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Thursday, 31 March 2011

Catching up...

I added a bit about The zone to my previous notes on psychogeography; Persephone's domain, the original Plutonium...Though the zone is a psychogeographical term and designates many kinds of zones, it is a term from standard geography texts. The psychogeographer is interested in the feel of a place, the numinous and the irrational, hence the zone being the zone of alienation, the 'Plutonium' zone of Chernobyl and Fukushima. It is more than a description of spirit.

The name of the God who seizes Persephone is Hades, from a Greek word meaning invisible. Radiation, invisible, powerful.

His other name is Pluto -wealth- 'lots of cheap energy'.

But the realm is the land of the dead.
And a reactor gone wrong is a very expensive business indeed.
Plutonium should be renamed, phishonium to designate the false economy of believing spin!

The rings of The Sanctuary in particular, and Woodhenge too,  have their links with death. The tomb of Tutankhamen and the Sutton Hoo burial fixed wealth and death together in the 1920's. Digging up burial sites in the hope of loot may not have been Maud Cunnington's dream, but finds like the golden mug found in the Rillaton Barrow kept people digging until laws were passed.

More fascinating for me is the British preoccupation with the other world, parallel universes and how easily a slip between worlds may occur.

But for me, what next?
Finishing off maps I guess, trying to make sense of the original -believed in- geography of the world.

One subject that hadn't occurred to me before is the effect of the Reformation on thought. 

Marlowe's play Dr Faustus occurs at an interesting time, it is on the border between the old world of the Renaissance, and the new world of the Reformation. Dr Faust is a Renaissance man: he puts knowledge above all things, he doubts the bible. Marlowe points out that Faust is ripe for Lucifer's attentions, but he makes his audience see that they too could have made the same mistake as Faust.

The Reformation far from saving *us* from corrupt priests and bad religion was a hideous 'back to basics regime' that gave The Puritans the right to enforce their version of reality on the bewildered and religious.

Iconoclasm isn't always a good thing. Destruction of other people's dreams in the name of progress and in the name of saving their souls is to say the least, a depressing side effect of new movements! The energy comes from tensions already present in society, but the symbols and narratives become all pervading. It generally causes civil wars, witch hunts..and worse

I was reading Plutarch's (AD 120) meandering thoughts about the many theories of his time concerning why the moon appears to have a face (De Sera). The theories are many, they are contradictory and fascinating. He describes the earth taking the body, and the moon taking the mind, leaving the soul free to return to earth as a helpful spirit.

And what I hadn't seen before is that maybe the freedom to think this way was curtailed by the tyranny of  pure religion (the Reformation with its imperative to get away from anything 'Popish').

Plutarch's book isn't 'truth-seeking', it is instead a springboard for new ideas, nowhere in it is there any warning that something may not be correct.

There is plenty of space for new ideas.

On the other hand the Reformation was rather good for science.

As Francis Bacon once put it: "There are two books laid before us to study; to prevent us falling into error; first, the volume of the Scriptures which reveal the will of God; then the volume of the Creatures, which express His power."

Kepler likewise wanted truth: "Truth in religion is based on the Word of God in Scripture, while truth in natural science is based on evidence and reason."

The more peculiar theories about reality were swept away by the sensibleness of rational thought and the limits being rational, demands. On the other hand,  no one told Newton that seeing seven colours (because of the seven planets) was being silly!

Well we are told that empirical truth (don't think about indigo) is always a good thing, and that truth is a matter of fact and that the imagination is best reserved for art. Perhaps some people still maintain that a divide between science and art is necessary, another eternal truth...though in this day and age less people still believe that.

Once again, due to TV and the Internet, we, like Plutarch live in a kaleidoscopic world of many theories and many more possibilities.

Yet the Reformation habit of denigrating the less rational worlds and portraying them as a domain of devils (blood chilling videogames creating murderous children, dangerous strangers lurking at the edges of the Net), This fear of the otherworld, the ephemeral, the virtual, remains in our culture -in its present form- from the Reformation...

Friday, 25 March 2011

Psychogeography for beginners.

I don't think my time spent watching Johnathan Meads documentaries and possessing one book by Iain Sinclair qualifies me to tell you how to 'do' psychogeography, I don't even think that it qualifies me to tell myself!

But on the other hand being as I'm working this out from first principals, and as you are here too perhaps we can make some sense out of it all?

Guy Debord described psychogeography as 'The study of specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organised or not, on the emotions and behaviour of individuals" in the first issue of Situationniste Internationale (1958). Now, fifty years on,  psychogeography is an actual 'science' or at least a disciplin practiced by town planners. There are a lot of very sensible books on the subject of how to entice lots of rich shoppers into town, and create a free-flowing environment empty of untidy, poor, homeless humans.

Unfortunately that isn't the kind of psychogeography I'm interested in, though it is an integral  part of it. I don't see myself buying any of those books though.

