The Tarot and Me

Posted in Aleister Crowley, Morgan-Greer Tarot Deck, Ordo Templi Orientis Tarot, Tarot with tags , , , on April 19, 2018 by Manuel Paul Arenas

I have always had a keen interest in divination, and tarot in particular has always fascinated me. Even so, I have only dabbled with it over the years and never delved into it too earnestly, despite what some would call a rather conspicuous invitations to do so.

My first introduction to tarot was when I was a young man, just out of high school. A family friend agreed to read my cards and in his deck I noticed the Death card, number 13 in the Major Arcana. It stood out for me because a few years prior I had done a drawing for a proposed album cover of the group I hoped to form one day. The group was Cerberus, which I never formed, actually. The sound I had imagined was something like what Blood Ceremony ended up doing, a sort of Doom/Proto-Prog hybrid. Anyway, the album was to be called Tarot, I believe, and I drew what I thought the Death card would look like…and that image was staring me in the face from the Morgan Greer deck before me.

XIII – Death card from the Morgan-Greer Tarot.

The image, an iconic grim reaper done with stipple shadowing. There is a rose on the card, and I believe there was one on my drawing as well, but I can’t recall. I hope to someday find the drawing amongst my things in storage and compare.
Either way, it sparked my interest in tarot, specifically in the Morgan-Greer deck, which I purchased. It served me for 30+ years, but I think it is time to retire that deck and get a new one. By chance, I think I have just gotten an invitation from another deck to come and play…

I recently came in early for my work shift and decided to go relax in the break room. Normally, there are one or two others relaxing, eating, reading their tablets, watching videos or beep-booping on their iPhones, but this time it was empty. The tables, of which there are many,  usually have the odd free food sample or the remnants of a refrigerator purging. This time, however, they were are clean and clear…save for one. On a table by the window, lay a lone card. Intrigued, I walked over to investigate. It turned out to be the introductory card from the Ordo Templi Orientis Tarot deck, replete with a commendation by Aleister Crowley.

I asked a couple of friends who regularly do readings and they said it was definitely an invitation of some sort, either to get that deck or to get a reading. I may do both soon. One friend cautioned however that this particular deck is a bit heavy for casual readings. I have also toyed with the idea of getting deeper into divination and esoteric studies in general. Maybe I’ll even take a class. We’ll see…

 

 

 

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“Thalia” to appear in Spectral Realms #9

Posted in Black Hymeneal, Black Light Verse, Gothic Poetry, Literary Journals, published poems, S.T. Joshi, Spectral Realms, Thalia with tags , , , , , , , on March 23, 2018 by Manuel Paul Arenas

In my recent effort to join in on the current weird poetry renaissance happening in the literary genre journals, I joined a few forums on Facebook that focused on the writing and publication thereof. I have enjoyed my interactions with other writers on these forums, some familiar, others not so much, but each one respectful of the other and willing to lend a hand or give a friendly word of encouragement to their fellow scribes.

That being said, it was on another forum dedicated to a particular poet (whose name I shall withhold for privacy reasons) where I saw a post announcing the acceptance of one of their poems to the journal Spectral Realms. I offered my congratulations and mentioned how I’d always longed to get published in that particular journal but always seem to miss the submission date. Besides, I said, I was terrified of having my work dismissed by editor S.T. Joshi, adding that I would be crushed if he deemed my work unworthy of appearing in that esteemed journal.

realms

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Spectral Realms #1, Summer 2014.

 

My poet friend’s response was to submit something right now. Unsure of what I read, I asked whether that meant they were currently taking submissions. They replied in the affirmative. I then asked whether there was a link to follow and they said no, but would send me the contact info. I then got a private message with Mr. Joshi’s contact info and instructions to mention their name in the body of my message of introduction. I was stunned. I quickly popped in my USB with the manuscript for Black Hymeneal and pulled up my poem “Thalia”, which I had been considering for The Audient Void, copied and pasted it into a fresh document, which I then attached to an email for Mr. Joshi. Oh, and I forgot to mention that during all this my time on my library computer ended and I had to pull everything up all over again on an express computer 3 minutes before the library closed for the night!

