It begins with the silhouette of a story, a wisp of words.
Gradually, characters grow: each letter a universe of definition forming a syllabic cacophony of creation in the crisp, colorless moon.
Her name is Everything & that is her pursuit. Balanced on the binding of her book, monumental on the mountain of her own making, Everything is the triumphant tale: all the stars are her stage, & Everything is producer & player.
Everything’s skirt is stamped with inky shadows that wrap around her in a silhouette of movement as she cascades through all the words in the world. Her lips are pink silk, & woven parchment choreographs the shimmering dance of her spirit’s experience in arabesque & allongé.
Everything is elegance in the galactic atmosphere, unwavering between brilliantly broken luminesce. She stretches swanlike between rising action & dénouement, & glides with grace across dramatic structure. Everything patiently enjoys adventure while radiating a glow of pageantry & pyramidal pagination. Everything whirls with her whims, limbs extending in ecstatic expression, poised on the pinnacle of forever avoiding endings.
“I’ll never have a proper debut,” cried Clara, the very green of Wissahickon wilderness shining sunny on her slender shoulders, heavy hearted in her home, The Hermitage. The lilt of the breeze was Clara’s constant companion.
The Baron’s mustache bristled as he looked up from his ledger from his international import of boar bristle brushes, his eyes heavy and full yet quick, a Russian hound dog in his heyday. “You have men of every type calling for you out here in this “wilderness” as you say. You are hardly alone, Clara, now please.”
Clara spun and stomped up flight after flight of wooden stairs, ruffles flying & ribbons trailing like pinion feathers. She closed the door to her bedroom with a composed bang, no movement or faculty wasted.
Clara sat upon the tufted stool placed prettily in the center of a guilded vanity. The golden-hour sun shined through the thick glass of the window, a butterfly breeze waxing the fragrant magnolia leaves that grew about her 2nd story.
Clara unpinned her hair, brushing & softly setting each strand aside; her silver hairbrush was the finest from her family. Though she was careful to wear a wide-brimmed hat, Clara’s hair shined with flecks of strawberry: a summer head of highlights from strolling the wooded lanes surrounding The Hermitage.
The golden-framed mirror facing Clara was full of her image, her mind was full of herself: I do so like James’ accent, but Henry looks so smart with his gold watch chain…
The sunlight infused & refracted as the atmosphere moved around the sun & burned through the setting spectrum until shadows draped the vanity & Clara’s shapely shoulders & moon beam tendrils.
A hearty wind whipped through the woods, sending silhouettes spinning, a storm sang its’ electrifying way up the ridge’s elevation.
Clara popped up from her padded stool, & watching her behind gently bounce in the mirror, lit the lamps in her room, calling all of nature indoors: moths white as brides flung themselves into the fire.
Clara shut the window against the storm growing outside, alone with her glassy likeness. She unharnessed her outfit, unlaced her restrictions, and slipped into a cotton summer dressing gown, closed-in heat heaving.
Clara watched her slender wrist & tapered fingers pick up the luxury silver hairbrush & deeply stroked & separated her curls, their darkness a bounding light show. Clara’s triptych in the lamp-fire burned red & hot, the moon glowed cold & indifferent, magnolia shined white & ardent, wind wet as it whipped into a booming, electric, frenzy.
Lightening cracked her mental scene as Clara slid her eyes & padded stool over to the closed window, admiring her burning reflecting against cascading sheets of rain, in the pool of her eyes, in the pretty of her life, & vibrated within the vision of the multiple mirrors of self.
Clara’s 3-way silhouette bounced between the vanity and the stormy translucent window, aglow, & without taking her mind from the visions of herself, Clara carved “Je vous aime” in the consecrated Wissahickon wood of the window ledge.
Clara’s pretty breasts heaved as she re-opened the window, let the storm in; a bang of bone-shaking thunder & crimson crackle of lightening & Clara’s silver hairbrush was a conductor: the power of movement, elemental freedom, heady wind whipped her shining hair up & around - stimulating, charging, rousing her follicles with vitality.
