In Transit . . .

Sorry to have disappeared recently . . . each day of this journey to France has been an adventure of one kind or another, and I just haven’t had time to write about it all yet.  We fly back to the States tomorrow/Wednesday, following a one-day layover in Reykjavik, Iceland (which I’m very excited about, even though we’ll only be there for a few hours).  There’s so much to write about when I get home . . . encountering Dionysos among the vineyards in the south of France, honoring the poet-heroes at the Père Lachaise Cemetery (with the wonderful Valiel!), and having some powerful experiences with Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and Near-Eastern deities at the Louvre.  I imagine I will be rather jet-lagged for a few days, but I will resume posting again as soon as I am able.  In the meantime, here are some images of Hermes/Mercury throughout the ages from the Atlas Database at the Louvre Museum.  These photos are not mine – all images and text below are owned by the Musée du Louvre!

© Musée du Louvre

Hermes
Protector of travellers, messenger of the gods and the guide or psychopomp who conducted the souls of the dead to the underworld, Hermes was a son of Zeus and can be recognised by his caduceus, a staff entwined with two serpents symbolising swiftness and cunning and given to him by Zeus, his winged sandals and his petasus, a flat broad-brimmed felt hat He is sometimes shown bearing a ram on his shoulders (“Hermes Criophoros”).
Hermes “criophoros”
C. 500–475 BC
Provenance: Thebes
Local production
H. 18.4 cm; W. 8.6 cm

 

 © 1992 Photo RMN / Hervé Lewandowski

Hermes
Second quarter of 5th century BC
Provenance: northern Greece?
Bronze
Hermes, whom we recognize by his caduceus, is dressed like one of the travellers of whom he was the patron deity. He wears a pointed hat (pilos), a short cloak (chlamys) and top boots (embades).

© 2006 Photo RMN / Hervé Lewandowski

Mercury
1st–2nd century AD
Provenance: Gaul
Bronze
Eyes inlaid with silver
H. 22.4 cm
Figures of Mercury naked, winged and holding a purse in the hollow of his right hand, are characteristic of Roman Gaul. His left hand held a caduceus.

© 2006 Photo RMN / Hervé Lewandowski

Mercury
1st century AD
Provenance: Bordeaux, ancient Burdigala, Roman province of Aquitaine
Bronze
H. 13 cm
The god wears winged sandals, a winged petasus and a laurel wreath, and holds a purse by the neck. A chlamys is draped over his left arm, which originally held a caduceus.

© Photo RMN / H. Lewandowski

Mercury
1st–2nd century AD
Bronze
Mercury, whom we recognize from the wings in his hair, held a caduceus in his left hand. The purse in his right hand alludes to his role as the god of commerce. The nudity and the Polycletian contrapposto are characteristic of a statue type that was particularly well-established in the Gallic and Germanic provinces of the Roman empire.

 

 © 2011 Musée du Louvre / Thierry Ollivier

GIAMBOLOGNA, originally Jean BOULOGNE
Douai, 1529 – Florence, 1608
Flying Mercury
Provenance: Duc de Brissac collection (confiscated in 1794)?
Bronze
H. 1.80 m

© Musée du Louvre/P. Philibert

Dominique LEFÈBVRE
died after 1719
Mercury
Marble
H. 1.61 m; W. 0.60 m; D. 0.30 m
Made from a model by Michel Anguier. Acquired by the Bâtiments du Roi in 1698 and placed in the Bosquet du Couchant in the park at Marly from 1701 to 1707, the statue was installed in the Parc de Trianon from 1722 to 1845, then in the Parc de Saint-Cloud from 1845 to 1872. Loaned to the Musée National du Château de Fontainebleau from 1928 to 1994.

© Musée du Louvre/P. Philibert

Antoine COYSEVOX
Lyon, 1640 – Paris, 1720
Mercury Mounted on Pegasus
1699–1702
Manufacture: Paris
Carrara marble
H. 3.15 m; W. 2.91 m; D. 1.28
In 1699, Antoine Coysevox received a commission for a group of two equestrian statues destined to exalt the “King’s fame”. The statues were made in Carrara marble in 1701–02 and placed to either side of the upper part of the Bassin de l’Abreuvoir at the entrance to the park at Marly. On the base, an inscription by the sculptor underlines that the completion of these two monolithic blocks in the space of two years was a tour de force. Mercury, the god of trade and the arts, forms a group with “Fame Mounted on Pegasus” sounding a trumpet.

