The Mind in the Cage


And still they come – the fearsome storms of recent weeks persist, and the consequent roiling and churning of the ocean continues to result in all manner of strange detritus, both natural and man-made, washing up from the depths and onto the beach. On 9th February (9/02 – a significant formula in Shoreline numerology) there was a day of respite, and although it didn’t last it did at least give me the opportunity to take a walk on Saltdean beach at low tide, and see what fresh wonders the sea had brought. The first thing I found was that part of the beach was littered with whelk egg cases, a few of which are shown in the picture above. These are not, in fact, particularly unusual finds, but normally one finds the odd one here and there, not dozens of them as was the case on the 9th. The symbolism of eggs, fertility, and gestation has been considered here many times (new readers can find more on that here, here, and here), so I will not reiterate those ideas – instead I want to focus on the fact that these particular egg cases look very much like brains. And mere moments after being struck by this resemblance, I came across this assemblage of flotsam…


… and immediately the phrase the mind in the cage bobbed up from the depths onto the shores of my consciousness.

The mind in the cage – echoes of William Blake’s mind-forg’d manacles, the psychospiritual ties and conventions that bind, restrain and imprison us. But here the violence of the stormy sea has blown the cage open… and elsewhere on the beach there were further fragments of meaning. A little further on I found this:


An orange rubber glove may not seem the most esoterically charged of objects, but the signs are always there and this particular glove is a dead ringer for the one in Giorgio de Chirico’s 1914 painting The Song of Love:


This painting predates the Surrealist movement by a decade, but its motif of familiar objects in unfamiliar and dreamlike juxtaposition is clearly proto-surrealist and it was a key influence on the subsequent art and method of the Surrealists.

Put these pieces together, and the meaning becomes apparent. The anger of the storm, the turmoil of the ocean… all this is the violent upheaval- some might call it a revolution – required to blow open the doors of our mental cages and take the dizzying leap into the Marvellous. The psychological and political implications are clear.

One may not draw comfort from this, but one can imbibe something altogether rarer: hope.


8 responses to “The Mind in the Cage

  1. A beautiful post.
    Have you come across the anguinum, according to Pliny it was the magic egg, esteemed by the druids believed to ‘ensure success in law courts and a favourable reception by princes’. The anguinum was respited made by the spittle and secretions of angry snakes. Pliny described it as ’round and about as large as a smallish apple; the shell was cartilaginous and pocked liked the arms of a polypus’ Many have thought he was describing a fresh or fossil urchin but Stuart Piggot disagrees. He thought that Pliny would have recognise an urchin as a familiar object. He thinks that the egg case of the whelk (Buccinum) is a probable alternative. It matches the description and Buccinum being a northern Atlantic species, would not have been familiar to Pliny.

  2. I always look forward to visiting the ocean, admiring her gifts left on the shoreline, discussing their meaning with Boyfriend (if he isn’t out surfing) or with the birds (if they aren’t arguing over these same gifts; California-gulls-I’m looking-at-you).

    Shells, footprints, rocks, shark casings,broken surfboards – they tell a story of depths that are never silent. The Haunted Shoreline always provides another chapter.

  3. Pingback: The Wheel Of Fortune: Springtime For Anubis | The Haunted Shoreline

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