Wednesday, April 30, 2014
It's been a while since we had a guest post (the last one was by Nanny Ogg to celebrate a milestone number of page views). We actually passed 20,000 page views 2,000 page views ago but I never got round to posting anything. Jack Parsons was a rocket engineer who had a crater on the moon named after him. I particularly like the picture of him used for this book - have no fear, when I don't have a job to hold down, that's how I'll be dressed in the profile picture on this blog! This piece is also interesting as being (in my opinion) ahistorical, but witchcraft is always as much about romance as hard fact, & I'd hate to give the impression that this blog is merely a vehicle for my own opinions!
John Whiteside Parsons
(excerpt from Freedom is a Two-Edged Sword)
WE ARE THE WITCHCRAFT. We are the oldest organization in the world. When man was born, we were. We sang the first cradle song. We healed the first wound, we comforted the first terror. We were the Guardians against the Darkness, the Helpers on the Left Hand Side. Rock drawings in the Pyrenees remember us, and little clay images, made for an old purpose when the world was new. Our hand was on the old stone circles, the monolith, the dolmen, and the druid oak. We sang the first hunting songs, we made the first crops to grow; when man stood naked before the Powers that made him, we sang the first chant of terror and wonder. We wooed among the Pyramids, watched Egypt rise and fall, ruled for a space in Chaldea and Babylon, the Magian Kings. We sat among the secret assemblies of Israel, and danced the wild and stately dances in the sacred groves of Greece.
In China and Yucatan, in Kansas and Kurdistan we are one. All organizations have known us, no organization is of us; when there is too much organization we depart. We are on the side of man, of life, and of the individual. Therefore we are against religion, morality and government. Therefore our name is Lucifer. We are on the side of freedom, of love, of joy and laughter and divine drunkenness. Therefore our name is Babalon.
Sometimes we move openly, sometimes in silence and in secret. Night and day are one to us, calm and storm, seasons and the cycles of man, all these things are one, for we are at the roots. Supplicant we stand before the Powers of Life and Death, and are heard of these Powers, and avail. Our way is the secret way, the unknown direction. Our way is the way of the serpent in the underbrush, our knowledge is in the eyes of goats and of women.
It is our own force that sometimes shifts jeweled coils and [...] mighty pinions in the breast of man; our Power is one with the Power that causes the God to stir in the heart of the seed, and the bud to burst into blossom and fruit; and whenever a man and a woman are united in one substance, our power is that substance.
Merlin was of us, and Gawain and Arthur, Rabelais and Catullus, Gilles de Retz and Jehanne d'Arc, De Molensis, Johannes Dee, Cagliostro, Francis Hepburn and Gellis Duncan, Swinburne and Eliphas Levi, and many another bard, Magus, poet, martyr known and unknown that carried our banners against the enemy multiform and ubiquitous, the Church and the State. And when that vermin of Hell that is called the Christian Church held all the West in a slavery of sin and death and terror, we, and we alone, brought hope to the heart of man, despite the dungeon and the stake.
We are the Witchcraft, and although one may not know another, yet we are united by an indissoluble bond. And when the high wild cry of the eagle sounds in your mind, know that you are not alone in your desire for freedom. And when the howl of the wolf echoes in the forests of your night, know that there are those who also prowl. And when the ways of your fellows about you seem the ways of idiocy and madness, know that there are also others who have seen and judged - and acted.
Now know that the power that we serve lies in the heart of every man and woman as the tree lives in the seed. And to be with us, you have but to call upon that Power, and you are as one of us. And when our Power and Joy have come upon you, you may go forth and do your will among men, and none shall say you nay. And if it be your will, you shall do your will secretly, and if it be your will, you will do your will openly, as your will.
Therefore lift up your hearts saying, "I am a man" or "I am a woman, and the Power of Life is mine!" And in the Power of Life you shall live and love, accepting no restriction and placing no restriction, freely and granting freedom. And it may be in the bounty of life you shall see the love of life shine in the eyes of another, and the lust of life burn upon his brow, and thus you shall take great joy together. And it may be in good fortune you may find a number such; and share your joy in secret feasting and rejoicing and all manner of lovemaking and festival. Or it may be that at hazard and danger you will teach the joyous power to men; as your wills move you.
