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?

I messed up and typo-ed principle instead of primitive in the previous post. It’s since been corrected. Sorry Gordon, my bad. I do want to raise something brought up in the comments though.

And I’m not wrong. You’ve mistaken a suburban obsession with old timey country wisdom -and a cosplay fetishisation of taking grimoire ingredients literally- with some sort of ranking of English counties. If you want to talk about Cornwall, go nuts, but don’t say I’m wrong when I can point at any number of tumblogs or instagram pictures from Minnesota or wherever working to precise formulae from 250 years ago across an ocean, from a place they will never visit.

I get that, and for the most part I agree with you, but honestly I shall stick by what I said, precisely because while you are right about all those tumblogs, instagram pictures etc, the fact remains that there are people there who’re not obsessed with those things, and it seemed to me making a blanket statement like that stuck in my craw. You’re quite right. Cornwall is STILL a fucking shithole in many ways, which is precisely why people who are there (a small proportion, granted) were and are working, operative magical types in order to survive. What I wrote was not about defending some mythical ranking or any such thing, but precisely about that.

Perhaps I did misread it, but nevertheless, I think that differentiation between the folks who are fetishising things, and actual folk living and working and doing things on the ground needs making clearer in general discussions – in general occult discourse as a whole there is an assumption that ‘Everyone is like me.’

I’m not saying Gordon thinks like that – his work has proven not, in my view. However, there’s an assumption prevalent in Western occultism that everyone has the same time, money, resources etc. A kind of faux-egalitarianism which only seems to pay lip-service to the marginalised individuals who practice magic. Look at the prices of books, or academic texts. They’re almost prohibitively expensive for folks on the edges.

What exists there then, is word of mouth based on practical experience, not some fetishised ancient lineage. That’s the kind of stuff that spawned some of the nineteenth century crap we’re still having to deal – mythical fertility cults for goodness sake.  As if we know what one of those is.

So, just in case it isn’t clear, I have no beef with the general content of what was written. I did indeed say it was a good post, and that our esteemed London Correspondent was not in fact, wrong.  It’s just that paragraph which I feel is easy to mis-take – just as it appears I did. But I’m fairly sure my points still stand to some degree.

Ruined_Cornish_tin_mine

I was originally going to call this one Tellurian Gothick and the ‘k’ would have been important, like the ‘k’ is supposedly important in magick. Then, I realised that would make me a bit of a pretentious knob. I mean, what kind of person goes round adding extra ‘k’s to perfectly good words in order to be a special snowflake because they’re afraid their audience will get all confused?

So, instead, I picked the road of pre-supposing the audience of this blog would be able to follow what I’m talking about. This is probably a mistake. But, probably not as big a mistake as our beloved Antipodean Down South made in his latest post at Runesoup –  Chaos Magic: Fracking the Spirit World

Oh, it’s a really good post and you should all read it. Particularly dwell on this little gem, if you would:

I think the time has come to unilaterally declare that any magical premise you wish to hold for all but the shortest of time periods must have consciousness as an ontological primitive.

I’m not going to tell you what that means. It bears meditating on, that consciousness as an ontological primitive.  Because words are tricky and consciousness is trickier. It’s quite capable of holding double, triple or n +1 meanings. The levels of information in that sentence are staggering, as are the number of paths you  can take through it. Study language long enough, and you begin to realise that it’s perfectly possible to twist it any which way in order to influence the world. However, what people don’t often realise is that language can also twist you up.  

So, I urge you – take that sentence and read it as many ways as you possibly can. Because everything we say also carries unsaid, unnoticed potentials; shadowy possibilities that lead us into a twilight world.

And that’s where Gordon, gods love him, has made his mistake.

[Th]e traditional witch types don’t like to hear that toad bones and the rest of these icky ingredients are proxies for some symbolic/psychological language and that 18th century Cornwall was not an intellectual mecca of folk wisdom but a hillbilly pirate shithole (which is way better, anyway).

Them’s fighting words my ‘ansum. Because, you see, I happen to be born of that hillbilly pirate shithole. Born and bred, with traceable family going back to the 1500’s, at which time the parish records become…scanty. And them’s fighting words, not because Gordon is wrong – which he isn’t by the way, because it’s totally better to have come from that sort of place if you’re some kind of wizard, rather than somewhere full of Enlightenment wonder. Or at least, I think so but I’m biased.

Trust me. Go to Cornwall and pretend, even if you’re  not, that you’re some sort of witch or wizard. See what the place gives you. Then, tell me it’s not its own place with its own dreams and spirits and Wyrd interface points where lights in the sky met ghosts and witches and sorcerers.

No, they’re fighting words because. frankly, he’s missed a trick in a post dealing with fracking the spirit world. That’s not his fault though, because after all it’s barely half a paragraph that’s made me want to write this. But it’s still a mis-take.  He’s grasped at the language and, while it’s been delivered effectively enough, there’s so much further he could of gone. But he’s busy, so why should he comb over his use of metaphors?

Why indeed. So it falls me to point out the thing that wasn’t conveyed. See, the hillbilly pirate shithole was, up until 1998, famous for something. Something it was famous for, at least 2500 years ago. Something that was done there beyond even that, from around 2100 BC.

Mining.

Dig a hole for FOUR. THOUSAND. YEARS. and you’ll find a Cornishman at the bottom of it. Go to Australia, America, Africa, and you’ll find people who left to mine elsewhere when the markets crashed. You’ll find Cornish names anywhere there are long term mining operations. You may even find folk who were not born there, but studied mining there at a specialist college nonetheless.

I’m not joking. I went up to Cumbria the other year and found Cornish Miner’s cottages. So, you need a whole digging, get someone  from Cornwall. That’s the way it’s been for as long as we humans have had alphabetic script.

Now, by now I’m sure some of you’re wondering what this has to do with magic. So here’s where the Gothic comes in – the Goths being a  barbarian  tribe, which perhaps most famously, sacked Rome. Gothic becomes a pejorative term in the Renaissance when applied to certain architectural styles of the mediaeval period, as opposed to the Classical styles – synonymous with ‘that barbarous Northern European Shit’.  Of course, being barbarous northern Europeans, the terminology stuck. Mediaeval spires and archways become Gothic,  and in no time at all, a form of Romantic literature springs up with its characters and events haunting Gothic arenas.

The use of the word of ‘haunting’ is deliberate here. The fusing of the fantastical and the modern can be seen in Dracula or Frankenstein. There’s a real sense of the uncanny in the Gothic – a kind of spiritual or existential unease. In German, the equivalent is Schauerroman or “shudder-novel” – albeit, as Wikipedia puts it:  However, Schauerroman’s key elements are necromancy and secret societies and it is remarkably more pessimistic than the British Gothic novel.

haunt (v.) 
early 13c., “to practice habitually, busy oneself with, take part in,” from Old French hanter “to frequent, resort to, be familiar with” (12c.), probably from Old Norse heimta “bring home,” from Proto-Germanic *haimat-janan, from *haimaz- (see home). Meaning “to frequent (a place)” is c.1300 in English. Use in reference to a spirit returning to the house where it had lived perhaps was in Proto-Germanic, but it was reinforced by Shakespeare’s plays, and it is first recorded 1590 in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Related: Haunted; haunting. Middle English hauntingly meant “frequently;” sense of “so as to haunt one’s thoughts or memory” is from 1859.

Because you see, the dead aren’t supposed to come back. It’s against the rules. Just like it’s against the rules for there to be things we can’t understand, can’t pin down to one thing in particular, or another. As I’m writing this, we’re approaching the festival of the most widely known resurrection story in history – Easter. For there to be a creeping strangeness, a wyrdness in the ordinary world, well…it’s not very civilised, is it?

I’ve talked about our terror of incompleteness before, and also how it might allow us to perceive holiness – in The Ruins of Absence:

And with each passing year, still it conjures. In its presence, the stone possesses a power, a power which reaches out across the centuries. Human ingenuity suffused with inspiration, from an urge to mimic and create awe and glory; a massive undertaking to speak of the service of divinity.

For some, that divinity reaches out as a sense of holiness, and that is a wonderful thing because holiness presents a wholeness which you may use as a reference point – a greater pattern perhaps, or simply the notion of smooth-running nigh endless complexity; an emergent biosphere which has developed its viability ins spite of, and also due to, circumstance.

For others, the very fact that these ruins might be conceived by some kind of sapient intelligence echoes the notion that divinity is a property of both sapience and sentience. Either that fusion creates the notion of divinity, or it is suffused with it –  mankind as microcosmic avatar of the macrocosm; children of the very gods themselves.

1200px-Whitby_Abbey_-_Project_Gutenberg_eText_16785

To suggest then, that the Gothic is, as was once true, synonymous with vandal – yet another barbarian tribe – is  to suggest that which disrupts and breaks ordinary modes of experience. Whether that be ruined landscape or the uncomfortable sensation that we’ve moved into taboo territory, where our superiority is not by any means assured, the Gothic disquiet remains. Even just looking at our words for ghosts suggests that these are apparitions, they appear and disappear in accordance with their own logic:

ghost (n.)
Old English gast “breath; good or bad spirit, angel, demon; person, man, human being,” in Biblical use “soul, spirit, life,” from Proto-Germanic *gaistaz (cognates: Old Saxon gest, Old Frisian jest, Middle Dutch gheest, Dutch geest, German Geist “spirit, ghost”). This is conjectured to be from a PIE root *gheis-, used in forming words involving the notions of excitement, amazement, or fear (cognates: Sanskrit hedah “wrath;” Avestan zaesha- “horrible, frightful;” Gothic usgaisjan, Old English gæstan “to frighten”).

Ghost is the English representative of the usual West Germanic word for “supernatural being.” In Christian writing in Old English it is used to render Latin spiritus (see spirit (n.)), a sense preserved in Holy Ghost. Sense of “disembodied spirit of a dead person,” especially imagined as wandering among the living or haunting them, is attested from late 14c. and returns the word toward its likely prehistoric sense.

Most Indo-European words for “soul, spirit” also double with reference to supernatural spirits. Many have a base sense of “appearance” (such as Greek phantasma; French spectre; Polish widmo, from Old Church Slavonic videti “to see;” Old English scin, Old High German giskin, originally “appearance, apparition,” related to Old English scinan, Old High German skinan “to shine”). Other concepts are in French revenant, literally “returning” (from the other world), Old Norse aptr-ganga, literally “back-comer.” Breton bugelnoz is literally “night-child.” Latin manes probably is a euphemism.

The sense of appearance is key. Because apparitions occur all the time. You’re actually perceiving several hundred now. Why? Because perception is weird. This is why the perennial 1st year philosophical questions revolve around the hoary old chestnut of whether trees falling in forests when there’s no-one about make any sound. Or what the sound of one hand clapping is.

When things appear in our perception, we think of them as ‘real’ and when they’re not perceived by us, we just don’t give them the same brainspace. We’re not wired that way – and it’s not surprising because usually what we perceive is likely to either be a threat, or to be useful in some way. So the tree falls in the forest, and yeah, it makes noise – specifically it disturbs the air and impacts on the earth and kicks off vibrations, which are then perceived by myriad perceivers. And you know, some of those perceivers may not have ears.

So the question becomes, what actually do we mean when we say ‘sound’? Because there’s never no-one in that putative forest. But we’re not there, are we? So of course, we say there’s no-one there. Because we’re arrogant, anthropocentric apes and what we mean is NO ONE LIKE US.

Nothing and no-one we recognise as ‘like us’. Which bluntly?

Is. Fucking. Naive.

Naive and probably responsible for every environmental and social screw up our species has ever made. The sound in the forest only exists as that sound, that particular shape or flavour, because we’re there. Because we interpret it that way. So when Gordon comments about wholly imaginary friends, he’s right. Because everything is imaginary. We’re Image-Making, Story-Telling Machines.

And the secret that magicians know, be they Chaos Magicians or not, is that everything is made up. Even you.

Actually especially you.

And this is why you’ll get magicians falling over themselves to say its all psychological, that it’s all in your head. Because they, we, are smug bastards. We’re the children of Hermes, that messenger of the gods, whose silver tongue translates information just as he pleases. We’re the interpreters of signs and omens. We’re ones who go to war with your nightmares, and we’re the ones who can craft them too, because…shhh…it’s a secret. We can kill you with a word. Eat up your insides, leave you a hollow shell. Heal the aching wound in your soul that you never knew existed.

And post-modernism says, it’s OK, everything’s made up. You can interpret it how you want. It’s all psychological. And that’s like crack to naive, arrogant, anthropocentric apes who think their interpretation is the only one that matters.

It’s baby’s first mindfuck. And the thing with that kind of realisation is, it’s something that stays with you. It’s even more insidious, because it gives you a leg up, results wise, over someone who doesn’t know that we create what we experience via the interpretive matrix of our bodymind.

Now, I started writing this on good Friday, and it’s now Easter Monday. What a nice three day period for a post to gestate over, eh?

You might notice, that in the comments on Gordon’s post, he’s basically said he didn’t forget the mining in Cornwall, that it’s an Easter egg. Fair enough, say I. The thing with an Easter egg is that it’s only going to be received by those who know its there. Like a real Easter Egg, you have to find it.

A wizard is never late, nor is he early, he arrives precisely when he means to – Gandalf

Consider me then, the Cornishman at the bottom of Gordon’s post then. Mining away, like my folk have done for several thousand years.

knockers

Because if there’s something a miner will tell you, it is this: It’s not safe down here. Not at at all. At any moment, something might give, a prop might weaken, a spark might ignite some gas that rises up. Maybe it’s the same gas that the Oracle of Delphi used to huff. Maybe not. But there’s deep water here, hidden pressures, to say nothing of the Knockers, those chthonic spirits and long-dead miners that beat out an eerie rhythm in the dark.

See, the Earth’s a giant, and at any moment, that subterranean Lady might decide to swallow me. So I make my deals, leave my offerings; I cast the last of my pasty into the night and whisper a prayer, then its on we go. I can say there’s no-one here, but that doesn’t stop the pressure. Doesn’t stop the  echoes, down here. And no matter how much I might tell myself it’s just my imagination, the press of the rock around me says otherwise.

Has always said otherwise, to those down here. Down in the Deep Below, working in the dark, waiting for the shine, the gleam of light reflected back on the eye.

I live in Lancashire. I’ve felt the Earth quake as they fracked over in Blackpool. And she doesn’t quake here, not hardly at all. But it’s fine to frack, because they say it’s safe, those barons of industry, who love their paper representation of gold so very much. And thousands of years of Cornish folk laugh in my ear: Perfectly safe, my ‘ansum  they whisper mockingly from blackened lungs, clotted with time, bones knocking together with their laughter. You’m be leavin’ soon enough. 

And of course, they are right, those old ghosts. The Unearthing occurs, and the rivers run red. That’s just the way it is.  There’s stones and bones down here, a hollowed out honeycomb. And those who walk above forget; right up until the thin crust cracks and the Earth yawns open to swallow cars or houses, devouring our markers of civilisation.

Tread careful, cock. There’s a good lad.

And what happens when you can’t leave? What happens when the way becomes hard, and you’re sat in the middle of the wreckage of everything you thought you knew?

See, the thing is? You can’t just extract in isolation. Oh, you can pretend you might. Just like you might pretend that the forest is silent, merely waiting for your presence. But you’d be wrong, wouldn’t you?

See, here is the heart of it, friends. Creation isn’t a Roswell crash-site. That is, if I  may say, a spectacularly easily misinterpreted metaphor. Because such a metaphor implies that the Wyrd comes in from Outside. Actually, all it does is intrude on our perception. Creation isn’t Eden, either, or not the Eden you grew up hearing about, some neatly maintained and ordered garden.

No. For while it is abundant, there is no wall. Eden is full of lions, jaguars and other things that have no interest in your human perspective. You will create the experience of being eaten, to be sure, but you will still get eaten.

Yes, as Gordon says, we have done little to nowt with the data on Western heart attack NDE’s, and that’s crappy. But he’s off the mark in assuming those neolithic shamans would cry at the wastage, I reckon.  Why? Precisely because the data is about a situation that does not concern them. It concerns only those who match that type of evidence.

It’s like suggesting the Stanford Experiment says something about humanity as a whole rather than a certain class of American college students in the 20th century.

Similarly, just as we don’t actually know what the psychological actually is,  we have no bloody idea what ‘consciousness’ is. Just think about that for a second. We have absolutely no idea what we are, or how we fit in the larger universe.

The ethos behind chaos magic is good. It’s practical. Find out what works, and use it. The way it goes about it though, is definitely a product of its 20th Century Western Enlightenment mindset. Ask anyone not completely immersed in that mindset, and you’ll find that the magic they use already works well enough for them for practical purposes.  Because if it didn’t they wouldn’t use it. Neither would those marginalised in Western society. It wouldn’t keep developing, shifting, fusing and syncretising if it didn’t confer some advantages.

Which is, of course, what Gordon is saying, using deliberately provocative metaphors. Because Chaos Magic is a reaction against Western Magic’s tendency to ‘do’ magic solely as a intellectual or spiritual exercise. Of course, this is actually reaction against certain nineteenth and twentieth century forms of ritual magic. Because, at heart, that’s just rooted in Enlightenment snobbery, which itself can ultimately be laid at the feet of Monotheism for giving us the idea that there is an Absolute, transcendent aspect to so-called ‘reality’ which renders everyday life irrelevant.

There’s a reductionism at the heart of modern and post-modern Western thought which says that there must be an answer that covers everything; just psychology, all made up, etc.

Anyone with any hardcore magical experience eventually needs to take off the stabilisers, throw away the training wheels and progress beyond Baby’s First Mindfuck. Because once you leave that to one side, you begin to realise just how deeply bloody weird existence is. And that means you have to recognise the massive multiplicitous plurality involved in every single breath you take.

The world is alive, a Pandaemonic All which, when you embrace it, blows our brains to pieces and confronts us with our chronic naivety. You soon realise that you’ll never, ever be in control. The best you can do is learn how to ride the roaring flux.

Remember the quote from Gandalf above?

Well, have an addition: A wizard always says precisely what they mean to.

Of course, what they say, can mean many things. And that, is the point.

“The right word is not the one that names the thing but the word that gives the effect of the thing.”
— Marshall McLuhan

Twilight language. Shadow-communication.

It’s that effect which is important, and since we live in that plurality, we have to accept that words and practices may be different when we go places or enter different conditions. There is no one size fits all method of survival, of waxing and thriving well. Because magic, as with all life, is about that. Finding out what allows you to be you, more completely

Which means our metrics may be very, very  different. You might be a corporate lawyer, or a crippled bearded madman, I dunno.

And I find myself wondering, how many times will you read mine or Gordon’s posts? How many paths will  you take – if you’re willing to go beyond Baby’s First Mindfuck and into the Gothic, barbarian, feral Night?

Because remember, you can’t extract anything in isolation.

So, from the bottom of a hole filled with bones and stones…

Be seeing you.

Blood Whispers

I

In beginning this, we must understand that there is no beginning. In understanding, we must accord ourselves certain latitudes; we are after all amidst the chaos of the normal. Such chaos is, in point of fact, borne of certain curvatures and shapings of which we are not, at least initially, entirely cognizant.

We perceive the world as outside ourselves; the arrangement of disorder as a thing and of itself. Order is that which is perceptible, and so we find ourselves equating the breaking-apart of perception to be like unto a shattering of of some ceramic vase, some clay cup. Its destruction seems without sense; as individually featureless as the shards and the spaces between that which we once thought whole.

The particular configuration of experience we are used to – that is to say, that which we conceive of as being the default, is wrung out of that same chaotic normality. The breadth of possibility is immense, and yet we willingly confine ourselves to narrow prescriptiveness for the sake of convention.

All this is to say that we use others to reckon upon our position and boundaries. The curvature, the very arc of of normality is self-referential, and needs must be so in order to preserve integrity.

And yet, it is is this self-referential quality which places us at the mouth of a great river – the estuary from which everything flows hereafter into the sea of the Soul. The same sea which is reflected in every mere, lake, spring and well which humankind has called holy since we were born to know.

As an enclosed space, the normal has provided us with safe-harbour – a notion of stability which has insulated us against the sheer power and fluidity of that same sea. From within this place, we were able to finally observe the times and tides as if from a position apart – to take a breath before heading inland in search of higher ground, from which we might survey our seeming domain.

That same higher ground was sought precisely because of tidal flow, the implacable rise and ebb which could seem so placid, and yet drag us down with savage undertow, down into the dark and lightless depths.

From on high, the rip and curl of wave, the roaring pulse of onrush and flood could do little; the pounding breakers receding into the distance. Only in dreaming terror, burning lust or frenzied rage would the echo be remembered, would the pulse of the blood come to recall us to our origins. Only in extasis, when we came to ourselves once more. Only in the fury, the nocturnal archaism of the primordial would we coalesce, would we come together, not as single entities long divided by distance and time, but as the coven and the band, the horde and army bound together in primordial kinship, eschewing division and separation.

No longer simply holding position, requiring another to define location and form, but as court and constellation; each utterly alone in the howling silence, isolate and containing an unuttered vastness.

For those same wells and springs were well guarded, their waters deep and hungry; even amidst the solid lands, fathomless dark portals now freezing the marrow. These our bloody passages, our ever-swallowing receivers of sacrifice.

In-betweennesses abound; the waters were never thin. Instead, thick and and all encompassing, so these Soul-portals recall the bloodlit archaisms of our origins.

 

II

Blood and honey. These mark out the daemonic – the sweet nectar and the bitter draught. From the ferment of the normal, its very death and dissolution comes the wine. And that same death and dissolution comes from its distillation and concentration; the inescapable vitalism found within its every portion.

The same cup which was so all encompassing now brims over. The void begs to be filled; that which is no longer capable becomes its own monument; the ruins breaking up the landscape like jagged teeth; shards that lie in wait to open veins, to return us to the understanding of our own labyrinthine nature. The monstrous daemon at our very heart waits in darkness like a burning star within the earth; the immortal congress of kosmic Eros giving birth to a terrible, awful understanding.

There is no word which is poetry. No verse which is rhythm entire, or rune all-encompassing. Conveyance flounders, speech is dumbstruck and silence echoes with an ache that shall never be satiated.

This is the pain of Gethsemane, the thorny spear which wounds us as we are bound to the Tree, that windy gallows at the crossroads of Golgotha upon which we hang for nine whole nights, walking the paths of the dead without moving.

We thirst, but are given no mead. We hunger, but are given no bread.

Utterly alone, so we hang in sacrifice. We are anointed, blessed by own blood, sacrificing ourselves to the upwelling of the Soul, self now obsessed, possessed by Self. Memory and Thought now raise twin heads, converge to feast upon our very body, drink our blood, bringing ten thousand wild hunters to feast upon this prey, now brought inexorably to bay.

Behold then, the feast in all its frenzy, all its wine-dark essence; this most primordial revelation.

The daemonic polarity is inescapable; the magnetic pulse draws countless familiars. In counterpoint, it is we who become once more the Stranger, the endless wanderer with the ravenous hunger for Gnosis.

We, who were given no bread, no mead, may devour all things, and in doing so, bring forth communion. We are nourished by the Soul, which liberates the Spirit from its own bondage, and engenders an orgia of ambrosial wonder, a shining blood-glow of poetic mead that burns like the very sun itself, a whirling wheel as terrible and glorious as blackest Time Beyond Time.

We cannibalise ourselves, even as we devour and our devoured by courts of intimate and terrible deities; the freezing wastes inhabit our very marrow and we are consumed by the Heraclitan fire.

All is fury. And in that bloody inundation, that primordial drowning, we are thrice baptised in the battle-sweat which cools and purifies us anew, to stand as feral children of the pleromatic Allfather; lone harriers and fighters who fight and die and rise again in the Primal Night of Images.

Warrior-poets, vagabonds, singers, lovers, aristocrats of the Soul; we who listen to the rhythm and the runes, the tides and the pulse, who go forth and back and in between.

We who know naught, and in knowing naught, may know precisely what is needful; who love Wisdom as the dark and fierce Lady she is, hidden in all things, so we raise our voices as we sing forever:

Be Whole!

.

fuo the invisibles vol 1 no 3

Over at The Starry Cave   Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold has a really interesting post entitled The Spiritual Beggar And The Work With The SpiritsAs usual, with Frisvold’s work, it’s really thought provoking, and in turn, got me thinking about a specific area I loosely term Vagabond Mysteries.

There’s a long tradition of itinerant magicians and sorcerers in many cultures. Partially, I suspect that some of this is part of the same reflex which Others the stranger, and those who seem to be outside social ties, eschewing certain social contracts. However, there’s plenty of historic and legendary cases of wandering wizards in areas as far apart as Magna Graecia and Scandinavia- from the Norse seeresses or volvas, to the philosopher Pythagoras and his legendary reception transmission from the mysteriously nomadic Abaris.

That’s of course even ignoring those wandering priests and magicians cast adrift when the pagan temples of Egypt and Greece were shut down, to say nothing of the potential mobility of those ritual specialists known as Goes who  provided significant source praxes contributed to the corpus of of the Western Magical Tradition via the grimoires.

Trace this further and you come up with things ably demonstrated by Jake Stratton-Kent in his works, and all the material Jack Faust has written about concerning witches and the Venusberg – sybiline oracles, faeries, travelling scholars and the like, a good chunk of which feed in to witchcraft beliefs and practices, certainly up to the 17th-18th centuries, and probably even later.  I’ve been reading Jason Semmens’ work on William Paynter, folklorist and “Cornish Witchfinder”, wherein he records stories stretching from the 1850’s to at least the 1930’s in Cornwall. Given many Cunning Folk were known to use texts descended from the grimoires – as well as the really quite old Abracadabra triangle and SATOR-ROTAS square – there’s something to be said for the continuance of ritual specialists in a cross-pollinating stream for an extraordinarily long time.

In fact, I’d argue that the 19th/early 20th century occult ‘revival’ is somewhat of an abberation, in that the construction of orders and the like heavily obscured a stream of magic which has continued, in a fashion, even today.  I find it deeply interesting that this earthy, practical magic borne of necessity proved the hardest to suppress.

Paynter references the stories attributed to the infamous cunning woman Thomasina Blight, known as Tammy Blee. Amongst these tales is a narrative a shoemaker who grew fed up of Tammy’s late payment, and informed her that she’d get no more shoes from him. According to Paynter, she stormed out after making certain assertions that the craftsman should have no more luck for such a slight.

Paynter records that the recounter of this tale  went abroad, only to return some years later to return and find the craftsman packing up to leave the county, citing bad luck and a drop in business since the ‘ill-wishing’.

While this in itself is a demonstration of why you shouldn’t piss off someone so well known for such things, what’s interesting is that again, Blight was either poor or tight-fisted. Compare this to the economic situation of the infamous Pendle Witches, and one begins to spot a theme – people using witchcraft and magic because it was either easier, or they had little alternative. Even Crowley was constantly on the hunt for money,and Joseph Smith of Mormon fame came from a family of magical treasure hunters!

The majority of the time it seems, magic was not a separate intellectual or spiritual pursuit outside of a certain class of individual who was often independently wealthy, or in a position of educated authority such as nobility or the church.

Why is this? For the majority of folk there is little nobility in being poor, unless one exists in a culture where spiritual poverty is at least partially acceptable. Even those of us who fast deliberately for magical purposes often do so deliberately. Not because we are having difficulty feeding ourselves,

Here then, is what I believe to be something of a modern and post-modern paradox, borne of transcendentalism and to a lesser extent, monotheism and monoculture: when one sets oneself apart from the world, one loses a sense of the complex interconnectedness of  existence.

“Well, there I went and said it. Any system which says, This is a rotten world, wait for the next, give up, do nothing, succumb —that may be the basic Lie and if we participate in believing it and acting (or rather not acting) it we involve ourselves in the Lie and suffer dreadfully . . . which only reinforces that particular Lie…

Meanwhile, I am trying to bring back an affirmative view of life, as was stamped out furiously wherever it appeared in history, and all I can hope is that I won’t get caught. Well, I will be, but hopefully not too soon. It’s a nice world and I’d like to stick around and enjoy it for a long time . . . but I got to say what I think is so, right? Whatever the consequences.”

Philip K Dick, July 16 1974, in a letter to Claudia Bush

The above quote can be found in The Exegesis of Philip K Dick – a simply massive tome in which a California science fiction tries to make sense of contact with the High Weird. In 1974, Dick experienced a mystical revelation that came to him in the form of a pink beam of light. The whole book is his attempt to make sense of things, and though it’s generally known that Dick was at one point, seeing the world through a Gnostic framework, the Exegesis  is filled with humour and genuine attempts at trying to work out what the hell was going on. What’s interesting about Dick’s experiences is that one of them involved the return of the beam to inform him that his infant son was ill and about to die. The parents rushed to the doctor who discovered that the child had a potentially fatal inguinal hernia.

Think about this for a moment – this is an intelligent, well read individual who has the High Weird make contact, and not only that, indirectly, or perhaps indirectly save the life of his child. 

Now, I don’t know about you, but I would call such things a positive Result.

songsofinnocenceblake

Dick even tried to stimulate the experience in various ways, and while he remained convinced, utterly and completely, that Something had happened, he never quite settled, he was always pushing onward. Always trying to frame his experience in a way that made sense, to establish some kind of continuity. Dick’s letter, quoted above, is important precisely because it clearly articulates the affirmative view of life.

What’s this got to do with anything – this particular philosophical inclination?

Quite bluntly, as a friend puts it, living is hustling.

On a biological level, there  are plenty of organisms and environments which are inimical to our existence. That’s why we have immune systems – working quietly away to stop us from dying from the common cold or the vibrant bacteria we picked up in that restaurant or supermarket.  Most of the time we don’t notice. It’s only when the big guns are brought in that we even begin to exhibit symptoms after all.

This hustling is in fact, at first glance, only the province of the marginalised. Yet, every culture has its so-called creation story, which if you look at it really, is merely a story of cosmic ordering or arrangement. The gods take what there is, even if that’s Nothing, and through their exercise of power, arrange things into some sort of order. Even if we’re going by purely scientific method, the theory of the Big Bang is simply a particular set of inferences based on observation and mathematics.

One might argue then, if one were feeling particularly in the mood, that the Primordial is inherently pre-order, or at least, is fundamentally ungraspable as a whole. Sure we have theorems and workable technologies, but as far as working out how it all fits together as a kosmos, we’re still making guesses, based upon our very limited methods of perception. As I argued in my last post, negative capability is very much a thing  – so how does this work in the context of the Starry Cave  post I mentioned?

We are the beggars; our perceptions are our outstretched hands. Events, experiences, these are the coin of the realm as it were.

We are all, whether we like to admit it, constantly in a position of need. That is, we are bound by Necessity – we must breathe, eat, drink,  and stay within a habitable temperature. Everything we do, at a most fundamental level springs from these simple biological needs. Once they are satisfied, everything else may occur.

Thus, we might argue that it is in times of crisis that the Primordial, or the High Weird kicks in.

Am I suggesting that we only engage in reactive crisis-based behaviour? Of course not – changing one’s life to avoid or deal with crises is always better in the long-term. After all, there are some crises which force us to choose the lesser of evils, when of course a better alternative would be never having to choose at all.

crisis (n.) Look up crisis at Dictionary.comearly 15c., from Latinized form of Greek krisis “turning point in a disease” (used as such by Hippocrates and Galen), literally “judgment, result of a trial, selection,” from krinein “to separate, decide, judge,” from PIE root *krei- “to sieve, discriminate, distinguish” (cognates: Greek krinesthai “to explain;” Old English hriddel “sieve;” Latin cribrum “sieve,” crimen “judgment, crime,” cernere (past participle cretus) “to sift, separate;” Old Irish criathar, Old Welsh cruitr “sieve;” Middle Irish crich “border, boundary”). Transferred non-medical sense is 1620s in English. A German term for “mid-life crisis” is Torschlusspanik, literally “shut-door-panic,” fear of being on the wrong side of a closing gate.

The turning point of a disease. The point where one’s loss of ease shifts, the point where an inevitable change occurs. A sieving: selection, discrimination. All of these imply a definitive change of state, a collapsing of possibility into a particular inevitability. At first glance, this might seem to be directly oppositional to the idea of magic as that which increases possibilities, of increasing manipulation or ability.

Things are rarely what they seem though, so let’s take another look at what seems oppositional. Unification of opposites and all that, eh?

Consider for a second that in many countries, begging is actually discouraged, if not actually technically illegal, just as homelessness is an unsightly thing which gets the police involved, an affront to so-called ‘order’ of tax-payers and corporate interests. Being homeless may not actually be a crime, but may as well be treated as such by those who view it as an abrogation or violation of the social contract.

crime (n.) Look up crime at Dictionary.commid-13c., “sinfulness,” from Old French crimne (12c., Modern French crime), from Latin crimen (genitive criminis) “charge, indictment, accusation; crime, fault, offense,” perhaps from cernere “to decide, to sift” (see crisis). But Klein (citing Brugmann) rejects this and suggests *cri-men, which originally would have been “cry of distress” (Tucker also suggests a root in “cry” words and refers to English plaint, plaintiff, etc.). Meaning “offense punishable by law” is from late 14c. The Latin word is glossed in Old English by facen, also “deceit, fraud, treachery.” Crime wave first attested 1893, American English.

plaintiff (n.) Look up plaintiff at Dictionary.comc.1400, from Anglo-French pleintif (late 13c.), noun use of Old French plaintif “complaining; wretched, miserable,” from plainte (see plaint). Identical with plaintive at first; the form that receded into legal usage retained the older -iff spelling

plaint (n.) Look up plaint at Dictionary.com“expression of sorrow,” c.1200, from Old French plainte “lament, lamentation” (12c.), from Latin planctus “lamentation, wailing, beating of the breast,” from past participle stem of plangere “to lament, to strike” (see plague (n.)). Connecting notion probably is beating one’s breast in grief.

plague (n.) Look up plague at Dictionary.comlate 14c., plage, “affliction, calamity, evil, scourge;” early 15c., “malignant disease,” from Old French plage (14c.), from Late Latin plaga, used in Vulgate for “pestilence,” from Latin plaga “stroke, wound,” probably from root of plangere “to strike, lament (by beating the breast),” from or cognate with Greek (Doric) plaga “blow,” from PIE *plak- (2) “to strike, to hit” (cognates: Greek plazein “to drive away,” plessein “to beat, strike;” Old English flocan “to strike, beat;” Gothic flokan “to bewail;” German fluchen, Old Frisian floka “to curse”).

The Latin word also is the source of Old Irish plag (genitive plaige) “plague, pestilence,” German Plage, Dutch plaage. Meaning “epidemic that causes many deaths” is from 1540s; specifically in reference to bubonic plague from c.1600. Modern spelling follows French, which had plague from 15c. Weakened sense of “anything annoying” is from c.1600.

And here, we’re back at the concept of disease or sickness, aren’t we? Here’s we’re back at the looming threat of death or contagion and disruption, that which undermines the stability of the body or society, renders all the social contracts null and void; all those hoops we jump through – are told we must jump through by those in authority – are revealed as transparent attempts to cover the fact that we’re all faced with death, and that nobody knows what’s really going on. 

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Despite our apparent herd-immunity to the High Weird, those faced with naked Necessity of survival will quite quickly spot the flaws therein. Strangeness ramps up when normal ‘coverage’ fails. Which brings us back to itinerant magicians and ritual specialists:

“The etymology of the term goes indicates that psuchagogia  originally constituted the heart of the concept: it is a derivative of goos, “mourning-song,” and goao, “sing a song of mourning.” The goos was the improvised mourning-song of the dead man’s relatives, predominantly women, and stood in contrast to the threnos, the formal mourning-song for professionals. It was perhaps usual for the former to be sung in antiphony to the later. The original Indo-European root was *gow-, which, as Burkert notes, was onomatopoeic for grief. The derivation continued to perceived throughout antiquity and beyond, which may indicate that psuchagogia or kindred activities continued to be central to the concept of the goes. Thus Cosmas (sixth century A.D.) said: “Goetia is the calling-upon of evil demons that hang around tombs… Goetia got its name from gooi and threnoi of those around tombs.” The Suda was to say that “goetia is said of the bringing up of a dead person (anagein nekron) by the invocation of his name (epiklesis), whence it derives its name, from the lamentations (goon) and threnodies of people around the grave.” It is uncertain at what point the term goes began to be assimilated to the term magos.”
– Daniel Ogden, Greek and Roman Necromancy. (P. 110 – 111)

The grave-song, dear reader. The lamentations of loss, the wails of the bereft; the knowledge that there is a beyondness, an outsideness which our conciousness cannot grasp without undergoing irrevocable change. Death-as-gate to the Mysteries of Existence. This is the key, the inexorable destruction which is the ineffable primordial well to which we return. The thing which is inescapable and fundamental to everything we are, and yet we strive to deny with every fibre of our existence.

Death is the ultimate crisis. The trial over which the three judges presided in ancient Greece. The weighing of the heart in ancient Egypt. The inevitable doom of Ragnarok. Even the Final Judgement of Christianity.

They say you can’t take it with you. Let me posit then, the notion that you never had it in the first place.

I’ll quote from the Starry Cave here:

I recall one specific encounter with a beggar writing this. I was in downtown São Paulo waiting for a friend, as I sat down and ordered a beer an elderly woman came up to me, with great calm and direction she opened her hand to receive some money and I had only four coins on me and no other cash. I gave her what I had and her reaction was to take one of the coins, throwing it in the ground with great force, murmuring something, and then she blessed me and walked away.

