The fame of the tapestry series entitled “The Lady with the Unicorn” comes both from the simplicity of its composition and the depth of its mystery. The charm of the Lady and young Lady accompanying her, the placidity of the mythical, exotic and familiar animals, the background decorated with trees bearing fruit and thousand of spring flowers give the impression of a poetic world imbued with strong sense of serenity.
The whole set was created at the end of the 15th or the beginning of the 16th century, probably at the request of a nobility family, the coat of arms of which can be found on each of the tapestries. The creation and realization were probably entrusted to a workshop from the Master of Anne of Brittany. After an eventful journey, the six tapestries ended up in 1882 in the Museum of Cluny in Paris. The relationship between five of the tapestries and the five senses, by A.F. Kendrick in 1921, has notably improved the comprehension of the series. The last tapestry, entitled “My sole desire”, was interpreted as a “sixth sense” and gave rise to many commentaries. This “sixth sense” is usually interpreted as a “sensitive intuition” that lets us “feel” things.
The tapestries are presented in a sequence in accordance with the medieval hierarchy of the five senses. The sense hierarchy the most frequently seen in the texts from that time is based on their more or less proximity with the soul. That is in increasing order: Touch, Taste, Smell, Hearing and Sight, all crowned by My sole desire.
My sole desire
Now, the soul represents, at the individual level, an intermediary domain between the physical and spiritual ones. The soul is the individual reflection of the Principle at the source of all things, the Unity that governs the world. It consequently depicts a unifying principle of the various aspects of the being in general and his five senses in particular. A principle that is impalpable, without taste or odour, inaudible and invisible and not accessible by the sensitive way. In fact, only the immediate and direct way of intuition, beyond the simple sensation of feeling something, can give access to the principle knowledge. All the ambiguity of the meaning of the sixth tapestry results from the withheld approach: the strictly sensitive way of the physical being or the supra-sensitive way of the soul proper to the truly human being.
When manifested, the Principle successively actualizes the spiritual, psychical (including the individual soul) and physical aspects. Being a matter for the soul domain, the sense integration principle precedes the appearance of the five physical senses. Conversely, when the ordinary being follows the reversed way, he integrates the various aspects of his person, starting with the most physical, the five senses, which are resorbed into their unifying principle. Note that this double movement of descent and ascent, metaphysical and cosmological, can be found in all the traditional forms, including medieval.
- The coat of arms common to the six tapestries
The abundant presence of heraldry in the whole set of tapestries naturally evokes the chivalrous world, the courtly love and the willingness to assert one’s belonging to a noble line. Nevertheless, beyond the social importance, the repetition of the coat of arms on all six tapestries also has a symbolic meaning that illuminates the whole set.
The coat of arms is displayed in different forms: a shield, small shield or targe, standard, banner and cape with the coat of arms. The coat of arms represents three crescents argent (silver) on a bend azure (blue) on gules (red).
It shows a waxing Moon () with the exception of the cape with the coat of arms worn by the lion in sense of taste (see the picture on the left) where the Moon is waning (). The same waning Moon can equally be found at the back of the standard in sense of smell. Although the waxing Moon is more visible in accordance with a rising vision towards light, the waning Moon is nevertheless present at the back of the standard and banner. It follows that the coat of arms and the beings carrying them are related to the Moon phases.
Just as the Moon waxes, wanes and disappears before reappearing, the being is born and dies before his re-birth. To the obscure and luminous periods of the Moon correspond the death to certain being’s states and the re-birth in other states of higher order. These state changes principally cover three types of birth:
- Physical giving rise to the ordinary being;
- Psychic (and individual soul) at the origin of the proper human being;
- Spiritual at the source of the supra-human being.
These three births correspond to the three Moon crescents. The first two are related to the ordinary and human nature of the individual and come within the lunar sphere. The third one, of supra-human nature, surpasses the individual order and gives access to the cosmic, indeed supra-cosmic order; the being leaves the lunar sphere to enter the solar sphere. In fact, the true light, the spiritual light can only emanate from the Sun for the Moon does nothing but reflect the solar light. To paraphrase a known saying, if Moon is silver, Sun is golden.
