Sunday, September 6, 2015

A Flickering of Lights and Shadow

As Autumn progresses towards her equinox, I having been playing with Twilight Consciousness. This has been accomplish by using dimmer lights in the evening, fires in the yard, and natural lighting as much as possible during dusk and dawn. This has lead to a greater appreciation of the interplay of light and shadow. This "flickering" time has also triggered interesting perceptions of "reality"; a growing awareness of the beings that dwell in shadows, the ease of entrance into the Magonian or Fey realms, a shift in the boundaries between Industrial Consensus Reality, and the Mythopoetic Realms.

I have been watching and studying Wayang Kulit, Indonesian Shadow Play, there is a rich vein for the Mutant Mage to explore. I have also renewed my interest in Jackalope, and Goblin Lore, twilight seems to suit them both. Instead of writing a blog-post, I have used the cut up techniques of two of my favorite Mutant Mages, William Burroughs and Byron Gysin. In fact if you want to experience the full effect of flickering light, build yourself a Dream Machine.

I have included links to all of the original texts below, none of what follows is my original work, but I felt it more aptly captures the interplay of light and and shadow that I have experienced this Autumn. Go outside in the evening or morning and experience these shifting perspectives for yourself, the Shadow Realms await.

Shadow Play: Goblins and Jackalopes

The Indonesian word 'wayang' is derived from a word meaning 'shadow' or 'ghost'. These intricately cut and perforated shadow puppets are made from buffalo hide. 'Kulit' means 'leather' or 'skin'. 'Wayang Kulit' has a documented history of existence of at least 800 years in the Indonesian archipelago.

I'm writing this story as a result of a pact I made with a goblin ghoul last night as I was walking home up the hill near Withdean in Brighton. Every part of it is true and exactly how I remember, though the events of last night now seem like they happened in another world. As I look at these words it seems strange that I could be writing them. Who will believe what I have to say? You, Dear Reader, safe in the daylight or under the protective glow of your electric light can have no conception of the horrors that dwell so close to our twenty first century civilization, just beyond the reach of the shadows. But I must hurry. My life depends on completing this tale before she returns.

It’s an aggressive species, willing to use its antlers to fight. Thus, the jackalope is also sometimes called the “warrior rabbit.” 

The word crepuscular derives from the Latin crepusculum ("twilight").[1] Its sense accordingly differs from diurnal and nocturnal behavior, which respectively peak during hours of daylight and dark. The distinction is not absolute however, because crepuscular animals may also be active on a bright moonlit night or on a dull day. Some animals casually described as nocturnal are in fact crepuscular.

There is no hiding the mechanics of the show as in Western theatre since the bamboo platform had no sides. The audience is free to sit either facing the screen, or can watch the dalang at work.

Gunnar, king of the Old Wessex Division of the goblins, had a problem. His old slave, Eric, had died. That usually happened to humans once they became about seventy or eighty, and there was nothing you could do about it, except get a new one. The king had grown quite fond of Eric who had been captured by the goblins in 1925 as a young boy. It was best to catch them young. There had been a hue and cry. There always is, when a man child disappears. You can't hush these things up. Some people blamed the gypsies. Others said: perhaps he had wandered off to join the circus. 

Twilight is the time between darkness and sunrise in the morning, and sunset and complete darkness in the evening, when there is light outside, but the Sun is below the horizon. There are 3 types of twilight: civil, nautical, and astronomical. 

Before a play begins, the dalang undertakes several ceremonial acts and rituals to assure a successful performance. With great reverence, he taps three times on the wooden box containing all his puppets in order to wake them up. Figures of deities representing good and evil (sometimes over one hundred) are ranged in their prescribed place to the left and right hand sides of the screen. When quiescent, the puppets are spiked into the soft flesh of the trunk of a banana tree at the base of the cotton screen. This represents the earth. 

It was after he beat one poor old woman to death that the evil monk was imprisoned and sentenced to hang for his crimes. But just after he was cut down from the noose and pronounced dead, his corpse began to transform before the horrified eyes of the people. The face twisted and small tusks sprang from either side of his nose. His shock of white hair grew long and greasy, and two pointed canines emerged from his slit of a mouth. The goblin-monk opened eyes that glowed yellow even in the light of noon-day, and sprang to feet that now ended in claws rather than toes. 

