Sunday, November 19, 2017

Banish Often, Invoke Often

'Banish often, invoke often,' that is one of the major magic(k)al principles of the modern world of sorcery. It may seem uncouth after Uncle Al kindly wrote a guest post here, but I'm afraid my main purpose in this post is to document my great discomfort with the maxim he coined.
For a start, I note that people talking about this practice tend to talk about it as part of a daily magical practice. My own opinion is that id I'm even going to aim for a daily magical pratice I might as well turn Christian and have done with it. You will not that I am talking about myself here only. It may be your will or useful for you to have a dsciplined daily practice which you stick to, but it's not for me: my own will is that my practice is much more freeform and based around the daily experiences of my life. My opinion is that the universe itself will place both the opportunities, needs, and resources to deal with them, in my way when I and the universe are ready.
Don't get me wrong, every day I have my little chat with the Goddess. It will come as no surprise that this is rather opposite from any other approach to praying. It amuses me no end to invoke (I knew I would end up talking about these twin practices the wrong way round) her to cause erectile dysfunction to any rapists around. It gives me no end of joy to invoke her power of death on those who hate the faggots. Even the fact that I can say this means that I have broken free from the societal and familial norms of my past and have entered the liberty and ecstasy of the children of the Goddess. This little chat with the Goddess is therefore as much about me as it is about her.
Of course I am talking about a different sort of invoking from Crowley, or may be I am not. I believe him to have meant the magician to invoke the Holy Guardian Angel (now there's a whole library of books in those three words there) often. I am invoking a divinity, however by that invocation my reality is changed and I come into my own. As we know the ultimate target of magic is virtually always the magician himself, and if the magiician by his invocation comes into his own, well maybe he actually is gaining the knowledge and conversation of his Holy Guardian Angel.
That's the trouble with the magic you will read about here: I havre skimmed the chapter headings so know the jargon, but rarely understand the detail, and certain don't follow the practice. I'm far more likely to throw the book away in boredom and just do my own thing. Come to think of it, this blog is mainly a documentation of my doing exactly that and I would frankly advise any reader to throw away the book and so their own magic.
My problem comes far more with the action of banishing. I will admit to having had at least a go at the conventional banishing rituals. You can find them on t'internet, and if you find yourself awed by the recounting of these rituals, it's possible Uncle Al is playing a joke on you, or else just that the writer you've found online is merely intent on telling you how good he is a magician. So good, in fact, that nobody else can even understand it.
In fact, my own opinion is that banishing as a ritual is of questionable use to the witch. I say to the witch, because what I mean is the use of these rituals to a magician of my sort. My own opinion as a hedgewitch, is that since we aim to find the magic in the hedge we suffer far more by banishing than we can ever hope to gain. If you want to stick to the trad magical system as whole you're going to have to go there, but I feel for the hedgewitch it clears way too much stuff away. I have actually read of people who banish very regularly finding that the rite tends to clear *everything* away, and they can end up with a sense of nothingness and emptiness if they are not empty.
My own experience is that I know when I need to banish, because I start carrying around too much psychic gunk. There are numerous very traditional ways of getting rid of this - having a bath is a traditional one for example. I only really banish when I find I'm carrying too much stuff, and try to avoid getting to that point by a magical act which didn't really have a name until I thought about this post and decided to call this act 'putting things where they should be'. It's rather in a the nature of an examination of self and what is going on energetically around one, and deciding where any 'stuff' belongs. I actually do this quite a lot of the time anyway, by sending any nasties either to a recipient who needs the accompanying lesson, or just back where they have come from. Like this I am literally putting any nasties where they should be, I am lightened myself and I am using the stuff that comes my way as part of the witch's work to give people the opportunity to rectify their lives. Yes, someone whom I've divined is a turd may get a spectacularly bad run of luck, but the nature of my magic is that this will very obviously be set up in a way that clearly points them to examine aspects of their lives.
I'm just hoping that if I ever see a psychiatrist I can either keep this to myself or phrase it as a 'dynamic'.
The act of sending back or rearranging dodgy energies was one that it took me ages to come upon but it revolutionised my life in so many ways. I don't have to carry other people's stuff around, and it is the perfect way for a lazy witch to do the daily work I have to do. No doubt this post will have the fluffies throwing up their hands in horror, but this blog is about real witchcraft which comes from blood and bone, and this post is from the heart.

