Saturday, February 22, 2014
'Few people nowadays are witches; or, if they are, they are not often ready to admit it. This is a pity, not only because there are many occasions in modern life when a witch might be useful...' (Elliot Rose: A Razor for a Goat. University of Toronto Press, Toronto, 1962, p. 3)
I have been reminded recently that while ones standing as a witch may be for the most part unacknowledged by other people, they'll still come when they need a witch.
There is a house in my street which, while privately owned, is let out by the council on short term lets. The most recent tenants have managed to make as many enemies as they could in an incredibly short period of time: the details will of necessity not be published here, & are anyway not really the point. Suffice to say that both a witch friend & I have done things to get rid of these people. Unbeknown to me some of the neighbours also went round to the owner of the house to remind him of his responsibility in this matter.
I only found this out when I told another of the neighbours that the unwanted tenants were as good as gone, & to stop worrying because (when she asked me if I thought so) I *knew* so. It was at this point she looked at me strangely & told me that they had been taken to court for non-payment of rent, & had their tenancy terminated. I asked her why she was therefore fretting about it since she already knew their days were numbered - conceited, of course I was chuffed that I knew it already without the information she'd heard.
She obviously picked up that I 'gnew' on some level that she didn't because I came home today to find she'd put a note through my letterbox to say when their tenancy is ending (they've gone, I was hoping for the whole bailiffs drama, which is what would have happened with my magic, so I'm inclined to attribute it to my friend. 'Oh, I'm gooood at those', she said). This aside, non-witches recognise witchcraft when they see it, they also recognise witches when they see them, even if they can't put a name to it. We witches get used to the ecstasy of the Goddess, we can forget that the things that regularly happen in our lives are 'impossible', & we forget how these things hit a member of the public when they first meet them. In this case, of course, there is also a comeback for the landlord, who plainly isn't bothered who lives in his houses, in unpaid rent & the state they've left the house in.
It is this role of being both scary oracle, & the person people go to when there really is nowhere else to turn to, that really delineates the witch from the priest, the social worker, the lawyer, the health professional, & the councillor, yet constitutes a role that somehow includes elements of all of those things. The sheer multi-facetedness & ambiguity of this role will also tend to ensure that people will both recognise a witch & be unable to admit to themselves what they are really seeing. Elliot Rose again:
'The word [witch] is not my property or my invention, & I can hardly venture to define it; but undefined, it rides its traditional, sub-literary, pantomime broomstick over the wide compass of the heavens, & in hell also the weird sisters cackle & gibber.' (Ibid, p. 4)
Incidentally I have been watching Margery Allingham's Campion. Personally I prefer the later, darker, more developed novels, to the earlier ones that were dramatised into the TV series, but in Look to the Lady, not only does Campion tell a fortune with playing cards, but also does a spell by the addition of another card. The cards are the illustration to this post: he saw a woman (queen) surrounded by knaves (knaves), pursuing a pot of gold (ace of diamonds). Then Campion produces a joker from nowhere & inserts it between the queen & the ace of diamonds, & says that he sees this pursuit being prevented by a pale young man. Witches really do come in all shapes & appear in some very strange places!
Thursday, February 20, 2014
My last post was about several things: my perception of a deterioration in our modern mores, the ways in which it behoves the witch not to be overly influenced by what everyone else is doing. One of the things about witchcraft is that it appeals to people who feel themselves to be different in some way from other people. This does of course flip over into an assumption of superiority to other people, the sort of superiority attributed to Mr. Brian Sewell in his appearances on Have I Got News For You, & in other media. I was going to touch on this but think it deserves a post of its own.
We as witches put ourselves in a different place from many of the people surrounding us: this is actually the function of quite a lot of what we do. This is the point of witchcraft. If the witch is not capable of naming the problem, saying what must be, & having it happen, often going against the current of people who won't see or are just stuck on stupid, well this person isn't really a witch. The downside of this is that a quite phenomenal amount of arrogance is necessary to do this.
This is in total of the dominant paradign around us in Europe, which remains (despite the protests of Christians) the remnants of a Christian civilisation, with increasingly elements of Islamisation laid over it. The dominant paradigm therefore is one of submission & obedience, which of course has its own dangers. I feel the reason the Catholic church has found itself looking so silly over its failures to deal with abuse is at least partly because it places those in positions of leadership, who have been wholly formed in its values of obedience so are unable or too frightened to think independently.
