Update: Darklore 8, More Spiral Nature, Slenderman Talk

Things continue to happen…

The biggest is the appearance of volume 8 of Darklore, on sale now.

The line-up is:

  • Mike Jay dives into the strange history of ‘sane hallucinations’

  • Martin Shough investigates the ball lightning enigma, and the way science has approached the mystery as compared to the UFO phenomenon

  • Joanne Conman discusses her revolutionary theory about ancient Egyptian astronomy

  • Daniel Bourke compares modern accounts of post-death consciousness with the descriptions of the world beyond found in the Tibetan Book of the Dead

  • Cat Vincent examines the rise of pop culture-based, hyper-real religions

  • Blair MacKenzie Blake revisits the strange history of the Shaver Mystery craze

  • Lucy Ryder explores the history of ‘corpse roads’ through archaeology and folklore

  • Ray Grasse asks the question: what does it mean when weird things happen?

  • Martin J. Clemens looks into reports of a 24,000-year-old pyramid in Indonesia

  • Robert M. Schoch explores the nature of death and consciousness

  • Alistair Coombs goes in search of the ‘Cult of the Cosmic Bull’

  • Greg Taylor reports on the ‘dying light’ witnessed by some people at the passing of a loved one

You can also read my article “Believing In Fiction: the Rise Of Hyperreal Religion” as a free sample here (pdf).

Also upcoming (hopefully 24 September)  is the next post in my ongoing Spiral Nature column The Hype: This time I’ll be talking about a very personal experience in the use of pop culture symbology in magic, and issues of cultural appropriation. Hint:

Oh, that knife…

Finally, a reminder that my talk for the London Fortean Society “Searching For Slenderman” takes place in a couple of weeks. Venue is The Bell pub in London’s East End, on 8 October at 7:45PM. Tickets are £3/£2 concessions.

Here’s the blurb:

The Slenderman. Born barely five years ago in an online Photoshop competition, this faceless creature’s mythology rapidly spread across the internet, inspiring video series, Alternate Reality Games, stories… and nightmares. Earlier this year, its influence may have led to the attempted murder of a child by other children. A creature of pure fiction, drawing blood. Cat Vincent takes a look at the origins, evolution and implications of this most modern of monsters.

Hope to see some of you there.

Posted in my work, slenderman | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Serenity

(No, not that one.)

 

There’s this prayer. You’ve probably heard of it. It’s called the Serenity Prayer.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

I’ve hated that prayer ever since the first time I ever it, and I finally figured out why.

It’s those first three words.

“God grant me…”

No. Fuck no.

Starting that group of words with those three not only contradict the meaning of the rest, but cheapens them. Everything else about it is so utterly true that the prelude makes it the worst kind of lie.

And, if you think that prayer is a sub-set of spellcasting (and of course I do), it’s the most selfish, passive-aggressively whiny spell I can possibly think of.

That kind of courage, self-insight, wisdom? That’s not something that should be granted to a person. That needs to be earned. Tested in actual experience, by facing your own choices ruthlessly and dealing with them, and their consequences, with utter honesty. And, of course, surviving that experience.

Getting it through other means is like beating the final boss in a game with cheat codes – a meaningless victory which teaches you nothing at all.

Having a god just give it to you? That’s not a miracle.
That’s a bribe.

Go find it yourself. Then, you might find serenity.

 

Posted in belief, my work, rant | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

One of *those* dreams…

I’ve been a lucid dreamer ever since I was a kid. Things can get… intense in there. Also, having ruined upgraded my mind with extensive pop culture magical workings, a lot of that sort of thing turns up in my dreamscapes.

Even by my standards, the dream I had Sunday/Monday this week was a doozy.

