Sunday, April 23, 2017

Urban grimoire: The Toxic Waste Dump

Today a very simple magical technique which has numerous variations and possibilities. It is based on the magical theory whereby thoughts and emotions are energies just as much as actions, and in fact embodies the occult idea that what we see is the visible manifestation of energies and powers on different planes.
This isn't as non-mainstream as it may seem: in psychdynamic therapy, for example, that dynamic is invisible, yet incredibly powerful. And in much more modern therapy, such as cognitive-behavioural therapy, changing one thing in your formulation changes everything else.
Don't worry - the Hound isn't about to collapse in a heap of fluffy mindfulness: this magic here is hard core and you won't find it in a book with a crescent moon on the spine.
As we go about our daily lives, we collect all sorts of invisible psychic nasties. Some of them are just residual daily stressors, some are entities that come and have a poke at us, some are the result of other people dumping their shit into us, and some are other people's emotions about us, such as jealousy, live, hatred, you get the picture. Traditionally this gunk has been dealt with by banishing or grounding it.
F*ck that shit, I can't afford to waste every nasty emotion, projection and so on, that comes my way, that stuff's a gift! But of course I don't want to have to carry all that rubbish around with me until I have a use for it.
That's where the toxic waste dump comes in. In practical terms you can use pretty much anything you like. At the moment I'm using a scarab from the museum. I carry it in my pocket and just touch it to transfer any bad vibes I feel coming this way. This lightens me up so I have that toxic waste if I need it.
You can of course do what you want with your toxic waste. A neighbourhood child abuser is frequently a good recipient. I won't insult my readers' intelligence - I assume you know how to move energy around, in your own way of course.
And of course the object you choose has a significance. Say for example yiur local psychic vampire is all over you, trying to suck the life out of you. Just exactly the person who may pick up your toxic waste dump and go 'What's this?'. Bingo - broken leg. Unfair, you may say. I say, I expect people to ask before messing with other people's stuff.
I did say this wasn't fluffy!

Friday, April 14, 2017

Digbeth Art Gallery

Another free art gallery today: this time a completely personal choice of graffiti art in Digbeth. Some of these certainly aren't there any more, and one of the things I like about graffiti is that it isn't fossilised into a canon and preserved in perpetuity.
Some are my own pictures and others are ones I have saved off the internet. I'm afraid I haven't kept the sources so if you own these pictures and want me to acknowledge or take down, get in touch with the contact form.

Time Travel: Cheapside

Back in time again today, specifically to 1968, but also further back into the history (purloined from someone else, but as usual I will acknowledge my sources as far as humanly possible) of my selected area. The street I'm time travelling through today is Cheapside, which is a formerly-industrial street in the B5 area of Birmingham. Frankly, I'm having difficulty placing it. Personally I would call it Digbeth myself, but what made me want to look into it was that I walked along it today and was reflecting on how the industrial buildings are rapidly being replaced by prestigious apartment developments, and I have read that there have been attampts by the council to refer to the whole of that area as 'Cheapside'. That said, I see it actually has a foot in B12 which I wouldn't hesitate to call Highgate, although of course that is also another of Birmingham's invented districts. While I keep wanting to say that the 'original' inhabitants of the area are the light industrial units which are still present at the bottom end, I think that probably isn't true and it certainly has a longer history that will appear from my post today, and of course has been a residential area before as shown by the picture of a back to back court. Here is the history:
Cheap derives from the Old English ceapan meaning 'to buy'; and Cheapside was used as a term for a 'market-place' or markets area. The name is found in many towns, but most famously in London where surrounding streets tells of the products sold there: Bread Street, Honey Lane, Milk Street, Poultry.

This was not a district but a streetname in Birmingham and could be a London import of the late 18th century, probably by Samuel Bradford whose potential estate this was. However, the name may have local connections. Before the Bull Ring was cleared of its encroachments by the Streets Commissioners in the 18th century, part of the markets area was known as Corn Cheaping ie. 'corn market'.

From the mid-1700s Henry Bradford owned Warners Fields in Deritend, south-east of the River Rea crossing at Digbeth. He offered development land here for sale, probably with the intention of attracting industry rather than housing. Perhaps due to the low-lying nature of the land at the town end of the site, there were no takers. although the site sloped uphill towards Highgate. It may have been thought to be to far from the town centre at that time. And so, in 1767 Bradford offered his first plots free of charge to encourage development on his estate.

Advertisement in Aris's Gazette 3 August 1768:

TO BE GIVEN GRATIS: Some free land, pleasantly situated, for building in Bradford Street, Deritend, to any person that will build upon the said land, and carry on a considerable trade there.

But it was to be the beginning of the next century before his estate around Bradford Street, Cheapside and Moseley Street was fully built up.

In proposals to redevelop the City Centre and expand it beyond the limits of the Inner Ring Road of the mid-1960s, the City Council in the 1990s perceived the central area of Birmingham in various quarters. It is intended to capitalise each quarter on specific aspects of its character. The areas include Chinatown, the Millennium Point education and technology district, the area around the International Convention Centre. Part of the intention was also to attract city centre residential living. The Bradford estate area south of Deritend High Street up to Camp Hill, currently a rather run-down industrial district, has now all been named Cheapside, probably again with an unconcious London connection, and is destined for both industrial regeneration and residential redevelopment. Source
This is a time travel post, and as usual we will be going back to 1967. This is because I happen to own a Kelly's directory for that year, and the library is closed today to go and look at any earlier ones. It is of course fifty years ago but I am still surprised at the variety and number of industrial units in Cheapside, but not only industrial units, there are eateries and a post office, so that while it looks as if nobody was living there are the time (in fact the colour picture was taken by Phyllis Nicklin and shows the street in 1960, only eight years before this directory, when it certainly looks as if people ought to have been living there), there were the services available to support the workers. So here is what was going on in Cheapside in 1967:
CHEAPSIDE, Jamaica row & Sherlock street to 19 Moseley road. MAP G 5 & 6, H 6)
[Nos. 1 to 57 & 215 upwards are in postal district % & the remainder postal district 12.]
1 Ashworth, Armitage & Ellison (Birmingham) Ltd. wallpaper mfrs
3 WYnne Rt dining rms
4 Birmingham & District Butchers' & Pork Butchers' Association
4 M.F.G. Transport Co. Ltd
5 Brushmakers Arms P.H
6/7 Clift S. & A. (Birmingham) Ltd. meat salesmen
6/7 Potter John Ltd. imported meat salesmen
17 Whitehouse George & Co. (B'ham) Ltd. flexible tube mfrs. (Barford tube works)
..... here is Barford st .....
Birmingham Garages Ltd. (The), service & filling station
..... here is Rea st .....
31 The Royal Oak P.H
32 Nation Geo. shopkpr
36 Ashton Richard & Co. Ltd. grey ironfounders
Perks N. Ltd. iron & steel scrap mers
Electricity Sub-Station
..... here is Birchall st .....
68 & 70 Smith Francis Tools Ltd. tool mfrs
Harrison (B'ham) Ltd (works)
..... here is Lombard st .....
80 Improved Metallic Appliances Ltd. (The), sheet metal pressings
89 Elliott E. Ltd. plastics moulders
92 Stuart Electrical Co. Ltd
93 Fountain P.H
..... here is Alcester st .....
94 Pickering R. turf commission agt
98 Calthorpe Engineering Products Ltd. precision engnrs
102 Anni's Cafe
106 to 109 Cheapside Stamping & Pressing Co. (1963) Ltd. hot brass pressings
106/109 Hawkins E. A. & Co. Ltd. brassfounders
106/109 Baker & Reynolds Ltd. machinists
British Road Services Ltd. (Cheapside branch)
126/127 Lancaster Bros. & Co. (Birmingham) Ltd. paper bag mkrs
..... here is Moseley rd .....
148 Nichols Joseph & Son Ltd. wire workers
158 Booth Samuel & Co. Ltd. brass founders (Cheapside works)
161 Roadley Jn. & Sons Ltd. toy dlrs (regd. office)
162/164 Midland Counties Dairy Ltd. (The) (depot)
..... here is Alcester st .....
178 Hales Mrs Florence May, shopkpr
181 Bishop, Mrs Edith Phyllis, newsagt
182 Matthews C. fried fish dlr
197 Rose & Crown P.H
..... here are Lombard & Birchall streets .....
221 Naval Ordnance Inspection Dept. & Radiological & Spectrographic Depts is Rea st .....
here is Sherlock street east
I love the way the entry in Kelly's directory keeps the real surprise for the end! I see that the naval ordnance inspection department was a department of the admirality, and its records are available online should you be interested, as I imagine were the radiological and spectographic departments! Actually it isn't so odd that the more technological side of defence should have had an office here, because of the amount of industry and technology which has always been based in the Midlands. I also particularly love that there is a profession called 'fried fish dealer': how that differs from running a fish and chip shop I am unable to say, but it speaks of a past age of trade. And can there really be such a business as a paper bag maker anymore?
Image credits: and

