Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Return to the Forest of Enchantments

Idylle (1851)
William-Adolphe Bouguereau

While her true name is unknown, she is commonly known as "The Queen" or "The Quintessence."  The name was given to her by those who encountered her. 

Child Braiding a Crown (1874)
William-Adolphe Bouguereau
Private Collection

Travelers to the Forest of Enchantments will see the queen as young, fair and valorously built. The queen has the ability to cure all heartaches simply by playing a tune chosen in accordance with the nature of the complaint; she does not have to touch the patient. 

In the beginning of many of the great quests, the protagonist knows not that he (or she) is about to begin an adventure. Oft times they may be wholly consumed with things close at hand when they hear the calling. These things may be nothing more than daily routines, but may also be competitions for title and treasure…or they may be the guarding of the lands from robbers. In some tales, the protagonist may also be healing their wounds, recovering from battles against deadly foes in which dear ones have been lost. While the stories of the battles and loss may be all too easily found, it is less common in lore for a protagonist in this position to then venture forth in search of the Enchanted Forest and the Mistress therein. But upon further contemplation, we can recognize that it is often those who have survived such battles who fully appreciate the precious and temporal nature of life and therefore might, in fact, be most likely of all possible seekers to adventure forth in pursuit of true love and of the enchantments it brings.

The instrument on which she plays her miraculous music is a curious object: its pipes are made of cassia sticks; its sounding board, of guaiacum; its stops, of rhubarb; its pedals, of tussock; and its keyboard, of scammony. 

The queen herself only cures "incurable" ills; less serious complaints are dealt with by her officers: the abstractors, perazons, nedibins, calcinators and others. 

Art and Literature (c. 1867)
William-Adolphe Bouguereau
Arnot Art Museum Elmira

The sight of the Queen curing the sick is enough to reduce men to a state of swooning ecstasy, from which they can only be revived by the rose petals she carries with her. 

The nature of the Enchanted Forest is veiled in mystery. Indeed, the Enchanted Forest has characteristics not unlike rainbows, in that they often reveal themselves after a stormy period, they are in and of the heavens, and their location on terra firma may be difficult to ascertain, being mercurial in nature. Furthermore, there may be many dangers along the way, and there may, perhaps, be many different forests with varying degrees of enchantments therein, that may fool the seeker into thinking that they have found it. Some believe that there are many true Enchanted Forests, and that each of them may be revealed to only one seeker.
Young Woman Contemplating Two Embracing Children (1861)
William-Adolphe Bouguereau
Private Collection

Visitors will notice that the queen speaks in a curious manner, using terms drawn from abstract philosophies and logic. Her greeting to honest men, for instance, is in this style: 

"The probity of scintillating on the surfaces of your persons gives me perfect assurance of the virtues latent in the core of your minds. It is for that reason that I, who in the past have mastered all private affections, cannot now prevent myself from saying to you that you are heartily, most heartily, more than most heartily welcome." 

Sometimes the adventure, the quest, may lead to distant lands, and sometimes into the local woods…either way, it is oft in places least expected, and unless the seeker is open to great travel or looking within, they might never find it. Maybe the seeker is weary of travel, but the quest requires adventuring forth, and success requires letting go of the security of their comfortable castle to find the Enchanted Forest. Or maybe the seeker desires to escape their barren homelands, to fly to distant lands of magic and beauty, but their quest requires them to initially stay close, perhaps beginning their journey internally (or close by at least) to be able to find their Forest. While the Enchanted Forest holds mysterious treasures, the magic of Freedom of the Soul, and Great Happiness, there are those who do not seek it. Either from fear of letting go, or from fear of looking within, or both! And if they fail to seek, they fail to find. 

Tobias Receives his Father's Blessing (1860)
William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Although an extremely generous hostess who provides an excellent table for her guests, the queen herself drinks nothing but divine nectar and eats nothing but celestial ambrosia. The queen is said to perform all natural functions by proxy. 

There are also some who mistakenly believe they have already found the Enchanted Forrest, but do not recognize the false nature of the forest they are in (without bright magic or the magic there is dark), or they recognize these shortcomings of this false forest but are too settled to venture forth again, or assume there could not be a more magical place than where they have settled. Either way, it apparently may be difficult to not be lulled into staying in such a false forest for the Syrens. Of those who recognize the false Forest they are in, the few who daringly leave the false forest and seek only the True Forest of Enchantment are some of the bravest of seekers.

