The Sycamore Ouija and Zen Advocacy Group

In May 1792 twenty-four stock brokers met at 68 Wall Street in New York City and signed "The Buttonwood Agreement," which created the New York Stock and Exchange Board, which eventually became the New York Stock Exchange. According to legend the agreement was signed beneath a "Buttonwood Tree," that is, a sycamore. Sycamores are referenced in a number of myths and legends in both the east and the west, involving at least three species of trees from two different families. The story that the New York Stock Exchange was created by men meeting under a sycamore is yet another legend that joins the sycamore with the Druids, Jesus and family, the Egyptian afterlife, and a number of Native American stories, for starters.

While wandering around last summer, I found some sycamore bark that had been sloughed off a large tree growing on the edge of an old ice pond that was built around 1900. Today the ice pond is a 30-acre densely wooded swamp, filled mostly with ash trees, but its outside is lined with a number of sycamores.

The sycamore bark peels off in ragged, jig-saw-puzzle-like chunks. There are plenty of interesting shapes. After finding a piece that was about the same size and shape as a screech owl (I can use this! I thought), somehow or another, I came up with an idea to use a few pieces of the naturally "hol(e)y" sycamore bark as a sort of ouija pointer, with a copy of The Wall Street Journal filling in as a ouija board. The October 4, 2010 edition of The Wall Street Journal was handy, and one evening I set things up to see if the Sycamore Ouija ("SO") would produce any interesting results.

Sycamore Ouija, October 4, 2010. Ready for a little conservative divination, sir!

Perhaps because I don't believe in the existence of a spirit world outside our material world, and lacking the help of my own David Jackson, I couldn't get the Sycamore Ouija to lead me to anything interesting or coherent in the pages of The Wall Street Journal. For some reason, it kept arguing that Barack Obama was to blame for everything. (Did you know that Obama and Woodrow Wilson were behind the Hindenburg disaster? They purposely mishandled the guy wires during the final landing at Lakehurst, and then, well . . . Even Glenn Beck didn't know that.)

The spirits being unwilling, and hoping for something more interesting, I tried a random approach of opening the paper and dropping the SO wherever it might fall. Here are some of the results:

The Wall Street Journal said what?

"now say hurt . . . "


Unable to connect these dots.

eh . . .

This might make sense to someone.

The last one is a little outside the rules, random that they are, but while cropping the photos, the image editing software got into the game and created something called "Caring Americans in Foreclosure," which is "a zen advocacy group." Maybe the Sycamore Ouija and the October 4, 2010 edition of The Wall Street Journal are working together in some fashion. Right before adjusting the initial crop of this image, I noticed what had happened, and decided to allow the software to join in the game. I kept its work. It's not bad.

Perhaps someone more conceptually minded and skilled than I am, someone more attuned to the possibilities of the spirit world, could do better. There are warnings against this kind of thing, though.

But if you're still willing to give this a try, there's probably plenty of sycamore bark near you; if not, let me know, and I'll send you some.