Forgotten tales

Magical revelation of the day: I was thinking about how television supplies us with pre-packaged narratives.

Each episode or documentary gives us a structure, beginning and end, occasionally with a carefully delivered challenge or question. These stories may be split over several episodes to keep us addicted, and the challenges can be subtle or obvious to promote discussion. It occurred to me that to manufacture these stories, life needs to be generalised, filtered and distorted c.f. NLP modelling ( ).

On the kaballistic tree of life, there is a strange place – DAATH – see Wikipedia for an intro. Strange for its omission from the structure. My relatively inexperienced perspective conjures the idea of forgetting, and the analogy of a lens or prism which is effectively invisible but known by its effect.

The reason I mention this is because I intuit a connection between this narrative artifice and corresponding exclusion of information to that end, and this core ‘gap’ in the tree of life where all things originate and dissolve.

It makes me look at stories and narratives afresh: I want to reject these narratives. This addiction to narratives is like a drug, or possible poison. To craft a narrative is to harm the complete narrative of existence. Try looking for the story behind the story, the aborted and stillborn foetuses strewn about us which we cannot see. See the world in all its horror and glory.

The other term which enters into my awareness is ‘silence’. To contain everything, there must first be emptiness. When the narrative coaxes you to speak, try breaking the flow. Experience what is happening rather than delivering the same old responses and patterns, time and time again. Words are like silk, which can bind us within our own prisons.

EDIT: After feedback, I want to clarify that this is not meant to be attacking narratives per se. I love narratives as I love breathing or eating. I am attacking an addiction to particular narratives, and even becoming accustomed to accepting a certain narrative structure. Narratives, like concepts, are both restrictive and empowering. They channel our thoughts and behaviours down some paths and not others.

Practical Magic – Awareness

A practical anecdote of magic in action.

I pause on the way back from taking out the recycling, noticing a strange awareness or ‘energy’ following the breeze traversing the grassy quadrangle of the housing estate, running NW to SE. I become aware of how vulnerable I would be to anonymous malevolence from a higher balcony. I feel drawn to sit on the giant hollow log in the centre of the deserted play area. I notice a group of lads dash along the balcony of the S flats to the SE corner.

Minutes later, a couple walking from SE to SW are egged from some hidden upper story assailant in the SW corner. I express my sympathies and they move on in distress. Minutes later a group of lads emerge, then hide, then emerge again from the SE corner and travel to the NW corner, exchanging a few wary glances at each other and myself.

Now, there’s an obvious narrative that the lads were the egg throwers, and that I might have been selected as target, but that’s all by the by. For me, the altered states of awareness invited by magic are the key, and facilitate breaking out of established patterns and into a fertile narrative landscape.

Practical Magic – Geburah

Practical magic anecdote: I’ve been meditating on Geburah (5th Sephiroth on the Kabbalistic tree of life) for a couple of months now, and have started to notice some odd stuff. When beginning exercise I can ‘invoke Geburah’ and I feel a warmth within my chest which invigorates me and dulls muscle pains and aches.

I had a powerful of idea of passing though some sort of crucible which burns away disconnected parts to leave the core identity. The warmth felt like my core being coming into focus, and the strength of unity it brings. I wonder if I can cultivate this for more prolonged periods?

During intense exercise, I started to visualise a door opening, but never opened. Focusing on this image helped push through the pain barrier. Initially I fantasised that this was some gateway to Geburah, but as Geburah is supposedly beyond human consiousness I guess it must be a reflection of Geburah. Then again, the idea that the gate is never fully opened reflects that.

I read a random internet article about Geburah and Chesed which raised some interesting parallels and symmetries. One concept (which is still fresh and likely incorrect or distorted) is that Geburah represents restriction/rules in the sense of ‘what you cannot do’. Limits I suppose, and comes across as a struggle. Chesed represents empowerment in the sense of ‘what you can do’, with corresponding power. Of course, the two seem to be flip sides of the coin in this sense, as what you can do describes what you cannot, and vice versa. Indeed, the empowerment of Chesed lends well to overbearing and constrictive states, and the restrictive struggle of Geburah lends to rebellion and liberation. The barriers between the Sephiroth should be considered for what they actually represent – a conceptual system. Don’t forget this!



