Sunday, 21 July 2013

Cut-Up at A Pleasure Dome

First video courtesy of Sitting Now from our A Pleasure Dome event held in Brighton in 2012:

More Al Cummins on Tristan Tzara,  Jeff Noon, William Burroughs, Brion Gysin can be read in our Mandragora anthology here:

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Great Snakes: Serpent Songs reviewed

Serpent Songs review, courtesy of Pennies for the Boneyard:

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, or you wouldn’t have come here.”

-Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Wonderland seems to be burning down around us.
Like a rogue golem, patient and tireless, modernity is crushing magic underfoot, shod in hobnailed “Reason”. Respect for the quiet places has been lost, replaced by the relentless barrage of holy images from lit screens, crawling with whispered promises. With unlimited information only a keystroke away, society has become numb, illiterate, placid. They no longer fear the night, because the lights never go out.

Some of us see the fires, almost hidden in the glow of the lights, the screens. Nightclad, anachronistic, we dress our faces in the ashes, and stand ready to champion the forgotten.
Across the ash-drawn mandala of Peter Grey’s Apocalyptic Witchcraft, we find the undulating trails of Scarlet Imprint’s newest release: Serpent Songs.

Curated by Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold, Serpent Songs collects 15 essays on Traditional Craft, offering an intimate study of the people and practices that remain aggressively alive and feral, despite history’s effort to roll them into the sea.

Having recently developed an urge to learn more about Traditional Craft, Serpent Songs crawled into my home like a granted wish. With the muddying that has accompanied the half-baked commandeering of regional practices , the chances of finding reliable information has been hit-and-miss, at best. With the precision and quality I’ve come to expect from Scarlet Imprint, and Mr. Frisvold, this book certainly hits the mark.


Caught in the stiff, heavy pages are names like Robert Cochrane, Andrew Chumbley, Evan John Jones, Tubal Cain, and the Bucca. There are discourses on English Cunning Folk, Stregoneria, and even some hoodoo. Johannes Gårdbäck shares a fascinating look at Swedish Trolldom, explaining the practice as he describes a visit to clients, and the work he does to help them (“Trolldom”); Sarah Lawless offers a primer on the use of animal remains, which includes a number of beautiful photographs (“Mysteries of Beast, Blood and Bone”); Arkaitz Urbeltz, and Xabier Bakaikoa Urbeltz present a pair of very interesting articles on the traditional practices of the Basque people (“Lezekoak”, “But the House of my Father will Stand”); Richard Parkinson discourses on the transition of displaced clerical Exorcists to private work, and how this contributed to English Craft (“Exorcists, Conjurors, & Cunning Men in Post-Reformation England”); and Jesse Hathaway Diaz touches on the somewhat prickly subject of following multiple paths (“Passers-By: Potential, Crossroads & Wayfaring on the Serpent Road”). With further essays by Gemma Gary, Shani Oates, and more, Serpent Songs combines historical studies with pulse-personal contemplations to bring the reader a bloody-raw look at Traditional Craft, free of pretense, and unneeded polish.


Well known for their marvelous books, the standard hardback Sylvan edition of Serpent Songs is a fine example of what Scarlet Imprint has to offer. Bound in olive cloth, with black and gold serpents on the cover and spine, and almost hypnotic endpapers, it is a tribute to the beauty of simplicity.
This book is an excellent resource for anyone interested in learning more about Traditional Craft, but, more than just a study resource, it is a potent reminder that magic still blooms in the world. Far from withering under the strain of all the forces that would brush us into the past, we remain–patient and poisonous.

We were here when it started. We will be here when it ends.

Serpent Songs, curated by Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold, from Scarlet Imprint

This review can be read in the original context here:

Friday, 5 July 2013

Our Power craves Love! Beware our Power!

