Sunday, October 15, 2017

In Which the Hound Recruits Staff

Goodness, it's been a busy week in the blogosphere. I don't mean that there have been an unprecedented number of posts on blogs, but that the authors of a number of blogs I follow have posted about being busy in one way or another. Personally I can't claim ever to be that busy, really. There is a reason for it - I simply need my space. To that end I never go to anything, row with everyone, and am generaly antisocial. I love that some people see this as selfish - it isn't, it's called survival. One of the reasons for my ruthless unbusyness is that I literally cannot cope with too much. Even too much stuff in my flat stresses me out. And I've found a way of dealing with some of the things which would otherwise occupy the busy witch - I have staff to do them.
Not human staff, of course. I will resist human staff to my last breath, and for the rather eccentric reason that it would be too much like being my mother or her sister. Apart from a few periods of only weeks my mother has never had to clean her own house, she's always had a cleaning lady. And her sister emigrated to Kenya in the last wave of colonial immigration in the 1950s so hasn't really lifted a finger in sixty years. She just sits around swigging gin, moaning about how hard life is, oh, and probably about me. Colonialism is a subject which I keep meaning to write about on this blog, and probably will do one day, when I have a spare week to write the post.
But magical servants are something completely different. My own opinion is that magical people all have particular sorts of magic they are good at, and from the moment I discovered that there are techniques of creating magical entities, or servitors, I was hooked. In common with all of chaos magic, this is not really a new magic but one which has existed for ever, in a new guise. On one level it isn't that different from the Peruvian worry dolls you can get which you give your worries to. In fact, it is exactly the same, just it doesn't always require a doll.
Using a doll for this is useful because it also calls on the ancient tradition of the golem, and thus taps into the human mythological imagination which is so important for magic. Personally I like to bring these things to life by blowing breath into them. Once the doll has fulfilled its task you can do whatever seems appropriate with it.
I have tended to find it easier to create an entity purely in my head. As we know, thoughts are things and if you think of something often enough, it grows in life and reality. It can help, though, to make a note of the entity's description so that it becomes a stable entity rather than a developing character in your imagination. This is the bit I love: I create them especially for purpose and fill them with the sort of ironic retribution, slapstick, and humour that I love. I have created an entity to attach themselves to a specific person and give them hell before now. I have created them to find things out in places I can't go. This is a form of magic which is literally adaptable to any circumstance.
Once created, your entity will just appear on and off in all sorts of situations. Like all magics, this one attracts strange coincidences and what have you, and your entity will bump into you as it goes about its job. A job which will tend to solve itself by these conincidences.
You can make them time-limited, or job-limited. Like this they just fizzle away when their job is over. There is no sadness or cruelty in this - the entity is a part of yourself which you are breaking off so that you don't have to do that task or think about that matter. For this reason this is also one of the most therapeutic magics because you can give them your problems to solve. Of course you can also formally end their existence in a way you think fitting. Sometimes I like to send them out to create havoc for turds. You won't read that in Scott Cunningham, but this is a blog about real witchcraft, not a fucking Llewellyn book.
Now you may say that these entities are not useful for material things. Of course if one could have the washing up done by magic like Mrs Weasley it would be perfect, but instead I've had to settle for an entity which washes up called Indesit.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Urban Grimoire: the And Then There Were None Incantation

I'm all of a tizzy. I'm watching Derren Brown and, as always happens, want him to marry me. Of course this may simply be the power of Derren Brown, but I think it could also be a reflection on the power of the large and small screen.
I have always loved the various film versions of Agatha Christie's novel, And Then There Were None. I first watched the 1940s version, and was then smitten by the wonderful Abbasi Hotel ( in the 1970s version, and finally encountered the wonderful Hugh O'Brian's magnificent chest rug in the 1960s version. I'm afraid the latest version does nothing for me, and neither does Aidan Turner.
This is the one of Mrs Christie's adventures which of course has had to have its title changed to reflect modern sensibilities about race. Its subjects are vengeance, innocence, trust, and deceit - of course these are reflected in most detective fiction, but my point here is that they are the sort of moral issues which exactly motivate magical people. In fact the nursery rhyme which gave the book its title has always struck me as being just made for an incantation, to be used in a spell of reducing or banishing something. A modern version of the rhyme is given here (Source):
Ten little Soldier Boys went out to dine;
One choked his little self and then there were nine.