Special classes of crepuscular behaviour include matutinal (or "matinal") and vespertine, denoting species active only in the dawn or only in the dusk, respectively. Those that are active during both morning and evening twilight are said to have a bimodal activity pattern. 

Civil twilight occurs when the Sun is between 0 degrees and 6 degrees below the horizon. In the morning, civil twilight begins when the Sun is 6 degrees below the horizon and ends at sunrise. In the evening, it begins at sunset and ends when the Sun reaches 6 degrees below the horizon. 

The dalang underscores the action and the rhythm of his chanting while sitting cross-legged by tapping loudly with quickening tempo on the wooden puppet box at his back with a little bronze knob held between the toes of one foot. He also uses this device to conduct the small Gender Wayang orchestra of xylophones and gongs sitting behind him, all the time maintaining a number of different body rhythms as he manipulates the puppets. 

The various patterns of activity are thought to be mainly antipredator adaptations, though some could equally well be predatory adaptations. Many predators forage most intensively at night, whereas others are active at midday and see best in full sun. Thus, the crepuscular habit may both reduce predation pressure, thereby increasing the crepuscular populations, and in consequence offer better foraging opportunities to predators that increasingly focus their attention on crepuscular prey until a new balance is struck. Such shifting states of balance are often found in ecology.

She was tall, Very tall. Then as she got closer and stepped into the light I realized that her shadowy outline had looked so tall at first because she was wearing an old fashioned riding hat, from out of a Victorian novel. As she stepped closer her features took shape. She was about my height, thin and was dressed all in black. She wore a veil and I couldn't see her face, but I imagined from her voice she might be quite pretty. She stopped a few feet in front of me. Her perfume was strong and heady. Like the strong sweet scent you get in the perfume departments in the major stores at around Christmas when all the smells from the testers and the customers blend into one.

The jackalope is the product of a male jackrabbit and a female antelope. Jackalopes possess an uncanny ability to mimic human sounds. In the Old West, when cowboys would gather by their campfires to sing at night, jackalopes would frequently be heard singing back, mimicking the voices of the cowboys. Jackalopes become especially vocal before thunderstorms, perhaps because they mate only when lightning flashes—or so it is theorized—which explains the rarity of this species. 

A number of familiar mammal species are crepuscular, including some bats, hamsters, housecats, stray dogs,[5] rabbits, ferrets, guinea pigs, and rats. Other crepuscular mammals include jaguars, ocelots, strepsirrhines, red pandas, bears, deer, moose, chinchillas, the common mouse, skunks, Australian wombats, wallabies, quolls, possums and marsupial gliders, spotted hyenas, bobcats, tenrecidae, capybaras, African wild dogs, sitatunga, and the extinct Tasmanian tiger. Crepuscular birds include the common nighthawk, owlet-nightjar, chimney swift, American woodcock, and spotted crake. Many moths, beetles, flies, and other insects are crepuscular and in particular, vespertine.

But no one ever thought of blaming the goblins... That's because 1925 was the twentieth century and people didn't believe in such things any more. Gunnar's great grandfather, Aleric the goblin had once met King Arthur, and now most people thought Arthur was just a legend.

Nautical twilight occurs when the geometrical center of the Sun is between 6 degrees and 12 degrees below the horizon. This twilight period is less bright than civil twilight and artificial light is generally required for human activities. 

So what is the effect of all this? When the puppet is pressed up against the cotton sheet, its shadow is sharp and steady. Where it curls away from the screen a little, the shadow rapidly softens. The flickering light from the uncertain oil lamp causes these indistinct portions to quiver and waver. Sometimes puppets are presented to the screen from behind the lamp instead of entering from the wings. When this happens, they seem to magically materialise out of the very air itself as soft indistinct forms darken, gathering form and substance as they near the screen. The effect is ethereal and utterly mesmerizing.
When chased, the jackalope will use its vocal abilities to elude capture. For instance, when chased by people, it will call out phrases such as, “There he goes, over there,” in order to throw pursuers off its track. The best way to catch a jackalope is to lure it with whiskey, as they have a particular fondness for this drink. Once intoxicated, the animal becomes slower and easier to hunt.

