As a walker, often deep in thought, I spend a lot of time examining the ground beneath my feet (instead of looking up, which is what I think Iain Sinclair prescribes for a fruitful walk) and one thing I’ve noticed is the amount of pharmaceutical litter on the streets. From headache pills and cough sweets to laxatives and codeine – does this mean we have become a depressed, self-medicating population walking round in a foil covered blister-packed haze, slowly losing touch with our own bodies and by extention, the world around us? Or is it a sign of the triumphant dominion over nature that the pharmaceutical industries have achieved?
I mentioned in my last post about my feeble attempt to photograph the bricked up sally port and tunnel connected to Fort Clarence. What I didn’t describe was the park from which I tried to gain access. It is called Willis Gardens – a plot split in two by the Fort’s trench.
It is an unlovely place with a melancholy air – perhaps less because it has been neglected but more because it has been forgotten. It is tended in as much as the grass is cut, but otherwise it is a drab little experience. What makes this a little tragedy is that it was donated to Rochester by a philanthropic cove by the name of Charles Willis (died 1943). Mayor, alderman and Freeman of the City, Willis gave boots to poor children and coal to the citizens of Rochester during the depression and on his death his house was bequeathed as a refuge for fallen women.
His gift of this park to Rochester was as a memorial to the death of his son, 2nd Lieutenant George White Willis, RAF,
shot down killed on active service in a flying accident while carrying out an engine test in France on the 4th January 1919 when the engine of the Sopwith Camel he was flying stalled at 200 feet. His distraught mother is said to have slept with the propellor of the doomed plane in her bedroom so crushed was she by grief.
The connection with this place, Charles Willis and aeroplanes runs a little deeper. Willis was instrumental in negotiations that led the Short Brothers to transfer from the Isle of Sheppey to Rochester in 1913 and he sold them the 8 acres of land on which they built their Seaplane Works. During the 2nd World War Shorts built a massive underground aircraft factory under Fort Clarence. The tunnel complex is now sealed off and under the stewardship of English Heritage, but developers of the site claimed that the tunnels still contain componentsof wartime aircraft.
I walked Rochester’s Riverside Walk between Doust Way and Cory’s Creek. Less than a mile long it was closed down shortly after its initial opening when all the railings were nicked overnight.
Eventually it will be engulfed in new housing but now it wears the air of indecision.
Looking across Limehouse reach I watch oystercatchers mob a crow above a barge that has lost the fight against entropy and is blurring the space between identity and landscape. Shedding off the pain of individualism and merging with Medway.
A wild eyed man walks past talking to himself. These days the adroit schitzophrenic just needs to get equipped with a Bluetooth headset and lose himself among a thousand estate agents with gelled hair and fat purple ties.
Perhaps it’s better to be feared than to be despised.
Recently I noticed an upsurge in interest for this site, which got me to thinking about why I’ve been neglecting it so much.
Mainly it was a niggling doubt that’s been going round my mind after finding this artefact (see picture) near my front doorstep shortly after some speculative posts I had made.
It kerbed my interest in the mysterious for a while – I haven’t been able to identify it – but it appears to be a series of occult symbols/runes/enochian/mystery language inscribed on a bone in brown ink or possibly…. pause for a shudder… blood.
That combined with ill health and some personal setbacks (which I hope are all coincidental) I’ve had less time on my hands. I hope to make this a summer of exploration though and will do my best to make some more regular additions.
Perhaps this is the newspaper article (Your Medway Issue 71 Wednesday Jan 21) that in some way links earlier reported finds of mutilated animals in the Medway area. Perhaps proof of an active service unit of Satanic goons operating here – torturing and killing for Satan. Or it may be that these animals are being used as training bait for fighting dogs.
I have been interested to hear that in the last week a pigs head – breathlessly described as a ‘severed head’ – was deposited into the small green space next to St John Fisher’s Catholic church in Rochester. This was described to me by a churchgoer as part of a ‘satanic plot’ that has also included the tortured remains of a kitten being tied or nailed to a tree in the same place. I’d not heard the kitten story before, but was the recipient of some very excited and graphic descriptions of the pigs head
Animal cruelty has often been attributed to the slaves of Satan acting out their apocalyptic visions… it seems however that it not always so easy to actually provide any evidence for this.
I’ve not noticed anything in the local press about this – and sadly wasn’t around with a camera on the day it appeared. I only hope this doesn’t make it more difficult to get a pigs head from the butcher – I had read a recipe for cooking one recently and thought it might be a nice one to try.
A recent walk further afield took me to the Coldrum Long Barrow (viewed above looking North East), the remains of a 4,000 to 5,000 year old Neolithic Long Barrow. It is a powerful and beautiful site, set in a striking Kent landscape. The lack of ease in reaching the site makes it all the more rewarding when it is finally achieved.
Here one can see tree dressing, ribons and votive offerings – possible left by members of the Kent Gorsedd who meet here at solstice and equinox and who work alongside the National Trust to preserve and value this extraordinary site.
A curious set of portents began appearing in Rochester in the week beginning the run up to the Winter Solstice/Christmas/Sol Invictus/Yule/Midwinter ritual days. Regular readers might recall my discovery of a dead goldfinch in what I took to be ritual circumstances earlier in the year and my supposition that this was linked to the symbolic connection between the goldfinch and Jesus.
The dove is another bird with symbolic connections to the Christian Holy Trinity – in this instance as a representative of the Holy Spirit – for when Christ was baptised by John the Baptist the Holy Spirit took the physical form of a dove. It is interesting to note this second dead bird was found along the same route, but further down the hill, as the first. It is of course impossible to plot a line with only two points to work from – but this downhill route would appear at this stage to be referencing points between the neolithic Kits Coty monument and Rochester Cathedral.
I was clearly not the first person to notice the significance of this ritual. As I retraced the route, across one road and up to the alley where I found the goldfinch earlier in the year, I noticed that in a direct line between the two points a car was parked [pictured above] with a defiant message of militant Christianity disrupting the line of power. I have discussed elsewhere how I believe these cars are used as mobile units, charged with prayer, that can be parked in key positions in order to block or disrupt ongoing ritual workings.
Whatever happened here is still obscure – but by the next morning the dove’s body had been removed from the road – but carefully placed on the pavement, pointing due west, was a three-tined fork – a mini-trident? This presumably as a counter-weight to the wave of Christian prayer directed downhill.
The road in question is privately owned by Rochester’s Bridge Wardens – who are resposible for the bridge over the River Medway. Could the fork/trident be linked to some river-based ritual? The trident is both a symbol of enforcement or security during more obscure occult ceremonies and is also linked to the water god Neptune/Poseiden but also to Shamash, the Babylonian sun god, and god of law and justice who is said to have given mankind their laws.
In ancient Babylon most serious crimes were punished by death, most commonly by drowning or burning. Is the trident here symbolic of a water-based punishment being directed at the person/people who interrupted the flow of energy linked to a midwinter ritual?
William Wordsworth finished his sonnet “The world is too much with us”, with a sense of nostalgia for the lost richness of a world numinous with deities and of the trident weilding sea-gods of old:
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon,
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.–Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea.
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn
Or is it another reference to Christ and John the Baptist – a Christian counter curse disrupting the ritual?
Matthew 3:7 But when he (John the Baptist) saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? (8) “Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance; (9) and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. (10) “The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. (11) “As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. (12) “His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
Whatever the answer – the references all seem to point to water – either baptismal or otherwise – and thus to the River Medway.
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.”
I was flicking through a copy of a 1936 book called 50 True Stories Stranger Than Fiction, a volume including stories with titles like ‘He Laughed At Death’, ‘Dope In Chinatown’ and ‘Lynch Law In The West‘, when I found this marvellous passage in a story by “Lord” George Sanger, the eccentric 19th Century circus entrepeneur entitled The Circus People Take Revenge.
He is describing an attack on a travelling show when it appeared in Bath, but extends his observations to take in a wider view: “I have, by the way, noticed that most cathedral cities – and in Britain I have visited them all – show remarkable contrasts in regard to their populations. At the top you have all that is best in the way of piety and learning, all that is enviable in the way of ease and dignity. At the bottom you will find dirt, degradation, misery and evil of the most appalling kinds. Why this should be I cannot say, but I have certainly observed it.”
The flashing blue lights and streams of blood and urine on Rochester High Street on a Friday and Saturday night bear out his observations. Sanger was eventually murdered by an “insane employee” in East Finchley in 1911.