Sweeping currents disrupted the room, while Clara calmly regarded her reflection: her head aflame, but not burning, smoldering away the top layer of self to see the soul under the skin. Her hair frizzled up, a surface fire forever fed with the wind of her own force.
Story by: Dena Merlino Scott
Photography: Victoria Luxx
Model/ Hair: Allyson Lynch
Makeup: Jamie Leigh Matteucci
Wardrobe: BLCKBTS/ Shannah Warwick
The Hermit of the Wissahickon
The Hermit of the Wissahickon
“Revelation is the book of the apocalypse, & in 3:12, ‘Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it…’[i]Our Philadelphia is the new Jerusalem & I will be the pillar, eternal in our kingdom of heaven, readied to welcome the second coming & have a place prepared for God,” spoke Johannes Kelpius, voice profound with postulation, as the glittering eyes of his fellow scholars followed him, & his every word, transcendentally & actually, across the ocean of Atlantic, & predictions of impending doomsday[ii]toward William Penn’s Holy Experiment.[iii]
Frau Kelpius’ circle was vast: followers, ideals, reason, & pure belief in a landscape of fresh understanding & ever growing interpretations of renaissance comprehension. With 40[iv]disciples to the 40thLatitude, the 40-foot Tabernacle was built [v]on a prominent point on Wissahickon pinnacle under the shade of an already ancient forest & prodigious magnolias. An astronomy tower telescoped into the canopy, searching the stars for divinations to the end.[vi]
The Wissahickon[vii]wind was welcoming, kind, & connected to the high vibrations. Ground-breaking academia migrated to The Americas with greatest minds in Europe to practice the venerable Rose & Cross[viii]lessons that had sprung forth from the pyramids, was spread by Knights Templar, made perpetual by DiVinci, & returned back to the fertile banks & into the minds of the new lands’. Kelpius & his community of learned mystics gathered at The Tabernacle for Socratic study that resonated across disciplines, arts, & philosophies: Pietist[ix]science in the wilderness, alchemical Theologians administering millennial medicine.
Hymns were composed; a pipe organ’s sounds made anatomy a hollow reed for feeling to pass through, the congregation a vessel for mystic allegories & hidden love[x]to be sung. No portrait could capture his dimensional essence, no book his devotion.[xi]
“That which gives the Spirit nourishment is the reading of profitable books, … actual prayer …, [and] the often-repeated looking inwardly or collection of the mind all day long…”[xii]
Leaving the cloistered tabernacle behind, Kelpius ventured farther into the Wissahickon woods, climbing the rocky deciduous into himself, while exploring the eternal evergreen of the universe. Kelpius was alone in the group of hermits on a mountain of mystery.
Shocking flecks of sparkle lit the rocky terrain from within, the mica[xiii]mountain a shimmering geological inspiration reverberating to the trees with perspective far taller than our comprehension: Kelpius’ mind connected the transmogrifying thoughts to an alchemist’s formula, transcending far away by fastening atomically.
“ ‘Accordingly we must pray and walk in the divine presence, be not too busy with outward things, keep the flesh in subjection… Without inward prayer there is no conquest over the flesh, and without this conquest over the flesh, no true inward prayer; and without this the one and the other there is no conversion, no true internal life, no perfection…’ Transmute thyself to become divine.”
To control the mind is to have dominion over the flesh, & Kelpius, the alone Hermit of the Wissahickon, lead his ever-growing cloister congregation of transcendental mystical men to continue becoming beatitudes, & on the fringes of their 6thforest year, the cloister still waited for the blessed end.[xiv]
“But this treasure is by them who keep themselves hidden and make not much show of themselves, since their fire is concealed inwardly.”
