Marvel-ous Star.Ships

And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.
Kubla Khan, Samuel Taylor Coleridge

In a way, it’s fitting that my first post after the blog’s return from being hacked is written under the influence of morphine. After all, mankind has enjoyed a close, if somewhat fraught relationship with the poppy, for thousands of years.

Whether that be out in Afghanistan, China, the opium dens of Britain and America, or even the Romantic poets and the Victorians with their laudanum and other preparations, it’s been around for a long, long time. It’s in my particular system for health reasons which I shan’t go into here, but suffice to say the last few months have not  been particularly pleasant.

Why do I bring this up? Possibly, to explain the nature of this post, and to ask for some forgiveness if yr. humble correspondent strays from the paths of relevancy. Yet also to mention that, though it took me weeks to read, my conciousness ebbing and flowing, my attention wavering from print after only a few moments like the proverbial stoned ape, I really enjoyed Gordon’s first book.

In case you didn’t know, that’s Star.Ships: A Prehistory Of The Spirits and it’s really good. Like, 2001-monolith good. Somehow, Gordon’s managed to distil down a slab of something which, if you approach it with an open mind, might very well give you some new ground to recontextualise myth amd magic. Let it into your brain and see where you end up.

But this isn’t a review. No, this is – actually I don’t know what this is,  but I was occasionally nicknamed Coleridge at university, so you’ll have to forgive my fugue and put up with a sort of juxtapositional quotefest:

WE ARE THE WITCHCRAFT. We are the oldest organization in the world. When man was born, we were. We sang the first cradle song. We healed the first wound, we comforted the first terror. We were the Guardians against the Darkness, the Helpers on the Left Hand Side. Rock drawings in the Pyrenees remember us, and little clay images, made for an old purpose when the world was new. Our hand was on the old stone circles, the monolith, the dolmen, and the druid oak. We sang the first hunting songs, we made the first crops to grow; when man stood naked before the Powers that made him, we sang the first chant of terror and wonder. We wooed among the Pyramids, watched Egypt rise and fall, ruled for a space in Chaldea and Babylon, the Magian Kings. We sat among the secret assemblies of Israel, and danced the wild and stately dances in the sacred groves of Greece.
(John Whiteside Parsons, We Are The Witchcraft)

And:

Before we knew how to farm, before we lived in villages, before we even knew how to make pots, we built a star temple on a hill. The simplicity of this statement belies its astounding implications. […] We did not build Göbekli Tepe in Southeastern Turkey because a surplus of stored food allowed a priestly class to emerge and tell us make-believe stories. We did not monitor the movements of the stars because it told us when to plant crops, because we weren’t planting crops.We built Göbekli Tepe because it expressed something about ourselves and our place in the universe. The temple complex restores the quest for meaning to its preeminent place atop the goals of human life. Philosophy is rescued from being a mere nighttime hobby of farmers to being the defining human trait, that which we value most. This is what the site’s discoverer, Dr Klaus Schmidt, means when he says that the cathedral predates the city. It may well have been the coming together for spiritual reasons that birthed settled cultures, rather than the other way around.”
Star.Ships: A Prehistory Of The Spirits, Gordon White

 

Jack_Parsons_2

All very well you might say. But who is this John Whiteside Parsons? Originally born as Marvel Whiteside Parsons, named after his father who left, and then latterly becoming known as John?

Around here, we call him Jack Motherfucking Parsons. Look him up. You’ll find he has a crater on the dark side of the moon named after him, helped found what became NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, worked Ritual Magic with L Ron Hubbard – yes, that L Ron Hubbard, and blew himself up in a lab explosion. This is the guy who looks so terrifyingly like the father of Tony Stark (Marvel Comics IRON MAN) that I swear it’s one of those Things.

Why do I bring this up? Because as well as introducing Grady McMurtry to Thelema, he is instrumental in our attempts to get. To. The. Stars. A scientist, Thelemite, magician, libertine, who gave us jet fuel and Solid Rocket Boosters. Like Dee he had a dodgy partner – L Ron was his Kelley in some senses. There are even the wife swapping parallels.

Now, no disrespect to my Thelemic chums, but if the OTO had as much pull and celebrity influence as the Church of Scientology does/did, perhaps it might be further along with the whole Thelemic worldwide project, eh?  But, no matter.

Therefore our name is Lucifer. We are on the side of freedom, of love, of joy and laughter and divine drunkenness. Therefore our name is Babalon.

Sometimes we move openly, sometimes in silence and in secret. Night and day are one to us, calm and storm, seasons and the cycles of man, all these things are one, for we are at the roots. Supplicant we stand before the Powers of Life and Death, and are heard of these Powers, and avail. Our way is the secret way, the unknown direction. Our way is the way of the serpent in the underbrush, our knowledge is in the eyes of goats and of women. (Parsons, Ibid)

And:

“While Laurasia may be the ‘containing narrative’ for Western magic, many of its spirits are at least Gondwanan and potentially Pan-Gaean. You can even make the case – and I do – that ‘true’ Western magic, devoid of its much, much later onboarding of Neoplatonism, is a practical application of a Pan-Gaean world-view: God may exist but its existence is materially irrelevant; the Trickster/Devil is the gatekeeper and lord of culture; and it is recourse to local spirits and the dead by way of sacrifice that is the most commonly performed action. The witch is a very old woman and she has been on a long, long walk.” (White, Ibid)

It’s been interesting, hasn’t it, the discussion of the Devil in various blogs, within Wicca and Witchcraft? Even Llewellyn has authors getting in on the act too. Somewhere I can hear a chuckle as a Wanderer throws up the horns, walking along the corpse-paths of starry night. And then there’s the film, The Witch: Black Philip and the dark woods:, all warm-mouthed and living deliciously, hot buttered young crumpet and old hag dancing in Sabbattic Nightflight.

Ochre-red handprints, human and otherwise, pressed on the stone roof, the curvature of the Earth propelling us Down and Into Abyssal Starry Gulfs amongst the immortal, feral dead – all unbound, justified and ancient. Uttering barbarous words that are no words in any mortal tongue because they’re the language of the shining angels, the black and hungry birds. Lucifer – Light-bringer. Morning Star The name for Venus. High in the heavens and within her Sibylic Mound within the Earth.

The combination of the bird – most often the vulture – and the head is repeated several times throughout the entire site. During the 2012 season, a larger-than-lifesize, realistic human head in the talons of a large bird was discovered in a deep sounding trench in the main excavation area. This is an image that is well-known from Nevali Çori and is thus highly suggestive of the continuation of ‘headlessness’ and the special significance of the head from the deep Palaeolithic into the post-agricultural era. Other carved heads have been discovered in the fill of various enclosures, and are curiously evocative of some comparatively nearby cultic practices in Jericho, ‘Ain Ghazal and Tell Aswad, where human skulls were removed from corpses and given new faces made from gypsum plaster before being installed in ancestral shrines. As far back as 26,000 years ago (doubling the distance between Göbekli Tepe and us), graves where the skulls have been painted with red ochre are found. From the same era, the Gravettian graves – found across Europe – often contain headless skeletons or sometimes just skulls. (White, Ibid)

This is the monolith. The single stone. Except it’s not single. Not at all.
gobekli
No more than Crowley and Coleridge had their problems with opiates alone – the former, heroin, the latter laudanum. No more than I have a precisely calibrated slow release of morphine sulphate movng through my bloodstream even now, prescribed by healers whose ancestors once dreamt in caves and earned the wisdom of the pharmakon from the spirits. No more than years ago, when the hunters and the gatherers came together and met and talked and told grandmother stories, and grandfather stories. No more when serpents and eagles and scorpions wheeled above them and writhed against stone pillars, when the memories of all the Floods that ever were, sluiced through minds primed for the remembrance of times lost.

We are the Witchcraft, and although one may not know another, yet we are united by an indissoluble bond. And when the high wild cry of the eagle sounds in your mind, know that you are not alone in your desire for freedom. And when the howl of the wolf echoes in the forests of your night, know that there are those who also prowl. And when the ways of your fellows about you seem the ways of idiocy and madness, know that there are also others who have seen and judged – and acted. (Parsons)

To place things in context – nobody is talking about a single Ur-text, no singular method of hierarchical transmission. The words and phrases, Gondwana, Laurasia, antediluvian – these are mere placeholders. No early twentieth century Perennialism here. No nineteenth century Murrayist Old Religion which requires slavish reconstructionism. The palm tree becomes oak, becomes ash. The mundus imaginalis, in all its intermediary intercessory wonder, reaches out. There have been a hundred Atlantises, a thousand – the wisdom teachers who carry the memories of a drowned land are legion, because of the nature of stories  and Being. Because there have been events and times which must be kept as doorways, preserved as the very vessels which carry us to the realm of the stars.

