Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Ode to Joy Game: Half Time

So, okay... five down, five to go.  The Glass Bead Game (here are moves 1-3; here's move 4) plays on.  I was thinking about slowly working my way up the tree, but I decided it might be more fun to stake out new territory, and then fret later about how I've painted myself into a corner...  :-)

I christen the upper-left bead with the symbol of The Queen of the Night.  I've never watched Mozart's opera The Magic Flute from start to finish, but I've always been fascinated by the mythic plot, the garish Egyptoid costumes, and the music.  The Queen of the Night, who has no other name in the opera, is the big bad villain of the story, though that's not known at the beginning.

(Actually, I told one lie above.  In some versions of the libretto, the Queen is referred to as "Astrifiammante," which is (ear-poppingly beautiful) Italian for "star-blazing.")

The opera is almost a protean version of the Princess Bride.  There's the triumph of true love, the redemption of pirates and vagabonds, and -- on the way -- plenty of trials, tribulations, and torture.  The Queen is portrayed as irredeemably nasty as Chris Sarandon's Prince Humperdinck, and she gets what's coming to her in the end.

But... but... I wonder if she gets a bit of a bum rap.  Mozart put in some pretty stark symbolism about the dark night of pre-rational superstition being beaten by the rising sun of Enlightenment-era wisdom.  Okay, yes, the Enlightenment was largely a good thing.  But the day needs the night.  Dreams may be pre-rational and chaotic, but without them (some neuroscientists claim) our mental performance would decline quite rapidly.

And then there are the others with similar names.  You might know that the Virgin Mary is sometimes given the title of Queen of Heaven, but did you know that one of the chief goddesses of Tolkien's Middle Earth was Varda, the Queen of the Stars?  I also must mention Nuit, the divine personification of Infinite Space in Aleister Crowley's modern religious tradition of Thelema.

That's what I think of when I hear "Queen of the Night."  :-)

Links:  There's only one bead that connects to this one right now, and it's Beethoven's 9th Symphony in the central spot.  Aside of the fact that both of these refer to famous and masterful works of classical music, there are also resonances in Schiller's famous poem.  Even though it often name-checks the Christian God, one can't deny that it also comes close to deifying "Joy" as a goddess-like Daughter of Elysium.  She entrances us with her magic, she causes the flowers to bud, she hurls stars around the sky... sound familiar?
"Freude, Freude treibt die Räder
In der Großen Weltenuhr.
Blumen lockt sie aus den Keimen,
Sonnen aus dem Firmament,
Sphären rollt sie in den Räumen,
Die des Sehers Rohr nicht kennt."
("Joy, joy drives the wheels
In the great clock of worlds.
She lures flowers from the buds,
Suns out of the firmament,
She rolls spheres in the spaces
That the seer's telescope does not know.")
More soon, my friends!


  1. Strange. I woke up this morning thinking how dreaming is a bit like photosynthesis for humans ...

  2. Okay, top circle: H.R. Pufnstuf. That's my other association with a magic flute.

    1. Ha! "Come and play with me, Jimmy..." Some productions of the opera are almost as phantasmagoric, visually!

      (I actually have the top spot staked out, and I think my idea was created pretty much in the same year as Sid and Marty's masterpiece. It was a trippy time!)

  3. What with the 'Queen of the Night' and the 'Queen of the Stars', all I can think of is Lord Byron's "She Walks in Beauty", which is very different in character from "Astrifiammante"...

    1. Yes, excellent contrast there... "All that's best of dark and bright, meet in her aspect and her eyes." If my ten-branched tree had ten-branched roots underneath, then this is the ideal notion for this bead's mirror image.

      Happy 10th bloggiversary, by the way!