Page 101. " La carroza, la carroza, cried the beldam. Invertido. Carta de guerra, de venganza. "
The Chariot from the Rider-Waite tarot deck
Public DomainThe Chariot from the Rider-Waite tarot deck - Credit: Pamela Coleman Smith

The chariot, the chariot, cried the beldam. Inverted. Card of war, of vengeance.

 

This is a reference to The Chariot, the seventh trump or Major Arcana card in the traditional Tarot deck. The card usually depicts a princely figure riding in a chariot, pulled by two sphinxes or horses.

The Chariot is one of the most complex cards to define. On its most basic level, it implies war and conquest, a struggle and an eventual, hard-won victory. If inverted, the meaning remains the same, but the Querent is in danger of losing the battle due to a lack of control.

 

Beldam is an archaic word meaning hag or witch. It may also be used to refer to an old woman, particularly an ugly one.

Page 105. " shimmering like the mare imbrium "
Map showing location of Mare Imbrium
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeMap showing location of Mare Imbrium - Credit: Srbauer

The Mare Imbrium (Latin for ‘Sea of Showers’ or ‘Sea of Rains’) is a vast lunar mare, one of many large, dark, basaltic plains formed by ancient volcanic eruptions on Earth’s Moon.

They were dubbed maria (Latin for 'seas') by early astronomers who mistook them for actual seas.

 

Page 106. " The sereño "
Illustration of a Sereno by Gustave Dore (1870)
Public DomainIllustration of a Sereno by Gustave Dore (1870) - Credit: Spanish Pictures

The sereno (the word is not, historically, spelled with the letter ñ) was a traditional Spanish-Mexican watchman. They would patrol the streets of towns at night, calling from time to time the hour and the state of the weather.

Frederick A. Ober, who encountered serenos in the smaller towns of 19th century Mexico, describes them as 'policemen furnished with lanterns', and that their calls are 'always ending up with 'Tiempo seréno,' or, 'All serene.' From this the mischievous Mexican youth have nicknamed him the Sereno...'

(Travels in Mexico)

Page 118. " Far out to the north dustspouts rose wobbling and augered the earth "
Dust devil at Black Rock Desert, Nevada
Creative Commons AttributionDust devil at Black Rock Desert, Nevada - Credit: Steve Jurvetson

Dustspouts (more commonly known as dust devils) are strong whirlwinds that can occur in hot regions around the world, generally ranging in size from half a metre wide and a few metres tall to more than 10 metres wide and more than 1000 metres tall.

Although typically not as dangerous as tornadoes, some dust devils can be extremely large and intense, occasionally reaching diameters of up to 300 feet (90 m) with winds in excess of 60 mph (100 km/h) and lasting for upwards of 20 minutes before dissipating.

 

Page 118. " and some said they’d heard of pilgrims borne aloft like dervishes in those mindless coils to be dropped broken and bleeding upon the desert again and there perhaps to watch the thing that had destroyed them lurch onward like some drunken djinn "
Dancing Dervishes (ca. 1850-82), by Amedeo Preziosi
Public DomainDancing Dervishes (ca. 1850-82), by Amedeo Preziosi - Credit: Wikimedia Commons

A Dervish is a type of Sufi Muslim ascetic, best known in the West for their whirling dancing.

This style of ritual dance (known as Sufi whirling or spinning) originated among the Sufi and is still practiced by the Sufi Dervishes of the Mevlevi Order. By listening to the music, focusing on God, and spinning their bodies in repetitive circles, the dancers aim to rid themselves of ego and personal desire, thereby reaching the source of all perfection, or kemal. The spinning has been interpreted as a symbolic imitation of planets in the Solar System orbiting the sun.

 

            

 

 

Djinn (a type of Arabic genie or devil) is a term used to describe dust devils of the Middle East, some of which reach hundreds of metres in height.

Page 118. " On the day that followed they crossed a lake of gypsum so fine the ponies left no track upon it. "
Gypsum sand dunes at White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
Creative Commons AttributionGypsum sand dunes at White Sands National Monument, New Mexico - Credit: Raul Diaz

Gypsum is a very soft mineral composed of calcium sulfate dihydrate.

It is one of the most common mineral compounds found on Earth but is rarely seen on the surface, as it dissolves in water. One exception is the Tularosa Basin in New Mexico (today known as the White Sands National Monument) where the unique conditions have created a 710 km2 (270 sq mi) expanse of white gypsum sand. The origin of the desert dates back to around 100 million years ago, during which it was covered by a shallow sea. As its waters gradually receded, saltwater lakes were left behind, which eventually evaporated in the sun. In addition to the salt, gypsum was also laid down in thick deposits on the old seabed.

The area was declared a government-protected U.S. National Monument in 1933.

Page 120. " the abandoned ruins of Santa Rita del Cobre "
Santa-Rita-NM-1919
Public DomainSanta Rita del Cobre, 1919

The copper mining town of Santa Rita del Cobre (cobre means copper) was founded in 1803.

It was occasionally attacked by the Chiricahua Apache, and in 1837 a trader named James Johnson lured the Apaches to a gathering and then massacred them for their scalps. The Apache retaliated and almost all of the nearly 500 inhabitants of Santa Rita were killed.  The town was abandoned until 1849, when the US Army established a command post there.

Page 120. " overlooking a bleak and barren caldera "
Caldera on the Pico del Teide, Tenerife
Creative Commons AttributionCaldera on the Pico del Teide, Tenerife - Credit: Andys

A caldera (from the Latin caldaria, meaning ‘cooking pot’) is a cauldron-like volcanic feature usually formed by the collapse of land following a volcanic eruption.

They are sometimes confused with volcanic craters. Technically, however, craters are found at the top of the central vent in  most volcanoes, while the caldera is a magma chamber that once supplied material to volcano until it emptied and the roof collapsed.

Page 123. " In the afternoon he sat in the compound breaking ore samples with a hammer, the feldspar rich in red oxide of copper and native nuggets in whose organic lobations he purported to read news of the earth’s origins, holding an extemporary lecture in geology to a small gathering who nodded and spat. A few would quote him scripture to confound his ordering up of eons out of the ancient chaos and other apostate supposings. "

This incident is drawn directly from Samuel Chamberlain’s My Confession.  In Chamberlain’s account Holden presents a ‘scientific lecture on Geology,’ which ‘no doubt was very learned, but hardly true, for one statement he made was ‘that millions of years had witnessed the operation producing the result around us,’ which Glanton with recollections of the Bible teaching his young mind had undergone said “was a d----d lie”.

The Judge’s approximation of ‘millions of years’ with respect to the world’s age demonstrates a remarkably advanced education. Sir Charles Lyell’s revolutionary Principles of Geology was published in England in 1833, but Lyell’s ideas did not become current in the United States until his visits there in the 1840s.