Mookeychick writes:

Your task for this adventure is to set yourself a time limit then spend the next couple of hours wandering around, noting down any graffiti you find, both by writing it in a notepad and taking photographs of it. This means that you're not looking where consumerist society wants you to look - you know, at shops or billboards, the usual suspects. Screw that. Find yourself exploring bus stops, public toilets and sidestreets. Go to the places that are invisible when you're purely focused on shopping. Notice all the things you're not meant to see as a good little citizen - the cctv cameras, the drunks, the strange little hang-outs and alleyways.

When you've finished, treat yourself by going and buying something tiny and pointless and pretty, or even the pair of shoes you've had your eye on for so long, or buying a drink and sitting down outside in a cafe or little park, and really enjoy your consumerist moment - you've poked into the inner workings of the invisible city, so you've earned your Coke!

Collect all your photographs and stick them in a scrapbook labelled Soho / Times Square / Blah / whatever your hip shopping district is called. You'll be surprised at how much satisfaction and meaning you getting from collecting such unglamorous photos.
But that wont do for me either. I was born into a household where Radio 4 was always in the background, so I had Economics 101 from an early age. Plus being of the punk generation means that it takes a little more than looking at what I'm not supposed to see, to count as a subversive act.

Is Guy Debord spinning in his grave at the line "you've earned your Coke" I don't know.

Nor do I know if Guy Debord is actually in a grave?

One thing I do know, from witchcraft to Buddhism the message is always the same: take the right hand path or take the left, a true practitioner makes her own path.

Let the workings out begin.
A geographical space has layers: there are the physical *real* layers that we walk over and within is found the archaeological record. Above the archaeological record and around it and around us the virtual layers 'wash' over. The virtual layers are the belief systems we inhabit.

The virtual layers provide narratives.

But the very first thing to do is to describe the actual landscape as it appears to be right now. 

Here and Now.
Define here.
Give it a name, a size, a location.

The description is divided into three categories.
The first description includes all things cyclic and static. Static objects are defined as anything that has been in the space (or will be in the space) for longer than  one year: compass alignments, hedges, concrete markers and bronze plaques. Hills, other monuments -deal with the chronology latter- for now, just record it all.

Cyclic objects are the sun and moon and stars and anything that will happen again. For instance, the location of the sun in the sky relative to a monument at midwinter solstice. The sun has only moved a tiny bit from it's position 5000 years earlier, the moon is difficult, and stars are out of my league, but I'm sure there are computer programs to compensate!

The second category is a description of the visible ephemeral, of crisp packets blowing across the grass, of cars flowing past and parking, of people taking photographs or sitting, talking and walking, candles and flowers made into offerings. Anything here that will not be here latter.

Dowsing fits between these two...

The third category is the invisible ephemeral: the sound, the feel of the place. Atmosphere. The way the light dances, the way the grass smells.

The virtual.
This category consists of ideas and beliefs about a place. It includes your own beliefs. There is no time limit, short term passing comments are as valid as long thought out and complex ideas. Thinking of The Sanctuary now, I'd list geopathic stress lines making the ground feel 'heavy', of Sheldrake's 'Morphic Resonnace' of Chuck Pettit's idea that 'stone age' sites act as 'power centers' storing memories of events that have happened within their 'domain'. Stuckely with his Hackpen, someone elses theory of The Sanctuary as menstrual hut, of Aubrey Burl's mortuary enclosure, of Stuart Piggot's plain old, everyday hut. The virtual layer is full of stories and ideas and they warp what I see.

After or before visiting a site...
There are objects literally dislocated from their original site: the notes made by the archaeologist who dug there, photographs made by anyone at all, and the ideas and dreams, fantasies and arguments about a place plastered on the Internet.

Seeing them before visiting a site is probably better.

So, that's that. I'm not after one empirical, true story. After all the Persephone myth is only one of the many stories that change the way people interact with, and feel about the land...What I want is a discipline to help me collect as much as possible during my time somewhere...

Finally, there is the concept of The Zone.
'What was it? A meteorite? A visit of inhabitants of the cosmic abyss? One way or another, our country has seen the birth of a miracle - the Zone. We immediately sent troops there. They haven't come back. Then we surrounded the Zone with police cordons... Perhaps, that was the right thing to do. Though, I don't know...''

From an interview with Nobel Prize
winner, Professor Wallac
From Roadside Picnic by  Arkady and Boris Strugatsky.
There are all sorts of prosaic explanations about the zone, but the best, the most psychogeographic view in my opinion comes from Tarkovsky and his film: Stalker.

Based upon the book Roadside Picnic, the zone in Stalker is the area surrounding the 'Wishing Room'. The origin of the zone is left unclear, whilst in the book the origin of the zone was an incident: a spacecraft landed, the occupants got out, stretched their legs, left bits of detritus around. got back into their craft, and quit planet if they had had a roadside picnic...maybe?

The filming of Stalker became mythic...the film sequence within the zone -which took a year to film- was destroyed by being processed incorrectly and so had to be re-shot. The area the film was shot in was contaminated with factory waste, and the froth in the air in one scene came from the polluted water, it was said to be carcinogenic. Andrei Tarkovsky died of cancer...he also smoked, but...

