Posts Tagged ‘Finnegans Wake’


Figures from the ‘Sibylline Geography’ Chapter of The World’s End

August 20, 2015

Here are Figures 12 and 13 from an early draft of the last chapter of The World’s End, which came to be headed, “‘The maudlin river then gets its dues’: Charting the Sibylline Geography of Rock Art”. Apart from the photograph of the carved rock at Hopeman and the page from Splendor Solis, these illustrations weren’t included in the final edit.

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Figure 13 (below) shows the redness of the rapids of Allt Dearg (‘red stream’), at Cawdor, photographed at sunset. Cawdor, like the river name, Calder, means ‘hard water’ or ‘rapid stream’. Cawdor Castle – family seat of Macbeth – is adjacent to this fast stretch of Allt Dearg.

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Much was made in this chapter about the association of red rocks, rapid streams and an alignment of sites with spiral carvings, found by archaeologist, Paul Frodsham (Frodsham 1986). This alignment included the red sandstone monolith, known as Long Meg, quarried from a rapid stretch of the River Eden some miles away. Long Meg of Westminster, legendary heroine of ballads and chapbooks dating from the sixteenth century, reputedly accompanied the king’s troops to France as a laundress (Menefee 1996: 81).

The ‘Sibylline Geography’ chapter focused on places associated with ‘uncanny women’ – fairy guardians of animals, of wells and springs, as well as the supernatural ‘death messenger’ known as the Banshee. The Banshee, and the death messenger known as The Washer at the Ford, is sometimes associated with the mundane activity of doing the laundry, with some accounts of Banshee apparitions reporting her at the riverside beating the laundry with a wooden bat known as a ‘beetle’ or ‘paddle’ (Lysaght 1996: 130-135).


Anati’s survey of images carved on the Great Rock of Naquane, Val Camonica. There is a preponderance of ‘paddle’ motifs, including a dense array of them above the labyrinth motif. Image found on this site.

Red Clyde

Emmanuel Anati notes that some researchers contend that the ‘paddle’ motifs on the Great Rock at Naquane were depictions of the paddle used for beating laundry, ‘like those still today in different areas of central Europe’ (Anati 1964: 203). If so, I wonder whether there are allusions here to the ‘uncanny’ dimensions of the mundane activity of beating the laundry, embodied in the Gaelic name of the River Clyde (Clota – ‘The Washer’), and evident in the testimony of the accused witch, Isobel Gowdie of Auldearn (a village few miles from the carved rock pictured in Hopeman), in her account of a spell to raise the wind.

Angelo Fossati (2008) links the toponomy of Naquane to that of Aquane, uncanny female beings in the folklore of the central-eastern Alps, known by diverse names, such as: Anquane, Enguane, Gane, Laganes, Sagane, Aivane and Vivane (Fossati 2008: 40). This connects to Aganippe, the nymph and eponymous spring on Mount Helicon (ibid.), brought forth when the hoof of Pegasus struck the rock.

A birch washing bat from Norway (c.1770).

A birch washing bat from Norway (c.1770).

I fancied I’d found a reference to the Great Rock at Naquane in Finnegans Wake, as Joyce describes a manifestation of Anna Livia Plurabelle (ALP), in the guise of the Prankquean/the Two Temptresses/Lililiths/Peena and Queena, implicated in the fall from grace of Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker (HCE):

alongsoons Panniquanne starts showing of her peequuliar talonts. Awaywrong wandler surking to a rightrare rute for his plain utterrock sukes, appelled to by her fancy claddaghs.

(FW 606.29-32).

With the word, ‘utterrock’, is an allusion to the German unterrock: ‘petticoat’, as well as, perhaps, an attribute of the Aquane: ‘women who can change into otters’ (Fossati 2008: 40). I also suspect a ‘rock of utterance’, like the Lorelei rock on the Rhine, or ‘the chair made of rough stone, overlooking the river Finnisk at Modeligo, Co. Waterford’, which ‘could be a seat of the Banshee’s manifestations’ (Lysaght 1996: 127). Joyce incorporates here too the prophetic poise of Ota, the wife of the Viking invader, Thorgil, (McHugh 2006: 552), who took to the high altar of Clonmacnois cathedral to utter her prophecies:

and she sass her nach, chillybombom and forty bonnets, upon the altarstane. May all have mossyhonours!

