The girls’ father even takes them there to thank Totoro for watching over Mei early in the film. But Satsuki calls Totoro an “obake,” a word usually translated as “ghost” or “monster.” Miyazaki himself has insisted that Totoro is a woodland creature who eats acorns. Is he a Shinto spirit? A monster? An animal? A figment of the girls’ imaginations? The film—delightfully—not only doesn’t answer the question, it doesn’t particularly care to even ask it.”

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“… Miyazaki’s films don’t invite us to any particular faith or even belief in the supernatural, but they do invite us to see the unexpected, and to respect the spirits of trees and woods, rivers and seas. Like Totoro and Gran Mamare, their true nature and reasoning are beyond our comprehension. Call them kami, or gods, or spirits, or woodland creatures, or Mother Nature, or the environment. They are there if we know where to look, and their gifts for us are ready if we know how to ask. We have only to approach them as a child would—like Satsuki, Mei, Chihiro, and Sosuke—with open eyes and open hearts.”