Tag Archives: Nomadic Tents

The Emperors Old Clothes

At the height of the nomadic tentage tradition, the yurt became a symbol.

The tents of state have become big affairs and could no longer simply be made as trellis or yurts tents (because of size and length of roof ribs) anymore, but the emperor’s tent remained always a yurt, usually of crimson colour, a colour that was kept for the use of the ruler only.  Crimson yurt

The moving camp, or ordu,  at times was the size of a small city.

A nomadic tradition that had its routes with the mongols (or even before them), this nomadic camp will form around a ruler or one of his persons of status, and would continue to travel as a unit even after their death at times.

The romance of these traveling camps to me seems immense, although if you dig into it you can see that as long as nomadism was a pastoral thing, where the camp moved with its grazing livestock, it was sustainable

But at later times when nomads became rulers of empires, through a process we talked about here, their nomadic camps turned into whole moving cities, and I think have become less sustainable.

Those cities where born out of conquest, which is not unlike grazing; where a moving people took from the landscape what they need, except that with conquest they took what they could.

For a golden age that started with the mongols and ended with the Mughul empire, nomads have become kings, and their tents have become palaces, I like the fact that even at its highest point, the emperor had kept a yurt, a tie to those nomadic roots.

I think its not the just the fact that in order to keep the lavish life style, these nomads had to keep “grazing” on the sedentary.

Its the fact that the lavishness and riches of their lifestyle turned them into the very people that they conquered, that brought down the moving cities of old.


Emperors yurt

But as you may be able to see  we do have a warm corner in our heart, for those moving cities that had a crimson yurts in their centre.

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Higher Level Connections

Some days are change-making days I guess, today I got an email from a friend to help free the land.

He and his wife have been living in a tipi in the USA, on a piece of land for some 5 or more years,  through rain and snow, summer and winter, the land is up for sale and they are trying to come up with $300,000 by end of the month to free the land or they get evicted by new landlord.

The fact that the guy that taught this friend and me tent-making died a little while ago, kind of brings things into a new perspective somehow, feeling its time to move on with our dreams, like he is being called to move on with his, like the shadow of our tent-making teacher had left us and now we are called to take it onward into another level, to find a new way to express our dreaming.

The other day we started joining up the Zome next levels, for those that have been following this is actually what this blog is about.

Zome next levels connecting

Zome next levels connecting

Jiggity jig

It’s been quite a day, waking up with our little Welsh valley deep deep under snow, then getting the Land Rover stuck and returning without reaching the outside world. We do have enough rice and lentils to last until spring, so won’t starve.

Back to the story…..

Using this picture from Google Sketchup, we saw that the diameter of the ‘silo’ was half the zome radius. (Here the zome is  the whole shape made from the extended Flower of Life and the actual structure is obviously half of this shape.)

Zome rib curve

Zome rib curve

One bright morning in the oh-so-wet-when-we-were-there Harz Mountains, Germany, the Scholar and the Heart woke up and decided that they have been looking at 3d modelling programs for too long, and it is indeed time to do something about the jig. Of course, being nincompoops, they did not come up with a plan of action, but just decided to go to the recycling yard instead.

So they jumped into the 1820 4×4 truck and, after a few morning chores, were in Germany’s finest recycling yard. Yellow vests sourced, they stand in the middle of the yard still plan-less, realising that the truth of the matter is that there are not two bits of metal here which are the same, so actually making a generic former, requiring many identical sections of metal, is a long way from being achieved.

The boys wandered around admiring the junk, the big mixers dreaming up legendary machinery until noon, when all the big machines, trucks and burning male energy was getting some what burning, when a tractor and trailer came and offloaded their content on the ground. Mr Heart decided that whatever the contents of it are, they must be able to construct a jig, or else those mountains of steel will never yield a crop, because as mountainous as they are there was simply no way to get anything out of them.

The contents of that trailer load did prove to be promising with T-profile lengths of mild steel: the perfect (better even than square section) clamps. With another little forage in one of the scarier less piles of steel, they found a box section 50mm x 50mm already curved to shape!!!  It was over bent, but, with some crane persuasion, was made to the perfect diameter.

They also dug up the contents of an interesting barrel, that proved to contain a horde of heads of various axes and adzes, one of which seems to be  medieval (ended up as a present for our German host, Boris, as a gift of appreciation).

Zome strut jig with clamps open

Zome strut jig with clamps open

Zome strut jig

Zome strut jig

It is quite a sticky job lining up the 3 layers of wood, getting the nuts on and tightened as the fast drying glue dries, but latex gloves do help.

Tightening the bolts on the jig clamps

Tightening the bolts on the jig clamps

Zome jig with a strut in place

Zome jig with a strut in place

The Structure and Men

So a bit more of the Zodiac tent story….the question was how in the world to make this thing, starting with the zome. We started by making a small model, to understand how the zome structure works, when Bill Coperthwaite was visiting us in Austria.

Bill is a story of his own, being the first person to make a yurt in the West, the father of the western yurt perhaps. He made his first trellis yurt in the 60’s in the USA then went on to develop the wooden tapered wall yurt and is now 86 years old  living on his own in the wilds of Maine. (He thus has no ‘phone or email, but reminds us of a time when pen and paper was a trusted form of communication, and somehow his letters always come at auspicious times, and find their way to us, even in the most nomadic of situations. Funnily enough, in the few days I have been writing this entry, someone asked me about him, and the next day we received his annual calendar).Bill's yurt in Maine

Bill’s yurt home in Maine

We made the frequency-6 model on a sunny day and saw the shadows on the structure moving towards the Flower of Life, which started a debate about where on earth, at what time of the day and year, the sun would be overhead, thus projecting the exact form. Variously in the tropics, I think.

Model zome. If you look carefully you will see Bill on the Land Rover back, carving yet another spoon

Model zome. Bill, in the background, on the Land Rover back, carving another juniper spoon

First…how wide? We thought 16′ was a good size for the peripheral yurts, making the diameter of the central structure, centre of yurt to centre of the opposite yurt, 18.6m.

And how high? With help from Rob Bell’s Sketchup programme, and Nicolas’ zome programme (en Francais), several sessions of geometrical debate, and some unorthodox calculation methods (see picture), we came up with a height of 6 metres, giving a rib length of 15.6 metres.

Finn up on the crane for the height measurement, Chloe in the forest for the width

Finn up on the crane for the height measurement, Chloe in forest for the width

Our calculated zome

Our calculated zome

OK…so the struts are helical, and we were to make them from sawn wooden planks,in 3 laminated layers, glued together with extremely sticky, fast-drying PU glue. This meant, that to enable the canvas cover to sit evenly on the frame, the planks would need to be twisted, in two directions, like diagonally on the side of a large cylinder, like a silo. (How we found the silo is another story.) It took us a while to see that the left twist and the right twist are different, ie the helixes are sided. (Try wrapping a 1cm wide strip of paper, or better thin aluminium, around a coffee jar).

Mythological intertwining. Hermes staff: the Caduceus.

Mythological intertwining. Hermes staff: the Caduceus.

Then one day the boys visit the saw mill. The Scholar, who is fluent in German speaks with the sawmill guy called Thomas, the son of Thomas and actually…. the father of a Thomas, and as it is Austrian lunchtime and the mill is closed, the boys take Bill to have his coffee ice-cream. A cafe’ is found, and whilst the sugar settles in, and Bill convinces the Scholar to have some ice-cream too, the Scholar being a scholar reads the sugar packets.

It turns out that the cafe is also a museum ?!! and that the owner’s grandfather spent some years collecting old farm tools and crafts, and the whole top floor of the building and bakery is dedicated to old farm life, from beds to cupboards to violin cases, to wine presses and more and more and more.


Austrian oak beam with Flower of Life carving

Bill is an old craft and tool addict, and browsing through the top floors, the boys were amazed to meet an old farm oaken beam with the Flower of Life carved into it,  an affirmation that Yes there is a thread running through the weaves and patterns. Of course we knew this pattern is portrayed all through the world: at the gates of the forbidden city in China, at countless temples and holy places and now we found out also at the ice-cream parlour on the doorstep of the Austrian sawmill.

Seed of life on oak beam

Seed of life on oak beam

So on we went to meet Thomas I, II and, well not III, and they sawed the 15 ash logs into planks, and we loaded all 3 tonnes of these into our truck, then later into the trailer, then later out of the trailer, then later….etc etc


Ash logs


Into the truck

From Humayun to the Zome

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.

Humayun's Tomb in Delhi, predating the Taj Mahal

Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi, which predates the Taj Mahal

“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).

