Friday, November 25, 2011


SOL OCCAXUS (Sunset) Monday, 19 September, 2011

CREPUSCULUM (Evening Twilight)
I. Friday, 23 September, 2011
II. Thursday, 29 September, 2011
III. Thursday, 29 September, 2011
IV. Sunday, 16 October, 2011

VESPER (Evening Dusk)
I. Sunday, 23 October, 2011
II. Sunday, 30 October, 2011
III. Wednesday, 9 November, 2011
IV. Monday, 14 November, 2011
V. Monday, 14 November, 2011

CONCUBIUM (First Sleep – Coitus – Rest)
I. Thursday, 17 November 2011
II. Sunday, 20 November, 2011
III. Friday, 25 November, 2011



MATUTINUM (Dawn Goddess)

DILUCULUM (Dawn Twilight)

SOLI ORTUS (Sunrise)




Alonzo and Michael stepped off the dimly lit street and passed through the heavy wooden outer doorway of Alonzo’s house. Inside there was a small atrium in which a maastaba seat rested against the facing wall. Turning left Alonzo, limping a good deal more after their walk, led them down a narrow corridor that terminated in a Mozarab archway. It also had a heavy wooden door but this time the panels were more elaborately carved in Arabic script. Alonzo paused and touched one of its panels, tracing the script with his finger. He turned to Michael, “A prayer to Allah giving thanks for the safe return of the traveller.”
The archway door opened into a rectangular shaped courtyard with a vaulted open perimeter passageway. In the centre of the courtyard was a pencil-like pool with three fountains that were carved in the shape of water lilies. Fine jets spouted upwards from these only to fall again in geometrically split cascades. It was very similar in style to the beautiful Patio of the Acequia, where they had walked earlier. Alonzo flicked a switch and the pool’s waters were immediately bathed in a soft yellow light. There were orange and mulberry trees and from the upper floors of the surrounding building purple Brazilian bougainvillea cascaded to the ground. “This way, Michael,” Alonzo invited as he opened another door.
Michael followed him into what appeared to be a study. The floor was covered with smooth ochre-coloured marble tiles and in the middle of the room set away from the wall that faced the door was an elaborate desk with fine Italian marquetry panels. Michael saw that the design effect on the uncluttered surface was that of a cosmological map of the heavens. On the legs were representations of various astrophysical instruments. To one side of the desk was a smaller table on which sat a computer and telephone console. The desk faced the inner wall, in which two windows looked out on the courtyard pool. He noted that there was only one other item of decoration in the room and this was a large map hanging on the wall at the far end. It was set off-centre because of the presence of another arched doorway to one side. Michael was immediately drawn to its jumble of flags and figures and a large, gold-leaf embossed windrose that dominated one side. Moving closer he could make out it was a map of the Mediterranean and North African coastline but that the lettering of the multiple place names was all in Arabic. Instinctively, Michael put out his hand to touch the map but was embarrassed as the almost imperceptible clear glass plate that protected it repulsed his fingers. He turned to Alonzo. “This is magnificent. A portolan I guess. Fifteenth-century. Catalan?” he quizzed.
“Very accurate, my young friend.”
“The Arabic script is unusual though,” Michael observed as he turned his head sideways to try and read the writing on a red flag that dominated the edge of the map. Below the flag in heavy ink and almost certainly a later edition was a single word written in what seemed like Old Spanish or Portuguese. “I have never seen one like that.”
“You will not again,” Alonzo agreed.
“Where is it from?” Michael asked without taking his eyes from the map.
“It was produced in 1486 at the workshop of Jehuda ben Zara, a mapmaker in Alexandria, as a commission for one Hamid al-Zagri. It was never much used by its owner hence its condition.”
Michael pointed to the Spanish graffiti that he had noted on the map. “What does that mean?”
Acanaveados,” Alonzo pronounced the word slowly. “Acanaveados was the name given to Christian converts to Islam who when captured fighting for the Moors of Granada were used as live targets for spear throwing contests by the forces of Fernando. I suspect that Hamid al-Zagri met his fate in this way, and thus the graffiti of the victorious scribe.”
“Who was al-Zagri?”
“The Arabic writing on the red flag reads ‘There is no conqueror, save God’ and it was the motto of the Nasrid dynasty Amirs who ruled Granada for three centuries until its fall. Hamid al-Zagri was the military governor of Malaga who held out against the Christian forces until the 20 August 1487. As part of his responsibilities for the main port of the kingdom he had commissioned the map, two years earlier, in order to be fully conversant with the most up to date information on the Mediterranean. Most navigation maps, of that time, were drawn in heavily censored workshops and the agents of Christian kingdoms zealously guarded the information included. Hamid al-Zagri had to have his pirated copy reproduced in the relative safety of Alexandria. After Malaga fell, al-Zagri was captured and, it was supposed, sent into slavery. However the graffiti implies that he met his death like a Christian convert. This would have been done as a final and deliberate insult.”
“How did you come by it?” Michael asked, fascinated.
Alonzo smiled. “God willing, that is a story for another day. Come, I want to show you something else.” Taking a disproportionately large key, it seemed to Michael, Alonzo opened the small door beside where the map was hung and then stood aside to let Michael enter.
