Monday, May 22, 2017

Urban Grimoire: The Freezer Spell

I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that 'a book in your own hand of write' is unnecessary for a witch of my stripe. It's not like I have mammoth rituals, for a start. And a book can only ever be the record of a particular time, and I continue to find that I am not repeatedly faced by the same situations. I will need different resources and inspirations as I go on. As the witch is ready, the challenges appear and the means to meet them. In my own case the freezer spell has recently come to my attention, and it's lush (as my new young colleagues would say). It's also dead easy.

Get a container which can go in the freezer. On paper write the name of the person you wish to freeze so that they can't do the thing you want to stop. You can use whatever convention and ritual you like for this. Put it in the container. Pour on water and put it in the freezer. Job done. (The only slight problem is a tendency for the paper to float to the top of the water and not be contained. This is easily remedied by adding more water halfway through freezing so that it's contained.)

I notice a major effect of this spell is on the magical practitioner rather than the target. As it freezes, the person or behaviour just ceases to be a problem - just exactly as if the heat has been taken out of the situation!

Oh hold on - Inexplicable likes me to post music, so here's a song which can be played while the water's freezing:

Image credit:

Saturday, May 20, 2017

In Which the Hound Finds Himself in an Ethical Quandary

I happened to walk into two opposing peotests in the city centre today, and true to form I found myself in agreement with both sides of the argument and yet neither. It didn't really help that I walked into the two sides in the 'wrong' order so that I met the marchers protesting the original march first. The actual organised event was the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children's March for Life, and the opposing side were pro-choicers of various stripes. My thoughts about these two opposing sides have made me think about how as a witch I approach this ethical dilemma and about the things on which I can base decisions as a witch.
I'd better put my cards on the table and admit that except in difficult cases, I am generally against abortion, but my reason would be that I know it can have long-term psychological consequences. As a witch, I also know that the 'ghosts' of our actions can haunt us, and that generally speaking we are best dealing with the consequences of our actions. Naturally I understand that this is a very complicated and emotive issue, and there are many circumstances where a legal and safe termination may be preferable to continuing the pregnancy.
That said I disagree with both the pro-life and pro-choice dialectic. The choice argument places the decision solely in the woman's own domain, and for that reason I think it is too simplistic an argument (let's see the comments that come in this post lol).
I have less sympathy for the 'pro-life' faction for a number of reasons. For a start it is again too narrow, focussing solely on the notional human life of the foetus and ignoring anyone else's life. To my mind it is therefore a misnomer, because the whole Catholic pro-life philosophy is not pro-life at all. Regular readers will know that I am an ex-Catholic and that my opinion is that the empirical facts indicate you cannot trust anything to the Catholic church's care - not an adult, not a building, and certainly not a child.
Nor do I believe that their religion should dictate the law. Lawmaking is another issue really beyond the scope of this post.
I found myself feeling more in sympathy with the feminist protesters as I thought about it, for the specious reason that they were at least less drab than the Catholic marchers. Yet, and yet, what do I actually want to happen? I suppose what I want is for women and their significant others to make informed decisions with access to all the information and to safe medical procedures without fear of intimidation. Yet I remain basically against termination myself.
It took me a while to realise that what I really want is for people to stand on their own two feet and make autonomous decisions based on what matters to them - pretty much exactly what I would wish for all people in all circumstances anyway. The issue has forced me to realise the underlying values I would apply, and I'm delighted to see that taking possession of ones own power is an eminently witchy one! The irony with termination as a witchy ethical dilemma is that of course in an ideal world, the person doing his or her will, will nor need to undo previous actions because they will be intentional. I say in an ideal world, because nobody can always control all variables in life.
You may say of course that I've come out far closer to the feminist choice argument, although I still think it may be over-simplistic. Given my prioritisation of the individual's will, I feel greater horror for the forcing of the 'pro-life' agenda, which is of course divinely revealed and so the mother and the foetus really count for nothing in comparison to the foor-stamping god.
This denigration of the individual can only lead to the denigration of human life.  To the contrary, you can always tell someone who is doing their will by their authority, responsibiliry, and joy: the ecstasy of the spirit which is of the Goddess.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Spirit of Place: Icknield Street School

