Archive for December, 2014

Tyrell: She\’s beginning to suspect, I think.

Deckard: Suspect? How can it not know what it is?

Tyrell: Commerce, is our goal here at Tyrell. More human than human is our motto. Rachael is an experiment, nothing more. We began to recognize in them strange obsession. After all they are emotionally inexperienced with only a few years in which to store up the experiences which you and I take for granted. If we gift them the past we create a cushion or pillow for their emotions and consequently we can control them better.

Deckard: Memories. You\’re talking about memories.

– (Bladerunner 1982) emphasis mine

It\’s been a strange festive period, in some senses. Wonderfully normal, and yet suffused with a sense of anticipation, as if somewhere a bowstring has been drawn back and an arrow let fly. Heading round to friends for feasting and good company yesterday, I once again fell in love with this chilly damp Northern town which I\’ve made my home. The air was quite ordinary, and while other places in the UK were getting a belated White Christmas, we had some rain and a slight drop in temperature.

(The chill against your skin as you move, stirring the blood-flow, steaming of the breath. The way laughter and companionship can salve a more than a few aches and pains.)

And, then, the quiet of meditation in the dark; the ebb and flow of the Soul as thought skips and dances along the tips of the waves. The glimmer of the sea-foam, the shining spume from which Aphrodite emerges, to beckon with wild intent, all tangled hair and  salt-kissed skin. Ten thousand glamours appear before you, a plethora of image and sensation, enticing you to dance like a stone across the surface of the waves.

The thing with Aphrodite. you see, is that she resolved her-very-ownself from the severed member of old Ouranos, according to Myth. That foaming semen which splashed down after Kronos took a sickle to his father because he was crushing the Earth, his mother. That star-fire boiling upon the waters, transmuting itself into luminous and terrible beauty as it has congress with the Vasty Deep. There is, as always, a secret here, in Myth.

For they call the Morning Star Venus, and also the Evening Star too. Because a planet simply means \”heavenly body\” doesn\’t it? And if there\’s anyone in Greek Myth with a heavenly body, it is Aphrodite-Who-The-Romans-Called-Venus, right? Mistress of desire, she\’ll tug on your heart strings and drive you mad with the sight of her. Falling for a goddess is the very definition of obsession for us mortals, isn\’t it?

So, we\’ll come back to that, because we must. Because she draws us back there even against our will.

Of course, equating the planets and the gods is a grand tradition, isn\’t it? It\’s such a shame that it\’s plain wrong, for Venus-as-the-Planet is not Venus-the-Goddess-is-not-Aphrodite.

And yet, there\’s enough there to be going on with, because even the most wrong of suppositions was once made for a reason. That reason, that purpose, is what we must zero in on – and once we do, things become interesting. Every mistake seemed correct until proved otherwise, didn\’t it?

Now, think of this, dear readers: Think of how the bowstring trembles and strains before release, or if you prefer, the teetering on the precipice just before orgasm. Imagine the onrush which has built, the way skin flushes and breath quickens, sinew and tendon stirring themselves to strain with anticipation.

Now, remain there, friends, in that in-between state as we continue, for it is important – oh, so vitally important. The memory of that dynamic tension lies encoded in a million years of animal vitality. The heat within, the fercious vitality which would propel you, even for a moment, into a state of vital clarity. It is the inner heat which we must bear down on, the biochemical pyre which drives us to stand outside ourselves, to slip the bonds of our conditioning by once more infusing ourselves with the Primordial.

This vitalism, this raw path to Being-ness is unacceptable, in that it cannot be given. It lies within us, inherent and silent, immeasurable and vast  until conditions permit a palatable arousal. Whether that be within sexual intercourse or the daimonic creative urge,  it lies quiescent until  stirred. Or so we have been tricked into believing.

Listen now, to the beating of your heart; listen even, and especially if, you cannot hear it with your ears!

For the heart is the path, just as the blood is the lamp that lights the way.

Myth tells us of the might of Eros Protogonos, this kosmic apparition  who emerges in Primordial times. Rather than being some distant unworldly figure, it is this Eros which forms a kosmokrator, a Lord of the Kosmos – that is to say, less a distant ruler, and instead a Presence which engages and suffuses all phenomena. As Heraclitus would say:

There is a harmony in the bending back (παλίντροπος palintropos) as in the case of the bow and the lyre. This is also the same philosopher who is famous for saying Dike eris – or Strife is Justice.

