Saturday, January 07, 2012


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
IV. Thursday, 1 December, 2011
V. Thursday, 1 December, 2011
VI. Thursday, 8 December, 2011
VII. Sunday, 11 December, 2011


I. Sunday, 1 January 2012
II. Thursday, 5 January 2012
III. Saturday, 7 January, 2012


MATUTINUM (Dawn Goddess)

DILUCULUM (Dawn Twilight)

SOLI ORTUS (Sunrise)




The afternoon shadows had lengthened. Alonzo Aldarhze was the first to break the silence. “Have you been able to follow all that I've said Michael? I have not spoken such an amount in English for a long time.”
“Yes. Your English is perfect Alonzo its just that there is a lot to take in regarding the history of the Voices,” Michael Mara assured.
“There is no need to worry about much of it, only their significance. The history of some of the Voices is only a brief overview. Their travels are not your primary responsibility, Michael. But their destination might be.”
“What do you mean, Alonzo?”
“Let me continue and you will soon understand better. Is that acceptable?”
“Sure.” Michael’s face flushed.
The older man smiled at his visitor in a fatherly fashion. “I had not completed the story of Saclaresh. After the planisphere of Roger II of Sicily disappeared the mystical Voice of the Magi somehow surfaced in Damascus. In the early 1500’s, when Isma’il I of the militant Safavid Sufi’s took power in Persia, his Pir or spiritual guide was a man called Sahkulu Baba Tekeli, nicknamed Seytankulu or ‘slave of the devil’. Under this man’s influence Shi’ia became the state religion and Sunni’s were persecuted, a situation which continues to this day. Sahkulu was thought to have cemented his position in the Safavid court by magically producing a miraculous Qur’an. It was considered particularly so as it was written in the new nasta’liq script developed by the famous Persian calligrapher, Mir ‘Imad al-Hasani. Sahkulu is said to have hidden Saclaresh within this Qur’an’s elaborate binding.”
Michael slapped away a mosquito that hovered near his neck and reached forward to retrieve another cigarette. “I’m afraid I don’t understand the significance of the script, Alonzo.”
“Let me explain it a little bit better, Michael.” Alonzo seemed in a hurry to continue. “Most copies of the Qur’an were written in one of the six accepted variants of kufic script. The Ottomans, who were traditional Sunni, favoured the nesih variant and would not use the newer nasta‘liq style of the Shi’ite Persians for copying the Qur’an because it smacked of heretical innovation and tampering with the Prophet’s words. The few Qur’ans that did exist in the nasta’liq script were probably produced by the Safavid Shahs to be presented by their ambassadors in their dealings with the Ottoman court. This was a deliberate attempt, of course, to confront the Sultan and trick him into accepting a Shiite Qur‘an, and its truth, as protocol dictated that they could not refuse a gift. To prevent such an embarrassment the Sultan would have a copy of his own Qur‘an nearby and when the gift of the Shi’ite nasta’liq version was announced he would solemnly lift up his own and kiss it, thereby affirming its sanctity.”
Michael was amused. “The pen is mightier than the sword. Eh!”
“Indeed.” Alonzo agreed. “The ‘Devil’s Qur’an’, as it was soon called after Sahkulu’s nickname Seytankulu, with Saclaresh still secreted within its binding, was in Isma’il’s possession until his death. Recovered at that point by Sahkulu’s family, it remained in their guardianship until 1638 when the Ottoman Sultan, Murad IV sacked Baghdad. From there it travelled, with its Sahkulu guardian, a famous musician, to Istanbul. In 1705 the ‘Devil’s Qur’an’ was put on the market and acquired in Istanbul by a Prince Demetrius Cantemir of Moldavia who brought it with him to Russia. In 1785 his son Antiochus, the Ambassador of Czarina Catherine to George III of England, brought the Qur’an to England. It was once again put on the market and in 1792 was acquired by a man called Sir Gilbert Elliot who was soon to become Viceroy of the very temporary Anglo-Corsican Kingdom. In the confusion of Gilbert’s departure from Corsica, in 1796, the Qur’an was somehow left behind in Ajaccio and was later given to Napoleon when he stayed there in 1799. Napoleon gave the Qur’an as a present to Gaspard Monge, his confident and after Monge’s death in 1818, the copy was sold to the Parisian branch of the Armenian Balian family.
One of the most famous members of this family was Karabet Belian who was to become the architect of the famous Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul. It was he who discovered that part of the leather binding of the Qur’an appeared to have been stiffened by an old piece of parchment with faded cuneiform writing on it. Belian was very anxious to have this translated and arranged to have the Qur’an sent to a Reverend Edward Hincks, the rector of a small parish in Ireland, and one of the most brilliant cuneiform experts of that time. It was Hincks who, when having to carefully strip the leather cover to release the parchment, found Saclaresh hidden within the damaged binding. Coincidently perhaps, it was also at this point that Hincks began to publish his own major discoveries.”
“What do you mean, Alonzo? What discoveries?” Michael had never heard of Hincks.
“The Reverend Hincks, like you Michael from what you have told me of your life, was born in Cork, in the south of Ireland. He entered Trinity College, Dublin at the age of fifteen and received his Doctorate of Divinity from there in 1829. In 1826 he was appointed by the College to the small parish of Killyleagh in County Down in Ireland where he remained until his death in 1866. By force of sheer intellect alone, as he did not travel to Egypt or Mesopotamia and was a little removed from the academic world, he was the scholar who confirmed the significance of Egyptian ‘cartouches’, who determined the Egyptian system of chronology and who applied the final polish to a full understanding of hieroglyphic grammar. If this was not enough he also, with even greater success, turned his attentions to Mesopotamia. It was Hincks who first determined the syllabic nature of Assyrian cuneiform and by 1852 had provided the basic decipherment of Akkadian. This is why the Balian family sent him the Qur‘an. Quite an extraordinary man really and almost forgotten! He should be spoken of in the same awe as Champollion!”
Michael startled at the sudden intensity of Alonzo’s impassioned words.
The older man, noticing the effect, calmed himself quickly. “I am sorry Michael to get so excited. The decipherment of ancient languages is a hobby of mine and I have always felt that Hincks did not get the recognition he deserved. After Hincks’s death in 1866 his possessions dispersed and there was no mention of the ‘Devil’s Qur‘an’ or of the seal. The book itself eventually reappeared in 1916, when it was bought at an auction at Christies in London. It is now in the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin. They, of course, do not know or catalogue it by this name nor are they fully aware of its true provenance. Indeed the original binding has gone completely to be replaced by a new binding, which must have been done in London by somebody not used to dealing with Qur’ans.”
“The new binding, a close copy of the original perhaps, has been attached upside down in the wrong fashion. In the meantime Saclaresh had disappeared again.” Alonzo stood up and tapped out the burnt remnants from his pipe into an earthenware pot containing a small mulberry bush.
“Why so much detail about Saclaresh, Alonzo?” Michael asked.
Alonzo immediately began to fill and pack his pipe again and it was a few minutes before he seemed ready to continue. “Because its fate intimately concerns you, Michael!”
“In what way?”
“I’ll return to it but let me finish the stories of the other Voices first.”
“Sure. Sorry Alonzo.” Michael looked puzzled but the older man ignored this as he retook his seat.
“Finally there was Ayatau. After the break up of al-Edrisi’s planisphere, Ayatau went west from Sicily to Majorca in the guardianship of the Jewish Charazes family of mapmakers who had helped el-Edrisi make Roger II’s planisphere in the first place. It and its surrounding silver mounting from the map were fashioned into an hourglass about 1500 and it has remained in the care of the Timekeepers since. I am the latest in that line.”
“You mean you have one?” Michael sputtered out.
“Yes.” Alonzo was watching Michael’s face intently.
“May I see it?”
“Of course. Let us go back to the library.”