Queer: Graffiti near the Gay Village

This graff is something I've been meaning to post about here for some time - I'm quite chuffed it hasn't been cleaned off from one of the underpasses under Bristol Street, where it appeared some time ago.
*How* a lot of the assimilationist rhetoric spouted by the most vocal section of the gay world does my head in. Do I even need to say that concepts such as marriage and children feature highly? Yes you've got it, they want to be just like the heterosexuals.
The fact that this is painted on a wall is very cheering to me. The fact the concepts of queer and thug are put together warms the cockles of my witchy heart no end. Not all the faggots out there are good little gays. Some of the faggots are different. So mote it be.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Graveyards

Among the local witchy amenities are several quality graveyards. I only realised how lucky I am in this respect when I was recently talking to a friend who lives in Wolverhampton and I realised I couldn't find a single decent graveyard hear her, only sanitised council things with the graves all laid out in neat rows and manicured within an inch of their lives.
It was perhaps one of the early signs of my future witchiness that graveyards have not only never been frightening to me but they have been positively fascinating. I used to wander in the Church of England's graveyard in the Black Country village I grew up in, fascinated by the decaying yet still opulent Victorian tombs of the rich. Of course I had no way of knowing that in years to come I would end up a priest of an ancient Greek death goddess, but perhaps my early lack of fear of the resting places of the dead was an indicator of a current that I was already 'plugged in' to.
Graveyards are, of course, one of the places archetypally associated with witches. As usual the fictional magical practice of doing things like raising the dead do not chime with my experience of the death current and graveyard magic at all. In my experience the dead either hang around places of significance to them or around people for similar reasons. Personally there are a few scores I intend to settle when I'm dead. Some of these people are attracted to the witch because they themselves need something - usually just reassuring that it's OK to move on to what comes next, some of them are so tortured.
The work in the graveyard in my experience is quite different. It seems so obvious to me that the dead don't hang around graveyards and hence they are not necesarily the point of the magic (I must note here that my practice and experience is quite different from some magical traditions, particularly African ones, where there is much more empasis on ancestors). On an energetic level graveyards are not that different from crossroads - they are places where exchanges are made, judgements are made, and, ultimately, peace is sought.
Naturally as a priest of Hecate, her invocation is a major part of graveyard work. I often wander up to the graveyard in Park Street with a sacrifice of black sesame seeds and come away with things resolved and solutions found. The nature of the graveyard  is about death and destruction and so a sacrifice of some sort is particularly effective. Despite what I have said above, there are some dead people around that part of the city I am friendly and go and have a chat with, but on the whol my work is with the Goddess. And one of the signs of the Goddess's arrival in the graveyard is a particular sort of silence. No matter how busy the road is, a strange silence comes over things when she is invoked. I think of it as literally the silence of the grave, a silence in which things are changed and exchanges arranged. Have I said before that this blog is about real witchcraft and can only be expected to be a bit blood curdling? The magic of the graveyard is some of the world's most ancient magic and is truly the real thing.
Two better known cemeteries in the city centre are those at Key Hill and Warstones Lane: I have written about both of them here before. I find the atmosphere of Key Hill rather stultifying: the atmosphere is redolent of worthiness and nonconformist morality - while it is redolent of previous generations of my mother's side of the family, it doesn't chime with me now. I rather prefer Warstones Lane - although in my experience the rumours that it is a wild gay cruising ground are wildly over-stated. I can however claim to have been in the catacombs there. It was in the early nineties and even then I was having a wander. The entrances to the catacombs weren't properly sealed and I did step into one. I have no recollection of what it was like inside except for being dark and the knowledge I had even then that entering an underground place which was poorly maintained, alone, with no safety equipment and no means of contacting anyone, wasn't the most sensible thing I could do, so I just stepped in and out again. I do remember feeling frightened, but I think that was because of the danger rather than anything wanting me to go away.
The catacombs at Warstones Lane are the resting place of Baskerville, whose wandering corpse I have written about before here. They are also rumoured to be wildly hauntedm and so I will allow myself a ghost story below, which is actually only one of many about that corner of the city:
In  terms of ghosts, a woman dressed in 1930’s attire has been seen many times, and has shocked onlookers by walking through walls and parked cars, even causing a moving car to screech to a halt only to smile at the driver and promptly disappear. Accompanying sightings of this lady, people claim to have noticed a smell of pear drops, which is what Arsenic is said to smell like after it has been swallowed. This dangerous substance was used in the jewellery quarter at one time, which leads us to believe that this lady was killed by arsenic poisoning.
 Another witness claims to have spoken to a young man in an army style trench coat near the catacombs. During conversation, the young man referred to the Dudley Road Hospital as “The Infirmary”, a name not used for the hospital since 1948. When the witness walked away and turned to look again at the young man, he had disappeared.
Given that many times in Warstone’s history bodies were dug up and re-buried, it is little wonder the area is haunted. It was known in the early 18th century as ‘Dead Mans Lane’ and it is possible that at some point a Gallows would have been situated nearby. These were traditionally placed at cross-roads as they allowed un-consecrated burials, and one such cross road exists where the lane meets Icknield Street. http://www.birminghamconservationtrust.org/2012/10/19/haunted-heritage-warstone-lane-cemetery/

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

90,000 Page Views Guest Post: Moonchild by Aleister Crowley

I am frantically excited to have a real occult celebrity write my guest post as this blog crawls past 90,000 page views (obviously I only attract quality readers, not the type who want pink fluff with a crescent moon on the spine). The celebrity is Uncle Al, and I feel the huge hunter's moon this past weekend must have had an effect on me because I'm feeling strangely drawn towards the rituals he depicts in Moonchild, which is where this extract comes from. Yes, it's a novel, but really all the best occultists write their rituals in novels rather than how to books, because magic is all about activating the imaginary bit of the mind which our civilisation is intent on shutting dead. So without further ado -

Ever since the beginning of the second stage of the Great Experiment, Iliel had become definitely a Spirit of the Moon While Cyril was with her, she reflected him, she clung to him, she was one with him, Isis to his Osiris, sister as well as spouse; and every thought of her mind being but the harmonic of his, there was no possibility of any internal disturbance.
But now she was torn suddenly from her support; she could not even speak to her man; and she discovered her own position as the mere centre of an Experiment.
She knew now that she was not of scientific mind; that her aspirations to the Unknown had been fully satisfied by mere love; and that she would have been much happier in a commonplace cottage. It says much for the personality of Sister Clara, and the force of her invocations, that this first impulse never came to so much as a word. But the priestess of Artemis took hold of her almost with the violence of a lover, and whisked her away into a languid ecstasy of reverie. She communicated her own enthusiasm to the girl, and kept her mind occupied with dreams, faery-fervid, of uncharted seas
of glory on which her galleon might sail, undiscovered countries of spice and sweetness, Eldorado and Utopia and the City of God.
The hour of the rising of the moon was always celebrated by an invocation upon the terrace consecrated to that planet. A few minutes earlier Iliel rose and bathed, then dressed herself in the robes, and placed upon her head the crescent-shaped tiara, with its nine great moonstones. In this the younger girls took turns to assist her. When she was ready, she joined the other girl, and together they went down to the terrace, where Sister Clara would be ready to begin the invocations. 
Of course, owing to the nature of the ceremony, it took place an hour later every day; and at first Iliel found a difficulty in accommodating herself to the ritual. The setting of the moon witnessed a second ceremony, directly from which she retired to her bed. It was part of the general theory of the operation thus to keep her concealed and recumbent for the greater part of the day; which, as has been seen, really lasted nearer 25 hours than 24.
But with soft singing and music, or with the recital of slow voluptuous poetry, her natural disinclination to sleep was overcome, and she began to enjoy the delicious laziness of her existence, and to sleep the clock round without turning in her bed. She lived almost entirely upon milk, and cream, and cheese soft-curded and mild, with little crescent cakes made of rye with white of egg and cane sugar; as for meat, venison, as sacred to the huntress Artemis, was her only dish. But certain shell-fish were permitted, and all soft and succulent vegetables and fruits.
She put on flesh rapidly; the fierce, active, impetuous girl of October, with taut muscles and dark-flushed mobile face, had become pale, heavy, languid, and indifferent to events, all before the beginning of February.
And it was early in this month that she was encouraged by her first waking vision of the Moon. Naturally her sleep had already been haunted by this idea from the beginning; it could hardly have been otherwise with the inveterate persistence of the ceremonies. The three women always chanted a sacred sentence, Epelthon Epelthon Artemis continuously for an hour after her couching; and then one of them went on while the others slept. They would each take a shift of three hours. The words were rather droned than sung, to an old magical chant, which Sister Clara, who was half Greek, half  Italian, born of a noble family of Mitylene, had inherited from some of the women of the island at her initiation as a young girl into some of their mysteries. They claimed that it had come down unaltered from the great singers of history. It was a drowsy lilt, yet in it was a current of fierce heat like that of the sun, and an undertone of sobbing like the sea.
So Iliel's dreams were always of the moon. If the watcher beheld trouble upon her face, as if disturbing influences were upon her, she would breathe softly in her ear, and bring her thoughts back to the infinite calm which was desired for her.
For Cyril Grey in devising the operation had by no means been blind to the dangers involved in choosing a symbol so sensitive as Luna. There is all the universe between her good and evil sides; in the case of a comparatively simple and straightforward planet like Saturn, this is not the case. And the planets with a backbone are far easier to control. If you once get Mars going, so to speak, it is easy to make him comply with Queensberry rules; but the moon is so passive that the slightest new influence throws her entirely out.
And, of course, the calmer the pool the bigger the splash! Hence, in order to draw down to Iliel only the holiest and serenest of the lunar souls, no precaution could be too great, no assiduity too intense.
The waking vision which came to her after about a month of the changed routine was of good cheer and great encouragement.
The spelling is in Greek. Translations courtesy of Mbabwa. Italics are mine...
"Appeared Appeared alt no "
It was an hour after sunset; the night was curiously warm, and a soft breeze blew from the sea. It was part of the duty of Iliel to remain in the moonlight, with her gaze and her desire fixed upon the orb, whenever possible. From her room a stairway led to a tall turret, circular, with a glass dome, so as to favour all such observations. But on this night the garden tempted her. Nox erat et caelo fulgebat Luna sereno inter minora sidera. The moon hung above Capri, two hours from her setting. Iliel held her vigil upon the terrace, by the side of the basin of the fountain. When the moon was not visible, she would always replace her by looking upon the sea, or upon still water, for these have much in common with the lunar influence.
Something -- she never knew what -- drew her eyes from the moon to the water. She was so placed that the reflexion appeared in the basin, at the very edge of the marble, where the water flowed over into the little rivulets that coursed the terrace. There was a tremulous movement, almost like a timid kiss, as the water touched the edge.
And, to the eye of Iliel, it seemed as if the trembling of the moon's image were a stirring of vitality.
The thought that followed was a mystery. She said that she looked up, as if recalled to her vigil, and found that the moon was no longer in the sky. Nor indeed was there any sky; she was in a grotto whose walls, fantastically draped with stalactites, glimmered a faint purplish blue -- very much the effect, she explained, of luminous paint. She looked down again; the basin was gone; at her feet was a young fawn, snow-white, with a collar of silver. She was impelled to read the engraving upon the collar, and was able to make out these words:
Siderum regina bicornis audi,
Luna, puellas.
Iliel had learnt no Latin. But these words were not only Latin, but the Latin of Horace; and they were exactly appropriate to the nature of the Great Experiment, "Luna" she had heard, and "regina"; and she might have guessed "puellas" and even "siderum"; but that is one thing, and an accurate quotation from the Carmen Saeculare is another. Yet they stood in her mind as if she had always known them, perhaps even as if they were innate in her. She repeated aloud:
"Siderum regina bicornis audi,
Luna, puellas.
"List, o moon, o queen of the stars, two-horned,
List to the maidens!"
At the time, she had, of course, no idea of the meaning of the words.
When she had read the inscription, she stroked the fawn gently; and, looking up, perceived that a child, clad in a kirtle, with a bow and quiver slung from her shoulders, was standing by her.
But the vision passed in a flash; she drew her hand across her brow, as if to auscultate her mental condition, for she had a slight feeling of bewilderment. No, she was awake; for she recognized the sacred oak under which she was standing. It was only a few paces from the door of the temple where she was priestess. She remembered perfectly now: she had come out to bid the herald blow his horn. And at that moment its mountainous music greeted her.
But what was this? From every tree in the wood, from every blade of grass, from under every stone, came running little creatures in answer to the summons. They were pale, semi-transparent, with oval (but rather flattened) heads quite disproportionately large, thin, match-like bodies and limbs, and snake-like tails attached to the base of their skulls. They were extraordinarily light and active on their feet, and the tails kept up a lashing movement. The whole effect was comic, at the first sight; one might have said tadpoles on stilts.
But a closer inspection stayed her laughter. Each of these creatures had a single eye, and in this eye was expressed such force and energy that it was terrifying. The effect was heightened by the sagacity, the occult and profound knowledge of all possible things, which dwelt behind those fiery wills. In the carriage of the head was something leonine as well as serpentine; there was extraordinary pride and courage to match the fierce persistency.
