A rainbow

Simply because of the power and universally shared perception of colour, the rainbow becomes an alphabet of the range of human emotions. These associations of colours easily translate into magical and perceptual technology applied to everything from psychotherapy to candle spells.

Used all together, the rainbow then translates into an open road for That Which is Possible for human beings. Appearing after a storm as it does, the rainbow offers promise, hope and healing, as Noah and his wife saw it after the Flood.

Iris is perhaps the most personable mythic deities to represent the rainbow. She is given as the daughter of the oceanic Elektra (not the Electra of Trojan myth or the Pleidean star sister) and Thaumus. She often appears in the same capacity, and even in the company, as fellow messenger god Mercury, and she shares with him the depiction of winged head and feet. Her duty is primarily to Zeus and Hera. Many other religions see the rainbow as not a deity but as a road, a connection between Heaven and Earth, and it is not wasted on many mythopoetic systems that the rainbow appears to go beneath the Earth at the horizon and then back up again, suggesting a continuously circular bridge between above and below, between life and death.

In tarot, the 14th trump card, Temperance, is often depicted as an Angel who mixes fire and water into a vessel which then pours forth a rainbow. In some decks, including the Crowley Thoth deck, Temperance is replaced (or reinterpreted) by the Art card. Crowley was himself something of an artist and many of his groups of associates and friends as well as he had little use for Temperance but religious devotion to Art, so the transposition suggests. Since the rainbow is the basis of the artist’s palate, it makes magical sense to correspond the two. As in the nature of the rainbow, the Temperance Angel combines the pure elemental essences of fire (light) and water (the drop of cloud vapor) to create the rainbow. This would explain why even older interpretations of the Tarot do not give Temperance the modern day definition of purity and restraint, but rather one of transformation by way of alchemy, the perfect combination of elements. One element in the right proportion perfectly tempers another to create a thing of beauty. The Temperance Angel is often depicted standing next to iris flowers, reinforcing its association or equivalence with the goddess Iris.

The other Tarot card that features the rainbow is the Ten of Cups. Usually, it depicts a heterosexual nuclear family of two parents and two children, boy and girl, celebrating home, prosperity, and family beneath the rainbow, which is encrusted with ten golden, overflowing Cups. It symbolizes the attainment of material and familial blessings, the crowning glory of adulthood, presumably after all the prerequisite rites of passage, the Storms.

The arch of the rainbow has also been used as a political symbol of diversity, and it may be that Reverend Jesse Jackson was not the first who used it as a symbol of racial tolerance and mutual support, as the rainbow creates an arch, and each block that forms the architectural arch is necessary for creating that portal from one stage of understanding and evolution of thought into another, following the imperative of Grace. By the alchemy of all the races and of all walks of life, the strength of the arch and the permanence of the doorway are improved. Evolution and ecology also teach us the lesson that strength and resiliency of the ecosystem are improved by diversity in species.

This very radical concept that differentness is acceptable, and that even our survival may depend upon it, is certainly one of comfort to any individual who has ever been marginalized or made to feel different or even unwelcome in the dominant culture. The next political use of the rainbow’s power of diversity is by the Gay Pride movement. Was the rainbow borrowed from Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition, or is it Judy Garland’s rendition of “Over the Rainbow” in Wizard of Oz that made the Rainbow flag colours a banner under which to rally? I believe it fair to say that Art and Gayness have long felt comfort in each other’s arms. The alchemy of the Temperance Angel would imply that a serendipity of the several theories would combine to make the most radiant of hues, and perhaps a most splendid political alliance.

Could it mean that Iris of the Rainbow is therefore the goddess of art and creativity, of the diversity of race and human expression of sexuality and all other potential ways of being and vision? I propose that she be considered as such, and her conversations with me on these subjects lead me towrite this very monologue. Iris is easily the Goddess of Gay Pride, Art, and Racial and Political Diversity. In other words, everything under the rainbow, creative potential as perceived and expressed by humans.

The rainbow is not the creatrix, nor is Iris, but Iris of the Rainbow speaks to those created by the Mother, who eventually terrifies, abandons or at least disappoints us by becoming the Destroyer (the Storm). Often immediately upon separating ourselves from the Mother, many of us undergo a Storm of spirit, where our basic right to exist, our ability to “fit in” or care for ourselves is called into question. By looking to the promise in the sky, the light of the sun transforms within the tears in our eyes into the Rainbow, which offers hope, redemption, and a promise that all of us have a part in creating the world.

In nature, the rainbow has but few rare natural expressions. In the hands of humans, however, it becomes the basic tool of art, allowing the creation of many forms of colour, including the return to black, a combining of all the colours of pigment, which combine to approximate the primordial lack of light, absence of colour. As a tool, the rainbow artist’s palate combines in limitless colours, shades, and shapes to create that which is possible.

Cedar Stevens
The Myth, Magic and Science of the Rainbow

The Lace Maker

April 1, 2018

Late Sunday morning gilds the pins and needles,
strokes the wall ochre, blanches the white collar.
He bends, intent on detail, his fingers red
in sunlight, brown in shade. Light calls
through the open to April window directly
into his illumined invisible ear,
like, elsewhere, the trumpet
whisper of an angel.

