Friday, 30 December 2011

Bodmin Moor Zodiac: Capricorn, the Polyphant Sea-Goat



If one places an abstract composition - which is simply a fragmentary purification of the former object - in (or alongside) a figurative structure, this second composition digests the first one - transformed into a decorative motif - and then the whole work becomes figurative. However if one places a letterist notation on (or beside) a realist "form," it is the first one which assimilates the second to change the whole thing into a work of hypergraphics or super-writing."
Isidore Isou
The Force Fields of Letterist Painting

The sun is in this sign from 23rd December to 19th January. An earth sign.
Key words: aspiring, responsible, cold, prudent, self-contained, persevering, methodical, plodding, modest, exacting.
Light or planet: Saturn.
Body parts: skin, bones.

Capricorn is in an ocean-oriented part of the northern autumnal sky, along with Aquarius the water-carrier, the Whale, the Dolphin, the southern Fish and the two fish of the zodiac sign of Pisces. 2500 years ago the winter solstice occurred in the sign of Capricorn which was then a water sign. Records from around 600 BC describe the Sumerian vision of the world as a round plateau ringed with mountains which supported the domed sky. It floated on primordial water which broke through the earth’s surface as fresh water springs. The god Ea told the Uta-Napishtim to build an ark, in an earlier version of the biblical story of Noah. Ea emerged four times, at long intervals, in human form wearing a fish-tailed coat. Later Capricorn became an earth sign, associated with the Greek goat god Pan. Pan was feasting with other gods when suddenly the monster Typhon appeared. To escape it, the gods changed into beasts. Pan however panicked and jumped into a river before he had properly changed into a goat. So his lower extremities changed into a fish tail. This arrangement was so much to Zeus’ liking that he placed the Sea-Goat in the sky. There was a belief in the Middle Ages that everything on land had a counterpart in the sea; we find bishopfish, monkfish, dogfish, catfish, swanfish, the horsefish/ seahorse and the goatfish which also represents the time of Christmas, the winter solstice and the New Year. Alpha Capricorni, known as Giedi or Algiedi is an optical double. The stars are actually far apart from each other in space, but as they lie in nearly the same direction from earth they appear to be next to one another. The brighter Alpha 2 is 109 light years away, the fainter Alpha 1 is about 690 light years away. Both are double stars.
Celestial bodies are not where we see them, light beams are refracted by the many thin layers of the earth’s atmosphere. Temperature differences and movements of atmospheric layers cause fast and irregular changes in the direction of light beams. For the same reason scintillation, the twinkling of stars occurs. Time also doesn’t actually move in a straight line. It is cyclic. The modern linear concept of time strikingly resembles the traditional Judaeo-Christian concept, and it strikingly differs from that of the ancient Greeks and Indians. The cosmological ideas of several prominent Greek thinkers included a cyclic or episodic time similar to that found in the Vedic literature of India. For example, we find in Hesiod’s Works and Days a series of Ages (Gold, Silver, Bronze, Heroic, and Iron) similar to the Indian Yugas (Ages). In both systems the quality of human life becomes progressively worse with each passing age. In On Nature, Empedocles speaks of cosmic time cycles. In Plato’s dialogues, there are descriptions of revolving time and recurring catastrophes destroying or nearly destroying human civilisation. Aristotle is often quoted as saying that the arts and sciences had been discovered many times in the past. In the teachings of Plato, Pythagoras, and Empedocles on the transmigration of the soul, the cyclical pattern extends to individual psycho-physical existence. The great circle of the Bodmin Moor Zodiac becomes a succession of impressions that leave their traces across the subjectivity of the walker. To experience the Moor in such a way is to formulate, describe and articulate a renewed subjectivity; it is to once again lose one’s way to recreate and display oneself in the otherworldly environment. The problem here is that to lose one’s way seems to be to configure a subjectivity by aligning one’s path with those already inscribed upon the landscape by those who maintain, through the authority of their accumulated capital, the capacity to structure it. It is a matter of leaving a solid base in the present, to lose one’s way in order to find those potentialities already inherent in the Moor as it is currently perceived.

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