Without that tension, the universe as we know it would not exist. This is the mystery of the need-fire, the friction which births the weltfeuer, the vast and glorious and terrible conflagration in which we all participate. The ferocity of it is unparalleled; the combustion and digestion, the coming-together and breaking-apart is revealed as unstoppable artefact of an ephemeral, quixotic phenomenal existence.

This is terrifying and monstrous to contemplate, and yet, in this we turn to Nietzsche:

All great things must first wear terrifying and monstrous masks in order to inscribe themselves on the hearts of humanity.


Above, we see Mahakala  and, do you know, that Maha-prefix? It means, amongst other things \’great\’ in Sanskrit. And, in case you missed the last post, it has cognates with might. The monstrous mask of the figure dancing amidst the flame, the Being meditating in the charnel-ground, these are unacceptable. But what do we mean by unacceptable?

accept (v.)\"Look
late 14c., \”to take what is offered,\” from Old French accepter (14c.) or directly from Latin acceptare \”take or receive willingly,\” frequentative of accipere \”receive,\” from ad- \”to\” (see ad-) + capere \”to take\” (see capable). Related: Accepted; accepting.
capable (adj.) \"Look
1560s, from Middle French capable or directly from Late Latin capabilis \”receptive; able to grasp or hold,\” used by theologians, from Latin capax \”able to hold much, broad, wide, roomy;\” also \”receptive, fit for;\” adjectival form of capere \”to grasp, lay hold, take, catch; undertake; take in, hold; be large enough for; comprehend,\” from PIE *kap- \”to grasp\” (cognates: Sanskrit kapati \”two handfuls;\” Greek kaptein \”to swallow, gulp down;\” Lettish kampiu \”seize;\” Old Irish cacht \”servant-girl,\” literally \”captive;\” Welsh caeth \”captive, slave;\” Gothic haban \”have, hold;\” Old English hæft \”handle,\” habban \”to have, hold,\” Modern English have). Related: Capably

Here, we can see that the deep themes are of grasping, seizure and holding. That which is held is that which can be surrounded; bounded and enchompassed, reduced to a representation or schema. Force may be applied to render the object of the grasping static. The bondage of perception is one which we have laid upon us from the beginning of our lives – that which appears and then vanishes, be they apparitions or so called \’transitory\’ states are judged as traitorous and unreliable. That which is capable of changing shape and form, is regarded as untrustworthy and sometimes (often?) as outright evil.

That which threatens stability of perception is, ironically, perceived as simultaneously power-less and power-ful; hierarchical modes of perception struggle to classify the unclassifiable.

So, to argue that the world is ephemeral, while simultaneously denying the existence of a stable realm by which we may make comparison, is perhaps the ultimate heresy. To suggest that the realm of the phenomenal is identical to the noumenal is to tear down the curtain that has been erected to cover the \’ugly ecstasy\’ of existence. To suggest that the Otherworld is right here, right now, is to pit onself against dominant modes of perception  – to admit to the strange obsession spoken of by Tyrell in the initial film quote.

Commerce, says Tyrell, is the goal. But even the most commodified entities are quite capable of slipping the grasp  of those who would treat them as interchangable. It\’s for this reason that, in the film, the Replicants are searching for ways  extend their lives beyond the requisite four year spans, having thrown off the artificial memories which have been implanted. Yet, in the end, it is in death and the embrace thereof, which confirms the essential core Beingness of Roy Batty in his famous soliloquy:

\”I have… seen things you people wouldn\’t believe… Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those… moments… will be lost in time, like [small cough] tears… in… rain. Time… to die…\”

I\’ve already written about how the division between Up There and Down Here is pretty much foolish, that we are in fact Da(i)emonic. As ever though, it bears repeating in myriad different ways, and this is key. Because, dear reader, the ephemeral is precisely the door to Being. Mortality is the path to immortality, and the mythic repeats itself for all eternity. This is difficult to articulate, save to borrow from so-called \’shamanic\’ (itself a dubious term) cultures, wherein the living spirits are, in fact responsible for all phenomena. That\’s to say, only by acknowledging our own existence as daimonic beings, as wights, can we even approach conceiving of our position in the kosmos-as-Daimonic-All-That-Is.

To do this, we must challenge perceptions of what it means to be human. We must meditate on Eros, not solely as a so-called \’traditional\’ sexual force, but instead as the core method of apprehending the universe. The word apprehend is used quite precisely here, for its connotations both in terms of fear and arrest; seizing with our senses and hearts upon the kosmos, all the while knowing that its infinate variety will outpace us; that the flaming gorgonic dread which comes upon us when we engage with our own Primordial Nature shall render us ungraspable, unknowable by conventional methods of description. We must disrupt the merry-go-round for a split second, enough to ride it in a different way

Desire itself is the engine, but not in the striving for satisfaction.

