Archive for the ‘ heathen gnosis ’ Category

Cast Down and Raised Up


This is probably going to get me a lot of trouble, and probably get me lumped in with the so-called “Piety Posse”of polytheists and magical types who I often violently disagree with, but I need to say this:

There’s a tendency I’ve noticed within the neopagan, magical, and polytheist communities on tumblr and the occult blogosphere – but also offline and on other platforms.

What is this tendency, I hear you ask?

It is, quite simply the tendency to automatically privilege the corporeal over the non corporeal. Because somewhere inside is the subconscious assumption that we can either a) remain inviolate and unaffected by incorporeal things or b) It’s all in the mind and we should be able to somehow ‘control’ our minds.

It’s like the assumption that words can’t hurt you, because they’re only words – when several millennia of war and hatred whipped up against one’s neighbor puts a lie to that.

Now, I can see a legion of people with active spiritual lives nodding their heads here, not to mention those who have intimate connections with gods or spirits, whether that be physically or otherwise.

But if I write the statement that, as an example, runs: People are more important than noncorporeal spirits then something interesting happens.

Because if I write that statement in a piece on spiritual discernment, those people I mention will be there, sagely nodding. Yet, if I write the above example in a piece about dealing with making sacrifices or offerings to one’s gods and spirits, and I suggest that cooking a large meal and then leaving it by the crossroads for the gods/wights/spirits is a waste, and one would be better off donating to a charity?

In that case I suspect many would get hot under the collar, wouldn’t they? After all, how dare I tell them how to practice their religion. How dare I position myself as gatekeeper over the methods by which they interact with their patrons!

Yet, if I wrote that in an article, and swapped out People for Animals then I’d risk the ire of several spiritist religions who perform animal sacrifices. Likewise, if I wrote: Non corporeal spirits are more important than people I would risk the ire of many folk; have messages and rebuttals thrown at me from all directions, from various quarters, not least from those who have suffered abuse by spirits or by so-called religious authorities. Perhaps I’d even be ‘called out’ on it for all the racism and atrocities committed in the name of non-corporeal beings, because actually they’re not real, they’re like, archetypes.

Perhaps, aye.

(Seriously, go and look up what Jung actually meant when he used the term. Really.)

Yet, for all the possibilities and difficulties associated with both versions of the example, we can see that context subtly shifts where the weight of communicated intent lies.

Of course it does – context is king. Blanket statements are by their nature designed to cover all eventualities. A world run on such axioms will soon come unstuck, purely because the actuality of existence is more important and more complex.

So, here is where I lay it on the line, so to speak. You see, it has been my experience that, while human perception is an imperfect metric for judging so-called ‘objective reality’, it seems as if the basis of existence arises out of the interactions between what we have we have previously and perhaps erroneously referred to as non-corporeal spirits.

To boil down the previous mouthful of a paragraph:

Everything we experience appears to be the result of and addition to, the interaction of entities we call spirits/daimones/wights (including gods therein).

Note that this does not, in fact, exclude people. People are wights too:

wight (n.) Old English wiht \”living being, creature, person; something, anything,\” from Proto-Germanic *wihti- (source also of Old Saxon wiht \”thing, demon,\” Dutchwicht \”a little child,\” Old High German wiht \”thing, creature, demon,\” German Wicht \”creature, little child,\” Old Norse vettr \”thing, creature,\” Swedishvätte \”spirit of the earth, gnome,\” Gothic waihts \”something\”), from PIE *wekti- \”thing, creature\” (source also of Old Church Slavonic vešti \”a thing\”).

Nor does it privilege one particular origin/creation narrative over another. In an Ensouled or animist kosmos, this also means that not only can the four(five?) fundamental forces of physics co-exist with Ymir’s dismemberment, or Qingu’s victory over Tiamat without contradiction, subatomic particles may happily co-exist with maggots-turned-dwarves.

Wights come in a variety of shapes – a variety of forms. Some have skin and hair, others bark and leaf, others are composed of energy fields which when they interact with humans, conjures sensory experience.

In an Ensouled kosmos, the keyboard I am typing on is not “dumb matter” – it exists on multiple levels. The electrons in the molecules of plastic which make up the keys interact with the electrons in the molecules of my fingertips in response to nervous impulses from my brain tensing muscle and tendon – thus is pressure produced.

The plastic itself is a child of the Earth – oil drawn up and polymers arranged just so by the firing neurons of a human mind which designed the machines which give it form. That same plastic is mated with metal, also drawn from Earth, while electrical impulses are converted to radio which is received by my computer, appearing here on the screen. And so on and so on for every object in my room, in my house, in my block, in my town, in my county, in my country, in the soil of my land once again.

