On Becoming A Bullshit Artist

ON BULLSHIT

I recently picked up a copy of Harry G. Frankfurt’s 2005 essay “On Bullshit” at one of my favorite used bookstores.  I had read this not long after it came out, but it was good to spend some time revisiting the theme he addresses -the bullshit our culture finds itself mucking about in, and what exactly bullshit is from a philosophical perspective.  Nine years later the essay is just as pertinent. There seems to be no shortage of the stuff, whether its just your average poop, or grand politcal crap slinging.

Harry asks the important question, “Why is there so much bullshit?“, and answers, “Of course it is impossible to be sure that there is relatively more of it nowadays than at other times. There is more communication of all kinds in our time than ever before, but the proportion that is bullshit may not have increased. Without assuming that the incidence of bullshit is actually greater now, I will mention a few considerations that help to account for the fact that it is currently so great.

Bullshit is unavoidable whenever circumstances require someone to talk without knowing what he is talking about. Thus the production of bullshit is stimulated by whenever a person’s obligations or opportunities to speak about some topic exceed his knowledge of the facts that are relevant to that topic. This discrepancy is common in public life, where people are frequently impelled -whether by their own propensities or by the demands of others- to speak extensively about matters of which they are to some degree ignorant. Closely related instances arise from widespread conviction that it is the responsibility of a citizen in a democracy to have opinions about everything, or at least everything that pertains to the conduct of his country’s affairs. The lack of any significant connection between a person’s opinion’s and his apprehension of reality will be even more severe, needless to say, for someone who believes it his responsibility, as a conscientious moral agent, to evaluate events and conditions in all parts of the world.

Certainly the proliferation of blogs -such as this one, laden with my own BS- and the lower barriers to publishing created by the widespread utilization of computer technology up the ante on the crap quotient. Add to this the fact that the world population now has a higher rate of literacy, more people reading, more people writing, and the amount of printed bullshit, aside from that discharged out the mouth, is sure to see an increase.

Could it be though, that within the fecal matter which most abhor, is a hidden resource? At a time when the soul of the west is barren, when our inner landscape has eroded, when the things which bind us together are under assault from materialist nihilism, absurd reductionism, and the corrosion of conformity, what we flush down the collective crapper may very well be what is actually needed to restore the inner and outer landscapes from their current state of gross misuse and waste.

To see how this might be so we must first check in with some deities and myths related to cattle. Bullshit, might after all, have a divine providence.

HOLY COWS(HIT)

“Don’t plug the Cow-a-bunghole, dude.” -Bart Simpson

Instead, let it rip.

Cattle have long been part of the sacred terrain of humanities shared mythopoetic landscape. From the caves of Lascaux where our ancestors traced images of bison onto the walls, to the earliest written mention of cows being sacred in the Rig Veda, the cow has been seen as a symbol of wealth and fertility since ancient times. The Irish based their national epic around the favorite past times of cattle raiding as documented in the Tain Bo Cuailngor Cattle Raid of Cooley.

It is not surprising that there have also been a number of cow and bull related deities. Kamadehenu is a Hindu bovine-goddess, not worshiped independently as such, but honored in the general reverence for cows within Hinduism.  In ancient Egypt there is Hathor, who is depicted with cow horns in which is set a sun disk with Uraeus serpent. Isis is also at times depicted with cow horns. Apis is another Egyptian deity who took on the form of Bull. Mithra is the guardian of cattle, and in his later Roman form was shown as slaughtering a bull to bring to a banquet with Sol. Let us not forget the Golden Calf made by Aaron for the Israelites while Moses was up on Mount Sinai communing with Jehovah. The bull was sacred in Crete, in Cypress, the list goes on and on.

The life giving status appointed to the cow and related cattle species is not only from the flesh and dairy they provide, but from the from the foliage they graze upon being digested in the four separate chambers of their stomach, and being pooped out as a powerful manure to keep the soil healthy. This prima materia is rich in minerals. Besides being spread on the fields to ensure a bountiful harvest, while simultaneously providing  food for other animal and fungals species, cow dung is also used as a source of fuel, the dried patties and cakes being burned. Buffalo chips and meadow muffins must surely be another form of manna.

Not only is bullshit sustainable, but holy.

SCATOLOGY

In my own personal lexicon of symbolism shit represents the nigredo phase of alchemy. The time when everything is decomposed and putrefied. Depth psychologists have equated this with the dark night of the soul. Yet within all this mushy-stinky matter, this shit, is the very stuff of life, fertile and if composted, gives life and strength. This concept of taking crap material, and making into something that is good was explored in music by post-industrial group Coil on their 1984 album Scatology.

One reviewer said Coil made “good music, from shitty sounds“. The cover of the album shows an ass framed inside an inverted cross. The inside shows pictures of John Balance and Peter Christopherson lurking around a sewage treatment plant, “Sleazy” Peter’s hand covered in liquified filth. To me this picture shows the musicians as having something more powerful than the Midas touch. It confronted the biophobia so prevalent in society today, and showed the glory that can be found in the study of shit. The album had emerged out of the inspiration the couple found in their bondage and S&M practice, Sleazy often tying John up to the toilet. This approach, which revels in the by-products and wastes of our humanity, is one way to go about revitalizing culture in an age when it has all gone to shit. This is the work of the bullshit artist. It is the special province of those who would call them self a commissioner of the sewer.

A BRIEF DETOUR TO THE PISSOIR 

As an antidote to purely visual art, Marcel Duchamp pioneered the field of readymade art. According to Andre Breton and Paul Eluard’s Dictionnaire abrégé du Surréalisme, a readymade is “an ordinary object elevated to the dignity of a work of art by the mere choice of an artist.” The practice of choosing an object was part of the aesthetic decision. In his quest to get away from himself by choosing prefabricated items, we see both influence and similarity to the working methods of John Cage, who also strove to take himself out of the art, through the use of chance operations.

The readymade’s of Duchamp show cleverness and humor and open the viewers eyes to seeing everyday things in new ways. By placing his piece Fountain, a urinal signed with the moniker R. Mutt, in a gallery show he questioned the idea of art itself, and showed that it isn’t always about what you make with your hands, but with how you frame an object, or assign meaning. Playing with meaning, reframing events, words, or whatever media you are working in, is part of the job of the bullshit artist.

(The work of Marcel Duchamp will continue to receive coverage inside the pages of the avant-garde grimoire.)

THE ART OF BULLSHIT

The urban dictionary says a bullshit artist is “a deceptive fuck that gets off on selling people worthless info as if it were fact.” This is why, as an artist, you have to know your shit, and be able to bullshit. Knowing your shit helps you put power into your work. Being able to bullshit might get your work into a gallery, or some other forum advantageous to for you to float a piece. If you want to be able to roll like banker, double-count and inflate the net value of what you think a piece of art, performance or what have you is worth. Distort the measurement of supply and demand, to create a speculative bubble around your creation. Reel people in and baffle them with bullshit. They’ll thank you for it later.

COMMISSIONER OF SEWERS

I got My Education in dreams. For years I had dreams of looking for something in sewers. I later realize the sewers were manifesting  as part of an Underworld initiation experience. The Archangel Gabriel appeared in the guise of my high school friend Gabe Moses, and helped me find a piece of myself that was lost in the sewers. This was a bit of spontaneous soul recovery.  Sewers are places we might lose a bit of ourselves to, if we’re not careful about what we are flushing away. It is good to get to know the guardians of these inner places. William S. Burroughs set himself up in the sewers as a commissioner.

CONCLUSION

This little essay has humbled my question on how freedom is expressed in a democracy. It is the spokesman of how to use sewers as a place for piping-in power. The crooked stink of ambition is smelled on the shirtsleeves of our presidents. The Sultan’s have ruptured the intestines of America, all for the price of an orgy. The personal sewage of opinion is a condition of democracy. It is best to secure dirt on the governor, to get pictures of him smoking the sheriff’s reefer with the Sultan’s. In the afternoon we stop by the majesties house to make friendly deals. It is time to blow the virtues of Richard Nixon, a vital folk hero who revered the skepticism of the United States public. We will no longer cover up under-the-counter deals, but give free reign to bourbon snorting, cigar swilling, fat ass politicians. No skill is required.

Posted in Avant Garde Grimoire, The Bardic Arts Tagged ,

The Arachnist Manifesto

I. Everything is connected by threads, both visible and invisible, forming a web.

II. Vibrations on even one strand of silken thread effect the entirety of the web.

III. The web is also a net and can be used to catch morsels of food. Thus the web sustains life through the mystery of the Eucharist and the transmutation of life into death into life. This is the Supper of the Fates.

IV. Webs are also used as a form of protection, to watch over the entrance of dwelling spaces and to encase the egg sacs of the thousand young.

V. The web is also a gate. The spaces between the strands can be used to travel instantly to any other point in the web.

VI. The strength of a web is dependent on the strength of the spun silk, but also on the web’s design. Arachnists, keep fast to your health and be cunning in the orchestration of your skein! As a weaver, flawed designs can be rewoven on newspun thread.

VII. Webs are spun at night. Spinning is a nocturnal activity connected to the Moon and dreams.

VIII. Spider webs can be used to stop bleeding. In a world rife with wounds, weavers are needed to restitch those bolts of cloth which have become frayed.

-Justin Patrick Moore

 

8*13*8*23*8*13*8*23*8*13*8*23*8*13*8*23*8*13*8*23*8*13*

Copies of issue 8 of the Dyslexicon: Dreams, Time Travel & Spiders are still available directly from Sothis Medias.

Oryelle Defenestrate-Bascule’s thrice revised and expanded tome Time, Fate and Spider Magic is out now from Avalonia Press.  Essential reading for anyone interested in these three interlocked subjects.

Posted in Magic & Folklore Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Artist or Artisan?

When did distinctions between art and craft first arise? Did this separation of utility and beauty come in the heady days of the 19th century when creators were rebelling against those who thought the sole value of art was to serve didactic and moral purposes? How will l‘art pour l’art fare in a time when resources will need to be allocated according to concerns more pressing than the aesthetic? 

A lot to think about. and I don’t know that I will be able to answer every question I have raised for myself to the fullest degree, which is why this avant-garde grimoire for art school drop outs is an ongoing affair, nibbled on and chewed away at in chunks, not all of them digestible.

