Calligraphy, or the art of beautiful writing, is one of those nearly-lost arts whose practice can virtually alter time. The repetitive, controlled scritch of pen on parchment can send the artisan back through the ages to where s/he can really feel a kinship with her brethren in, say, the stone abbeys of Ireland, keeping learning alive through the Dark Ages. And of course, new forms are always being developed too. Illumination denotes illustrative letters or borders, but is literally the bringing of light to the piece through the application of thin gold leaf.
Wer nicht mehr Liebt und nicht mehr Irrt, der lasse sich begraben.
(He who no longer loves and no longer errs, should let himself be buried.) — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Besides penning names on diplomas and suchlike for such esteemed organizations as the High Sierra Chefs’ Association and the Ralston School of Massage, there were three times in my life when I did a lot of calligraphy and illumination (here shown in reverse chronological order).
1) When living in Switzerland and learning to speak German. Writing the language out helped, of course. Further, I had nearly no money to buy art supplies, so went around foraging for fallen leaves and wildflowers to press in heavy books for use as illustrative borders. You can also see evidence of my treasured bottle of glowing copper ink.
Animae Mundi Colendae Gratia (for the sake of tending the soul of the world…) — C.G. Jung?
Alles, was lebt, lebt im Licht. Alles, was existiert, strahlt Licht. Alle Dinge empfangen ihr Leben vom Licht, und dieses Licht ist in ihrer Wurzel selbst Leben.
(All that lives, lives in light. All that exists radiates light. All things derive their lives from light, and this light itself is, at its root, alive.) –Phillipus Aureolus Paracelsus
We can improve our eternal circumstances by exercising our basic human nature, which I believe is compassionate. At birth, we are free from religion but not from compassion, even though we don’t understand the concept of God. Religious faith is a luxury. You can survive without it.
Kindness, compassion, tolerance, and forgiving, however, are a question of survival.
— the Dalai Lama
The mountains, I become part of it.
The herbs, the fir tree, I become part of it.
The morning mists, the clouds, the gathering waters, I become part of it.
The wilderness, the dew drops, the pollen — I become part of it.
— Navajo Chant
In Schoenheit wandre ich. Mit Schoenheit vor mir, so wandere ich. Mit Schoenheit hinter mir, so wandere ich. Mit Schoenheit unter mir, so wandere ich. Mit Schoenheit ueber mir, so wandere ich. Mit Schoenheit rund um mich her, so wandere ich. In Schoenheit ist es vollendet.
In Beauty I Wander.
With Beauty before me, I wander.
With Beauty behind me, I wander.
With Beauty beneath me, I wander.
With Beauty above me, I wander.
With Beauty all around me, I wander.
In Beauty it is completed.
— Night Chant, Navajo (aka Dineh)
2) I really cut my chops in calligraphy and illumination in my late teens/early 20s, when I was waaaay into living history and became a scribe with the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism). Every little award was hand-made in those days, so we got a lot of practice. I also played with these ancient styles for my own amusement. An example is the piece shown here, “Christianity Attempts to Come to Ireland,” which humorously illustrates the newcomers’ interaction with an animistic country.
3) As a child, in an attempt to change self-destructive behaviors, I would create formal written contracts to seal the deal. (Shades of Faust.) They looked like medical diplomas with their enormous swirly capitals and Old English script and a place to sign agreement.
I’d copy the lettering styles out of my mother’s old Speedball books, first drawing each letter’s outline out with a pencil and coloring it in. After learning the shapes thoroughly, I began cutting goose quills to gain swiftness (one stroke!), and later yet gained access to flat steel pen nibs and good dipping ink.
This was how I learned to do calligraphy.
Try it yourself!
Ewige Blumenkraft! (Flower Power Forever!) –password of the Illuminati, revealed by Robert Shea & Robert Anton Wilson.
For those who might be interested, this sentiment goes with its other half, “ewige Schlangenkraft” (Serpent Power Forever!) Fives, evidenced here by the pentagonal border devices, are also important symbols in this particular imaginal cosmology, as is the golden apple of chaos. (Hail Eris! Hail Yes!)
Exclamation points also seem to be in favor.