The city of Derby is at times
seen as a cultural backwater, historically overshadowed by the cities of
Nottingham and Leicester. Today the city of Sheffield has joined that triad of
domination. Two of the most important theatrical venues in the city are
currently closed. This has forced local theatrical groups to perform outside of
the city centre but some professional tours have chosen to bypass the city
Late September 2019 saw the
launch of the annual Derby Feste, followed only a week later by the Derby Folk
Festival. A week or two prior to the launch of Derby Feste on Friday September
27th, a significant scientific and artistic exhibit arrived in Derby. This
exhibit remained on Display at the Anglican Cathedral until the end of the
Derby Folk Festival on Sunday the 6th of October. This exhibit was a model of our
natural satellite, the Moon.
The exhibit or installation
is called the Museum of the Moon and it was originally created in 2016 by Luke
Jerram. This inflatable, spherical replica of our Moon has now been copied and
these copies are now on tour across the world. They often form the centre piece
of various temporary exhibitions and cultural events, as this one did in Derby.
Two copies are on permanent display at museums in Barcelona and Sydney.
The Knife Angel which I
discuss in another blog also arrived in time for Derby Feste and the Derby Folk
Festival. Situated outside the same cathedral as the Museum of the Moon, the
two exhibits served to mitigate the cultural deficit mentioned above and put
the cathedral at the heart of the Derby artistic community.
Our spherical replica of the
Moon is 7 metres (or 23 feet) in diameter and depicts the printed imagery of
the Moon's surface as provided by NASA. The imagery is of 120dpi and the replica
is of a stitched construction over a frame. The Moon is often illuminated
internally. The scale used is 1:500,000, which is 1 square centimetre (0.39 of
an inch) representing 5 square kilometres (3.1 miles). Although the surface of
the exhibit is stitched fabric and therefore smooth, the detail and printing
creates a remarkably textured, three dimensional illusion.
The replicas on tour have
been displayed in a variety of venues, including the foyer of a theatre. In
some cases the excessively well lit public space or the cramped environment,
have been detrimental to the appreciation of the exhibit. The internal architecture
of the English cathedral lends itself far better. The lighting, the wide nave
and vaulted ceilings; rather than dwarfing the construction, allow the observer
to appreciate the magnificence of the Moon without constraint.
Presenting the Museum of the
Moon in a place of worship, may for some appear incongruous but it should not.
If you are a Christian then the Moon is part of creation and the conflict
between science and faith, is unnatural. Conflict arises from those who hold
extreme views. Those who fail to hear the 'Word of God,' while making a literal
interpretation of that 'Word' and those who believe that science can replace
Being able to walk around the
display means that we get a full 360 degree view of the moon. Although I was
unable to identify which parts are normally visible from the Earth; I am not an
astronomer, I was able say that I had seen the 'Darkside of the Moon' (cue
music). That was until a work colleague whose hobby is astronomy, corrected me.
He pointed out that there is no darkside of the Moon, the satellite is always
illuminated but not always visible from Earth. This is the kind of scientific information,
the sort of small fact that I find of interest but it tells us much more.
It reminds us that we see or
perceive only a part of the whole. That our viewpoint is influenced by context
and placement. This is not to suggest that all viewpoints or opinions are
equally correct. For example, there is a meme on the Internet depicting two
people viewing a number from opposite ends, one can see the number 6 and the
other the number 9. The meme is usually accompanied with some trite phrase
about people being equally correct. It is rubbish of course as anyone with
intelligence can see, the number in this instance must be a 6 or a 9, it cannot
No what this correction
reminds me, is that we do not always see or appreciate the entire presentation.
We do not and indeed we cannot, always assimilate the full range of stimuli that
is about us. By being aware of this and that we cannot experience the full
range of information available, enables us to appreciate our universe on a
deeper level. This I think is the importance of the Museum of the Moon, its
majestic beauty mimicking that of the real Moon, enables us to truly appreciate
the world and the cosmos.
Unveiled on Thursday the 3rd
of October 2019 a sculpture standing at 27 feet, took up a temporary home outside
of the Anglican Cathedral in Derby. Placed there at the heart of the cultural
quarter of the city, it could hardly avoid making an impact upon the city. The
sculpture, quite stunning in both its presence and construction, was to stay on
display outside the cathedral until Tuesday the 29th of October.
The predominately metal
creation consists of approximately one hundred thousand bladed weapons, all collected
from knife banks during police amnesties across the country. An undertaking
requiring the full cooperation of the Home Office and all of the Police Forces
within the United Kingdom. The man behind the project is the sculptor Alfie
Bradley, whose remarkable vision is to highlight the impact of knife crime upon
families and communities affected by such crimes.