It got through though, and Mr. Joshi was very complimentary, calling it “a fine poem”, but asked if I would either add punctuation myself or trust him to do so for me. I told him that punctuation was not my forte and that I trusted his judgment to make the appropriate adjustments. He seemed pleased. Now I await further instructions on how and when to submit my bio. If all goes as planned, this will be my first proper publication, aside from a vanity press publication of Tasty Little Muffins. I hope it shall be the first of many yet to come.

PS: For the curious, a recording of me reading “Thalia”, accompanied by moody music and images from my 2015 Gothic photo shoot by Hydroxia may be found in the “About” section of this blog.

Black Hymeneal Update

Posted in Black Hymeneal, Denisse Montoya, Dimas Akelarre, Irish Pubs, Krampus, Uncategorized, Zachary Strupp with tags , , , , , , , on March 9, 2018 by Manuel Paul Arenas

Well, after a temporary hiatus, it seems that, with the help of my friends, things are getting back on track with the imminent completion and publication of my book, Black Hymeneal. My buddy Zach has helped me with the page numbering and sorting out the  Table of Contents (for which I still owe him breakfast!). That being done, it was time for my friend Denisse and I to work on the cover images. She picked me up after 7 pm a couple of Sundays ago and we drove to the Goodyear Farms Historic Cemetery to see if we might take a picture there, but it was closed. If I am not mistaken their sign said something to the effect that they close at twilight. No specific hour, just twilight. Hmmm. Another note of interest: whilst looking up information about the cemetery online I found a photo of one of the graves which actually bears the name of the ill-fated hero, Anacleto, from my story The Fell Fête! I may have to return sometime during daytime hours and pay my respects.

anacleto

Moving on, I then suggested we try an Irish pub, for their folksy atmosphere. Obligingly, she drove us back to my neck of the woods to Rosie McCaffrey’s where we had a Black Velvet (Guinness stout and hard cider) and she took an excellent photo of me, which I intend use as my “author photo” for the back of my book. That being done, we still needed to settle on an image for the front cover. Monday morning, during my daily ablutions, I had an epiphany: Denisse once took a photograph, that I have long wanted to use for just such a project, that ties in aesthetically with the content of my book. I asked her permission to use the image, and she graciously gave her consent, but I won’t post it yet, as I don’t want to jinx our endeavors by showing our hand too soon.

In other news, my buddy Dick Kelly has been sending me scans of some of the new artwork he’s come up with for our proposed Krampus chapbook. It looks pretty awesome and I cannot wait to see how it will all go together.

In between all of this, I have decided to stick my toes into the online journal submission pool. Over the last year or two I have sporadically submitted poems and prose pieces to various online journals and contests but to no avail. After a few months demurral I have decided to get back into the fray. I also have selected to submit to sites which are a little more in keeping with the weird poetry vibe I espouse to improve my chances of success.

For starters, I have sent my poem Dimas Akelarre to Literary Hatchet. I made some changes to it however, adding to it the subtitle The Warlock of Navarra to give a hint as to what it is about. I also removed the reference to Nyarlathotep, because it felt like a name-drop, and replaced it with the Great Black He-Goat, which is more appropriate thematically anyway. I also have my eye on the submission date for the 6th issue of The Audient Void. More on all of this as things develop.

Ursula K. Le Guin: The Grand Dame of American Fantasy & Science Fiction

Posted in A Wizard of Earthsea, Bildungsroman, Earthsea Cycle, Fantasy, Uncategorized, Ursula K. Le Guin with tags , , , , on January 26, 2018 by Manuel Paul Arenas

A few days ago I heard the sad news about the passing of author Ursula K. Le Guin, the outspoken grand dame of American Fantasy & Science Fiction whose career spanned over 50 years. I won’t pretend to be that knowledgeable about her vast body of influential work, but what I did read, I liked a lot.

Author Ursula K. LeGuin, 1973.

