Dear Mr. You, by Mary-Louise Parker (Book Review)

“We know there exists a planet with four thousand different versions of songbirds. Because that is possible and because on that same planet can exist sentient beings made up almost entirely of stardust, and because bonafide poetry erupts mightily from some of those beings, and there is music, sex, and babies that laugh in their sleep; because we are roaming a universe that may be a hologram, with another dimension consecutively projecting itself outside this construct of reality and gravity; because of all that, there is no reason why my prayers shouldn’t be able to reach your mother whose name I don’t even know.” 

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Well, this was long overdue.  I finished Dear Mr. You late last summer, when it was still warm enough to get lost in an audio-book and entranced myself with changing foliage, bird songs, soft breezes and the scent of curry fueling my neighborhood.  Put simply, Dear Mr. You was that kind of book.

I started with the hardcover on an inter-library loan.  I don’t remember what else I was reading.  I think it was Nanowrimo season.  I got about halfway.  In the end, I was glad I ran out of time, because the audio version was so charming.  The recording opens and closes with, I believe, an harmonica solo.  I think that was done to put us in mind of Fried Green Tomatoes, which Parker had a starring role in.

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   Well, before I get off topic, let’s move on…

what worked for me

I’ve read that Parker has written magazine articles, but aside from this book, I haven’t tracked down anything else she’s published.  Unless she’s just been a closeted writer all her life, I’m doubly surprised this was her debut book.  Maybe I shouldn’t be. Basically, I’m saying the author has a stunning literary voice, a thoughtful but accessible vocabulary and a tangible sense of empathy.  All in all, she has the voice of an author I want to read.

I don’t know how clearly her experiences would translate to most readers, but I found Parker’s experiences and the way she navigated them relateable.  Bare in mind, I’m not an actress or a performer.  But many figures in her life from mentors to boyfriends to family and friends put me in mind of figures I’ve encountered on my road through Bohemia.  Like they say in esoteric and magical circles, “like attracts like.”

Parker managed to scrawl herself on the page as a well-rounded, dynamic character without coming across as conceited or arrogant.  And even though she is the central character in this unfolding story, we have full access to a world of equally dynamic, real-seeming characters.  For me, her book is unforgettable.

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what didn’t work for me

Perhaps there were times I felt the narrative seemed shoe-horned to fit the format.  For instance, during the final pages she “writes” to the ambiance driver who removed the body of her well-loved father.  I felt the stories she had to relate to the driver would have been better addressed to her father, except we already had a chapter on him earlier.  So maybe the order of messages and narratives could have been shifted around.  Though, I feel it was right to end the memoir with some well-placed words on her father, yes.

   Certain letters like “Dear Cerberus” fell outside the mold too.  Not that mold-breaking is bad.  But in the course of the rest of the memoir, it left the finished product feeling a bit uneven.  These are relatively small complaints, and as a writer, I can see why she made these decisions.

overall

What can I say? Mary-Louise Parker’s Dear Mr. You exceeded my highest expectations.  If you get the chance, and audio-books are your jam, listen to said audio version.  Did I mention she reads it?  Made the book more personal for me.  I hope we see more of Parker in the literary world, I truly do.

This book earned a 4 star review on my Goodreads page.

 

The Mystery and the Mastery: Some Essential Decks

Let’s start by reiterating my thoughts on reviews: everything is subjective.  What I am presenting here are Tarot, Gypsy, Lenormand and oracle decks which meet a standard I am drawn to.  They are my own personal standard because they work for me, and because they are not cluttered or difficult to read.  They are also up to par with me because they are not gimmicky, crude or cliche.  They are, in short, passion projects of the men and women, writers, poets, artists and philosophers, who created them.

Here’s what I choose to read with:

For daily draws, I usually srart with a Lenormand reading.

What is a Lenormand reading?  The Lenormand is a system of 36 cards inspired by the French cartomancer Marie Lenormand and her methodology, though that’s almost impossible to prove.  What can be proven, more or less, is that the Lenormand cards represent a culmination of long term European cartomancy (divination with cards or playing cards).  Like their cousins the “Gypsy” cards, they came from a specific culture, in this case, the culture of French card readers.

