theodor_gylden: (Default)
On Parabola )

[a collaborative document can be found here; use it to share your own quotes, correspondences, and speculations.]

theodor_gylden: (not an adventurer a scholar dammit)
Even before the mahagony-framed mirror appeared at the carnival, there has been reason to speculate on the existence of a place 'behind the mirror.' The phrase is uttered in dreams -- once by the wind, once by a cat -- and I have encountered a man, awake, who claimed to have seen what lies beyond. Our friend Lamont has witnessed, in the Flit and in his work with Mr Inch, evidence of spiritualists and illusionists communicating and traversing through mirrors. Both he and Gabriel Morgan have met something in the Palace Cellars that demands a mirror, perhaps for escape.

Connected is the word 'Parabola.' Merriwether's theories on the import of this word are perhaps the most sophisticated: they draw upon the mathematical definition of parabola as a divided symmetry. In a dream of escape, Parabola is offered as a place of safety by one's mount, and in another, it is implied to be the location of the Trapped King. In waking life, it has been spoken by special constables and found in messages passed through the Flit. And in an experiment observing a mirror through a nephrite lens, one may hear it hissed by the reflection of a serpent.

All this is preamble. There is a mirror in a tent of the carnival, it frames carved with beetles and tree-roots, and if one looks into it with acuity and ten bright memories of light, it takes one quite away. I have looked into it.

Some observations. In this place behind the mirror -- a place like a jungle, littered with mirror-frames -- I have seen things, heard things, that resonate with what I've dreamt and heard from others, and I would record them before they are lost to me.

First, on the walls of temples I have traced a parabola. I do not know what manner of people lived and worshiped here yet the recurrence of that shape, and the mathematical precision with which it is drawn, leads me to believe that Merriwether was right to grant significance to its equation. Indeed, it is possible that someone before us has wrested the secrets of the Mirror Marches in a like manner.

Some of the stones of the temple are like trees, and the trees like stone. I believe I know why. Elsewhere in the jungle, high up on a tree-trunk, I discovered letters of the Correspondence describing 'a process that can only take place behind a mirror, by which stone becomes wood and wood becomes stone. A process  in which petrification and lignefaction are opposed but complementary and dynamic forces.'  

This notion of opposing, yet complementary and dynamic, elements is one to which I must return. For cat -- a lioness, with two cubs tumbling behind her -- asked me whether I knew 'they' were fighting a war with water and fire. I knew at once what she meant. I have known dreams of fire, and dreams of water, and dreams where the two are opposed and one is caught in-between, and the wind has whispered to me of clashing and hating and striking. If the thunder saves you from the dream-sacrifice, I have been told, it offers to take you where where the masters play at battle -- and when the sacrifice is first mentioned, the king asks to be brought the fire the masters use.

And there, in a walled garden of the temple, I saw a glimpse of a cowled figure that might be a master, and fire. It recalled to me nothing so much as the dream about a storm in a garden where the ground breaks open and fire flows below, or the dream where the beloved fountain is itself in flames.

Are the Masters, then, aligned with fire -- ? Who is with water? The thunder itself? And are the Mirror Marches that place where they play at battle? For I have seen -- in a frame -- the king that asked for fire, who may be the same king that a rat said was was 'still there' and that the blindfolded girl believed was in Parabola. The thunder has spoken, above me, of a king, a queen, and the battlefield, of betrayal and sacrifice, and it claimed to come from the North

(The lioness asked me where I would go from here, but a panther asked, 'Where did you come from?' Would could that mean? Anything at all?)

A game is being played, then, and I've tried to duplicate it with cherry stones. Tinker, tailor, soldier, spy ... Mr Wines, Mr Cups, Mr Iron ... But I am only recording observations.

I should say I have observed the sun, the stars, and the moon, and they brought to mind that dark tunnel where I remembered the light that guided me here. Indeed, the scattered frames of the jungle, and the portholes of that dream opening into other places -- might they be related?

I must return soon. The Mirror Marches are perilous, and if I must choose between the horsehead amulet and the brass ring, I will choose the amulet. But I do believe that all our questions will have answers, and all our speculations purpose. All shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.
theodor_gylden: (not an adventurer a scholar dammit)
In addition to compiling accounts and words of concordance for an index on dreams I would like to, at Henrik's suggestion, begin recording the allusions recognized by Fallen London's dreamers. Here are a few.

Revelations 6.

And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see.
And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.
And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see.
And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword.
And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand.
And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine.
And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see.
And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.


Evoked by a dream about a stable, where the dreamer is bade by a cat to choose between a black horse, a pale horse, a red horse, and a white horse.

