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.
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.
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 have been in seclusion for a while – but still observing the silent symbology between the opposing spiritual forces of these towns. I have collected some more proof of the work of the silent orders. I am aware of my careles use of language in describing this endless conflict – I advocate neither side and any slipshod use of terminology should not be taken as either praise or condemnation.
Another battle took place recently – a quiet battle – a battle of symbols and prayer.
Silver Moons was one of the mystical shops that my friend Eddie decided marked Rochester with the stamp of occultic fervour. Subsequently, no doubt in no small amount to Eddie’s disapproval, the shop closed down and the whole panoply of sub-Lord-of-the-Rings tat went into the great metaphysical skip in the sky. (I know it must have been in the sky because all the local skips I looked in around that time contained nothing but urine soaked carpets and cemented-shut filing cabinets.)
This was not enough for the holy warriors of Rochester. A Christian Ichthus symbol was placed as a form of exorcism on the shop front – a ritual which may not have worked because it is now reopening as a fashion shop selling Ralph Lauren clothes and featuring a decidedly pagan-looking leopard skin gilt chair in the window.
So the karmic equilibrium of Rochester High Street is once more adjusted, all the while though the skirmishes continue.
A photograph from May’s Sweeps Festival in Rochester – a hat from a member of The Hunters Moon Morris side outside Rochester Cathedral – I notice from their website they are keen supporters of The Museum of Witchcraft at Boscastle – which was without doubt my favourite museum in the land, although I haven’t been back to visit since the disastrous flooding which all but destroyed the place.
The tree in the background looking suitably Lovecraftian (although I have little time for repressed white supremacists).