The Ruins of AbsencePosted by VI
It’s been getting a bit nippy up North, I’ll tell you. Though it must be said, the way this country shuts down after a bit of the white stuff is nothing short of ridiculous. Still, each to their own. It’s been a busy few months in the life of Mr. VI – and mine too; this is as close as you will get to a third person reference in this entry, and I suspect you may be grateful. Equally, the gap, the hiatus, the disruption to service, has borne strange fruit.
So that’s all right then, because quite frankly said fruit is rather intoxicating when you have allowed it to reduce to an inspiring liquor. October brought its tide of strangeness and autumnal in-betweeness; November brings a cold beauty and warm hearth to the fore, and I am doubly sure that December will continue to bring winter and Yule fortune.
The photograph above is Furness Abbey. It’s a place I’ve only been to once or twice, but on each occasion I was fascinated. As you might imagine, ruins are deeply, strangely illuminating things which may shed much light on the subtly hidden processes of the mind and soul.
Imagine wandering through that place in the snow; footfalls and other sounds muffled by crisply packed powder that crunches and gives beneath movements that slowly lead you through the gaps and archways. Fallen walls and red stone are now open to a winter’s sky, everything rounded off . Even the echoes of generations of voices raised in song and prayer are naught but indistinct whispers in your ears.
Just shy of nine centuries – that’s how long this place has held a grip on the mind of man. Four hundred years of faith and devotion, and the same again as ruin. Half its life as a broken, destroyed thing, and still it stands; still it brings pilgrims to drink from the well of its existence. Still they come, drawn by its weight, to walk its halls and cloisters.
And with each passing year, still it conjures. In its presence, the stone possesses a power, a power which reaches out across the centuries. Human ingenuity suffused with inspiration, from an urge to mimic and create awe and glory; a massive undertaking to speak of the service of divinity.
For some, that divinity reaches out as a sense of holiness, and that is a wonderful thing because holiness presents a wholeness which you may use as a reference point – a greater pattern perhaps, or simply the notion of smooth-running nigh endless complexity; an emergent biosphere which has developed its viability ins spite of, and also due to, circumstance.
For others, the very fact that these ruins might be conceived by some kind of sapient intelligence echoes the notion that divinity is a property of both sapience and sentience. Either that fusion creates the notion of divinity, or it is suffused with it - mankind as microcosmic avatar of the macrocosm; children of the very gods themselves.
Genius itself was originally conceptualized as a tutelary daimon. Inspiration, the act of breathing, is synonymous with the pneuma of the philosophers, the önd of the Norse, the ruach of the Hebrews. How many times have we truly uttered the phrase ‘it took my breath away’ and meant it?
How many times have those words been spoke to evoke the sense of awe and majesty experienced; a moment in time that disrupts the normal rhythm of the perception and existence in our lives, replacing it with a sense of something extra-ordinary?
Boreas runs, the Greek god of the North wind, and as he runs he brings winter and its storms, even to these islands. Islands which are one of the physical gates to the terra incognita of Hyperborea and, by implacably cold esoteric logic to COLD ALBION itself. Beyond the North Wind lies a place of dreamed maybes, once-and-future things; woodsy breath and ancient stones now ruined and serving as mysterious doors in every sense.
Gordon wrote an extremely interesting post a while back that introduces the Maori terms Turangawaewae and Whakapapa. For me, the ancestry that links me to these islands is a thing that goes beyond heredity, genetics and physicality. When all things are possessed of the potential to reach backward through time, all things are linked and held in the complexity of wyrd, and the gods themselves meet in counsel around the well of Urðr according to the Eddas.
This deep well nourishes the roots of Yggdrasil, the World Tree – axis mundi of the Heathen cosmology – and in a mythopoetic worldview where humans have their origins in trees gifted with divine breath, one can easily see the idea that it is this wellspring that nourishes a person. Add to this the notion that the World Tree is indeed a tall, one may even say the tallest tree since it supports all of the nine worlds, and suddenly these strange sounding words in a tongue that is alien to many become a little more familiar, don’t they?
It’s from this genealogy, this mythic source buried deep within the very fabric of conciousness and landscape itself, that we find the roots of ourselves, the genius of history – not as an old man, but as an eternally blooming maiden. She is not static, this Norn, this giant-maiden. No, her essence is just that; not merely Past and gone, left behind on the road to wither and become a crone, but instead ever moving and vital!
As events and circumstances shift, she embraces and encompasses them, weaves them into the fabric with her sisters – the skein of life shimmers in gleaming flux. And ruins are past things, are they not? By definition, they are incomplete, they have collapsed and become something other than their simple physicality.
They are, in a sense, pieces of negative architecture, an absent space which may be filled and reconfigured by that very same spring, becoming shaped by it and marked by its strange tide-marks and sediments; in that place, the imaginal is summoned and evoked. Unbound from a single purpose, they become gateways to the manifold othernesses, which make up the possibilities and permutations of the secret landscape; markers of hovering on the threshold, where the vast world inside the skull meets the hugeness of the outside…