And this is well so long as you remember one thing. There can be no restriction. The Power of Life is not restricted; it knows its own way, but no mind knows that way. Therefore in yourself practice all the giving and taking of freedom that is consistent with life, for thereby alone can you remain in our joy.
Pain is. Terror is, loss and loneliness and agony of heart and spirit, even unto Death. For this is the gateway to the kingdom of Pan.
Our way is not for all men. There are those who are so constricted and sick in themselves that the thought of their own freedom is a horror, and that of others a fierce pain; so that they would enslave all men. And these you should shun, or, if you must, destroy them as you will know how, for this also is bounty.
Nor think the life power should manifest in those who have no trouble or turmoil, for these may be mere dumb cattle, innocents out of season. Rather does the power often show the most where conflict rages, since at any time, and especially in a false civilization, the way must be won through. Surrender is disaster. The other side of the coin is a song in the sunlight and a dance in the moonlight, where all mists are dispersed. But the way must be won.
I have several posts in the pipeline, including ones on Kierkegaard, a psychogeographic map, & a witchy pub crawl of Birmingham. The Kierkegaard one is because I have recently discovered him as an unlikely source of the witch thing, as practiced by me personally. I am thinking of starting a new tag called 'Sources of Witchcraft' - up until now I have used 'The Hedge' as the tag for those kind of posts. The hedge of course is both the source & arena of witchcraft, as I understand it. I think the differentiation would be that 'Sources of Witchcraft' would refer to the sources plundered by witches, such things as Freemasonry & the Golden Dawn, to create witchcraft, without the elements of initiation & praxis suggested by the hedge.
Sources of Witchcraft is an obvious twist on Sources Chretiennes, a many-hundreds-of-volumes collection of Christian patristic sources. We don't have a clear canon of fathers & mothers in witchcraft so we are compelled to draw on what we can in our witching or crafting. The publisher's website of Sources Chretiennes is http://www.editionsducerf.fr/html/index/collection.asp?n_col_cerf=209&id_theme=2&id_cat=99 from whence comes this quote - it seems boastful but it's probably true:
'Avec plus de cinq cents volumes publi�s, la collection ��Sources chr�tiennes�� est � ce jour la plus importante biblioth�que patristique au monde � donner acc�s aux �uvres int�grales des P�res de l'�glise. Le texte original, grec ou latin le plus souvent, plus rarement syriaque, arabe ou g�orgien, est toujours accompagn� d'une traduction fran�aise, de notes et d'une solide introduction qui situe l'�uvre dans son contexte historique et doctrinal.'
A library of witchcraft sources would involve every library in the world. So the inquiring are probably just as well coming to this blog! A wikipedia entry (in English) on the history of Sources Chretiennes is at http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sources_Chr%C3%A9tiennes
Other than that my tags may be somewhat opaque in their meaning to others - reading this blog is a virtual entering of my hedge, so some level of confusion is bound to ensue. Perhaps the tag I haven't explained enough is 'economy' - by this is mean the magical world view, the way in which things work in a magical world view. If I were to write about the threefold law (I have once, & I've got better things to do with my time), that would come under the heading of economy.