The Hermit followed the path etched in the ridge to a cave[xv]offset into the side of the shimmering monolith, & entered, mind first, foremost, & forever. In his mica meditation chamber, The Hermit gathered the webbed connections of the universe, thoughts so elegantly adept they wafted through the pages of time, intellect so open it received particles of energy reserved for botany, forming a gateway to waiting for the apocalyptic millennium with grace & welcoming it like a woman with governess over the wilderness.[xvi]
While The Hermit’s astral eminence & celestial anatomy examined existence, nature happened all about him, to him, & through him: dim from shadows, fingernails & dirt blooming, a man of the earth, soul, cerebral sunshine, grew dark & dirty, shiny & radiant, draped in furs, thoughts schist slabs of vibrating mineral matter.
The Hermit meditated sheltered in a cave of astral transistors, emanating energy while absorbing essence. His intellect slipped away, but connected to the winds & water of the Wissahickon. The sparkle of the mica meshed with the fires of mind & became his flesh; The Hermit’s Wissahickon became one with his nature & his humanity transmuted into that of the secret wisdom of the forest.
The Hermit passed into a place of transcendence, his teachings to the trees, his soul to the tributaries, becoming the philosopher’s stone itself, his existence eternal. His brilliance is the seeds that germinate the blooms of the magnolia that tower over the Tabernacle’s consecrated ground. The Hermit moved into a place of intellect everlasting & embodied myth, & the mystic secrets infused into the wisdom of the new world. [xvii]
Endnotes, “The Hermit of the Wissahickon”:
[i]Professor Thomas Constable notes, “God promised that He will not just honor overcomers by erecting a pillar in their name in heaven, as was the custom in Philadelpia. He will make them pillars in the spiritual temple of God, the New Jerusalem.” Thomas Constable, Notes on Revelation– http://soniclight.org/constable/notes/pdf/revelation.pdf.
Note: Ancient Philadelphia, in the region of Turkey, was the name of one of The Seven Churches of Asia, or The Seven Churches of the Apocalypse, to receive a letter from the Lord “The church steadfast in faith, that had kept God’s word and endured patiently (Revelation 3:10).” Much is made in numerology about the spiritual wholeness of numbers 3 & 7.
[ii]Johann Kelpius (b.1667, Transylvania) & his followers were originally lead by scholar Zimmerman, who studied, among other disciplines, astronomy, mathematics, numerology, & biblical prophecy; he used his skills to conclude that the turn of the century would bring along a cataclysmic end of days. He studied biblical prophecy to determine that Philadelphia, in the Wissahickon specifically, was the place to be for the second coming of God. Zimmerman called his disciples, who were all university-trained, scholars, the “Society of Perfection”. Right before their pilgrimage to Pennsylvania in 1694, Zimmerman died & Kelpius, who had earned his MA in Theology, took his place as leader at age 22.
[iii]William Penn was an original investor in the New World, the largest private landowner in the whole world, & a convert to Quakers/Religious Society of Friends; this conversion would have been extremely dangerous had it not been for his social position. He subsequently founded Pennsylvania on open ideals, & 1682, opened the ports of Philadelphia as a place of religious tolerance. Dubbed William Penn’s “Holy Experiment”, Philadelphia was also conceived as a marketing campaign to attract numerous settlers & positive attention to his land. Penn welcomed & treated all with fairness, including the persecuted indigenous tribes: simply put Quakers believed everyone has a light within them & that light is God.
Pennsylvania’s name as a location in Revelation, as well as a location of freedom, was taken as a sign by the prophets.
[iv]A tabernacle is a meeting place for worship, mystic initiations, or community activities. The scholars often helped neighboring communities with their understanding of medicine, etc. including the local Lenni Lenapi Indians. The Kelpius Tabernacle was on the land that The Hermitage Mansion still occupies.
[v]The number 40 vibrates with deep meaning in numerology & another clue that drove the mystics to the Wissahickon was its’ position on the 40th longitude.
[vi]The1682 sighting of Halley’s Comet (which coincided with the founding of Penn’s Holy Experiment) continued tipping the scholars toward astronomy study for doomsday prophecy.
