Drifting and striding, in Hollywood and elsewhere, with Geoff Nicholson - author of The Lost Art of Walking, and Walking in Ruins withcholson, author of Toff Nidrifting and stomping withcholson, author of The Lost Art of Walking, considers the narrower and wider shores of obsessive pedestrianism.
Showing posts with label alchemy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label alchemy. Show all posts

Sunday, August 20, 2017


“He that endeavors to enter into the Philosopher’s Garden without a key, is like him who would walk without feet.”

The above quotation and image are from a 1617 alchemical “emblem book” by Michael Maier (aka Michael Majerus) titled “Atalanta Fugiens, The Flying Atalanta or Philosophical Emblems of the Secrets of Nature.
          It consists of 50 emblems (what we might call epigrams) ­each with an illustration (by Matthäus Merian) along with a discussion or discourse about the emblem, and then a related piece of music in the form of a fugue. 

Alchemy isn’t exactly an open book to me, but that emblem above - “Emblema XXVII” - sounds fair enough.  You need a key to alchemy, you need feet for walking.  However a couple of observations emerge from looking at that image. 
First, the fellow there doesn’t seem to be much hindered by the lack of feet.  He’s standing up well enough and could presumably put one stump in front of the other.  It probably wouldn’t be the easiest locomotion, and I imagine he couldn’t get very far very fast, but since he can stand he would, in some way or other, be able to walk. 
Second, although the scale in the image seems a bit wayward, it looks as though anybody, preferably (though not necessarily) somebody with feet, could get over that wall without too much trouble.

Mind you, I expect most alchemists are not great climbers; or walkers.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016


Look, I know as much about alchemy as the next guy or gal who studied English literature at university: i.e. not very much.  Ben Jonson, John Dee, some references in Shakespeare, a tiny bit of Paracelsus.  It’s not a lot to go on.

But I do like the look of alchemical symbols, or glyphs, which I suppose were/are also astronomical/astrological symbols.  I’m especially fond of mercury:

And also the sun, which usually looks like this:

Although occasionally it looks like this:

Try as I might, I can't find much direct connection between alchemists and walkers. Ben Jonson author of the play The Alchemist seems to have walked from London to Edinburgh between July and October 1618; but of course he wasn’t a real alchemist.

I mention all this because I was walking in West Hollywood t’other day, and wandered into a curious little enclave where there were quirky old Hollywood bungalows right next to brand new, exotic “architectural gems.”  Of course you had to think that a bungalow or two must have been extracted in order that the architectural gems could be shoehorned in – but I did like some of the fancy new architecture, specially this house:

And improbably (wait I'm getting there with the alchemy), I found a roundabout or traffic circle: not unknown in the US but by no means the kind of thing you expect to see every day.  And to make the road layout more comprehensible to drivers, the traffic engineers had created a graphic (you might even say a glyph).  I don’t know if it helped or not but it sure looked alchemical to me:

I remain slightly stunned.

Not so very much later I found myself walking on La Cienaga Boulevard and saw this:

It was, you guessed, apparently the sign for a hair waxing salon, a company called (I’m not making this up) Cocktail Wax - “A fun and sexy alternative to your everyday wax experience!”  I wondered if this was code for some activity I don’t know about, but I suspect that if you don’t know you’re not meant to.

I now discover there’s an alchemical symbol for wax, this:

It's not totally wonderful, but you know, I think on balance I prefer it to the one on La Cienaga.