Occult pavement markings

September 13, 2009 at 1:09 pm (curses, Fort Clarence, graffiti, occult, Rochester)

Another walk and I find occult markings chalked on the path to Fort Clarence in Rochester…Rochester September 095Rochester September 021


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Rochester Maman

October 27, 2008 at 4:03 pm (graffiti, Rochester)

This curious assemblage occupied the pavement outside Rochester Library today. Like the prey of an oversized psychedelic spider, wrapped in multi-coloured webbing. Perhaps the bolus contained the original occupant of the chair, just the exsanguinated husk left behind.

I wonder if the artist was echoing the work of Louise Bourgeois – whose giant spider titled Maman explores notions of the maternal relationship. This clever piece perhaps references this by looking at what is left behind, the detritus that remains after the meal has been consumed.

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“There is a very English brand of common sense that believes mostly in what it can touch, weigh and taste” – Terry Eagleton

October 26, 2008 at 8:33 pm (Christ, graffiti, Holy War, Magick, Rochester)

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Nameless Alley

February 29, 2008 at 11:15 am (Dionysus, graffiti, ivy, Magick, occult, Osiris, pagan, Rochester)

Alley1It is sometimes the case that a daily walk through the same landscape dulls the eyes to what one is seeing. It takes an event or an incongruity to shake the indifference from one’s own eyes, to reconnect with the act of seeing.One of the features I have always liked about the Medway Towns is the network of alleyways that thread through the built landscape. Inevitably many are filled with dogshit, fast food litter, fly-tipped mattresses, fragments from pornographic magazines and Haynes car manuals, pieces of clothing discarded for unknown reasons and graffiti “If U read this U R Gay“. They are a psychic vomitus – the lives lived around them made flesh and manifested in these land canals. The council appears to be slowly closing them off, putting gates at either end (or Alleygating as LocalGovernmentSpeak phrases it) to deter what is known as “anti-social behaviour”. A strange view of what society consists, self-perpetuating and doomed to failure. There is a sadness in this apparent willingness to erode what we have in order to control what we don’t like… something which has echoes throughout contemporary Western society, a naive strategy that only truly hurts those it’s meant to help.

There is an alley through which I regularly walk that differs from what I have just described in that it isn’t an old fire-alley running between rows of terraced houses, but a small cut-through alongside a former pub. (The slow disappearance of pubs and local shops is another feature of these towns that I hope to return to at a later date). I have been disappointed to discover that this alley is nameless, but recent events have suggested to me that is part of a powerful conduit or pathway of ritual.

What marks this alley immediately, and what I found I had astonishingly not noticed before, is the pair of bollards blocking vehicular access. These bollards have at some time in the past been anointed with black paint. This anointing of a stone in a ritual context is a very ancient act of worship found in many of the world’s oldest religions:

In Genesis Chapter 28, Jacob, son of Abraham (from whom the ‘Abrahamic Religions’, the three prevalent monotheistic religions, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, all stem) poured libations over a stone in an early documentation of this act of worship:

[10] And Jacob went out from Beer-sheba, and went toward Haran.
[11] And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep.
[12] And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.
[13] And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed;
[14] And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.
[15] And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.
[16] And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not.
[17] And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.
[18] And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it.
[19] And he called the name of that place Bethel: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first.
[20] And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on,
[21] So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God:
[22] And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.

In Islam, a particular stone plays a very important role: The Ka’ba is the holiest site in Islam with the Holy Mosque built around it.The qibla, the direction Muslims face during prayer, is the direction from any point to the Ka’ba.

Inside the Ka’ba is the Black Stone or Al-Hajarul Aswad, which has been revered in Mecca since pre-Islamic times – some believing that it dates from the time of Adam and Eve. It became a Muslim relic in the time of the Prophet Muhammad and pilgrims to Mecca try to stop and kiss it while circumambulating the Ka’ba during the hajj.

In Hinduism the term lingam is sometimes used synonymously for shivalingam, a specific type of icon or altar representing the god Shiva.