A beautiful poetic response to Apocalyptic Witchcraft courtesy of Slippery Elm:

A month after finishing Peter Grey’s Apocalyptic Witchcraft I found myself on a rooftop in North Africa hastily building an altar out of bricks and cinder blocks while the full claimed her place between the cities twin peaks. The horizon was a tangled mass of mountains, whorled tendrils of blackberry raking at the sky, snagging swathes of soft night on their barbs like goat fur on the thorns that line a high traverse. The particular peaks that stanged our moon that March night, are known locally as the horns.
There was a small room on the roof, with one little window and a ruined wall; within it, a pile of white canvas bags blackened torqued wire, and other such rubble. No one would find me. At the first sound of footsteps, it would only take a pinch, and then the hiss of wax, to disappear.


Europe, ruin! Africa, ruin! The Americas, ruin! All lands washed in shrouds of ruin!
And still we gather in the wrinkles of the globe, in manifold ruins the world over, under the same hot moon. There make our love, our magic, our mischief. And what filigree remains, severed from its superfluous umbilical, and bereft of the black blood of oil upon which to suckle its roots, is withering like a sunless flower. Apocalypse sounds her bulería war cry and there is but to rise and meet her with snapping fingers and iron laced heels. Here is the rose, dance here.

From the bowels of the cave of John of Patmos, to the highest reaches of the Sabbat mount, Apocalyptic Witchcraft rises out of the torqued wire and rubble left to us by industrial society like steam from a thawing corpse. The book opens like a caja pandora, a conch, a skull, echoing forth it’s whispers. Peter begins his telling, and together we proceed to pilot our coracles on the waters of dream, hunt as wolves, and make new tracks on a narrow path, becoming ever more lost in woods forbidden. Trees hold their breath; their shadows stiffening all around us.

Every step of the way, on every page, Peter spouts off poetry & prophecy like a roman candle. As it was scribed in the moss-agate tongue of fungus and vine, of Venus and vipers, any discussion of this book demands such verdure vernacular: that of all things fluttering, leaping, sexing, dying, greening, and keening. I speak these languages back to you. As Peter asserts, poetry is the unbroken lineage. And in times such as these, when the greenworld lies under the choke hold siege of a differing dream, we come to know, as did Mahmoud Darwish, what makes the voice of the nightingale a dagger that shines in the face of invaders.

I have seen the historical accuracy, and pretensions of authenticity among our traditions squabbled over like seagulls over lunch scraps. I have seen those who posture as witches scrying numbly in the neon crystals of televisions while the world flames up around them. All of this no more. The Craft is not sedentary. There are much more urgent silences to shatter. Like permaculture, witchcraft must outfit and equip us for an age of decline. Now’s to become naked in the vine-tangle and weave ourselves resistance. Make ghost lamps of pickle jars. Save the coloured tissue paper that your fine edition comes in to wrap up and bury your offerings: the white, the red, and the black ones.

Apocalyptic Witchcraft will be a difficult read for those who have not yet gazed upon the dark. Who don’t feel in poetry but think in prose. Who might stumble on threads and miss the tapestry. Yet, Peter has struck a nerve. He has come closer than any author before him in expressing that slippery something that lurks at the heart of witchcraft, regardless of tradition. A warning to those who would trivialize us, who would deny a cat its claws: Our Power craves Love! Beware our Power!


Inspired by his constant battle and search for duende, the poet Federico Garcia Lorca wrote this of the Andalucían cante jondo, of deep song: it has only the night, a wide night steeped in stars. Nothing else matters. Likewise the witchcraft. The halls of the heart far surpass the world in vision and splendour. As Peter relates, this duende, this mystery, burns in the space between The Goddess and The Devil—obscured by a whirl of horns and red veils. This dance mimics the bullfight, in that lover and beloved, bull and torero, interpenetrate and become one another, consumed by an irrational force irresistibly compelling. This death-dance transpires on all levels of life. Every living thing partakes in this grand performance. But what is the source of this force, this duende? Lorca muses: Perhaps it comes to us from the dead, who stare at us from the motionless fence around the bullring of the moon.

All things dissolve and we are left with roots. With numbers. With Time. With music: auditory numbers colouring shards of Time with melody.  Despite the vastness of its scope, Apocalyptic Witchcraft and its diabolic dance dissolve into a single number, vibrate on a single tone. What lies behind this cipher will be different for each one of us who knock at its door.