I believe I first heard of Le Guin through my colleague, Derek Fetler. Back in the days when Derek and I haunted the Cambridge open mike circuit as the Gloom Twins, there was a song we used to play that Derek had penned called Sparrowhawk, based on Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea (1968). I was not familiar with Le Guin’s work prior to that, but I was a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis from my childhood, so I was intrigued when Derek turned me on to the original Earthsea trilogy. I recall burning through A Wizard of Earthsea (1968), The Tombs of Atuan (1970), and The Farthest Shore (1972), which told the coming-of-age tale of Ged, a wizard from the isle of Gont, and getting totally absorbed in Le Guin’s very distinctive fantasy world.

The Bantam paperback editions of the original Earthsea Trilogy. I always loved the artwork on these by Pauline Ellison.

While still under her spell, I picked up a chapbook called From Elfland to Poughkeepsie (1973) which is an essay by Le Guin on writing fantasy that had some valuable insight on dialog writing that I have tried to follow to this day when writing my own dark fantasy tales.

Chapbook of Le Guin’s essay From Elfland to Poughkeepsie (1973, Pendragon Press).

Over the years I tried to find more Le Guin books to read, but since a good portion of her output is pure Science Fiction, a genre I don’t have much interest in, I stopped seeking out her books. I did however read the novella The Beginning Place (1980), as well as the story The Rule of Names (1964), the latter of which I really got a kick out of, but I haven’t read much else since.

The Wind’s Twelve Quarters (1979, Bantam) featuring another lovely cover by Pauline Ellison, where I first read The Rule of Names.

When Le Guin published a 4th novel in the Earthsea Cycle, Tehanu (1990), I was initially excited, but I was so deep into my exploration into H.P. Lovecraft and the Cthulhu Mythos by then that I didn’t get around to picking it up until relatively recently and still haven’t read it yet. Apparently, there is also a 5th novel called The Other Wind (2001), as well as a short story collection called Tales from Earthsea (2001) which I have yet to read as well, but might take a look at now that I have begun re-reading the original trilogy.

Paperback copy of Tehanu (1991, Spectra) which I used to see everywhere when it first came out.

At the tail-end of 2004 I saw a SiFi Channel mini-series adaptation of the original trilogy called Legend of Earthsea (2004) which was a watered down affair with none of the wonder and wisdom from Le Guin’s novels. I understand Le Guin herself was dissatisfied with it and accused the producers of “whitewashing”, by casting a fair-skinned actor in the lead when Le Guin explicitly describes the inhabitants of Gont as being of reddish-brown cast.

1st edition of A Wizard of Earthsea (1968, Parnassus Press) featuring cover art by Ruth Robbins depicting Ged’s coppery countenance.

Apparently there is an anime as well, which is a very loose adaptation of the original trilogy that also had Le Guin in a tizzy:

“Ursula K Le Guin, the author of the Earthsea series, gave a mixed response to the film in her review on her website. Le Guin commended the visual animation in the film but stated that the plot departed so greatly from her story that she was “watching an entirely different story, confusingly enacted by people with the same names as in my story”. She also praised certain depictions of nature in the film, but felt that the production values of the film were not as high as previous works directed by Hayao Miyazaki, and that the film’s excitement was focused too much around scenes of violence. Her initial response to Gorō Miyazaki was “[I]t is not my book. It is your movie. It is a good movie”. However, she stated that the comment disclosed on the movie’s public blog did not portray her true feelings about the film’s vast departure from original stories; “taking bits and pieces out of context, and replacing the storylines with an entirely different plot…”” [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tales_from_Earthsea_(film)#Reception, retrieved 01/25/2018]

Perhaps someday someone will come along and do it right. Till then, do yourself a favor and pick up Le Guin’s exquisite books.

PS: As I re-read A Wizard of Earthsea I am reminded constantly of Derek’s song, Sparrowhawk, the melody of which goes round on a loop in my head. I wish we had recorded it together. Perhaps someday we will.

 

Lucifer’s “Faux Pharaoh”

Posted in Doom Metal, Faux Pharaoh, Johanna Sadonis, Lucifer (band) with tags , , , on January 20, 2018 by Manuel Paul Arenas

Lucifer band logo featuring the current trio line-up.

Well it seems that after a 2 year hiatus,  Lucifer has finally got a new album in the can which they plan to release sometime in the Spring of 2018. In the meantime they have released a download of their newest single, Faux Pharaoh.  Despite retaining their Doom Metal stance, their new sound is slightly more polished and mainstream than their previous work, though it still rocks, and of course Johanna’s lyrics explore familiar themes of occultism, Egyptology and death. The band is down to a trio, consisting of Johanna Sadonis, Nicke Andersson & Robin Tidebrink.  Multi-instrumentalist Andersson seems to be a veteran of the Stockholm punk & metal scene, most notably in The Hellacopters, Death Breath and The Entombed, and Tidebrink (ex-Saturn) played supplementary guitar for Lucifer on the last tour. One may see him in the Oldenberg video on Youtube playing some tasty solos over Gaz Jennings’ heavy riffage. I assume the wah-wah solo in Faux Pharaoh is his.

Lucifer in 2017: Robin Tidebrink, Johanna Sadonis, and Nicke Andersson, looking as polished and pretty as their new single.

Speaking of Mr. Jennings, his guitar sound is conspicuously absent from this recording. I imagine his layered tones and unique riffing style will be sorely missed on Lucifer II. Even so, the new song is decent, Sadonis sounds great, and I am curious to hear the full album when it comes out. I just hope that I am not disappointed, as my expectations are high after having played both Lucifer I and the Oath album to death,  which also features Ms. Sadonis. I will definitely review it here once I give it a few spins, and I will also try my damnedest to see them when they take the new album on the road.

Faux Pharaoh is available for download on Lucifer’s Bandcamp profile: https://luciferofficial.bandcamp.com/releases

Rush’s “Caress of Steel” (1975)

Posted in Caress of Steel (1975), Prog-Rock, Rush (band), Works inspired by J. R. R. Tolkien with tags , , , on January 12, 2018 by Manuel Paul Arenas

During my sappy youth in Montevideo, Uruguay during the early 80’s my friend Rolando turned me on to Rush. Over the years my appreciation for the band has grown, despite their fluctuating popularity. Although I respect their decision to move with the times and explore new trends, I really only ever listen to the early classic works from 1974-1981, which chronicle their growth from a Led Zeppelin-inspired hard rock band to the heavy prog-rock royalty.

Cover art for “Caress of Steel” by Rush (1975, Mercury).

Caress of Steel (1975) was the band’s 3rd album, and the 2nd one to feature their new drummer Neil Peart, who brought to the mix not only his singular percussion skills, but also his talent as a thoughtful and imaginative lyricist. Topics range from French history to Tolkienesque fantasy, and nostalgia for the halcyon days of one’s youth. It is musically “heavy” in the old-style rock vein, though not quite heavy metal per se, with complex arrangements and serious chops. It also has moments of delicacy, many of which may be found in the epic track, The Fountain of Lamneth.  The album opens with Bastille Day, which rocks like a classic Led Zeppelin tune, yet with much headier lyrics than anything the mighty Zeppelin ever penned. Somehow I can’t imagine Robert Plant ever singing about the storming of the Bastille and guillotines claiming their “bloody prize”.

Then comes I Think I’m Going Bald, a mid-tempo rocker which according to Wikipedia is a spoof of the Kiss song “Goin’ Blind”:

Canadian progressive rock band Rush, who had opened for Kiss during both bands’ early years, poked fun at this song with “I Think I’m Going Bald”, from their 1975 album Caress of Steel. In the book Contents Under Pressure, Rush frontman Geddy Lee explained: “We were touring a lot with Kiss in those days and they had a song called ‘I Think I’m Going Blind.’ So we were kind of taking the piss out of that title by just coming up with this.” Lee noted that the title originated with Rush drummer Neil Peart, who was making light of the fact that guitarist Alex Lifeson was constantly worried about the future possibility of going bald, often employing “all kinds of ingredients to put on his scalp. And I think it just got Neil thinking about aging…” [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goin%27_Blind#Parodies, retrieved 01/07/2018]

Lakeside Park is a light song about Neil Peart’s memories of working a summer job at the titular venue on Victoria Day. I rather like its wistful sentimentality, although I understand Geddy Lee would as soon forget it:

A lot of the early stuff I’m really proud of. Some of it sounds really goofy, but some of it stands up better than I gave it credit for. As weird as my voice sounds when I listen back, I certainly dig some of the arrangements. I can’t go back beyond 2112 really, because that starts to get a bit hairy for me, and if I hear “Lakeside Park” on the radio I cringe. What a lousy song! Still, I don’t regret anything that I’ve done!

