Posts Tagged ‘geese’


‘By the Light of the Slithery Moon’: the mysterious migration of the Glass Eel

March 30, 2014

At some point between March 17th and March 24th the Dark-Bellied Brent Geese, who I’d customarily see grazing around the shores of Tipner Lake, must have started their flight back to the Taimyr Peninsula on the Arctic Circle. They seem to have timed their departure from this bit of the Solent to coincide with the Equinox. Safe journey.


Tomorrow night over a million young eels are expected to swim up the River Parrett, which flows through Dorset and Somerset, ‘exploiting a spring tide and a full moon to arrive in unprecedented numbers’ (IoS 30/3/14). Their anticipated passage up this channel is almost a metaphor for the mysteries of life and generation, ruled by the moon. This arrival of the ‘glass eels’ – so named because of their translucent appearance in their juvenile form – is prompting a massive operation by conservationists (see here) to catch as many of them as possible, to transport them round the man-made obstacles of weirs and flood defences blocking their passage upstream.


The sheer numbers due mark a revival in fortunes for the European eel (Anguilla anguilla), as mysterious as its mass migration from its unknown spawning grounds, thought to be in the Sargasso Sea south of Bermuda. From 1979 levels the population of glass eels declined by up to 99 per cent, leading to the classification of the once-common European eel as ‘critically endangered’. Their unexpected revival in the last three years is unexplained (IoS 30/3/14).

Dream of SirensOne thing I have noticed today is that the middle siren of Leonora Carrington’s triptych, Sueño de Sirenas (1963) – ‘The Dream of the Sirens’ – appears to be wearing an ‘eel pot hat’ (as opposed to a top hat). Here are some woven eel traps/eel pots for comparison…


Woven eel traps, found on this site


Edit 17/4/14  – Today, I came across this interesting project


The Ecology of Soul Flight: From Siberia to the Solent… and Back

November 18, 2013


The knowledge that the migratory Dark-bellied Brent Goose – currently overwintering in the Solent – has travelled all the way from its summer breeding grounds on the Taimyr peninsula of northern Siberia, has led me to look at the place of geese in the ‘shamanic’ outlook on the world of  communities in Siberia and Central Asia.


Map taken from this site.

What has become evident to me is that it is this very migratory behaviour of certain waterfowl, such as geese, cranes and swans, which has lent these birds such a centrality in the diverse shamanic cosmologies of Eurasia.

A female Nganasan shaman from the Taimyr Autonomous Area performing a ritual (from here)

A highlight of a visit to the Ethnographic Museum of the Peoples of Siberia in Ulan Ude, Buryatia in 1995 was the open air re-creation of an Evenki (Tungus) village, featuring a shaman’s house very similar to the one pictured on a Russian postcard from about 1911-1914, in front of which this female shaman is drumming  (from here).


A.F.Anisimov, in his ‘The Shaman’s Tent of the Evenks and the Origin of the Shamanistic Rite’ has written the most detailed and influential study of the complex architecture of the Evenk shaman’s house and its surrounding structures and imagery. The museum reconstruction allows visitors to move around this materialisation of the three-tier shamanic cosmos, albeit divorced from the transformative practices which would bring this world to life.

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I was impressed by the rows of tall, slender poles with carved wooden birds mounted on the top. Looking at the notes I made following the visit to the museum, I see that I have written that these birds are ‘seekers after the soul of the person to be healed’ by the shaman.

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I’ve had a photocopy of Roberte Hamayon’s voluminous study of Siberian shamanism – La Chasse à L’Âme (The Hunt of the Soul) – gathering dust for many years. Digging it out for the first time in years to look for something else, I found this drawing on page 314. It shows the Evenk shaman’s house with rows of poles mounted with birds and other animals leading from it. Hamayon’s accompanying text explains the significance of migratory birds to shamanic cosmology in a way I had not realised before, illuminating a number of diverse phenomena which I hope to explore in further posts.

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Very roughly translated, Hamayon states that in the majority of Siberian societies, the great rituals took place in the summer season , during the stay of the migratory birds, marking their arrival and their departure (looking forward to their return the following year). It can be said that during the winter the shaman lacks the power to shamanise effectively because the birds have not returned to reinvigorate him/her. These migratory birds (swans, geese, cranes…) seem to play the rôle of carriers (porteurs), not of countable, individual souls, but of a ‘life force’, a soul-substance underlying all animate being. The birds’ return coincides with the thaw at the end of the scarcity of winter, materialising the idea of renewal.

