Monday, September 19, 2016

You Will be Free from Slavery

'You will be free from slavery', that is one of the textbook things which the Goddess of the witches has been saying since the beginning of the movement. In fact before the beginning of the movement, since the phrase comes from Leland's Aradia, and very much encompasses Michelet's view of the witch cult as a revolutionary power. The majority of modern witches are not living in the serf-like conditions envisaged in Aradia, although Goddess knows there are times when it is tempting to use the powers of the witch to leave the powers that be dead in their palaces. This change in external conditions has tended to change the nature of the freedom the witch seeks, and for me, there is a very real sense in which one of the disciplines of witchcraft is to be free from the things that hold us back. The relinquishing of internal things – ideas, preconceptions and attachments – is the necessary precursor of external freedom, not forgetting that magical ability is frequently released by sacrifice, counter-cultural action, and the freedom of the practitioner then ensues.
I myself have experienced this only this week. Regular readers of this blog will know of my ongoing conflict with my employers which have culminated in them giving me a warning and promoting me in the same month. That'll take some explaining in the tribunal (you can tell the way this is going, can't you?). Anyway last week one of the directors pissed me off one time too many, by doing something which is defined as bullying in their policy and was also done to me by the complainants against me. She was simply and solely thinking she would get in there and have a pop at me in the hope that I would have a go at her so she could discipline me. So I thought, this is where you pucker up and kiss my ass (does anyone else hear Director Skinner saying that and want actually to do it?). I worked the rest of my shift, but something had changed for me. It has been very difficult for me to work there for years, but like an abusive marriage you get accustomed to it. What had changed was that I no longer needed to stay, it was obvious that the trouble was never going to end. In fact, I felt physically sick at the thought of working my next shift. I thought about it and spent the weekend writing my letter of resignation. I have to say it's a beauty. Perhaps after the tribunal I'll even publish it here. I read round on the internet – I know you're supposed to get legal advice about these things first but by Sunday evening I couldn't have stood another day in that place. Since Acas were all over it when I asked their advice, I think that probably they've breached my contract in many ways over many years. I took note of the loopholes that employers try to use to get out of these things and tried to make sure they were plugged. I put everything in. My resignation letter is three pages long with a word count of 2,000 words. It's a beauty. I haven't tried to be nice at all, and it is very clear that I am describing a shambles. I went in to hand it in this morning and walked straight out.
I have to say the telephone woman at the solicitor's was actually really shocked when she asked me to summarise the problems I've been having at work. I've shown the letter to a trusted colleague and even she was shocked to see it all in one go. The upshot is I have an appointment with a solicitor on Thursday. It feels remarkably good to have unjobbed myself from that employer (and the fact I'd been there 16 years will only increase the trouble for them at the tribunal). I am actually free from that particular slavery. I'm guessing they thought I wouldn't do that and would be satisfied with the sop of a promotion. This is what my former employers don't want and I see from a one card draw that their reaction to my epistle by the end of close of business was Strength. Even those idiots can see that I've broken free and are wondering how to tether me. Well, now I'm not an employee of theirs, they can't. My goodness, it feels good.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Sexual Abuse in the Tarot