Alonzo led Michael out of the study and back along the courtyard corridor to the first room they had entered. Saying nothing the two men entered the library and Alonzo went to the reading lectern that stood in the centre of the room. Depressing, what Michael assumed was, a hidden lever the octagonal top of the lectern opened and a plinth, with an elaborately carved, silver hourglass set on it slowly rose up. Alonzo waited for the movement to stop and reaching forward lifted the hourglass off the plinth and handed it to Michael. “Look at the top.”
Michael’s grip was nervous and he was suddenly afraid that the fragile looking glass might break. Both the top and bottom had a lid of about four inches of solid silver, which were linked in delicate latticed arches to the neck of the glass. The heaviness of the hourglass surprised him and yet, he was certain he could still sense the gentle vibration of the shifting grains of sand as they moved through the narrow channel when he turned the glass in his hands. In the centre of the top lid, set almost flush with the silver surface, was an azure-blue stone with a primitive but delicate carving of a horned man holding either two snakes or two rivers. There was a pair of hieroglyphs to either side of the figure, who sat cross-legged beneath a carving of the crescent moon and oval sun. “This is fantastic. What did you say you were called Alonzo? A Timekeeper.”
“Yes. A sahib al-zaman. Look at the bottom lid Michael.”
Michael inverted the hourglass, slowly, to look at the bottom side. Set with balas rubies he recognized that it was a representation of the constellation of Orion. “Orion?” Michael thought of his father.
“Yes, or in the language of the people, Araum, the God of Time. It is appropriate, as the Voices are really the archons of time. Astronomy, language, history, science, philosophy are really tools to help us understand and define the concept of time but it is an impossible task. Saint Augustine once astutely remarked, when asked about time, that he knew ‘exactly what it was but couldn’t explain it’. Time past, time present and time future are without matter. When all else is destroyed, time will remain. It is the mastery of time that will allow us to penetrate new dimensions both within and without ourselves. The Voices are the seven gates between birth and death. Only in harnessing the power of all seven, when the Archons of Time are gathered, do our people believe that time can be controlled. The responsibility of the Timekeeper is to ensure that does not happen.”
Michael had upturned the hourglass again and, as he watched the cascading sand, was tracing the stone carvings with his finger. His brow was furrowed with deep lines of concentration. “I swear that I have seen something like this before. It was recently but I can not remember where exactly.”
Alonzo smiled. “With Isabella?”
Michael looked startled. “Yes. Of course! She was wearing something similar on a neck chain the first time we met. Does she have one of the Voices?”
“Very perceptive Michael. Isabella is the guardian of Nefradaleth, the Woman’s Voice.”

