Tongues of Flame

Tongues of Flame: custom pyrography & magic to discriminating musicians & magicians. Tattoo & Hoodoo for that Voudou that you do.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

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The front of the instrument is covered by the scene of St. Michael leading the Archangels in overthrowing the hosts of Hell. Gabriel stands above him, with drawn sword, Uriel to his right, holding a lance, and Raphael to his lower right, also wielding a sword. In style, the scene is a tribute to Carravaggio. The symbol inscribed on Michael’s breastplate is his name in Angelic script, a standard feature of Medieval European ceremonial magic, in which the invocation of Angels was fairly common practice.

The triumphant Archangel is pictured with his foot planted on the breast of the fallen Satan, as in conventional church iconography.

In Hebrew, the word Satan means simply “Accuser”, and he/it is referred to consistently in Hebrew theology as “the Accuser of the brethren”, the prosecuting attorney forever presenting God with the evidence of man’s wickedness.

In this usage, he represents the predators, those voices within ourselves which seek to belittle and enfeeble our spirits, which deny us any right to the Divine Presence, and drive us to seek to hide from the Face of God.

To the right of the figure of Raphael, being stuck down by the Angel of Healing, is Yamamaia, a Demon whose function is to enforce belief in the illusions of material existence. He is the experience of matter without energy, of form without substance, of flesh without spirit. He is blind faith in the evidence of the senses, at the expense of the soul. He is the superficiality of life without purpose, clawing with heavy fingers at the wing of his conqueror.

The upper or left panel of the guitar consists of four entities, falling back under the onslaught of the Heavenly Host. The furthest of these, as the furthest from the possibility of enlightenment, is Lucifer, pictured here as the embodiment of ego. He has a serpent or dragon’s tail, signifying his origin in the experience of desire, and of force. He has three horns on his head. Two of these are ram’s horns, placed where ears would ordinarily be found, symbolizing that his capacity for reception, for listening, has been supplanted by his will to enforce his power on the world around him. The third horn, emerging from his tangled mane, is the “Little Horn” of the prophet Daniel’s vision, which “spake great blasphemies”. It is depicted here as an attribute of ego, which blasphemes continually against its source by insisting on the reality of its own separate existence. Lucifer’s face in enfolded by his own apelike hand, and his eyelids are sewn shut, signifying his refusal to acknowledge any reality not of his own making. His remaining arm is held outward, holding up the mask that forms the face of Sin.

Sin is depicted here as she appears in Milton’s “Paradise Lost”, as the consort of Satan and the mother of Death. Her illusory voluptuousness in the epic poem distracts from her essential monstrousness. Here, I have chosen to depict her as a mask, held up by the Ego, which I believe is a more accurate reflection of the state of affairs, while Death beside her is a helmeted shadow.

The Angel Uriel, who delivers the soul from the body, represents the reality of death on the guitar. It is not Death that haunts the dreams of men, but the Fear of Death, whose mother is indeed Sin, the act of distancing the soul from its Source, so that the moment of return becomes a sinister thought.
The final character on the front of the guitar is from Native American mythologies. He is Double-Eyes, a spirit who steals the ears of the people, so that they no longer hear one another’s voices, or those of the ancestors and spirits. Here, he represents spiritual deafness, the inability of the soul to respond to the power of the music.

Thus, the scene on the front of the guitar is the triumph of the angels over shame, illusion, ego, sin, the fear of death, and spiritual deafness, and is an allegory of the music, and its effects.

Where the body and neck of the guitar are joined is burned, out of sight, a female pentacle (on the body), and a male on the neck. Each pentacle has a pair of parted lips at its center, so that the two kiss when the instrument is joined. Also placed within the join is a Himmels-brief, a charm from the Pennsylvania Dutch Powwow tradition against theft, fire, flood, and lightning.

On the headstock of the guitar in addition to the logo is a putto, a creature from Renaissance art consisting of a cherubic face supported by two wings. Many art historians consider these references to the Cupids of antiquity, others to the Cherub traditions of Judeo/Christian/Islamic scripture. They have been adopted by the Yoruba traditions as emblems of “les lutins”, ghosts of unbaptized infants. Chuck lost a son at birth, and this spirit has since become one of his guardians and advisors. The spirit wore a crown when it appeared to me for this work, and I was told that the crown represented a promise to be reborn into the Hestand family line, a line which is one day destined to bring forth a great teacher, or leader of men. In this way, past and future are woven together on the guitar, and summoned to use it as an instrument (literally) of destiny.

Finally, a note concerning the voice of the guitar. My greatest teacher informed me that when a prayer or ritual has been recorded, either symbolically or electronically, any subsequent sequencing of those symbols or images becomes a re-enactment of the ritual, with the potential to transcend the time stream by connecting with the original ceremonial act, and reproducing its power and effect in the world. It is for this reason that ancient rituals and places of power convey so much energy, because they are drawing on patterns which men and women of power have utilized for generations. In the same way, the images on this guitar represent specific prayers, encounters, and acts of ceremony. Each time that this instrument is plugged in, each time that a note ripples through the fabric of the wood, each time that passion and intention are invested in its use, the prayers and visitations in which it was born are re-enacted, and the powers depicted are invoked for the purposes portrayed. In this way, it becomes an active tool, an ongoing prayer, a consecrated avenue for the miraculous in the world around it. Amen.

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"I felt like Aragorn, when Elrond put the sword Narsil into his hands"--Chuck Hestand
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