(FW 552.29-30).

The ‘fancy claddaghs’ which lure HCE are presumably the red flannel petticoats traditionally worn by the women of Claddagh, a community in Galway (Sheffield 1998: 108). In the fusion of the Italian word for clothes, panni (ibid.) and the great rock of Naquane, is a suggestion of the panic the Aquanic presence may induce. In the Greek term, πᾶν – pan – meaning ‘throughout’ or ‘everywhere’, it should be no surprise that an Aganippic element accrues to Anne Boleyn’s Well, in Carshalton, Surrey, created when the hoof of Anne’s horse struck the ground.

Anne B Well


Anati, E. 1960. La Grande Roche de Naquane. Paris: Masson et Cie.

Anati, E. 1964. Camonica Valley (Trans. L. Asher). London: Jonathan Cape.

Fossati, A. 2008. Following Arianna’s Thread: Symbolic Figures at Female Rock Art Sites at Naquane and In Valle, Valcamonica, Italy. In Nash, G. and Children, G. (eds.) The Archaeology of Semiotics and the Social Order of Things. Oxford: Archaeopress, pp. 31-44.   (Link here).

Frodsham, P. 1996. Spirals in Time: Morwick Mill and the Spiral Motif in the British Neolithic. Northern Archaeology 13/14, pp. 101-141.

Lysaght, P. 1996. The Banshee: The Irish Supernatural Death Messenger. Dublin: O’Brien Press.

McHugh, R. 2006. Annotations to Finnegans Wake. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Menefee, S. 1996. Meg and her Daughters: Some traces of Goddess-beliefs in Megalithic Folklore? In Billington, S. and Green, M. (eds.) The Concept of the Goddess. London: Routledge, pp. 78-90.

Sheffield, E. 1998. Joyce’s Abandoned Female Costumes, Gratefully Received. Cranbury, NJ: Associated University Presses.


Providential divining from Sholing Common to Glastonbury: two chalybeate springs

April 19, 2015

Chance furnishes me with what I need. I’m like a man who stumbles: my foot strikes something, I look down, and it’s exactly what I’m in need of.

James Joyce.

An unexpected mission to the Sholing area on Friday just gone (when I was supposed to be 15-20 miles away in Portsmouth), led me up Botany Bay Road. I thought I knew the area quite well, having lived here nearly twenty years, but it was with consternation that I noticed what seemed like a chalybeate spring emerging by the side of the road, not far from its junction with Portsmouth Road.


A fleeting visit on foot later that evening and on Saturday morning, en route to Somerset, confirmed my initial suspicion that here was a spring that appears not to be documented or marked on any map.


Considering an ‘obsession’ (well-documented on this blog) with the phenomenon of such iron-rich sources of water (the most well-known examples being the Chalice Well at Glastonbury and the mineral spring at Tunbridge Wells), it seemed a remarkable coincidence to find such a source on my doorstep, the day before a planned jaunt to Glastonbury. What was this, a manifestation of the Surrealists’ objective chance in a psychogeographical terrain? Did this ‘unexpected’ conjunction occur according to some ‘schedule’ unknown to me, an element of what Asger Jorn described as ‘the systematic structures of the situationist tendency’?


The spring does not so much gush as ooze or seep from marshy ground, staining the ground a rusty red with iron deposits. I realised that many years before I must have stumbled, unknowingly, on similar sources elsewhere and thought that someone had disposed of diesel fuel in the middle of the woods as I encountered a red quagmire – why would anyone do something as disgusting as that in the middle of nowhere, I thought.


This red seepage trickled into a roaring drain, where a fast-flowing stream on the opposite side of the road had been culverted. There had been much culverting on the part of Sholing Common between Botany Bay Road, Portsmouth Road and the aptly-named Spring Road in advance of a projected major housing development in the 1960s. Thankfully, local opposition saved this area around Millers Pond, at the bottom of Spring Road, from destruction.


