Monday, December 18, 2017

Witch Food: Hecate (or even Kali) Bowls

Taking pictures of the food I eat isn't particularly something which interests me and I certainly wouldn't want to inflict them on my readers here. It is frankly one of the most bizarre trends there is.
In fact the whole world has gone mad about food. It not only has to be just so, it has to appear on instagram.
Another 'healthy' food trend is the Buddha bowl. The recipe is simple: it has to be organic, spiralised, vegan (asking for trouble in later life, to my mind), free-range, often contain that bizarre kwinoah stuff, and the ingredients must be bought at Waitrose. Then posted on instagram, of course. The reason they're called Buddha bowls is they draw on the idea of the Buddha's begging bowl, the contents of which he would eat in the evening. Did I say they also have to come with a large dollop of tahini, one of privilege and a third of smugness?
Anyway, the reason you're seeing tomorrow's lunch is that I met the Buddha outside Primark today, have murdered him, seized his bowl, and witchified his recipe. My unfluffy witchy philosophy is that life is a bitch and all things die, so this is a bowl sacred to the Goddess, and is a sacrifice you can eat. Yes, you're eating death. That's the point.
My Hecate bowl has blood sausage and of course Hecate loves blood. The rice is saturated with sesame oil and there are further sesame seeds in the mixed seeds sprinkled on top. Strictly speaking black sesame seeds are sacred to the Goddess but the bag of them I have is reserved for a sacrifice in a graveyard. You could put red coloured fish in it, reminiscent of the red mullet offered to her in the ancient world.
Ready to say grace?
Come infernal, terrestrial, and heavenly Bombo (Hecate), goddess of the broad roadways, of the crossroad, thou who goest to and fro at night, torch in hand, enemy of the day. Friend and lover of darkness, thou who doest rejoice when the bitches are howling and warm blood is spilled, thou who art walking amid the phantom and the in place of the tombs, thou whose thirst is blood, thou who doest strike chill and fear in mortal hearts, Gorgo, Mormo, Moon of a thousand forms, cast a propitious eye on our sacrifice.
Hippolytus in Philosphumena 
Oh - and some music to eat by. This song of course deliberately sounds rude and I first heard it sung by Hinge and Bracket :

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Spirit of Place: Wrap up Brum

Who but me would illustrate a post about Birmingham Cathedral wrapping people up in warm clothes with a picture of the cathedral featuring nipples and a big smile? As usual it's a picture I saved some time ago without noting the source so I will happily attribute it if a copyright owner comments or emails me.
I'm feeling rather guilty, actually. Birmingham has the highest number of homeless people outside London. In witchy terms the reasons for that are the welcoming spirit of place and generous natives. I have previously quoted William Hutton's quotation from an eighteenth century homeless man:
It is singular, that a predilection for Birmingham, is entertained by every denomination of visitants, from Edward Duke of York, who saw us in 1765, down to the presuming quack, who, griped with necessity, boldly discharges his filth from the stage. A paviour, of the name of Obrien, assured me in 1750, that he only meant to sleep one night in Birmingham, in his way from London to Dublin. But instead of pursuing his journey next morning, as intended, he had continued in the place thirty-five years: and though fortune had never elevated him above the pebbles of the street, yet he had never repented his stay.
But  now the supports for homeless people are bending under the strain. The reason I feel guilty is that in the evenings when charities are dishing out food I tend to find myself thinking that the churches aren't visibly doing anything. I said No when a friend asked me if I wanted to do the St Basil's sleepout this year. The affluent sleeping out at will does not change imbalance. I'm aware that I don't have answers to this problem, am not actively doing anything to change the system. I'm bothered by the idea of being 'alongside' homeless people mentioned below - no you are not alongside them at all, you have a nice cosy house to go back to. Nonetheless I'm rather guilty because the Christians are doing *something* for homeless people.
Posting this also allows me to indulge in being probably the only time a witch blog will quote the Church Times (Source):
ROUGH sleepers and homeless people are being offered a free warm coat in an initiative by Birmingham Cathedral, “Wrap Up Brum”. Throughout Advent, a clothes rail in the Cathedral Square is being filled with coats donated after an appeal on social media.
The chief executive of the cathedral, Anna Pitt, described it as a gesture “to show that we are alongside those people at this time of year when it is really cold”. The cathedral is already involved in several projects to aid the homeless, including working with the charity St Basil’s, which targets youngsters sleeping on the streets, and last month it organised a “sleepout” in Cathedral Square which raised about £150,000.
“The Square is a really central location,” Mrs Pitt said. “We estimate up to 25,000 people walk through it every day, and among them are those who are homeless and rough sleeping; so, for a lot of time, the cathedral grounds are a place of greater engagement than inside the church; so we try to use that space as much as we can.
“The idea of the clothes rail is straightforward: if people want to donate a coat, they can; and, if people want a coat, they can take one. We have had a really huge, positive response. We have had hundreds of coats donated — people have even put gloves and scarves in the pockets.
“When the temperature dropped last week, and it was biting cold, people really engaged with it.” One woman donated 50 coats.
The problem of homelessness in Birmingham was no different to any other city, Mrs Pitt said, “but we have some really excellent charities here doing excellent things. Rough sleeping is a visible issue, and we can’t ignore their needs at this time of year.”
Addendum: I have now done an image search of the picture and find that this was the source of the image and the roofer was called Terence France.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Urban Grimoire: Joss Paper and Villain Beating