[vii]Wissahickon translates to “yellow catfish creek” in Lenape. Wissahickon Valley Park is a National Landmark of 2,042 acres in the city of Philadelphia & Wissahickon Creek runs right on through the pristine preservation, a tributary that feeds directly to the Schuylkill River.
[viii]The Rosacrucian Order, Ancient Mystical Order Rose Cross (AMORC). Their study of the secret wisdom began in Egypt 1500BC, & subsequently passed the mystical studies through to the greatest minds our world has ever known, including (directly because of Kelpius) educating our founding fathers. www.rosicrucian.org
[ix]The Luthern church became very rigid during the 30 Years War that ravaged Europe. While religious, Pietists did not turn to a central clerical authority & held other millennial beliefs & practices, which caused persecution.
[x]“The Lamenting Voice of the Hidden Love”, a collection of hymns written by Kelpius, is thought to be the first book of music written in the colonies.
[xi]Kelpius is the subject in one of the country’s first oil portraits, painted by his acolyte Charles Witt , still on view at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania
[xii]All quotes, unless otherwise noted, are from Kelpuis book on individual worship, “The Method of Prayer”
[xiii]Mica, noun – a shiny silicate mineral with a layered structure, found as minute scales in granite and other rocks, or as crystals. It is used as a thermal or electrical insulator.
[xiv]The turn of the 17thcentury came & went without discernable incident. The mystics lived together until the passing of Kelpius, then most of the mystics disbanded for marriage, some stayed on in the Wissahickon & others joined Conrad Beissel’s Camp of the Solitary in Lancaster.
[xv]The Cave of Kelpius is still present in the Wissahickon (& my house shares it’s longitude & latitude to the thousandth decimal place!)
[xvi]Kelpius & his fellow mystics called themselves the “Society of the Woman in the Wilderness”, from Revelation 12:6 – “And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.”
[xvii]Kelpius passed into transcendence on January 1, 1708
Brandt, Francis Burke, et al. The Wissahickon Valley within the City of Philadelphia. Corn Exchange National Bank, 1927.
Kelpius, Johannes. “The Method of Prayer”, 1700. Copyright Kessinger Publishing
The Hermits of the Wissahickon. Oswald Seidensticker, John Kelpius and N. N. The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 11, No. 4 (Jan., 1888), pp. 427-441. Published by: The Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20083229
Johann Gottfried Seelig and the Hymn-Book of the Hermits of the Wissahickon. Samuel W. Pennypacker. The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 25, No. 3 (1901), pp. 336-340. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20085981
Story: Dena Merlino Scott
The Hermit of the Wissahickon: Ed Robb
Hair & Makeup: Jamie Leigh Make Up Artistry
Wardrobe Styling: BlkBts / Shannah Warwick
Props: VBM Creations
Project Assistants: Kyle Quinn, Siona Pearson
“Can’t no grave hold me,” said The Gravedigger, hand deep in a dead man’s pocket, in the midnight shadow of a newly minted tombstone.
The dead man’s pant’s pockets were empty, so The Gravedigger patted the breast pocket, & feeling a bump, reached his hand in terrier quick. The pocket watch was gold & the cover was broken off. “You won’t be missing this old junk now, will ya Jack?” sneered The Gravedigger, with no regard for the name actually etched on the dead man’s tombstone. The Gravedigger pocketed the broken watch, & pulled himself out of the deep hole with his crowbar and irritable indignation.
The Gravedigger worked all night, digging, picking and lifting. He was the worm in the casket & stole his way into Laurel Hill’s final rest. The Gravedigger lived among the ghosts, residing up on a hill between the gravestones on the heavy, deep edge of woods. The Gravedigger was the king of the sepulchers, turrets, copper & bronze of his occupants; he stomped his well-worn boots through the warped door of his shack, which stood in stark contrast to the gabled marble of the eternal resting place.
