Horns

How long can a lovely walk, some holiday spirit, a great book (which I hope to finish tomorrow or the next day- since it’s suppose to snow.  A LOT.), some Doctor Who and a fun national football game (sorry about that Ticats.  Maybe next year.  Thanks for coming out, anyway) sustain a little bit of good cheer?

This is not a rhetorical question.  I’m going to provide the answer.

About as long as it takes for the work week to begin again, it would seem.

Dilemmas.

I wrote about a comparable situation a while back, so I’ve pretty much exhausted the mythological connections that dilemmas call to mind.

There has been a definite- and unfortunate- pattern present in my posts of late.  I say ‘unfortunate’ because, while I strongly feel that such things HAVE to be said, and discussed, and generally put out there so that individually and collectively we can work to figure out something better, I reallyreally hate negativity.  With a passion.  Yet I can’t seem to completely overcome that particular frame of mind at the moment.

This is largely due to the continuing systemic violations of ethics and commonsensical good manners and proper behaviours that we should be able to expect in an educated, well-reasoned society.

I’m not even going to go into the latest antics of the town’s ‘chief magistrate’, except to note that he, once again, displayed his true colours, this time on that paragon of responsible journalism, Fox News, and even THEY didn’t seem to know what to make of him.

Oh, and Canadian media?  Can I please ask that you stop with the headlines shouting about things like the ‘return to the gravy train‘ that he has claimed has happened since his powers were stripped (a little over a week ago)?  Please?  While the articles do, in fact, go on to explain that the tax hike is required because of things like the useless extension of the Scarborough subway line (one of his personal pet projects), chances are there aren’t many remaining members of his Nation that will read more than the headline.  Might strain their beleaguered brains (I no longer have the energy to be pulling any punches with those who continue to support this madness.  If you STILL think that he is defensible as a public servant, I really have nothing left to say to you).  Thanks bunches.

And the continued denial of complicity in scandals and pay-offs/pay-backs by our federal leader?  Yeah.  The fatigue on that score has also maxed itself out for the time being.

Further to my post suggesting that we are losing the ability to sustain anything like civilized dialogue, it is gratifying to see that I’m not completely alone in my concerns about the complete lack of politesse that seems to be accepted as normative these days.  Gotta admit, I smiled a whole lot when I read this story, and the impetus behind it.  Words have the power we give them, and we seem to be imbuing profanity- for its own sake- with a whole load of power lately.  Very nice to see a Carleton University student who is willing to question the ubiquitous nature of certain words- and point out how ridiculous they sound in most contexts.

The personal stuff?  All job-related, of course.  And all about standing up for myself in the face of bullying as I attempt to retain my principles and ethical grounding in the face of increasing pressures to ‘toe the line’ in order to keep my job.  I may not be able to affect the larger society in any real way, shape or form, but I am very much unwilling to participate in actions that violate my sense of right and wrong in my own life.

Regardless of how badly I might need the paycheque.

‘Faced with two equally undesirable alternatives.’ 

Horns.  Of a dilemma.  Seemingly stuck well and good in the region of my derrière.

That picture up there ^^^ is a stock photo of the reconstructed ‘Horns of Consecration’ at Knossos, that represent the sacred bull- ubiquitous in the culture and landscape of the Minoans, centred on the island of Crete.

Those Minoans were pretty impressive people.  They were highly organized merchants- engaged in trade with surrounding nations- and their language and culture influenced their neighbours in many ways from the 27th century BCE until the volcanic eruption on neighbouring Thera (Santorini) sometime around 1500 BCE created a ripple effect that destroyed key Minoan cities and might have been a factor in leaving them open to the conquering Mycenean armies.  (The volcanic eruption on Thera is considered by many to be the source of myths of Atlantis.  LOVE myths of Atlantis… but that’s for another day…).

Minoan religion focused on female deities- and female religious officiants were the norm.  The civilization seemed to have boasted a pretty egalitarian society.  Artwork and statuary presents both men and women participating in cult activities- such as bull-leaping- and their sophisticated agricultural and governmental systems were not restricted to men.

In Greek mythology, Daedalus (the most celebrated artificer of the day- he also made a pair of wings, which his kid ended up (mis)using) designed and built a little thing called a labyrinth for King Minos at Knossos.  It was a necessary architectural feature, since the king had a problematic foster child who was half man/half bull (due to a minor indiscretion on the part of the king’s wife and a lovely-looking bull- that should have been sacrificed to Poseidon).

This Minotaur– a compound of Minos and tauros, or ‘bull of Minos’ (his name was actually Asterion, but no one really remembers that)- was first reared by the king’s wife (her name was Pasiphaë, but not many really remember that, either), but he eventually became unmanageable as his beastly and unnatural side came to the fore.

When Asterion became too much for his mother to handle, the Oracle at Delphi advised Minos to seek help from that gifted craftsman, Daedalus.  He created such an elaborate and cunning maze that even he had trouble getting back out once construction was complete.

The labyrinth became the home and prison of the Minotaur- where he was kept appeased by the sacrifice of seven youths and seven maidens (collected from amongst their arch-enemies in Athens) until he was killed by the Athenian hero Theseus (who was able to escape the maze of the labyrinth with help from Ariadne, Minos’ daughter,  and her skein of thread- which provided the clew (‘that which points the way’- the origin of our English word clue) he needed to get back out after slaying Asterion.  See how much fun word origins can be?).

The word labyrinth is derived from the word labyrs– a double-headed axe that was both a religious symbol and associated with the power of the royal house in Minoan tradition.

