Monday, December 28, 2015
Wednesday, December 23, 2015
I am fascinated by the nature of human memory and our propensity to forget and thus keep making the same mistakes. It is much more difficult to remember and learn from the past because there is a very real sense in which it is counter cultural because people like to think either that they've just invented something or that they have reached the pinnacle of achievement.
This segues nicely into the Birmingham spirit of continual rebuilding and improvements. And the particular aspect I'm thinking of here fits with the chthonic aspects of my life and magic. I have posted here before about my love for tunnels and using them in magic or to communicate with that which is below what we see. The Cold War bunkers and various tunnels under the city centre are inaccessible and posted at length on the Internet anyway so here I want to focus on the deeply unfashionable post-war underpasses beloved of planners of the time.
And this is where people conveniently forget the actual facts. The myth has it that Birmingham was redesigned to prioritise the car over the people, who were consigned to dangerous, urine -smelling tunnels in an act of criminal negligence which is only now being undone.
The historical facts are slightly different in that the post-war planning of the city was underpinned by a philosophy of the complete separation of traffic and pedestrians so that both streams could go about their business undisturbed by the other. Those who know about health and safety will also recognise an important control principle there: a pedestrian who never comes into contact with traffic will not get run over. Nor was it always the case that the pedestrians were treated badly: there were and are places where traffic goes underground while the pedestrians get the priority. At least when they were new, efforts were made to make the underpasses pleasant for pedestrians: there was art, they were decorated with the tiles of the time, gardens were planted, and some of the underpasses were mini shopping centres in themselves.
They soon became deeply unpopular as maintenance was neglected and at least in the line of the old inner ring road they have mostly been filled in. Just as it is fortunate that Manzoni was so keen on demolition because the irreplaceable architecture demolished under his aegis would almost certainly have been listed and more effectively prevent the redevelopment of the city centre than his beloved ring road scheme could do. Look at pictures of Birmingham in the 1930s, imagine trying to drive to catch a train and the wisdom of Manzoni 's vision becomes apparent. Just as it does if you visualise driving round the city centre and not having to stop for pedestrians and the actual structure of the road physically discouraging jay-walking.
Another fortunate accident of history is that the sort of huge amounts of cash available up to the 1970s are no longer around and the plan has not been completely eradicated. If you walk slightly outside the line of the old inner ring road there remains a line of relatively well -maintained subways if you want the full Brummie experience. Even further out there are more which I would guess are considered to be beyond the interest of tourists and remain their old graffitied selves. A walk along Bristol Street is enough for this.
I never found them intimidating myself. A major skill in city living (and in witchcraft) is knowing how not to be a target and in twenty five years of walking these streets I have only got into trouble once. And not only were they not intimidating, but in my misspent youth, when fewer people lived in the city centre and Cctv was less common, if you were young and gay in Birmingham you could have sex virtually anywhere. Although I suspect this wasn't a use that Manzoni anticipated for his hidden corners and what have you.
Which brings me to a synthesis: of course the planning of the mid twentieth century was a disaster, and worsened by subsequent neglect. It feels almost naive in retrospect, to expect people not to misbehave and turn to crime, when given opportunities. It is the same historical short sightedness as that with which I opened this post.
And the point for the magician? Tunnels can be seen as representing the vagina of the goddess and thus being places of birth. The underground is one of the ancient places of liminality between worlds, and so we are in truly ancient magical territory here, where pacts are made and change wrought. No matter that it be in a 1960s tiled underpass, the spirit of place is not snooty and in magic the best results usually come from the least promising ingredients.
Illustrations: mainly my own pictures, with some others I've saved and lost their provenance. As usual let me know if I've violated copyright and I'll delete /credit.
Monday, December 14, 2015
Gimme that ol' time religion,
Sunday, December 13, 2015
Back to School with the Tarot Again, Incorporating a Review of Katz and Goodwin’s Secrets of the Waite-Smith Tarot
Wednesday, December 2, 2015
|The look, the glamour, not the ideology|