The Gravedigger pried the gold bezel off the face off the pocket watch & added it to his pile of meltable metals. He thumped his cracked old fist down on the cracked old table, & snarled with teeth black as the devil’s marrow, eyes red as a rash, “All this gold thrown away into the ground like damn fools… Broken old pocket watch, who cares anyway?”
The meager candle flame flickered, then went out in a single puff. The Gravedigger’s match wouldn’t light no matter how hard he struck it.
The Gravedigger slammed outside, crowbar comfortable in his calloused hand. There was no odd wind. There were no hooligans. A cumulonimbus fog raced across the ground, crackling with sable energy. A darkness, even darker than the night where no fire would burn, billowed across the graveyard, straight through the wrought-iron fence & toward the spot where The Gravedigger & his old shack stood, warped yet solid. The black smoke curdled around The Gravedigger’s muddy boots. The Darkness brought itself right up to The Gravedigger; The Gravedigger didn’t budge, his hands didn’t sweat, &his old heart didn’t beat any faster.
“Why won’t my candle light?” The Gravedigger demanded of The Darkness.
The Darkness, an obelisk of hell shadow, undulated like a well-fed, always-hungry fire. The Gravedigger thrust his candle out toward The Darkness and demanded, “Light my candle, Darkness.”
Two burning hot eyes lit up in The Darkness; cracking & eternal orbs the core of life’s enduring fire, everything that fuels & burns. “Look at my eyes, Gravedigger,” said the voice of The Darkness, projected from midnight. “They are the last light you will see.”
The Gravedigger’s mind was starless and moonless: the eyes of The Darkness were the sun, melting gold, the molten center of humanity. The Gravedigger’s mind was buried alive & weighed down with the pressure of murky gloom.
The Darkness spoke with the voice of owls, the timbre of fireflies, “From now on, you will live in the tombstone shadow, Gravedigger. You value gold over life & feel you deserve more than you have ever given. Your life’s fire, dim as it, is mine. You will die when you learn to live.”
The Gravedigger’s mind erupted in a sunburst of colors rising & setting, bright, luminous tonality, optical firescapes. The Gravedigger screaming gurgle-growled & flailed his crowbar through the pitch-black.
The Gravedigger groaned awake on the damp grass under the shade of a dogwood, the petals opaque & filmy. The Gravedigger dimly noted the frail sunbeams, but a new grave had to be dug, so he set to work, his tools needing polishing. A military man was buried with much fanfare, though “Taps” was flat. “Ain’t no way for the government to send a man out who gave his life for his country,” grumbled The Gravedigger, as he scavenged for medals.
As The Gravedigger pulled himself out of the grave, The Darkness fell like a blanket of ash before him. The Gravedigger swung his crowbar through the growing figure’s dim din. “You can’t kill me, Gravedigger.”
“Won’t stop me from trying.”
The Darkness rose & fell as the sun used to, only deepening the shades of grey that fell every time The Gravedigger dug beneath the tombstone’s shadow.
The Gravedigger sat on the ornate steps deeply as shadowed as an effigy, a garden of memories where nothing bloomed, The Darkness his constant companion. “I don’t care about sunshine, Darkness. Same as I don’t care for life or death. Leave me be or don’t.”
Through Wissahickon winter & Schuylkill summer, The Gravedigger opened coffins & collected loot. He pried open a creaky casket, an empty human shell frozen in its’ final expression, cradled in satin sleep. A six-foot under shadow cast a pall as The Gravedigger scavenged. He pulled a ring off her finger, & in doing so caught a glimpse of a family photo: the woman surrounded by loving laughter, the brightness of the time & family-tree adoration shined & cut through the tombstone shadow, a glimmer of lustrous love.
“Darkness, I had a life, before I became a shadow, a gravedigger. I was more than a man. I was a husband, a father. I didn’t want that. Still don’t.”
The Gravedigger caught bits of sunshine in tokens from other people’s lives, but never his own & The Darkness never offered salvation.
