And welcome to my newsletter for November, 2013! Please feel free to forward this to anyone you think would be interested in keeping up with me! To receive these newsletters regularly, please drop me an email or subscribe online from my website (http://www.JefMurray.com ) or at: http://groups.google.com/group/Mystical_Realms . Notices of events and items of interest are at the bottom of this email.
• I’ve added 3 new painting images to my website at www.JefMurray.com . These include “Into the Wardrobe”, “The Gaffer & the Ringwraith”, and “Treasure Bearer”. The first can be found in my Narnia->Paintings gallery, the second is in the Middle-earth->The Third Age->Lord of the Rings gallery, and the third is in the Middle-earth->The Third Age->The Hobbit gallery. You can also find all them by going to http://www.JefMurray.com and clicking on the “Newest Works->Paintings” link at the top, left.
• In addition to the three paintings, I have added ten new graphite sketch images to the Middle-earth, Narnia, Fairy Tale, and Soul & Spirit sketch galleries. You can see all of the latest together by clicking on the “Newest Works -> Sketches” link at the top, left my home page, www.JefMurray.com .
• The 2014 Jef Murray – AL3P Middle-earth Calendar is available and is selling briskly! With half of proceeds going to support A Long Expected Party III (AL3P) in Kentucky in September, 2014, this calendar features painting images from the entire spectrum of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Legendarium. To learn details, and to order yours, see: www.JefMurray.com
• For all Narnia fans, I’ve created the first ever 2014 Jef Murray Chronicles Calendar. The calendar features original portraits, scenes, and landscapes inspired by C.S. Lewis’ Narnia tales. Each month features one painting image and one sketch; the calendar also includes moon phases, equinoxes and solstices, many major holidays, and visual cues for other dates of significance. To inquire as to its status and availability, please contact Jef directly.
• Seer: A Wizard’s Journal is continuing to be well received, and several very kind reviews have been posted of late. For more about this collection of tales, poems, and illustrations, see: www.JefMurray.com
• I am honoured to have been invited as a guest to the Mythmoot II, sponsored by The Mythgard Institute (http://www.mythgard.org) This weekend of celebration and discussion will be held December 14-15th, in Baltimore Maryland. For more info, see: http://www.mythgard.org/2013/06/call-for-papers-mythgard-institutes-mythmoot-ii/
• A Conference on J.R.R. Tolkien will be held in Atlanta in January, 2014, at St. Peter Chanel church. Featuring Joseph Pearce, this conference will explore many aspects of Tolkien’s works. I am honoured to have been invited to speak on Tolkien’s impact on the visual arts, and on themes of light and darkness in his writings, as translated into paintings, sketches, and other media. Watch this space for more details as they are announced!
• The Urbana Theological Seminary (see http://www.urbanaseminary.org/ ) is hosting a conference on Saturday, February 1, 2014, on the theme “Tolkien and the Arts”. This is their second annual Tolkien conference, and I have been invited as a guest and to speak on the topic of art as a spiritual vocation. Watch this space for details as we get closer!
• The third great gathering of Tolkien fans in Kentucky is being planned for September, 2014! A Long Expected Party 3 (acronym “AL3P) is completely booked, but you can still be put on the waiting list to attend on-site. You can also still register, and offsite lodging is available. I’m delighted to announce that I will be one of three guests at the event, along with Dr. Michael Drout and Dr. Amy Sturgis. For more information, see: http://www.alep-ky.us/
(The following is a serial tale that has grown in the telling. Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 were published in previous months and you can read each of them online here: http://mysticalrealms.mymiddleearth.com/2013/08/07/the-prophesies-of-yeshi-chapter-1/ . The tale concludes with Chapter 6, below, which follows a reprise of Chapter 5).
Chapter 5: The Well of the Wise
“Dead?!” Charles interjected.
“Indeed, that is what she told me,” said Gabriel. “And, as you’ll see, I came to have little cause to doubt her, since so much else that she has shown me has, indeed, come to pass.”
“Shown you? What do you mean ‘shown you’?”