It was a magical moment, because for me this was a living spell, pure sorcery, to take a third of what little you were given and throw it to the ground, evoking something, for the sake of increase. I watched her walking away to a bar across the street where she gained bills, replacing and overriding the few coins I had to give… she had her increase and I gained my blessing…

In this case, the beggar ‘gave up’, but she did not surrender. She did not submit to the Lie, but used it to affirm her place in the world – rather than attempt to avoid it, she exploited her weakness. If Nick is correct, that pure act of sorcery was an evocation. We can’t know what it was to, maybe to a god or a saint, or to the kosmos at large, but it was an entreaty.

Let’s consider this for a second:

Either she used it as a sacrifice to something she had a relationship with, or it was specifically an act of bare-faced guerilla action against a reality which says that it is suicidal to give up what we accumulate; that to do so is to deliberately acknowledge the inevitability of death and dissolution.

Asymmetric warfare of the Soul.

(For those of a certain bent, who know of what I speak, Chronos-Aion and Ananke figure quite heavily in this kind of thing in an alternate world where we have a less fragmentary version of the Western Magical Tradition.)

This asymmetry then, is something we’re taught to want to avoid. Powerlessness is bad, m’kay? Except, actually, as we’re finding out, and is going to become more obvious despite the past three to four centuries (if I’m being kind) or six to seven  of relative ‘stability'(have I mentioned I’m not kind?) we have a problem.

Because that asymmetry is not just human ‘default’. It’s our primordial state, and more than that – it’s how we became human.

In short, we’re fucked, and we’ve always been fucked. Our entire history as a species comes from our antecedents, the primordial seeds of life which somehow come into existence in an inimical environment, and somehow survive.

It sounds ridiculous, even unrealistic to point out that the grinning skull is the guarantor of the life-principle, its Principal and Patron.

invisibles-10-magic-mirror

It really does, I get that. Yet it has an ancient history

What are men? Mortal gods. What are gods? Immortal men.” ― Heraclitus

This goes way beyond the idea that  we project ourselves onto gods, or that they are simply us projecting ourselves onto the kosmos. In fact, given the wider context of Heraclitus fragments, it suggests  a profoundly pro-social, co-operative scenario wherein all forms of Being, from gods to men and back, are engaged in an ever-moving interelated whole. Which is to say, quite bluntly, that your death may not matter  but it has affect.

Without you, as I have repeatedly said, the universe would be fundamentally altered.

The elderly lady tossing a coin is an assertion of her presence. It’s an active participation in life, an extension of whatever relation she has with the kosmos, a refusal to kowtow and surrender, a commitment not to some nebulous future of bought food and full belly, but to the here-and-now, in that place. And lest you think I’m suggesting this is again surrender, let me quote Gordon’s last post but one:

At the absolute base of magic’s family tree, before it even splits into divination and non-divination, is pattern recognition. When these stars dip below the horizon the sharks start breeding and we should stop fishing, when I dream about Frog a child will die.

How often does your own system of pattern recognition have to yield positive results before it confers a survival advantage on your tribe? 20%? If you are 20% more accurate at locating prey than the shaman from the tribe over the ridge, you boosted your tribe’s available calories by orders of magnitude.

And here’s where things get funky, because pattern recognition is hardwired into us. It’s the basis of that ordering impulse, the codification of patterns as the-way-things-are.

So, let’s indulge in a thought experiment, the kind of thought experiment which is straight out of the impulse behind chaos magic:

How would magic work on another planet?

Just ask yourself that question. Shorn of all cultural referents, fictional or otherwise, how the hell do you adapt to an alien landscape? Ordinary earth-based asymmetry has increased by orders of magnitude. Sure you have all things you know about Earth, but when things are completely and utterly different, what do you do? The conventional wisdom is split within two camps – you terraform the planet, or you genetically engineer yourselves and descendants to survive.

Both of these are only viable if you have the backing of a bigger power. Let’s call it Earth as a whole, yes?

Except what happens when you get cut off from the backing of that power; solar storm puts comms on the fritz, or a solar flare which hadn’t been anticipated cooks your centrifuges and exowombs. You’re a bit fucked, aren’t you?

This is science fiction, yes – but it’s also an only slightly scaled down version  of the stuff that early humanity managed to prevail through. Expanding through an alien environment, using their native pattern recognition systems to create an oikumene worth hanging about in, striking details with those emergent processes which were best engaged with through the proven technology which had kept them alive for generations.

That technology?

Society.

The ability to work together and organise around skill-sets and then transmit further improvements in techniques which develop out of that skill set. Implicit within that technology is its shadow, the proverbial left-hand of darkness. The ability to reconfigure and subvert these structures. To forcibly engage with what exists outside the fire, outside the known. To strike pacts and come back back changed.

Of course, in order to strike a deal, you have to go to meet the other party, and in a world where survival is paramount, there’s precious little neutral ground. So what can you do except go into the unknown territory and state your case?

(Toss your coin onto the ground and say Here I am!)

And maybe you get eaten. Maybe you get played. Maybe you get ignored. These are the good outcomes.

Because if you get something else? You’ll never be the same. Why? As the old proverb goes: Beggars can’t be choosers.

This is however, not entirely true  – precisely because beggars must be choosers in order to do what they do. There has to be the choice to pick your target, to put out your shingle or sign and say that you are open to receive.  That you give not two hoots about another narrative, because you need to survive. This is what our ancestors did, when confronted with mortality. This is not some paean to poverty, some valorisation of homelessness – I’ve been homeless, albeit not living on the streets, thanks only to the kindness of friends, and without them I would probably have died.

No, in fact, the vagabond mysteries are those most fundamental of human mysteries – so fundamental in fact, and so primordial that dealing with them in an unvarnished fashion pushes the boundaries of what we thought-we-knew human was. And if humans have been wandering the planet since we began, then ask yourself what form the ‘first magician’ might have taken, and how they learnt what they knew.

Another though experiment yes, but one that seems incredibly fitting when compared to the off-planet scenario, or the slow anthropogenically induced terror of an inhospitable planet.

One day, you’re going to die. One day it’s all going to fall apart.

So, maybe it’s time to start thinking about what comes next, in the here-and-now, eh?

 

Living after the Lightning Strike

Sometimes, dear reader, I swear that  Gordon was put at the helm of Runesoup by some sort of hardcore Chthonic-Geosophic beings. It’s like he’s my fairy-blogmother: I confess I’m having problems nailing down what  to post about, and I explain why. Ten minutes of conversation later and he’s pointed out that there’s a post which could be spun off from that conversation. I grouse that I agree with 98% of what he says and that he explains it far more coherently than I.

He calls me lazy.

I’m like a hairy inverse-Cinderella here. All the high concept and worry disappears, and I’m left with some mice and a humourously shaped tuber and the knowledge that it’s always actually Midnight, no matter what I’d prefer..

How many fairy-tales start like that though? The protagonist’s ordinary life gets shaken up and they are forced by circumstance to flee into the forest to live on their wits? How many protagonists are forced to go on some sort of journey in which they discover themselves, and then come out the other side with something they didn’t know before?

Ernst Jünger’s book  entitled The Forest Passage  is discussed in Runesoup’s Risk A Little More Light post. This book is, to me, an extremely powerful tome. It’s a book that never once mentions magic as we know it, and yet, with extreme potency, provides a signpost to survival which is even more relevant today. From Gordon:

“Next, familiarise yourself with the Forest Passage. And by familiarise yourself, I mean read it. If you have not heard of it before, it’s a long political essay written by Ernst Jünger in Germany in 1951. He was a WWI war hero. He was courted by Himmler and Goebbels to join their Nazi projects -and vigorously declined their offers. He twice turned down seats in the Reichstag. So he wrote the Forest Passage at a time in his country’s history where the people were having to come to terms with their recent past as war criminals while living in a world of total surveillance, propaganda, growing police power and manipulated elections. Does any of that sound familiar?”