It follows that:
- The lunar light is a reflected, cool light, without heat, associated with reflection, individual reason and characterized by blue colour;
- The solar Light is a true, warm, radiating light that gives access to the supra-individual knowledge emanating from the heart and linked to red colour.
As it is necessary, the solar sphere (red) includes the lunar sphere (blue) for the lunar sphere is subordinated to the solar sphere.
The five first tapestries refer principally to the senses, attributes of the ordinary being, and come within lunar sphere alone. Regarding the last piece, it shows the way towards the solar sphere as we will see afterward. Note that the standard and banner poles appear in each tapestry and carry a horizontal crescent () in a cup form.
In the medieval tradition, the cup is destined to receive a unifying element that contains all the others in a undifferentiated state, at the principle state. In a descending movement, the integrated principle is manifested notably under the appearance of the five senses; in an ascending movement, the five senses are resorbed into their principle state, i.e. unified.
- Mythical, exotic and familiar animals
The lion and the unicorn
The association of the lion, emblematic animal, with the unicorn, mythical animal, is frequent in the heraldic and medieval symbolic. The lion is generally sitting or standing on his hind legs with forelegs outstretched, the mouth open and a tongue sticking out. As for the unicorn (from the Latin “unicornus”), it is mostly represented as a bearded horse carrying a spiral horn on its forehead.
The reddish brown mane encircling the lion’s head symbolizes the terrestrial reflection of the celestial body, the Sun. As a producer of light and heat as the heart within the human body, the Sun is the life symbol in all its fullness, i.e. not only physical, but also psychic and spiritual. The lion is the image of the perfect mastered energy, of the sovereign force and whole power symbolizing at once royalty and Wisdom in the animal world. He does not need to show his claws to show his force.
The white unicorn is on the contrary associated with Moon. As the lunar light is only the reflection of the solar one, the unicorn depicts the feminine, passive principle counterpart of the masculine, active principle represented by the lion.
Of course, the Moon only shines through the Sun, but the Sun can only manifest his active aspect through its relation with the passive Moon. Just as the valiant knight only shines in the eyes of the noble Lady, the masculine principle is only manifested through the feminine principle. Only the manifestation of the oppositions masculine/feminine, active/passive, light/obscurity etc. allows the human being to overcome them and rejoin the world of Unity, the Principle at the source of all things. The double ascending and descending movement between the worlds of Unity and duality is represented by the spiral horn of the animal or rather by her both horns wound around each other as a braid. These two movements operate alongside a vertical axis that we rediscover in the standard or banner pole, the trunk of the trees or the pole carrying the circular pavilion.
The respective positions of the lion and unicorn on each side of the Lady underline the duality of the terrestrial world. The lion or the Sun is associated with full light or South and the unicorn or the Moon with obscurity or North. It follows that the Lady is facing East, the sunrise, the being’s elevation from the terrestrial horizon to the celestial zenith.
The other quadrupeds
The animals play an important role in heraldry and medieval world. The species covering the background dotted with flowers are familiar, wild or exotic: lamb, goat, hare, monkey, lion cub, young unicorn, panther, cheetah, dog, fox and wolf?
The lamb (in Taste) represents the active, luminous, solar principle that sacrifices his unitary origin in order to be manifested in all beings and in all worlds. Although, it is always essentially One and contains all beings and all worlds at a principle state, it externally appears as multiple. This is why, there are two lambs in the world: an inalterable one, standing in the immutable; the other sacrificed, fragmented and divided among all beings. The first is located in the Heart of the World, the second in the heart of men.
The birds usually play the role of messenger between Heaven and Earth. Various species (magpie, heron, hawk, partridge, pheasant, parrot and duck?) are displayed on all tapestries except one, Sight. The fact is surprising for an animal with a unequalled visual acuity. Nevertheless, the omission is not as astonishing as it appears. In fact, some traditions have gone as far as comparing the “birds in Heaven” to the “superior being’s states” i.e. to the states belonging to the world beyond, invisible in the eyes of simple mortals.