For most of history the skilled handyman was also considered an artist or artisan.  They made work to serve a purpose other than the conceptual, the shocking, or just for arts sake (or Pete’s). Making art does have value in and of itself, at least for the person making the art. Whether or not it serves another purpose can only be decided by the experience of the people the work impacts -or fails to impact. Although the term “art for arts sake” was used to help separate the judgment of a pieces aesthetic value from the themes the work might touch on, the spirit of this phrase, has gone on to influence several generations of artists, who still working under romanticized notions about their particular trade, “create just to create” and perhaps because they can’t do anything else.

The glamorized image of the inspired artist working under immense pressure, subject to the whims of the muse -or the availability of mind altering drugs- has come down to us as gospel. The tortured, frenetic artist, oscillating between states of gloomy despair and wild eyed ecstasy is set at odds with the craftsman who steadily drums up water from the inner wells of creativity.  The person who makes tools or objects of everyday use is contrasted with the composer whose genius requires a battery of other musicians to play according to his own scored requirements. The music may be moving. It may touch the soul. Will the social cohesion and sense of status provided by an orchestra be necessary once the funding is gone? The first chair violin player may find herself as a fiddler instead at a campfire with a bluegrass band playing for an extra sip of moonshine. Maybe at home though, she will keep a collection of scores by Karlheinz Stockhausen, John Cage, and Terry Riley. She might play in a noise ensemble as well. Yet she will have in place some other skills to keep herself fed when l’art pour l’art is no longer a paying gig -not that it has ever paid exceedingly well by the standards of bankers, or been available in the same level to the astounding number of people who count themselves as artists in the world of today.

Art for arts sake, was very much product of a time when the amount of surplus energy available for pursuing these types of creations allowed larger numbers of individuals to move away from having to occupy themselves with subsistence alone. The wealth of nations as a whole allowed them, even if not “rich” themselves to live off the relative fat and table scraps thrown their way.

Why should I buy your ink splattered canvas hanging on an otherwise perfect coffee house wall when I can go home and create my own? Art as a commodity will lean towards those who can also be artisans and create objects of both aesthetic and utilitarian value. There will always be room for painters, illustrators, sculptors and musicians in the collective economy of the future, but during the interim between the end of the industrial age and the rise of a new civilization most folks will be living in third world conditions -whether or not they arrive slowly in a soft crash or come abruptly from a hard crash. Getting a job as a set designer for the local metropolitan opera might not be feasible. It’s best to have some alternatives -while working to keep low budget  community theater a going concern.

There are many potential areas to work at as an artisan. Some of these can be done on the side as hobbies rewarding in their own right but that would also give the practitioner skills and products they could trade for other commodities or services.

The beginning list looks something like this. These are areas where artists may want to get a hand at working in now, developing those skills, building a culture of craftsmanship and putting down roots in between the cracks of current society.

The Book Arts: inlcuding bookbinding, calligraphy, papermaking, inkmaking, letterpress printing. These skills will be of use to all those who need to keep records. This is a personal area of craft I want to make further headway in.

Furniture Makers/Woodworking/Carpentry: Access to cut and seasoned wood may at times be wanting. The ability to use salvaged and reclaimed materials will be a boon. Think of reupholstering/refinishing the stuff you picked out of the garbage and trading it for a good knife or pipe wrench. Folks are still going to need things like tables, chairs, cutting boards, butcher blocks, shelves, cabinets. As mass produced pressed boards get burned to keep warm during the long winters, strong pieces which could be come new heirlooms will need to be made.

Leatherwork: The skins of beasts killed by cars are there for your taking. If the power goes out you will need to stay warm, and in the summer a belt is nice to keep the loincloth up. Which leads to…

Fashion: Tailors, hatmakers, and shoemakers all had a skill useful for fiat currency or trade. And they could make a man dandy or a fop, a woman a trendsetter fit to scandalize society with the latest thing. Getting nimble with a thread and thimble and other arts of the cloth can be a way to transform an entire thrift store while staying stylish.

Glassblowing:  This is already being practiced by the folks who keep head shops supplied. I know of one homesteading farmer who does glasswork on the side. He is able to sell sake sets, pipes, and other commissioned pieces at the same stand he sells his collard greens at in the neighborhood farmers market.

Jewelers: Most everyone likes pretty shiny stuff. When the banks go down jewelers are often de facto banks. Even-if-not, being able to make baubles out of bits of wire, metal, glass and bone will give you an edge. Gifts become valuable and things like rings, necklaces, bracelets, etc. will still be given and exchanged by people to mark special occasions.

Locksmiths: keeping your hoard or stash safe from bands of raiding warlords or petty thieves might be something you want to be able to do. Jewelers may be able to moonlight as locksmith, as could others who work with metal.

Potters: New bowls, cups plates etc. will need to be made for when the plastic ones become brittle with age and break.

Instrument Makers: While electronic detritus remains, and batteries are still available, the fine art of Circuit Bending may help to keep electronic noise music alive for another couple of decades. Otherwise it will be nice to learn how to grow gourds and turn them into string, percussion, and wind instruments.  Luthiers will remain in demand, while those who work with metal may get a chance to specialize in crafting and repairing the brass instruments so important to jazz music, which has a good chance of remaining part of Americas cultural legacy.

Tattoist/Piercer: This one is for all you post-postmodern  primitives out there. Tattooing, piercing and other forms of body modification have been around for a long time and will be here to stay. This is a useful sideline for groups of squatters living in the margins between rural and city-life. Its a good skill for anyone employeed as a gangster. Even for those still struggling to uphold white middle-class values  the occasional marker of some quasi-initiatory rite of passage is still in order.

These are just a few areas of artisanal trade a person could become a practitioner of, all the while working on the magnum opus during a lunch break where no carryout will be ordered. It is also true that the avant-garde techniques that were pioneered during the late 19th to early 21st century can potentially be applied to artisinal trades. John Cage’s I Ching informed chance operations have been used in printing, for instance. Perhaps there would be ways to use them in glassblowing, to determine the colors used. Cut-ups and collage will be apparent simply from working with an array of salvaged materials.

Some of these arts can be practiced in a spare corner of a home. Others require a bit more of a set up. Outfitting your Reality Studio with the tools needed for the Work is a part of the game, as is being able to improvise with the things already around you.

The artist who wishes to prosper during the unraveling of empire and into the coming dark ages will have a need to wear many hats. Developing facility with different materials will increase your chances of doing something that has personal and collective meaning.

Posted in Avant Garde Grimoire, Home Economics Tagged , , , ,

Ancestral Artifacts

Harry Smith, Alchemist

Artifacts of our cultural ancestors surround us, whether they be in the form of books, paintings, sculpture, or audio-visual recordings. The media is not as important as the transmission, though the medium might determine what is transmitted. Sometimes a pilgrimage must be made to visit the holy relics of the mighty dead. Whether it is to a museum in Cleveland or Chicago, to a Cathedral, or to a library to pick up a history of the Lettrist movement, the recordings made by the artists who have gone before us are available for us to interact with. their minds are waiting to be renewed through contact with our own. When we are touched by the work another artists it becomes another ingredient ready to be transmuted in the cauldron of our own art.

In this bridging between the zones of time the individual may become fearful of the crisis of collusion. This is but one of many initiations. For the scribe is in many ways both copyist and originator, when she is not playing the game of outright theft (see KLEPTOMANCY). Under the auspices of influence we may often come into our own, receiving just the right nudge, crack of the whip, or insight necessary to allow us to tread further along our own path. Before the block of marble can be carved the light within it must emerge. And this light is often called forth from the resonance of being in the presence of an ancoestor or elder whose own shimmering of the secret fire awakens further that flame which is within the heart of the artist.

Our cultural ancestors -like our living circle of guides and friends- is often great for giving introductions to others. Was not Allen Ginsberg influenced by William Blake, Walt Whitman and William Carlos Williams? Was not William Blake under the celestial wing of both Emmanuel Swedenborg and the many eyed angels of the heavens? Thus the chain of inspiration may be followed back. Did not William S. Burroughs glean from the writings of Joseph Conrad and Graham Greene? And was not Graham Greene a dream journalist of excellence who sat down every morning to transfer the memories of sleep to the waking page?

We need not be dominated by the lives of our cultural ancestors. They often have achievements which seem to tower above our own. Besides, it is not for us to merely emulate, but to create new patchworks out of the total materials available to us. This is not just our interaction with the mediated forms all around us, but from the stuff of our life, from the tragedies we have all been witness to, from the joys which have sprung out of our heart. We can learn not only the techniques and disciplines which propelled any given artist forward from the study of biography, but we can also learn from the wreckage of their lives what behaviors we can attempt to avoid. We can also learn resilience from the study of the Saints of Art. In our own lives there will be wreckage, pain, suffering, heartache and privation. These are the trials of human life. The cauldron of inspiration cannot be filled unless their has been some schism. Blessed are the cracked for they let in the light.

The skilled artist knows how to open and close the crack at will to bathe in the effulgence of the Void. He or she becomes a skilled mediator bringing the gifts of the ancestors through in her or his own mature work.

Posted in Avant Garde Grimoire Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Four Tough Questions

Recently Dmitry Orlov posed four tough questions to his readers. These were inspired by this years third annual Age of Limit’s conference. People jumped in on his blog and email to answer these questions. I thought I would take a stab at them myself here at Sothis Medias. [Dmitry has a new book out, Communities that Abide,  which includes other authors from the peak-oil/collapse "scene". I had the opportunity to do a radio interview with him over a year ago when his book The Five Stage of Collapse came out.] The questions Dmitry posed are in bold below.

1. How can we communicate the reality of collapse to family and friends in ways that are constructive rather than destructive and find helpful ways to reflect our “endarkenment” in our everyday behavior?

In the words of John Balance of the group Coil we need to “pay our respects to the vultures” for they are our collective future. In a culture obsessed with the extension of life beyond its natural limits we can begin by giving respect to the dead and death itself.

The Kubler-Ross model of the five stages of grief has been widely used among writers of collapse. To help people transition we need to be able to see and recognize what stage a person is at in their grieving process over the death of industrial civilization, and tailor our approach with them accordingly. The person who is in the bargaining stages will have different needs for action & direction than the person who is in the denial or anger stage. Therefore it is most important that those of us who wish to act as hospice nurses for the old order have been through the five-stages ourselves.

Showing that there are concrete ways we can each prepare, adapt, and continue to co-create are important as is being available to listen, answer questions to the best of our ability, and share resources. Taking action together and working on joint projects can become a source of camaraderie in tough times. We need to find the equivalent of community Barn Raising parties and the like in these times, ways to bring folks together around a goal that improves the lives of not just one individual but families and the webs of interconnection spreading out from them.

2. How can we form personal relationships with people that can survive the disappearance of official life support systems based on finance, commerce and centralized authority?

My wife and I recently went to a flea market in Louisville, Kentucky. There were many stalls filled with salvaged junk, repurposed and rebuilt computers, knock-off phones and knock-off designer goods. Almost none of the people running the booths were anglos, and those who did were more than a touch Appalachian. There was a genuine community in the sprawling flea market, and it was composed of Mexicans, African and Middle-Eastern Muslims, and Asians. The other white folks like my wife and I were probably at a sanitized farmers market where everything was just-so. For the people at the flea market, it was obvious that it was a family affair. Mothers worked with daughters, brother with brother. It didn’t look especially lucrative, but it did seem like a good way to spend the afternoon, talking with people perusing the goods, and with the others hawking wares.

I had a dream a few years back where I went to a flea market on a quest. It was in Indianna and it was the size of a whole town. At the edge of the market was the dump. And some of the houses, containing room after room of hoarded items, were sinking into the dump. This dream felt like a very real projection of the future to me. I can see flea market / dumps cropping up. What is salvageable stays up front for sale or barter. As things fall more and more apart they are taken deeper in and join with that which can’t be used at all.

While the internet has become a global marketplace for those who can afford to shop online, neighborhood markets and second-hand stores will become ever more prevalent. A good example is the man who lives around the corner from us who has an ongoing yard sale. He also trash picks the neighborhood once a week, going up and down the streets on his bike seeing what he can get. Strategic hoarding can thus be a way to build community, as long as you are willing to set it out on a table and use it to sell, trade or barter with. Learning to repurpose goods can only help.

3. How can we transform our physical selves into ones that will stand a chance, by eliminating lifestyle diseases, bad habits, luxuries and comforts, and by finding maximally independent and resilient ways to provide the necessities?

Several years before I dropped my first tab of acid and smoked my first cigarette I was a sworn again Straight Edger; there is only so much influence a punk band like Minor Threat can have, after all. After a typical teenage run-in with chemical fun, I finally toned things down a bit in my twenties, having seen first hand how drugs affected the lives of people close to me. In the years to come drug use will be even more rampant, when they are available. As the spiral of crisis our world faces continues to converge many more people will seek the oblivion of drugs and alcohol to escape personal and collective pain -and responsibility.

I think there will be a need for lay counselors and others to help addicts kick the habit. Whether they use a Twelve Step format or not isn’t as important as the success they have in assisting their fellows in getting off drugs. I can see situations arising where there are addicts in the community who all of a sudden are out of a supply, no matter how much homebrew has been made or homegrown has been dried and rolled. Industrial civilization has caused hitherto unknown forms of stress. Its unraveling is also a cause for unique systemic forms of stress. As long as industrial grade drugs are available there will be a market for them and that market will cut and eat into communities as it does now.

I think the unraveling of society will also present unique forms of rehab as we all come down from the high of cheap energy. Rehabbing homes, rehabbing community. The rehabilitation of the soil, air, and ocean. Hearthfires will be relighted and passing the torch of memory through story and song will be more important than passing the bottle of forgetfulness.

Whatever we can do now to confront ourselves in the mirror with honesty will help us down the line. If we periodically fast, curb our desire for escape through instant gratification we may have a bit of an edge in very lean times.

4. How can we make use of ritual and spiritual practice to transform a group of individuals into a community?

SABBATH AND SABBAT

Last night I had a dream in which I was explaining the Sabbath to someone. The Sabbath has been an important tradition for me. I grew up in a church that celebrated the Old Testament Holy Days and who were also Sabbath keepers. We shut the TV off from Friday night to Saturday night. That time was sacred. Friday night was always a family dinner or small outing. Saturday’s were filled with church, church, and more church. Sometimes the two-hour long service was doubled with a break for lunch in-between, followed by pot lucks and outings with other churchy church folks.

I don’t remember a time when everything was closed on Sunday. I do know how it felt to have a week dedicated to family and community, even if said community believed in an Armageddon, that according to their calculations, should have come several times by now.  For people of the Jewish faith, the Sabbath is Saturday. For most of Christendom this somehow got moved to the first day of the week Sunday. Seventh Day Adventists and some others choose to church on Saturdays. People can argue the theology of this on their own. Having a day of rest, free from work outside or inside the home, no matter what ones  religion or spiritual path can be a powerful way to help create community and family bonding. If the merchants of cheap plastic crap could close their curtains, Saturdays or Sundays might transform into days focused on the collective, not collecting.

Aside from the Sabbath celebrated by two of the religions of the Book (Muslim’s do not keep the Sabbath, but Friday is a day for prayer at the Mosque) the eight Sabbat’s of contemporary paganism and witchcraft are also another source of inspiration for seasonal celebrations. Peter Grey has pointed out that the Wheel of the Year is indeed be broken in terms of how the four seasons are manifesting, due to climate change. That being said, in each season and in each bioregion, there will be specific festivals and cultural customs that may be celebrated. Most of these at one time combined work with pleasure, as in harvest festivals. Others will be times of conviviality designed to get people through the darkest part of the year with spirit and goodwill still in tact. The Sabbats need not be the traditional eight cooked up by Gardner and co. In Cincinnati, Oktoberfest and Bockfest are more important and widely celebrated due to the German heritage in this area. Other groups, ethnicities and subcultures will each have their own dates. Yet these can be preserved and added elements of ritual and rest can be improvised to help conserve culture in a time of disintegration.

Posted in Home Economics Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

What Magic Is?

Magic burns somewhere
between phosphorous and philosophy
it churns the midnight soil
after hopping the cemetery wall.

“Dig this,” it says
pointing to an unmarked grave.
Magic wasn’t made
to be an energy slave
whim of yours to hire
black lace and red light
for the convenience of your desire.

Sometimes it is a thirst
slaked by snagging you into the coals
a wild mare giving birth to foals
the snare is, its out of your control.

Who lights this match now smells the sulfur
it doesn’t demand you be pure
but is a catalytic converter of events.

Sometimes it is better not to know.

What is it I am doing? What is it all for?

The horizon is a door.

Posted in The Bardic Arts

Coding In Dream

The term “dreaming in code” has entered into popular parlance among information and technology professionals as a way to denote those elite programmers who have so mastered their various software languages that they can “dream in code”. A hacker can write a script and inject it into cyberspace, altering the flow of information. By parallel a skilled worker of the Art Magical can utter their breath into the void and astral plane, altering the flow of imagination, becoming someone who “codes in dream”. This article looks at other parallels between the world of hackers and occulture in search of inspiration for the magical community.

THE VALUE OF OUTSIDE INFLUENCES
(Cosmic or Otherwise)

There is the danger in any field of endeavor to slip into a comfortable routine, to not seek the boundaries and push them, to play it safe and not experiment. In the arts this happens from following whatever is fashionable and trendy at the time; in the sciences from working around the pet theories of the day; in life from not pushing ourselves hard enough to see how we might expand our edges and do the better work of which we are each capable. This is no less true for magicians than anyone else.

As much as occultists work towards self-realization, individuation, and mastery of the Art we are not immune from the trends circulating amidst our various esoteric communities. This is not to place a value judgment on any given trend, but a call to closely examine the reasons behind a trend, and the effects its adoption can have within oneself and the community. The dangers of following trends blindly are there just as much for the solitary practitioners who often look to books, articles, and internet sites as the basis for their practice, as to those who work in covens, lodges, and circles.

Whether you are a solitary practitioner, work in a group, or some mixture thereof, tremendous sources of creativity and insight can be tapped, and utilized in the magical arts by taking a cross-disciplinary approach and researching what is going on in other fields of human endeavor. Does it matter if ones inspiration comes from the transplutonian mauve zone as opposed to an adjacent subculture? Either way outside influences remain essential sources of inspiration.

While insulating oneself from outside influences can have the beneficial effect of strengthening inner resources, at other times those reserves need to be refilled and built up by looking into lines of work we are unfamiliar with. Delving into alternative lines of thought and thinking is very much akin to traveling and immersion in a foreign culture, or the new contacts we make when being of service to the inner worlds. Upon returning home we will find we have been changed, perhaps even transformed by our journey. If nothing else, we will come to appreciate the diverse approaches people have towards life and learn that the path we walk on is not the only path to walk on. At the same time we will perhaps develop a better understanding of the similarities people share beneath the surface appearances of different goals and aims. And then we can see where the paths come together and merge.
It is in this regard that I wish to share my own voyeuristic love affair with hacker culture.

In the course of my contemplation of the lovable bunch who spend their hours writing code, reverse engineering hardware, figuring out where systems are weak and security is lax, I came across a number of similarities between the communities surrounding hacking and esoterica. I have looked at our shared strengths and weaknesses and have noted some differences. From this exercise in analogical thinking I realized there are a number of activities and attitudes, as well as ways of approaching problems that occultists could adopt from the practice of hackers. [Further study also gave me ideas for a number of magical techniques inspired by hacking.]

NOTES FROM A PASSIONATE OBSERVER

As a student of the Western Mystery Tradition I write about hacking and hackers not as someone who has been deep on the inside of that scene, but rather as a passionate observer. I may be on the sidelines but I have had an ongoing fascination with the history, lore, and practices of hacking and phone phreaking since I was an adolescent. My own computer and technical skills are very average. What continues to draw me back to hacking is my own sympathy with many of the political and social aims inside the movement, their love of pranks, and long history of culture jamming.

As a kid I was something of an amateur phone phreak. I knew a few tricks for making free calls on pay phones. A precocious reader, at a young age I’d zipped through Steve Levy’s Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution and had gotten all excited about making further explorations of the electronic frontier via the telephone wires. It was around this time that I once got a hold of a phone lineman’s box. I didn’t steal it, just took it. The phone guy was nowhere around, but a piece of his equipment had been left at a switching box. When I figured out it had a modem and rudimentary computer in it I started using the device to connect to various BBS’ in the hopes of accessing further knowledge on any number of arcane subjects. Little did I know the box made a trace: anytime I placed a call the box also connected to the Cincinnati Bell office. One day while I was being subjected to a compulsory eighth grade education, an agent from the phone company came to the house, looking for me. He asked my mom where I was. When she told him I was at school, he asked if she had seen the lineman’s box, telling her that it had been traced to our address. My mom, always keeping a sharp eye on me, had of course seen me hooking it up to the phone line and quickly turned it over to the authorities. On that day perhaps, I was perhaps lucky to be at school. It probably spared me from a stern grilling from a telco agent.
And although I didn’t pursue the path of active hacking and phone phreaking much further than that, my interest in it remained and I was later blessed to have close friends very savvy in this area. I started investigating hacker culture on a deeper level.