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

My Bathroom Books Redux

Since I last posted here about the books I keep in my bathroom, I have noticed that the blogosphere tends to promote posts about this sort of thing, so here I am with an updated review of what I am reading while sacrificing to Cloacina.
From left to right, we have a little book about astrology which I haven't opened yet, but since discovering that the Golden Dawn astrological correspondences for the tarot were much more comfortable to my mind than the Tree of Life correspondences, I have set my mind to trying to learn a bit about astrology. You will notice the rather ambivalent way I write about this study. Years ago I learned both Latin and Greek, having multiple goes at both. I just took to Latin like a duck to water, but for some bizarre reason Greek never stuck with me, and I have a feeling that while it will illuminate the tarot further, I feel it will be a system which will not stick with me.
Next is the wonderful Discovering Scarfolk by Richard Littler. His Scarfolk blog is one of the things I keep bookmarked on my phone and check often. The irony is, I find the book actually makes me want to go to Scarfolk. You will notive I have separated it from the Little Book of Birmingham, in case anyone makes comparisons between the two places.
Booth's Handbook of Cocktails and Mixed Drinks (by John Doxat) is the book to which I credit ny discovery that gin is called 'dry gin' on the bottle because it started off life as a sweet drink. Normally one of a sweet tooth, I can't begin to imagine what it must have tasted like. I will happily drink cocktails if I'm out in the sort of places which do them - I like a rusty nail but can chomp on negronis all evening - but would never dream of making them at home. Far too much like hard work. But one has to maintain a certain facade of sophistication so at least knowing about cocktails is de rigeur. That book is also fascinating for the way it talks about making and drinking cocktails as pastimes or hobbies. We are of course looking back to a time when smoking cigarettes was obligatory, but it is interesting how it now comes across as a manual for the alcoholic.
While it is obviously a medical textbook, The Oxford Handbook of Psychiatry is more interesting than most. As a weirdo myself, it appeals because it describes some of the wilder frontiers of human experience and behaviour. I have even been accused of having erotomania myself in the past, but of course that is all rumour. I bought the astronomy book by mistake when I wanted a book about astrology, but it is nonetheless fascinating to dip into.
I have only just been able to have it back in the house, but the next book I want to comment on is The Voice of Tobacce by Richard Craze. It is subtitled as his diary of stopping smoking, and unfortunately he died of smoking-related diseases after it was published. If I were to say that in that case he could have carried on smoking, he would understand that I am not merely being cynical, but listening to my own voice of tobacco. I didn't even realise it had one until I read this book and started listening, and I am delighted to announce that my own voice of tobacco is Fenella Fielding, in the scene in Carry on Screaming when she asks the sergeant if he minds if she smokes. This is the book for me which best portrays the smoker's real relationship with his substance. I roared with laughter as I read it, recognising myself and my father so often in the book. I have only just had it back but am ambivalent about reading it again because I got such a strong craving the other day as I walked poast the tobacconists, and this is six years after stopping smoking. Perhaps you never stop being a smoker once you've started, but that's ok, the relationship with tobacco is something with which nothing else compares.
I have been wanting to read Jacklyn Cock's Maids and Madams - about white madams and domestic servants in Apartheid-era South Africa - for ever. All those nine of Pentacles-type women, who have now had the tables turned on them and live in fear of being burgled, murdered, and what have you. Actually, I'm interested to notice another study of power in amongst those few books - Richard Davenport-Hines's An English Affair, about the Profumo Affair. Well. It's about facades, pretence, and privilege really. I really don't want this blog to sound like a conspiracy theorist's dream, but the Establishment seems always to create this web of privilege and corruption, which is always revealed just after the key players have died. Does nobody else notice this?
Finally the last book is one of the I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue spin-off books. See, I am middle class after all.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Tarot Never Stops Giving