There was a long silence as Michael tried to digest everything he had been told. He began thinking out loud as he replaced the hourglass on the lectern plinth. “Why . . .”
Alonzo touched the lever and the plinth sank down again. “What is it, Michael? Ask anything you want.”
“Why have you told me all of this, Alonzo? What is my role in the story?”
“You are to be the next guardian of Saclaresh,” the older man said matter-of-factly.
“Me?" Michael exclaimed. "How? You said it had disappeared.”
“Think of it not being lost but more like waiting to be found. By the person whose fate it is to do so, of course.”
“Where do I start?”
“From my researches my best guess is that it is in Etschmiadzin.”
“Etschmiadzin? Where is that?”
“Near Yerevan in Armenia. It is the monastery complex that is the seat of the Supreme Patriarch and Katholicos of the Armenian Church. I am now fairly certain that Saclaresh was returned by Hincks to the Belian family and that they gave it into the safekeeping of the Katholicos.”
Michael had barely touched his coffee and now that he reached for it, found it to be cold. The aroma had left with its heat.
Alonzo got up. “I will get some more. Are you sure you would not like some more food Michael? Perhaps some fruit?”
“No thank you, Alonzo. Coffee is fine.” Michael watched him shuffle out and went back to look at the books in the display case once more before leaving the library and taking a seat in the outer study. He could hear the rattle of the cups and saucers as the older man returned. “Who is the Gatherer, Alonzo?”
“A man called Charles Alexander.” The older man was blunt with his answer.
Charles Alexander! Not again! I don’t believe it.” Michael nearly knocked the tray from Alonzo’s hand as he brought his hands to his forehead in exacerbation.
“Do you know him, Michael?”
“This is the second time recently that I have had to answer that question, Alonzo. The man is beginning to irritate the hell out of me.”
“How do you know him?”
“His company has just made an offer for mine. I have never met him personally although I did hear him speak once.”
“Alexander is an extremely wealthy and powerful individual who wants to gather all the Voices.” Alonzo sighed as he put the tray down on a small side table and began pouring Michael his coffee.
“Thank you. Why?” Michael asked, more than disturbed at the coincidence of hearing Alexander’s name in connection with the Voices. Up to then it had been a story, not grounded in reality.
Alonzo stopped pouring. “Why does any powerful man seek more power than he has the ability to control? Sugar?”
“Thank you.” Michael stirred in the cubes as he watched Alonzo pour his own coffee and then sit down.
“Power is the ultimate prostitute. It is the mistress of enchantment, which fills the void or vacuum in men’s lives. In gaining it however, a price is extracted, an arrangement made, a Faustian deal with the devil accepted. Vacuums are spaces in men’s hearts devoid of everything except time. In order to be fully empowered it is also necessary to expel time from that void. He, Alexander, if he is the Gatherer; the green man, wants to control time.” The older man wearily closed his eyes and arched his head back as he finished.
Michael sensed that this weariness was almost a recognition that Alonzo’s responsibilities as the Timekeeper, had exhausted his energies. Alexander might win out. “What is Isabella’ s role in all of this, Alonzo? You said that two or three more of the seals might soon join the Voices that Alexander already has. Does that include Nefradaleth? Does she know of my possible involvement with another of the Voices?”
“Perhaps.” Alonzo spoke hesitantly. “I will talk to you about it another night. I am now quite tired. Would you mind if we stopped for this evening Michael.”
“No. Of course not.”
“Thank you Michael. Excuse me for one moment.” Alonzo went back into the library and after a few minutes returned with a package. “I want to give you something but I want you to promise me not to open it until you have left Granada.”
“Why, Alonzo?”
“I like to give my guests presents but I never want to embarrass them into returning the compliment. It is human nature to assess a present and then to judge what would be an appropriate response and the tendency is to rush out and acquire something in the city. By waiting until you leave Granada then if you wish to do so, it will be something from your heart and not expediency. That is my pleasure and my request.”
Michael took the package and placed it on his lap. “Thank you, Alonzo. I will wait.”
“Good, now let me show you to the door. We might meet for a walk tomorrow, perhaps?”
“Yes, Alonzo, I would like that. Same time?”
“Yes, Michael, same time. God willing.”