Sunday, April 27, 2014
There was no way I was ever going to be able to leave this one alone! Today in Rome Pope Francis is 'canonising' Popes John XXIII & John Paul II. What this means to Catholics, in the words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church is this:
'By canonizing some of the faithful, i.e., by solemnly proclaiming that they practiced heroic virtue and lived in fidelity to God's grace, the Church recognizes the power of the Spirit of holiness within her and sustains the hope of believers by proposing the saints to them as models and intercessors. "The saints have always been the source and origin of renewal in the most difficult moments in the Church's history." Indeed, "holiness is the hidden source and infallible measure of her apostolic activity and missionary zeal."' (Paragraph 828 http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p123a9p3.htm#828)
These saints are marked out as special exemplars of virtue & faithfulness to God's grace. I don't have a problem with that in the slightest. None. In times past it has been extraordinarily difficult to get canonised by the Catholic Church - even today they require two miracles at the person-to-be-canonised's intercession, as evidence that they are in heaven. This is the ultimate Catholic accolade, kids. Remember these people are at the summit of the practice of virtue & have not resisted the grace of God. These people must therefore say something about the Catholic church's idea of what constitutes virtue & the nature of what they believe to be the grace of God. The catechism again:
'The grace of Christ is the gratuitous gift that God makes to us of his own life, infused by the Holy Spirit into our soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it. It is the sanctifying or deifying grace received in Baptism. It is in us the source of the work of sanctification[.]' (Paragraph 1999 http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s1c3a2.htm)
It is therefore the making holy work of God - it isn't that different from the way in which witches work in a less-defined separation of divine & human so that we cross over & interact with each other. So obviously we're talking one really holy God-like man here. What's wrong with this picture is the evidence is mounting up thick & fast that he could have intervened to prevent clerical child abuse but didn't (http://ncronline.org/news/accountability/records-show-john-paul-ii-could-have-intervened-abuse-crisis-didnt). By canonising him the church is clearly saying that the sanctifying grace of God enables the believer to be holy, which means not preventing abuse & covering it up. Even as I write this I feel physically sick - the man thoroughly deserves the title of Turd. No doubt it is not holy to consider omens & portents, but the suggestions that their God is well pissed off are heaping up - obviously since they're not bothered by child abuse they're not going to worry that they're supposed to believe in one seriously assertive God who has the power to fry for eternity. JP2 appeared in the flames of a bonfire, a crucifix erected to commemorate his visit collapsed, killing a pilgrim there. His relics were prevented from entering the basilica at Lourdes by flash flooding, & he allegedly appeared to a dying cancer patient telling him not to waste his time praying to him (See http://www.traditio.com/comment/com1405.htm - the strange terms used are because this is a sedevacantist website who think the present pope isn't pope, etc. I will admit to choosing some fairly anti sources for this information, but a search for 'Pope John Paul abuse' reveals the rest of the world remains unimpressed). The seriousness of the matter aside, this is a seriously bad publicity move, although given the size of the expected crowds, an interesting example of the willingness of people to be duped.
Of course this is a witchcraft blog, & questions of power, survival & being a target (I refuse to allow the v-word to pass my lips) are at the heart of witchcraft. My will for targets of abuse is that it will empower them to turn it on its head & become the person who says 'Enough'. This is what is meant by Aradia coming to give the power of poisoning great princes in their palaces to the poor - it is the power to end their oppression. Personally I don't want these people dead - I want them confronted by their actions & unable to escape. Their hiding places must be poisoned for them so that they can't go to them. The remainer of this post is a repost of the open letter from the Survivors' Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP):
Our hearts ache for each of you who were abused during and after John Paul II's long tenure as Pope. We know these days are difficult, even painful, for many of you, given the awful suffering so many still experience, suffering that is often made worse as the Catholic�hierarchy praises wrongdoers instead of punishing them.
Our hearts also ache for all of you who tried to protect children from clergy predators during John Paul II's tenure, yet were met with cold indifference or open hostility.
John Paul II is revered by many across the world, but as you know, during his rule, great harm was committed which endures to this day. At best, he turned a blind eye to clergy sexual crimes and cover-ups. At worst, he perpetuated and approved them. For him to now be given the highest honor in the church rubs even more salt into the already deep and still fresh wounds of thousands of struggling victims and millions of betrayed Catholics and victims.�
For all of you who are upset because of this callous sainthood decision and celebration, we want you to know that you are not alone, that you can heal, and that real justice, prevention and recovery � no matter how depressed or pessimistic you may feel right now � is possible.
While John Paul�s sainthood will soon be history, the courage and strength and perseverance of you and your brothers and sisters in this movement for children's safety is ongoing. That's where our hope lies.
