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TONGUES OF FLAME#3--THE TRIQUETRA
The Triquetra is the third guitar in the Tongues of Flame line. Designed as a birthday gift for the guitarist (Garret Thorne of Minus The Star), it came with a few specific parameters. Those commissioning it (his wife and friends) wanted the Chinese characters that are painted on the musician’s guitar case (peace, beauty, health, and prosperity) reproduced on the back of the guitar. They wanted the names of his two sons on the back as well, and “something Celtic” on the front, as a quarter panel.
I set the Chinese characters in a column, descending the back of the guitar.
They are cradled in the smoke rising from the “Pearl of Happiness”, the traditional object of desire for dragons (Cameron) and phoenixes (Collin) in Chinese art, just as the qualities that the characters represent arise from self-knowledge. The boys’ names emerge from this column as branches from the central trunk that represents their father.
As a stylistic bridge between the Chinese calligraphy on the back and the “something Celtic” on the front, I have spelled out the boys’ names in anthropo- and zoomorphic letters in the tradition of the Book of Kells, one of the most celebrated examples of illuminated writing from the medieval Celtic tradition of literary art, completed in 800 A.D. by the monks of St. Colm Cille on Iona.
The symbolism of the letters, individually and collectively, relates to the boys’ natures and their destinies.
Cameron is the first born, and first named. The name “Cameron” is of Gaelic derivation, and means “Bent Nose”. There is an entity by this name among the stories of the Hadenausee, the Long House People. They call this powerful spirit “Elder Brother”, and explain that he existed prior to the creation of the world, so that when The Mystery made the cosmos, Elder Brother was shoved aside—hence his eternally crooked nose.
This Power is a great healer, and teacher; One who has the power to speak against death, and to drive away sickness, and His visage is framed in the capital “C” of “Cameron”.
The Allies say that this child is the latest incarnation of an ancestor soul, one that has almost completed its journey around the wheel of existence. They say that this soul has put on flesh to wrap up unfinished business, to attend to matters arising prior to this incarnation. Thus, like Bent Nose, this one existed “before the creation”. Like Bent Nose, this one will be a healer and a teacher. Like Bent Nose, this one may find himself a little cramped by the confines of a physical existence. There is more soul here than there is room for in the flesh. This will be both his strength and his challenge in the world.
The “a” of his name is partially formed by the juxtaposition of an arm and hand holding a bishop’s crosier, and a cloven hoof. This contrast represents what will be one of the central lessons of Cameron’s life, reconciling the nobility of his nature with the drives and impulses of his flesh. This child will hold himself and others to very high standards, and may be bitterly disappointed when those standards are not met. He has too generous a heart to judge others too harshly, once he has matured, but he may prove a fierce critic of what he sees as his own shortcomings.
The cranial arches of a Janus-face, a traditional theme in Celtic artwork, form the “m”. Here again the Allies speak of the child’s spiritual and physical natures, but this time in terms of their potential for integration. At those moments in his life when Cameron has managed to reconcile his ambitions with his condition, he will be capable of achieving something greater than either. There is a potential here for the development of remarkable skills, if not genius.
The central shaft of the “e” consists of a hand outlined in flame. There is a dual reference here, both to the “Shining Hand” of Celtic mythology and to the “burning hands” of a healer. The Allies are clear that this child will work as a healer among men, whether as a physician of souls, minds, or bodies (or any combination thereof). They say that there is a purifying flame in this one, a fire that will burn away suffering, and give light to those who wander in shadow.
The “r” is formed by the curves of a skull and jawbone. In both Celtic and African mythology, the head is viewed as the seat of the soul, a symbol of the identity’s survival of death. Cameron will not often be strongly influenced by other people. He has a solid sense of his own identity, and will always be an “older” child than those around him. He is internally directed, and his instincts will prove sound. They will direct him toward his purpose in life, and he will never lose his way for long, as long as he is capable of listening to his own deepest voice.
The “o” consists of a solar wheel, an emblem of the Light that does not fade. Cameron will always retain within himself a sense of what he has come here to accomplish, a place within himself where the Light in which he was created continues to shine. Heaven has an investment here, one that It will labor to bring to fruition. Cameron has only ever to look up, to rediscover his origins and his direction.
A peacock roosts in the arch of the final “n”. In Celtic art, the peacock is an emblem of both the starry night sky and the resurrection. Both reflect the persistence of light through time. It is this that Cameron embodies and that he has come here to learn about himself. The world will be a warmer, kinder place while he is in it.
The letters are set against a background of clouds and vapors above an unfurled wing. The Allies say that this child is a son of Oxala, the Power of the Heavens. They say he will always be reaching for stars. There will be moments when the clouds obscure the lights of heaven. The sky is not lost, even when it is not seen. Clouds pass, but stars remain. And do not be too surprised to one day find that he has collected handfuls of them.
Collin is the younger of the two boys, and their birth order is a reflection of their natures. His name, derived from the Greek, can be translated as “conquering child”. In Gaelic, it means “of the hazel”. Both themes are interwoven in the symbolism of the letters of his name.
