Archive for April, 2013

A brief hiatus

Due to some circumstances beyond my control, there’s no Bare Bones post this week. Fear not though, the extra time means that I can make next week;s even better.

See you on Wednesday.

This is part 5 of a series. Here are Part 1 & Part 2 &Part 3 & Part 4

windswept

It’s Wednesday. Wodensdaeg. Mittwoch. Midweek. And I have a story to tell you, on this most in-between of the 7 days of the week. It’s a story I referred to way back in Part 2 – a story that is told to the seeker of esoteric knowledge by the fellow who is merely a storyteller.

And here’s a little secret – in case you didn’t know; for merely means solely, purely, absolutely and only. Yet think about how you hear it – as a put down, or at best a deprecation.

“You’re only a child. You wouldn’t understand.” Or: “I’m only a simple man/woman/cat/dog. Don’t mind me.”

Don’t mind me. What a phrase that is – don’t pay attention to me, don’t remember me, I don’t want to take up your time.

As if one is less than any other number. As if one dollar, one pound, one euro is less than ten. Now, you might be thinking, well, yes, one is less than ten – what the devil are you talking about, you beardy madman?

And in one sense, you’d of course be quite right, and yet in another sense not. The ten is made up of ten ones after all – without the one, there can be no many. Without the first step, there can be no journey, and without the first word there can be no tale.

In a sense then, a story is like a tree – it grows from a seed, which brings us back to the seeker and the storyteller, for the tale starts like this:

And so the storyteller took a drink, looked the seeker dead in the eye, and allowed a small smile to cross his lips. The seeker met his gaze with bold curiosity, waiting for a word. Moments passed, and yet no word came, so the seeker waited still more.

Despite the noise of the inn, it was as if silence wrapped itself around them. The seeker found themselves stirring inside. How dare this fellow be so oblique, so cryptic – how dare he promise a story to prove his powers, and yet withhold any attempt to do so?

“Well?” the seeker demanded, “Speak then! Tell your tale, storyteller. Show me your wisdom.”

Still the other did not speak, hiding behind that smile. The seeker began to grow more and more frustrated, resolving to leave that place in which they were. The storyteller was obviously a charlatan. So, they stood and made to leave, all the time aware of that cool gaze.

Yet, as they were about to turn upon their heel, the storyteller spoke, softly:

“A tree, then.”

The seeker froze, turning back to the storyteller, unsure of what the other had said.

“Pardon?”

“A tree. It begins with a tree – first and always.”

“What?”

The storyteller said nothing by way of reply, merely gesturing to the seeker’s seat. When the other had seated themselves, and made ready to listen:

“There is a tree,” he said, “With roots that stretch down into the deepest worlds, and up to the highest heavens. Its branches spread out beyond the sky, widening out into the spaces between the very stars themselves. Buried below the tree’s trunk, there is a treasure, the likes of which no mortal man has ever seen. There, in that dark earth, waiting to quicken to life, lies the secret to all things.”

Here, he paused, and the silence lengthened, seconds ticking by into minutes.

“And?” said the seeker impatiently.

“And do you not seek esoteric knowledge?”

“I do.”

“And do you not wish to test the truth of my skills?”

“I do.”

“Then, if these are so, how will you discover what lies buried in the earth?”

“What do you mean? It is you who tells me the secret lies there. I have only your word that this is so.”

“Only my word, indeed. And do you not think, as a storyteller, that my trade, my skill is is in words?”

“A skill with words does not prove anything – you may lie well, and it all come to nothing.”

“Do you come for me for truth, lies, or esoteric wisdom?”

“What game is this?” demanded the seeker, half-rising.

The storyteller grinned. “The only game in town. Answer the question, leave or stay – it makes no difference to me. I am only a storyteller. This is my practice, as I have told you, as he who yoked himself to the sun had his. Whether you believe me or not, I tell you truly that I taught him all that you have heard of him.”

Were the seeker someone else, they might have left then, and yet, something, though they knew yet not what, had drawn them here and now to that place.

“Say on then,” they said. “For I am ever driven by the search, the need to know and understand.”

“Just so – yet how would you answer my questions? How will you discover what lies buried in the earth? Do you come to me for truth, lies, or esoteric wisdom?”

Living after the Lightning Strike

And you, what would you do if you were the seeker? Think about it – how would you answer those questions? They are key to the fusion of storytelling and sorcery, key to putting flesh on the dry bones which I am laying out even now. How would you behave if you were them?

How will you approach teaching that doesn’t look like teaching, and yet it is? Because all teaching does is allow you room to learn, and if you’re here reading this and the others in the series, then it’s perfectly obvious that you do indeed wish to learn, isn’t it?

I’ve given you exercises to get used to the raw format, the source material as it were. I’ve given you things to play with – with your body and your voice, and ways of noticing things that you might not have noticed before you began this.

A storyteller can take anything and weave it into a story – remember the rabbit and the hat? A sorcerer can do the necessary with next to no tools at all. They have the toolkit already, as you do.

In certain ceremonial magic circles, making tools and talismans is an essential part of the practice – you can’t go summoning angels or demons without your magical weapons or your temple-space. These things must be done first, before you even begin the business of the grimoires or Enochiana.

And you know what? I totally agree with that. Working from scratch is vital. Absolutely vital.

But you’ve probably noticed that I’m not a ceremonial magician – just a storyteller. Ultimately, everything you need to work comes from you – the tools are just extensions of that. That doesn’t mean that you are everything – on the contrary you are a very small piece of the puzzle, albeit an essential one.

And here’s the heart of it – working from scratch is vital, because that’s the only thing you have. A storyteller can tell themselves a story all they like, but ultimately, the magic happens when you let it out into the wild – when you connect beyond yourself.

All you can do is speak your words, sing your songs, write your lines – what happens after that happens in the privacy of someone else’s skull. As I’ve said before, it’s like throwing spaghetti at the wall to see if it sticks. The same applies in magic – you are still at the mercy of the wider kosmos.

It’s Wednesday. Wodensdaeg. Mittwoch. Midweek. And I have a story to tell you, on this most in-between of the 7 days of the week.

I know you’ve read that line before, heard the words before. I know because I wrote them, because I am only a storyteller. What I don’t know is vast, infinite in nature. I don’t know who you are, or what your last thought was, or what you said last, and to whom.

I don’t know what gods you honour, if any at all. I don’t know who you love, or who you hate. I don’t know how you vote, or what kind of sex you like.

And yet, I’m here with you now, writing these words, sending them out across the web, across the net, a voice speaking from out of the void. Because it needs doing, because it’s Wednesday and I am who and what I am. For no other reason than that.

Consider that for a second, would you?

Consider the seeker and the storyteller, and the day and the time and that I neither know who you are, and nor do I care. Consider the fact that there are things and people moving and being in the worlds that you know nothing of, and that they may live and die and laugh and love without ever knowing you exist.

It’s Wednesday. Wodensdaeg. Mittwoch. Midweek. And I have a story to tell you, on this most in-between of the 7 days of the week.

Imagine the smile of exhilaration – the way the emotion rises in your body, grips you in the chest and belly; how it tightens your throat and pulls your lips back as your heart begins to pound.

Can I get a Hallelujah?

Can I get a Hell Yes?

Can I get a Fuck Yeah?!

Of course I can. And even now, as you’re reading, maybe you’re wondering why the words make you remember, even lightly, as you’re parsing, as you’re recalling what they mean?

Imagine the grinning glee of it, the sheer unleashing of furious joy felt throughout everything you are. Because it’s not anything as pale as happiness, is it? It’s not as ordinary as contentment, it’s something else.

Go on, check out that emotion, that forked road of thought and memory that leads you there. Experience it fully – and really, since you’ve come this far, it’s pretty damn easy to open that door and let it in:

You’re all alone in the night, rising high above the land, as high as the rising sense of wonder and awe that comes ever on. And at your back, amidst the howling wind that blows through you, crisp and sharp and clear, you can hear a tree’s voice, groaning its song out to the wild.

It’s Wednesday. Wodensdaeg. Mittwoch. Midweek. And I have a story to tell you, on this most in-between of the 7 days of the week.

And you smile that smile. The one without words, the one that has no need of explanation. You know the one.

Because you are the beginning and the end. The creator and destroyer of worlds, the dreamer and maker and the shaper. The one with teeth and tongue, with sword and pen and word and blood.

Quickly now, before it passes, as it must – what will you do, right NOW?

This is part 4 of a series. Here are Part 1 & Part 2 &Part 3

bugs

Last week I promised I’d teach you how to pull a rabbit out of a hat, and I will, but first, here’s a question:

Are we having fun yet? Have you been playing with the exercises I’ve suggested, embracing them just for fun?

Because that’s the essence of learning, right there. It’s the essence behind the scientific method, which forms the bedrock of your entire world. It’s the essence behind any true intellectual and physical pursuit – the spirit of playful enquiry, the inquisitive eye of the child. Children are like sponges – they pick things up without even us noticing, take their cues from us and their environment.

Think about it – in a few short years, they learn a fluency with language and motion which, if they really thought about it, would astonish anyone. They go from squalling babes to beings that can use communication to make their wishes known. They learn to walk, to ride a bike, to use a pen and paintbrush; they constantly ask questions, curious, hungry to know about what catches their interest.

Then we stick them in school, and teach them that they need the right answer to gain praise – that not knowing is a bad thing – instead of the thing that inspires curiosity.

We’ve all had problems, difficulties even, in getting to grips with something – unless you’re lucky enough to be a genius, in which case I’ll come back to you! We’ve all struggled, thought we were ‘never going to get it’, and yet with hard work, we managed it.

Learning can be hard work, when you’re not a sponge. When you’re not capable of just sucking it in, soaking it up, absorbing everything, then things can get frustrating, right?

Except, you were a child, weren’t you? We all were. At one time, we were those sponges, we learnt like lightning. So what happened to that faculty of learning? We call kids innocent and carefree, right?

Both of those words boil down to a single concept:

To be free from sorrow, guilt or grief.

To be free from caring what happens.

Magicians talk about ‘lust of result’. You become so fixated on obtaining a particular thing that your operation at best falls over and doesn’t work, and at worst, burns your house down, so to speak.

(And sometimes literally – just ask a friend of mine about that.)

Children play for play’s sake. At the beginning, they learn for learning’s sake. They don’t do it to get good grades, to get good jobs and fat pay-cheques. So I’ll ask again – when did it stop being that way, for you?

If it never did, then congratulations, because you will find these ideas even easier to click with than the rest of us. And note that I said even easier there, because they are very easily clicked with and understood by you, even if you don’t realise it yet, for one simple reason.

That reason is really undeniable – because you’re still you. Because you still remember being a child, and because you know that at one point you didn’t know how to read, and now you do. Now you’re reading this, and there was a time when you didn’t know how – and you didn’t quite know how awesome the things you are still – as we speak – discovering by the written word would be, right?

Think about the how it felt as a child, to play, and how absorbing it was. Think about how you may get absorbed in books, films, tv, music – or even something so simple as washing the dishes. You are still capable of absorption, are you not?

Still capable of being that sponge, because you can still play. So keep that in mind, as we go on, because it’s important and we’re not quite geniuses yet.

Now, since this series is on Practical Storytelling & Sorcery, let’s ask ourselves, first and foremost, what kind of genius would be involved in that?

What kind of genius is that particular genius – the storytelling sorcerer who instinctively knows how to make those bare bones connect together, to breathe life where there was none before, to make them dance? The kind of being who is capable of spinning their tales, weaving their spells and changing worlds, minds and souls?

Do you remember Orpheus? The poet and musician who improved on a technology invented by a god? Do you not wonder what spirit moved him, what his voice sounded like as he delivered his charms?

How would it feel, to hear that song, to be charmed and ensorcelled by it – to be carried off, transported to another way of being?

A genius is capable of something wonderful – something amazing which places them in a class of their own.

So here’s where we get our hands dirty with the guts of language again – because well, just look:

genius (n.)

late 14c., “tutelary god (classical or pagan),” from Latin genius “guardian deity or spirit which watches over each person from birth; spirit, incarnation, wit, talent;” also “prophetic skill,” originally “generative power,” from root of gignere “beget, produce” (see kin), from PIE root *gen- “produce.” Sense of “characteristic disposition” is from 1580s. Meaning “person of natural intelligence or talent” and that of “natural ability” are first recorded 1640s.

Watches over from birth, indeed!

The bones is yours, dad. They came from you!”Part 2

Gordon has a lovely piece up on Twilight Language. You should read it all, but I’m sure he won’t mind me quoting a few lines:

‘In twilight language, the medium is the message. The sheer act of communication, of transmission, is what is important. Taken individually, or even taken by somebody else, the symbols are incomprehensible. If synchronicity is when the universe notices you noticing it, twilight language is how it says “hello, there!” immediately after.’

Children are adept at learning languages – they play with sounds, they babble, and they laugh. You did it, I did it. Everyone did it. In a sense, that play, that primordial experimentation, is the ur-tongue. That’s the pre-Adamic state – antediluvian innocence before we’re told we were naked, and should cover the hell up for morality’s sake.

Think about it – how many young children have you seen running about in your life, naked and uncaring. Maybe at the beach or or the swimming pool or somewhere, yes?

Which brings us to pulling rabbits out of hats, because I promised.

Previously, we’ve examined embodied concepts, and how that relates to the voice. You’ve made funny noises and played with funny postures, paying attention to how they feel. Now we get into the really interesting bits.

In order to pull a rabbit out of a hat, there must be a hat, a rabbit, and a you. The magic is in pulling a rabbit from an empty hat. Something from nothing, yes?

So, imagine yourself to be a magician, or even an ordinary person who has come across a magic hat. Really imagine it – see the brim and the fabric and the colour and the texture. Then, bow to the audience if you feel like it, and put your hand in the hat. Then, describe to your audience, imaginary or otherwise, how it feels to have suddenly found the rabbit in a hat.

Describe its warmth, the texture of its fur, the weight of it – and do this out loud and don’t stop. No matter what comes into your mind about this rabbit, you have to say it. You have to speak it into existence.

DON’T EDIT. KEEP TALKING.

Describe it as if you were the only one to know this rabbit exists, until you can feel it there beneath your hand, continually describing this damn rabbit and what it’s doing.

Then, when you’re ready, still talking, still describing, draw the rabbit out of the hat and put it beside the hat. Keep talking, keep speaking, keep describing whatever that rabbit does, in as much detail as you can.

It doesn’t matter if the rabbit pees on the table, or pulls out a carrot and says “What’s Up Doc?”, you have to keep talking – one word in front of another, no matter how ridiculous. Once again:

DON’T EDIT. KEEP TALKING.

If you stop talking, the rabbit ceases to be, and you’ll have to start all over again. Poor rabbit – you can stop talking whenever you like, but it depends on you to exist!

The key is, as ever, to keep talking. If you do this exercise several times, you’’l begin to notice certain things – they vary from person to person, but can include things like the words losing their meaning, or becoming aware of the underlying rhythm of your voice, or the rabbit acting differently than you expected – perhaps acting in unexpected ways, maybe even un-rabbit-like ways!

Once you’re enjoying exploring this, try something new – have that magic hat there, but begin describing the hat, putting your hand in etc, one word after the other as before. But instead of reaching for a rabbit, you’re going to pull something else out, and even you don’t know what it is!

Start from first principles – One thing, then the next, then the next. Don’t think about it, just feel it, just describe it. Again:

DON’T EDIT. KEEP TALKING.

The key with these exercises is to get used to speaking out loud, to disengaging the critical faculty here.

It doesn’t matter if you pull out multiple objects one after the other – you are like the magic hat. You can create anything. You’re like a child, just playing for the sake of it.

Again, it doesn’t matter what you produce, solely that you get used to the act of creation. To just letting go and seeing what happens, babbling happily on like a child, mucking around with raw clay and voice and breath.

Above all, the medium is the message as it were – none of this means anything. It simply is.

And it’s that isness, that raw essence, which is the material on which we work.