“That, I am coming to. Yeshi’s words, of course, startled me very much. Here I was, having traveled from England to simply find her, having passed through dangerous straits to come into the relative safety of her valley, pursued, as it seemed, by unknown assailants. And there, I was told that I would somehow be required to return again to make safe the way for others. It was all a bit much, and I told her so at the time. But, she simply smiled and said that I would soon come to understand better.
“But then Yeshi asked if I was hungry, and whether I might wish to rest after my journey. I was delighted to accept her hospitality, so she led me from what I came to regard as the ‘Chapel’ into an adjacent building. Here I found a table laden with viands the likes of which I had never tasted before, and in great abundance. There was a platter with what appeared to be cold pheasant, a tureen filled with steaming soup that tasted of fresh fish and coriander, many bowls of spiced vegetables, mounds of fresh and aromatic apricots, grapes, and oranges, and chilled white wine that I could only compare to a delicious but obscure vintage I had once tasted in Sicily. There were also plates of injera, the ubiquitous flatbread of Ethiopia that serves not only as food, but also as the means of dining, since traditional Ethiopian meals are eaten with the hands.
“I was astonished to find such fare before me, since it appeared that Yeshi lived in Mekdes alone, and I could think of no way that such a feast might have been prepared without the help of many servants. Yet, when I turned to thank her for her hospitality and consideration, and to ask who had prepared such a feast, Yeshi had already vanished.
“I came to accept the peculiarities of Yeshi and of the manner of happenings in Mekdes as the days progressed, but in this first instance, I admit I was startled, or rather, puzzled. Nevertheless, I set to the meal with a hearty appetite, and afterwards I found that, adjoining what I came to regard as my ‘Parlor’, there was a small suite of rooms including a dressing area. Here a basin and pitchers of hot and cold water were set out, and adjoining this was a bedroom with a curtained window that faced toward the east. Fresh clothes had been laid out for me: white robes not unlike those in which Yeshi clothed herself, but which fit me perfectly.
“Over the next many days, I was able to assess the size of Mekdes, and most of its features. It was hemmed in on all sides by the peaks and hair-raising passes of the Sahel. It appeared to have but one way to reach it, at least by land, and that was through the gated rift by means of which Amsale had brought me. But the valley itself was large enough not only to provide land for the cultivation of food for many souls, but also for many wild animals to thrive. There was a modest stream that was fed from many springs, and in this dwelt a species of fish that was readily caught with net or angle. There also were forests and grasslands frequented by the pheasant-like birds that I mentioned. I saw now signs of any dangerous animals; not even the baboons that we had met on the mountain pass.
“So, I was able to content myself that, indeed, many might find refuge in Mekdes, should the need for a sanctuary truly arise. But, I also knew that I would require more time with Yeshi in order to understand why she had summoned me. For, make no mistake; I could never have found Yeshi unless she had called me to her; and this alone, coupled with what I learned of her own deep studies and wisdom, was enough for me to give credence to her initial words.
“After several days had passed and I had thoroughly rested from my travels, a morning came when Yeshi joined me at breakfast. She ate sparingly, but it was clear that she felt it was time for us to speak at length. After the meal, I accompanied her back to the Chapel.
“I had not been in that place since my first arrival, and then the hour had been late. By morning light, the Chapel was even more ethereal than I had remembered, and I once again felt that this was a place of great sanctity. As I’ve said, brilliantly colored icons filled the walls and even the ceiling; much of the interior was gilded, and the morning light, shining in beams through the misty air, enhanced its otherworldly aspect.
“This is the Holy of Holies, Gabriel,” said Yeshi. “It is here that I come to learn all that I must know for the sake of the Brotherhood and the souls with whom I am entrusted.’
“Then Yeshi motioned me past the curtain through which she had passed on my arrival. Within was a smaller room: round and also bedecked with icons. But, at the center of this space stood a golden basin and a fountain that was the source of a spring of fresh water. But, this was not like any other water.
“‘King Solomon himself knew of this well,’ said Yeshi. ‘And drinking from the fount, he came to understand God’s work as few have before or since. By partaking of this water and heeding the urgings of my dreams, I have been provided me with all knowledge that is needful to me. The spring’s location and its properties have been held as a close secret for thousands of years, and now, other than myself, you alone of all humankind know of its existence. Come, Gabriel; drink, and we will explore the future together’
“And so, I drank. Behind the fountain was affixed a large icon. It consisted simply of a golden frame within which stood a featureless field of ultramarine; there were no figures painted there, no landscapes: just a sea of deepest blue. I knelt before it. At first, looking at the empty blue field, I could see nothing. But then, Yeshi placed her hands upon my shoulders. She, too, gazed at the icon, and at that moment I perceived that the blue was melting away, and it seemed that forms swam in depths beneath the surface of some wild ocean. These became ever clearer, and for the next several hours I was lost in this vision, this dilation of time, that had opened up before us…”
“But what, specifically, did you see?” asked Charles.
“Many, many things, some of which I only came to understand later, with Yeshi’s help. I saw, first, the lands at the edges of Mekdes, and saw it littered with the bodies of dead men, their carcasses being picked clean by vultures and jackals. But then the vision broadened, and I saw towns and cities in Ethiopia and Egypt. Wars erupted; regimes rose and fell; great monstrous machines travelled in the air, loosing destruction beneath them. A great king was cast down, bringing to an end a line of royalty that stretched back to Solomon. I saw events tangled, as with some great webbing, and each moment was tied to the next in a tapestry of gossamer threads.
“But, because Yeshi was directing our gaze through the many twists and turns of possible outcomes, I came to see that there was a single broad thread that we were following. And because of its strength, it seemed that it could only be broken through some tremendous cataclysm. Yet the thread itself led to Apocalypse, a dimly-seen series of catastrophes that might only be avoided through divine intervention. Yeshi did not believe that such intervention would come; instead, the Suffering Times need be endured, and these tribulations would then lead to the end of all things.”
“The end of all things?”
“Indeed. The players were set, even back then, and it is many generations since first I saw these visions. But nothing has changed the course of that thread of events. Whether you choose to rejoice or to suffer great trepidation, or both (which is likely the most prudent reaction), the end of this age is coming; it is nearly upon us. And we shall see much of it through together.”
“I…I don’t know what to make of any of this, Gabriel,” said Charles, shaking his head.
“Did I not tell you, even as you were painting my portrait, that you were a part of all of this? And that Yeshi told me about you? Well, as it happens, yours was one of the countless faces that I saw in the visions, but one that I came to see ever more clearly. I was curious about you, and Yeshi told me much that she had learned on her own; about you, and about what will be required of you and of those that will come to help you along the way.”
“You make it sound like I have some great quest ahead of me.”
“That you do, my boy, that you do!” Gabriel sat back in his chair. He knocked the ashes from his pipe and refilled it. “But it will not be a quest that you undertake alone.”
In the brief silence that ensued, the sound of rising wind could be heard through the windowpanes, and the suggestion of thunder could be heard distantly. “And so, it begins,” thought Gabriel to himself, thinking back on the vision of this night that he had had so many decades before.
“But, Gabriel, how can I take this seriously?” asked Charles. “It’s a singular tale, but even without you telling me what lies ahead, how can you be sure that I am the person that Yeshi told you about? Or that you saw in the vision?”
“It is a very good point, and one that I anticipated,” said the old man. “I knew you were likely to play the role of ‘Doubting Thomas’, and who can blame you? But, tell me, how many times have we been together since first we met?”
“I’d say, perhaps a half dozen.”
“And have I ever, to your knowledge, been in this flat before?”
“No. This is the first time I’ve had you up; for the portrait, you know.”
“Good. Then, if I’ve never been here before, I could not know, for example, about the paintings you have stored in that room yonder…” Gabriel pointed toward a closed door just outside the kitchen.
“No, I suppose not.”
“And thus, I also could not know that you have been working on the portrait of a young lady for quite some time now; a young lady with whom you are in love…correct?”
Charles blushed. “No, I suppose you couldn’t know that. But, that said, what does this lady look like, if you somehow know about the portrait?”
“You’ve shown the painting to no one, I take it? And no one knows of its existence, not even the young lady in question?”
“But the lady in question is unusual, and even you don’t know that much about what she looks like, since she is always veiled. Am I right?”
“Yes…but this is uncanny!”
“You have rendered her seated before a blue background. She is dressed all in white, and held in her left hand is an object that looks rather like a pendulum of some sort, wrought in gold.”
“Oh my God!”