— Geddy Lee, Raw Magazine  
[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lakeside_Park_(song), retrieved 01/07/2018]
The Necromancer is where the album really begins to hint at what was to come as far as Rush’s new direction is concerned. This is a song which really shows the influence of some of the Prog-rock bands they had been listening to at the time, particularly Genesis:
Alex Lifeson cited Steve Hackett as a major influence on the sound he strove for in this song and album, particularly on the guitar solo during “No One at the Bridge”: “Steve Hackett is so articulate and melodic, precise and flowing. I think our Caress of Steel period is when I was most influenced by him. There’s even a solo on that album which is almost a steal from his style of playing. It’s one of my favorites, called ‘No One at the Bridge.'” [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fountain_of_Lamneth#Song_information%5D
The song is separated into three parts: Into the Darkness, Under the Shadow, and Return of the Prince. Each segment begins with a half-speed voiceover setting up the scene. The lyrics tell the story of “three travelers, men of Willow Dale”, which apparently is a veiled reference to the members of Rush, as both Lee and Lifeson grew up in the Toronto suburb of Willowdale. The travellers find themselves in the demesne of the Necromancer who espies them through his prism then, magically ensnaring them, locks the trio away in his dungeon. They are eventually freed by Prince By-Tor who, oddly enough, appeared in the song By-Tor and the Snow Dog on the previous album Fly By Night (1975) as a villain.
The music is moody and the lyrics are evocative of the darkness and doom of the Necromancer’s lair:
“Even now the intensity of his dread power can be felt, weakening the body and saddening the heart. Ultimately they will become empty, mindless spectres. Stripped of mind and soul.” My favorite line comes soon after where the shadow of his nearness weighs like iron tears. This is all very reminiscent of what Frodo and Sam go through as they try to avoid the Eye of Sauron when trudging through Mordor to destroy the One Ring.
The flip side of the album continues in this vein with the sidelong track, The Fountain of Lamneth which tells the tale of a young man’s quest to find the titular fountain in six individual, but thematically connected, songs. Along the way he has experiences that constitute a sort of rite of passage. In the opening track, In the Valley, Geddy Lee sings: Look at me, I am young / Sight unseen, life unsung. The rest of the song tells of the beginning of his journey traversing a valley and over a mountain. There is some nice pastoral imagery as the young man muses on the novelty of all he sees:
Living one long sunrise, for to me all things are new / I’ve never watched the sky grow pale, or strolled through fields of dew
Continuing, he affirms his steadfastness of purpose:
I do not know of dust to dust, I live from breath to breath / I live to climb that mountain to the Fountain of Lamneth.
Part 2, Didacts and Narpets, the title of which is I have never seen explained anywhere, consists mostly of waves of percussion cresting in exclamations of commands. From what I gather of the following quote from an interview with Peart, I assume Narpets is a scramble of the word Parents, but I cannot suss out Didacts:
Regarding the section “Didacts and Narpets”, Neil Peart, in the October 1991 news release from the Rush Backstage Club, said: “Okay, I may have answered this before, but if not, the shouted words in that song represent an argument between Our Hero and the Didacts and Narpets – teachers and parents. I honestly can’t remember what the actual words were, but they took up opposite positions like: ‘Work! Live! Earn! Give!’ and like that.”
[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fountain_of_Lamneth#Song_information, retrieved 1/10/2018]
 
This segment seems, lyrically at least, to be in an odd spot in the narrative since the hero is already on his journey. Unless he is remembering what he was told by his elders before he left. (Update, 02-13-2018: I have since given a closer listen and think that I may have been too hasty in my assessment of the timeline here. I believe the actual journey does begin in part 3 ) Some cassette editions of the album swapped the sequence of this track to with I Think I’m Going Bald on side A, sandwiched between Bastille Day and Lakeside Park. I actually owned one of these back in the 80’s. I have read somewhere that this was because of time constraints in the formatting, but there do exist cassette versions with the tracks in their rightful places.

