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Posts Tagged ‘Labyrinth of Knossos’

After a brief interval of bad cold and general burnout, I return with one more thing to add to the topic of the Spiral Castle, and with one murky bit to clarify. The Newgrange tomb is so obviously round that it cannot very well be described as “four-cornered,” although now I think of it John Donne (who could be called Howl’s Moving Castle’s poet-in-residence) does manage to square the circle:

At the round earth’s imagined corners, blow
Your trumpets, Angels, and arise, arise
From death, you numberless infinities
Of souls, and to your scattered bodies go…

[From Divine Poems, Sonnet VII]

Although by Donne’s time, in the early Seventeenth Century, it was pretty much settled that we live on a spheroid planet, the metaphorical “four corners of the earth” still had legs by way of meaning every single nook and cranny thereof. And the image of the general Resurrection as the coming together of the long-decayed pieces and fragments of the dead is a powerful one.

(The science fiction writer Philip Jose Farmer used Donne’s phrase To Your Scattered Bodies Go as the title for the first volume of his Riverworld series, about a realm of life after death, in 1971. And here’s another fish darting through the dark water: the phrase also puts me in mind of Sophie’s refusal to pull the scarecrow to pieces, as well as the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of two other characters in HMC.)

In any event, Graves has no problem with the seeming contradiction. It may or may not be helpful to mention that, throughout The White Goddess, Graves ties the ancient Greeks to the ancient British at several points, with ties both historical and poetical. Ariadne and the Labyrinth of Knossos, from which the hero Theseus returns alive, are similar enough to Arianrhod and her Spiral Castle as to make no nevermind. The four-corneredness may refer the pre-Grecian Bronze Age burial custom of placing the body in a crouching or fetal position and placing it in a squarish box called a kist; this practice later migrated to western Europe along with its practitioners. [TWG, p. 107]

Alternatively, it may refer to the arrangement of the passage-tomb within Newgrange and similar monuments:

The ground plan is the shape of a Celtic cross; one enters by a dolmen door at the base of the shaft. The shaft consists of a narrow passage, sixty feet long, through which one has to crawl on hands and knees. It leads it a small circular chamber, with a bee-hive corbelled vault twenty feet high; and there are three recesses which make the arms if the cross. [TWG, p. 102]

There is a further association of Arianrhod’s Spiral Castle with the constellation Corona Borealis, the Northern Crown. It may have been the ancients’ belief that, while the bodies of the royal dead repose in the round passage-graves, their souls may have flown to the stars, to that chilly celestial place at the Back of the North Wind. [TWG, p. 103] This is worth exploring, but I’ll have to do it another time. I want to get to the point of today’s post:

Which is, that everything about Wizard Howl’s castle, before which Sophie now stands, is redolent of death.

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