Where the Lenormand cards differ from well known card decks like the Rider Waite Smith Tarot is in the way they are read.  Typically, the Rider Waite Smith is read in a three card spread representing past, present and future.  The Lenormand cards are read like separate words in a sentence.  There is a Dog card representing loyalty or a friend. There is a Rider card representing a message or progress. There is a Heart card representing love, and so on. If you had a three card response laid out as Man, Heart, Letter, you can probably bet your boyfriend is sending you a love letter or text.  It’s as simple as that.  The Lenormand system is slightly less esoteric than the Gypsy or the Tarot.

My first and favorite was Laura Tuan’s Lenormand Oracle, by Lo Scarebo.  Lo Scarebo usually puts out stellar work and this is probably one of their best sellers.  The cards themselves are sometimes referred to as over sized. The same artwork also appears on other decks, like the Classic Lenormand. The Classic Lenormand is a smaller size, and perhaps more durable, but I’ve always loved the feel of the larger deck, even if they will be more prone to bending over time.  The images themselves are beautiful and the coloring sits well with me because it is not what I would consider abrasive or  distracting.  Everything is fluid and minimal.

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A close second to the traditional Laura Tuan decks would have to be the so-called Blue Owl , a fantastically durable, and classical looking deck, slightly smaller than Poker cards.  The imagery is more or less Victorian.  The coloring is a bit duller than the Tuan decks, but it fits with the bygone mood.

 

Of course I enjoy using the Tarot as well.  For a simple three card, run of the mill scenario, I will usually employ the Rider Waite Smith. But what could I say about the Rider Waite Smith that hasn’t already been said?  They allow me to gauge the past, present and future of a situation.  They may present a deeper, below the surface look of a situation.  They might grant me insight into the emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects of a situation, which the Lenormand, typically, does not.

 

I’m also a big fan of the Tarot de Marseilles, specifically the Convos decks.  I’m just partial to the minimal, clean coloring and the dimensions of the people and objects who populate their world. The court and Major Arcana cards seem to communicate with one another for me, in a way that the Rider Waite Smith decks do not.  I typically read them as a scene with a four card spread.

Halfway between the Lenormand and Tarot systems are the Gypsy cards.  The Gypsy decks have a special place in my heart.  They are the unsung heroes of cartomancy.  I’m sure I’ll elaborate in future blog entries, but the Gypsy system should never be confused with the Lenormand, just as the Lenormand should never be confused with the Tarot.  One of the biggest differences between the Gypsy and the Lenormand is that the Gypsy decks typically employ about twenty more cards than the Lenormand decks.  They have a larger vocabulary. While the Lenormand may have two finance and budget cards (the Fish and Bear, depending), the Gypsy cards can have up to six (Fortuna Major or Fortuna Major,  Some Money for smaller sums, and a Safe for lump sums of cash). I find this extremely useful, as not all financial situations you’re going to read about for a client will be the same.  The Gypsy decks can get a little more specific.  They sometimes include emotional cards, which the Lenormand  (aside from the Heart or, arguably, Cloud cards) lack. There are Sadness cards, Anger, and Jealousy.  They include the emotional aspects of everyday life.


I have two Gypsy decks to share with you, which I may expand upon on later entries:

Piatnik’s aptly named Gipsy deck is probably my favorite, though we are still getting to know one another.  Most of the positive points I made about Gypsy decks in general (more emotion cards, financial cards, etc) apply here. There are also a number of portrait cards, giving insight into specific people in the reader or querant’s life.  While the Lenormand simply employs a Man and Woman card, Piatnik’s Gipsy deck employs male and female lover cards as well as cards like the Officer, Judge and Priest.  Everyday life is captured very well here.

I am also a fan of Lady Lorelei’s Gypsy Fortunes.  I plan to do a full scale review of these cards, but they are at home in my essentials chest.  The coloring is beautiful. They remind me of circus and carnival posters.  The images are so semantic there’s no need for a titles.

Of course, my collection continues to grow.  I’m curious to see how my essential roster will have changed if I do a follow-up this time next year!

