Monday, February 23, 2015

Witch Quandaries and Freud's desk

I don't do clutter, myself. I find I clean more & get less stressed if there isn't loads of Stuff hanging around. What I do collect, though, is what I like to call Weird Shit. I always have either been attracted to, or attracted to myself, objects with what I suppose you would call a bent towards humanity's search for connection. As a child I had a museum of these things in my bedroom, & I remember reading somewhere about scarabs & badly wanting one. I once flatly refused to leave a craft fair without a statue of Shiva. My adult interests obviously appeared in me fully-formed at an early age.
This isn't in itself the cause of my quandary, which is actually that today my collection of Weird Shit has overflowed the shelf allocated to it! I'm not going to throw anything out, just let it carry on for now & see what happens. I want it to remain a collection of things significant to me rather than just random hoarding. I'm delighted to see that I'm in great company doing this; the witch's wide-ranging & (so to speak) often iconoclastic search for inspiration & connection was also carried on by the father of psychoanalysis:
'What you realise, standing in Freud's study, is that his theory is rooted in his feeling for the entire history of art and culture. The anniversary exhibition draws attention to a singular fact: whenever Freud sat down to write he was confronted by statues covering his desk.
'Freud's collection is truly staggering. He acquired hundreds of antiquities, including fragments of Roman fresco paintings, a Roman portrait sculpture and several parts of mummy cases. The cultural legacy of Egypt, Greece and Rome filled his waking hours; no wonder it filled his sleeping ones, too.' (
I'm also pleased to find HR bought his antiquities from dealers. In the poor man's version, my stuff tends to come from charity shops; things demand to be bought when the time is right.
'The Study is also filled with antiquities from ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt and the Orient. Freud visited many archaeological sites (though not Egypt) but most of the collection was acquired from dealers in Vienna. He confessed that his passion for collecting was second in intensity only to his addiction to cigars. Yet the importance of the collection is also evident in Freud's use of archaeology as a metaphor for psychoanalysis. One example of this is Freud's explanation to a patient that conscious material 'wears away' while what is unconscious is relatively unchanging: "I illustrated my remarks by pointing to the antique objects about my room. They were, in fact, I said, only objects found in a tomb, and their burial had been their preservation.' (
My sense that this act is different from the building of altars, which have a more specifically devotional or ritual purpose is heightened by the discovery of the book about Hinduism & psychoanalysis. On the other hand to the witch, for whom a major preoccupation is the crossing of traditional boundaries between sacred & secular, there may not be that much difference.
Pictures include (I can't guarantee they'll appear in this order) my weird shit shelf, Freud's desk & an installation at his house (credit: Freud museum website), & credit is needed to OUP India. The final picture is a collection of objects found the mud of the Thames by mudlarkers (presumably thrown into the river for ritual purposes, but another interesting example of the hedge taking & returning) - I've lost the source I'm afraid, but as usual will be glad to reference/remove if anyone asks.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Spirit of Place: Inside Holy Trinity Digbeth

I have recounted its history before (here) so won't repeat it again but suffice to say that one of the landmarks of Birmingham is this disused church, very visible from the train. I have wanted to see inside it as it now is for ever, so am delighted to see a virtual opportunity is available as a result of it being for sale for £3,000,000. I've also found a picture of the interior taken in 1990 when it was in use as a homeless hostel. Picture credits:, Birmingham Mail, & another unknown source - I've had that picture saved for ages.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

30,000 Page Hits Guest Post & My Lent Book

This post is actually slightly late for 30,000 page views. In fact this 'guest post' is from my Lent book this year. Regular readers of my ravings here will know that I like to borrow this practice from the Christians, and invert it by choosing a remarkably unsuitable book. Last year it was Hooligan Nights, and this year it is One Little Maid, the autobiography of Dame Hilda Bracket. In this extract she is talking about her years studying singing in Italy.
'When I first arrived in Vicenza I had some difficulty in finding anywhere to live and in desperation I took a time room at the top of an old tumbledown house in the poorer quarter of the town. I had intended moving from this garret as soon as I found somewhere else to stay, but after a few months I became very attached to it and as the rent was considerably cheaper than in any other part of town, I decided to stay there permanently. The house was owned by a man whom I only ever saw after dark. He was very hospitable and used to let different girls use the rooms every night; sometimes he would even let one sleep in the room for part of the evening then another when the first had gone. The curious thing about these girls was that they always had their brothers with them, although some of them looked old enough to be their fathers. But after what mother had told me about Italian men, I was very pleased to see that these girls were chaperoned so carefully.
'Sometimes a girl would come to the house with an extra brother, at least that is what I assumed, because the landlord tried to persuade me to let one or two men sleep on my floor when I first arrived. Of course I explained to him that it was quite out of the question and when he enquired why I had come to the house in the first place, I told him it was in order to practise my singing (which was not strictly true). He only came up a few times when I was singing and after that he never bothered to come again; he must have realised where my talents and interests lay. Not that I was a prude in any way. I used to enjoy listening to these girls and their brothers having pillow-fights late at night. They always sounded as if they were having such fun – it reminded me of the times when Gil and I had played together as children.
'My little room was very sparse. There was an old wooden bed, a chair, a rickety table and a rail behind a curtain, where I hung my clothes. I bought a lamp-shade and curtains for the windows to make it more cheerful, as well as a second-hand rug which I found in the market, and a patterned counterpane, which I hoped would keep me warmer. There was a small oil stove/heater which used to smoke rather a lot, but which was the only means of heating and I used to make coffee on top of it before I went to bed. I used to lie there at night with the curtains open, looking over the rooftops of the old quarter of the town bathed in moonlight. It was very romantic and I felt terribly Bohemian. It was so unlike anything I had ever experienced before that I easily imagined myself in La Boheme. It was also so cold sometimes that a good deal more than my tiny hand was frozen.'
(Dame Hilda Bracket: One Little Maid. Heinemann, London, 1980, pp. 58-59)