Wednesday, October 30, 2013

More thoughts on the Library of Birmingham

I've now been into the library a number of times & actually used it so am in more of a position to assess its quality as a library.
There is a very clear difference between this one & the previous one, illustrated by the two pictures I've chosen. One shows the secret garden on the top but one floor. I went up there after sunset yesterday evening. It was exhilarating being up there in the dark during rush hour with the traffic out of the city like ribbons of light way below. I had this sudden strange urge to ask the security guard for sex & I assume it has that effect on other people because of the large signs warning about CCTV.
The other picture shows the space under the old library's inverted ziggurat as it was originally meant to be. And this is the difference: the old library was a statement in architecture & shape, sacrificing function to form. The present library is designed for its users.
I have a few qualms about its likely effect on its staff. Despite the large sign at reception stressing how important welfare of the staff has been, my impression is that the staff are very exposed to the all-critical eye of the public. There are walls of glass into offices & meeting rooms: the sense of continual scrutiny must be extraordinary.
In terms of using the library it doesn't have the strange 'underground' feeling of the old one - caused by little natural light & few windows. It's actually the other way around - it's spacious to the other extreme! Once you get your head round where the subjects are thing - with the *huge* exception I will mention below are actually easier to find now. There are a variety of places & things to sit on on every level.
The only major criticism I have of the library as a building is I think mistakes have been made in some of the surfaces used. I mean in terms of usability: the fashion in public spaces is away from carpets, but they would make it much less noisy than it is. Also I mean in durability: some of the floors & walls are looking rather scuffed, weeks after library's opening. And, darlings, black shows dust. If you're going to have empty black shelves high up you have to organise the dusting of them or your new library looks very tatty.
My other criticism isn't really of the Library of Birmingham as such but a criticism of the management of the central library for the past forty years. The old central library had two catalogues running at once, one a card index, the other electronic. There was an overlap but the card index seems to have been what was taken from the previous library in the 1970s, & a single catalogue was never created. This is something that should have been remedied when an electronic catalogue was created. Similarly the works that were done to move to the new library such as rationalising, preserving & cataloguing the collection, all seem to me tasks that *should* be the day to day work of a library. The impression that the bread & butter work of maintaining the collection has been neglected is irresistible. I understand that in the public sector there are no doubt financial constraints to taking on the personnel in Britain's second-busiest public library, & that I have the impression that the excellent staff's  customer service may have been prioritised at the expense of behind-the-scenes work.
It was a relief to notice the complete absence of card indexes in the new library. I therefore assumed that there is now a single catalogue. I therefore thought that I'd wander through the catalogue at home to see what I could read on a visit today. I found the location of a children's book that I've been wanting to revisit for some time: I wish I'd pinched more than one copy from school all those years ago: I could sell them for £30 a time on ebay now.
Then a terrible thing happened. I've been wanting to read Philip Hesleton's biography of Gerald Gardner & I wondered if they'd bought it, so I just did a keyword search for Gerald Gardner. Nothing. In. The. Whole. Of. Birmingham. I thought that must be wrong, they used to have a first edition of Witchcraft Today, so I did an author search for Gerald Gardner. Nothing. A title search produced nothing. An awful fear came over me. So I searched for the (first edition) Witch Cult in Western Europe. Nothing. Had they got rid of them?
I got my answer today: the stack is not yet fully catalogued or accessible at all. This to me is a real problem, & here's why. Libraries have difficulty making magic books stay on the shelf, not because they fly around but because magical people are dodgy people & steal books. For this reason the best stuff in that library has always been in the stack, as far as I'm concerned. I don't object at all to either presenting extra identification  even to sit in the reference library with a book, or have to sit right under the eye of the staff, if this is what it takes to keep expensive magical books in the library rather than nicked by some muppet.
What is good is that recataloguing will create a catalogue of what they've actually got, since the card catalogue was not altered to reflect what was missing over the years. However as I say this should have been done well before now, because the sum result is that the majority of the library's stock, & much of what is of interest to me personally, is inaccessible still. And that, for whatever reasons it's happened, isn't a lot of use, is it?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Tarot: The Hanged Man Today

I must come clean at the beginning of this post & say that I don't really like this card. Of course this is for the reason that it is one of the most multi-faceted tarot cards in the tarot, with virtually all of these facets having a sting in the tail somewhere. That said, what set me thinking about it again was that it was my card for the day yesterday. I had real difficulty thinking how a totally pedestrian day at work of trying to hold people back from some unwise decisions could relate to this card, until I realised I was actually being one of the supports, not actually the man himself! It was as if I was creating the necessary 'suspension' for other people.
My personal main connection for this card is lengthy illness I had some years ago, when this kept coming up. The card's feeling of discomfort is connected to its likely inspiration:

'This picture of a man hung upside down by one foot is what was known in Italy as a pittura infamante, a defaming portrait. It was used as a kind of rag publication that showed thieves, traitors, those guilty of bankruptcy or fraud in this punishing position and displayed in centers of public view. Those paintings weren't literal, in that the depicted victims were not actually hung in this manner but were shamed by the portrait. They were akin to our political cartoons except that they were approved and even requested by the municipal civil authorities as a form of public punishment. They began to lose popularity when they began to be appreciated more as an art form, like the political cartoon, rather than be seen as a form of punishment. The intended effect, shame, was lessened, and the practice diminished.
'But why use this particular positioning of the figure to shame someone? That answer can be found in even earlier paintings of a more religious nature. Religious art from the 13th through 15th centuries, before the creation of Tarot cards, show various scenes of the Last Judgement and the unrighteous receiving their eternal damnation. In many of these scenes one can see people dangling from their feet over the pit of Hell.' (

This far-off inspiration makes it difficult for us to relate to thus facet of the card now, because we don't live in a world where we have pictures of eternal damnation up to frighten us, nor shame convicted criminals by displaying their pictures. However I feel there may be some mileage in connecting this card with the publication of suspected paedophiles' names by vigilantes (this references the Judas theme in this card). It could even feel like seeing a CCTV picture of yourself on the news, saying that you're wanted to help the police with their enquiries (this may be more like the St Peter crucified upside down theme).
Whatever this card portends, it's going to be involuntary, & almost certainly not a straightforward punishment that will soon be over. If the man was hanged the right way up, it would suggest a penalty for a capital crime, bringing it on himself if you like. The fact that he's upside down for me makes him look like the picture of the man plummeting to his death from the World Trade Centre on 9/11. The 'obvious' card for that event would be the Tower, but I think it feels more like the Hanged Man, because it is an involuntary, not brought on yourself at all event, and in the time it takes to plummet, you would definitely have the full experience of how this card feels & what the thoughts that go with it are. I would determine the difference between this & the Tower, is that whether you admit it or not, whatever happens in the Tower you've brought on yourself whether you admit it or not, here it is totally un-asked-for.
The other discomfort is the man's expression. Nobody in his position should look that serene. I have deliberately chosen my tarocco piemontese to illustrate this post because it shows what happens when this card is made more like a normal playing card. It just looks even more weird than normal. if you do reversals, it's the card that is reversed when it's upright, & vice versa. I feel this sting in the tail relates to its meaning of self-sacrifice, involuntary in this case, of course. Those who are sacrificed become heroes but this has a damaging psychological effect on those who remain in crippling survivor guilt. This totally fits this card: heroic self sacrifice screwing up the beneficiaries for life.
However the man's serene expression indicates what is going on while the suspension required by this card is happening. Suspension is a management intervention in the worlds of education & work that puts things on hold while things are investigated or else as a punishment before complete exclusion. It is a state of being on hold, & those to whom it has happened describe exactly the feelings of powerlesness that this card depicts. The point of his serene expression is the difficult lesson of this card: we cannot always act, sometimes things happen where acting will not work, & the only thing we can do is wait. Illness is the perfect example really because some things you just have to wait for them to heal.
Of course suspension means something else:

'In chemistry, a suspension is a heterogeneous mixture containing solid particles that are sufficiently large for sedimentation. Usually they must be larger than 1 micrometer.[1] The internal phase (solid) is dispersed throughout the external phase (fluid) through mechanical agitation, with the use of certain excipients or suspending agents.' (

My own interpretation of this would probably have most empirical chemists laughing hollowly, but there is something alchemical about this in a magical context. There isn't really a change in the solid, but it together with the fluid make a suspension of the solid, which can be used differently to just a powder. In a magical context, I feel we would be more likely to interpret the experience of this card as the suspension process leading to transformation.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

