Showing posts from 2017

Greeting the Unconquered Sun in Grenoside

Yesterday morning's Grenoside Sword Dancers' Boxing Day dance, in the road outside the Old Harrow, Grenoside village, greeting the Unconquered Sun. This is a very old tradition, not a re-enactment. It has been kept alive continuously, but now they need new members. If you are interested in dancing this two-centuries' old dance and can get to the Sheffield area of an evening, get in touch with them at . Here's a short sequence where they are weaving through the swords.

Review of Psychedelic Press Journal, Issue 22

Available from The stated theme of issue 22 is the integration phase that happens after a psychedelic experience, the delicate protocols of coming back to the world. The articles 'all play with this theme in various ways'. PPJ in general plays with themes as a way of structuring the vast surge of psychedelic writing that is emerging at the moment, in science, literature and other areas. And it does this very well; I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone interested in psychedelics and the culture and issues around them. It has an immensely readable mix of academic-type discourse, trip reports, poetry and history. This issue has two outright trip reports. Julian Vayne writes this issue's My First Trip, in which he tells a hair-raising tale of taking 4 times as much LSD as he intended to, how he dealt with a rather intense metaphor that erupted into the trip, and what he thought about it all afterward


Image I was going to write a much longer review of this, because there is so much to it if, like me, you are fascinated by smells. However, it closes in a few days, so I wanted to get this out there to encourage other smell fiends to go. This is an exhibition about modern perfumery using ingredients that imitate a far greater range of smells than the traditional flowers, fruits, woods and musks. These perfumes imitate, amongst many other things, creosote, bodily fluids, hot desert air, chlorine, stagnant water. Thee are ten perfumes in this exhibition. Each has its own room, themed to the perfume; the blurb mentions the idea of creating 'narratives' with perfume. That may sound pretentious, but bear with it - there is something very interesting going on here. Here's the room for Giacobetti's En Passant, an outdoorsy perfume. Each perfume is presented without comment other than the silent commentary of the room's d

The Spirit Andromalius: Part 2

Part of my deal with Andromalius was that I paint five stones with his Seal and give them to magical folk who would be likely to use them. The first of these stones I gave to a friend who runs a café-bookshop. She accepted it happily and said she didn't really have any problems losing things at home, but that things got lost in the shop. So she put it up on a high shelf in the shop, for the benefit of anyone who wanted to try working with the spirit. I mentioned that anyone who wanted to do that would have to form their own relationship with the entity - just the obvious basics to start with, like asking nicely, and thanking him if you get a result. The next day, she texted me to say that her assistant in the shop had found her debit card, which had been missing for some time. Great result! Then the day after that, she texted again to say that her assistant had forgotten to thank the spirit and had lost the card again. IT seems that the card never turned up again; it woul

Composting For All; the enigmatic poems of Hubert Tsarko This is less an objective reviewer's review and more a plug for a friend's book. But my friend John, the man behind Hubert Tsarko, really is a decent poet, and worth a look if you value mysterious wordcraft. John has been growing as a poet for the thirty-odd years I've known him. This is his first collection, which goes to show what a long time poets take to mature. I travelled with him back in our youth, through the South of France, picking grapes and drinking their pressed fermented product, talking about writing and occasionally doing some. On our way to castrate maize in Riscle (the title of one of the poems in this collection), in the wake of an ill-advised Mercury invocation intended to speed up the hitch-hiking, we got our lift, with a man who stole our bags and papers. On the table in the café he left us a plastic diary, which I took up and used a

The Spirit Andromalius: Part 1

This post and some that will follow are about my experiences of working with the spirit or demon Andromalius, number 72 in the Goetia. (To cut to the chase, yes, I find Andromalius to be a very useful spirit.) Over a few months I have started to forge a working relationship with him, and it has been a very interesting learning curve as well as useful to me. So here are a few thoughts about spirits in general and Goetia #72 in particular. So what do we mean when we talking about working with spirits? Some magicians use the idea that there are four (or five) basic ways of apprehending magic - Psychological, Energy-based, Spirit-based or Information-based. (The fifth is the meta-way of slipping between those four at will.) That makes a  fair amount of sense to me; not perfect sense, but a good contribution to ways we can view our magic. Now look at those four approaches to magical effects: they aren't all of the same level of cultural unfamiliarity, are they? Or to put it ano

Seven Secular Sermons - a meditation for the Age of Science

Image Any old Aeon Any old Aeon Any any any old Aeon - From a song by Barry Hairbrush If you are reading my weird writings you have probably heard of Aeonics, various philosophers' and magicians' ideas of how civilizations undergo great big shifts in their central ideas. You will have come across Crowley's Aeons of Isis the Mother, Osiris the Dying God and Horus the Crowned and Conquering Child. You may have come across Peter Carroll's more pragmatic extension of this into a five-Aeon scheme. We start off in Shamanism, proceed to Pagan Polytheism, to Monotheism and then to Materialist Modernism, before slipping off the edge of the model into the current rather Postmodernist PanDaemonAeon. Most of those older Aeons produced artworks which promote meditations which explicate the spiritual worldview of that Aeon. Take ancient Egyptian religion and its gorgeous polytheistic splendour. Or the mediaeval cathedrals in their breathtaking d

Getting Higher by Julian Vayne - a review

Getting Higher - The manual of psychedelic ceremony Julian Vayne, This is a unique book, which I have been waiting for the likes of for some time. My first adult-life experiences of events that I framed as magical happened in my late teens, under the influence of acid. It wasn't until my mind-20s that I embarked on daily study and practice. This was in the late 1970s, and the world of magical writing - the serious sort rather than the various New Age dilutions - was dominated by the works of Crowley. I found Crowley's work interesting partly because he saw no basic problem in using psychoactive substances in the course of magical work. Most other magical writers seemed to shrivel up in horror at the mere thought. However, Crowley was ultimately a disappointment to me in this area, as in a few others. He had used mescaline, one of what I thought of as the most interesting class of drugs, t

My Years of Magical Thinking, by Lionel Snell

Image Lionel Snell is without doubt one of the great magical thinkers of the last half-century. This book is somewhat different to his other books, because he is offering his arguments to the wider public beyond the magical ghetto. It is a concerted defence of magical thinking - but as one of four basic types of thinking, four basic human ways of apprehending our worlds. This four-directions model is not new - Snell's first book, SSOTBME, from 1974, laid out this model of human apprehension, but I must confess I never got that it was supposed to be a normal mode of thinking; somehow I assumed he was smuggling it in to complete his picture, and that it was still a fringe thing. Thinking back, I am puzzled at how I misread that idea, but it no doubt has to do with the fact that my own approach to magical thinking has often emphasized the fringe-y, even freakish nature of such thinking - the freakiness of whic