The preceding comparison is even more valid for hawk, the most represented bird in all pieces. As other birds, it is woven on a red background, the warm colour of the sunrise. It often symbolizes (with the eagle) the masculine and luminous principle, Sun, counterpart of the feminine and dark principle, Moon, associated with hare.
- Trees and flowers
Sessile oak, orange-tree, pine and holly
The six tapestries are decorated with two or four trees bearing fruit (sessile oak, orange-tree, pine and holly). The fruit contains seeds destined to be disseminated. The seed represents the germ, the grain source of a multitude of other trees. It symbolizes the primeval Unity, the Principle of the manifestation of all the beings and all the things. The inalterable character of Unity is notably underlined by the evergreen foliage (orange-tree, pine and holly) or the extreme longevity (sessile oak) of these trees
Tasting the fruit of the tree leads the being either to rediscover his spiritual original nature or to find his human or ordinary condition according to the tree nature:
- The Fruit of the “Middle tree” erected at the “World Centre” or the “Tree of Life” located in the middle of the terrestrial Paradise confers to the being who tastes it the access to eternal life, to immortality proper to the spiritual world;
- The fruit of the “Tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil”, also situated in the garden of Eden, sends the one who tastes it back to his condition of ordinary being and to the duality of the temporal world.
Wild and cultivated flowers
The flower setting evokes the hanging patterns in medieval civil residences. Woven with the greatest care, this flower carpet constitutes a seedling of around forty species representative of the flora at that time. It is divided into:
- Wild flowers from fields and woods (columbine, aster, digital, wallflower, hyacinth, daffodil, marguerite, lily of the valley, daisy, periwinkle, Veronica, violet etc.);
- Cultivated flowers (jasmine, carnation).
Beyond its specific meaning, the flower symbolizes the feminine, passive principle of manifestation. It represents the receptacle, the cup destined to receive the masculine, active influence alongside the vertical axis notably depicted by the pole of the banner or standard. In this respect, it is similar to the horizontal crescent woven on the same pole.
Moreover, the blooming flower also portrays the development of the manifestation in all its diversity, a diversity represented by the flower variety and the number of petals.
This double meaning, as receptacle and development, is particularly true for the emblematic flower of the Middle Ages, the rose, appearing in the fence of Taste. The influence of Heaven is often symbolized by the “celestial dew” dropping from the Tree of Life and manifested into the variety of flowers, colours and perfumes.
It is particularly interesting to observe that this development is more obvious for wild flowers, symbols of the surrounding nature, than cultivated flowers, product of the medieval culture. The latter are in fact less numerous and carry five petals only depicting the five senses. The petals are placed around the chalice, heart of the flower symbolizing the “sixth sense”.
- “My sole desire”
Written at the top of the pavilion, the motto “My sole desire” is inserted between the two letters A and probably I or Y.
Would this motto be used as a link between two initials ? It seems to be really the case. At first, the three words of the motto are separated by two groups of five points so as to form a whole. Next, the motto is separated by a point from the first letter and two points from the second. The union of these two initials belonging to two beings is not my dearest wish, but my supreme, my ultimate, my unique, my only, my sole desire. Who can speak like that except the consignee(s) of the series of the six tapestries. Is it the couple itself or a close parent ?
This hymn to love would perfectly fit with the exacerbation of the five senses underlined by the presence of animals and plants in the series. And “My sole desire” could crown the whole set. Then, it would be easy to go on and on about the event continuation.
Nevertheless, the union of two beings that deeply love each other also symbolizes the union of the masculine and feminine natures within the couple. A union that tries to restore the unified, primeval or Edenic state preceding the fall. A fall that corresponds to the manifestation of the variety of beings and senses. The passage from the unified to the duality world, since the original state, is a necessary step to experience the senses and to become aware of the lost reality. If we give credit to Aristophanes in Plato’s mouth, love would be nothing but an attempt to rediscover the lost unity through the frantic quest of the soul mate. See The double meaning of the Androgyne.
Is the Lady this soul mate ? Is she ready to rejoin the one she loves in the pavilion ? Or else, is she in quest of this lost unity ? Will she rediscover the primeval state where the being no longer sees a world filled with antagonisms, but complementarities which are melting into Unity. Indeed, duality does not belong to the manifested world, but to our perception of that world. As long as we stay divided inside ourselves, we will not be able to accept the world as it is and ourselves as we are in reality, that means unified. The moment however we overcome our sensitive perceptions, go back against the original flow, attain the integrating principle governing our senses and become aware of the Unity ruling the world, all fears, cravings and illusions attached to our dualistic perception of things and beings are flying away. We are ready to leave the world of senses to rediscover the unified state of senses and being. We are ready to go back home, to leave the outer world to re-discover our inner world symbolized by the pavilion.
The pavilion immediately strikes the observer by the emptiness filling it. Emptiness reflects the non-manifestation of beings and things, the potentialized source, the Unity at the origin of everything in this world.
Even the central pole carrying the pavilion canvas is invisible. The pole represents the link between the big top of the pavilion, symbol of the celestial vault, and the ground covered with flowers and portraying the terrestrial world. Descended, the pole symbolizes the terrestrial manifestation of all beings and all things contained in the celestial Unity; ascended, it depicts the being ascension from his ordinary or terrestrial condition to the spiritual or celestial states.
It follows that:
- The way out of the pavilion corresponds to the way of the manifestation of beings and discovery of senses symbolized by the Lady carrying the necklace to her neck;
- The way into the pavilion expresses the return path from the outer experience of the senses towards the inner experience of the being described by the Lady getting rid of her jewels.
Representative of the World Axis, the pole rises to the zenith, the peak of the sun. It symbolizes the solar beam carrying light and irradiating the whole pavilion inside. The pavilion opening portrays the passage between the darkness of the midnight blue of the outer world and the light of the golden yellow of the inner world, between the lunar and the solar world and vice versa.
The Lady is still outside the pavilion. She may be ready to leave the world of senses, but only so she can reach the level of their integration. In contrast to the senses that only come within the bodily and outer domain, their integrated state borders on a relatively inner domain. It follows that even after having entered inside the pavilion, the lady will still be in the lunar sphere depicted by the blue ground. The elevation towards superior and spiritual states, alongside the Axis symbolized by the invisible pole, requests to go beyond the sole domain of the individual soul to reach the domain of the Soul of the World.
- Dulle Griet meets the Lady and the Unicorn
With the painting “Dulle Griet” described Bruegel, in his time, how the Low Countries and Europe went in a direction that was leading to hell and denounced people’s behavior….
The Lime tree is on fire and people behave themselves to let prevail all deadly sins….
It is striking that there is a great similarity between the painting Dulle Griet and the drawing Ira ( Anger)from the series of the Seven Deadly Sins.
In our times we can say that we are chasing the “dulle Griet” behindhand…
In his work Bruegel has combined two opposites: Dulle Griet in the foreground is the woman who behaves like a man, with the focus on greed against the Giant in the background representing the man who behaves like a woman, with a focus on waste. This against the background of hell, where other sins are addressed by the fighting females, the devils and the loving couples.
The Giant carries a ship on his shoulder. Many authors have associated this ship with the famous Narrenschiff or Ship of Fools
Ship of Fools (painted c. 1490–1500) is a painting by Hieronymus Bosch. The surviving painting is a fragment of a triptych that was cut into several parts. The Ship of Fools was painted on one of the wings of the altarpiece, and is about two thirds of its original length. The bottom third of the panel belongs to Yale University Art Gallery and is exhibited under the title Allegory of Gluttony. The wing on the other side, which has more or less retained its full length, is the Death and the Miser, now in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.. The two panels together would have represented the two extremes of prodigality and miserliness, condemning and caricaturing both. The Wayfarer was painted on the right panel rear of the triptych. The central panel, if existed, is unknown.
Allegory of Intemperance ( Gluttony); Death and the Miser :
Reconstruction: the central part is missing
For Breughel was his time looked like The parable of the blind: The Blind Leading the Blind .