A mark of the witch

I have commented before that one of the remarkable things about the modern witchcraft movement is that we can both share the same experiences without having to meet or be taught them, & also differ completely on matters of importance without it being an 'issue'. This explains why it seems as if there ought to be historical evidence for us as a movement: don't worry, there isn't & our movement is a completely modern one. Rather, what has happened has been that different people in different places have done the kind of things that we call witchcraft, culminating in certain historical turning points, such as Gerald Gardner joining the New Forest Coven. As I understand the evidence, it indicates that there were co-masons & others doing magical things in the New Forest. It does *not* indicate the existence of an ancient religion. People create/believe/are taught 'lineages' for themselves because people who are confident enough that the mere fact of them doing what they are doing is enough to validate what they are doing, are few & far between.
One of the commonalities that mark us is a certain ability to pass among all sorts & conditions of people. Now if it be your will to take a more political or class-conscious approach to witchcraft than I do, I don't have a problem with that. Some witches identify as anarchists, for example, & may spend their time in direct action at correcting injustices. I would be surprised if the early Wiccans voted anything other than conservative. The point I'm making is that it is not necessary for witchcraft or witches to identify with a particular political or class 'current'.
Rather what I mean is that what we deal with as witches surpasses the compartments we divide people into. It's as if we are dealing with the vibrations - which could manifest as class differences on the material plane - that underlie these things. As clergy of the world's most freaky religion we can expect our 'congregation' to be also incredibly diverse. And boy do they come to us, whether or not it is conscious or they know we are witches. More often people's paths cross ours at times of significance for them, which is when they need the witch most. They may not even know that we would interpret their story in mythological or eternal terms, but at that moment of us being involved in their world, social differences disappear.
And the purpose of all this? We don't have a specifically religious message nor seek to convert people. Instead if people's lives can be made easier, if they can deal with their own 'stuff', if they can feel a spark of enchantment in their lives, surely that is what it is all about.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Ghost Walk round Birmingham

This is the clearest image I have seen of light anomalies caught on film. These huge orbs are obvious evidence of supernatural activity.

This evening a walk round the haunted sites of Birmingham city centre, with the group I go to on a Tuesday evening.
We started off at the Wellington on Bristol Street, which unbeknown to us is rumoured to have about five ghosts, one of whom tidies up. Then via Hurst Street to the Old Rep, then the Alex. This bit was interrupted by reminiscences of the olf Midland Red bus station there, with its associated cottage. I had no idea that New Street station is rumoured to have so many ghosts, mainly of people who have died in variously tragic circumstances.
Whatever you do, don't live in Brindley Place or the general environs of Broad Street: this area is plagued by unhappy spirits, mainly seen on Friday & Saturday nights. Actually they are poltergeists, notorious for their apports of vomit on the pavement.
A funny thing happens when you do something as a group in a city, you attract other people. There were only four of us, for heaven's sake, but we still managed to attract two other people interested in doing a ghost walk!
I have mixed feelings about the Trocadero. The instant we got in the back room one of my companions felt he could sense Henry, but I had the slight problem that the last time I sat at that same table with another friend my dad wandered through. This evening I sensed absolutely nothing of the rumoured supernatural personages, including Henry, but will admit that the room felt colder in places. It was also interesting that everyone in the pub was at the front of the building, when on paper the room we were in was more attractive.
I brought up the subject of Borley Rectory at one point, in which I was once a passionate believer, but am now of the opinion that there is certainly something weird about the place but also a lot of hype. You only sense these things in moments when you're receptive & for me that always means alone. I have never sensed a ghost that I had already been told was there.
Oh, we were lucky in having a marvellous guide, who should certainly do it professionally: if he can cope with the audience he had tonight he can cope with anyone.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Weird shit: Sedevacantist Catholicism

The illustration is a cuff belonging to Pope Pius XII. Now there was a man who knew how to dress for church.

This was going to be one of my weird shit posts, about the Holy Prepuce, but I see that speaking or writing about it is now punishable by excommunication & I can't risk that! In fact it would seem very similar to my post at St Valentine's about the number of St Valentine's heads, which Jesus seems to have trumped by having something like thirteen foreskins at one point.
I have posted repeatedly on here about the abuse scandal in the Catholic Church; amongst the reasons I think can be adduced for it is that these people plainly do not believe their own religion. I have a lot of time for orthodox (I.e. Right-teaching) Christians. I expect them not to accept me, & similarly I would expect real Christians not to protect child abusers.
What is not trumpeted so loudly is that there are a number of faithful Catholics, who while they are Catholics themselves, essentially take exactly the same position as I've just taken on paedophile-protecting clerics, amongst other issues, that they are not the real thing at all. Take, for example, this reporting of the Anglican-Rite liturgy recently approved for Anglican Ordinariate Catholics:

'Francis-Bergoglio's New Order sect has rolled out a new version of the Novus Ordo Protestant-Masonic-Pagan service, this one based directly upon the invalid service of Thomas Cranmer, Heretic Archbishop of Canterbury, who colluded with English King Henry VIII in the imposition of an invalid Protestant service on the English Catholic people and in the murder of St. Thomas More, Catholic Chancellor of England.

'The newly-approved invalid rite, used for the first time on October 11, 2013, contains sections of the Protestant Church of England service. Originally fabricated for use by Benedict-Ratzinger's "ordinariate" for Anglicans, Newmonsignor Andrew Burnham, a senior cleric in the ordinariate at the inaugural Novissima Ordo service, admitted that something that was until now "merely Anglican" had become part of the Newchurch of the New Order. The inaugural Mess was accompanied by music in the English vulgar tongue. This "ordinariate" was similar to the one proposed for Bernie Fellay and his Neo-SSPX.