Cf. Zechariah 6, The black horses which are therein go forth into the north country; and the white go forth after them ...

William Wordsworth's Prelude, Book V.

His countenance, meanwhile, grew more disturbed;
And, looking backwards when he looked, mine eyes
Saw, over half the wilderness diffused,
A bed of glittering light: I asked the cause:
"It is," said he, "the waters of the deep
Gathering upon us;" quickening then the pace
Of the unwieldy creature he bestrode,
He left me: I called after him aloud;
He heeded not; but, with his twofold charge
Still in his grasp, before me, full in view,
Went hurrying o'er the illimitable waste,
With the fleet waters of a drowning world
In chase of him; whereat I waked in terror,
And saw the sea before me, and the book,
In which I had been reading, at my side.


Henrik's observation. Passages of the poem relate a dream, and its conclusion is reminiscent of the flooding desert in recurring dreams of death by water.

T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland.

I. Burial Of The Dead ...
II. A Game Of Chess ...
III. The Fire Sermon ...
IV. Death By Water ...
V. What The Thunder Said ...


Likely the origin of epithets given to dreams -- but the date must be mistaken. 1922? Mr Pages has also expressed confusion on the matter, or I believe that was confusion he expressed.

Lewis Carroll's Through The Looking-Glass And What Alice Found There.

References provided by Henrik.

'Oh, Kitty! how nice it would be if we could only get through into Looking-glass House! I'm sure it's got, oh! such beautiful things in it! Let's pretend there's a way of getting through into it, somehow, Kitty. Let's pretend the glass has got all soft like gauze, so that we can get through. Why, it's turning into a sort of mist now, I declare! It'll be easy enough to get through --' She was up on the chimney-piece while she said this, though she hardly knew how she had got there. And certainly the glass
was beginning to melt away, just like a bright silvery mist.

Transit through mirrors. In dreams of being watched mirrors are often doors and windows, and in one 'a third, and quite impossible direction has somehow come into play'. In another misty letters swim on the surface of a mirror above a mantel.

'Here are the Red King and the Red Queen,' Alice said (in a whisper, for fear of frightening them), 'and there are the White King and the White Queen sitting on the edge of the shovel -- and here are two castles walking arm in arm --'


The chess allegory. Consider that the 'pieces' of the dream are likely red and white, as they are in Carroll. The Red-Handed Queen is robed, of course, in red, but with 'patches of ivory.' In the assassination of the One-Eyed Bishop, the dreamers wear red, and the corpse of the Bishop is remarkably white, without the stain of blood; the sequence seems to suggest a capture.

-- and it really was a kitten after all.

The unhelpful cat. Cats in dreams are nothing if not unhelpful.

The story of Iphigenia -- the text below is from Euripides's Iphigenia at Aulis.

Would that some other had gained that distinction instead of me! But after the army was gathered and come together, we still remained at Aulis weather-bound; and Calchas, the seer, bade us in our perplexity sacrifice my own begotten child Iphigenia to Artemis, whose home is in this land, declaring that if we offered her, we should sail and sack the Phrygians' capital, but if we forbore, this was not for us.

'Will you sacrifice something precious to the thunder?' is asked by the Beleaguered King. In later dreams the sacrifice is carried out by the Lonely Knight and the Innocent Princess, the King's own daughter, is prepared for it. (Perhaps this why the Red-Handed Queen would have the King assassinated, as Clytaemnestra later had her husband killed.)

If the Lonely Knight instead sacrifices himself, he may be carried away by the thunder. Some sources claim that Iphigenia did not die, but was taken away by Artemis to live as her priestess.

William Shakespeare's Macbeth.

Out, damned spot! out, I say! -- One: two: why, then ’tis time to do ’t. -- Hell is murky! -- Fie, my lord, fie! a soldier, and afeard? What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to account? -- Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?

Suggested by Mr Asher Wilsford. The Red-Handed Queen does indeed have hands of red, and can do anything except scrub the gore from them; very like the figure of Lady Macbeth as she roams dreaming and rubbing her hands. 

Plato's The Republic.

Some time will pass before they get the habit of perceiving at all; and at first they will be able to perceive only shadows and reflections in the water; then they will recognize the moon and the stars, and will at length behold the sun in his own proper place as he is. Last of all they will conclude: -- This is he who gives us the year and the seasons, and is the author of all that we see. How will they rejoice in passing from darkness to light!