Vladimir Sharun recalls:
We were shooting near Tallinn in the area around the small river Jägala with a half-functioning hydroelectric station. Up the river was a chemical plant and it poured out poisonous liquids downstream. There is even this shot in Stalker: snow falling in the summer and white foam floating down the river. In fact it was some horrible poison. Many women in our crew got allergic reactions on their faces. Tarkovsky died from cancer of the right bronchial tube. And Tolya Solonitsyn too. That it was all connected to the location shooting for Stalker became clear to me when Larisa Tarkovskaya died from the same illness in Paris.
And finally, there is a scene in Stalker where the camera glides over the water showing the objects in the river; under the water there is a small calender, one of those calendars where you tear off the paper-page each day. The date on it is December 28. Tarkovsky died on December 29.

December 28 would have been his last full day alive.

The Zone most often refers to areas around catastrophic Chernobyl, and will probably include Fukushima? Perhaps not.

Chernobyl is for now The Zone. Death, invisible destructive radiation. Abandoned buildings -resonate because it is one of our possible futures..So familiar, so alien.
In the former Soviet Union, the area of the Chernobyl disaster has become analogous to the Strugatskys' novel. Humans are not supposed to live within 19 miles of the disaster site, giving rise to a 1,400 square mile region formally referred to as the Zone of alienation, informally known as "The Zone", hence the analogy. The Zone, straddling the Ukraine-Belarus border, contains a ghost city, Prypiat, Ukraine and many ghost villages. It has unwittingly become a major nature reserve. Like in the novel, the Zone attracts some illegal scavenging. Some scientists investigating the area nicknamed themselves "Stalkers".
From Wiki.

"I refer once again to Stalker. There is a place there, the Zone, which is and is not, it is reality and, at the same time, it is a place of the soul, of memory. In the film, when you see it, it is a forest, a river. That's all. But the air that circulates, the light, the rhythms, the perspectives, without distorting anything, make you feel it as an "other" place, with various dimensions, always real and, at the same time, different...."

Monday, 21 March 2011

Subversion. Or why not? a prayer wheel.

In 1967 Guy Debord wrote:
In societies dominated by modern conditions of production, life is presented as an immense accumulation of spectacles. Everything that was directly lived has receded into a representation.

Understood in its totality, the spectacle is both the result and the project of the dominant mode of production. It is not a mere decoration added to the real world. It is the very heart of this real society’s unreality. In all of its particular manifestations — news, propaganda, advertising, entertainment — the spectacle represents the dominant model of life. It is the omnipresent affirmation of the choices that have already been made in the sphere of production and in the consumption implied by that production. In both form and content the spectacle serves as a total justification of the conditions and goals of the existing system. The spectacle also represents the constant presence of this justification since it monopolizes the majority of the time spent outside the production process.
The Society of the Spectacle. Guy Debord.
Marx and others identified religion as the enemy of reason and a tool used by those in power to prevent others from criticising injustice. The purpose of religion was albeit accidentally to keep society divided into hierarchical systems. Hierarchical systems are accused of requiring and therefore of creating an underclass.

The promise of heaven as a reward for suffering was supposed to be the key to making a hierarchical system work. A better life after death, why bother with the here and now? Religion as opium...

With the rise of advertising to inform the public via a flood of technological advances, heaven became material, and advertising promised better ways to live life, better ways to eat, better places to go and better ways to wash hair, bodies, cloths and carpets.

Debord notes that products must be 'value added' to make them the new heaven, and this virtual overlay of 'value added' and 'best value' is the spectacle.

But of course this advertised, new and shinny benefit does not benefit everyone, or even provide benefit! Not everyone wants a faster broadband or car with proximity sensors, and it is hard for many more people to actually believe that life is made better by possessing shoes and bags augmented by the correct symbols.

Organised, state religion -be it football, the Olympics or the church- exists because people enjoy spectacle. To me it seems that the real problem of the spectacle is one of authenticity, of how much does the spectacle actually fit the real needs and wishes of people. When the spectacle is inauthentic, a set of meanings that had grown up with a phenomenon or behaviour are replaced by a new set created by a team of experts to subtlety change what is seen. At its worst an environment is designed to be Teflon and non-stick...but that's just me.

In terms of Eleusis all that was promised was a better life after death.

A religious education is a curious thing; I was fortunate, mine was chosen rather than forced upon me. The benefit of choosing to learn a religion is that the type or nature, the creed or denomination of the religion isn't as important as the nature of religious thought.

The religion I learnt the practices for was once clearly shamanic, there are layers of philosophical additions over the top of the original structure, but even today the shamanic core remains in the five stages of a practice:

1/ Creation of a liminal space by visualising a protective barrier around oneself.
2/ Making offerings to a deity.
3/ Evocation of the deity.
4/ Becoming the deity and..
5/ dissolution of the visualisation.

The purpose of most of the practices is not shamanic. The purpose is fundamentally what the Pythagoreans meant by purification.Though the definition of purification and what is purified derives from the influence of the Alexandrian Greeks, the more recognisably 'shamanic' practices such as the binding of harmful spirits and the methods of creating special offerings, remains.