“Wow!” Michael exclaimed in amazement as he found himself in a large library. Three of the walls were completely occupied by neatly arranged bookshelves to the height of the second-floor ceiling. A narrow, wooden balcony divided the walls into two levels. There was an octagonal reading lectern in the centre of the room and against the far wall a low glass display cabinet. The natural light that entered the room was muted and came through a stained-glass dome in the ceiling. On the one bare wall were two prints. He moved towards the centre of the room and circling the lectern continued to stare at the rows and rows of books. “This is fantastic Alonzo.”
“Thank you Michael. This library is my paradise on earth. Please look around. I want to organize some coffee.”
Alonzo disappeared and Michael walked slowly past the rows, occasionally touching a binding or lifting a book out to inspect the title page. He felt like an intruder at times and avoided lingering too long with any one book. Most were very old but in good condition. He was looking at the wall above the display cabinet when Alonzo returned. “Are they original Durer’s?” Michael’s face had a disbelieving look.
“Yes.” Alonzo said matter-of factly as if it was the most normal thing to have them. “They are metal engravings rather than woodcut though. Most likely copper, although there is some debate. That on the left is the Knight, Death and Nemesis from 1513. It is an early impression on ribbed paper with the Pitcher watermark. That on the right is Adam and Eve from 1504 on paper with the Bull’s Head watermark. This is particularly rare as it is a very early impression with no inscription on the tablet hanging from the tree. Do you see?”
Michael nodded. He felt out of his depth and said, “I wish I knew more of the technical aspect of his work.”
Alonzo smiled in a paternal way. “Do not worry about that. I am an old man and have little else but time to distract me whereas you, on the other hand, carry the cares of the world on your shoulders. Come, let us go and have coffee.”
Michael turned to follow him but stopped. “Alonzo, what are the books in the display case? Are they the most precious in your collection?”
Alonzo stopped and watched Michael for a moment. “Yes and no. I change the display to compliment the guests I bring here.”
“Did you do that for me?”
“I am flattered but also very embarrassed because I do not know what they are.”
“The book on the left is a fine copy of the Muquaddima of Ibn Khaldun. This was the introduction to his universal history but near the end is an account of the development of natural sciences and a lamentation that the advances were now coming from the west instead of the east. You and your science are the continuation of that trend. The middle of the three, with writing that looks Asian in character, is a beautiful vellum manuscript of the Haran Gawaita, written in Syriac about 300CE, and is an account of the history of the Mandaeans and the traditions of the Magi. The final book, on the right, is written on papyrus paper and is a copy of the Hypostasis of the Archons or otherwise called the Book of Norea. It is a Gnostic book written in Sahidic Copt and dates from about the same time.”
Michael stared at the books, trying to figure out their relevance to him. He turned to inquire only to find that Alonzo had already left the room. Despite his lame leg the older man continued at a fast pace out of the study and further along the courtyard corridor until he entered a modern-furnished sitting room. As Michael caught up with him Alonzo asked, “How do you like your coffee, Michael? It is Arabica.”
“No milk and one sugar, please.” Michael watched as the older man poured the coffee. Adding a sugar cube he stirred the dark brew quietly. “Alonzo, what–”
“Have you had the chance to meet with Isabella again, Michael?” The older man interrupted as he sat down on a seat opposite his guest. He balanced his cup on the armrest and began to fill a pipe from a pouch that lay on the table. He smiled at Michael whose face had reddened a little. “Smoke if you wish.”
“Thank you. Yes, I have met Isabella again, today in fact. I had a late lunch with her before coming to meet you.”
“A very attractive woman, Isabella.” Alonzo’s facial expression was inquisitive. “It must have been difficult to pull yourself away from her company.”
Michael squirmed a little in his seat. “Very! Intelligent and sharp witted. I find her company . . . stimulating.”
“Better than that of an old man, no doubt.”
“It is a different type of stimulation, Alonzo,” Michael paused, unsure of how to proceed. “It is as if she and I are playing a game of chess. Each makes a move and the other counteracts. Perceptions on my part are challenged by anticipation on hers; insight is clouded by confusion, partial knowledge by complete ignorance. Whatever chemistry brought us together she controls the formula. I am intrigued and daunted by her. Can you understand?”
“In Isabella’s case, yes. Is the relationship sexual?”
Michael let out a nervous laugh. “Steady on, Alonzo. I suddenly feel that a prospective father-in-law is interrogating me. You’re not, are you?”
The older man laughed as well. “No. I am sorry to pry Michael, but it is important.”
“Why? I am afraid you again have me at a loss Alonzo.”
“To explain I need to tell you more of the story of the People and the seals. Can you be patient?”