“There are other details I can describe; the vision of the painting was very clear when first I saw it in my visions. And its most singular feature is that the woman is painted without her veil: with violet eyes within which there are no pupils. You saw this vision of her yourself, in a dream, and you have attempted to capture that dream in paint ever since it first came to you.”
“Now you are truly scaring me, Gabriel!”
“Not as much as I should do! For we’ve not yet discussed what is to come! But, you required proof….”
“But…but nobody knows about this! No one! And you almost seem to be making light of the fact that you’ve seen something that no one could possibly have seen!!” Charles was ashen white and trembling.
Gabriel leaned over to him and grasped his hand. “Charles! Take a few deep breaths. There. Be at peace. I knew this night would be difficult for you, but I hope perhaps we’re nearly through the worst of it.
“For unbelief is the greatest hurdle; we live in an age of such skepticism that the minds of even those who profess to believe in ‘all things visible and invisible’ can be put in great jeopardy. It is always a shock when we see past the veil ourselves for the first time. But this isn’t even the first time for you, is it?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean that you have a very special gift, Charles, whether you’re yet fully conscious of it or not.”
“What sort of a gift?”
“Well, to put it bluntly, you, too, are able to see things that others can’t see.”
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“Look, Charles, you’ve admitted that you painted this picture of Sogna…”
“Yes,” Gabriel said, “I said ‘Sogna’. You don’t think I’d know about the portrait without also knowing the name of the young lady, did you? But, as I was saying, you painted the picture of Sogna from an image that came to you in your dreams. But those aren’t just random dreams; they have a very special quality that you’ve come to know; and you’ve had them all your life, haven’t you?”
“Yes…yes, I have. They’re unusually vivid. But they’re really just dreams, after all….”
“No, that is precisely where you’re wrong. Charles. They are not ‘just dreams’, nor are they just your brain sorting things out, as most dreams are for the rest of us; they are premonitions of actual events.”
“What are you saying?”
“I’m saying, Charles, that you can see the future; that your dreams are messages and omens of what is to come. In short, Charles, just like Yeshi, you are nothing less than a prophet of God.”
Chapter 6: The Coming Storm
The wind outside of Charles’ flat was now whipping willow tree branches against the diamond panes, and a slight hint of thunder rumbled in the distance. Gabriel looked with sympathy at Charles face, on which were playing out myriad emotions: amazement, perplexity, fear, anger, exasperation. They all passed, one by one, but no words were spoken. Finally, Charles leaned forward, rubbing his eyes. He pushed back his hair and looked up at the older man.
“OK,” he said at last, “so, what now? Let’s say I accept what you’re telling me, and all of the things you’ve been telling me all evening. Where does this leave us; and me in particular? What am I supposed to do?”
Gabriel smiled. He had expected this reaction, of course, since he had seen these moments run over and over in his mind. The visions at Mekdes had been deeply impressed into his memory. Yet the emotional impact of the events playing out in reality was greater than he had anticipated. Tears welled up in his eyes.
“Charles, Yeshi assured me that you would be a most remarkable person, but I did not realize just how much so until now. Here I am, telling you things that no reasonable man should be willing to accept, and yet you do so, and then some.
“You ask what you are supposed to do? Certainly nothing on your own! This is but a single melody in a much larger symphony, and it is one I have known about, however incompletely, for many decades. You must act on what I have been telling you, but helping you to reach understanding and obtaining your assent was and is paramount. For, believe me, there are many forces at work that would discourage any action on your part, and they are at work even now.”
“What do you mean?”
“I shall show you. Stand up and go over to the picture window. Take a look outside, as if you were watching the storm roll in. Then let your eyes drift downward toward the street and tell me what you see. Try not to make it obvious that you’re looking down.”
Charles rose from the fireside did as Gabriel bid him. “I see two, no, three men across the street. They appear to be watching my building.”
“That is precisely what they are doing. In fact, they are waiting for you to turn out your lights.”
“So that they can more easily make their way up the stairs to your flat and break in.”
“Why would they want to do that?!”
“Cast your mind back to what I was saying earlier about my travels through Ethiopia to find Yeshi. Do you recollect the men with the lions? The ones who sought to capture Amsale?”
“Yes, of course.”