The last time I went to a church service it seemed to me that Christianity had maintained a similar ritual pattern. Offerings and visualisations are in the form of form of hymns. A hymn describes how great God is, and the visualisation is in effect the evocation. Asking Jesus to be within one's heart is 'purification'.

Christianity took so much from Plato that anything mystical became problematic, likewise any sense of religion as felt rather than thought out. Submission to God and a refusal to criticise 'devine' law appears alien and terrifying to those who believe that God is made in man's image. Religion is supposed to be rational? it goes.

Religion, taken to its logical conclusion is a kind of crossing over, of allowing the virtual reality map to become as real as the actual, un-augmented world. But the habit of religious thought is universal -I am defining religious thought as the phenomenon of believing in a virtual overlay.

A religious person has imported a ready made template, a web of meanings, a lexicon of symbols and practiced using these. In terms of the spectacle, a ritual is meaningful to those who have chosen to attach certain meanings to certain symbols and it is assumed that the linkage is authentic because of the universality of the link -offering candles, the prayers for others, the feeling of opening ones heart, and the sense of the numinous are made bigger and deeper by practice. A non-religious person has only the cultural language of his society, and the cultural language changes rapidly, never amassing enough words or meanings to open up deeper paths, plus as Debord points out "The illusory paradise that represented a total denial of earthly life is no longer projected into the heavens, it is embedded in earthly life itself...the modern spectacle depicts what society could deliver, but in so doing it rigidly separates what is possible from what is permitted. The spectacle keeps people in a state of unconsciousness as they pass through practical changes in their conditions of existence".

In light of this, religion becomes an act of subversion.

Meanwhile non-religious people tend to see religious people as other, generally as entranced, or 'lost'. I remember some visitors tiptoeing around me whilst I was 'practicing' in a shrine room and trying not to 'disturb' me. Meditation is supposed to be difficult and noise is supposed to be disturbing, but really all things are a part of the practice, there is nothing to shut out and nothing to disturb. Nor is there mindless trance, or a sense of 'possession' when I say "I am in the form of" and then "become" the deity.

Crossing-over has more in common with playing a computer game than being 'Holy'. The practice of religion is the ability to believe in a consciously imported reality and to make it so.

Yet religion too becomes spectacle, when it is believed to be something other. The habit of being rational extends, without a religion to balance it, into philosophising reality which reduces real life to a universe of speculation and inaction.

Meanwhile two main problems arise from the concept of religion as being other; the first problem is that people imagine that religious people are different in some way to ordinary people. Religion itself is somewhat to blame for this. To maintain an esteemed position in society religious people must be different or else the amount of money they are given, and the amount of time handed over to them would be foolish!

I don't believe that this is a consciously designed phenomena, it is simply the way it works. It functions in exactly the same way within secular institutions.

Post Reformation the meme operates at the point of use for a 'neophyte', there is a difference between *you* as a new student and the *elders*  based on something more than experience and knowledge. The real difference created by experience and leading to understanding, may depend on time spent within the religious institution, but this is not always so, often too much time within a religious institution is the perfect way to remain ignorant of how one's mind actually works, and the nature of the Holy.

People are generally judged within a religious institution by how much time they have spent there. More importantly knowledge is assumed to be linked to language, it is assumed that a  knowledgeable person will use certain key words and phrases. When there is no way to actually judge what is right or wrong (and this is so in religions -for there is nothing to actually test) words and phrases and numinous narratives, become all. A hierarchy requires *difference* and the method is to check for 'insider' and 'outsider' phrases.

For instance, saying that a Depeche Mode song can express a higher truth, or that Heavy Metal is the sound of a 'Wrathful' puja, wont do...key words and concepts cannot be played with, subversion is never popular.

The second problem with religion as other, is fear. Religious habits such as prostrating, mumbling prayers, use of prayer beads etc mark one out as *feeble minded*, or worse, recall ancient fear of witchcraft. Meanwhile people are not expected to look for scientific solutions to their problems because science is supposed to be very difficult (scientists, as the religious hierarchy of the past found out must make people believe that scientific people are somehow *special* or else the amount of money they are given the amount of time handed over to them is foolish!).

Subversion is rarely considered a good thing, though reclaiming symbols (words and icons) from tyrants is understood in the public imagination as probably a 'good' thing to do.

Subversion tends towards destruction, or towards a nihilistic version of the world; as meanings are dragged away from symbols.

Or, subversion as a form of anarchy may be the only honest way to approach a hierarchically constructed reality.

Friday, 18 March 2011

To cure a black stream...

I've been ill for a week now. That's quite a long time for me. It's the kind of ill that befuddles the mind and makes me cough all the time. It is boring and makes me want to curl up in bed.

And then I started thinking about how The Sanctuary felt heavy and how my first response was to ask why. Though asking why is made out to be such a good thing, in truth, asking *what do I do about it* is a better question.