Yet there seemed no object in the movements of these strange beings; their immense activity was unintelligible. It seemed as if they were going through physical exercises -- yet it was something more than that. At one moment she fancied that she could distinguish leaders, that this was a body of troops being rallied to some assault.
And then her attention was distracted. From her feet arose a swan, and took wing over the forest. It must have been there for a long time, for it had laid an egg directly between her sandalled feet. She suddenly realized that she was dreadfully hungry. She would go into the temple and have the egg for breakfast. But no sooner had she picked it up than she saw that it, like the collar of the fawn in her dream, was inscribed with a Latin sentence. She read it aloud: the words were absolutely familiar. They were those of the labarum of Constantine "In hoc signo vinces." "In this sign thou shalt conquer." But her,eyes gave the lie to her ears; for the word "signo" was spelt "Cygno"! The phrase was then a pun -- " In this Swan thou shalt conquer." At the time she did not understand; but she was sure of the spelling, when she came afterwards to report her vision to Sister Clara. 
It then came into her mind that this egg was a great treasure, and that it was her duty to guard it against all comers; and at the same moment she saw that the creatures of the wood -- "sons of the oak" she called them instinctively -- were advancing toward her.
She prepared to fight or fly. But, with a fearful crackling, the lightning -- which was, in the strange way of dreams, identical with the oak -- burst in every direction, enveloping her with its blaze; and the crash of the thunder was the fall of the oak. It struck her to the ground. The world went out before her eyes, dissolved into a rainbow rush of stars; and she heard the shouts of triumph of the "sons of the oak" as they dashed forward upon her ravished treasure. "Mitos ho Theos!" they shouted -- Sister Clara did not know, or would not tell, its meaning.
As the iridiscent galaxy in which she was floating gradually faded, she became aware that she was no longer in the wood, but in a strange city. It was crowded with men and women, of many a race and colour. In front of her was a small house, very poor and squalid, in whose doorway an old man was sitting. A long staff was by his side, leaning against the door; and at his feet was a lantern -- was it a lantern? It was more like the opposite of one; for in the full daylight it burned, and shed forth rays of darkness. The ancient was dressed in grey rags; his long unkempt hair and beard had lacked a barber for many a day. But his right arm was wholly bare, and around it was coiled a serpent, gold and green, with a triple crown sparkling with ruby, sapphire, and with it he was engraving a great square tablet of emerald.
She watched him for some time; when he had finished, he went away with the staff, and the lamp, and the tablet, to the sea shore. Along the coast he proceeded for some time, and came at last to a cave. Iliel followed him to its darkest corner; and there she saw a corpse lying. Strangely, it was the body of the old scribe himself. It came to her very intensely that he had two bodies, and that he always kept one of them buried, for safety. The old scribe left the tablet upon the breast of the dead man, and went very quickly out of the cave.
But Iliel remained to read what was written.
It was afterwards translated by Cyril Grey, and there is no need to give the original.
"Utter the Word of Majesty and Terror!
True without lie, and certain without error,
And of the essence of The Truth. I know
The things above are as the things below,
The things below are as the things above,
To wield the One Thing's Thaumaturgy -- Love.
As all from one sprang, by one contemplation,
So all from one were born, by permutation.
Sun sired, Moon bore, this unique Universe;
Air was its chariot, and Earth its nurse.
Here is the root of every talisman
Of the whole world, since the whole world began.
Here is the fount and source of every soul.
Let it be spilt on earth! its strength is whole.
Now gently, subtly, with thine Art conspire
To fine the gross, dividing earth and fire.
Lo! it ascendeth and descendeth, even
And swift, an endless band of earth and heaven;
Thus it receiveth might of duplex Love,
The powers below conjoined with those above,
So shall the glory of the world be thine
And darkness flee before thy SOVRAN shrine.
This is the strong strength of all strength; surpass
The subtle and subdue it; pierce the crass
And salve it; so bring all things to their fated
Perfection: for by this was all created. 
O marvel of miracle! O magic mode!
All things adapted to one circling code!
Since three parts of all wisdom I may claim,
Hermes thrice great, and greatest, is my name.
What I have written of the one sole Sun,
His work, is here divined, and dared, and done."