And thus you see – not “dumb” matter at all, but myriad paths to recognise; multplicities of action and interaction.

In an Ensouled kosmos, we learn to recognise myriad ways of Being and Becoming. Rather than crude anthropomorphism, we instead open ourselves up to non-human Beingness, and in doing so cannot privilege our form as being more moral or better than another. We must accept that even categorical, axiomatic morality is contextual.

By acknowledging multiplicities, we are no longer hidebound, we are free to say that our morality is not handed to us passively, but by wilful agreement amongst ourselves.

In an Ensouled kosmos, what we conceive of as ourselves is enlarged to a huge, almost terrifying degree. For we are no longer individuals but multiplicities also. Mind and body entwined, together with our ancestors, the land on and in which we dwell, the food we eat, the water we drink and bathe in. All tied together, part knot part interference pattern, we interact-with, and are inter-acted-with. By necessity, in almost a direct confrontation with post modernity, our contact with other wights informs our morality – even going so far as to consult being older and potentially wiser than we.

(As a Heathen, who I am is influenced, not only by my daily life but interactions with my ancestors, spirits and gods. I am composed of all those interactions).

I not only becomes We, but also emerges from We.

In an Ensouled kosmos, I only exists for a moment – for that single duration in localised spacetime – as an event, an Image. We, on the other hand, while constantly coming together and breaking apart, is capable of appearing in all times and all places.

We is eternal – it can exist for ten thousand years, seemingly vanish from sight, only to re-emerge again in a new shape, composed of new body, new blood.

I dies constantly, only to be reborn in the next moment; it emerges from the Fire upon the Deep for the space of a breath, then sinks down again.

But through that unique manifestation of I, one can enter into the realm of an eternal re-Imagining. We are constantly refreshed, made new by that which makes us.

Creation is ongoing.

The sacred reality depicted in myth informs us and shapes us whether we like it or not. Myth-as-Image draws us into that space of Creation, infuses us with living vitality, which we bring forth by story, song, ritual and art.

Those wights we call spirits are part of the ecology of existence. Just like a bear is part of an ecology, and we do not say a person is more important than a bear, automatically, do we?

If this were so, there would be no nature preserves.

Yet even the foregoing resembles a paper tiger, designed to evoke a commodified sense of wilderness.

Instead, might we not say that Earthquakes are part of the ecology of California or Japan?

If this be so, then certainly the assertion that People are more important than earthquakes is ridiculous. Japan at least recognizes this, and builds so called earthquakeproof buildings on rollers.

Because the moment when an earthquake hits is inescapably, brutally real. You just have to ride it out, and see where you end up.

I find myself wondering how many in the neopagan/magical/polytheist community have ever felt that. Like an Earthquake sure, if you’re lucky you can pick yourself up, dust yourself off, maybe file an insurance claim and use it as an anecdote in the future.

But in the moment? It’s inescapable and social rankings and morality are the furthest thing from your mind. Thought vanishes and there is only Being.

How many even truly dare heal the split between mind and body, between song and rain, fire and wind? Far too few, I suspect.

And that, strangely enough, is why and how things like Fascism and Communism fail, where individuality is subsumed by the State or Nation. Because the State is not eternal, and actively resists changing shape and form. The Nazis committed horrific crimes in the name of purity, not realising that the very thing they sought was impossible, being only a momentary temporary thing born of maximum variety. Emerging from it, by Necessity. By nature messy, organic, and virtually, if not completely impossible to predict.

When they tried to turn Nietzsche’s work into a pro-Nazi rallying cry, they misunderstood the nature of the Ubermensch – he was never achievable for Man, because man is the bridge. When Hitler suggested that the best, the most pure, were those who were capable of overcoming, the unstoppable pure,untouched elite, what was forgotten is that Overcoming is but half – the other is Being Overcome.

But Being Overcome does not mean submission – not kowtowing. Rather, it is being seized, enthused.

Raised up and Cast Down. As real as blood. As real as bone. As real as breath

enthusiasm (n.) c. 1600, from Middle French enthousiasme (16c.) and directly from Late Latin enthusiasmus, from Greek enthousiasmos \”divine inspiration, enthusiasm (produced by certain kinds of music, etc.),\” from enthousiazein \”be inspired or possessed by a god, be rapt, be in ecstasy,\” from entheos \”divinely inspired, possessed by a god,\” from en \”in\” (see en- (2)) + theos \”god\” (see theo-). Acquired a derogatory sense of \”excessive religious emotion through the conceit of special revelation from God\” (1650s) under the Puritans.