“Sure Alonzo. I am not in any hurry anywhere.” Michael lit a cigarette and as his exhaled smoke mingled with Alonzo’s he settled back into the comfort of the chair. Alonzo refilled their coffee cups while Michael looked around the room. There was a domed skylight in its ceiling although a little smaller than the one he had seen earlier in the library. By now the study was quite dark and he could see through the skylight stars as they appeared in the night-sky above. They appeared to shimmer in the blue-tinted glass.
“You asked yesterday, Michael, if the seals still existed.” Alonzo spoke in a quiet voice, as he watched the younger man stare up through the skylight. “Quite amazingly, and I do not want this to come across as some mystical fairy-story but they do!” he added.
Michael stopped looking upwards and concentrated on what Alonzo was saying. He tried to keep the look of amazement of his face. “Are you serious? That’s fantastic.” An image of the library crept into his thoughts. “Where are they kept?” he asked.
“Everywhere and nowhere. As you might imagine the seals through the millennia have passed through many hands, mostly as individual pieces but sometimes collectively in small groups. As a consequence they have had different collective names over the millennia. Some generations have called them the seven Khnumu or architects, others the Hydria, but in the language of our People they are always best known as the Voices.”
“Has that something to do with what you were explaining to me yesterday,” Michael asked. “About the development of language? Are they called Voices because they and their hieroglyphs are a key to understanding the origins of the Proto-Indo-European language you talked about?” Michael was very keen to show that he had being paying attention.
“No, not quite.” Alonzo leaned forward to rest his elbows on his knees. Ash and loose tobacco fell, ignored, to the floor from the tilting pipe. “What do you understand by language and its development, Michael?”
“Necessity, words and their meanings, stories, parables, communication, understanding, commerce, history, ideas.”
“Not ideas, Michael, not ideas!”
“What do you mean Alonzo?”
“Most academics have given up the quest for a universal proto-language, accepting that onomatopoeic imitation of the noises of nature and the accidental sounds of human contact, rather than a grand or divine design, were responsible for the development of language. Sounds were joined, as metaphors, and understood. The differences in the development of the identified major language groups probably related more to the anatomical structure of the larynx and the resonance of their stage of development at that particular locality. Ideas on the other hand are different. They, perhaps, are the divinely imprinted wanderings of the conscious and sub-conscious, the pathways to gnosis. Ideas, like time, fill the void and only materialize when briefly constrained by the metaphors of language.”
“I do not understand then the link to the seals…the Voices, Alonzo.”
“The hieroglyphs or symbols carved into the face of the seals, Michael, are not the keys to an ancient language. They are the marks of a covenant, the pictograms of the early ideas of our race and the bargain with the Creator Gods. Can you accept that possibility? Think of the circular motifs on the stone-age burial tombs in Ireland. What was their meaning if not an idea or idealization of the link to the Gods. Nearly every civilization has had some sort of expression.”
“Perhaps ideas and the course of time captured in the matter of stone seals and their never-ending journeys.”
“Exactly! And if, at any point in that timeline mankind loses its way, degenerates as it were, then with reasoning and an understanding of the original intent as a starting point and the depicted ideas acting as an intermediary, the way can be regained, regenerated.”
Michael nodded vigorously. “It is a very plausible possibility and a beautiful inheritance.”
Alonzo smiled weakly. “Yes, but it also brings responsibility and trouble. The collective acquisition of the Voices from earliest antiquity, has always been a magnet for men and sometimes women acquainted with their history, or suspicious of, their power. There is an ancient tradition within the lore of our People, which suggests that if the seven are ever gathered together, time will stand still and that the ideas, the gestures of our existence, will lose their ability to regenerate forever. Eschatos! With the loss of the Voices the truth can never be attained and all the powers of heaven and earth will reside in the gatherer.”
“Has anyone ever had all seven in their control?”
“No, it appears not but it might be a reality soon.”
“How come. Where are they?”
“Patience, Michael. Let me tell you something of their individual stories first, or at least as much as I know, and then I will answer your questions.” At that moment both men heard a telephone ringing. It came from the direction of Alonzo’s study. Alonzo appeared irritated as he stood up and looked at his watch. “Excuse me for a moment, Michael. It is unusual for someone to telephone me at this time. It must be important. I will not be long.”

It was about ten minutes later when the older man returned. He looked very tired, and frail, all of a sudden. Michael got up from his chair. “Is everything all right, Alonzo?” he asked concerned.
“Michael, I must apologize. The telephone call! A family matter. I have to go out. Perhaps we can meet again tomorrow. Would you care to join me for supper?”
“That will be fine, Alonzo. About five.”
Alonzo was distracted and appeared not to hear. Michael looked at him waiting for an answer. “Oh yes. Five o’clock would be fine, Michael. Let me show you out,” he eventually said as him limped towards the entrance.

No comments: