The Old Man of Winter

August 18, 2017

At the withering of the year
There stands a tree in black silhouette
On a background of snowy white

Bent-backed, twisted and knotted
Like a man of great age
Wizened by the passing of time

Joints swollen
Limbs ending in gnarled fingers
Grasping icy teardrops come the dawn

Breath wheezing through
The leafless bough
Rasping and laboured

Can you hear him?

Whispering words of
Death and the darkness

Can you hear him?

Sammi Cox

the average adult heroine

August 18, 2017

The predominance of romance in women’s literature is stunningly unrealistic. The assumption that most heroines would necessarily focus that much attention on their love lives is ridiculous, particularly in the modern world. Real women, even if they aren’t queens, have real problems: jobs to do; bills to pay; families to raise; domestic and sexual violence to worry about; sexism to combat; and sometimes racism, homophobia, and other forms of bigotry as well. When the average adult heroine pushes these real problems aside in favour of worrying about how to live happily ever after with her prince, I don’t find her admirable, nor do I find her a good role model. I am likewise offended when a heroine who is perfectly interesting on her own must be forced to couple up in order to hold the interest of a fantasy demographic. I love escapist literature, but the contours of escapism shouldn’t define the rules for every heroine out there. When potential editors ask me why my incredibly busy, stressed, and belaboured queen can’t have a love life, something is wrong.

Erika Johansen,
Why We Need “Ugly” Heroines

Witch Burn

August 17, 2017

It feels like freedom, sitting next to a grown woman,
squeezed into a corset, blessed woman, crowned in silver and gold,
body-strong as we grapevine in a circle,
body-vulnerable in diaphanous skirts.
We gargle meditatively, our voices vibrating
across each other’s solar plexi.

This witchy thing, inspired by
Druids, ancient and unknowable,
those Roman-fodder, those barbarous,
who never wrote anything down,
who probably practiced human sacrifice,
at their altars under monoliths, but
that’s what all the websites say, in curly-que letters,
like wishing can make it true,
and spell
all at once),
and under that in fine-print,
really brought to you by: a man named Gerald Gardner,
British civil servant who thought one day in the 1950s,
to look at nature and breathe in the moon
and stare at the stars and say yes, okay, yes,
this I worship.

And so we sit pentacle-corner to pentacle-corner,
humming hymns to horned gods
that I don’t believe in,
but the night smells like basil and mint
and the gardenia blossoms
in the desert heat, delicate blooms
that shouldn’t thrive here, but do,
like me, like magic.

Kristen Figgins

pictures of the music

August 17, 2017

You ask me how these pictures are evolved? “They are not pictures of the music theme – pictures of the flying notes – not conscious illustrations of the name given to a piece of music, but just what I see when I hear music – thoughts loosened and set free by the spell of sound.

When I take a brush in hand and the music begins, it is like unlocking the door into a beautiful country. There, stretched far away, are plains and mountains and the billowy sea, and as the music forms a net of sound the people who dwell there enter the scene; tall, slow-moving, stately queens, with jewelled crowns and garments gay or sad, who walk on mountain – tops or stand beside the shore, watching the water – people. These water-folk are passionless, and sway or fall with little heed of time; they toss the spray and, bending down, dive headlong through the deep.

There are the dwellers, too, of the great plain, who sit and brood, made of stone and motionless; the trees, which slumber till some elf goes by with magic spear and wakes the green to life ; towers, white and tall, standing against the darkening sky –

Those tall white towers that one sees afar,
Topping the mountain crests like crowns of snow.
Their silence hangs so heavy in the air
That thoughts are stifled.

Then huddling crowds, who carry spears, hasten across the changing scene. Sunsets fade from rose to grey, and clouds scud across the sky.

For a long time the land I saw when hearing Beethoven was unpeopled; hills, plains, ruined towers, churches by the sea. After a time I saw far off a little company of spearmen ride away across the plain. But now the clanging sea is strong with the salt of the lashing spray and full of elemental life; the riders of the waves, the Queen of Tides, who carries in her hand the pearl-like moon, and bubbles gleaming on the inky wave.

Often when hearing Bach I hear bells ringing in the sky, rung by whirling cords held in the hands of maidens dressed in brown. There is a rare freshness in the air, like morning on a mountain-top, with opal-coloured mists that chase each other fast across the scene.

Chopin brings night ; gardens where mystery and dread lurk under every bush, but joy and passion throb within the air, and the cold moon bewitches all the scene. There is a garden that I often see, with moonlight glistening on the vine-leaves, and drooping roses with pale petals fluttering down, tall, misty trees and purple sky, and lovers wandering there. A drawing of that garden I have shown to several people and asked them if they could play the music that I heard when I drew it. They have all, without any hesitation, played the same. I do not know the name, but – well, I know the music of that place.

Pamela Colman Smith
Pictures in Music
From the Strand magazine, July 1908

17th August

While writing all else around me dissipates, vanishes as if it might never have been. The words I write, all my past experience is then vividly filtered and reborn in the labyrinth of mind – for all creation is fantasy, invention, yet solidly rooted in individual reality. Reality transformed by imagination.


Life is full of imponderables. For instance, how many roundabouts are there really in Milton Keynes? I hear of individuals going out with pen and paper to create a definitive list of them, but each day (or so it seems) the number of roundabouts changes?

Same too with the Hanger Lane Gyratory System: they say 10,000 vehicles an hour pass through this complex London junction – some never to be seen again! Is it possible, as has been suggested, that the planners in designing this, Britain’s “scariest” junction, had inadvertently created a portal to other dimensions?

And, as if that wasn’t bad enough, what the hell were they thinking when they put an Underground station slap in the feckin’ middle of it? Pedestrians trying to cross eight lanes of accelerating traffic have two options – die horribly, or dematerialise and reappear elsewhere…hopefully in the Underground station?

In another time Hieronymous Bosch would have cheerfully included the Hanger Lane Gyratory System in one of his visionary paintings of hell.


I’ve lived in this place at the edge of the moor longer than anywhere else in my life. Yet still it is not ‘home’. I feel strangely disposed here. An exile, if you will. A stranger in a strange land.

So, where then is my home?

Perhaps in a long gone childhood? There are times I feel old friends, shadows now, beckoning to me. But such a return is impossible. Instead I must remain in this chaotic half-world, wandering round the house with my ghosts.

So, is it time to move on? Find somewhere else to live? No way will I suffer in suburban miserabilism. It must be rural, wild – perhaps on a mountainside in Wales?

The Lake district?

And will I continue these dispatches from inside a fractured identity? I don’t know. But it is time to start searching for properties elsewhere.

Although I will miss the Bluebells flowering in the spring in our secret places, those places nearby where we lay and make love beneath the trees –

The Matriarchs’ Charm

August 16, 2017

Take hungry grins full of spittle
place sticky, beating hearts in the middle
and twine with salt and pepper hair
through endless days and nights laid bare
Add pebble, bone, root and feather
then wrap in tales and bind together

Wipe your brow and bow your head
spill blood upon the marriage bed
Now cross yourself – once, twice, thrice
and you become the sacrifice

Mary Bach

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 parts that are absent

August 16, 2017

16th August

Last night was spent between rain and not rain. Counting stars glimpsed between black cloud banks and listening to the owls hunt and the tragic screams of their victims. I closed my ears to the butchery and employed word magic –

Mood this morning: conflicted. The voices in my head are bickering, and one of my personalities has wandered off to God alone knows where! I’m bereft.

Fact to always keep to the front of my mind: multitasking is the ability to mess up a number of things in one go. Men should never attempt it. Don’t believe me? Okay, try brushing your teeth while taking a pee, boys, but keep a floor cloth handy.

Too much time spent sinking into the event horizon of a computer screen. The morning sky is too feckin’ bright. Too much sick-looking sun behind all that watery gloom. Drink more coffee. The caffeine whirls about the blood like a madman on steroids. I really could use a drop of brandy just now.