© 2007 Musée du Louvre / Pierre Philibert

Jean-Baptiste PIGALLE
Paris, 1714 – Paris, 1785
Approved by the Académie Royale in 1741
Mercury Fastening His Heel-Wings
Provenance: confiscated during the Revolution from the collections of the Académie
Marble
H. 0.58 m; W. 0.35 m; D. 0.33 m

© Musée du Louvre/P. Philibert

Jean-Baptiste Joseph DE BAY, known as Jean-Baptiste DEBAY PÈRE
Mechelen, 1779 – Paris, 1863
Mercury Seizing his Sword to Cut Off Argus’s Head
1824
Marble
H. 1.02 m; W. 0.60 m; D. 0.99 m
The plaster cast was presented at the Salon of 1822, and the marble statue was commissioned for the gardens in the Château de Compiègne. Argus, the giant with a hundred eyes, was charged with watching over Io; Hermes managed to cut his head off after lulling him to sleep with the sound of his pipes.

© Musée du Louvre/P. Philibert

François RUDE
Dijon, 1784 – Paris, 1855
Mercury Fastening His Heel-Wings
Bronze (cast by Soyer and Ingé in 1834)
H. 2.50 m; W. 0.52 m; D. 0.90 m
Mercury preparing to fly back to Mount Olympus after cutting off Argus’s head.

Pagan in Paris: A Pagan Guide to The Louvre Museum

At this moment I am sitting on the balcony of a 12th-century chateau in the south of France, near the fortified city of Carcassone, in the middle of Cathar Country.  Swallows chirp and circle in the air over a beautiful vineyard.  Next door is a little park with Gallo-Roman grave monuments.  Wildstar and I are hosting a ten-person wine tour of the Langue d’oc region, visiting the vineyards of several amazing wine-makers, with side trips to villages in the surrounding area.  We’ve been incredibly busy so far, but our wi-fi is working and I must talk about the focus of my second day in Paris last week:  The Musée de Louvre.

The Louvre Museum is one of the most impressive museums in the world.  Frankly, it can be downright overwhelming as there is so much to see.  When we lived in Paris (from 2000-2005), I was blessed to be in my early 20s and therefore eligible to purchase the Louvre Carte Jeune, which was only 100 franc (later 20 euro) per year, and allowed anyone under the age of 28 to visit the Louvre at any time, bypass the line, and even visit the museum when it was otherwise closed to the public.  The Louvre became my second home.  I visited at least once a week, often more, where I would sit in the galleries and write (I wrote most of my first novel in this sublime environment).  This also afforded me ample opportunities to spend an entire day in a single room or section, enjoying the art at a leisurely pace, and most importantly (as a pagan), taking time to commune with the statues and pay homage to the deities and heroes they represent.

Which is not to say that it’s easy being a pagan at the Louvre.  So many of the classical sculptures are so impressive that one can’t help but feeling moved to pour a libation of wine onto the ground, leave an offering, or perform a full ritual before the sacred image.  Obviously, in a crowded public museum, with security guards and cameras everywhere, this is virtually impossible.  So we need to be creative, and instead find other more appropriate ways to honor the gods.  I call what I do “communing with the statues.”  I’m not sure if I can accurately describe something so intuitive and non-rational, but if you can understand the feeling of sitting on a beach or in a forest and “communing with nature,” then you can perhaps comprehend my process of communing with the statues.  These “objects” (and I use quotes here because they are so much more than that) are sacred images of the divine goddesses and gods.  They were created by artists who believed in the gods, who were capable of honing their creativity and skill to give a material form to their own visions of the divine.  The same feeling of reverence, the overwhelming shock of the sublime that I often feel in a beautiful landscape, is akin to my feeling for these statues.  And even in a crowded public place, that feeling can be shaped into a sacred moment, a genuine spiritual experience, in which we can communicate with and honor the gods.

I will often tune out the surrounding chatter and stand before a statue in silent prayer.  If there is a nearby bench in the room, I can sit in quiet contemplation, perhaps writing down my thoughts and impressions of the statue.  Artists may feel compelled to make a sketch of the statue, while my fellow poets may want to compose a hymn.  And there is nothing comparable to praying before one of these ancient statues, knowing that they are mediums between this world and the gods, and that you are not the only soul to have gazed upon the beauty of this human creation and perceived a glimpse of the divine.