'The new invalid and heretical service was given the Novus Ordo seal of approval by Newvatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the [Non-Catholic] Faith and the Congregation for [New Order] Divine Worship and fully approved by Newchurch. Newmonsignor Burnham specifically praised the Arch-heretic, who composed the Protestant Book of Common Prayer to replace the Roman Missal. After the accession of the Catholic Queen Mary, Cranmer was finally put on trial for treason and heresy and, after several cowardly vacillations and recantations, was hismelf executed after the fashion of St. Thomas More, whose execution he helped engineer just a few decades before.' (

The sometimes strange phrasing (mess means Mass & newchurch means what most people would recognise as the Catholic church) is because this is written from a sedevacantist point of view. I can't do better in defining sedevacantism than wikipedia:

'Sedevacantism is the position, held by a minority of Traditionalist Catholics,[1][2] that the present occupant of the papal see is not truly pope and that, for lack of a valid pope, the see has been vacant since the death of Pope Pius XII in 1958.
'Sedevacantism owes its origins to the rejection of the theological and disciplinary changes implemented following the Second Vatican Council (1962�65).[8] Sedevacantists reject this Council, on the basis of its documents on ecumenism and religious liberty, among others, which they see as contradicting the traditional teachings of the Catholic Church and as denying the unique mission of Catholicism as the one true religion, outside of which there is no salvation.[citation needed] They also say that new disciplinary norms, such as the Mass of Paul VI, promulgated on April 3, 1969, undermine or conflict with the historical Catholic faith and are deemed heresies.[9] They conclude, on the basis of their rejection of the revised Mass rite and of postconciliar Church teaching as false, that the popes involved are false also.[1]
'Traditionalist Catholics other than sedevacantists recognize as legitimate the line of Popes leading to Pope Francis.[11] Some of them hold that one or more of the most recent popes have held and taught unorthodox beliefs, but do not go so far as to say that they have been formal heretics or have been widely and publicly judged to be heretics. Sedevacantists, on the other hand, claim that the infallible Magisterium of the Catholic Church could not have decreed the changes made in the name of the Second Vatican Council, and conclude that those who issued these changes could not have been acting with the authority of the Catholic Church.[12] Accordingly, they hold that Pope Paul VI and his successors left the true Catholic Church and thus lost legitimate authority in the Church. A formal heretic, they say, cannot be the Catholic pope.[13]
'Sedevacantists defend their position using numerous arguments, including that particular provisions of canon law prevent a heretic from being elected or remaining as pope. Paul IV's 1559 bull, Cum ex apostolatus officio, stipulated that a heretic cannot be elected pope, while Canon 188.4 of the 1917 Code of Canon Law provides that a cleric who publicly defects from the Catholic faith automatically loses any office he had held in the Church.' (

Now of course it will immediately be obvious that this is bang up my street. This is exactly the sort of thing I love. It's also not difficult to work out who my sympathies are with, since the opposing argument to that of the sedevacantists' always boils down to: ubi papa, ibi ecclesia - the pope would always have to be the locus for the church. I have a terrible confession to make, that I'm a bit of a closet Thomist, that is I loooove the theology of Thomas Aquinas. And here is the thing about real traditional Catholics - they have been nourished by the true greatness of the Catholic faith. This is why for centuries Catholicism was the religion of the intelligentsia: Thomism is such a satisfying system. Also because we Witches are not a missionary religion we can forget the sense of urgency that Christians get because they are. I am posting this as weird shit (because it is) but the protagonists are deadly serious about what is at stake. The sedevacantist position again:

'Communion in the Catholic Church is always based first upon unity in the Catholic and Apostolic Faith.  That is why, in the history of the Church, we see not only popes but also bishops, priests, and laypeople refusing to be in communion with those who no longer have, or are suspected of no longer having, the immemorial Catholic Faith transmitted by the Apostles.
'Indeed, the pope has "the fullness of power over all the churches" (St. Bernard, Epistulae 131), but this power is limited to confirming and defending the faith of Peter, not for altering it or encouraging those who would alter it.  This is the limit, set from on high and proclaimed dogmatically by the First Vatican Council (Pastor Aeternus, cap. 4):  "For the Holy Ghost was promised to the successors of Peter not so that they might, by His revelation, make known some new doctrine, but that, by His assistance, they might religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation or Deposit of Faith transmitted by the Apostles."' (

