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Happy Beltane

Time marches on!

It was heartbreaking to depart our little haven in Montolieu—the decor was so bright and lovely, and the location so rich for sightseeing. Even after visiting nine (9!) Cathar Castles, we barely scratched the surface, and we could easily spend another blissful but busy six months there.

We headed for Avignon to pick up some sightseeing opportunities we had missed the previous time we were there since it was en route to our next destination.

The hotel Robin found for us was located just around the corner from the Palace of the Popes, which we visited last time, and it gave me a feeling of warm familiarity to see it again. If you don’t know about the Palace of the Popes (another UNESCO site), it’s an amazing story that I confess I didn’t know until I actually arrived and took the tour. (Hint: During the 14th century this was the official papal residence and seat of Western Christianity and eventually came into conflict with the other papacy inside Rome.)

A few churches and museums were in the area that we had missed previously, so we popped into those. First up was the Petit Palais Museum, another UNESCO site, which was said to contain an outstanding collection of paintings from the late 13th to the early 16th centuries, along with a selection of Romanesque and Gothic sculptures.

To our dismay, all but two of the galleries were closed because they were short-staffed… and it was downright heartbreaking to catch a glimpse of statues and ancient frescoes twinkling at us from inside rooms that were off limits.

We cut our losses and headed for the Calvet Museum, which featured paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts ranging from the 15th century through to the early 20th century. I was enchanted by an artist named Albert Gleizes, whose work reminded me of Kandinsky.

But once again, one wing of the museum was closed and the entire upstairs was off limits we suspect for the same reason: short-staffed.

Is this the fault of Covid, or something else? We don’t know. We may have to return yet again someday since I am irresistibly drawn to Romanesque sculptures.

Next, we visited Saint-Pierre Church, which featured outstanding carved wooden doors from the late Renaissance period.

The interior was ornate and fascinating, and we enjoyed ourselves wandering around and taking in its features.

After that, we visited Avignon Cathedral, which contains huge 17th century paintings and unusual frescoes. We next made our way to the Angladon Museum, which was nicely intimate. We enjoyed a tiny collection of Picasso’s work, not to mention an outstanding Modigliani, which made it a delightful romp.

From Avignon we jumped in our car and ventured down to Arles, made famous by van Gogh’s paintings of it… but in fact our destination was another ancient church: St. Trophime. I was drawn by its extraordinary 12th century facade and tympanum that nearly rivals the tympanum at Conques!

After that, it was time to make a big move: we headed directly for the ALPS!

Our next destination was in Switzerland, and we planned to traverse there in two stages. For the first stage we took toll roads in France.

I’m not sure whether I’ve told you or not, but driving in Europe will bankrupt you quickly if you’re not careful, because toll roads are everywhere! The first leg of our journey would run us about €20 in tolls, and that fee would save us about two hours on the road, not to mention about €50 for fuel. (We have an app that calculates tolls for us and compares a toll trip with a non-toll trip in terms of time, tolls, and gas mileage, allowing us to plan our trips accordingly.)

The second leg of our journey would have cost us €92 in tolls in return for saving one measly hour. So we decided to take the scenic route instead.

And what scenery we encountered! We climbed and climbed and climbed up into snow-peaked mountains, with vistas that stretched before us for miles—glorious to behold!

We drove through tiny villages and saw exquisite scenery as we switched back and forth, slowly ascending ever higher.

We faced a wee bit of trouble slightly before we reached the top when our car began to overheat. We pulled to the side of the road, decided to chill, whipped out our laptops, and got some work done for half an hour or so while the engine cooled down. (Ain’t technology amazing?)

Then Robin topped up the water in the cooling system and we got back on the road! The gods were smiling on us, because we had no more car problems after that.

Eventually we arrived at our next destination, which was a hotel and conference center called Monte Verità (“Mount of Truth”). It’s in a gorgeous location alongside Lake Maggiore, as you can see in this photo taken from our hotel balcony.

Now this locale was like Eccentric Central… It was a well-known meeting place for pacifists, artists, writers, life-reformers, and supporters of various alternative movements during the first decades of the 20th century. But that’s not all! Other residents included utopians, naturists, vegetarians, nudists, anarchists, theosophists, and occultists. (I felt right at home with all these weirdos.)

Over the years, celebrities you should easily recognize spent some time in residence here (some of them recuperating at the local sanatorium). People like Isadora Duncan, Paul Klee, Rudolf von Laban, Otto Gross, Max Weber, and Hermann Hesse were all drawn here for one reason or another.

While all of this history was most fascinating, I was not here sightseeing! Instead, I was here in Switzerland to attend the twice-delayed Eranos conference titled “Jung’s Red Book for our Time: Searching for Soul in the 21st Century,” and it featured a broad variety of international speakers (some on Zoom) giving presentations related to their encounters with Jung’s Red Book.

It was terrific to see so many familiar faces, particularly Joe Cambray, Murray Stein (who was the external reader on my dissertation committee), Steve Aizenstat, Linda Carter, Thomas Fischer, and too many others to name that I either knew from Pacifica Graduate Institute or from other Jungian conferences. It was so lovely to be in community together—like minds and shared values.

Contradicting the dismal forecasts, the weather has been positively glorious, and the presentations wonderfully stimulating. I was particularly charmed by Joe Cambray’s pronouncement that we are undergoing a “re-enchantment of the world.”

We gathered for a group photo after Riccardo Bernardini’s magical lecture… (Look for me in the front row left wearing a bright magenta sweater and top—I sort of stand out.)

Sunday was another big day for me!

I attended a conference wrap-up session followed by a guided tour around the property of Monte Verità to see the points of interest and to visit a museum dedicated to the eccentric folk who once resided here. Next was lunch at a swanky Ascona hotel, followed by a bus trip to visit the site of Eranos itself.

It was enchanting. I got to stand where Jung held forth during annual fabled Eranos lectures several decades ago (a peak experience for me!).

The name eranos was derived from an ancient Greek word meaning “banquet,” where contributions were offered at the table by attendees. In this context, it was meant to indicate an intellectual feast, with guest speakers invited from various areas of human thought, including philosophers, theologians, poets, and (of course) depth psychologists like Carl Gustav Jung.

The earliest Eranos conferences were dedicated to Eastern and Western spiritual traditions. Participants in Eranos gatherings over the years included Heinrich Zimmer, Karl Kerényi, Mircea Eliade, Erich Neumann, Gilles Quispel, Gershom Scholem, Henry Corbin, Adolf Portmann, and Herbert Read.

These events were remarkable congregations with as many as 250 people attending in cramped spaces. After each presentation, a group of devotees would gather around a large round table outside to hear Jung’s reactions and engage in discussion. A stone sculpture suggested by Jung with the inscription, genio loci ignoto (“to the unknown genius of the place”), stood in the background.

A longstanding custom at Eranos is that each speaker donates the text of their talk in exchange for the hospitality, a tradition which continues to this day. This has resulted in a collection of over 700 articles published in over 70 Eranos Yearbooks (Eranos-Jahrbücher), presenting exceptional research in diverse fields of knowledge. (I wonder when I might find the time to read all of them!)

Hey, Robin and I are celebrating our (get this) 20th wedding anniversary. How did that happen?! I cannot believe how time has flown by. It was perfect to spend our special day visiting the site of Eranos together.

On our wedding day, within the inner circle of Stonehenge all those many years ago, we exchanged private vows with one another. One of mine was to promise that he would never be bored. I’ve kept my promise!

We chose May 1st, known as “Beltane” in Celtic lore, for the date of our wedding celebration at Stonehenge, partly because it was the day when gods and goddesses got married. We then held our wedding reception in the Red Lion Inn, which is inside the stone circle at Avebury. Because it was Beltane, many followers of Celtic tradition were at the pub celebrating the new season, and they bestowed their blessings upon us as we arrived. This contributed to making the whole day even more magical.

Happy Beltane! warmly, -Dr. Vicky Jo

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