the autogeography of a no/body
people who come out of nowhere to try and put into words any part of what goes on in their minds are pigs.
the whole literary scene is a pigpen, especially today.
all those who have points of reference in their minds, i mean on a certain side of their heads, in well-localised areas of their brains, all those who are masters of language, all those for whom words have meanings, all those for whom words have meanings, all those for whom there exist higher levels of the soul and currents of thought, those who represent the spirit of the times, and who have named these currents of thoughts, i am thinking of their meticulous industry and of that mechanical creaking which their minds give off in all directions,
- are pigs.
those for whom certain words have meaning, and certain modes of being, those who are so precise, those for whom emotions can be classified and who quibble over some point of their hilarious classifications, those who still believe in ‘terms’, those who discuss the ranking ideologies of the age, those whom women discuss so intelligently and the women themselves who speak so well and discuss the currents of the age, those who still believe in an orientation of the mind, those who follow paths, who drop names, who recommend books,
- these are the worst pigs of all.
you are quite unnecessary!
i am thinking of bearded critics.
and i have already told you: no works, no language, no words, no mind, nothing.
nothing but a fine nerve meter.
a kind of incomprehensible stopping place in the mind, right in the middle of everything.
and do not expect me to name this everything, to tell you how many parts it is divided into, don’t expect me to tell you its weight, don’t think that you can get me to discuss it, and that while discussing i will forget myself and that i will thus being, without realising it, to THINK – and that it will be illuminated, that it will live, that it will deck itself in a multitude of words, all with well-polished meanings, all different, and able to express all the attitudes and nuances of a very sensitive and penetrating thought.
ah, these states that are never named, these eminent positions of the soul, ah, these intermissions of the mind, ah, these minuscule failures which are the nourishment of my hours, ah, this population teaming with facts – i always use the same words and really i don’t seem to advance very much in my thinking, but actually i am advancing more than you, bearded asses, pertinent pigs, masters of the false word, wrappers of portraits, serial writers, groundlings, cattle raiders, entomologists, plague of my speech.
i told you that i have lost my speech, but that is no reason for you to persist in speaking.
enough, i shall be understood in ten years by people who will be doing what you do today. then my geysers will be known, my ice floes will be seen, then secret of adulterating my poisons will have been learned, the games of my soul will be revealed.
then all my hairs, all my mental veins will be buried in lime, then my bestiary will be perceived and my mystique will have become a hat. then they will see the joints of the stones steam and arborescent bouquets of mental eyes will be crystallised in glossaries, then they will see stone meteors fall, then they will see ropes, then they will understand a geometry without space, they will learn what is meant by the configuration of the mind, and they will understand how i lost my mind.
then they will understand why my mind is not here, then they will see all language drift away, all minds run dry, all tongues shrivel up, human faces will flatten and deflate as if sucked in by hot-air vents, and this lubricating membrane will continue to float in the air, this lubricating caustic membrane, this double-thick, many-leveled membrane of infinite crevices, this melancholy and vitreous membrane, but so sensitive, so pertinent itself, so capable of multiplying, dividing turning with a flash of crevices, sense, drugs, penetrating and noxious irrigations,
then all this will be accepted.
and i shall have no further need to speak
antonin artaud from the nerve meter (1925)
i rather like the passage for its passion and pathos … and because it reminds me of why a wild heart. purely viewed as an insult tho, well it’s right fucking creative, anger can be a beautiful thing in the hands of a genius and, crucially, the destructive tendency can be artistically productive.
i love artaud. somewhere in him and his writing is an element of truth and profanity. maybe it’s because his madness, at times, left him completely unmediated. and i was thinking ‘to just speak, all bald like, without posturing’, well, there is something to be ad/mired about that, to refuse the audience, to say exactly what one believes to be true and hang the consequences, there’s a peculiar honour in such a stance, because art, real art, isn’t a corruption, it’s not the art of writing or the art of entertainment, it’s not a manipulation for the sake of an audience or to garner popularity, you can’t go put a bridle on it and break its back so you can ride the damn thing, art is fucking wild and untamed, it’s a shit stream of chaotices built from twigs and mud, who the hell cares about the right and wrong of it, it’s not there for judgment, it doesn’t exist for approval, and that’s my relief, how come i can breathe, the profanity of the whole thing, that’s what’s sacred about it.
there was this one time, way back, when i went on a demonstration calling for the shutdown of the bnp headquarters in london (the bnp are a far right fascist organisation). of course, the cops wouldn’t let us go towards the actual building, so ten thousand demonstrators were stuck in a dead end road. i was in class war then, an anarchist federation, and we had this thing, supposedly, about direct action (blow it up, burn it down, kick it til it breaks). i say supposedly, because that day i learned what a bunch of gobshites my fucking ‘comrades’ were. the cops attacked, full mounted charge, peeling back to reveal several phalanxes of riot cops, and they meant business … now, right behind me was the southall black sisters collective, hundreds of them, some of them with their kids. what did my comrades do? they jumped the wall and fucking ran. you can’t jump a wall with a pram. you’re fucking stuffed. you’re stood there like a target. and snaking down the side of the other wall was combat 18, the military wing of the bnp. i’ve never been so scared in all my life. i was actually crying. i couldn’t run. how do you run away and leave women and kids? but there was this guy, skinny dude, and he said we all had to link arms, that the horses wouldn’t charge if we linked arms, only problem was he was a commie, full red flag regalia, and anarchists don’t like commies. he was right tho, the horses don’t charge, they just push up against you. the feeling of a horse’s flanks, so much more weight and power behind their movement, and they stink, and they froth at the mouth, and they’re fucking huge. when the cops couldn’t break through with that tactic they changed their strategy and sent the riot boys in to crack a few skulls. the line held tho, we just kept passing the casualties back to the black sisters. there was blood everywhere. and noise, the noise was phenomenal. the stand off went on for about a couple of hours. despite the full weight of the state brought down to bear on us they couldn’t break through, linked arms you see, something so simple and so nakedly human, you stand with the man next to you, shoulder to shoulder. that’s what i learned that day. bollocks to the semantics, the apparent philosophy, fuck the mob, that beast without a brain, fuck the cops, they can’t do anything, fuck it all, it’s just about where you choose to stand, and you’ve always gotta make that choice, either positively or through an act of omission, and i’m always gonna stand next to the man with honour, the one who sticks his chin out, cos without that fucking insane bastard we’re all gonna get mashed. he don’t care what the odds are, all he’s gonna do is stand up for what he thinks, what he believes, and he’s never gonna be any different, because he knows it, right down in the heart of himself he knows who he is and why he is and no one’s gonna convince him of anything else.
She was growed up to be A Shamed,
like a hot tomato, ripe with embarrassment
head branch bent, too fragile, too guilty,
(smelling of chlorophyll),
constantly praying her skin would keep her in
until she could peel it off.
‘You reap what you sow,’ her mother said,
‘the fruits of your labour’.
Oh yes, the woman’s knees were grass stained.
And what knees! God made them for kneeling.
She never stood up straight,
broken backs and pip pip pip,
‘Please leave a message after the tone’.
(the fundus umbilicus),
heads hung like parliament;
eyes to the left and nose to the right
(Picasso would have been proud),
while she was tied to the middle ground,
a stake (in her future) for a spine.
‘The fruit never falls far,’ her mother said.
‘But I wanted to be a flower, a white rose
with wedding dress petals,’ she replied.
Her belly swelled. Her skin stretched.
Inside small seeds of desire waited for harvest rape
(to split, to tear, to rip).
If only she’d read Latin instead of romance.
If only the fullness of time wasn’t so empty.
Whenever she felt bad, which was pretty often, Miranda hid behind a mask of thick make-up and an accommodating smile. It had been obvious since she faced herself in the mirror that morning how the day would develop. She drew a thin brown line around the outside of her lips then scrabbled to find her favourite diva lipstick. Red. It makes a statement. Only women over the age of thirty can wear red lipstick and not look like silly tarts – with the exception of undead gothic princesses, goddamn Winona Ryder.
Pout, bend, dab. Is that the faint trace of a moustache Miranda? Perhaps you should get it waxed or bleached or electrified. There. See? Some of your powder is not entirely in contact with your skin. Moving swiftly on to lavender scented hand lotion while ignoring what looks like an age spot. You really should wear rubber gloves, Miranda, especially when doing the washing up.
But this is not part of the illusion, because once on stage, under the lights, Miranda shines brighter than any star, and domesticity has no place in fantasy, at least not at the Catfish Club. The audience love her. They know her. They own her. She has been treading these boards every night for the past six years. Six years! Day in, day out, through thick and thin. She has become quite an institution, brick built and municipal.
Of course they applaud, some insist on standing and whistling – even Winona Ryder has to deal with such coarse behaviour; but no one ever brings flowers to Miranda’s dressing room, Miranda’s small, drab dressing room, where she sits, on a chair borrowed from the main floor, swabbing the make-up off her face after yet another show, with man sized tissues in her man sized hands.
I was thinking today, right after I passed the drunk guy lying unconscious in the park, I was thinking about ownership, being owned, what I own.
And sometimes the inside of my body feels like it’s water, or I’m going to turn to water.
She said “Perhaps it’s your OWN internal counsellor”. We were waiting in a queue to get on a boat. “Have you thought it might be your OWN internal counsellor?” No, I hadn’t thought that.
The old lady in front of me was penguin walking, weight planted heavily with each footstep. If I could just tap you on the shoulder, dear, because I need to know exactly what that colour of pale lilac is called, surely it has its OWN name?