In fact for traditional Catholics these matters are important because they depend on Vincent of Lerins's test of what actually is Catholic:

'Moreover, in the Catholic Church itself, all possible care must be taken, that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all. For that is truly and in the strictest sense Catholic, which, as the name itself and the reason of the thing declare, comprehends all universally. This rule we shall observe if we follow universality, antiquity, consent. We shall follow universality if we confess that one faith to be true, which the whole Church throughout the world confesses; antiquity, if we in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is manifest were notoriously held by our holy ancestors and fathers; consent, in like manner, if in antiquity itself we adhere to the consentient definitions and determinations of all, or at the least of almost all priests and doctors.
'What then will a Catholic Christian do, if a small portion of the Church have cut itself off from the communion of the universal faith? What, surely, but prefer the soundness of the whole body to the unsoundness of a pestilent and corrupt member? What, if some novel contagion seek to infect not merely an insignificant portion of the Church, but the whole? Then it will be his care to cleave to antiquity, which at this day cannot possibly be seduced by any fraud of novelty.
'But what, if in antiquity itself there be found error on the part of two or three men, or at any rate of a city or even of a province? Then it will be his care by all means, to prefer the decrees, if such there be, of an ancient General Council to the rashness and ignorance of a few. But what, if some error should spring up on which no such decree is found to bear? Then he must collate and consult and interrogate the opinions of the ancients, of those, namely, who, though living in various times and places, yet continuing in the communion and faith of the one Catholic Church, stand forth acknowledged and approved authorities: and whatsoever he shall ascertain to have been held, written, taught, not by one or two of these only, but by all, equally, with one consent, openly, frequently, persistently, that he must understand that he himself also is to believe without any doubt or hesitation.' (

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Spirit of place: Cheltenham/The Loneliness of the Mid-30s Gay Man

I swear I have been to Cheltenham before, & not incredibly long ago, I mean I was definitely an adult when I went there. If I had gone there as a child it would have created an acceptable reason why Cheltenham is *nothing* like my recollection of it. I suspect I am conflating Cheltenham & Ryde in my memory, which with my memories is doing an extreme injustice to Ryde. Instead what I found today was exactly what I would have envisaged if I had had to imagine Cheltenham in my head.
It is largely a spa playground purpose-created by the Victorians, the sort of place where Mapp & Lucia would (later) have taken houses (in different price brackets) for the season. It would be facile to say it's posh - it doesn't quite live up to its reputation of doggy old ladies. Rather it's a place of two halves - one half of the populace is sheltered by their prosperity. If you look into the eyes of the other half you can see the desperate lives of criminality & frequently the empty eyes & poorly-nourished bodies of the druggie.
I came across this excellent blog when I was reading about Cheltenham before going there: He makes the point, having lived in both London & Cheltenham that people in London are ironically more friendly, but their friendship isn't as enduring once you get in. I don't know who he is, but he's a good theorist of gay life & he can't half write.
There is something unreal about the spirit of place in Cheltenham: I actually got a sense of a strangely unhappy spirit, which felt quite stressful. It also felt quite invasive: I felt observed in Cheltenham bit not welcomed. It was very strange. The train station is also some way from the town centre, which to me gives the impression of visitors only being welcome to go to the spa & then go. I think the reason people may be more friendly in big cities may ironically be the relative anonymity: individual interactions with others assume less importance because of the very real possibility that you will never see them again, while strangely allowing an impromptu intimacy which may take decades to develop in a small town.
I was sitting in a pub some time ago with a friend who runs the group I go to & talking about the irony that we go to a group for like-minded people, are actually not like-minded at all, but this is just not a problem. He identifies as pagan, I as a witch; he as gay, I as queer; he is pro-gay marriage, I am vehemently against. I feel in a smaller place we would feel obliged to take sides with each other. With more space we can differ but still be on the same side.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