“Do you remember that I mentioned that each of them had a tattoo on his forehead, a glyph?”
“Yes. I think you said it meant ‘darkness’.”
“Not quite. The glyph was for the word ‘Amenta’. It is Egyptian, and it references the underworld, or the ‘Land of the Dead’. In the context of the mari’s men, it was a sign of allegiance to the forces of evil. Those who bear that glyph are the opposite, in a way, of the members of the MEB. Instead of seeking to sustain the world through the dark ages, they are the very heralds and agents of that darkness.
“Throughout my time of ‘seeing’ with Yeshi, and threading its way through all of the visions that we shared, was the image of Amenta, and the growing evil that it represented. Over the long decades, we traveled a thick thread of light, but ever the darkness followed close behind. That pall has waxed over the years; never more so than in these recent days. And behind that darkness are those who either consciously have chosen it, or who have capitulated to it by default.”
“But how can you say that? Surely the 20th century, rather than our own, was filled with greater horror and evil?” asked Charles. “As bad as things are now, do we really have anything like a Hitler or a Stalin rising to power?”
“We actually have worse, Charles. Hitler and Stalin were actively resisted, but today the seeds of darkness are not resisted, they are welcomed! The average citizen of any so-called free country today is generally enslaved by his desire for luxury, for comfort, for diversion. Horrors happen on every street corner, but no one notices because it isn’t posted on their cellphone screens, or, if they do notice them and protest, they themselves are proclaimed racists, or homophobes, or worse. Orwell was right; if you control the language, you control the masses.
“This is how Rome fell, Charles. It is how all the great civilizations have eventually fallen: through decadent neglect of virtue, of truth, of freedom, of human dignity. Once the forces of Amenta have entire civilizations locked into their support of spectacle and of corruption, the end cannot be far behind. Bread and circuses, Charles, bread and circuses! And make no mistake; that is where we are today, whether we look to Europe, to America, or anywhere else. We are not too far removed from the situation that J.R.R. Tolkien described in his book, The Lord of the Rings. Smoke does, indeed, rise from the Mountain of Doom, and the hour grows late. But, we will not ride to Isengard to seek counsel; we will ride, instead, to Mekdes.”
“Yes, and as quickly as we are able. In Mekdes we may house many, as I’ve said, and we may be able to counter the coming darkness, or at least to await the end if that time is truly at hand.”
“But, don’t you know? You’ve said that you foresaw much of what is happening now.”
“I did indeed, but the visions are not guarantees; they are only probabilities. I foresaw what is coming, and it will be horrible indeed, but I could not see past that calamity. For, I am not even a prophet, and even Yeshi herself could see only so far. But you may be able to see more, once you’ve tasted of the Waters.
“First, however, we must escape our current circumstances.”
“Yes, and just how are we to do that?” asked Charles. “You’ve said that these men are here to break in once my lights are turned out?”
“Yes, that is their plan. My own steps have been dogged since those earliest days in Mekdes, and I believe that all of my actions have been watched over the years, and never more painstakingly than now. The enemy has spiritual aid, as do we, and the spirits of the underworld have certainly come to know that you are important and must be…neutralized. I believe that these men intend to break in tonight and capture you or kill you; either would likely be acceptable to the enemy.”
“Then what are we to do?! Surely we cannot leave the flat without their seeing us!”
“No, but we can do better than that, Charles.” Gabriel smiled. “We can simply disappear….”
. . .
April 23rd: The Feast of St. George
On this feast day of our patron saint, I wish to recount the events that led to our coming at last into the holy valley of Mekdes, in the mountains of what is now called Eritrea. It is five full years since Gabriel and I set out from England to escape the men sent to kill me, and nearly four years since we passed the great Iron Gate that leads into the valley. I fear that not many additional souls shall come to swell our ranks while the evil times last, and that the final resolution of these days still remains very much in doubt.
Gabriel was as good as his promise. We escaped from my flat in Oxford with the aid of the invisibility powder that he kept with him at all times. The Enemy’s men did indeed break in as soon as the lights in my flat were doused, but we stood near the window quietly watching them as they ransacked my studio. I had gathered several of the paintings that I knew were important, including my portraits of Sogna and of Gabriel; these, too, we kept hidden from the assassins. I brought all of them with us to Mekdes, but the number of my works has increased greatly since that time; the waters from the Well of the Wise have allowed me to see many things yet to come, and these I have duly recorded in pigment.