My last post was about the tarot revealing to me that a colleague has been screwed up by being sexually abused and my resolution therefore not to read his cards for him. This decision feels a bit lily-livered on consideration, and I have wound up thinking about how tarot would show sexual abuse and how to talk about it if it comes up in a reading, in a broader way.
The following are the cards which would suggest sexual abuse for me personally. As usual I am  not claiming that this list is in any way perfect, and of course most of the cards will be modified by others around them to indicate subtleties, and of course court cards in particular will indicate people involved.
II High Priestess: There's no getting away from it that the secrecy element of this card could be twisted into the secrecy involved in hiding abuse.
IX Hermit: This is another of those cards which has a distasteful undertone. Far from simply being the Golden Dawn's 'Magus of the Voice of Light, the Prophet of the Gods', a friend of mine refers to this as the 'wanker' card! The hermit is a card of isolation and thus can rebound on the target of abuse as meaning isolation with the abuser. There is literally nobody to turn to here at all, such a common experience in an abusive situation.
XV The Devil: This one rather speals for itself but I feel that more obviously it could refer to a Joseph Fritzel type of abuse, of literally being tied up in a cellar, for example. There are overtones of addiction in this card, which in sexual terms I suppose translates into an inability to keep away from sex, and specifically an inability to get away from a dangerous sexual expression. I would not see it as referring to 'Satanic ritual abuse', which I see as a common folk belief with no real existence in our culture. In a reading if the querent started talking about Satanic ritual abuse I would stop the reading and refer them to the police at once. No prosecution will ensue, because nobody has ever come up with the evidence that this actually happens.
XVIII The Moon: The friend who refers to the Hermit as  the wanker card calls this one the anus card! In an attempt to reclaim my reputation as being a reputable tarotist and this blog's reputation as a serious witchcraft blog, I would have to say that Waite refers to this trump as meaning that the mystery illuminated is our animal nature. There is an absence of 'higher' help here, and since it one of the weirder tarot cards, a sense that anything could happen, quite apart from the obvious sexual imagery of the moon and the towers.
3 of Cups: I have seen this considered as a card that refers to kinky sex, in the sense of a threesome, even though I don't get that impression from it myself. It could refer to a paedophile ring, I suppose, but I would think that that kind of thing would be better shown by the 10 of Pentacles.
6 of Cups: I am told that I have a personal bias towards reading this card in a 'reversed' way, which probably says more about me than you could wish to know! Actually I don't read with reversals unless I'm using an Eteilla deck, and prefer to see the upright and reversed meanings as shades of meaning within the card, but I definitely see this one as referring to childhood and specifically something horribly wrong with childhood. Tell me that it doesn't have to be that way and I will agree, but I will also caution against pretending that childhood is a happy time: for an awful lot of people it is awful.
7 of Cups: This one refers in a straightforward way to the threats and lies of the abuser. It should be approached with caution in a reading, because the survivor of the abuse will often have conflicted emotions towards the abuser, to the extent that people often report actually enjoying being sexually abused.
5 of Pentacles: The obvious reference is to the loneliness and isolation caused by abuse, the need to keep this secret which is actually damaging. The Morgan-Greer deck shows the female comforting the male who is injured and thus it may refer to a helper. It could of course mean an actual journey to get away from an abuse or a journey in the sense of lifting a stone on abuse and all the ensuing changes.
10 of Pentacles: Home, sweet home, and thus one of the most likely settings for sexual abuse possible. People are most likely to be abused, murdered, and so on, by somebody they know. The old-fashioned concept of stranger danger is largely illusory. This card could also refer to family in a wider setting in that I'm sure a lot of paedophiles will introduce the child to any number of 'aunties ' and 'uncles'.
9 of Swords: Again a very literal image of sitting up in bed dreading what is going to happen.
Of course in a reading it is not enough to see that something has happened. So I have asked my tarot deck what to say to the person who has a history of sexual abuse. The card that leapt out at me as I shuffled was XXI The World! I was using my Morgan-Greer deck, and I think there was a message for me personally, that when the tarot reveals something to the reader, it also gives us a task. It is the task of the reader to help the querent end their history or cycle of abuse, by whatever means necessary. This of course may mean ringing the police, it may mean engaging in psychotherapy, it may mean a ritual to end the process. I find it interesting that the advice from tarot here is actually fairly non-specific, which is what I was expecting, and so must be tailored to the individulal circumstances. Some people are just not ready even to unpack their history of abuse. Some people may have had abuse and genuinely not remember anything about that time of their life (if that is the case, for Goddess's sake don't start telling them what you see, because 'recovered' memories can be the most dangerous things out there).
In the case of what to say to the colleague who asked me to read his cards, I get the answer 4 of wands. Hmm... That's a don't tell him, then. Or rather, it's a message to talk to him about family so that I wander up to the subject but don't actually go there and see what happens.

Image credit:

Monday, September 12, 2016

Respecting Divination Tools

I can't find it offhand, but I'm sure I posted some time ago about playing a card game with a friend's tarot cards and having the strange experience of the game just going on and on. Of such things is created folklore of the sort where someone doesn’t treat an entity with enough respect and it bites them in the bum.
I find it very interesting the way experienced magical people talk about magic as if it is a thing in itself, and so treated as if it has a certain autonomy. I suppose this could be paralleled by the way you sometimes hear people talk about electricity as a bad master, and something to be treated with care. In just such a way the tarot is something to be treated with care, and also similarly to electricity it just keeps on giving.
The need to treat the tarot's gifts with respect was reinforced to me only this weekend when a colleague who knows I'm into any amount of weird shit, asked me to read his cards. I didn’t have any with me so when I told him so it happened to be true. But now I'm faced with the quandary that I'm never going to be able to read them at all because when I got home I drew some cards for him.
I have actually never seen it so clearly but a picture of childhood sexual abuse, which has left him fairly screwed up for life, appeared as clear as a bell.
Obviously this means that now I can never read his cards and am going to have to keep making excuses...

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Doreen Valiente: Witch

I am disproportionately pleased to announce that what I have done on my holiday is a) get my cistern fixed so it flushes then stops and b) finally finished reading this book by Philip Heselton.
I say finally because the book seems to have had the most remarkable effect. I have been trying to read it sitting in the park or on the canal bank, and it has been remarkable the number of men who have approached me and insisted I admire their erect penises while I have been reading. Old Doreen has always been one of my heroes and I imagine she would think it hilarious that this stopped me reading her biography.
And yet, she was such a different witch from me. It has been years since I have been inclined to join anything, and my every foray into the pagan community has been blighted by the fact that, frankly, they all annoy me. This probably indicates a lot about me, but I'm interested in how Doreen was repeatedly initiated, into different traditions. You will all know by now that my personal opinion is that the witch is not created by another's initiation and that the craft of the wise is not ancient.
Notwithstanding this, Doreen was so obviously a witch, and a great one. I say this because she lived intentionally and followed the leads of her own world, to explore the invisible mysteries. I particularly like the description of how she once cleared mice out of her flat by playing the recorder to them until they moved in up the road. I love that Gerald Gardners BOS was bound in snake skin, the old rogue. I love the tales of warring witches going back to the 1960s.
My one criticism is that I find this to be an overly denominational work. I didn't need to hear Heselton's opinion that if you're not initiated you shouldn't call yourself a witch, and it was not germane to the book. In fact Doreen's own published opinion was that you tell a witch by her works.
I finished the book on a train and felt a strong, mischievous desire to leave it on the train to be picked up by someone else. Could this have been the mysterious ghost of Doreen inspiring me to spread the magic on?

