Thursday, March 27, 2014

Hidden City: Christchurch Passage, New Street

It's been a funny old day. I set off for a classic drift, themed on letting the alleys & passages that so often betray a city's history, bring themselves to my attention as I wandered. For a start a local character, known as Lawnmower Man, seemed to be everywhere I went, to the extent that I began to suspect he was actually stalking me. I think he's a Bearwoodian - I have seen him drinking Lambrini out of the bottle outside The Bear, & am informed he's banned from that pub. Today he was drinking outside The Square Peg, bless him. I wanted to go to the Chinese quarter, & decided the easiest way is through the station, & was astounded to find the lawnmower already outside the other side of the station when I got there! I think he beat me there because I was genuinely wandering slowly, but also bought some trackie bottoms from the Heart Foundation shop. I explored various passages: I was thinking of a broader passage-based post, but googling Christchurch Passage astounded me as to its history.
I knew that there had been shops along it at one time, but didn't know there was a church, until 1895, & from which the passage takes its name. Nowadays the oldest things round there are the Town Hall & then the rather dominant Council House, so it's also easy to forget that for much of Christ Church's life the Council House wasn't there. Of course the irony is that where there was once a church, there is now the statue popularly known as the floozy in the jacuzzi: today a pigeon rested on her head as I went past. Perhaps the floozy is a better image of the spirit of the city than any number of churches.
'Built in 1805 by public subscription at a time when seats in most churches were rented, leased or even held freehold, it was built to alleviate the shortage of free seats in the town. With all the ground-floor seats free and only the galleries reserved for rent it was long known as the Free Church.�
'The land was given by a local landowner, W P Inge whose ancestors had given the site of St Philip's Church just down the road. Set in the angle between Colmore Row) and New Street, the church stood above the level of New Street and was approached by a wide flight of steps at the west end. At that time this was the north-western limit of the town.
'Christ Church was a stone building designed in a neo-classical style with a small apsidal chancel and a west portico of three bays supported on Doric columns.�
'The square west tower was surmounted by an octagonal belfry with Ionic pilasters and a balustraded parapet, above which was an octagonal spire. The tower, originally been designed with a cupola rather than a spire, was not completed until 1814, the year following its consecration.�
'The design was by local architect and sculptor William Hollins, but the work was carried out by the Birmingham builder and surveyor, Charles Norton. King George III was to have opened the church, but due to his indisposition, the ceremony was performed by the Earl of Dartmouth. Nonetheless, the King gave �1000 towards the completion of the building.
'The cost of building turned out to be more than anticipated, so the trustees applied to Parliament for permission to convert the arches under the church into catacombs. They proposed selling spaces for �4 each and they themselves bought one third of them. However, up until 1818 only two corpses had been interred there. It was hoped, �that when the inhabitants are familiarised to that mode of sepulture, they will prefer them to the present custom of erecting vaults, which are attended with considerably more expense.��
'In 1865 a parish was assigned from those of St Martin's and St Philip's.
'As the City Centre turned increasingly to business and commerce, the central population moved to districts immediately outside the City Centre. The congregation fell to unsustainable levels and the church closed in 1897 and was demolished two years later. The parish was merged with St Philip's The proceeds from the sale of the land helped to fund the building of St Agatha's Church in Sparkbrook.
'Burials from the catacombs beneath the church were transferred to the Church of England Cemetery catacombs in Warstone Lane, including the remains of John Baskerville. The Angel Fountain of 1850 was moved to St Philip's Cathedral.' (
A comparison of the then-&-now images show that actually the handrail has remained unchanged: an interesting survival, given the almost complete change in that area.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