The two men walked slowly to the door. There was a light evening rain falling and Michael could feel the chill of the cold wind. One of the street lamps was flickering, struggling to fully light up. Michael turned back to say good night to Alonzo and was struck by how aged the intermittent weak orange light made the older man look. The eye sockets were deep in the shadows of his face as Alonzo looked up and down the street.
“Alonzo, what about the seventh Voice. You did not tell its story. Why?”
“The seventh Voice is called Ammonkaph, the Silent One, the last gate. Its history has always been shrouded and only revealed to its guardian. These guardians have been reputed to include Hermes Trimegistus, Pythagoras, and Plato and perhaps even Francis Bacon. I suspect, that for most of its journey it was to be found, like Nefradaleth, in Egypt, but cannot be absolutely sure.”
“That’s a pity, particularly when you know so much about the others,” Michael said sadly. He could sense Alonzo’s disappointment.
The older man nodded his head. “Ammon in Egyptian means the ‘hidden one’ and it was also the Hebrew name for Alexandria. An Arab writer suggests that the Voice was known as the Caliph’s Seal, which was supposed to have been in a secret lodge called the Abode of Learning, in Cairo about 800CE. That is the only reference I have found.”
“Perhaps it’s fated to remain hidden.”
“I’m not so sure. Ammonkaph is rooted in the matter of this world and waits just below the horizon of our lives to greet the rising and setting of the light.” Alonzo added bleakly.
The hairs on the back of Michael’s neck stiffened and he shivered as they were suddenly doused by a heavier shower funelling up the narrow street. Quickly stuffing Alonzo’s present under his jacket he took the older man’s hand and shook it warmly. “Good night, Alonzo.”
“I know it must be difficult for you Michael to be suddenly enveloped by such a metaphysical and, perhaps your intellect is screaming, seemingly fantastical sequence of events. All that I ask is that you open your heart to the gestures of our existence. All that I have told you normally takes many years and stages of full understanding, but there is not enough time for that. You do not fully realise it yet but your destiny is one of enormous responsibility and importance. Goodbye, Michael.”
“Alon–” Michael shivered again, his words cut off by the closing thump of the heavy door. He thought about ringing the bell, but stopped himself short. Thoughts of the connections to the Voices, to his company, to Isabella and to Charles Alexander swirled in his consciousness. Pulling up his collar Michael turned to face into the driving rain of an electrical storm that had descended on the city.

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