Moghul Procession

Moghul Procession

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:


The 4 cardinal stars, in Taurus, Scorpio, Leo & Aquarius marking the solstices and equinoxes (from zodiacal research)

Lion ox eagle and man (from Finn's thread on the 4 watchers)

Lion ox eagle and man (from Finn’s thread on the 4 watchers)

4 horsemen of the apocalypse (from Chloe's dream)

4 horsemen of the apocalypse (from Chloe’s dream)

Ezekiel's vision of the chariot of "living creatures"

Ezekiel’s vision of the chariot of “living creatures”

merkaba:metatrons cube

Metatrons cube (in a message from the Peacock)

flower of life

With the Flower of Life underneath

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).

Zome house from Archilibre, France

Zome house from Archilibre, France

helix some

Helix Zome

We then discovered the helix zome, developed by Nicolas Causse, which is basically a curved version of a zome.

The struts of the helix zome, are half helixes.  A helix is a spiral with a constant diameter, like the DNA spiral.

DNA double helix

DNA double helix

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…

Of How the Zodiac Tent Came Into Being

Today’s progress on the zome for the Zodiac Tent, despite the relentless Welsh rain, has been attaching the first and second level struts together with that first connector.

Zome Connector and first level struts

Zome Connector and first level struts

struts for Zodiac Tent

Wales – wild, wet and beautiful

Now is a good time to introduce the story behind the Zodiac Tent, and how its present incarnation came to us…

Like all stories of power, the elements of it are threads in a multi-dimensional tapestry, and any starting point has many associated references. So, for this thread I will introduce us as canvas tent-makers and begin with the tent palaces, which for some time we had been dreaming of: grand nomadic structures, which stand as the heart of a tribal village.

Over the last few years, we have been involved in the making of a few.

Hoopoe yurt Palace, Andalucia, Spain

Hoopoe yurt Palace, Andalucia, Spain

Two-storey Yurt in the Ardeche, France

Two-storey Yurt in the Ardeche, France

Then, a couple of years ago in Israel, The Last Act on Earth, the transformational travelling show, was born.

Later, back in Hungary, we were looking at Mughul palace tents, in particularly, Humayun’s Zodiac Tent, which was a grand 16th century court tent comprising 12 trellis yurts in a circle for the 12 signs of the Zodiac, encompassed by a central structure for the celestial sphere. We then had an enquiry from a guy who wanted to make special tented accommodation for festivals, and in designing his camp and talking to him about the Zodiac Tent, an artist came up with this picture…..

The Oasis

The Oasis

Very soon afterwards, we were contacted by Iwan Brioc from Theatr Cynefin in Wales, with his proposal for an itinerant transformational theatre, with a travelling venue tent complex which looked like this…

Project X: proposed tent

Project X: proposed tent

This was an omen to us, as here was someone, seemingly unrelated to us, who seemed to hear a very similar vision about a travelling court tent, like the grand tents of the Moghuls. So then the structure evolved into this…

Zodiac tent with  zome as canopy

Zodiac tent with zome as canopy

…a story by itself, so we will touch on it later, but what is noteworthy is that as we moved on with this journey, we find more and more people who come to us and say, “I have heard this story” or “I have also been working on this for a while now”.  There are some meta scripts which are out there at large: we do not own them, we simply are helping them come true.

Zome Angels

Zome Connector

Zome connector

If you have read yesterday’s post, you may find this picture strangely familiar, this here is the first connector.

This is a multi level story, and so this connector is represented on more than one level, although it is noteworthy that this is the ground level connector, and we will be building up from here.

As this day has been hyped for quite a while now, coming back from town and after re-spraying the truck bonnet (another story), we knocked it ready just before sunset (hard to weld without the light, as we were doing it outside). This connector then is going to be our introductory point to this project and story, to the living myth.

On one level it is a box section 50mmx 50mm of 3mm mild steel, welded at an angle to another section of the same, acting as a sleeve connector for 4 wooden lengths that come together (they simply insert into it). These are wooden laminated ribs which, in turn connect to other steel connectors just like this one to form ………

Zodiac tent

The zodiac tent 3d

The Zodiac tent.

You can read the background of the original Zodiac Tent and the mythical prince who dreamed it up here…. http://www.lastactonearth.com/zodiac_tent.html and if you press on the gnomad (gnome+nomad) with the camel, you enter the next room where our modern version is revealed.

This tent is going to be the core of this project, and the building of it will, among other things, be the focus of this story, so this is the first layer connection, hope you can follow the idea that life has more than one layer of meaning.


Zome Angles

Like John Maynard Keynes said about Isaac Newton that “he regarded the universe as a cryptogram set by the almighty………… By pure thought, by concentration of mind, the riddle, he believed, will be revealed to the initiate.”

Here is a picture showing the various angles and the layers of the zome.