This book is a signal through the flames, like Artaud signaled, and like Ferlinghetti signaled after him, screaming “if you would be a poet, create works capable of answering the challenge of living in apocalyptic times, even if this means sounding apocalyptic.” Apocalyptic Witchcraft does more than just fling an answer to the challenge of these times. It answers the challenge with a challenge of its own: Hic Rhodus! Hic Salta!


Peter, you are wicked! Alkistis, wicked! You have cursed us! You have cursed us to be great, cursed us with greatness!
How many times have I been pierced and hung-up on the vicious doubtful gaze of gorgeous dance companions! 
How many times have I risen like a sleep-walker when challenged to freestyle at a show!
How many times have I claimed the microphone and put my magic where my mouth is!
Yet when the wineglass smashes there is no other option.

O beloved witches far-flung and lonely! My dear darklings everywhere! In your huts! In your caves! And in urban centres! Eating open the marrow of skyscrapers like a plague of insects!
We played and stole among the street kids of Salzburg! We are of the river that gurgles in the fiery mouth of Zugurramurdi! Mother Demdike is our beldame!  
I must fly—but for now I gift you with one last whisper:
Like cante jondo, our song is truly deep. All we need is the night. The night and a few stars. Nothing else matters.
The heart may see where the eyes cannot.
So close yours and count to Fifteen.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Serpent Songs - Living Traditions review

Serpent Songs is a diverse collection of fifteen essays introduced and curated by Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold. It explores the world of Traditional Witchcraft through lone practitioners and tradition holders, from both family and clan and allows us a rare glimpse into the workings of the more secretive pro-ponents of the Craft. As per usual Scarlet Imprint practise this is a superbly produced volume, the Sylvan edition has been released in an edition of 750 with olive cloth gold and black blocking. The quality of the illustrations and photographs cannot be faulted and the cover is illustrated with a double serpent, it also has custom end papers and the font is easy on the eye and the paper is of exceptionally high quality.

The essays in this thought provoking volume focus on Traditional rather than modern craft, so often today “Wicca” has become so embedded with new age thought that it is hard to tell the difference and its mass market consumer format has become off putting, to say the least, to those who follow the Old Ways. The traditions here are non or pre-Gardnerian, folk and cunning man, among others, and covers aspects of the craft from historical to the personal, forbidden practises such as the use of blood and bone to significant figures such as Robert Cochrane, Evan John-Jones and Andrew Chumbley.
It is very easy to get caught up in a model of Witchcraft which speaks in terms of a purely pagan tradition and yet so often it existed in a hybrid form mixed with folk and ancestral traditions and later overlaid with Christian and other religious forms. In more modern times there has been a revival of pre and non Gardnerian craft from the Sabbati Cultus of Andrew Chumbley, the 1734 to the Clan of Tubal Cain.

As we wander through Serpent Songs we encounter Basque folk traditions, various modern adaptations of non Gardnerian Craft, the Stregona and the path to self deification, all explored in an erudite and academically rigorous manner. The Pellars of Cornwall provides a rich vein of Traditional Craft and Steve Patterson offers a fascinating look at their traditions and the nature of Bucca, the multifaceted god, devil, faery or spirit of that tradition. In the medieval period the line between the exorcist, physician, sorcerer and cunning folk was thin and as the official role of the exorcist when no longer sustained by the church saw many practitioners went into private practise. Richard Parkinson’s article on this period is a superb read. Interesting and lesser known studies such on taboo to avoid the witch becoming totally “other” and hence dis-solving into the otherworld and the lesser known of Throlldom of Scandinavia are excellent studies.

Of course Traditional Witchcraft didn't evolve in a vacuum and throughout Serpent Songs we explore the influences in the development of the craft including a significant piece on Bogomil and Byzantine influences. Too often the Gnostic elements of the Bogomils have been overemphasized with the folk, ancestral and traditional elements underplayed. The challenging essay by Radomir Ristic, author of Traditional Balkan Witchcraft, goes a long way to rectify this.

There is so much more in this volume that it becomes a little counterproductive to go through essay by essay, I would much rather than you discover the many joys and gems in this fascinating work yourself.

Review courtesy of :