Cutting the Youth of Tomorrow

For those who are not already aware, Devon Youth Service is one of the few remaining council run youth service provisions in the country, and is facing a death blow:

This is a joke. Actually – it’s the blackest kind of schadenfreude, that creeps after the Coalition’s not-so-subtle privatisation of NHS and Post Office. The motivations for these acts been highly questionable, with suspect financial involvement. The austerity regime is also highly questionable, and literally cutting the throats of the youth service to make savings that barely make a dent in the bonuses of the financial sector simply compounds error after error.

This is significant for several reasons.


1. There is (conveniently for some) no restriction on calling a provision a youth service. There is a great professional gulf between council based provision and community sourced or Church based provision. I have personally experienced the training and professionalism of the former, and the well-meaning but often inexperienced or idealistically biased efforts of the latter. A young person, isolated and confused, is liable to receive a very different welcome from each. The council based provisions are reinforced by strict practical and ethical guidelines.

2. In the youth service it is the real LIVES of future adults at stake. I have been witness to cases of rape, poverty, abuse, self-harm, cycles of violence, and loneliness which the Youth Service is dedicated to resolve. Don’t just see the numbers on the balance sheet – see the countless lives which are improved or saved by the youth service. Ask yourself whether this 3rd round of cuts to an impossibly stretched provision is an appropriate reflection of how much we value future generations. Also consider how much in resources is liable to be spent on future policing, legalities, rehabilitation and prison services.

3. The youth services have suffered greatly from a difficulty in justifying the good they do, because every life they improve or save does NOT make the media headlines. Preventative services are often easy prey. Do you recall the last time a youth service was nationally acclaimed for their achievements? It’s certainly not because there are none. Recently, extra bureaucratic measures have been imposed, ostensibly to facilitate quality control, but in reality only serving to overwork already overworked staff, and set them up to fail. Even the Youth Centres which have excelled themselves have seemingly nothing to gain from this paperwork.

4. The youth service is publically misunderstood. There was once a time, years ago, when youth services were run by well meaning volunteers and were effectively convenient creches. This has changed dramatically, and yet I have recently experienced leading government officials walking blithely into sessions without warning (violating safety policies), telling us how to do our jobs, and talking to young people (if at all) as if they were a different species. We are not youth enforcement officers. We do not mind-control young people into behaving. We do not exist to entertain young people and keep them off the streets. We do listen, and treat young people like young adults, help them to make informed choices and learn about the amazing world they stand to inherit, good and bad, and support them through the turbulent transition into adulthood. We help them become responsible adults. You may even have met one or two of them yourself, if you are fortunate.

5. I never used the youth service when I was young, but there were times when it would have helped. The youth service is not a plaster for broken families. Your family, I hope, will never need their services. Young people’s lives deserve a quality safety net, not a grimace and a pamphlet from an overworked school nurse.

6. Don’t believe for a moment that the years of experience within the youth service can be replicated adequately by outsourcing. Don’t just take my word for it. Go down to your local Council-based Youth Centre and ask them what they do and how it is going. If there is one left. Tragically, the greatest testament to the worth of the youth service is the voices of the young people they serve, and nobody seems to be listening.


Magickal Causality

From Aleister Crowley’s ‘Magick’ there is a brief discussion of the nature of Magickal cause and effect.

In summary – the efficacious nature of Magick and its practices is not necessarily to ‘directly’ effect a result. i.e. Magick in the high fantasy Harry Potter sense of pointing wands and fireballs erupting may be misleading. So in what sense can Magick be said to actually cause something to happen? Well, this is the bit I like as it chimes in perfectly with everything else I have uncovered so far! It works by transforming the agent, the relationships between agent and the world, and hence the world, making them all into the kind of things which accord with the will of the Magick user.

To clarify: I might perform rituals to focus my will on a particular task, build confidence and strengthen links with others who may assist in doing my will. But do the rituals ’cause’ the task to happen? Certainly the mental and emotional focus and strengthening of relationships with others assists in accomplishing the task.

This is why a spell that summons a person to you may ‘work’ even though the person in question started on their journey to visit you BEFORE the spell was cast. Practicing such spells makes you more powerful. The holistic nature of Magick is evident here – it thrums through all the strands of symbolism and power that guide and shape, a power that subtly whispers but in its crescendos there is indisputable puissance.

This touches on the purpose of prayer and worship too: By seeking communion with the divine will we are not necessarily diminishing ourselves by subjecting or demeaning what we are. Rather, we are becoming vessels dedicated to actualising divine will – our will. I think many people have conceptions of worship that stereotype and ridicule, alienating and stifling the possibility that it is something very important, practical and essential. I remember my GCSE Religious Education teacher saying something which stuck with me: Worship is ‘Worth-ship’, about showing how something is important to you. To those who remain Atheist and Agnostic as anything other than a reaction to established religious stereotypes I ask: What is it that you live for? What makes it all worthwhile?

Focus on those things, craft yourself about them, respect and celebrate them. After all, that is worship.


Neonomicon and its prequel ‘The Courtyard’ are both graphic novels written by the acclaimed storyteller (and bearded dude) Alan Moore. Warning: Some spoilers may emerge! Details on the Wiki.

As most of the story is outlined in the Wiki article, I’m going to stick to personal impressions.


1. It’s novel and graphic for a graphic novel! There is weird sex and rape, Lovecraftian nightmares and an interesting twist on traditional Mythos understanding. It received press when a library was prompted to censor it for its depictions – though frankly, an age rating on it would probably have avoided all that anyway – and after Moore’s ‘Lost Girls’ it’s clear that he has no fear of pushing the boundaries, making him one of the most interesting writers today.

2. Concepts are good. The prequel shows the descent into truth/madness of a federal occult investigator, and links in the significance of language. Neonomicon carries on that linguistic vein and promotes the Lovecraftian-sex theme.

3. The rape-orgy scene is very well done – both shocking in its topic and humane in execution. The characters are rendered as fat, skinny, old, young, mixed races etc. A great deal of the horror is the everyday nature of it.

4. Artwork is appropriate for the story, calling for beauty and lumpiness with a spattering of gore. The ‘Gargouille de la mer’ is a wonderfully brutish rendering, and effects a poignant death scene.

5. Inversions in the plot. There are lots of these, and I have always been fond of stories where the initial character point of view shifts and inverts as they experience the world. Agent Brears is rescued by the monster from the murderous humans. Agent Brears faces down the institutionalised murderer as she becomes a much bigger bee-atch than him!


Not many of these really.

1. That is was over too soon perhaps!

2. The graphical and Lovecraftian nature of the story will likely deter many, but given the interesting and challenging concepts contained perhaps that was unavoidable.


I recommend the read to any like minded souls!


Abraham’s Dilemma

[Foreword: Though the language may seem abstract and probably pretentious, this piece is aimed at encouraging a possible reinterpretation of religious text in more practical terms. I hope you can bear (with) it!]

This came back to me recently, having touched upon it during my Uni days. The problem is outlined at and summary below: God tested Abraham. He said to him, ‘Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am’. He said, ‘take your son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offerhim as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.’ Genesis 22:1-2 In Genesis 22 Abraham takes his son Isaac to be sacrificed as God has commanded (a ram is offered in Isaac’s place). Abraham and his wife Sarah had waited a long time to have Isaac. God had promised them a child in their old age and yet God asks Abraham to sacrifice him! Even if it does not raise moral questions, it is a least counter-intuitive. But Abraham does not falter. He takes Isaac as commanded and it is not until Abraham raises the knife to kill his son that God intervenes. Abraham’s willingness to kill Isaac is enough for God to know that the patriarch would not ‘withhold his only son’ from him. A ram is conveniently found in a thicket and offered in Isaac’s place.

The basic understanding of this story seems to be that it was about demonstrating Abraham’s great faith and willingness to sacrifice his son in obedience to God, who lets him off at the end. i.e. God would never actually demand such a sacrifice as it is patently horrific, but it serves to illustrate the kind of strength of will that faith may require. However, there are other puzzles arising from this scenario if we consider it as a hypothetical situation where divine and mundane morality conflict. i.e. What if God actually demanded such a sacrifice? Continue reading

Trappings of Civilisation

There may come a point in an organism’s development where it becomes able to extensively control its own environment to the degree that external threats are pretty much nonexistent.  At this point the question arises: ‘What to do?’

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Cloud Atlas


I saw Cloud Atlas recently.  Twice.  I have read a bunch of reviews for it, which are pretty middling, describing it as many things. Dodgy prosthetics.  Trite moralising.  Overly long.  Disjointed.  Ambitious failure.  Feel free to chart these out yourself…

I agree that it was ambitious, and I agree that it failed to reach the mainstream, but I was very impressed.  A lot happens in the 2-3 hours of the film, and even more goes on behind the scenes.  The cinematography was lovely, and the music too.  My take: We are witnessing the lives and interactions of a group of souls across several generations.  In addition, certain souls remain typecast in fairly constant roles, whereas other seem to change and develop.  See the table below (from the Wiki):

Actor “The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing” (1849) “Letters from Zedelghem” (1936) “Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery” (1973) “The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish” (2012) “An Orison of Sonmi~451” (2144) “Sloosha’s Crossin’ an’ Ev’rythin’ After” (2321)
Tom Hanks Dr. Henry Goose Hotel Manager Isaac Sachs Dermot Hoggins Cavendish Look-a-like Actor Zachry
Halle Berry Native Woman Jocasta Ayrs Luisa Rey Indian Party Guest Ovid Meronym
Jim Broadbent Captain Molyneux Vyvyan Ayrs N/A Timothy Cavendish Korean Musician Prescient 2
Hugo Weaving Haskell Moore Tadeusz Kesselring Bill Smoke Nurse Noakes Boardman Mephi Old Georgie
Jim Sturgess Adam Ewing Poor Hotel Guest Megan’s Dad Highlander Hae-Joo Chang Adam / Zachry Brother-in-Law
Doona Bae Tilda Ewing N/A Megan’s Mom, Mexican Woman N/A Sonmi~451, Sonmi~351, Sonmi Prostitute N/A
Ben Whishaw Cabin Boy Robert Frobisher Store Clerk Georgette N/A Tribesman
James D’Arcy N/A Young Rufus Sixsmith Old Rufus Sixsmith Nurse James Archivist N/A
Zhou Xun N/A N/A Talbot / Hotel Manager N/A Yoona~939 Rose
Keith David Kupaka N/A Joe Napier N/A An-kor Apis Prescient
David Gyasi Autua N/A Lester Rey N/A N/A Duophysite
Susan Sarandon Madame Horrox N/A N/A Older Ursula Yosouf Suleiman Abbess
Hugh Grant Rev. Giles Horrox Hotel Heavy Lloyd Hooks Denholme Cavendish Seer Rhee Kona Chief

Hugh Grant and Hugo Weaving play characters bound to order and consistency, the former as some kind of profiteer who works the system to his advantage, the latter as the defender of the status quo.  Weaving’s Nurse Noakes was exquisite! By contrast:

Tom Hanks starts off greedy, then works his way towards happiness at the end.

Halle Berry is questing for truth, becoming increasingly empowered towards the end.

Jim Sturgess starts off struggling to develop a moral backbone, and towards the end is increasingly empowered in defence of his ideals.

Doona Bae starts off as Jim Sturgess’ love, meekly sharing his moral sensibilities, and is elevated to godhood at the end.

There are lots of stories here, and the interactions between them merit exploration too.  I know the prosthetics may be distracting, but they serve to identify the souls by a similarity of appearance.  Alternative devices may have been more subtle, but I suspect would have made the identification nigh impossible for people.

I have a soft spot for the words of Sonmi – very simple but elegant language, food for the soul.  To those who described the meaning as some wishy washy tale of cosmic interconnectedness, I’d say that a shallow man sees his own reflection in the deepest of ponds.

‘Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb, we are bound to others. Past and present. And by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.’ – Sonmi-451

Seeing the matrix

I started to see the matrix today.  More specifically, the semiotic web as described in Patrick Dunn’s text on Postmodern Magic.  The semiotic web/matrix is the totality of interrelated symbols and meaning that chart our experiences.

The term matrix or lattice has connotations of being crystalline and rigid – an oppressive sentiment that may be apt for the film the Matrix – which is why the web description is more appealing to me.  It occurred to me however that the description of the semiotic web is still lacking something, or at least, it was for me.

The symbols are ALIVE.  Do not view the semiotic web as a collection of things/points/nodes.  The Net of Indra is a beautiful metaphor worth thinking about, and although the gems are like things, their identity is partly eroded and partly composed by the fact they reflect all the others. i.e. the identity of a thing is contextual (its place in the semiotic web).  A change in one affects the others.  But even more than this, the symbols are the landscape of our desires, ideals and motivations – which makes them decidedly ACTIVE.  Imagine the landscape topology, with rivers flowing between peaks. Then consider the topology of the semiotic web:

In a crude sense, the symbol of a wall or obstacle serves to channel most ambulatory beings towards symbols of access and passage.  Otherwise we would walk into walls more often!  The very nature of the semiotic web serves to channel energy and direct us.  More significant symbols, like ideals (and arguably gods) similarly distort the web, so that energies flow in different directions.  As a ball rolls downhill into a depression, as the gravity well draws in objects, so too does the semiotic web guide and influence.

This is why I love Aikido so much: It works within the semiotic web so well.  Rather than cruder approaches which might strike blows to deal with threats, Aikido literally takes advantage of the individual’s situation and interrelations within the web.  Aikido is a form of magic made manifest – and as you get better at it you start to see the channels of people’s intentions.  A bit like the scene in Donnie Darko when he starts to see the space-time worms emerging from the solar plexus, you start to see these energy flow more clearly, and how to direct them in different ways.  I think a true master never has to fight, simply by virtue of avoiding conflicts before they even erupt.

Cabin in the Woods

Finally, I managed to see this yesterday, after a lot of interesting comments and reviews from others.  There are going to be SPOILERS so be warned.  First off: I really enjoyed it.  It’s always a pleasure watching Sigourney Weaver beating the cr*p out of somebody.  It was a good mix of horror with a twist, and there were some fun concepts based around the idea of a corporate sacrifice factory designed to prevent/delay the end of the world.

Joss Whedon’s touch was evident in the camp larger than life gratuitousness of some of the characters and scenes.  A squad of troops being slaughtered in a nightmarish lift-foyer massacre.  An office party with a silent and ignored backdrop of a brutal undead assault.  Person catching a friend’s severed head.

The points I found thought-provoking were these:

1. Given the need to appease the BBG (Big Bad God) with the sacrifices, where is the moral compass on this one? I’ll refer to the sacrifices as the ‘victims’

2. How realistic was the portrayal of the corporation employees?

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Call me Cassandra

Gods can be cruel. For those of you who don’t know the tale of Cassandra, see here. In short, the sun god Apollo gifted Cassandra with the ability to see the future, but when this act of generosity failed to open her legs, he spitefully twisted the gift into a curse. Cassandra was left with the knowledge of future events, but could neither alter these events nor convince others of the validity of her predictions.

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A Taste of Love

Hot sun kisses

A daffodil waves

Recollections steal me

Rock hard shower

Yet another tune

Each breath sings

Aromatic skin dances

Resting in light

Lying next to

Ecstasies of friction

Merry washing bubbles

Unkempt bed hair

Delicious indiscretions blossom

I’m glowing brightly

Lovely cookie monster





Off Road

Around Halloween, when the shops fill up with plastic fangs and pumpkins, I am led to wonder what the point of it all is nowadays.  What is the role of horror in modern life? One aspect of it is, for me, being reminded that no matter how much we feel safe and in control with all our gadgetry and sophistication, the dark is just outside.  I find powerful horror stories to be the ones which remind me of just how fragile this sense of control is, by offering up scenarios that believably transform mundane life into a nightmare.

Here is one such scenario that came to me through real life inspiration, with a small added embellishment for effect!

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I was chatting to a young fencer whilst waiting for a class to start, and we had a go at designing a pervasive 1 minute meme. The result is the lovely ‘Treeni’, as displayed in the Meme Factory here.

Double Take

I have highlighted some sections in bold if you want a quick read. The rest just provides some background for anyone looking a little deeper… This is a quick reflection on the importance of perception, touching on a few issues with a hint of magic for good measure.

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It’s the little things…

Apologies – I have not posted for a while and this is more of an observation, but my website, my rules :-p

The other day I bought a DVD from a charity shop. If you must know, it was the film for Joss Whedon’s Firefly series: Serenity. It has been sat on my desk for months now, but not forgotten. It’s status is somewhat peculiar – it’s a promise. In my mind I mean to watch it, or rewatch it as I have seen it all before(!), but I’m not sure if I’m ever going to do so. It persists on the edge of my awareness as a motivational reward, something to look forward to, but I honestly can’t say if it’s ever going to happen.

I think it is important to remain sensitive to these little tricks of the mind, and hopefully make sure they work for you rather than against. The reason I mention this is because I was recently introduced to an anime series called xxxHolic which is based around a Japanese student plagued by visions of the spirit world who finds his way drawn to a magical shop where wishes are granted. The owner, Yuuko, takes him on as a part-time ?slave? in exchange for helping him. Frankly, she spends most of her time drinking, so she might just be a crazy alcoholic, but there are a lot of discussions based around superstition, myths and psychology. Some things are a little dubious, but there are a lot of interesting observations in there. One episode that springs to mind is about a lady who seems to keep sabotaging her life with bad choices, but it emphasises that one needs to accept good things in to your life just as much as bad things. For instance, this lady in the story did not destroy her life, but would not actually accept good ‘luck’ – she rejected it through suspicion, guilt, and the inability to see herself as ‘worthy’ of good things.

This episode was quite clearly not about the supernatural, and yet most or all of the others can be read similarly, teaching about quirks and traits of the human mind and experience although the story couches them in the language of magic and spirits. Arthur C. Clarke’s 3rd law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic (ref: see wiki). I would also remind the reader that we often forget just how ‘magical’ technology and science – and the mind – can be.

I recommend paying attention to the little things in life that matter, whether they be gifts, handshakes, smiles or whatever, and try to cultivate a sensitivity for them. If it helps, try couching them in a language you understand, which is why I often resort to using the language of magic and the supernatural myself to explain and remember things. In my Aikido practice there is much discussion about ‘Qi’, a pretty abstract concept initially which has very magical effects given the power of Aikido when applied to the human body. However, as you progress in the martial art you start to appreciate just why such abstract and ‘magical’ language is used: Because it fits.

Back to Normal

My hacked site pageApologies – the site was hacked recently, and I have only just resolved the issue. As always, impressed by the techie skills of the hacker, but disappointed by their application.


Details of the wp-hack (for anyone who cares):

Seems to have been attempting to masquerade as the commonly used wp-cache plugin files. Thing is, I don’t use that plugin! 😉

Telltale odd files in the content directory.
– advanced-cache file looks like link but is a dubious symlink
– wp-cache-config file seems dubious
– dodgy additions to plugin directory (false wp-cache folder)
– hacked config file: removed false ‘WP-CACHE’ declaration near database name declaration line

– the only corrupted file in the theme was the index file thankfully, so a password reset was all that was left to regain site control

Following handy I was able to restore site functionality. I hope I have secured the site against a repeat, by changing passwords and strengthening permissions on the config file, but will need to make sure of this! Some help from

Service resumed as normal! Bed time…


Another contribution from Claire W. Our best wishes to Claire on her trip to China.

Let the water lap around my feet.
My blood has stilled its path,
and leaves my flesh dessicate.
I can only enjoy
the punch and pound of the waves –
external, like the sunlight,
like the whip of the wind.
Inside a birdwing pulse barely registers
and my skin is pale,
my lips are pale,
bonebleached and as white as the sand.
Let it rain.
Let the sky beat upon the sea,
as if impassioned,
as if the rhythms of the world were woven into patterns,
as complex as lace.
Make for me a heartbeat like a storm,
stir up my blood as if torrential rain were pouring through my veins,
or as if the waves were cresting in my bones.
Touch me. Oh god, I feel as if I’m quivering!
And yet,
I know how still I am,
how silent my breath,
how cold the brittle fingers of my right hand.

The Long Grass

Thanks to Claire W. for sending me this poem of hers. I hope you enjoy reading it as well.

The snake sloughs off old age
– his skin, gleaming like a jewelled cloth
slips into the silver stream.
Ornate. Eyes, teeth and flickering tongue
make him an elegant trickster, a rich-clad thief.
No need of petty thefts –
his frauds are greater
(though his sibilant tongue will whisper a conman’s words).
Beware – he will drink deep of your immortality,
will drain the dregs of death,
each coil its own eternity.
And as he slinks in the dewy grass,
you will walk the straight path, the slow path
(all magic herbs now lost, all sorceries unlearnt,
the gifts of ancient gods squandered like common coins).
There is no need for his red venom.
The poison has set in.
Walk quickly.
Even the trees are treacherous now – the lakes, the streams,
the grass.

The Boy Who Played With Dolls

This isn’t a story about me. It’s about a boy, Sam, I knew at school. He was pretty quiet which is why I never really got to know him sooner. I do remember the stuffed dinosaur key-ring attached to his bag though.

The first time I noticed something was amiss was during class. Out of the blue the teacher asked him a maths question. He laughed, held his dinosaur to his ear, nodded as if listening to something, then gave an answer. We all laughed at this farce, but soon fell silent as we realised there was a problem. The teacher, a chubby chap by the name of Mr. Carter had turned to the board, frantically writing. Uncertain, the class whispered and fidgeted. A minute later he finished, paused a moment, then turned to Sam saying “Yes, that’s right.” He started to ask something else, but Sam was saved by the bell and ensuing diaspora. Most likely the others forgot this curious event. I didn’t.

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A word from our sponsor…

I’ve been reading Terry Pratchett’s ‘Unseen Academicals’ recently, and recalled this particular excerpt where the daunting Patrician – getting a litle tipsy – recounts a personal childhood experience:

The Patrician took a sip of his beer. ‘I have told this to a few people, gentlemen, and I suspect never will again, but one day when I was a young boy on holiday in Uberwald I was walking along the bank of a stream when I saw a mother otter with her cubs. A very endearing sight, I’m sure you will agree, and even as I watched, the mother otter dived into the water and came up with a plump salmon, which she subdued and dragged on to a half-submerged log. As she ate it, while of course it was still alive, the body split and I remember to this day the sweet pinkness of its roes as they spilled out, much to the delight of the baby otters who scrambled over themselves to feed on the delicacy. One of nature’s wonders, gentlemen: mother and children dining upon mother and children. And that’s when I first learned about evil. It is built into the very nature of the universe. Every world spins in pain. If there is any kind of supreme being, I told myself, it is up to all of us to become his moral superior.’

This mini-tale called to mind a personal experience when gorge-walking with a group of youths somewhere in Devon. The party came across a sheltered rock pool between turbulant waterfalls, in which we were greeted by a lone duckling. It chirped without fear and swam right up to us. As we passed through the pool it followed us with uncertain paddling and bobbing, the ripples of our passing threatening to drown it at any moment. Then, after we had traversed the pool, and helped one another to clamber up the next obstacle, it watched us leave, spinning in circles and attempting to follow. Of course the water kept throwing it back each time it tried, in vain, to come with us. We stood atop the waterfall, catching our breath, and discussed the situation. The duckling had likely become separated from its mother and been swept downstream to this place where it was effectively trapped. We could not help it for fear of our human scent rendering it alien to its own kind anyway. All in all it was a particularly heartbreaking moment and when asked what was likely to happen to it I was pretty frank about its minimal chance of survival.

As we pass through life our roles change, sometimes we are gods holding powers of life and death in our hands, and sometimes we are victims of forces that threaten to devour us. Some feel trapped in roles they feel compelled to play, through love, fear, notions of duty and myriad other reasons that twist and twine into bonds. I wonder, if those bonds were severed, what kind of god would you make? In whose image would you attempt to craft the world, and according to what principles? The Patrician speaks of becoming the moral superior of a supreme being, but given the status quo I do not feel that is remotely difficult. The difficulty may rest in retaining your notions of morality as you become a god. Power transfigures the best of us, and the result may be scarcely recognisable…

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Dancing Boy

Once upon a time there was a young boy. He was strange, and therefore not particularly popular. Aside from being quiet he had a habit of dancing a lot at odd times. It was a very queer dance, hard to describe: His arms moved like waves, his body twisted, turned and swayed. The dancing had started when he was very young, to the amusement of older relatives and friends, and he never seemed to grow out of it. When asked why he did it, he returned the question, ‘Why don’t you?’

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Stirring the Waters

Though it was only a short walk from the resort, it was far enough to seem like a tropical paradise. I had meandered for perhaps twenty minutes, far enough to escape the rest of the tour party huddled around the finest overpriced gewgaws I had ever seen. My mind had been flooded with misgivings and regrets for a long time, and I had hoped the trip would bring some kind of peace. At the very least, some distraction. Sadly the only ones forthcoming had been the drawling accents of fellow passengers and other buzzing pests. I just needed some time to myself.

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Breaking Points

Like a lot of children, I was convinced that I had psychic powers. If I just concentrated hard enough, for long enough, I would be able to make miraculous things happen. The intently constipated look on my face, growing redder by the second, fixed gaze on the damned pencil that absolutely refused to move. I’m sure Roald Dahl’s ‘Matilda’ had fair responsibility for this fantasy! I even recall this intensity washing over into my dreams, as I acutely recall several occasions where my psychic experimentations actually worked, only to wake up moments later to find I could not actually fly after all.

Accepting that there are things in the world that you cannot achieve with the power of your mind alone seems to spare a great number of strokes and hernias. At least, that’s what they would have you think!

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Dancing Girl

I travel a lot these days. Club to club, I spend most nights on the go. Japan, Europe, America – All over the shop. Money isn’t really an issue thanks to having a sizeable inheritance from my parents. Dad was a lawyer, mum was a pharmaceutical chemist. I’ve spent a great deal of my waking hours partying, and I’m pleased to say that I regret almost none of it. There’s never a lack of friends to offer moral support and help spend your money. This is mostly irrelevant though. What I wanted to tell you about  was a very special night. A night that sticks in my mind like a splinter of heated metal. It burns with a tropical energy, and sweat sprouts on my skin at the faintest recollection. And yes, if you must know, there was a girl involved.

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The Wrong Aisle

Wandering around the supermarket, encountering a pack of bacon stuffed onto the cereal shelf, or a loaf of bread precariously balanced amongst the lemons. I presume the miscreant shopper was so overcome by the special offer in question that they had no time to return the former object of their affections to its proper place. They clearly don’t understand the difference between leaving meat in a refrigerated and non-refrigerated aisle!

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Interview with an Antichrist

Most of us will be familiar with the idea of the Antichrist from popular culture and films. In Monty-Python terms, if Jesus is a very naughty boy, the Antichrist is very naughty indeed! There seems to be some confusion over the nature of the Antichrist however, with some suggesting it is a metaphorical reference to the sin in every man. If we supposed that the Antichrist was indeed a man (or woman), what might he be like? What might motivate him? What makes him fit for the job? Does he ever have doubts? Does he like ice-cream?

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The Problem with Thoughtcrime

Prejudice is a belief or judgment made before or without due consideration of the facts.

Discrimination is acting on your prejudice.

I have recently heard of discrimination being condemned, but prejudice by contrast being ‘acceptable’. This is dangerous territory. In Orwell’s ‘1984’ there was attempted policing of the very thoughts of society. To think contrary to the status quo was a criminal offence. I defend the right to free thought vehemently, but in doing so please be careful not to defend prejudice as well.

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Riders – Part 2

Sam simply stared. She lay on her back, spreadeagled, looking at the stars. Her bed was glowing softly in a blue-white light. The rest of her room had gone, leaving just her, her bed, and the vast starlit blackness. No breeze, sound, or heartbeat served to give any indication of time. In fact, the soundless vacuum denied every attempt to cough or speak.  If Sam had the slightest interest in astronomy she may have noticed, or failed to notice, the missing constellations regularly adorning the night sky on earth. As it was, it all served to heighten the sense of detachment and strangeness of the moment. Her fingers twined uselessly in her sheets as her mind recoiled from the void stretching like a pit before her.  It recalled childhood fantasies of falling upwards into the deep blue sky whilst lying supine on a summer’s day, alone in a grassy field with nothing but dandelions and pebbles for purchase.

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Working with Circles

This is an observation stemming from some comments overheard years ago by a self-proclaimed ‘black magician’ about how stupid ‘white magicians’ were to believe a ‘protective circle’ of chalk would do anything to protect them.

Fair comment. Here’s a story dealing with that.

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