So we’ve touched on play, on learning, and the raw technical exercises I’ve outlined. By now you’ve probably noticed the metaphors and loops which will be propelling us on into next weeks post.

Maybe you’re beginning to feel the connections? Or maybe you’re what’s happened to our seeker and the storyteller whom we left back in Part 2?

Never fear – either way, I’ll see you next week.

On Wednesday.

 

 

 

 

 

This is part 3 of a series. Here are Part 1 & Part 2

How many of you tried out last week’s exercise, I wonder? How many of you really played around with the embodied sense of emotion, as I suggested? This isn’t a random question, or me wishing for more comments on the blog – quite to the contrary. It’s an interesting point that many people spend a lot of time intellectualising, in reading things like this, and not actually ‘getting around to it’.

Obviously life can be hectic, and things get busy – that’s understood. But there’s a difference between knowing intellectually and what, for consistency’s sake I’ll call ‘bone knowledge’.

The kind of thing that leads to such comments as “I could feel it in my bones.” Substitute bones for ‘water’ or ‘gut’ if you like, and yet, given the overall theme of this series, I’m sure you’ll understand why I use bones. Bones outlast flesh, outlast many things, and above are are a vital reminder of the constant change of the universe. They’re a memento mori – a reminder of your mortality. You don’t have all the time in the world, your alloted span is really rather short, as far as things go – and no matter how you might wish it otherwise. However you might wish to escape, that fact, you can’t really.

What I’m telling you is this – your body is the premier tool for both storytelling and sorcery. Sometimes, often in fact, props and tools are available to you, but your body is pretty much always there – you’re never going to be caught without your hands (unless you’ve lost them in an accident, in which case…this just got awkward to mention) but either way I am sure you get my drift. It is the one toolbox you always carry with you, no matter what.

Even if you’re of the stripe that believes you vacate your body completely during magical operations, there’s still the body to vacate in the first place. For this reason, the body is the central premise of any kind of of storytelling or sorcery, even simply as a vehicle interfaced with whatever whatever brand of consciousness theory you subscribe to. Even if such things are non-local in some quantum weirdness sense, experience shows that the meatsuit is pretty damn good at what it does, and is certainly better than nothing!

Which ties into use of the voice.

If you’ve played with the exercise in the last post, you’ll be aware just how much your body affects thought and action, as well as vice versa. The same thing applies to the voice as well. Below, I’ve listed the seven vowels of the Ancient Greek Alphabet to help you get to grips with things:

ALPHA – Ah
EPSILON – Eh
ETA – Ey/Ay
IOTA – Eee
OMICRON – O as in Hot
UPSILON – Oooo
OMEGA – Oh-(MEGA)

The pronunciation guide is rough, and you don’t have to say the word, just experiment with the tones of chanting the vowel, one by one, from ALPHA to OMEGA, and then back up again.

IMPORTANT NOTE: NEVER STRAIN. NEVER. YOUR VOICE IS AN INSTRUMENT. If you get a dry throat, or any soreness, STOP, drink some water, and rest.

Do this three times more, up and down, and as you’re doing so, notice which ones feel more potent to you. Which one resonates best for you. Notice whereabouts in your body that resonance occurs, and then focusing your attention on that area, do the same sequence again and notice what happens.

Each body and voice is individual – what’s comfortable for one, might not be comfortable for all. In general, I like to divide the body up into three – Head, Heart and Gut.

Head also includes the upper portions of the throat, while Heart includes most of the upper torso, with Gut including lower abdomen, genitals and legs (if you’re standing). Note that there is some overlap – think of your body being composed of three circles one on top of the other, overlapping slightly

Play with it again – try all seven in the Head area, and notice how it feels. Then do the Heart & Gut in turn. Notice the differences involved in sensation, and similarities. After a surprisingly short time, you’ll find that your voice actually uses your whole body, and with that use, you might begin to notice certain kinds of emotions, sensations or thoughts beginning to arise.

With work like this, it’s always good to have a notebook, and an attitude of experimentation. There’s no right answer at the moment, just exploration of your voice and body. It doesn’t matter how silly the thoughts or emotions arising are, make a note of them. Nothing is irrelevant – you’re learning to use the toolbox you were given at birth.