I would say coarse haired, a touch of Irish Wolfhound. Well you would, wouldn’t you, because you try to classify everything. Not everything. Yes, you need those boxes. I hate boxes. You hate them because you need them. I don’t need them. So fucking rigid, big, bad show of gymnastic flexibility but at your core … Your core? No, MY core. OUR core, that’s what gets you. It doesn’t get me, totally false construct. I know the arguments. Argue this bitch.
Everyone wears their death mask. Occasionally they get a glimpse, out of the corner of their eye, as they pass a window reflection, when they stare at the stranger in the mirror, at the point they realise the person in the photograph is them but SOMETHING is missing. Less frequent are breaks in memory.
Tips of tongues.
The man in the park will wake up in a few hours and he will remember nothing. What a luxury. Imagine remembering EVERYTHING.
Enough, both of you, sit down.
Give me some thread, any thread, word thread, silk thread, because I’m feeling ropey tonight.
Here is the issue. “Silk milk.” That’s not the issue. Funky toilet boxter trickster rich man poor man beggar man thief. I can hear the clouds moving.
Unbidden, the stuff that OWNS you.
It had been a late one, bed at dawn, never a good idea, if my sleep gets disrupted it adds to the scramble. “How do you feel?” he asked the following morning. “Discombobulated,” I said. I can’t stand silence. It reminds me of waiting. Always the radio.
1989, Spain, standing in my parents’ sitting room, bare feet, stone floor, whitewashed walls, evening, faded heat, mother in the kitchen, metal-metal-water-pan-pong, my father’s hand in the small of my back, smiling, I can smell brandy and cigars, I have my hand on his arm, just above his elbow, half my palm against his skin and half resting on his shirt, cotton, an open weave. “Follow me,” he says, and we begin to dance. Hand in the small of my back. My body matches his. Sweet sweat, a slight grease sheen on his forehead, hair combed back. The steps, and feigned steps, are quick. We dance with our hips. I flick my head from side to side. Holding his other hand, rough, big, such big hands my father had, thick, muscular. Mother joins us. She is standing in the doorway clapping Arab style, ringing her tongue against the roof of her mouth. We are in perfect rhythm. He can lift me. He can spin me and pull me back to him. I am completely weightless, entirely subject to this wild lubrication, and I am laughing and laughing and my whole body is on hinges. The music finishes.
“I dreamt about my father, about the time we danced.”
I went to the beach and collected peebles.
A force ten gale blew in off the sea. At the top of the steps it was so windy I had to secure myself to the stair railings with the dog lead. He is bomb proof. Low centre of gravity. Funny animal. Onto the roaring beach. Horizontal rain like needles. Rock pools. He swam in the deeper sections. I watched the sea plants clinging onto their hosts for dear life, dear, dear life, costly and salty, piquant right through to salinated. And I thought about him, the time he told me how they had to chain themselves to the railings to avoid being washed overboard. Seventeen years old. He loved the sea, all his dear, dear life, that cost him, that cost me. He loved the beautiful, wild sea. Oceans of guilt and regret. But I never did remember the dancing before. Like everything with him, it was a crazy, energetic and alive. With my father you never felt you were just treading water. He was the sea.
I stood on the beach, wind lashed, soaked to the skin, blown away by it all.
“Yes, I’m done.”
“Can you see his death mask?”
The last thing I did was hold his still warm hand.
She was growed up to be a shamed,
like a hot tomato, ripe with embarrassment
head branch bent, too fragile, too guilty,
(smelling of chlorophyll),
constantly praying her skin would keep her in
until she could peel it off.
‘You reap what you sew,’ her mother said,
‘the fruits of your labour’.
Oh yes, the woman’s knees were grass stained.
And what knees, God made them for kneeling.
She never stood up straight.
Broken backs and pip pip pip,
‘Please leave a message after the tone’.
(the tomato plant, the telephone receiver),
heads hung like parliament;
eyes to the left and nose to the right
(Picasso would have been proud
listening to their talk of mental institutions,
ropes and bullets in the brain),
while all the time she was tied to the middle ground,
a stake (in her future) for a spine.
‘The fruit never falls far,’ her mother said,
about other people.
‘But I wanted to be a flower, a rose,
a white rose with wedding dress petals,’
she replied, ‘I wanted to be beautiful’
Her belly swelled. Her skin stretched.
Inside small seeds of desire waited for harvest rape.
(split, torn, ripped).
If only she read latin instead of romance.
If only she knew the secret of wolf-peach.
Raphael, copper throughout, a long beard, flaming hair. And he asked, so I replied, for her, being as he is the healing angel. “We learn about ourselves from how we respond to the suffering of others.”
Michael, sword in hand. He held it up and sunlight hit the blade. “There is a choice. You can blind your enemies and illuminate the path for your friends. You can blind your friends and illuminate the path for your enemies.” Dazzled by the brilliance of reflection. He thrust the blade deep into the earth. Sensing my surprise, he said “Truth is not hewn into stone”.