How are we looking to our times? Looks it like The parable of the blind?
In ancient Greece the blind were depicted as having received gifts from the gods, and blind singers were held in high regard. In mediaeval Europe, the blind were depicted as the subjects of miracles, such as Bartimaeus in the healing the blind near Jericho in Mark 10:46–52.[e] Following the Reformation, painted depictions of saints and miracles fell out of favour in Protestant areas. In Catholic thought, charitable works of mercy, such as giving alms to the blind and poor, were good works which, together with faith, helped the salvation of the doer. However, the Protestant doctrine of sola fide rejected the efficacy of works in achieving salvation, prescribing that it depended on faith alone (and the complication of God’s predestined will for each individual). The status of charity for the poor and infirm diminished, and beggars saw their circumstances deteriorate. In popular literature of the time, the blind were depicted as rogues or targets of pranks. The parable of the blind leading the blind also appears as one of the illustrated proverbs in Bruegel’s Netherlandish Proverbs (1559).[f]
As The Pelgrim or Wayfer of Jeroen Bosch , The website Maypole of Wisdom invites the reader to rediscover the wisdom of the Bruegel’s Netherlandish Proverbs and to discover the inner message of the Soul for our times.
- Dulle Griet meets the Lady and the Unicorn
Dulle Griet meets the Lady and the Unicorn or Non Virtues meet Virtues
Dulle Griet is the model of Ira = Anger. How can she find a way to calm her anger?
She can looks in the mirror and see herself,making more “selfies”, so seeing more anger as the portait of vanity of Hans Memling shows us. The lady see only more vanity The message of Memling is in his Triptych of Earthly Vanity and Divine Salvation focuses on the idea of “Memento mori,” a Latin phrase that translates to “Remember your mortality.” Memling’s triptych shockingly contrasts the beauty, luxury and vanity of the mortal earth with images of death and hell.
Arcimboldo died in Milan, where he had retired after leaving the Prague service. It was during this last phase of his career that he produced the composite portrait of Rudolph II , as well as his self-portrait as the Four Seasons. His Italian contemporaries honored him with poetry and manuscripts celebrating his illustrious career. Arcimboldo criticized rich people’s misbehavior and showed others what happened at that time through his art.
In the time of Breughel that was the message that Vanity was not the solution. see: Nothing Good without Pain: Hans Memling”s earthly Vanity and Divine Salation
But if we look better in the tapistery of “Sight” of the Lady, she holds a mirror, which reflects the image of a unicorn that rests in her lap.
From the six tapestries of the Lady and the Unicorn , five of the tapestries each depict one of the senses (Touch, Taste, Smell, Hearing and Sight.) Each shows a woman (the “Lady” of the title) performing some action intended to exemplify the sense in question. In “Smell” the Lady is presented with a dish of carnations. In ‘Hearing’ she holds a mirror, which reflects the image of a unicorn that rests in her lap.
The sixth tapestery have the same symbols as Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom
Here, the Lady is depicted returning jewels (worn in the other tapestries) to a casket. She stands before a tent emblazoned with the words Mon Seul Désir (“my only desire”.) Her action does not connect with sensory or empirical experience, as with the other five, but is instead driven by some alternate force – cognition, moral reasoning, or emotion.
We discover a sixth sense: the Soul
A sixth sense is represented in this sixth tapestry, which presents a further way of knowing the world. This sense seems to have not one, but multiple dimensions. Intellectually, it may be thought of as common sense, or “internal” sense. Morally, it may be understood to encapsulate neo-platonic philosophy’s emphasis on the soul as the source of beauty (read the “good”.) In terms of courtly rhetoric, the sixth sense may be thought of as the heart, the source of courtly love and the home of complex or competing forces – free will, carnal passion, desire.
It is this sixth sense that leads the Lady to return her jewels to her casket. The gesture may be read as a sign of her virtue, an expression of the dominance of her reason over the physical sensations she experiences in the other tapestries, or, of the will as the centre of being. In this interpretation, the phrase Mon Seul Désir could be read not as “my sole desire”or “by my own free will” but also as “love desires only beauty of soul”, “to calm passion” . Read more here.