There is no better example of courage and strength and perseverance than the dozens of brave Maciel survivors. Their persistence eventually exposed the world's most notorious predator priest. Survivors across the globe should take note: it's a long, tough battle, but by persisting, we CAN achieve what Maciel's victims have achieved � letting millions learn about child molesting clerics and their corrupt church supervisors. The eventual outcome of their lengthy ordeal proves our contention that for clergy sex abuse victims, justice, prevention and healing ARE possible. �
These men are an inspiring example - among thousands of similar examples - of survivors making life-saving changes. Years ago, all of us were alone, now we're not. Years ago, few of our predators were "outed" now many are. Years ago, few people knew the scope of the abuse and cover-up scandal. Now millions are. Years ago, few people believed that allegedly holy, celibate and trusted clergy were capable of heinous crimes and cover ups. Now millions are.
So we beg you to keep protecting kids by speaking up, exposing wrongdoers, calling police. We beg you to keep healing yourself so that the cycle of violence is broken by and with each one of us. We're extraordinarily grateful for all that you have done and are doing to prevent crimes, expose cover ups and demand justice.
Together, despite the horrific things we have seen and suffered, there are practical, proven steps we can take, and that thousands of victims are taking, to better protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded.
To each of the hundreds of thousands of clergy sex abuse victims, witnesses, and whistleblowers across the globe, we pledge that for the safety of children we will never give up. Despite horrific pain and continued setbacks, we know you won�t either.
Friday, April 25, 2014
I came across the illustration for this post (picture credit: http://www.interestingtimestours.co.uk which has a very varied blog on aspects of the history of various places) & it struck me as being an illustration of what I end up doing every day of my life at the moment. Of course that is if it isn't taken *too* literally! Several people have felt the healing of the witch recently, a young man has become more integrated with his sexuality, a slightly older man (who really ought to know better) has been confronted with the need to stop throwing his weight around, I have had another go at fixing my relationship with my mother (doomed, of course, but I am a witch, & if I don't meddle I feel like I'm not being me), & the owner of the house next door has received the consequences of his actions. Meanwhile the local councillor is looking slightly worried (judging by the way he's suddenly moving he *really* needs my vote, or perhaps it is because they've already been criticised by the Local Government Ombudsman recently). Heigh ho, repainting the vault of heaven before breakfast is all in a day's work for a witch, & this is again one of the roads to the Ecstasy of the Goddess. 'This will continue,' she says in Aradia, 'until every last one of the oppressors is dead.' This does not mean (obvious to me, but after the week I've had I'd better spell out the obvious for the cheap seats) witches should murder all oppressors, it means the witch's work is never-ending. Until we create a world, step by step, of magic, ecstasy & wonder, that's the point.
Tuesday, April 15, 2014
These are the statistics for country of origin of visits to this blog in the past week: 74 hits from the United States, 20 from France, 13 from the United Kingdom, and 12 from Nigeria (the owner of the blog can see this information on the blogger dashboard). It is unusual for France to score this highly; normally the UK, USA & Nigeria are at least in first or second. What is interesting is it is very rare for a hit from another African country - certainly there have been none this week.
I have been wondering 'Why Nigeria' for some time. I tended to assume that it was some fundamentalist Christian who was praying for my salvation. I then thought perhaps it was someone wanting to read up about magic, I mean I'll deny it with every last breath in my body, but I would be gratified if I ended up unwittingly starting a 'tradition'. Who knows, the person or people in Nigeria reading this blog could even be 'witch hunters' of the sort that there have been calls to ban from Britain, because they only preach hate & child abuse (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/call-to-ban-witch-hunter-helen-ukpabio-who-poses-risk-to-children-9259872.html).
In a way, I really hope that is the case. Any loony fringe 'Christian' is welcome here (note the exclamation marks - it's extraordinary but I've met few witches who were genuinely off their head, but loads of 'Christians' who were - you can tell real Christians by their firm Christ-like love, rather than causing or covering up abuse or hysterical ramblings). No, genuinely welcome. Witchcraft is a service industry, & if those dangerous 'witch' hunters (in fact psychopathic victim hunters) are on my blog looking for evidence of a satanic conspiracy to enslave children, hopefully those children are free from their attentions. If nothing else that is a service to those children in danger, in the names of she who says, 'You will be free from slavery'.
This is actually largely the point of our use of the word 'witch', a word which has so many conflicting meanings, historically many of them negative, that it would seem counterproductive. In fact it is part of the inversion motif of the modern witchcraft movement - we take on a name almost entirely 'bad' & make it 'good'. I'm using inverted commas because any witch worth her salt is not seeking to deny the bad (we are not 'white light-ers') but to balance. We seek both half empty & half full at the same time.
Ironic, really, that the very thing these witch hunters are seeking out, is against their abuse, in the name of childrens' safety. So here is a little spell: it is at the end of this post, because the action of reading this post causes witch hunters to fall into their own harm & be unable to harm anyone else.
You who would seek to hunt 'witches' - the judgement of the witch is upon you. It is so.
I was in Cex this morning & there was a man in there with his girlfriend, selling his stuff. I suppose they must be students, but what interested me was that they had been watching all three Matrix films.
Thoughts are things & my experiences with cartoon characters are also, with the Matrix thing, the evidence that these magical 'things', when put out there, develop an existence of their own.
I can't remember where, but I have read an interview with the lovely Grant Morrison in which he said that he incorporated a spell into his Invisibles graphic novels, a spell to turn their readers into Invisibles themselves. He said how annoyed he was when The Matrix came out, because to all intents & purposes it was the film of The Invisibles that he had in mind, & someone got there first. However on consideration, he realised that that was exactly what he should have expected when he put this egregore out there: he was actually experiencing the effects of the spell he had cast. No doubt at this moment there are fluffbunnies reading this, up in arms at the idea of performing nonconsensual magic. My personal view is the world is full of the lazy, naïve, those in denial & the just plain vicious, & it is for the magical person to do something about this.
I suppose the 'moral' of all this, if there be one, is that within modern entities of popular culture, the ancient magical question is asked. It is 'Which way will you choose?'. Even within created egregores the magical challenge to go out into the unknown is faced, & the future is changed
I wonder whether that man & his girlf knew what they may be letting loose in their lives, & also wonder which pill they took. I took both, me.
Monday, April 14, 2014
I have commented at length on the - to say the least - unusual associations that one develops as a witch. This is more traditionally viewed in the literature of the modern witchcraft movement than I will delineate it here, but surely the kind of experiences I am going to describe here are almost definitive of the ability to 'tell the maze & cross the Lethe'. I don't really think the kind of experiences the older-school writers - Gardner, Valiente, Cochrane - describe are materially different from the scene in Grant Morrison's Invisibles where the Invisibles invoke John Lennon as a god. The permeable, indistinct line between humanity & divinity that we find in witchcraft is merely turned into a screen that can be placed at will in chaos magic.
Thoughts are things, & it has recently been my experience that cartoon characters in addition to pop stars can take on a life of their own. Herge depicted Tintin standing over him with a whip, & he has certainly made a remarkable entry into the lives of me & a friend recently. He must be an incredibly strong egregore, becuase it's not like we really did anything to invoke him, except try to see the Tintin film at the cinema. As it happens we'd missed it. My personal love of Tintin came relatively late, in my teens - much younger Snowy annoyed me by talking. Then when I went to France, the Tintin thing just seemed to fall into place for me. In film terms my preference is for the two non-canonical films made in the 1960s, with Jean-Pierre Talbot as Tintin. He has the particular French accent that I like the best to listen to - also being Belgian I imagine Tintin sounding like that himself. I have since seen the Spielburg film on DVD & am glad I didn't see it then as - what an incredible misjudgement - I am not impressed with Captain Haddock being Scottish. I can only presume Tintin isn't either, & is keen to protect us from this misinterpretation of his friend, because he now just keeps popping up.
The first was the actual day we went to see the film: disappointed, we went to a pub. His manifestation was in the shape of the barman - I'll grant you that Tintin-style hair is in fashion, but it's really unnecessary to wear tan trousers & a light blue jumper. We were frankly incredulous that we were sitting there looking at Tintin, & kept looking for the little white dog.