Gabriel, messenger of God, the sayer. He casts a large black circle, a concave obsidian mirror. “Here.” And in the middle of the dark there is one speck of white light. “Like this.” Cellular, it divides into two, and the two divide into two, and on and on, until the whole black mirror is obscured by the white disc cells. He turns it over. Now it is concave porcelain. “Here.” And in the middle of the light there is one speck of dark. “Like this.” Cellular, it divides into two, and the two divide into two, and on and on, until the whole white mirror is obscured by the black disc cells. He nods. “I am the sayer.”
Uriel, carved in stone, sitting on a stone throne, old man, his plinth at the top of an endless flight of stone steps. I stand in front of his silence.
Between the age of eighteen and nineteen I was single. Not celibate, single. I had a great time. Living in my first house-share, surviving on bad bolognaise, learning how to stand on my own two feet, mostly by falling flat on my face. Yes. Those were the days, when summer meant a kind of freedom, because I was still young enough and daft enough to believe in such warmth. Kick off your shoes, dance in the street; and I did, thinking hot concrete paving slabs were a luxurious feather feed. Everything tickled me.
In late August I went to visit my sister in Israel. I’d not been before, so she made a fuss, a big fuss. I was taken to the caves by the Lebanese border, Megiddo, Metzada, the Galil, a nature reserve full of frisky ostriches who kept trying to fuck our large, black car and, finally, Eilat, where my brother-in-law attempted to smuggle some fire coral out of the sea in his swimming shorts only to discover exactly why it’s called fire coral.
My sister’s second child, a girl, was six weeks old. Pretty thing. And I love babies, always have. I played with her, sang to her. She liked my rendition of Paul Simon’s ‘Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes’. I didn’t know the words. It doesn’t matter with a baby. ‘Oh wah, oh wah, oh wah, oh wah, a-tri-aling aling aling ganja’. She smiled as I lay back, holding her up in the air above my head, wondering if my sister had noticed I’d just said the word ‘ganja’.
We sat by the pool, slapped out out sun loungers, diving into the water or shade every ten minutes or so. It was hot, fucking hot. Coming out of the hotel room was like putting your head into a blast furnace – apparently, but I’ve never even seen a blast furnace let alone put my head in one. I like heat that sucks the air out of your lungs and turns it to chalk in your mouth. It feels big. And big feels real. And real feels like you’re living it, right down in your belly and boots.
I wasn’t wearing boots.
There was music, piped over an intellectually sensitive stereo, tinkling along with the water and shadows and trickling sweat. Oh yes. And it was designed to add to the experience, because anything that detracted would have been terribly something, Eastern European I think, Ashkenazi perhaps, although such a word sounds so wonderfully romantic, stuffed as it is with history and verbosity (the two go hand in hand). We’re white here. White and sizzling, like sausages, kosher sausages.
Drenched in heat I lay perfectly still. My sister’s eldest child, a two year old boy, moved around in abstract play circles. There was a towel on his head. He kept rearranging the plastic furniture. “Mamma, mamma,” looking for her to respond, reassure. She smiled back at him, poked his fat tummy, at one point snatched him up and pulled him close to her, put her mouth in his neck, blew raspberries, and he squealed, wriggled out of her clutches, collapsed onto the ground, kicking, writhing and laughing as if he was going to be sick, but she wouldn’t let him go, she just wouldn’t, and I thought maybe his squeals were becoming screams, convulsive, as she folded him up in her arms and covered him with her body.
“I love you, I love you, I love you,” she said, over and over again, burying her face in his curly brown hair. She clung to him. I watched his chubby hands, knuckles inverted to form dimples, soft finger nails, trying to scrabble away. After a minute she let him escape and he ran, flat footedly, to the edge of the pool, her eyes trailing after him, measuring the distance of her concern.
Sensing my gaze, she turned briefly to match it with her own. We rarely looked directly at one another, maybe because we thought we’d already seen everything there was, mirror wise, family wise. Don’t know. My brother-in-law drifted into view, wearing a battered panama. It was fine. The scene. Complete. And then the music, Joan Armatrading singing ‘Love and Affection’. I’d never heard it before. Such sweet tones, bleeding out into the heat, reflecting off the water, echoing and contrasting, the way that summer does. And I was there, hot, watching, letting my body sink into the whole thing. I was really there man, uncorpsed, listening. It’s not often you’re present, totally. Some part of you always wanders off, to find a missing bit, because we’re fractured, you know, broken up, as if the relationship with ourselves has already gone bad.
So I heard this love song, at a time I wasn’t in love, at a time when I was, well, I was just myself. How often are we just ourselves? Phew. I don’t know. Validity is a strange concept. I remember seeing Snow White when I was seven or something. ‘Mirror mirror on the wall …’. Yeah. Maybe we’re like the troll under the hill who covers up his eyes and thinks everyone’s disappeared, in reverse, if you get what I mean. If he knew folks could see him then he’d know he existed. Tenuous. It’s all so fucking tenuous.
Love is tenuous.
I had this boyfriend once and I told him I loved him, he turned right around and said ‘You can’t love anyone until you learn to love yourself’. He wasn’t wrong. And there was this other guy. I said ‘I won’t let you break my heart.’ And he said ‘You’re already broken, I’m just playing with the pieces’.
I’ve carried this song with me for years because it’s mine. I don’t think you get to understand love by sucking it out of another person, no matter how soft and squelchy their neck is. No sir. Love is something you give, not something you take. It’s not about anyone else. But this is my song, my love song to myself. It’s precious to me for that reason. Because it’s self defining.
I’m forty this year. Forty fucking years old. Jesus, how did that happen? I heard it quite by accident last night, after midnight, full of red wine, half sitting on the sofa (we’ll avoid the word ’slumped’). And the span of everything in between: marriage, kids, various outbursts of debilitating insanity, the death of both of my parents, sometimes being broke, sometimes being flush, three cats, friends who’ve died. Life’s a tricky business innit? I heard it and just KNEW, I remembered. It’s not about being alone or self sufficient, it’s about knowing who you are and why you are, independent of everyone and anything else.
So, I’d like to dedicate this song to myself and all those of us who’ve made it, made it possible, because we understood what love was and what love wasn’t, because we dared to love ourselves and dared to do it by ourselves. It’s hard. Yeah. It’s really fucking hard. We weren’t wrong though, we just forgot somewhere along the line, what it meant to dance bare foot on hot concrete. It’s summer. Kick off your shoes.
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I never liked The Sound of Music. Don’t know why. Maybe it was the pitch of Julie Andrews’ voice, or it could’ve been an aversion to lederhosen; but, for some strange reason, the songs are familiar to me, comforting, ingrained, like dirt under my fingernails. So, to start at the beginning, because the beginning’s a very good place to start …
I’m fucked up man.
Last Saturday (14th June 2008) I did a series of rituals that could be described as ‘high magic’, one of which involved going down into the abyss, staring your crap old self in the face and then asking for healing from a servitor known as F*********. Except I forgot to do part II, thus ended up stuck in the abyss. Typical. I never listen properly. I always want to be trapped between the devil and the deep blue sea. I think I feel most at home if the shit’s hitting the fan.
My friend Jenny, who should more properly be known as ‘my ex-friend Jenny’, said it’s quite normal for children who have had an abusive upbringing to hanker after further abuse. The theory is you feel safer in such an environment, because it’s familiar to you, therefore, comfy in a fucked up way. P’raps it’s a case of self-fulfilling prophecies. I don’t know. Funny really, or not, as she fucked me up more than anyone else who’s ever tried.
I’m going to begin with her and the legacy she left behind. We worked together for three years, every week, come rain or shine. Doesn’t really matter what we did. Doesn’t really matter why we did it. Things came to a head shortly before we were set to leave for a magical camp. For one reason or another I decided not to go. Life’s complex, but I’d identified an issue I couldn’t get round. “You’re a control freak,” I told her, after unsuccessfully attempting to articulate the problems in a more gentle way, “and I don’t trust you”.
Trust, when working magic, is a fundamental prerequisite. To a certain extent you lay yourself bare and, if you’re raw already, you need to know there’s a safety net of sorts. It’s not like being a kid and skinning your knees. Bad shit can happen. You can run into things you never expected. I have to work with people I know have got my back, in the same way as I’ve got theirs. Calling down demons, creating demons, well, it’s a risky business and you don’t need some half-wit operating on their own agenda.
We all got demons and they’re not just ‘out there’. As Delen, from Babylon 5, once said, ‘We are the universe manifest trying to understand itself’. External and internal are flexible paradigms. What’s in me affects what I see. What I encounter affects what’s in me. Basic, too basic perhaps. I’m a basic person. So, anyway, in a magical group we were trying to find a ‘demon’ to work with, blah blah, we invoked, each had a question to ask. Mine was ‘Where are you from?’. Jenny’s was ‘What’s your name?’. Pretty simple. She lied though. The answer she got was Thoth O****. Not being a fan of Crowley (that would be Aleister who wrote ‘The Book of Thoth’) she omitted to mention the first part of the ‘demon’s’ name. That’s a fairly large omission. Later she also didn’t tell us that she’d been fucking him, incubus style. It wouldn’t have mattered, except H**** M*******, another woman in the coven, was beginning to get hassled by this demon, sexually, in her dreams. It freaked her out. Of course, there was no protection in place as: firstly, we didn’t know this was even a possibility and secondly, we had no idea Jenny was feeding the fucker with sexual energy.
Now, make of this what you will. Maybe it’s all bollocks. Doesn’t matter. The concept of money is bollocks. It’s an abstract innit? You don’t stand there with a note in your hand imagining some bank somewhere really has the gold to back up your promise to the bearer. It’s just a piece of paper man. You decide that it’s real money, has real value. All the time we’re investing in a theoretical exchange, a combined lie, we’re happy to do this. It lubricates the wheels of commerce, industry, life. Always makes me laugh, when people talk about virtual reality then open their wallets and peel off another piece of paper they call money.
Back to the point, don’t want to lose the plot.
I called him in bed one night and he came, but so did she, The Morrigan, on her ghost horse, sword in hand, cut his head clean from his shoulders. It bounced along the track like a bloody football. I laughed. She makes me laugh. Don’t know what she sees in me. The Celts, they have this thing, that if your name’s still spoken then you don’t die. Perhaps I’m a conduit, telling of her, keeping her alive. Fair enough. She protects me. Like on Saturday, when I was stuck in the abyss, howling, crying my eyes out, all I had to do was put my hand round my wrist, where her tattoo of a snake curls, and she was there, in raven form, swooping on to my shoulder, digging her claws into my flesh, making me sit upright, telling me that I had called and she had answered so now was the time to stop my tears. Yeah and I did, because she was there, and when she’s there I’m safe.
The next thing that happened with Jenny was a curiosity. I argued we should kill Thoth *****, sever our link with him. She was not in favour of this, believing it to somehow stink of hierarchy and oppression. Fuck that. But she got her way, saying ‘If one person feels uncomfortable with an action then that action should not be undertaken’. I’m not as articulate as her. Simply leaving Thoth ***** made me feel uncomfortable, yet this issue wasn’t taken into account. I was one person, and according to her rules I should have had an equal voice, however, my discomfort was ignored.
The plan was to bury the git, take his totem, his artifacts, and inter them, so if we ever wanted to call him forth again we could. We boxed him up and took him to H********** H*** F***, dug a hole and placed him in the ground. While doing this I was disturbed. I saw things: bestial women dancing in crimson, dark shadows running like water, trees with thorns ripping cool, white flesh; but, such was my state of compromise I didn’t feel as if I could say anything. Entirely robbed of my ability to input, to speak of what I thought was needed, I remained silent and paid the price.
Once home, I quickly realised what the price was. I have three children. On the day my third child was due to be born I bought my husband, her father, a ring. I was walking, round Brighton, heavily pregnant, in the early stages of labour, when I saw this silver, worked into the shape of a baby in utero. It seemed perfect. I gave him the ring and within twelve hours I gave him another daughter, born at home, delivered by my own hands. Every day, for ten years, he wore that ring. He lost it when we buried Thoth *****. I knew the demon had taken it with him and I knew his anger was directed at me. This was something precious, representing my ability, as a woman, the woman called morrigan who had given birth to a daughter called Raven, to take and give care, to link with my partner, to be assured in her power, by token.
I hated him, and I hated the fact he’d been allowed to do this. Yes, I blamed Jenny, for lying about his name, for lying about fucking him, for standing in my way when I wanted to destroy him, but most of all for somehow engineering a situation whereby her needs were taken into account and mine were ignored. As the child of a English Professor, with a PhD herself, her communication skills are finely refined – a middle class education, combined with an intrinsic belief in her own validity, has resulted in superior articulation. But what pissed me off, beyond anything and everything else, was that she used anarchist ‘theory’ to push her point home. Despite the fact EVERYONE in the group agreed with my suggestion, Jenny constructed a convincing argument, based on a rejection of the majority in favour of recognition of the minority, in order to get her own way. This is a complete inversion of mutual respect and is, instead, yet again, a crass manipulation by the powerful to achieve their own ends.
And then she did it again. Earlier I mentioned that I felt I couldn’t go to a magical camp with her, or work magic with her, because she was (probably still is) a ‘control freak who I couldn’t trust’. Interestingly, this also became inverted, and when she returned from said magical camp she claimed she couldn’t work with me because she couldn’t trust me. Obviously, some ground work had to be laid to support this assertion and I found myself subject to several rather bizarre interventions by her ‘friends’. No matter. People will always believe what they want to believe. In some ways I feel sorry for these individuals. I’m only too well aware of Jenny’s modus operandi.
So why I am saying all this, two years later? It hurt, as I’ve only been hurt by a lover before. I used to wake nights, screaming and crying. To invest, time and energy wise, what I invested in her takes a big chunk of psychic energy. To realise that your investment has been mistaken, that you should have saved yourself both the pain and the effort, is somewhat difficult. The whole adventure, however, taught me a lot, about myself, about other people and, in particular, about the people I choose to work magic with. Unfortunately, once one’s confidence has been so dented, it’s hard to reassert oneself and gain a metaphoric foothold. Last thing I wanted to do was swing from yet another rope, abseiling down the side of a cliff, without safety equipment.
Has anyone noticed that I really like commas?
Part of building up a magical practice involves the acquisition of tools. Typically a witch will have a cauldron, a wand, an athame and a range of other items to be used in spell-work. I have a wand, which I made myself during a long a laborious process, also a cauldron. My athame is a fish gutting knife, given to me by my husband. I also have various fetishes, small statuettes, etc. I sewed my own robe. Keep a magical diary in a haphazard fashion (which isn’t good by the way, in terms of the haphazard). Thing is, some of these items were dirty because of their association with the whole Jenny phase. My cauldron, for example, had been used during several rites with her. Most notably my cord, hand dyed by myself and cut from the same length as Jenny and H**** M******* was not suitable. It’s difficult though, when something’s been so formative, how to dispose of that which limits you whilst retaining that which develops you. Obviously, the trickiest problem there is in identifying which is which. Ho hum.
It is said the phrase ‘cut down to size’ refers to the witch’s cord. Traditionally, the High Priest/ess in the coven would supply the witch with his/her cord when he/she was initiated. It was the measure of the witch, literally, spanning their height head to foot. If one did something to compromise their status within the coven, one would be cut down to size, ie their cord would be trimmed. As you can imagine, therefore, the cord is of primary importance. I had a cord and didn’t have a cord all at the same time. I didn’t know whether to destroy the one I’d made with Jenny and H M*******, or put it away, or carry on using it.
I think it’s probably one of the hardest things to do, understand what you should keep and what you should let go of. Despite the nihil in my name, I don’t want to destroy everything and everyone, only the stuff that holds me back. Some restrictions, however, are required, useful – even Crowley had his ‘Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law’. Stumbling blocks though. Things that stand in your way. When the kids were little I remember being told they prefer boundaries. They don’t want to come up against jelly walls. Similarly, I need to know where the edge of a cliff is. Distinctions and directions. It is impossible to make a decision unless one is faced with a choice, bearing in mind action and consequence.
When my dad died he asked to be buried at sea. They don’t throw whole corpses off boats, instead you’re required to cremate and place in a lead lined casket. The family lived in Birmingham at the time, and we had to travel to Portsmouth. We arrived early, via train, my mother, eldest sister and I, so decided to go for lunch. Lead is heavy, really bloody heavy. Mother suggested we leave him in a left luggage locker on the platform. I just couldn’t do that. He was my dad, this was his day, it seemed odd, surreal, to think of leaving him in Portsmouth station in a left luggage locker. I carried him, over my shoulder, in a sports bag, with ‘Head’ written on the outside in stylised letters. All my life the bastard had been on my back and now, even in death, he was busting me. The things you carry with you. What you think of as right and wrong. How far you go to make sense of a situation. I could have left him on the station platform. He wouldn’t have known. Not the point though. I would know. And once you know you can’t unknow. As my husband said later, much later, thirteen years later in fact, while we were sitting around a campfire, ‘Once your eyes have been opened it’s impossible to shut them again’. Oh to dream, to sleep, like a dog, with the occasional twitch, chasing rabbits, but once you’re awake it’s damn difficult to dream again, to shut your eyes, easy and comfortable, and be happy in the dark.
This is one of my problems. Half the things I’ve seen, half the places I’ve been, I had no business looking or being.
“Doe, a deer, a female deer
Ray, a drop of golden sun
Me, a name I call myself
Far, a long, long way to run”
We sat a while, watching the flames. I’d collected fir cones earlier, because of a vague remembrance of pretty burnings. It is better, yes better and I don’t give a damn what you think about my value judgements, to abandon haste and bitterness. Mother, poor mother, with her cancers and secrecy. “You will know,” she said, but I don’t believe she knew what I would know.
There are as many different types of magic as there are people. I like slack handed magic myself; maybe that’s because I’m slack jawed and slack disciplined, maybe it’s because I feel magic should be in the moment, one of life’s little bubbles, showing me a rainbow right before it bursts. He’d brought my cauldron, filled with his things. I hadn’t used it for some time, not being comfortable with its associations. The cauldron, so redolent of Cerridwen, “Stir this,” she said, “and do not spill a drop”. But Taliesin was curious and it went the way of all curiosity demanding to be sated. Her belly, the seed of his desire. We, they, I mean you can call them mistakes, perhaps it’s just instinct, whatever that is, or need.
Nietzsche said “Every extension of knowledge arises from making the conscious unconscious”, this is also a method of magical working, to let things slide into the places between the gaps. Between the gaps? I’m not sure that’s possible. The gap is the gap. There is no ‘between the gaps’. In any event, the issue is one of forgetting in order to not muddy the magic with remembering. Memory is faulty. It plays tricks. It will elaborate the truth and veil a lie. And memory is also of the moment, created instantly only to then find itself manipulated by the benefit of hindsight. I’m as guilty as the next man or woman. Essentially, then, nothing has any value, or more precisely, no thing. With that in mind, or put out of mind, perhaps in this non existent space, between the gaps, it’s possible to work magic, or let magic work, minus the performative.