A more tenuous connection -- but in dreams of being watched, the dreamer at first is occupied with reflections and reflected landscapes, then pulled through a tunnel of night shadows where windows open to reveal circles of sky: sun, stars, moon. These glimpses are bearable, but too much light hurts one's eyes. The memory kept, from the dream of the tunnel or the mirrored hall, is 'something you didn't understand ... a rotting, succulent light.'
theodor_gylden: (not an adventurer a scholar dammit)
Seeking Mr Eaten's Name.

"Why? In God's name, why? What can you possibly hope to gain? Stop now. Before it's too late.''

It is unclear whether Mr Eaten is or was a Master. What is clear is that the Masters share disdain for him. Mr Veils has called him 'the shadow of a sliver of regret'. Mr Spices has said 'a deceitful remnant, no more' and refers to a regrettable 'fall.' Mr Hearts has asked its customers to stop selling skin to him, for he has not 'the least idea what to do with it.' Disputes among the Masters are common, but there is a sense in which the others regard him as less than a Master, and unfit to do business with.

(Is Mr Eaten 'him' or 'it'? Though the Masters terms themselves Messrs, human sex does not apply to them, and therefore, custom selects the pronoun 'it.' On further study, however, I have found the Masters are liberal in referring to one another by either 'him' or 'it' -- so this has not proved as enlightening a course as I had hoped.)

The title Eaten, too, is unlike Apples or Iron. It does not indicate a what, we might say, as a noun form. It is -- Henrik has noted -- a perfect passive participle. 'Essus, consumptus.' It is something that has happened. What does it signify, that it should be passive, rather than active? That it should be past, rather than present or future? Merriwether has observed that the old parliament is described as having been 'eaten' -- the same perfect passive participle. Is there a significance to that?

But like the Masters, Mr Eaten is -- or was -- involved in a trade. Though I am uncertain as to whether he practices it any longer, he would once offer favors to players of the game Knife-and-Candle in exchange for his name tattooed on their skin. He had a manner of speaking that could not be perceived by anyone except the person he spoke to. And, so the story goes, he first approached Knife-and-Candle players speaking no word other than 'yes.' Attached is one player's recounting of an exchange; here are others. 

Consider Mr Eaten's claim that the cost could be 'indefinitely deferred,' and another saying associated with him: 'an accounting is not to be postponed indefinitely.' 

(Elsewhere I must compile my notes on the surface location of the four fallen cities preceding London, but this detail could be telling: the Masters share an antipathy towards Egypt, but when asked his opinion, Mr Eaten said, 'I think the place is charming; the weather, delightful; the Pharaoh's daughters, most hospitable.' At the well in Big King Square, a voice told me of a tall man's daughters, a city of granite, the drowning. Was the city Egyptian, and was it one of the four? Was the tall man a Pharaoh? And why was it that the voice only became clear to me in hunger? I cannot say.)

So the search for Mr Eaten's name began, I believe, in Knife-and-Candle. But there is another way to begin it. It requires a keen hunger, one that has been termed 'unaccountable.' (Is it at all related to the saying? For how can long can such an accounting be postponed -- ?) I know of three ways to acquire it.

The first is in the common and recurring dreams of kings, queens, bishops and battlefields; the dreams, Londoners call them, of chess. In a dream one may be a spy in an enemy camp and, stopping by the fire to partake in the soldiers' stew, become too distracted to attend discussions of strategy. The hunger will stay upon waking.

The second method, I have heard, involves Mrs Plenty's Rubbery Lumps, but I am wholly unfamiliar with it.

And the last is how the hunger found me, and requires a counterfeit head of St John the Baptist. The head has a use in Knife-and-Candle: it whispers the secrets of the dead. After setting it upon my bedside  table, I dreamt that the head sat upon my shoulders, and spoke of treachery committed in water and a betrayal remembered only by a few.

That is remarkable to me because I had long been dreaming of death by water -- first, on a ship during a storm, then wrecked landscapes where water did not belong. Then a voyage in a dirigible high above a flood. And in those dreams anything that had a voice, or that could make the sign some other way, would bid me NORTH. The last of these dreams -- a dream of the surface -- is the dream that spurs the search. In mine I left home and left the message: WILL GO NORTH WHEN I FIND THE NAME

But what is in the North? What must I arrange there? Why will I need Mr Eaten's name? And why -- again -- did it only become clear to me through hunger? Ms Leslie Hardwicke has suggested to me that NORTH is sent into our dreams of water as a message, and there may yet be something to that suggestion --

Nevertheless, I have made little progress on discovering the name in waking life. One incident, at the corner coffeehouse, has led me to believe that if the name is written down it is written the Correspondence. This language -- if it is indeed a language -- is a subject to which I must devote further study ...

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September 2015

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