The Angel Spread (Tarot and Lenormand Tutorial)

Today’s post is a simple one.  I’d like to share a cartomancy spread with you that’s ideal for Lenormand, Gypsy and playing card systems, but easily applied to the Tarot.  I haven’t found it anywhere else online, but it’s so easy but in-depth, I feel a lot of us can benefit from it!  It’s called the Angel Spread.

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The layout is simple.  Draw nine cards after you’ve shuffled your deck.  The spread is laid out in three groups.  The middle group makes up the core, the left group represents the past, and the right represents the future or eventual outcome.  Pretty straight forward.

You lay the first group, as I said, in the middle.  The first card belongs in the center.  This is the heart of the matter.  Often, it reflects the subject of the reading or the root cause.  Beneath the heart card you lay the second.  This is what your gut is telling you.  Over top of the heart card, you place the third card.  This is what your head is telling you.

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Cards four, five and six are laid in descending order.  Those of you who read Lenormand or Gypsy cards know that the cards are typically read together, not separately (like we did with the middle spread).  Here you would read The Park, The Mountain and the Key together.  If I were reading these cards I would say, “a public emotional hurdle leads to success, opportunities or access. ”

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Ultimately, cards seven, eight and nine are laid in ascending order, to the right of the middle cards.  If I were the reader, I’d say, “a loyal romance brings relocation or movement,” or possibly, “a noble spiritual calling warrants relocation.”  With the Moon card meaning long-term luck sometimes, I could also say, “loyalty and good fortune open the way to momentum.”

Now the three card grouping structure makes the Angel Spread ideal for use with Lenormand cards and their cousins, but you could also use your favorite Tarot deck.  I prefer the Marseilles when it comes to Tarot more than the Rider Waite Smith, but because I use the two decks differently (the Marseilles is more of a four card structure for me and the Rider Waite Smith responds to a simple three card Past, Present, Future spread best), I only use the latter with the Angel Spread.  Use what works best for you.   As you can see below, the cards still tell a sturdy narrative.

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Let’s assume Sally wanted to know if her boyfriend was a good match.  The center card, THE KING OF WANDS, would be indicative of the boyfriend, possibly an artistic, red haired man.  Sally’s gut would be telling her the boyfriend is THE DEVIL, or the situation could become manipulative or controlling.  Her head is focused on the KNIGHT OF PENTACLES, (I usually say “Coins,” instead of Pentacles.  I feel it’s more representative of the suit’s nature.), meaning she thinks the progress he’s making will lead to money or financial opportunities.  Now in the past Sally saw the relationship going somewhere, propelled by pure will.  Perhaps she or her boyfriend are esoterically gifted.  But the boyfriend was a bit wishy-washy and had trouble juggling his material, physical life in regards to his relationship with Sally.  Looks like he had a lot going on in the background too and it was just an unstable time.  Ultimately, Sally found a balance, mostly within her own life.  In the near future, Sally and her boyfriend will form a more structured relationship, but many hands are at play.  It looks like the boyfriend just has too much drama surrounding him or spends too much time rough-housing with his friends.  Ultimately, he may grow rigid and stubborn, as well as guarded.  I don’t see him going anywhere if Sally wants him, but she has to ask herself if she wants an emotionally unavailable partner.

0604172017a.jpgSo that’s the Angel Spread, ladies and gentlemen.  I hope it serves you as it’s served me.  I’ve had a lot of success with this spread, especially using the Lenormand cards.  Give it a try and let me know what you think!

FEATURED FATALE: Catwoman, Earth 2

The Princess of Plunder, Elva Barr, Marguerite Tone, Miss Pegg… Who exactly was the Catwoman during DC’s Gold and Silver Ages?  Untangling her original backstory isn’t light reading.  Though she belonged to a cartoony paradigm full of goofy gadgets and cat cars, Bob Kane and Bill Finger’s prodigal cat burglar was a surprisingly complex archetype who spawned more questions than answers.  Don’t believe me?  Scroll on.

Fast forward to the late ’80s.  Hardened gangsters like Two-Face and Black Mask rule a grittier, Film Noir Gotham City.  Dick Grayson has graduated from the role of Robin, passing the mantle onto the younger, ultimately doomed Jason Todd.  DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths looms on the horizon, spelling death, distortion and reboots for the entire continuity.  But before the final curtain, Batman’s long-standing enemy Catwoman has retired from cat-burglary, becoming his partner and fellow vigilante.  Her costume is impractical by today’s standards, but it’s also iconic and a throw back to the days when she transitioned from an urban legend jewel thief dubbed the Cat, to a full-fledged super villain, the Catwoman.