If you are a pagan and have a chance to visit the Louvre, here are a few tips:

1.         You are not going to see everything.  It’s physically impossible.  The Louvre is the largest and most visited museum in the world.  I spent almost five years visiting the Louvre on a weekly basis and I still haven’t seen everything.  If you try to see too much in one visit, or spend too long without taking a break for lunch (or just a repose), you will become overwhelmed.  It’s almost too much beauty for the human mind and soul to take in at once. The sooner you accept this fact, the more enjoyable and positive your experience will be.  To put things in perspective, there are over 380,000 objects in the museum’s permanent collection (which doesn’t include rotating temporary exhibits).  If you wanted to spend one minute looking at every object, you would need to visit the Louvre for ten solid hours every day for nearly two years before you could see everything in the museum’s primary collection.  And considering you could spend hours contemplating a single painting or statue . . . you see the quandary.  You need to have realistic expectations and not get upset when you can’t see everything.

2.         Take your time.  Since you have accepted the fact that you cannot see everything, there’s no need to rush.  It would be better to take a few minutes (or longer) to truly appreciate and contemplate a single statue (or painting or objet d’art) than to rush through an entire room so that you can “see everything” without really taking anything in at all.  It’s like skimming a good book.  I have seen tourists (often my fellow Americans unfortunately) with a video camera pointing to the side at the walls, while they race forward, not actually looking at anything.  I don’t get it!  It would be better to just buy a few postcards, or art books, or even just look at high-quality images online!  A friend of mine used to tell a horror story about once witnessing an American mother and child at the Louvre.  The mother was a stereotypical American tourist (I’ll let your imagination fill in the aesthetically unpleasant details . . . I like to imagine the requisite fanny pack, stretch pants, cowboy hat, and the culturally offensive “Texas is bigger than France” t-shirt.  I think it was David Sedaris who asked, “Why do Americans visit other countries dressed like they’re there to mow the lawn?”).  She was rushing through the Louvre at a breakneck speed, with a video camera in one hand, dragging her poor child (a little boy of about eight or nine) in the other.  When the little boy stopped and said, “Mom!  Wait!  Look!  It’s the Mona Lisa!”, his ogress of a mother slapped him on the behind and barked, “You can see it on the video when we get home!”  Obviously, this is horrific on so many levels.  So take your time to contemplate and enjoy these sublime works of art, these cultural treasures, these pinnacles of human achievement.  Don’t be an ogress.

3.         Focus.  Choose a general area/topic to focus upon on your visit, perhaps two if you are feeling ambitious and have both the stamina and willingness to take a break when you’re tired.  If you are pagan, the three primary collections you will probably most enjoy (from a spiritual standpoint) are  The Department of Greek, Roman, and Etruscan Antiquities, The Department of Egyptian Antiquities, and The Department of Near Eastern Antiquities.  That being said, the Italian Renaissance paintings and sculptures are justly famous, and many (especially the sculptures) involve classical themes.  And many of the large-scale 18th and 19th-century neoclassical French paintings will also be of interest to Hellenists and Latinists.  The Dutch masters, Napoleon’s opulent salon, and sections on subjects ranging from Islamic Art to the Medieval Decorative Arts are all valuable and worth seeing.  But there’s just not time to do everything.  So pick a department or two, perhaps find a few specific works of art you definitely want to see, and plan your route in advance.  To give you one example, last week I spent over six hours at the Louvre (which is honestly more than I would recommend for most people) and I only saw a small portion of the Greek and Roman Antiquities collection (not even half) and nothing else.

4.         Be aware that the items on display are constantly changing.  The Louvre collection is so huge that everything cannot possibly be on display at the same time.  Many amazing and important works of art are on loan to other museums, in storage, or located in a hall that is closed or under renovation.  This is *especially* true of the Greek and Roman antiquities section.  Due to room closures and renovation, right now *less than half* of the classical sculptures that were on display twelve years ago are on display now.  This means that many significant works of art are just not available.  I was honestly shocked during this visit to see so many room closures, with several giant halls of precious statues wrapped in plastic and unavailable to the public, including many, many iconic statues of the gods.  So try not to be too disappointed if the Ares Borghese or Braschi Antinous are nowhere to be seen.

