Welcome to the archive of the John Barleycorn blog, produced by Howard Gayton and Rex Van Ryn during the process of creating their graphic novel John Barleycorn Must Die. As part of that process, you'll find discussions of magic, of creativity, and 'Around the Table' discussions with a range of internationally known artists, writers and film makers. The graphic novel was printed in a limited edition, so if you managed to get one, good for you! Although this project is over now, we're leaving this blog online as an archive and as a snap shot in time.

Friday, 29 April 2011

fortes fortuna adiuvat part 3

H – In this week's post, we're introducing more characters from our story via your Tarot deck, Rex. We can’t put them up in chronological order because – since December, when you drew them all in a fit of excitement -- several of the plot points of our story have changed, and thus we're changing the tarot qualities of some of the characters. 
R - Well at least I did them, even if some of them are wrong!
H - Calm down, Rex, it wasn’t an accusation!
R - All I’m saying is, I took action; that's all I’m saying.
H - Hitler took action, Rex; as did Stalin, and Mao, and Genghis Khan, and Castro, and Bush….
R – Well, I just drew a Tarot deck. I don’t think its a fair comparison.
H - No, you’re right. I apologise. You are in no way like Hitler, or Stalin or Chairman Mao…or Bush.
R - I do like the odd cuban cigar, though, and I quite like the way Mao dressed. He always looked very comfortable.
H - Unlike you in your heavy coat – which, if the comments from last week are anything to go by, is a grandma’s coat for wearing to the cinema!
R - Shall we actually talk about the Tarot now, Howard?
H – Er, yes. It's an odd assortment this week, with some characters from the world of the mundus, some from our world, and Mathr Rindhr -- who readers have already met as the mother of Vali, the trance dancer.

11: Cromwell - La Force

H - So, Cromwell. What is Cromwell doing in our story?
R - He's one of our mundus characters. He has the title of the Lord Protector, which basically means that he is a benign dictator within the mundus. He is Force, because he holds the power to make decisions, and has an army of parliamentarian soldiers.
H - Roundheads?
R - Actually, they were called the New Model Army. 'Roundheads' was a derogatory name, used by the Royalists, because they wore ‘pot helmets.’
H - Is that so? I never knew that! Rex, perhaps we should explain a little about our use of archetypes in the mundus. I see each of the historical characters in the mundus as the embodiment of the archetypal energy that drove the same figure in the real, historical world. This energy is like a wave, which has emanated out from the realm of the archetypes to touch and influence people in the material world: in this case, Cromwell. The actions of Cromwell then ricocheted back into the mundus, and influenced the archetypal character in turn. So it's kind of a symbiotic relationship.  
R - The archetype itself has no form within the mundus; it is, as you say, an energy. If that energy is drawn on very powerfully in the world, it reflects back into the mundus and creates a form. Hence we find Cromwell in the mundus, and Henry VIII, and Marilyn Monroe, amongst others.
H - So when we meet Cromwell in the world of the mundus, he's not quite the same Cromwell we know from the English Civil War (particularly as it's 350 years later now), but he has some of the traits of the man Cromwell, and some of the same personal history. I've been researching the English Civil War for this book -- and as a result, every now and then I've experienced brief flashes of emotion imagining what it must have been like to live during those turbulent times. What must it have been like to decide to rise up against oppression, to maintain the secrecy of conspiracy, and to put ones name to a document calling for the death of the King? One would have lived in constant fear of the knock on the door by the King’s men. This is a very zeitgeist concept, as it is happening in many countries right now -- though in Cromwell’s time the battles were fewer and further between, and there wasn’t as much bombing to fear.
R - There was some bombing though. They did have cannon!
H – What, just one?
R – No, Howard. For heaven's sake. The collective name isn't 'cannons,' it's 'cannon.'
H - I never knew that.
R - Perhaps you need to do a little more research on the period, my friend.
H - Let’s move onto the next card….

12: Crawfoot - The Hanged Man.

H - Our readers have met Crawfoot a number of times now. He is the lackey of the 13th conjuror, here represented by the Hanged Man. What does this card mean in the Tarot, Rex?
R - It means no movement. You are literally suspended.
H - Anything else?
R – No. At least, not that I can say at this moment in time. 

14: Maggie - Temperance

H - Maggie is represented by Temperance.
R - Yes, because she is our heroine. 
H – Why 'temperance' for the heroine?
R - Because she is the voice of reason in all this. 
H - But we can’t say much more than that, can we? She is a character with particularly tricky plot twists, and we don’t want to give the game away! 

16: Mathr Rindhr - The Tower.

H - The Tower represents change, doesn't it?
R - Yes, it is the old ways becoming out moded. 
H – And that's one of the themes of our story, isn’t it? Old ways and beliefs becoming bankrupt.
R - Also one of the themes of contemporary society, it seems.
H - Yes, I agree. You know Rex, sometimes I get the feeling that the world is undergoing a paradigm shift in it’s understanding of itself... 
R - I really do too.
H - ... and that the internet is one of those catalysts for change, like the printing press once was, or the understanding of the helio-centric nature of our solar system must have been.
R – Well, I don’t know about that.
H - What do you mean, you don’t know about that?
R - I don’t know about helio-centric.
H - Is that because you don’t know what it means?
R - Yes!
H - It means that the sun is the centre of the solar system, rather than the earth.
R - Oh, okay, I knew that; I just didn’t know the word 'helio-centric.'
H - Well, that’s a relief; I am sure Copernicus will rest easy! The concept of paradigm shifts in the way we view the world links back to our previous discussions on magic. We have a collective view of how the world functions and then at some point someone challenges that view. Eventually the collective view of the how the world is perceived changes too, and becomes the new paradigm, which in its turn is challenged and becomes redundant. But, anyway, back to the cards!

17: Colonel Massey - The Star.

H – Here is Colonel Massey, another mundus character.
R - Yes, she is Cromwell’s number one.
H - Why the Star card for her?
R - I really don’t know! This character is still undergoing development. It wouldn’t be fair for me to say very much about her...
H - You mean you don’t know..?
R - I know she likes strawberries, and wears armour.
H - In all honesty, not all of the characters are going to fit perfectly into a Tarot deck. Massey's not a major character, so she has been somewhat ‘crow-bared’ in. Is that a fair comment?
R – Er, yes. I'm afraid it is.

19: The Sun.

H - We can’t say anything about this character, can we, Rex? It would spoil the whole story! What we can say, however, is that the image of the character is based on an 1825 painting by Thomas Lawrence of Master Charles William Lambton.
R - Yes.
H – This image was drawn originally for my book, The Immortals, as a representation of a demon called Mammon.
R – Yes, I was being ironic. I thought a ten year old boy in a velvet suit representing the least erect of the demons would be funny.
H - Yet it wasn’t…
R - No, I suppose not! Can we end with a song this week?
H - Why not, maybe 'Tarot' by Andy Brown, from the 1970's TV show, 'Ace of Wands.' Click on play to hear some 'out there' seventies madness...
R - Excellent choice!


  1. I'm finding all these characters interesting even in such tantalizing little descriptions. You are really making me want, nay, CRAVE the story...and I suppose that is the point of this blog. As I've said before, JB is proving addictive.

    Oddly, I find myself most interested here by the character of Colonel Massey, perhaps because you don't yet know who she is yourself but simply have an inkling of who she'll prove to be. I've always been interested in this aspect of "discovery" in the creative process, when I find something emerging in a film script (or in your case, comic script) that I don't really know why it's there, but later it becomes important, almost as if it reveals itself. The magic of creation, as it were. So it's interesting that you have characters here that you "see" and know very clearly and characters that are still emerging. Who may be important, or may be minor, and they'll tell YOU which it is, not the other way around...

  2. The idea of grand paradigm shifts is fascinating. I think you're right, I do feel it happening, and I suspect in the future the internet will be considered at least as important as the invention of the printing press, if not more so (though it's hard to really see that when you're in the midst of the change). I wish people would take more interest in history. Apart from the old adage that those who don't know history are destined to repeat it, we seem to forget that people in the past had vastly different world views (which means we also have trouble understanding that our contemporaries may also perceive things differently). Not because they were stupider or any less intelligent than we are, they just had different information to go on. I remember watching a rather amazing (if you like Peter Greenaway, which I do) film about Charles Darwin, and for the first time I really felt I could understand how much his theories must have shaken and disturbed people who had always believed the stories in Genesis, that humans were the pinnacle of God's creation and made in his image and APART from nature. If you want to check out the film, it's actually on Youtube in its entirety, though it's certainly not the best way to watch a Peter Greenaway film!