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.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Mystery on Hill Street

Today, one of those mysteries which has been puzzling me for a long time, and while my investigations in the library have cast some light on it I still don't fully have the history at my fingertips.
The picture which illustrates this post is of the remains of a building in a car park on Hill Street (B5) next to the former Crown Inn. I have been passing it for yonks and wondered what that stump of a building could be. Appearances would suggest a rather grand-ish building: I haven't gone close enough to see but it looks as if it was faced with terracotta on a brick structure, so the only thing which stopped me imagining that it was another gin palace was the close proximity of The Crown.
The Crown next door, and the fact St Jude's church used to be just over the road, should have made it relatively easy to find images of the area, but I have completely failed to find any pictures of that part of Hill Street as it was before my mystery building was demolished. Or rather before the owners of the land had someone in who thankfully left a bit of the building as a boundary, leaving a mystery for the Hound to look into years later. My own Kelly's Directory of 1967-8 was no use at all, showing nothing at all in that gap. So a trip to the library was indicated to look back through the street directories, so this post will go back in time rather than forward, because even in Kelly's the trail vanishes.
The last indication of a building in use I have found on that spot (it's number 23-25 Hill Street), is 1962, Harry J Evans was running his motor car dealers business from there. I would therefore theorise that it was after that the building was demolished. Mr Evans seems to have begun his business (at least at that address) after the Second World War, and the property was empty through the war years.
A previous motor sales business at this address was run by Henry Garner Ltd (his earliest appearance is 1914) - but in the 1930s the address was shared by Frederick Marsh Ltd, mantle manufacturers. This both suggests that business wasn't brisk enough to take up the whole building, and also shows the distance in time - I imagine Marsh Ltd manufactured gas mantles, surely an industry which has completely died out now.
In fact the site has a long connection with motor dealerships because in 1912 is the first record of Burn and Gould, motor car agents, operating from the address. However the site further shows industry evolving in the area because from 1909 to 1910 (with again no entry in 1911) the site was occupied by Millington and Sheldrick Ltd, paper manufacturers. I imagine the relatively grand building was constructed with a showroom space on the ground floor (which was obviously adapted to showing different goods over the years) and manufacturing rooms above. Sadly unless a picture appears we will now never know.
My hypothetical showroom had yet another previous use, since from 1900 the property was occupied by C. H. Price and Sons, house furnishers.
And I'm afraid 1900 is as far back as I can go - the directories further back never show anything at this address. As for what was there before, I really do have to guess, although since the whole of that area was redeveloped and gentrified through the 19th century, it could have been slum dwellings. So it looks as if the history of my stump will never be completely elucidated, but appears to be the remains of a building built around 1900 and used for a bare sixty-something years before being demolished, until the neighbourhood witch wandered past another fifty-five years later and wondered what was there before.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Never Alone: Divine as Spirit Companion

'A Witch Alone' and 'Wicca - A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner' are two of the better-known titles of books for people learning my sort of witchcraft. I have read both of them, and learned things from them, before developing on using the skills I learned, into my own sort of witch. Of course the titles of those books and all others of their ilk are a bit of a misnomer - they actually mean to address witches who are not members of covens. I have a feeling that the authors of both would agree with my own bold assertion that it is impossible ever to be alone as a witch.
As magical people one of the foundational principles we live is the interconnectedness of all things. Yes, of course it is possible for me to be disconnected from another person or thing, but that has to be a conscious disconnection, and much of the work of magic is deciding which connections we make. As soon as anyone starts the practice of magic, any nearby beings of any description sit up and pay attention, and that is why so many magical traditions so strongly emphasise cleansing and stilling rituals.
Nor are we alone on our own plane. Witches instinctually know each other and are drawn to each other. Even not in a formal coven the witch will find herself with other pagical practitioners around her, and this can sometimes cause some weirdness in events, since not all planes are functioning at the same time.
In my last post I said that I was going to get some supplies to cast a spell and get rid of my supervisor. I have decided not to, because two of my magical companions have already commented that she is as good as gone. For one thing I wouldn't want to slap the universe's gift of liberation, in the face.
For another thing, I can instinctually feel when magic is working and the way I always know is that I get a feeling of ecstasy. I mean this word literally in the sense of standing outside of normal reality and I JUST KNOW. The initial irritation has also left me completely, so I know that the problem has been dealt with and it has left  me to go home to roost. For another the universe always ushers new paths, resources, and people into my way when this happens. I have several unconventional magical companions, who are mostly dead, but a couple are more like egregores. Yes, he's dead, but older readers will remember in the lovely Grant Morrison's Invisibles when King Mob invoked the spirit of John Lennon as of a god. I'm very fond of the egregore of Patsy Stone from Absolutely Fabulous, personally, but I have remade the acquaintance of someone who has appeared on the edges of my world now and then for years. 'You will dance, sing, feast, make music and love, all in my praise,' says the Goddess in Aradia, and I'm delighted that I can provide an ecstatic song sung by one of my inspirations/magicl companions, egregores, below.

