Friday, 23 December 2011

West Kennett

A contrast to the wind and rain-lashed stones down the hill at Avebury, West Kennett long barrow was tangibly warm, quiet and calm. The hill it lies upon looks over the pregnant belly of Silbury Hill across to windmill hill with its neolithic enclosure and perfect bell barrows. I felt the slight unease of entering chambers already inhabited, the dark spaces to the north and south seemingly full of unseen figures, but the overwhelming calm of the place is beautiful especially set against the extremes of midwinter weather. We reached the tomb at midday although the skies seemed to be darkening already.

It brought back instantly the experience of stumbling along a cliff side to reach Barclodiad y Gawres in Anglesey in a torrential rain storm, each step a struggle until we reached the entrance and became muffled from the howling of the wind, safe from the rain, warm and safe with the ancestors. The positions of both passage graves seems designed to amplify the womb-like effect of climbing back into the earth, the uphill struggle we all face before death washes over us.

We had formed vowel chants (along with two of our dearest friends, S+S) with magical intent in preparation for a performance at the John Hansard gallery in Southampton some days prior to our visit to Avebury. The few consonants included invoked the gods of places sacred to us, although our dedication placed them a long way from their respective shrines.


Xenis Emputae Travelling Band - West Kennet Long Barrow Vocal Improv by larkfall

The echoing acoustics of the artificial cave, along with the low quality of my smartphone recording make this a very rough listen!

Friday, 2 December 2011

Bang the Bore XI: Psychobabble - December 17th

A reminder that we are playing this event - billed as Xenis Emputae! Also looking forward to the contributions from some of Wyrd England's friends - Mel played with us as The Institute of Stone Age Sex and the BtBarbershop Quartet is also full of wonderful types. Be there, or be somewhere else. Details are as follows..

Also, Seth has compiled a wonderful retrospective of the Zone of Alienation event for anyone who missed it. 

Thursday, 17 November 2011

RAF Bempton

The Aghori see everything in world as created by Shiva and therefore as beautiful, whether it be flowers, shit, the living or dead human body or any other creation that exists. They live in on the outskirts of society beside the Ganges river in the charnel fields and partake in all that is forbidden in conventional Hindu culture. I became interested in their practices in relation to the spaces we consider taboo or frightening, such as derelict buildings, sites of murders or atrocity and ritual spaces. The female Aghori in this clip laughs when she tells the interviewer that some of the dead bodies which she consumes during cannibalistic rituals get up and attack her. To face the unheimlich with humor, to seek out the frightening and to understand why it was fearful to me became a motif in my personal activities for a time.

When we lose everything of worth to us then we start to realise the beauty in things we were formerly ignorant of, the world becomes born again and bears fruit of which we never could have imagined. To say we only have one life is a fallacy, we live many lives which run concurrent with each other, lives of imagined pasts, futures, dreams and after-lives.  James Hillman suggests in Dream and the Underworld  that 'the scene in a dream' is a metaphorical version of waking life and 'those players of yesterday have now deepened and entered my soul'. My name in Anglo-Saxon would be Twyla or twilight, perhaps I am destined in some way to seek the space between.

Seeking out the literal liminal spaces between the overworld and the underworld can be a tumultuous pastime. I recall the day we walked through the metaphorically loaded blast proof doors of RAF Bempton's cold war bunker, designed much more to keep something terrible in than to hold the nuclear war out so it seemed.

To enter the depths we were to brave asbestos particles which prompted us to wear flimsy paper suits and P3 filter masks to keep mesothelioma at bay. The closeness to death and destruction was hellishly portrayed around us in painted murals, horned demons fornicating with buxom women, hermaphroditic pornography from hell - supposedly painted by a satanic coven in the 1970s who, it is said, squatted the then moth-balled bunker before being evicted.

 The floor did not exist, we trod thin planks of wood over burnt and rotten cable ducts, the huge space where the generator lay was a gaping black hole.

We spent probably less than an hour underground, slowly moving from blackened room to room, the blackness made any details bar the graffiti hard to distinguish and the conditions seemed so treacherous that it was hard not to panic.

As we drove back from the coast homewards we stopped in York for some food. I got a phone call from my Ma telling me that my estranged father had collapsed at home with a ruptured aorta and had lain for many hours alone, unable to reach help until it arrived completely by chance. His chances of surviving the emergency surgery he was about to undergo were very slim, less than 10% at least. It threw our exploration of the imagined underworld into strange perspective, as if I had been acting out some kind of journey into Hades to retrieve him with no knowledge of his real life peril.

The shaft of daylight that had shone down from the disintegrated emergency exit had seemed most surreal of all, having stepped down through the decoy bungalow, down the stairs, down a long sloping tunnel, through an antechamber and past the huge armored doors, the many seals upon this chamber seemed to separate us from the world almost absolutely but then the furthest point into its depths threw on us a mocking beam of bright sunshine, illuminating the rusted skeletal remains of a staircase.

A few years after our visit, a young man vanished after apparently visiting the bunker. His disappearance and apparent death has been linked to an 'occult' (great unintentional pun!) by his parents, as if the paintings and history of the walls of the bunker could have come alive and claimed him. Whether or not the bunker was inhabited by satanists or witches seems debatable, I have seen no proof but the myth alone seems to hold enough power to make it truth in people's minds.

What do we seek from communication with the dead? What secrets do they hold for us? The lives and character of people we know does not cease from the last point we spoke to them, even in dreams they evolve and change, reacting and commenting on new situations in surprising and enlightening ways. To communicate past the point of passing shows that consciousness does not end at that point and our awareness of the afterlife can awaken from slumber, those who are no longer with us return again.

The things I came to fear most were the stifling negative attitudes to a lifestyle free from conventional taboos, often from those who fetishised the notion of abandoning them themselves. My own inelegant attempts to live my life in a more honest way were readily abused by individuals who wanted to gain power over me, since it seemed to them I must be weak-minded and mentally ill for wanting to invoke change at all. I was all too eager to accept counsel from an image of enlightenment with no practice to back it up. I am thankful for the circle of true friends I have that saved me from myself on so many an occasion, as well as mourning deeply for those that I lost, though they live on in so many ways.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Seamouse 2 - Tricks of the memory

Thanks to Ian Cockburn for curating the second issue of Seamouse. The first was beautiful and I was very happy to collaborate on a short piece with Phil Legard for the second relating to dreams, love and landscape. Buy at the Thought Bubble comic festival in Leeds next weekend!

Friday, 11 November 2011

Horsforth Low Hall Cup and Ring stone

These stones were found during the renovation of Low Hall in Horsforth, down a stretch of road rarely traveled. The abandoned Clariant pharmacological factory and desolate workers' houses block the Aire from view, walking further along the footpath you reach suddenly farmland, pastoral scenes and snaking bend of river that coils unexpectedly into the landscape. The woods here are very beautiful, with a well near the footpath and copious flora and fauna

It doesn't seem like cup and ring territory, no height nor grave to accompany this one. I would be interested to know of any other C+R markings low down by large rivers, I know of quite a few standing stones beside rivers (the Devil's Arrows for example) but no rock art. The stone was placed in a rock garden at Kirkstall Abbey, until it was moved back to Horsforth to accompany the millenium stone opposite the museum, slightly further up the hill but still not probably it's original height.

Cup and ring marks also exist on stones in woods close to Horsforth station, near where the youthful viking head watches over the southern entrance to Bramhope tunnel. Perhaps the rock was carted down from one of these higher points during the building of Low Hall in 1575, especially as there was a quarry near here on the 1851 OS map.

Also near the Horsforth railway line is a place called Troy, now a housing estate. It shows on the1851 map as open fields, perhaps this has some history as the site of a labyrinth?

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Carn Euny Fogou

Dark caves are wombs for lonely thoughts. What else could live there but lost children and love.

There is a well sprung from rock, life from darkness. Moss grows there, glows uncannily. The slit it flows from widens year by year, becomes a stream, a river, the sea.

Not a mother to life - breeched but barren.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Displacement Activities - Light Night Leeds October 7th

On Friday 7th October, starting 8.30pm from Project Space Leeds we set off on a psychogeographical adventure! I'm very happy to be involved in this event and also excited about the performance.

see the website and Light Night for more details and I hope to see you there!

Monday, 26 September 2011

Dob Park Lodge & The Hunter's Stones

Dob (or Dog, as the original reference may be mispelt) Park lodge looms over the Washburn Valley, looking much like some kind of idyllic setting from a Turner painting.

The 17th century hunting lodge holds some folkloric charm as the setting for a tale about a farmer following a tunnel into its hidden cellars and happening upon a golden horde, complete with slavering barguest, who told him to either drink from a cup, pull a sword from a scabbard or open the chest. The Farmer tasted the cup which scalded him and he ran, becoming white haired and leaving the treasure behind. A barguest also stalks the roads around Almscliffe crag (and of course, there also exists a tunnel!), visible in the distance.

Down through the woods to the beautiful ancient packhorse bridge over the Washburn river the trail brings us to Folly Hall woods, an area with megalithic boulders and cup and rings.

and further up the pine woods of Norwood Edge. Overlooking the golf balls of Menwith Hill, this is a remote edge of wilderness, where the bodies of Yvonne Fit and Leanne Tiernan were buried in shallow graves.

The plantation is dense and hard to navigate, wandering through the trees we stumbled upon a tiny shack tucked away in the trees. The Hunter stones lie within, mostly hidden and slightly off the footpath.

The rocks remind again of Almscliffe, wart well-like pools dotted around and deep crevices to slide down, only without the gut-wrenching drop to keep you on your toes. It is a short walk from here on to little Almscliffe, the cup and ring'd fractal sibling of the big one.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Otley Folk Festival - Morris Dancing

Just a few photos from the hour or so we spent there, the sudden thunder storm halted some of the dancing and the call of the sandwich grew too strong mid way through the mummer's play.

Sword dancing team...

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

The Sorcerers Apprentice, Leeds

It seems that Frater Marabas/Chris Bray has had some subtle but important effects on my life, despite my initial doubts about his authenticity. I had been fascinated by the burnt studded doors of the Sorcerers Apprentice shop since my arrival in Leeds some ten years ago. I chanced upon it on a midnight walk and didn't notice the faint lettering on the now defunct signage.

Four years or so on, my best friend at the time who I had just met, lived on Burley Lodge Road in Leeds just a few hundred yards away Marabas's residence. Googling the street name one day revealed to us that the sinister exterior was far more interesting than we imagined.

We pondered his existence, whether he lived there with tattered cardboard blacking out the windows, light occasionally gleaming from cracks in the upstairs window, and a padlock on the heavy doors. We debated the ethics of selling rocks collected on Ilkley moor. We eventually ordered some small items from him by mail order, and marveled at the doors whenever we passed by.

Some research revealed his previous shop had existed at Hyde Park corner, but had been firebombed by Christian extremists during the Satanic ritual abuse craze of the 80's. Chris Bray spoke openly about his beliefs and opposition to the unfounded prejudice directed towards magical beliefs at the time, which I felt was a brave and unselfish thing to do regardless of whatever stance you took on his rock-peddling. Further research revealed that he published the Lamp of Thoth magazine in the 80's, a delightfully anachronistic revival of a magazine published by the Society of Dew and Light, who operated in Keighley at the turn of the last century. One of the members of this group was Daniel Murgatroyd, whose grimoire and magical equipment were recently up for sale.

Two years ago I was introduced to the love of my life when a mutual friend was sick of listening to me talk nonsense about magic and thought it would be better directed at him. The first thing we spoke about was Chris Bray and the Leeds chaos magic scene.

Much has happened in between then and now, but we often speak of the shop and its owner. I wish it wasn't mail order only so we could visit and pay homage to the true magic of Frater Marabas, whose thread has been weaving a beautiful pattern through our now interconnected lives.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Avebury Omphalos

I'm walking a labyrinth that returns to Avebury. People die from waking view but live here in dreams. It feels like somewhere that you have to go back, I'd love to live here one day.