Archive for December, 2014


‘It darkles, (tinct, tint)’: A Solstitial Coincidence

December 21, 2014

I’ve learnt from Brian Taylor’s blog that today’s Winter Solstice has an additional significance, for

It so happens that this year, the Winter Solstice falls on a dark moon once again.  The sun enters Capricorn at 23.15  g.m.t. on Sunday 21st December, followed by a New Moon at 1.35 a.m. on Monday 22nd.  The solstice therefore co-incides with the Jewish festival of Hannukah, which is timed for the dark/new Moon nearest the solstice – the darkest day of the year – in order to mark the renewal of life.

The cosmic coincidence of Yuletide solar and lunar cycles, as well as the eight-day Jewish holiday of Hanukkah – known as the Festival of Lights – is amenable to interpretation through James Joyce’s holy book, Finnegans Wake:

With help of Hanoukan’s lamp. When otter leaps in outer parts then Yul remembers Mei

(FW 245.5-6).

Diamond Delugion

Symbolising the ‘underlacking of her twenty nine shifts’ (FW 289.11-12), the ‘twentynine ditties round the wishful waistress’ (FW 255.33) of the lunar cycle in Finnegans Wake, are the twenty nine ‘leap-year girls’ of ‘St Bride’s Finishing Establishment’ (FW 220.2-4): ‘And what do you think that pride was drestin! Voolykins’ diamondinah’s vestin’ (FW 250.30-31). They are The Floras, ‘a month’s bunch of pretty maidens’ who ‘form with valkyrienne licence the guard’ for Izod (FW 220). Anna Livia Plurabelle (ALP), her ‘fiery goosemother’ (FW 242.25), is also their ‘mivver, Mrs Moonan… off in the fuerst quarter scrubbing the backsteps of Number 28’ (FW 157.14-16).


The position of the sun plotted at the same time (15:00hrs) over the course of a year forms a ‘figure 8’ pattern known as an analemma, pictured here at the Erechtheion in Athens (from here). It coincides with Finnegans Wake‘s ‘annusual curse of things’ (FW 516.32-33), ‘though its cartomance hallucinate like an erection in the night of the mummery of whose deed’ (FW 310.22-24).

The concern with lunar cycles in Finnegans Wake correlates with the Kabbalistic conception of Shekhinah within Judaism, which introduces the symbolism of the feminine into the divine (Scholem 1965: 106). In the ambivalence and the exile of the Shekhinah, linked to the phases of the moon, the powers of mercy and of stern judgment are alternately preponderant (Scholem 1965:107), so that at times she ‘tastes the other, bitter side, and then her face is dark’ (ibid.). This dual aspect of the Shekhinah is personified as the two wives of Jacob, Rachel and Leah; the one exiled from God and lamenting, the other in her perpetually repeated reunion with her Lord (Scholem 1965: 149), suggested by the ‘lighter’ and ‘darker’ halves of the diamond in the ALP diagram, and the ‘diamondcuts’ at Knowth and Newgrange, as well as the ‘Gay’ and ‘Gloamy’ aspects of Issy. They appear in the Wake as the fortune-teller:

Kate (Miss Rachel Lea Varian, she tells forkings for baschfellors, under purdah of card palmer teaput tosspot Madam d’Elta, during the pawses)

(FW 221.12-14).


The ‘ambivalence’, the alternating phases of the Shekhinah, is related to that of its exile, sometimes represented as the banishment of the queen or of the king’s daughter by her husband or father (Scholem 1965: 149). The ‘lessening of the moon’ was interpreted by the Kabbalists as a symbol of the Shekhinah’s exile, the Shekhinah itself being the ‘holy moon’, which has fallen from its high rank, been robbed of its light and sent into cosmic exile, shining only with reflected light (ibid.: 51). No cosmic event seemed to be more closely connected with the exile of all things than the periodic waning of the moon (ibid.: 152). This exile is ritually dramatised in the yom kippur katan, or Lesser Day of Atonement, as the Kabbalists called the day before the new moon, devoted to fasting and repentance:

Let us hear, therefore, as you honour and obey the queen, whither the indwellingness of that which shamefieth be entwined of one or atoned of two

(FW 488.1-3).

The actual day of the new moon, ‘When the moon of mourning is set and gone’ (FW 623.27-28), and the moon is reborn, is a day of rejoicing on which fasting is expressly prohibited (ibid.: 151).

The ‘sacred marriage’ which annuls, momentarily, the exile of the Shekhinah each sabbath is a ceremony in which Messianic redemption is anticipated (ibid.: 153) (‘do you mind waiting?’), manifesting Benjamin’s dialectic at a standstill, the opening to a Messianic interruption of ‘the homogeneous course of history’ (1970: 254), between the ‘horns’ of the old moon and the new:

There’s Mumblesome Wadding Murch cranking up to the hornemoonium… The finnecies of poetry wed music. Feeling the jitters?… Now’s your never! Peena and Queena are duetting a giggle-for-giggle and the brideen alannah is lost in her diamindwaiting.

(FW 377.14-20).

The state of being lost in her two minds at her diamond wedding, depicted in the ‘duominous… mezzotinties’ (FW 552.24) of megalithic lozenge/lattice motifs, and the double entrances or ‘twoinns’ (FW 111.17) of Knowth, accords with the ambivalence of the Shekhinah. Ambiguity, states Benjamin, is ‘the imagistic appearance of dialectics at a standstill… a dream image’ (Cohen 1993:46). The use of dream elements in waking being ‘the textbook example of dialectical thinking’ (Cohen 1993:48), in ‘awakening’ occurs the dialectical synthesis between dream consciousness and waking consciousness (Cohen 1993: 55).

Paul Delvaux Les Femmes devant La Mer 1943

Paul Delvaux Les Femmes devant La Mer 1943

Brights we’ll be brights. With help of Hanoukan’s lamp. When otter leaps in outer parts then Yul remember Mei. Her hung maid mohns are bluming, look, to greet those loes on coast of amethyst; arcglows seafire siemens lure and wextward warnerforth’s hookercrookers.

(FW 245.4-9).