Basilisk

Charles M. Skinner writes that basil, thought by some in the ancient world to be a poison though by others to be a cure (egs.), is belived in India to be a token by which admittance to heaven is gained. He adds that the Greek goddess of poverty, Penia (who was seduced by a drunk god of resourcefulness, Porus, to create love, Eros, according to Socrates in Plato's Symposium, 203) was often depicted as holding a sprig of basil in her hand (I was unable to find even one image). The alternate meanings of the Greek word for basil range from much that is regal and columned halls to messengers. It is strange that a word with so many sumptuous connotations was, where it refers to the plant, associated with poverty, and could further indicate something lethal. The plant is said to have been cursed at. Skinner suggests that it may be related to the basilisk, "a fabulous creature that could kill with a look".
My favourite description of the basilisk in the (wikipedia) link above is Pliny the Elder's description of how the only way to kill it was by having a weasel fight it, itself dying "in this struggle of nature against its own self".
The oppositions involved in these associations and myths bring to mind a passage in Lewis Hyde's Trickster Makes This World about "The Lucky Find", wherein the person being struck by accident need not see it as chaos or even cosmos (thence the oppositions) so long as "craft" or "technical skill" is applied to the accident in a way that is fruitful (dumb luck leads to no change, and often to loss). "With smart luck, the mind is prepared for what it isn't prepared for. It has a kind of openness, holding its ideas lightly, and willing to have them exposed to impurity and the unintended." Like in the Socratic tale: resourceless Poverty gets the chance to bed Resource!
But writing all this suggests a certain kind of knowing that, while ostensibly had, goes missing in practice. It grates my nerves. Except when there's an accident needing help.


My absence from the blog was in part due to temporary burnout I experienced at the uncertainties of teaching higher ed. So much is unclear, there is more work, and budgets are being slashed, which is to say that some of us are keeping fingers crossed lest Penia get too close. But such a sentence deserves no pity, for many of us deliberately took pay cuts to work in education to begin with; what is yet another cutback, and should one not be smart enough to manage?
Here, I shall leap into fancy, be warned. I think it is only when between a rock and a hard place that one has the liberty to float about in high-falooting philosophy, which I am about to do. For example, I can now say, like a Stoic, perhaps I would like a holiday but what is a holiday compared with strolling the palace of the somewhat educated mind?
In penury (one hyperbolizes, for effect), the regal chambers of ideas become potent. In the Socratic tale, it is possible to conceive even if one is devoid of resources. It is a question of waiting, while calling on Endurance, Hope, Phantasy, etc., until circumstance leads to greener pastures and the relevance of different currencies. That's really the best I can do for this post and for myself at this time. I had wanted to write a post for some time now, but was given the final impetus by a post at Dancing Beastie ("Seasonal living in a Scottish Castle") about an August Break, according to which today's topic is Art.
Below is part of a picture I recently painted, the first one in decades and before I figured out how to mix more nuanced colour, photographed in the wrong direction and accidentally, next to some basil.
 
Brush: Favourites by Egg9700 at DeviantART.

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