Playing Rachmaninoff

May 17, 2017

I thrust my hands
into the moving web to spin
out each sonic filament.
Each must breathe in its own
rhythm, be heard by its
familiar motifs.
Each must rise out of
the tangle, sing briefly,
fall away to whispers.

My fingers feel out strands
braided, stretched,
fragmented. I know them
like the hollows of my face.
I am the weaver at her loom,
phrases dangling from palms,
pulling gently across the clefs
to unravel the sound tapestry.

Sharon Scholl

Summer Cleansing Bath

May 17, 2017

3 parts Marjoram

3 parts Thyme

Use this mixture during the spring and summer to wash away the chills of winter and to spring clean yourself.

Scott Cunningham
The Complete Book of Incense, Oils, and Brews

The Sabbat

May 17, 2017

Babalon’s image hangs over the Middle Ages as the Whore of Revelation, her voluptuous sensuality and ostentatious wealth and beauty raised as the epitome of carnality and sin. Europe, ravaged by the Black Death, lusted after images of Apocalypse – seeking salvation from famines, war and a plague which killed 50% of the population in four grim years. The stage was set for the appearance of Woman, Dragon, Beast and Anti-Christ. The end of the world was nigh as popular pamphlets and preachers alike proclaimed. Between 1458 and 1650 Revelation was reprinted in 750 editions. The imagery of Revelation saturated the culture. This macabre flowering of apocalyptic Christianity opened the way for intensified sexual oppression – though at the heart of the rose is also the solution to it: the survival of the goddess in a newer and more potent modern form.

Medieval history of is a litany of the reduction and constriction of women’s powers and prospects in the world. The freedoms women had exercised in sphere’s such as medicine and childbirth were revoked. Midwives and their plant philtres became suspect; the male alchemist appropriated the function of maternity while the wombs of real women effectively became the property of their feudal lords.

But the war was wider than this. Let me give you one example: in France, the state decriminalised rape against women, so long as they were peasants or of the working class. Such a blatantly divisive manœuvre on the part of the French municipal authorities would have catastrophic effects for both sexes. Women would bear the scars and the social stigma of what was an officially sponsored violation – designed to appease working class men’s sexual frustration. Men would suffer in the breakdown of class solidarity, as victims of a strategy of divide and rule which turned them into disenfranchised workers and controlled male sexuality through the female.

It is worth quoting Sylvia Federici here, in whose work Caliban and the Witch, much of this shocking story is told:

The legalization of rape created a climate of intense misogyny that degraded all women regardless of class. It also desensitized the population to the perpetration of violence against women, preparing the ground for the witch-hunt which began in this same period. It was at the end of the 14th century that the first witch-trials took place, and for the first time the Inquisition recorded the existence of an all-female heresy and sect of devil-worshippers.

The demonisation and control of women under the feudal, proto-Capitalist system signified the intent of the ruling classes to domesticate all people: It was woman, as herself, and as mother, sister, wife, lover, comrade in arms, who had to be undone in order to break the strength of the community.

This process of domestication has continued, with no real men and women, but rather a passive mass of dead-eyed consumers. It is sex and difference which can ignite us, just as rape was used to divide us.

The French historian Jules Michelet, looking at this period of history with 19th century sensibilities, saw in the figure of the witch a symbol of the French people. The rising of a Romantic nationalistic sentiment amongst the bourgeoisie cast the figure of the witch as both pre-Christian and anti-Christian icon. Michelet, inspired by Jacob Grimm and his book Deutsche Mythologie, recast the witch as a healer, a wise-woman and defender of the people – as the repository of native knowledge and all-but-lost traditions. He also, specifically and fictitiously, identified her with Revolution. In The Sorceress, he writes:

Under such a system of blind and indiscriminate repression, to venture little and to venture much and far, is all one, and the risk the same. The very danger incurred increased the Sorceresses’ reckless, and led them to do and dare everything.

Michelet also explicitly unites woman’s body with Revolution, and the hoped-for return to the natural, cyclical rhythm which she embodies:

…that the marvellous monster of universal life was swallowed up inside her; that from now on life, death, everything was held within her entrails, and at the price of such painful labour, she had conceived Nature.

An image strangely reminiscent of Ereshkigal moaning with lust or labour in the underworld. Both inversion and revolution are inherent in witchcraft. What in the microcosmic sense can be found in the body of woman, manifests in the panorama of lived and shared experience as the sabbats and black masses. Michelet once again recognised this:

At the Witches Sabbath woman fulfils every office. She is priest, and altar, and consecrated host…In the last resort, is she not the very God of the Sacrifice as well?

Woman’s centrality is not to the exclusion of ALL, rather she unites ALL. As cave, cauldron, chalice, womb and cunt she holds ALL, and ALL issue from her. What distinguishes the sabbat, or indeed the black mass, from the Christian mass or our own age’s consumerism, is its inclusivity: a sense of revelry, licentiousness, feasting, flirting, dancing and abandon. It is a communion of revolt under the aegis of a priestess. Deflecting the male gaze and logic in describing this feminine experience, Catherine Clément writes in The Newly-Born Woman:

The reverse spectacle, the celebration, in which everyone participates, in which no-one is voyeur, is the Sabbat.

Importantly, it is carried out under the cloak of darkness. Being nocturnal it is free of all the impositions of diurnal life – in particular, the social obligations that govern a woman’s life. At the sabbat she wears forbidden personas, indulges aspects of her sexual nature such as the mænadic and ecstatic consort of beasts and demons. In fact, the sabbat is a descendant of secret rites called orgia, from which our word orgy is derived, practiced in the ancient Mystery cults – oftentimes exclusively by women. They are associated particularly with Dionysos, Cybele and other pre-Olympian chthonic gods. The orgia, like the sabbat, seek to dissolve the barriers between the celebrant and the divinity, who is said to arrive or come in the heightened ecstatic state of the devotee.

The orgy is a quite peculiarly feminine experience, because of woman’s erotic and sexual nature. Her libido, which is cosmic, has the potential to plunge the individual and society into a violently ecstatic liberation of consciousness.

The body cannot be subordinated to reason.

Our flesh is alive and constantly changing.

One of the futures I foresee through this increasingly hegemonic and reductionist age is the manifestation of fearless and unreasonable women who will turn on everyone around them, who will lead the way in creating communities of liberated individuals. Above all, I call for a revolutionary art that undermines this unsustainable and futile exchange economy. Beauty for beauty’s sake, beauty for all! Sex and creation are inextricably bound. Remember, the sabbat is also an imaginal realm, attained through the erotic stimulation of the senses, as well as other means. Here is woman’s peculiar and natural proclivity to generate outpourings of fantasy and phantasm, of motion and emotion. This is a holy state. And it is achieved with sexual energy. Hélène Cixous, in The Laugh of the Medusa, writes:

You can’t talk about a female sexuality, uniform, homogenous, classifiable into codes, any more than you can talk about one unconscious resembling another. Women’s imaginary is inexhaustible, like music, painting, writing; their stream of phantasms is incredible.

What we can see is that witchcraft is continually re-imagined and re-invigorated by the blood of each generation. By new voices. By strong sexually independent women. And there is an urgent need for witchcraft. Christianity has been replaced with a Corporatism that tells us freedom is the right to work as slaves; that being a woman means a constant treadmill of consumerism and self-loathing; that the rape of the planet is business as usual.

The witch walks miraculously out of the flames.

The body continues to speak.

The priestess will not be silenced, the oracle is never closed.

Witchcraft is never fixed.

Every witchcraft revolution is a sexual revolution.

Though we can return in our researches to the depths of the Sumerian underworld, or the matriarchies of Margaret Murray, or the Old Europe of Maria Gimbutas, witchcraft is always about the naked body of the witch. Our visions, our rites, our rituals in our time. Our desire to reconnect with the raw power of witchcraft, the carnal lust, which in woman is insatiable.

Alkistis Dimech and Peter Grey
2010 Presentation: Raw Power: Witchcraft, Babalon and Female Sexuality

17th May

Thoughts of Martha Hatfield the Puritan child-prophet who felt the “Second Coming” coming, so to speak. She saw Raw Head and Bloody Bones, Nelly Long Arms and Awd Goggie, Black Parr and the low black sow who carries off kiddies. She was afraid of fires especially those bonfires on the wastelands of the city blazing with a dim constancy and smoke curling into night fogs across everywhere…

#

How then do we explain our taste for supernatural necessity, d’you think?

#

Rolling shadows pressed against the window like half-glimpsed faces. Then the shriek of an owl, foreshadowing the death of another, smaller creature, bloodily rendered by beak and talons. The struggle between life and death continues throughout the night.

#

Suffering these random night-thoughts – thoughts that lay bare the throbbing red heart of past, present and future. All meaning leaks pus-like from the abyss of death: voiceless, corpses with heads full of untold tales – untold not because of a lack of words, but because of a lack of tongue! Out of the dark confines of this house and across the wide moor everything is making love or death to everything else in an orgy of being, and transcendence, and blood.

#

The centuries have passed and times have changed and yet all around there is a strange feeling that we are not alone, that the shades of persons passed on and over into the world of spirit are very close.

#

Many rites of Witchcraft call on attractive youths, and emphasise nudity. It wasn’t until the rise of the Abrahamic religions that this was frowned upon, and slowly demonised. The rites of Pan and Bacchus became rites of Satan, these gods, predominantly phallic, sexual gods such as Pan were transformed into the Devil, and all things lecherous and sexual were his domain.