I am recovering from a two-day whistle-stop trip to Paris, arriving on Bastille day, 14th July, then watching the France/Croatia World Cup final on 15th.
In a bar with friends I sing Allez les blues! wave a small French flag, drink Rose and grin inanely at random strangers. I am intrigued and stunned by the intense frenzy of people in the grip of what at times feels like mass hysteria. As exciting as it is, by the end of the first half I need to get out and take a breather… but there is no escape from the madness and the heat is oppressive.
At the end of the street I see a church and go inside; the place is empty but for a few others taking refuge. Even within the thick stone walls I can hear the resounding cheers across the city as France scores its third goal. Inside the church a female member of the clergy simply smooths her alter cloth and goes about her business, seemingly oblivious to the ensuing chaos.
There are many beautiful images in the church – Notre-Dame-de- Lorette, near Montmartre- a sequenced panel showing the Rosa Mystica, and the Goddess Virgo (Demeter/Ceres). And it strikes me… out there, millions of people are losing their senses in a Dionysian frenzy and are for the most part unaware of the layers of meaning and symbolism encoded in the city – its structures, architecture, and in the leys beneath the concrete grids of urban life. In here esoteric secrets hang in silence like off stage characters waiting for their cue to perform their master piece- when the time is right. The revelers, barely conscious of the under-lying forces at work in themselves and in the collective unconscious, grow wilder as the match continues; the secrets of the church remain conscious only to those who carefully constructed this temple of worship. Above me, the Virgin Mary is being crowned by the Holy Trinity.
All cities are fascinating in their way but there is something mysterious and enchanting about Paris… and perhaps, like London, it is a bit dark. In the streets tens of thousands of screaming fans are in the throws of ecstasy incited by the triumph of their team… and maybe their outpourings are as much to do with a welcome release of pent up emotions as their team hitting the big time.
There is nothing in the world that excites passion and fever quite like football, the only other cultural event that was on a par with the World Cup was the death of Princess Di in 1997 when 32 million viewers in the UK, and two billion worldwide shared in the collective grief of her untimely and shocking death. Diana, Queen of Hearts (Cups) tragically killed on The Port d’Alma Tunnel (Bridge Way for the Soul), an ancient sacrificial site to the Roman Goddess Diana- Paris is full of secrets.
When the game is over I walk with my love through the districts and streets towards the Champs Elysees, we are silent witnesses of history in the making as we weave through ever-denser crowds singing the national anthem and the Marseillaise over and over again. People suspend themselves from vehicles hooting horns and grin indiscriminately to all, slapping and patting whomever they can reach in the crowd. There is common bond that surpasses politics, race, religion, gender and class.
On the Metro, “Qui ne saute pas n’est pas Francais” (anyone who isn’t jumping isn’t French) fills the impossibly crammed carriages and to prove their national allegiance most began to jump. For the first time I am concerned for our safety as I imagine the train breaking down in the middle of a tunnel… all of us cooked sardines!
Fear has an interesting way about it, the second you open the door to it even just a fraction, it wants to bring all its friends to the party too. Wasn’t there something about a national security alert this weekend… 12 000 police patrolling the streets for Bastille day yesterday and 4 000 police today? And many more security personnel.
Approaching the Champs Elysees I notice armed police with guns and tear gas; riot police barricade the road and I am not sure if they are letting people through a trickle at a time or whether the road is closed… but I have a strong feeling to turn back. It is then I get soaked by both a fizzing bottle of champagne and some other unidentifiable liquid pouring down from near-by scaffolding. Celebration, joy and ecstasy stand side-by-side with teeming demons enjoying the chance for a real blast.
We find another route into the Champs Elysees which seems to be the more typical entrance… thousands upon thousands… a million people… all headed towards to the Arc de Triomphe. Red, white and blue smoke fills the air as the skin of bare torsoed young men glistens under street lamps. Voices in unison grow louder and bolder, and we witness impressive feats of athleticism as bus shelters and monuments are jumped on and danced upon.
Feeling nervous and slightly claustrophobic, we stop walking into the centre of the crowd and are happy to sit on the side-walk watching waves of people passing in their clusters- though tonight they are one. After a while we turn and walk in the opposite direction towards the Place de Concorde, the octagonal square between the Champs Elysees to the west and the Tuileries Garden to the east. The square was once a place of many public executions- the Luxor obelisk exalting the reign of the pharaoh Ramesses II marks the sight where Marie Antoinette and her husband were guillotined. More contemporaneously, a point on the line from the Arc de Triomphe to the Louvre marks Jim Morison’s death place.
On World Cup night the square is electric with music and dancing, people hang precariously from the impervious statues. Constant chanting and drumming fill the air as people party wildly under a beautiful sunset and a smokey blood red sky suspended ominously above the Arc de Triomphe- Dionysus himself would have been pleased.
A walk by the Siene towards the Louvre, the energy begins to feel less intense but a couple of metro rides away in The Marais where our hotel is located, the streets are still lined with people celebrating to an almost continuous score of honking horns… all road etiquette is totally discarded. We eat dinner in the mayhem.
The Marais was once a marsh land before being drained by the Knights Templar and the monks of the Abbey of Saint-Martin-des-Champs in order to build their monasteries- indeed the name of our hotel is the Jacques de Molay!
Exhausted we fall into bed not stirring until morning- thankfully the hotel is protected from the reveling that continues through the night resulting in 2 deaths (not in Paris), 102 arrests and 292 held in custody, country wide. Riot police shoot tear gas and water cannons into the crowd in an attempt to control a band of men wearing ski masks who are on the rampage, looting and throwing stones at shop windows. Next day the Metro reports,
“Troublemakers marred some of the festivities at the top of the Champs-Elysees, breaking the window of a major store and throwing makeshift missiles at riot police as the celebrations wound down close to midnight. Revelers set off smoke bombs in the national colours, obscuring Napoleon’s triumphal arch”.
The following day I walk through The Marais to Notre Dame, the heat is intense and the queue to the cathedral extends the full breadth of Jean-Paul II square, but I am determined and take my place in the line. Some time ago I discovered that several of the old cathedrals and chapels across France and into Britain are located on what was once known as The Initiates Pilgrim Route. In 2009 while walking the Camino Santiago I found a book that claimed that the traditionally accepted route from various starting points in Europe to Santiago Compostella was in fact a distortion of the true route by the Catholic church. I was strangely thrilled and excited by the idea and have been exploring it ever since. According to the theory, the starting point of the pilgrimage route – which is linked to the path of the Milky Way – is Santiago Compostella which is said to be the Oracle of the Moon and ends at the Saturn Oracle in Rosslyn Chapel, Scotland. In between Toulouse, Orleans, Chartres, and Amiens make up the remaining planetary sites- seven in all, the typical number of initiation. Notre Dame Paris is the Mars Oracle.
The astrology chart of the World Cup event places Mars at 7 degrees Aquarius – when the violence breaks out Mars is crossing the ascendant and moving into the 12th house. At 10.25 Mars is exact on the ascendant then moving across twelfth house until 11.55. At 11.30 the riot police release tear gas into the remaining crowd to disperse it. Between 10.25 and 11.30 is exactly when the violence and break-outs occur.
Mars in the 12th is typically associated with repressed anger bubbling up to the surface in a sometimes ruthless and dangerous way. When Mars shares the 12th house with Pluto as it did that night- forming an exact conjunction around 11 PM the energy has the potential to explode. Add Black Moon Lilith into the mix at 27 degrees Capricorn also in the 12th and you have a recipe for the displays of discord that played out in Paris that night – a reflection of the shadow side of the much hyped global event described in the astrological chart.
To end on a positive note, I loved my time in Paris (even though I felt exhausted for a couple of days after). Paris has not always been an easy relationship for me – Paris is not easy- but it is enchanting and mysterious, full of mythos and symbolism with an under-belly full of secrets charms and intrigue behind the beauty and the majesty.