The background against which the name is framed is the Pool of Wisdom of Druidic tradition, in which the oldest of all living things, the Salmon of Knowledge, feeds perpetually on the fruits which fall into the well from the sacred hazel tree, the source of all understanding. Five streams emerge from the pool, which are the five senses of the human body. This eldest of all creatures, dwelling in the continually upwelling (hence constantly “newborn”) waters, forms the capital “C” of “Collin”. This theme, of wisdom in innocence, is one that will prove paramount in Collin’s life.
The “o” and first “l” continue the Celtic motif, depicting the fruit, bough and leaf of the hazel tree. Characteristics associated with the hazel tree in human nature are mental and verbal acuity, communication and eloquence, perception, knowledge, and (sometimes sarcastic) humor. Collin will not be easily deceived or misled (by anyone other than himself). He will be charming and socially gifted, charismatic and smooth- (if sometimes sharp-) tongued. He will delight in interactions of all kinds, and in the acquisition of knowledge. His is a playful, sometimes mischievous nature, his inheritance as the spiritual offspring of Eshu Elegba, the Youngest Child of Heaven, and Master of the Crossroads.
The second “l” is formed by the arm of a shadowed warrior who holds a blazing torch in one hand, while a sword held aloft in the other is the letter “i”. This is a reference to the “conquering child” of Greek etymology, whose victory brings light into darkness and casts out fear. On the blade of the extended sword is engraved the ogham letter “coll”, (hazel), from which “Collin” is derived. Ogham is an alphabet or syllabary of sorts used to write very old Irish, from the 3rd to the 6th century in Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.
Finally, the swaddled infant resting in the crook of the “n” is Taliesin, the Star-Brow, a great wizard of Celtic mythology. In the myth, he steals the knowledge of magic that the Goddess/sorceress Ceridwen had intended for her own hideous son, “Affagdu” (Utter Darkness). The Goddess pursues him, and the two take on a number of forms in the course of the chase, until the young wizard shape-shifts into a grain of wheat. Ceridwen becomes a red hen, which swallows the grain. Nine months later, Ceridwen (Who is also the Great Mother of Celtic tradition) gives birth to a beautiful boy, whose brow shines like starlight. Even though she recognizes her former enemy, she finds that she loves the child and cannot bring herself to harm him.
In this myth, the Allies refer to Collin’s nature as an infant trickster, his charm and the grace that shines through him, as well as to a soul who has found its way to the womb of this woman of power, herself a daughter of Ceridwen. There is considerable magic in this child, which is both his strength and his challenge in the world. It will take time for him to grow into his gifts.
For all Collin’s intelligence, there will always be something of the “little brother” about him, a perpetual childlike playfulness that is his essential nature, and which cannot be confined too closely without damage to his spirit. The Lakota call this energy “Okanga Ska”, the eye of innocence, which sees clearly. For all his perceptiveness, however, he will always be something of a mystery to himself, and his sparkling wit and intellectual ability can also serve to distance himself from emotional risk, and to conceal a profoundly sensitive emotional nature. His delicate antennae provide him with the ability to love with rare skill, as well as the temptation to use his rare sensitivity as a means of avoiding intimacy. He will have finely tuned nerves, and may suffer from nervous tension and headaches. He will require help to develop the discipline necessary.to maintain his exquisitely sensitive mind and body in balance. Otherwise, he could develop a tendency toward indulgence and excess that will be difficult to overcome later in life. His challenge in life will be to preserve his innocence and joy in the face of all the knowledge he will so voraciously acquire about the world. The world will be a brighter, more joyful place while he is in it.
The motif of the front panel is known as “The Beard Pullers”, and is taken from Pre-Christian Celtic stone monuments. In this instance, it represents the bond of shared destinies and karma that unite the musician with his sons, bonds that cannot be broken by life, or by one’s own actions. Through their struggles with their own attachments and with one another, a circular, rhythmic perfection is born. Likewise, this family will find its spiritual depths in the relationships of its members. They are teachers to one another, and the bonds between them will suffer no lasting disruption, and will prove a continual source of guidance and balance.
Nothing male exists in and of itself. The Beard-Pullers are surrounded by three Triquetras, the central image of the guitar. Like the Beard-Pullers, the Triquetra is an example of Celtic triple-knot work, a common theme in Gaelic art and mythology. Initially, the Triquetra represented the Triune Goddess of the ancient Celts in her forms of Maiden, Mother and Crone. After the adoption of Christianity, it came to be seen as a symbol for the Trinity. Here it is used in its older, matriarchal context. It is an emblem of the source and ultimate goal of the Beard-Pullers, a triune balance of perfect, organic equanimity. It is She who is Mother, Wife, and Guide, the Wheel on which these three fates are balanced. It is to Her, in Her aspect as Fata Morgana, Our Lady of Destiny; and to all the Powers referenced in the work, that the voice of the guitar rises in continual prayer. The Allies have said that it will not pray in vain.
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