I was investigating a haunted/cursed English Stately Home with an unidentified female companion. (She didn’t say much, looked maybe a bit like Clara in Doctor Who – which would explain why I didn’t talk to her much, ‘cos I can’t stand Clara). Not unlike my old Athanor Consulting tradecraft – a careful walk through and scan of the place, assuming combat conditions. Found what looked a lot like a grimoire which, when picked up and opened by Not-Clara (typical!), annoyed the local entity I’d been sent to deal with.

Said entity was a bit tasty, to put it mildly. It immediately possessed the entire building and began to form the stones into a giant humanoid shape. In the middle of doing this, John Constantine stepped out of the shadows… just in time for me, he and Not-Clara to grab the stonework and be pulled up onto the giant golem’s shoulder. The monster strode across the night-time English countryside, clearly with some awful purpose in mind.

While clinging on, I got the sense that the thing wanted to ‘meet’ the Queen. As in, kill her. For some reason, this bothered me (dreams can be weird like that), so I got out my phone.

“Who the bloody hell do you think you’re calling?”, John asked.

“Who do you think?” I replied – and dialed 999.

When the operator answered, I said “This is a Cobra 666 alert, repeat Cobra 666”, and got put through to, basically, the Ministry Of Magic, Covert Ops Division. I identified myself, noting that I was with ‘Designation Conjob’, told them what was happening, and told them to have the Queen immediately helicoptered to (my birthplace of) Gravesend, Kent.

I had, it seems, a plan.

It was apparent that the stately home (before going all Transformers) was somewhere in Essex, because we were approaching the river Thames from the North. This formed the basis of my plan. As the Stately Golem started to wade across the Thames to reach the Queen, I gave John a nod and we shouted together these magic and holy words…

“OI! CHUMMY! SOUTH OF THE RIVER, THIS TIME OF NIGHT??”

This distracted Stately Golem just enough for me to blind it in one eye (with the laser pointer/wand I always carry), which in turn gave me a few seconds to cast a spell: using the motto of the City of London (in a riff off Kate Griffin’s magical system in her urban fantasies) Domine Dirige Nos (‘Lord, Protect Us’), I called on Old Father Thames. Two huge hands made of water appeared and pulled the golem apart… throwing Constantine, Not-Clara & I into the water.

Not-Clara and I swam to the Gravesend side of the river, climbed out up some old stone steps. Standing waiting for us on the bank in the fog, bone-dry and smoking a cigarette, was Constantine. He smiled, nodded, walked off saying “Nice one. See you later, mate.”

I yelled after him (very sensibly) “I’m not your friend, John! I’m just a colleague!”

Not-Clara and I walked into the fog and, I swear, as I started to wake up, theme music started playing.

The music was this:

(the middle-to-end section with the Beatles-like orchestral crescendo).

That was a good’un. Never had theme music in a dream before, and the South Of The River gag was marvellous. That’ll do, subconscious – that’ll do.

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Fortean Times feature on Slenderman

So, this happened… I wrote the cover feature for this month’s Fortean Times.

Ever since I first read FT as a kid (when it was still a fanzine rather than a professional monthly), I had a dream that I’d be in its pages some day – maybe in an article about weird shit, possibly in a review or even a memorial in the Strange Deaths column!

To not only be commissioned to write for them, but to get the cover first time out, is literally a dream come true – and the highlight of my writing career so far.

Huge thanks to FT editor David Sutton for asking me to write for them, Jenny Coleman for her interesting alternate view of Slendy alongside my piece and Etienne Gilfillan for the beautiful cover art.

Issue 317 of Fortean Times is out now.

Posted in my work, slenderman, story | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Me, Jung and Constantine

…and because it’s that kind of week, the video of me and Daisy Campbell doing the combined Carl Jung/John Constantine street ritual for Cosmic Trigger as mentioned here just went up.

Thanks to cameraman Nic Alderton for this.

Posted in belief, Blog, Guttershaman, myth, tribe of the strange | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Update: Hyper-real in the Year of the Slenderman

It’s been a while since I put up a post – a lot’s been happening. For one thing, I turned fifty years old – and honestly, it feels pretty good.