Astronomical twilight occurs when the Sun is between 12 degrees and 18 degrees below the horizon. In the morning, the sky is completely dark before the onset of the astronomical twilight, and in the evening, the sky becomes completely dark at the end of astronomical twilight. Any celestial bodies that can be viewed by the naked eye can be observed in the sky after the end of astronomical twilight.

The headquarters of the Old Wessex Division of the goblins was in the tunnels beneath the old bookshop in Petersfield. If you went into the dark forgotten corners of the shop, and moved aside the dusty bookcase with the really old falling-apart books with no covers, which were hardly ever sold, you might, if you looked carefully, see the outline of a secret door which led into tunnels underground. The goblins liked living there because, if they got bored at night, they could sneak upstairs and "borrow" some of the old books. They didn't like modern writers. They even regarded Jane Austen as modern.

The compelling visual appeal of a Wayang Kulit show might easily be explained by the physical laws and properties of light. The spiritual and metaphysical dimensions of the shadow play are much harder for a Westerner to describe.

Jackalope milk is particularly sought after because it is believed to be a powerful aphrodisiac—for which reason the jackalope is also sometimes referred to as the ‘horny rabbit.’ However, it can be incredibly dangerous to milk a jackalope, and any attempt to do so is not advised. A peculiar feature of the milk is that it comes from the animal already homogenized on account of the creature’s powerful leaps.

She touched my face with her fingers. A light caress. Then she flicked her fingers and the light went out. I heard a clip clop as she walked away up the hill and then a clippety clop but I never saw her horse or her minions who had been holding me from behind. The street light started flickering its yellow sodium glare again, and I was too deep in thought to notice anything else unusual on my way home.

The shadow play is magically powerful. At times the dalang appears to be in a trance. It is commonly believed that the audience is protected from evil influences during a Wayang Kulit performance. Its vast repertoire of tales covers all aspects of life. As well as having an educational role in society, its stories provide spiritual guidance for the people. It is as though this translucent screen with its play of light and shadow is the interface between two realms of existence - a small rectangle in the fabric of the world mediated by the dalang from where spirit beings from other planes of existence impart the wisdom of the ages to mankind. Wayang characters provide types to be emulated, giving the young an idea of what qualities to strive for.

The people screamed and fled, and no prayer of his former brothers-in-faith could banish the goblin. It disappeared deep into the forest, only to return at night and prey upon the monks of the mission who had been responsible for its death. After five of the brothers had fallen to the goblin, the rest of the monks abandoned the mission and moved to another part of the country. Since that time, the mission-house had slowly fallen into ruin. 

The jackalope is now most commonly sighted in the states of Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska. However, the jackalope does appear to have a European cousin, which in Germany is known as the wolperdinger. In Sweden, a related species is called the skvader.

With a trick of light and shade and a deft exchange of the puppet, characters were made to transform before a wide-eyed audience into mystical beings, a garuda, a snake. 

You're right. Anyway this doesn't affect the story line. Our pact was, or is, that not one word of the story would change. OK here are the few details which set the record straight. And this is exactly as I remember, without varnish and honest gospel...When I first heard her clip clopping down the road it was too dark to see her horse. But as she left and the street lights glowed back on - I saw there was no horse - as she clip clopped away on all fours on her claws like a wild beast. Her perfume too, was not quite as I described. It was more like the smell of rotten cat food which has been left in an open tin too long in summer, and which the flies and the maggots have got into. And finally, her appearance. It is true that she was tall and slim but by the light of the sodium lamp her skin seemed green and wrinkled like old walking boots. When I wrote these facts in my original draft she was very displeased and I learned how vain a goblin queen can be. She made me change these points, on peril of my life, but bade me keep all else the same.

 These are my sources:

1 comment:

  1. Entire portions of this are simply plagiarised from the Wikipedia source (which I discovered on presuming the opposite). One can imagine that if the other sources were checked, the same correspondence between source and this content might be observed. In what sense is this your work? Does it even represent the creative effort and originality of a patchwork quilt?