The Harvest of Festivals in the Forest of Enchantments is said to be very pleasant. A gentle wind blows through the azure, a hollow undercurrent that produces a melody reminiscent of Handel: 

The worldly Hamlet in which the Queen honors the Harvest is reminiscent to those in the Alps or Lombardy. The houses huddle together on each side of a narrow main street, with large, overhanging roofs and few windows, some of which are glazed. Vines grow outside some of the houses; inside, the walls are memorialized with art and artifact and the space is clean and comfortable. 

Rest in Harvest (c. 1865)
William-Adolphe Bouguereau
Philbrook Museum of Art

Fauna and flora in the worldly realm are relatively unspectacular, though a breed of bougainvillea surrounded by brightly colored papery bracts persist well past their time. The hamlet is nestled in a small town, though its inhabits call it "city." From afar the town gives an impression of lofty steeples and rounded domes. Few statues are found in this land where makeshift dwellings rest on massive pillars. 

The grounds are laid out in terraced gardens, one above the other, with flights of broad steps ascending and descending. 

Children in this land are educated far away from the Colleges of Unreason where the principal study is Hypothetics. Reason betrays minds into drawing hard and fast lines into defining language. Professors from these institutions belong to the Society for the Complete Obliteration of the Past which publicly supports the Suppression of Useless Knowledge. Fluency in all things temporal is the true mark of the successful society member. 

The laws in this land are somewhat strict. Illness of any sort is considered highly criminal and immoral, and for catching cold one might be brought up before the magistrates and imprisoned. However deception and other such moral misdeeds are seen as a matter for convalescence and curative treatment. They are treated by Straighteners. The Straighteners' office requires long and special training with fast "seasons" where practitioners enact each vice in turn, as a religious duty. 

There are numerous physical specialists who practice exercises throughout their lives, though most are martyrs to drink, gluttony or other vices chosen for special study. To be poor is also considered criminal. Loss of fortune or loss of some dear one is punished almost as severely as physical delinquency, and offenders are brought before the Court for Personal Bereavement. 

All Saints Day (1859)
William-Adolphe Bouguereau

These laws originated from a number of peculiar social customs. For instance, people enquire about someone's temper, as one would, elsewhere, about someone's health. Ill luck of any kind, or even ill treatment at the hands of others, is considered an offense against society, in as much as it makes people uncomfortable to hear of it.

Because illness is such a dreadful felony, it is polite, according to worldly etiquette to say "I am under the weather," which is a vaguely analogous expression that could mean illness or jubilation, being under the spell of a beautiful day. 

Death is regarded with less abhorrence than disease or banishment. Worldly inhabitants argue that if it is an offense at all it is one beyond the reach of the law, which is therefore silent on the subject. No one is permitted to refuse hospitality to the dead. Generally they choose some garden or orchard which they have known and been fond of when they were young. 

Sainte Famille (1863)
William-Adolphe Bouguereau
Private Collection

When anyone dies, the friends of the family send little boxes filled with artificial tears (the number of tears ranges according to the degree of intimacy or relationship), and people find it a nice point of etiquette to know the exact number of tears they ought to send.

A notable characteristic of the Worldly mind is that when they are quite certain about any matter and avow it as a base on which they are to build a system of practice, they are seldom prepared to criticize it. 

The worldly notion of time is also quite peculiar to the Enchanted mind. Worldly citizens claim that they are drawn through life backwards; or again, onwards into the future as into a dark corridor. Time walks beside them and flings back shutters as they advance, but the light thus given often dazzles, and deepens the darkness which is in front. As a consequence they cannot see but little at a time, and heed that little with far less than one's apprehension of what shall be seen next. 

Forever peering curiously through the glare of the present into the gloom of the future, they presage the leading lines of that which is before them by faintly reflected lights from dull mirrors that are behind them, and stumble on as they may until the trapdoor opens beneath them and they are gone. 

Prayer at Sainte Anne d'Auray (1869)
William-Adolphe Bouguereau
Private Collection

Legends say that there are some who know the future better than the past, but that they died from the misery their knowledge caused them. 