All that being said, here are some highlights from my visit last week.  This post is fairly enormous, so I’m going to spare you the commentary and just put up photos.  As I’ve said previously, I am not a photographer, so all of these photographs (and accompanying descriptions, which vary in quality and detail) are from the Wikimedia Commons.

Statue of the type of Apollo Sauroctonus (lizard-killer). Roman copy from the AD 1st century (?) after a Greek original of ca. 350 BC with 17th and 18th century restaurations. Found in Rome, 17th century (?).

Artemis of the Rospigliosi type. Marble, Roman artwork of the Imperial Era, 1st–2nd centuries AD. Copy of a Greek original, maybe the bronze group mentioned by Pausanias (I, 25, 2), which represented a gigantomachia.

Artemis with a hind, better known as “Diana of Versailles”. Marble, Roman artwork, Imperial Era (1st-2nd centuries CE). Found in Italy.

The three Graces. Marble, Roman copy of the Imperial Era (2nd century AD?) after a Hellenistic original. Restored for a large part in 1609 by Nicolas Cordier (1565-1612) for Cardinal Borghese.

Drunken Silenus. Parian marble, Roman artwork of the 2nd century CE. May be inspired by the Pouring Satyr by Praxiteles.

Sleeping Hermaphroditus. Hermaphroditus: Greek marble, Roman copy of the 2nd century CE after a Hellenistic original of the 2nd century BC, restored in 1619 by David Larique; mattress: Carrara marble, made by Gianlorenzo Bernini in 1619 on Cardinal Borghese’s request.

Statue of Aphrodite, known as the Venus of Arles. Hymettus marble, Roman artwork, imperial period (end of the 1st century BC), might be a copy of the Aphrodite of Thespiae by Praxiteles. The apple and the mirror were added during the 17th century. Found in the antic theatre of Arles, France.

Nymph with a shell. Marble, Roman copy of the 1st century CE after the known Hellenistic type of a young girl playing a game of knuckle-bones. The head is antique but does not belong to the statue; left arm, right hand and shell are modern restorations, altering the original type.

Apollo, Roman copy of the Kassel type (original ca. 450 BC). Pentelic marble, early 2nd century AD (?), found in Italy.

Asclepios, god of medicine. Marble, Roman copy (2nd century CE) of a Greek original of the early 4th century BC, restored by the workshop of Bartolomeo Cavaceppi (?) in the 18th century. Found in Italy.

So-called “Velletri Pallas”: Helmeted Athena. Marble with traces of red colour, Roman copy of the 1st century CE after a bronze original of the 5th century. Found in 1797 in the ruins of a Roman villa near Velletri.

Capitoline Venus, after the Aphrodite of Cnidus. Marble, Roman artwork of the Imperial Era (2nd century CE). From Rome.

Crouching Aphrodite. Marble, Roman variant of the Imperial Era after a Hellenistic type: the goddess is raising her left hand towards her neck whereas the protype used to cross her arms on her breast.

Dancing satyr from the group “Invitation to the dance”. Roman copy (1st-2nd century CE) of a hellenistic original (2nd century BC) known by coins of Cyzicus (Asia Minor) and numerous copies (such as Louvre Ma 528). Found in Rome in 1630, it was heavily restored: a large part of the arms and legs, the cymbals and the tree trunk are modern. It seems that the satyr originally was beating time, snapping fingers in rhythm and using a kind of Greek castanets with his foot.

Eros stringing his bow. From the ruins of the Imperial Palace on the Palatine Hill, Rome.

Statue of Hermes. The identification is secured by the fragment of caduceus held in the left hand and the small holes bored into the hair to support small wings (now lost). Roman copy of the Imperial Era after a bronze original of the late classicism.

Portrait of Homer, known as Homer Caetani. Pentelic marble, Roman copy of the 2nd century CE after a Greek original of the 2nd century BC. From the Palazzo Caetani in Rome.

Lycian Apollo. Roman copy (Imperial era) of a Greek original.

Apollo carrying his kithara holds a phiale (flat cup) for Nike (Victory) to pour a libation in; they are standing on both sides of the omphalos. Marble, Roman copy of the late 1st century CE after a neo-Attic original of the Hellenistic era.