In this blog's relentless aim to be educational as well as entertaining, I am about to stray into multiple areas that I can't really claim to understand but am nonetheless fascinated by. Perhaps I should say at the beginning that the majority o my information up to the bit about beating up villains comes from the blog, which can be blamed for errors of fact, and I stand to be corrected on errors of interpretation.
One of the most difficult cultures for white people to understand is Chinese culture. It is difficult enough to understand even when it is explained to us, but it doesn't help that it is frequently mediated through a collection of bizarre racial stereotypes which we tend to absorb uncritically and then have few opportunities to correct.
An aspect which is fairly easy for magical people to understand is the custom of burning joss paper, and thus conveying what is burned to the ancestors in the spirit world. How magical can this get? The whole point of most magical theory is that an action in one part of the multiverse has a corresponding reaction (which is what the magician is after) in another part. I am not by saying this denigrating Chinese Taoist or traditional religious practices as merely magic - I understand that the dividing line between magic and religion can be a very changeable one - and it should be understood that these practices are not merely folk magic but part of a whole cosmology which is built into the society.
We have all seen the paper money and consumer items up to and including cars and mobile phones which are burned so that the ancestors can have these things. Where the practice starts getting really interesting is when the metal patches on the sheets of paper start to carry the Chinese for longevity or other things - this is actually carrying a virtue or strength to the person on the other side, rather than material objects. In fact, life is a recurring motif for the dead person - the astronomical denominations on the Bank of Hell notes are intended to be used in paying off the God of Death, apparently. The difference between magic intended to change things here and this practice is that it is intended to improve things posthumously. The practice is thought to date back more than a thousand years and to have started at funerals. Nowadays it isn't just done willy-nilly but at birthdays and festivals such as the appealingly (to me) named Hungry Ghosts festival when all the dead comes back at once.
Again I had better put in a disclaimer about the next practice that I am writing about - I am not making any connection between the two *as I see things*, because I am coming from a point of view where things magical, spiritual and religious are bound up and volitionally conflated on a daily basis. The next practice is probably thought to be rather disreputable.
Most of the literature I have read about this practice focsues on Hong Kong, but since the practice is not that different from any magical practuce I will bet you find similar things elsewhere. The connection I want to make between joss paper burning for ancestors and da siu yan ( or villain hitting) is best seen when we consider the role that defixiones played in ancient European magic. In Chinese culture the articles which mediate the blessing or curse are paper and beaten or burned - in Roman Europe they were lead and commonly thrown down a drain.
When we get to villian hitting we are on more solidaly magical rather than religious ground. It appeals to the Hound enormously because it's exactly the kind of magical cottage industry which tickles me. You pay an old lady to curse your enemies. Simple as that, although just like the ancient defixiones apparently you can buy DIY kits in shops. This is the kind of magic the Hound like best!
There is a customary location for doing this villain hitting, which is in an underpass - obviously in Hong Kong it will commonly mean you are under a road. I have no idea why this is, but again it is a detail which makes every magical sense in my body prick up, when I think of the magic I have done in underpasses over the years.
As is usual with magic the origins of this sorcery are venerable, and began with the practice of farmers appeasing the white tiger by smearing pig's blood onto paper white tigers so that the tiger would be fed and not attack the village. As time went on the paper tigers became the way in which people's enemies were attacked, appeased, exorcised, or banished.
The paper which illustrates this post is the object link with the target. There may or may not be a sacrifice to a divinity of choice depending on when the ceremony is taking place. Then the villian hitter merely hits the villain, apparently with a shoe, ad lib until it is done. The paper is apparently burned.
Once again I'm not completely sure I'm interpreting this right. The paper above (which I'm afraid I didn't make a note of where I found it) can only really be intended for cursing! I'm not sure if it is even actually from the villian hitting ceremony. Certainly the lady in the video below says it isn't for cursing at all. But then I say that myself...

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Blogging Difficult Stuff

A couple of posts ago I commented on how some blogs are very much the public face of the blogger and cut out anything which may detract from the relentless middle class bliss of the life portrayed there. On the other hand I have just now been reading a blog (I won't reference it for the simple reason that the purpose of this post is about blogging difficult stuff rather than that man's own blog). The writer alternates poetry and his efforts to learn cookery in his fifties with some extraordinarily painful stuff about his own alcoholism, and the circumstances of his divorce and accompanying estrangement from his adult children. In true former-alcoholic style he blames himself and his drinking for this - my own impression is that his relationship with his ex-wife was fucked and the poison messed up his relationship with his children. Additionally his ex-wife is actively blocking his attempts to see his adult children who are therefore not even being given the option to make up their own mind whether they want to see their dad at some time in the future.
You can readily see that this blog is the exact opposite of the 'public image' type of blog. THe author of the blog has made the decision to reveal all sorts of things about himself in some rather painful detail. That said, since it is published appparently under his real name, of course it is possible that if his daughters look for him in the future they could find him that way. While I'm sure this blog reveals all sorts of things about me to the dedicated reeader, I have made my own decision to try to avoid posting too much painful stuff in too much detail. It is the blog of my witchcraft, which incorporates aspects of my life, but there are things I don't want to go into in too much detail. I was very pleased when I got a comment a while back from someone saying that my post about the difficulties in my relationship with my mother had been really helpful to him. That was actually what I wanted to happen - it wasn't about me, but I know that when your family is fucked it is impossible to talk about it in the face of the families faking unity and happiness around you.
I have even more screwy stuff which I have tended not to post about here because it doesn't have a name. In fact I'm rather jealous that that guy can talk about being alcoholic (although I don't think he does actually use that word) because it has a name. As a fellow addict (although mine is to smoking) I can recognise when someone is getting to terms with their own substance and the way they talk about it.
I was thinking about that last night because I went to my work's Christmas dinner. I haven't been to one of those for years - this is one of the few workplaces I've had when I haven't cordially loathed everyone, and in fact the one person I can't stand threw a hissy fit and didn't turn up. At the end of the evening one person (who doesn't smoke) asked another person (who also doesn't smoke) if she had a fag he could cadge and I was so jealous. Simply for the reason that I can't smoke like that, I have a proper addiction going and can't have an odd one.
Now on the other hand I can have a drink. I have a little drink in the evening, which I consider part of civilised living. Actually the real reason is that that is part of my rebellion against my mother, who would think that that is alcoholism. I'm not an alcoholic - I recognise an addict's relationship with the substance and I just don't have it with alcohol - I can take it or leave it and am also watchful that the amount I drink doesn't increase. The fact that quite a lot of my life is actually dominated by doing things in a way that would give my mother the screaming abjabs would suggest that she still has a huge hold over me, but these various things are now my own way of life and I'm not ever going back to, say, eating my evening meal at 5pm.
As usual I've drifted off the subject of this post, but my point remains, that if I wanted to expose my own 'stuff' to the world I could, but I don't want to. I suppose the subject of this blog is neither about presenting an ideal life or humiliating myself by revealing my own neuroses in public. It's more about what I have learned from making peace with my own inner demons and how other people can do that if they have the will to. That bloke has just chosen to do it radically differently - although like vegans who feel compelled to tell you at length about it, it seems people who've screwed up their lives while drinking them stopped also feel compelled to tell people about it. My concern with how much I reveal would be more that I want to avoid an impression of falseness while also not publicly revealing things which I don't want every Tom, Dick and Harry knowing. Perhaps it's a balance I will never get completely right - perhaps nobody who blogs ever gets it right...