Caress of Steel US cassette tape with Didacts & Narpets swapped with I Think Im Going Bald.

No One at the Bridge continues the journey, this time at sea. Sea spray blurs his vision as the hero’s barque is tossed about on the pitching waves. Desperate, he cries out for guidance and salvation but no one seems to hear. He reflects on how eager he had been at the start of his voyage, how eagerly he took the helm, but now his crew has deserted him and he is lost at the brink of the maelstrom.
Despite his precarious situation in the previous segment, he makes it ashore where he encounters a mysterious woman, Panacea, who gives him shelter…with benefits. Although artless in execution, Panacea has a lot of tenderness and is an honest depiction of a young man’s moon-eyed first encounter with love. Alas, his bliss is short-lived, as he must move on to continue on his journey:  My heart will lie beside you / as my wandering body grieves.
 Bacchus Plateau finds our hero drowning his sorrows in wine as he questions his path and hankers for his former passion for the quest:
Draw another goblet from the cask of ’43 / Crimson misty memory, hazy glimpse of me / Give me back my wonder – I’ve got something more to give / I guess it doesn’t matter – there’s not much more to live.
In the end, he reaches the fountain: Now, at last I fall before the Fountain of Lamneth / I thought I would be singing, but I’m tired…out of breath / Many journeys end here but, the secret’s told the same / Life just a candle and a dream must give it flame.
In fine, although a bit unwieldy and naïve, The Fountain of Lamneth is an inspiring and epic song, and it resonates with me even today in my maturity. Unfortunately, I am about the only person who seems to feel that way. Caress of Steel didn’t fare well with critics and sold poorly.

Mercury Records ad for Caress of Steel.

Due to poor sales, low concert attendance and overall media indifference, the 1975–76 tour supporting Caress of Steel became known by the band as the “Down the Tubes” tour. Given that and record company pressure to record more accessible, radio-friendly material similar to their first album – something Lee, Lifeson and Peart were unwilling to do – the trio feared that the end of the group was near. Ignoring their record label’s advice and vowing to “fight or fall”, 2112  ultimately paved the way for lasting commercial success, despite opening with a 20-and-a-half-minute conceptual title track. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caress_of_Steel#Reception, retrieved 01/10/2018]

Rush promo pic from 1975. (L to R: Geddy Lee, Neil Peart and Alex Lifeson).

 
By sticking to their guns they created the album that made them stars, but were it not for the chances they took on Caress of Steel and the flack they caught for it, they might never have been inspired to prove their mettle and create such an epic album as 2112. To me Caress of Steel is a prime example of an artist following their heart despite what the pundits or mainstream taste might dictate to the contrary. A sentiment with which I wholeheartedly agree.

 

In My Time of Dying

Posted in black humor, exequies, In My Time of Dying with tags , , on December 30, 2017 by Manuel Paul Arenas

In my job as a communications assistant for the hard of hearing, I hear, and dictate, a lot of calls where people talk about death and exequies. Either a kinsman is calling to relay a notice of a relative’s passing, or two biddies are gossiping about who showed up at Minnie Teetotaler’s funeral. Many times the conversation turns to the handling of the remains of the decedent, and how they themselves would be handled when it was their turn to go the way of all flesh. Surprisingly, 9 out of every 10 people say they want to be cremated. I say “surprisingly” because most callers profess to be Christians and my understanding has always been that Christians believed in a physical resurrection of the Day of Judgment. Once your body has been reduced to cremains and scattered to the four winds or upon the briny sea, there will be nothing to resurrect. I know most Christian denominations accepted the practice of cremation by the mid 20th century, though some, like the Catholics, still discourage it and others, like the Methodists and some other orthodox branches, still see it as a denial of bodily resurrection and forbid it most strenuously. Although not a Christian myself, I do not relish the thought of my mortal shell being roasted like a carne asado, which is what I have been told cadavers smell like when roasting in a crematory oven. What’s more, I have always felt (as I understand celebrated astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson does) that when it is my turn to go I would prefer to be put into a simple coffin and lowered into the ground so, through the process of decomposition, I can return all of my personal energy and nutrients to Mother Earth, which would otherwise be vaporized or dispersed into the ether during the cremation process.