Still, other ancient labyrinths have been attested- and found- in places like Egypt and India.  Postulated purposes vary- they are thought to have served as traps for nasty spirits and/or as paths used as cheat sheets, of a kind, in ritual dances (ancient versions of the footprints on the floors at Arthur Murray schools of dance- how’s that for an antiquated cultural reference?!?).

By the Medieval period, Christians were including them in their places of worship- meant to represent pilgrimage paths or simply foci for meditation and/or prayer, and they came to symbolize a path to god- with one entrance and one twisting and turning path to the centre.

Metaphorically, a labyrinth can be a situation that poses some issues of extrication.

Very much aware of that particular sense of the word at the moment.

These days, there has been something of a resurgence of interest in labyrinths.  Parks and common spaces feature labyrinths as part of their landscape designs.

Toronto’s labyrinth, located right beside the Eaton Centre, the Church of the Holy Trinity, and in spitting distance (not that it’s remotely polite to spit) from both Old and New City Halls, is meant to be a place of quiet reflection in the heart of the city.

A few years ago I led walking tours (as part of the ROM Walks– at our wonderful  Royal Ontario Museum) of the area, that ended at the labyrinth.  Visitors to the city were always amazed to find such a place of quietude surrounded by the summertime hustle and bustle of the culture of consumerism and municipal politics.

This evening, intensely frustrated by the events of the day (and of yesterday, but I’m consciously forgetting that THAT day existed at all), I paid a visit to Trinity Square, hoping that its meditative properties and foundation in the history and wisdom of the ages would provide a bit of a respite from the direction and intensity of my thoughts.  Sadly, it was no match for the labyrinthine tracings of my current thoughts and anxieties.

Horns?  Still present and pissing me off.

So… in the way that everything is connected (at least in my way of looking at the world)…

Solution: Second attempt

Some Bowie, Muppets, and feel-good holiday fare (this is another film I associate with the holiday season, for some reason) all wrapped up in one package may well return me to a reasonably human state of mind.  Hopefully it will be enough to last the week…

In this song- pivotal to the action of the film, Bowie’s Goblin King, Jareth, weaves an illusion around Sarah, attempting to win her love and distracting her from the time limit that he set for her to find her baby brother, Toby.  While his promises seem attractive at first, they are soon revealed to be superficial and wrong– and Sarah realizes that she must return to her path on the labyrinth.

So, taking my guidance- and my clues, if you will- where I can find them, I’ll be heading back into the labyrinth tomorrow.  Trying to retain the hope that the Ludos and Sir Didymus’ will balance the machinations of the Jareths of this world.

PS- seems to be a glitch in the WordPress world (or my computer.  Or the universe.) this evening- I can’t seem to link past posts.  Please feel free to browse the back catalogue for those posts I referenced, but was unable to link, should you feel the urge.

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15 comments on “Horns

  1. What is your academic specialty again? Chemistry? }:-)>

    • colemining says:

      Nav65- Something like that. What? You can’t tell from the post?
      Thanks for reading!

      • Afraid I was teasing. Myths, of course. I did enjoy the classics lesson. Fun post.

        Now Atlantis. We could have some fun with that, you and I. Hapgood’s “Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings”? “Hamlet’s Mill”? (That one’s right up your alley.)

      • colemining says:

        I realize you were teasing- I do tend to get a little heavy-handed with the mythology stuff. It’s just SO relevant to SO many things, though!

        Atlantis stuff is fun. I’m most familiar with the stuff from antiquity, of course. Although Ignatius Donnelly and the Theosophists had fun things to say about the whole thing (Donnelly’s stuff is the basis for Donovan’s amazing tune ‘Atlantis’- so that in itself is noteworthy).

  2. How interesting! I think I just learned 87 new things from this post. Looking forward to your next one.

  3. Thanks for the reminder about the Minoans and the labyrinth. I admit I learned about it mostly from Mary Renault’s wonderful novel The King Must Die; should read it again soon. And word origins and relationships — love those as well. One of my big thrills was recognizing the link between the Latin name for poison hemlock (which killed Socrates), Conium maculatum, whose stems have purple spots, and the word “immaculate,” one of whose meanings is “unspotted.” OK, so maybe I need to get a life.

    • colemining says:

      Ah, but words contribute so very very much to our lives- and knowing where they came from can enrich our understanding and ability to communicate in amazing ways. No shame in finding joy in recognizing links between the words we love, Audrey. Thanks for reading!

  4. bethbyrnes says:

    I love every minute of this. So much so, that I am coming back to read it again, after the java arrives at the appropriate ganglions. I do admire your mind, after my own heart.

  5. Ste J says:

    Labyrinth, derrierés AND Minoans, that is a veritable feast of subjects to tackle. My advice, for what it is worth is…keep your left hand on the wall and that will get you through….or maybe that is an urban myth…

  6. lostandfoundbooksandfoundbooks says:

    Is that the ‘poet’s walk’ you are referring to, near the ROM? We discovered it this summer. It’s a real hidden gem, and endeared my to downtown TO. (even though it was 4 billion degrees!)

    • colemining says:

      LAFB- that would be Philosopher’s Walk that you’re talking about- runs between the ROM, the Royal Conservatory and UofT. A true gem indeed- it’s where I spend my lunch breaks when working at the Museum (and it was mentioned in The Summer Tree- the first book in Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fionavar Trilogy- one of my faves). The labyrinth is in a quiet square by the history-rich Church of the Holy Trinity and the Eaton Centre. It’s really quite beautiful!
      We have a number of such ‘hidden treasures’ here in downtown TO- and those are two of the best.
      Thanks for reading!

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