Second, a Ramble

Today I went up to Norwich to give a talk at their Harvest Moon convention, held at the Puppet Theatre. It's a fascinating building ~ well, maybe not so much the building itself (which is a converted church of no especially remarkable nature), but the numerous puppets, marionettes and other effigies suspended from the walls. They were of all shapes and sizes, with warriors, kings, damsels, witches, animals and monsters. All staring down upon the proceedings.
I cannot wax particularly lyrical about the Harvest Moon convention itself, largely because I missed a lot of it having got lost on the way and arriving late. My own talk (on poetry in early European polytheist cultures) seemed to go down fairly well. Aside from that I attended a short talk on nature spirits in Hinduism, which I found to be a fascinating topic, and a straightforward and humorous introduction to cabalism. One of the stalls sold rather good artwork, mostly painted on to slate.
Puppets are a curious phenomena. One of the women I spoke to said she found them rather disturbing, feeling as if she was being watched. They are certainly a staple of several horror movies and novels, embodying the notion of the split psyche that becomes increasingly independent of the puppeteer who invented it. Which is also the basic plot of several Stephen King stories, wherein an author writes under a pseudonym who becomes not merely a fake name but a distinct personality that eventually takes on a semi-autonomous life. As someone who writes under a number of pen names, which have very decided identities of their own, I occasionally wonder if one day I might be found arguing with myself in three different voices and holding a butcher's knife.
The Blessed Oscar said, "Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth". Puppets and nome-de-plumes are really another form of mask - I used to have quite a collection of home-made masks for use at fancy dress parties and a bit of am-dram. Lecturing a bunch of pagans, or teaching a psychology class, is also a form of performing and necessitates the creation of a mask, a persona to engage with the audience or student.

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