How we see the world

I'm on annual leave. Since I'm frantically keen on old telly & have nothing particularly to do, I'm spending it watching TV series of the past. It is interesting to observe the world-view of different TV series.
Of course The Avengers is the hallmark for 1960s weirdness & was also among the 1960s series on which I cut my teeth. The actual first were The Man from UNCLE, where the baddie is an organisation in opposition to the goodie organisation, UNCLE, & also Mission Impossible, where the goodies are expendable freelancers. Here, for me, is the thing: no society which treats its public servants - regardless of which side of the counter they operate on - is a well-ordered society. Of the two I prefer Man from UNCLE - in retrospect it's camp as tits, & Mission Impossible seems stodgy by comparison. The shortcoming of course is that in real life the 'baddies' seek out individual positions of power, & also make alliances among themselves, rather than the Cold War - era  perspective of an organised opposition, which may be hidden amongst us goodies, a perspective which seems somewhat simplistic in retrospect.
The (original 1960s) Avengers alternates between both these two visions of the world. The two or three avengers are inside an organisation or freelancers, depending on which series it is. The evil forces they avenge also vary between being organised opponents, individuals who have gone off the rails, and either or both who may be hidden in high society.
I've been watching some episodes of The New Avengers - I always forget how much I like them, I think I ought to approach them as I would any other 1970s detective series such as The Professionals, but the authentic Avengers world is always there under the surface. The goodies are very very organised in The New Avengers - the organisation they're employed by is obviously huge & has actual offices as well as facilities for training & what have you. The way this series sees the baddies is often as part of a (non - specific) power. These baddies may try to infiltrate our good establishment, & so it is justified for the avengers to play outside the rules.
The reality is that institutions don't like people who break their - often unspoken - rules, even in the interests of defending the institution. With greater organisation comes the demise of the gentleman adventurer, & also comes professionalism, the kiss of death to individual dedication & quirks.
It is for this reason that I would resist paid clergy in witchcraft: who pays the piper calls the tune. Far better, I think, for us to be a collection of enthusiastic amateurs, if this does risk over-enthusiasm & unprofessionalism. Being paid for something is no guarantee of quality: doctors & dentists get struck off, & so on.
I'm watching a series that is new to me, Spyder's Web. Here the goodies are expendables, definitely in the pay of government, but off the books, & working under the cover of a film company. The baddies are whoever their paymasters tell them are baddies, I.e. Anyone threatening to the government. For TV buffs, it was definitely a nostalgic look back at The Avengers. Also it is made more sombre for me by the fact that the lead actress, Patricia Cutts, killed herself by a barbiturate overdose after being turned down for a part in Coronation Street.
So where does this leave us? The pertinence to witchcraft is in the stories, depicting ways in which we can 'place' good & evil in our world. It is very clear that the dominant cultural norm is to see ourselves as good & some 'other' as bad.
How dangerous is this?! I'm capable of being a complete c*nt, myself, & will admit so.
Contra this prevailing cultural norm I would suggest there are two things a witch can do to create a more healthy world view. The first is obviously a self-examination so that one can see ones conscious or unconscious c*ntiness. I would suggest the other is to create a portrait of what one thinks should be an enemy. It will help if this concentrates on actions: so that ultimately ones identified enemy should be, for example, 'someone who rapes women'. The other purpose is to prevent us projecting our enemy-picture onto a group of people who may or may not be guilty of the actions we want to be gone.
Don't get me wrong - one of our missions must be to rid the world of turds, but we must be specific. What a lot of witches & wiccans do is buy into the 'we're all good' mythology, which is dangerous because it will lead us to find an explanation for 'evil' & project it onto someone else: down the same road as the Christians, in other words. And look where it's got *them*. Have an enemy, please do, just make sure it's the right one.

I was going to end this post with a tarot reading into why Patricia Cutts killed herself & her present state, but I'm getting a very strong sense of resistance so won't go there.

The consolations of weirdness

In my family there's a custom that the creepiest person in any gathering covers their head with a bag.

If my last two posts were a tarot card they would give a 'reversed' idea of my current familial situation. Now to flip it over & give the 'upright' position.
As my biological family has fallen apart - whose fault & reasonings why & wherefore are not really the point here - I have acquired an alternative family. In this I'm delighted to say that I'm in with the kids, since I have read research that for people under 30 now their closest ties are actually with their 'tribe' rather than any of the more traditional groupings that are falling apart in my own case.
With this comes consolation: needless to say the people in my alternative family who are living on this plane are magical people, so I got sent a cat in the street to console me the other evening. No matter that it was meant to be a dog!
What makes it even stranger is that my dead father is joining in this. He didn't really have that much presence for me until my relationship with my mother fell apart. He regrets that I don't have the sort of relationship with her that he & I would both like, one which doesn't so stress me out that I can maintain it, but he knows that I've tried. He knows *how* I have tried.
He likes my beloved G*ddess daughter - I suspect he would also like it if things were different & we would get married & have children, but he'll just have to live with the fact that that's not going to happen. I had no idea before I became - or realised that I was - a witch, that I would have conversations with someone who has met my dead father, who died before she was born! The proof of this is that she tells me things which clearly reflect his personality, & which I have not told her.
On the other hand what he's doing talking to her when he's *my* dead dad, I can't begin to tell you. Lucky she's not freaked out by having a friend who's introduced her to the dead members of his family but not the living!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Sometimes like attracts like

...And this is actually one of the occasions when the Hound will admit that the energies you put out there attract similar ones.
When you say to people 'my family's fallen apart' you get several different responses.
The first is that it is obviously your fault - I get this one because people don't see what I see in my family. Of course there are people whose view of 'my family right or wrong' means anyone who breaks contact with their family is wrong.
The next is something along the lines of 'that's a pity', usually followed by attempts to help & helpful suggestions. This is actually the most useful of the reactions.
The only other things that happens is that you suddenly discover how f*cked other people's relationships with family members are. Sometimes it feels like people are desperate to talk to someone who won't judge them on their inability to mend their family or on their breaking off contact with a family member.
I spoke with a very long-standing friend, whom I speak to rarely (largely because I don't want to be just friends with him, why are all the best men straight?). It turned out his big brother had got fed up with their dad & gone off the Scotland. He wasn't talking to his little brother - this was for having sex with his wife. All this in the six months since their mother died. Wooooooh!
In another family who are family friends - the youngest daughter of whom I was most friendly with & who was very keen to tell me how close her family was when I bemoaned my family - the mother never told her daughters that she had had breast cancer. Now this is the reason doctors ask you what diseases you've had in the family, because you're more likely to get them. Their mother only told the other daughters after their eldest sister died of breast cancer.
I'm being as judgemental here as anyone who judges me for not being able to have a relationship with my mother, but this frankly astounds me.
In fact so many people, on asking me how my mother is, & being told we've been estranged for two years, have come up with real divisions in their family.
Once again I'm banging my head against this shibboleth of how we are supposed to think, feel, & behave. We *should* love our family - in some families there is actual hate. Fortunately this is not the case for me & my mother.
We should also be able to behave like a family. Like all human relationships we make up ways of surviving: my personal opinion is that the most functional families are those where they come up with ways of living with or without each other.
We *should* get together at Christmas - surely one of the most stressful times of the year.
I suppose it's somewhat 'left hand path' consciously to act against these societal norms. I think it may be, to be proud of it. But if you choose the way that best safeguards your own sanity over how you should behave, that is left hand path in my opinion. What then happens is you receive the opprobrium of the 'you can't not see your mum' crowd, but you attract other things, including people who share your experience. You also find out who your real friends are. That's the crux: you come out of it resolutely you, & that is precisely what some people fear the most. Must be terrible, that, to go through life frightened of yourself.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Tarot: The Hermit. Also Telford, Solitude & the Apparent Soullessness of the Modern Town

There is a received wisdom that the modern city is impersonal & somehow soulless. Of course there is a truth to this: the adage that 'we spend money we haven't got, to buy things we don't want, to impress people we don't like' holds true, whether at Birmingham's Bull Ring on a Saturday afternoon or any other Maul. The spelling is deliberate.
I am writing this at Telford Central station, waiting for a train to take me on to Shrewsbury. I had never been to Telford, & don't really intend to go again: the town centre is one large shopping centre with all chain stores. You can't get anywhere without using bridges to cross motorways. It's a planning disaster.
But the day hasn't entirely been wasted so far. Being me, of course, I left the pedestrianised way & had a nice little walk in a less-tamed green bit, & contacted the underlying spirit of place. Unbeknown to me I suddenly started feeling outlandishly frisking & desiring a farm boy to leap into the bushes with. Of course! This is Shropshire Lad Country! I love this parody by Humbert Wolfe, who must surely have been shopping in Telford, of Housman's verse:

When lads have done with labour
In Shropshire, one will cry
"Let's go and kill a neighbour,"
And t'other answers "Aye!"
So this one kills his cousins,
And that one kills his dad;
And, as they hang by dozens
At Ludlow, lad by lad,
Each of them one-and-twenty,
All of them murderers,
The hangman mutters: "Plenty
Even for Housman's verse."

The point here for the purpose of this post, is that some people both have a well-developed sense of self & also can sit with their own presence. The people who do not have these things are the ones who go wrong in the 'soulless' - in reality distractionless - environment of the modern world.
This is what the Hermit card depicts: when you are without distractions from yourself, the lack of escape can literally make you go mad.
So people seek distractions, & *how*! Shopping, drink, drugs, anything other than sit with their own company, which for many people is the most frightening thing in the world. This also explains why religious people are frequently the *most* dysfunctional people you could ever wish to meet: religion can make another attempt to fill up people's perceived emptiness or deal with the thoughts we think we shouldn't be having, sexual ones for example.
In the solitude our own 'demons' come up, & from these there really is no escape. Meditative practices can assist us to become more comfortable with them without being beaten over the head by them. I know mine: anger at the people who've done me over, grief at my inability to build a liveable relationship with my mother, my distrust of people & expectation of unconditional obedience.
This is what the Hermit card feels like: the totality of our existence, but particularly the shitty bits. I've always had a sneaking suspicion myself that the character (at least in RWS) is actually part of a procession, a wildly dysfunctional procession where people aren't talking to each other.
A most unusual interpretation is that of a friend of mine who refers to the hermit as the 'wanker' card. This is of course a realistic interpretation: he's in solitude with his own sexual predilections & is dealing with them as best he can. This is a kind of 'reversed' interpretation, the 'negative' side of the more positive spin I've put on sitting with your own company. Just be grateful I haven't illustrated the post with that image!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Tarot: Meeting Granddaddy Marseille