I had a reprint of 1940’s Batman #1 in middle school.  No big deal.  It’s highly accessible.  But back then it felt like a holy icon.  One of the key stories featured a jewel thief.  By the time Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson are settled, we learn of the shadowy cat burglar, known simply as “the Cat” most likely on board.  The Cat is a mistress of disguise.  During a well scripted investigation and chase scene we learn that the jewel thief had been posing as an elderly socialite named Miss Pegg (Minimalism, ladies and gentlemen!).  The Cat turns out to be a dark and exotic bombshell, based partially on Jean Harlow.  I’d like to pause for a moment to point out the Cat’s facial resemblance to Disney and MGM’s prototypes for the Evil Queen and scrapped (before Margaret Hamilton was casted) Wicked Witch, Helen Gahagan and Gale Sondergaard.  It’s also worth mentioning that C.S. Lewis based his Queen Jadis partially on Gahagan’s She character, Ayesha.

Anyway, the Cat becomes a recurring character after escaping, which she usually does in the early issues, playing upon Batman’s attraction to her.  In those days the character was more closely akin to historical jewel thieves and professional criminals than the whip wielding anti-heroine of today’s Batman titles.  At the top of her craft, she poses as socialites and hair dressers to infiltrate high society, robe them blind and elude capture.  I don’t know when the name Selina Kyle was first applied to her, but she could have just as easily been Marguerite Tone or Elva Barr; two of the aliases she was known by.  Ultimately, she was buried under her married name, Selina Wayne–but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Enigmatic Cat’s metamorphosis into Catwoman is a delightfully slow process.  Perhaps she was inspired by Batman.  Certainly, this was the case for her successor in Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One almost fifty years later.  Gradually, the Cat acquires a trademark ensemble, donning what comics scholars call “the fuzzy mask” above and relinquishing her orange dress for basic black.  Oh, but she keeps the cape, albeit in another color by the time Catwoman’s majestic purple dress shows up.

Enter Catwoman, the full-fledged Queen of the Criminal Underworld.  Still a burglar, she expands her presence over time with costume claws, cat-themed capers and a company of hired thugs, a la the Joker.  Eventually, Kyle retires, becoming a mild-mannered pet shop owner after helping Batman.  This remains the status quo for a handful of years, before the new reputation gets to her pride and she dons the purple cowl again.  By this point, the Batman comics have abandoned the mystery-noir style for a campier, juvenile approach foreshadowing the ’60s television series with Adam West and Julie Newmar.  Case in point: the Catwoman’s repeated use of cat-themed vehicles and devices.

This particular version of Catwoman gets sidetracked for a while by the Comics Code Authority and the distinction of DC’s Earth 1 and Earth 2 Catwoman.  The way I understand it, Earth 2 was the setting of DC’s original continuity where the oldest versions of the characters lived.  Earth 1 was the new continuity, where contemporary versions of the characters lived.  Both versions were de-canonized in the late ’80s by DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths.  Regardless, by the time this distiction is made, Selina Kyle of Earth 2 returns, shedding new light on her backstory. Previously, Catwoman claimed she was once a stewardess who suffered from amnesia after a plane crash, which somehow created her criminal alter-ego.  However, this was an apparent myth.  Kyle admitted she fabricated the amnesiac story, and told Batman what was probably the true story:

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“When I divorced him, he responded… By using his connections to try and ruin me financially, professionally, emotionally!”  This is probably my favorite version of Catwoman’s origin.  She claimed to have been married once to a wealthy masochist.  “He also liked to beat me,” she said.  He kept her jewelry after she divorced him and one night she snuck onto the property and stole her jewels back.  Exhilarated, she became a cat burglar professionally.  By the time Batman #1 rolled around, she had been Catwoman for two years.