Then we met another two men in a short space of time who both bore a passing resemblance to Tintin - not as close as he who has become known as the original Tintin, but within spitting distance. One of them was quite attractive strangely - not interested needless to say but it made me realise there's a whole world of Tintin slash fiction hidden down the back of t'internet (tint'internet?), in addition to the endless speculation about Tintin's sexuality & whether he & Haddock are lovers. I feel myself that of course this is to read our post-1960s hyper-sexualised thinking onto an earlier world.
Then it happened. A friend fell in love with someone. After some months of her crush, she didn't find out his real name but found out his nickname. She hasn't even seen his hair, because he happens to wear a hat every time she sees him. I'll bet you anything you like it's ginger & sticks up at the front, but I won't insult my readership by saying what his nickname actually turned out to be...
The upshot is that since she's unwittingly found herself a Tintin, we're going to get a Haddock for me. The strange thing was that after we merely talked about this I went out on the town & actually hooked up with a man who bore a passing resemblance to my ideal Haddock - I'm developing a serious respect for the sheer power of the Tintin egregore. Actually I thought he was straight at first, the only thing wrong with him is he's got a high voice, but twenty years of pipe smoking would make him nice & gruff. As it happens I'm not going to get the chance to prove this & so have found a little incantation to get me a Captain Haddock of my own. Were you wondering when the urban grimoire element of this post was going to appear? Here it is, I would urge all magical people to chant this together at least daily, visualising me with this huge bluff bearded hunk of man:
'Mille millions de mille milliards de mille sabords de tonnerre de Brest.'
Thursday, April 10, 2014
This is a post about an apparently insuperable problem in the history of my personal Hedge: it isn't solely an excuse to make rude remarks about getting to the bottom of Dingley's Passage if it kills me, so I'll get that out of the way right at the start. I discovered this place purely by chance on the way somewhere else: surely the best way to find somewhere, although I can see, like the hound I am, I'm going to have to annoy this one 'till I get to the bottom of it.
You see there's a particular difficulty in the exploration, history, & psychogeography of Birmingham, which is caused by the spirit of place itself. A Birmingham 'thing' is the mania for demolishing whole areas of the city every few decades & rebuilding them in the fashion of the time. This is not even something confined to the post-Second World War reconstruction, although that is perhaps the most apparent example. Another example would be the flattening of a whole swathe of city to create Corporation Street in the nineteenth century. A more minor example is the current relaying of lines for trams. I say relaying because actually they're being put down where the trams used to run anyway, before the rails were taken up on the perfectly reasonable rationale that things that run on rails are inflexible to say the least. The Hound's prediction is that in around a decade the present disarrangement of public transport (in bus form) to several stopping points around the edges of what was the city centre in the days of the inner ring road, will be decried as ridiculous & buses will run down Corporation Street again.
The point of this lengthy digression from Dingley's Passage (it's not over yet, I somehow can't break myself of the habit of only getting to my actual subject in the last paragraph of a post) is to make the point that as a rule only the most recent reincarnation of the city is visible. Not that there is nothing old here: the soil under the Eastside Park has been analysed & shows evidence of deer farming in the Middle Ages. Even at the height of the concrete jungle days you just had to know where to look to find the history of all sorts of times. I suppose this inverts the 'witches look up' motif, to make it 'witches look down' or perhaps even 'witches look beneath'. This is necessary because in the case of Birmingham, there are frequently *no* indicators of what was there before (Dale End is a good example of this, see http://peteashton.com/2007/01/before_the_concrete_collar/ which has links to a further good collection of before pictures). The only other place I know of that changed so much is Sheffield: I can't think of anywhere else with such a new building mania. Coventry doesn't count because it came from necessity rather than a local tradition of frequent demolition & rebuilding.
In the case of the place I'm writing about today, it isn't the place that's hiding, it's actually any history or origin. The first picture shows the actual place - it's just an open space, beside a car park, leading to nowhere, but tarmaced & signposted with a very new-looking sign. It's on the corner of Moor Street & Albert Street: Albert Street shows its Victorian origins to a tee, & I was hoping Dingley's Passage would prove to be one with a history, like Christchurch Passage. But I was to be disappointed. The first thing I did was to search on Google: the passage appears on Google Maps, but nothing. No evidence of any history at all, just people wondering online the significance of Dingley's Passage. Exactly as I am doing here.