It is difficult to know how to approach places that feel uncomfortable. Dowsing requires a kind of opening up which even if it is all imagination, doesn't seem too wise a thing to do. And the picture dowsing creates is more akin to an X ray diffraction image, than a photograph [meaning -the information can be misleading].

What would I be looking for if I dowsed the area?
I suspect that, if The Sanctuary is of the same kind of thing as Woodhenge, there would have been another significant burial close to the entrance of the rings.

I rationalised the sense of heaviness by interpreting the place as 'still inhabited'.

So, being logical now, there are two forensic ways to approach this 'problem' of how the Sanctuary feels. Either I try to 'see' what's there in terms of energy flow or I try to pin down what it is about the visible, and auditory properties of the place that makes it feel 'heavy'.

The other approach is to take it all at face value, add (rather than subtract) what I feel and acknowledge it.

At the moment that latter approach seems the right one (But I'm very interested in the sound of the place and will probably return with a microphone). Acknowledging the ghosts, means borrowing a prayer wheel and sitting there for a hour or so... What I'd like to do is buy a 100 blue paper bags, and put sand and a candle in each bag, placing them on the concrete posts

Giving temporary beauty to the place would be a good thing to do .

On the other hand, that that kind of thing can get one into trouble, I didn't notice the surveillance camera!

In a way it is immaterial if the place always feels heavy or not, I over dosed on Jung at a far too early age, so I'm happy to go no further than Sheldrake's morphic resonance. The fact that the place felt bad means that sometimes it is *bad*.

The question remains, what is the best way to deal with that?

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Damnation Alley.

Thinking of reactor number 3...the one that contains Plutonium..

Mostly I'm amazed.
The word reactor may sound scientific and clever, but the reality is a large kettle containing something very nasty!

Regards the mythology, Pluto meaning wealth was the golden wealth of the ground. The invisible process that caused the wheat and barley seeds to sprout and become a sea of sun ripe, shimmering gold.

By the time Allen Ginsburg wrote Plutonium Ode, the wheat fields no longer flourished because of an underground life-force. The element involved was identified as Nitrogen (essential for plants to make proteins). Mr Haber -and his process so useful for bomb making- now gets the credit in GCSE chemistry books that was once given to unknown forces. And yet it is as if Haber continued to make offerings to the Lord of the Dead; after he turned his hand to developing Chlorine to be used on the battlefield, his wife committed suicide.

Radioactive things are fascinating though. Radiation as mysterious X rays and the uncanny glowing streamers of light  within a Crooks tube provided the best evidence, at least as far as the public imagination was concerned, for the existence of a spirit world.

And here is Sir Conan Doyle (who started out to prove that spiritualists and mediums were lying...but changed his mind, and began to believe in life after death.

Which reminds me, I need to find a Spiritualist church at some point.

Finally though, reactors and Plutonium and the insanity of man.
Nothing for it but Hawkwind!

Wednesday, 9 March 2011


In the spring of 1790, Xavier de Maistre, confined to his room whilst under house arrest, embarked upon a voyage around his bedroom. The book was unsurprisingly entitled: A Journey Around My Room.

In 1894 Joris-Karl Huysman wrote Against Nature (the novel that inspired Oscar Wilde to write A Picture of Dorian Grey) at one point, the Parisian hero of Huysman's tale, fascinated by the novels of Charles Dickens, orders a taxi and visits an English pub in Paris, before embarking on his trip to London.

Except...he finds himself unable to complete the journey and returns home.

Whereupon he realises that the imaginary experience is more than a preferable substitute for the real thing.

Both these characters, real and fantasy are Robinsonner, a verb that may have been created by Arthur Rimbaud, after Defoe's imaginary voyage in the persona of Robinson Crusoe...

There is a lot to be said for the practice: it saves money, it is low risk, it means I can leave my sons in bed and not get them fed, into the car and off, nor in any imaginary journey do I feel obliged to go into the Avebury NT restaurant to eat is still Stones: vegetarian bake and salads, Barley cup and carob cake.

But sometimes one has to go out.

I have long been fascinated by Paradise Place in Birmingham, a part of the doomed library complex. Paradise Place is a Brutalist edgeland. It exists between places; concrete blocks and a pool of dismal green water.

A bardo

More at home in Quake 2...

Speaking of computer games...

The Underworld is a favorite place for Robinsonner, every lift I took in Doom 3 could have taken me there -but didn't.

Paradise is a less popular destination.

And Purgatory the newest.

Christianity likes to see itself as the authentic version of older religions. The stories that came directly from Mesopotamian myth such as Noah (Atrahasis) are told with bits missing, and often the original meanings are turned upside down. Today is Ash Wednesday:
"Remember that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return".
Dusting oneself with ashes was the Christian penitents way of expressing sorrow for sins and faults, which again is similar to the description of the way people used to show grief at hearing of someone's death -scratching their faces too...

And it strikes me that the division between people is not so much one of religion, but one of puritanism Vs equanimity. Spirituality has nothing to do with calling this world imperfect or ash. Material things do not destroy spirit, nor is it a choice between spiritual or material.

Ah well...

The statement about dust comes (I'm guessing) from the story of Enkidu visiting the Netherworld. When his spirit is called back (like Patroclus) Enkidu describes a woebegone place, where all is dust and souls are clothed in dismal feathers.

For years this poem was taken to mean that the Sumerians thought of the Netherworld as a miserable place, but the poem continues. It turns out that only those folk who have not had children and do not have people to morn them, live in the grey dust, without food or drink offerings from those above.

The man with seven children is fine and dandy, having quite a good time actually.

Purgatory is in many ways the most interesting of the three *Christian* virtual otherworlds. It is a comparatively recent invention. Hell as a place of dismemberment complete with lakes of fire was described in some versions of the Egyptian Netherworld (more to it than just weighing the heart!) and there was a period when the Taoist and Buddhists were trying to out do each other in describing the most horrific hell-realms.

Purgatory became necessary, it is a kind of waiting room between now and the day of judgement, it answers the problem of the apparently judgmental and unforgiving nature of god. If enough people pray for you: if you have paid for lots of work to have been done to your local church, if you have sponsored a monk or two and especially if you pray to the Virgin Mary your final destination may not be hell...

So the link with the Mesopotamian understanding is maintained.

Ah well, back to considering 'Black-ley lines' and moon rise times.

Monday, 7 March 2011

From maps to genocide, via Bovril.

I need to work out where it is I actually want to get to so that I can save some cash, draw a box over a specific dates in my calender, book what ever needs to be booked and plain old simple engage engines and make it so!

I started with maps; how the Mesopotamians imagined the world. I looked at the Platonist version from The  Pheado;  Plato's record of Socrates' last day; a day in which Socrates, rather than becoming a gibbering wreck at the thought of death, explained all manner of things to his friends, including the details that almost two thousand years  latter went on to make this next map (the map is dated 1325 or is it 75?) of the region of Italy known as Cumea :

The motifs in my mental journey, loop and repeat: Tartarus, Apollo,  proximity to the Underworld as a place where the present and future mix and fortunes may be told. The sybil of Cumea, as explained by Ovid in Metamorphose gives the connection between Sybil and Apollo:
 Sibyl lived about a thousand years. This came about when Apollo offered to grant her a wish in exchange for her virginity; she took a handful of sand and asked to live for as many years as the grains of sand she held. Later, after she refused the god's love, he allowed her body to wither away because she failed to ask for eternal youth. Her body grew smaller with age and eventually was kept in a jar. Eventually only her voice was left .
When I was just eight years old, Mr R.F Paget  was valiantly trying to prove the actuality of the sixth book of the Aeneid; unearthing a complex of wet and noisome underground passages, trying to discover the entrance to the Underworld or at least the Oracle of the Dead, by the crater of Avernus. Mr Paget was sure that he found at least one niche where Aeneas may have placed the golden bough, and latter he sat at the edge of the river Styx, eating his sandwiches.

Mr Paget that is, eating sandwiches.
His was a time in which Schliemann really had found Troy, and Arthur Evans' Knossos was a restoration, not a fantasy. A time in which myth was expected to elucidate historical reality.

It is a shame that the photographs in Paget's book are such poor quality though!

This thought leads me to ask myself if I am trying to do the same thing?

Answer: no, my aim is to 'get' the whole thing; the mix and combinations of real and unreal. I'm never going to pin anything down into solid..unchanging....concrete. But the myths point to odd resonances and conjunctions of fact and fiction and it is the web of meanings that fascinate me, the process of seeing rather than seeing.

The experience of the edges that exist between the virtual and the real.

It is impossible not to play the usual games, of tracing words back through time, of quoting strange notions and belief, of judging some ideas to be better than others. But at the heart of it, the art of it is curiosity!

The first Persephone of my journey is Ereshkigal taken by the Kur to become the queen of the Underworld, her first husband The Bull of Heaven the very personification of tectonic plates jarring and shearing apart. Her second husband, Nergal reeking of plague and pestilence becoming slowly, but very clearly, Apollo -or at least that aspect of the sun that causes rot and decay- the root word for Pytho meaning rot, as in  the python of Delphi...

Fumes are another reoccurring image. Mr Paget was warned of poisonous fumes as he journeyed through the underground tunnels at Baiae (his solution? To send a man down the perilous tunnel; the man had rope tied around his waist and should he collapse, gasping like a fish out of water as the cthonic reek deprived him of reason, Mr Paget and friends would haul him back to the fresh air.

The Pythoness, the  priestess of Apollo at Delphi who transmitted the oracles to fee paying celebrities and kings, sat on a tripod above a crack in the ground through which the vapours of the underworld would rise, possess and then speak through the priestess.

Vapours and ghosts and the nature of the soul as breath...the lighter psyche rising eventually to the gem-encrusted upper-world above ours, the wet exudate from the corpse sinking eventually to the Acherusian lake. Whilst the perception one has of being dead is the joyful, torch-lit procession down to the underworld.
The Phaedo.

But I wanted to make the first real journeys of this story to places I don't need to take a plane of boat to, to places that are as close to Persephone's grave as myth can allow: to The Sanctuary and to Woodhenge, places where at the center used to lie a body, possibly a sacrifice, and both possibly female.

Recently, during the last two decades, the graves are marked (in the case of the Sanctuary, incorrectly) with wreathes of grass and flowers.

I have not as yet looked hard at contemporary beliefs regarding such monuments; I get caught up in taking the stones, the land and the concrete markers too seriously. The details of the 'barbed-wire' decoration of the beaker buried with the body at the Sanctuary [LINK] and what it signifies, and of the fragment of quern made from Niedermendig lava. A drama unfolds of a girl. either she or her close family originally from Germany or Belgium, wandering away from her people and captured by the 'locals' to be another source of power for their stones (as so many of the Avebury stones have 'Beaker' burials, the question arises, are the stones a Beaker monument, or something pre-Beaker, indigenous to these isles?).

But such dramatic tales of abduction and sacrifice remain in a liminal space, hovering between truth and truth people are not sure if the skeleton from the Sanctuary is male or female, the probability from the pelvis is that the body was female. The remains of the quern tells of contact between here and there...the patten on the beaker indicates an area of origin around Belgium, Germany....The Amesbury Archer (earliest Beaker burial and oldest beakers (!) in the UK dated 2300 B.C) came from somewhere in or around the Alps. His beaker [LINK] was decorated with a 'comb' -really? a comb?.

Aubrey Burl evokes antiquarians who did not put on rosy spectacles when looking at the past, for them the Beaker times, the skulls in particular from the round barrows told of a  murderous and darker time than our English present. The book full of gory evidence was Crania Britannica published in 1865. This book is the bible for anyone interested in what was originally found in various tumuli in Britain, and for those who want to chart the history of racial (generally into those who are light and good as opposed to those who are short, dark and bad) discrimination.

Before Darwin, there was an idea in Europe (In Britain and in Italy of course!)  that the Trojans were the noble ones. Geoffrey of Monmouth gives Britain the Trojan Brutus, following on from Virgil's Aeneus.

Science too, provided a foundation for this 'Noble ones'  ideology. Darwin never believed that some people were more evolved than others, but he did believe that a descent was possible...

Darwin's theory of evolution, published in 1856 is easily misread as survival of the best: evolution as an increasingly positive movement from fish to man via ape -with humans who look most like apes obviously being less evolved. But Darwin's theory is 'survival of the fittest' and the fittest is  not necessarily the most beautiful, clever, superior or intelligent, or the most 'Aryan' as proved by the Betamax vs VHS Format, war ~joke...

In 1871 Darwin published 'The Descent of Man' concerning the relevance of the evolutionary theory to society. Darwin believed that all humans were basically the same species, and so to divide between more or less evolved was erroneous. Yet the book is called The Descent of Man, indicating in its title that Darwin believed man would
"sink into indolence"
if severe struggle was not continuous, and thought that:
"there should be open competition for all men; and the most able should not be prevented by laws or customs from succeeding best and rearing the largest number of offspring"

But there was an idea gathering momentum in the latter half of the nineteenth century that the degree of evolution a person possessed could be determined by how black that person is. One such investigation proved that women are absolutely less evolved than men, whilst in 1870, Dr John Beddoe, president of the Anthropological Society of London concluded that:
"There was evidence of physical degeneration in Nottingham".
Meanwhile people like Lieutenant Colonel Laurence Austine Waddell helped spin the story of the noble Aryan.
"Civilization properly so-called is synonymous with Aryanization."
Waddell spent time a lot of the 1890's in Tibet, he spoke Tibetan and studied the culture; he noticed the correspondences and similarities in Tibetan Buddhism with Greek and Mesopotamian elements. He failed to appreciate that the 'Precious Guru' who brought Buddhism to Tibet came from the Swat valley (lands once ruled by Alexandra The Great, The Persians, contact with other cultures via the silk road..hence the Greek/Persian connections.)

Meanwhile it had long been known that Herodotus mentioned an Egyptian legend of Hyperborea in the far north. The idea of Nordic people's migrating South, starts here. Apparently ice destroyed Hyperborea and it split into the islands of Thule and Ultima Thule, which some people identified with Iceland and Greenland, some say Briton is Ultima Thule.

The Thule Society, liked Hitler.

In England 1871 Bulwar-Lytton fascinated by the theory of a hollow earth consisting of four concentric spheres described by the seventeenth century Sir Edmund Halley, wrote: Vril, the Power of the Coming Race. In it he described a superior race, the Vril-ya, who lived within the hollow earth and planned to conquer the world with vril.

The word Vril was latter subverted into Bov-Vril (Bovril).

The Ahnenerbe (the study society for Intellectual Ancient History- founded on July 1, 1935, by Heinrich Himmler) went to Tibet in 1938 to prove Aryan Superiority by confirming the Vriltheory, a theory taken from Edward Bulwer-Lytton's book Vril. They did this by measuring the skulls of 376 people and comparing native feature to those associated with Aryans.

Waddell then seriously loses the plot by taking Vergil and the 12th century chronicler Geoffrey of Monmouth in his Historia Regum Britanniae at face value, concluding that:
Permanent settlement with systematic civilization and colonization with cultivation appears to have begun only with the arrival of Brutus and his Britons about 1103 B.C.
There is a stone in Totnes marking Brutus's arrival to prove the Greeks sorry, the Trojans were really Scandinavians?

Oh for goodness sake!

Today the Amesbury Archer, and the girl buried in the Sanctuary represent Germanic people bringing the new technology of metal work to Stone-age Britain, and the habit of dividing people into racial groups for the purpose of deciding who is the more degenerate, has ceased.

On the other hand there are some fascinating modifications on the theme of racial purity, my favorite load of rubbish reminds me of the only time I went to the Glastonbury festival and was harangued by David Ike -telling us all to stop wearing black and to wear turquoise coloured clothes instead- but I don't remember why he said that?

The Illuminati myth runs as follows:
Evil fallen demonic entities came into our three-dimensional world to rape woman and tampered with human DNA. All cultures also speak of reptilian gods who created a hybrid race of kings and queens that sat on the thrones of all ancient kingdoms that can be tracked back to ancient Sumer Babylon in Iraq.
I wonder why I get stuck wanting more, real, rational scientific evidence!

Rigid belief systems draw from fact and fiction in equal measure, they act to explain the inexplicable and thus resolve an unbearable sense of ambiguity best they become religion, at worst -genocide, or in my case forgotten and lost text files.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Most of the time I feel as if I'm wondering about in the dark with this project which is a warning sign I think, meaning that I'm trying to conflate too many disparate things; trying to weave together smoke and steam to make something substantial!

Most of the time all I read (main subject at the moment is the British Neolithic and early Bronze Age) reminds me that the reason why it is easy to find byzantine explanations of astronomical alignments linked to ancient monuments (but not so easy to understand as to find...) is because to understand a monument a person needs to live with it. It is much easier to survey it, or read someone else's work and to make complicated diagrams than hang around in the damp, looking up at a cloudy sky! I'm reminded of Margaret Curtis and Callanish, of how spending time attending to the whole picture is the only way to see, hear and feel what is there. Surveying a monument and making a model will recreate something, but never the whole. Even excavating seems unnecessarily brutal and equally confusing, until one has spent time listening.

I was reading Aubrey Burl's book about astronomical alignments. It includes a map of early Neolithic tombs and their orientation from which one may deduce many things, but mainly that North East (in the broadest sense) is the most common orientation, but there is a wide variation on that particular theme. Aubrey mentions the southern most moon as a 'significant' alignment for some circles. This is the kind of moon that skims the hills of Callanish at the autumn equinox [Gerald Ponting's account of the Southerly moon at Callanish]

When looking at alignments between the earth and sky, when comparing mythology and folklore, in the process of weaving a narrative that feels right, does it matter how much is fact and how much fantasy?

The moon and hills united by the stones of Callanish is demonstrably true but the original meanings are lost, but for a while in this culture of ours (Western and lost?!) the idea of the moon rising from the moon's belly spoke of an alternative sky made better for the absence of the angry, judgemental and absent god, the one who watched his son die on the stony cross of Callanish (or before the cruciform chambers -at the heart of a long barrow). The sky god: a lightning bolt wielding Tarhut (of the Hitites) or Ninurta the 'black sun' Nergal (of the Summerians and Akkadians respectively). No wonder it feels better to displaced him from the 20th century, replacing him with a silver child of pure light.

Be gone gods of war, be gone 'the seven' plague gods!

The world of Modern Matriarchal Studies, is a faith in non-violent social order, in the possibility of a world in which all living creatures are respected, and a trust that life is possible without the exploitation of humans, animals or nature. It has been around for decades.

It is a religion and I don't believe in it for an instance.

It's mythology helped to create the crumbling concrete masterpiece of Knossos, and it sells books. Both phenomena are interesting.

I see the Persephone myth as a consequence of a 'Patriarchal' world. Girls are given away to men, still. The motif of Helen of Troy's abduction was not confined to the Trojan war; the abduction of women folk was a common excuse for war, possibly it still is. Women used to be(?) still are(!) given away at marriage by their fathers. All this is considered bad by a culture that values individuality and constant change, but an agrarian society sees things in a different way...

In a Matriarchal world daughters would not be abducted by abusive uncles or given away by fathers to brothers. The men simply wouldn't dare. The Persephone myth requires a modern interpretation to fit it into a matriarchal society in which the rape of Persephone illustrates the wrong men do to the earth by greedily taking what they want. Demeter's rage symbolising the famine that will follow.

The curious thing for me is that the only mythology I know of that has a strong 'Queen of Heaven' gives her the joy of both war and prostitution.

But back to me and my question to myself about what should I do regards Woodhenge and The Sanctuary? Well the psychogeographers provide me with the the most useful strategies, I think.

What niggles me most though is not being able to be there, to see how a place 'works'.