As above, so below is not merely some comment on the tendency of humans to plot the movements of the heavenly bodies. Nor is it solely a statement on the holographic, holistic nature of so-called reality. It is an aid to memory, a signpost to communion. For it says that the stars are not, have never been, apart from us. That stellar chthonic realm, that endless arching curve of the velvet heavens, is us.

The way up is the way down. That constellation of Tricksters with ten thousand faces, those daemonic culture heroes – strange-grifters all. That legion of daemons led by some hoary-headed thing of laughter, wonder and terror. That feral band of night-dancers, terrible in its singular gravity, curving space and time, twisting it into lemiscate knots to hover above the heads of charlatans.

There’s an awful marvel here, friends.

marvel (n.)Look up marvel at Dictionary.comc. 1300, “miracle,” also “wonderful story or legend,” from Old French merveille “a wonder, surprise, miracle,” from Vulgar Latin *miribilia (also source of Spanish maravilla, Portuguese maravilha, Italian maraviglia), altered from Latin mirabilia “wonderful things,” from neuter plural of mirabilis“wonderful, marvelous, extraordinary; strange, singular,” from mirari “to wonder at,” from mirus “wonderful” (see smile). A neuter plural treated in Vulgar Latin as a feminine singular.

miracle (n.)Look up miracle at Dictionary.commid-12c., “a wondrous work of God,” from Old French miracle (11c.) “miracle, story of a miracle, miracle play,” from Latin miraculum “object of wonder” (in Church Latin, “marvelous event caused by God”), from mirari “to wonder at, marvel, be astonished,” figuratively “to regard, esteem,” from mirus“wonderful, astonishing, amazing,” earlier *smeiros, from PIE *smei- “to smile, laugh” (cognates: Sanskrit smerah “smiling,” Greek meidan “to smile,” Old Church Slavonic smejo “to laugh;” see smile (v.)).

From mid-13c. as “extraordinary or remarkable feat,” without regard to deity. Replaced Old English wundortacen, wundorweorc. The Greek words rendered as miracle in the English bibles were semeion “sign,” teras “wonder,” and dynamis “power,” in Vulgate translated respectively as signum,prodigium, and virtus. The Latin word is the source of Spanish milagro, Italian miracolo.

smile (v.)Look up smile at Dictionary.comc. 1300, perhaps from Middle Low German *smilen or a Scandinavian source (such as Danish smile “smile,” Swedish smila “smile, smirk, simper, fawn”), from Proto-Germanic *smil-, extended form of PIE root *smei- “to laugh, smile” (cognates: Old English smerian “to laugh at, scorn,” Old High Germansmieron “to smile,” Latin mirus “wonderful,” mirari “to wonder”). Related: Smiled; smiling.
wundortacen, wundorweorc.  Signs and wonders. Powers and portents.

Because it was never about us. Never. The human was never the centre of the universe. Instead, that central point, that crossing place, that axis mundi which has wizards and wonderworkers trapped in trees or hanged from them? That place of dismemberment and reconstitution that makes worlds, the place where angels descend and shining folk take us apart and put us back together so that we may see anew with ancient eyes?

That is where we stand. Only in that meeting, in that moment. That’s the doorway to eternity.

I shall let you into a secret, dear friends. This has taken me days to write. Days to put the letters next to each other. (Morphine, you understand.)

Yet, you’ll read it as a whole thing, a complete object. You’ll never see the false starts, the moments lost, staring blankly at the screen, while raw emotion and wordless thought crashed together like waves of an ocean. You’ll never see it unless I let you, unless I show you. The logic of it, of Gordon’s book, meets William Blake in my mind.

Jerusalem, the emanation of the giant Albion. The shining city of Imagination upon a hill. They made a hymn about it, but so many thought they were speaking of a desert place, a distant place.

And did those feet in ancient time,
Walk upon England’s mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On England’s pleasant pastures seen?  – From Milton: A Poem by  William Blake.

A question there then, from Blake. Did Jesus, the living divinity long held distant in time, walk these shores? Did Milton, with his tale of the fallen Lucifer, the descending rebel angel, serve as Virgil to Blake’s Dante? And if Lucifer the Lightbringer is applied not only to Jesus, but to Nimrod, the Mighty Hunter – what then?

If there is a Meeting Place, then there are Meeting Places. Multiple, Plural. Altars, shrines, holy places. Tapu places. Places you don’t want to go at certain times lest you be taken Under The Hill into those timeless fairy realms. Places that exist that way, not because of superstition but because of memory, but because of the wyrd interconnected nature of things.

This has taken days to write, as I have said.

While this place was down, I’ve been on and off tumblr, and I became aware that apparently, some folks think analysis is antithetical to chaos magic. I mention this, because of Jack Parsons. Because of the calculations and the mathematics of John Dee. Because of the curvature of the earth and the raising of the stones and the movements of the stars. Because of the teaching of herblore and surgery and healing and harming. I mention this because Gordon runs a chaos magic blog and talks about experimentation and results, and floods and geopolymers used to build the pyramids in his book.

>I mention this because when we come together at that meeting place to share stories and ideas, when we cast our minds back to ancient lands where ancestral grains lie, the grandfather of the strains which give you bread today, we find that the division is not there. We find the cathedral instead, the star temple. We find magic, not as an exclusive thing of bits and pieces, but as whole fabric. We find it born when high wyrd meets the human mind, and in reaction, like a body breaking out in hives, we find culture, that attempt to grasp to shape, to understand, to acquaint, to have knowledge of.

Humans it seems, by our nature, are a Gnostic species. While we cannot speak for our cousins the hobbits, or the Neanderthals or the Denisovians, we can nonetheless find them in our DNA. We knew them, biblically, Gnostically. We found these Others, and we met them, and now we carry them with us through time.

This has taken days to write, periods of time. Of comings and goings. Yet you are seeing, reading, only one thing. Which is the truth of the matter? Knowing my opiatic status, my poppy process, what changes? I live in the 21st century. I was born towards the end of the twentieth. Yet, I’ve lost count of the times I’ve uttered the words from the Greek Magical Papyri, barbarous names from 350CE and centuries before. Lost count of the times I have called upon the Headless One, with mouth aflame.

Brueghel-tower-of-babel

Gordon again:

In a compelling example of the sort of non-human logic described at the opening of this chapter, we have the Headless Rite. Straddling the modern and supremely ancient world, it is an invocation of an asterism that led tribes across the globe for tens of millennia, that had ‘headless’ star temples raised in honour of it and its consort where hunters would feast, take drugs and learn the skills of grain cultivation, that became associated with stellar immortality (and still grain) to such an extent that great stone maps of it were built upon the earth. In a transparently shamanic survival, alignment with this asterism conferred kingship over the realm of the spirits. So potent was the initiatory power of headlessness – to have one’s head in another realm – that it has survived into two of the three great religions of the Near East in the form of John the Baptist, who ‘initiates’ Christ and thus brings that same promise of victory over death back down to earth.How or why could you possibly improve on that? There is no need to toddle off to Devon for a ‘shamanic initiation’ weekend. The blood spilled at Göbekli Tepe still stains the Headless Rite’s words of power. Speak them.

 In those moments then, there is and always was, a communion. A connexion which is transpersonal, transtemporal. In those moments then, I do not touch the Old Religion. For there is no Old Religion, just a tribe of apes having their bodyminds blown to smithereens. The Religion & Science comes after in a desperate attempt understand, and all one can leave behind are reports of the signs and wonders, the bones and ribs of fallen starships wrecked on the shores of time. The myths are memory, the prophets learning the tales well enough to integrate them into their body and blood so very intimately that uttering them opens a pathway, raises the wreck of those vessels.

The severed head becomes the doorway, the ancestral stream, and we find that City, that Star Temple on a Hill, waiting for us in whatever clothes we need. This is not about some unbroken lineage. Rather it’s that the things which found lineages and make connexions never went away. 

The Gnostic impulse is always with us.

Pasty

Read the rest of this entry

On Stories

This was originally a comment on Facebook, but I’m preserving it here, because it’s important to remember and things get lost:

The whole ‘hero of our own story’ thing is also bullshit modern Western enculturation. I love Joe Campbell as much as the next guy, but the monomyth is just a cultural comparison tool. We are not solo-creatures, not individuals at all. The narratives which are our lives are merely portions of a greater saga, one that includes our ancestors and (potential) descendants.

There’s a fundamental misapprehension of what stories are, borne of the false idea that story=fiction, when instead what it is, is a recounting of events. When we start thinking like that, then the stories of indigenous cultures are once again understood not to be simply metaphorical, but a fundamental way, in a very precise and particular way, of transmitting and refreshing vital information to a people.

This is why the recounting of a particular story or ritual not only passes on information, but reconnects the participants, or story-teller and audience with the primordial world of the powers, allowing them to participate and maintain the ties which hold their universe together.

Thus, there’s a fundamental difference in perspective – your experience, your personal narrative is not solely personal but trans-personal. It exists because all of those who wove their actions together, consciously and unconsciously to create a place for ‘you’ to emerge.

Without that understanding, things get fucked up. We get beings thinking they can do what they like, without consequences, believing in lie of endless progress that does not need to connect to the wisdom of the landscape, heart and soul. We get beings who slaughter people who believe this way, or call them savage and seek to ‘educate’ them in schools and destroy their culture, or label it a ‘life-style’ choice instead of what makes us human.

 

Most magicians/spirit-workers/witches/occultists (a large proportion of those who self-identify as such in the West) do not realise that a fundamental longterm change in epistemology, ontology, ‘conciousness’ and awareness is necessary and inevitable if you’re not just playing mental masturbation games.

You are – you become – pitted against fundamental logocentric, trancendentalist/escapist  ‘progressive’ and materialist ontology which forms the basis of Western culture, which requires massive deconditioning to even achieve.. It’s not just about going ‘into trance’ or ‘doing astral work.’

You can’t switch it on and off – it’s not yours to switch off, to lock away when things become uncomfortable. Not just your personal fantasy playground. It’s bigger than you, wilder than you, and it will fuck you up. When indigenous societies say this shit can kill you, or drive you mad or steal your soul?

They’re completely fucking right. That’s not just ‘primitive superstition’ but a fact of existence in a living Kosmos. It’s not a fucking role-playing game, any more than a disaster-porn movie is anything like a real tsunami or a nuclear explosion or an asteroid strike.

So the question is – are you prepared to risk everything you think you are, to take your place in this Weird and Terribly Awful universe?

Would you know more, or what?

VI amidst stones from 4 milennia ago

This post comes with a warning that it might appear contradictory. That’s not just because I’m a contrary sod, but is in fact because I intend to challenge some fundamental assumptions about certain concepts.

I am, in case you didn’t realise, a cripple. This a self-identifying term which has arisen out of pejorative connotations applied to a simple linguistic description of fact – for some people, it’s an offensive term, and they would rather it not be used to describe them.

Which is completely fine, for them. Everyone can make their own decision about whether they are comfortable about using pejorative slurs as reclaimed statements of identity, or not.  In my case, I’m fond of the etymology involved.

cripple (n.) Look up cripple at Dictionary.comOld English crypel, related to cryppan “to crook, bend,” from Proto-Germanic *krupilaz (cognates: Old Frisian kreppel, Middle Dutch cropel, German krüppel, Old Norse kryppill). Possibly also related to Old English creopan “to creep” (creopere, literally “creeper,” was another Old English word for “crippled person”).

creep (v.) Look up creep at Dictionary.comOld English creopan “to creep” (class II strong verb; past tense creap, past participle cropen), from Proto-Germanic *kreupan (cognates: Old Frisian kriapa, Middle Dutch crupen, Old Norse krjupa “to creep”), perhaps from a PIE root *g(e)r- “crooked” [Watkins]. Related: Crept; creeping.

creeper (n.) Look up creeper at Dictionary.comOld English creopera “one who creeps,” agent noun from creep (v.). Also see creep (n.). Meaning “lice” is from 1570s; of certain birds from 1660s; of certain plants from 1620s.

creep (n.) Look up creep at Dictionary.com“a creeping motion,” 1818, from creep (v.). Meaning “despicable person” is 1935, American English slang, perhaps from earlier sense of “sneak thief” (1914). Creeper “a gilded rascal” is recorded from c. 1600, and the word also was used of certain classes of thieves, especially those who robbed customers in brothels. The creeps “a feeling of dread or revulsion” first attested 1849, in Dickens.

There’s a root concept here, a principle of bentness, crookedness which is associated with abnormal modes of movement and bodily existence which translates directly into conceptions of wrongness.

wrong (adj.) Look up wrong at Dictionary.comlate Old English, “twisted, crooked, wry,” from Old Norse rangr, earlier *wrangr “crooked, wry, wrong,” from Proto-Germanic *wrang- (cognates: Danish vrang “crooked, wrong,” Middle Dutch wranc, Dutch wrang “sour, bitter,” literally “that which distorts the mouth”), from PIE *wrengh-, variant of *wergh- “to turn” (see wring).

Sense of “not right, bad, immoral, unjust” developed by c. 1300. Wrong thus is etymologically a negative of right (adj.1), which is from Latin rectus, literally “straight.” Latin pravus was literally “crooked,” but most commonly “wrong, bad;” and other words for “crooked” also have meant “wrong” in Italian and Slavic. Compare French tort “wrong, injustice,” from Latin tortus “twisted.”

wring (v.) Look up wring at Dictionary.comOld English wringan “press, strain, wring, twist” (class III strong verb; past tense wrang, past participle wrungen), from Proto-Germanic *wreng- (cognates: Old English wringen “to wring, press out,” Old Frisian wringa, Middle Dutch wringhen, Dutchwringen “to wring,” Old High German ringan “to move to and fro, to twist,” German ringen “to wrestle”), from PIE *wrengh-, nasalized variant of *wergh- “to turn,” from root *wer- (3) “to turn, bend” (see versus). To wring (one’s) hands “press the hands or fingers tightly together (as though wringing)” as an indication of distress or pain is attested from c. 1200.

And the thing is, I am twisted, I have skeletal deformity and muscular spasticity which has pulled me in abnormal directions. This turning from the straight,  righteous conception is a mark of difference – a signifier that such existence is minority in nature, an edge case on the curve of the normal distribution. If one were to draw the bell curve, one would find the crooked, crippled and bent on the outside edge of the curve.

640px-The_Normal_Distribution.svg

We can see, however, that the inside/outside dichotomy, while dualistic and inherently self-referential, nonetheless has importance because it illustrates that there is no single term, variable or item, which constitutes the norm. Rather, it’s a range of values  which coalesce under the curved umbrella of an idea. It’s the level of intensity, of extremity, which flips the switch and turns an analogue, organic range into a binary, digital state.

The markers of difference are that which produce affect – that induce a recognised change of state in perception, which is to say that which makes one thing suddenly into another. These markers are specifically interesting within a polytheistic and oral culture. The cult epithets of a deity or spirit, their associations, weapons, or armaments, are specific items which affect those who interact with them. Thus, in the case of so-called ‘disabled’ deities – Hephaistos for the Greeks, Odin and Tyr for the Norse, Nuada or Lludd for the Irish and Welsh, their ‘disabilities’ were in fact, markers of their difference, expressions of their numinous power.

Hephaistos the Lame, Odin the One Eyed/Blind, Tyr the One Handed, Nuada of the Silver Arm, Lludd of the Silver Hand.

Rather than being slurs, they were simple statements of fact which came along with the presence, the very Being of that deity. This is why it is important to consider these cultic titles (heiti in Old Norse) on their own merits – the modern connotations and political notions applied to them often detract from these powerful Gnostic portals, doorways into deeper knowings and Mysteries. This is also to say nothing of the potential representation that those who we might consider ‘disabled’ today might have gained, or the affinity they may have felt or gained with their deity’s epithet.

RingWoden1-thumb

II

Angel Millar, over at People of Shambala, has an interesting article entitled Who Killed Buddha-Nature? The Outsider in an Age of Consumer Radicalism which, while I’m not sure I agree with all of it, raises some extremely valid points about the way the norm eventually devours the outsider, particularly  in regards to political dissent and identity politics. This is not a modern phenomenon either – the Roman Empire eventually co-opted the Germanic tribes as vassal states or foederati.

At first glance, particularly given what we’ve already discussed, outsider status seems conditional in the modern world. One is either placed there, or one makes a deliberate effort to extricate oneself. Oftentimes, for marginalised populations, it becomes a simple matter of survival – one seeks to avoid oppression or mitigate suffering, and this is, in itself, completely understandable. The gravity and attendant influence that comes with being part of the in-group as distinct from the out-group, has beloved by psychologists, anthropologists, and naturalists for generations. It’s quite clear that there benefits in operating within the boundaries of a society after all – were it not so then outlawry and excommunication would not and could not have functioned as useful deterrents and punishments.

There is something to be said for the idea that  if you can afford to rebel, you don’t actually need to. And if you need to rebel, you can’t afford to.

Certainly, there are those whose position is enforced by the status quo, and who cannot hope to go toe to toe with that very same. The very nature of the status quo is that it expends resources to structure existence in a very particular way. For those without the resources to extricate themselves, the possibility of rebellion seems laughable. However, recognition of this asymmetrical position is the start of a fundamental change of understanding. To quote Ernst Junger:

“A forest passage followed a banishment; through this action a man declared his will to self-affirmation from his own resources.”

At first glance, this seems to be a paen to self-sufficiency – precisely the kind of thing those who are enmeshed in the coils of the status quo can ill afford. But, and allow me to quote myself here, from my own post on Junger from earlier in the year:

Note that this not some Libertarian survivalist individualism, some off-grid anti-government fantasy. No, this is a banishment, an exile. Those who are going into-the-forest are now asocial – the mechanisms and processes of their existence, internally and externally, are different to those of society by necessity of survival.  The metrics and methodologies by which they navigate the world are completely different; the social stimuli, the call and response, the hoops you have to jump through with all their etiquette and nuance, do not serve you in the forest. There is a reason prisoners and soldiers often have trouble reintegrating with society – when they were Elsewhere, different necessities applied.

What’s more, there are those who have always dwelt in the forest, or on its edges. Not through choice, but because they have always been there since birth – and indeed, in many mythologies, it is the forest dwellers who counsel and train the exile in the ways of the forest and its Mysteries. Encounters with these sylvan folk, these mad prophets, wizards, witches and fey monsters are what pass on occult and gnostic powers to the protagonists of the myths.

This then, brings the lie to the notion of self-sufficiency. Those who are exiled die, or survive. This is the bald fact of existence, Those who do survive however, are not isolated figures locked up in ivory towers. On the contrary they become adepts, learned in the ways of the  forest, not in an extractive context, but in fact in a symbiotic fashion. The division between hunter and hunted dissolves  – instead both are merely forest dwellers, each one an individual expression of the forest’s vitality in a unique form.

The forest dweller recognises themselves, not in contradistinction to the forest, but as part of it – not superior or inferior in any manner. The relational hierarchy is not one of top-downess or transcendence, but of upwelling and immanence, passages and methods of existence spreading like root and branch. By recognising that they serve a unique purpose in themselves, what may be considered a rebellion or deviation is an actual commitment to the core vitalistic wellspring from which emerges the sense of Selfhood, which constantly shift and flows. We are always coming-together-with-and-breaking-apart. It’s impossible not to be a mere part of a larger, manifold system.

As part of this inward-and-backward-turning  we may appear to diverge from the norm even further – and here, etymology is again instructive:

versus (prep.) Look up versus at Dictionary.commid-15c., in legal case names, denoting action of one party against another, from Latin versus “turned toward or against,” from past participle of vertere (frequentative versare) “to turn, turn back, be turned, convert, transform, translate, be changed,” from PIE *wert- “to turn, wind,” from root *wer- (3) “to turn, bend” (cognates: Old English -weard “toward,” originally “turned toward,” weorthan “to befall,” wyrd “fate, destiny,” literally “what befalls one;” Sanskrit vartate “turns round, rolls;” Avestan varet-“to turn;” Old Church Slavonic vrŭteti “to turn, roll,” Russian vreteno “spindle, distaff;” Lithuanian ver čiu “to turn;” Greek rhatane “stirrer, ladle;” German werden, Old English weorðan “to become” (for sense, compare turn into); Welsh gwerthyd “spindle, distaff;” Old Irish frith “against”).

rebel (adj.) Look up rebel at Dictionary.comc. 1300, from Old French rebelle “stubborn, obstinate, rebellious” (12c.) and directly from Latin rebellis “insurgent, rebellious,” from rebellare “to rebel, revolt,” from re- “opposite, against,” or perhaps “again” (see re-) + bellare “wage war,” from bellum “war.

re- Look up re- at Dictionary.comword-forming element meaning “back to the original place; again, anew, once more,” also with a sense of “undoing,” c. 1200, from Old French and directly from Latin re- “again, back, anew, against,” “Latin combining form conceivably from Indo-European*wret-, metathetical variant of *wert- “to turn” [Watkins]. Often merely intensive, and in many of the older borrowings from French and Latin the precise sense of re- is lost in secondary senses or weakened beyond recognition. OED writes that it is “impossible to attempt a complete record of all the forms resulting from its use,” and adds that “The number of these is practically infinite ….” The Latin prefix became red- before vowels and h-, as in redact, redeem, redolent, redundant.

This movement, cycling back, as it were, places us within the context of rebellion, not for its own sake, but as  a by-product. One rebels, without trying. Precisely because such rebellion is not constructed within the direct terms of the status quo, it is often regarded as not a direct challenge. Rather, it is associated with strange weirdness – weird being of course a modern formation of the ancient wyrd.

This  provides a hint – rather than rebellion-as-escape it is akin to the Nietzschean amor fati, or the Scandinavian root of doom.

Mysterious Shepherds

III

We are conditioned, culturally and to some extent biologically, to wish to move. To move to the next thing after we have got the previous done. Consumption itself  requires there to be more which is consumed – we are driven to accumulate resources, in whatever form they may be, for the process of extraction, processing etc. We need more food, more water, on the most basic level. This is simple physics – the coming together and breaking apart of form and function occurs at the most basic atomic level.

So it’s no surprise that we continually seek ‘fuel’ to maintain our inner furnaces which carry out the basic processes of life, to maintain our minds and bodies. The most efficient way to do so is to distribute resource collection – this is why society exists – groupings which enable the most useful recovery for the benefit of all. We are thusly socialised and enculturated by the emergent properties of the culture we inhabit – we absorb its mores, its structures and patterns. This enables us to survive.

However, there are those who are, through no fault of their own, unable to absorb and integrate those patterns. Whether this is a quirk of physiology, consciousness or some other property, it does not really matter. By necessity, they are forced to find their own methodology of survival – their own way of interacting with the larger systems and processes of existence. This then, is the essential quality – the individual themselves, returning to the most primordial of necessities. Driven by survival – which is to say their own personal, primordial impulse towards and expression of Life – they discover a way of Being which enables them to exist, either amidst society or beyond it.

This is to say that the kosmic fire, called Agni by some or Heralitan fire by others, iluminates them in such a way that they may serve as a beacon of another way to Be. It is this illumination which draws others to them, this bloodlight  by which they may find new ways and paths for others around them. They are not self-sufficient in the sense that they eschew the presence of others, but rather, their sense of Beingness provides them with an endless source of refreshment – which is to say that whatever befalls them may in fact, serve as fuel.

Thus they have no particular need  for any pre-existing condition, because all that occurs may serve to strengthen their inner flame – just as Heraclitus held that all things eventually returned to Fire.

One therefore begins the process in a manner that seems contradictory, as warned at the beginning of this post – the human tendency towards constant movement and novelty must be re-organised, re-cognised and re-purposed – in effect turned back upon itself. One of the first steps, as found in many traditions, is the pursuit of stillness – something which eventually ceases, since we become aware we do not in fact, have to pursue it. Similarly, pursuit of bodily stillness is bound to fail – try sitting without moving for three hours, and you will fail. It will however, if practised properly, give you an awareness of movement which is distinctly different to the ‘normal’ human perception. One discovers levels of bodily awareness which were often completely unknown before, when properly taught.

Similarly, the process of recognising oneself as an essential part of the kosmos  alters awareness significantly. By doubling down upon our own Being, by sitting with the fundamental distress of our so-called ‘humanity’ we achieve a deeper understanding which can benefit everyone around us. In short, we do not seek to be other than what we are, seeking instead to transmute all aspects of life in in the alchemical furnace of Being, so that even the most ‘mundane’ experience and act reveals itself to be an Image lit from within by the kosmic fire.

Thus, even those who are constrained may find their chains to be methods by which they may proceed along the merciless path.

It is called merciless for several reasons – not least because there is no thanks to be had – none will thank you for this process, save perhaps your own Soul, It is also the case that there is no-one to pay you and not receive some form of exchange – no-one to please, no justification for this save an inner drive – that inner spark of Life. This is also why one cannot flinch – just as those exiled to the forest cannot flinch from learning its ways and terms, lest they die.

The union then, between ‘Self’ and ‘Other’ is an erotic one, the sexuality one of polarity rather than reproduction – the charge engendered between hunter and hunted, between artist and art. The charge  is simply not there if one ‘partner’ is not fully, terribly present, willing to adapt and shift for the mutual benefit of those involved. Note then, that this mutual benefit is precisely what it says – mutual,  from mutabilis.

mutable (adj.) Look up mutable at Dictionary.comlate 14c., “liable to change,” from Latin mutabilis “changeable,” from mutare “to change,” from PIE root *mei- (1) “to change, go, move” (cognates: Sanskrit methati “changes, alternates, joins, meets;” Avestan mitho “perverted, false;” Hittite mutai- “be changed into;” Latin meare “to go, pass,” migrare “to move from one place to another;” Old Church Slavonic mite “alternately;” Czech mijim “to go by, pass by,” Polish mijać “avoid;” Gothic maidjan “to change”); with derivatives referring to the exchange of goods and services as regulated by custom or law (compare Latin mutuus “done in exchange,” munus “service performed for the community, duty, work”).

The changes involved presupoose that-which-is-changed, that thing which is occulted in normal perception. For this reason, the inward-turning is a subtraction, but not necessarily a divestiture – a violation of ordinary rules of accumulation. Only by this subtraction, this coalescence, can we hear the pulse which beats in frenzy, the onrush of Life which will surge through us when we make contact with that most fundamental  principle which thrums through all things.

Only by descending along the crooked, merciless path, can we discover the truth of who we really are. There is no escape.

Originally posted on Tumblr – here for posterity:

anonymous asked:

was your culture/ethnicity any inspiration to your path in heathenry?

Not All Realities Are Equal

While I was away last weekend, it appears that the much esteemed Pete Carroll wrote something against necromancy, and by extension, ancestor veneration in some senses. I encourage you all to read it here. I’ve a great deal of respect for Mr Carroll’s work – my copy of LIBER KAOS is covered in notes, and I really enjoyed his APOPHENION and EPOCH, but I have to say that I once again find myself in genteel disagreement with him. He writes:

If necromancers really could get objective information from the dead then an enormous demand would exist for them in all parts of the world to assist in murder investigations.

Imaginary friends, Tulpas, and various gods and servitors can prove of considerable use and value to the magician, so long as the magician doesn’t fall into the trap of regarding them as objectively real and of uncritically accepting their advice, for then they really do become demons in the worst sense of the word, amplifying aspects of the magicians subconscious beyond their original remit and creating obsessions.

However we now have every reason to conclude that the dead persist only in our memories and imaginations of them. Eliphas Levi  seems to have more or less realised this and tried to develop a theory of magic that depended on some sort of ‘Astral Light’ and the personal efforts of the magician, rather than entirely upon the celestial legions of the dead, the demonic, and the archangelic. The adepts of the Golden Dawn seem to have come to similar conclusions, and Crowley disdained to play around with necromancy.

The presence of the belief in life after death in many ancient and modern religions doesn’t make it so. No attempt to describe a disembodied afterlife in detail really makes any sense at all; (try it), it just makes a comforting (or frightening) contra-evidential belief.  The appeal of necromancy to modern magicians, who should know better, lies entirely in its gothic necro-charisma and dark glamour – the frisson of fear. This can prove profitable in spooking the gullible, but spooking yourself with it just seems adolescent.

Work with necromancy and goetia only really gives personal effects if you persistently invoke the gnosis of fear, and this can upset the autonomic nervous system, leading to the skinny pallor and fidgety persona characteristic of high cortisol/anxiety levels. It doesn’t lead to self-understanding or much in the way of magical ability to interact with reality.

Could not that first line of the quote be applied, not just to necromancers, but to all magicians?

Now, I suspect, from reading Carroll’s later works, that he does indeed believe in some kind of ‘objective’ reality. Some secret stash of verity waiting to be uncovered, revealed as naked truth which will answer the questions we as humans have had about existence. It’s a laudable goal. However, much of the language in both this quote and the piece of a whole seems hung up on fear and obsession, traditional Protestant views which have been translated into the Enlightenment project’s salutation of Rationality for Rationality’s sake.

It’s obvious that Carroll is dismissive of necromancy and Goetia as nothing more than psychological projection. And that’s fine for him. Yet, once again, I question the notion of ‘objective’. Many, if not all, of the things he raises against necromancy can and have been raised against magic as a whole. Further, as usual, the remarks regarding gothic necro-charisma seem to indicate his experience of necromancers and those who honour the dead is extra-ordinarily narrow, as if we are all pale-faced Goths or twitchy fear-junkies. If these are the only individuals Mr Carroll has encountered, I suggest he cast his net further afield – clearly he has a little bit of confirmation bias going on.

Now granted, we both seem to be operating on anecdotal evidence here, but in my experience, while there is a species of folk who are as he describes, the vast majority of folk I know who work with the dead do not, in fact, operate from a position of fear, but in fact one of connexion and wholeness. If there is any fear involved, it is that which is encountered on the recognition of one’s own inevitable demise, which, through proper use of certain practices, can in fact provide one with a great deal of esoteric knowledge.

If anything, this piece seems to appeal to modern so-called ‘traditional’ Western ideas of death and the dead, ideas, which seem to have their origin in the 19th century, so it’s unsurprising that the 19th century occultists he cites would back him up!

This is not to say such work is without dangers – quite the contrary – but all magical work contains such dangers as obsession and delusion, so I personally find it quite peculiar that he’s singled out Necromancy and working with the Dead for such comments.

Very strange indeed.

Wood

what even i wonder

is such a thing as this for?

what purposeless source does this reveal

like rune to mouth to estuary to god

for it is not even water rippling on the shore

smoke on the wind

or roots down deep in dark earth

instead being of shaped light and someone else’s dreams

and so we ask

just who is the Dreamer?

 

this cataleptic catafalque of boxed-in names

tens of millions of striated voices stridently proclaiming

– wherein lies the leaf-whispering susurrus

the emergent bark-voice floating across the mere

in joyful dirge; the barque bears immortal sovereign bones

scratched with a filigree of charm

blooded with the marrow of poets.

 

what even i wonder

beyond and between the lines and fibres

sits weaving; crabbed hand over crabbed hand

auguried entrails over and under; knotted destinies tied off and noose-made spaces blankly pregnant with apocalypses

just waiting to be engaged and encountered on their own terms alone

standing like isles of the dead gleaming with honeyed apples amidst

the ocean?

 

soul then, drinks us greedily back inside – salt and iron bending, turning

the ash now back upon ourselves

to set the stars we were, to flare anew

poetry is not prophecy and also contrariwise:

the stag runs and the white tower dons nacreous

rainbow blackness

the bones are unveiled and the head speaks with voice of ravens

– strong medicine, such a dream; bringing madness, rendering all insensate

only the heart may see

may bleed true and feed the root and branch

know that the king comes again

so says the wood

(0155 British Summer Time, 7th May 2015)

LEmpereur-The-Emperor

All magic – all Life – is influential. It’s simply not possible to exist in a vacuum, because any thing will affect another thing. As part of an interconnected whole, we’re all at the mercy of the larger kosmos. So when we talk about magick and influence, that ‘k’ has an affect. Because somewhere along the line, the illusion reveals itself as not really an illusion; its context shifts and all the smoke and and mirrors undergoes a kind of alchemy and we observe real-world effects.

This post has been in the back of my head for a month or so, luxuriating in the dark of my hindbrain, waving lazily at the last post as it got itself sent out into the aether. As with many things, the reason it is being written is not because of some magical revelation but because another part of my brain seized on something someone else wrote. This time, it’s writer Warren Ellis in his weekly email newsletter ORBITAL OPERATIONS:

[A]lso about the nature of networks and “influencers.” Some…are citing my Twitter follower count, which is a ridiculous metric for influence. I was an earlyish Twitter user. I have some 530K “followers,” but Twitter is bad at clearing out dormant accounts and spam accounts. Between that, different usage patterns, timezones and timeline churn, I’d have to work really hard to reach fifty thousand live humans from that five hundred thousand. The follower count is a meaningless number. Engagement is the other metric — not even how many people click on a link, but what kind of conversation is happening, and with who. Here’s a great example of actual understanding: Medium measures not hits and clicks, but how many people read to the end of a Medium post.