This accords with the theme of good fortune returning with migratory waterfowl, woven into this Anatolian shepherd’s bag

A shepherd's bag woven by nomadic tribespeople of central Anatolia in modern Turkey; a design from Kayseri/Tomarza village. The horizontal 'V' pattern represents the return flight of migratory cranes, symbolic of good news, while the cross-hatched symbols are the nests of 'holy birds'. (Picture: Simon Crook. I'm grateful to Mr Bilal Olgun for explaining the symbolism woven into this bag).

A shepherd’s bag woven by nomadic tribespeople of central Anatolia in modern Turkey; a design from Kayseri/Tomarza village. The horizontal ‘V’ pattern represents the return flight of migratory cranes, symbolic of good news, while the cross-hatched symbols are the nests of ‘holy birds’. (Picture: Simon Crook. I’m grateful to Mr Bilal Olgun for explaining the symbolism woven into this bag).

Looking for images for Nganasan shamans and their drums, I found the cover of this CD which has a picture of a Nganasan shaman bearing a drum which appears to have two geese in flight painted on it.


Watching the Dark-bellied Brent Geese this winter, whether they are flying overhead, grazing on the mudflats when the tide is out, or bobbing on the water when the tide is in, I do feel a sense of the interconnectedness of all things, near and far, from the Solent to Siberia… It’s nice to have a bit of Taimyr in Tipner! As a friend suggested, it seems to capture the imagination more than the civic ‘Portsmouth twinned with Duisberg’ type thing: ‘I would imagine that the experience of seeing a bird return would be felt identically by you and your counterpart in Siberia. A non verbal soul exchange, each teaching a little you have learnt over the year to the other’.


Roberte Hamayon 1990 La chasse à l’âme: esquisse d’une théorie du chamanisme sibérien Société d’ethnologie, Université de Paris

A.F.Anisimov, ‘The Shaman’s Tent of the Evenks and the Origin of the Shamanistic Rite’, Henry N. Michael, ed., Studies in Siberian shamanism, Toronto, 1963.

Embroidered birds (geese?) on an Evenk shaman's headdress (from here).

Embroidered ‘goose-like’ birds on an Evenk shaman’s headdress.


“How weary is the cackling goose!”

November 15, 2013

The Dark-bellied Brent Goose – overwintering around the Solent from its breeding grounds in the Taimyr peninsula of northern Siberia – is taking on for me something of the same talismanic quality as the Swift and the Magpie.

Solitary Goose

So, I’m grateful to my friend, Neil Coulling, who has alerted me to this online presentation of a rock shelter in Egypt, which reveals striking parallels between the shipwreck/goose/regeneration theme of my last post and the same theme in an ancient Egyptian mystical context. As Neil has observed,

“I have been quite taken with the Egyptian mythological creator goose, Ngg wr, the “Great Honker”

Honking and producing the solar egg from its mouth.

Was Joyce aware of the correspondences between the Greater Arcana and the paths on the Tree of Life in Qabalah?
I would make a wild guess and put geese in the 32nd path, Tau, from Malkuth to Yesod.
This path is represented by GA XXI, the World or Universe.
A Hyperborean migration?
Snow geese are Chen Hyperborea. This could also be the legendary Middle Pillar, from Malkuth to Kether. (Flying over Daarth… Like Le Voltigeurs in the Qlipoth, but more graceful….)”

The online presentation is a summary derived from J.C. Darnell, Theban Desert Road Survey II: The Rock Shrine of Paḥu, Gebel Akhenaton, and Other Rock Inscriptions from the Western Hinterland of Qamûla, Yale Egyptological Publications 1, in press. I now quote at length from this presentation (in green ink), interspersing it with images from Tipner today.:

The rock shrine of Pahu is a remarkable collection of inscriptions — at least 34 identifiable groups — located along an approximately 14 meter wide portion of limestone beneath a natural rock overhang. Although a few are earlier and some later — including a sexually explicit Greek text — the majority of the inscriptions are of Eighteenth Dynasty date;of these, almost all are the work of a man named Paḥu, the relative simplicity of whose title — w‘b-priest of Amun of Ḥeriḥeramun — stands in contrast to the quality, variety, and inventiveness of his rock inscriptions. Paḥu’s inscriptions include such unexpected images as the figure of King Aḥmose and a speaking image of the goddess Taweret. Of all Paḥu’s inscriptions, however, the most remarkable is certainly Paḥu’s prayer from the midst of the stormy river.

boat goose

This inscription is an unusual expression of Paḥu’s piety and compositional originality. Paḥu carved his text over the more lightly incised depiction of a boat; as Paḥu’s text concerns an apparent storm and resulting shipwreck on the Nile, the combination of text and image appears to represent an interesting attempt by Paḥu to embed the visual and written information, rather than simply employing the text as an annotation or caption to a depiction. The vessel rides through the text as Paḥu’s rode into the storm that so frightened the priest from Ḥeriḥeramun. Paḥu appears legitimately to describe trouble in a storm, and does not employ the image of the “deep” as a means of describing trouble of a more psychological nature.


Paḥu refers to his place of trouble with the term mḏw(.t), a word appearing elsewhere in reference to troubled sailing on the Nile, and having Netherworldly connotations as well, occurring in the Sixth and Tenth Hours of the Amduat. In the Lament of Menna (O. OIM 12074 + O. IFAO 2188) and the Teaching of Ani, the mḏw.t-deep is a metaphor for the potentially deadly results of involvement with the “woman from outside.” These New Kingdom texts represent continuations of earlier metaphors for rescuing the troubled one from the flood, and the Lament of Menna certainly threatens the physically wandering and morally anchorless son with trouble that apparently results from a small boat encountering waves, with a resulting “sinking into the depths of the Netherworld.” The imbedding of prayer and boat image in Paḥu’s inscription, and the prayer’s specification of high waves, suggest that Paḥu’s trouble was indeed nautical, and the deep waters in which he found himself sinking were very real and deep waters, not the arms of an “outside” temptress, or some other metaphorically addressed problem.


By employing the verb ḫni, Paḥu foreshadows his reference to the smn-goose in the final portion of the text. The alighting is the return of Paḥu to earth and the return of his departing soul out of the depths back to his saved body.


The Cry and the Goose

According to the prayer, Paḥu’s cry to Amun became a cry of regeneration, presumably at the time when Amun brought him to land. The content of the simple and direct quotation, as the Ayinš-cry of Paḥu, may purposefully evoke the graphically similar term bg3w for “cry.” The goose is particularly appropriate as a form of the savior for one in trouble in or near the Nile, and the very voice of the one calling out for help may be compared to the cry of the Amun goose as creator. Note particularly the text P. BM 10042 (P. Harris Magical) recto 7, 6-7, in which the one reciting calls out:
Come to me, and cause that my voice be heard,
as is heard the voice of the great cackler in the night.


The British Museum magical treatise reveals a desire by the reciter of the text to identify his or her outcry — even musical expression, as this could as accurately be rendered “cause that my song be heard, as is heard the song of the great cackler” — with the sound of creation, just as Paḥu appears to have viewed his own petition to Amun. In Book of the Dead chapter 56, the availability of breathable air in the netherworld is linked to guarding the egg of the ngg wr, and the goose form of Amun could well be charged with providing breath for the apparently drowning Paḥu. The goose of solar Amun, emerged from the cosmic egg, may have been envisaged as sailing out upon the bi3-firmament. Paḥu may also have had in mind Chapter 98 of the Book of the Dead, in which the voice of the deceased cackling “like a smn-goose” is associated with the bringing of a boat in the netherworld.

The call of the goose is probably an allusion to the cry of creation uttered by the “great cackler” in the eastern horizon, the cry of creation and recreation, after which the goose form of the creator, the smn of Amun, himself becomes bg3-weary. On the interior east wall of the Colonade Hall of Luxor Temple, in a depiction of the divine barks leaving Luxor Temple at the conclusion of the Opet Festival — the beginning of the “reentrance” of Amun to Karnak Temple — a priest turns toward the procession following behind, facing the front of Luxor Temple and the bark of Amun as it emerges on the shoulders of its priestly porters, and makes a pithy yet interesting pronouncement:

How weary is the cackling goose!