Nine little Soldier Boys sat up very late;
One overslept himself and then there were eight.

Eight little Soldier Boys travelling in Devon;
One said he'd stay there and then there were seven.

Seven little Soldier Boys chopping up sticks;
One chopped himself in halves and then there were six.

Six little Soldier Boys playing with a hive;
A bumblebee stung one and then there were five.

Five little Soldier Boys going in for law;
One got in Chancery and then there were four.

Four little Soldier Boys going out to sea;
red herring swallowed one and then there were three.

Three little Soldier Boys walking in the zoo;
A big bear hugged one and then there were two.

Two little Soldier Boys sitting in the sun;
One got frizzled up and then there was one.[9]

One little Soldier Boy left all alone;
He went out and hanged himself and then there were none.
And the video below contains a tune used for it from the 1940s film, should you wish to in-cant your incantation:

Monday, September 18, 2017

Be the Witch You Needed When you Were Younger

a thing going round on witchy tumblrs, which is the line, 'Be the witch you needed when you were younger'. At my great age it is causing me to think back on the qualities of the witch I actually needed when I was younger.
For a start the witch would definitely have told me to trust my own intuition. I wasted far too much time when I was young, listening to what other people thought and putting my own will to the back of the queue. What I needed was someone who would validate that I had the power to know what was best for me, and also the power to make judgements on when other people people were nasty pieces of work.
I needed an experienced witch who would encourage me to think that transformation was possible. Those dead words 'that's impossible' were a great part of my upbringing and at the time it was difficult to realise that I had far more options to hand than I realised.
I needed a witch who would invite me into the kind of experimentation that witches do...of casting a spell knowing that it is 'impossible' and having it work, that kind of thing.
And yet...there's something missing. I have been describing the sort of witch I would now think my younger self needed, with the benefit of hindsight and of course with the assumption that I want to guide me where I am now. In reality the witch of 25 years ago would have required several other gifts, not least to be the sort of person who could make me listen! And also not to guide me too firmly to a particular destination and risk awakening my resistant streak!
So I suppose the reality is that the witch I would actually have needed is the sort of witch who would read where I was and read the signs of what was happening in my life. As a young adult I was already recognisably me, with all my willfulness and spikiness. The witch I needed was someone who would enable me to become more completely myself by doing the tasks of this life rather than the many years I wasted not getting on with them at all.
And I suppose that is the sort of witch I ought to be for younger people. Not too heavy-handed and nurturing to people's own personal power rather than prescriptive. No challenge there, then. In fact if I can find a witch like that even now, I'll be very chuffed indeed.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Bull Ring Shopping Centre Ad, 1985

Ooh how I jumped up and down to find this is online. I loooved this ad and to this day think it's dead catchy and defy viewers not to find themselves singing it.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Thalatta thalatta and Birmingham-on-Sea