It surely does not need repeating on this blog that the tarot cards started off life as a game, not a magical tool - oh damn, couldn't stop myself saying it again. Personally I love using tarot decks that were designed for playing games rather than divination. I particularly love the Italian style called tarocco piemontese, a descendant of the French tarot de Marseille style.
I want to draw a parallel between the Marseille tarot & the King James Bible. We all know it's venerable. It looks & feels lilke the real deal. We all know it's old. It looks right when a tarot deck is required for a reader to turn over card XIII in a film - you see, it takes over. Normally I would say the Death card but under the influence of this deck you start doing funny things.
Both this deck & the King James Bible also attract a certain fundamentalism. If you are going to seek the one true tarot deck, you might as well fix on this one. Personally I think there's more mileage in the school of thought that this style of deck makes you read differently from a wholly pictorial deck. The Marseille fundamentalists also tend to insist on their own pet edition of the deck, just as the King James Bible fanatics often insist on a Cambridge University Press edition, or anyway will collect multiple editions.
For some time I have had the standard Grimaud edition of this deck in the house: as far as I know no purists insist on this deck, but up until modern paganism made inroads into France, that was the standard divination deck there just as RWS ( or whatever you could get) was here.
Since I have had it this deck has spent much of its time in its box in my wardrobe. The Christians would no doubt say a Bible in the wardrobe is useless, & this parallel extends to the following statement, which is both obvious & an oxymoron: it has stayed in my wardrobe because I can't read with it.
I have rationalised this in my head as being because the colours are odd, which is a downright lie, since I'm not bothered by the Death figure's skeleton in my tarocco piemontese being coloured blue & yellow!
The King James Bible fanatics are very keen that its language need not be a barrier to evangelism, & the Marseille-only tarotists are also firmly convinced that it is not more difficult to read. They will acknowledge that you may have to do more learning before you can read proficiently with a pips deck. For me that isn't a problem: I have several systems of numerology fixed in my mind; bits of the Tree of Life remain on & off in my mind; if push comes to shove I can mentally reference RWS; & ffs, I'm a witch, if I can't read intuitively with whatever comes to hand there's no hope. There is no conceivable reason why I would not be able to read with this deck & not others, after all I'm fond of saying that the purpose of divination tools is to get you psychically to the point where you don't need one. But for no apparent reason, a veil is drawn over everything when I pick up this deck.
Until last night, that is. I took it to the pub with me, ironically with a view to giving it away to one of my friends, but when I took the cards out one of my friends said 'Do me a reading'. The most extraordinary thing happened: I do know the person I was reading for, but it was as if the cards came alive. I would tend to see the Tarot de Marseille as a little stodgy, & so was amazed to see some wild kinky sex coming up for her at the end of the month! So then I read for someone else, who I've met before but don't really know. The reading was fairly pedestrian, showed clearly that what he was desperately worried about wouldn't be as bad as he thought it would be.
So far so much better than I thought. Then we played a card game with them. I'm not all gone for shitface as a game - I'm still convinced the rules kept changing as we went along. I actually wanted to play Strip Jack Naked, but unfortunately Jack was having none of it. I didn't get an impression that the cards minded this cavalier treatment.
I'm actually quite surprised that my deck came alive in the pub being treated at best casually. Perhaps this is the downside of the King James Bible approach to the tarot - it teaches you to hold this deck in such awe that you actually can't get intimate with it. On the other hand they showed this deck's origins clearly: it showed itself comfortable with normal people who may sit in a bar & see what is going to happen by pulling cards out of a deck, over & against the decks born in high-falutin' occultists' drawing rooms.
The best came when someone else joined himself on to our group & asked to have his cards read. I have met him before but don't know him. Unfortunately when I drew cards showing such acute misery that I could only go with it & begin by asking him if he has financial troubles, this deck came up 'trumps' again. They also clearly showed the origin & solution to his problem: way too much cups goinbg on in his life, & if he'd just get on top of that, his coins would be much better!
The upshot is I took the deck home with me & will now see if I can get a better connection with it. Now I've discovered at least one way in to this deck, it may see more boozy outrageous readings in pubs, rather than being treated as a deck for meditative readings at the altar.