Nike (Victory) offering an egg to a snake entwined around a column topped with the Palladion; a warrior wearing helmet and armour has laid down his shield at the feet of the trophy and stands in a contemplative posture. Marble, Roman copy of the late 1st century AD after a neo-Attic original of the Hellenistic era.

Dramatic poet receiving drunken Dionysos, escorted by maenads and satyrs. Probably a votive relief dedicated by the winner of a theatrical contest. Marble, Roman copy (1st-2nd century CE) of a hellenistic original (late 2nd century BC?), found in Rome.

Young satyr playing the flute. Roman work of the 1st-2nd century CE . From Italy.

Silenus holding the child Dionysos. Marble, Roman copy of the 1st–2nd century CE after a Greek original of the late 4th century BC. From the Horti Sallustiani in Rome, 16th century.

Hermes agoraios and the Charites, relief of the Passage of Theori, from the agora of Thasos. Thasian marble with traces of polychromy on Hermes’ shoes and bronze ornaments (Hermes’ caduceus, fibulae), ca. 480 BC. Inscription: “To the Charites one may not sacrifice goat nor pig”.

Male torso, Parian marble, ca. 480 BC–470 BC, found in Miletus.

Athena of the Hope-Farnese type. Marble, Roman copy from the 1st–2nd centuries AD after a Greek original, probably the late 5th century BC bronze cult-statue of Athena Itonia (near Koroneia) by Agoracritos, described by Pausanias (IX, 34, 1). The antique head, of the Mattei type, does not belong to the statue.

Athena of the Athena Parthenos type. Parian marble (body) and Pentelic marble (head), Roman copy from the 1st–2nd century AD after the 5th century BC original.

Statue of an ephebe, traditionnally identified as Narcissus or Hyacinthus. Marble, Roman copy from ca. 100 AD after a Greek original of the late 5th century BC. Found in Italy

Statue of a youth with Phrygian cap, identified as Paris. Marble, Roman copy from the 2nd century AD after a Greek original. Found by Gavin Hamilton at Villa Adriana in Tivoli, 1769.

Dioscurus wearing the pilos, marble. From the northern area of the circus of Carthage.

Adonis. Marble, antique torso restored and completed by Duquesnoy.

Antinous as Aristaeus, god of the gardens. Bought in Rome in the 17th century by Cardinal Richelieu for his collections.

Statue of Dionysus. Marble, 2nd century CE (some restorations in the 17th century).

Bust of Antinous (117–138 CE). Modern copy after an original coming from the villa Adriana now in the Prado Museum.

Colossal portrait of Anrtinoos. The eyes and the attribute on the top of the head (uraeus or lotus flower?) were added on later. The bust was inserted into a body of a different material.

Statue of a goddess, probably Juno, restored as Urania. Marble, 2nd century AD (nose, mouth, neck, arms and feet are modern restorations).

Altar of the twelve gods. Original in Louvre, cast in Pushkin museum. Use unknown: maybe the brink of a well or an Zodiac altar. The object represents the twelve gods of the Roman pantheon, each identified by an attribute: Venus and Mars linked by Cupid, Jupiter and a lightning bolt, Minerva wearing a helmet, Apollo, Juno and her sceptre, Neptune and his trident, Vulcan and his sceptre, Mercury and his caduceus, Vesta, Diana and her quiver and Ceres. Marble, found in Gabii (Italy), 1st century CE.

Statue of Dionysus. Marble, 2nd century CE (arms and legs were heavily restored in the 18th century), found in Italy.

Narcissus, also known as the “Mazarini Hermaphroditus” or the “Genie of eternal rest”. The statue is composed of an antique funeral bust and of an antique lower part, assembled in modern times. Marble, 3rd century CE.

Statue of a male deity known as “Jupiter of Smyrna”. Found in 1670 in Smyrna (now İzmir in Turkey), the statue was brought to Louis XIV and restored as a Zeus ca. 1686 by Pierre Granier, who added the arm raising the thunderbolt. Marble, middle 2nd century CE.

Relief known as “the three Tyches”—Tyche is the Greek goddess of Fortune; since the Hellenistic period, each city has its own Tyche, represented with a crown of ramparts. This relief, found at the Via Appia, is known since the 18th century and belonged to the Borghese collections. It may come from the Triopius, the funeral complex built by Herodes Atticus for his wife Annia Regilla. Marble, ca. 160 CE.