Source: the iron room blog
In addition to the William Mitchell installation under the flyover, the school was my other reason for visiting Hockley yesterday. I said the school deserved a post of its own and here it is. It may seem that an apparently standard Victorian school would not merit a post on its own, and that would be the case anywhere else in the country, but the board schools of Birmingham are a different kettle of fish from those elsewhere in the country. Bearing in mind that the city was known for its nonconformity and rationalism, after the Elementary Education Act of 1870, which allowed alternatives to the otherwise religion-dominated church schools, the city set to with a will and by 1894 the Pall Mall Gazette could say:
In Birmingham you may generally recognize a board school by its being the best building in the neighbourhood. In London it is almost vice versa. With lofty towers which serve the utilitarian purpose of giving excellent ventilation, gabled windows, warm red bricks and stained glass, the best Birmingham board schools have quite an artistic finish. In regard to light and air the worst schools are equal to the best in London. Source
The lofty ideal of disinterested education for the improvement of all the population led to the Birmingham Board Schools having a rather characteristic design (a design you've already seen if you've been to the Icon Gallery, the former Oozells Street School):
[Joseph] Chamberlain believed that the architecture of schools should provide a pleasant contrast from the drab homes and environment of their pupils. The Chamberlain schools were designed for hygiene, light, fresh air and beauty. Typically in red brick and terracotta, gabled, with steep roofs supported by large arches of internally exposed ironwork, and freely planned, they were towered to provide ventilation using the Plenum system, with fresh air being drawn in from above the polluted ground level, heated if necessary, and vented also from the tower. The tower was typically placed over the staircase to draw air through the school. There were terracotta plaques, glazed tiles, ornamental ironwork, tall windows, and stained glass. Martin & Chamberlain worked for low remuneration to enable a healthy education. Source
Apart from its local significance, the building is a Grade 2* listed building, as is the Head Master's House which is of a piece with it. This is the listing for the school building itself:
Hockley B18
Icknield Street School
(St Chad's Roman Catholic
(formerly listed as
Icknield Street School)
SP 08 NE 7/61 16.9.81
1883, by Martin and Chamberlain. Red brick; tile roof with decorative ridge
tiles and finials. Partly 2- and partly 3-storeyed. Gabled bays, the principal
ones with triple windows, the others with couplets. All windows of lancet shape.
Good moulded chimney stack to the east wing. A major feature is the slated spire
rising in 3 stages separated by wooden louvres and terminating in elaborate
Listing NGR: SP0582888465 Source
Both of the buildings are separately on the Heritage at Risk Register in the highest category of buildings at immediate risk with no plan of any sort in place to safeguard them.
I'm going to have to be frank here, and say that while the building is clearly focked and has suffered outrageous neglect I can also see that the maintenance of this building would be a crippling nightmare. On a critical note, the cost of the scaffolding would be a small price to pay for the benefit to this building of sorting the drainage. If every single downpipe is running water down the brickwork, that means the owners don't give a shit. Ironically one of the features of this building, the tower, is a major weakness since it is bound to be prone to rot but also requires work at heights to maintain it. In no way is the hound excusing the scandalous mess this building is in: even closer to the ground woodwork is rotting away and you will see heaps of rubbish in the pictures. One thing that does seem to have been done is to put grilles over the windows to stop them being broken. I have read that the council are in negotiations with the owners to secure this building's future. It has already had a fire - I would hate to think that deliberate neglect would make this another listed building destroyed in a 'mysterious' fire. Anyway, on with the photos.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

75,000 Page Views Guest Post: Zigeuner by Noel Coward

As is my custom, a guest post as my counter passes a significant number. Unusually, though, the spirit of Noel Coward occupied me and insisted on a song, which is one I remember Hinge and Bracket singing. I did explain to him that appearing on my blog would mean a bare chest but he was ok with that and agreed with me on how healthy it is. Unfortunately I couldn't find the Hinge and Bracket recording online but will append a video so that any witch readers who don't know it can sing about the parallel figure of the 'gypsy'.

Once upon a time,
Many years ago,
Lived a fair princess,
Hating to confess
Loneliness was torturing her so.
Then a gipsy came,
Called to her by name,
Woo'd her with a song
Sensuous and strong,
All the summer long;
Her passion seemed to tremble like a living flame.

Play to me beneath the Summer moon,
All I ask of life is just to listen 
To the songs that you sing,
My spirit like a bird on the wing,
Your melodies adoring—soaring!
Call to me with some barbaric tune,
Now you have me in your power,
Play to me for just an hour

Bid my weeping cease,
Melody that brings
Merciful release,
Promises of peace
Through the gentle throbbing of the strings.
Music of the plain,
Music of the wild,
Come to me again,
Here me not in vain,
Soothe a heart in pain
And let me to my happiness be reconciled. Source of lyrics

Hockley Flyover Art

A pic-heavy post again, since it is about art, although this time the official installation rather than the graffiti which also flourishes in the area. The Hound's official position is that the graff round there may be the best in the city. The installation I feature here is described by Owen Hatherley as the best art in Birmingham, and while I would reserve that accolade for the Magritte in the Barber Institute, this work is certainly right up there.
Question: How do you annoy someone who lives in the Jewellery Quarter? Answer: Refer to it as Hockley. Reaction guaranteed. Of the two, I prefer Hockley, and was reminded of that fact as I wandered over this morning. There is a distinct line at Key Hill where you leave the gentrification behind and the real Birmingham spirit comes out again. I really went to look at Icknield Street School (which really deserves a post of its own) but took this in at the same time. The installation is a concrete climbing wall by William Mitchell. The work doesn't get much attention because you have to go to Hockley, have to go through underpasses, and have to be on foot. I have commented here before that the post-war planning of Birmingham was not as bad for pedestrians as it is made out and look, the spaces were beautified. Actually the residents of Hockley are a creative bunch, and the space under the underpass has even been the venue for a festival. Anyway, on with the photos. If they don't have a credit, they're my own.
Sorry lost the source for this one.

Spirit of Place: Mister Egg

I see that this is not the only food place I have blogged about here (I'm obviously being selective and sticking to the ones which in some way embody the spirit of place rather than merely reviewing the food, since I've previously blogged about the equally legendary Koh-i-Noor). In fact these two eateries seem to embody the Birmingham thing by repeatedly coming back from the dead, reinvigorated. You see, if you haven't been down Hurst Street this week, I have to break the news to you that the latest incarnation of Mister Egg has closed. But not to worry, the people who run Happy Lemon next door have taken it over and are reopening it as, erm, Mister Egg.
Yes that's right, Mister Egg is turning Chinese. Happy Lemon is always heaving with customers, but I hope they know what they're taking on, with the frankly mixed spirit of the Mister Egg brand/egregore. It's actually rather difficult to know where to start so in true witch tradition, I'll steal loads of information and keep anything that doesn't run away. Mister Egg has been part of many a night out or weekend away:
Roger and I had a fantatsic weekend in Birmingham this weekend; Joseph, Donny Osmond, Joan Collins, Mr Egg, Boots, Simon Pegg, the Fountain, the canal, Harvey Nic's, the Nightingale, the sunshine, Dr Aktins, Eurovision, the new bullring - it was almost like Amsterdam. Almost. Source
Danny Smith manages to say almost exactly what I mean about Mister Egg, just more elegantly:
Mr Egg is a Birmingham institution (and not just because there’s a rat in the kitchen), it’s something rare in Birmingham — independent. It’s  a lot like the sixties, if you can remember it you were never there, god knows no sane person would eat there sober. If pushed I can remember the giant cloth egg on the ceiling and the overpowering smell of grease. Just walking past has always a barometer of the current economic climate ‘EAT LIKE A KING FOR 50p’ declared the sign, and then in my teenage years ‘EAT LIKE A KING FOR £1’, a little later when the gay community settled down the road ‘EAT LIKE A QUEEN FOR £1.50’.
It seems to have survived due to clever marketing, location and cheap prices. The food itself was on the whole, greasy slop served on dirty plates. I like to think that the custom came from late night diners being loyal to an independent brand and making the choice to eat refried sausages and burnt beans rather than hand money over to the McCorps. In reality it was probably just due to drunken convenience of it being a short stagger away from the nightclubs on Hurst St, a place once described as ‘a cross between a Roman Vomitorium and a Bosch painting’. By me, just then.
Will Mr Egg reopen? I’m not sure, but what I do know from ten years working in the pub trade is exactly how hard it is to be closed down for health reasons. Sure, it’s a threat that’s used a lot, but you could introduce a giant radioactive cancer rat wiping his balls on individual fish fingers to the visiting EHO, and not be served anything more than a stern telling off. I retch at the thought of what was going on for the closure notice to happen.
But drunk people don’t care, if anything it adds to the myth of the place and brings in a new element of danger to eating there. And if giving dysentery to a few shaven headed Neanderthals stumbling out of Reflex is the price we pay for an independent and unhomogenised Birmingham – it’s a small price indeed. Source
In a rare piece of social history I am delighted to have found a video on the internet of the clientele, so that this legend is captured forever (now watch Inexplicable Device comment on the accents lol) Source:

It seems that this latest closure is just one of many very mixed events in Mister Egg's existence. In 2003 and 2004 it polled among the favourite greasy spoons nationally. In 2009, it was closed by environmental health. Also in 2009 thirteen customers were assaulted by the owner with concentrated vinegar: as a result of this, Mr Egg lost its late night license in 2010. The then owner was jailed in 2011 (my sources for these dates are various articles in the Mail and the Post).
I really wish Mr Egg with a Chinese flavour great success. So let's end with a suitably Birmingham song in Mr Egg's honour.

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!