Upon sharing this news, she begins a romantic relationship with Batman, who also reveals his secret identity as Bruce Wayne to her.  Kyle and Wayne marry, and her identity as Catwoman is set aside for the time being.  So far as we’re told by The Autobiography of Bruce Wayne, Selina Wayne lives on with Bruce in relative peace.  She gave birth to a daughter, Helena, before dying.  Of her death, I can say she was blackmailed into becoming Catwoman again by a former associate in DC Super-Stars #17.  She was survived by Bruce and Helena, who later became the vigilante Huntress, and her legacy, which spawned countless versions of the cat burglar.

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We don’t hear much about this version of Catwoman in our modern world where the comics medium has been so heavily integrated into literature; not that that’s a bad thing.  But she’s missed, having been unpredictable and downright mystifying.  When you pause to think about it, Bob Kane and Bill Finger’s Earth 2 Catwoman is one of the most well-rounded Catwomen.  She started as a battered wife, took back what was stolen from her and built a career on her own terms while getting high on jewel heists.  She built a name for herself as the Cat, reestablished herself as Catwoman, over reached, disappeared, returned with a campy vengeance as a product of the times before disappearing again.  She had a dynamic relationship with Batman, married and gave her life to protect her reputation and that of her family.  If you haven’t discovered her, these stories are waiting as reprints in graphic novel collections and online in digital form.  It’s never too late to introduce yourself to the original Queen of Crime.

Beyond AMMA: The Future of SHIFT

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On April 25th, we met Griffin Page, the seventeen year-old protagonist of my novella Amma. Like myself, Page was fascinated by the vibrant world of comic book heroines and femme fatales, especially in the case of AMMA a seventy-five year old franchise with a surreal Wild Western theme.  Amma was a goddess of Shift, a fantasy realm full of mythical beasts, epic mountains and shanty towns.  During World War II, a female pilot named Nancy Peele disguised as a man discovered Shift when she crash landed during a storm.  Peele stumbled upon the underground shrine of Amma and assumed the goddess’s form when she drew a fabled pistol from Amma’s statue.  Peel’s tenure as Amma filled the pages of Griffin’s favorite comic from the late fourties through the early fifties while she defended Shift from its barbarous dictator Rudo Ruxspar, a half man, half lion megalomania dedicated to masochism and war.  Other women followed Peele, from a twelve year-old homeless urchin girl, to a magnanimous young cop named Mary Stanton.  After Stanton’s death, Griffin Page was surprised to find himself drawn to Shift, literally.

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The cover of Amma, my Fantasy Western novella, Book #1 of Shift

Griffin was only too happy to answer the call, having recently been kicked out of his Albuquerque home by his transphobic uncle, Leo Sabanti.  Given the opportunity to explore his gender identity, Griffin set out on a quest to replace Mary Stanton as Amma… Only it didn’t go as smoothly as Griffin and his benefactors planned.  Caught up in the agendas of Rudo Ruxspar, a boy demon and the famed sorceress Mother Gothel of the Brothers Grimm, Shift’s new Amma met a tragic and unexpected end.

But  what became of Griffin Page with the goddess undone?  This is the subject of my follow-up to the Queer Fantasy Western, coming later this year.

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Are you out there, Griffin?

Titled AMMO, the sequel serves as an ending to the journey of Griffin Page.  Amma and Ammo explore the frontier of gender identity, being the story of a pre-transitioning transgender teen, a coming of age fable with a Wild Western backdrop.  But there are other stories in the Land of Shift, and the forthcoming novels, short stories and novellas of the franchise will continue to tell them.

Check back for updates on Ammo and Shift’s continuing legacy.  Amma, Book #1 of Shift is currently available in paperback and on Kindle.

Twin Peaks Revival, Parts 1 & 2 Review

Hard to believe it was just last night the revival of David Lynch and Mark Frost’s genre-bending mystery premiered.  By now, I’ve streamed episodes 3 & 4, given myself some time to ruminate and feel ready to contribute.