Bust of Antinous as Dionysos; small holes bored into the hair used to support a metal ivy wreath. Marble, ca. 130 BC, origin unknown.

Mithras killing a sacred bull (tauroctony), side A of a two-faced Roman marble relief, ca. 2nd or 3rd century AD.

Side B (reverse) of a two-sided Mithraic relief. Found at Fiano Romano, near Rome “couché dans un petit réduit de briques” in 1926. White marble (H. 62cm, W. 67 cm, D. 16 cm) on a travertine base (H. 10cm, W. 76cm, D. 50cm). 2nd-3rd century.

This (reverse) face of the monument depicts a banquet scene. In the middle, a bull’s hide, of which the head and one hindleg are visible. Sol and Mithras recline on its side by side. Mithras holds a torch in his left hand and extends his right hand behind Sol. Sol is dressed only in a cape, fastened on his right shoulder with a fibula. Around Sol’s head is a crown of eleven rays. He holds a whip in his left hand and extends the right towards a torchbearer who offers him a rhyton. In the lower right is another torchbearer, with raised torch in his left hand. In his right hand, a caduceus held into the water emerging from the ground. In the middle, an altar in the coils of a crested snake. In the upper left corner, Luna in a cloud, looking away. Traces of red paint on the attire of Sol, Mithras and the torchbearers.

**********************

I am returning to the Louvre next Monday when we get back to Paris, and there’s one thing I wanted to ask all my pagan friends out there:  Any messages or prayer requests you would like me to make to the gods on your behalf?  As I tried to explain above, I spend time communing with the statues.  And every time I saw a statue of Antinous, I couldn’t help but take a moment and communicate to the statue (and consequently the god): “Antinous, I honor you. And I know someone named P. Sufenas Virius Lupus who honors you!  And I know someone named Kallimakhos who honors you!  May they be blessed.”  Whenever I saw a statue of Dionysos (or a member of his retinue), I said something similar on behalf of Sannion and Dver.  Likewise, at statues of Apollon on behalf of Dver, Lykeia, and Kallimakhos.  At statues of Zeus, I thought of Melia.  At statues of Eros, I thought of Ruadhan.  At the bust of Serapis, I thought of Edward (because of his gravatar!).  Artemis reminds me of Brendan.  At various altars of the Twelve Olympians I thought of many of you.  Thetis and various sea nymphs remind me of my mom.  I prayed and made a request to Asclepius on behalf of my friend Scarlett.  And so forth . . .

I didn’t ask anyone’s permission to do this, but it felt right, and I hope my actions didn’t offend anyone.  It’s just that there are so many of my fellow pagans out there, scattered all over the world, whose blogs and websites I enjoy, whose words (and songs and art) inspire me, and who I wish could have been there with me at the Louvre, honoring the gods together (even though I haven’t met very many of you yet!).  It’s not like the Louvre is a cathedral where I can light a candle in your name, so I took quite a few moments on this visit to think of you all and to send a personal message to the gods on your behalf (via these sacred statues), simply asking the gods to send you blessings.  If I overstepped, I sincerely apologize, as my intentions were positive!

Since I am returning next Monday, is there anyone out there reading this who would like me to “send a message” or make a prayer request to any specific deities (or heroes/heroines) on their behalf?  I would be honored to do so.  I’m not claiming to have any more or less of a connection to the gods than anyone else, and please let me be clear that I am *not* implying that we need ancient statues, temples, or anything special whatsoever to communicate with the deities.  The gods are always there, and I know they hear us.  It’s just that there’s something especially charged about these statues, and like I said earlier, it feels right.

I will mostly be in the Greek & Roman Antiquities section, but I am hoping I can spend some time in the Egyptian section as well.  Please let me know in the comments if you have any requests, and I will make another post when I can!

A Pagan Walking Tour of Paris – Day One: Garden Nymphs, Hero-Poets, and Divine Allegories (oh my!)

We arrived in Paris on Tuesday after many, many hours of travel and very few hours of sleep.  We’re staying with a friend on L’île Saint-Louis, the little island in the center of Paris, on the Seine and next to L’île de la Cité (where Notre-Dame is located).  We’re about a block away from the tiny apartment we lived in from 2000-2005.  This is my first trip to Paris since Wildstar’s big art show in 2007, but that was a really short trip (and our entire focus was the art show), so I feel like I haven’t really had a chance to experience this beautiful city since we lived here seven years ago.

