A Mystical Puppet Rock Opera
Dalrymple and the Wild Daimons
Rotes Erdherz Kupferkatze enters the darkened stage from the back wearing a deerstalker hat, the kind made famous by Sherlock Holmes, and strikes a few notes on the vibraphone to start the show and begin the Invocation. Yes indeed, the game is afoot – the game being magic, or if you like, magick. The first visible non-human character, Rumpelstilzchen, enters the back of the theater introducing himself and setting the stage for the night's adventure. In the darkness behind the puppet, lit only with a flashlight by an apprentice light technician, Dalrymple pulls the puppet's strings and channels his voice as they walk through the aisle directly in front of where I'm sitting; I can feel the timelessness of Rumpel's character; he's been at this a long time: weaving golden threads which he says are stories.
The immediacy of the opera coming to to life in the middle of the audience recalls for me a performance of Back to Methuselah by the Living Theater in New York led by Julian Beck and Judith Molina where imp-like performers ran through the audience chanting: "in the future, all is poetry." It also recalled the way Tom Waits began his Mule Variations tour, coming through the back of the theater in Oakland giving a carny-style rap while walking through the theater to the stage. Rumpel is clearly in good company with dramatic stage entrances. It seems kind of a genius way to start a show because it captures the audiences attention immediately and lets them know they are part of the adventure and invocation. The fourth wall, the division between performers and attendees, is broken before it was even built. An intimate rapport with the audience gets established from the get go.
The humans in the Wild Daimons are: Chuckling Crow playing bass, upright and electric, and the occasional conga; Ouroborous playing all things drum and percussion-like; and Rotes Erdherz Kupferkatze on tenor sax, vibraphone and theremin. Dalrymple MacAlpin's instruments include guitar, piano, synthesizer, gut-stringed medieval harp and counter-tenor vocals. The Wild Daimons also consists of four marionette puppets: Rumpelstilzchen, Dortchen Wild, DJ Tele-Grimm-Gram and Ceridwen. The puppets are one form of the non-human life this production calls forth – each of them manifest and project themselves as a distinct entity, a non-homo sapien life-form able to cross over into the human dimension. The musicians play textural sound effects creating an evocative soundscape for the narration then transform into a band playing full on rock songs with lyrics advancing the story as operas do. Opera comes from the Latin and means work.
Live video projections bring an electronic kind of non-human life through a screen hanging above the center of the stage, a square-shaped box angled to resemble a diamond. The first band song is "Three Sisters and Their Thread" and we see their visages on the screen spinning and weaving the threads of Fate and Destiny. They are the three fates from Greek Mythology: Clotho spins the thread of human fate, Lachesis dispenses it and Atropos cuts the thread determining the moment of death. In the lyrics they tell the assembled: "we expect you to remember for what it is you yearn."
This gives the first explicit reference of a central theme here: waking up and remembering the divinity within, the empowered soul. Synchronistically as I write this, the song Power of Soul by Jimi Hendrix is playing on the radio:
"With the power of soul anything is possible,
with the power of you, anything that you wanna do."
The program guide given to the audience on the way into the theater helps explain. Multiple descriptions of the Wild Daimons appear in their Mission Statement, one of them being: "Alter-ego comic book superheroes waging war against the soulless eradication of personal godhood."
It also informs us that "daimon" comes from the Greek word meaning provider of destiny. No less than Carl Jung attests that: "There was a daimon in me and in the end its presence proved decisive." Later in the show, we hear that the Golden Thread is to help make contact with your daimon. "Tune in to the Golden Thread." In the Author's Statement, Dalrymple expresses the wish for the receivers of this gnosis "[t]o transform your reality by remembering your destiny." Appropriately enough, the song after the three Fates is: "We Are Gods."
I can strongly relate as this all seems cognate with my personal religion, Thelema and Magick, which instructs the student to aspire to the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel also known as the individual's True Will. The qabalistic Tree of Life provides the structure for Magick to hang its hat on. The journey to the daimon there, the HGA, begins in the central sphere on the Tree corresponding with the color gold – a golden thread leads you there. Perhaps the connecting link is Irish poet William Butler Yeats who is cited as an inspiration. Yeats was a prominent member of the late 19th Century occult society, The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn which formed the foundation of Magick.
Daimons and entities coming through puppets aren't the only kinds of praeter-human Intelligences encountered on this journey. Extraterrestrial aliens break through in one song along with appropriate imagery lighting up the screen. One image reminded me of a classic moment in the film ET by Steven Spielberg where the finger of the friendly ET touches and electrifies the finger of the little boy.
This image itself seems to have been inspired by Michelangelo's famous painting that adorns the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel called The Creation of Adam.
The music informs us that these alien intelligences appear interdimensionally rather than from other planets or star systems in our Universe. This aligns with my understanding of those that have registered on my radar, but who can really tell for sure?
Not all of the nonorganic Intelligences come from the serious, occult, mystical, supernatural, or UFO side of things. We also get a healthy dose of whimsy through children's make-believe. Does anyone still remember being a child and seeing things outside the ordinary before the grown-ups told us it wasn't real? The children in the audience may have had some of the deepest experiences of the night being so closely in touch with their imagination.
The dream realm gets paid a visit in the piece "A Re-occurring Childhood Dream." Another song concerns the spelling controversy surrounding the Berenstein Bears children's books that some think is correctly spelled Berenstain. By an extraordinary bit of luck and good fortune the Berenstein Bears themselves are reached and asked their opinion on the matter. Mama Bear says it's always been Berenstein and doesn't know what all the fuss is about. The song presenting this matter has the title Ambiguity and uncertainty even surrounds beloved children's literature. Some imaginative types hold that both spellings are correct in different universes, parallel universes that have somehow become known to each other. This phenomena even has a name - the Mandela effect named after Nelson Mandela whom some have sworn died in prison, contrary to the alternate view that he was released from prison and lead the reform in South Africa. Parallel universes is given serious consideration by some theoretical physicists, but it's not known whether they've looked into the Berenstain/Berenstein brouhaha.
Act One concludes with a guided meditation lead by Dortchen Wild, a distinguished crone whom Rumpel calls his meditation teacher. Once again, the whole audience is invited to participate in "The Golden Thread Meditation Class" which begins with Dortchen instructing the class to "shake it out" – shake the body out to wake up and release any tension from sitting through the first act. Production assistants armed with straw baskets containing strands of gold fabric roam through the public giving each member their own physical golden thread. Another sign of magic at play.
This trailer gives a little taste of The Golden Thread:
In Act Two we collectively cross over into the Land of the Dead. It's the spirit of DJ Tele-Grimm-Gram coming across the video screen who serves as our guide to the Afterlife through his Dead-Time radio program. In an earlier iteration of The Golden Thread I attended a few months back, Tele-Grimm-Gram enthused wildly about the artistic collaboration between Mr. Rodgers (yes, that Mr. Rodgers) and James Brown which resulted in the soon-to-be hit song, "It's a Beautiful Day in This Funky Neighborhood," a funky uptempo jam sure to get any skeleton swaying to the beat and rattling their bones. They played it again for this evening's performance.
In his former incarnation, Mr. Rodgers posed as the innocuous host of a children's TV program, but in reality served as the vessel for his own angelic Daimon. His raison d'être (Fred Rodgers spoke fluent French) appears closely aligned with The Golden Thread's central theme: "The world needs a sense of worth, and it will achieve it only by its people feeling worthwhile. Anyone who does anything to help a child is a hero to me. It's our job to encourage each other to discover that uniqueness and to provide ways of developing its expression."
Some of his other life lessons include:
- Embrace your inner child
- Don't talk down to children
- Don't be afraid to feel things
- To love is a choice, a process, and a struggle
- Be a good neighbor
- Look for the helpers
- Accept and love everyone, no matter their differences
The Wild Daimons' self-description as comic book superheroes finds literal expression in a comic book created and written by Dalrymple with help from: Grey Cat (illustrations), Annie Kendall (coloring and lettering), P.M. Hodges (layout and editing) and Daniel Agulilar (cover colorist). The first issue, Issue O called Children of the Void, released last November was available at their merch table. Its style resembles the graphic novels of Grant Morrison (The Invisibles) or Alan Moore (Watchmen). My companion picked one up and discovered this first edition signed and numbered (she got #74 out of 500) and came with a fully charged Key to the universe (a real physical key, small but potent) designed "[t]o aid in the process of making things happen." My friend Paula put the key on her meditation altar.
It reminded me of the Greenwich Village folk singer Melanie who had a hit song called Brand New Key. Melanie enjoyed her Greater Feast, leaving her biological form and crossing over to the Other Side about ten days before this performance. She could still have been in her 49 day bardo cycle before taking rebirth or moving on. The comic book story continues the theme of communication from the Land of the Dead. The first page following the opening quotes welcomes the reader to DEAD Time and instructs us to "have a pleasant death." It maintains a strong bardoesque mood and presence throughout with both evocative illustrations and the aprés vie storyline.
The theme of moving through the bardos, aka voyaging in the macrodimensions of the Labyrinth, has a Golden Thread connection to the well-known Tibetan Buddhist exhortation to "maintain the thread of consciousness" as one goes through sudden disorientating reality shifts and experiences intense sensations, lights, sounds, and radiations while getting instantly stripped of all ego and personality and having your mind taken apart; try not to blackout and lose the thread of consciousness.
"It's a Beautiful Day In This Funky Neighborhood" seems a slightly coded metaphor for the Egyptian Book of the Dead aka the Book of Going Forth by Day. The territory of the bardo could certainly appear a funky neighborhood. The main instruction in said book tells the departing soul to unite with Osiris; that's the prime aim. Osiris is one of the death and resurrection gods that corresponds with Tiphareth on the Tree of Life making him consonant or interchangeable with Christ, Buddha or Krishna, etc. The English word for Tiphareth is Beauty. If you regard "this funky neighborhood" as the afterlife, then declaring it "a beautiful day" suggests the contact or union of the soul with Tiphareth.
One way to prepare for death is to attempt this contact with Tiphareth before you die and make it a habit. It seems cognate with contacting your daimon or establishing the knowledge and conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel. Discovering your truest self and aligning to it has the bonus effect of preparing for biological death. Paradoxically, the practice and aim of being ready for death, however far in the future that may be, has the effect of making Life come alive. Getting ready for death as a daily meditation practice affirms Life.
The rock opera changes gears out of the bardo and enters into more science fiction types of alternate realities with "Kozmar's Portal Transformation" and "Projection Outer Space Transender." It concludes with Rumpel bestowing various blessings upon the audience in his inimitable poetic style in "Initiation of the Spirit." This title sums it up perfectly for me as the night's performance did feel like an interactive initiatory journey. I saw my friend Camen Hodges, a professional in the film industry, memorializing the production on videotape so one can only hope a recording of it will be available in the not too distant future for those unable to be there in person. A full length album with much of the music is scheduled to go into production this Spring.
Along with Camen, The Golden Thread had a dedicated team helping it come to life that included: Angela Holm, Rowan Holm, Benjamin Milner, Pamela Hodges, Mistress Nimble Thimble, Michael West, Casey Burke and Stephanie Moellman. Special thanks is also due to Paul Emery who promoted the event. More information on Dalrymple and the Wild Daimons can be found on their website.
Every page of your story reflects the potential inner light of transcendence. The Golden Thread connects us to the world of the unconscious where shines the source of this light, i.e. the daimons.
- Dalrymple MacAlpin