Of course, the scheduled visit to Glastonbury on Saturday had now to include the Chalice Well, for which Frederick Bligh Bond had designed a wrought iron lid in the shape of a vesica piscis, installed in 1919. The same device, adapted as the ‘ALP diagram’ in Finnegans Wake, symbolises the coincidence of opposites and the indissoluble unity of matter/spirit. The waters emerge from the Lion’s Mouth in the Chalice Well Gardens, staining the ground red, as well as any vessel used repeatedly, such as the glass seen on the left in this picture.


As the waters flow downhill, this rusting effect presents a striking contrast with the grey stone and the green foliage.


During some moments of quiet reflection and conversation by the pool at the bottom of the garden it was with some amusement that we saw a magpie – the living embodiment of oppositional coincidence in Finnegans Wake – swoop down boldly for some refreshment from the stream before it scuttled away along the flagstones.


In another correspondence, the ‘White Spring’ which emerges from the foot of the Tor on the opposite side of the road from the Chalice Well, put me in mind of the clear torrent culverted under Botany Bay Road, opposite the Sholing red spring, as well as the two ‘rushy hollow heroines’ of Finnegans Wake – who ‘came down into the world as amusers… Rosa and Lily Miskinguette’ (FW 32.9-11).



The Phoenix Tavern

April 5, 2015

The Phœnix Tavern in Swan Street (formerly Cow Lane), Northampton, is long gone. When I found this picture (so long ago I’ve forgotten where I found it) I thought of the Phoenix Tavern in Chapelizod, which recurs in James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. Chapelizod is the place most closely associated with Issy in the novel, the written character into whom Joyce has transformed his living daughter, Lucia (Eide 2002: 142).

Phoenix North

The Northampton pub would already have gone (I think) by the time that Lucia Joyce was sent, in 1951, to St Andrew’s Hospital in that town. Here she stayed for over thirty years. She died on December 12th 1982 after suffering a stroke.


Eide, M. 2002. Ethical Joyce. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Hyderow Jenny: the Chalybeate Spring at Tunbridge Wells is flowing again…

February 21, 2015

I picked this book up in a second-hand bookshop yesterday. Finding it and beginning to write of the image on its cover has evolved (as of the last twenty minutes) into one of those coincidences…

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In the process of composing a post about this rock formation on Rusthall Common, Tunbridge Wells (still to come), I’ve just discovered that within the last twenty four hours it has been confirmed that the waters of the chalybeate spring, around which the spa town grew, are flowing steadily again, after the spring mysteriously dried up in May last year for the first time in over 400 years (news here). I posted about the drying-up of the spring here.

with a grit as hard as the trent of the thimes but a
touch as saft as the dee in flooing and never a Hyderow Jenny the
like of her lightness at look and you leap, rheadoromanscing long
evmans invairn, about little Anny Roners and all the Lavinias of
ester yours and pleding for them to herself in the periglus glatsch
hangs over her trickle bed, it’s a piz of fortune if it never falls from
the stuffel, and, when that mallaura’s over till next time and all the
prim rossies are out dressparading and the tubas tout tout for the
glowru of their god, making every Dinny dingle after her down
the Dargul dale

James Joyce, Finnegans Wake, page 327.

That the personification of the River Liffey (the river of life) and all rivers in Finnegans Wake is Anna Livia Plurabelle, the spouse of Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker, is apposite considering that Mrs Humphreys, the occupant of a cottage adjacent to the spring, is said to have become the first ‘dipper’, inaugurating a long tradition whereby the women dispensing the water were appointed by the Lord of the Manor of Rusthall (see here).  In this respect she is, like Anna Livia (ALP) ‘spawife to laird of Manna’ (FW 242.25-26). Indeed, the name ‘Rusthall’ is derived from the Old English for a well with red-coloured waters, suggesting the spring was known of long before its ‘discovery’ in 1606. Ominously, in 2008 the title of Lord of the Manor, the common land and the chalybeate spring at The Pantiles was bought by TargetFollow, a property development company based in Norwich (see here). Were the Naiads offended?

Nature’s simplest atom and mother of all matter, hydrogen feeds the stars as well as interlaces the molecules of their biological descendants – to whom it ultimately whispers the secrets of quantum reality.

Evelina Domnitch, Dmitry Gelfand, ‘Hydrogeny’ (2010), from here.


Visionary Mineralogy

January 11, 2015



‘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).