I was probably about 11 or 12 when I first saw a picture of Pan, and I was mesmerized by this half goat, half man god. He came to represent all that I searched for in the magical mysteries of “the Pagan”, all that I swore ran through my blood and my pre-teen sexuality, as it led down into adolescence. Any depiction of a satyr in a museum would become an icon and a little place of pilgrimage for me.

In esoteric hearsay, stories of Pan’s invocation were accompanied with cautionary tales, supposed immorality, foolhardiness, and magicians left gibbering and naked in the morning. I wonder if that still gets trotted out nowadays? I didn’t really consider Pan in quite that light, he was my favourite after all, but there was a coldness and a darkness that could accompany the goat foot god, both a loneliness and its answer, along with experiences which might get stereotyped as “enchanting” and “ecstatic”. For one period of time in my twenties I would get hurled out of sleep, like out of deep water, in a state of terror. My sister swore, years later, that she had once awoken to hear a large animal on the landing outside our bedrooms, breathing heavily in the middle of the night. It was quite an extreme time in some ways, though very creative.

Mo (aka CredenceDawg)
Hymn to an Outsider

How to read Tarot cards

August 16, 2017

Note the dress, the type of face; see if you can trace the character in the face; note the pose…. First watch the simple forms of joy, of fear, of sorrow; look at the position taken by the whole body. . . . After you have found how to tell a simple story, put in more details. . . . Learn from everything, see everything, and above all feel everything! . . . Find eyes within, look for the door into the unknown country.

Pamela Colman Smith
Should the Art Student Think?
From the Craftsman, July 1908

Walk in the air

August 16, 2017

In Tientsin there were societies of Red Lanterns, which consisted of young girls who could walk in the air if they held a handkerchief in one hand and a red lantern in the other, who could help the Boxers to burn the missionary buildings. Most of the people did not believe this, and considered it superstitious conduct, as others could not see them when they were walking in the air… A rumour said that the red lantern girls could pull down high-storied houses with thin cotton strings, and could set fire to the house simply by moving a fan, and also said they had the power of hanging a rock of several pounds on a hair.

Kazuko Ono
The Red Lanterns and the Boxer Rebellion
Chinese Women in a Century of Revolution, 1850–1950.

the edge of the dark

August 15, 2017

In Welsh mythology the otherworld is known as Annwn: the not-world, the deep. It is the beyond of adventure, the locus of alterity. Its landscapes are unstill, its deities and monsters have many faces. It is a source of beauty and terror, of awe, of Awen, the divine inspiration quested by the bards and awenyddion who crossed the edge of the dark to explore its depths.

The ways between the worlds are fraught with danger. Safe passage is only granted at a cost. Those who return from the otherworld are never the same. Thus they shroud themselves in the cowl of the edge of the dark.

Those who live on the edge see our precarious reign over the land and its myths is illusory. Tower blocks and elaborate street lamps are ephemeral as Dickens’ fairy palaces. Electric lighting is no defence against the edge of the dark, which seeps in because its memories are deeper than us, its darkness more permeating than headlights.

Lorna Smithers
The edge of the dark

To the otherworld

August 15, 2017

Maponos of the Deep, Great God
I come to you with this plea:
Bring the powers of the Otherworld
To inspire those who are before thee.

Gaulish Inscription at a sacred spring at Chamelières

9th August

I keep a diary: a day-to-day record of my thoughts, activities, and impressions, handwritten in my spidery script that no one can read. I’ve done so most of my life. Here my most sordid secrets are laid bare. The Sapphic loves of my partners, the intense physical and emotional relationships I have experienced over time, and even the tempestuous passion I felt for Claire P all those years ago. All this and more is recorded in a series of black, hardcovered notebooks.

My secret life. Erotic, nebulous in parts, full of clichés with great lapses into flamboyancy and ecstasies transcended. Here is recorded my first lovemaking with SAM:

12th March

“Skin honey and scarlet, blouse the colour of pale wine. She wore a front fastening brassiere and her fine, pale breasts tumbled easily free – only to be trapped by my waiting palms.

“Fire & ecstasy.

“I turned a corner in space as we sought each other’s hidden soul. She came so very quickly, unexpectedly. Later she came again when I went down on her, licking her wet, puckered sex.

“Afterwards, I escorted her home. High, full moon and wind and light rain. Waited an eternity for a 138 Northwood bus at the stop beside the photographer’s studio.

Then, returning to my tatty flat, experienced intense loneliness and a sense of terrible loss. Masturbated aggressively in bed, the scent of her hair on the pillow beside my face. Felt myself outside of time. Tiptoeing through chaos, in another, alternative dimension. I tried to persuade myself that SAM’s love would endure, but knew it wouldn’t. My head full of fire and suspended stars. I couldn’t come until I thought of Georgina – her big eyes and nutbrown skin, my favorite fantasy girl, her curvaceous young body. I moaned her name aloud, over and over, as if casting a spell of protection against SAM’s encroachment on my life. Finally came imagining Georgina acting in a most lewd and provocative manner – which in reality she never would…!”

In time SAM became my wife – my first wife. I was deeply in love with her; or rather deeply in love with who I thought she might be. Hence this two years later:

5th December

“Blank days. So much dull work. Looking forward to a short break. Walking with SAM in Claraden Road. Snow falling and whiteness spreading around. Christmas lights in all the shop windows. Snowflakes on the collar of SAM’s grey overcoat melting. We kiss and her nose is ice cold on my cheek. She is so childlike at times, so in need of protection.

“I ask the question, straight out: ‘Will you marry me?’ By its suddenness, I surprised even myself. After all, what did I really have to offer her?

“The falling snow became millions & billions of falling diamonds in the streetlight’s glow. Pure white diamonds descending in silence –

“ ‘I haven’t a ring yet,’ sez me. ‘I thought we could go to Spivack’s in the morning and you can chose one you like.’

“Still she remained silent, contemplating my proposal, its ramifications and future complexities. Then, finally, she said: ‘Yes, I’ll marry you…’

“And the whole world came alive in me. White magic prevailed. SAM was happy too – and oh so very amorous. We hurried to my flat which was as cold as the North Pole in deep winter. We had each other on the living room floor, both still partly clothed – ”

Once SAM said to me that ‘There’s not more than thirty-six ways of doing it.’ Her own technique was one of virginal innocence. A child in a world of nasty lust and unspeakable desires. It was a technique that had its attractions, and a number of other admirers beside myself. Bruce, an American service man and Jazz musician, who lodged with SAM’s parents, practiced eight of those thirty-six ways of doing it, the night before our wedding. The child was a bitch on heat who believed her knickers were ankle warmers. But I was totally blind to this at the time. None so blind as those who will not see –

18th June

“Love, art, wine. Read the Kama Sutra. Fuck T’s wife in revenge for SAM’s many betrayals over our five years of marriage. Lust is all exposed nerve endings. It permeates every fiber of my being. As if every nerve in my body is pulled taut and stimulated by an almost continuous series of short-circuits.

“T’s wife, Pam, Pamela, a name invented by the poet, Philip Sidney – perhaps from the Greek, meaning “all honey”? Certainly, she is ALL honey. I pollinate her honey pot at every opportunity. And she is intoxicated by Pan, a thing of pandemonium, with a sex urge too violent for her body to sustain.

“Tranquility is no longer a possibility for either of us.

“Instead there is anguish, spasms of hate, terrible depression for me – which I cast temporarily aside in fleshy acts of revenge on Pam’s pale body. Clawing hands. Exhaustion. I have her in shop doorways at night. In alleyways by stinking dustbins. In her husband’s bed – even once in a toilet cubicle at Debenhams. Repeated humiliations. Only ever half-gratified, we both come back for more.

“But today SAM talks of a ‘Fresh start’. Forget the other men in her life, they’re not important. Temporary aberrations. In the past. It is me she really, truly loves…

“Words, words, and more words. Mostly lies, too. Heard it all, so many times before. Our love is fucked and there’s nothing I can do about it. What she “feels” is no longer “love”. It is nothing more than attachment, the habit of having someone familiar to touch, to hold, to control. A safe option. I did everything in my power to keep her close, everything in my power so that love would not disappear, not fade away between us. But I was living in an imaginary relationship. I was a fool…

“She tells me to give up Pam but I say, ‘Perhaps, we’ll see – ’

“We visit Al and Di this evening. We go in a black cab to Ealing. I finger a supposedly repentant SAM roughly during the journey’ She will do anything to gain my forgiveness. I make her “finish” herself off in front of me. She sits on one of the pull-down seats opposite, legs spread in compliance. After she comes, I make her kneel on the floor of the cab and suck me off.

“Eros crucified.

“The hate I let lose is equivalent to all the hate in the world. Behind the hate is love. Damaged, distorted, but not finished with…

“I can only think of all those evenings spent together in mutual silence, wrapped in love, the two of us in front of the fire. Her skin smelling faintly of buttermilk and baby powder. A unique small, this, like no other woman in the world. They were times we were both happy –

“Yet that too is probably a lie. Even during the best of times Sam was seeing other men. I know that now…”

So, in the pages of my diaries, I’m able to experience again the ugly haemorraging of love from my first marriage. I can witness afresh the sins, negligences, and ignorances of my earlier life, and gain fresh inspiration from them. I can see exactly how time distorts my memory of such long ago events, too. These diaries stand as witness to everything, warts and all.

#

“It takes a woman years and years to unlearn the things she’s been taught to be sorry for.” Yes, but in unlearning these things, she may become a monster. Most men are uncomfortable with sexuality that is not made for their own consumption. And this new, superwoman will display many male traits – a propensity for violence, for example. And like most men, the ability to see things not as they are but as they think they should be –

You have been warned.

#

The one thing that really, really turns me on. The most sexy thing in the world –

Kindness!

And one of the most exquisite experiences in the world –

‘Lying in bed on a summer morning, with the window open, listening to the church bells, eating buttered toast with cunty fingers.’

#

Who the hell pays any attention to the world ending? It ends for me every single night. But it begins again next morning –

The wheat was ripe but there was no one there to cut it now, and tank tracks led through it to where the tanks lay pushed into the hedge that topped the ridge that looked across the wooded country to the hill we would have to take tomorrow. There was no one between us and the Germans in that wooded country and on the hill. We knew they had some infantry there and between fifteen and forty tanks. But the division had advanced so fast that the division on its left had not come up, and all this country that you looked across, seeing the friendly hills, the valleys, the farmhouses with their fields and orchards, and the gray-walled, slate-roofed buildings of the town with its sharp-pointing church tower, was all one open flank. All of it was deadly.

The division had not advanced beyond its objective. It had reached its objective, the high ground we were now on, exactly when it should have. It had been doing this for day after day after day after week after month now. No one remembered separate days any more, and history, being made each day, was never noticed but only merged into a great blur of tiredness and dust, of the smell of dead cattle, the smell of earth new-broken by TNT, the grinding sound of tanks and bulldozers, the sound of automatic-rifle and machine-gun fire, the interceptive, dry rattle of German machine-pistol fire, dry as a rattler rattling; and the quick, spurting tap of the German light machine-guns—and always waiting for others to come up.

It was merged in the memory of the fight up out of the deadly, low hedgerow country onto the heights and through the forest and on down into the plain, by and through the towns, some smashed, and some intact, and on up into the rolling farm and forest country where we were now.

History now was old K-ration boxes, empty foxholes, the drying leaves on the branches that were cut for camouflage. It was burned German vehicles, burned Sherman tanks, many burned German Panthers and some burned Tigers, German dead along the roads, in the hedges and in the orchards, German equipment scattered everywhere, German horses roaming the fields, and our own wounded and our dead passing back strapped two abreast on top of the evacuation jeeps. But mostly history was getting where we were to get on time and waiting there for others to come up.

Now on this clear summer afternoon we stood looking across the country where the division would fight tomorrow. It was one of the first days of the really good weather. The sky was high and blue, and ahead and to our left, our planes were working on the German tanks. Tiny and silver in the sun, the P-47s came in high in pairs of pairs and circled before peeling off to dive-bomb. As they went down, growing big-headed and husky-looking in the snarl of the dive you saw the flash and the smoke of the bombs and heard their heavy thud. Then the P-47s climbed and circled again to come down strafing, smoke streaming gray behind them as they dived ahead of the smoke their eight big .50s made as they hammered. There was a very bright flash in the trees of the wooded patch the planes were diving on, and then black smoke arose and the planes came down strafing again and again.

“They got a Jerry tank then,” one of the tank men said.

“That’s one of the b—s less.”

“Can you see him with your glasses?” another helmeted tank man asked me.

I said, “The trees hide him from this side.”‘

“They would,” the tank man said. “If we used cover like those damned Krauts, a lot more guys would get to Paris or Berlin or wherever it is we’re going.”

“Home,” another man said. “That’s all I care about going. That’s where I’m going. All those other places will be off limits anyway. We’re never going in no town.”

“Take it easy,” another soldier said. “Take it a day at a time.”

“Say, correspondent,” another soldier called. “One thing I can’t understand. You tell me, will you? What are you doing here if you don’t have to be here? Do you do it just for the money?”

“Sure,” I said. “Big money. Lots of money.”

“It don’t make sense to me,” he said seriously. “I understand anybody doing it that has to do it. But doing it for money don’t make sense. There ain’t the money in the world to pay me for doing it.”

A German high-explosive shell with a time fuse cracked overhead and to our right, leaving a black puff of smoke in the air.

“Those lousy Krauts shot that stuff too high,” the soldier who wouldn’t do it for money said.

Just then the German artillery started shelling the hill on our left where one of the battalions of the first of the three infantry regiments in the division lay above the town. The side of the hill was jumping into the air in spurting dark fountains from the multiple bursts.

“They’ll shoot on us next,” one of the tank men said. “They’ve got good observation on us here.”

“Lay down under the back of the tank there if they start to shoot,” the big tank man who had told the other soldier to take it a day at a time said. “That’s the best place to be.”

“She looks sort of heavy,” I told him. “Suppose you have to start backing out in a hurry?”

“I’ll holler to you,” he grinned. Our 105s opened up behind us in counter-battery fire, and the German shelling stopped. A Piper Cub was circling slowly overhead. Another was off to the right.

“They don’t like to shoot when those Cubs are up,” the big tank man said. “They spot the flashes, and then our artillery gives them hell or the planes go in after them.” We stayed there a while but the German artillery only opened at intervals on the hill the battalion was holding. We were not attacking.

“Let’s go back and see where the rest of the combat command has got to,” I said.

“Okay,” said Kimbrough, who drove the captured German motorcycle we rode on. “Let’s go.”

Ernest Hemingway
The GI and the General
Colliers Weekly, November 4, 1944

Epitaph

July 28, 2017

O man, whoever you are
and wherever you come from,
for I know you will come,
I am Cyrus
who won the Persians their empire.
Do not begrudge me this bit of earth
that covers my bones.

Epitaph on the tomb of Cyrus the Great as reported by Plutarch and Arrian

female trance state

July 25, 2017

Medieval folklore throughout Europe recognized a specifically female trance state closely analogous to divine possession. In popular culture, too, we find groups of laywomen entering into immobile and insensible trance states, during which they reportedly visited the realms of the dead and consorted with supernatural figures. Efforts to rouse such women when in this state proved fruitless: the trance was like a temporary death in which the spirit was wholly absent. These women often were credited with healing powers and oracular abilities, and sometimes they attained positions of local prestige – or marginalization – as a result to their activities. Known variously as the “good things,” the “good ladies,” or the “night-times ladies,” these women believed themselves to be destined, by an accident of birth, occasionally to leave their bodies in order to follow, in spirit, in the train of a mysterious female supernatural being.

Nancy Caciola
Discerning Spirits: Divine and Demonic Possession in the Middle Ages

torn asunder by torture

July 23, 2017

In another little town not far from here, when a poor woman who had been imprisoned on suspicion of maleficium could not be induced by any torture to confess to some crime, a priest approached her with coaxing words, urging that she not allow herself any longer to be thus torn asunder by torture. She should just confess quietly to some failing, and he promised that would purify her from maleficium with holy water, and that he would restore her to God as good as new. Thus prompted by the priest and deceived by his blandishments, she admitted that she had perchance perpetrated some evils of this nature. She hoped that in this way she would escape as the priest had persuaded her. But on the grounds of such a confession, falsely and cunningly obtained by coaxing, she was sentenced to be sacrificed to Vulcan’s fires. Hearing the unexpected sentence, the poor woman admonished the unhearing judges: “See how you are killing me.”

Johann Weyer
De praestigiis daemonum