Being  a German text of course, even the title is an English translation of Der Waldgang, which itself arises from an Old Norse concept, skoggangr, which is a form of outlawry. Roughly translated, the Old Norse means ‘Forest-going‘. This concept is important because it quite clearly points out that the individual goes to live in the forest, rather than in society. The concept itself is an active principle – one is always going.  Jünger wrote:

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

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.

Now, you might argue that going-into-the-forest just isn’t possible. After all, unless you find some truly isolated spot in the back of beyond, you’ll have to deal with people, yes?

One has to make compromises, surely?

BULLSHIT.

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Because, you see the forest-goer has either implicitly or explicitly broken or circumvented those mores and perceptions which are regarded as civilised. They are marginalised, even if not formally exiled, pushed to the outskirts to dwell on the edges of things. Society has implicitly and sometimes explicitly informed the forest-goer that they are at best not welcome unless they conform, and are at worst a threat to the very fabric of the oikumene.

I am a cripple, in case you didn’t know. I use a wheelchair and despite what you might think, I am not some Paralympian ubermensch. Nor, I might add, am I some pitiable invalid who you must, and can use as some salve against guilt. I am the guy kids are either fascinated by, or are afraid of. People cross the street to avoid me. Small children not yet ten have hurled stones at me as I was minding my own business. I’ve been beaten, burned and had my hair deliberately set afire in my time. I’ve lost count of the uncomfortable glances, or the times people prefer to talk to the folks I’m with, or the indirect querying of what ‘he’ wants/what is wrong with him.

How many of you have hit a glass ceiling, a pink ceiling? How many of you have experienced racism, sexism, or any of myriad different forms of Othering?

Most of you, I’ll bet, at some time, will have noted a disconnect between where you seem-to-be and where you’d like to end up.  We’re told that’s normal, that everyone feels that way. What’s heavily implied, however, is that if we abide by the rules, jump through certain hoops, then we will probably get what we want.

BULLSHIT. 

If you want coverage of your event or product, all you have to do is pay; 100 views jumps to 1000, and all you have to do is perform a certain ritual involving credit cards and bank accounts. All you have to do to be the sex-deity of your choice is to follow this diet, to join a gym.

But see, I am never going to be the perfect specimen of humanity. Neither are you, though your mileage many vary.

So I’m going to let you into a little secret: You don’t have to be what they say. And indeed, you can’t be, not really.

The forest calls. The forest whispers out of every crack in the pavement, every so-called failure. Out of every whisper of self-loathing. Every gut-punch as you make the mistake of reading an article directly or indirectly related to something you care about. Every snort of of derision, every cutting remark, every blow, remembered or actual, It’s around every corner, as mysterious as a disappearing cat tail, as disconcerting as a disembodied grin.

You don’t have to be anything except what you are.

The fear and uncertainty and doubt? The weltanshauungkrieg ( lit. world-view warfare, developed by the Nazis and then rechristened with the more palatable(!) psychological warfare by the Allies) which is piped into your brains by all forms of media? It doesn’t matter, not really.

The forest calls. All you have to do is learn to listen.

To “will self-affirmation from [your] own resources.” My resources are a grasp of philosophy, magic, language – and also my disability. It might seems strange to frame one’s weakness as resource, but this precisely what’s necessary. Within the forest, there must be a ruthless, merciless evaluation of your resources. This means that you face yourself unflinchingly; society would have you be someone else, but the truth is, we are never taught to discover who we are. It is always told to us, given to us. Your weaknesses are a resource despite what you have been told.

The forest does not care, any more than a tree root respects the pavement or a storm  takes the movements of shipping into account. The forest is that which moves; it lives and breathes, colonising  and co-opting. How many of you have seen an urban fox, or another animal that’s moved into civilisation to take advantage of it. The forest does not stop – we as humans are  helpless in the face of tsunami, flood, fire and hurricane. We burn and slash and cut and the moment our back is, turned, life carries on.

Even Chernobyl has mushrooms which appear to consume radiation, for goodness sake. We cracked open the process at the heart of stars and it slipped its reins, drove us out. But the it couldn’t keep the forest out.

So listen to me, please. Listen to the maddened cripple who tells you that the forest will kill off who you thought you were, will take you through glades of shadow and death. Let me drop an etymological bomb:

shadow (v.) Middle English schadowen, Kentish ssedwi, from late Old English sceadwian “to protect as with covering wings” (also see overshadow), from the root of shadow (n.). Similar formation in Old Saxon skadoian, Dutch schaduwen, Old High Germanscatewen, German (über)schatten. From mid-14c. as “provide shade;” late 14c. as “cast a shadow over” (literal and figurative), from early 15c. as “darken” (in illustration, etc.). Meaning “to follow like a shadow” is from c.1600 in an isolated instance; not attested again until 1872. Related: Shadowed; shadowing.

shadow (n.)Old English sceadwe, sceaduwe “the effect of interception of sunlight, dark image cast by someone or something when interposed between an object and a source of light,” oblique cases (“to the,” “from the,” “of the,” “in the”) of sceadu (see shade  (n.)).Shadow is to shade (n.) as meadow is to mead (n.2). Similar formation in Old Saxon skado, Middle Dutch schaeduwe, Dutch schaduw, Old High German scato, German schatten, Gothic skadus “shadow, shade”

shade (n.) Middle English schade, Kentish ssed, from late Old English scead “partial darkness; shelter, protection,” also partly from sceadu “shade, shadow, darkness; shady place, arbor, protection from glare or heat,” both from Proto-Germanic *skadwaz (cognates: Old Saxon skado, Middle Dutch scade, Dutch schaduw, Old High German scato, German Schatten, Gothic skadus), from PIE *skot-wo-, from root *skot- “dark, shade” (cognates: Greek skotos “darkness, gloom,” Albanian kot “darkness,” Old Irish scath, Old Welshscod, Breton squeut “darkness,” Gaelic sgath “shade, shadow, shelter”).

 .sciamachy (n.) “fighting with shadows, shadow-boxing” 1620s, from Greek skiamakhia “shadow-fighting, a sham fight” but perhaps literally “fighting in the shade” (i.e., in school; ancient teachers taught in shaded public places such as porches and groves), from skia “shade, shadow” (see shine (v.)) + makhe “battle” (see -machy).

shine (v.) Old English scinan “shed light, be radiant, be resplendent, iluminate,” of persons, “be conspicuous” (class I strong verb; past tense scan, past participle scinen), from Proto-Germanic *skinan (cognates: Old Saxon and Old High German skinan, Old Norse and Old Frisian skina, Dutch schijnen, German scheinen, Gothic skeinan “to shine, appear”), from PIE root *skai- (2) “to gleam, shine, flicker” (cognates: Sanskrit chaya “brilliance, luster; shadow,” Greek skia “shade,” Old Church Slavonic sinati “to flash up, shine,” Albanian he “shadow”). Transitive meaning “to black (boots)” is from 1610s. Related: Shined (in the shoe polish sense), otherwise shone; shining.

-machy word-forming element meaning “battle, war, contest,” from Latinized form of Greek -makhia, from makhe “a battle, fight,” related to makhesthai “to fight,” from PIE root *magh- (2) “to fight.”

magic (n.) late 14c., “art of influencing events and producing marvels using hidden natural forces,” from Old French magique “magic, magical,” from Late Latin magice “sorcery, magic,” from Greek magike (presumably with tekhne “art”), fem. of magikos “magical,” from magos “one of the members of the learned and priestly class,” from Old Persian magush, possibly from PIE *magh- (1) “to be able, to have power” (see machine). Transferred sense of “legerdemain, optical illusion, etc.” is from 1811. Displaced Old English wiccecræft (see witch); also drycræft, from dry “magician,” from Irish drui “priest, magician” (see druid).

might (n.)Old English miht, earlier mæht “might, bodily strength, power, authority, ability,” from Proto-Germanic *makhti- (cognates: Old Norse mattr, Old Frisian, Middle Dutch, Dutch macht, Old High German maht, German Macht, Gothic mahts), Germanic suffixed form of PIE root

*magh- (1) “be able, have power” (see may (v.)). 