Now, I don’t know about you, but that’s the kind of furious inspiration the Ensouled kosmos brings to me, rather than any Puritanical disparagement. And if you’re going to argue that’s not ‘Real’ enough to affect you, but the news is – well then I feel deeply sorry for you!


Let me share with you a vision:

A man lies in his bed, unable to move for pain. It consumes his consciousness, snaring thought and perception, cutting into awareness like a barbed wire noose. Like an animal, he seeks to escape, to rid himself of the constriction of a ring of knives and fire, but there is no escape. In fact, all his struggles are for naught; the more he struggles, the more it bites, and the more he becomes frantic in his efforts to escape.  Pain becomes all there is as he throws himself at the walls of his cell, the thorns of the encircling hedge.

All is fire and agony.

And like an animal caught in a trap, he goes limp. The reality of his situation does not so much set in, as wait patiently for the inevitability to dawn on him. Struggling does no good, and he is already exhausted. There is nothing to do but wait for whatever comes next. Which, ultimately, is death.

But here, the man and the animal differ. For the man, death is in the future. For the animal, there is no future. There is only now – escape may be possible, or it may not. This moment may, in fact, be the moment of death. Whatever the case, the animal will make the most of its options.

And in this vision there is a very particular awareness. An awareness of what both animal and man share, and what they do not – the animal does not, after all, possess the much vaunted \”human consciousness\”, instead being possessed of (by) its own form of Being in the World.  What both share however, is that animating quality we might call Life.

Both are constellations, manifestations, of that quality, though differently arranged in space and time.

animate (v.) \"Look1530s, \”to fill with boldness or courage,\” from Latin animatus past participle of animare \”give breath to,\” also \”to endow with a particular spirit, to give courage to,\” from anima \”life, breath\” (see animus). Sense of \”give life to\” in English attested from 1742. Related: Animated; animating.

animus (n.) \"Look1820, \”temper\” (usually in a hostile sense), from Latin animus \”rational soul, mind, life, mental powers; courage, desire,\” related to anima \”living being, soul, mind, disposition, passion, courage, anger, spirit, feeling,\” from PIE root *ane- \”to blow, to breathe\” (cognates: Greek anemos \”wind,\” Sanskrit aniti\”breathes,\” Old Irish anal, Welsh anadl \”breath,\” Old Irish animm \”soul,\” Gothic uzanan \”to exhale,\” Old Norse anda \”to breathe,\” Old English eðian \”to breathe,\” Old Church Slavonic vonja \”smell, breath,\” Armenian anjn \”soul\”). It has no plural. As a term in Jungian psychology for the masculine component of a feminine personality, it dates from 1923.

Now, what kind of animal is ensnared in this vision, I wonder? What manner of creature do you envisage, lying exhausted and quiescent? Think on that, for a moment. We\’ll come back to it


Let me share something else, too:

The great difference between Renaissance Neoplatonism and animism is that Man does not stand in the middle of this energetic onion, having all the forces of the universe beaming down into us, with the rest of Creation relegated to supporting cast status or background greenery. (This is incidentally what Bruno railed against and why he thought they were all idiots. An infinite universe, a cosmos lit with countless little lamps extending into infinity is directly opposed to the magical onion worldview of Neoplatonic/planetary spheres. He was a rock star space shaman.)

That\’s from Gordon\’s post entitled  Gnosticism is the Map. Animism is the Territory. So:

map (n.) \"Look1520s, shortening of Middle English mapemounde \”map of the world\” (late 14c.), and in part from Middle French mappe, shortening of Old Frenchmapemonde, both English and French words from Medieval Latin mappa mundi \”map of the world;\” first element from Latin mappa \”napkin, cloth\” (on which maps were drawn), \”tablecloth, signal-cloth, flag,\” said by Quintilian to be of Punic origin (compare Talmudic Hebrew mappa, contraction of Mishnaic menaphah \”a fluttering banner, streaming cloth\”) + Latin mundi \”of the world,\” from mundus \”universe, world\” (see mundane). Commonly used 17c. in a figurative sense of \”epitome; detailed representation.\” To put (something) on the map \”bring it to wide attention\” is from 1913.

territory (n.) \"Looklate 14c., \”land under the jurisdiction of a town, state, etc.,\” probably from Latin territorium \”land around a town, domain, district,\” from terra \”earth, land\” (see terrain) + -orium, suffix denoting place (see -ory). Sense of \”any tract of land, district, region\” is first attested c. 1600. Specific U.S. sense of \”organized self-governing region not yet a state\” is from 1799. Of regions defended by animals from 1774.