I have a real problem with the modern 'spirituality' or 'mind, body, spirit' approaches to non-empirical science-based things. I didn't when I was much younger: I think for me as a teenager it meant engagement in other layers of reality than the concrete physical world, only without the dogma of religion becoming involved.
Now, however, I feel the alarm bell that the word 'spirituality' rings in me is that the word *could* refer to some fluffy, self-indulgent unreality that leaves the reality of our lives behind. I suspect this is really what it meant for me in the past - my own approach was probably more feel-good than was good for me. I think it is also a witch thing - if my engagement in other realms than the visible one does not bear visible fruit, I'm doing something wrong.
Meditation is a practice which has rather crept up on me against my own inclinations. In fact it's taken me a long time even to call what I do meditation, although it plainly is. I knew people involved in the World Community for Christian Meditation in my youth, & some of them were frankly turds, which I think put me off the word as well as the idea of the practice.
How would a hedge witch approach meditation? For me it is an ability which has just happened after many years of journeys in & around my personal hedge. Sometimes I make an effort to do it consciously: old school as I am in some ways I do it in front of the altar, with candles lit & time it with a joss stick. The timing it without using time is an important thing for me, because it means a suspension of normal time for a different sort of time. I sit on a chair rather than the various cushions & stools suggested in the literature. The point to the posture is that your spine is aligned in a certain way, & you are therefore aligned with the earth in a certain way. This is where it really begins to cross over into witchcraft: if you read Starhawk's description of the Tree of Life exercise in spiral dance, the exercise is almost exactly what is being done in sitting meditation.
And what you do then is, well, you meditate. Like magic, it is one of those things you just have to do. There is a lot of nonsense written about it, but for me it is a non-linear time of existing differently. A time of not having to do or think anything. Speaking as someone who just found himself doing it then realised what it was, I think there's no point reading the books, you just have to do it - mind you, I'd also say this about magic. If you can allow yourself to forget that you can't do it, all of a sudden there you are, doing it.
The other major similarity it has with magic is the mindset where you both have to will something completely single-mindedly, & yet at the same time not do it. Perhaps this is meditation's (& magic's) greatest effect, that it enables the practitioner to think in this way that is the sole requirement of magic. I certainly can't think of many ways of developing a single-minded will, which yet does not keep drawing back that which is willed by scratching at it.
Do I perhaps need to say that (again like magic) you don't need any of the equipment in the books & websites? If you think you are doing magic you are, & one of the most classical set-ups for zazen meditation requires nothing more than a cushion & a wall.
For my next strange experience... For some time I have wanted a chicken brick of the sort that used to be sold by Habitat. Then Habitat closed & the desire went into remission, but has resurfaced recently. Some weeks I was looking online for one, only to find that they were ruinously expensive, & I was very wary of entrusting something that delicate to the post. That night I dreamt that I was talking to the cat about this, & in my dream he was telling me how he likes chicken too! Then today an unused Habitat one turned up in a charity shop for only a fiver. Well done, familiar!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Anecdotes about Gerald Gardner

Isn't the picture of Gardner with Lois Bourne just the darlingest thing ever?

Gardner is one of my heroes. This may seem strange, since there is no historical evidence that stands up to scrutiny for the old witch religion he devoted such a chunk of his life to (incidentally you may read the web pages this post is referenced from & think there is lots of evidence for an old witch religion - there is at best only anecdotal evidence, completely unsupported by the other testimony you would expect to be left by the death of an entire religion). He actually almost perfectly embodies my conceptualisation of the witch figure - people see him in wildly contradictory ways & not infrequently unhesitatingly arrogate him to the support of one point of view or another. I will no doubt appear to be trying to have my cake & eat it when I say that while there can't have been an ancient witch religion, nonetheless there have always been people who have done the things that we modern witches do. These are the true forebears of the modern witchcraft movement, & my conviction is that they are recognised when we meet them. Gardner is certainly among these people for me - when you read his books, if you ignore the historical fallacies, you are left with the impression that here was a man who knew magic, who could really do it, & who therefore was the kind of person on the (h)edge that other people pick up. I don't think the account of him as a complete fraud who invented Wicca is true, but if it was this would still force me to respect him greatly as a man who invented a completely new religion from nothing & established it in the last couple of decades of his life. That would be magic!
These anecdotes are all culled from the same source: I have pulled them out to embody my meet-the-witch-not-the-rumour approach.

'During the 1940s Gardner was a regular visitor to Ward's Ancient British Church and his signature appears on one of its documents.  He used to attend the services at the abbey wearing, to the amazement of those who knew of his involvement in the Craft, a clerical dog collar!  Gardner was later to use the term 'Ancient British Church' to legally register his covenstead at Brickett Wood in Hertfordshire as a legal place of worship.' ( These anecdotes are all from this & succeeding pages on the same site, from articles by Michael Howard, published originally in The Cauldron in the 1990s)

'It has been said that the account of the famous Lammas ritual in the New Forest in 1940 to stop the Nazi invasion was one of Gerald Gardner's 'fireside stories'.'

'Gardner's membership of the Folklore Society still causes unease today, nearly sixty years later.  Writing in the Folklore Society News (July 1992), Jacqueline Simpson says that Gardner was regarded by other members as 'flamboyant and sinister'.  Doubts were cast on his scholarship and the doctorate he fraudulently claimed from the University of Singapore.  One leading member of the Society in the 1950s, Christina Hole, described him as having 'a curious personality'.  When he was elected to the ruling Council the question was raised as to whether or not his presence was advantageous to the Society's image.'

'In 1954 Gardner gave a-lecture on Manx fishing craft to the International Conference on Maritime Folklore in Naples, Italy. one delegate described him as 'a strange man who wore a copper snake bracelet on one wrist'.  When Gardner crossed the road to the bus stop on the harbour the local fishermen crossed themselves and made the sign to ward off the Evil Eye.'

'Locals [in Accra]  told [Ralph Merrifield] of 'the white master' who had visited two years before.  He was known to the natives as 'he who never sleeps' because he stayed up all night 'talking to devils'.  Apparently this strange visitor was Gardner who, because of his asthma, had spent all night propped up on pillows.
'Gardner gave a talk on witchcraft at of all places, the YMCA in Accra.  This was so popular that a riot nearly broke out when people were refused entry to the overflowing hall.  During his visit Gardner met some of the local obeah men and witch doctors and he was also consulted by the natives for spells and charms.  One day he was walking through the village market place when a young native woman demanded to have his babies.  Gardner replied: " I'm too old, dear".' (On a side note, I know how he feels, I get that all the time, only I'm too gay: I suspect women recognise a primeval urge to have sorcerers' babies -Hound)

'Merrifield asked Gardner how he had discovered witchcraft and received a strange reply.  Gardner said: "I fell in love with a witch when we were fire-watching during the war" This reply was either a Gardner leg-pull or concealing the facts, or there may have been some truth in it.  Cecil Williamson has told us of a wartime encounter Gardner had with the high priestess of an coven from Epping in Surrey.  They met while he was filling sandbags as an ARP Warden in Parliament Square.  This suggests there were other people around during the war who claimed to be witches and had no connection with Old Dorothy Clutterbuck's lot in the New Forest.'

'Williamson has informed us that in fact Gardner paid Crowley £25 a time for a course of instruction.  One day Gardner turned up for the next installment and Crowley began to cross-examine him on the previous documents he had supplied.  Gardner, a typical Gemini, had only glanced at them and could not answer the questions.  Apparently, Crowley became very angry and the two men parted on bad terms.'

'Gardner had [the witch's cottage] transferred brick by brick to its new site and re-assembled.  The original altar inside it was an old Morrison air-raid shelter, which resembled a large metal table, covered by ex-Army mattresses for comfort during the Great Rite!  Gardner tried to tell Williamson that the cottage had been George Pickingil's in Canewdon, until WiiIiamson checked out the story with the local council in Essex and found out that the old cunning man's house had been demolished years before.'