'Hidden' City: Fire Office Passage

I have been wanting to write a blog post about Fire Office Passage for ever. It's off New Street if you haven't seen it and signposted very obviously indeed. But bizarrely nobody seems to notice it, and certainly not go up it because it comes across as fairly unsavoury. The illustration is of the actual passage, and it came off t'internet but the source was given as one of those search engines which search flickr - when I went on it I couldn't find the actual source so if it belongs to you please comment on this post or contact me via the contact box.
I'm also afraid I don't really have much that is intelligent to say about Fire Office Passage which hasn't already been said on the Birmingham Conservation Trust's blog:
In searching for inspiration for my next blog, I decided to turn to my own Birmingham ancestry for inspiration.   My fourth Great Grandfather, Enos Edwards was the Chief Engineer for the Birmingham Fire Office working from 1807 until his death in 1862. His son Enos and other members of the family were also firemen and engineers for the company.
The Birmingham Fire Office was first established in March 1805, and in 1808 the company built its stone fronted office in Union Street at the expense of nearly £4000, which also included the engine house, fire-men’s houses, and stables.  The picture below is from Bisset’s directory and shows the regency fire office building in 1808 (1)

My ancestor lived in the fire-men’s quarters which were in Union passage.
By 1839 the Birmingham Fire Office had two engines, one being decorated with wooden battle axes, and iron scroll-work painted in many colours and the other being very plain and drab. William Baddelsky writing in the illustrated weekly journal for iron and steel in 1835, described “if a fire breaks out on premises of the Society of Friendsof which there are a large number in Birmingham, the Drab engine is dispatched to their assistance; but if the goods or chattels of Jews or Gentiles are in jeopardy, the painted engine is brought out.” (2)
During the early days of fire fighting in Birmingham there was no organised municipal fire service like we have today, so people had to buy insurance from the many different insurance companies available of which the Birmingham Fire Office was an early example.  These different insurance companies were represented by agents  and Showell’s Dictionary of Birmingham describes their presence in the city “insurance agents offices are so thick on the ground round Bennet’s Hill and Colmore Row, that it has been seriously suggested the latter thoroughfare should he rechristened and be called Insurance Street. It was an agent who had the assurance to propose the change!”  (3) To this day this area has remained Birmingham’s financial district.
According to William Hutton in his 1835 book The History of Birmingham, the rates of fire insurance varied for properties but ranged from 2 shillings and 6 pence to £100 per annum (3). Once insured with a company a fire mark had to be attached to building as proof of insurance. I actually found a Victorian example of the Birmingham Fire Office mark by chance on a visit to the BMAG’s History Galleries Exhibition, here it is below:
In the early history of fire fighting it was sometimes the case that when a fire broke out several insurance fire brigades would attend the fire, but if the building was not insured or had a rival fire-mark the brigade would return to base, or even try to sabotage the rival brigade.  This often led to persons insuring their property with more than one company to ensure the fire would be put out.