\”Since -torium is a productive suffix only after verbal stems, the rise of terri-torium is unexplained\” [Michiel de Vaan, \”Etymological Dictionary of Latin and the other Italic Languages\”]. An alternative theory, somewhat supported by the vowels of the original Latin word, suggests derivation from terrere \”to frighten\” (see terrible); thus territorium would mean \”a place from which people are warned off.\” 

The map is a flag, a cloth full of signs and symbols – engines and operators, transporters which work in concert with that much vaunted \”human consciousness\”. It is a banner, a thing that snaps, moves, shifts, moving and billowing as the breeze dictates. Without that, it hangs slack, meaningless.

It is a cloth, yes.


A cloth for covering, for laying over the world. What lies beneath, under the colours and signs of human make? When we lay a cloth on a table, on a body, we cover and protect what is covered. We produce a layer that lies-between. Consider then, that such a cloth is a method of distancing, whether by producing distance between objects and experience, or by creating a protective boundary between what lies above/outside the covering, and what lies beneath.

A map produces distance between the world and the perceiver. In effect, it provides a bird\’s-eye view, a top-down perception which influences feelings of importance. From On High, we can survey all of our domain – all the enclosed space which is \’ours\’ by virtue of perception. Distant, we have time to prepare, to marshal our resources and operate from a position of \”strength\” and \”might\”. The map provides a sense of optionality – it provides us with the illusion of choice, time to plan, the luxury of room-to-move. The cloth provides us with defence against the cold, it breaks the line-of sight, shielding the covered object from prying eyes, so that only the \’proper\’ owner may know what lies beneath (unless it becomes uncovered, of course).

The map is the tyranny of knowledge (tyranny in its technical, philosophical sense, rather than as pejorative). It is the singular view, held in fixity, in stable, easily parsable manner.

The territory, on the other hand, does not imply distance. Even at its most jurisdictional, it deals directly with the land, with the earth itself.

Contrast the heavenly map with the earthly territory.

Consider the place of terror to the distant On High.

There is a vibrancy here, an intimacy born of necessity. Rather than being apart from the world, we are embedded in it. The map gives us a sense of distance from the world, turning us into giants. Distances that would take months to cross might be measured, covered, by the span of a thumb. The world recedes, held at arm\’s length, perspective shifting. Provides us with escape-as-optionality, the illusion of freedom.

The map is a cloth, yes.

And cloth is woven, thread taken over and under, in the warp and the weft. The individual spun threads are pulled, tightened – the gaps are closed up, covered. Here is the irony though – the cloth only matters in relation to something outside itself, whether that be what it covers, or what it holds apart. Without the animating breeze, it hangs slack and useless. Without the earth, the very existence of that which it depicts/represents, it has no purpose. All that remains is an illusory echo – the map of the Neoplatonists matters only to those who perceive it. It is useless, unless some benefit is gained from it. To be fair, it must generate some benefit to those who use it – that echo must in some way satisfy an urge or need.

But what distance does it create?

If Man strives to the pinnacle, to refine its consciousness to that of some distant On High, then so be it. If Man seeks to end suffering, so be it. But we must recall that the map is a covering, a machine-for-distance. If it enables us to be giants, to cover thousands of miles with a thumb, so be it. But this does not negate the thousands of miles, the hundreds of microclimates, ecologies, realms and neighbourhoods of beingness which lie beneath the thumb.

No matter how much Man-as-humankind might wish otherwise, the territory exists in all its terrific variety, all its inescapable shapes and forms. It cannot be known from a distance. It must be experienced, come what may. Indeed, it cannot be avoided, no matter what the map says.

Some might skim the variety of Gnostic schools and conclude that all were matter-world hating dualists, the very epitome of those who sought distance from the world. But in that surface skim, they would perhaps miss the sheer variety of Gnostic perspectives, might forget that gnosis is the root of to know.  To know the world as it truly is, this is the gnostic impulse, even if we regard the fact of ultimate certain knowledge as impossible.

To no longer kowtow to those On High who dispense the maps of-how-things-are, but to go out and explore, for ourselves, to get the dirt under our fingernails, to acknowledge our constant lack of knowing and let that drive us, hungry and in love  with the world, to discover and to experience the More which we instinctively feel a call to, which lies covered and hidden.

occult (adj.) \"Look1530s, \”secret, not divulged,\” from Middle French occulte and directly from Latin occultus \”hidden, concealed, secret,\” past participle of occulere \”cover over, conceal,\” from ob \”over\” (see ob-) + a verb related to celare \”to hide,\” from PIE root *kel- (2) \”to cover, conceal\” (see cell). Meaning \”not apprehended by the mind, beyond the range of understanding\” is from 1540s. The association with the supernatural sciences (magic, alchemy, astrology, etc.) dates from 1630s.