'Shortly after the opening [of the witchcraft museum] Gardner turned up on 'a flying visit' with his overnight things stuffed in an old music case.  He liked what he saw and was keen to offload a large number of unsold copies of his novel.  An agreement was reached to sell the books in the museum on a commission basis.  The 'flying visit' became more permanent when Gardner rented a terraced cottage at 77 Malew Street, Castletown.  He became the 'resident witch' at the museum during the summer season and entertained old and young ladies in the teashop with colorful stories of his adventures in the Far East.'

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Avoidance of the p-word, a drift, & encountering underpass Birmingham

It has taken me this long to realise that I have so far avoided calling my approach to the Hedge, the spirit of place, by the name of psychogeography. Witches tend not to be thought of as psychogeographers, but we must be, since it is defined as �the study of the specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organised or not, on the emotions and behaviour of individuals� ( This came to my attention, chatting to the chiropodist the other day. I like to break people in to my weirdness gently, & I thought I would do that by telling him the classic technique of going round one place, using the map of another. He looked at me in horror, wanted to know where that would ever get you, produced a map of Barcelona out of nowhere, which he thrust into my hands & demanded to know how you'd find your way around Birmingham with that. This action raises several questions for me: the answer to one of them is that he has never been to Barcelona, but would like to go. Keeping a map of a place that you would only like to go to, & telling me to *think* that my feet will get better, to ensure they do, are actions only marginally removed, in my mind, from magic. Anyway I opened the map: I don't know what map it was, I certainly can't find one online of Barcelona that looks like it, but Birmingham's Inner Ring Road appeared on this map clearly, & even he had to admit that he could see it when I challenged him.
I think the reason I've avoided calling what I do 'psychogeography' is that when it comes down to it it is a load of poncey nonsense. In fact it's right up there with literary theory & witchcraft! There have apparently been attempts to turn psychogeography into a science, but of course it simply isn't in any conventional, repeatable, empirical sense. Of *course* this creates a crossover with witchcraft: much of the point of the modern drawing on the witch figure is its slipperiness, it is not susceptible to a single simple definition & so draws on elements of lots of things, including ones that are clearly fictional.
Defoe's Journal about the plague year is a) clearly fictional & b) written some years afterwards, but has become a key text of psychogeography. The point here is not only the effect of the city on us, but our conceptualisation of the city, in Defoe's case a reconceptualisation prompted by a disease process. Leaving aside that much of the writing about psychogeography focuses on London or Paris, Birmingham is actually also a perfect city for it: it is a city that not only changes fast, but that lends itself to personal maps & identifications. You always have your own Birmingham, created by you.
My normal custom is to go on a more traditional derive, sometimes aiming for a place & wandering around. Today I went on a  more structured wander, using a technique where the walk is more defined beforehand. The ancient mystical technique used here (dating back to the 1990s) is to draw a circle on a map with a wine glass & walk around staying as close to the line as you can. I did it in an updated way by downloading a map (credit: then drawing a shape on it using Microsoft Paint. I arbitrarily chose a heart, & the green lines were some possible routes that I drew in, since I don't really know that side of the city.
I tried to stay as close to the heart shape as I could, allowing myself to be sidetracked if I saw something interesting but always trying to return as close as I could to the heart. I tend to think of that area behind Aston University as 'old' Birmingham, because it's been less affected by the re-redevelopment since the nineties. In fact there was a real concrete jungle experience in the shape of the underpass at Ashted Circus (pictured facing towards Eastside), forcing me to revise my previous idea that Holloway Head was the only traffic roundabout with a garden in the middle left in the city centre, although Ashted Circus was actually on the middleway.
This walk was interesting in comparison to the more conventional derives I do, since it imposed a form on what I was going to do, changing the dynamic to one where I had to stick to a plan, that was nonetheless completely arbitrary to begin with. Because I took a map & drew a shape on it it also made me go somewhere I have only seen from a bus before, thereby opening me up to a new experience. The area I walked through is on the one hand largely industrial, yet on the other I skirted the science park, Aston university, Millenium Point & Birmingham Metropolitan college, making it pretty academic too. I didn't like the way it felt, if I were to be absolutely frank, but I think only because it feels to me like the spirit of place is unloved around there. The industrial & educational uses of that place are in a sense all too transitory - people go there for a time & leave, meaning the spirit of place is unloved & unnurtured. Even the few residential buildings are for students so it is terribly transitory.
I'm still determined to superimpose the map of 1731 on a modern map & walk that - the only reason I didn't do it today was it gave me too much of a headache trying to do it last night. But I definitely will do this shape on a map technique again. Drawing on the more occult aspects of psychogeography, walking a sigil in the city, or mapping a derive & turning that into a sigil, could both present interesting potentials in exploring & interacting with the spirit of place.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Urban Grimoire: Modern Wart Cunning & My Unexpected Ability at Healing