As so often on this blog, which is simply aimed at education and edification and not at pictures of half-naked men, I am today going to reveal another of these great secrets of occultism. And without more ado, here is the Hound's finding on the subject:
Because the universe is a bit random, divination methods have to be as well.
If you want that in more technical language, it is probably the embodiment of the principle of 'as above, so below'. The cards show the events of the invisble and material worlds, and because the unexpected can always happen, the cards have some surprises up their sleeves. What I specifically mean here, is that it would be very wrong to say, for example, that you have got at *the* meaning of a tarot card. Any divination method worth its salt will be able to jump up and surprise you with something completely unexpected. And this variance is found in the different ways of understanding tarot cards, which are all ultimately ways of assigning experiences or events to a particular card. It is also a common experience that particular understanding will come or go as the student is ready.
I was reminded of this when working a night shift recently. It was a very quiet night and my two colleagues and myself sat and I showed them some tarot cards on my phone. They had never even seen the cards before, and the only thing I told them was that they work by the reader projecting onto the card their own inner world so that the person's psychology is revealed by how they see the actual images. I was very interested to find that from a literally standing start both of them were absolute naturals, and in fact just by seeing how two people without preconceptions would see tarot cards, I actually learned a lot about what they can show. Of course it helped that the two people were intelligent and open to the idea of just describing a picture and making connections.
This little experiment reinforces the conviction I have had forever that it isn't really possible to be dogmatic about how to read the cards. In fact anyone can read them - as long as the deck is a pictorial one. In fact I have always suspected that the snobbery about the Marseille tarot is a way of keeping it in the hands of a clique of 'experts'. The major way of understanding the tarot cards for the past century has been looking at them and seeing what they show.
It is also very apparent to me that because so many people have had a go at creating maps of the universe over the centuries, different ones will come into play for an individual at different times. One I have previously tried to learn and actually did understand at one point, is the attribution of the tarot cards to the qabalistic Tree of Life. This is of course a venerable magical way of understanding the universe. My personal difficulty with it as it relates to tarot is that I always think the Majors should be on the sephiroth and the Minors on the paths, rather than the other way round, which always seems to me to imply that the Minors influence the Majors. The other major arguments about the Tree and the tarot (such as whether or not tsaddi is the Star - if you want to know about this one you really will have to look elsewhere on the internet) suggest to me that the Golden Dawn attempted to marry the tree and the tarot and there are a few problems.
They succeeded better with astrological correspondences - this is of course my personal opinion, and I think the reason they succeeeded better was that they actually moved the tarot round to fit the astrological signs. I don't have a problem with that, myself, since the point I started this post with was that divination systems have to be mutable to cope with the chaotic nature of the universe. I never got on well with this system, and in fact always found astrology rather implausible until two things happened. Don't get me wrong, the sort of free-form witch I am absorbs knowledge by conduction rather than anything else so that I am unlikely ever to internalise a complicated magical system, but astrology's worth was suddenly revealed to me. I have a friend who is a much more studious witch than me, and she commented to me that I don't seem at all like an Aries to her, much more like a Taurus. I swear I hadn't already told her this, but the fact is that I should have been a Taurus: I was born a month early. I simply couldn't wait to get out of my mother, and I wasn't receiving enough nourishment or developing properly so I was born at a bouncing 3lb 2oz and am a month older than I should be. My friend had correctly divined that actually I was functioning as if I was a different star sign, the one I should have been born under!
The other thing which brought home to me that there may be something about is a sudden conjunction between the astrological understanding of the tarot and my own understanding of the cards. I found among my notes on tarot, the cards attributed by the Golden Dawn to Leo, which is my mother's sign. Regular readers will know that my relationship with my mother is at best ambivalent and at worst totally conflictual, so it comes as no surprise to me what her birth sign's cards are (pictured). I can see my mother in those pictures clear as anything, in fact they look like a family album!
The astrological attributions of the cards have therefore become my current understanding of choice. Of course I may return to the qabala at some point and being me, reserve the right to understand the cards as I damn well please. Personally I find the Inappropriate Tarot tumblr very very revealing indeed, and am currently reading a book called Tarot for Grownups. The journey of tarot literally never ends, but the reader can find himself on different pathways as he goes along.