Archive for April, 2014

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Walpurgis Night: on my hearz’ waves

April 30, 2014

The production of psychogeographic maps, or even the introduction of alterations such as more or less arbitrarily transposing maps of two different regions, can contribute to clarifying certain wanderings that express not subordination to randomness but complete insubordination to habitual influences (influences generally categorized as tourism, that popular drug as repugnant as sports or buying on credit). A friend recently told me that he had just wandered through the Harz region of Germany while blindly following the directions of a map of London.

Guy Debord, ‘Introduction to a Critique of Urban Geography’, Les Lèvres Nues No.6, September 1955 (Translated by Ken Knabb).

George Court, Adelphi

The highest peak of the Harz Mountains, known as The Brocken, or Blocksberg, was the focal point of festivities on April 30th, May Eve, known in Central and Northern Europe as Walpurgis Night. According to Ruth Edna Kelley, writing here:

WALPURGA was a British nun who went to Germany in the eighth century to found holy houses. After a pious life she was buried at Eichstatt, where it is said a healing oil trickled from her rock-tomb. This miracle reminded men of the fruitful dew which fell from the manes of the Valkyries’ horses, and when one of the days sacred to her came on May first, the wedding-day of Frau Holda and the sun-god, the people thought of her as a Valkyrie, and identified her with Holda. As, like a Valkyrie, she rode armed on her steed, she scattered, like Holda, spring flowers and fruitful dew upon the fields and vales. When these deities fell into disrepute, Walpurga too joined the pagan train that swept the sky on the eve of May first, and met afterwards on mountain-tops to sacrifice and adore Holda, as the priests had sacrificed for a prosperous season and a bountiful harvest.

Ruth Edna Kelley, 1919, The Book of Hallowe’en, Boston: Lothrop, Lee and Shepard Co.

When I started this post tonight – before trawling up the above extract from Kelley’s book – I hadn’t realised just how closely St Walburga was and is connected with Eichstadt, an ecclesiastical foundation implicated in a pattern of meaningful coincidence I recorded in this previous post, The Flutter of a Falling Card on February 7th. Bizarrely, that post was also introduced by a psychogeography-related quotation from 1955. Not being a medium, nor a ‘sensitive’ able to communicate with the departed, I wonder whether such ‘random patterns’ are the ‘peaks’ in a wavelength or frequency otherwise imperceptible to most mortals most of the time, the ‘peaks’ which are perceptible to all of us, even if only in our imagination.

Some years ago, being driven down minor roads after a final visit to an elderly relative, who was to pass away later that day, I had a very strong feeling that the two knolls on Horsedown Common, near Crondall, had some psychogeographical significance. It was the first time I’d seen them in real life, rather than as contours on the OS map of Aldershot and Guildford; regarding them in the distance, I imagined them as a locus or way-station for departing souls. I know it seems a pretty daft idea, but I drew some kind of comfort from the thought.

Horsedown_Common_-_geograph.org.uk_-_102359

Horsedown Common (From here).

I will dream telepath posts dulcets on this isinglass stream… and ’twill carry on my hearz’ waves my still waters reflections in words over Margrate von Hungaria, her Quaidy ways and her Flavin hair, to thee, Jack, ahoy, beyond the boysforus (FW 460.21-27).

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A Plea from the Heart ♥

April 29, 2014

This appeal, written by Jess Smith on this blog, came to my attention recently:

The Tinker’s Heart is a small arrangement of white quartz stones embedded in the ground at the junction between the road to Strachar (A815) and Hell’s Glen (B839) in Argyllshire.

For years it has stood as a testimony to the survival of Scotland’s Travelling people. A sacred place where couples wed, babies were christened and the dead blessed. In 1872 there is proof of two local people getting married there. There is no written evidence as to how old it is and like the oldest ballads that Burns listened to, it is all oral – no dates nor names. Reasons for the stones being placed there are associated with the Battle of Culloden and the Highland Clearances as well as the eradication of the Culture by removing children from campsites. It is sacred to my people from all over the world and needs to be  protected and restored.

An old picture of the heart-shaped arrangement of stones, taken from Fiona Tinker's blog

An old picture of the heart-shaped arrangement of stones, known as The Tinkers’ Heart and The Gypsy Wedding Place, taken from fionatinker‘s website

Concerned about the sorry state of the Heart – which is in private ownership and vulnerable to development – Jess has started a petition to Give the Tinkers’ Heart of Argyll back to the Travelling People and ensure its preservation and restoration.

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Butter is got from the roots of old trees

April 28, 2014

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From here

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The Old Orchard of Wymering Manor: ‘with the original sinse we are only yearning’

April 26, 2014

A chance visit yesterday to the vicinity of Wymering Manor – ‘the most haunted house in Britain’ – has led me to explore some parallels between what a local resident told me about what he’d heard of the sinful behaviour of nuns and monks at the Manor and the associations opened up by a ‘stray’ reference in Finnegans Wake.

Wymering Manor. Note the heart shapes in the shutters.

Wymering Manor. Note the heart shapes in the shutters (Picture from here).

When I remarked upon the close proximity of the dilapidated Manor (hemmed in by the encroachment of modern housing), the resident explained that the cul-de-sac of 1960s houses we were stood in was built upon the Manor’s old orchard. Responding to me saying “It’s haunted, isn’t it?” my informant gestured in the direction of Cosham, and said, “the monks lived down there and they used to come and visit the nuns here and, well you know… they did what they shouldn’t have done, they sinned, and… they buried the babies in the garden”. It’s pretty macabre and, I have to say, I haven’t found (yet) any mention of pregnant nuns and the burial of infanticides amidst the plethora of accounts of uncanny atmospheres and spectral appearances around this old house. I wonder if the story is connected with this episode in the Manor’s history:

In December, 1858, the Reverend George Nugee became (following the death of his younger brother Andrew) Vicar of Wymering. He apparently purchased the Manor House choosing to reside there in the company of 12 young men belonging to his recently re-created Order of St. Augustine. The nearby vicarage was set aside as accommodation and base for his Sisterhood of St. Mary which had accompanied him from his previous appointment in London.
 
The Rev. Nugee was a colourful personality of independent means, having a distinct propensity towards particularly high church services and ritual. During his incumbency at Wymering, he built a private chapel in the Manor House and, in addition, what is apparently an oratory concealed within the walls of an upstairs room. In 1872 after appearing before a Royal Commission on Church Ritual and later enquiries into his questionable morality, he was ordered to resign his living and leave the parish. He died at Talaton, Devon, in 1892.

(Retrieved from this site: http://history.inportsmouth.co.uk/events/billys_and_charleys.htm)

One former resident of the Manor claimed he often saw a choir of nuns crossing the hall at midnight, chanting to the sound of music.

saxton-1575

Mulling all this over back home, I recalled that James Joyce had perhaps alluded to Wymering in Finnegans Wake as ‘whimmering’. Not such an unlikely proposition. After all, Joyce had holidayed about twenty miles away in the West Sussex village of Sidlesham, near Chichester, in 1923, and it is probable that his visit to the churchyard of St Mary’s Sidlesham prompted Joyce to use the name Earwicker in the Wake, for the character Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker (recognised throughout the book by the initials, HCE, and all permutations of his name, like ‘Here Comes Everybody’). Rather than flick through my own dog-eared copy of the book, I web-searched for the word, ‘whimmering’, and was directed to this discussion of original sin and sex in Joyce’s book, in the context of the Garden of Eden, which immediately evoked associations with the libidinous monks and nuns, murder, and the orchard and the gardens I’d heard tell of earlier in the day:

Pity poor Haveth Childers Everywhere with Mudder!

(FW 535.31-35).

The character ALP/Issy in the Wake‘s garden of Eden is both the pregnant Virgin Mary, as well as the seductress Eve, and the sin is specifically one of reproduction:

Eat early earthapples. Coax Cobra to chatters. Hail, Heva, we hear! This is the glider that gladdened the girl that list to the wind that lifted the leaves that folded the fruit that hung on the tree that grew in the garden Gough gave. Wide hiss, we’re wizening. Hoots fromm, we’re globing. Why hidest thou hinder thy husband his name? Leda, Lada, aflutter-afraida, so does your girdle grow!

(FW 271.24-272.3).

The Wymering reference appears in the same context of Edenic temptation of Eve, evoking a shimmering, fascinating, satinous (satanous) dress, sloughed off like snakeskin:

her downslyder in that snakedst-tu-naughsy whimmering woman’t seeleib such a fashionaping sathinous dress

(FW 505.7).

Mindful of the way Finnegans Wake is intentionally imitative and therefore expressive of the structure of the ‘chaosmos’, in which everything is connected, then in regard to the general state of repair of the Manor – recently handed over by Portsmouth City Council to a Trust – ‘downslyder’ would seem to be an apt description. The coincidences keep piling up (like the wreckage from the Tower of Babel or Walter Benjamin’s ‘storm of progress’). Acknowledging the literary method for generating coincidence, Joyce further compounds the Edenic and sexual references here:

Quoint a quincidence! O.K. Omnius Kollidimus. As Ollover Krumwall sayed when he slepped ueber his grannyamother

(FW 299.8-10).

Aside from the vaginal pun of including a Middle English term for pudendum – ‘queynte’ – Joyce may also be cognisant that the quince was thought by some authorities to be the fruit that tempted Eve, as he alludes to the Fall of Man and Humpty (HCE) in the Ollover Krumwall reference. A couple of other quincidental references (courtesy of Wikipedia) are also illuminating. Thus, among the ancient Greeks the quince was a ritual offering at weddings, for it had come from the Levant with Aphrodite and remained sacred to her. Correlating with the orchard of Wymering Manor is the tradition from Slavonia (Croatia) that when a baby is born, a quince tree is planted as a symbol of fertility, love and life. The Fall is encountered, too, on the opening page of the Wake, as it sets the scene for a simultaneously cosmic and personal drama:

The fall… of a once wallstrait oldparr is retaled early in bed and later on life down through all christian minstrelsy

(FW 3.15-18).

In terms of the fall of Humpty, would it be over-egging the pudding to glimpse the last owner of Wymering Manor before it was turned over for use by the military in 1939 (the year of Finnegans Wake‘s publication), Thomas Knowlys Parr, who died in 1938?

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Uhwermerema: the World Mind ‘writing its own wrunes’?

April 21, 2014

Uhwermerema

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A vocal doodle murmured on the edge of a dream in an imagined childhood? A message from beyond? An invocation to beyond? An utterance of the familiarly ineffable?

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The Birth of Venus

April 20, 2014

Birth Venus

Odilon Redon The Birth of Venus 1912

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Prehistoric Rock Art and the Magical Subversion of Archaeological Time-Discipline

April 18, 2014

The hours of folly are measur’d by the clock; but of wisdom no clock can measure.

William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.

the academic imagination of minor functionaries, easily overwhelmed and completely entrenched in the awestruck celebration of the existing system, flatly reduces all reality to the existence of the system.

Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle.

Later this year I shall be uploading a document with the title, “Away With the Fairies”: Prehistoric Rock Art and the Magical Subversion of Archaeological Time-Discipline. In essence, it is a tinkered-around-with version of a Masters dissertation of 1998, with the same initial title – “Away With the Fairies” – but with the sub-heading, Rock Art and Psychic Geography in West Yorkshire. After sixteen-odd years of tinkering, I feel that I’ve reached the limit of what can be done with the materials I had available. I’ve actually drifted away from some of the perspectives outlined in these texts, but I consider that it would be useful (if only for me) to present some sort of public document as a record of the playing-out of a process of thinking, even if I now find myself slightly out of kilter with what I was writing then.

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The original dissertation came about partly as a reaction to the ‘structural Marxism’ promulgated by archaeologists, Michael Shanks and Christopher Tilley, and their ‘conception of knowledge as a production’, which ‘we owe… to the work of Althusser’ (1992: 114). Their academic vehicle for the transmission of a productivist ideology (consistent with Althusser’s Stalinism) was a ‘Marxism’ of a particular stamp. It was as if whatever was alive in the thought of the working class movement (as I perceived such a ‘movement’ and its history at that time), was stamped on and ultimately divorced from the social context where it really mattered – the autonomous struggle of the class against the imposition of the need for money, “the real need produced by political economy, and the only need it produces” (Marx, Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts). In the pages of my dissertation there was a considerable debt to the writings of E.P.Thompson, an old adversary of Althusser, who has written on the festive rhythms and ‘customs in common’ of a plebeian culture progressively confined and regulated by the imposition of wage labour.

Chartist Basin 1842

Alfred Walter Bayes, A Chartist Meeting at Basin Stones, 1842 (From here).

Structural Marxism I despised as complicit with institutional hierarchy, a brand distinguished above all by its expulsion of the concept of species being, instead conceiving human subjectivity as produced, as a social construction, and configuring labour as a permanent condition of life. For me, however, species being is the most essential and worthwhile aspect of Marx’s thought, conceiving a material ground of animate being, prior to the alienation brought about by labour and the production of class relations. It’s a concept that I’d like to explore further, in conjunction with its consonance – or not – with ‘the new animism’.

It was only after the writing and submission of the original “Away with the Fairies”, that I discovered how far the critic and commentator Walter Benjamin (1892-1940) had anticipated what I was trying to grasp. The revised text seeks to integrate the insights of Benjamin with the critique of an impoverished academic perspective which encloses the ‘secret commonwealth’ of human experience, so contiguous with the process of enclosure which facilitates the continuous re-imposition of the prison of the working day, both in archaeological constructions of the past and capitalist construction of the present.

References

Simon Crook 1998 “Away With the Fairies”: Rock Art and Psychic Geography in West Yorkshire. MA Dissertation, Department of Archaeology, University of Southampton.

Michael Shanks and Christopher Tilley 1992 Re-Constructing Archaeology (Second Edition) London and New York: Routledge