Friday, April 17, 2009

The Fleur-De-Lis

The Fleur-de-lis has become the icon du jour these days. Take a quick glance around you and you are bound to see this image on a tee shirt, jeans, handbag or hat. In my case, it's one of my tattoos.

The Fleur-de-lis is a symbol that is laden with meaning, far too many to enumerate in this brief blog. So I will share with you my fondness for this image.

My first awareness of the Fleur de lis was as a member of the Boy Scouts of America, which uses the Fleur-de-lis as its primary symbol. It is used to represent the first step in Scouting: the Tenderfoot. My dad was a Scoutmaster for over twenty years, so the symbol constantly reminds me of him.

The Fleur-de-lis is also described as being a stylized version of a lily or iris. In fact the actual translation of the name means "lily flower." But it can also have political, religious and dynastic meaning as well. It is associated with the French monarchy, and continues to appear in the coat-of-arms of Spain. The red version in the upper left hand corner is the symbol for the Italian city Firenze (Florence). It appears as a symbol in North American provinces that were settled by the French: e.g. Quebec and Louisiana. It has been written that the Fleur-de-lis is also representative of the Merovingian Dynasty of France whose reign is symbolized by a bee. And there are some who see in the Fleur de lis a very stylized bee.

In religious iconography the Fleur-de-lis is symbolic of Trinitarian belief and has come to represent both the angel Gabriel and the Virgin Mary.

Universal Symbol for Scouting

In both Holy Blood, Holy Grail and the DaVinci Code the Fleur-de-lis represents the Order known as The Priory of Sion. (Yes, those guys again!)

For me it is the perfect symbol of the triplicity of ideas: Wisdom, Strength & Beauty; Faith, Hope & Charity, Tres Reyes (Three Wise Men); Three distinct knocks, Three Ruffians, Three Blind Mice, Three Little Pigs; The Three Fates; three major Religions: Christianity, Judaism and Islam; Three Great Lights (& three lesser); Youth, Adulthood and Old Age; past, present and future; thought, word and deed; mineral, vegetable, animal; Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Holy Mother); Jesus, Mary and Joseph; Isis, Osiris and Horus; The Trimurti: Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva; Kether, Hokhmah and Binah, The Three Musketeers. (One could do an entire treatise on the number three alone.)

I'm also the third of four children born thirty three years after both parents. (Recently I became a 33° Freemason.)

I find something Jungian about the Fleur-de-lis. It speaks to my sub conscious mind and gives me a feeling of stability, spirituality and an overall sense of well-being.

Of course one can find much more significance in this symbol, this is merely my rumination, though brief, on the subject.

Have Pen, Will Write.



Ennio Morricone is, perhaps, the most prolific film composer in the history of the art form. John Barry and John Williams come close, but I don't think they have scored as many films as Morricone. Certainly he is my all time favorite.

Morricone's work is best known to Americans through those wonderful Italian Westerns that were produced in the sixties, known as "Spaghetti Westerns." The term was originally thought to be derogatory but has since become an affectionate description of a sub-genre of film. A few years ago I coined the phrase, Pasta & Pistolas.
Who can forget those whistled notes that introduce the theme from A Fist Full of Dollars. Or the wah-wah echoed tune from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. (The real gem from this film is the track, The Ecstasy of Gold.)
Morricone's music elevated the Western genre to new heights. Of course credit must be given to Sergio Leone, the Ayatollah of the movieola, whose mis-en-scene and montage redefined the horse opera. But Morricone's music became a character in itself. Great filmmakers have often been paired with great composers: Hitchcock and Bernard Hermann; Fellini and Nino Rota; Spielberg and John Williams. But the Sergio Leone / Ennio Morricone combo changed film music forever.
One of my favorite scores is from a film not directed by Leone but by Sergio Sollima entitled, The Big Gundown, or in Italian La Resa dei Conti. The Big Gundown features tracks that reference Beethoven's Fur Elise, a Mormon Choir and the main theme Run, Man, Run sung by Christy. Ennio's score to the film Once Upon a Time in the West is considered by many to be the perfect pairing of music and visual image: Charles Bronson is Harmonica, Henry Fonda's theme is rendered with the steeliest of steel guitars, Jason Robards' theme is a classic western tune whistled by Alessandro Alessandroni, while Claudia Cardinale's theme shows Morricone's sweet and romantic side.
Other scores include The Untouchables, check out the track Strength of the Righteous, The Mission (Gabriel's Oboe & On Earth As It Is In Heaven), Cinema Paradiso, Bugsy, Wolf, The Battle of Algiers, In The Line Of Fire and Bulworth. Ennio Morricone has scored over 500 films and television programs.

One of my favorite tributes to Morricone is John Zorn's The Big Gundown. Zorn deconstructs the music and re-assembles it as only he can. Powerful and edgy.