This then, is the knowing, not by maps and distance, but by heart\’s-blood, by coming-together with-and-breaking apart. In this, the we resemble less Man possessed of the much vaunted \”human intelligence\”, than the animal possessed by the animal intelligence.

In a Kosmos filled with Life, it is only sensible to regard the multitude of Forms of Being which we encounter as Beings-In-And-Of-Themselves, precisely because they are constellations of Life. It doesn\’t matter whether or not we are \’projecting\’, only that we accord the possibility of Life to all things, since we ourselves are constellations of Life, and are acted upon by the world at large. This is no the same as anthropocentrism – we do not regard all Beings as human, merely possessed of the animating quality we call Life.

In immersing ourselves in the Gnostic impulse, we seek that which lies below/beyond/within the map – the creative impulse, the enthusing Powers which weave the cloth, in ourselves and in the wider world. We do not seek to solely know what lies On High, but those Powers which weave the complex web of interrelations which make up the Kosmos. Not only that, we seek to become aware of our own participation in the weaving – that which we were previously unconscious of.


In various ancient cultures, the importance of weaving and spinning was well understood, and associated with magic. The Norse volva held an iron staff, modelled on a distaff, and the goddess Frigga, wife of Odin and knower of many things, was associated too. All this, and also the Nornir, three giantmaids held to weave the wyrd of men and gods. The classical Fates also come to mind.

In each case, the imagery of threads being woven together applies; the various inputs and responses, interconnexions, relationships and feedbacks come together to form a whole – each Being connected, or entangled with each other – something that quantum physics is showing exists at the very smallest level of existence.

Nor is this notion of interconnection limited to Norse myth – the notion of Indra\’s net as a metaphor for the interconnected nature of the universe existed long before the mediaeval transcription of Norse myth:

Far away in the heavenly abode of the great god Indra, there is a wonderful net which has been hung by some cunning artificer in such a manner that it stretches out infinitely in all directions. In accordance with the extravagant tastes of deities, the artificer has hung a single glittering jewel in each \”eye\” of the net, and since the net itself is infinite in dimension, the jewels are infinite in number. There hang the jewels, glittering \”like\” stars in the first magnitude, a wonderful sight to behold. If we now arbitrarily select one of these jewels for inspection and look closely at it, we will discover that in its polished surface there are reflected all the other jewels in the net, infinite in number. Not only that, but each of the jewels reflected in this one jewel is also reflecting all the other jewels, so that there is an infinite reflecting process occurring.

Recall what Gordon said about Bruno?

An infinite universe, a cosmos lit with countless little lamps extending into infinity.

If each of us is a lamp-jewel, reflecting all others in the Kosmos, what then?


And so, to return to the vision to the trapped man and animal – I told you we\’d be back, didn\’t I?

The man lies there, encircled in his agony. He waits for death, but the animal? The animal, possessed by its intelligence in distinction to Man\’s distant possessing of  it\’s intelligence, does not wait for some imagined future. Instead, it takes events as it comes.

The man lies there exhausted, unable to escape, convinced there is only death to wait for. But, in his agony, he has forgotten he is embedded in the world. Even his cell, even in his pain, there is Life.

In an animistic universe, all is Life – even, and especially, the air we breathe, is full of it. Recall that the root of animate, is breath.

So let us imagine, for a moment, that the man in the vision is quite ordinary, but for one thing – he is a magician.

And as a magician, rather than merely wait  for death, he has made it a habit to regularly contemplate his own demise. On some occasions, he sees and feels himself die violently by war, accident, by flame, drowning or weapon. On others he sees and feels a sickness devour him from within, or the weight of old age drag him into the grave.

And so, to pass the time, as he breathes, he begins to notice the feel of the air against his skin; the way it touches him always, the way it feels and tastes as it enters and exits his lungs, ever-present for every moment of his life. Slowly, surely, he realises he is surrounded cocooned by the breath, by the warmth of the sun and the earth, just as he was surrounded by amniotic fluid in the womb.

It occurs then, that he seems to recall wombtime; floating in warm darkness, life moving in and out of him through the navel, wastes and nutrition passing through him, moving within and without like the tides.

Immersed in that Kosmic ocean, he becomes aware that every piece of him is connected to every other piece, and that all these pieces are connected to everything else in the Kosmos. He knows there are those who wish him and others well, and so, as he abides, he allows his mind to dwell on those connexions, on all those who would wish an end to pain and suffering. He adds his own existence to the weight of all others, allows himself to become enthused with Life. His body adjusts, his pain remaining, but no longer the centre of his world.

Instead. it as if he is entangled with everything else. His every molecule attached to every other, his pain, his thought linked inextricably to all things. To move a hand, his hand, is to alter a world, to stir the waters, sending out ripples. To speak a word is to influence the entire Kosmos.

Understand, in this vision, there is no sense of conventional power, no mighty exertion. Only existing. Only Being. Moment to moment. All thought devoted to experience and flowing, rushing movement as Life enters and exits, runs through its infinite possibility.


What was a man lays aside the distance of \”human intelligence\” and becomes as-animal. That is, he allows himself to become fully animated, releasing his grip on any a particular shape of thought and form. He sinks deeper into the Waters, and finds their wellspring. He descends into the Well of Memory, moving beyond his personal history, his personal embodiment.

Perhaps he might be described as one of those jewels in Indra\’s net, quietly being reflected upon by, and reflecting back, the Kosmos?

Perhaps he might meet the one of the keepers of the well?

Who can say.

What is able to be spoken is that the breath is in his body and blood. Whether that be mere oxygen or something more esoteric, the fact remains – what lies within, lies without – and vice-versa. In an animist universe, the animation exists within us and without us. And if each of us is a jewel (or a star) reflecting all others, then are we in fact living lamps?

Can we not, if we care to, cultivate that light within our blood, becoming enthused beings who do not seek distance or escape, but rather to meet with and have communion with all experiences, Powers and Beings? Can we not discover the Life in all things, the Pleroma  unveiled?

What use static maps? What use the diktats from distant On High, from monocultural overlords?

Stamp your feet to the rhythm of your blood, to the pulse of Life. The Gnostic impulse is to know things, not on the terms of others, but from your own experience, from the union of yourself with Life in all its terror, beauty and vitality. The Primordial is an existence filled with a Pandaemonium, a cornucopia of Beingness. It is \’Their\’ world only insofar as we are not Them.

Except of course we are as Them. We are as animal, as strange and daemonic, as estranged from \”human intelligence\” as anything in the Kosmos. Two fingers (or one if you\’re American) up to the Archons, be they human, or otherwise.

We\’re coming back to the feral banquet, to the furious sabbat of Being. We\’re waking up to the orgy of Life.

orgy (n.)\"Look1560s, orgies (plural) \”secret rites in the worship of certain Greek and Roman gods,\” especially Dionysus, from Middle French orgies (c. 1500, from Latinorgia), and directly from Greek orgia (plural) \”secret rites,\” especially those of Bacchus, from PIE root *werg- \”to do\” (see organ). The singular, orgy, was first used in English 1660s for the extended sense of \”any licentious revelry.\” OED says of the ancient rites that they were \”celebrated with extravagant dancing, singing, drinking, etc.,\” which gives \”etc.\” quite a workout.

Time to remember – and:

So. There I am, minding my own business, lying in my sickbed, surfing the painkiller tides, on Wednesday.  And what happens? I see Gordon post about Kingliness and Jupiter, and fall into reading a nice little back and forth betwixt him and Jason Miller here, and here. You should probably read them, because they\’re good posts with valid points, and if you\’re into those points, go and buy The Chaos Protocols and Financial Sorcery respectively. Then, for the triple? Get Money Magic: Mastering Prosperity in its True Element, by Frater UD.

Pipe those into your brainmeat, and then watch as your perception of influence gets reshaped. Because, quite succinctly, it\’s not about the money. (I don\’t get paid for plugging books, for one.)

Anyway, I\’m lying in bed on Wednesday, and I\’m reading the back and forth when, as sometimes happens, I find myself propelled into the realms of synchronicity – the Cosmic Coincidence Control Centre spoken of by Robert Anton Wilson seems to spend time favouring me with high density bursts of Meaning, every so often.

Dozing every now and then between the paragraphs, I found my mind drawn to a line from Tacitus that, if you\’re a Heathen, gets thrown about, quite a bit:

Mercury is the deity whom they chiefly worship, and on certain days they deem it right to sacrifice to him even with human victims. Hercules and Mars they appease with more lawful offerings. Tacitus, Germania

The barbarian Germanic tribes, being uncivilized oiks in the eyes of the Romans, didn\’t worship Jupiter. Instead, they chiefly worshipped Mercury – a figure that scholars generally agree was some Continental Wodan/Woden/Odin analogue, with Mars being Tyr/Tiw, and Hercules being Thor/Thunor/Donar  (it\’s the club/hammer, see?)