So if you only have three hundred followers on Twitter but you get to talk with them all the time and you share your tastes and you follow up on each others’ recommendations? You have more actual influence on the shape of the world than some crappy fast food brand with a million followers.

And here’s where it gets interesting, because we as humans have limits to the numbers of people we can model as people, with thoughts and desires all their own. There’s a limit to the number of folks we can maintain stable social relationships with. Beyond that, entities get amorphously lumped together as Them, The Other Folks or whatever. Mostly popularised as Dunbar’s Number, other research takes the 150 person mean and ups it to nearly 300, which is interesting to me because,  do you know what else is around about that size?

A military company.

Let’s consider, for a second, that such a company is a group of primates. Let’s also consider what I spoke of, in the last post:

 [A] thing of humanity, of shared bone and blood. Of survival and compassion in a world that shows itself as not some heaven, but instead as a forest in which there is much to nourish and strengthen us, but also much that which might disrupt our existence and perhaps even make things appear hostile.

Understand then, that when I speak of liberation, I do not speak of freedom in the absolute, but within the context of room-to-move, a territory in which we are allowed to pursue our individual Beingness.

When I speak of sovereignty, I do not speak of the tyrant; instead I speak of the proto-monarch. I speak of the one who has-the-knowing-of-how-to-Be-and-is-constantly-doing-so. The One who recognises and remembers that they are merely First-Amongst-Equals. I speak of the person who knows that a gift demands a gift.

Imagine, if you will, the proto-monarch, the one who has others agree to support them, who gathers about them household, a band of loyal warriors and retainers.  The web of influence and loyalty between them forms them into a singular unit. A cohesive group of individuals that work for the benefit of each other. Suddenly, the hand of that king, that person who knows, becomes capable of so much more. Suddenly ‘I’ becomes ‘We’, the singular becomes the multiple.

And that is when the band is made, when each member is elevated beyond themselves, while also being themselves. This multiplicity, found in bands, is precisely what exerts social and physical force. We all know that Many hands make light work, and yet we also know Too many cooks spoil the broth.

There’s a tendency in much modern thinking, to head towards acquisitiveness which goes hand in hand with the so called ‘individualism’ of  much of the monoculture. To think that we can gather resources ourselves, without recourse to others. That we can boot-strap ourselves to any goal we choose. This is patently ridiculous, as ridiculous as someone declaring themselves monarch without support or some form of validating authority.

This also has implications in modern occultism; acquiring occult ‘bling’, collecting different ‘initiations’ and ‘titles’ as if we were in the cafeteria or playing Pokemon. If we can just acquire enough, so the narrative runs, complete enough goals, then we’ll be happy and fulfilled. When somebody is told that no, they shouldn’t pursue a particular path, they don’t fulfil certain criteria, or the system is not open to them, the reaction is often outrage. Why shouldn’t they be able to access that technology as easily as subscribing to Netflix?

IMG_6950

Given what I and others have written on the Forest Passage of Junger, you might think I’m contradicting myself by saying that one’s resources are not enough to boot-strap oneself. After all, didn’t Junger say that the Forest Passage was a banishment where;  “[A] man declared his will to self-affirmation from his own resources.”

Except it’s not a contradiction at all, because it is their own resources that draw others to that proto-monarch I’ve spoken of.  Their own skills and affinities, which when honed, make them recognisable as the one who is living out their own Being. Similarly, in magic, we all have resources – as Jack said on his Tumblr:

The Gods and spirits I know had by and large ‘wanted’ to get to know had always lurked around me, waiting for me to come around, nudging me. Visions that left me speechless and feeling like I didn’t know what was going on were trying to point me towards what to pay attention to. But I was blind to their significance, and convinced of my own ‘freedom’ of movement in spiritual spaces.

We all have ancestors, we all have certain skills and affinities which, when practised will, in sometimes odd and convoluted ways, bring us to those gods, spirits, wights, and daimons which have been waiting for us to reach out, to notice them. We each have our core band, whether we notice it or not; the seed grouping of entities which, once we build relationships with, enable us to wield our influence. This is why offerings are so important, because they build that relationship – that gift demands a gift spoken of in the Havamal. It’s not even a case of  you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours, but about building and maintaining relationships.

becomes We. Because it always was. Because we were never apart from each other. Our ancestors lived, and it is by their life that we also live. Every move I make, every breath I take, every word I speak or type, happens because of them.

Those exiled to the forest do not exist alone. On the contrary, they see it as a living, breathing environment of which they are part. They relearn the sights and sounds, the way to be who they are. Forced to rely on their own resources, they can no longer avoid looking at that which stares them in the face. The band, the company, which was hidden before, begins to reveal itself, and in that revelation, their influence increases, precisely because they have no alternative.

To quote Camus: “The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.”

Because freedom is not something that can be taken. It is not something that can be acquired. It is something that you are. It is a principle of Being which, paradoxically, is only discovered when all ideas of freedom as that which is outside of you, are annihilated.

For this reason, the search for the next Big Thing, the  next coolest form of spiritual technology, rarely engenders any sort of depth, and often fails, precisely because it forgets the fundamental principle that you must be enough.

Stripped of all kit, all ritual paraphernalia, even all technique, only you remain.  And how did you come to be, here and now? What powers brought you into existence – what fingerprints did they leave behind. What is it that gives you breath and pulse?

Ask then – who are your Hidden Company? Who are the ones you can call on with your heart’s-blood? Because, when you are utterly alone, they will reveal themselves. When there is only silence and darkness, wordless and primordial things awaken in your heart. Beings you never thought you knew come into your life and greet you like old friends.

becomes We. 

And you learn to trust them. Because you build relationships, and suddenly, if you’re very lucky, you begin to realise that in some strange way, you are one of their hidden company that they  can call on, because relationships are never one way, are they?

influence (n.) Look up influence at Dictionary.comlate 14c., an astrological term, “streaming ethereal power from the stars acting upon character or destiny of men,” from Old French influence “emanation from the stars that acts upon one’s character and destiny” (13c.), also “a flow of water,” from Medieval Latin influentia “a flowing in” (also used in the astrological sense), from Latin influentem (nominative influens), present participle of influere “to flow into,” from in- “into, in, on, upon” (see in- (2)) + fluere “to flow” (see fluent). Meaning “exercise of personal power by human beings” is from mid-15c.; meaning “exertion of unseen influence by persons” is from 1580s (a sense already in Medieval Latin, for instance Aquinas). Under the influence “drunk” first attested 1866.

Slowly, over time, you become as they – because you always were, you just forgot.

grendel

Imagine then, what  having influence with that company can do? Imagine how much your reach extends, how the network grows. How, if you need something, you ask your trusted advisers and friends to do what they do, and find you someone who can do what you need?

Suddenly you’re not the one blindly picking what looks good in the cafeteria, you’ve got an experienced chef hand on hand who knows your dietary needs, tastes, and has a better grasp of how flavours work than you. Over time, purely by exposure, you become better at recognising what’s good for yourself, and can become a gourmand if that is your particular wish. Or, you ask your personal chef to teach you how to cook nutritious meals   on a budget, or with whatever you have to hand.

That doesn’t make you a master chef, mind you. Not unless you have the same level of training, which takes a specific specialist form. And not everyone has the talent for it. But that’s OK, because your personal chef has your back.

(This is, incidentally, the logic of the guru or the surgeon or the craftsman. It’s not about hierarchy, it’s about skill, and ability. Your surgeon might be an arrogant shit with a god complex, but would you prefer a diffident amateur messing with your insides?)

So, if you’re a proto-king, the one who knows? Start looking for your warband. Because they’re there, all about you.

But first, you have to strip down. Not many are willing to do that, to acknowledge their utter restriction.

Are you?

hammer_and_cross

Not all sick men are utterly wretched:
Some are blessed with sons,
Some with friends,
some with riches,
Some with worthy works.

The halt can manage a horse,
the handless a flock,
The deaf be a doughty fighter,
To be blind is better than to burn on a pyre:
There is nothing the dead can do.

