The Las Viudas Cilice is a device suggested by Jesuit practice

“Shh. Here it is. Here is what disobedient Novices must wear.” The Las Viudas Cilice is a device suggested by Jesuit practice, worn secretly, impossible, once secur’d, to remove, producing what some call Discomfort,— enough to keep thoughts from straying far from God. “If God were younger, more presentable,” murmurs Crosier, “we’d be thinking about Him all the time, and we shouldn’t need this,—” her Gaze inclining to the Hothouse Rose, deep red, nearly black, whose supple, long Stem is expertly twisted into a Breech-clout, to pass between the Labia as well as ‘round the Waist, with the Blossom, preferably one just about to open, resting behind, in that charming Cusp of moistness and heat, where odors of the Body and the Rose may mingle with a few drops of Blood from the tiny green Thorns, and Flashes of Pain whose true painfulness must be left for the Penitent to assess… Of course, this is all for the purpose of keeping her Attention unwaveringly upon Christ. “Considering what Christ had to go through,” Jesuits are all too happy to point out, “it isn’t really much to complain about.”

—Mason & Dixon by Thomas Pynchon.

The Captive’s Tale

One night I dream that I have come to a Bridge across a broad River, with small settlements at either approach, and in its center at the highest point of its Arch, a Curious Structure, some nights invisible in the river mists, Lanthorns burning late,— a Toll-House. Not ev’ryone is allow’d through, nor is paying the Toll any guarantee of Passage. The gate-keepers are members of a Sect who believe that by choosing correctly which shall dwell on one side of this River, and which the other, the future happiness of the land may be assur’d. Those rejected often return to one of the Inns clustered at either end of the Bridge, take a bed for the night, and try again in the morning. Some stay more than one night. When the Bills become too burdensome, the Pilgrims who wish strongly enough to cross, may seek employment right there,— at the Ale-Draper’s, or the laundry, or among the Doxology,— and keep waiting, their original purpose in wishing to cross often forgotten, along with other information that once seem’d important, such as faces, and their Names,— whose owners come now to my rooms to visit, and to instruct me in my Responsibilities, back wherever it is I came from. They say they have known me all my life, and seek to bring me away, “home” to where I may at least be seen to by Blood. Perhaps there is a young man, professing with the skill of an amateur actor to be my husband. “Eliza! do tha not recognize me? The little Ones,—” and so forth. Someone I cannot abide. Stubbornly, I look for some explanation of this Order to live upon a side of the River I’d rather be across from than on.

—Mason & Dixon by Thomas Pynchon

Remedios Varo, ‘Bordando el Manto Terrestre.’

embroidering-the-earth-s-mantle-1961 (1)

In Mexico City they somehow wandered into an exhibition of paintings by the beautiful Spanish exile Remedios Varo: in the central paintings of a triptych, titled ‘Bordando el Manto Terrestre’, were a number of frail girls with heart-shaped faces, huge eyes, spun-gold hair, prisoners in the top room of a circular tower, embroidering a kind of tapestry which spilled out the slit windows and into a void, seeking hopelessly to fill the void: for all the other buildings and creatures, all the waves, ships and forests of the earth were contained in this tapestry, and the tapestry was the world.

The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon.