This morning I was reading TechGnosis by Erik Davis, a very interesting book that I’ll probably write more about, when I came across a passage that seemed very pertinent to yesterday’s post about modern horror and Stefan Grabinski, who, it’s interesting to note, set many of his stories in trains:
Both religion and the occult derive much of their power from simultaneously stimulating and managing dread: the anxieties that dog the perpetually shifting boundaries of the self, and especially the ultimate borderland of death. As new technologies begin to remold these very same boundaries, the shadows, doubles, and dark reflections that haunt human identity begin to leak outside the self as well, many of them taking up residence in the virtual spaces opened up by the new technologies.
And now for something completely different –
Even though he was a pagan, in the Middle Ages the Roman poet Virgil was considered to be prophet and magus due to the misreading of an obscure passage in The Aeneid allegedly foretelling the birth of Jesus. The Aeneid was held to be an inspired, mystical text whose meaning went deep below the surface. Manuscripts of it were used for divinatory bibliomancy, where passages chosen at random were held to have a symbolic meaning germane to the question at hand. Well, ever since I heard that I picked up different translations whenever I could find them. I have more than enough now thank you, but when ever I come across one I open it at random to see what it has to say. Today when a copy fell off the top of a stack I jostled I opened it and found the delightful tale of Camilla, who as a baby was thrown across a river tied to the shaft of a spear by her father in order to escape his enemies and thereafter consecrated to the virgin huntress Diana and trained as a warrior (translation by C. Day Lewis):
Right in the thick of the slaughter, with one breast bared for the fray,
Like an Amazon was exulting the archeress, Camilla.
Now she delivers a quick fire of whippy javelins, now unwearied
She whirls a powerful battle axe with her right hand.
Tapping her shoulder, hung the gold bow, Diana’s weapon.
Even when she was driven back and in flight, she loosed her shafts
At the foe as she fled, turning the bow round to shoot them.
Her bodyguard kept close about her – the maiden Larina,
Tulla, Tarpeia, who brandished a battle-axe of bronze –
Italian girls, whom the godlike Camilla had chosen to grace
Her retinue: good supporters they were in peace and war.
They resembled the Amazon women of Thrace when they go to battle
In blazoned armor, their horse-hooves stamping the frozen river Thermodon,
Escorting queen Hippolyta, or the martial Penthesilea when she returns
From a war in her chariot, a woman-host with crescent shaped bucklers
Screaming around her in triumph. Ferocious Camilla,
Whom first did your hand lay low? Whom last?
How many men did you strike to the earth, dying?