Modern witchcraft has of course been created in conscious opposition to the surrounding societal norms. Do I even need to comment that the modern pagan/witch community is notorious for in-fighting? In the coven structure, which has more elements of hierarchy & structure than the hedge witching, it happens all the time that people have mammoth bust ups with the High Priestess.
I feel it happens more in the US than here (if anyone calls themselves Lord & Lady here it is at least partly tongue in cheek) that people buy into making themselves witch royalty. Of course everyone who's not completely masochistic wants to be a leader & not a follower - the desire to submit is just as psychologically interesting as the desire to dominate others! The thing is that people of power are perceived as throwing their weight around, by people who perceive themselves as lacking power. Personally I want to be surrounded by people who pull themselves together act sensibly, contain themselves, have adequate boundaries & don't want to be dominated or told what to do. I don't feel the need to tell other people their place because I have a strong enough idea of myself: you'll soon know if you wander in somewhere where you're not welcome.
I feel this may also be the answer to the previous question, how we relate to each other, I was thinking about: I feel the need increasingly to be unaffected by other people's 'stuff'. This is not superiority, well, alright, it is really. Does this give me licence to go through life looking down on everyone else? That would be to close myself permanently to the possibilities of growth & challenge afforded by encounters with others. If I've met someone's stupidity repeatedly, if someone is trying to leech off me, if someone will not accept their own power, I reserve the right not to be drawn into this, because that isn't my thing. The irony is those are exactly the sort of people drawn to someone like me, because if you feel helpless you are going to latch onto a powerful person. This is part of the curse of being a witch.
It's also part of the witch's work of discernment. I am always prepared to be surprised by people, but once I've sussed someone out as a leech I don't let them in. This is simply part of creating a world that is as I will it to be: making a judgement on people & places, & making decisions on what is not healthy. I also have to make decisions on what is there to teach me a lesson, or what is about someone else's stuff. Sometimes my rejection of someone's acting out is part of their process of going through their life's lessons.
Yes, this will often come across as arrogant but I don't have a problem with that. The simple fact is that I am usually going to be right - not through some great occult ability but simply through taking the trouble to see what is going on around me. This is not special. This is merely being me. *That* is the task I have to do before all else, & I must not be deflected by anyone who would stop me.
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
I had an enforced wait of an hour for a train at Warwick this afternoon. I have never got this effect before but the Warwickshire sky felt for some reason much more like a Cambridgeshire sky, it felt huge, it felt like I was the only person there. It made me feel strangely tall - as in the LBRP - & this effect was without me doing anything at all (the picture really doesn't do justice to the effect). The pause was the occasion for this magical 'touching base' - without it the spirit of place wouldn't have had the opportunity to grab me.
I have been reflecting recently on how we relate to the world around us. Here in Britain a lot of people are finding things very tight in the second dip of our double dip recession. With this I perceive a deterioration in the way people treat each other, even the way people are more prepared than previously just to walk straight through each other, & despite the trumpeted statistics I perceive a greater ignoring of laws. The fact I've just articulated this rings an alrm bell for me, so I must just stop again to check that I'm not making out that there was a golden age of gentility, nor yet falling for the idea that there is always evil under the sun & there's no point doing anything about turds.
Neither of these approaches is the witch's, since we always seek balance. The simple fact that there are always dickheads should not detract from a change I perceive in contemporary mores. The council have taken it upon themselves to house some people in my street who are scum. How do I know? I'm like the CIA of witchcraft - give me time I could have their measurements & national insurance numbers. Anyway they picked the wrong place to start tormenting the woman next door: they're gone. Did I use witchcraft? You bet. And you can also bet they're so busy dealing with the trouble they've unleashed on themselves they won't have time to bother the neighbours where they've gone.
With these events has come a slight change in my perception. I've been talking with a witch friend about healing, & the idea of freeing myself from things has progressed somewhat. If some of the neighbours are dirtbags, that is hardly my life's work, it's a small working. It behoves me not to give my energy to these people: if I just blast them out of the way it frees me & teaches them the lesson. If they're stuck on stupid & won't get the lesson, that's their life's work, not mine. I actually find I'm returning the energy people give me *much* more than I used to, just to free my head up.
The other side of this is that I'm very uncomfortable about any philosophy that would imply that what we see is illusion: the whole point of the modern witchcraft movement is embodied, physical divinity. I can see where if you are freed up from concern & worry it is greatly liberating, but bang your funny bone & then tell me existence is illusory. I have also recently come into contact with a really nasty spirit of place - it is in a certain part of Birmingham, & is way beyond the unsettled spirits the witch walks into in everyday life. *That* is more the sort of thing that you have to really devote yourself to dealing with, *if* it is given to you as your life's work.
It isn't mine, I have other nasties (all of them masquerading as nices) on my list on the altar. That situation is one I won't be actively getting myself into any time soon. It is important for the witch to identify what (s)he can & should do: leaving things alone requires real wisdom. I also recognise that I'm in a time of flux myself - when the cat dies I'm going to move, & I have a feeling that more work will come my way this year. Reading the signs, I can identify that my magical 'family' is being reinforced around me, & also that the spirit of place continues to nourish, challenge & support me. And this enforced pause today was one of the occasions that reinforce that I am a witch, & the resources will become available when I need them. I just need to stop & let that happen: I've spoken before of my dis-ease with formalised religious or 'spiritual' practices, but making opportunities to listen needn't be one of them!
Sunday, February 16, 2014
It is axiomatic that if a place has a name containing such words as paradise, heaven & so on, it is going to be awful, & Birmingham's Paradise Place, which is actually underneath the not-so-bad-in-comparison Paradise Circus, is no exception. I went there fortuitously, since I actually meant to write a post about ghost signs today, & thought the Jewellery Quarter would be an ideal place to see some. On the way there on the bus I realised that I'd never explored the area just to the right as you look at the back entrance (on Great Charles Street Queensway) of the museum & art gallery, so made a mental note to do so if my search for ghost signs should prove fruitless which it did.
This is going to be a picture-heavy post, with a mixture of archive pictures & my own, but remember that in the next couple of years *nothing* on this post will be there any more. The central library is exempt from listing until 2016 so it's got to be demolished before then, unless the council want to be saddled with it for eternity, & with it will go the rest of that 1960s development that went horribly wrong. You see, this is the point, that this is part of a plan for that side of the city that is not what was planned. The first picture shows city architect John Madin with the model of the plan for that part of the city. Even that wasn't the first uncompleted plan, an earlier plan had fallen through, leaving Baskerville House & the Hall of Memory the only parts of it ever built. If you are a brutalist architecture & want to see John Madin's work, you'd better rush to Birmingham soon, because his buildings have a strange habit of getting demolished. As you can see from the picture there was a huge leisure & commercial plan for that whole area. All that was completed was the library in the centre, with on one side the school of music & a shopping arcade, leaving the gap under the inverted ziggurat empty. Apparently for some time after the central library opened in 1974 there was only a scaffolding bridge from Paradise Circus over the road to Broad Street. The gap was glassed in & shops constructed in the 1980s: this is bemoaned only by the hardcore fans of brutalist architecture. The second picture shows it 'before', & also shows an example of the concrete staircases so beloved of 1960s architects.
On the other side of the library is the bit where it went horribly wrong & was not really capable of being papered over in any way. Naturally service routes into the development had to be provided, there was even a plan for an underground bus station (presumably just as horrible as the one in the Bull Ring). I suspect that where I went today was what would have been part of the bus station. I feel it also explains why coaches have always stopped on that strange island near the college of food: because it was going to be a public transport hub that never happened.
The third picture shows what you see of Paradise Place as you go past on Easy Row, & another brutalist staircase. I have always always wanted to go up it & see where it went. Presumably a lot of other people have also wanted to since it's fenced in with wire, & the opening at the bottom is securely boarded up. I have seen the building that goes over the road there described as the council house extension (the fourth picture is a newspaper cutting about the construction of that area): whatever it is it looks grim, dirty, & semi- or even unused.
I entered Paradise Place by the staircase (fifth picture), which is what attracted my attention in the first place. I love the way there is a sign telling you what this part of the city (where nobody but the curious & homeless go) is called: ironic really to tell you to come to Paradise, invite you, then find it such a dive. A long concrete bridge thing (sixth picture) takes you behind the staircase I would so like to explore to an area (seventh picture) where apparently there used to be fountains in the seventies, but they're long gone & the area is now simply grim. It is evident that homeless people sleep there (& further down). Now here's a strange thing, since this is a spirit of place post (I hadn't forgotten), I never once felt threatened in Paradise Place, even though it's exactly the sort of place (underground, dark, neglected, hidden corners) that ought to be terrifying). Perhaps it's simply that nobody goes there, but it seems I'm not the only one to perceive it as unthreatening, as witnessed by the homeless people sleeping there. The sense of seclusion is increased by a nearby subway being gated off (seventh picture): I'm sure I have passed by that gate on the other side with no idea that it was accessible from both sides. Conversely there also a sensation in Paradise Place that it is somewhere you 'shouldn't' go, or rather it gives out mixed messages about its status. There are optimistic signs giving its name even in the completely dark part (eighth picture), presumably a legacy from when this place was intended to be part of a bright new development. Perhaps that's it, Paradise Place gives out mixed messages because it was intended as an optimistic 1960s development, it was intended for public use. This bright new 'spirit of place' was cut short by the fact it was never completed as intended: those kind of buildings always has a sad feel about them, & remain as monuments to (often) one person's grandiosely impractical vision. As the seventies & eighties progressed & fashions changed, Paradise Place's fortunes would have fallen further. I mean, the reason it's still there is nobody goes there, so the land owner (presumably the council) has never been embarrassed enough to rehabilitate it. Interestingly, though, its fortunes have never fallen far enough for it to be abandoned completely. Access was easy today, although it's bollarded off from the road, yet there were cars there - I'm not sure how they got there, frankly, it's a very confusing area! It actually feels as if you've strayed into a private service area, you look for signs saying it's private but there aren't any.
The remaining pictures are of sights to thrill any fan of brutalist architecture. I didn't take any pictures of Paradise Place's inmost section, I mean I wouldn't want strangers tramping through my bedroom & publishing the pictures. I also felt a strange impulse to record the existence of Paradise Place before it vanishes completely (there's very little on the internet except a thread on skyscraper city saying what a disgrace it is). I felt sorry for it, I have no recollection of walking that way before although I feel I must have done when I was much younger, when its fortunes were perhaps at a slightly higher ebb. I suppose I want to record... A brave attempt to 'improve' a city? A hidden-away planning disaster? The area even incites mixed motives.
As for Madin himself, I only get a sense of sadness: how unfortunate for an architect to have his buildings reviled & demolished in his lifetime (he died in 2012)! This seems to be the lot of all the brutalist architects of the 1960s - the architect of Cardross Seminary has spoken about how it seemed his building was deliberately destroyed by the Archdiocese of Glasgow (I suppose because it was a memorial to their doomed 1950s triumphalism). Madin's obituary in the Architect's Journal quotes Bob Ghosh of Birmingham-based K4 Architects:
�Madin was a serious architect, who understood form, space and material, unlike many of his contemporaries. [Yet] due to the pace of change in our city, many of Madin�s buildings have now disappeared. Some should have been retained, most notably the Post and Mail building and plaza, which had more than a subtle reference to Mies.�Had he ultimately realised the ambition of building the inverted ziggurat form of the Birmingham Central Library in shimmering white stone, then perhaps it would have been listed, rather than being condemned as another example of concrete Brutalism. The more I see of Mecanoo�s new replacement Library of Birmingham, with its highly stylised form and its frivolous envelope, I can�t help questioning whether we�re doing the right thing.�Nevertheless, we did need a new library for the 21st century, and Argent and Glenn Howells will replace Madin�s building with something of extraordinary quality and address the dysfunctional spaces around it.' (http://m.architectsjournal.co.uk/8624761.article)
A list of his buildings (as I say, look quickly, they have a short life span) is here: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_John_Madin_buildings
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Sometimes places show their history fairly obviously on the surface, such as in 'ghost signs' & suchlike, & sometimes the history is not at all evident. I feel this may be more the case for recent history: signs are not now as indelible as the structural signage of the past was, & buildings are more often designed to be repurposed or multipurpose. This does not mean that the relentless pursuit of permanence has ended, it just means the signs of what has gone before may not be so evident. Normally this doesn't apply to cinemas - in their heyday they were built to be statements but there are at least two cinemas in Birmingham that have closed in recent years that are not obvious. One was the one in the Arcadian Centre. Oh, there's a wonderful photo tour of Birmingham's vanished cinemas here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sparks68/sets/72157626367186324/detail/
On Holloway Circus at the bottom of Smallbrook Queensway in Birmingham stands Scala House. It looks like a typical 1960s office block (in fact offices are to rent in it: http://queensgatebirmingham.com/scala-house.php), & has had various uses over the years, including radio station, club, take aways, & most recently a gay health centre, but nobody ever believes part of it started off life as a cinema. Until I realised this I wondered why there was a sort of mugger-concealing recess in the underpass, which I'd always assumed was just bad planning, but it turns out it was the exit doors from the main screen, which was below ground level. To me this is the perfect example of the 60s dream of recreating communities in new settings: presumably the planners were thinking that you could live in one of the tower blocks in the city, work in the city, then in the evening watch a film in one of the cinemas in the city. I do find this one interesting because unlike the Odeon on New Street it does not look at all the way you expect a cinema to look.
In fact there was a theatre on this site before the 60s redevelopment: this is the building shown in the almost unrecognisable first picture, & a more recent view of it in the final picture.
'The Scala Superama Cinema was built as a replacement for the old 1914 Scala Theatre which had been closed in 1960. Contained in a new office block named Scala House, the cinema was a project of Compton Films Ltd. who distributed sex orientated foreign films and operated sex cinemas and cinema clubs in London. The Scala Superama was designed as a �Roadshow� house, together with the new Superama Cinema in Derby.[...]
'It was re-named Odeon Queensway in June 1972 and re-furbished in 1983. It was at this time that the Cinecenta twin cinema next door was taken over by the Rank organisation and was incorporated into the Odeon Queensway.' (http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/22098)
The second picture shows the present building when it was still operational (just for the evidence that it was actually there), & the final picture shows the scene of more recent years.
'It originally opened as the single-screen Birmingham Scala Superama Cinema on November 23, 1964 when Compton Films was distributing sexual foreign films to its venues in London. The Rank Organisation took it over from February 22, 1970 and it was renamed the Odeon Ringway until June 1972 when it became the Odeon Queensway. Refurbished in 1983 it was suddenly closed down in 1988.' (http://www.birminghampost.co.uk/whats-on/film-tv/former-manager-mike-ellis-takes-6092352 This page is an interview with the former manager)
The end came for this cinema in the 1980s when Odeon decided they would refurbish their cinema on New Street, in response to competition from the National Exhibition Centre, using equipment from the Odeon on Queensway. According to the interview referenced above they still had 25 years to go on the lease (& it wasn't like they were going to let a competitor take the lease of a cinema off them) & that is why the cinema part of the building has remained unused. In 2010 the original large auditorium was there although largely stripped, it's been urbexed (http://www.28dayslater.co.uk/forums/theatres-cinemas/54142-odeon-scala-house-birmingham-sept-2010-a.html), & you can almost smell the cigarette smoke on those curtains, can't you?
Friday, February 7, 2014
Another thing that we talked about the other evening was the way some spells last the test of time, & use certain materials that remain fairly constant over centuries or even millenia. Of course this is because the magical associations of things are actually often common to humanity rather than merely magical people. We specifically talked about hearts used in magic, since my friend was telling me that a certain large supermarket has started selling hearts & he thought this was funny.
Of course the reason these things are used is the reason for the tables of correspondences in the back of Llewellyn books. Like effects like, so finding something that corresponds will influence what you want to, & so on. I actually don't really follow any tables myself - the most important table fo correspondences for any sorcerer is the one (s)he has built up over years in her head. For example keep using a particular herb in magic, & you make a covenant at a deeper level with that herb, with the being of Basil, say, rather than just the basil you are using. This is the really authentic way of doing it, making this relationship rather than looking it up in a book.
Similarly some of the manuals are written by the owners of occult supply stores, & how it shows. By the time you've bought your virgin vellum, sharpened the feather taken from a bird on a particular mountain at a particular phase of the moon, & ground the pigments for the ink yourself, you're all ready to make your sigil. In reality the need will probably have passed by then, but this is the example of magical correspondences gone wrong.
In the ancient world it wasn't actually like this, although some people would have you believe you have to have the particular ingredients the ancients used, for example. The fact they used expensive & rare things indicates that the magic in question was done by wealthy & leisured people with a staff. The magic everyone else did was the same as it has always been, the sort of approach I talk about. Defixios are an interesting case of popular magic in the ancient world, & what I like most was that defixios were often ready-made with the spell all carved into the lead, just waiting for the name of the target to be inserted. This is why there is a remarkable sameness about the spells in the Greek magical papyri: they were mass produced. People seeking magic tend to be at their wits' end, & are gullible to the idea that more expensive/rare/valuable/specialised is going to equal more effective, but it simply isn't so.
The other idea that is simply wrong is that everything should be 'virgin' (for which read brand new & unused), to prevent the intrusion of any previous use it has been put to. This is ridiculous to me - there is literally nothing new, we live in a closed system, everything is reused over & over again. You also have no guarantee that the life of the plant/animal (or even the fossil plants & animals if you're using a mineral) will not intrude. Can these people not get the feel of what they're using? Really?
My personal approach is much more freeform than what the books say. My experience is that when it's time for the magic the ingredients will appear, so I quite often find myself using materials that I wouldn't otherwise have thought to. Nor does it bother me if I use second hand things, if they feel OK to me. I have often found an ornament or doll in a charity shop representing a particular person or thing when I needed it. Similarly the other ingredients for spells will appear as well. I think for this reason I tend to avoid published spells, I like to think I make it up as I go along.
Of course I do keep some things. I have a supply of wool straight off a sheep that I use to warm, comfort, relax things. I keep candles in since candle magic is one of my staples; amongst the few actual magical products I've bought are Essence of Bend Over & High John the Conquere oils to dress the candles. I buy vinegar or lemon juice to embitter things, garlic to get rid of things, chilli powder to get rid of people, & honey to sweeten people & situations. I prefer honey to sugar because you can put an object link in it as it is liquid.
I'm not even too uptight about a link. If someone asks for a spell I'll ask them for a fingernail clipping, which I prefer to a hair because hair is just horrible. Obviously I don't ask for anything if I do a candle spell, but will usually expect them to burn a candle & do some work as well as me. In fact outside of my 'family' of Goddess mother & daughter I would normally encourage anyone to do their own spell. Magic is for all, & there's no point getting someone else to hold your hand.
The other argument about things used in magic is what I mentioned above, whether things should be new, & I said I don't think so. In fact sometimes I think if something is second-hand & fells right for the spell it is better than something new. If the teacher appears when the pupil is ready, on the same principle the magical ingredients will appear when the sorcerer is ready to use them. It may even be something that has been already subjected to an energy that will help. I suppose this is really another aspect of the Hedge.
Finally I 'dispose' of magical remains according to the purpose of the spell. If it's to get rid of something, I will make sure the spell remains (say the end of a candle) gets sent far away. if it's something I want to bring to me I'll make sure the spell remains stay near me. I don't object to putting things in the bin, although I've not yet had to resort to burying something in a grave yard!
The actual heart folk spell involves pricking it with thorns from that year's growth, which should be done by a virgin (that's why this spell isn't found in West Midlands folklore), & placed up the chimney in the smoke. This is supposed to be a protective against witchcraft: that's right, folk magic is a protector against witchcraft, since the modern religious movement didn't exist before the twentieth century. In the absence of a fireplace I have no idea how you would do this spell without it smelling nowadays: presumably it must be possible to cure the heart with salt, but of course that would be taking the heart spell into quite different territory! I suppose that's what always happens when you try to adapt a recipe to the circumstances.
Thursday, February 6, 2014
This post is a reflection on a particular time in the history of my personal hedge. These images are screencaps from an old TV programme called Public Eye, some of which are set in Birmingham. The town planning of Birmingham of the sixties was notorious, although as I have commented before, the ephemeral nature of the 'concrete collar' round the city centre is what made another redevelopment possible: retention of the original buildings would have led to more listings & crippled development.
Several of the scenes are round the Bull Ring, also capialising on the Rotunda. The one with the actor running along a concrete wall is by the old bus station. Some scenes in the programme are actually shot in the Bull Ring bus station, but I didn't feel inclined to include them - it always was unsavoury.
What these images do do is show how visually effective Birmingham's sixties design was. The last two scenes are from underpasses (I don't know which, just generic underpasses), which could almost have been designed as settings for a gritty sixties TV series about a private investigator! I also like the architectural nature of the tile mural in one of them. Although the design was widely criticised virtually from the start, these images serve as a reminder of what Birmingham was like for a relatively short period of time, when a despised element of its history was all new & shiny!
Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Yesterday evening I was in town with other witches. How I laughed! I think sometimes the reason witches recognise each other is we are the only people who understand our peculiar lives & world-view. I had a very strange dream, that I was being handfasted to my current (presently straight, but definitely questing) crush, in the back room of the pub we were in. The ritual took place at midnight, which nobody thought remarkable, & there was a chair for my deceased father, & three for my magical daughters. I woke up feeling giggly, in fact I've had that giggly feeling of something leaving you & making you lighter feeling all day, which means that the magic is working. Then today my daughters came shopping with me. They've been working on one of my current projects & I've asked them to finish it off - in tandem with an action I've taken on the physical - so I thought this post could be all about them.
Of course they're not physical daughters - I haven't done *that*, & any child of mine would have to be called Turkey Baster. They're magical entities, or what the chaos magicians call servitors. I don't personally like that word, it doesn't really feel right from my experience of them. My purpose here is not to describe how to do this, but to blog about my experience of it. It is actually one of the more ancient magics, yet seems not to have entered Wicca & the witchcraft movement to any great extent. For instructions I would recommend Patrick Dunn's Postmodern Magic and this website: http://www.spiralnature.com/magick/chaos/servcreation.html.
The first magical entity I created no longer exists, since she was designed to do a particular thing & to dissolve when it was done. These entities are often seen as parts of the self that are broken off, & their termination as a reabsorption, but in this case it was something I didn't want reabsorbed, but got rid of. I can see her now, & feel affection for her as I remember her, she was a sort of gothic Mary Poppins, & her purpose was to remove a certain person from my orbit permanently. She was fed by this person bullying others & lived wherever she was. She did a wonderful job of making this person crack up under the strain of what she was doing to other people. I created her by visualisation and literally split her off from me.
This was what taught me that this is actually one of the easiest ways of doing magic once you've created your entity, if you make it fuelled the way I did. I feel this magic is also in some way prohpetic, because in this approach the person brought her own downfall by bullying people. So far so textbook, except that the fluff bunnies would want me to make her nice & cast white light around her, so there are probably people already thinking I'm a black magician (of course since they will automatically think they're white magicians, they don't understand magic & might as well be fundamentalist Christians).
My next creation of magical entities was less textbook, & if I a) wasn't such an arrogant bastard & b) didn't love them so much, this would be the Hound's example of how not to do magic. I created three entities, who I call daughters, they have individual names & characters, but no specific purpose as such. The theory was that I would give them things to do, & indeed I do, but they ended up rather going their own way, & they now do things independently of me. This became apparent when a friend said their names in a restaurant, & there was a crash at the bar. She did it two more times with the same effect, & there were no further crashes while we were there. They are not around me all the time, they tend to appear now & then, often when their old dad is having trouble. They'll often see to things without me asking but at least I now have a spell of my own to use: 'Darlings, Daddy wants you to...'. How I can't stand those middle class parents who go, 'Mummy doesn't want you to do that, darling.'!
I have a fifth entity, who is still current, but who I'm perhaps not thinking about - & therefore feeding - as much as I could. I'm not going to write about what she's doing, because that would spoil it, wouldn't it?
Monday, February 3, 2014
'I am such a c*nt because no fewer than three times a day I go through some stupid act by somebody in my periphery & it makes me cantankerous.' - Christian Day
I commented recently on the witch saying from the Discworld about looking up, that is from the daily round. Here's a problem with all magical paths: they attract people who can't quite cope with their everyday lives. I mean the sort of people who might intend to, say, hold a job down, but don't quite manage to keep turning up on time so get sacked - that is unless they have the sort of management that I am obliged to challenge in my workplace all the time. I'm not cantankerous, I'm just surrounded by acts of stupid.
I'm somewhat torn here, between saying that actually the things that come to the witch's attention on a daily basis, whether they be rapists, murderers or just plain idiots, form a part of the hedge. In this approach these things *are* our school & textbook, so how we respond to even daily low-level irritation is crucial. On the other hand I also feel it is important not to get caught up in the daily round & lose sight of both the bigger picture & your own willed life. Feel free to call me an arrogant bastard, but I'm a clever, competent, capable chap. I *know* that one of the main coping strategies that idiots have is to attempt to bring capable people down to their level. They see capable acts - even such simple things as getting lunch on the table at the advertised time yesterday: when it is routinely three quarters of an hour late, the solution to that one is obvious, but apparently only to me - & they get jealous that for whatever reason I have managed to do this perfectly simple act. I suppose this is a polarity thing, that these two approaches are different sides of the same coin, to deal with it yet not get drawn into the stupidity. 'Stupidity' is not too strong a word, if you consistently arrive late for things, or a meal is consistently late, the solution is perfectly simple, it just means managing yourself, & perhaps this is the best description of the kind of people that are unfortunately attracted to magical paths.
You can tell them by the witch wars they start & the inefficancy of their magic. They will tend to be the sort of people who spend more time bitching about, say, Christian Day or me, than making change to happen in accordance with will. Their will is undeveloped & they frequently live in chaos (I'm leaving aside here the fact that any number of witches struggle with issues such as chronic disease, physical or mental, or addiction, which can be Hedge themselves & influence ones efficacy). These people cannot manage themselves, they cannot decide what they want & behave accordingly, let alone cause change to occur in accordance with will. They are attracted to magic seeking some kind of control over themselves & usually flip at some point into being control freaks or else seeking to wreck things for other people.
The witch who is seeking to live a willed life, however, needs to maintain a certain singularity of purpose. The books talk about daily practices designed to clear ones psyche & environment to enable the single-minded pursuit of the will. I would resist any tendency to divide ones 'spiritual' activities from ones daily life, so I personally like to see ones daily disciplines as part of this single pursuit. Of course it is possible to envision things such as bathing or cleaning as magical practices, but I mean here more things such as your daily routine. Do I actually fulfil my contractual obligations to my employer or do I steal whatever I can? Do I understand my persistent lateness as disrespectful of my colleagues, disrespectful of my job & actually letting myself down? Do I respect my own word as my seal & bond, or do I just say whatever will get me out of whatever situation I'm in at the moment?
I'm starting to sound like one of those little books that Catholics have with questions for what they call Examination of Conscience. This is partly deliberate, because I do think witches overlook the value of a frank self-inventory as a tool to recognise what I'm doing & what my progress is. This is interesting to me as an example of how a 'spiritual discipline' found in different traditions can still be useful to witches, although I would resist any idea of seeking 'absolution'. I have occasionally heard of witches confessing to divinity: the dangerous bit is where you can tend to think that's wiped your actions away & can just carry on, but that's another rant.
Another 'spiritual' discipline that we witches could do well to adapt & embody is that of aloneness. I think one of the reasons we don't do this is that we have a doubtful relationship with the idea of being alone. One of the classic textbooks of the hedge witch tradition is actually called 'A Witch Alone'. We also tend to associate it with suspicion, since in our modern tradition inspired by the witch figure, people have taken on board the witch hunters' slogan of 'You cannot be a witch alone,' although some have turned it around to indicate that you are never alone as a witch. Nonetheless some concept of aloneness or apartness can be necessary in not being dragged down by the daily grind, & in fact a radical aloneness can be one of the most enabling things there is. I feel this is at the heart of modern witchcraft, that the point is so often that the witch is alone, & is the person who will do something when no-one else will.
Another aspect of aloneness is one that we don't tend to practice much or at all (at least willingly) & that is chastity or celibacy. I'm quite sure many a witch in a relationship with a non-witch can feel very alone sometimes, since there is a whole slice of their life the other person will not 'get'. Nonetheless a relationship can almost be a hindrance at times to a magical person since it is one of the things that require maintenance. In a sense the value of unlimited wealth, space & staff to a sorcerer is partly realised by celibacy since it allows the psychic space. Celibacy has a bad name nowadays, not least to us who so value embodiment. I personally think it possible (as I do myself) to maintain several sexual relationships that can attain a surprising depth over a period of years, & maintain the psychic space needed for witchcraft as well.
The picture is of someone illustrating this principle: she is Sister Megan Rice. She is a nuclear protester who with two others broke into a nuclear arms facility & daubed slogans in blood. She's now facing twenty years in prison as a result. The rightness of this aside her case interests me, not least because she is 83, & may therefore be an example of someone living a willed life in later life, even though she is a Christian. The other thing of more relevance here is that I would think you would reconsider what she's done if you have family. If she were not a religious sister she may well have grandchildren or great-grandchildren that family are relying on her to care for (or else who wants to take the kids to prison to see their grandmother?). In her case she is actually a good example of celibacy freeing you up in a less psychic sense, to take the action you will, clearly an example of someone who can manage herself to take the action necessary for the end she has in mind. I think she may also prove to be an example of this working out slightly differently, since the outcome is really that she has proved it is possible to break into a nuclear weapons base, & hopefully the authorities will manage themselves to secure it better before some clown gets in & does something worse than paint slogans!