Marilyn Nelson

Towards the end of assembly the senior mistress announced that she would be punishing a fourth year girl for smoking. She read the name out: “Lindsey Rushworth, form 4B, wait for me outside my office.”

A tall girl with long brown hair stood up and, blushing as everybody looked towards her, walked out of the hall.

While she was still on her way Mrs Seaton went on to say that, in the absence of the headmaster, she would be punishing the boys, too. She read out my name and form and that I was to be punished for being sent out three times, and then told me, too, to wait outside her room.

As I walked out I was still very scared about what was going to happen, and, fearing that tears were coming, looked down at the floor as I walked out, but I do remember that I felt fortunate at least inasmuch as it was Mrs Seaton who would be caning me and not the headmaster.

I caught up with Lindsey in the corridor leading to Mrs Seaton’s office, which was opposite that of the headmaster. I didn’t say anything to her. I was still very frightened and, in any case, I don’t think I’d ever spoken to anyone in the fourth year – they were a long way senior to us first years.

We walked slowly to the office door and stood outside. There was still some time to go until the assembly was dismissed. Suddenly Lindsey said something to me. I realised that my hands had been subconsciously rubbing the seat of my short trousers. I jerked them away and looked up at Lindsey.


Lindsey was a very nice girl. Although she must have been, with good reason, as fearful as I was, but she still tried to ease my nerves a little. She told me not to worry and said that as it was my first time I would probably only get a couple of strokes and that it wouldn’t hurt all that much. She said that the only thing I had to remember was to do exactly what Mrs Seaton said, as soon as she said it!

We heard the sound of the assembly breaking up and fell silent. As the classes trooped by at the end of the corridor, several pupils glanced towards us as we stood unhappily outside the office. I knew that they would be imagining what would soon be happening to us.

After everyone had gone past Mrs Seaton came marching up. She looked at both of us as if we were something rotten that the cat had dragged in and, without saying a word, went straight into her office. Lindsey made a face at me and we continued to stand outside in silence.

After what seemed to be ages, but was probably no more than a minute or two, the door opened again and Mrs Seaton called Lindsey in.

I stood close to the door, trying to hear what was happening, but I could only make out the sound of voices and not what they were saying. It was easy to guess, though, that Lindsey was getting a good telling off.

Then, out of the blue, a shockingly different sound – the thwap of a cane smacking onto Lindsey’s bottom. A silence followed, and then another thwap. I thought I heard a gasp from Lindsey. I shivered, thinking about my own turn, coming soon.

After a similar interval there was the sound of another stroke. This time there was no doubt about it. The impact was followed swiftly by a sharp cry of pain. I wondered how many strokes Lindsey was going to get.

As regular as a metronome, the next stroke landed. To my horror this elicited a real scream and the sound of poor Lindsey bursting into tears. I was very close to tears myself, but couldn’t help listening in horrified fascination.

Despite Lindsey’s reaction the fifth stroke followed after the now familiar pause. Poor Lindsey! This time there was an almighty yell, sounding really loud even through the closed door. I heard thudding sounds and Lindsey’s voice, raised and tearful. There was a longer pause, when all I could hear was raised voices, then it went quiet again, but no sixth stroke followed.

I was beginning to think that Lindsey’s punishment was over – although five seemed an odd number of strokes – when I heard again the awful sound of that cane, but even louder than before.

Again the stroke resulted in a shriek from Lindsey followed by loud sobbing. Two more strokes followed quickly, with similar reactions.

By now I felt really dreadful. There was another long pause. The office door opened. I thought I was going to be sick. Lindsey stumbled out, tears were pouring down her face, half hidden by a tissue. Behind her Mrs Seaton beckoned to me: “Marling!”

Trembling with fear, I walked into the office. I saw a cane, about three feet long, lying on the teacher’s desk.

Mrs Seaton gave me a real telling off, saying how important it was to behave in class and not to disrupt the lessons for everyone else. I tried to pay attention, so that she would see how sorry I was, but all I could think of was the effect that awful cane had had on poor Lindsey and that I was about to get the same.

“You were sent out of the classroom three times last week, Marling. I am going to give you one stroke of the cane for each time and one extra one, for putting me to this trouble. How many strokes is that?”

“Four strokes, miss.” We called all the women teachers “miss”, whether or not they were married.

“Yes, Marling. Four strokes. You’ve never had the cane before, have you?”

She could probably have guessed this from the expression on my face, but I suppose that it was on the school records. I shook my head.

“Well, Marling, a caning is a serious punishment. You are here because you have persistently misbehaved over the last week. I shall now try to show you just how seriously we take your misbehaviour. The cane is supposed to hurt and I can assure you that it will hurt – a lot.

“I expect you to stay in position throughout your punishment, until I tell you that you can stand up.

“Did you hear how many strokes Lindsey Rushworth got?”

I didn’t know why she was asking and didn’t know what to say: “I’m not sure, miss.”

“She got eight strokes, Marling. I don’t think that young lady will be sitting down comfortably for a long time. But she was only due to get six strokes.

“Lindsey got two extra strokes because she made the mistake of standing up after just five strokes. I hope that you profit from her example and stay bent down until I tell you to stand. If you interrupt your caning in any way; standing up, putting your hands in the way, kicking your shoes off – anything like that – you WILL get extra strokes too. Do you understand?”

I nodded my head in dumb misery.

“Good! Well, let’s get this over with so we can both get back to work. Take your trousers off and put them on the chair!”

I was shocked. I hadn’t expected this. I made no move to obey.
“Come on, Marling. Lindsey got it on her knickers and I don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t get it on your pants! Now, don’t waste my time unless you want extra.”

I was sniffing away tears as I reluctantly lowered my short grey trousers and placed them on the chair. My little bottom felt so vulnerable.

Mrs Seaton picked up her cane from the desk.

“Now, I want you to bend right down over the desk, holding onto the other side. And you stay there until I give you permission!”

My legs were trembling as I stretched myself over the desk. It was wide and I could only just hold onto the edge with my toes on the floor. I tried to make my grip as firm as possible and closed my eyes tight shut and waited.

I was concentrating so hard that I didn’t notice any movement by Mrs Seaton, or any sound of the cane. Suddenly, though, my bottom exploded in pain. It wasn’t a line of pain across my bottom. My whole backside was suddenly on fire! I squirmed over the desk, holding on desperately, determined not to earn extra strokes. The awful smart got worse and worse. I still had three to come. Tears were squeezing out of my shut eyes.

This time I heard Mrs Seaton move and tried to tense myself. To no avail. The cane smashed down again, and the awful pain in my rear went to a new level. Cotton underpants were no protection at all against that vicious cane.

I yelled out in agonised protest, trying to let the teacher know how much she was hurting me. She knew.

“Not pleasant, is it Marling? It’s not supposed to be! Two more to come.”

I held on although all my instincts were yelling at me to stand up and hold my poor bum.

The third stroke landed lower than the first two had, whether intentionally or caused by my involuntary wrigglings across the desk. It whipped down across the very tops of my thighs and stung like bloody hell – even worse than those first two strokes. I screamed at the top of my voice and writhed over the desk in agony. Somehow I managed to stay down and to channel all of my efforts into holding on. But I was sobbing as I awaited the fourth and final stroke.

Mrs Seaton kept me waiting for a long time, sobbing over her desk, my poor little bottom bouncing up and down as I awaited the last stroke. Finally it came. Another real stinger across the centre of my bottom. I howled out in pain again, but still kept a grip on that desk. I didn’t want to earn extra strokes now!

The senior mistress kept me bent over like that for about a minute, still crying, my bottom flooded with pain. Finally, she patted me on the back and told me to stand up. I can still remember my relief! I stood up slowly, my whole body was hurting, and pressed both hands to my poor injured bottom.

“Trousers back on!”

This took a while, given the painful state of my posterior. Eventually I stood, still tearful, facing Mrs Seaton. My hands were carefully massaging my smarting rear. I could feel the mark left by that wayward third stroke on bare flesh, not covered by my short trousers as the others were.

Mrs Seaton passed me a box of tissues and I took one and tried to dry my eyes. She warned me to behave myself in future and told me that if I didn’t like the cane from her I would like it a lot less from the headmaster.

As I walked unsteadily from her room I resolved never to get the cane again.

Caned by the Senior Mistress

Pollution by Catherine Hennessey

I’m often asked when I started writing. But the important question is not when do writers start, but why.

My own reasons for writing, for setting down the story, are to a large extent selfish. With each story – and by story I mean anything I write – I am trying simply to work something out for myself. You, the reader, play no part here: this is a private matter.

I write about the things that trouble me. I write about the things that disturb me, the things that won’t let me alone, the things that are eating slowly into my brain at 3 in the morning, the things that unbalance my world. Sometimes these are things I’ve said or done; sometimes they’re things I’ve heard about or seen. Sometimes they’re only sentences, sometimes scenes, sometimes complete narratives. I carry these things around inside my head until I’m compelled to write them down to get rid of them. I sit down and begin.

I know where I’m going: I’m going toward that troubling moment, the unforgivable statement, the irreversible act that has been gnawing at me. That’s what’s coming at the end of the story, and my task is to write my way to that moment in a way that explains it completely to me. If I can set down these moments and make them whole within a context that explains the scene and characters whose behaviour I can forgive, then the moments become comprehensible to me. When I understand them, they lose their power to disturb. Then the anxieties subside and let me sleep. I really write to free myself.

Roxanna Robinson
If you invent the story, you’re the first to see how it ends
The New York Times 17th July 2000




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When members of the vacation party are found to be missing from their beds, and when pleading cries ring through the halls of the great house, terror grips hearts and minds, and the vacationers are brought face to face with the unknown…

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