This is why Solstice is important to me and other pagans. The sun rises in a moment, before this event it is not dark, after this event it is not broad daylight, yet because of this event there is a determination. On this side night. On this side day. In between? So much in between, especially at Stonehenge. Over five thousand years and we’ve forgotten the who, what, when, where and how. Vague stabs in the dark. We cannot say with certainty. Lost in the mists of time.
I stirred the cauldron with his athame. Made me smile. My fat bellied pot, his sharp knife. Looked like a kind of fucking. He gave it a stir. We set fire to the things inside, things that had been waiting to be gone, waiting to go back to the darkness, because they needed to make room for the things waiting to come from the light. Everything fades though, becomes a shadow of its former self, dances on the walls of caves, stretched by flames, towers then surrenders, burns itself out or disappears in the cold light of day.
For a long time I watched the smoke, threaded with incense so it smelled sweet. I’m not very good at letting go, maybe practice doesn’t make perfect. My parents, they were always and forever going away. I’ve said goodbye in at least thirty different airports. I used to cry, never in front of them, no, brave warrior girl I was, instead in bed, at the end of every day, quiet tears, all choked back, right down in my throat, so I could open my mouth and shout without any words coming out. Then I learned how to open my mouth and shout with words coming out. “You’re so aggressive.” Yeah. It’s not a lifestyle choice I’ve made. Perhaps it is. If I didn’t want to I could stop. I used to dream about cutting into my own head. Once I heard about how they slice off the top of monkeys’ skulls in Japan so they can eat the brains still warm. Probably some racist bullshit. Would be cool though. To slice off the top of your own skull, rather my skull, and perform radical brain surgery, hooked up to a computer, so I could see the direct and indirect results, tinker about if as I was a circuit board, rearranging the resistors – don’t know what the other bits are called, I shoulda listened more, but she, the physics teacher, kept talking about falling bodies and all I could think about was feathers and stones and terminal velocity and how that couldn’t be right. They tell you some weird shit at school.
Life’s like this for me. I stagger about in a sea of inconsistency. I can’t figure it out. Glimpses is the best I can manage, riding on a train, watching another one flash by, almost catching the sight of someone’s face, trying to commit it to memory, as if I could own that piece of thing that just happened.
I’m so far off the point now.
Take these broken wings.
The kids came with us this year. They’ve always asked and we’ve always said no; but, I mean you can’t say no forever, not simply because it’s difficult or they’re going to be in the way. Sunrise at the Henge, with all those people, partying hard. Thousands of years. What do you tie yourself to, in this life? I got stuff. I got big, fucking cart-loads of stuff, mostly crap. Hey, did you hear, about Wavy Gravy (or it coulda been Wavy Davy) and Jimi Hendrix? He (Wavy) had tons of Hendrix’s stuff, and then his (Wavy’s) house burned down. “Oh my God,” the interviewer said, ‘what did you do?’ And Wavy said ‘Nothing, there was nothing to be done, it was just stuff. Stuff comes and stuff goes, that is the way of stuff’. Excellent. You can’t say fairer than that.
My eldest daughter left home about a month ago. There was no big argument or anything, she wanted to move in with her boyfriend. I miss her, you know. I complained about trying to get her out of bed in the morning. Now, I’d love to see her sleepy face, fifth time over, with me standing in the doorway, shouting that it’s time to get up. She took her stuff with her, clothes, bits and bobs. There’s a big space in the house, she used to fill up with her mammoth teenager presence, attitude. It’s like there’s a hole in my life, a Rosa shaped hole, and nothing else can fill it up. I miss the toast crumbs on the kitchen counter, the milk left out of the fridge, her shoes cluttering up the lounge. “Airports have lounges dear, houses have sitting rooms.” Yes mother.
So there I was, in a high magic ritual last Saturday, down in my abyss, grief stricken about my daughter, finally understanding something about my own mother, not knowing what to do to heal this wound, calling on The Morrigan, wondering how I’d cope taking my kids to the Henge. Little things, big things, the devil being in the detail and the detail being overwhelming. And here I am now, after splurging over three and a half thousand words, perhaps some the wiser, still able to smell the woods-moke off of my sweater, skirt hitched up to my thighs, boots covered in dry mud, sucking back red wine as if there’s no tomorrow, waiting for a phone call. What did I learn? That I love my husband. Of course, I already knew this, but I get sorta lost from time to time, in the sewerage of existence. Hard to love when life keeps chucking shit at you. That I loved Jenny. A path is a path is a path. We walked some way together and I wouldn’t be who I am or where I am without her. I miss the fucking shit out of her and I’m still mad as hell at her, but yeah, let that which is of the darkness return to the darkness. We’re maybe dark people. And let that which is of the light come from the light. It’s good, all good.
I think everyone should watch a sunrise. Stonehenge is just a place, albeit one with an immense history of human energy, but, in the final analysis, it’s not about that, it’s not about a vampiric feeding frenzy, merely a place to stand. Where do you stand? On a daily basis? Me? I’m knee deep in mud and shit. “Ray, a drop of golden sun.” Sometimes.