Several hundred people attended
the official unveiling and some of those present shed tears. It was an
emotional event for many. For one couple whose teenage son was killed in Derby;
only half a mile from the site of the cathedral, it was deeply moving. The name
of this young man is engraved upon a plaque or blade, incorporated within the
structure. Not on the actual blade that took his life, which would be inappropriate
and in poor taste. His name is included with that of many others, all with the
permission of their families, as a symbolic statement. An attempt to commemorate
their memory, while expressing societies' intolerance towards violence and
As a visionary project with
the aim of raising awareness of knife crime, the Knife Angel is a physical and
positive expression of hope. That hope is to end knife crime, particularly
amongst the younger members of our society and that hope is praiseworthy.
In reviewing the Knife Angel
and the aims of the project however, some have questioned not the hope but the
methodology. Some have asked; 'Are we not glorifying crime?' Others have raised
a far more difficult question.
The tour of the Knife Angel,
supported by each local Police Force and the many support groups, seeks to
persuade the young not to carry knives. The question is however, are the types of young criminal engaged in such crime, likely to be influenced by a statue? Is
it possible that such persons within our society, will look at the sculpture
and see something other than what is hoped for? Will they look at the Knife
Angel and see a 'cool' object, reinforcing their own criminal ideas? I cannot
answer that question but the question itself, is a valid one.
In viewing the Knife Angel and
giving my own personal perspective. I see the object as a monument to the
victim of crime and an expression of sorrow. The sorrow of the family affected,
the community and society as a whole. I do not sense the hope within the
project. I am impressed by the vision of its creator and the engineering
required in the creation of such an object. Yet I personally, take away an
overwhelming feeling of sadness and loss.
The best laid plans of mice
and men is a well known saying and it derived from lines in 'To a mouse' by the
great Robert Burns.The modern English
translation of the poem runs thus; 'The best laid schemes of mice and men, go
often askew; and leave us nothing but grief and pain, for promised joy!'
I sit writing this peace
acutely aware that I should be elsewhere and taking notes for a future blog. I
am near trapped at home in the Midlands but I should be in Southend. I have
been anticipating and planning my trip across England to attend the Nameless Arte
(Symposium) 2019 but unfortunately, disappointingly. I am here at home writing
The rain here in my part of
England and elsewhere, has been noticeably heavy. For the best part of two
weeks we have had rain and just when we think it has moved on, the rain has
returned. The result has been disruption and this disruption has taken the country
off guard. There has been traffic chaos, trains cancelled, houses and
businesses have been flooded and tragically, there has been at least one drowning.
Compared to such serious
issues my inability to safely travel is an inconvenience. I am warm and dry. I
have food, power, running water and sanitation. Some directly affected by the
flooding have none of these things. I am safe at home. I can if necessary travel
west. I can if absolutely necessary travel east. I cannot travel north or
south. Therein lies the problem.
I have kept a close watch
upon the localised conditions and the nearby river has broken its banks. The
floodplain often floods, the clue is the name but this year is different. The reach of the water has extended beyond the
normal confines of the that plain. The farmland looks like a boating lake or more
ironically perhaps, the Thames estuary outside of Southend-on-Sea.
Travelling safely and in a
timely manner from Derbyshire to Essex, is not possible this weekend. I am
disappointed. I am disappointed that I will miss an event of great
significance. I am disappointed that I will not be meeting friends at the event,
as planned. There are too few of these events today. Events of quality that explore
the esoteric traditions within the context of the Traditional Craft and the
Occult, while shielded from the insidious influences of the New Age.
I sincerely hope that the Nameless
Arte (Symposium) 2019 is as good if not better, than the event I myself
attended in 2017. I sincerely hope that I will attend the next event in 2020
and I sincerely hope that nature does not conspire against me once again. More
importantly, I sincerely hope that all who did travel arrived safely and that
the flooding will soon abate, putting an end to the suffering of those caught by
the rising waters. FFF.
On the 6th of February 2019 I visited Nottingham to attend
once again, a lecture at Empyrean the Nottingham Pagan Interest Group. My
visits to Empyrean have become more frequent during the last two years. There
has been an increase in the number of speakers presenting lectures on subjects
of a personal interest to me. It should also be noted that the quality of these
meetings is remarkably high.
The lecture this February evening was on the subject of the Wild
Hunt and the speaker was Shani Oates, Maid of the Clan of Tubal Cain and
internationally recognised author. It was as expected, complex, deep and
informative; covering the science of phenomena, stone age hunter-gatherer
traditions, European origins and apotropaic practices.
The evening began with an introduction to the mythology of the
Aurora Borealis and its place within the cultural perceptions of the northern
lands. This ran through a gamut of associations, how the aurora marked a darker
tide with a focus on protection, a phenomena affecting our perceptions, a locus
of the discarnate and a general aura of strangeness.
This led on to a mention of spirit paths, those processions
of the departed, the corpse ways. Juxtaposed we have the midsummer sun with that
of midwinter night. The Polar night being a period of darkness lasting some
forty days yet further south, we have the anomaly of a sun shining late into
For an a people living in such a land, the question of
whether the sun would ever rise again is a natural one. Influencing perhaps the
mythology of Ragnarok and the consuming of the sun itself, here we begin to
realise that ancient threads still touch our lives today. Shani Oates went on
to inform us that the solstice was not observed in more ancient times, although
the return of light was noted.
We learnt that there were three 'Blots' of significance to
our northern ancestors and that the significance of each, is still extant for
those whose paths are influenced by that culture. These were or are; the Autumn
Blot falling in October, the true Midwinter Blot falling in January and the
Summer Blot in April. Such seasonal festivals and observances are timed by the world
around us, changes in the fauna, growth and decay, the migration of birds. The
dates of festivals in an ancient calendar were not as rigidly fixed as they are
today, in a less abstract but more linear concept of time.
The Maid introduced the concept of totemic elements in
regards to the seasons, noting the influence of the sun, moon and stars upon
ancient cultures. This influence lies behind potential origins of megalithic
observatories and that the Wintertide as a period of time, has a primary focus
upon light as opposed to a purely solar one.
In continuing the totemic theme mention is made of Alta
Fjord in Norway and the caves that are today a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here
an ancient people, possibly ancestors of the Sami; left thousands of
pictographs of animals and people in a number of caves. Some of the images are
estimated to be six thousand years old.
In a further exposition of the theme, an obvious mention is
made of Horned Gods such as Cernunnos and Herne; noting that they are not one
and the same. I observe that as a Polytheist this difference is rarely
mentioned, Herne is a Hunter but Cernunnos is not.
Taking us further and deeper, there was mention of the seven
brightest stars of the Great Bear constellation. This asterism the Plough or
Wagon, is historically a well attested seasonal marker. Continuing onwards we
covered briefly, the Hairy Hunters, the Woodwose, Frau Holle, Yule Folk,
Ancestral Spirits and visitations of the ancestral dead.
Observances relevant to this area are still part of the
practices of the Slavic cultures of Europe and Asia, with various apotropaic
charms to protect the home and invite spirits to enjoy the warmth of the
hearth. Historically coming of Christianity marks a shift in perception, the
association of ancestral spirits with the Wild Hunt changes to that of the
Purgation of Demons. The Wild Hunt is obviously recognised as a period unsafe,
landwights require blood anointments but now the Demonic Hoard requires
Introducing what is without doubt Britain's most important
and oldest folkdance, the Maid described the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance as the
most primitive dance in Western Europe. Observing that originally the dance
took place over three days and later in the year, which as a dance of the sun
is of no surprise. The three days are of course the three days of the solstice,
when the sun is said to stand still. The dance is in affect a beating of the
bounds ceremony, world famous for the six pairs of mounted reindeer antlers
that are a thousand years old.
This naturally led us to other animal totems, many related
to fertility, abundance and other seasonal observances. These included the Mari
Lwyd; traditionally played by a horseman, the Julbukk or Yule Goat, the Haxley
Hood Game, mock beheadings and the mythology of the headless horseman himself.
Other seasonal observances such as Soul Caking were given a brief mention. Here
we note that there is a general belief that our British Traditions are of a
southern European origin. We recognise the influence of Mithras, Sol Invictus,
Saturnalia and Lupercalia. This assumption overlooks the enormous influence of
the peoples of Scandinavia and the Baltic region.
Lupercalia is a festival of the wolf, Lupa being Latin for
the female animal and is a totemic beast of the Goddess Juno (the Greek Hera).
The festival was a purgation of the city of Rome and featured the use of whips
(or thongs) made from goatskin. These whips are called Februa and it is from
them that the month of the festival; February, derives its name. Banned in 391
but continued underground, it may have influenced the later development of the
Continuing on we began to explore the origins of the
Wintertide from cultures based within the Arctic Circle. Looking at the Old
Hunt, the Battle Fury of Wotan, wondering warrior wolves (wonderful alteration)
and a later figure the Harlequin, which may have been based upon the leader of
similar hunts. This lead up onto Walter Map, the Hurley Thingers. a connection
between Hurl and Herion as alternative names for Woden or Wotan. This
connection naturally included Hela and of course, Wotan, Hela and Thor are all
said to lead the Wild Hunt.
Jode as a name for Woden is then further linked to a Green Giant
and the custom of leaving the last sheaf. Then quickly switching genders the
Maid introduced us to Saint Lucy linking her to the Wild Perchten, the plural
of Perchta and Berchta. Here during this festival we are told of a prohibition
of carrying out housework and that bread in the shape of totem animals would be
buried at boundaries.