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This is the power-that-is-not-power; the facility with the quality which abrogates the known;  it removes & annuls & attacks the thing we have been taught and have come to believe as implicit reality.

We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know ” – Donald Rumsfeld.

Zizek points out there are also  the unknown knowns – those things which we intentionally refuse to acknowledge. So why do we refuse to acknowledge them? Is it because, in acknowledging them, we are forced to be cognizant of the fact that survival requires  a fundamental shift in identity? We are no longer able to get away with the soothing illusion that we may transcend our circumstances?

That, in fact our circumstance, right here and right now in this moment, is all we will ever have. Our materia magicae are our own bodies and thoughts and dreams.

Close one eye and stare into the shadows, the deepest darknesses, our awful weaknesses. They are ours, after all, aren’t they? Nobody wants to take on another’s weakness – we each have enough of our own. And if we keep looking into the dark, after a while doubt creeps in – such thinking is insane and pointless. There is nothing there.

That doubt is quite correct. There is nothing recognisable, graspable there. All our conventional modes of discrete perception fail. All our epistemological frameworks disintegrate when faced with that hollow, abyssal void of the unknown. There is only the emptiness, and then…

Ah yes, and then. There is nothing before and after, you see. Nothing to place after the ‘then’.

Because the distinction between ‘then’ and ‘now’ dissolves. Now we’re in the Dreaming; the realm of rising and falling Images which are empty and yet contain a potency that creates and destroys. Where the very absence brings forth phenomena; where withdrawal and restriction bring forth a cornucopia of fecundity and possibility. This is the insanity of the All-at-Once; the blindness that brings vision – far beyond the product of any individual stimuli-starved brain.

This is the kosmic isolation I’ve talked about, the vitalistic elemental mode of existence which reveals that we are as eyes in the centres of hurricanes.

“To live alone one must be a beast or a god, says Aristotle. Leaving out the third case: one must be both — a philosopher.” – Nietzsche

And what is a philosopher but a lover of wisdom? To seek the wisdom of the forest is  sensible, when you become aware that it is all that is, that your internal world is all that you can ever know.

wise (adj.) Look up wise at Dictionary.comOld English wis “learned, sagacious, cunning; sane; prudent, discreet; experienced; having the power of discerning and judging rightly,” from Proto-Germanic *wissaz (cognates: Old Saxon, Old Frisian wis, Old Norse viss, Dutch wijs, German weise “wise”), from past participle adjective *wittos of PIE root *weid- “to see,” hence “to know” (see vision). Modern slang meaning “aware, cunning” first attested 1896. Related to the source of Old English witan “to know, wit.”

A wise man has no extensive knowledge; He who has extensive knowledge is not a wise man. [Lao-tzu, “Tao te Ching,” c.550 B.C.E.]

This specific distinction between knowledge and wisdom is in fact the essence of the forest-going – the principle of constant movement or going, its restless lack of extension in the face of vastness. To specifically know the whole of the forest is to attempt to try and force it to a static schema. Rather, we can only commit to knowing-ourselves-as-forest-goers.

This requires an oblique reference; a contextually interdependent awareness where we are not disconnected from the earth and landscape on which we stand and exist as we go about our business. We must comprehend that there is interplay between us and our environment – that there is a fundamental inter-relation between things. This is why, back at the beginning, I used the terminology of Chthonic-Geosophic, borrowing the latter term from Jake Stratton-Kent’s seminal Geosophia

The forest then, is an inner realm which when going-into  reveals itself in the outer, and indeed, can and does and did perform the inverse of this operation historically through quest and rite of passage. Within the external forest, exiled from society, one was forced to confront and become one’s Image. Within that frenzy, the distinction between inner and outer is obliterated; the sheer difference of Being  is restless and defies categorization.

Gordon’s said that: ‘Witchcraft’ is where the western grimoire tradition reacts with the local biosphere.

I would perhaps go further and say that, if for a moment we consider ‘witchcraft’ as ‘the craft of the wise’, then it is inherently uncivilised. And if we’re arguing that, then might we say that we are in fact back dealing with such terms as ‘folk’, ‘pagan’ and ‘heathen’ in their original uncapitalised forms. Of course, even these terms came from an in-group labeling an out-group, but they’re interesting to contemplate nonetheless. One only has to see the syncretic developments of certain African Diasporic and Spiritist praxes to note that developments occur in unique and localised ways – something we see historically even within the Graeco-Roman worldview and the Greek Magical Papyri.

Which brings us to the idea of negative capability for which I think the relevant pullquote is: The term has been used by poets and philosophers to describe the ability of the individual to perceive, think, and operate beyond any presupposition of a predetermined capacity of the human being. It further captures the rejection of the constraints of any context, and the ability to experience phenomena free from epistemological bounds, as well as to assert one’s own will and individuality upon their activity.

To whit – direct experience without a predefined structure tends to be the initial state of contact with the local ‘spiritual ecology’. The wise know only that they have experienced, and are experiencing. Schemata come later, sometimes based on similarities with pre-existing traditions, and sometimes syncretic fusions. Or to put it into a less academic vernacular – contact with with the High Weird is often accompanied by immense levels of WTF, at least at the beginning of a given relationship.

Returning to the ‘witchcraft’ angle then, I would argue that the local biosphere (not merely what we might call physical) is quite capable of interacting and altering the so-called human. There is something to be said for depictions of witches as in/nonhuman within traditional and non-western contexts, precisely because of that difference. The distinction between ‘witch’ and ‘cunning folk’ has already been explored by better minds than I – suffice to say that as someone who has actually repeatedly been treated as other than human, I’m aware of the complexity of such issues within a social context

Having said that, the negative  capability requires a certain receptiveness – before one speaks one must listen. From a Geosophic perspective, this requires acknowledgement that we are not the centre of the universe. In fact, it places us in direct opposition to anthropocentrism, and requires us to constantly re-evaluate our positions in the world.

How do we do that? Well, consider your own body for a moment; consider all the micromovements your muscles must make to keep you standing or sitting. Consider all that’s going on to produce some form of homeostasis within your systems.

A portrait seen with the inner eye

This then, brings us back to Nietzsche’s beast-god philosophers. In order to exist in a living kosmos, in order to be forest-goers, we must acknowledge the body, the animating principles of life and death -within and without, and do so mindfully. In the forest, what we eat and drink affects us. What we see and hear affects us. Contariwise, once the fundamental needs of survival are met, we may see no need to allow certain societal conceits to occupy us.

Taboos and constraints, beliefs and forms may be played with as we wish. What society finds strange and repellent, we might explore with curiosity and wonder. Others might become lost in the forest, but we who go-within-it  recognise it as all-that is, we love its wisdom, existing as ourselves alone, as part of a vast life-affirming wholism. While others might find it hard to see the wood for the trees? For us who can see what  Junger was on about, well..

wood (adj.) Look up wood at Dictionary.com“violently insane” (now obsolete), from Old English wod “mad, frenzied,” from Proto-Germanic *woda- (cognates: Gothic woþs “possessed, mad,” Old High German wuot “mad, madness,” German wut “rage, fury”), from PIE *wet- (1) “to blow; inspire, spiritually arouse;” source of Latin vates “seer, poet,” Old Irish faith “poet;” “with a common element of mental excitement” [Buck]. Compare Old English woþ “sound, melody, song,” Old Norse oðr “poetry,” and the god-name Odin.

Be seeing you.