So I went home & looked on my 1901 Ordnance Survey map of the city centre (Witches look things up). It's not there. So, heart sinking, I went to the Library of Birmingham (Witches will not beaten by a mere street name). Anyone who's seen the local news recently will know that it's still not up & running ('Shambles...' Thundered the headline in the Birmingham Post), the staff are few & far between, etc. So I did something that normally never fails - picking books on the open shelving that looked hopeful & looking in the index for Dingley's Passage. Nothing. Their larger scale maps (for 1887, a snapshot of that corner is the second picture) also do not show it. It isn't even as if that corner has been too much altered: the inner ring road was right there, but I believe the road plan just there to have remained unaltered.
So then I had to tell the woman (who clearly normally works in a different department) that I needed Kelly's directory. Once she'd shown to the ones for Dundee & I found the Birmingham ones myself, I made the unsurprising discovery that Dingley's Passage does not make an appearance (I picked the 1958 one at random).
I do, however have a tentative theory. What appears on the 1887 map is one of the old courtyard buildings (they've all gone now except the National Trust one). My theory is that Dingley's passage could have started life as the passage marked under Victoria Buildings or the one into court 23. I wouldn't go to the stake for this theory, since Dingley's Passage seems to go at a different angle to either of those. It retains its mystery as to its origins & the reason for its continued existence.
There is a possible connection (quite likely, given the unusual name) between the Passage & a hotel that stood on Moor Street called Dingley's Hotel. Phyllis Nicklin's photograph of it in 1960 is the third picture. Memories abound of this hotel - it was dead swanky, frequented by businessmen & the great & the good. It is said to have been built c.1745. The memories of it may not quite agree with the reality - I notice from the Birmingham Post Year Book & Who's Who of 1960-1 that it had only 16 bedrooms - the second smallest of the twelve hotels in the city centre - & was recommended by neither the AA or the RAC. At the other end of the scale the Grand Hotel had 220 bedrooms & was recommended by both.
I am therefore forced to consider the name Dingley by itself. They are obviously quite some family locally: even today there are no fewer than nineteen professionals with this relatively unusual name on linkedin in Birmingham (I can't reference this, I can't get on the site, but that came at the top of a Google search for <Dingley Birmingham>). There is or was also an award & badge manufacturing firm in Warstone Lane.
On the principle of the most simple explanation being the most likely, I'll have to postulate that one or more of the Dingley family/ies either owned land around there or was even a leaseholder on the buildings. I'm fully expecting now that the history of this place will in the near future leap into my lap - maybe even from a visitor to this site - purely because I've dug down below the surface, so have no doubt I've disturbed whatever is down there.
Wednesday, April 9, 2014
When we witches borrow practices from the Christians it tends to be at best tongue in cheek. Lent is the season in which the Christians memorialise the time Jesus spent in the desert - I've talked before about the significance of desert & related it to what we would call the Hedge. I'm incredibly late with this since the actual season is drawing rapidly to a close but one of the things they do as an ascesis is give something up. Like murder. Or rape. Or paedophilia. No, seriously, often the things they give up are slightly ridiculous & no great loss. Last year a witch friend borrowed an ascesis from them & gave up alcohol for Lent. *How* we took the piss - 'Another bitter lemon, dear?' This year he's given up chocolate. In reality I think this is a real ascesis because these are seriously addictive substances & living without them would actually be a real loss. In the desert (read Hedge) you do experience real loss & the necessities of life are often missing or in very short supply.