I do this in several ways. The first is by reading 2600: The Hacker Quarterly on a regular basis. Some of the articles fly way over my head, especially those that involve dense coding. Others that are on such things as phone systems, amateur radio, satellites, GPS, subverting digital rights management, and basic security are suitable for the beginner. Something of a radio geek myself, over the past four years I’ve also been a regular listener to the two radio shows hosted by Emmanuel Goldstein, editor-in-chief of 2600, these being Off the Hook on WBAI in New York, and Off the Wall on WUSB in Stonybrook (both available archived online and as podcasts). The magazine and radio shows go together like bread and butter. Whereas the magazine provides practical articles, as well as perspectives from individual hackers in both a column and extensive letter section, the radio shows explore the social and political implications of technology.

Apart from these sources there is a plethora of audio and video available from various hacker conferences, including the Chaos Communication Congress and H.O.P.E. (Hackers Of Planet Earth) to name just two. I absorb a lot of this audio material while at my day job or when doing home repair. I think it would be a good move if more of the occult oriented conferences and festivals archived all of their talks online as well. These would become tremendous resources after an event to be tapped by attendees who weren’t able to hear or see every presentation. It also gives those who didn’t go, whether by choice or circumstance, the gift of learning something new from the speakers. And it may inspire them to go in the future. More importantly, putting a talk online adds to the corpus of occult knowledge available to anyone with an internet connection.

The magazine, radio shows, and talks from the cons got me very excited, and I thought about applying myself towards becoming a hacker. Because hacking is inspiring to me I decided to make some technological shifts in my life. But where would I begin? Up until the end of January in 2014 I presented radio programs for over a decade, first on a pirate station Anti-Watt and now on WAIF in Cincinnati. Despite having chosen to focus more of my efforts on writing, radio is still a medium I love. I had learned that many hackers are also Hams and have decided to apply myself towards receiving an Amateur radio license. I also decided to learn about Linux by running Oneiric Ocelot, a release of Ubuntu on one of my computers (perfect for someone who “codes in dream”Smilie: ;). Learning a new Operating System is like learning a new system of magic. Routine tasks on a Windows system are now not quite as simple, but the mastery that comes from training, is in itself a source of pleasure. Open Source projects and software are also more closely aligned to my own personal values and ethics.

HACKER CULTURE AND OCCULTURE: SIMILARITIES AND SYMPTOMS OF STEREOTYPE

Though I have dipped my toes into the world of hacking, I am most passionate about occulture and those communities surrounding the ongoing magical revival. As I became more familiar with hackdom it was a natural step for me to notice similarities between these two camps and the places where their boundaries overlap.
While the methodology utilized by hackers and operative magicians may seem to be in diametric opposition, their aims need not be so. At their core individuals in both movements seek to utilize their abilities to change and challenge themselves, and through magic, or manipulation of technological systems, change the world. The skill sets and ethics upheld by each have much to offer the other. Both hackers and occultists have also suffered from stereotypes that are striking in their similarity, and looking at them can suggest ways these stereotypes can be maneuvered around and disarmed. Weaknesses can be overcome, similarities built upon, and the strengths of one group borrowed for use in another to arrive at a new synthesis.

The negative stereotypes in both communities come from stigma surrounding those who have used their skills, whether it be at hacking (hardware, software) or at practical magic (spells, hexes, talismans) for nefarious ends. People outside of these groups fear these abilities because they do not understand them. Distinctions between White Hat and Black Hat hacking find their parallels in Black and White magic. Many occultists and hackers however decry these distinctions. You are either a mage or not, a hacker or not. A person engaged in criminal computer activity is simply a criminal, and an occultist who puts hexes and curses on people needs to take a close look at their own values. Yet it remains a truth that curses are a part of magic, just as hacking for personal gain is taken up by technological adepts. However both magic and hacking can be used in the cause of Justice when the typical channels of law are insufficient or are themselves corrupt.

Magicians and hackers both suffer from stereotypes that focus in on what is perceived to be “dark side” activities. The media has perpetuated images of pagans, witches, occultists and hackers as antisocial terrorist misfits, out to destroy society and brainwash your kids. But the corporate media aren’t the only people upholding this myth. The clandestine and elitist attitudes often ensconced within both the hacker and occultist scenes have served to reinforce perceptions created by the media that both groups are up to something illegitimate.

OPEN SOURCERY
Being “out of the broom closet” and transparent about our beliefs, activities and practices is one way to combat these negative stereotypes. This is akin to the way that technologists and desk jockey wizards’ share their techniques and programs in the Open Source Software movement, which allows users to study, change, improve and redistribute software code, that in other situations would have been kept hidden and proprietary. Joshua Madara, who is a key innovator doing much to explore the intersection between occultism and hacking, rewrote the traditional four Powers of the Sphinx as “To Know, To Will, To Dare, To Make Open Source” in a blog post he wrote on the subject of “Open Sourcery” . Groups like The Open Source Order of the Golden Dawn have also taken the values of the Open Source Software movement and applied them to magic.

There remain groups and teachers who think it is best to keep information out of the hands of magical students, whether “for their safety” or so they can hold on to flimsy claims of power, and keep a person beholden to them. Magic and the Mysteries protect themselves, and those who are not ready for certain magical experiences or techniques will be blocked out by the beings of the inner world. Sure, there may be folks who can penetrate into a certain dangerous place in the inner realms, or use a technique to awaken their kundalini in an unsafe/unprepared way, and they will get blown up. From time to time to, a script kiddie may access something online that he wasn’t ready for and have the authorities called down on him. That doesn’t mean the information shouldn’t be out there.

Hackers who expose secret information have been in the headlines for years now. Julian Assange’s Wikileaks project is just one high profile example. Other folks, like the people behind Cryptome have also been releasing important documents to the public. Luckily in the magical world some kind hearted souls have stepped up to the plate with the Watchers of the Dawn website to “keep an eye on the antics of occult groups.”

Leaking magical secrets is a time honored tradition in magic itself. Besides serious errors in our ideas of the transmission of occult lineages (see Frater Acher’s wonderful posts on the Asiatic Brotherhood for more insight on this) mages have been ripping each other off for ages, Crowley’s publishing of the Golden Dawn material a prime example.

John Michael Greer said in his talk,  A Magical Education, “We know one thing for sure about magicians in the past— anywhere in the past: they used what worked. The oldest and most authentic tradition in all of magic is the tradition of stealing anything that’s not nailed down, and bringing along a crowbar for use on the things that are. Choose any magical tradition from the past, look into its roots, and you’ll find a fantastic gallimaufry of sources.

There is something to be said about working in secret, developing something clandestine, with a group or alone. But when the material reaches a level of maturity and strength, the results should be published or shared so that the rest of the community can get to experimenting and working with the material.

WHATS YOUR HANDLE?

As our communities have become more transparent and open we have been witness to the big strides taken in reclaiming such words as “witch” away from the negative connotations media authorities have imbued them with, just as the LBGQT community has done with the word queer. This is also true of the words hacker and hacking.
A time-honored tradition among occultists and hackers is the practice of taking on a handle, moniker, or magical name, for instance Cap’n Crunch, the handle of John Draper, or Starhawk, the magical name adopted by Miriam Simos. The names we choose are used as a way of solidifying our identity with the movements and cultures we believe in. Choosing a name is an area where a person is able to show off their cleverness, creativity and distinguish themselves as well as show the areas of practice or subjects they are interested in.

In my opinion a magical name or handle is a mixed bag. It can be quite fun and empowering to choose our own name, for names have power. On the negative side I see this trend as reinforcing the clandestine and elitist attitudes of these cultures, as these names serve to set an individual apart from the mainstream. I don’t see anything wrong with the practice per se, especially if the person is using it to remain anonymous and they work in a field that may persecute them. But it can be offsetting to those who would otherwise embrace our ideals. It is also good thing to stand behind being a hacker or occultist under our own given names, to show that there is no separation in our life – we are who we are, outside the ritual circles and away from the computer screen or soldering iron. Using your given name also is a good way to keep an inflated sense of self in check.

THE HACKER ETHIC

While part of the work of an initiate is to work with inner contacts and spirit beings, which can work to regenerate 21st century magical practice, lateral thinking and taking what has worked in other fields and subcultures, and applying it to the magic is another way to nurture the community. The principles of the hacker ethic in particular could be adopted by individual working occultists. These are looked at in brief below.

SHARING & OPENESS: Publish your magical research and share your experiments, both the successes and failures. Advanced techniques should not be kept secret for the solo pleasures of XI degree inepti. To paraphrase Josephine McCarthy has said, “the idiots will blow themselves up!” while those who can put the information and knowledge to good use will have access to it.

MISTRUST AUTHORITY, PROMOTE DECENTRALIZATION:
While lodges, covens and groves will continue to play a role in the ecology of magical communities, an increasing number of workers are finding more fluid forms of collaboration to be desirable. People gather together when the work needs to be done, and disperse afterwards. Natural leaders and officiators may arise in such situations, but the work is bared and born by the group. When it is over, the workers return to their daily solitary practices and projects. The traditional groups magicians would find themselves in become networks of connection rather than bureaucratic hierarchies passing out merit badges when a successful banishing ritual is done. Though the priesthood may be decentralized over space and time we can all come together circling the flame of the inner convocation.

WORLD IMPROVEMENT: Whether the improvements come from triggering the tides of death, destruction, and cataclysm, or through being a catalyst for growth, regeneration, or birthing, service should be the byword and guiding principle behind the work that is engaged in. Magicians are midwifes of life and death. They uphold civilization, whether in its upswing or decline. They go in from one job to another, not always knowing what will be required of them, and stretch themselves in the process, becoming more pliable for future jobs. They get on with the dirty jobs other folks in their right minds wouldn’t want to touch. Carrying the stillness within them, they show up.