I have a (to me) unexpected ability at healing. I suspect the fact a friend routinely turns to me for pain relief & I recently correctly diagnosed both the problem & the treatment for another friend on the other side of the world, is the universe trying to tell me something. OK, I get it, I'm good at healing!
Healing has a bad reputation. To me it is the province of white lighters, new agers, & fell-good fluffbunnies, & that's not me. Of course the reason for that is that what they're on to is not proper healing. Proper healing is restoring homeostasis, & frequently forcibly removing a disease process. That is why much medical healing still takes the form of surgery: it's the totally sound principle that if something is causing you pain or may 'bring you down' or even kill you, & will not resort to other treatment, it must be removed.
A friend laughingly refers to my healing ministry. What she means by this is that when I've slept with someone I can often get startling insights into his emotional state or even physical health. Sex isn't always necessary to this but it helps!
Warts & verrucas have been a traditional province of the witch, being total buggers to get rid of. Disclaimer: this does not apply to warts in the genital, anal, or facial area. Disclaimer (2): I can't do the giving them to someone else thing, & if anyone can teach me I'd dearly love to be able to, I even have a list of suitable subjects.

Aim of this spell:
1. To remove a wart or verruca.
2. To practice the exercise of sheer dogged will power.

Mental state:
Sheer persistence. The attitude of brooking no interference or even the slightest possibility of failure really is necessary here.
There's another one though: *know* that your wart or verruca is going. I feel dealing with one of these little bastards is probably the best training a young witch could ever have: apparently people tend to give up after a short while of treatment. Darlings, I have a spell that's been going on for 20 years: sometimes I do something new but I *know* its results are manifesting on the earth plane.

Totem animal to invoke:
The spirit of the cockroach (carry on for millenia resisting all attempts at extermination & even nuclear disasters) would be appropriate here.

For this spell it really does help to have the assistance of a chiropodist if it is verrucas you're dealing with. Sorry, but there's no way anyone is ever going to be able to do the sort of cutting away of dead tissue that will be necessary, for themselves. The assistance of a chiropodist will dramatically speed up the spell.

Might as well start immediately when you've got the ingredients assembled, since it will take some time.

A number of cheap emery boards. Treat them as disposable so you don't reinfect yourself: verrucas are wildly catching.
A verruca/wart removal preparation. This is my sort of healing, proper old school medicine. For minor ones gaffer tape might work. The herbalists recommend juniper oil (I think the only way to consume juniper is with tonic). Apart from these there are two main methods: freezing (with a spray, follow the instructions) or salicylic acid. This is my preferred method personally, not because of the previous plant-based way it was obtained, but because the way it works makes sense to me. It works by irritation. This makes the nervous system notice the wart or verruca & eject it by growing new tissue underneath. This is proper old-school medicine. It also reflects a true understanding that some healing means regrowing healthy tissue & so will take time. One brand name is Salactol. There are also some wussy brands around. 7% won't do it, did I say you have to kick ass with warts & verrucas?