And here, we return to Aprodite and Venus, for it is those mistresses of desire who can teach us. As  Tannhäuser paid court to Venus inside her mountain, this warrior learnt the revellery of these Chthonic spirits but fled. Just as Peer Gynt was drawn into the Hall of the Mountain King by his pursuit of the Green Lady, but lacked the courage to embrace the doubled perception which would have given him the wisdom to take his place amidst the spirits.

Both these fine gentlemen left these courts, appalled at the necessity of seemingly breaking taboo. Yet, when considered from a magical persective, these prohibitions exist precisely because they must – they are the shapes which, being-as-weird-as-all-hell, scream out the undeniable existence of the ungraspable. One moment, they\’ll lie placid as anything, and the next they\’ll tear your bloody face off. Or as Gordon puts it: Tapu has its own teeth.

Bluntly, this is why I personally reckon you\’re better off being taught by someone who knows what they\’re doing. Magic is a minefield, but some people have maps which minimise the chances of stuff blowing you up. The best folks to learn from however, are capable of drawing you your own personal map because they\’ve learnt how to spot the signs of mines in the first place. And if they\’re really good and not on some weird authoritarian kick, they\’ll teach you how to spot them on your own, because, y\’know, they like you.

Because, let face it, even if you\’ve forgotten, let me remind you that the door to existence has a big comedy sign which says in flashing lights ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK.

Which brings us back to the folks who went Under th\’Hill, or Into the Mound. They tell you not to eat the food or drink the wine, don\’t they? They tell you all the folks in bright garments are fairies and dead people and Kings and Queens of Hell. And, d\’you know something?

They\’re completely bloody right.

Because, honest to every god that ever was?

You will become one of Them. You know, Them. Those People. And when times get tough, you\’ll have a bunch of people show up with pitchforks. This is a promise.

Which brings us to Tannhäuser again. He legs it back to the Pope and begs forgiveness from the Pope, and the Pope, well, he\’s pretty much said Not a chance Old Son. You\’ve got as much chance as my staff has of blooming into flowers.

So Tannhäuser goes back to the Lady and her revels, all unaware of the fact that, a couple of days later? Flowers all over the Pope\’s rod. Hurr Hurr.

Consider that for a second: God\’s vice-regent on earth says; Nah, you\’re fucked mate. This is the fellow who has claim to supposed apostolic succession, handed down from Peter. He should know what he\’s talking about, yes? It\’s pretty much the closest you\’re going to get to a direct Word of God in mediaeval times, at least as far as the story\’s original audience would have been concerned. Short of the Heavens opening, or a bona-fide Saint showing up, the Pope\’s Word is Law.

And then – Roses.

Symbolically associated with both Love and the Five Wounds of Christ, this is less a church understanding, and more a Gnostic one – which is to say, it played on the intuitive heart-knowledge of the audience. This is a miracle – evidence of the undeniable movement of divinity in a world where such things were not supposed to happen. Evidence of Grace, that God  had and was taken a hand in the mortal world.

And the thing with miracles is that it takes a lot of work for the Church to declare them such. Because honestly? They\’re High Weird.

Which can make them problematic if they are unparseable through an acceptable framework.

But the High Weird, the Daimonic? It literally gives no shits about whether you accept it or not.


This is where then, we brush up against the notion of kings sleeping under mountains. This is where we consider that Arthur ultimately derives his authority from a sword given to him, in the words of Monty Python, by some watery bint. This is where the enchantress traps the wizard in a tree, and where the wounded king is shepherded away to an island and watched over by queens.

This is when we begin to consider the notion of counterfeit memories, of pasts that have been given to us; histories handed down unquestioned, definitions parroted over generations. This is why Roy Batty\’s memories will be lost, like tears in the rain, as he dies with a nail through his hand after saving someone else from death.

This is where cold water sluices away thirst, banishing memories and immersing us in Memory. This is the poet, the musician, the magician, who meets something daemonic and comes out changed. This is the Sovereign who derives their authority from the Land, the visceral Beingness of embodied existence and knowledge of their locale. This is the old heart-knowledge of holy wells and genus loci – the sibyls and prophetesses drawing up the ghosts and gods for kings; this is bearded frothing madmen walking corpse paths and offering themselves, body and blood to all comers that dwell in graveyards.