The Lady and the Unicorn has a message for our times in the way we have to look or search for the Unicorn, and to make our own understanding about it.
-Is the unicorn for us a symbol of only “Free will” ?
-Or is his meaning for us the beauty of the soul, a symbol to calm the passions and a symbol for wisdom, unity and immortality?
-Or can we unite both our Free will and the intention to calm our passion in search of Wisdom ?
- The Hunt of the Unicorn
The Unicorn Tapestries (1495–1505) have also a message for ourtimes
The tapestries themselves tell a story, which is likewise mysterious. “The unicorn was a symbol of many things in the Middle Ages,” as Richard Preston writes, including Christianity, immortality, wisdom, love, and marriage. Add to this that every least element in the tapestries — from flora and fauna to clothes and gestures — had a particular medieval meaning, and it’s little wonder that their significance is unclear to us. Certainly, the unicorn is a proxy for Christ. But he is also an image of the lover brought down like a stag in the allegorical hunts evoked in medieval works like Chaucer’s The Book of the Duchess. Read more here
On permanent exhibition at The Cloisters, in New York, seven late Gothic tapestries portray the Hunter of the Unicorn. Like the unicorn himself, they are one of the marvels of the world, for in no other work of art anywhere is the pursuit and capture of this magical creatures presented in such astonishing detail, with such command of pictorial verisimilitude and symbolic intention. In a duality not rare in the late Middle Ages, the imagery is both secular and religious. The references to love, matrinmonial fidelity, and desire for progeny are understandable in an ensemble that might have celebrated a marriage. But the unicorn, at the same time, is Christ, and the compositions reflect the Incarnation, the Passion, and the Resurrection. Gabriel, the angel of the Annunciation, is one of the hunters: the unicorn loses his fierceness in the lap of the Virgin Mary; a thorny crown encircles his horn and neck when he is slain; and then the glorious creature is miraculously alive again and chained to a pomegranate tree, simultaneously an image of the risen Christ and of the lover-bridegroom secured by his adored lady. Read here
Williamson, who designed the Cloisters medieval gardens, has written an invaluable study that tells as much about the origins of Christianity as it does about these magnificent tapestries. The unicorn was a symbol of the resurrected Christ to early Christians, yet it derived this meaning from its associations with pre-Christian gods, myths and icons. In various Indo-European and pagan religions that were precursors of Christianity, a “dying god” or vegetation deity sacrificed himself for the benefit of humankind; such fertility figures included the Green Knight, Wild Man, Holly King and Oak King, all linked to the unicorn myth. By unraveling the rich plant and animal symbolism of the tapestries, Williamson, a Connecticut botanist/landscape architect, shows how the cycle of the four seasons, celebrated by the nature religions, was the framework Christianity used to gain acceptance
Look also to MYTHS OF DEATH AND RESURRECTION: THE OAK KING, THE HOLLY KING, THE WILD MAN, AND CHRIST ( in preparation on the website – here pdf)
- As the Pelgrim ( of the front panel) can we ask ourself what should had been the central part of the triptych? Can Dulle Griet find an answer?
As the Pelgrim ( of the front panel) can we ask ourself what should had been the central part of the triptych? Can Dulle Griet find an answer?
What we learn from these paintings and tapisteries, is that they are inner gardens, forming an inner castle for our soul.
Moral beauty was higly valued in medieval society and as Ailred of Rievaulx said in a 12th century sermont about the inner castle: “in a castle there are 3 things that are strong, the ditch, the wall and the keep (the strongest or central tower of a castle)…..what is a ditch execept deep ground wich is humility. The spiritual wall is chastity, and as you have this ditch of humilty and wall of chastity so must we build the keep of charity“.
Pollarding and pruning not only the outside gardens but the inside gardens of our heart, the inner trees of our mind and soul. We need the pollarding and pruning of all the connections of our brain. To make our heart and soul stronger, because when we become adult or old, we forget often our heart.
As Breughel and the medieval mind shows, we need to do it each Spring, each year prepaing the ground the in the autumn and winter to be able of welcoming an Healthy Spring for our heart.
- Gretchen’s Inexplicable Fall: Goethe’s “Faust”
Can Dulle Griet learn more of Goethe Faust?
In its own haunting and mysterious way, the line between sanity and insanity can be incredibly blurry at times. Goethe’s masterpiece, Faust, is filled with this mysterious case of insanity. In this first part of Goethe’s great work, the embittered thinker, Faust, and Mephistopheles, the devil, enter into a contract. Soon, Faust is living a rejuvenated life and winning the love of the beautiful Gretchen. However, in this compelling tragedy of arrogance, unfulfilled desire, and self-delusion, Gretchen heads inexorably toward an infernal destruction. A question thus comes into play; who is responsible for Gretchen’s fall? In order to accurately assess this question, we must analyze the words and actions of Mephistopheles, Faust, and Gretchen herself.
The first one to be considered for Gretchen’s fall is Mephistopheles, the Devil. Mephistopheles makes a deal with the Lord to tempt Faust. In response, Faust wagers that Mephistopheles will not be able to show him an eternal moment that would ever satisfy his thirst for knowledge. Faust soon finds his eternal moment in his love for a young girl, Gretchen. Although the devil sees it as a hard task when asked to get Gretchen for Faust, he helps Faust win her over: “We’d waste our time storming and running; we have to have recourse to cunning” (Goethe 10). Hence, Mephistopheles ignites a plan using wit and deceit. He knew Gretchen was a good person, he even said, “innocent, sweet dear!” (Goethe 94) referring to her. In accordance with the plan, the Devil leaves jewelry to her, which Gretchen wears and adores (Goethe 33). This temptation of the jewelry causes her to hide it from her parents, sneak around with Faust, murder her child with Faust, and, ultimately, go mad. Mephistopheles is a reasonable candidate for being responsible for Gretchen’s fall to insanity.
Faust is also responsible for Gretchen’s fall since he seduced her, leading to most of her misfortunes. Even after Gretchen refuses to be with Faust as she says, Faust kept on insisting: “I’m not a lady, am not fair; I can go home without your care” (Goethe 81). Faust asked for Mephistopheles help him so as could get Gretchen: “Get me that girl, and don’t ask why”(Goethe 10). After winning her heart, Faust gives Gretchen a sleeping potion to give to her mother, yet the potion turns out to be poisonous, leading to the mother’s death. Gretchen eventually becomes pregnant and goes insane, drowning her newborn baby in the process. In another instance, Faust adds to Gretchen’s misery by killing her own brother in a fight (Goethe 116). Faust, consequently, is profoundly reckless and is responsible for her fall.
Finally, Gretchen herself is plausibly responsible for directly compromising her own sanity. When Martha presents her with jewelry, she agrees to wear it. Gretchen also falls in love with Faust after he seduces her, despite her inner feeling that Faust’s friend Mephistopheles has an evil motive. Gretchen says to Faust, “The man who is with you as your mate deep in my inmost soul I hate” (Goethe 109). Gretchen is, however, attracted to Faust, and once they are together, she says, “Yet I confess I know not why my heart began at once to stir to take your part” (Goethe 101). Gretchen’s words show how she fell for Faust despite the latter talking vulgarly to her. Gretchen’s naivety and loneliness contributed to her falling for Faust. Eventually, her actions led to the deaths of her mother and her newborn child. Later, it contributed to her downfall when she became insane and went to prison (Goethe 145). Because her choices are intimately linked to her fate, Gretchen is a major contributor to her own fall.
So who is responsible for Gretchen’s fall to insanity? After considering Mephistopheles, Faust, and Gretchen, we can see that Gretchen is the most to blame for her fall. Most of Gretchen’s problems came about due to naivety and poor decision-making. Overall, Faust helps to illustrate that people’s actions affect others–and that people are responsible for their own failings.
- Goethe and his poem “Hegir” : Hijra
Goethe was a true believer and believe sincerily in the Submission to God ( the meaning of the word Islam).When one speaks of the Hijra one is not merely speaking of a journey from Mecca to Medina, or the starting point of a calendar; but one is also speaking of a new start for humanity. And Johann Wolfgang von Goethe make his Hijra, his emigration and take refuge or better he became a “Refugee”, and said : “Stupid that everyone in his case is praising his particular opinion! If Islam means submission to God, we all live and die in Islam. He was a true believer and believe sincerily in the Submission to God ( the meaning of the word Islam)
The Hijra is symbolic of changing those conditions that cause problems and that clash with ideals and beliefs, as well as the search for new opportunities.
In this caravan poem, Goethe gives us a picture of the restless nomad existence which early Arabian poetry had enabled him to envision.
The whole “West-East Divan” is shot through with something of this nomadic restlessness. Already in the first great poem entitled “Hegir” the poet alludes to Arabian life and traditions. He is a True Pelgrim. He turns to the wisdom of the Sufis as Hafiz.
His own “Hedschra” is an inteliectual emigration to a simpler state of existence which seems to him to be purer and righter than his own immediate world. Thus he calls out to himself: “Hegira”
North and South and West are quaking,
Thrones are cracking, empires shaking;
Let us free toward the East
Where as patriarchs we’ll feast:
There in loving, drinking, singing
Youth from Khidr’s well is springing.
- We must not forget the true meaning the Cherry Blossom in Japan
The tradition learns us the metaphor for the ephemeral nature of life.
In Japan, cherry blossoms symbolize clouds due to their nature of blooming en masse, besides being an enduring metaphor for the ephemeral nature of life, an aspect of Japanese cultural tradition that is often associated with Buddhist influence, and which is embodied in the concept of mono no aware .
Mono no aware (物の哀れ), literally “the pathos of things”, and also translated as “an empathy toward things”, or “a sensitivity to ephemera”, is a Japanese term for the awareness of impermanence (無常, mujō), or transience of things, and both a transient gentle sadness (or wistfulness) at their passing as well as a longer, deeper gentle sadness about this state being the reality of life. “Mono-no aware: the ephemeral nature of beauty – the quietly elated, bittersweet feeling of having been witness to the dazzling circus of life – knowing that none of it can last. It’s basically about being both saddened and appreciative of transience – and also about the relationship between life and death. In Japan, there are four very distinct seasons, and you really become aware of life and mortality and transience. You become aware of how significant those moments are.
- The past is the mirror of the future
Looking the horizontal way and learning from the past, as Breughel and Bosch did but also Erasmus and Goethe as many others, learning from the “Black Death” and taking also a vertical distance to understand better the message from Eternity, wil the website Maypole of Wisdom deliver a message for our times at the intersection or cross point of the present.
Looking to the Spiritual vertical way, as the Maypole do, gives us an opportunity of discerning an understanding between Non-Virtues and Virtues, needed in our times.
We need to be sincere with our selves , to be “upright” strictly honourable and honest, as the symbol of the Maypole is. Together we can initiate and erect a maypole as various European folk festivals do, in respect of the safely coming of Spring. But as many Folklores in Europe did, to keep it more permantly, we can plant a Lime Tree in the center of the village of on squares in the city, to keep the remenbering of “uprightness”,of sincerity in our mind, in our heart and in our allday lives. In this way,as in many folklores of Europe, they recognize their dependance to Nature and their submission to something Higher than themselves. And happy they danced under the Lime Tree on important opportunities. Man has always be in need of a symbol, but certainly a symbol for communality and fraternity.
As the Spring Rejuvenation ritual of the Carnaval of Binche in Belgium, the Gilles of Binche becomes for one day the hero and symbol of Fraternity.
The Lime Tree of Wisdom can become again a beautiful symbol of Fraternity, and also draw strength together to face the future and a place of remembering, sharing and of coming together. Than Maybe, this message from the Past can help us to be able to rediscover the meaning of the Eternal Spring. Or as Hildegard of Bingen call it The Greenness ( Viriditas) of our soul.