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Abbot Soper Convicted

I've been waiting for a moment to post this wonderful news. Regular readers will know that the former abbot of Ealing who went on the run from the police has been one of my pet projects. I will celebrate with the news as published this week in the Guardian:

A former abbot who fled to Kosovo to escape justice has been convicted of abusing 10 boys at a Catholic-run school in London during the 1970s and 80s.

Andrew Soper, 74, formerly known as Father Laurence Soper, was found guilty of 19 charges of rape and other sexual offences after a lengthy trial at the Old Bailey.

Soper sexually abused pupils while he was master in charge of discipline at St Benedict’s school in Ealing, west London. He would assault them after subjecting them to corporal punishment using a cane.

The first victim contacted police in 2004 after Soper left his role as abbot of Ealing Abbey and moved to the Benedictine order’s headquarters in Rome.
The former pupil was initially told by officers there was insufficient evidence.

Soper was later interviewed at Heathrow police station in 2010 and subsequently fled to Kosovo while on police bail the following year.

He was arrested at Luton airport in August 2016 after being deported by the Kosovan authorities and returned to the UK.

Tetteh Turkson, a senior Crown Prosecution Service lawyer involved in the case, said: “Soper used his position as a teacher and as a priest to abuse children for his own sexual gratification.

“He compounded this by trying to evade justice and fleeing to Kosovo in order to go into hiding. The victims’ bravery in coming forward and giving evidence has seen him convicted of these serious offences.”

A statement on behalf of the fee-paying independent school was issued by Alex Carlile QC after the conviction. He said: “St Benedict’s school is deeply concerned for, and distressed by, the ordeals faced by the victims of Laurence Soper, who have lived with the pain of his activities for so long.

“The school apologises unreservedly for the serious wrongs of the past. The school regrets that Soper did not have the courage to plead guilty.

“The result has been that innocent victims, whom he abused when they were boys in the school, were compelled to give evidence. They were subjected to cross-examination about matters in relation to which they were both helpless and innocent.

“The fact that these matters took place many years ago does not mitigate the pain and injustice endured by them.” The statement said the school was now “a completely different institution”.

Lord Carlile added: “The tough lessons of the past have been learned, and the errors and crimes of the past are in the daily consciousness and conscience of the school management … St Benedict’s cannot and will never forget Soper’s crimes. Nevertheless they are proud of the school as it now is, and as confident as ever they can be that everything is being done to ensure that such events cannot recur.”

The school, which charges fees of about £5,000 a term, counts the former Conservative chair Lord Patten and entertainer Julian Clary among its alumni.

Gillian Etherton QC, who led the prosecution, told the court victims were subjected to sadistic beatings by Soper for “fake reasons”.

They included kicking a football “in the wrong direction”, “failing to use double margins”, and “using the wrong staircase”, leading to a caning and a sexual assault, she said.

“It is the prosecution case that ‘punishments’ as described by the complainants in this case were carried out by Soper in entirely inappropriate ways and circumstances and, on many occasions, with what can only have been sexual motive,” Etherton added.

Many of his victims have experienced flashbacks and nightmares. During the trial Soper denied using the cane as a ruse to abuse boys.

The judge, Anthony Bate, remanded Soper in custody to be sentenced on 19 December. He was convicted of two counts of buggery, two counts of indecency with a child and 15 counts of indecent assault.

Soper was found guilty of buggery, contrary to section 12(1) of the Sexual Offences Act 1956, since the offence took place when that act was in force. The offence was changed from buggery to rape by the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Other People's Blogs

It's a strange, self-referential world, the blogosphere. On the one hand it's given people like me an opportunity to put our opinions out in public, when previously we'd have had to get somebody to publish us. On the other hand, visit anyone's blog and you will notice they are still in their own world, visited by people of a similar demographic, and similar interests.
The real function of the blogosphere for somebody nosy like me, is the insight into other people's lives and minds. And you get this opportunity to be nosy without the need to meet the author - the internet was truly made for someone like me who is fascinated by people but tires very quickly of direct human contact.
There are therefore a number of blogs I visit regularly.
Of the witchy ones, that of Inexplicable Device is of course a good one. He's more of a people person than me obviously, and has been raised to our altar so must be a great sorcerer. Just like mine, his magic is all his own and thus more authentic than magic from an instruction book. As a rule the witchy blogs I follow tend to be on Tumblr - I keep meaning to do a post about pictures over and against words. She's stopped posting now, but I've learned a lot from Rowan Tarot.
Lucy Melford has recently made a decision to make her blog about her - resisting the blogger's temptation to make it about a position or to give an impression. Surely people spend too much time doing things for effect as it is,  and many a blog gives this impression.
The temptation to give an impression is withstood by From Moon to Moon, despite it being a 'lifestyle' blog.
Two blogs which are definitely not for the faint-hearted: the first is Bishop Pat Buckley's blog, which is rumoured to be read avidly by many a Catholic cleric for fear they will appear on it. The other is even more difficult if you're not expecting it. It's a 'sedevacantist' blog, which means they don't think the pope is a true pope and basically what calls itself the Catholic church isn't - it's the daily commentaries from the Traditio fathers. A less challenging blog by a Christian minister and interesting person is Kindred of the Quiet Way, where obviously yours truly may fit less well!
Sadly he seems to have migrated to Twitter but the lovely James Goss can't half write. And finally I believe Scarfolk Council is only one of its gifted author's wonderful creations.
While I have been writing this post I've been watching Saturday Night Fever, and am struck by how Tony was an early crush of mine. I see the film is an 18 so I'm not sure how I saw it, but the scenes of him in black briefs made a lasting impression...