This is where the myth of  a crucified rabbi obsessed by his ancestral deity unleashes Gnosis like a stream, despite two thousand years of trying to tie the bastard down to  a given shape and form.

Because myth is Weird. It is Daemonic. It is what nourishes us and whispers in our blood, unbinding us in time and setting us to stalk the earth, so that waters spring up where we tread. It\’s where the Lady in the Mountain teaches us erotic technologies which violate traditional notions of sex, turns us into poets and troubadors, where the Loathly Lady is-also-the Beauty and death itself brings us to life.

Because the waters of Memory never stay dammed up, and when we recall them as our own, well, we\’re more human than human. Ungraspable anarchs, lone sovereigns living in splendid community with a cornucopia of fellows in myriad shapes and forms.

And maybe someday, we\’ll bump into some poor blind bastard at the crossroads, groping towards selfhood; maybe we\’ll give them a wink and a tip of the proverbial hat, a word and a smile that stirs their soul, before taking our leave  making our way onward through the Primal Night.

So it goes.

Be seeing you


As seems to be traditional, this post is entirely the fault of the proprietor of Runesoup. Except, not wishing to scapegoat him completely, it\’s also RO\’s, because yesterday he and I sat down to talk Weird Shit, magick and generally drink pretty good Scotch. It was fun, and we rambled on for two or so hours, and I frankly pity RO in having to edit those two hours into something usable. I\’ll let you indulge in listening to that if you wish and you can all enjoy my dulcet tones and our general devolution into I love you man-dom.

Without that ramble, itself inspired by a mighty long thread on the old Mug-Tome where Jake Stratton-Kent and I basically poked holes in Neoplatonism and decided the Fuck You Plato! badges might be a good idea, I don\’t think Gordon\’s latest would have sparked this off.

Actually, that\’s a lie. A big old porky.

Because, you see we\’re swimming in very similar waters. A good chunk of us are, and often, the colour of our swimming goggles is very different. Which is a good thing, because frankly, seeing the world in one way is not only boring, it\’s also a bit bloody dangerous.   It\’s like being colour-blind when you\’re poking the wiring in your house – It might be all right, or you might end up half way across the room with some burns and smelling gently of pork, if you\’re not dead from the heart attack, of course.

Now, maybe you\’re wishing I would get to the point, but please, aside from the seemingly recurrent theme of pork – I like it better than turkey and so we\’re having it here on Christmas Day – note that this is inspired by a bunch of magicians writing things down and then talking about them. Of course, the important part of that, which isn\’t exactly explicit but is there nonetheless, remains that in order to write things down and talk about them, first you have to have the experience.

So no matter the colour of our respective swimming goggles, we can nonetheless recognise that we\’ve all been swimming. We\’ve all wet the baby\’s head, all had our baptism in the Sea of the High Weird. Gordon writes:

[T]he Four Kings -seen specifically through the eyes of Jake Stratton-Kent’s Testament of St Cyprian the Mage– has been one of my great praxis improvements of the whole year. You all know I find the Four Elements preposterous but directionality is in the literal sense ‘fundamental’…. having origins that go all the way back to Palaeolithic shamanism. I think you would struggle to do spirit work without directionality.

There is an additional layer to the Four Kings that only becomes apparent when you start to work with them. During the questions after my Glastonbury dragon presentation earlier this year I discussed the notion that quite a number of the spirits we think of as spirits began their afterlife as prominent dead people.

It was at this point, dear readers, that I called our friend Gordon some rather uncomplimentary names. He\’s Australian, so I\’m sure he knows that all such obscenties thrown his way are a form of deep regard and affection. It\’s something Straya! and Blighty have in common I\’m told.

I was swearing because I also share something of a debt to Tolkien, and also to CS Lewis. They too are part of my magical origin story, my exposure to Deep Myth via Narnia and Middle Earth, those fantastical lands where the Deep Magic held sway, where the heart could open you up to the Deepest Magic. My dear mum gave me a copy of The Hobbit her own, when I was eight on a Sunday afternoon. Imagine that for a second; a rapacious reader of eight years old, bemoaning, as only eight year olds can, the lack of any more Narnia books. Those of you with kids can probably hear the exact Muuuuummmm wail I would have used.