I have a new monthly column at the venerable occulture site Spiral Nature: called ‘The Hype’, I’m taking a look at currents in occult-related pop culture which are sliding further into both the cultural mainstream and the ‘real’ world. The first piece sets up my angle of attack (using the perspective of sociologist Adam Possamai and his theories on hyper-real religion – hence the name). The second article considers the way True Detective brought the cosmic horror of The King In Yellow to a far wider audience and the third, up today, considers The-City-As-Character in urban fantasy – with a specific, personal focus on London.

(My interest in Possamai’s models will also be involved in my next piece for the Darklore journal, coming later this year.)

I’ve been doing more for Daily Grail, including my partial review/flag-waving for the upcoming stage adaptation of Robert Anton Wilson’s autobiography Cosmic Trigger which promises to be extraordinary (there’s a crowdfunding campaign for a planned 23 November premiere in Liverpool – get on that!). I’ve also done a review of the recent Current 93 gig at Halifax Minster church and the NSA’s facial recognition algorithm seen in light of the prescient (and excellent) TV show, Person Of Interest.

And then there’s Slenderman…

At this point, pretty much everyone has heard about the shocking events in Wisconsin: the attempted murder of a twelve year old girl by two of her friends, trying (allegedly) to sacrifice her in order to become Slenderman Proxies. News agencies across the world have been trying to get a handle on this ever since – I was interviewed for The Guardian a few days after it happened. Then, two more cases involving Slenderman happened – one was a similar attack by a child upon her mother, the second an aside in the multiple cop-killing in Las Vegas by a husband-wife pair, whose interests included right-wing extremism and cosplaying as Joker/Harley Quinn and Slenderman.

Two days after the latter attack, it was the fifth anniversary of Slenderman’s birth – I noted the occasion for Daily Grail.

And… I’ve been commissioned by Fortean Times to write a feature on Slenderman for the next issue. This is a big deal for me, to put it mildly. I hope to do the subject – and the fall-out from the Wisconsin tragedy – justice.

It’s a strange world, and getting stranger by the day. Be safe out there, folks…

Posted in belief, Blog, myth, politics, slenderman, story | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Slenderman: Fight Fiction With Fiction

I had the great pleasure of giving a talk about Slenderman (based on my two Darklore articles, but expanding on the practical occult aspects) at the celebrated Treadwells bookshop in London on 25th November 2013ce. Now, the video of the talk is available on YouTube.

If I can clean up the audio, I’ll post the Q&A session later.

As I had a few requests for it, the transcript for the original script is below the cut – but you’l have to watch the video for my hilarious improvisations and my appalling Alan Moore impersonation!

 

Continue reading

Posted in belief, Blog, fairy tale, myth, slenderman, story | Leave a comment

Killing Slenderman, in Darklore 7: with footnotes!

I’m happy to announce the publication of Darklore, volume 7 by Daily Grail Publishing.

This year’s book is another stunning collection of the best of modern Forteana – and it also contains the second half of my look at the way the Slenderman meme is infiltrating the ‘real’ world.

This piece, Killing Slenderman, looks at what this could mean and what to do about it – taking on such examples of the fictional entering the quotidian as Alan Moore’s meetings with his own creation John Constantine, and Grant Morrison’s near-death experience writing The Invisibles.

As with Part One (which is still free to download as a pdf article here), I’ve put an extensive set of footnotes and links on the site – you can find that right here – just scroll down part the Part One notes.) I include a little more detail in exactly how, as a combat magician, I might deal with a Slenderman incursion.

And remember… No Wifin.

Posted in belief, blank badge, myth, slenderman, story, tribe of the strange | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“My gaff…”

This has been kicking around in my head for a while…

The more I think about it, the more the corporate/government interference with the internet offends me on a very specific level. Here’s why:

It’s not their home – it’s Ours.

It’s like they’re walking uninvited into someone else’s house, moving all the furniture, throwing away the things they disapprove of and making it suit themselves – all without ever asking permission or forgiveness.

It offends me on the same gut level as any other breach of hospitality norms. They take the bread and salt of the internet and leave only their shit and piss.

And I won’t be having with it.

My gaff – my rules. It’s the oldest rule of turf there has ever been.
And the consequences of breaking that rule are, necessarily, severe.

(If the reference is obscure, go here.)

 

Posted in politics, rant | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Right Man/Violent Male

I was googling for links describing the Right Man syndrome (for, of all things, a post to the AV Club’s review comments on this week episode of The Good Wife), and I found 2 things – there’s still not a vast amount of stuff on this vital model of extreme male behaviour, and something I wrote on the subject for the Dark Christianity LJ is still on the first page – and I don’t have it reprinted here. So, here it is (mostly, as you can see, quoting RAW) & a few additions after.

I’ve often mentioned here the theory of the Right Man/Violent Male as a model for the behaviour of the Dominionists. This was created by AE van Vogt and later developed by Colin Wilson – but there’s not much about it online.

Here is a lengthy but excellent consideration of the model by Robert Anton Wilson, which puts the model in context.

“If, as Colin Wilson says, most of history has been the history of crime, this is because humans have the ability to retreat from existential reality into that peculiar construct which they call The “Real” Universe and I have been calling hypnosis. Any Platonic “Real” Universe is a model, an abstraction, which is comforting when we do not know what to do about the muddle of existential reality or ordinary experience. In this hypnosis, which is learned from others but then becomes self-induced, The “Real” Universe overwhelms us and large parts of existential, sensory-sensual experience are easily ignored, forgotten or repressed. The more totally we are hypnotized by The “Real” Universe, the more of existential experience we then edit out or blot out or blur into conformity with The “Real” Universe.

Concretely, the Violent Male—the extreme form of the Right Man1—edits out the suffering and pain he causes to others. That is only appearance and can be ignored. In The “Real” Universe, the victim is only one of Them—one of all the rotten bastards who have frustrated and mistreated the Right Man all his life. In existential reality, a large brutal male is beating a child; in The “Real” Universe of self-hypnosis, the Right Man is getting his just revenge on the oppressors who have abused him.

We have repeatedly employed Nietzsche’s metaphor in which existential reality is abysmal. In one dimension of meaning, this merely asserts that it is endless: the deeper you look into it, the more you see. It has the sense of infinity about it, whether or not it is topologically infinite in space-time.

The “Real” Universe—the model which has become experienced as the real universe—is, on the other hand, quite finite. It is compact and tidy, since it has been manufactured by discarding all the inconvenient parts of existential experience. This is why those self-hypnotized by a “Real” Universe of this sort can be so oblivious to the existential continuum around them. “How could a human being do something so cruel?” we sometimes ask in horror when an extreme Right Man is finally apprehended. The cruelty was “only” in the world of existential appearances; it does not exist in the edited and improved “Real” Universe of the Right Man. In The “Real” Universe, the Right Man is always Right.

The ghastly acceleration of violent, inexplicable and seemingly “pointless” crimes by Right Men in this century—and their hideous magnification into mass murders and war crimes by Right Men in governments—indicate the prevalence of this type of self-hypnosis and what Van Vogt calls “the inner horror” that accompanies it. This “inner horror” is a sense of total helplessness combined with the certainty of always being Right. It seems paradoxical, but the more totally Right a man becomes, the more helpless he also becomes. This is because being Right means “knowing” (gnosis) and “knowing” is understanding The “Real” Universe. Since The “Real” Universe is, by definition, “objective” and “outside us” and “not our creation,” we are made puny by it. We cannot act but only re-act—as The “Real” Universe pushes us, we push back. But it is bigger, so we will lose eventually. Our only defense is in being Right and fighting as dirty as possible.

