Archive for August, 2015


Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality

August 30, 2015

“Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality”

The Cheshire Cat, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.


Weapons of Mass Creation…


Rusalka’s Song to the Moon and Memories of Kitnocks Hill

August 29, 2015

Hearing the snatch of a song on the radio on Thursday and learning its source, reminded me that it is high time that I acknowledged the sad outcome of efforts to stop building on land associated with an ‘unquiet spirit’ known as Kitty Nocks, who is said to appear around midnight when it is the full moon. A very well researched appraisal of Kitty Nocks and her legend can be found here.


The music I heard was ‘Song to the Moon’, from Dvorak’s opera, Rusalka, sung by the soprano, Lucia Popp, playing the part of Rusalka. I was saddened to find that Lucia Popp’s own life was cut short in 1993 at the age of fifty-four.

Realising what the music was took me right back to composing what was a piece of motivated writing, with the primary aim of preventing a housing development on a plot of land associated with apparitions of Kitty Nocks. I found strong parallels in her story with stories of the rusalka, a female spirit in Slavic folklore, associated with lakes and streams.

Sadly, in spite of the best efforts of those opposed to the development, it eventually went ahead.

It must be over a year since the houses were built. On this day of the full moon, it seems only right to acknowledge what has been lost and maybe, in a Benjaminian sense, take a step towards settling a moral debt to a past in need of redemption.



Solidarity for the World Humanimal Community

August 22, 2015

I strongly suspect this illustration by Juan McIver for the 1974 edition of Modern Capitalism and Revolution, by Paul Cardan (Cornelius Castoriadis), has stood the test of time far better than the text it was used to illustrate – notwithstanding any subtle allusions to the republic of labour (symbolised by the holding aloft of various tools of the trade).  A joy to see one of McIver’s characteristic hedgehogs making an appearance…

juan mciver

As a picture, it offers little comfort to those languishing in makeshift camps, displaced by war and the ‘natural disaster’ of climate change. It is, however, an antidote to the pronouncements of hatchet-faced politicians about building stronger and higher fences against human beings – corralled and beaten like livestock – whose homes and lives have been destroyed by the effective operation of the very system of which those same politicians are functionaries and beneficiaries. What McIver’s cartoon suggests is that any overcoming of the miseries imposed by the global system of commodity production and consumption requires the global and local co-operation of human and other-than-human beings – independent of the nations and states of politicians and generals – to bring about a way of living in tune with all our needs and desires across the whole world.



Figures from the ‘Sibylline Geography’ Chapter of The World’s End

August 20, 2015

Here are Figures 12 and 13 from an early draft of the last chapter of The World’s End, which came to be headed, “‘The maudlin river then gets its dues’: Charting the Sibylline Geography of Rock Art”. Apart from the photograph of the carved rock at Hopeman and the page from Splendor Solis, these illustrations weren’t included in the final edit.

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Figure 13 (below) shows the redness of the rapids of Allt Dearg (‘red stream’), at Cawdor, photographed at sunset. Cawdor, like the river name, Calder, means ‘hard water’ or ‘rapid stream’. Cawdor Castle – family seat of Macbeth – is adjacent to this fast stretch of Allt Dearg.

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Much was made in this chapter about the association of red rocks, rapid streams and an alignment of sites with spiral carvings, found by archaeologist, Paul Frodsham (Frodsham 1986). This alignment included the red sandstone monolith, known as Long Meg, quarried from a rapid stretch of the River Eden some miles away. Long Meg of Westminster, legendary heroine of ballads and chapbooks dating from the sixteenth century, reputedly accompanied the king’s troops to France as a laundress (Menefee 1996: 81).

The ‘Sibylline Geography’ chapter focused on places associated with ‘uncanny women’ – fairy guardians of animals, of wells and springs, as well as the supernatural ‘death messenger’ known as the Banshee. The Banshee, and the death messenger known as The Washer at the Ford, is sometimes associated with the mundane activity of doing the laundry, with some accounts of Banshee apparitions reporting her at the riverside beating the laundry with a wooden bat known as a ‘beetle’ or ‘paddle’ (Lysaght 1996: 130-135).