Friday, August 26, 2016

Further Reflections on the Witch Figure

The events of the last... Ooh, well, the whole of my life really, have caused me to think again about the effect that the witch has on her environment, and particularly on people, even if they don't know she is a witch.
For me a major element of the witch figure is that the witch tends to be very values-driven but that these values are not always apparent to other people. This creates an ambivalence in other people because it is difficult or impossible to read the witch's inner world and values.
Combine this with the simple fact that most witches are past masters at reading the situation around them and thus knowing what is coming next, and this is a figure almost guaranteed to cause discomfort in other people.
To take this one step on, it is only necessary to consider that the mere presence of the witch makes things happen. Now for example, I have a tendency to dig my heels in, and also one to shoot my mouth off. This means that I will perpetually be in situations where those actions are either necessities or else where I have to learn to deal with those tendencies and manage them properly.
Years of the witching have taught me that there is no point trying to avoid that. I am comfortable with this simple fact now - and surely a failure to agonise about 'why me' must be one of the most frightening things possible to the world around me. That said, the fact that the sort of situations in which I am required either to dig my heels in or shoot my mouth off, magically create themselves around me, is probably the most frightening aspect possible of the witch figure, for other people that is.
You see, it is not enough that people habitually project all their fears and insecurities onto the witch, it also happens that an encounter with the witch will involve lessons for other people. You can phrase it how you like, and I have heard it called correcting karma and all sorts of things, but this is the main purpose of the witch in the world: to do ones own work in this incarnation and enable or cause others to do theirs.
Muggles are often further surprised by the working out in the witch's life of the magical axiom that apparent polar opposites are connected to each other in such a way that they can easily become each other. For example my tendency to dig my heels in means that the lesson people can often have to learn from an encounter with me, is the apparently opposite one, that things have to come to a natural end and there is no point trying to spin them out further.
I suppose the point of these reflections is that the witch figure - and so the person of the witch - is one that is largely fated to cause discomfort in others. But that said, naturally the polar opposite is also the case. An encounter with the witch also causes laughter and pleasure because once the karma is dealt with another feature of the witch thing is that balance is to be sought. I know I keep banging on that both the black magicians and the white lighters are on a hiding to nothing, but it happens to be true! The comforting yet terrifying lesson from a witch encounter is that you can't expect life to be all good or bad, and in fact those divisions may well be the most illusory things there are.
Now if people would just stop blaming the witch for anything they don't like, life would be perfect...

Friday, August 19, 2016

Time Travel: Smallbrook Queensway

There is talk of redevelopini ng one of the modernist buildings on Smallbrook Queensway (formerly known as Ringway until the Queen misunderstood what was meant by opening the Queensway and the whole inner ring road became the Queensway). It is the first part of the Inner Ring Road to be completed and even manages to get an honorific mention in the Birmingham Pevsner:
‘From here [Holloway Head Roundabout] Smallbrook Queensway runs E. The best piece of mid-C20 urban design in the city, and the only stretch of the Inner Ring Road built as a boulevard, rather than an urban motorway. Much of the effect is due to the S side. First the plain former Scala House, offices and cinema by James A Roberts, 1962-4. Then a single six-storey block by Roberts of 1958-62 runs as far as the Bull Ring. Grand urban scale, and a good balance between the thin concrete mullions, bands of windows, and relief panels. Projecting concrete trough uplighters give it excellent relief. In the centre a glazed section bridges Hurst Street on raking concrete pillars.’ (Andy Foster: Pevsner Architectural Guides: Birmingham. Yale University Press, New Haven, 2005, p. 201.)
Architect Joe Holyoak has waded into the battle (it seems that the fans of modernist architecture are becoming more alarmed at the rate at which Birmingham’s 1960s buildings are vanishing, girded by the fate of the Central Library):
' Roberts' Queensway building is a grand and elegant urban gesture. Its curvature on plan and sweeping horizontal lines, its rhythm of vertical fins, together with its characteristic projecting concrete uplighters, make it still the most impressive piece of modern streetscape in the city, even 54 years after its completion.
It is directly comparable with the work of John Nash in the early 19th century, when Nash cut the curving new boulevard of Regent Street through a tangle of lanes and alleys in London and lined it with elegant neoclassical commercial buildings.
But the Smallbrook Queensway building is now threatened">by a redevelopment proposed by its ownersCEG (Commercial Estates Group).
CEG proposes to demolish the section between Hurst Street and Horse Fair, including the bridge over Hurst Street, and to rebuild it as residential apartments. A tower of at least 22 storeys is proposed on the corner with Hurst Street.
'The section of the building between Hurst Street and the Bullring is proposed to be stripped back to its concrete frame and rebuilt, with two additional floors of offices added on top.
'Nothing of the original character of Roberts' building would survive this redevelopment. The architecture of the proposal is bland and unexceptional, lacking the distinctiveness of the existing building.
'The developer claims the continuous sweep of Roberts' building is maintained in the new proposal but this is not so as can clearly be seen in the published images.' (
I don’t dislike it, myself. I think that probably Norfolk House over the road is a better building architecturally, less fussy and more effective. SBQ 1, 2, and 3 (as the building is now known, see below for its original names) is effective from a distance. Close up it is rather repetitive, and when seen from behind, it is apparent that the façade is (as we would say locally) all kippers and curtains. There is the additional drawback that it is best seen from below the road level, and now that the subway into Hurst Street has been filled in, it cannot be seen in its most effective light. It has also been incredibly neglected, and what first made me look up the building in the books was overhearing a mother say to her daughter that the place was very neglected.
Be that as it may, this is a time travel post, and so as usual the Hound has turned to his Kelly’s Directory of 1967/8, since I find it fascinating to know what buildings were used for in the past. Of course that would have been well before the building’s architecture became unfashionable, and there were continual advertisements on it of offices to let. It is not completely clear to me what is where, since the names used for the buildings have changed, so I shall post the whole of that side of the Ringway after Scala House and up to the steps to the Bullring. The uses of the buildings start off in style:

…Here is Holloway Circus…
Locarno Ballroom (entrance)
21 Eastern Moon, restaurant
23 Ying Wa, Chinese restaurant
25/27 American Express Company Inc. (The), travel agts
29 Midland and Western House entrance
31 Nunn’s Barber Shop
31 Brooke Opticians (hearing aid dept)
31 Brooke Opticians
33 Bruno, ladies’ hairdrssrs
35 Government Bookshop, booksllrs
39 Pantheon Espresso

Laing John Construction Ltd. Bldg.. cntrctrs

1 Beekes Shoe Repairs
2/3 Thorley S. R. grocer
4/5 Comfort Shoe Warehouse Ltd. Shoe fctrs
6 Sewing Machine Shop (The), sewing machine dlrs
Withers (Tobacconist) Ltd. Tobccnsts
Leeson J. H. & Co. Ltd. Newsagts
… here is Hurst st …


Ground floor.
Lloyds Bank LTD

First Floor.
British Railways

Second floor.
British Railways

Third floor.
Initial Laundry Birmingham, laundries
Interior & Structural Cleaners (Midlands) Ltd. Office cleaners
Union of Shop, Distributive & Allied Workers

Fourth floor.
Shell Chemicals U.K. Ltd. Distributors
67 Powe Hector Ltd. Tailors
69 Sodazone Ltd. (Wimpy Bar), restaurant
71 Stylo Shoes Ltd. Shoe rtlrs
73/75 Paling Ltd. Outfitters
77 Collier Phillip Ltd. Tailors
79 Lewis Separates, ladies’ outfitters
81/83 Young’s Dress Hire, dress clothing hire


First floor.
Selwyn F. Maitland & Co. estate agts
Paling Ltd. (office), outfitters
Brittain Thos. & Co. chartered accntnts. Midland 4646/7/8
Jacks William & Co. Ltd. Metal mers
G.K.N. Steel Company Ltd. Steel mfrs
Woolley W. B. & Co. Ltd. Steamship agts
United States Lines, freight agts
National and Local Government Officers Association
Dictaphone Co. Ltd

Second floor.
Satchwell Appliance Controls Ltd. Thermostat mkrs
Satchwell Control Systems Ltd. Thermostat mkrs
Midlands Computing Centre Ltd. Computer bureau
Mann (Handling) Ltd. Conveyor and elevator mkrs
Tower Shipping (B’Ham) Ltd. Forwarding agts
Berisford S. & W. (Northern) Ltd. Sugar imptrs
SHAW, GILBERT & CO. F.A.I. Chartered auctioneers T.N. Midland 9125 (5 lines)
Capitol Motor Finance Ltd. Hire purchase financiers
E.M.I. Ltd. (Computing Services Division)