And yesterday I experienced The City of Lights as I best remember it from our starving Bohemian artist days – by walking.  And walking.  And walking.  I must have walked at least 12 miles yesterday, maybe more (it’s no wonder we were so much thinner when lived here).  Wildstar and I began the day by crossing La Seine (aka Sequona, our beloved River Goddess and one of this city’s patron deities) to the Right Bank and Le Marais (the gay/Jewish neighborhood), where we had our morning coffee with fresh croissants.  There’s nothing like sitting in a Paris café and watching all the people walk by, and there couldn’t be a bigger contrast to our quiet life in our remote woodland cabin in the Northwest.  I love this city, but I definitely don’t miss the stress and the struggle and the constant activity.  That being said, Paris is still such an amazing place to visit.  In my opinion it’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

We walked all over the old neighborhood to regain our bearings and prepare for the upcoming walking tour we’ll be leading.  We traversed the same old passageways, passed the same Gothic architecture, and despite the sudden proliferation of Starbucks (there were *none* in Paris when lived here before, now they’re everywhere), we were pleased at how many of our favorite old shops and restaurants are still in business.  This was even more clear when we walked back to L’île Saint-Louis.  It’s almost like nothing has changed.  The same shops, the same two women at the bakery, the same butcher, the same guy making crêpes at our favorite crêpe stand, even the same old woman (who vaguely resembles Quentin Crisp when he was in his 90s) sitting at the same desk looking out onto the street while she works.  It was all very surreal, like walking through a memory . . .

[Note: None of the photos in this post came from me, I found them on the web.  I am a terrible photographer so these will have to do.]

On the island we had to pay our respects at three important places:

1) The benches on the riverbank, where we once spent many days and nights, making many offerings to La Seine/Sequona.

2) The gilded balcony that was once home to the Club des Hashischins, a private club in the 19th-century that was attended by many cultural luminaries, including many of our poet-heroes:  including Charles Baudelaire, Gérard de Nerval, Gustave Flaubert, Alexandre Dumas, Honoré de Balzac, and especially a poet by the name of Théophile Gautier, who wrote an incredibly surreal story about this club (containing a hallucination of a man with screaming mandrake roots for feet, and which inspired the name of the Rozz Williams album, Daucus Carota).  This place is significant to us because I once had an elaborate and vivid dream about the club, and the name Théophile Gautier, long before I’d ever heard of either of them, and before we’d even moved to Paris.  I spent years trying to understand the dream, and one day I found out about the story, and the club, and that this club was located on the exact block of Paris where we were then living, just a few doors down on the other side.

3) Square Barye, which features a monument/memorial to one of my favorite sculptors, Antoine-Louis Barye. When we first moved to Paris, I fell in love with the work by Barye at the Musée d’Orsay, especially a beautiful series of allegorical figures (who happen to be male, which is rather rare as far as allegories go). I became somewhat obsessed with Barye, started seeing his work all over Paris, and it later turned out there was a full-scale monument to the man in a park about two blocks from our apartment, which included two of those allegorical figures, Order and Force:

We then went over to the Left Bank, stopped by Shakespeare & Co. (the American bookshop and one of my old hangouts), walked through the Latin Quarter and over to the St. Michel fountain, which I have *always* associated with Hermes despite the overtly Christian imagery:

At this point, a severely jet-lagged Wildstar needed to go back to the apartment and rest, but I decided to continue my walking tour and visit a few old haunts.  I headed a long way down the Seine to the gorgeous Jardin des Plantes, a huge botanical garden and park where I would often sit for hours and write.  This also gave me a chance to revisit one of my favorite neoclassical statues, Amour captive (Love Captured) by Felix Sanzel, which stands in the middle of an incredible rose garden:

Another statue, though, which has no title or attribution, has always puzzled me.  Perhaps someone reading this might be able to help me out. The following statue is clearly a classical philosopher, but which philosopher would be portrayed holding an egg?  Any ideas?

There are so many amazing plants and flowers and quite a few very ancient trees which I also spent time communing with.  I daresay there are more dryads and other nymphs (garden nymphs? park nymphs?) in the Jardin des Plantes than almost any other park in Paris I’ve visited.