Anati’s survey of images carved on the Great Rock of Naquane, Val Camonica. There is a preponderance of ‘paddle’ motifs, including a dense array of them above the labyrinth motif. Image found on this site.

Red Clyde

Emmanuel Anati notes that some researchers contend that the ‘paddle’ motifs on the Great Rock at Naquane were depictions of the paddle used for beating laundry, ‘like those still today in different areas of central Europe’ (Anati 1964: 203). If so, I wonder whether there are allusions here to the ‘uncanny’ dimensions of the mundane activity of beating the laundry, embodied in the Gaelic name of the River Clyde (Clota – ‘The Washer’), and evident in the testimony of the accused witch, Isobel Gowdie of Auldearn (a village few miles from the carved rock pictured in Hopeman), in her account of a spell to raise the wind.

Angelo Fossati (2008) links the toponomy of Naquane to that of Aquane, uncanny female beings in the folklore of the central-eastern Alps, known by diverse names, such as: Anquane, Enguane, Gane, Laganes, Sagane, Aivane and Vivane (Fossati 2008: 40). This connects to Aganippe, the nymph and eponymous spring on Mount Helicon (ibid.), brought forth when the hoof of Pegasus struck the rock.

A birch washing bat from Norway (c.1770).

A birch washing bat from Norway (c.1770).

I fancied I’d found a reference to the Great Rock at Naquane in Finnegans Wake, as Joyce describes a manifestation of Anna Livia Plurabelle (ALP), in the guise of the Prankquean/the Two Temptresses/Lililiths/Peena and Queena, implicated in the fall from grace of Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker (HCE):

alongsoons Panniquanne starts showing of her peequuliar talonts. Awaywrong wandler surking to a rightrare rute for his plain utterrock sukes, appelled to by her fancy claddaghs.

(FW 606.29-32).

With the word, ‘utterrock’, is an allusion to the German unterrock: ‘petticoat’, as well as, perhaps, an attribute of the Aquane: ‘women who can change into otters’ (Fossati 2008: 40). I also suspect a ‘rock of utterance’, like the Lorelei rock on the Rhine, or ‘the chair made of rough stone, overlooking the river Finnisk at Modeligo, Co. Waterford’, which ‘could be a seat of the Banshee’s manifestations’ (Lysaght 1996: 127). Joyce incorporates here too the prophetic poise of Ota, the wife of the Viking invader, Thorgil, (McHugh 2006: 552), who took to the high altar of Clonmacnois cathedral to utter her prophecies:

and she sass her nach, chillybombom and forty bonnets, upon the altarstane. May all have mossyhonours!

(FW 552.29-30).

The ‘fancy claddaghs’ which lure HCE are presumably the red flannel petticoats traditionally worn by the women of Claddagh, a community in Galway (Sheffield 1998: 108). In the fusion of the Italian word for clothes, panni (ibid.) and the great rock of Naquane, is a suggestion of the panic the Aquanic presence may induce. In the Greek term, πᾶν – pan – meaning ‘throughout’ or ‘everywhere’, it should be no surprise that an Aganippic element accrues to Anne Boleyn’s Well, in Carshalton, Surrey, created when the hoof of Anne’s horse struck the ground.

Anne B Well


Anati, E. 1960. La Grande Roche de Naquane. Paris: Masson et Cie.

Anati, E. 1964. Camonica Valley (Trans. L. Asher). London: Jonathan Cape.

Fossati, A. 2008. Following Arianna’s Thread: Symbolic Figures at Female Rock Art Sites at Naquane and In Valle, Valcamonica, Italy. In Nash, G. and Children, G. (eds.) The Archaeology of Semiotics and the Social Order of Things. Oxford: Archaeopress, pp. 31-44.   (Link here).

Frodsham, P. 1996. Spirals in Time: Morwick Mill and the Spiral Motif in the British Neolithic. Northern Archaeology 13/14, pp. 101-141.

Lysaght, P. 1996. The Banshee: The Irish Supernatural Death Messenger. Dublin: O’Brien Press.

McHugh, R. 2006. Annotations to Finnegans Wake. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Menefee, S. 1996. Meg and her Daughters: Some traces of Goddess-beliefs in Megalithic Folklore? In Billington, S. and Green, M. (eds.) The Concept of the Goddess. London: Routledge, pp. 78-90.

