It’s Walpurgistnacht again, I made it.
Every year my other self’s employer sends our shared mortal coil out to San Fransisco for a conference on Knowledge Management. Yes, him, the other, the non-magic-y fellow, he professionally manages gnosis. A Gnosis Manager employed by the demiurge. As the phrase goes, you do what you got to do to survive. I’m going to try and live blog the trip as it happens, to stay connected to all of you dear readers, just to stay sane.
The flight was uneventful, I consumed Occulture’s latest with Jason Miller and re-consumed Original Gangster Gordon White’s Open Systems Spirit Work Solo Show from the close of last year on the plane. I’ve listened to that damn episode a number of times already, but this time, idk what it was, but it stuck, the concepts gelled, I got it. Maybe it was the cold brew coffee with the 2:45 AM wake up call chased with lonely tab of piracetam I’ve been saving - I don’t care, whatever happened it worked and I think I have a good idea of the way I am supposed to be taking a 2018 practice.
I came here last year, and was much less relaxed. I stopped to visit the Mission Dolores and wrote about it in a fumbling way here. I’m back, because I promised not to forget the dead there, but, I don’t know, this city, it bothers me for some reason on a magic-y spidey-sense and manifestation of the empirical agenda kind of way.
But I’m here, in the Mission District, I stopped at Four Barrel Coffee, which if it weren’t for Google Maps I wouldn’t have found because of course it doesn’t have a street facing sign, just well patina’ed wood and mustachioed gentlemen gazing balefully out of the window.
Back to the weirdness while I charge up my government approved tracking device. On Original Gordon’s advice (given freely in the Premium Member Q+A’s), I journeyed on this trip because I didn’t know where to take it. I magic’ed the hell out of it last time, some of my experience was peaceful and some of it was freaking terrifying (like the spontaneous slam a Lucifer Square in the mouth of a lion guardian at China Town’s Dragon Gate after invoking the Lord of the Crossroads part of it… Whatevs, I was trying for invincibility). My journeying has continued off and on all week, including on the plane. The cemetery really didn’t come up. Nor did the original Mission, where I tried to jailbreak a Cyprian treasure spell to fulfill the very first bit of advice (the very first question I asked over at Rune Soup) in an attempt to un-f*ck a longstanding carjacking of my financial situation brought about (I’m 99% certain) by another jailbroken, very ill-timed and half-finished treasure spell I attempted back in my twenties. I expected both of those to be prominent in the journeying, to really jump out, along with the Dragon Gate, but it didn’t happen.
What I did get was a very ‘A Dark Song’ (that movie f’ed me up Mr. Ghostly Harmless) vision of four gigantic angels standing guard at the corners of the primary Mission Dolores and an image of me collecting holy water. This linked up with a dram I had where I was in another church, pouring over sheets of unreadable dream lettered sheet music, listening to posh elites talk about nose jobs…
So that’s my first destination… to grab some holy water. I was shown that I am to anoint my new Seven Sorrows rosary, so I imagine I’ll be petitioning the Queen of Heaven to return my texts again, before moving on.
The Mission District seems much smaller this time around, and I don’t need my phone to get around. I walked up to take a peak at the San Fransisco Mint, stopped in the obligatory Whole Foods, and then made my way down to the Mission passing what I think was a gigantic Datura bush on the way. There was a fellow in front of his house, blithely watering a lovely urban garden, every inch of his skin (including his head and neck) covered in tattoos.
Arriving on the corner, the Mission rising above me into the cloudless sky, those Dark Song angel-giants popped into my head again, but this time, they were conflated with the bell tower, in fact, all bell towers. The idea was really ludicrous, at least it felt that way, but I was overwhelmed with the thought that all churches everywhere, those that had steeples anyway, were actually flanked by angelic soldier that stood as tall as their own towers. This tower fetish I’ve developed as a result of reading through Lovecraft’s work is getting a bit out of hand, but maybe that’s the point. The Tower in the tarot has always been so inscrutable and seemingly out-of-place, but now, after so many instances of towers in Lovecraft’s work and the connections I’ve made, this most odd of archetypes is beginning to congeal into something much deeper.
Angelic magic has been in the air a lot lately as well and really, doesn’t its weirdness, its un-humaness, really fit the Lovecraftian Magical Aesthetic well? Cosmic beings that live among humans but are in many ways not aligned with the human agenda, whose ways are unpredictable and chaotic…
I fulfilled the task set about for me during my journeying, anointing the rosary and praying the Seven Sorrows in the basilica. The ritual was the same as my last largely unimpressive attempt until I reached the sixth sorrow, when that familiar magic body buzz was kindled. With the seventh sorrow it came back, like psylocibin waves, and by the time I completed the prayer, I had fully altered consciousness. Deep gratitude to the organ and cello player practicing in the front of the church, you gave me a nice free jazz soundtrack for the act.
Even though my journeying did not indicate a need to return to the cemetery, I did. The first time, last year, it was cold, no contact. This year, after making the promise to return and fulfilling it, it genuinely felt like a warm hug, an instant calm filled with intrigue and a sense of mystery, not entirely unlike the film scene in our first imbrication.