I then walked to the Fontaine Cuvier (dedicated to the zoologist Georges Cuvier) – a fountain with an allegorical statue representing Natural History, and which features a stern-looking goddess figure surrounded by animals.  I’ve always found something particularly numinous about this fountain and another tiny fountain across the street, so I paid my respects to the fountain nymphs here:

Nearby are the Arènes de Lutèce, the Arenas of Lutèce (Lutèce was the Roman name for Paris, hence “City of Lights”), which are a Gallo-Roman gladiatorial arena and amphitheater from the 1st century CE that is now a public park.  Years ago I remember a bunch of young football/soccer players running around, beating their chests and exclaiming “We’re the lions now!”  I loved to sit in the amphitheater and read or write while the “lions” rampaged below.

The park was packed on this beautiful sunny afternoon, and beneath me were about 50 guys in a tournament playing the jeu de boules (that game so popular in France where metal balls are thrown into the sand . . . I have no idea how it’s played).

After the Arenas, I felt a strange compulsion to stop inside an old church I had never visited before, St. Etienne du Mont.  In the United States I never set foot inside a Christian church unless I absolutely have to for some reason (usually for a funeral).  But churches in Europe, especially in France, are different.  They’re aesthetically far superior to their counterparts in North America, they’re often built on pagan sites and frequently contain many pagan elements. I’ll talk about this more when I discuss Notre Dame in a future post, but yesterday I heard a voice calling me to stop in and pay a visit.  And sure enough, I was immediately led to a side chapel containing a beautiful allegorical statue of Esperance (Hope) holding an anchor. This lovely statue was made in 1826 by one S.-J. Bru (I cannot find a photograph on the interwebs).  Divine Allegories were everywhere yesterday, and so I paid homage to the Goddess of Hope and moved on.

I headed to The Panthéon, (which became the Temple of Reason during the French Revolution), where many French cultural heroes are buried, including  Voltaire, Victor Hugo, Toussaint Louverture, and Marie Curie:

Outside I poured libations to the Goddess of Reason, as well as my poet-heroes Voltaire and Victor Hugo (I was reading Les Miserables on the plane . . . such a wise and beautiful book).  I then sat for a while beneath the temple columns and read a few favorite passages of Plato’s Timaeus in the cool shade.

My next stop was the Luxembourg Gardens, which were originally built at the behest of Marie de’ Medici.  The park is filled with over a hundred different statues and fountains, including many of my poet-heroes (George Sand, Charles Baudelaire, Stendhal, Paul Verlaine, Leconte de Lisle), a series of Classical Goddesses, and many others.  Below are a number of those statues, starting with one that is particularly interesting in terms of hero-cultus – Le Marchand des Masques (The Merchant of Masks) by Zacharate Astrue.  It depicts a trickster-like lad holding up a mask while surrounded by a ring of masks depicting the actual (rather creepy) death masks of a number of 19th-century writers, artists, and composers – Hugo, Balzac, Dumas fils, Delacroix, Corot, Berlios, Fauré and others:

Dancing Faun by Eugène Louis Lequesne

Le Triomphe de Silene (The Triumph of Silenus) by Aime Jules Dalou

Monument in honor of Leconte de Lisle

Musicien by Jean Valette

The Medici Fountain (above) is a particularly numinous spot and a great place to sit in a chair and read or write.  The fountain portrays Polyphemus Surprising Acis and Galatea, and there’s this uncanny mirror-like effect in the water that photos can’t really convey.  It’s surrounded by some particularly large and beautiful trees.  I honored the fountain nymphs and the dryads before I left.

My final stop was the Musée de Cluny, which is primarily known for being a Museum of the Middle Ages, with a lovely medieval Jardin d’Amour and, most famously, The Lady and the Unicorn tapestries.  However, what few pagans realize is that the Musée de Cluny sits on top of an ancient Roman bath-house, and is home to one of the two statues in Paris of our beloved Emperor Julian, who is a hero to most pagans I know.  If you’re a pagan and you’re visiting Paris, you should definitely stop by the Musée de Cluny and pay homage to the last pagan emperor of the Rome.  (The other statue of Julian used to be at the Louvre, where I would visit him often, but the Louvre statue has unfortunately either been in storage or on loan since at least 2005!)

And speaking of the Louvre, I spent many hours immersed in the Greek & Roman antiquities section(s) today, which will be the subject of my next post!

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