Friday, December 1, 2017

Witches and Hospitals

For reasons which are utterly routine and no cause for grapes and Lucozade, I am sitting in a hospital waiting room, in the midst of innumerable tests which I have done on a yearly basis.
To the witch, hospitals are fascinating places revealing numerous aspects of human behaviour and the dispositions they reveal.
There's the whole thing of not turning up for appointments for a start. I see that last month this hospital (a busy city general hospital) had over 1,700 appointments not attended. Of course some will be for various good reasons but they sent me two letters and a text to remind me about my appointment. Why ever would you just not turn up?
Well it indicates you're not bothered about anyone else, obviously. It also indicates you're not bothered about yourself, because those people will have seen GPs to start with and then don't turn up for the appointment that's been made.
In my last post I expatiated on people who will not learn lessons, and here I am thinking about people who won't accept help when it's offered, even though they've asked for it themselves!
I suppose what I'm really talking about is a lack of sovereignty over what is happening to them. Those whose will is to maintain good health will perform the magical act of turning up to a hospital appointment. As we know, all acts are magical acts and thus primarily act on the magician.
Image credit:

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Some People Never Learn

No, but, seriously. In one of her books Starhawk says that in witchcraft's philosophy you keep getting presented with the same lesson until you learn it. And so we see people going back to abusive spouses, not accepting the help offered for problems they themselves identify...and so on. Unfortunately these people present to the witch looking to be taught. They may not know we're witches, and they may not realise they're in school, but 'the witch is the change of definitions and relationships' (Margot Adler).
<Rubs hands with evil grin>

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Banish Often, Invoke Often

'Banish often, invoke often,' that is one of the major magic(k)al principles of the modern world of sorcery. It may seem uncouth after Uncle Al kindly wrote a guest post here, but I'm afraid my main purpose in this post is to document my great discomfort with the maxim he coined.
For a start, I note that people talking about this practice tend to talk about it as part of a daily magical practice. My own opinion is that id I'm even going to aim for a daily magical pratice I might as well turn Christian and have done with it. You will not that I am talking about myself here only. It may be your will or useful for you to have a dsciplined daily practice which you stick to, but it's not for me: my own will is that my practice is much more freeform and based around the daily experiences of my life. My opinion is that the universe itself will place both the opportunities, needs, and resources to deal with them, in my way when I and the universe are ready.
Don't get me wrong, every day I have my little chat with the Goddess. It will come as no surprise that this is rather opposite from any other approach to praying. It amuses me no end to invoke (I knew I would end up talking about these twin practices the wrong way round) her to cause erectile dysfunction to any rapists around. It gives me no end of joy to invoke her power of death on those who hate the faggots. Even the fact that I can say this means that I have broken free from the societal and familial norms of my past and have entered the liberty and ecstasy of the children of the Goddess. This little chat with the Goddess is therefore as much about me as it is about her.
Of course I am talking about a different sort of invoking from Crowley, or may be I am not. I believe him to have meant the magician to invoke the Holy Guardian Angel (now there's a whole library of books in those three words there) often. I am invoking a divinity, however by that invocation my reality is changed and I come into my own. As we know the ultimate target of magic is virtually always the magician himself, and if the magiician by his invocation comes into his own, well maybe he actually is gaining the knowledge and conversation of his Holy Guardian Angel.
That's the trouble with the magic you will read about here: I havre skimmed the chapter headings so know the jargon, but rarely understand the detail, and certain don't follow the practice. I'm far more likely to throw the book away in boredom and just do my own thing. Come to think of it, this blog is mainly a documentation of my doing exactly that and I would frankly advise any reader to throw away the book and so their own magic.
My problem comes far more with the action of banishing. I will admit to having had at least a go at the conventional banishing rituals. You can find them on t'internet, and if you find yourself awed by the recounting of these rituals, it's possible Uncle Al is playing a joke on you, or else just that the writer you've found online is merely intent on telling you how good he is a magician. So good, in fact, that nobody else can even understand it.
In fact, my own opinion is that banishing as a ritual is of questionable use to the witch. I say to the witch, because what I mean is the use of these rituals to a magician of my sort. My own opinion as a hedgewitch, is that since we aim to find the magic in the hedge we suffer far more by banishing than we can ever hope to gain. If you want to stick to the trad magical system as whole you're going to have to go there, but I feel for the hedgewitch it clears way too much stuff away. I have actually read of people who banish very regularly finding that the rite tends to clear *everything* away, and they can end up with a sense of nothingness and emptiness if they are not empty.
My own experience is that I know when I need to banish, because I start carrying around too much psychic gunk. There are numerous very traditional ways of getting rid of this - having a bath is a traditional one for example. I only really banish when I find I'm carrying too much stuff, and try to avoid getting to that point by a magical act which didn't really have a name until I thought about this post and decided to call this act 'putting things where they should be'. It's rather in a the nature of an examination of self and what is going on energetically around one, and deciding where any 'stuff' belongs. I actually do this quite a lot of the time anyway, by sending any nasties either to a recipient who needs the accompanying lesson, or just back where they have come from. Like this I am literally putting any nasties where they should be, I am lightened myself and I am using the stuff that comes my way as part of the witch's work to give people the opportunity to rectify their lives. Yes, someone whom I've divined is a turd may get a spectacularly bad run of luck, but the nature of my magic is that this will very obviously be set up in a way that clearly points them to examine aspects of their lives.
I'm just hoping that if I ever see a psychiatrist I can either keep this to myself or phrase it as a 'dynamic'.
The act of sending back or rearranging dodgy energies was one that it took me ages to come upon but it revolutionised my life in so many ways. I don't have to carry other people's stuff around, and it is the perfect way for a lazy witch to do the daily work I have to do. No doubt this post will have the fluffies throwing up their hands in horror, but this blog is about real witchcraft which comes from blood and bone, and this post is from the heart.

Queer: Graffiti near the Gay Village

This graff is something I've been meaning to post about here for some time - I'm quite chuffed it hasn't been cleaned off from one of the underpasses under Bristol Street, where it appeared some time ago.
*How* a lot of the assimilationist rhetoric spouted by the most vocal section of the gay world does my head in. Do I even need to say that concepts such as marriage and children feature highly? Yes you've got it, they want to be just like the heterosexuals.
The fact that this is painted on a wall is very cheering to me. The fact the concepts of queer and thug are put together warms the cockles of my witchy heart no end. Not all the faggots out there are good little gays. Some of the faggots are different. So mote it be.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017


Among the local witchy amenities are several quality graveyards. I only realised how lucky I am in this respect when I was recently talking to a friend who lives in Wolverhampton and I realised I couldn't find a single decent graveyard hear her, only sanitised council things with the graves all laid out in neat rows and manicured within an inch of their lives.
It was perhaps one of the early signs of my future witchiness that graveyards have not only never been frightening to me but they have been positively fascinating. I used to wander in the Church of England's graveyard in the Black Country village I grew up in, fascinated by the decaying yet still opulent Victorian tombs of the rich. Of course I had no way of knowing that in years to come I would end up a priest of an ancient Greek death goddess, but perhaps my early lack of fear of the resting places of the dead was an indicator of a current that I was already 'plugged in' to.
Graveyards are, of course, one of the places archetypally associated with witches. As usual the fictional magical practice of doing things like raising the dead do not chime with my experience of the death current and graveyard magic at all. In my experience the dead either hang around places of significance to them or around people for similar reasons. Personally there are a few scores I intend to settle when I'm dead. Some of these people are attracted to the witch because they themselves need something - usually just reassuring that it's OK to move on to what comes next, some of them are so tortured.
The work in the graveyard in my experience is quite different. It seems so obvious to me that the dead don't hang around graveyards and hence they are not necesarily the point of the magic (I must note here that my practice and experience is quite different from some magical traditions, particularly African ones, where there is much more empasis on ancestors). On an energetic level graveyards are not that different from crossroads - they are places where exchanges are made, judgements are made, and, ultimately, peace is sought.
Naturally as a priest of Hecate, her invocation is a major part of graveyard work. I often wander up to the graveyard in Park Street with a sacrifice of black sesame seeds and come away with things resolved and solutions found. The nature of the graveyard  is about death and destruction and so a sacrifice of some sort is particularly effective. Despite what I have said above, there are some dead people around that part of the city I am friendly and go and have a chat with, but on the whol my work is with the Goddess. And one of the signs of the Goddess's arrival in the graveyard is a particular sort of silence. No matter how busy the road is, a strange silence comes over things when she is invoked. I think of it as literally the silence of the grave, a silence in which things are changed and exchanges arranged. Have I said before that this blog is about real witchcraft and can only be expected to be a bit blood curdling? The magic of the graveyard is some of the world's most ancient magic and is truly the real thing.
Two better known cemeteries in the city centre are those at Key Hill and Warstones Lane: I have written about both of them here before. I find the atmosphere of Key Hill rather stultifying: the atmosphere is redolent of worthiness and nonconformist morality - while it is redolent of previous generations of my mother's side of the family, it doesn't chime with me now. I rather prefer Warstones Lane - although in my experience the rumours that it is a wild gay cruising ground are wildly over-stated. I can however claim to have been in the catacombs there. It was in the early nineties and even then I was having a wander. The entrances to the catacombs weren't properly sealed and I did step into one. I have no recollection of what it was like inside except for being dark and the knowledge I had even then that entering an underground place which was poorly maintained, alone, with no safety equipment and no means of contacting anyone, wasn't the most sensible thing I could do, so I just stepped in and out again. I do remember feeling frightened, but I think that was because of the danger rather than anything wanting me to go away.
The catacombs at Warstones Lane are the resting place of Baskerville, whose wandering corpse I have written about before here. They are also rumoured to be wildly hauntedm and so I will allow myself a ghost story below, which is actually only one of many about that corner of the city:
In  terms of ghosts, a woman dressed in 1930’s attire has been seen many times, and has shocked onlookers by walking through walls and parked cars, even causing a moving car to screech to a halt only to smile at the driver and promptly disappear. Accompanying sightings of this lady, people claim to have noticed a smell of pear drops, which is what Arsenic is said to smell like after it has been swallowed. This dangerous substance was used in the jewellery quarter at one time, which leads us to believe that this lady was killed by arsenic poisoning.
 Another witness claims to have spoken to a young man in an army style trench coat near the catacombs. During conversation, the young man referred to the Dudley Road Hospital as “The Infirmary”, a name not used for the hospital since 1948. When the witness walked away and turned to look again at the young man, he had disappeared.
Given that many times in Warstone’s history bodies were dug up and re-buried, it is little wonder the area is haunted. It was known in the early 18th century as ‘Dead Mans Lane’ and it is possible that at some point a Gallows would have been situated nearby. These were traditionally placed at cross-roads as they allowed un-consecrated burials, and one such cross road exists where the lane meets Icknield Street.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

90,000 Page Views Guest Post: Moonchild by Aleister Crowley

I am frantically excited to have a real occult celebrity write my guest post as this blog crawls past 90,000 page views (obviously I only attract quality readers, not the type who want pink fluff with a crescent moon on the spine). The celebrity is Uncle Al, and I feel the huge hunter's moon this past weekend must have had an effect on me because I'm feeling strangely drawn towards the rituals he depicts in Moonchild, which is where this extract comes from. Yes, it's a novel, but really all the best occultists write their rituals in novels rather than how to books, because magic is all about activating the imaginary bit of the mind which our civilisation is intent on shutting dead. So without further ado -

Ever since the beginning of the second stage of the Great Experiment, Iliel had become definitely a Spirit of the Moon While Cyril was with her, she reflected him, she clung to him, she was one with him, Isis to his Osiris, sister as well as spouse; and every thought of her mind being but the harmonic of his, there was no possibility of any internal disturbance.
But now she was torn suddenly from her support; she could not even speak to her man; and she discovered her own position as the mere centre of an Experiment.
She knew now that she was not of scientific mind; that her aspirations to the Unknown had been fully satisfied by mere love; and that she would have been much happier in a commonplace cottage. It says much for the personality of Sister Clara, and the force of her invocations, that this first impulse never came to so much as a word. But the priestess of Artemis took hold of her almost with the violence of a lover, and whisked her away into a languid ecstasy of reverie. She communicated her own enthusiasm to the girl, and kept her mind occupied with dreams, faery-fervid, of uncharted seas
of glory on which her galleon might sail, undiscovered countries of spice and sweetness, Eldorado and Utopia and the City of God.
The hour of the rising of the moon was always celebrated by an invocation upon the terrace consecrated to that planet. A few minutes earlier Iliel rose and bathed, then dressed herself in the robes, and placed upon her head the crescent-shaped tiara, with its nine great moonstones. In this the younger girls took turns to assist her. When she was ready, she joined the other girl, and together they went down to the terrace, where Sister Clara would be ready to begin the invocations. 
Of course, owing to the nature of the ceremony, it took place an hour later every day; and at first Iliel found a difficulty in accommodating herself to the ritual. The setting of the moon witnessed a second ceremony, directly from which she retired to her bed. It was part of the general theory of the operation thus to keep her concealed and recumbent for the greater part of the day; which, as has been seen, really lasted nearer 25 hours than 24.
But with soft singing and music, or with the recital of slow voluptuous poetry, her natural disinclination to sleep was overcome, and she began to enjoy the delicious laziness of her existence, and to sleep the clock round without turning in her bed. She lived almost entirely upon milk, and cream, and cheese soft-curded and mild, with little crescent cakes made of rye with white of egg and cane sugar; as for meat, venison, as sacred to the huntress Artemis, was her only dish. But certain shell-fish were permitted, and all soft and succulent vegetables and fruits.
She put on flesh rapidly; the fierce, active, impetuous girl of October, with taut muscles and dark-flushed mobile face, had become pale, heavy, languid, and indifferent to events, all before the beginning of February.
And it was early in this month that she was encouraged by her first waking vision of the Moon. Naturally her sleep had already been haunted by this idea from the beginning; it could hardly have been otherwise with the inveterate persistence of the ceremonies. The three women always chanted a sacred sentence, Epelthon Epelthon Artemis continuously for an hour after her couching; and then one of them went on while the others slept. They would each take a shift of three hours. The words were rather droned than sung, to an old magical chant, which Sister Clara, who was half Greek, half  Italian, born of a noble family of Mitylene, had inherited from some of the women of the island at her initiation as a young girl into some of their mysteries. They claimed that it had come down unaltered from the great singers of history. It was a drowsy lilt, yet in it was a current of fierce heat like that of the sun, and an undertone of sobbing like the sea.
So Iliel's dreams were always of the moon. If the watcher beheld trouble upon her face, as if disturbing influences were upon her, she would breathe softly in her ear, and bring her thoughts back to the infinite calm which was desired for her.
For Cyril Grey in devising the operation had by no means been blind to the dangers involved in choosing a symbol so sensitive as Luna. There is all the universe between her good and evil sides; in the case of a comparatively simple and straightforward planet like Saturn, this is not the case. And the planets with a backbone are far easier to control. If you once get Mars going, so to speak, it is easy to make him comply with Queensberry rules; but the moon is so passive that the slightest new influence throws her entirely out.
And, of course, the calmer the pool the bigger the splash! Hence, in order to draw down to Iliel only the holiest and serenest of the lunar souls, no precaution could be too great, no assiduity too intense.
The waking vision which came to her after about a month of the changed routine was of good cheer and great encouragement.
The spelling is in Greek. Translations courtesy of Mbabwa. Italics are mine...
"Appeared Appeared alt no "
It was an hour after sunset; the night was curiously warm, and a soft breeze blew from the sea. It was part of the duty of Iliel to remain in the moonlight, with her gaze and her desire fixed upon the orb, whenever possible. From her room a stairway led to a tall turret, circular, with a glass dome, so as to favour all such observations. But on this night the garden tempted her. Nox erat et caelo fulgebat Luna sereno inter minora sidera. The moon hung above Capri, two hours from her setting. Iliel held her vigil upon the terrace, by the side of the basin of the fountain. When the moon was not visible, she would always replace her by looking upon the sea, or upon still water, for these have much in common with the lunar influence.
Something -- she never knew what -- drew her eyes from the moon to the water. She was so placed that the reflexion appeared in the basin, at the very edge of the marble, where the water flowed over into the little rivulets that coursed the terrace. There was a tremulous movement, almost like a timid kiss, as the water touched the edge.
And, to the eye of Iliel, it seemed as if the trembling of the moon's image were a stirring of vitality.
The thought that followed was a mystery. She said that she looked up, as if recalled to her vigil, and found that the moon was no longer in the sky. Nor indeed was there any sky; she was in a grotto whose walls, fantastically draped with stalactites, glimmered a faint purplish blue -- very much the effect, she explained, of luminous paint. She looked down again; the basin was gone; at her feet was a young fawn, snow-white, with a collar of silver. She was impelled to read the engraving upon the collar, and was able to make out these words:
Siderum regina bicornis audi,
Luna, puellas.
