Folklore Against Fascism, Magic Against Brexit

Today is #FolkloreThursday; and today, my piece on the parallel hashtag #FolkloreAgainstFascism (looking at the rise of blood-and-soil narratives such as those by Paul Kingsnorth in folklore and the resistance to this narrow attitude) goes live at Daily Grail.

Part of the article refers to my magical working with the band The Indelicates last October: based on their anti-Brexit album Juniverbrecher, it banishes the dark heart of Albion and curses the entire Brexit project. As I note in the article, “The spell is ongoing.”

Here is the full text of the banishing ritual, and a link to download the recording of both it and the final song of the event.


I stand here as a cunning-man of Albion; bound by oath and mark to walk the borderlands and protect my tribe from the dark.
By that power, I now call upon all the forces of of Albion which protect this land.
I first call Elen of the Ways, she who makes the paths clear and free.
I call all the ancestors, gods and Fair Folk, wherever they first came from, who became part of this land, our Mongrel Nation of immigrants, refugees and their descendants, and made its soul richer.
I call Brigantia, the warrior goddess of Boudicca.
I call Arthur and Merlin and Robin Hood.
I call The Wild Hunt and Black Shuck.
I call the warriors of Albion from the lost past and history known; from Wat Tyler and Jack Cade – he who first called Black Shuck to aid the poor, women and children – to the Suffragettes and those who fought at Cable Street and the Battle of Britain and the Poll Tax riots.
I call Saint George, Turkish mercenary, and I call the Dragon entwined with him.
I call William Blake and Austin Osman Spare and all the artists and poets who saw Albion most clear.
I call John Constantine, the patron saint of back alley magic, master of synchronicity.
I call all the nameless ones, the forgotten dead who ever stood between hope and fear, compassion and rejection.
I call upon you all, at this time, to see the monster released from the dark heart of Brexit hate and bind it within its chosen form of Mister Punch.
I call upon those present to see it within that form here tonight.
We know who has been doing it, and We Will Send Him Back.

For purely reference reasons…

…here is the text of Paul Kingsnorth’s essay Elysium Found, written in praise for the documentary Arcadia (and used to publicise same), and withdrawn by the author after multiple accusations of green fascism.

 

(On this subject, I couldn’t possibly comment – oh no, wait, I’m about to do exactly that at Daily Grail.)

 

1346. A hostile French man-o-war approaches the Cornish coast. Is the sky grey, overcast, heavy? The sea is certainly churning. The vessel approaches the village of Padstow, where the crew prepare to drop anchor and make a sortie onto English soil. Then, on the beach, appears a strange creature: some horse-like being, dancing, whirling, kicking. It is like no other beast they have ever seen. Behind it process humans in red robes, carrying torches. The creature and its followers line up on the beach, daring the enemy to land. The ship turns, and makes for the open sea.

1588. The Spanish Armada approaches the Dorset coast. Sir Francis Drake, who as well as being an admiral, explorer and pirate, is also a witch, summons his fellow coven members high on to the cliffs at night. They circle in the dark, murmuring secrets. Together they summon up a great storm, which crashes down upon the approaching enemy ships and scatters them. The Armada fails. England is saved.

1805. Like the Spanish before him, the French Emperor Napoleon prepares to launch an invasion of England; but a group of Sussex witches have other ideas. Gathering on a full moon, as Drake and his fellows had done three centuries back, they too work a weather spell, calling up a south-westerly which leaves Bonaparte’s fleet stranded in the port of Boulogne. The invasion is called off.

1940. Following the calamity of Dunkirk, the magic island gathers its people to itself once more. On the eve of Lammas day, seventeen witches from different covens across the south of England gather in a pine grove in the New Forest, draw a magic circle, light a fire and raise a great ‘cone of power’, which they direct at the mind of Hitler in Berlin. The psychic message they project is stark: you cannot cross the sea. Again, the expected invasion never comes.

Perhaps these stories are true. Perhaps they are not.

This is a magic island. The land speaks through the people, the people speak of the land. They dance, naked or clothed, around the stones and in the streets. They climb over the broken walls that ring the housing estates, they gambol through the fields. There are fires in the hillforts at night, and things move in the woods, seen or unseen.

This is a magic island. It knows how to defend itself.

The truth was in the soil.

What if magic is real? What if the power of place speaks through the human forms that walk its surface? What if the truth is in the soil? These are the questions that Arcadia invites us to ask. No questions are less fashionable, or more dangerous, in the age of the Machine. Like the land itself, Arcadia provides no answers that can be comfortably categorised. Like this island, it is a multiplicity.

Children play in streets empty of cars. A community holds hands in a ring around a church. Naturists dance in the meadows, ridiculous and free. Wide eyes smile in black and white. A strange beast shimmies away from the camera. Men are dressed as walruses, sheep; a transformation is affected that for a second becomes real. There is a strange dreamlike quality to this lost Elysium. Dream and reality here are one; really, they were never anything else. This is folk magic. It is the summoning of a world we have lost.

What is this land?

This is our land of lost content.