This, I think, is in succinct form the philosophy of Adolph Hitler. It is the philosophy of the Marquis de Sade, and of any rapist or thug you can find in any prison in the world. Where Single Vision reigns—where The “Real” Universe is outside us and impersonal—this shadow-world of violence and horror follows in its wake.”

 

The new stuff: Found a couple of excellent pieces on the subject from blogger PHinn – here’s a shortish quote, drawing mostly from Colin Wilson’s A Criminal History of Mankind:
“The notion of ‘losing face’ suggests an interesting alternative line of thought. It is obviously connected, for example, with the cruelty of Himmler and Stalin when their absolute authority was questioned. They were both men with a touchy sense of self-esteem, so that their response to any suspected insult was vindictive rage. Another characteristic of both men was a conviction they they were always right, and a total inability to admit that they might ever be wrong.”

“Himmlers and Stalins are, fortunately, rare; but the type is surprisingly common. The credit for recognising this goes to A.E. Van Vogt who is also the author of a number of brilliant psychological studies. Van Vogt’s concept of the ‘Right Man’ or ‘violent man’ is so important to the understanding of criminality that it deserves to be considered at length…”

[...]

“In 1954, Van Vogt began work on a war novel called The Violent Man, which was set in a Chinese prison camp. The commandant of the camp is one of those savagely authoritarian figures who would instantly, and without hesitation, order the execution of anyone who challenges his authority. Van Vogt was creating the type from observation of men like Hitler and Stalin. And, as he thought about the murderous behaviour of the commandant, he found himself wondering: ‘What could motivate a man like that?’ Why is it that some men believe that anyone who contradicts them is either dishonest or downright wicked? Do they really believe, in their heart of hearts, that they are gods who are incapable of being fallible? If so are, are they in some sense insane, like a man who thinks he is Julius Caesar?”

“Looking around for examples, it struck Van Vogt that male authoritarian behaviour is far too commonplace to be regarded as insanity. [...] [For example,] marriage seems to bring out the ‘authoritarian’ personality in many males, according to Van Vogt’s observation.”

[...]

“… ‘the violent man’ or the ‘Right Man’ [...] is a man driven by a manic need for self-esteem — to feel he is a ‘somebody’. He is obsessed by the question of ‘losing face’, so will never, under any circumstances, admit that he might be in the wrong.”

 

PHinn knows what he’s talking about and is well worth reading on the subject.

For me… Colin Wilson makes a good case in Criminal History that the Right Men were the drivers of civilization – they tend to be charming when not pushed, smart and driven at what they do, and usually unconcerned by the consequences of their need to be Right – in short, excellent generals, leaders and despots. But the price of having them eventually becomes too high.

I think that time is now.

Dunno about you, but I’m seeing signs that this habit of thought is appearing more and more, especially in the intersection of politics & religion.

It’s impossible to negotiate with a Right Man – so a prevalence of them appearing in, say, the leadership of various extreme Dominionist Xtian paths makes any kind of resolution of opposing philosophies almost moot. They Are Right. Can’t argue with that. But, knowing how their rage cannot fail but descend if you insist (however politely and calmly) that they are in error… well, I leave that as an exercise for the combat philosophers in the audience. (And I know there’re a few – Hi Damien!)

The fewer of these in the world, the better. I don’t mean slotting them – I mean breaking them. Force them to show their monstrous nature whenever possible. Taunt them, tell jokes, satirize them  where they can’t help but see it. Drop these fuckers like Cain dropped Abel, like Godzilla dropped Tokyo. Break their wills, so hard and strong but oh so easily shattered.

Because they’re as Wrong as men can be.

(Colin Wilson’s books on the Right Man, Criminal History… The Killer & Written in Blood are all still available, as is van Vogt’s initial Report on the Violent Male.)

 

 

Posted in belief, politics, tribe of the strange | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment