Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The septagram - part one

(This is part of a series I'm writing for another site. I'm hoping posting it here will inspire me to finish it soon. I'm having trouble fitting some of the modern uses into this and will hopefully post them when they're done.)

Most Pagans are familiar with the pentagram. An outgrowth of this symbol is the septagram, a star with seven points. It is also known as the Faery Star, Elven Star, Elven Star of the Seven Sisters and acute heptagram. There are representations of it found in mathematics, paganism and even the subculture called Otherkin.

A Smattering of Math
Mathematically, the septagram is called the acute heptagram ("hepta-" being Greek for seven.) It belongs in a class of shapes called star polygons. They are usually represented by a fraction composed of prime numbers. In this case, the heptagram is known as a 7/3 star polygon. This simply means seven points are spaced evenly around the circumference of a circle and when drawn, the straight lines are connected at every third point. However, it is theoretically impossible to accurately draw a septagram with only a pencil and a straight edge, unlike the pentagram. Where the interior angles of a pentagram come to 36 degrees (180 degrees divided by 5), the interior angles of a septagram come to about 25.714 (180 divided by 7.)

Why seven?
There are as many reasons the number seven is sacred as there are people. One theory is it may have come about from the number of planets that could be observed in the ancient sky. It could also come from the seven observable stars of the pleiades, also called the Seven Sisters, or those seven stars that every child learns in the night sky called the Big Dipper. Another theory says the moon is responsible. It changes phase every seven days - from new to crescent, half, full and back to new again.

A Smattering of History
One of the oldest representations of the septagram is linked to the seven planets. It comes from the Hellenistic (circa 323 BC to about 146 BC) world This was a time of expansion for the Greeks, whose influence was felt from Italy to Egypt, the Middle East and Asia. During this time, the seven day week was widely adopted and each day was associated with a planet. The planets were placed in a counterclockwise circle in the order of the apparent speed of their travels across the sky, from Moon to Saturn. If a line is drawn from the point representing the Sun, not only does it form a septagram but also shows the days of the week in correct order.

The septagram makes another appearance during the Renaissance as an alchemical symbol. Usually seen reversed, or upside down, it was used to represent the seven recognized metals: lead, tin, iron, gold, copper, mercury and silver. Again, each metal was associated with one of known planets. It was also a depiction of the seven steps of the alchemical process: calcination, sublimation, solution, putrefaction, distillation, coagulation and tincture. Black (or "nigredo") was considered to be the starting point. As Saturn was the slowest moving planet in the sky, lead was considered by many alchemists to be the prima materia, or base material. With each step, impurities were supposed to be removed from the lead until all that was left was gold.

Upcoming posts: Modern uses of the Septagram and explorations into the meanings of the seven points - sun, land, water, magic, wind, moon and connection.

Sources (includes sources for info on some modern use as well):
Seven point star

Weisstein, Eric W. "Star Polygon." From MathWorld--A Wolfram Web Resource.

Weekday heptagram

The Metal - Planet Affinities - The Sevenfold Pattern

The Heptad, 7 from Numbers, Their Occult Power and Mystic Virtues, by W. Wynn Westcott, [1911]

Sublime Lead: The Biography of a 5000 Year Toxic Love Affair, Chap. 6 -
The Honeymoon: Lead and Alchemy: Decoding Chemistry Within the Imagery
(pdf file)

an essay on the seven pointed star, by magpie

Blue Star Beliefs

Occult Rock

What Does the Star Mean?

A future tattoo

It needs a little tweaking but this is it. I think I'd like it to be on my left wrist...if I go through with it. I keep thinking, "what if it hurts more than I can stand?" and "What if I get tired of it? I know me, I get bored pretty easily..."

In any case, it's been fun coming up with it.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A new sketchbook

I thought about joining the Sketchbook
at the Arthouse Co-op this year. It sounds like a great thing - fill up a Moleskin sketchbook and it goes on tour before being permanently housed in an Art Library in Brooklyn. It gets its own barcode and has the option of being digitized and put online. You can even get an email everytime someone looks at it.

The more I thought about it, though, I decided I may not finish it. They're charging $25 for the sketchbook. I'd probably start thinking it was too "good" to just sketch in or even to mess up. So I decided to try it on my own, with a blank book I already had. It won't go on tour anywhere, unless I carry it in my backpack and the only library it will see is the the room where I keep most of my books but that's okay. This way, the sketches can be good, bad or whatever and I can just go crazier crazy.

I'll admit it - I stole the theme I was going to use if I signed up.

So, here's the first entry. Click on it to embiggen. I ended up changing the conversation between the two pterodactyls on the branch. The first one made no sense whosoever. I'm not saying it's great art or anything but it made me laugh.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Musing on the season finale of Supernatural

I don't talk too much about fannish things but this time...I can't help it. I should say there's spoilers ahead if you hadn't seen the season finale of Supernatural. There are a only a few things I'm going to comment on because I've only seen it the one time so far and there may be some things I get wrong. Feel free to correct me, if you are inclined.

First of all, the biggie - Chuck.

I don't think he was God. At least, not always. Until the finale, Chuck was a very unconfident person. He hated what he saw in his visions. He hated - and had plenty of troubles with - the process of writing it all down. He drank to forget, more often than not. Let's not forget how he was at the convention at the haunted hotel.

The Chuck we saw in the finale was none of this. He didn't even seem to be merely recording what he was seeing and there were no blinding headaches (if I remember correctly, this was a problem when we first met him last season.) He had no problem whatsoever writing the story. Rather, he seemed to be enjoying telling the story of the Impala and how it was intertwined with the Winchester brothers - and he was very confident in telling it. There was that one spot in the story where he even commented on how he liked how a certain line sounded.

The story itself was different in tone to previous ones. There was no pulp here. Just a story, lovingly told.

This Chuck was also drinking but he only sipped his alcohol - and did it quite properly, at that. There only seemed to be two fingers' worth in that glass. (On a side note, when Dean calls Chuck for information, was the call girl in the magazine named "Mary Magdalene"?)

So - was Chuck God? Like I said, I don't think he always was. Chuck was the Prophet and he did his job, however hard it was and miserable it made him. I think God stepped at the end. It was an act of compassion (mercy, even?) and reward for a thankless job well done. It also afforded God a way to intercede, using the Impala to spark Sam's memories of happier times and the love between the him and Dean. Besides, what was it He said? Endings were tough to get down.

On a side note: I don't think God was as heartless as it seemed when we found out He wouldn't be helping defeat Lucifer. We've known a long while that the last battle was supposed to be between Michael and Lucifer, both being angels created by God. We never expect a parent to choose between two of their children - so why is God expected to choose one of His over the other, even if one of those children has rebelled? So it's no wonder He didn't want to take sides.


I wasn't surprised that Castiel got his Grace back. In fact, after last week's episode, I would have been surprised if he didn't. He may have fallen and eventually lost his mojo but he kept his faith. It wasn't his faith in God, but rather it was a faith that he, Sam, Dean and later, Bobby would somehow get through this.

I call it faith because that is what it is. Way back in the episode where Uriel wanted to wipe that town off the map, Castiel tells Dean his orders were to do whatever Dean ordered. He may have started out only following and protecting Dean but somewhere along the line, Dean did as Dean does and took him under his wing. Castiel became family. Faith in God is good and all but when it comes down to brass tacks, is there anything stronger on this earth than family bonds? After all, who else will stand by you or give you a good, hard and swift kick in the assbutt when you need it?

I think this is exactly what Cas took back with him when he went back to heaven. He says he's not sure if God will ever show up again but he figures with Michael gone, the place may be in chaos. He's gone home to sort out his "other" family, maybe even using what he's learned from his time with the Winchesters.


So, has the contract between Bobby and Crowley been fulfilled? We never heard the details of the deal, did we? Crowley only said he would "borrow" Bobby's soul for a little while (and it seems to me that he knew a lot more than he let on in the previous episode, didn't it? Especially since he said to Dean, "How about we go for pizza when this is all over?" as they searched fruitlessly for Death.)

Anyway...I think the contract has been fulfilled. In past deals, the one making the deal always got a set number of years before they died and went to hell. As vague as Crowley's deal was, Bobby did die if only for a little while before Castiel brought him back.


I'm not sure what to make of Sam at the end. Was he a ghost, watching over Dean as he had dinner with Lisa and Ben? It would certainly be one possibility, since ghosts are able to mess with electrical systems. He wouldn't be needed in Hell since Lucifer had been re-caged and it wouldn't be impossible for him to get out, especially with a little help, like say from oh, God?

I don't know. It's going to kill me waiting to find out. :-)