This is the Boat of Millions of Years


painted linen from Gebelein excavation, pre-dynastic period, ca 3500 BCE

Lost Text

From the Book of Coming Forth By Day; the journey of the Boat of Millions of Years

praise and honor to the gods of this place
praise and honor to their eyes which are the sun and the moon
praise and honor to their tongues which speak creation
praise and honor to them who sail the boat of eternity

this is the boat of millions of years:
the night sky
my body

i am filled with stars and every part of me is filled with stars
the night sky
my body

my belly, my breasts
are filled with stars
my hands, my thighs
are filled with stars
my tongue, my lips
are filled with stars
the boat of millions of years is filled with stars

the sun rides in the boat of millions of years
nut is the sea upon which it sails
night is the sea upon which it sails
it is ra at the rudder
it is horus at the oar

praise and honor to the gods of this place
praise and honor to the openers of the ways
open thou the gates of the horizon
shine forth from the eastern pillar of heaven
sail forth upon the sea of day
sail forth in the reed boat of the sun
sail into the sea of night
day and night are the face of eternity
day and night are the eyes of the gods

this is the boat of millions of years:
the night sky
my body

 from Fireflies at Absolute Zero, by Erynn Rowan Laurie

The high-speed FrecciaBianca from Trieste to Torino only takes a few hours. It makes a stop in Milano and a few other places along the way, but overall, it’s a much more comfy train than the local/regional trains I’ve taken so far, and they actually do have plugs so you can power your electronics. The city is nearly at the other side of northern Italy from Trieste, near the borders with France and Switzerland. The final approach to Torino is through a tunnel and the underground, which gave the end of the trip a bit of an unearthly feeling, like monks in catacombs. It was fitting way to enter the city that houses that fascinating medieval forgery, the Shroud of Turin.


Shrine of the Shroud of Turin

The shroud itself was not on display while I visited. They only haul it out every few years, for a little while, but the church where it’s housed is open to the public, and an enlarged replica of the alleged face of Christ from the shroud is hung over the platform where the shroud itself is shown when it’s visible.

In Torino, I met Dan and Marta. They arrived not long before me, on a plane, and greeted me at the Porta Nuova train station, which is apparently quite the architectural spectacle, but its façade was entirely obscured by scaffolding for repairs and renovation, so I didn’t get to see it despite the fact that I spent quite some time wandering about in it the day I returned to Trieste. It’s from about the same period (1860s) as the central train station across the street from me here in Trieste. The station is also a part of the Torino underground system, the Metropolitana di Torino.


National Museum of Cinema in the Mole Antonelliana

The city of Torino itself quite impressed me. The food was excellent, the buildings were beautiful, and there was a lot going on, though much of my free time to explore was on Monday, when most of the interesting stuff was closed. I did get some ideas for the next day, though.

The region was originally inhabited by the Celto-Ligurian Taurini tribe, and to this day the symbol of the city is the bull, which is on the street light pedestals, the buildings, and a lot of other stuff around town. There are apparently still Celtic linguistic elements in the Piedmontese language spoken by the locals.

Our first night in the city, we had dinner at the Porto di Savona, which has a thoroughly annoying website complete with non-consensual music and sound effects that almost put us off the place entirely. It took forever to find the menu online, and had problems loading on both my phone and Marta’s. The reviews on Trip Advisor, however, were quite good, so we tried it anyway and they had absolutely fantastic Piedmontese food and a very nice staff. It’s been open since 1863. They’re located where Piazza Vittorio Veneto opens out from Via Po into an immense public square, apparently one of the largest in Europe. There was a huge screen set up across Via Po for the World Cup matches that night. The piazza itself, and Via Po, are lined with a covered arcade of shops on both sides for quite some way. The piazza ends at a bridge crossing the River Po and directly across the bridge is the Neoclassical Chiesa Gran Madre di Dio, built between 1818 and 1831.

We weren’t able to go into the Museum of Cinema, as it was closed on Monday. We’d been told there’s a spectacular view of the city and the Alps from the top of the spire. Instead, later that afternoon, Dan and I climbed the Monte dei Cappuccini, to the courtyard of the Museo Nazionale della Montagna, which had an equally fantastic view that included the Mola Antonelliana. Mara wasn’t up to the climb in the heat, but Dan and I got a lovely walk through the park on our way up and down from there.


Torino from Monte dei Cappuccini

Torino and the Alps from Monte dei Cappuccini

Piazza Vittorio Veneto and the Po River from the steps of the Gran Madre di Dio

Piazza Vittorio Veneto from the steps of the Chiesa Gran Madre di Dio

Interior ceiling, Museo del Risogriomento Italiano, Palazzo Carignano

Interior ceiling, Museo del Risogriomento Italiano, Palazzo Carignano

The next day, we went to the Palazzo Carignano, which used to be, among other things, the artists club in town. Now it’s rented out as a venue for presentations and conferences, from what I understand, and there’s a little café in the building that’s just outside the rooms where the artists once met. The paintings on the walls and ceiling are in the process of being cleaned and conserved, which led to a somewhat interesting effect in the artwork there. Dan’s talk and panel discussion was about his recent book, Panaesthetics: On the Unity and Diversity of the Arts; I’d hoped to get a copy of the book in time to have Dan sign it for me, but it was not to be. The visuals for the presentation were put together by his partner, Marta, though, due to the shortness of time, some of the material had to be cut. The panelists were an intriguing set of Italian academics of literature, art, and music, on of whom has translated Emily Dickinson and a number of other English-language poets. Afterward, I was invited to join everyone for dinner, which was a really lovely discussion. All of them seemed quite shocked that I wasn’t an academic myself, but I appear to have redeemed myself in their eyes when I mentioned I was a published author. Funny what a little talent with words will do for you.

Early on the third day, Dan and Marta hopped on a train to Aix en Provence, for the next part of their grand travels. I had the better part of the day alone, with quite a number of choices before me, and decided to go to the Egyptian Museum, founded in 1824, and which is said to have the most important collection of artifacts outside of Cairo. It claims to be the oldest Egyptian museum in the world. The collection is definitely impressive, though I think the full temple at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City is a winner for sheer scale. The museum allows photography – I made sure to ask before going in – so I was able to get some pretty cool images. Unfortunately for my photos, a lot of the pieces were behind glass, so it was very hard to avoid reflections and lights marring the view of the artifacts themselves. I was told that a polarizing filter could help with that, but I have a very amateur CanonPowerShot SX260 HX, and you can’t put filters on one of those. I’m considering upgrading my camera later this year or early next, once I’ve paid down some of my credit cards and got a little more necessary furniture in the place.

Having finished what I am certain was only my first visit to Torino, I hopped back onto the train. It arrived home in Trieste about 9:30pm, and I then had to pack for my impending trip to Greece, having to be at the ferry terminal by 4:30am, so I got no sleep at all. But that trip is a story for my next post…


Antiquarian bookshop, Via Po: Torino has a huge annual international book fair


Outside the Gran Madre di Dio


Metal gate outside the Teatro Regio, the Royal Opera House


I believe this is the first time I’ve ever seen a monumental sculpture of a guy with a gas mask


Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes?


From one of the many Books of the Dead in the Torino collection


A spell for the dead, to pass into the Duat


Ram’s head


Gallery of statues


Street lights of Torino


11 thoughts on “This is the Boat of Millions of Years

  1. I can see those street lights as sconces on my garage…

    did they have a guidebook for the museum, thats a pretty nice egyptian collection.

    • I can imagine you might. Also, I looked. They did have a gift shop with some nice things among the tchatchkes, but they didn’t seem to have a museum catalogue. Sadly. *sniffle*

  2. Ooooh, I love that poem! (Totally makes me think of acolytes chanting it in some ancient temple while priests and/or priestesses perform ceremonies) ((I’m so cliché in my thinking sometimes, I know))
    Ohhhh, such a lot of awesome to look at! I’m glad you got to go and thanks – as always – for sharing the lovely pics!
    Sidenote: those Torino streetlights make the Muse get notions. Jeeeez, the Muse would be asploding daily if I visited or lived where you’re living! Heh. Not sure if that would be good or bad, really. 0_0 (They do have heads, right? Just turned away? Or ???)

    Did I mention I loved that poem? *pets the words*

    • Yes, they do have heads. They’re at the top of the arcs of the necks and look oddly like extensions of the arc of the wings from the angle I captured. They’ve got draconic heads with curly open mouths.

      Glad you loved the poem!

      I get lots of musetreats living in and visiting all these places. It’s just incredible.

    • It really is a gorgeous place. I’m looking forward to finding a chance to go back and see more. I’d really love to see the cinema museum, it’s right up my alley. And I’m delighted you liked the poem, too!

    • Well, the placard says:

      “Isis and Thermutis. These two snake-goddesses, Isis with Egyptian crown and Thermutis, are intertwined. The ears of grain and poppy symbolize prosperity and fertility. (Marble. Ptolemaic-Roman Period (332 BC-AD 396) Cat 7149)”

      I hadn’t particularly been aware of connections with Isis and serpents beyond her usual headgear, but I will admit she’s not a deity I’m deeply familiar with. I hadn’t heard of Thermutis before. If you click on the image then click again when it comes up, it’ll enlarge pretty well and you can get a decent close look at everything for yourself. The central image does look like it’s topped with a pine cone, but I’m uncertain what it’s supposed to be resting on.

      I’m looking forward to your conference posts, btw.

      • Aha! Then I know them well!

        See this post from May for more on this. It’s something found most prominently at Medinet Madi in Egypt, where there was a temple of Renenutet, which then eventually got syncretized to Isis as Isis-Hermouthis (or Thermouthis) in later periods, and is one of the kick-off points of the “pantheistic Isis” patterns of Hellenistic and Late Antique Graeco-Egyptian religiosity. We did a seminar on Isidorus’ hymns at U of M in 2010, which was quite interesting…

      • Ah, okay, thank you. I had thought the photo and the deities might be of interest to you (which is part of why I took the photo and posted it here) in a serpent-path kind of way. I’d seen the post you link to in passing but didn’t really read down into it very much. Looking at the commentary under the translation was a bit more enlightening.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s