The brief statement is pregnant with religious implications for the sexual activity of Amun during the Opet Festival, and for the rejuvenating power of the hieros gamos that formed part of the significance of Opet. The creative cry of the deity evokes the lassitude that results from the creative process, and the cry itself, ngg and bgg, can pun on the Coffin Text term b3gg(.t), “flaccid (here post-ejaculatory) phallus.” As the Decree of Amunresonther for Neskhons relates, Amun is one “who exhausts himself as the Nile Inundation, in order to enliven what he has created.” Considering the phonetic puns possible between bg3/b3gi and bg/bgg/ngg, the cry of “I am shipwrecked” might literally become the cry of the goose.

Paḥu’s prayer and the aid of Amun contains neither refers to a do ut des relationship between the deity and a worshipper, nor alludes to the tribulation of Paḥu as a chastisement of the deity. Paḥu‘s prayer may belong to — or even slightly predate — a tradition of recording more extemporaneous hymnic productions that developed during the time of Amenhotep III. The images of rearing animals before plants (Paḥu Nos. 18, 20, and 33), the Taweret goddess (Paḥu No. 6), and the Hathors (Paḥu Nos. 20, 22, and 26) of Paḥu’s site, along with the image of a man before a large taper at Gebel Akhenaton (Gebel Akhenaton Lower Site No. 13) suggest that Paḥu may have carved his texts and images at the time of the New Year — the time of the epagomenal days, the flooding time of the topsy-turvy world, the weal and woe of year and cosmos hanging in the balance. Like the inscription of Pawah in TT139, Paḥu’s site preserves a petition to the distant deity, who can nevertheless approach as savior. By carving his prayer at his “New Years” shrine, Paḥu preserved the record of an appropriate and answered petition to the deity, thereby providing a suitable template for the prayers that he might offer as wAyinb-priest during the vigil before a festival.


Paḥu composed a brief literary text of religious import, in which the prayer itself is but a short cry, as brief as the creative cackle of Amun as the goose, to whom Paḥu in his prayer appealed, and to whom Paḥu likens his own cry and his subsequent alighting on land. His prayer as Paḥu bequeathed it to us is short but interesting, a New Kingdom harbinger of the de profundis (Psalm 130 [Septuagint 129]) and Jonah’s prayer from the belly of the “great fish” (Jonah 2:2-9). In terms of the layout of the text, the concepts finding expression therein, and the order thereof, a peculiarly close parallel is Psalm 40: 1-3 (here quoted in the King James version):

1 I waited patiently for the LORD; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.
2 He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.
3 And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God …

In the Psalter, God hears the cry of the afflicted and brings the wretched one out of a mucky depth — compare Paḥu’s “I called to Amun, when I was in trouble, <in> the depth of the river, when the waves were high” — and sets the feet of the afflicted on solid ground and orders the goings thereof — so Paḥu’s “and he caused that I travel the earth by my own volition” — with the result that God puts a song in the mouth of the thankful Psalmist — being Paḥu’s concluding “and he caused that I give voice like the goose”.


Relevant to the creative cackle of the goose, evoked above, is Neil’s observation that the qabalistic gematria of 111 in the Sepher Sephiroth includes AUM ‘the divine, all-encompassing consciousness taking the form of the first and original vibration manifesting as sound.’

Dort hinaus, deine Wege zu!
Doch rät dir Gurnemanz:
lass du hier künftig die Schwäne
in Ruh’
und suche dir, Gänser, die Gans!


111 Brent Geese Aloft

November 13, 2013

How many aleveens had she in tool? I can’t rightly rede you that. Close only knows. Some say she had three figures to fill and confined herself to a hundred eleven, wan bywan bywan, making meanacuminamoyas

James Joyce, Finnegans Wake (201.27-30).

There are more of them every day I see them. A couple of weeks ago I saw about a dozen on the water. Another day, I counted forty-six… then fifty-five. Today the tide was right out and there were many, many more gathered on the mudflats of Tipner Lake. A few started walking towards the stranded, clinker-built boat which has become something of a landmark here. A few more followed them, until virtually the whole flock started filing towards the boat.

Low Tide at Tipner. Picture from here.

Low Tide at Tipner. Picture from here.

There were at least 108 there – I’ll round it up to 111… As I walked over to have a closer look, I must have startled them, for the whole flock took flight, disappearing over the rooftops of Twyford Avenue. Only the dozen or so who decided not to join ‘the long march’ could be seen pacing about on the mud in the far distance.

Brent Geese on Farlington Marshes, picture from here

Brent Geese on Farlington Marshes. Picture from here

According to this site, the geese regularly seen in the Solent area

are the sub-species called Dark-bellied Brent Geese, Branta bernicla bernicla. They breed on the Taimyr Peninsula in Northern Siberia, and spend the winter on the east and south coasts of England, and other sites in north-western Europe. The total (world) population is about 300,000 geese, and about 100,000 come to the UK, with 30,000 ish coming to the Solent harbours and coast. Up to 6,500 geese use Langstone Harbour, and about 2,700 use Portsmouth Harbour (Source : BTO in Brent Goose Strategy). The first arrivals for the winter are mainly in mid September, although this date is becoming earlier as the population increases. Geese have proved to be adaptable and are able to feed on a wide range of plants. In Autumn they eat algae and eelgrasses in the shallow waters of the harbours. As these sources become depleted, they move on to grass pastures, winter wheat and other crops. In Spring, most geese migrate north by the end of March.

On the way to who knows where?


Why 111? In the context of James Joyce’s novel, Finnegans Wake, the number has a talismanic significance (best explored in depth elsewhere). Suffice to say, there are connections with the Irish festival of the dead, Samhain, coinciding with Hallowe’en and All Saints’ Day (1/11 – 1st November), in which the boundaries between this world and the otherworld are more permeable. Then there’s the gematric connection with the ‘fiery goosemother’ ALP, the numerical value of her letters in the Hebrew alphabet (aleph, lamed, etc.) amounting to 111, the number of her offspring: ‘Olaph lamm et, all that pack? We won’t have room in the kirkeyaard’ (201.30-31). In this way, Joyce also identifies ALP with the Major Arcana of the Tarot, each card of which – 22 in all – is identified with one of the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet: ‘But it’s quite on the cards she’ll shed more and merrier, twills and trills, sparefours and spoilfives, nordsihkes and sudsevers and ayes and neins to a litter’ (201.36-202.2).

Sifting through the litter of old papers the other week, I found a scribbled note of something I’d culled off the internet years ago:


Well, I’d obviously read around Paul Devereux’s research on sonic archaeology and his theories about chanting in chambered tombs, but the site I scribbled those notes from must have been associated with the late Brian Barritt, whose obituary can be found here. I was obviously very taken with the coincidence between the generative matrix of ALP in Finnegans Wake and ‘the frequency of cell regeneration’, 111Hz…


The Goose Girl: an illustration by Arthur Rackham

October 23, 2013

The Goose Girl: an illustration by Arthur Rackham


New Terrestrial Effigy Discovered: The High Ham Pig

September 11, 2013

On the fringe of the famous Glastonbury Zodiac – close to the Leo and Gemini figures, and the ‘Girt Dog of Langport’ which guards – Cerberus-like – the Zodiac, another creature can be seen peering over the riverine boundary of the Otherworld. It is delineated for the most part by the River Cary, brooks and ‘rhynes’ (drainage ditches). Look carefully… Why does the 1838 map of High Ham parish in Somerset (from here) appear to present the simulacra of a pig looking over a gate?

High Ham PorkerLest there be any doubt about what James Joyce called ‘Geoglyphy’s twentynine ways to say goodbett an wassing seoosoon liv’ (FW 595.7-8), here’s the same map with the outline of the pig drawn on (with apologies for the cack-handed pen-work – like doing eek-a-sketch with one finger, without a mouse and with severe hand-cramp – I changed my mind about colouring it in).High Ham Porker doctoredIn heraldic terms, the pig is issuant – we only see its top half issuing from the Somerset Levels, an area which centuries ago was either under water or a quagmire. Its back and shoulders around Beer, defined by the River Cary, which also delineates the crown at Henley, as well as the face and nose. Rhynes pick out the sticky-up ears. The chin and jowl by rhynes which run on to define the leg and trotters at Langport Union Workhouse and Picks Hill. The Mill Brook (flowing past Paradise Mill) delineates the rest of the leg and the chest. This part is coincident with the tail of the Girt Dog – note Wagg Rhyne by the Workhouse. It seems appropriate to name this configuration ‘the High Ham Pig’, after the village at its heart.

As I only came across this configuration today, by accident, while scrolling through images related to St Werburga and her Geese, I’ll leave it to others to follow things up, but here’s a few preliminary thoughts (unreferenced and unchecked, but with a subtle debt to researchers like Mary Caine and Michael Dames, etc.)…

Pigs in Myth and Archaeology

The association of pigs with waters is attested in the legend of the founding of Bath by the swineherd, Bladud, whose herd made a ‘bee-line’ for the hot springs. The Neolithic palisaded enclosure by the River Kennet, near Silbury Hill and Avebury, appears to have been a giant pig pen with ritual overtones. Is the High Ham landform a manifestation of the Sow Goddess, Cerridwen, remembered in the River Cary? Or is it the magical boar, Twrch Trwyth, hunted by Arthur and his companions in The Mabinogion?


Original image by mauricedb from here

Edit 13/9/13 – Someone has pointed out the passing resemblance of this landscape form to a bear and the coincident village name of Beer. That’s triggered a recollection of a letter to The Ley Hunter (about 1979-80?) where the author (Molly Carey, if I remember rightly) cryptically alludes to a ‘Great Bear’ figure she had found in the Somerset landscape. Hmmm… ‘The Beer Bear’?

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‘Flowey and Mount on the brink of time’

September 5, 2013

Bergen, viewed from the top of Mount Fløyen. (Picture: Wikimedia Commons).

Within James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake there is a subtle vein of allusions to ‘the gateway to the fjords’, the Norwegian city of Bergen, an extension of the same web of associations spun from the city of Dublin, tied to the lives of Anna Livia Plurabelle (ALP) and her spouse, Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker (HCE). The most obvious appearance of the old Norwegian capital is in the description of ALP as ‘victuum gleaner’ (FW 364.33-34) as she ’rounded up lost histereve’ (FW 214.1), those ‘Countlessness of livestories’ (FW 17.26-27) written off in the ‘goahead plot’ of official, establishment history, written by the victorious: ‘Well, she bergened a zakbag, a shammy mailsack… off one of her swapsons, Shaun the Post’ (FW 206.9-11). In the Wake‘s anthropomorphised landscape ALP personifies the flow of the River Liffey, while the head of HCE looms over her outflow into Dublin Bay as ‘the Narwhealian captol’ (FW 23.11), Howth Head:

riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.


HCE, described in “The Ballad of Persse O’Reilly” as ‘A Norwegian camel old cod’ (FW 46.21), is a fallen, sleeping giant, ‘on the flounder of his bulk like an overgrown babeling’ (FW 6.31), lying in a dream state while

from fjord to fjell his baywinds’ oboboes shall wail him rockbound (hoahoahoah!) in swimswamswum and all the livvylong night, the delldale dalppling night, the night of bluerybells, her flittaflute in tricky trochees (O carina! O carina!) wake him.


'Flou inn, flow ann' (FW 20.35). Approaching the port of Bergen. Behind it rises Mount Floien, up which climbs the funicular railway, visible as a vertical line of lights.

‘Flou inn, flow ann’ (FW 20.35). Approaching the port of Bergen. Behind it rises Mount Fløyen (‘Flowey and Mount’), up which climbs the funicular railway, visible as a vertical line of lights.

Arising at least twice in the Wake is one of the seven mountains – fjellet – which surround Bergen: Fløyen, or Fløyfjellet. It appears in the phrase, ‘Flou inn, flow ann’ (FW 20.35), where the riverine flow of Anna Liffey through Dublin seems to dissolve the boundary between water and stone as Howth Head/Fløyen merge with the babelian stream-of-consciousness of ‘flowy Ann’. Further downstream, Fløyen emerges as ‘Flowey and Mount’ (FW 197.14), in a narrative current first rehearsed in ‘flower of the mountain’, Molly Bloom‘s closing soliloquy in Ulysses. The context for this is the marriage of ALP and HCE – ‘Big Maester Finnykin with Phenicia Parkes’ (FW 576.28-29) – subject of the gossip of the two washerwomen on the banks of the Liffey:

Was her banns never loosened in Adam and Eve’s or were him and her but captain spliced? For mine ether duck I thee drake. And by my wildgaze I thee gander. Flowey and Mount on the brink of time makes wishes and fears for a happy isthmass.


In the Wake’s condensation of the universal in the particular and the particular in the universal – ‘Som’s wholed, all’s parted’ (FW 563.31) – the two ports of Dublin and Bergen emerge ‘yuthner in yondmist’ (FW 7.29-30), becoming ‘a part of the whole as a port for a whale’ (FW 135.28-29). They are locations where HCE is ‘Landloughed by his neaghboormistress and perpetrified in his offsprung’ (FW 23.29-30), the scene of a continuous domestic and cosmic drama: ‘Him her first lap, her his fast pal, for ditcher for plower, till deltas twoport’ (FW 318.12-13).

The Nightmare of History

Fløyen and Howth are both incorporated into the dreaming consciousness of HCE by the tramway that once ran to the top of Howth Head – Benn Edair, in Gaelic – and the funicular railway that still connects Bergen with Fløyen Mount. And so, we are carried, ‘faultering along the tramestrack’ (FW 81.7) which proceeds to ‘where his dreams top their traums halt (Beneathere! Benathere!)’ (FW 81.16-17).


‘Finiche! Only a fadograph of a yestern scene’ (FW 7.15). The tramway up Howth Head c.1922 (from here).

This dream track ‘Upon Benn Heather’ (FW 7.28) seems to be interior to the ‘cranic head’ (FW 7.29) of HCE, rattling along as ‘the night express sings his story, the song of sparrownotes on his stave of wires’ (FW 135.34-35). Yet, at the same time, the ‘locative enigma’ (FW 135.26-27) of consciousness means that ‘it’ cannot be confined within isolated individuals as some measurable quantity, separate from the world, for ‘Finight mens midinfinite true’ (FW 505.24-25). As an infinite field, perceptible only in its effects, consciousness also has a macrocosmic dimension  – ‘O my shining stars and body!’ (FW 4.13) – so that the Howth tram/traum/dream becomes ‘a vehicule for arcanisation in the field’ (FW 135.27), ‘voguener and trulley’ (FW 577.13-14) following the course of the Milky Way and its conveyance of departing and returning souls:

The greek Sideral Reulthway, as it havvents, will soon be starting a smooth with its first single hastencraft. Danny buzzers instead of the vialact coloured milk train on the fartykket plan run with its endless gallaxion of rotatorattlers and the smooltroon our eldereens rememberem as the scream of the service, Strubry Bess. Also the waggonwobblers are still yet overdue to precipitate after night’s combustion.


This ‘alptrack’ (FW 577.23) surely recalls the alpdrück (German for nightmare), which is a ‘rightrare rute’ (FW 606.31) leading to the interior monologue of the ‘Awaywrong wandler’ (FW 606.31) in Ulysses, Stephen Dedalus, a semi-autobiographical projection of James Joyce. Stephen – whose namesake, Daedalus, invented the labyrinth – concludes that ‘History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake’.


Old street sign, Bryggen, Bergen. In the three-looped bow there is an unintended resonance with the three recurring phases of Giambattista Vico’s history, which structures Finnegans Wake: ‘a commodius vicus of recirculation’ (FW 3.2). It also has similarities with the symbol adopted by the Bauhaus Situationist in Scandinavia.

‘While hovering dreamwings, folding around, will hide from fears’ and ‘guard my bairn’ (FW 576.15-17), so Big Maester Finnykin with Phenicia Parkes are entreated to mind the children (ultimately, the whole of humankind through all time) as they sleep:

we beseach of you, down their laddercase of nightwatch service and bring them at suntime flush with the nethermost gangrung of their stepchildren, guide them through the labyrinth of their samilikes and the alteregoases of their pseudoselves

(FW 576.30-33).

And if there was a soundtrack ‘to join in the mascarete’ (FW 206.13-14)? Perhaps ‘the other Water Music’, Telemann’s Hamburger Ebb’ und Fluth from 1723


‘from fjord to fjell his baywinds’ oboboes shall wail him rockbound (hoahoahoah!) in swimswamswum and all the livvylong night, the delldale dalppling night, the night of bluerybells, her flittaflute in tricky trochees (O carina! O carina!) wake him’ (FW 6.36-7.1-3).