Iliel had learnt no Latin. But these words were not only Latin, but the Latin of Horace; and they were exactly appropriate to the nature of the Great Experiment, "Luna" she had heard, and "regina"; and she might have guessed "puellas" and even "siderum"; but that is one thing, and an accurate quotation from the Carmen Saeculare is another. Yet they stood in her mind as if she had always known them, perhaps even as if they were innate in her. She repeated aloud:
"Siderum regina bicornis audi,
Luna, puellas.
"List, o moon, o queen of the stars, two-horned,
List to the maidens!"
At the time, she had, of course, no idea of the meaning of the words.
When she had read the inscription, she stroked the fawn gently; and, looking up, perceived that a child, clad in a kirtle, with a bow and quiver slung from her shoulders, was standing by her.
But the vision passed in a flash; she drew her hand across her brow, as if to auscultate her mental condition, for she had a slight feeling of bewilderment. No, she was awake; for she recognized the sacred oak under which she was standing. It was only a few paces from the door of the temple where she was priestess. She remembered perfectly now: she had come out to bid the herald blow his horn. And at that moment its mountainous music greeted her.
But what was this? From every tree in the wood, from every blade of grass, from under every stone, came running little creatures in answer to the summons. They were pale, semi-transparent, with oval (but rather flattened) heads quite disproportionately large, thin, match-like bodies and limbs, and snake-like tails attached to the base of their skulls. They were extraordinarily light and active on their feet, and the tails kept up a lashing movement. The whole effect was comic, at the first sight; one might have said tadpoles on stilts.
But a closer inspection stayed her laughter. Each of these creatures had a single eye, and in this eye was expressed such force and energy that it was terrifying. The effect was heightened by the sagacity, the occult and profound knowledge of all possible things, which dwelt behind those fiery wills. In the carriage of the head was something leonine as well as serpentine; there was extraordinary pride and courage to match the fierce persistency.
Yet there seemed no object in the movements of these strange beings; their immense activity was unintelligible. It seemed as if they were going through physical exercises -- yet it was something more than that. At one moment she fancied that she could distinguish leaders, that this was a body of troops being rallied to some assault.
And then her attention was distracted. From her feet arose a swan, and took wing over the forest. It must have been there for a long time, for it had laid an egg directly between her sandalled feet. She suddenly realized that she was dreadfully hungry. She would go into the temple and have the egg for breakfast. But no sooner had she picked it up than she saw that it, like the collar of the fawn in her dream, was inscribed with a Latin sentence. She read it aloud: the words were absolutely familiar. They were those of the labarum of Constantine "In hoc signo vinces." "In this sign thou shalt conquer." But her,eyes gave the lie to her ears; for the word "signo" was spelt "Cygno"! The phrase was then a pun -- " In this Swan thou shalt conquer." At the time she did not understand; but she was sure of the spelling, when she came afterwards to report her vision to Sister Clara. 
It then came into her mind that this egg was a great treasure, and that it was her duty to guard it against all comers; and at the same moment she saw that the creatures of the wood -- "sons of the oak" she called them instinctively -- were advancing toward her.
She prepared to fight or fly. But, with a fearful crackling, the lightning -- which was, in the strange way of dreams, identical with the oak -- burst in every direction, enveloping her with its blaze; and the crash of the thunder was the fall of the oak. It struck her to the ground. The world went out before her eyes, dissolved into a rainbow rush of stars; and she heard the shouts of triumph of the "sons of the oak" as they dashed forward upon her ravished treasure. "Mitos ho Theos!" they shouted -- Sister Clara did not know, or would not tell, its meaning.
As the iridiscent galaxy in which she was floating gradually faded, she became aware that she was no longer in the wood, but in a strange city. It was crowded with men and women, of many a race and colour. In front of her was a small house, very poor and squalid, in whose doorway an old man was sitting. A long staff was by his side, leaning against the door; and at his feet was a lantern -- was it a lantern? It was more like the opposite of one; for in the full daylight it burned, and shed forth rays of darkness. The ancient was dressed in grey rags; his long unkempt hair and beard had lacked a barber for many a day. But his right arm was wholly bare, and around it was coiled a serpent, gold and green, with a triple crown sparkling with ruby, sapphire, and with it he was engraving a great square tablet of emerald.
She watched him for some time; when he had finished, he went away with the staff, and the lamp, and the tablet, to the sea shore. Along the coast he proceeded for some time, and came at last to a cave. Iliel followed him to its darkest corner; and there she saw a corpse lying. Strangely, it was the body of the old scribe himself. It came to her very intensely that he had two bodies, and that he always kept one of them buried, for safety. The old scribe left the tablet upon the breast of the dead man, and went very quickly out of the cave.
But Iliel remained to read what was written.
It was afterwards translated by Cyril Grey, and there is no need to give the original.
"Utter the Word of Majesty and Terror!
True without lie, and certain without error,
And of the essence of The Truth. I know
The things above are as the things below,
The things below are as the things above,
To wield the One Thing's Thaumaturgy -- Love.
As all from one sprang, by one contemplation,
So all from one were born, by permutation.
Sun sired, Moon bore, this unique Universe;
Air was its chariot, and Earth its nurse.
Here is the root of every talisman
Of the whole world, since the whole world began.
Here is the fount and source of every soul.
Let it be spilt on earth! its strength is whole.
Now gently, subtly, with thine Art conspire
To fine the gross, dividing earth and fire.
Lo! it ascendeth and descendeth, even
And swift, an endless band of earth and heaven;
Thus it receiveth might of duplex Love,
The powers below conjoined with those above,
So shall the glory of the world be thine
And darkness flee before thy SOVRAN shrine.
This is the strong strength of all strength; surpass
The subtle and subdue it; pierce the crass
And salve it; so bring all things to their fated
Perfection: for by this was all created. 
O marvel of miracle! O magic mode!
All things adapted to one circling code!
Since three parts of all wisdom I may claim,
Hermes thrice great, and greatest, is my name.
What I have written of the one sole Sun,
His work, is here divined, and dared, and done."

'Hidden' City: Fire Office Passage

I have been wanting to write a blog post about Fire Office Passage for ever. It's off New Street if you haven't seen it and signposted very obviously indeed. But bizarrely nobody seems to notice it, and certainly not go up it because it comes across as fairly unsavoury. The illustration is of the actual passage, and it came off t'internet but the source was given as one of those search engines which search flickr - when I went on it I couldn't find the actual source so if it belongs to you please comment on this post or contact me via the contact box.
I'm also afraid I don't really have much that is intelligent to say about Fire Office Passage which hasn't already been said on the Birmingham Conservation Trust's blog:
In searching for inspiration for my next blog, I decided to turn to my own Birmingham ancestry for inspiration.   My fourth Great Grandfather, Enos Edwards was the Chief Engineer for the Birmingham Fire Office working from 1807 until his death in 1862. His son Enos and other members of the family were also firemen and engineers for the company.
The Birmingham Fire Office was first established in March 1805, and in 1808 the company built its stone fronted office in Union Street at the expense of nearly £4000, which also included the engine house, fire-men’s houses, and stables.  The picture below is from Bisset’s directory and shows the regency fire office building in 1808 (1)

My ancestor lived in the fire-men’s quarters which were in Union passage.
By 1839 the Birmingham Fire Office had two engines, one being decorated with wooden battle axes, and iron scroll-work painted in many colours and the other being very plain and drab. William Baddelsky writing in the illustrated weekly journal for iron and steel in 1835, described “if a fire breaks out on premises of the Society of Friendsof which there are a large number in Birmingham, the Drab engine is dispatched to their assistance; but if the goods or chattels of Jews or Gentiles are in jeopardy, the painted engine is brought out.” (2)
During the early days of fire fighting in Birmingham there was no organised municipal fire service like we have today, so people had to buy insurance from the many different insurance companies available of which the Birmingham Fire Office was an early example.  These different insurance companies were represented by agents  and Showell’s Dictionary of Birmingham describes their presence in the city “insurance agents offices are so thick on the ground round Bennet’s Hill and Colmore Row, that it has been seriously suggested the latter thoroughfare should he rechristened and be called Insurance Street. It was an agent who had the assurance to propose the change!”  (3) To this day this area has remained Birmingham’s financial district.
According to William Hutton in his 1835 book The History of Birmingham, the rates of fire insurance varied for properties but ranged from 2 shillings and 6 pence to £100 per annum (3). Once insured with a company a fire mark had to be attached to building as proof of insurance. I actually found a Victorian example of the Birmingham Fire Office mark by chance on a visit to the BMAG’s History Galleries Exhibition, here it is below:
In the early history of fire fighting it was sometimes the case that when a fire broke out several insurance fire brigades would attend the fire, but if the building was not insured or had a rival fire-mark the brigade would return to base, or even try to sabotage the rival brigade.  This often led to persons insuring their property with more than one company to ensure the fire would be put out.

On investigating the sites in present day Birmingham most of the Georgian and Regency buildings have long since disappeared and the only evidence of the old fire office, and any insurance and agent’s buildings now lies just off New Street, where the following sign can be seen.
This passage would have linked up to Colmore Row and Bennet’s Hill the areas described in Showell’s dictionary, so perhaps the aforementioned agent did sort of get his way after all on the renaming of street sign.
My ancestor Enos Edwards attended many Birmingham fires throughout his career and devoted his life to fire fighting in Birmingham. In his obituary in 1862 he was called the “Braidwood of Birmingham” so called after James Braidwood the founder of the world’s first Municipal fire service (in Edinburgh) and first director of the London Fire Engine Establishment.  It is nice to know one of my ancestors played an important role in Birmingham’s history.

(1)   Image from: A Catalogue of Commerce and Art: Bisset’s Magnificent Guide for Birmingham, 1808 [From Birmingham Central Library]
(2)   Illustrated weekly journal for iron and steel 1835
(3)   Hutton, W. (1835). A history of Birmingham, edt by Guest, J.  Birmingham.  6th Edition.
(4)   Harman, T. and Showell, W. (2004)Showell’s Dictionary of Birmingham. A History And Guide Arranged Alphabetically Source
 I'm afraid that Fire Office Passage is one of the places which has completely evaded the Hound's attempts to get a glimpse of its life. I have thumbed through Kelly's and found no indication that any individual or business gave their address as Fire Office Passage through the twentieth century, or at the end of the nineteenth century, so sadly this is going to have to be a post where the scanty information is taken (but credited) from elsewhere.
I would surmise a few things though. It is apparent that there wasn't only *one* fire office passage in Birmingham, and while there may have been one or several fire insurance offices based in this passage, they don't seem to have left very much trace of themselves. That said, it has always seemed apparent to me that at one time people would have lived in Fire Office Passage. If you look closely you can see a Georgian house buried in the middle of the rest of the building there, so I would surmise that there were once others and the passage would have been a centre of habitation and business.
I'm hoping still that posting this here will cause the universe to draw other information about old life in the passage to my attention...
Addendum - if anyone can explain why the pictures on the blog post I've lifted and pasted here aren't working, I'd be very grateful.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Witches' Song Book: Wytches' Brew by Omnia

How I love this song. I won't expatiate at length over it, as Omnia have managed to take pretty much everything witchy in the world and distill it into one piece of music.
Thrice the brinded cat has mewed!
-Thrice and once the hedge-pig whined!
-Harpy cries: " 'tis time! 'tis time!"
Round about the cauldron go,
in the poisoned entrails throw
Skin of toad and spike of bone,
sharpened on an eagle stone
Serpent's egg and dancing dead,
effigy of beaten lead
Double double trouble you,
bubble in a witches' brew
Fillet of a fairy snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog
Lizard leg and fairy wing,
round about the cauldron sing
Double double trouble you,
bubble in a witches' brew

Root of mandrake dug at night,
when the moon is full and bright
Slip of yew and twig of fern,
make the fire dance and burn
For our will it will be done,
when the hurlyburly's done
Double double trouble you,
bubble in a witches' brew
Double double toil and trouble
Fire burn and cauldron bubble
Double double trouble you
Bubble in a witches' brew
Double double toil and trouble
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble
Double double trouble you
Bubble in a witches' brew

Round about the cauldron go,
in the poisoned entrails throw
Skin of toad and spike of bone,
sharpened on an eagle stone
Serpent's egg and dancing dead,
effigy of beaten lead
Double double trouble you,
bubble in a witches' brew
Fillet of a fairy snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog
Lizard leg and fairy wing,
round about the cauldron sing
Double double trouble you,
bubble in a witches' brew
Root of mandrake dug at night,
when the moon is full and bright
Slip of yew and twig of fern,
make the fire dance and burn
For our will it will be done,
when the hurlyburly's done
Double double trouble you,
bubble in a witches' brew