I have only seen the first Hobbit film and I suppose I shall eventually get around to seeing the other two. Frankly, the book is far more precious to me. That very same copy is sat on my shelf now, thumbed by multiple generations. I suspect it is one of the things that I would strive to rescue from a fire, along with my girlfriend, my cat and the deer-skull which is the focus of my altar. So when Gordon writes about Middle Earth and magic, I prick up my ears, because there\’s an old familiar refrain in the air.

For example, The Fellowship of the Ring came out in 2001, on December the 19th in the UK. I\’d been home from my second year of university probably less than a week. I remember going to see it with my parents and being absolutely awed. My mother and I were witnessing something which had always been ours, had lived inside our skulls since childhood, there out in the world with hundreds of others. I\’d been away from home, studying philosophy and getting up to all sorts of magical business for a year – whatever else I was, I was a magician-proper then.

So when December rolls around, Christmas and Middle-Earth rise up. The dark part of the year has been host to many cycles of repetition, many winter-tide exposures of the ordinary brain to the fantastical. Always has been. Father Christmas, Santa Claus, the Krampus…on and on. The stuff of fantasy of course. Nobopdy believes in the guy who visits all the children to give them gifts, except kids. But we still perform the rituals, employing men with varying degrees of hirsuitism to be the avatar of something old that was twisted and shaped through the lens of corporate marketing.

Nobody believes.

We watch the Muppet Christmas Carol, or any other one of myriad adaptations. We hear the tales of ghosts that change men as part of the miracle of the Christmas.  Or we watch other ghost stories told by lugubrious figures who have been undead monsters, wizards, Sith Lords,members of the British Intelligence Services and Bond villians and even voiced Death Himself while at the same time having a coat of arms awarded to their family by the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. Oh, who also release metal albums based around Charlemagne.

Christopher Lee\’s Ghost Stories for Christmas (Taster)

But nobody believes. It\’s all fantasy.

fantasy (n.) \"Lookearly 14c., \”illusory appearance,\” from Old French fantaisie, phantasie \”vision, imagination\” (14c.), from Latin phantasia, from Greek phantasia \”power of imagination; appearance, image, perception,\” from phantazesthai \”picture to oneself,\” from phantos \”visible,\” from phainesthai \”appear,\” in late Greek \”to imagine, have visions,\” related to phaos, phos \”light,\” phainein \”to show, to bring to light\” (see phantasm). Sense of \”whimsical notion, illusion\” is pre-1400, followed by that of \”fantastic imagination,\” which is first attested 1530s. Sense of \”day-dream based on desires\” is from 1926. In early use in English also fantasie, phantasy, etc.

phantasm (n.) \"Lookearly 13c., fantesme, from Old French fantosme \”a dream, illusion, fantasy; apparition, ghost, phantom\” (12c.), and directly from Latin phantasma \”an apparition, specter,\” from Greek phantasma \”image, phantom, apparition; mere image, unreality,\” from phantazein \”to make visible, display,\” from stem of phainein \”to bring to light, make appear; come to light, be seen, appear; explain, expound, inform against; appear to be so,\” from PIE root *bha- (1) \”to shine\” (cognates: Sanskrit bhati \”shines, glitters,\” Old Irish ban \”white, light, ray of light\”). Spelling conformed to Latin from 16c. (see ph). A spelling variant of phantom, \”differentiated, but so that the differences are elusive\” [Fowler]

apparition (n.) \"Lookc.1500, \”unclosing\” (of Heaven), from Anglo-French aparicion, Old French apparition, aparoison (15c.), used in reference to the Epiphany (revealing of Christ child to the Wise Men), from Late Latin apparitionem (nominative apparitio) \”an appearance,\” also \”attendants,\” in classical Latin \”service, servants,\” noun of action from past participle stem of apparere \”appear\” (see appear). Meaning \”ghost\” first recorded c.1600; the shade of sense differentiation between appearance and apparition is that the latter tends to be unexpected or startling.

appear (v.) \"Looklate 13c., \”to come into view,\” from stem of Old French aparoir (12c., Modern French apparoir) \”appear, come to light, come forth,\” from Latin apparere \”to appear, come in sight, make an appearance,\” from ad- \”to\” (see ad-) + parere \”to come forth, be visible.\” Of persons, \”present oneself,\” late 14c. Meaning \”seem, have a certain appearance\” is late 14c.

ghost (n.) \"LookOld English gast \”soul, spirit, life, breath; good or bad spirit, angel, demon,\” from Proto-Germanic *ghoizdoz (cognates: Old Saxon gest, Old Frisian jest, Middle Dutch gheest, Dutch geest, German Geist \”spirit, ghost\”), from PIE root *gheis- \”to be excited, amazed, frightened\” (cognates: Sanskrit hedah \”wrath;\” Avestan zaesha- \”horrible, frightful;\” Gothic usgaisjan, Old English gæstan \”to frighten\”). This was the usual West Germanic word for \”supernatural being,\” and the primary sense seems to have been connected to the idea of \”to wound, tear, pull to pieces.\” The surviving Old English senses, however, are in Christian writing, where it is used to render Latin spiritus (see spirit (n.)), a sense preserved in Holy Ghost. Modern sense of \”disembodied spirit of a dead person\” is attested from late 14c. and returns the word toward its ancient 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.

Manes (pl.) \"Look\”Gods of the Lower World,\” in Roman religion, from Latin manes \”departed spirit, ghost, shade of the dead, deified spirits of the underworld,\” usually said to be from Latin manus \”good,\” thus properly \”the good gods,\” a euphemistic word, but Tucker suggests a possible connection instead to macer, thus \”the thin or unsubstantial ones.\”

Just fantasy. Never mind that. Tolkien was a scholar of Norse and Anglo Saxon.

Never mind that Middle Earth emerges from Old Norse Miðgarðr; Old English Middangeard, Swedish Midgård, Old Saxon Middilgard, Old High German Mittilagart, Gothic Midjun-gards

Never mind.

mind (n.) \"Looklate 12c., from Old English gemynd \”memory, remembrance, state of being remembered; thought, purpose; conscious mind, intellect, intention,\” Proto-Germanic *ga-mundiz (cognates: Gothic muns \”thought,\” munan \”to think;\” Old Norse minni \”mind;\” German Minne (archaic) \”love,\” originally \”memory, loving memory\”), from PIE root *men- (1) \”think, remember, have one\’s mind aroused,\” with derivatives referring to qualities of mind or states of thought (cognates: Sanskrit matih \”thought,\” munih \”sage, seer;\” Greek memona \”I yearn,\” mania \”madness,\” mantis \”one who divines, prophet, seer;\” Latin mens \”mind, understanding, reason,\” memini \”I remember,\” mentio \”remembrance;\” Lithuanian mintis \”thought, idea,\” Old Church Slavonic mineti \”to believe, think,\” Russian pamjat \”memory\”).

Meaning \”mental faculty\” is mid-14c. \”Memory,\” one of the oldest senses, now is almost obsolete except in old expressions such as bear in mind, call to mind. Mind\’s eye \”remembrance\” is early 15c.

We couldn\’t pay any mind to kings under mountains any more, could we? No, our minds could never be drawn to the besting of dragons and scions of ancient lines reclaiming their thrones in hollow halls, could we?

We couldn\’t pay any attention to Gandalf the Grey, he who is called \’Stormcrow\’ leading three kings back to their rightful sovereign thrones could we? Pay it no mind that Gandalf the White back-comes after falling into the deepest parts of the earth. Gordon again:

Take the often-levelled criticism that when Gandalf returned as Gandalf the White he was technically invulnerable. Not even Sauron could destroy him. This means that had the War of the Ring failed, he would ultimately have been the last servant of the Valar left alive in Middle Earth after Mordor had killed everyone else… fighting alone in the centre of a limitless sea of orcs, trolls and Nazgul. Forever. This is not some novelist’s whoopsie. It’s horrifying. It is also a singularly northern European vision of resolve, of resistance. There is something Ragnarokian about it.

Pay it no mind that the grinding industrial complex built by Saruman the White falls when the old grey wanderer comes back from the dead to take his title. It\’s just fantasy after all, and we know I\’m a bearded frothing madman don\’t we; a member of a non-existent cult which honours a severed head; just a frenzied journeyman who feels a curious affinity with a certain Master of Fury.

In no way at all might we envisage a weary old man gripping his staff which is also somehow curiously a spear in some last frenzied final battle. No wizard with aching bones and heavy with the weight of time upon his hoary head, sagging there for a moment until the sound of bird\’s wings is heard – as ravens circle and settle on his shoulders. Nor might we see the weariness evaporate as memory and thought combine to ignite in the honeyed-blood mead of insipration, nor the sound of rushing wind as ten thousand warriors rise from their corpse-places to fight anew, drawn by his songs and spells.

Because that would be silly, wouldn\’t it? An army of restless, heroic dead riding out to do battle with the forces that would destroy connection and atomise us all?

\"the-muppet-christmas-carol-original\" \"the-muppet-christmas-carol-original\"

Certainly the idea of the Holy Roman Emperor hanging out in a mountain is ris ridiculous, right? Except, no it\’s not – see where Charlemagne hangs out, in at least one legend? Yes, you read this right – Odin\’s Mountain. Look further on that page, and you\’ll find the tale of the Wizard of Alderly Edge – the myth of which you will find woven into the work of author Alan Garner, which I read as a child. I was down there with a bunch of Heathens in May and it is very strange indeed to be wandering along roads and paths you first knew intimately as a kid, and yet had never been there.

Here\’s the thing about Charlemagne though – he\’s a good candidate for a Most Recent Common Ancestor for any of us with European heritage. This sort of thing is not new – Anglo Saxon kings traced their descent from Woden, the wandering god who liked to learn things and cause trouble. Which is where, ancestrally speaking, things get…wibbly, don\’t they?

Because, as I said, it\’s all fantasy. No one believes, right? No one believes that we\’re surrounded by a swirling cloud of ambient dead folk and spirits. No one believes they can reach across time and space to tug on the ties that bind us, that if you scratch the soil you\’ll find the old things welling up? That Sovereign Kings long dead and never-quite human can still stir in their barrows and ride out when you say the right words. That the ghosts of Christmas, Past Present and Future can touch a man, that:

\”The Spirits have done it all in one night. They can do anything they like. Of course they can. Of course they can.\”

Kings, you see, have their armies. Their loyal knights. Their faithful retainers, their band of brothers. Remember this?

From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;  – Henry V

That\’s some straight up warband ritual, some honest to goodness espirit de corps consciousness raising. And before you accuse me of being a monarchist let\’s do the etymology dance of remembering, shall we?

king (n.) \"LookOld English cyning \”king, ruler,\” from Proto-Germanic *kuninggaz (cognates: Dutch koning, Old Norse konungr, Danish konge, Old Saxon and Old High German kuning, Middle High German künic, German König). Possibly related to Old English cynn \”family, race\” (see kin), making a king originally a \”leader of the people;\” or from a related root suggesting \”noble birth,\” making a king originally \”one who descended from noble birth.\” The sociological and ideological implications render this a topic of much debate.

Finnish kuningas \”king,\” Old Church Slavonic kunegu \”prince\” (Russian knyaz, Bohemian knez), Lithuanian kunigas \”clergyman\” are loans from Germanic.

As leon is the king of bestes. [John Gower, \”Confessio Amantis,\” 1390]In Old English, used for names of chiefs of Anglian and Saxon tribes or clans, then of the states they founded. Also extended to British and Danish chiefs they fought.

can (v.1) \"LookOld English 1st & 3rd person singular present indicative of cunnan \”know, have power to, be able,\” (also \”to have carnal knowledge\”), from Proto-Germanic *kunnan \”to be mentally able, to have learned\” (cognates: Old Norse kenna \”to know, make known,\” Old Frisian kanna \”to recognize, admit,\” German kennen \”to know,\” Gothic kannjan \”to make known\”), from PIE root *gno- (see know).

Absorbing the third sense of \”to know,\” that of \”to know how to do something\” (in addition to \”to know as a fact\” and \”to be acquainted with\” something or someone). An Old English preterite-present verb, its original past participle, couth, survived only in its negation (see uncouth), but see also could. The present participle has spun off as cunning.

know (v.) \"LookOld English cnawan (class VII strong verb; past tense cneow, past participle cnawen), \”to know, perceive; acknowledge, declare,\” from Proto-Germanic *knew- (cognates: Old High German bi-chnaan, ir-chnaan \”to know\”), from PIE root *gno- \”to know\” (cognates: Old Persian xšnasatiy \”he shall know;\” Old Church Slavonic znati, Russian znat \”to know;\” Latin gnoscere; Greek *gno-, as in gignoskein; Sanskrit jna- \”know\”). Once widespread in Germanic, this form is now retained only in English, where however it has widespread application, covering meanings that require two or more verbs in other languages (such as German wissen, kennen, erkennen and in part können; French connaître, savoir; Latin novisse, cognoscere; Old Church Slavonic znaja, vemi). The Anglo-Saxons used two distinct words for this, witan (see wit) and cnawan.

Meaning \”to have sexual intercourse with\” is attested from c.1200, from the Old Testament.

Two separate etymological roots here, you might think. And I would agree, save for the fact that one would only found a kingdom if one were able, if one were mighty enough to lead. Which brings us back to the old themes of might and main and may, doesn\’t it?

magic (n.) \"Looklate 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).

may (v.1) \"LookOld English mæg \”am able\” (infinitive magan, past tense meahte, mihte), from Proto-Germanic root *mag-, infinitive *maganan (Old Frisian mei/muga/machte \”have power, may;\” Old Saxon mag/mugan/mahte; Middle Dutch mach/moghen/mohte; Dutch mag/mogen/mocht; Old High German mag/magan/mahta; German mag/mögen/mochte; Old Norse ma/mega/matte; Gothic mag/magan/mahte \”to be able\”), from PIE *magh- (1) \”to be able, have power\” (cognates: Greek mekhos, makhos \”means, instrument,\” Old Church Slavonic mogo \”to be able,\” mosti \”power, force,\” Sanskrit mahan \”great\”). Also used in Old English as a \”auxiliary of prediction.\”

Let these themes sit at the back of your head for a while, let them sink into your guts, then well up again into your heart. Let them swirl around a little, learning how they taste upon your tongue. Then consider what working with those Four Kings might do, from an ancestral, necromantic perspective. Think about the pacts made, the poets\’ song. Then consider that the idea of sitting on the burial mounds of your ancestors all night for wisdom was a thing in, at very least Iceland and Scandinavia. Consider also that the conversion of Iceland was presaged by the lawspeaker spending a day and a night in silent meditation under a fur cloak.

I\’ve pointed out before that at least in the Icelandic sagas, there are tales of the dead still living inside their mounds, and pissed off dead would often have to be wrestled back into thier graves by barehanded heroes, many of whom would have mounds built for them because they were badass – see Beowulf as an example. I also may have mentioned that Odin has a byname which translates as mound-lord as well as one which boils down to Lord of the Restless Dead.

Why am I repeating this? Especially since nobody believes it, and yet the Lord of the Rings Trilogy made $2,917,506,956 worldwide?

That is quite a chunk of change, really. Wonder with me, for a moment, how many people engaged with it. How many of us got swept in to a thing that came from words on a page, itself rising from a flickering light and words and minds in a smoky mead hall over a thousand years ago? How many people spend money to  create the illusion of the jolly man who brings presents?

(Just think about that. And while you\’re at it, consider that Ragnarok is a prophecy spoken by a volva, a sybiline oracle summoned up by Odin and forced to speak against her will. )

Gordon again:

Dead Kings and their relics feature prominently on both sides of the battle for Middle Earth, itself set in a landscape of tombs, ruined kingdoms and half-remembered heroism. Working with the Four Kings, you become aware that there is or was a famous ruler in a cold land to your north. You may not know the content of his legend but you at least feel that it was obviously significant enough for you to be calling out to it. There is a necromantic physicality to the action that can only be experienced performatively. At least some part of this spirit is built of a Dead King. The upshot of the rite is to call the might, the renown, the mana of glorious vanished kingdoms.

I\’m on the same line of lattitude as Canada, here in Albion. So when I tell you that I\’ve heard a voice whisper The Master comes from the North for years now, you might want to understand a little quirk. Look up in the night and you\’ll see The Plough, The Big Dipper. But it\’s got lots of other names, perhaps chief amongst them Ursa Major, or The Great Bear. The fun thing is? Multiple  etymological suggestions for Arthur suggest relations to bears. The same stars are sometimes called Charles\’ Wain – and Charlemagne was sometimes known as Charles the Great.

The thing is though, despite what you might be thinking, all these names and asterisms are named for terrestrial things, migrated into the sky. Stories drawn up from the Deep Below and cast into the heavens where they might be visible in the night.

Which isn\’t to say that the might, the mana of the Once and Future King, is Out There. It\’s In Here, Right Now.  In a reversal of the standard Hermetic dictum, we might say As Below, So Above. The world we inhabit, this Middle World, well, let\’s just say that the starry vaulted ceiling of that is a projection of that cavern where the Light is born anew. Which means friends, nothing is ever lost. And as Britain suffers a Dickensian Christmas with 60,000 people relying on food banks this holiday period, well, maybe it\’s up to us to help.

I might very well be a cripple, but that doesn\’t stop me from trying to gain my own sovereignty, because right here and now, the King is in his Mountain, the Sibyl is in her cave. Did you ever wonder why the Spirits visit Scrooge? Why a certain cripple is dead until Scrooge changes?

Think about it.

And to borrow some words from Tiny Tim the Necromancer as an evocation: God(s) bless us, EVERY ONE.

Enjoy your festival of light, folks.