It is always better to be alive,
The living can keep a cow.
Fire, I saw, warming a wealthy man,
With a cold corpse at his door.

A son is a blessing, though born late
To a father no longer alive:
Stones would seldom stand by the highway
If sons did not set them there.

He welcomes the night who has enough provisions
Short are the sails of a ship,
Dangerous the dark in autumn,
The wind may veer within five days,
And many times in a month.

The half wit does not know that gold
Makes apes of many men:
One is rich, one is poor
There is no blame in that.

Cattle die, kindred die,
Every man is mortal:
But the good name never dies
Of one who has done well

Cattle die, kindred die,
Every man is mortal:
But I know one thing that never dies,
The glory of the great dead

Fields and flocks had Fitjung’s sons,
Who now carry begging bowls:
Wealth may vanish in the wink of an eye,
Gold is the falsest of friends.

In the fool who acquires cattle and lands,
Or wins a woman’s love,
His wisdom wanes with his waxing pride,
He sinks from sense to conceit. – Havamal, Auden & Taylor trans.

The Havamal is not holy writ. It is not some decalogue, some list of commands. It is a poem, and must be remembered as that which would be spoken in the halls of Iceland.

Yet, as a poem, we have to understand; these words were recited to the audience by the skald, as the words of the High One, the wisest god of all. Imagine then, if you will, these words spoken in a room lit by flame, occluded by smoke, filled with the press of bodies. These words are spoken, not in a revelatory context, but rather, in a realm of cultural knowledge.

Even if it never happened that way, even if the details are wrong, recall that these words, these concepts were not spoken in isolation, but as the product of, and part of, a living breathing culture.

Imagine then, the rise and fall of the skald’s voice, the poet’s rhythm; see the heads nod – the wordless agreement, the murmur of yes, this is known. This is how it is. Through the words, the metre of the poetry, with all their kennings and allusions, truths are revealed. Deeds are highlighted, connections are recognised, made and reconfigured.

Laws are spoken in similar ways, in this place of combined Thought and Memory we inhabit now – customs enshrined by being spoken in the holy places of the Thing. Words follow words, becoming deeds which follow after each other . Laid down like threads, woven together. For if memory serves, and it always must, lest so much be forgotten – even Odin fears loss of Muninn – we find ourselves confronted by the sheer humanity of our ancestors.

Have we not all been in that place, experienced a heart’s knowing, a gut-certainty which seems to possess, in that moment, so much more potency and depth than an intellectual knowing?

Have we not known something in our bones, felt it in our water, a primal understanding which can be communicated with a glance, with a nod; a knowing which passes between people, between folk who live in each other’s world?

Understand then, what I am saying to you, although it will be long, is not a thing of intellect. It is a thing of humanity, of shared bone and blood. Of survival and compassion in a world that shows itself as not some heaven, but instead as a forest in which there is much to nourish and strengthen us, but also much that which might disrupt our existence and perhaps even make things appear hostile.

Understand then, that when I speak of liberation, I do not speak of freedom in the absolute, but within the context of room-to-move, a territory in which we are allowed to pursue our individual Beingness.

When I speak of sovereignty, I do not speak of the tyrant; instead I speak of the proto-monarch. I speak of the one who has-the-knowing-of-how-to-Be-and-is-constantly-doing-so. The One who recognises and remembers that they are merely First-Amongst-Equals. I speak of the person who knows that a gift demands a gift.

And we all have gifts – the poem says that, does it not? The crippled, the sick, the deaf – are not these mentioned above? Were they not uttered, these words in that old hall, full of smoke and shine and laughter.

Were there not nodding heads? Yes, it is  known. Yes, so it is.

Known, aye

Known by virtue of a gift of an eye. Known by a gift of pain, of blood and stolen breath, upon a windy tree. Known by nine nights of hunger and sacrifice upon the gallows. For the old meaning of ‘victim’ was sacrifice:

victim (n.) late 15c., “living creature killed and offered as a sacrifice to a deity or supernatural power,” from Latin victima “person or animal killed as a sacrifice.” Perhaps distantly connected to Old English wig “idol,” Gothic weihs “holy,” German weihen “consecrate” (compare Weihnachten “Christmas”) on notion of “a consecrated animal.” Sense of “person who is hurt, tortured, or killed by another” is recorded from 1650s; meaning “person oppressed by some power or situation” is from 1718. Weaker sense of “person taken advantage of” is recorded from 1781.  

A holy embodied creature; a functional participant in the numinous world of the Powers. A necessary bridging of the gap between thought and action. A thing of blood, breath and bone, of meat and chemicals and electric lightning crackling down nerves.

There is a form of theological engagement within certain streams of Roman Catholicism known as Liberation Theology. In this theology, it is held that the revelation of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross was for the benefit of all; that the suffering of that god was undertaken to liberate all mankind from suffering. For those who follow this theological stream, it follows that to be Christian is to follow as that god would, to do all that they can to liberate others from forms of oppression, social injustice and inequality. Furthermore, it suggests that those who suffer and are oppressed are, in some sense directly connected to that sacrificial act, that the death of that god was even more for those who suffer and are oppressed in every day life.

A gift  demands a gift. This is known.

As Heathens, we are aware of the threads of wyrd which bind us together. Yet Ygg, the Terrible One, did not sacrifice himself to another higher power. Instead, the hanged god sacrificed himself to Himself. There is none higher – he is High, Just as High and Third, as Gangleri found. He is Fetterer and Loosener.

That sacrifice, that willing  participation in the numinous flows of power and experience, even unto death and beyond, revealed the runes to Odin; gave the master of fury, the  roaring shrieker, the knowing of the secrets; the doors of which are found in sound and glyph, in the heart of language and song itself.

And it was not, unlike Christ, a gift for all. Not in the sense of intercession or redemption. The Gallows God hanged himself, for himself, not for mankind. He doubled down on his Being, tripled down even – hanged, wounded and starving.

Thrice on Thrice. for nights all Nine. This is known.

Living after the Lightning Strike

Yet, for all that, we benefit from that wisdom. We benefit from the wisdom learnt through that suffering, that most terrible ordeal. We benefit from his blinding, from his wounding, from his starving, from his thirst. We benefit from his pain, from his agony.

For without that wisdom he would not be the Being that he is. Would not be the beloved of Frigg, the student of Freyja, the blood-brother to Loki, the stealer of the mead of poetry, the witch-dancer, the eagle-headed raven-black shaman, the wandering wizard wrapped in corpse-blue whispering to his child on the pyre, protected from the coming storm by Hel’s hollow hall..

Would not be the High One who seizes the poet, and stirs the cauldron to bring the intoxication of inspiration so that the words of the High One might be written, that even this piece itself might be written nearly nine centuries later.

Would not be the Father of Victory, who sends the spear to claim all all sides in the battle as his own. For those words make clear a truth – all that will endure is the memory, the glory of the great dead.

All that will endure is the poetry and song; these meadhall moments, these rites and acts of numinous power which cast us, even now, into the closest proximity with our ancestors; into the heart knowing, the blood-gnosis of our ancestry, our history and songs.

Word followed word. Deed followed deed, from me.  This is known.

A gift demands a gift – the reciprocity is clear, for unlike the Christian tales, wherein god gave humankind the earth by divine right, we know as Heathens that our world, that fragile bounded space, that age of man with all its comforts, extends only as far as the firelight.

There are giants and monsters and trolls, thurses that make the earth shake and the sea roar, sickness and death; events which may descend and change us irrevocably. We have gods with missing eyes and hands, gods with stitched-up lips and mothers who mourn for dead sons. We know the ice can be treacherous, and that storms and cold can kill even the mightiest.

We have the stories and the tales, from times before the electric light and the certainties we certainly take for granted. We have the tales of great deeds when kings fared forth to answer ties of kinship, who entered barrows to slay monsters that would threaten their people.

We have the songs of great and terrible battles, where folk were hewn down to lie forgotten in the dust of some foreign fields, while their sons haul aloft a stone to mark their memory.

We understand then, the ties that bind; ties of blood, but more than that, ties of oath, to the mighty folk who gathered others to them. We comprehend how travellers from distant lands might settle in new soil and become as its true-born sons by weaving their wyrd with its wights.

This is known.

Or at least, it should be.

For such a knowing is very old. The knowing that the gods have arranged things so that we might thrive. That through our cleaving to these powers, we have established, by act, and oath, by piety and pact, a relationship with these powers, these wights, these gods. These Beings, whom when we encounter them, are understood by the knowing of their sheer, undeniable Presence.