A very kind soul has gone through his beach hut and gifted me with some of the natural wonders he has found. They are pictured here and I intend to expatiate a little on the subject of things from the beach, but of course you all know there's no way I'll stay on subject. In fact I did an incident report at work last week and our director commented that it was very clear and concise - I'm afraid I replied that I would be returning to my usual incoherence in the next one.
Anyway, when I was a child I loved the sea and I loved the beach. I'm sure I've commented here before that one of the things I love about the seagull infestation in Birmingham is that waking up to their sound in the morning is like waking up by the sea every day. Of course Weston-super-Mare is the seaside place most associated with Brummies, but the place my family used to go to was Newquay in Wales. I have a feeling my mother might have chosen it on purpose because when you told someone where you'd gone on holiday your listener would assume you'd gone to Cornwall and you'd have an opportunity to correct them. I lvoed those holidays - and what I loved best was the stuff I picked up on the beach, although I was sadly prevented from bringing a jellyfish home.
The sea, the sea. Of course James Joyce calls it the scrotumtightening sea. Thalatta, thalatta, and all that. The sea is one of the things which reminds us humans of our mortality, because it shows that the water element, far from being the gentle emotional thing we townies think it is, is a major source of destruction. The outline of this country is changing dramatically as the sea eats away at the coast. Just look what it has done to the stones pictured here! It may take a long time but the water element is a major destructive force. As a fire sign myself water is an element I always think I need to work with more.
In addition to the glass and the shells, what I originally asked my kind donor for were the holey stones. Holy stones? Not sure. Here we have some genuinely ancient folk magic. Lucky, they are. The donor made the point that he was giving me some holes with stones around them, which is the sort of thing a witch would say, if ever there was. In the modern witchcraft movement they have of course come to symbolise the Goddess, and I personally don't have a problem with that attribution. At least one of them will be going on my altar, and thus the giver has been invested with all the duties and privileges which are invoked by being on the Hound's altar. The other sea stuff will be going in my little tin of random stuff (cat whiskers, a tooth I had removed, and some horseshoe nails for example) which may one day prove magically useful and I'm very chuffed.
My donor has also managed to sole my little problem as to what is going to be my next pet. Since moving here I haven't had an animal to look after and frankly rather like it like that. However among the gifts were some belemnites which I had never heard of before, but have decided that they can be my new pets. So meet Evadne and Hilda!
There's something missing from this post and that is that Inexplicable likes a song to listen to while he is reading it. There is actually a folk song called Birmingham on Sea, and I append the words and the story behind it below. I will attempt to upload the mp3 but if it doesn't work you can listen to the song at my source for it, which is here.

I sing the song of Birmingham, of Birmingham-on-Sea
For that they say is what she is, in days to come to be
The times are bad, the riddle is, when better shall we see
Canal locks have been picked and so let’s hope we’ll get a quay

Chorus :
Rejoice, rejoice ye unemployed, there soon will be a glut
Of brand new trades for Birmingham, although ’twill be through cut

The shortest cut to seaboard is our old canal, of course
The stake is there, it only wants a little Worcester source
The question really is not more than one of willing banks
That must give rise to enterprise the age is one of cranks

And cranks and cogs must supercede the bargee’s horse and whip
And Birmingham in launching out of course must launch her ship
For months and months she suffered from depression she can’t hide
And hide with her means seek and so she wants a turn of tide


In Worcester Walk we’ll have a beach as good as that of Wales
They weave our beach in Temple Row, of course a beach with sails
A cliff we’ve got in Bennett’s Hill, a cave is there as well
And daily if you care to look you’ll see the New Street swell

The gas department breezes finds as fresh as those of Rhyll
And as for shingle put your hand into the borough till
Time will provide the sand and shells the guardians keep in stock
That folk may snug at anchor ride within the Witton dock


I sing the song of Birmingham, of Birmingham-on-Sea
For that they say is what she is, in days to come to be

Sleeve notes from 'Brummagem Ballads' :
During the late 19th century the prospects of making inland towns and cities 'canal seaports' was again being projected. This song almost certainly refers to the proposed Birmingham Ship Canal; in 1886 there was a 'Committee for the Improvement of Canal Communications between Birmingham and the Bristol Channel'.
Worcester source - link between Worcester and the Bristol Channel.
Source - Brummagem Ballads - No.6, The Town Crier, March 1886. Birmingham Reference Library. Tune, Four Drunken Maidens, selected by Jon Raven. Researched : A Dunsford, J Raven.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Mystery on Hill Street