A NOTE ON BREATHING: Before beginning vocal work, I like to take some time to take some deep breaths and focus on my breathing before starting. I breathe in through my nose, and out of my mouth, with a hold of 3 count – so that works out like this:

Exhale for a count of three – Hold for three -Inhale for three – Hold for three – Exhale for three.

I usually perform three or nine cycles of that before beginning work, and after finishing as well. I find it helps to remind your body of its rhythms.

Now, I use the Greek vowel-tones because they have more nuance than the standard English five, and nuance is important when conveying information. You may have noticed that there are seven of them, and perhaps you know that there were seven planets acknowledged by the Ancient Greeks. These went as follows:

Sun
Moon
Mercury
Venus
Mars
Jupiter
Saturn

Now, as astute people, you will note that the names of these heavenly bodies have a variety of provenances, and there doesn’t seem to be a Greek in sight. That’s OK, you can blame the Romans for that. All of them, mythologically speaking have Greek equivalents.

Sun – Helios (later Apollo)
Moon – Selene
Mercury – Hermes
Venus – Aphrodite
Mars – Ares
Jupiter – Zeus
Saturn – Kronos

7 planets, 7 deities, and 7 vowels. Lucky 7. Crowley’s book of Qabbalistic correspondences was named Liber 777, did you know that?

The Ancient Greeks have some of the best known stories on the planet, some of the best known poets too. Homer, Sappho, Orpheus, Pherecydes of Leros, and his namesake in Sydos. So many years long dead, that they’re all mythical. All stories.

Do you know about Orpheus? They say he could charm the very rocks and trees themselves, and he descended into the underworld to claim his wife. It’s to his hymns we turn then, in this next stage – written at least six centuries before Christ.

You can find translations of them here, but I’ll reproduce the one to Hermes below, it being a Wednesday and all:

[27] XXVII. TO MERCURY [HERMES]

The Fumigation from Frankincense.

Hermes, draw near, and to my pray’r incline, angel of Jove [Zeus], and Maia’s son divine;
Studious of contests, ruler of mankind, with heart almighty, and a prudent mind.
Celestial messenger, of various skill, whose pow’rful arts could watchful Argus kill:
With winged feet, ’tis thine thro’ air to course, O friend of man, and prophet of discourse:
Great life-supporter, to rejoice is thine, in arts gymnastic, and in fraud divine:
With pow’r endu’d all language to explain, of care the loos’ner, and the source of gain.
Whose hand contains of blameless peace the rod, Corucian, blessed, profitable God;
Of various speech, whose aid in works we find, and in necessities to mortals kind:
Dire weapon of the tongue, which men revere, be present, Hermes, and thy suppliant hear;
Assist my works, conclude my life with peace, give graceful speech, and me memory’s increase.

The above is a call to Hermes, who the Romans called Mercury – it is a recounting of his mythic deeds and qualities. It calls to burn Frankincense, which has been found to be mildly psychoactive.

Now, consider the connections we have outlined above. Read the hymn, not for the strange language or formal translation but the imagery itself. Consider the vowels and the planets and the god.

Now read it again, out loud, using your knowledge of your voice’s resonance and your body.

Read it from the Head. See what happens, and how it feels.

Read it from the Heart, and do the same.

Then read it from the Gut.

I’m certain you’ll notice a difference – a difference in sensation, and that you’ll be able to feel which version fits you, the hymn, your voice and body.

And when you do, try and follow that sensation and experience it fully. See what happens to your posture, your sense of self. Experiment again, and you’ll soon learn the associations your body has with the language of the hymn and the way it feels right to you to speak it.

The right way to express Hermes, from your bones on out. You’ll be surprised by the results, I guarantee – if you actually perform the experiments I’ve outlined in this series, that is.

Next week, we’ll tie all this together with storytelling, and I’ll tell you how to pull a rabbit out of a hat!

PS – If you’re feeling keen, try these techniques with the other hymns corresponding to the gods. Note down what you get – it’ll be useful later, trust me.