The Gravedigger continued toiling on in Laurel Hill’s dark landscape of the living, a flesh & blood ghost held under … the TOMBSTONE SHADOW.
Story: Dena Merlino Scott
Model: Todd McConnell
Hair & Makeup: Jamie Leigh Make Up Artistry
Sea, Wind, Moon, & Stars
For Dena, Shannah, Victoria, & Jamie
Pygmalion is the story of the artist who created the statue, & when statue was blessed with life & love, she was called Galatea.
Galatea, the model, the beloved, & now, the woman, full of decisions, ideas, & potential.
Galatea is here now, so she no longer needs her creator. She is to become a creator herself, who accepts smiles & lives & sometimes grieves, but always escapes today for tomorrow, with yesterday a shadow at high noon, pooled around her feet, slowing the walk forever; outside of clock & outside of sand, time is a story.
Galatea steps out of the world & into the wind & the emotions attached to every individual element of her beautiful nature are provoked, excited by feeling the floating fabric of the skirts surrounding her skin. She feels her physical consciousness within her flesh’s delicate psychology. Galatea dresses in complicated monotone, the finery found in the elements themselves. The textiles that grace the long lines of Galatea’s fine frame catch wind & snap alive, the sensitive filaments of feeling fabric.
Galatea sacrifices a piece of her private human condition, the gift of the individual, flooding the chasm of endless pools, when she takes to smooth ink running over a curl of fibrous paper: Galatea’s prose a wave of foamy language & tides pulling interesting sentences across shores with celestial regularity. She is the scroll of letters into paragraphs, into songs of delight, a time-honoured self-telling entertainment talent. Stories woven for friends & scholars, words that build the chapters of me & mine, body & mind, soul a story foretold, told, & telling.
The waves crash & spray, & send answer by post to the sea’s terrible cries for more wind, more water, more words!
Galatea gives herself up in syllables, & as the pieces float away on the gauzy wings of wind, they bluster together & dance high above the sea, with the combination of winds & words, an all-together new formation beginning.
Galatea is her own light & her life is art itself. She is the sun that creates beams to reflect, enabling vision.
Galatea’s camera lens is the moon, refracting & capturing & casting light: Galatea shares her sight, her eye keen for the special buried inside shadow. The moon sees the entire world all at once & makes her eyes hungry for more. Galatea’s lens a satellite for flashing beams to capture a moment already gone in a world that never sits still. Moon for more, moon to pull the beams of lighting, moon to control the sea, which is already dancing in the wind.
Galatea is formed of the action of love & beauty, & now with feelings of wind, sea, & moon curling inside her excitement, her insides of soul & spirit become full of sparkling, glittering, astral thrill. Her skin, which had provoked her epiphany of sensation, feels wonderous against the moon’s breeze, & shines from the mist of the sea, but also vibrates with the shimmer of joy.
The apples of her cheeks lite up to glow & lips flash a smile the color of love & life itself. Galatea’s eyes radiate a confident joy only found in women whose bodies are stars, shimmering with self.
As the sea, wind, moon, & stars unfurl the powerful pull of natures combined, they fabricate the pieces pulled from Galatea’s creations, the snippets of herself she gave to see, be active in, reveal, & interpret: her pieces of art swirl on the same Jetstream & become something entirely new: Galatea’s body of work composes her body, so she sheds herself & step into herself.
The wrap covering her shoulders is lifted by the wind, & she catches it over her head, her body covered in a caress, a sheen of beautiful movement in picturesque words. Galatea, in her reverence for creating, becomes part of the perfect portrait of the synthesis the sea, wind, moon, & stars, forever developing & changing, terrible & merciless at times, but always becoming more.
Story: Dena Merlino Scott
Model: Shubhangi Tyagi
Hair & Makeup: Jamie Leigh Make Up Artistry
Wardrobe Design & Construction: BlkBts / Shannah Warwick
Set Design: VBM Creations