Third floor.
Planned Music Ltd. Music relay service
Bramley Oliver L. & Co. estate agts
Oakley, Vaughan & Co. Ltd. & at Lloyds, insur. Brkrs
English Steel Corporation Ltd. Steel mfrs
Renwick, Wilton & Dobson (Fuels) Ltd. Fuel distributors
Whitecroft Designs Ltd. Commrcl. Artists
FIRTH-VICKERS STAINLESS STEELS LIMITED, stainless steel manufrs. Telegraphic address, “Noncrode, Birmingham”; Telephone, Midland. 6877/8/9 (& Staybrite works, Sheffield 9)
Turvey B. H. & Co. accntnts
Midland Silicones Ltd. Chemcl. Mfrs

Fourth floor.
Ford Motor Co. Ltd. (design offices)
87/89 Stone T. & F. Lighting and Radio Ltd
91 Johnson’s (The) Jewellers (B’Ham) Ltd. Jewelers
95 Howard Hudson, optician
97 Scholl Foot Comfort Service

As is to be expected, these time travel posts always illuminate the past of a site, and even though this is only going back fifty years (the trouble with Brum is that if you go back even a decade beyond that the streets are unrecognizable) it is apparent that the building has fallen on hard times. Rather than the predominance of takeaways now, the businesses in the ground floor are relatively high class. Incidentally this proves how there were shops in the underpasses, and that shopping underground was normal for Brummies from the 60s up to the 90s!
The businesses which occupy the offices also include a high proportion of prominent large businesses, suggesting that this row of buildings was very desirable at the time. What has really changed is that there are only three telephone numbers (I have a feeling there may have been more, but that it required a higher payment to get it into Kelly’s, which of course was separate from the telephone directory. I also love Firth-Vickers’s telegraph address.
Anyone my age (I’m looking at you, Inexplicable) will automatically be taken back to their childhood by the Wimpy Bar. Anyone for a Bender in a Bun?

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Urban Grimoire: Incantation to Resolve Workplace Disputes

Plumbers, bank managers,  and now employers are the subjects of my urban Grimoire spells. They're only slightly tongue in cheek, since all acts are magical acts, and after all a lot of spells hinge on words being things and indeed actions. This is a very simple spell with incredible results if you have a spot of bother at work.
Just as background, I have changed my long-term policy of advising people to join a union. I am not convinced that today's trade unions serve any useful purpose and when the shit hits the fan I think you are better off if your employers mess it up.
Many years ago an employee of my organisation did something which was unquestionably wrong. He only escaped criminal charges because of a lack of evidence. He went through the usual disciplinary investigation and was dismissed. He unfortunately made the mistake of having a union represent him in this, and they protested that the organisation had not carried out his dismissal correctly. The organisation reinstated him and dismissed him again, this time properly. In his circumstances he'd have been better off being wrongfully dismissed and making a claim at a tribunal, instead of the union crowing that they'd forced the employer to dismiss someone fairly.
Thus we come to the incantation. Even without union membership you can get very good employment advice from the CAB or ACAS (obviously this applies to the UK only). You must prepare for this spell by seeking their advice and following it.
You are then ready to utter your incantation. Don't wait for the phase of the moon or whatever, because employment tribunals have time limits. Approach your manager/HR person and fearlessly introduce these words into the conversation :

'ACAS has advised me that... And so I am going to...'

The effect will be to stop them talking and make them listen. If they don't even do that, I discern it's time to get out of there for your own safety.
Of course this is the exact phrase I uttered myself this week. The director I posted about in my last post showed she is quality by actually asking what ACAS said and agreeing with it.
The upshot is that the manager who was supposed to be investigating me has had it taken out of his hands and we're doing it the director's way. He's also in for a good rap over the knuckles for doing it wrong and since he's spent his annual leave writing a report into me, my only problem now is that I can't sleep because every time I close my eyes I picture how annoyed he must be. Another one to me.