Posted in Magic & Folklore, Multidimensional Art, Uncategorized Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Training Manual for Mountain Climbers

Josephine McCarthy is at it again, spelunking into the Underworld that magical training has fallen into; and tackling the Mountain of writing up a course for beginning students that breaks down the disciplines and foundations of magic into chunks. Guided by her dream visitations with W.E. Butler and what I take as a deep sense of Justice that flows from her many experiences as battle-hardened  Adept, she is undertaking another Herculean labor of love as a gift to the generation of magicians and teachers now coming up. Josephine has the experience and knowledge to really create a worthwhile course of training, and she is using the skills accumulated in her previous work as a ballet dancer and teacher to do so, specifically in applying the Vaganova method. I’ve always been a fan of lateral thinking, and Josephine is using what she has learned and is applying it to something that will be useful for the magical community at large.

She writes,”When I was a young whipper snapper, I trained professionally in ballet and then trained again as a teacher. It was a rather intense training, with not only the practical application, but technical theory, anatomy and physiology, psychology, child development, history, etc. After those few years, I then studied all the successful teachers, sat and listened to their classes, watched, took notes, asked questions and I also observed the great failures very closely.

From that I learned how to teach well. I went on to teach professionally at classical companies and their schools, and put a fair few hopefuls into professional careers. I also wrote a full eight year syllabus for 11 – 18yr old schools, and one for an undergraduate college course.

Why am I telling you this? Because I never thought to transfer everything I learned from that work into the arena of magic. Because I am dumb. And just in case there is anyone else out there as dumb as me who never thought to apply their hard earned skills into unusual corners.

[ For myself, in studying hacker culture, I think the current occult landscape could draw on a lot of what hackers have done to create a vibrant subculture that is doing worldchanging work. Think of Julian Assange and Wikileaks as one example, and the Hacker spaces and Maker movement as another. We all have skills that might be transferable to the Art. Where do you work? What are you interested in outside of magic? How can it be applied to the specific things magical students and workers are in need of? I suppose that is what I am working on in my esoteric exploration of libraries and the potential role of library workers may play in the ongoing magical revival of the West.]

On this website of mine I’ve written critical posts about what I’ve called the workshop racket.  It was a kind of whiny, bile infused rant, yet none-the-less it stemmed from my own sense of Justice over the commercialization of magic and the Mysteries. For the past few years in general I’ve been questioning everything I learned from magical books, workshops, courses, and the lodges I’ve been a part of, having hit a wall of dissatisfaction. A large part of that dissatisfaction came from inside of myself. I had explored a multiplicity of paths, and hadn’t pushed myself as hard or as deep as I needed to in a single track of study and practice. I can see that all my spread-out interests and activities in the arts served me in other ways, and now that I’ve tightened my belt, I am experiencing things on a whole ‘nother level compared to when I hit the wall. This is in a large part due to working with the visionary techniques Josephine has written into her Magical Knowledge trilogy of books and other works.

I still do decry the commercialization of magic and the Mysteries (which will protect themselves). It shouldn’t cost a student an arm and a leg to participate in a community or learn magical techniques. When they are marketed and sold at high price they become a weekend hobbies afforded only by those who have a disposable income and lots of luxury time. These types of teachers rake in money from the gullible and leave behind those devoted seekers who can’t won’t leave their family to starve just to take a class. And many of the classes on the New Age end of the spiritual market are nothing more than masturbation programs -i.e., self serving, showing nothing of the self sacrifice that is a hallmark of the Mysteries.

Teachers who are on a path of true service have a harder time making ends meet. Writing the kind of training manual Josephine has in mind is adding another burden to the work of an Adept who has already done many tours of duty. Like many of us, she and her husband Stuart Littlejohn have other jobs to attend to, and despite having explored the inner worlds for decades, still have physical bodies that need to be eat.

http://www.goblynmarket.com/

Recently Jo gave away some samples of Frankincense from her and Stuart’s Goblyn Market, where you can find all sorts of goodies. I received a package of this incense and it has been hella good for keeping my home tuned. The quality of the resins is of a caliber I hadn’t encountered before. You won’t find this kind in the hippie head shops in your university district. The Goblyn’s also have uncovered all manner of strange and delectable weirdness, from used books (including a recent batch from Lady Olivia Robertson, of Fellowship of Isis fame) to bottles, icons, bowls, and shrines. There is a little something for any occult freak, and it is all priced fairly. A little purchase from the Goblyn’s could go a ways to feeding Jo, Stuart and their cats while they continue to work on projects that are to the benefit of the magical community as a whole.

Some of the material for the magical training she has started compiling is visible at: http://www.choosingamagicalpath.org/

You won’t usually find me plugging online shops on this blog, but this is a subject I feel strongly about, and Josephine is writing this course and putting it out there without any monetary strings attached. Giving back in whatever way you feel called to, and helping to spread the word about her books and Goblyn Market, is one way to help restore the scales to Balance.

I have written an article on what magical culture could learn from hacker culture, that is in revision, but it will be posted soon. I have another to write in general on drawing lessons from the work and skills we have outside of magic. As always, I’ve got several irons in the fire and many writing projects to work on, including a few more posts to finish up the series on the Library Guild.

Posted in Magic & Folklore Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Stray Dawgs

            Finn paused by the wrought iron gate outside his house and called out one more time for his missing grey tabby cat. “Tilla!Tilllaaaa!”

             It wasn’t unlike her to stay out all night, but she was prompt for breakfast in the morning when he set out her food. Today she was nowhere to be seen.  He couldn’t wait around for her much longeras he was running behind to open up the Cumminsville branch library, which he was head of, just five blocks down from his small Queen Anne house.  His wife Adaire would get the note he left on the table and be on the lookout for the feline.

Finn was just about to turn onto the cracked sidewalk when he noticed a robin pecking at something in the alley leading to the backyard herb garden.  Taking a closer look he scared the bird away, who left some of its treat behind.  Picking it up, Finn rubbed the meat between his fingers and smelled it.  Chicken liver.  And there was a small coiled piece of twine next to the meat.  He poked around the yard one more time for the AWOL cat, and went into work, worried, wondering how the meat and string had gotten there.  He hoped it wasn’t his neighbor, eighty-eight year old Donald Fauntleroy, environmental activist, botanist and bird watcher, who had complained to Finn and Adaire over and over again about how their cat murdered perfectly innocent songbirds, and how house catswere a threat to avian repopulation.  He often talked with pride of how he poisoned clusters of feral, mange ridden cats. He was respectful to Finn and Adaire, despite their disagreement, but he also had a bitter current running through him, a harbor of resentment at the failure of universities, the government, the corporations, and citizens that he would unleash to any willing ear.

“We need a mouser,” was Adaire’s response anytime the issue of dead birds was brought up.

He shook these thoughts aside as he walked up the steps to the Library and in the front door.  Finn’s apprentice Lloyd had managed to make it in before him for once and had busied himself putting away the books left out from the day before.  The young man turned to the librarian who pulled his long gray hair back into a ponytail and adjusted his glasses.  For a middle aged man who’d spent a large portion of his life working with books he also glowed with the hale strength of someone who was just as at home in the outdoors.It was important for a Memnon, to remain in top physical shape as the mental calculations and inner synthesis they performed for patrons was taxing on the body.

Lloyd bustled over to the front desk with the morning edition of the Queen City Gazette. Joking he asked “Did you have a late night at the Tavern again?”

It had been just over a year when the oh-so punctual Finn had last come in late with a slight hangover thanks to one too manybourbons at the local watering hole. His colleague Rudy had come up from Louisville on a matter related to the work of their Lodge, and after that work had been attended to they kicked back like brothers who hadn’t seen each other in ten years.  The young apprentice never failed to remind Finn of this breach in behavior; the Memnon had just demanded of Lloyd a strict one year abstinence from alcohol after the lad had made a drunken fool of himself in front of Patricia McDermott, presiding head of the Library Guild, at the annual communal feast held in the subterranean hall beneath the Main Branch.

“No, I wasn’t at the Tavern last night, as you well know.  I was bottling some tinctures to trade at the square and fitting my telescope with the new lens I acquired a few weeks back. I thought I heard Ms. Percival invite you to go dancing with her at the tavern though. We’re you there?”

“Uh, yeah, I was, but I didn’t have anything to drink, not even a beer.We just danced.  The coffee is still hot in the back, bye-the-way.”

Finn went into the employee’s office in the back, warmed himself by the cook-stove, and drank a cup.  The brew was cut by half with chicory to extend the supply of the expensive bean. This was the time of day when he relaxed his mind for the work ahead.  Besides pointing people to the right books for the information they wanted, librarians were often sought out and asked to solve some of the more complex issues people were faced with every day. In these sessions he would retire to his office after the problem was detailed, and enter his memory palace, an internal library in the shape of an ark, where he would synthesize a solution. Young apprentices like Lloyd trained for years and years to reach the level of mastery Finn had obtained in this art.  The Library Guild offered this service for a nominal fee compared to privateers who also practiced some variant of the arts of memory and combination for problem solving.  It kept them busier, as most people were too broke to hire a Memnon.  An application was required to filter out those who couldn’t be bothered to figure out their own problems, alongside a measure of common sense, or what Finn liked to think of as his bullshit sniffer.  But there were always walk-ins on days when no appointment was otherwise scheduled.

He refilled his mug a tad and went to the desk. The main reading room was cold and it was only October.  The retrofitted heat stove in the room only seemed to take the edge off the chill in the old Carnegie building.  Finn often wondered what the deceased industrial giant would think of the state of the libraries he’d poured his railroad, oil and steel money into.  The Guild made valiant efforts to repair each branch as resources allowed, and the Cumminsville operation had been worked on several times in the past decade. There was the flood of ’93 for instance.  First the Ohio river swelled, and then its tributaries, including the Mill creek that Cumminsville perched on the shores of, drowning the basements and first floors of neighborhood residents all the way up to Pullan Ave.  It was a hard toss up on what damage had been worse in that case, the erosion and slippage to the foundation of the building, or the books reduced to mildewed bricks of pulp, never to be replaced.  The year after the floods was the year of the F-6 tornadoes, which had blown up from the Gulf of Mexico, ripping off tiles from the library roof when the twisters hit Cincinnati.One of Finn’s problems as branch director was how the ongoing needs of structural work cut into the budget to acquire both new and old books. This year he hoped the weather would continue to leave his neighborhood alone.

Lloyd went to the front door, turned over the open sign, and lugged an armful of tomes back to the desk from the book drop. “So why were you late today?”

