Monday, May 29th 2017    |   

Sigil of Scoteia

Friday, April 11, 2008   |   Literature
The Sigil of Scoteia is the numinous object at the heart of James Branch Cabell's The Cream of the Jest, part of his The Biography of Manuel. An image of the Sigil can be found on the frontispiece of the book. By staring into it Felix Kennaston is transformed into his dream self Horvendile. Near the end of the book it is discovered, not by Kennaston, that the Sigil is in fact simply the metal top of a jar of cold cream, Harrowby's Creme Cleopatra. This does not make it any less magical as Kennaston observed:

"Now, how can you say that, I wonder! "he marveled--and then, of course, he fidgeted, and crossed his legs the other way--"when I have been telling you, from alpha to omega, what is the one great thing the sigil taught me--that everything in life is miraculous. For the sigil taught me that it rests within the power of each of us to awaken at will from a dragging nightmare of life made up of unimportant tasks and tedious useless habits, to see life as it really is, and to rejoice in its exquisite wonder fullness. If the sigil were proved to be the top of a tomato-can, it would not alter that big fact, nor my fixed faith. No, Harrowby, the common names we call things do not matter--except to show how very dull we are," he ended, with that irritating noise that was nearly a snigger, and just missed being a cough.

The Sigil is covered with strange signs that nobody in the novel can interpret. We the readers can though by turning it upside down. It is difficult to make out but what it says is:

James Branch Cabell made this book so that he who wills may read the story of man's eternally unsatisfied hunger in search of beauty. Ettarre stays inaccessible always and her loveliness is his to look on only in his dreams. All men she must evade at the last and many are the ways of her evasions.