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?



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.


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.)). 


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.) \"LookOld 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.


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\”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.