What if we are the breath of the land? What if a place creates a people, and not the other way around? If we believe that to be true, we had better start paying attention to the songs we once sung, the stories we once told, the dances we once performed around the elms and through the closes.

This is England. There is nowhere else like it on Earth.

Arcadia is like a bucket of cold water to the face. Wake up! it shouts. Wake up! Look! This world you see on screen is alien, and yet it brings a shiver of recognition. What is that in the trees? What do I see from the corner of my eye? I have been here before.

Here is aboriginal Britain. You thought it was gone beneath a deluge of motorways and malls and screens and engines and scurrying human feet. Much of it is. But what remains? What remains, and what will you do with it?

A land of a great magic. A land of great mystery.

The island known as Great Britain is both of these things; less so than ever, but still, if you know where to look and know who to talk to, you can hear the old songs still sung. It is not always humans who sing them. All lands, all places across this wide Earth, are home to magic and mystery. The complex of human relationships which spring from those lands, the clots of shared behaviour which we call ‘cultures’, are distinct from each other because the places whose stories they tell are distinct also. A mountain people tells different stories to a people of the plains.

Britain no longer has a culture. Instead, it has a civilisation, and magic is anathema to civilisation. Civilisations suppress magic, and mystery, and beauty, and wonder. They overlay these rough superstitions with a patina of money and reason and progress, ringed around with border guards of scorn and dismissal. Civilisations are the enemies of real places. But magic will not be rooted out. Hidden, perhaps, around the edges of the fields; but never grubbed up.

A shadow has fallen on the land.

Patriotism has taken a beating in recent decades. The guardians of our civilisation tell us that attachment to place and tradition is reactionary, backward, dangerous. Like magic and mystery, attachment to land and history are things which belong to a dark and grim past, and should stay there. We are all progressives now. You are romanticising a past that never existed, they tell us. But it did exist, and not long ago. You can see it here, flickering in black and white. I defy any Briton to watch Arcadia and not feel a surge of patriotism; the real kind, the old kind. Not an attachment to monarchy or church, institution or government, idea or ideal, but the old pull of the land you walk on. The ground beneath your feet.

On this screen, the official flag ceremonies of the State – clean, white, ordered – contrast with dark soil, feathers from a dead bird, crooked old folk customs, half-whimsy-half-Wicker Man. The soil is older than the State, and will outlast it. But there is nothing to be scared of. It’s only magic. Listen. Watch.

Listen, watch, and you will see that the place, the landscape, is the star of this film. There is little human speech, and the human bodies that play across the screen are like fireflies in a forest at night. They are part of the scene, they light it up, they distract the eye, cause a few intakes of breath, but they are incidental in the end. The great, brooding presence of the trees is what frames the picture. The darkness around the edges, inviting and fearful.

What is this land?

There are spirits in every well, and each is subtly different from the other. Places do not take kindly to being homogenised. They don’t like being talked over. They like the people who sit by them and pay attention. When you pay attention, what do you notice? Do you feel the land breathing you in, then out again? What if you are the breath of the place? What if these dances, these songs, these rituals and ceremonies are a sensory image of the personality of the part of the Earth that manifests them? A folk map of Britain would show us the speech pattern of each river, the face of every field and spinney, the curve of every hill painted pewter by the moon.

We need a new humility and a reverence.

What happened to our Arcadia? We stopped listening to it. We stopped dancing, we moved away, we started listening to the chant of the Machine instead. It is debt we chase now, not the moon. We are individuals, not parts in a wider whole. In a broken time, it is taboo to remember what was lost, and that fact alone makes Arcadia a revolutionary document. Look, it says. This is how it was. This is what was broken. At night, when you lie awake with your phone flashing under your pillow – do you miss it?

One night we wake when the moon is nearing full, and we turn off the phone or grind it beneath our heel and we dress quickly and step out onto the grass, which is wet with dew. In the air we can hear cars and smell diesel but beneath that, and above it, something else. A thin, high song is being sung just beyond our horizon. We start to walk towards it.

Is something calling our name?

The moon is so bright tonight. Where is that song coming from? It seems to be all around. When we stop, we can hear it clearly. Now, dimly, we can see something approaching in the distance. It is coming closer.

It is not how they said it would be.

Now we find ourselves asking, in words we have heard before, only recently: what is this land?

A voice answers: it is you.

Announcing my first book: NEW GODS AND MONSTERS

I’m immensely happy to announce I have sold my first book.

New Gods and Monsters will be published by Daily Grail Publishing next summer.

Here’s the pitch:

“To a new world of gods and monsters!’
-Dr. Pretorius, in The Bride Of Frankenstein

Despite the predictions (and hopes) of some, the early 21st Century of the Common Era is not a time of less religion than before – 85% of the planet’s population profess to hold some religious belief. But… some of those beliefs are a long way from orthodoxy.

As a result of the rise in popular culture in the last century and the increasing speed and density of communications media to carry it, the modern world has a plethora of stories – avowed fictions among them – about religion, myth and magic to chose from. Increasingly, peoples’ beliefs are directly affected by these stories. Some believers take metaphorical comfort and confirmation of their own orthodox beliefs from them, some incorporate part of pop culture into their belief system… and some even take these fictional tales and treat them as the basis of their own new religions.

New Gods And Monsters is the story of these stories – how they began, how they became popular, the influence they can have on us and what they imply for a future seemingly ridden with religious strife.

This will be an expansion of my previously published thoughts on hyper-real religion, Slenderman, multi-model occultism and basically everything I care about, heavily revised and re-examined – plus a lot of new material on how mythology and stories intersect our modern world.

Talks and talking

I did a podcast a couple of days with my friend and fellow Grinder Mikey Pirate (who is totally not the leader of an Asteroid Death Cult): we talked about the usual stuff – hyperreal religion, metafiction, Trickster Gods, Slenderman, Babylon 5‘s Rangers and why those who cosplay the Engineers from Prometheus might not be the nicest people to have over for a cup of tea.

Here it is:

 

Next week, I’m giving two different talks in London on two consecutive days:

22nd April, I’m speaking at the Royal College of Art’s Battersea campus (RCA students only, sadly) on neopaganism, the hyperreal (again), authenticity and Midsummer.     Details here.

On the 23rd, appropriately enough, I’m giving a talk on ‘Robert Anton Wilson – Gnostic Agnostic’ at the University of London’s Senate House Library’s ‘Marginal Presences’ Symposium – there should still be tickets available for this, and you can learn more here.

Science Fiction’s Gifts to Paganism: talk video and footnotes

I am pleased to be able to post the video of my 12 February 2015 Treadwells talk on ‘Science Fiction’s Gifts to Paganism’. My huge thanks to the Treadwells staff as always, especially to Marco Visconti for filming and editing the talk.

The YouTube video went live on 27 February – tragically, this was the day Leonard Nimoy died. Out of the huge respect I had for the man, and how he embodied the concepts of IDIC which I explored in the talk, I waited to post this until now.

(And, not long after, Terry Pratchett also died. I’m glad to have given both these gentlemen some small tribute here.)

As some of the audience requested, I have a few footnotes on the talk below.

Continue reading “Science Fiction’s Gifts to Paganism: talk video and footnotes”

Cthulhu, Fiction and Real Magic: talk & footnotes

cthulhutalkpic

On 3 December I gave a talk at Treadwells on about how Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos – both in his hands and in those of his contemporaries and followers – had been a surprisingly potent influence on modern occultism. It seemed to go pretty well… for the first time ever, a talk of mine was both sold out and had a ticket waiting list!

Sadly, plans to video the talk fell through, but there was an audio recording made: you can listen to it here:

 

Quite a few of the audience asked for a list of footnotes and links for the stuff I referenced, so here we are.

First thing is the bit of research I didn’t get the chance to do… ST Joshi’s mammoth Lovecraft biography, I Am Providence, which looks fascinating. (I did read some of his shorter essays, though – start here.)

LOVECRAFT

http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2014/10/13/heres-why-h-p-lovecraft-matters-more-than-ever/

http://www.jasoncolavito.com/pauwels-bergier-and-lovecraft.html

http://lovecraft.wikia.com/wiki/Cthulhu_Mythos

http://www.tor.com/blogs/2014/09/ghostbusting-lovecraft A great thinkpiece on Ghostbusters as the most optimistic expression of the Mythos.

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/aug/20/ten-things-you-should-know-about-hp-lovecraft

The HP Lovecraft Historical Society are at http://www.cthulhulives.org/

(This is where you can get the excellent Miskatonic University t shirt I wore, by the way.)

Their history: http://www.cthulhulives.org/whatisit2.html

The Michel Houellebecq HPL piece. http://www.theguardian.com/books/2005/jun/04/featuresreviews.guardianreview6

 

Official history of the tabletop roleplay game:

http://www.hplovecraft.com/life/myths.aspx

http://www.chaosium.com/on-call-of-cthulhu/

Alan Moore on his published and upcoming HPL comic books:

http://thequietus.com/articles/16129-alan-moore-providence-cthulhu-philosophy-language-lovecraft

Plush Cthulhu history:
http://www.toyvault.com/history.html

http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2012/mar/07/cuddly-cthulhu-hp-lovecraft-merchandising

On HPL & the World Fantasy Award furore: http://www.elizabethbear.com/?p=2513

Me on True Detective and The King In Yellow: http://www.spiralnature.com/culture/hype/true-detective-flat-circle-chapel-perilous.html

FICTION

As ever, one core aspect of my talk was Adam Possamai’s theories regarding Hyperreal religion. You can read my in-depth introduction to his ideas in the Darklore journal here:

http://darklore.dailygrail.com/samples/DL8-IV.pdf

MAGIC

My main source for the history of chaos magic and HPL’s influence was The History of British Magick After Crowley by Dave Evans: it’s not specific about the influence of Robert Anton Wilson on the original cohort, but his thought is clearly present.

If you haven’t done it already, read Wilson’s Cosmic Trigger: Final Secret of the Illuminati. If you have, then read it again. And if you ever get the chance, see the play.

Fnord.

If there’s any specific questions about the talk, please drop them in comments.

campuscrusadecthulhu

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.

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…

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 “Slenderman: Fight Fiction With Fiction”

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.