Stars as Celestial Characters

The screen-printed scarf Carré Alchimique No.1 is an esoteric emblem of the most transformative poetic process. 

Foldout Celestial Hebrew Alphabet from 'Unheard-of Curiosities concerning Talismanical Sculpture of the Persians, the horoscope of the Patriarchs, and the reading of the Stars', Jacques Gaffarel, 1629. Middle Temple Inn, London. 

Foldout Celestial Hebrew Alphabet from 'Unheard-of Curiosities concerning Talismanical Sculpture of the Persians, the horoscope of the Patriarchs, and the reading of the Stars', Jacques Gaffarel, 1629. Middle Temple Inn, London. 

Held within the library archives of Middle Temple, one of the four 13th Century Inns of Court in London, is an extraordinary book of both pre- and early-Enlightenment thinking and scientific revolution. ‘Unheard-of Curiosities concerning Talismanical Sculpture of the Persians, the horoscope of the Patriarchs, and the reading of the Stars’, by Jacques Gaffarel, was published in French (1629), and later in English (1650).

Gaffarel (1601 – 1681) was a French scholar and astrologer who studied in medicine, before becoming a priest. ‘Un-heard Curiosities…’ is Gaffarel’s masterwork, showcasing his knowledge of natural history, mythology and fluency in Arabic, Hebrew and Persian languages. A European polymath, whose influence and beliefs became radically contentious amongst the prevailing school of Western philosophers and the clergy, was threatened to be burnt at the stake, along with his writing.

In Chapter XIII at the end of the book, Gaffarel offers some of his most inspiring and studied observations, illuminated by the large illustrated foldouts integral to communicating the detail of surveying the Southern Hemisphere’s night sky, and the complexity of his belief. 

It is said that Jewish astrology developed independently from the mythology and stargazing of Ancient Greek and Ancient Roman civilisations. ‘The Celestial Constellations expressed by Hebrew characters’ asserted that the letters of the Hebrew alphabet could be interpreted from the constellations, as if the heavens could be opened up and read like a book.

As Gaffarel surmises in the chapter’s title, ‘That the Stars, according to the Opinion of the Hebrew Writers, are ranged in the Heavens, in the forme of Letters: and that it is possible to read there, whatsoever of Importance is to happen, throughout the Universe’, messages were laden within the night sky as a sprawling alphabet to be read. The night sky becomes a massive concrete visual poem, of which its message rotates through a slow, constant cyclical transformation and re-formation. This stands in contrast to the mythological animals and creatures of astrological study, where meaning is derived from symbolism, rather than individual letters and words.   

The Kabbalist text, splayed out upon the surface of a luminous pond, each letter denoting a source of light and the blank mass in-between, now emerges as a screen-printed silk scarf. From the larva of the silk moth, to the transmittance of starlight, the transference of traditional craft and the recording of thought on paper, the Carré Alchimique is a marking of time, from the micro to the macro and back again. The luxury limited edition No.1 communicates its own message now though, overlapping, folding and obscuring. Draped, the silk scarf is an esoteric emblem of the finest alchemical process. 

The Carré Alchimique No.1 - look further here.

The Carré Alchimique No.1 - look further here.

PdC