And this then, is where we conceive, not of an Almighty, but a multitude of powers; the kosmos is revealed to be alive, pandaemonic, brimming over with vitality. With this knowing comes an understanding of the reasoning behind rta, maat, Puruṣārtha  – even order itself:

order (n.) early 13c., “body of persons living under a religious discipline,” from Old French ordre “position, estate; rule, regulation; religious order” (11c.), from earlier ordene, from Latin ordinem (nominative ordo) “row, rank, series, arrangement,” originally “a row of threads in a loom,” from Italic root *ord- “to arrange, arrangement” (source of ordiri “to begin to weave;” compare primordial), of unknown origin.

This weave, this tapestry, this structure, is a product of artifice. It takes work to achieve, activity and process. It does not merely happen, but just like the human body, requires constant adjustment in order to maintain the appearance of stability.

There is that which must be done, that which must be performed, in order to ensure survival. This then, is  the eternal work of the gods; even and especially their death, for only by that most terminal of functions of existence, can a new world be born. The cyclic, spiralling paths of existence, their labyrinthine twists and turns, must be explored, no matter their extremity.

This is the essence of survival, which our ancestors knew; a doomed battle which both mankind and gods must face, for death claims us all. Only Memory remains.

This is known.

The war then, is not a war. The struggle is one of survival, framed by the understanding that victory is impossible, that it is only achievable by the impossible; by the willing participation in a numinous lived experience which transcends ordinary notions of time and space.

It is in fact, a rescue mission – the gods reach out to us, we who have forgotten the proper ways and uses of Memory, we who are obsessed with real and unreal. We who crave results, and things,  who are told we are merely interchangeable, identical cogs in the machinery of existence, rejected and derided if we raise up our faces and ask: Is this all there is?

We, who in this reductionist, logocentric universe seemingly ruled by an absent or long dead Absolute, have nevertheless been drawn to the memory our many and varied gods, to here and now and the knowing which goes beyond the rational, beyond the intellectual.

Despite every dismissal, ever derisive smile, we do not believe – we know that we are experiencing something. Something that draws us to apparently long-dead tales and half forgotten gods; something that rises up from deep within our bones, whether we be gay, straight, queer, bi, trans, white, black, brown, indigenous, non-indigenous, healthy as horses, old or young, crippled or chronically ill…

On and on, so it goes, this rescue; this extraction from prison. For some it may be swift, others years in the making; For survival lies beneath it all, a primal recognition that we cannot survive alone – that we are better, as people, together, because safety is an illusion, and we are all a hair’s breadth away from suffering. That we are all part of an inextricably linked whole.

dagenham_idol

“Young and alone on a long road,
Once I lost my way:
Rich I felt when I found another;
Man rejoices in man,

A kind word need not cost much,
The price of praise can be cheap:
With half a loaf and an empty cup
I found myself a friend,”

The world is wild; the veneer of civilisation thin – and those with eyes to see can spot the primal forest, even amidst the streetlight and concrete. Earth is a giant, and our youthful adolescent arrogance will soon be crushed; by storm, fire and flood, by melting ice-caps and burning droughts. We shall have to pay attention to our ancestors and their ways sooner than we should like to think.

And even then:

Down we shall go, all of us, into the place of dissolution; into old age and pain and suffering – these are the doors to death. And those who suffer and are oppressed, who are hated and enslaved by the machinery that would squeeze out our very blood, our very blood, for counterfeit gold?

Are we not confronted with the necessities of existence? The recognition that this world which has been built, this so-called civilisation has no place for us save as interchangeable blind parts? As slaves? Cast aside, reviled when we can no longer serve, or when we disrupt the precious ‘norm’?

Do we not feel pain, do we not feel wounds of the soul, the mind, as the failed attempts at cutting us into ‘proper’ shape ache and twist us up with scar tissue?

Do we not  feel hunger and thirst, like all human beings, like the god hanging on that Tree?

And does not that ache grow more powerful, that agony swell as our blood quickens? As the pulse beats out its drum-beat, does not the agony of our own negative capability drive us to bite back a shriek?

Do we not struggle against our bonds, to little avail; feel them bite deep, and deeper still as the blood-flow surges? Our pain, our suffering, our restriction, our terrible knowing of how-things-are; yet with no excuses; we must survive, we must live, eat, drink, take shelter on this the Longest Road.

There is no escape. This is known.

The half wit does not know that gold
Makes apes of many men:
One is rich, one is poor
There is no blame in that.

Cattle die, kindred die,
Every man is mortal:
But the good name never dies
Of one who has done well

Cattle die, kindred die,
Every man is mortal:
But I know one thing that never dies,
The glory of the great dead.”

And so, those who suffer, who are with little comfort; there is no blame there, for us. No censure. It is what it is. This is known.

Has been known, for centuries, perhaps even thousands or millions of years. It is we, who have forgotten. We who, all unthinking, have lost our memory of what it is to be human.

But Memory has not lost us. The hall remains, all bright-darkness, smoke and mead; there is shining gold there, lit by the light of the blood pulse, the sheer biological necessity of existence.

Within us, within all phenomena, lies that gold which makes us not apes, but more human than human.

Here then, in a world suffused with the monolithic, the monocultural which seeks to co-opt and reduce diversity, we are confronted by the empty eye of Odin; the blazing monocular intensity of hollow bone and endless death’s head smile.

Vision reduced – an expression of the implacable esoteric wisdom, so One Eye takes the singular narrative, the binding noose which throttles the Life from existence , and bears down upon it with terrible fury and endless gravity.

Under that unblinking gaze, all is shattered and broken, all is ruptured and set free. The feral, primal understanding at the heart of humanity leaps to meet us, to rescue us at the fundamental level.

And in being rescued, we recognise the Other in ourselves; the countless multitude of ancestors who gather about us and others, who guide our arms and words. It is we then, who filled with the most primordial impulse, with Memory singing its golden mead-songs in our veins, become the stranger on the Long Road who offers the lost one  half a loaf and the drink they need to carry on on their journey.

This is the ancient duty of hospitality writ large.

hospitality (n.) late 14c., “act of being hospitable,” from Old French hospitalité, from Latin hospitalitem (nominative hospitalitas) “friendliness to guests,” from hospes (genitive hospitis) “guest” (see host (n.1)).

host (n.1) “person who receives guests,” late 13c., from Old French hoste “guest, host, hostess, landlord” (12c., Modern French hôte), from Latin hospitem (nominative hospes) “guest, host,” literally “lord of strangers,” from PIE *ghostis- “stranger” (cognates: Old Church Slavonic gosti “guest, friend,” gospodi “lord, master;” see guest). The biological sense of “animal or plant having a parasite” is from 1857.

Only by this primordial attitude of fierce kindness do we become human, do we allow ourselves to become sovereign, do we become re-connected to our humanity throughout space and time.

Only by allowing ourselves to receive the kosmic Stranger, do we  find ourselves once more amongst the familiar, do we find ourselves part of a community which works together for the benefit of all.

And as our ancestors knew, the leader gains strength from those who pledge themselves to them, such an interwoven web of pledge and loyalty that it brings benefit to all. The sovereign’s duty is to their land and people.

So too, with the  one who has-the-knowing-of-how-to-Be-and-is-constantly-doing-so. For while gnosis is the knowing, that same knowing radiates outward, for it changes its receiver irrevocably.

For the Wanderer, the Waytamer is the Lord of Strangers. The Strangest of the Strange. The Queerest of the Queer. Yes indeed, the most Ergi of the Ergi.

He who receives all comers, no matter which side you were on. And so it is with his teacher in the mysteries of seidr; the Lady who knows no boundary, who is Free as Free Can Be. For it’s she who gets first-pick of the battle fallen, or did you forget?

This is known.

rescue (v.) c. 1300, from stem of Old French rescorre “protect, keep safe; free, deliver” (Modern French recourre), from re-, intensive prefix (see re-), + escourre “to cast off, discharge,” from Latin excutere “to shake off, drive away,” from ex- “out” (see ex-) + -cutere, combining form of quatere “to shake” (see quash). Related: Rescued; rescuing.

The mead ferments; the cauldron bubbles, full of blood and and honey. The blood seethes in your veins and arteries. Embrace the fury. Shake off your chains and aid your brothers and sisters in shaking theirs.

Their’s work to do, remember?

Our sentence is up.

This is known. Would you know more, or what?