Friday, August 11, 2017

My Destiny, Will, and Bliss

I haven't had to post about my work life here for some time. Regular readers will remember that I literally walked out of my last but one employers without notice. I am delighted to announce that they have recently been inspected by the body which regulates our industry and the report is, frankly, abysmal. I knew for a fact it was bad, but if they can't even get it together for an inspection, it's falling apart even faster than I thought it was. I will also leave it to the gentle reader to wonder whether The Hound can claim any credit for their tumbling down the league tables.
My new employer is much better. One of the strangest things is that the boss is extraordinarily able to handle me, much the best manager I have ever had in that respect. And we all know that if an INFJ likes you we'll happily throw the rule book out of the window and eat out of your hand, so he's onto a good thing.
Unfortunately he's made a bit of a mistake in employing the woman who is my immediate supervisor. She's not actually bad (see, here is a rare opportunity for the Hound to be a model of reasonableness and restraint), but she's been promoted beyond her ability. The team is fortunately made up of very able and very young people, so that it leads itself, because her ability to lead isn't that good and she's very keen on telling other people what to do when she isn't performing that well herself. When it came to her appraisal, the feedback from the team was overwhelmingly bad about the way she speaks to people and her attitude generally. Apparently this has dented her confidence to the extent that she's having difficulty going on - as you can see she is what I believe is called in army sarcastic slang, a 'born leader of men'. As a result of this loss of confidence she has become even more hands off than she already was and in fact even sits away from the rest of the team, facing into a corner. I have limited sympathy for her because she took the job thinking that it would be a stepping stone to something else that she thinks she wants to do.
The reason any of this is appearing on this blog is as a preface to the fact that I do feel witches have a purpose. I had a go at witchcraft many years ago and returned during a difficult period of my life. I had some people who owed me (how familiar) and would not sit with them having wronged me, but didn't know what to do because I had read a lot of fluffy literature about sweetness and light. A friend put me right by telling me that the witch's function is to hold up a mirror to people so that they can then get on with their own life's work, lightened of whatever rubbish they've got going on. This is the reason I'm perpetually surrounded by conflict (which I don't start) and idiots (whom I abhor): the universe sends them to me because I can deal with them, so that I end up attracting the same nonsense repeatedly.
But this time I'm in a markedly different place. I've decided what I'm going to do on a very simple principle, which is to ask myself whether I want this idiot to be in my life at all. The answer is of course, no, and tomorrow I'll be popping to the market because there are some things I want to attain this end. She'll learn her lesson if she hasn't already and I won't have her in my life at all.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Trouble with Gifts

Many years ago, I had a fundamentalist Christian tell me that she stuck to the 'Biblical' position of sex as gift; that statement struck me as having something wrong with it at the time and it has taken me over two decades to realise just what it was made me so uncomfortable about it.
For a start, you will notice that I have put inverted commas around her assertion that her opinion is of the Bible. If you actually read what the bible has to say about sex, it is presented as far more of a problem for humans, and there is much more concern to regulate humans' sexual behaviour. My humble opinion is that the actual Biblical position on sex is therefore that it is a base urge which is to be practiced only in certain ways, to be contained, and that this is the law of God. I'll probably get hate comments for saying this, but in my experience, when a Christian describes an opinion as 'Biblical', what they are actually saying is that it is their opinion and they have the backing of the Old Man Upstairs, who wrote it in this here book.
The other thing that made me uncomfortable about her position is that I don't like the idea of things being gifts, purely for the reason that it tends to put the emphasis on the giver, rather than the gift or the recipient. Anyone who has had any contact with Christian culture will have been struck by this dynamic - actually everything is God's gift and he is to be thanked. This idea takes us straight to the major problem at the heart of Christian theology - why bad things happen to good people, a question they get themselves in some incredible contortions to try to solve.
The problem of gift is illustrated by the picture which illustrates this post. It is the foundation stone of the library in Selly Oak, one of several 'Carnegie' libraries in Birmingham. Andrew Carnegie is recorded as the second wealithiest person in modern history (he made his money through industry) and made a practice of endowing libraries. His practice was only to give funds to places where the recipients would also put resources into the running and maintenance of the libraries, and so his incredible wealth meant that he not only has his name memorialised the world over, it means he also got to control the places to which he gave libraries, for time to come.
My problem therefore with gifts is that they glorify the giver but also allow the giver to retain the power over both the gift and the recipient. This goes for the matter of sex, wth which I started this post, just as much as it does for any Carnegie libraries. I had come across witchcraft at that point, although was very early in the series of traumatic events which propelled me into the craft, but even then I was uneasy with this top-down dynamic which I now recognise as reinforcing a dynamic of power and dependence.
How to alter the 'gift' dynamic? Naturally I don't have an easy answer to that one, but suffice to say you won't tend to catch the Hound thanking divinity for stuff. This may seem terribly ungrateful but that is because I don't see myself as her specially favoured recipient of favours, nor even see the things I have as coming from her. I don't have any easy answer to the question of why I have the things I do, but since I don't primarily see them as the gift of divinity, I have effectively ducked the question of why she doesn't give them to other people. Yes, I am relatively prosperous and privileged, but that is for an incredibly complicated set of reasons - to reduce these reasons to a gift of divinity is to negate the injustices that have led to where the world is today. To glorify the giver is a slap in the face to the people who have been disenfranchised to allow other people's prosperity.
At this point I am rather grinding to a halt with my original thought - which was why I am uncomfortable with the idea of things as gifts. What therefore is a witchy way to look on these things? I would like to propose a philiosophy at this point, which will synthesis all the difficult questions of rights, advantage, probably take account of several world religions, and end by creating a world where everybody gets on and there is world peace. But you've guessed it, that's way beyond me and everyone else throughout history. However, I'm a witch to my fingertips so wouldn't really claim to have the old man upstairs on my side, and also don't really want other people to do as I say. I am therefore going to steal a philosophy from Tristram Shandy: ''So long as a man ride his HOBBY-HORSE peaceably and quietly along the king's highway, and neither compels you or me to get up behind him, - pray, Sir, what have either you or I to do with it?'
Image credit: https://billdargue.jimdo.com/placenames-gazetteer-a-to-y/places-s/selly-oak/