Come to think of it, just to dispel any doubts about my final wishes, let me lay out here for all to see how I’d like for my final journey to play out: first off, unless there’s a question of foul play I’d rather not be autopsied or embalmed. Just so, there should be a wake as soon as they clean me up and run a comb through my hair, because without the preservative embalming process I would be getting pretty ripe before too long. At my wake, my friends and family should converge in a great hall where my venerable carcass would be wrapped in a sable colored shroud, tucked under a complimentary mortcloth, like a sleepy moppet for a never-ending nap, then placed upon a catafalque surrounded by candles, at the center of the room. There they can eat, drink, and recount their memories with me as they contemplate my mortal remains. Party favors shall include a piece of mourning jewelry incorporating a lock of my lustrous mane.  A contemporary daguerreotypist (they do exist you know) should be on hand to take a portrait of me lying in repose, which may later be scanned and distributed to those who couldn’t make it, or given as a keepsake to those who did. Guests will be offered the opportunity for a final daguerro-selfie as well, for a price, which they may negotiate with the anachronistic shutterbug. While they’re at it, they might as well bring in a sin eater too, to quaff a cruet of claret, crunch on a crumbly crostini, and absorb, and thus absolve, my ideological transgressions.

Depiction of a sin eater I got from the Internet. It is accredited to the Oriel Washington Gallery.

Once everyone has had their fill of well booze and tall tales they’ll slip me into a pine overcoat and transport me to a mort house where my body will be lain on a limestone slab, safe from paparazzi, resurrectionists, and necrophiles, while a spotter monitors my cadaver for signs of corruption. Perhaps I should qualify that. By corruption I mean decomposition; for my morality, that is between myself and my maker, whom I expect will have more pressing things on his mind to worry about since (as I have heard many a client affirm in my quotidian captioning) we are indeed living in the End Times.

Coffin portrait of Stefan Radomicki by Anonymous from Poland, 1690s, Muzeum Archidiecezji Gnieźnieńskiej (note the coffin-shaped frame)

For comparison, I shall commission a coffin portrait to be painted and installed in the vault so the spotter can see what I am supposed to look like as opposed to how Death’s pernicious touch may have rendered me. Once the dissolution of my mortal coil has been ascertained then it’s off to the cemetery with me.  For transport I will require a horse-drawn hearse and tailing my cortege should be a litter carrying a ghetto blaster blaring thanatotic rock songs of doom and death; I want an electric, not jazz, funeral, thank you.

Electric Funeral [B-side of Iron Man single] Black Sabbath (1971, Warner Bros)

Like a scene from Dark Shadows, the funeral attendees will gather outside the door to the mort house in the pouring rain clutching their umbrellas and muttering oaths under their steaming breath. As they bear my body beneath the memento mori on the transom and from the somber chamber, a flank of wailing moirologists (professional mourners) will throw their lithe, crêpe-swathed bosoms across the lid to my coffin as the pallbearers struggle to keep me aloft on the slippery rain-soaked lich path. Did I say rain-soaked? At the rate those crocodile keeners charge, it had better be tear-soaked.

Moirologists

At the graveside, a Dickensian looking codger can play a Marche funèbre on a harmonium whilst an owl stares down at the unsettled funeral attendees with fulgent yellow eyes from his perch in a nearby yew tree and in sepulchral tones utters his enigmatic mantra of  “Who…?” For my marker, I have always been partial to the weathered  headstones from the antiquated kirkyards I used to wander through back in my halcyon days in New England. Something with a winged death’s head, and an hour glass with the legend “Tempus Fugit” engraved beneath it, or a quote from an 18th Century Graveyard Poet about the transitory nature of life behind the veil of tears.

A vintage New England headstone with the customary imagery.

Since I claim no religious affiliation, in lieu of a service perhaps a close friend or relative can read my poem “Black Hymeneal” before they lower my paltry hull into the gaping maw in the ground, to be swallowed up by Mother Earth and her attendant creepy crawlies: just another mortal morsel for the Conqueror Worm.