Frequency of the ritual:
Every day. No really. No excuses. This is why you just invoked the invincible spirit of cockroach. You have to do this every day. One a day. The only exception being if you damage your surrounding skin with the acid, give it a day off to recover.

The ritual:
Wash your hands.
Have a good soak of the place the wart or verruca is.
Dry it (with a towel used only by you).
Scrape away any dry skin from the surface of the wart or verruca with an emery board.
Follow the instructions on your preparation.
Put a plaster over it.
Wash your hands.
Repeat next day.

How to know you're getting progress:
The wart or verruca will move slightly & will *slowly* become less raised, or if it's inside the surface of your foot its area will reduce as it comes up to the surface. There isn't really a way of speeding this up beyond a chiropodist cutting away at it for you.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

W H Auden: As I Walked Out One Evening

I saw my first bare chest of the year today. I must write to The Times.
The first picture here is of Bristol Street, & the second is of the River Rea.

As I walked out one evening,
  Walking down Bristol Street,
The crowds upon the pavement
  Were fields of harvest wheat.

And down by the brimming river
  I heard a lover sing
Under an arch of the railway:
  'Love has no ending.

'I'll love you, dear, I'll love you
  Till China and Africa meet,
And the river jumps over the mountain
  And the salmon sing in the street,

'I'll love you till the ocean
  Is folded and hung up to dry
And the seven stars go squawking
  Like geese about the sky.

'The years shall run like rabbits,
  For in my arms I hold
The Flower of the Ages,
  And the first love of the world.'

But all the clocks in the city
  Began to whirr and chime:
'O let not Time deceive you,
  You cannot conquer Time.

'In the burrows of the Nightmare
  Where Justice naked is,
Time watches from the shadow
  And coughs when you would kiss.

'In headaches and in worry
  Vaguely life leaks away,
And Time will have his fancy
  To-morrow or to-day.

'Into many a green valley
  Drifts the appalling snow;
Time breaks the threaded dances
  And the diver's brilliant bow.

'O plunge your hands in water,
  Plunge them in up to the wrist;
Stare, stare in the basin
  And wonder what you've missed.

'The glacier knocks in the cupboard,
  The desert sighs in the bed,
And the crack in the tea-cup opens
  A lane to the land of the dead.

'Where the beggars raffle the banknotes
  And the Giant is enchanting to Jack,
And the Lily-white Boy is a Roarer,
  And Jill goes down on her back.

'O look, look in the mirror,
  O look in your distress:
Life remains a blessing
  Although you cannot bless.

'O stand, stand at the window
  As the tears scald and start;
You shall love your crooked neighbour
  With your crooked heart.'

It was late, late in the evening,
  The lovers they were gone;
The clocks had ceased their chiming,
  And the deep river ran on.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Witches know (2)

My goodness, the weirdness has been coming thick & fast this week: this is (obviously) a continuation of the last post. One of the things I've been thinking about is how we witches see things on all sort of levels (by which I mean the planes of occultism) & thus also act on all those levels.
Where we left this was after a friend did a reading indicating that a criminal activity was going on in a certain street of the city, which was being covered up by powerful people, but that this situation was on the turn. Of course I kept this reading to myself, I mean I wouldn't want anyone to think I was weird. Actually the real reason was that I've been thinking this matter was something that was a 'task' being put in my way. Needless to say this was confirmed by a friend, who doesn't know the area. She told me that it was the *street* that needed clearing up, rather than the - to me - immediate problem of the criminal activity, & that was what I needed to do (she said there was a load of yuck that has been building up there for centuries & it just attracts more). She said that the illegality is so close to being sorted, the police would be close on my tail. The perpetrators would all be arrested & convicted except one who would get away.
By this stage it was so obvious that I was being prodded into action I had to do it. In the morning I visualised the street opening up & a wind blowing through it, cleaning it up. I did this for no reason at all - I just awoke with the conviction that the street I'm still not naming was somehow 'blocked'. Certainly when I got there later in the day it felt radically different, & for the first time I could actually walk that street without discomfort.
I started by invoking Hecate, & is she pissed. It was clearly her pushing me into doing something about this: the situation is the kind of thing that makes her angry. I'm a great one for using whatever is to hand for magic, so I continued by calling on all the angry, discontented spirits of the place, everyone who has suffered there over the centuries (it's one of the older areas of the city). This will ensure that that one perp who thinks he's getting off scot-free will end up throwing himself on the mercy of the law. What the witch has for him is much worse, much much worse: he will have no peace anywhere, none, not the slightest moment of rest, peace, relaxation or calm. And this is justified, oh how this is justified. Turds like that are *exactly* what the Goddess Hecate hates most. And the best bit (for me) was making a union with the dead in that place, using their anger, using the slime that has built up there to make sure this cannot continue. This is the heart of witchcraft: transforming cruelty into good, balancing the books, calling it what you will.
Next I walked the street sprinkling sea salt & mentally uttering a cleansing charm. I did this in broad day light (I hate that street at night) by having the salt in a carrier bag with a hole in it. Good indicators are that I felt no disturbance at all when I came back, & that I've been feeling like the itch has gone. I've rearranged something on a very deep level, now to see what happens on our plane. Watch this space: I've got a Birmingham Mail, & just haven't looked at it yet...

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Witches know

Something I keep banging on about is the Hedge, which is the environment in which the witch finds herself, on all levels. The hedge of course refers to boundaries & the ability to see ones environment on lots of different levels at once. It is in the hedge that we find the challenges that need to be faced, & which cumulatively constitute an initiatory experience for the witch.
I have recently come across a challenge in my hedge, which I'm not sure what to do about yet, but I'll use it here as an example of witches knowing & the ways we know. It also partly illustrates what happens when a witch makes her way into the hedge: it gathers itself around her & interacts with her.
There is a street in the city centre which at certain times I find unbearably uncomfortable. For reasons that will become apparent I will not be naming it - I don't want certain people searching the name of the street & coming to this post - nor any details of what I think is presently happening there. Suffice to say that it is a street to the south of Birmingham's present city centre. It has existed for centuries, & was among the streets of teeming slums around there in the eighteenth century that became turned over to industry in the nineteenth century.
I first became aware of something wrong in that area on one of my tramps through the city. The feeling I get to either side of that street is the comfortable, welcoming, busy Birmingham one, but on one particular evening the street made me intensely uncomfortable. I'm not easily weirded out but I had a distinct sense of being watched, in a very hostile way. I literally could not wait to get away from that street. I have been back twice since, once in the day & yesterday in the evening & it seems that the place has somehow closed to me. I got absolutely nothing there on either visit: it felt completely closed, & giving away absolutely nothing to me. I feel this may be significant.
Of course I have done investigations. After the first visit I asked a friend to do a divination. She does not know the street, does not even live in this country, but got the sense of unrelenting violence, dangers, murk murk murk, & murdered children & prostitutes. Her advice was very clearly not to go there at all. She also felt that a certain illegal activity was going on there now. Thus far my differential diagnosis was the centuries of desperate human existence had created a spirit of place which was predisposed & invited illicit, dangerous activities.
My next step was to go to the library & see whether any of this had made the history books. The sort of things I was looking for were murders, brothels, gangs, etc, in that street & surprisingly the written history of that street is completely pedestrian & normal. I was amazed. On the other hand, the kind of thing that I was looking for are the kind of crimes that people are usually keen to keep hidden. In fact, now I put it like that, I feel that I'm being directed more clearly to another aspect of spirit of place: this street keeps its secrets hidden. It's not often I can't get to the bottom of something psychically or through history. So my diagnosis remains that there may or may not be a spot there that attracts this kind of thing, that also attracts cover ups. What remains unexplained in any way is why it is just that street: it seems bizarre that that kind of energy would be confined to the man-made unit of a street, I would normally expect it to be spread further. I would also expect the surrounding streets to have the same energy but they don't at all.
I have been mulling this over for a while now. Then yesterday evening the whole situation leapt into relief for me. I was in a pub with a witch friend (that is the pretext for the picture, illustrating me at the bar), talking about this & he brought out the tarot cards. Even I was amazed at the clarity with which a cesspit of abuse & corruption, all carefully guarded & covered up, appeared in the cards. This thing, kids, is huge, & it's powerful people, the apparently great & good, running the show. The good thing that appeared was that this situation is on the turn & can't continue indefinitely.
Then we went from one pub to another by a route that crossed this road at one point. Once again I sensed absolutely nothing - the spirit of place was completely closed to me, & I normally can't contact individual entities unless I'm on my own. My friend got a sense of a strangled prostitute & was quite distressed by the experience. He also got the same feeling of the roads either side feeling completely different.
Then a lovely thing happened - we went to another pub & both made contact at once with an ex-landlady from the 1960s - her bleached blond hair in a beehive gave her away, also the chain smoking which gave her the lung cancer that killed her. She thought we were a couple - everyone thinks that, as it happens we're not each other's type, but she really liked us. She'd seen some wheeling & dealing in her time, but nothing like as dodgy as the road I've been writing about. It was a pub that has not long re-opened after being derelict for many years - the present landlord could do with cranking up the friendliness a bit, but who needs that when you can chat with the landlady from 50 years ago?
As for the street I've been writing about, I'm trying to discern whether this is something that has turned up for me in my hedge. My personal hedge is changing, as I noted in my last post, so it is to be expected that the next thing for me to do is going to be different. By now I'm assured enough that I also know the resources will be available for the task when the time is right to do it. This is the responsibility of the witch's knowing - because we know things in a way that others don't, we end up knowing about things that we have to do something about. Plus I feel this one may be so big it will be in the papers when it is this space!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Hanged Man at Home

The picture is not of a tree, it's actually of a bird's nest on a telegraph pole in the driest part of South Africa; needless to say I've forgotten the name of the place.
My year card for this year is The Hanged Man, worked out the Tarot School of New York way. How that card gives me problems: my bull-at-a-gate personality baulks at the 'suspension' involved in this card. I would much rather me up & at it.
The particular way this is manifesting in my life this year is that I am going to move house. I have lived in Bearwood, to the west of Birmingham, for years; I never wanted a house but had to have one to be near my mother, but am now intent on living in a shoebox in a place not dictated by someone else. The one thing stopping this happening is my poor old ginger tom cat who has had renal failure for a year: I am going to auction my house & rent for a bit so I can't really take a cat with me & anyway I couldn't face uprooting him at his age, so I am going to move when he dies.
This necessitates the suspension of the Hanged Man: I have actually gone as far as having a clear out with a view to moving & earmarked the furniture to get rid of, but am unable to go ahead with the actual move. This pause has caused me to notice what *else* happens while the Hanged Man is suspended: he descends into the earth & all sorts of things readjust independently of him, until the next phase can start. In particular I'm finding that psychically I have already moved. Of course I'm ending some of the ties in Bearwood myself, but others are just ending without me doing anything: the spirit of place is withdrawing from me.
Meanwhile I'm making new ties. The place I want to live in is near where I used to go cruising years ago: it feels like the spirit of place there has never really let go of me. The obvious place recently for a spell was the River Rea, & in a recent week off, I found that everywhere I went was based on the city centre. I went nowhere in the Black Country at all. Psychically I have already moved.
Meanwhile I'm obviously learning the lesson of the Hanged Man, because actually the wait isn't bothering me. It is out of respect for the most meaningful relationship of my life, & waiting is the least I can do.