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.
Amidst the welter of official “Sorry, No Trick or Treat” posters and some nicely carved pumkins, I came across this extraordinary memento mori display with real skulls.
Diabolists or theatricals… I’m not certain.
“Meaning makes a great many things endurable – perhaps everything. No science will ever replace myth, and myth cannot be made out of any science. For it is not that “God” is a myth, but that myth is the revelation of a divine life in man.”
Carl Jung – Memories, Dreams, and Reflections
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.
It 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:
 And Jacob went out from Beer-sheba, and went toward Haran.
 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.
 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.
 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;
 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.
 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.
 And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not.
 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.
 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.
 And he called the name of that place Bethel: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first.
 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,
 So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God:
 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.
This afternoon in Chatham High Street I heard the angry cry:
“Odin, get ‘ere now!”
“I’m not gonna tell you again”
It was not an impromptu invocation to the pagan Norse god of wisdom and war – but a belligerent mother shouting at her 4 year old son.
The Wild Hunt come to Medway
The spring is sprung the grass is riz…. Alban Eiler, the Vernal Equinox, the start of spring – it’s come and gone – and the planned blog for that day has been forgotten – the clocks have gone forward with the attendant lack of sleep and panic on Sunday morning, and bluer skies have kept me from the screen. I spent the day with a very good friend and his daughter. Nothing much happened.
It is a funny time of year though – when the hidden hand rises and we are surrounded by occult imagery for weeks without thinking about it. Easter is here, the ancient festival of Oestre – the goddess of spring and renewal – her eggs, resplendent imagery of the rebirth of the land after the death of winter. Yet this welter of pagan imagery is promulgated to children at playgroups throughout the land – Christian playgroups sing Easter bunny songs (the hare long known as a witchy symbol and also the animal most associated with Oestre).
In ancient Anglo-Saxon myth Oestre, (The Vikings knew her as Ostara, the goddess of dawn) is the personification of the rising sun, depicted with a Hare’s head or ears. In that capacity she is associated with the spring and is associated with fertility and ressurrection – this because of the hare and reabbit’s reputation of fecundity and sexual appetite. Eggs were decorated and left at her shrine. The Druid’s Egg – a ball of snake spit, also known as adderstones is protected by the hare, which is the symbol of Alban Eilir.
The hare is declining in Kent due mainly to the agribusiness management of our rural areas – the idea that the NFU and the Countryside Alliance promulgates of farmers as the custodians of the land is so risible. Widespread reductions in crop diversity have restricted the hare’s diet, and a switch from spring-sown to autumn-sown crops has created a food shortage in the summer. Increased livestock grazing densities have likely discouraged hares from many areas, and loss of hedgerows and woodland has reduced winter shelter. Silage cutting often coincides with peak leveret numbers and direct mortality from machinery is another factor affecting hares.
As I write this I hear a programme on the radio that made me think of the subsuming of the ancient by the Christian church and the subsequent regurgitation of the lot by post-religious popular culture into a stew from which it is hard to pick out the individual elements. The speakers discussed the replacement of the festival of The Holy Trinity in Soviet-era Russia by a non-religious Birch Tree Day. (This is further confused however by the fact that Holy Trinity Day coincided with a series of Slavic pagan holidays called Zeleniye Svyatki, or “Green Christmastide,” which focussed on the worship of the “Spirits of Greenery.”). However the speaker Margaret Paxon mentioned a ‘new’ tradition started since th collapse of the Soviet Union of tending the graves of relatives, speaking to them and even drinking with them on this day – something that she describes as being “deeper than the Orthodox Church or Soviet State.
G. K. Chesterton said When a Man stops believing in God he doesn’t then believe in nothing, he believes anything. I think he missed a trick there – I think what happens is that once the power of the the orthodoxy is removed, we tend to revert back to what we always believed deep down.
But let us not get too hung up on the pagan origins of Easter – in the same way as you youngsters wear denim jeans without once having toiled as agricultural workers or miners in Americaland – it is reasonable to expect these deep cultural symbols to migrate through the thin walls of observance. It is only as wrong as someone wearing Gloria Venderbilt jeans refusing to acknowledge the plight of the sharecropper.
I have been very disappointed with my attempts to discover the dark occult heart of Medway. To be fair I hadn’t been too concerned with this as a quest until my friend Eddie De Oliviera pointed out that there was a preponderence of ‘new-age’ shops on Rochester High Street… well two or three (once of which has subsequently closed down).
The clincher came when Eddie noticed a “My Other Car Is A Broomstick” bumper sticker on a car parked on the Rochester Maidstone Road – I haven’t seen the car since so my attempts to photograph it have come to nothing.
So then my mind turns to the Sweeps Festival that happens in Rochester on Mayday – a veritable wellspring of pagan activity. This is the biggest May Day Festival in Britian – but actually celebrates the Mayday holiday that sweeps would traditionally enjoy… not too pagan really – and a revival of a 19th century custom that only dates back to the 1980’s – I’m sure to revisit the Sweeps Festival here nearer the time and look at what links there are there to be found.
So – at first glance I haven’t discovered a Wicker Man’s heart pulsing at the centre of the Medway towns. I will continue to look. But this has set me to thinking about what there is around me in these faded towns, hidden perhaps by a thin layer of grime, or behind a flush of cow-parsley and nettles. That which is forgotten, ignored or misunderstood, and I thought I might start trying to be a little more observant, take a little more care over what I step past every day.