Part Three: Working of the Mind
Comptinology (from comptine: French for nursery rhyme, hence the study of same.)
Even a small child will sometimes chant a nursery rhyme and afterwards think, "where did it come from?" "Oh, it's very old," says the mother. It is indeed very old. No one knows where it came from. The child grows old and has passed the song to others. There are variations. Beginning two centuries ago, they have been printed and the oral tradition is helped in maintaining itself in a bureaucratic world. Stories like "Sinbad the Sailor" go back and back until we discover that the dynastic Egyptians possessed them. The longest lived comptines go back to the cycles of chaos and creation.
Although the temptation is strong (and it is conventional to succumb to it) to believe that nursery rhymes evolve over great lengths of time, this may not be the case. It may rather be that nursery rhymes begin shortly after a set of events, to put the population, the young and thereafter unconsciously everyone, into a mood of dreamwork, letting life go on in a community of memories, without heavy religious ritual every time a disturbing line of thought occurs. The rhymes are a friendly mocking of the sacred.
Religious chants began even sooner, right away with humanization, we think, and within a generation the mocking fantastic nursery poetry commences. We are helped to maintain this theory by adhering to a larger theory, which is that mankind as such is young, and came about in a prompt hologenetic quantavolution. We do not feel that a nursery rhyme builds step by step over a hundred thousand years as the possibilities of song dawn upon an ape-person.
The story of Chicken-Licken (alias Chicken-Little, Henny-Penny) comes to mind. Beginning with a frightened chicken, pelted from above by a seed or drop, a procession of barnyard animals forms, led by the conviction that the sky is falling just as the chicken claims, and moves along seeking the protection of the king, personifying authority or a god, fearful lest a wicked force, sometimes a fox, should eat them up (as he does in some versions) or hopeful that a wise owl should explain the fear away (as it does in an 'enlightened' American version). That the fox is an ancient Mars symbol, and the owl an ancient symbol of Minerva-Athene suggest that some very old mental process may be repeating itself. The story of Chicken-Little is told from Finland to Tropical Africa and from Central and South Asia to Ireland. It is entitled "The End of the World" in Kennedy's Fireside Tales of Ireland.
I have jotted down in my journal, on several occasions, reflections of this sort and take leave to transcribe several entries here:
Naxos, 10 April 1978
One of my favorite nursery rhymes went:
"Hi diddle, diddle,
The cat in the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon.
The little dog laughed to see much a sight,
And the dish ran away with the spoon."
This pure nonsense probably bears meaning with every line.
Hi= High. Or, Hey= Pay attention! Diddle = diddle the unconscious, play with the mind. The line cues into what follows.
Cat associated with music, humming, electricity, purring, "cat gut", static electricity of cat's fur, cat's eyes, etc.
Cow = Cometary Venus, passing over Moon in the period 3500-687 B. C. Note: Violin cow-shaped.
Little dog = fox = wolf= star = Mars = lupus Romanus; laugh = cry = disaster and also Mars wanted Moon.
Dish and spoon = Leyden jar with center rod = overelectrified, juggling, diddling movements. Also comet with its tail.
There are far too many associated symbols and actions here to be mere nonsense or coincidence. When the small child delights in it or is fascinated by it, as was I, he a) loves the rhyme and rhythm, b) the images conveyed c) but are these enough for such old and widespread, and obsessively appealing jingles unless some deep upsetting memory is also being "diddled"? |Diddle" has an unknown origin and a long history, most meanings centering around shaking, turbulence, sex, fiddling (violin) cf. Ox. Eng Dict. I recall English mothers and nannies telling little boys not to diddle (their penis): "Stop diddling!" "Hi" is probably "Hey" and pronounced "hay" but I'm not sure it's always so and been so, many dialect possibilities of either. The "Hey-day" is the most sensational of days, the peak day of some series of days.
Two months later the journal adds:
Ziegler [Yahweh [p. 85 re last line on Breton fire ritual woman singing: "Leave your spoon in the bowl for the fire is rising." May be an allusion to the ark-box and charging pole [of the Exodus, see my Moses book]; electrical conditions are charging up, building up, and time is propitious to rituals on mountain-tops. Also women in Greece jump over the flames of kindled bonfires crying "I leave my sins behind me." Compare with "Cow jumped over the Moon" (Sinn) [Babylonian word for Moon.]
The sexuality of the poem is subliminal. Compare, for example, the bowl and spoon, the Leyden jar, and the lingam and yoni of ancient Hindu symbolism. The fear and delight of the first experiences with the Leyden Jar (see Heilbron's history of electricity and God's Fire) can be associated with unconscious sexuality, the "female" and "male" electrical connections used today. Electrical twinges have been associated with pleasures of masturbation and ejaculation since ancient times. The mountain-top orgies of Bacchus were associated with the relative ease of inciting electrical discharges there. "Diddle" has an unknown origin and long history. Although the Oxford Dictionary of English based upon etymological principles does not extend sexual meaning to "diddle" (out of prudery) the connotation is
present in the rhyme and the usage is indestructible. Giorgio di Santillana and Hertha von Dechend talk in Hamlet's Mill (287) of Tammuz, the grain-god aspect of Osiris, the Saturn of Egypt. A festival of mourning over his death marked the opening of the Egyptian New Year. The holy event lasted through millennia; lamented was the god who was cruelly killed by being ground up between millstones. The authors were reminded of the rhyme of John Barleycorn (a name in American folk stories that is synonymous with the drinker of whiskey, that is, grain-spirits drinker):
They roasted o'ver a scorching fire The marrow of his bones But a miller used him worst of all For he ground him between two stones.
Journal, Florence, December 23, 1980
Ami cooked a fine dinner for us at Joe's and Laurie's tonight, Marco joining us. Leeks wrapped in bacon stewed with white sauce, roast pork, rape. Fruit. Laurie whipped up a hot zabaglione.
Twice today we talked of the taunting childhood tune, GGEAGE, GGEAGE, GE, GE, GEC. This is sung while dancing around. All stop. Clap hands. Fall down.
Ring around the rosey,
Pockets full of poseys,
All fall down.
It looks as if we have another catastrophic theme. A sky body erupts in a ring-like glow, possibly Sun takes on an aura, or Moon, or comet.
Pockets, pouches, collection, pocks [the pustules of an eruptive disease].
A rosa is a bloomlike sore in German, said Ami. A posey, read Joe somewhere, was a festering sore of the fourteenth century bubonic plague [He is Deg's nephew, Alfred III, and Professor at St. John's College; his wife is Laura Haskell.]
Ashes fall from the sky everywhere. The ashes fall down, the plague, and the people fall down dead.
I think, too, of the recent theory of astronomers Hoyle and Wickramasinghe regarding the source of plagues (and life) from outer space, independently contrived by Milton and myself in Solaria Binaria.
Stylida, Naxos, January 5, 1981 Day before Epiphany. The village is on holiday between Sunday and Epiphany. Twelfth Night - Wotan rides his eight-legged horse. Presents are given tomorrow, not for Christmas. The Feast of the Kings come bearing gifts to Christ. Feast of the Wandering Star over Bethlehem. Befana (Italy) is an old witch.
What is happening? What happened? In November is All-Souls and All-Saints Day. All who died in catastrophe are resurrected. Why not now? Are there two discoordinated holiday periods upon the subject of the explosion of Saturn, the brilliance of Jupiter, the coming of the Flood? Forty days before Christmas is Advent. The Flood lasted 40 days. This is a mourning and penitence period before coming of Christmas - why, so that expectation and frustration of want of a savior is celebrated. And recall the Pleiades' connection with November, remnants of the old god, celebrated by many far-separated peoples in these days.
Christ Jesus is apparently Saturn (Osiris) and Jupiter and possibly Thoth-Christ Scientist) and Venus (see Sizemore and Meyer: J. C., Morning Star) all accommodated into one character. The celebrations are rationalized and spun out by Christian thought. Never mind the searches for a falling star in the presumed days of Christ's birth: whatever little surprise a meteor might have presented us, the real presence was Saturn, Jupiter, and Venus in their climactic appearances.
Journal, Trenton, 15 September 1982 At breakfast Ami reads to me from Le Petit Robert, so big that it shakes the frail table when she opens it. "Tohu-bohu" in French means chaos. It comes from the Hebrew "tohu oubohou,.. chaos, or the primeval chaos which precedes creation." Nice.