The cauldron we are now experiencing, contains a heady mix
of concepts and yet more is added to our recipe. Sex, death and fertility as
associated with women brings us back to the Green Knight, to care and to sexuality.
We observe that Robin Hood died at the hands of a woman and that Woden, as the
wanderer, the stranger is connected to him. The Wild Hunt changes from a host
of ancestral spirits to that of a Daemonic manifestation, an omen of ill
fortune. The Sagas, those wondrous tales of Norse origin talk of attacks upon
the living by hosts of Daemons. Whichever, the hunt is led by Odin
(Woden/Wotan) and his daughters the Valkyries.
There was a short break which was needed. As is the norm
with lectures by Shani Oates, the information and the depth of that
information, can be both thought provoking and challenging. Launching into part
two we were introduced to Cain's Hunt and astronomical symbolism, in particular
Gabriel's Wain or the Wagon. Returning to Old Hornie and Hela briefly we begin
to perceive the change in interpretation during the Christian period. Here the
Devil takes the lead and a host of sinners replaces that of the ancestral
spirits. Here we hear of a corpse bearing host, complete with coffins and women
pierced with nails. A truly horrific Christian vision.
It is noted quite naturally that the Hunt has regional
variations. Wales is offered as an example with references to Gwyn ap Nudd, the
White Stag, the Red Eared Hounds, Fairy Raids, the Hills of Annwn and the kings
of the Mabinogion.
Does a Wolfshirt lead the Hunt? Is it bestial and is there a
link to various animals depicted in ancient rock-art, including horses? These
questions are raised and we note that although the processing, our
understanding may change, the underlying themes do not. The perceptions change
markedly in the Christian period as noted. Frau Holle, the Perchten begin to be
interpreted differently with the inclusion of the legends of Mother Goose. The
Hunt is mirrored in the honking of the flocks as they migrate and it is observe
that the goose is in Siberia, an important Shamanic totem.
Moving on we look briefly at the Seven Whistlers, swans and
geese and omens of ill fortune once again. This spins us around to face the
Gabriel Hounds, the Gable Rackett, the Corpse Hounds, Gallow Hounds and Fairy
Hounds, with their white coats and red ears once again.
We note that within the context of the gallows that Pagans
were buried together with heretics and criminals, in unhallowed ground. Nicely
bringing us back once again to Odin, the battle-fury of the cult of Woden,
Berserkers and animal transformation, wolf or bear. We observe that the wolf is
often a symbol of death and that in England a wolfshead was the name given to
an outlaw, an outcast. A veiled reference to Robin Hood again?
Hermes and Hecate are psychopomps and share a common
symbolism. This symbolism and their associations with the Hunt, serve once more
to illustrate that previously observed and unfortunate transformation, Pagan
God to Christian Demon. Frau Holda may lead the Wild Hunt but we are reminded
that Valkyries are not witches. An important point, as although Herodias, Fate,
the Norns and the Fairy Raid may all be included within the context of the
Sabbat, such confusion should be avoided.
Returning once more to the Wintertide observances and the
period of Misrule, reiterating the associations of Odin, Dame Holda, Diana and
her Darling Crew, totems including wolves and ravens, we finally reference
Bede. The research carried out by Shani Oates in preparation for the lecture is
so detailed and includes so many such references, one can hardly keep pace.
We refer to the Mothers, a seasonal reference, noting that
the Pole, the Broom and the wand are all phallic and may symbolise once more, a
wolf. Continuing with this seasonal theme we are introduced to Thor's Goat, the
YulBuk (Yule Buck) a resurrecting beast, which may be linked to the Krampus and
later Mummer's Plays.
Within the theme of transportation Shani Oates declares that
the Wild Hunt is seen by those it takes. Mythology serves a social and
political purpose with many meanings. Transportation becomes a tool for
transformation, the gathering of the slain is the vision quest.
In drawing the lecture to a close, we see that that the
darker aspects of spirit flight are of a Northern origin. The wintertide has
many customs and traditions, such as for example the dumb supper.
We are instructed that engagement with the other is a call
of blood to blood, life to life and death to death. There is a search for
fusion, union and meaning, as we reach beyond the Mighty Dead to be with the
Gods and the Ancestors. The Ancestral Train is indeed feared and demonised by
the church, representing as it does a direct and divine link, rejecting the
need for an intercessor.
‘The Wild Hunt is seen by those it takes.’ That phrase is
for me personally, the most memorable of the evening. It strikes deep. Others will
naturally have taken other elements of the lecture to heart but for me, it is
that line above all others that has struck home. I have heard that call,
reminding me in the words of the Maid, of the light of gnosis and the darkness