Sheffield, E. 1998. Joyce’s Abandoned Female Costumes, Gratefully Received. Cranbury, NJ: Associated University Presses.


‘Meet the Mem, Avenlith’: Submerged 10,000-Year-Old Monolith found between Sicily and Tunisia

August 13, 2015

and her birthright pang that would split an atam like the forty pins in her hood

(FW 333.24-25).

A 40-foot-long monolith has been found, at a depth of 131 feet, on what was once an island in the Sicilian Channel. Called Pantelleria Vecchia Bank, the island was located some 24 miles north of the volcanic island of Pantelleria and was submerged during a massive flood about 9,500 years ago, in the wake of the Last Glacial Maximum. It is evidence of significant Mesolithic activity in this part of the Mediterranean (see here).


But now, talking of hayastdanars and wolkingology and how our seaborn isle came into exestuance, (the explutor, his three andesiters and the two pantellarias) that reminds me about the manausteriums of the poor Marcus of Lyons and poor Johnny, the patrician, and what do you think of the four of us and there they were now, listening right enough, the four saltwater widowers, and all they could remembore, long long ago in the olden times Momonian, throw darker hour sorrows, the princest day, when Fair Margrate waited Swede Villem, and Lally in the rain, with the blank prints, now extincts, after the wreak of Wormans’ Noe, the barmaisigheds, when my heart knew no care, and after that then there was the official landing of Lady Jales Casemate, in the year of the flood 1132 S.O.S., and the christening of Queen Baltersby, the fourth Buzzersbee, according to Her Grace the bishop Senior, off the whate shape, and then there was the drowning of Pharoah and all his pedestrians and they were all completely drowned into the sea, the red sea, and then poor Merkin Cornyngwham, the official out of the castle on pension, when he was completely drowned off Erin Isles, at that time, suir knows, in the red sea and a lovely mourning paper and thank God, as Saman said, there were no more of him. And that now was how it was.

(FW 387.11-32).


The Permeability of Boundaries: on the origins of an image

August 6, 2015


I cobbled together this image, showing a carved rock from Ilkley Moor bursting through a brittle surface, as the emblem of an archaeology conference I co-organised with my esteemed colleagues, Robert J Wallis and Kenneth Lymer, at the Department of Archaeology of the University of Southampton in December 1999. Called A Permeability of Boundaries?: New Approaches to the Archaeology of Art, Religion and Folklore, its fascinating range of papers was published in a volume a little over a year later (Wallis and Lymer 2001).

I believe the actual carved stone represented is the panel known as the Panorama Stone, though I can’t remember the source of the image I used. Using scissors and paste, I juxtaposed this with an image of a brick flying through a window that I’d found in an old issue of the anarchist paper, Black Flag, from the early 1980s, substituting the carved stone for the brick.

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The conference emblem presents less a dynamic image of a projectile being lobbed through a window, more some submarine phenomenon emerging through a fractured layer of ice.


Wallis, Robert J. and Lymer, Kenneth (eds.). 2001. A Permeability of Boundaries?: New Approaches to the Archaeology of Art, Religion and Folklore. Oxford: British Archaeological Reports. BAR International Series 936.


Open source Marxism: Free PDFs from Historical Materialism, Verso, and Jacobin

August 6, 2015

The Charnel-House

Stumbled across an amazing database of free Marxist PDFs, the posts of which seems to be password protected but whose files are nevertheless accessible. (You can click any of the hundreds of links below to download them directly, since the post itself is locked). Even if these get taken down, as seemed to happen with the Fuck V£R$0 blog a few years ago, the cat is already out of the bag. As Novara Media pointed out following the Lawrence & Wishart copyright controversy in 2014, once published these things tend to obey the logic of the so-called “Streisand effect.” They explained that “[the] attempt to ban or censor something will tend to increase its prominence and breadth of dissemination. The instantly and near-infinitely replicable quality of digital information makes this easy.”

In their view, this is just one of “Seven Reasons ‘Radical’ Publishers are Getting OWNED by the Internet.”

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