Our journey out of England was beset with difficulties, and snags and delays abounded as we traveled across Europe and the Mediterranean and into Egypt. Rather than fly directly to Asmara, as we might have done, Gabriel took us along the route he had first travelled so many decades before, when he first sought Yeshi. Along that route we discretely contacted as many of the Brotherhood as we were able, warning them of what was coming, and telling those we most trusted of the means by which they might send messages to us, and, if need be, join us in exile.
Once we had passed into the upper reaches of the Nile, and from thence to the Atbara, Gabriel found us camels to take us from the river through the rural stretches of Eritrea. And, just as had been foretold, Gabriel and I were again met by Amsale, and in very nearly the same place and in the same circumstances as before. This time, however, the angelic messenger came to us in the form of a young boy. But he was once more being pursued by men who had sighted him in Asmara. I wish I could say that we were surprised at the depravity of a headman who now sought to satisfy his lusts by capturing and defiling a boy rather than a young woman, but in these dark days, deeds that would once have been considered horrors have become routine, and even fashionable.
“It is as I told thee, Gabriel,” said the boy Amsalegenet, “the men who sought to capture me at our first meeting are as saints compared to these.”
Yet, we were able, at last, to reach the mountain passes, and once more Amsale commanded the Watchers who descended from the cliff tops to guard the passage into the holy valley. The great baboons, which had been unable to stop the large force of men that first followed Gabriel into the valley, nevertheless had destroyed all of those who found their way back from the Iron Gate. They were picked off a few at a time as they left the passes to communicate with the mari in Asmara, and thus the secret of the existence of Mekdes had been kept safe through the long years. Gabriel confirmed this, relating to me that when he had finally left Yeshi, the pass was strewn with the bones of those killed by the baboons.
I will not relate all that transpired on our journey, other than to mention that we stopped briefly in Rome to meet with members of the Brotherhood in secret in the ancient catacombs, and to take counsel with the Benedictine Abbott who had first helped Gabriel find the MEB. This Abbott, along with others of his order, remains outside of Mekdes, even as the hour grows late; they seek to find additional shelter and to render further aid to those fleeing the darkness. I fear many of them will be martyred before the time comes for us to close the Iron Gates for good.
Just as we escaped England, Pope Benedict XVI resigned as pope and Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected Pope Francis I. Given what I have seen in my visions, I begin to give some credence to the prophesies of St. Malachy, and fear that Francis may be the last man to sit on the throne of St. Peter. With the rising persecution of the Church, it would not surprise me to hear someday soon that the City of Seven Hills had been destroyed, as has been foretold. And if this comes to pass, then surely we are living in the final days, and even the final hours, of this world.
But, all of this is in God’s hands now, as it ever was. We shall await what comes, offering help to our brothers and sisters in need, and opening our arms to all who seek asylum; this whether they come to us here in the wilds of Africa, or to other hidden places in Europe, Asia, the Americas, or Oceana. The Middle-earth Brotherhood must survive, and will do so, with God’s aid. We will ever nurture the Truth that has been revealed to us, seeking to succor all, and praying even for those who have succumbed to the Amenta and who mean to destroy us.
But for now, I must finish this entry, for Sogna is calling. Today is the birthday of our first child, who was christened Michael George. He will be raised as well as anyone can hope to be in these days: away from the spiraling horrors of the outside world, and kept safe for as long as we are able to do so. Sogna has also drunk of the waters of the Well, and we cannot help but wonder if Michael and his brothers and sisters will not be similarly gifted with the Vision in due time.
I have no doubt that at some point Gabriel will come again to Mekdes, to take Michael out into the world to learn its ways, and to assist him in his never-ending travels. For we can, none of us, ever rest, nor cease from rendering aid and counsel to all who are beset; for we have been commanded so to do. And we look to the ancient prophesies as well as to those given us in our own day, and hold close to what we have been taught:
“And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.”
“Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.”
[Thus Concludes The Prophesies of Yeshi, Book 1 of The Gabriel Chronicles]