Monday, December 26, 2016


Physique Pictorial: a classic
(You wouldn't believe the trouble this post has given me in the writing, so here is redaction 34.3.7 of this post and don't be surprised if it lacks a certain finesse).
Rather than introduce you to my aunt, one of the more psychopathic members of my dysfunctional family, I am instead going to come clean and write about my use of porn.
This post was inspired by a comment on Inexplicable Device's blog which referred to buying a wank mag (Here). This chimed with the way I have been reflecting recently that in reality the 'respectable' face of controlled sexuality in our society is undergirded by a burgeoning sex industry which suggests that the respectable face of sex is not all there is to it. The fact that the police found an 'incredible' 999 men visiting the Libra brothel in a week (Source) in their sting operation suggests that actually the less respectable face of the world of sex may be very common.
And so it is with porn. I was brought up in a milieu which disapproved of porn. Of course orthodox Catholic teaching still disapproves of both porn and masturbation - of course they also disapprove of contraception but they are fighting a losing battle on all these fronts even among their own followers.
Because you see the thing is I love masturbating with porn.
There, said it. It's out there in the real world. The fact that that is also true of loads of other men is neither here nor there, because it's not really ever talked of publicly. It is one of those things which tends to be kept for when you get a lot of men together without women or is talked about anonymously.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Toxic Mothers Again

We are leaving the historic festival of darkness and approaching the festival of motherhood with which the Christians replaced it to entertain the plebs, and so the Hound has his usual jaundiced reflections on motherhood to offer.
A neighbour of ours from years ago (I haven't seen her or lived next to her for more than twenty-five years) took it upon herself to write to me (she got my address off a card I sent my mother) to interfere in the incredibly complicated train crash which is my relationship with my mother. I rang her and told her in no uncertain terms that she could butt out. You just don't get involved in other people's family arguments. This has caused me to reflect again about this whole thing, and to offer some more reflections for those who suffer from toxic parents.
You do not have to justify preserving your own sanity. This may seem very basic, but the thing is that people do expect you to justify it. To my mind, even to explain the decisions you make as self-preservation is a waste of time, since society's expectation is that you will play happy families with your parents, and no amount of rationalisation will make people understand that your relationship with your parents is permanently fucked.
You are an adult. Your life cannot be determined, beyond what you agree to, by the demands of your parents. You will come under pressure (or the emotional blackmail of sympathy, illness, sentiment, or old age) to let your parents take up a disproportionate portion of your life. This to me is actually the defining factor of a toxic family, that rational negotiation cannot happen or appears to happen and is then reneged on.
Your parents are adults. This may seem very basic, but some parents create a dynamic where their children are expected to act in a more parental role. You are under no obligation to do this.
Behaviour patterns set over decades are difficult or impossible to change. There is therefore no point hoping that anything is going to get better or even markedly different. Nor is there any hope in the philosophy that you may be helped by changing your own way of thinking, when you are dealing with a parent who does not respect your boundaries.
The ageing self-absorbed and manipulative parent will use their old age as a major tool to manipulate you. This is probably the most counter-cultural thing I have to say here, but the reality is that some old people behave incredibly badly and are perfect devils. The fact that the parent has illness or disability is of course a cause for concern, but the toxic parent will either use this to make you look bad, to draw you in, to emotionally blackmail you.
You will always 'lose' in some way with a toxic parent. Since the key defining feature of a toxic parent is that you cannot negotiate a mutually agreeable modus vivandi with them, it is therefore essential to understand that in your parent's eyes you have to lose. If anyone reading this thinks 'Surely not,' then consider yourself lucky not to have a toxic parent. Ignore them, or have them walk all over you, whatever you do for your parent, you will be the loser.
You will always look bad. Again, the odds are completely stacked against you, so that whatever you do the toxic parent will make damn sure everyone knows that you are a neglectful child, selfish, and so on.
You will be forced to take action to look after yourself, and that action in itself will cause further guilt and make you the 'loser'. At this point your actions will be in some way forced by your impossible parent and the need to preserve yourself, but whatever you do will still be 'wrong' in some way. Remember with a toxic parent there is no way you can ever come to a mutual agreement, and so whatever you do is wrong.
I am writing these things down, because I know that there are other people in the world in the same situation with their parents that I am in, and I also know that the people who will say these things are few and far between. In our world, your 'family' is expected to be your bedrock of security. There is now a greater recognition of unconventional families, but it remains unacceptable to be out of kilter with your birth family. I hope that anyone coming across this on the internet will know that they are not the only people who have these experiences and will feel validated.
My wish for all who read this is a willed and ecstatic new year, with adult relationships built on mutual respect and leaving the need to look backwards.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Spirit of Place: The Bull Ring in the 1960s

What a sense of sadness is brought to my mind by this film! I love the way the brand new 1960s Bull Ring is described so enthusiastically: it is a reminder that we can forget previous generations' aspirations at our peril. It is also a reminder that 1960s Birmingham was once brand new and squeaky clean.
Oh, I went into the pub shown on the film once. More than that I'm not saying.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Spirit of Place: A Brummy Ghost Story

My reduced posting here has been because of the amount of energy taken up by my new job. So in a seasonal spirit is a brief ghost story about the room which illustrates this post.
The room in question is in Birmingham Council House and is the office of the Lord Mayor. It is a naturally a frequent occurrence for Council House workers to enter the room and find the mayor sitting behind the desk. What makes this a ghost story is that there are repeated tales of them finding Joseph Chamberlain (died 1915) sitting in the mayoral desk chair!
In fact that is a busy corner of the city for ghosts. In addition to the workmen killed in an industrial accent and Charles Dickens, who haunt the Town Hall, visible through the mayor's window, there are rumours of a new ghost. It is that of a man in a 1960s-style suit, holding a plan, and looking around in a puzzled way for his library.
If I don't get to post again this week, a happy Winterval to all my readers!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Tarot: 2, 3, 5, and 7 of Swords, Their Relationship and Some Events

Previously on Hound of Hecate...
I have been reading tarot cards for years and years, but since the events of the past year in which I stood up for what was right with my last employers, I have experienced a different experience of tarot. I believe this to happen when the witch reaches one of those decisive points where you either go through with something difficult or you go back to your comfort zone. The payoff is that the tarot has started acting towards me in a way it never has before. My understanding of the cards is developing in ways you will never read in any of the text books, and while I would dearly love to have my name on a text book, my own style and natural approach to writing are better suited to this blog format than to the prolonged, orderly writing a book would require.
My day-to-day deck at the moment is the Aquarian Tarot, which is a deck I have reviewed here and love dearly. While it is broadly in the Rider Waite tradition, it does alter the images slightly, so that if you are used to reading with an actual Rider Waite deck, with reference to all the details, it can feel as if too much is missed off in the Aquarian Tarot. Lately I have had that experience by comparing one of my current 'stalker cards' with Pamela's version. I say one of my stalker cards, I have actually been stalked at length for the past few months by the numbered Swords cards, which I would naturally interpret as meaning that the deck is trying to say something to me related to these cards. It has also made me reflect on the relationship as I see it between these four cards, which perhaps I should say is a relationship you only really see in the RWS-based decks, because of the nature of Pamela Colman Smith's illustrations. So perhaps I had better deal with these cards one at a time in an orderly manner and let the relationships fall into place.

Two of Swords

I shall begin by quoting Waite verbatim, because, frankly, his approach to this card is one you will commonly find underpinning people's understanding of it, but is one which personally I would want to avoid:
'A hoodwinked female figure balances two swords upon her shoulders. Divinatory Meanings: Conformity and the equipoise which it suggests, courage, friendship, concord in a state of arms; another reading gives tenderness, affection, intimacy. The suggestion of harmony and other favourable readings must be considered in a qualified manner, as Swords generally are not symbolical of beneficent forces in human affairs. Reversed: Imposture, falsehood, duplicity, disloyalty.' Source
The Masonically-minded among my readers will recognise a phrase often used by Masons to refer to a particular piece of ritual paraphernalia, and in fact a word which must be rarely if ever used outside of a Masonic context:
Freemasonry is not the originator of the hoodwink.
Religious rites and initiations of civilizations and tribes dating back centuries before the believed or known origins of Freemasonry used blindfolds to represent going from darkness (ignorance) to light (knowledge).
Hood:  The word, “hood,” in old German and Anglo Saxon refers to a head covering, as in a hat, or helmet.  A hood might also be of cloth. To "hood" is to cover.  Hooded garments have been worn throughout history.
Wink:  The word, “wink,” in old German and Anglo Saxon refers to a closing of the eyes.  The word, “wince,” , is similarly derived from the word "wink".  The word "wink" pertains to the eye.
Therefore, a hood (to cover) wink (eyes) was a head covering designed to cover the eyes. Source
The link above includes images of some very steampunk-looking hoodwinks. The point here of course is that the 2 of Swords indicates a major theme of the Swords suit in the RWS deck, that of not looking, whether voluntarily or otherwise. To Waite the Mason, the hoodwinked woman would indicate that she is awaiting enlightenment, since it is in initiatory contexts that the hoodwink is used in Masonic ritual. I prefer the view of this woman as an initiate awaiting an enlighetnment leading to new understanding, and am opposed to Waite's view that the Swords are generally not benevolent towards humans. While obviously shit happens, and we humans do not operate in a completely free way, as a witch I will resist with every last breath in my body the idea that my future is fated, and will continue to strive to have a hand in it. I see the unpleasant experiences which come our way as tools towards the sort of new understanding the woman in the card is waiting for. After all there is nothing to stop her putting the swords down and taking the blindfold off her eyes.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Tarot: the Significance of the Question

This is my umpteenth attempt at writing this post, but I feel I have something to say even though I can't quite get at it.
There is a saying that the whole purpose of a tarot reading is completed before so much as one card is drawn. This must mean that the real purpose of tarot is served by the things one does other than actually reading the cards, such as cleansing them, shuffling them, treating them with respect, and thinking about the problem.
I have a feeling that the purpose of tarot, in common with all other magical acts, is in some way to affect the magician. And the way tarot does this is by forcing a certain introspection, a setting aside of place and time, and particularly rumination on the question as one is shuffling the cards.
And I think this is probably where tarot has its greatest effect on the reader: it forces a clarification of the question, and more generally of what is going on in the person's head and life. Perhaps in this sense it is as much a method of meditation as, well, actual meditation, because the reader arrives at drawing cards with the mature of the issue already identified. This would mean that this is a (possible the?) major point of a tarot reading: to clarify the mind, clarify the matter, clarify the right question to ask. I often think that tarot doesn't provide pat answers to questions, and perhaps the implication here is that it provides questions instead.