The last post told of how the Zodiac Tent came to us. Now let us take a journey from its origins in the Moghul princely tent tradition to the Zome at the centre of its modern reproduction. The Zodiac Tent was the most glorious palace tent of Humayun, a Moghul emperor who ruled present day Afghanistan, Pakistan , and parts of northern India from 1530–1540 and again from 1555–1556. Son of Babur, father of Akbar, he was an astronomical dreamer, loving splendour and esoteric mysteries, who lived and ruled his court by the stars.
“And among his inventions another is a trellis tent, khargahi, which comprises twelve towers, burj, to the number of the signs of the zodiac, buraj. And these towers are contrived with windows so that the light of the stars of fortune can shine through their holes. And the star of the beauty of its arrangement and form shone on the pages of the events of the universe: The light of fortune shining through its windows, Couriers of power hastening from its doors. And another trellis tent like the sphere of spheres, which encloses the sphere of the fixed stars, surrounded this trellis tent on all sides, so as to fall on it like a cover. ” (This passage from “Felt Tents and Pavillions: The Nomadic Tradition and its Interaction with Princely Tentage”, by Peter Alford Andrews. Our friends, Peter and his wife, Mughul have researched and documented nomadic tents in meticulous detail).
There is some debate as to the details of the form of Humayun’s Zodiac Tent, but the general appearance was 12 trellis tents (yurts) in a circle for the 12 signs of the Zodiac, with a central canopy covering all, to be the celestial sphere.
Our challenge in designing the latest incarnation of the Zodiac Tent, was what kind of structure to have as the centre….a giant yurt?, a circus tent-type (big top) structure with a central pole? a geodesic dome? We wanted a framed tent (one where the frame stands alone without the cover) as opposed to a velum tent (where the stability of the frame is dependent on the tension in the cover, like a big top) as we were clear we wanted to eliminate the central support which stands out like a …… in the centre.
Now the meta-level. Around that time an exaggerated number of abstract threads were coming to our story, catalysed by the Scholar. To explain what I mean by this, let me introduce what we call the “HTML”, or ‘living language’. (The name ‘HTML’ comes from the web programming language , referring to a code working behind the scenes). This talks in the messages which come to us from the universe at large, in the form of symbols, seeming ‘coincidences’, omens, or even directly.
We had been working with this force for some time, but what was emerging here, was a living structure in the myths and symbols that were presenting themselves to all the people we work with, seemingly spontaneously across a couple of continents. What we were seeing was knowledge and myth transcending culture and time, parallel structures appearing across disciplines. This is the lingua sacra, alluded to in “The Glass Bead Game” by Herman Hesse.
One such thread, coming independently over a couple of days involved:
Then along came the zome. ‘Zome’ is a general term for a shelter, the frame of which comes from a family of complex geometrical structures, found in many natural forms such as pine cones, and honeycombs. (For an in depth description of the background and associated geometry, see Rene’s website at http://simplydifferently.org/Zome).
The struts of the helix zome, are half helixes. A helix is a spiral with a constant diameter, like the DNA spiral.
And, if you look at a zome from above, you will see the intersecting struts form the flower of life. “That’s it: our central structure!”, declared the Scholar. The zome became our meta-structure, a shape where many disciplines were weaving in and out of each other. How we were going to make it was the next challenge…