On investigating the sites in present day Birmingham most of the Georgian and Regency buildings have long since disappeared and the only evidence of the old fire office, and any insurance and agent’s buildings now lies just off New Street, where the following sign can be seen.
This passage would have linked up to Colmore Row and Bennet’s Hill the areas described in Showell’s dictionary, so perhaps the aforementioned agent did sort of get his way after all on the renaming of street sign.
My ancestor Enos Edwards attended many Birmingham fires throughout his career and devoted his life to fire fighting in Birmingham. In his obituary in 1862 he was called the “Braidwood of Birmingham” so called after James Braidwood the founder of the world’s first Municipal fire service (in Edinburgh) and first director of the London Fire Engine Establishment.  It is nice to know one of my ancestors played an important role in Birmingham’s history.

Sources:
(1)   Image from: A Catalogue of Commerce and Art: Bisset’s Magnificent Guide for Birmingham, 1808 [From Birmingham Central Library]
(2)   Illustrated weekly journal for iron and steel 1835
(3)   Hutton, W. (1835). A history of Birmingham, edt by Guest, J.  Birmingham.  6th Edition.
(4)   Harman, T. and Showell, W. (2004)Showell’s Dictionary of Birmingham. A History And Guide Arranged Alphabetically Source
 I'm afraid that Fire Office Passage is one of the places which has completely evaded the Hound's attempts to get a glimpse of its life. I have thumbed through Kelly's and found no indication that any individual or business gave their address as Fire Office Passage through the twentieth century, or at the end of the nineteenth century, so sadly this is going to have to be a post where the scanty information is taken (but credited) from elsewhere.
I would surmise a few things though. It is apparent that there wasn't only *one* fire office passage in Birmingham, and while there may have been one or several fire insurance offices based in this passage, they don't seem to have left very much trace of themselves. That said, it has always seemed apparent to me that at one time people would have lived in Fire Office Passage. If you look closely you can see a Georgian house buried in the middle of the rest of the building there, so I would surmise that there were once others and the passage would have been a centre of habitation and business.
I'm hoping still that posting this here will cause the universe to draw other information about old life in the passage to my attention...
Addendum - if anyone can explain why the pictures on the blog post I've lifted and pasted here aren't working, I'd be very grateful.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Witches' Song Book: Wytches' Brew by Omnia

How I love this song. I won't expatiate at length over it, as Omnia have managed to take pretty much everything witchy in the world and distill it into one piece of music.
Thrice the brinded cat has mewed!
-Thrice and once the hedge-pig whined!
-Harpy cries: " 'tis time! 'tis time!"
Round about the cauldron go,
in the poisoned entrails throw
Skin of toad and spike of bone,
sharpened on an eagle stone
Serpent's egg and dancing dead,
effigy of beaten lead
Double double trouble you,
bubble in a witches' brew
Fillet of a fairy snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog
Lizard leg and fairy wing,
round about the cauldron sing
Double double trouble you,
bubble in a witches' brew

Root of mandrake dug at night,
when the moon is full and bright
Slip of yew and twig of fern,
make the fire dance and burn
For our will it will be done,
when the hurlyburly's done
Double double trouble you,
bubble in a witches' brew
Double double toil and trouble
Fire burn and cauldron bubble
Double double trouble you
Bubble in a witches' brew
Double double toil and trouble
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble
Double double trouble you
Bubble in a witches' brew

Round about the cauldron go,
in the poisoned entrails throw
Skin of toad and spike of bone,
sharpened on an eagle stone
Serpent's egg and dancing dead,
effigy of beaten lead
Double double trouble you,
bubble in a witches' brew
Fillet of a fairy snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog
Lizard leg and fairy wing,
round about the cauldron sing
Double double trouble you,
bubble in a witches' brew
Root of mandrake dug at night,
when the moon is full and bright
Slip of yew and twig of fern,
make the fire dance and burn
For our will it will be done,
when the hurlyburly's done
Double double trouble you,
bubble in a witches' brew

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Spirit of Place: A Load of Old Bulls

If you'd asked me, I'd have said there was only one of the 1960s bull sculptures adorning the old Bull Ring. In fact it seems there were four, and since being placed 'in storage' after the centre's demolition, they've done a vanishing act. In common with a lot of modernist pulic art of the time, in fact, which is now being hunted.
The Birmingham Mail reported thusly:
They once stood guard at Birmingham’s famous 1960s Bull Ring shopping centre – but now they’ve vanished.

Artist Trewin Copplestone designed the set of four, two-metre high fibreglass bulls for the side of the Bull Ring shopping centre, built in 1963.

The artworks will have been familiar to the millions who passed through the Bull Ring before it was demolished over a decade ago – but their current whereabouts are a mystery.

Historic England, formerly English Heritage, has now launched a campaign to track them down.

They’re certainly not easy to hide – each sculpture was cast in a single piece from a polystyrene mould onto a metal frame and weighed nine tonnes

One of them was damaged by fire in 1983 but was later restored.

Tamsin Silvey, exhibitions manager at Historic England, said: “The bull forms set the Bull Ring apart from other shopping centres back in the 1960s.

“Backlit and standing proud at the top of the shopping centre, they became a landmark, a modernist emblem for the city centre as well as symbol for the determination of new Birmingham.

(http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/midlands-news/search-launched-missing-nine-ton-10614608.amp)

As far as I can see Copplestone is better known for his paintings nowadays although he has also written on architecture.
My personal opinion is that the current bull the tourists have their picture taken with, is a pale pretender in comparison to Copplestone's.
Inexplicable likes a soundtrack to my ramblings and this music may best represent the 'Continental' ambitions of so many 1960s developments. As you listen, picture yourself having a quiet drink after work on the terrace of the Matador pub in the Bull Ring in the 1960s. Where did the dream go wrong?

Hidden City: Anchor Exchange

The video which illustrates this post is now rather dated, since it shows the Central Library (sob...I can't wait for the utterly pedestrian building for which the library was demolished to be finished so that I can be rude about it) and that ridiculous Forward statue which is missed by no-one.
Naturally I haven't been inside Anchor Exchange. Nobody has - it's sealed up tighter than a fundamentalist virgin in a prison full of sexually-frustrated men. I have a feeling it looks different now - it was restored in 2010, as it still carries essential cablage. Naturally I would love to get in but it's not happening: even on the urbex forums it's on the list of places not even worth trying.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

In Which the Hound Recruits Staff

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

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Urban Grimoire: the And Then There Were None Incantation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 18, 2017

Be the Witch You Needed When you Were Younger

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

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Bull Ring Shopping Centre Ad, 1985

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

Monday, September 4, 2017

Thalatta thalatta and Birmingham-on-Sea

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

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

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

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

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

Chorus

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

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

Chorus

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

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