Worldly inhabitants worship a number of gods openly, but secretly believe only in that which has touched their hearts or frightened their minds. The gods they worship are personifications of human qualities, such as justice, strength, hope, fear and love. They believe that these gods have a real objective existence in a region far beyond the clouds. The gods' interest in human affairs is keen and on the whole beneficial, but they become very angry if neglected and punish the first person they come upon rather than the person who has offended them. 

The gods have a most unusual law that two pieces of matter may not occupy the same space at the same moment, a law administered by the gods of Time and Space jointly. If the corner of a piece of furniture and an individual's toe occur the same space simultaneously, attempting to outrage these gods by "arrogating a right which they do not possess", a severe punishment, sometimes agony itself, is sure to follow. 

Orestes Pursued by the Furies (c. 1862)
William-Adolphe Bouguereau
Chrysler Museum of Art

In spite of their idols and temples, this professed belief is only superficial. These inhabitants really believe in the goddess, in the Goddess of Freedom, who is held to be both omnipresence and omnipotent, but she is not an elevated conception in the minds of the true and faithful, for them she is sometimes absurd in her deeds, which confuse hearts and heads. Still, they never run counter to her dictates without ample reason for doing so: in such cases they override their opinion of who she is with due self reliance, and the goddess bids them adieu, for they are brave. 

There is a small but growing sect who believe in the immortality of the soul and the resurrection of the disenchanted from deep within the Forest of Enchantment. Travelers who seek this treasure are eternally tortured by healthy and handsome and are rewarded for ever and ever should they reach this quintessential moment. 

The Dance (1856)
William-Adolphe Bouguereau
Musee d'Orsay

Whether recovering from deadly battle, or in competition for treasure, or leaving a false Forest of Enchantment in search of truth, discovery favors the alert mind, the open eye, the truest of spirit and the bravest of heart (together forming the Authenticity). For in reality, the magic of the Enchanted Forrest may partly be from the exiled Queen, with the remainder coming from within the Knight. And in fact, though the Queen must be in a state of tranquility, she is not actually in true repose, for she too, must be seeking her complement in the Knight to find this higher state of magic, as their contributions must complement and synergize to make the Enchanted Forest it's full, heavenly-dream like potential. And though she has magic, and she is surly an Enchantress, and she has amazing beauty and power and strength, her magical powers and her own happiness is not as great as it could be without this Authentic Seeker, the True Knight. Once together, in the perfect combination, there is a happiness, a warmth of heart and mind and soul, that comes from the Happy Couple, and it expands the Forest of Enchantment, and elevates the energy of the entire realm.

Inhabitant Beings in the Forest of Enchantments recognize the nature of things existing in the world around them, and about them which they will be conversant. For a brief time every year during the Festival of the Harvest, they open the pathway to the Forest of Enchantments. The portal is only recognizable by its shimmery mists. Knights in search of misty eyes travel forth in the truest spirit and the bravest of heart (together forming the Authenticity). The Knight's higher state of magic guides him from the land of his inhabitancy to one of divine origin. He escapes the spell of his barren homeland in a white balloon. 

The greater part of the noble Knight's terra firma contains all sorts of broken machinery: fragments of sadness, a very old runaway thought, notions and biases, and the like. It seems that just yesterday the state of mechanical knowledge was far advanced. However a persistent thought and underlining current foreshadowed an extraordinary moment proving that machines were not ultimately destined to supplant the Knight's natural essence. He convinced everyone and paid homage to the law which strictly forbid all further improvements and inventions equivalent to fevers associated with ecstasy and delight, which worldly inhabitants regard as one of the worst of all crimes. 

It should be noted that the worldly realm is a rapidly changing society and that no information has been forthcoming for many years. The beings that inhabit the Forest of Enchantments cannot therefore vouch for the exactness of the above description. 

Lidylle (1850)
William-Adolphe Bouguereau
Private Collection

Of all the Forests of Enchantment, and all the seekers of her, the right combination has seldom been. But on those few, rare combinations, the magic is something to behold, as both the Queen, and the Knight together create a magical energy that transforms the Forest into the glowing, floating dream – the heaven it might become. 

The End.  err, Beginning ...

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