“I was sticking around for my cat Tilla. She was out all night and didn’t come in this morning.  That’s not like her.  Then I found some pieces of chicken meat in the alleyway.  It’s kinda weird.”  He rubbed his hands together.  He picked up the gazette and was only able to read the first headline, HISPANIC POACHER KILLED BY CLIFTON ECOVILLAGERS before the first patron walked in carrying a sheaf of broadsheets.

It was Marv, the greasy neighborhood agitator who jumped on whatever cause floated through town. It didn’t matter how opposed the issues were on the binary poles of politics. He just liked to have a hand in spreading whatever slogans were dominating discourse, and was famed for the flashy baseball caps he wore with the cardboard signs mounted on the bill.  He switched these out as appropriate. Today his hat read DOGS ARE MADE FOR HUGS NOT THUGS.

“Hi Lloyd, hi Finn,” he waved.  Finn wrinkled his nose. He could already smell the man. Lloyd started shuffling through the file of cards denoting which books were due that day.  Everything was done by hand since the library intranet had gone kaputz.

“You really tied one on last night, didn’t you Lloyd?” Marv said. “What did you think of that pumpkin ale the boys from Rheingeist Brewery put out?”

Finn shot Lloyd an agitated look. “Why don’t you go shelf-read the Children’s non-fiction section?” The books there were thinner, always out of order, and closer to the ground, making the work of putting them away correctly hard on the knees. Finn then turned to Marv. “What can I help you with today? More books on 20th century folk musicians and their connections to socialism?”

“No, no, not today” Marv said, “but I do hope to get back to that.  Today, it’s all about the dogs, man. Can’t you read my hat?  I’ve just had these broadsheets printed up by the folks down the street at Seven Sisters Press. I was wondering if I could put one up on the bulletin board.”

Finn took a look at the flyer.  A picture of a small dog in a pit surrounded by bigger dogs dominated the upper left hand corner. The text was in a bold Baskerville font, and Finn could still smell the letterpress ink. He’d had some booklets printed for private circulation among members of his Lodge by the Seven Sisters and they did good work.  The broadsheet read: STOP THE BETS! BRING IN THE VETS! THE DOGS ARE SICK OF FIGHTING! THE DOGS ARE SICK AND DYING! BRING THE DED END DAWGS TO JUSTICE! PROTEST RALLY AT THE BLUE GOOSE, OCTOBER 20, DUSK.

“Hmmm. Well, you know this time I agree with your sentiment Marv.  Besides, any kind of flyer is fair game on the community board.  I just hope no Dead End Dawgs come in here.  Sometimes they do. You’d be surprised at the research topicssome of these gang bangerslook into, to give them an edge in one of their operations.”

“Great,” Marv said.  “Just what this world needs more of, educated crooks. You gonna come to the protest? We gotta put a stop to these dog fights. We gotta do something. We gotta get the word out about whose responsible.”

“I agree something should be done, but it sounds like a massacre waiting to happen.  Who is going to stop the dawgs from firing into the crowd, or taking a good look at who was there and picking them off later? You know as well as I do they have the cops in their pocket.”

Marv shook his head in disappointment.  “I heard that Great Dane you used to have was dognapped by the gang for the fights.  Don’t you want to get back at them for that?”

“Marv, I would like to see the scales adjusted for the D.E.D heads, but I don’t want to find myself in the middle of a wild mob either.  I’ve got other work to do.”

“If you change your mind, come on down after you lock this place up.” Marv walked to the bulletin board. He put the flyer up and slammed the door on his way back out. There were other spots he had to hit up, word had to be spread.

Most people in the neighborhood and the city at large turned their cheek at the sight of dog fighting.  It had remained illegal in Ohio even after the Midwest Federation seceded from the United States, a country whose number was ever closer to the original thirteen.  In the commonwealth of Kentucky it was a different matter.  All manner of things illegal in the MidFed were an open playground in the red light districts of New Covington just across the suspension bridge.  Gambling of all kinds, including dog fighting, prostitution, free use of the lesser and harder drugs were all behaviors untouched by the law, and it was only eight miles away.  The tattered remnants of the Cincinnati police force had tried to keep things in check on their side of the river. What it amounted to was a resource battle.  Gangs like the Ded End Dawgs made a profit on the bets at their dog fights, and with their hands in a number of other operations besides, made them a dangerous nest of scorpions to stir, not to mention the kickbacks the D.E.D. Heads floated to the police to keep clear of places like the Blue Goose, the barge on the Mill Creek that had been turned into a bloodsport nightclub.

“The trouble is people look at the dog fights as a way of population control, like rounding ‘em up and throwing them into a pit to fight each other is some kind of public service” Lloyd said from across the room.

“That’s what I was just thinking,” Finn said. “I’m surprised you can read my mind so early,after drinking beer and dancing last night.”
Lloyd pulled at the collar of his plaid blue shirt, ignoring the last part of his boss’s comments. “I was just thinking about Marv too.  Wishing someone would control his instinct to populate.  It always surprises me how many girls he gets.”

Finn swirled the last of his coffee around in the cup and drank it down. “It’s bad enough we have these wild dogs and feral cats running around.  All we need is one more kid Marv won’t be taking care of.”

Finn opened up the pages of the gazette again.  In the middle of the paper he read WESLEYEAN CREMATORIUM CLOSED:

Wesleyean Crematorium, on the corner of Blue Rock and Colerain in Cumminsville was temporarily closed down yesterday.  Neighbors had reported the place was being used to dispose of pit bulls and other breeds that died in the ring during dogfights. “It wouldn’t have been an issue with me,” an anonymous source said, “until my father died of pneumonia. We had him cremated. After I picked up his ashes I started hearing rumors that dogs were being burned along with the humans. A group of us had the police look into it, and it was true. The ashes I got back might only be partly my Dad’s.”

The detective who led the investigation said the Crematorium will be shut down until after Jeremy Hamrick’s trial, it being unlawful under MidFed legislature to dispose of more than one body at a time in cremation. There is also the matter of abetting criminal activity.

Cumminsville residents however fear a backlash from the Dead End Dawgs. The joint criminal organization was started by members from Dead Men Inc. when large numbers of their gang were released in the massive jail closures of the 2030s.  They recruited from the Highway Dawgs, a biker gang involved in drug running and human trafficking along the I-75 corridor from Michigan to Florida, a group which had its origins among veteran soldiers of the desert wars.

Reading the news was always a surreal experience for Finn.  He had avoided it for so long in his early years in the Guild.  He preferred reading about the grizzly past compared to the grizzly present.  Yet the longer he worked on the front desk, first as an apprentice like Lloyd, then as journeyman under Memnon Deana Trahern, the more important he felt it was critical to know what was going on around him, especially in his beloved city.

The day ticked on, reference questions were answered, but when Finn was asked to do some basic synthesis work, concern for his cat kept nagging at him.  Memories of his dog, kidnapped and taken to fight in the pits, also bubbled away and writhed inside, interfering with the complex process of remembrance, juxtaposition and intuitive logic required to reach a solution.  He thought he had learned to set aside the monkey mind and his own feelings when he traveled into his imaginal ark.  Tilla was five years old, a champion mouser, sometime songbird stalker, and often sat on his lap while he smoked his evening pipe and wrote in his den.  He hoped she was alright but had a feeling she wasn’t.  He apologized to Tyvon, and asked him if he could come back tomorrow.

“I’m going to go home for lunch today Lloyd. So grab yourself something quick now.  I’ve got to look for Tilla. You’ll be on your own here until Laura comes in.”

“Great, I’m hungry.  I’ve been thinking about that beef tongue and kraut sandwich all morning.” Lloyd reflected for a moment and the said in all earnestness.  “I hope you find Tilla.”

At home there was still no sign of the feline.  He grabbed an apple and a wedge of cheese to keep his energy up and started asking his neighbors. Jose, across the street, was the obvious place to start.  The drunk sat on his porch all day, only leaving to pick up a gallon or two of beer and some bologna as needed.  Sometimes he didn’t even leave to take a leak, depending on how far gone into the drink he was.  If it hadn’t been for his sister, the priestess and curandera at the Sacred Heart Church on the corner of their street, he would’ve been a complete vagrant, but she let him stay in the bungalow traditionally reserved and kept for the clergy.

Jose didn’t like to talk much, and his English was limited.  Most of the time his only acknowledgments to people were a nod and a wave.  Finn didn’t push things by going into the yard, but addressed from down on the street.

“Hola, senor. I was wondering if you had seen my cat or anybody in my yard?”

“Matter of fact, I did” Jose said.  He took a swig out of a near empty gallon bottle, and belched.

“Where is she? What was it?”

“Two kids were playing in your yard last night, just after sun down.  When they left they were carrying a cardboard box with them.  That’s all I done saw.”

“What kids?”

“Marianna, for one. The other I didn’t recognize. A boy.”

Marianna and her grandmother lived in the house two doors up from Jose. It was suspected that Marv was her dad, one of many children he’d sired with the young women who believed his gestures and promises.  Grandma didn’t know where Marianna’s mom was.  Humans were just as capable of going stray as any other domesticated animal.

Finn thanked Jose and continued his search. Marianna’s grandma denied any knowledge she might have, and that her granddaughter would never play on another person’s property.  Yard after yard, there was no sign of the cat, and door after door, no one else who he talked to had any news.  Agnes who lived up towards the top end of the street listened to his story with concern and then suggested, “You might want to try old Nellie.”

“Yeah, you’re right Agnes.  I hadn’t thought about her place, though I’m not exactly going to relish the visit.”

“By-the-way I’ve got plenty of pumpkin butter to trade.  And I’ve got a taste for some of Adaire’s Silverberry jam. Tell her I said hello.”

“Will do.”

“Good luck, then.” She winked at him and continued pinning laundry up on the line.

As Finn turned the corner he heard children’s laughter. When the two children saw him they got quiet.  “Come on, let’s go get that dog,” he heard the boy say. They dropped the sticks they had been playing with and ran in the opposite direction. Finn dashed after them, yelling.  “Hey, I need to talk to you!”

The boy was a red head, no older than eight, covered with freckles and bruises.  He had outworn and outgrown his shoes, as a stubby big toe protruded through the front on the left. The back heel of his right shoe was becoming detached and flapped as he ran, the state of his footwear not slowing him down.  The pair ran in the direction of Salway City, a neighborhood of tents and shacks in what used to be a park of softball and soccer fields along the Mill creek.  It was a place that accommodated dislocated drifters and those who lived by their wits. It was also where the Blue Goose was moored. The neighborhood was run de facto by the D.E.D. Heads.

Marianna and the boy were several blocks ahead.  For a man in his early fifties he was in good shape thanks to the ninjutsu and qi qong he practiced, but he still didn’t have anything on the adrenalized energy of youth.  They hopped a rusty fence where the trailers of some permanently parked semi-trucks had been converted into homes.  Finn slowed down, and followed along the western edge of the lot, hiding behind some honeysuckle and watched as they emerged further down the street, before slipping into the muddy tracks between the hovels of Salway.

Finn’s suit and tie get-up cost him a few hostile looks as he walked into one of the most poverty stricken camps of the city.  Applying some of the stealth techniques he’d learned, Finn adjusted his gait and mannerisms so as to better blend in with the rough and belabored crowd.  People saw him, but nobody questioned his business which was the most he could hope for. The place was seedy, but most of the folks living there didn’t have any other workable options.  Not everyone was lucky enough to get training in one of the guilds or work collectives.  Most scraped by milking their scrawny goats, feeding a few scraps to the pigs, in hopes of fattening them up enough to get their families through winter.

There were no roads in Salway City, just worn tracks, paths, and mud.  Tarps covered ramshackle structures made from worn shipping pallets, rain barrels held water, and sun bleached nylon tents were everywhere, all rubbing elbows.  The boy walked Marianna through the maze with expertise, thinking the librarian had been left in the dust.  They were closer to the banks of the Mill creek now, by the kennels, where the dogs were chained and trained to fight.  Some of the dog houses were made out of rusting oil barrels.  Others were in large cages.  All the animals were emaciated, the skin tight, rib bones visible.  Some had scars, some bloody wounds.  Others were sad puppies who cowered in the urine drenched atmosphere.  A few of the two dozen or so dog paced around as far as their leash allowed, as if expending nervous energy. Many appeared listless and drugged, worn out by previous battles.

Finn crouched behind some barrels of what appeared to be a storage hut.  He had thought the dogs would be under armed guard, but no one was around this part of the neighborhood.  Marianna and the boy picked their way around the cages and land mines of shit.  One of the hounds started barking, and soon another picked up the chorus, until the whole place was washed in the harsh bray.  He thought this would alarm whoever was in charge of the dogs.  No one stirred, and folks seemed to go about their chores and work all the same.  Salway was a noisome place.  The terrified howling of the canines was just part of the background radiation for the folks who lived there. A few old men on the edges of the camp proper warmed themselves around a trash fire, and with white lightning, but they were too high to notice or care about what was going on.

The boy had a ring full of keys, and one by one he unlocked the dogs from their chains, released them, set them free. A few seemed starved for contact, and licked the girl and boy, pushing each other out of the way in a clamor for attention. A few others ran off towards the drifting smell of mulligan stew, but a majority were shell shocked and remained inside their cages, not knowing what to do, or where to go.  The duo took one gold and brown dog with a spotted tongue by the leash and led it out into the streets, running right past Finns hiding spot.  He thought it looked like their old dog Molly, but they were gone too quick, he couldn’t tell.

Finn had to get out fast before someone noticed the release of the hounds.  It was all too easy for a kangaroo court to form and impose cruel justice before an official investigation could begin.  Those in the Salway would blame the interloper, to avert the eye of suspicion from themselves. He would be an easy scapegoat for angry Dead End Dawgs.

Finn tried to keep an eye out for Marianna and her friend, but by the time he made it back to the main road, they were nowhere to be seen. I wonder how all this is going to play out when Marv gets here with his protesters, he thought. And I still haven’t found out any more about Tilla. Better check with Nellie.

Nellie’s house was on Dane, a street that connected to both Salway and also ran up to the woods and cemetery.  She lived in a dilapidated home known for its acrid ammonia smell.  Her yard was overgrown with weeds, wildflowers, and strange herbs some as noxious as the odors drifting out from her unkempt and overstuffed house.  She was a classic hoarder and Finn had a difficult time navigating the ruined cement path to her front door.  Sodden cardboard boxes lined the way, each full of mildewed magazines from the first half of the 21st century, rusted circuitry, cheap brass knick knacks and plastic knock off toys. The paint had long ago peeled from the surface and the box gutters were sagging, full of dead leaves, perhaps the rotting body of a raccoon swollen from the recent rain.  Most of the windows had newspaper taped up on the inside to prevent folks from seeing in, though in a few spots, it was falling down, and showed a jumble of dolls, trinkets, and gadgets no one had batteries for anymore.  Parts of a Volkswagon sat in her driveway.  He was surprised the metal hadn’t been hauled away by scrappers, yet even the most hardened criminals respected her property.

When he reached the door Finn stood up on his tippy-toes to peer through the small eyehole above the goblin shaped knocker.  What he saw made his eyes swim.  He thought at first it must be a carpet whose patterns were somehow dancing before his eyes.  Then he blinked and realized it was only a sea of cats.  Tilla could be anywhere in with the bunch, though he was certain at least half of these must be the inbred offspring of many felines Nellie had already collected over her long years as community cat lady.  But perhaps she’d collected the house cat thinking her to be another stray as the old woman was known to do.

The librarian knocked three times and was about to turn away, hoping the old woman wasn’t dead inside.  He saw an image of her in his mind, her flesh chewed away by the cats.  He was shaking this off when he heard coughs and rasping from inside.  It sounded painful, terrible, as if she were spitting out a fur ball.  With all those cats she just might have been, Finn realized.

His stomach heaved at the smell released when she opened the door.  It had been a few years since Finn had run into the Dane Street Hag, as people called her, but he remembered it. She had been dragging her squeaking four wheeled shopping cart home from the Mitchell Flea Market, pulling her load like a hoss despite how out of shape she looked.  At the abandoned warehouse she had stopped and started clicking her tongue.  Around twenty cats must have crawled out of the brittle concrete building as she poured out a bucket of slop that was her homemade cat food into several small bowls.  Finn wondered if she would be able to make it to Mitchell’s now, and if she still looked after that particular harem of strays.  She looked thinner than she had, her skin sagged into little pools of flesh below her eyes.  When her thin lips pulled back in a smile three yellow teeth were revealed, dangling from her gums.  She had a bandanna tied loose around what tufts remained of her gray white hair and her faded flower print dress was stained gravy brown.

“Hi Nellie.  My name’s Finn McHenry.  I was wandering if I might ask you a question, or if you might be able to help me?”
“I was waiting for you to show up Finn. I remember you well, too.  Don’t you think I’d remember the boy who smashed my pumpkins on Halloween? Though you weren’t the first or the last.  But you also moved over my outhouse to a different spot on the same night. I bet ya remember that. I sure do.” Her memory was sharp as a piece of cheddar cheese left out in the sun. “I remember ya wrinkling your nose, kinda like you’re doing now, when I still made it into the library, back when you were just a wee apprentice under the guidance of Deana Trahern. You seen her lately?”

Finn cleared his throat.  He was having trouble being respectful when his discomfort was so obvious.  “My wife and I just had dinner with Deana and her husband about two weeks ago. She still does a lot of work at the main branch and pops in to see how I’m getting along from time to time.”

“Hmmm. Married are ya?,” the hag said. She looked down at the plain white gold band on Finn’s finger, envious contemplating some manner of regret.

“Don’t you have a gift for me?”

He’d forgotten she asked those who visited her for a gift, to relinquish something, especially if she healed a sick animal.  As crazy as she seemed she fixed up all kinds of creatures, whether wild or kept by humans.  She seemed to look at his ring again, as she licked a splotch of white sputum from the corner of her dry mouth. The ring had been his fathers, and was given to him the year he married Adaire, the year he’d buried his mother.  He got a sudden fear that she might take it from him.

“I don’t want that from you fool. I was to be married once, back when this skin I’m wearing curved instead of sagged.”

Finn had heard the stories, and in his mind he saw the crone melt into a maiden, with a long streak of auburn hair, green eyes sparkling. The way she must have looked to William Tarbell, a promising young constable from one of the city’s political families, murdered by a drunk Dead End Dawg while walking the beat in Cumminsville.  With her young love in an early grave Nellie quit her training under Dr. Jirah Buck, and retreated with her herbs and plants to her mother’s home, caving herself in, refusing to treat humans, only doctoring on animals, and on occasion offering cryptic advice.

He dug into his pocket for a token to give her, and reflected that it must be something he truly cared about.  He had a Sackagewea dollar coin, not worth two cents, but it was stamped with his birth year and had been in his slacks ever since he spied it on the sidewalk.  Then there was the fountain pen, given to him by Deanna when he’d taken over from her at the branch.  He kept it handy in his pocket most of the time, wrote with it at night.  He realized this was what Nellie wanted, and as he handed it over to her bone-thin hands, wondered how many of the things in her home, were from others who had come to the hag for a favor.

“My cat’s been gone since last night,” Finn said, “A grey tabby, named Tilla. You haven’t seen or taken her in have you?”

“I have, but not in the way you think. I don’t need any more cats, now do I? I’ll be right back.”

She returned with an old Vans shoebox and he knew his worst fears were true.  His heart clenched.  “I’m very sorry for your loss,” she said, and handed it to him.

When he lifted the lid he saw the cat was tangled up with thin string, the same kind of string he’d found in the alley. It was wrapped around her neck, but it didn’t look tight enough to have strangled her. How she died he still did not know. She was perfectly fit yesterday

Finn stifled the urge to cry as he set the box down.  “Where did you find her?” There was an edge of desperation in his voice.

“I don’t find them, they find me. A little red headed boy and a girl with nappy dreads brought her to me last night.  They asked if I could fix her.  I told them it was too late for that and they ran off. Then I had a dream where you were coming by to collect her, and here you are.”

He wanted to find those kids and wring whatever they knew out of them.  Hopefully the dog they liberated wouldn’t be next on their hit list.

“I’ll be going now.”

He scoured the blocks around his house again for the kids, cradling the box to his chest.  He knocked on Marianna’s grandma’s door and had strong words with her.  She didn’t know nothing, couldn’t keep track of the kid, was to old to be chasing her around, and the brat should be glad to have a roof over her head that wasn’t  the orphanages.  No luck, no word, no other sign of them anywhere.

Adaire was back when he walked with weariness into the house carrying the box.  His brunette wife had just finished reading the note.  When she saw him holding the box, crying, she knowing who was inside.

They took Tilla outside and sat with her on the bench in the chill autumn sun.  He told her all he had learned and what had happened.