Today, one of those mysteries which has been puzzling me for a long time, and while my investigations in the library have cast some light on it I still don't fully have the history at my fingertips.
The picture which illustrates this post is of the remains of a building in a car park on Hill Street (B5) next to the former Crown Inn. I have been passing it for yonks and wondered what that stump of a building could be. Appearances would suggest a rather grand-ish building: I haven't gone close enough to see but it looks as if it was faced with terracotta on a brick structure, so the only thing which stopped me imagining that it was another gin palace was the close proximity of The Crown.
The Crown next door, and the fact St Jude's church used to be just over the road, should have made it relatively easy to find images of the area, but I have completely failed to find any pictures of that part of Hill Street as it was before my mystery building was demolished. Or rather before the owners of the land had someone in who thankfully left a bit of the building as a boundary, leaving a mystery for the Hound to look into years later. My own Kelly's Directory of 1967-8 was no use at all, showing nothing at all in that gap. So a trip to the library was indicated to look back through the street directories, so this post will go back in time rather than forward, because even in Kelly's the trail vanishes.
The last indication of a building in use I have found on that spot (it's number 23-25 Hill Street), is 1962, Harry J Evans was running his motor car dealers business from there. I would therefore theorise that it was after that the building was demolished. Mr Evans seems to have begun his business (at least at that address) after the Second World War, and the property was empty through the war years.
A previous motor sales business at this address was run by Henry Garner Ltd (his earliest appearance is 1914) - but in the 1930s the address was shared by Frederick Marsh Ltd, mantle manufacturers. This both suggests that business wasn't brisk enough to take up the whole building, and also shows the distance in time - I imagine Marsh Ltd manufactured gas mantles, surely an industry which has completely died out now.
In fact the site has a long connection with motor dealerships because in 1912 is the first record of Burn and Gould, motor car agents, operating from the address. However the site further shows industry evolving in the area because from 1909 to 1910 (with again no entry in 1911) the site was occupied by Millington and Sheldrick Ltd, paper manufacturers. I imagine the relatively grand building was constructed with a showroom space on the ground floor (which was obviously adapted to showing different goods over the years) and manufacturing rooms above. Sadly unless a picture appears we will now never know.
My hypothetical showroom had yet another previous use, since from 1900 the property was occupied by C. H. Price and Sons, house furnishers.
And I'm afraid 1900 is as far back as I can go - the directories further back never show anything at this address. As for what was there before, I really do have to guess, although since the whole of that area was redeveloped and gentrified through the 19th century, it could have been slum dwellings. So it looks as if the history of my stump will never be completely elucidated, but appears to be the remains of a building built around 1900 and used for a bare sixty-something years before being demolished, until the neighbourhood witch wandered past another fifty-five years later and wondered what was there before.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Never Alone: Divine as Spirit Companion

'A Witch Alone' and 'Wicca - A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner' are two of the better-known titles of books for people learning my sort of witchcraft. I have read both of them, and learned things from them, before developing on using the skills I learned, into my own sort of witch. Of course the titles of those books and all others of their ilk are a bit of a misnomer - they actually mean to address witches who are not members of covens. I have a feeling that the authors of both would agree with my own bold assertion that it is impossible ever to be alone as a witch.
As magical people one of the foundational principles we live is the interconnectedness of all things. Yes, of course it is possible for me to be disconnected from another person or thing, but that has to be a conscious disconnection, and much of the work of magic is deciding which connections we make. As soon as anyone starts the practice of magic, any nearby beings of any description sit up and pay attention, and that is why so many magical traditions so strongly emphasise cleansing and stilling rituals.
Nor are we alone on our own plane. Witches instinctually know each other and are drawn to each other. Even not in a formal coven the witch will find herself with other pagical practitioners around her, and this can sometimes cause some weirdness in events, since not all planes are functioning at the same time.
In my last post I said that I was going to get some supplies to cast a spell and get rid of my supervisor. I have decided not to, because two of my magical companions have already commented that she is as good as gone. For one thing I wouldn't want to slap the universe's gift of liberation, in the face.
For another thing, I can instinctually feel when magic is working and the way I always know is that I get a feeling of ecstasy. I mean this word literally in the sense of standing outside of normal reality and I JUST KNOW. The initial irritation has also left me completely, so I know that the problem has been dealt with and it has left  me to go home to roost. For another the universe always ushers new paths, resources, and people into my way when this happens. I have several unconventional magical companions, who are mostly dead, but a couple are more like egregores. Yes, he's dead, but older readers will remember in the lovely Grant Morrison's Invisibles when King Mob invoked the spirit of John Lennon as of a god. I'm very fond of the egregore of Patsy Stone from Absolutely Fabulous, personally, but I have remade the acquaintance of someone who has appeared on the edges of my world now and then for years. 'You will dance, sing, feast, make music and love, all in my praise,' says the Goddess in Aradia, and I'm delighted that I can provide an ecstatic song sung by one of my inspirations/magicl companions, egregores, below.