A few words before we being:  This review contains spoilers.  I wrote it to offer something to the global conversation, not to influence your decision to watch it.  Also, I’d highly recommend reading Mark Frost’s novel The Secret History of Twin Peaks first, which informed my opinion and reception of the episodes.  So, if you haven’t read it yet, bare it in mind, because I’ll be referencing crucial parts of the book.  If you have read it, I’d like to invite you to browse my review here.

what worked for me

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Surprise, surprise the esoteric elements fascinated me.  “Wow.  That was like porn for mystics,” I said shortly after it ended, “or anyone interested in metaphysics.”  Specifically, the Black Lodge’s relationship with time and space as a possible nexus.  You couldn’t be a Quantum physicist or an occultist and not be mystified last night.  Twin Peaks has always explored metaphysics and mysticism, but the premier event broke new ground.

Or glass…

Remember when I said I’d be citing Frost’s novel?  Those of you who’ve read it might recall the entity encountered by Richard Nixon and company behind glass, later in the dossier.  Compare that scene to the pivotal “box” reveal, where an entity decimated Madeline Zima’s Tracy character and her unfortunate love interest.  It’s been suggested online that the spirit in question was the whimsical “Arm” formerly played by Michael J. Anderson.  Whether or not that’s the case (my boyfriend suggested it was Laura, after she was ripped or conjured from the Black Lodge), it’s worth mentioning Lynch and Frost’s choice for the Arm’s new form.  Unorthodox, sure, but given the dwarf’s association with electricity, I couldn’t have asked for more.  Recall the famous line from Jimmy Scott’s “Sycamore Trees” more than twenty-five years ago, “I’ll see you in the trees,” in collusion with the dwarf’s declaration, “When you see me again, it won’t be me,” during the previous installment’s final episode.

Much can be said for the premier’s relationship with nostalgia.  The format for the new series is proving to be more character driven.  The end credits billed Kyle Maclachlan’s Dale Cooper as the starring character.  Every other character, both new and old, has revolved around him when appropriate.  For myself, there was just the right amount of nostalgic warmth and humor,and I didn’t feel like it was shoe horned in.

Stylistically, I resonated with Lynch’s slow panning shots and full use of the background and foreground.  Like every episode he directed during the original series, I knew I was viewing a true work of art, and not a network commercial.

what didn’t work for me 

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Hope this doesn’t sound contradictory.  There were just a few moments where I felt like the special effects were jerky, too digital or sub-par.  I have always loved the phantasmic white horse seen by Sarah Palmer in the 90’s, but last night I felt the effects surrounding it were hectic.  Perhaps that’s just me.  It was enough to pull me out of my prior state for a moment.  Curious to see how I feel when I rewatch it.

overall

Twin Peaks is gaining speed.  David Lynch and Mark Frost will have eighteen hours to work with a universe of rich characters, expanding on their mythology and cosmology.  We saw what creative red tape did to the second season of the previous series, and now we have a stage set with unprecedented freedom.  The Twin Peaks revival broke the mold, as far as I’m concerned, despite some technical shortcomings that may be a necessary sign of the times… just as surely as whatever spirit broke New York City’s glass paneled box.

I’d say 4.5 stars for a stellar premier.

 

Karmic Camelot: Understanding Arthurian Legend

It’s hard for me to sit beside a lake and not think about Arthurian legends.  I watched a duck turn purple from the sun.  A dead fish skimmed the banks of our stone steps.  Finally, I asked my boyfriend, “Who’s your favorite character from Arthurian legend?”

“Perceval or Galahad.”  He didn’t have to think.  I forgot we’d discussed this almost two years ago.  “Galahad is more…,” he searched for the word.

“Christ-like,” I offered.  Tom nodded.  Half a mile above us, I spotted two young men on the high bridge.   They leaned over the railing.  One wore white, his cap on backwards.  It was so quiet, we could hear parts of their conversation.  The occasional jogger passed by.  Moments later, a black lab approached us.  I stroked his jaw while the owners assured me he was friendly.  The dog passed, the owners passed, and up on the bridge, the guys passed.

Still on the same wavelength, my boyfriend pondered, “I wonder what Lancelot and Guinevere symbolized.”  I said there was something Adam and Eve-like about them and mentioned the Fall.

“After all,” I said, “it’s sort of the end of Camelot.  It’s, like, the catalyst, I guess.  That and Mordred.”  Mordred being Arthur’s bastard son with his aunt Morgause, conceived in ignorance.  According to Thomas Malory, a knight who wrote the first Arthurian novel pulled from older poems and myths about King Arthur, King Lot of Lothian, sent his wife Morgause to spy on Arthur.  I guess she didn’t resemble her sister, Arthur’s mother much,  “A lot of modern movies and TV shows focus on an alliance of Morgan le Fay and Mordred bringing about the end of Camelot.  They make it more about a good versus evil struggle.  But actually, it’s just Mordred, after Guinevere and Lancelot are found out.”

Tom brought up another good point, about Arthur originally forgiving Lancelot.  Forgiveness seems to be a theme in Sir Thomas Malory’s le Morte d’ Arthur.  “Speaking of which,” I said, and returned to Morgan le Fay, “Arthur makes peace with her, towards the end of the book, do you remember?”  We both read le Morte d’ Arthur years ago.  After the enchantress steals her half-brother’s sword Excalibur and flings the scabbard into a lake, she disappears from the novel for a while.  Then towards the end, Arthur and company are passing through some mountains and find her in a village or castle with her men.  “Arthur made peace with her,” that much I remembered.  She was even one of the Four Queens who took him to the isle of Avalon to be buried or healed after the Battle of Camlan.  So there again, forgiveness.

So aside from ruining his talismanic scabbard–which I guess does contribute to his death–we can take Morgan le Fay off the Who Destroyed Camelot Table.  Malory’s narrative points primarily at Mordred, poor, misguided, haunted Mordred with his crush on Guinevere.  Mordred, whose mother was decapitated by his own half-brother, had the biggest axe to grind with Camelot.  Early on in the novel, our famously noble King Arthur does something unforgivable.  Bringing Old Testament barbarey to mind, he rounds up all the newborn males from the season and sets them adrift on a raft.  Mordred of course survives.  Years later, Merlin’s prophecy comes true, and father and son destroy eachother.

Speaking of Merlin, good old Merlin, the wizard made a morbid prophecy for himself too.  During the same scene, he prophesied his destruction at the hands of a young woman named Nimue (Or Viven, depending on the edition or translation).  By the time he meets Nimue, she’s established as one of the damsels of the Lady of the Lake.  By ‘damsel’ we can assume Nimue was a priestess, and while she probably picked up some spells along the way, she would have been trained as a mystic more than a magician.  From Merlin, she wants to learn the magic arts.  After some traveling, she persuades Merlin to teach her the spell used to bring about his undoing.  Of course, Merlin already knew this was coming.  He consents, and Nimue seals him A) inside a tomb, B) beneath a rock, C) inside a crystal cave, or D) inside a tree, depending on the edition again.

Nimue goes on to replace Merlin at court as magician.  She’s also referenced as “Lady of the Lake,” once her predecessor dies.  So we can assume in addition to being a great sorceress, she succeeds the Lady’s office as High Priestess by the Lake of Avalon.

Why didn’t Merlin fight back?  I ask myself.  As a magician, I’m sure he knew the advantages magic gives you over fate.  The purpose of magic, speaking mythically from sources like the Egyptian post-creation myth, is to help the oppressed find loopholes when it comes to crushing blows of life and fate.  Perhaps Merlin, having the foresight to know what Arthur would build when he took him as a newborn from his mother Igraine and father Uther, felt guilty for his part in the destruction of Igraine’s first husband Gorlois, or his part in Arthur’s decision to set infants adrift.  Perhaps he saw in Nimue a worthy disciple and chose to pass on the reigns gracefully.  She does manage to use her gifts nobly.  When Morgan le Fay was still Arthur’s enemy, she came to the King’s defense twice.  She is never seen throughout the rest of the story to behave vindictively or cruelly.  That said, I feel like Nimue was Merlin’s karma, just as Mordred was Arthur’s karma when he canceled out Camelot’s dynasty by ending both their lives at Camlan.

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Did Sir Thomas Malory set out to write a spiritual book when he penned le Morte d’ Arthur?  I don’t know.  It’s impossible not to tap into that stream when you write something Arthurian.  The legend is based on a kindling of Christian and Pagan myths, poems and texts.  The Hermetic, Gnostic and mystical notes running through the epic aren’t possible to remove.  Either way, I’m glad Malory wrote it, while imprisoned, appropriately.