No Jupiter for them. Instead, we have a rather different scenario – note the remark about lawful offerings? Their chief deity enjoys offerings which are unlawful to the Romans, which isn\’t too far a stretch to regarding it as criminal. Now granted, this is almost certainly the classic blood-libel against outsiders, but still, there\’s something here.


It\’s something that\’s puzzled scholars for many a year too. After all, linguistically, Tyr is closer to Zeus – suggesting a Sky-Fatherdom might have been part of Indo-Europeam mythemes until something shifted:

Tuesday (n.)\"Lookthird day of the week, Old English tiwesdæg, from Tiwes, genitive of Tiw \”Tiu,\” from Proto-Germanic *Tiwaz \”god of the sky,\” the original supreme deity of ancient Germanic mythology, differentiated specifically as Tiu, ancient Germanic god of war, from PIE *deiwos \”god,\” from root *dyeu- \”to shine\” (see diurnal). Compare Old Frisian tiesdei, Old Norse tysdagr, Swedish tisdag, Old High German ziestag.

The day name (second element dæg, see day) is a translation of Latin dies Martis (source of Italian martedi, French Mardi) \”Day of Mars,\” from the Roman god of war, who was identified with Germanic Tiw (though etymologically Tiw is related to Zeus), itself a loan-translation of Greek Areos hemera. In cognate German Dienstag and Dutch Dinsdag, the first element would appear to be Germanic ding, þing \”public assembly,\” but it is now thought to be from Thinxus, one of the names of the war-god in Latin inscriptions.

Tiw/Tyr is there in Norse Myth, but the chief god as given by Snorri in the Eddas is Odin. To him is accorded the title Allfather, patron of kings, nobles, and poets – while archaeology suggests that the ancient Icelander common folk were more fond of Thor. Further confusing to some is that this Norse patriarch is, quite frankly, a dodgy geezer. While Zeus, as Jupiter\’s Greek forerunner, is fond of getting his end away with mortals, he\’s still a pater famillias  in some senses – guarantor of the social order.

Odin, by contrast, is a morally ambiguous conman.  A mad, murderous, shape-shifting, knowledge-hungry gender ambiguous necromancer, wizard and wisdombringer, who’s fond of getting laid and leading an undead band of hunters and/or warriors in some grand kosmic multilevel game which manifests variously as a battle, story, poetry, and liberation from the forces of oppression and ignorance.

Nor is this just a Norse thing – what little reference we have to the Anglo-Saxon Woden suggests he was a lone wanderer or traveler, unless he brought his band of undead hunters with him. Recent scholarship (2014) in the European Journal of Archaeology even suggests that the famous Sutton Hoo helmet may have had had analogues across Scandinavia, analogues which had, amongst other things, eyes struck out.

Neil Price and Paul Mortimer, in their paper An Eye For Odin: Divine Role-Playing In The Age of Sutton Hoo  raise the possibility of the helmet being one-eyed in certain light conditions – specifically the low-light conditions of a medieval mead-hall, and that the ruler as helm-bearer might mimic, symbolise, or somehow host the one-eyed god. When we add this to the realisation that certain Anglo-Saxon royal dynasties traced descent directly from Woden, we may begin to wonder what precisely kingship meant to these Germanic peoples. It seems a long way away from certain ideas of kingship we moderns have been fed by endless costume dramas, doesn\’t it?


Suddenly, it seems as if might have to challenge our assumptions. Even within so-called traditions of monarchy, things are far from what they first appear – as Gordon puts it:

I pass palaces on my way to work. I’ve attended the same parties as princes. They don’t dress like real estate agents in strip clubs. That’s what a poor person’s view of a rich person looks like, and I said as much to Sef the other year. (I’m an amazing friend.) You see pictures of the Queen tootling about Balmoral in her old Range Rover and she looks like a bag lady who just hotwired a student car. Which, funnily enough, she could actually do, being a war mechanic and all.

Unlike Gordon, for myself personally as a British magician, I\’m not allergic to gods. If I was allergic to gods, I\’d be sneezing all the bloody time, and the state of my skin would be absolutely terrible, because  this place is full of them. Just like it\’s full of sheep and rainy days and crumbling stately houses and megaliths that are five thousand years old. They\’re part of the furniture, part of the climate. To steal an analogy from certain Eastern philosophies, they\’re nothing special, nothing inherently superior. In the same way a tiger or the Ebola virus isn\’t superior, they just are – a particular order of beings.

Maybe it\’s because I\’m the son of a clergyman, and while not having visited palaces, I\’ve taken tea with the local landowning family that can trace its lineage back to god knows when, while on the same day drunk with farmers and fishermen and builders. Being Church-By-Association can get you rubbing elbows with unlikely folks – the Church and State are, just about, still a thing here. The Queen is, after all Defender of the Faith, initiated in a temple by a high priest.

