Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Sources for Witchcraft: Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses

I have posted here before about unexpected sources from which to construct a witchcraft, including such luminaries as Miss Marple, and the fictitious witches of the Discworld. Today I come to a book I grew up with, and one which only reveals its full witchiness to adult eyes: it is A Child's Garden of Verses. In fact I think I was far too young to appreciate this book as a child, since it is only now that I have grown up into the sort of child who can appreciate the sort of world Stevenson describes. His child's garden is intensely witchy, since a pervading theme is one of the child alone, imaginary friends, and creating worlds of fantasy and fairy, to which grown ups (for which read non-witches) are not invited. Despite some of the book's attitudes being ones which are unpopular among liberals today (including racial attitudes and the easy acceptance that ones own prosperity is the result of being Good) Stevenson fleshes out a magical world of simple childhood which we could all aspire to rather than making it complicated.
This world is exactly the kind of world we witches create by image/ination and the elements of magic we find around us. In this poem it is called the Land of Counterpane:
When I was sick and lay a-bed,I had two pillows at my head,And all my toys beside me layTo keep me happy all the day.
And sometimes for an hour or soI watched my leaden soldiers go,With different uniforms and drills,Among the bed-clothes, through the hills.
And sometimes sent my ships in fleetsAll up and down among the sheets;Or brought my trees and houses out,And planted cities all about.
I was the giant great and stillThat sits upon the pillow-hill,And sees before him, dale and plain,The pleasant Land of Counterpane.
Like all witchcraft, this one begins with a journey into another world or between worlds, where changes can be made in all worlds. I find it interesting that Stevenson is almost exactly describing the essence of hedge witchcraft:
The lights from the parlor and kitchen shone outThrough the blinds and the windows and bars;And high overhead and all moving about,There were thousands of millions of stars.There ne'er were such thousands of leaves on a tree,Nor of people in church or the Park,As the crowds of the stars that looked down upon me,And that glistened and winked in the dark.
The Dog, and the Plough, and the Hunter, and all,And the star of the sailor, and Mars,These shown in the sky, and the pail by the wallWould be half full of water and stars.They saw me at last, and they chased me with cries,And they soon had me packed into bed;But the glory kept shining and bright in my eyes,And the stars going round in my head.
If only all witches could regain the child's sense of wonder and easy interaction with the worlds around us, in this case the wind:
I saw you toss the kites on highAnd blow the birds about the sky;And all around I heard you pass,Like ladies' skirts across the grass—O wind, a-blowing all day long!O wind, that sings so loud a song!
I saw the different things you did,But always you yourself you hid.I felt you push, I heard you call,I could not see yourself at all—O wind, a-blowing all day long,O wind, that sings so loud a song!
O you that are so strong and cold,O blower, are you young or old?Are you a beast of field and tree,Or just a stronger child than me?O wind, a-blowing all day long,O wind, that sings so loud a song!
Stevenson successfully conjures the nocturnal magical world created by the moon, with its sense of danger and strangeness:
The moon has a face like the clock in the hall;She shines on thieves on the garden wall,On streets and fields and harbor quays,And birdies asleep in the forks of the trees.
The squalling cat and the squeaking mouse,The howling dog by the door of the house,The bat that lies in bed at noon,All love to be out by the light of the moon.
But all of the things that belong to the dayCuddle to sleep to be out of her way;And flowers and children close their eyesTill up in the morning the sun shall arise.
Nor is the real world of adult conflict ignored, In this poem, it is actually placed into a surprisingly sophisticated frame:

When I am grown to man's estateI shall be very proud and great,And tell the other girls and boysNot to meddle with my toys.

Text and image credit for the book: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/25617/25617-h/25617-h.htm

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Reblog: You know you're a Brummie when...

1.You have never been to Aston Hall but you know intimately
the backstreets of Weston-Super-Mare.
2. You know we've got the finest collection of pre-Raphelite
art in the world but you don't know a) where they are or b) what a
pre-Raphelite is.
3. You can get into a four-hour argument about how to get from
Erdington to Northfield at 3:30 on the Friday before a long
weekend, but can't find Coventry on a map.
4. You always have the exact change when you board a bus.
5. You think Maypole, Druid's Heath, California, Bangham Pit
and Gannow sound perfectly normal names for places.
6. You've considered punching someone just for implying that
you have a funny accent.
7. Your door has more than three locks.
8. You go to a football game for the fighting in the stands.
9. You can't see anything strange about your three favourite
being ELO, Black Sabbath and UB40.
10. The most frequently used part of your car is the horn.
11. You like sterilised milk.
12. You know that Birmingham has more miles of canal than
13. You feel the need to share this information with everybody you meet.
14. You only have strong views on art when the City Council put up a
three-dimensional piece of it in the City Centre.
15. You consider Sutton Park the 'countryside'
16. You think Cannon Hill Park is 'nature'.
17. You could never see anything odd about Crossroads.
18. You pay 1,200 a month for a studio apartment the size of a
walk-in wardrobe in Brindley Place and you think it's a bargain.
19. Shopping in suburban supermarkets and shopping centres gives you a severe attack of agoraphobia.
20. You've been to Wolverhampton twice and needed Air/Sea rescue to
get home both times.
21. You pay more each month to park your car in the city centre than you do in rent.
22. You listen to Ed Doolan but say you can't stand him.
23. You have dinner at lunchtime and go home to tea.
24. You haven't been to the Rag Market since your mom took you
thereto get a school blazer in 1974 but have to date signed 37
petitions to stop it closing.
25. You haven't heard the sound of true, absolute silence since 1977 and when you did, it terrified you.
26. Being truly alone makes you nervous.
27. You moaned about the cost of the NEC, ICC, NIA, Symphony
28. You think that being refused entry at eighteen bars in three hours constitutes a good night out.
29. Your idea of personal space is no one actually standing on your toes.
30. You can't see anything wrong with a bus route that's twenty-two
miles long, takes four hours and finishes where it starts.
31. You think Carl Chinn sounds common.
32. You allow three hours for a two mile motorway journey
33. When anybody asks you to recommend a good Indian you can
provide them with a list of a hundred.
34. You don't hear sirens anymore.
35. Smoking does less damage to your lungs than breathing
36. Your cleaner is Spanish, your grocer is Indian, your off-licence
owner is Jamaican, your landlord is Pakistani, your laundry
man is Chinese, your favourite barman is Irish, your favourite
caf owner is Austrian, the watch seller on your corner is
Bangladeshi, your last cabbie was Pakistani, your newsagent is
Bangladeshi and your favourite chip shop owner is
37. You think pork scratchings are health food.
38. You call total strangers "bab".
39. You think "getting a buzz" refers to public transport rather than drugs.
40. You get into fights with everybody who says that
Manchester is the Second City.
41. You think that the Rotunda is a smart piece of architecture.
42. You think all arguments can be ended with the words "Shakespeare was a Brummie".
43. You are terrified of offending a Welshman in case he cuts off your water.
44. You think the Lickey Hills is the Lost Continent.
45. The last man you heard taking the piss out of the place isdue to wake up any month now.
Source (slightly edited): http://www.visordown.com/forum/crap-jokes/you-know-youre-a-brummie-when/24472.html

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Free from Slavery

Believe it or not this is my fifth attempt at writing this post and I'm going to try to keep it simple.
'You will be free from slavery,' says the Goddess traditionally, and without being side-tracked into writing a piece about what freedom really means, I think it can suffice to say that for the witch this can mean a number of things. Freeing us from what is holding us back to reincarnate, for one. Freeing us from society's expectations, which enables magic to happen, for another.
This also means that my expectations must change. There is a prevailing mythology in our society that we must love (define this as you will). My personal empirical experience is that some people will always be turds and I don't feel the need to look positively on them. Being free from that imperative means I have to change what I expect, since my world view has adjusted to match my experience.
That said, gone is the continual disappointment when I find once again I've attracted an idiot. Gone is the expectation that the universe will provide me with love.
Instead, I am forced to make my own relationship with the universe. Shit happens, and I really don't think the universe is that bothered, but I am required voluntarily to enter a covenant relationship with the universe placing requirements on myself, this mutuality being the witch's co-creation with the divinity within the universe, there to be seen by the eyes which are open.
There - unpolished and home spun, and all mine own.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Spirit of Place: Camping in Birmingham City Centre

I remember posting a long time ago about someone who was camping in the city centre,  near Park Street, which is named after the medieval royal deer park on the site. I hadn't realised at the time that there is quite a phenomenon of camping in the city centre, and the pictures which illustrate this post were all taken this year, on the canal bank in the jewellery quarter, on a field on Mowbray Street near Highgate, and on waste land in Digbeth near the coach station. There must be something about people feeling safe to camp there!

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Tarot: The Fool

It is said that in the universe which is tarot the cards you don't click with are ones to pay attention to. A personal example is the Emperor, which I am now more comfortable with as a result of realising I have daddy issues as well as mummy issues.
Another one is the Fool. For me it is so obvious that the fool can see where he is going and the viewer cannot. I suppose this view of the card says more about me than you could ever wish to know!
Then bizarrely the Fool manifested in my life yesterday. It was my daily draw and since I had another meeting investigating the complaints my enemies in the workplace have made about me, it left me worried that I was going to do something silly. My plan was just to be completely reasonable (as it happens I knew that my main ally had done a hatchet job of them the day before).
And here is how the fool manifested. I just went in and calmly said it like it is. However I said one thing which revealed to the investigators that Zippy my 'manager' had already managed to mess up the process of the investigation by a major ommission which I didn’t know about but as a manager she should . Fury would be the word to describe the reaction which passed fleetingly over the manager's face before he hid it. So by unknowingly just talking, I let them see how incompetent she is.
From now on I will see the Fool as indicating true natural magical knowledge. Or as my union rep put it, 'It's not looking good for Zippy '!