Marlbank, a small eastern Ontario village of barely two hundred folks, now most known for it’s history as a concrete producer, and its annual lumberjack competition, once was the haven of a band of a gypsies, living on the waterfront of Lime Lake. Nested and invested in the woods that skirt Moneymore Rd, they started a large beeswax candle making factory, inside a century old barn on over 200 acres of mixed and limestone plain. On this land, were several pastures, man-made ponds, moraine valleys, and marl deposits. This was the central hub for the Philoxian operations during their heyday from the 80’s on-wards to the early 2010’s. A large mansion, tree-house, golf course, bakery and organic restaurant, craft workshop, cement factory, and wellness center were also incorporated into the landscape. The Philoxian kingdom was the brainchild of one man, but evolved into a whole community, inhabited by men, women, children, exotic animals, tourists, workers, musicians and artists. What started as a back-to-the-land movement, grew into an entire mythology of being. Hearkening back to ancestral traditions, and bridging new wave humanitarian ethics, the Philoxians fused together a blend of old cultural values, and aesthetics into their own reality, guided by love, and creation.
The original Philoxians were artistic creators, dreamers, farmers, talented musicians, crafters, workers, travelers, visionaries and bridgers of worlds. Their language and speech reminds one of Nelson Mandela, or Gandhi, in tone and ethic. A do-no-harm, ahimsa/Buddhist approach to living with the earth, and its creatures. Many of them catered to the fantastical world, of legends, pre-history, storytelling, and the youthful innocence found embodied in children. They wrote books of far fetched, real grit adventures in the South Americas and Arabic worlds, that would please any Castaneda or Coelho reader without disenfranchising the dogmas of the Qu’ran, the Bible, and ancient Egyptian scrolls, all bound up together. Though their ideas were quite universalist, they were still rather refined, and carried a philosophy of living closely to the natural world as its main tenet. Members of the community grew productive vegetable, herb and fruit gardens, looked after the heartbeats of many animals in their sanctuary zoo, built natural infrastructure from indigenous resources like clay, wood and bio-cement. They wore natural clothing fibers, and played the music of nature, with old and new instruments, syncing up several ethnic styles into their house band.
I only discovered of the existence of ‘The Philoxians’ and their offshoots last year, and many important details have since emerged; The truths of what broke them apart, and the sobering realities of living among others in a community. The truth of the matter is what they did do, was more than they didn’t do, and rather than follow idle paths of individualism chasing fame, status, profession, riches, or corporate interest. They chose a more modest path of sacred economy, trade, and adopted heritage, often taking pseudonyms, and promoted sustainability, spiritual arts, and good old fashioned, bronze age harmony and worship of the sacral. Their ideas did not rest simply in the realm of potential, but were manifested, and actualized in the material world, condensed down from the spiritual to the realm of the middle earth of humankind.
Like the great siberian shaman, santa klaus, and his winter elves, who were tinkerers and crafters, the Philoxians also had dexterity and skill. So they carved, painted, built, and tooled what their minds eye set them out to do. During the colder months of this Canadian climate, they spent time in their workshops, making children’s toys, painting fantasy-esque and storied art pieces, told stories, and phonetically rendered them down into books. They tended the beeswax warehouse, overwintered the many beasts that shared the land with them, and often traveled to the ancient spaces of the earth, pyramid temple cities, Mayan cenotes, the Egyptian deserts, cool utopian shores of Meso-america. One outstanding feature of the Philoxian kingdom was its animal haven.
Many old timers here in Marlbank remember the exotic zoo, for its camels, wallabies, llama, pigs, goats, wolves, bears, rhea birds, reticulated pythons, alpaca, tigers, tropical avifauna, goats and other furry, clawed or scaled beings. Some of these animals also made the news, like when the Australian wallaby escaped into the countryside of Marlbank, as well as the Siberian tiger, and the Alpaca. Sadly for the last, he was shot by a group of hunters, thinking it was a white tail deer. The story goes, that one of the iguana even started one of the fires the burned down the old farm house (accidentally), by knocking over a heat lamp. Fact or fiction?
Whether it is all true or not, the stories live on in remnants, in memories, in developed photographs, in legacy, and artifacts of which Ilahzandroff had many from his travels abroad. Egyptian metals, Mayan carvings, statues, crystals, and rare treasures, all kept in some kind of sacred world history museum. Their personal collections were some form of Ripleys believe-it-or-not assembly of objects, while the Philoxian stories are so steeped in mythos, that one has to engage a lofty imagination to comprehend such experiences. Luckily, as I read through many of Ilah’s stories in his Alpha, Mu, Omega book, I could directly relate to the peasant lifestyles he merged with surrounding Lake Atitlan in Guatemalan, the Arabic secrecy and hospitality, he experienced in Africa, or the mysterious Mayan landmarks and sanguine, often paradisical feelings of the tropical havens. I could easily empathize with his struggles and breakthroughs, the tragedies of sickness in a foreign country, the exposure to novel culture, the bliss of untamed spaces, and the nomadic, voyagers instinct that still rest deep within every human being to explore, go further, and learn something new everyday. Many of the sacred sites that Ilah, Tawlia, and their crew visited on their travels, I have actually been to in the world, for even as a younger man, I chose to see some of the world (on my own vocation), usually alone, and probing to the heart of the matter to really discover what was to be seen, felt and experienced. Perhaps this is why I am so drawn and moved by the Philoxian myth, because the way we each live our lives may also one day be interpreted, studied, influence others, provoke feeling, and be retold. So it is up to people like the Philoxians, with whom I can identify, to actually create the world we want to live in. In direct experience with karma, family, and the present moment.
At the tail end of this winter, I became friends with Ilah’s ex wife Tawlia, and learned of his passing, and the recent sale of his house. With many years in honor and friendship between Tawlia and the Golden Bough Tree Farm. Space was offered to house the many Philoxian relics. With no place to go for the paintings, and because of my recent friendship with Tawlia and the interest in the many stories she shared of the Philoxian narrative, I suddenly became the curator of a Philoxian gallery and museum, now installed in a century old carriage house, at the tree farm where I also presently reside. The museum also houses the original Philoxian rocking unicorn, a feature of many trade shows, as well as several examples of the Philoxian signs, and old art pieces, affixed plaques from archived newspapers, beeswax candles and holders, a light theater box, and one of Ilah’s last works, a 100 foot scroll telling his final visions for the continuation of the Philoxian greater work. I am now working to promote more interest in these relics, retelling some of the stories, and gallery and museum walks, which I feel would be highly attractive to like minded souls.
*Here is an old video of Ilah talking about Philoxia for a feature called The Land Between; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0rvRCBMjxh8