If you start thinking mythically, and hence magically, things are a lot odder than one might first suppose.

So, it\’s Wednesday (not Tuesday, mark you) and I\’m lying in bed dealing with the pain of an unhealed wound.

(Yes. I know. The Fisher King resonances have been bugging me for years. Don\’t even get me started on the Lombards, the Quinotaur or the Merovingians.)


As is my wont when bedbound, I turn to Netflix for distraction, and currently am making my way through the BBC\’s Hustle, which is all about a gang of grifters, or con-men. (I am also, unsurprisingly, fond of the US show Leverage) I surface from another morphine-induced doze to find I\’ve missed the beginning of the third season, and now we\’re on episode 3, entitled:

Ties That Bind Us.

I come around specifically ,just as we\’re introduced to the character James Whitaker Wright III – grandson to a financier and conman who conned British banks in the 19th century by floating non-existent goldmines on the London Stock Exchange. The bank in particular he targeted is called Cornfoots – possibly a reference to Coutts, a real private bank founded in 1692 and patronised by the British Royal Family and other wealthy clients, including the company which owns the land my flat is on.

(Hurrah for paying ground rent the Right Sort TM(!))

So, the episode already has all the threes. Fair enough. Except, well…erm, yes. Forgive my terrible GIF-ing  but it\’s the only way to convey my surprise and mirth:


Bearded Man approaches young fellow about a ring? How very Gandalf meets Southern gent, I thought drowsily, amused at my own cleverness:


\”Try your hand against a real crossroader?\” Wait…what? I stopped, blinked, and hit rewind.

Nope, still said cross-roader.

\”Bite my own eye.\” Wait, this is a show about grifters, I know that con from somewhere, I\’m sure…It\’s not..? No…Can\’t be, surely?


Oh. Oh no. I don\’t believe it either, Danny.

\”I\’m there, minding my own business, and then he shows up.\” As pretty much every person I know who has interacted with the being I call the Old Man will testify, this description pretty much nails it.

Gordon again:

There is a reason The Chaos Protocols has a crossroad pact with the Devil in it. If you were to bundle up everything I don’t like about this world, about monoculture, and build a temple to it, it would be the temple to Jupiter I see in the Roman forum whenever I go there. (Or, at least, what little remains of it. Hail chaos.)

Now, see, in the book Gordon mentions Loki-as-trickster, but here\’s the thing – his blood-brother Odin is actually attested as taking crossroad pacts in 1692 in return for money, as well as data from 15th century witch-trials in Sweden. There\’s even a fourteenth century runestick which calls upon Odin as \”the greatest of all devils.\” Add to this, a story recorded  by a man born in 1926, of an an early 19th century hunter who was advised to make a pact with Odin to improve his hunting luck!

Even allowing for cultural shifts and Christianization, there is still a traceable link to Odin-at-crossroads-as-gallows-site from ancient times. Such things are attested in the Eddas – this god of Kings and Nobles is no Jupiter. The interpetatio romana  is accurate as far as it goes – Mercury is god of trade, thieves and wealth, so comparisons can be made. Yet for these barbarians, at least for a large swathe of history, this was the god greatest respect was paid to, to the extent of human sacrifice.

I\’ve little time for nationalism in the form of borders and politics. There\’s a reason this blog is called Cold Albion – it refers to the mythic poetic wild power which dwells in the land. I\’ve got a lot out of Jason\’s Strategic Sorcery course, but for me, if there\’s a kingness in this island, it\’s shot through with that barbarian grifterdom. London may be Roman, but it sits on older wellings of power.  Is it any wonder that the City is full of thieves and geezers in sharp suits? And is it any wonder that there are poor folk who still go to the crossroads, or magicians seeking knowledge?

Not, I think, too hard to comprehend this other Kingship when our psyches are also suffused with Arthur and his warband, only latterly civilised into knights. Not too hard when the god of kings is a lonely wanderer, an unexpected guest, leading his rowdy band into civilised homes and catapulting us out into adventures of terror and wonder.

You can keep your Pater Famillias, thanks. I\’ll stick with the grifter  god who comes on raven wings, bringing the storm as he walks between raindrops, the mad capricious fellow who makes and breaks kings. I\’ll keep the bloody Mercury with the bone grin, pipe and drum. The masked, strange-horned dancing devil with one eye who poses us the gnostic riddle of our own death.

He\’s been running the gig for thousands of years, after all.

Catch you at the crossroads, friends.