The Silver Eel

"A gape-jawed serpentine shape of pale metal crested with soot hung high for a sign."

Thursday, April 27, 2006


Haven't felt moved to post much recently - so it goes. Lying fallow for a bit. But here's a thing, from Iain McCalman's The Seven Ordeals of Count Cagliostro:

'For spiritual and medical prognostications, the cabbala was the standard tool, but it was not easy to understand or use. It comprised a body of Jewish mystical doctrine, as well as a system of prediction known as gematria. One could arrive at oracular predictions through calculations based on the correspondences between numbers and Hebrew biblical letters or words. Balsamo [the young Cagliostro] had produced several cabalistic predictions that seemed auspicious for the success of their treasure hunt.'

I'll bet he had. Cagliostro - or Balsamo - would stun his partner and run off with the money he'd been given to draw up maps and make magical preparations against the demons who were widely thought to be guarding the treasure. At least, according to McCalman that's what happened. I'm not sure how academically rigorous the book is, but so far it's extremely entertaining.

The point of interest is that this seems to be the same technique used by Michael Drosnin in The Bible Code - in other words, it's a 200 year-old scam, and it's still working today.


After about three weeks, have finally acclimatized to seeing daylight again. It always seems to happen around the end of March/beginning of April - it's still getting dark at 5, or whenever, and then bam! there's all this excess light around in the mornings and evenings. It seemed to hit everyone this year. It's like being let out of a byre. One day, I am going to live in a country where I can enjoy this without enduring six months of winter beforehand.


At 3 May 2006 at 22:02 , Blogger Joe said...

Without the long winter would the long summer daylight be such a delight to you? And if you moved to a place where there was no long, dark winters the summer daylight wouldn't be as long as it is here in high summer, when you can still wear shades at 10pm in July. I rather like the contrast myself, light and darkness and the great wheel of the seasons like an eternally changing painting.

At 3 May 2006 at 22:53 , Blogger The Silver Eel said...

If I lived in the country the long summer days probably would be a delight, cos I'd go out and enjoy them. I forget where I read it, but there's a line about how one doesn't notice what season it is, living in the city. I wouldn't put it as strongly as that meself, but certainly one's enjoyment is partial, one's sense of nature is at best episodic.

However, I suspect that even - or especially - in the country, the winters would be a drag. I know of people who've lived in northern Canada for ages who were forced to move south because they felt unable to endure another winter. Admittedly, there's a difference of scale there, but I'm beginning to understand the sentiment.

At 4 May 2006 at 15:33 , Blogger Yvonne said...

Kabbalah is much much more than mere gematria, just as alchemy is so much more than an attempt to transmute base metals into gold. In fact, both are elaborate metaphorical constructs meant to explain the inner workings of the universe. Using either of them merely to produce oracular predictions is like trying to use Deep Thought as a pocket calculator.

Speaking as one who is 4.31 degrees of latitude south of you (but used to live .67 degrees north of you), I must say I prefer the seasonal fluctuations of night and day down here!

At 4 May 2006 at 18:23 , Blogger The Silver Eel said...

That didn't stop Balsamo from using it to predict the numbers in the London lottery - successfully, as it turned out. The problem was that every swindler and hoodlum in the capital then laid siege to him in order to extort the secret. London was not lucky for him. McCalman says the same was curiously true for Casanova. I reiterate that I make no claims for McCalman's accuracy or strength of verification, but he tells a good story pretty well.


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