I’ve got this thing for walking in the footsteps of Jimmy Stewart. To me, well, he’s not really an icon, but, I don’t know, a fixture in my psyche is probably a better word. I have a sister who is from Marquette, MI and when she was getting married up in Big Bay, above Marquette, the thing I was most excited about was that was where Anatomy of a Murder was filmed. I got to stay in Inn where the bar scenes were shot. I ate in the bar, right next to where the actual murder took place. I got real stalker-y and drove slow through the trailer park where the murderer (real and filmic) stayed. I was really into it. That said, I’m not a film geek, so I wasn’t aware that I had stumbled on another set of Mr. Stewart’s footsteps, until I saw the plaque above the Alfred Hitchcock bobble heads in the Cemetery gift shop (so much wrong with that sentence). A key scene in Vertigo was filmed in the cemetery I had just spent time in, communing with the oldest and only known dead in the city of San Fransisco. Replace me with Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak with various invisible spirit forms and my visit looked exactly like the scene below:
Obviously, a lot has gone down in the city of San Fransisco, musically, culturally, etc. If you’re not a metalhead, however, you might not be aware that (the bizarrely now nearly mainstream band) Slayer got their start in the Bay Area. The below video from the National Museum of American History (see what I’m saying about bizarre, well deserved, but bizarre) gives a really nice high level overview of the makers and influencers of so much music that made me the person I am today. Hint, they ain’t the Grateful Dead:
And lest you think to count them out, here they are again, in full force. I have deep memories attached to this song. The best of which is walking in the Lena, IL cemetery, with my dual cassette boom box, playing this song off of my treasured (it was hard to get music in the sticks in the eighties) Reign in Blood tape:
DOWN ON FASCINATION STREET
Our Lovecraft tale this week is a quick one by the name of Cool Air. It offers whiffs of Lovecraft’s experience in New York city, citing a four story brownstone on West Fourteenth Street as the local. The nameless narrator, our protagonist, is poor and hopping from rooming house to rooming house. Very likely a reality for HPL at some point. The very first lines set the scene for us:
“It is a mistake to fancy that horror is associated inextricably with darkness, silence, and solitude. I found it in the glare of the mid-afternoon, in the clangour of the metropolis, and in the teeming midst of a shabby and commonplace rooming house...”
Cool Air, more than most, gives our Lovecraftian Magic a place in the urban environment. Our protagonist, after some exposition, meets our archetype, one Doctor Muñoz, who is described as such:
“Exquisitely proportioned... clad in somewhat formal dress of perfect cut and fit... short iron-gray full beard and an old-fashioned pince-nez… full dark eyes... aquiline nose… He was the bitterest of sworn enemies to death, and had sunk his fortune and lost all his friends in a lifetime of bizarre experience that devoted to its bafflement and extirpation.”
This sentiment is very similar to that one feature in Whisperer in Darkness where the brains in jars are looked on as the ultimate evolution of human. Lovecraft is not a celebrator of death, but rather, his tales are an incantation to bing about longevity and the elevation of class. And maybe, when you think on it, most classical steampunk has this at its core as well. The anime, Steamboy, for example, has at its core a young poor man who is in possession of a great advancement in the science of the genre. He is seeking to use it for good, but in effect is about the business of raising his station. It is a magical aesthetic that incorporates and, in the case of Cool Air, depends on machines to keep the magic operant. This might seem unthinkable to many magicians, as the eschewing of technology and the urban environment is rampant among the neo-pagan and even the modern ceremonial magician. The Lovecraftian Magical Aesthetic looks past these false constraints into a world where technology and necromancy are complimentary, if not inseparable. The drama reaches a height when these machines begin to break down:
"One night [in the middle of October] about eleven the pump of the refrigerating machine broke down... The moribund hermit’s rage and fear, swelling to grotesque proportions, seemed likely to shatter what remained of his failing physique...”
While not our tarot card for the tale, Cool Air is certainly connected to the Hermit archetype in certain ways, but an urban hermit, a slightly different animal. Viewing this from the 21st c. this is a very solid connection to the internet culture, seeking digital immortality, living next to each other, yet avoiding their neighbors, the being alone in a crowd. Moreover, the narrator offers this nugget:
“There is... an infinite deal of pathos in the state of an eminent person who has come down in the world.”
Which shows more musings on class and station and the inevitable loss of that station. As the machine around Doctor Muñoz begin to fail, the magical reality of his existence (or psuedo-existence) begins to take over:
“A kind of growing horror, of outre and morbid cast, seemed to possess him. He talked of death incessantly, but laughed hollowly when such things as burial or funeral arrangements were gently suggested.”
Leaving us with a curious phrase, death without burial, a keeping of the dead among the living. We see this aesthetic growing with the activities of the Death Positive movement. Doctor Muñoz could be seen as their champion:
“He seemed about to hurl defiance at the death-daemon even as that ancient enemy seized him.”
Our tarot match for Cool Air is the Eight of Coins.
Our now familiar Etteilla deck offers us two key phrases. Fille Brune for the upright position and Usure for the reversed. The literal translations are Brunette, and to Wear. Brunette stems from the PIE root *bher-, which can mean either bright or brown and forms part of words like amphora, aquifer, bairn, or barrow - essentially a container. If we are to look a bit deeper at Cool Air, one of the underlying points the author is trying to make is that the body is merely the container for the soul, the intellect, the spirit of the individual. The verb phrase, to wear, helps to deepen the archetype.
“The Germanic forms ‘were homonyms of the vb. for 'prevent, ward off, protect' (Goth. warjan, O.E. werian, etc.), and this was prob. a factor in their early displacement in most of the Gmc. languages’”
and so we see, that is another match for our good Doctor, whom not only clothed his living spirit in a decaying corpse, but used his machines to prevent and ward off the inevitable disintegration of his corporeal form, cheating his unbeatable enemy, death, if only for a time.