My repeated opinion & experience is that the resources, tasks, & experiences become available to the witch when the time is right. When the witch is ready, the need appears, & when a need arises, a witch appears to meet it. My personal hedge has recently moved - partly volitionally, but also because I'm willing to transplant myself I've put out the psychic feelers to my desired destination, & in turn the spirit of place has reached out to welcome me. The other evening I stood in the old graveyard in Park Street & felt at home (not that I'm a goth). That area in a triangle from Holloway Head up to Millenium Point has actually been my stamping ground since I was a very young faggot cruising for we-know-what round there, so I feel the relationship I'm making with the spirit of place is a development of something that already exists. The majority of that area was, from the industrial revolution, up to living memory almost, either industry or teeming slums. The Park Street area was the Whitechapel of Birmingham at the end of the nineteenth century, dominated by gangs & virtually unpoliceable. If you have psychic ability & should go to that part of the city, be prepared for a shock: the sheer chaos & badness of much of what lies under the surface can be overwhelming. Since the magical hypothesis is that what we see on this plane is the manifestation of other layers of existence, as witches we interact with our hedge on deeper levels than just what you see. I have already made some friends there & helped some problems to their natural end.
My Hedge actually produced me a book to read today : it was actually from a certain shop which I'm not going to name because I don't like the owner. Our mutual hatred has nothing to do with the way I used to go in & look at the jazz mags when the shop was in Hurst Street! - actually I suppose I did buy quite a bit as well.
Anyway the book that leapt to my attention is Clarence Rook's The Hooligan Nights, about a nineteenth-century hooligan in London who recounted his exploits to Rook. This is exactly the same milieu as the Park Street area of the past, so in a sense is from my Hedge & an invitation to go further into my Hedge.
No matter to me that the veracity of the tales in the book has been questioned - the whole point of the Hedge is to divide, cross, or traverse the barrier between the real & the unreal. The majority of our sources for the modern witchcraft movement, or even the witch figure are either this mixture or at best shoddy history. I note that Rook may have had a more colourful life than you would think, since for over twenty years he had a symptom of tertiary syphillis (http://oxfordsociology.blogspot.com/2013/10/clarence-rooks-hooligan-nights.html?m=1).
I'm calling it a Lent book to borrow another Lent discipline of the Christians - I mean if it's good enough for the Archbishop of Canterbury, I suppose I can slum it. I've written before about the tensions I see in witches' relationships with the written text - we don't have scriptures but end up creating them or 'canonising' texts ('That's not in Doreen Valiente!'). Christianity has several approaches to reading as 'spiritual' exercises, & this taking a book for Lent is one of them. The older way of reading is called lectio divina, a ruminatory, repetitive way of reading aimed at the contemplation of God, also characteristic of the monastic tradition. I remember when I was a Benedictine novice the prior giving out the Lent books in the chapter house. There was an old lay brother whose book remained firmly unopened in his place all through Lent - I remember noticing a book called 'All About Pigs' in his room, but no 'spiritual' reading.
So my taking this book as a Lent book is a very real witchification of the Christian practice, in the inversion of normality vein so characteristic of the witch figure. I'm going to leave it by the loo - it's a man thing - & look forward to seeing how my Hedge speaks to me in the desert.
Monday, April 7, 2014
There's a funny thing about the phenomenon of the solitary witch from the 1980s onwards. Historically it represents an older magic than Wicca does - of the individual person who learned magic usually from books, did folk medicine, etc.
Witchily that's not really the point I want to make. In witch terms my point is more that while we are solitaries, it is well known that we tend to be a community of solitaries, but less well known that we stand out (as a group) like a sore thumb, even if people don't have a word for us.
I'm writing this in a certain pub in the city centre, where I've come to try to chat with the dead landlay again as an experiment - & succeeded.
On the way here I got some money out by the cathedral where the skateboarding emos looked at me like I was one of them. Then a homeless man greeted me, without a request for money, which he didn't to all the other people passing him. I suppose what these two groups have in common is that they are on the edge, which is dangerously close to being a hedge. Have I mentioned before that that hedge represents liminality & transformation? Once you've seen the unreal, the impossible is nothing, & it's not even inconceivable to see a witch.
This is the real test of a witch: can she do the tasks of witchcraft, of transformation, balancing & rearranging? The power to do these things can be recognised by anyone, in dire straits usually, & this is when they come to us, even if they don't know what we are. I may wear black but that black is a shining light to those stuck in the hedge with no apparent way forward.