“Sympathetic magic”


Beyond the windows, the plants are green, the sun is shining, the air is soft.

Programme Name: Frozen Planet - TX: 02/11/2011 - Episode: Frozen Planet 2 Spring (No. 2) - Embargoed for publication until: 18/10/2011 - Picture Shows: King penguins silhouetted at dawn, South Georgia. The King Penguin is the second largest species of penguin, weighing up to 35lbs. They eat small fish - mainly lanternfish and squid, and repeatedly dive to more than 100 metres to find lunch. There are an estimated 2.23million pairs of King Penguins with numbers increasing. Our crew spent a month with them and although this picture looks serene, the noise was deafening. - (C) Ian McCarthy - Photographer: Ian McCarthy

And beyond that looms the referendum on whether Britain should stay in the European Community. A plane has gone down. Blame the security systems. But unless you intend to delay every flight and check every detail – which won’t make you popular in the incredibly overcrowded skies which have to be processed through airports – this is not the first and will not be the last metal bird to fall out of the sky and leave the rest of us wondering how? We suspect we know why.   My upstairs neighbour a slender girl with feet like bricks is away. The building is blessedly still, the delightful Polish builders of next door but one’s refurbishment aren’t back till Monday.   I am thinking very hard about breathing.CROPPED-deep-breathing1 (1)

In the corner behind me hang the fetishes, small representatives of some aspect of life that is very important to me. The top one doesn’t hang, it stands – a model of a Greek house, just over an inch high, complete with red roof and flowers by the door. I bought it in Crete for a few drachmas, I always wanted a home.


Below that hangs a bee, also from Crete in memory of the ancient civilisations, a wise and nourishing bee:

Close-up of a bee pollinating a flower

a crystal heart which arrived attached to a ribbon on a box of white hyacinths three years ago (you should know this is an ongoing process): a small silver owl, probably made as a Christmas tree decoration, but I love owls – my favourite are eagle owls and Scops,

"Scops owl"

“Scops owl”

the biggest and the smallest.   There is a red glass Christmas tree, less important for 25 December than for being a tree: a peacock, his tail made of small shiny black stones: a short komboloi of blue Greek “eyes”, to keep away the evil eye: and a copy of a Victorian lady’s purse made out of a hinged shell. shell purse25580_med_1It was the shell that started it because I could never close it.     And it bothered me. How can you have a purse in your house that is always open?

I had thought about trying to close it before and decided to leave it because I am hamfisted and might break it.   Three days ago, I decided it had to go. And on the way through the house to throw it away, I decided to get the pliers and see if I could carefully fix it. And I did.   It changed how I felt. I told three friends, all of whom believe there is more to life than meets the eye, waiting for a hint of patronage or dismissal – and it never came. They all understood completely. Differently, but completely.

As fetish is a word I connect with seven inch heels and rubberwear, or some aspect of African anthropology, I looked it up on line. It merely serves as representation of something intangible. Hanging them all together seems to be atavistic, an ancient habit. So let me introduce you to my “magic pieces”.

The house has helped me to learn the truth of the poem by Cavafy “the city is within you” – the house is my house, the home is my home.   It was hard to get there but there sits the tiny white house, emblematic of harsh sun and the island I fell in love with through The Bull of Minos by Leonard Cottrell, when I was 14.bull_leaping_from_fresco_at_knossos.teach

The owl is a magnificent hunter with soundless wings and you need to be quiet, patient and focussed if you work with people. And as the owl is also wisdom (well, I can hope!), the peacock is vanity. I aspire to wisdom, I am stuck with vanity. It changes as you get older but it doesn’t vanish. The black stones in the peacock’s tail – the opposite of nature’s shining coloured peacock – make me laugh at myself. You can run but you can’t hide, at least not from yourself.   The tree, any tree, is a symbol of life and it fulfils an ancient promise – it goes away and comes again. The clear heart is a sign of the truth which I prefer and for which latterly I strive. And the purse that started it all is both outside and personal, the shell that echoes the shape of the Buddha’s ear,buddha backviewe987efda4f9643bc248ec6fbc409263 and an item of identity.

See The Book of Symbols : Reflections on Archetypal Images published by Taschen.

3 responses to ““Sympathetic magic”

  1. How lovely to have a collection of things that soothe, comfort and bring back good memories as well as give wisdom instead of throwaway items that we have now in an uncertain world. It’s nice you could sit quietly and enjoy them. They help you through tough times and are personal to you.

  2. My love for ‘annalog’,is when you write pieces like this- that ‘make you think’, and this one does…it is lovely when you own items through life, that symbolise something in your life-and gets you through it!..and let’s face it we all have to,from time to time!!..Neilx

  3. I just read this and thought to myself I read this before but did I comment? so here I am again. Am I at the stage in life where I’m rereading your essays again because I enjoy them so much?

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