“… Shiva was and still is chiefly worshipped in the form of the linga, usually a short cylindrical pillar with rounded top, which is the survival of a cult older than Indian civilization itself…. The cult of the linga, at all times followed by some of the non-Āryan peoples, was incorporated into Hinduism around the beginning of the Christian era, though at first it was not very important.” Basham, A. L. The Wonder That Was India: A Survey of the Culture of the Indian Sub-Continent Before The Coming of the Muslims, Grove Press, Inc., New York (1954).

What alerted me to a possible ritual quality to these twin linga, aside from the black anointing, was the discovery one morning of a smashed guitar – which had clearly been destroyed over one of these pillars.

When things are smashed up in alleyways during the hours of darkness, it is very often drunken rage that precipitates it. But I suspect the specific site makes this less likely to be a random act and more likely to be part of a ritual channelling of Dionysian energy.

Apollo, the Greek god who personified youthful masculinity was a god of many roles, including music, Nietzsche’s Apollonian archetype (described in The Birth of Tragedy) represents form, structure and rational thought.

What I discovered was the remains of a Dionysian will at work – destroying all rational thought, smashing the Apollonian in the form of guitar in an ecstatic drunken (Dionysius being the god of wine) outpouring, intent on surrendering individuality, to submerge the self in a greater whole. A smashed guitar and the litter of broken vodka bottles a hymn to a powerful working.

Interestingly this alley runs from Baker Street and Dionyus was also known as Bacchus and the frenzy he induces, bakcheia. A possible lexicographical link? Another link to the god of drunkenness is the ivy that clings to the wall… ivy that is sacred to Dionysus.

Sir James George Frazer’s Golden Bough speaks of a Dionysian spring festival linking him to the advent of spring: “the god was supposed to bring the season with him. Deities of vegetation, who are believed to pass a certain portion of each year underground, naturally come to be regarded as gods of the lower world or of the dead. Both Dionysus and Osiris were so conceived.”

Plutarch suggests that Dionysus/Bacchus and Osiris are one and the same. The Ancient Egyptians related the cult of phallus with Osiris. When Osiris’ body was cut in 13 pieces, Seth scattered them all over Egypt and his wife Isis retrieved all of them except one, his penis, which was swallowed by a fish.

So we are back to these phallic bollards.


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Contagious Magic

December 23, 2007 at 5:18 pm (graffiti, Medway, occult, witchcraft)

Graffiti has bemused me for some time – and for a non-practitioner like me, the apparent nuances and layers of competence others see, are invisible to my eyes. I wrongly conflate tagging and graffiti ‘art’ for instance.

My mother would occasionally boil over with rage at the sheer pointlessness of something one of her children would do and spluttering, almost lost for words would come out with my favourite of her sayings “It’s like… like writing ‘shit’ on a wall”. For her this was an act of supreme pointlessness – something so utterly irrelevant as to be almost mystical in its stupidity. I felt some sympathy for this view until recently, but in my walks I think I have a greater understanding of the significance of this act.

I used to commute every day and as the train rolled through South London and into Victoria Station I was always struck by the obsessive tagging – the same name repeated hundreds of times, a contagious script covering everything and meaning nothing to all but a handful. I always believed this to be a visual marker of the violence that city life inflicts upon the psyche of citizens – these clichéd scrawls as some kind of desperate scream for recognition, visibility, a sense of actually existing. In Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders: Diagnosis, Etiology, Treatment by Eric Hollander and Dan J. Stein they describe how “Confinement and isolation… [can cause captive animals to] indulge in behaviours such as continuous rocking, excessive self-grooming and continuous masturbation.” And so I came to believe the simple cod-psychosocial idea that tagging and graffiti was something as drab and horrific as a pacing polar bear or a wanking chimp throwing shit at those staring through the bars… or at least out of a train window.

I have since come to the conclusion however that there is something more profound at work – that we are looking at a form of Contagious Magic. Sir James George Frazer in his magisterial study The Golden Bough describes it thus: Contagious Magic, proceeds upon the notion that things which have once been conjoined must remain ever afterwards, even when quite dissevered from each other, in such a sympathetic relation that whatever is done to the one must similarly affect the other.” By linking one’s name to the environment, one is ‘conjoining’ oneself to it in an unbreakable tie – even if the graffiti itself is removed. This is something more profound than a mere mindless sprainting of the territory – this is a co-opting of the territory, becoming the territory – absorbing and genetically emplacing the writer into the very fabric of the contested zones, the arenas of conventional archive and industry. They are NOT mindless acts – they contain moments of considerable puissance and import, an urban shamanic tradition eschewing hedge-witchery out of pragmatic need and attempting a new way of interacting with the world that is increasingly becoming a private, closed off, restricted, locked-down, no-entried, push-button-opened, security enabled, chain-linked dead-zone.

This meshing with the environment spreading across the landscape like renegade DNA or Japanese Knotweed is not a neutral act, but an aggressive attempt to control, an extension of the human urge to own, co-opt and control space rather than pass through it. This proxy-warfare can also be seen in the building of cairns by walkers. On Ben Nevis (one such cairn-building ritual involved the interring of a piano – almost certainly a propitiation of Apollo – god of music and prophecy.)

Over time the number of man built cairns on Ben Nevis increased to such an extent that they became not only visually intrusive but also a cause of confusion in conditions of poor visibility.”

This asymmetric magickal warfare takes a number of forms – most commonly the possessive and the intrusive. Hometown boys wishing to become one with their own environment as well as infiltrating the fibre of their rivals’ territory – here YRB (Young Rochester Boys) can be seen infecting walls, but also attempting to insinuate themselves into the very path they walk. Paradoxically this echoes the Zen kōan “You cannot tread the Path before you become the Path yourself.”


These are self-taught practitioners and as occultist, mason and President of the United States, Benjamin Franklin (from under whose London house dissected bodies were disinterred in 1998) liked to say: “Learn of the skilful; for he that teaches himself has a fool for his master”.

The “intrusive form” is to mark other territories in order to absorb them into oneself, to draw the teeth of the lion by ‘becoming’ him – much as Palaeolithic hunters’ cave paintings helped them ‘become the prey’ during ritual, leading to a successful hunt. Much the same as happens with graffit/tagging Prehistoric art was probably associated with hunting magic or ritual, perhaps intended to ensure success in the hunt and fertility of the animals. Drawings sometimes overlie others, suggesting that the act of drawing may have been the essence of the ritual magic and not the picture itself”


Here is the invocation “Rise Gillingham” sprayed on a garage door at the top of St Margaret’s Street – a priapic exhortation with the murderous overtone of a North Kent Charles Manson flecked through it (“Is it a conspiracy that the music is telling the youth to rise up against the establishment because the establishment is rapidly destroying things? Is that a conspiracy? The music speaks to you every day, but you are too deaf, dumb, and blind to even listen to the music. . . It is not my conspiracy. It is not my music. I hear what it relates. It says “Rise,” it says “Kill.” Why blame it on me? I didn’t write the music. . . .” )

Interestingly – as a stifling urbanism spreads like some recrudescence of nineteenth century pollution from the dark, satanic mills of popular culture – this ‘techno-shamanic’ practice is returning to, and melding with the older magic of hawthorn, oak and ash. It is amazing how crude and contrived this new form looks against a backdrop of effortless natural magic. When I took these photographs a pair of jays were fighting in the tree above and a squirrel with the fattest tail imaginable stared at me with it’s head slightly on one side. I continued gathering wood for the stove, thinking to myself as I stacked in and bound it to carry home to heat the house, of the cover of Led Zeppelin IV. Interestingly this is the cover which the occultist/musician Jimmy Page decided would not have a title, but would instead feature four hand-drawn symbols on the inner sleeve and record label, each one chosen by the band member it represents.

We decided that on the fourth album, we would deliberately play down the group name, and there wouldn’t be any information whatsoever on the outer jacket. Names, titles and things like that do not mean a thing.”

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