“Who could do such a thing?” she said in her soft voice.

They held hands and remembered their pet together in silence.

“I want to unwrap her before we bury her.” Adaire said. She brought some scissors out and cut away the string where needed, unwinding it from around the cats neck. She combed out her fur.  She picked the last wide leaves of comfrey and laid them in the shoebox.  Finn burned frankincense and myrrh and wafted the body of the kitty in the fragrant fumes. They took her to the back of the yard, dug a hole, and placed the box down within it.  Finn put his coin on top of the box as a good luck charm for a safe crossing.  The dirt was filled back in, the spot where she lay marked with a rock.

“May there be a beautiful welcome for you in the home you have gone to, Tilla.” Finn said.

Next door Donald was throwing stale bread down for the birds. “How’s it going?” he asked from across a fence.

“Not too good. We just buried Tilla. Some kids were playing in our yard last night. We think they had something to do that.”

“Sorry to hear it,” the old man croaked. “You two going to that protest at the Blue Goose tonight?”

“Hell, no. There’s liable to be a riot.” Finn was tempted to say especially when the D.E.D. Heads find out there dogs have been let go, but he kept quiet.

“I might watch from a distance,” Donald said.  “Should be entertaining.  I think those rabid things need to be killed. Out breeding in the street, invading the habitats of other animals. But I guess at this point there isn’t anything I can do about the mess this world is in.”

“We’re going in.” Adaire said. They had lived next to Donald long enough to not have to listen to his negative tirades.

They ate dinner, and after a glass of pear brandy settled into bed. What little peace they had was disturbed by gunshots that seemed to originate from the direction of the Blue Goose. It was going to be a long night and Adaire was due to wake up at four am to get started mixing the batter for the solar ovens at Daughters of Cain, the vegetarian food co-op and bakery she ran.  The first batch of bread always went to homeless woman and children, and in the afternoons she got a large cauldron of soup going, available for anyone who was hungry.

Both had trouble falling asleep with the noise, and the ordeal with Tilla still on their minds, even as it had rattled their emotions and worn them out, wondering how the two kids could do such a thing.  Tomorrow Finn would see if the police could do something about the issue. He doubted it. They had bigger fish to fry.

Finn had just about let go of all these things occupying him enough to fall asleep when there was a knock at the door. After repeated pounding, they finally got up.  It was Marianna, the red headed boy and a scared looking golden-brown mutt who nervously itched behind her ears with a hind leg.

“Is this your dog?” the girl asked.

“It’s Molly!” Adaire exclaimed as the old girl they lost bounded into her arms.

Finn touched his hands to his forehead, and tried to clear the cobwebs from his brain.  He took a deep breath and composed himself. His work in the Lodge had taught him the importance of facing difficult situations in unperturbed stillness.

“But what did you do to our cat? It went missing last night and turned up dead today.  Old Nellie herself told me you were the pair who dropped her off.”

“We didn’t mean to kill your cat!,” Marianna yelled, her voice edged with tears.

“Then tell me what happened,” Adaire asked of them, radiating a maternal warmth. Marianna pointed to her friend. “Cecil’s dad stole y’alls dog.”

The boy wiped the snot from under his nose.  “My dad’s always bringing ‘em home for the D.E.D. Heads. He makes me watch the fights, but I hate it. I loved this dog when my dog got him. He wasn’t wild and mean like some of d’em other ones.  Marianna came with me one day to feed her and she knew it was yours.  Then we heard about that protest, which is now a big fight with the cops and everything, and we knew we had to free those dogs, and get this one back to you.  We were going to bring her right to you, but you disappeared and she got off her leash and we had to chase her back down.”

Finn was amazed by this turn of initiative, but couldn’t reconcile it with them strangling their cat. And he was worried about what the boys dad would do to him if he found out his son was responsible for releasing the others. The dawgs weren’t known for being understanding parents.

“Let’s talk about Tilla. What did you do to our cat?”

Marianna took up the story. “We were outside playing tag in the street with a couple other kids. We saw Donald coming home right when it got dark, and he threw something in your alley. After he went inside, we saw Tilla chewing on what he threw, and went over to pet and play with her. Cecil had this ball of string in his pocket, and we rolled it out and the cat started playing it with it, only she started acting crazy. Stuff started coming out of her mouth. The string got tangled around her neck, she panicked and she ran into the bush by the church. When we found her she was all tangled up, the string had gotten caught around her neck. She must’ve strangled herself.  We didn’t mean to do it.”

Cecil piped up. “I thought Old Nellie could fix her. She fixes other animals, though she won’t work on the dogs from the Goose.”

“Death isn’t something you fix,” Finn said with a sigh.  The boy was maybe eighty years old, the girl ten.

“I don’t think you killed her,” Adaire said.

“Me, either,” said Finn.

Finn went down to the alley and got on his knees to look for any scrap of the chicken livers Donald threw to the cat. He found a bit and smelled it again. Nothing noticeable to him, but it didn’t mean it wasn’t poisoned.  He went in and got a jar and put the liver into it, while Marianna and Cecil helped Adaire feed and water Molly. He knew someone in the Library who was into chemistry, who could take a look at it, yet even if something was found, there was little guarantee the law would do anything, especially given Donald’s age.  Prisons weren’t packed like sardines anymore, the MidFed didn’t have the manpower.

Finn felt like pounding down Donald’s door right then and there, but he didn’t think Donald was home. There was usually a lamp light on in the night owls living room. Tonight there wasn’t.  More gun shots could be heard coming from the tent city, which Donald said he was going to watch from a distance, as if it were a diversion instead of reality. Adaire talked to Marianna’s grandmother and she agreed to let the boy sleep on the couch until things blew over, if she helped feed him.

Exhausted the couple went to bed with Molly wedged between them.  It didn’t make for the most comfortable sleep, with the dog rolling around, luxuriating in their combined affection, but it was restorative.

In the morning Finn turned on the radio for the local news.  Radio was the main way people stayed informed. Television cost too much, and the internet, like the telephone grid, existed only in patches.  The voice of Jason Morre had a coating of static over an otherwise strong signal. “Reports are still coming in from Salway City, the tent community on the edge of Cumminsville, where last night a protest led by Marv Gresham sparked a confrontation with the Dead End Dawgs, a gang involved in human trafficking, dog fighting, and a number of other illegal operations. As the confrontation between the fifteen protesters and more than twice the number of gangsters escalated, shots were fired. Six of the protesters were killed by automatic weapons, causing a stampede among the tent dwellers trying to get out of the crossfire.  Marv was among the victims murdered, and police now have arrested a dozen D.E.D. Heads.  At least one person was trampled to death in the stampede, Donald Fauntelroy, who had been a professor at the University of Cincinnati during the last days of the institution. Several others were injured, and many of the makeshift homes ransacked and destroyed in the ensuing chaos. Police have taken over the Blue Goose barge and are floating it down the Mill Creek to the scrap yards, where it will be sold for the benefit of the force.  They have also decided to take some of the dogs that had been released earlier in the day, by who no one knows. We’ll be sure to keep you updated here on the radio station you grew up with, WAIF, Cincinnati.”

Finn petted Molly, locked the house, and walked down to Adaire’s bakery. He had a hankering for doughnuts, so thought he’d get a few for treats for Lloyd and himself.  Besides he wanted to kiss his wife, make sure she’d heard the news and run this wild thought he had by her, of going over to Nellie’s place to adopt a few of her cats after work. They lived in an old house and needed a mouser. Maybe she’d even have a stale loaf of bread he could feed to the birds.

 

-Justin Patrick Moore
Cincinnati, Ohio
Solar Eclipse, New Moon in Taurus

April 29, 2014 e.v.

 

Posted in Occult Fiction Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tierkreis: A Stellar Musical Tonic

Recently I found myself whistling the tunes for Karlheinz Stockhausen‘s Tierkreis. These melodies were originally written for music box -and inspired by a dream of a mysterious birdman, from whom Karl pulled three music boxes out of his stomach. He wrote Musik Im Bauch, or Music in the Belly based on this dream, composing the twelve pieces for Tierkreis in tandem (as the music boxes were used in Musik Im Bauch). This piece of music is probably the most listenable of his works for those who don’t really give two cents about avant-garde art music. And it is adaptable for many types of instruments. It was also the basis for his piece of music Sirius, and the melodies featured there.

Often times when I find myself whistling or humming a tune, the particular song that is coming up has a message for me. In the case of the melodies for the twelve zodiac signs I was whistling, I realized it had to do with the various astrological configurations happening in April 2014. On April 15 there is a Blood Moon Lunar Eclipse, and on April 28 there is a Solar Eclipse. Furthermore there is also the Grand Cardinal Cross. The full moon lunar eclipse on the 15th takes place in the sign of Libra. The new moon solar eclipse takes place in the sign of Taurus. The planets squaring off in the grand cardinal cross are as follows:
Mars (retrograde) in Libra
Pluto in Capricorn
Uranus in Aries
Jupiter in Cancer.

So how does all this tie in with Stockhausen’t music? The eclipses and grand cardinal cross are challenging but dynamic aspects. A trusted adviser put it to me this way, “keep your ass tied to the ground.”  Stockhausen, in writing the music for the twelve signs, studied individuals of each sun sign. Furthermore he said that an agitated person should listen to the melody for his or her sun sign three times in a row -and often when the piece is played, the melodies are repeated three times, in some cases improvised upon. During this astrologically challenging time I found it helpful to not only whistle the tunes from this piece that I know to myself, but also to listen to a few of the recordings. I think of this music as a kind of astrological tonic, and meditatively listening to the entire sequence for me, has a soothing effect.

His instructions for playing the piece live are to complete the entire sequence of twelve melodies, but to begin with the sign the zodiac is currently in. This would make for a variety of listening experience each time it is performed. Furthermore, because it can be played on a number of different instruments, the permutations for possible listening are almost endless.  Most recordings go from the beginning of the year to the end, Aquarius to Capricorn. As an intuitive piece, a number of players can each pick a sign to represent, and they then go back and forth with the melodies, improvising as they go. There have already been many versions recorded and performed. Here are a few that go through the entire sequence for your listening pleasure.

A short piano version at 13 minutes:

These two videos go through the zodiac sequence and are played on Lute. Very nice. The two parts are about ten minutes each.
Part 1: Melodies for signs 1-6:

Part 2: Melodies for signs 7-12

This version is for Orchestra, 32 minutes:

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