[W]ithin us, the element recalls its limitlessness amid the primordial flux, as element and flux devour themselves anew: the winds, the trees, and the stars now speak. Through immeasurably distant ages, death and birth greet the soul of man in the wavering blade of grass, and they hear the dark inner night of the blood of man in the falling rain, as it trickles through the leaves outside. -Ludwig Klages
The above is quoted in David Beth’s Voudon Gnosis - first by published by the good folks at Scarlet Imprint in 2008, and soon to be given an expanded edition by the eminently respected Fulgur Publishing. It should come as no surprise to those who are aware of my leanings, or indeed have read my work either here or in Scarlet Imprint’s own Datura, that I was very curious to hear his thoughts on certain matters.
Help was at hand in the form of Diabolical Discourse – Craig Smith has done a wonderful job of tempting some very fine speakers up North to Manchester, and long may it continue!
(As a side note to my geographically challenged friends, I dwell still further up North than Manchester – something I am still getting used to as for much of my early life was spent in Cornwall, so everything is instinctively supposed to be up-country from me.)
This was originally going to be a not-quite review of David’s talk, but I found as I was making notes that, as usual, it became something far more organic and wyrd. With that in mind, I am afraid you will have to make do with things, and after all if you’re here, you are going to have to learn to enjoy that, aren’t you?
But it was much earlier even than that when most people forgot that the very oldest stories are, sooner or later, about blood. – HOGFATHER, Terry Pratchett
The truth of the above quote is fundamental to my work – how many times have you suddenly raised your head and looked about, feeling and seeing the hollow nature of things; the bloodless paper-thin veneer that seems to spawn an unease and then a desperate hope that there must, surely be something more to life? After all, if this rote existence is all there is, then what exactly is the point of the business?
Now, leaving aside the obvious teleological fallacy that there must even be a point or a reason for anything at all, we are still left with the unsettling conviction that something is missing. When that gap raises its head, when the dim recognition of a void somewhere a little too close to comfort begins to insinuate itself into our fore-brain, we are presented with a choice. As with most choices, there is a vast roaring chaos of probable actions, but most human minds wibble a bit when presented with more than say, 3-5 options.
Often then, the choice and its plethora of possibility – its raging cornucopia of angles and roads and paths-not-taken – is subject to a reduction into two options, an either/or. Void or solid, illusion or reality, life and death – you know the sort of thing we mean. This analytic drive, the urge to reduce things to a fundamental, simplistic, ultimately causal and mechanistic world is an essential survival skill. It has enabled humanity to make a multitude of short-cuts throughout our existence as a species; saving us valuable processing power, laying down patterns and reflexes that keep an individual alive – and I here I would like to pause a moment, to allow you to consider the fact that survival is paramount and recall all those times your instincts have unconsciously saved your proverbial bacon…
Good, aren’t they, those primal instincts of yours?
Really rather efficient at keeping you alive; lungs inflating, heart beating – and let’s not forget those bacteria and enzymes, busily working away like tiny powerhouses, giving you the energy to go about your day. Nor should we forget your brainmeat, squirting those hormones and regulating the entire equilibrium of your biosystem, giving you that burst of adrenalin to get you moving, or that flood of endorphins which are precisely calibrated to hit the spot more accurately and efficiently than a dozen doses of opiates – your own personal bliss-factories and munitions plants!
It’s these same instincts, that same Spirit, which builds the world and conveniently excludes vast chunks of the universe from your conscious awareness, rendering them irrelevant to you. Because it’s easier that way, less messy and complicated to comprehend, and though that same Spirit drives you on and keeps you running, the universe is a big damn place, full of interesting and wonderful things.
So perhaps it’s no surprise that Spirit is awfully good at what it does; that it’s given us the pattern recognition skills which spawned so much of culture and endeavour; that it’s tailored toward valuing comfort and contouring our experience in terms of escaping the sheer ambivalence of the cosmos at large. It’s driven us to escape the elements, to develop technology which gives us control over forces that burn in the hearts of of stars, the ability to spread a network of voice and thought over the whole planet.
It has led us to the top of the food chain, levelled the playing field, and given us the ability to give the finger to predators older and more well adapted to survival than us, or more properly, shoot those fierce creatures square between the eyes with a roar of thunder and a hammer blow of metal.
All these things it has done, and more besides; we have become things of speed and poison and hunger, hope and endless striving towards an endless paradisal abundance. Heaven stands before us as a shining city, a goal of perfection and eternal life; an image of immortality, a singular future wherein all and anything we desire is within effortless reach. Spirit, as it quickens in humanity, shall lead us on, and ever outward, escaping bondage and setting us free!
Amidst this gleaming future, amidst this glorious orgy of construction and reconfiguration, amidst the abundance and the desire made manifest, we pause. We pause and feel the gap between the dream, the hope, and the actuality. We clear our throats and look at each other with quick, sidelong glances, momentarily nervous, an instant wherein the normal flow of everyday events is disrupted.
A blip. A quirk. A momentary anomaly.
A snatch of silence that’s abruptly out of-place and your voice rises, loud and alone as all other conversations drop away and all eyes are abruptly upon you. The pattern is broken, and you can feel your blood pumping and your senses sharpen as the awkwardness rises to an almost unbearable degree…
Click. Boom. The hammer-blow, right between the eyes.
You freeze up.
Then the moment is past; empathy reasserts itself and the collective smiles, shrugs and moves on. The frozen river has been crossed, the chains unloosed and the void has been filled; the gap has been crossed and life can proceed as normal.
But for some, that gap is a door; a threshold and a focusing point; the void becomes pregnant, a vast womb which engenders a multitude of children, quickened by the very absence which unnerves so many on an atavistic level. There is a frozen realm there, as we pass through a kind of roaring Ginnungagap, a yawning void which holds echoes of the primal myth concealed within the Eddic tale of creation – the bloody slaughter of Ymir.
...in opposition to all humanistic culture we are lured ever to the brink of chaos. We want to go where we are forbidden. We want to know what has been denied to us. We want to know what has been denied to us. We seek, in a word, the ‘more’. – M. Bertiaux, The Voudon Gnostic Workbook
Ice in the blood, glittering beneath the flesh – he who men call Allfather is born of the cold and giant blood; grandson to Buri. Each cut sets the red to run, reveals the icy Soul beneath, burning cold with blue potency. The blue endless hour of the in-between, of twilight and dusk in their infinite possibility, called kosmic as it is drawn from some esoteric Northern space. Call it Avalon-Thule or Hyperborea and also in this place – COLD ALBION.
Call it as we do, allow yourselves to take a breath and observe Spirit within that moment. Consider its movements and shapes, and the way it quickens and slows, as it restricts, binds and and directs, as it dismembers and casts aside. And as the understanding flows, as blood fills veins and sets the flesh to pulse, you may wonder at what is revealed…
For as you become aware of the near infinite variety of moments which are constantly occurring in order to maintain your integrity, your perception of the base status quo, you may not immediately notice what lies beneath them, and that is fine and good, for Spirit is busy even now in its business of maintenance of your world and has always been so. Yet because of that, when the Soul’s cold glitter is revealed, when the scales fall from your inner eyes and the taste, texture and touch of the rime fills your awareness once more, you might realize how easily you could return to that fundamental place within your nature, and how nigh-on impossible it is to forget, despite and even because of the activities of Spirit.
In fact, all the activities of Spirit which render the world just-so can be seen as secret beacons into the Mystery of the Soul, shining most visibly, most unquenchably, as the shadows of the in-between. For as the shadows lengthen and twist, as the light shifts, so the business of the world reaches its place of transition and upon the threshold the Soul welcomes you home!
In the shadow lies the land of dark fecundity and fierce fury. It is that same fury that seizes poets, the wôd, the furor poeticus. Adam of Bremen once wrote:
“Wodan id est furor.” - “Wodan, which means fury.”
Is it any wonder then that the kosmic light is a deep and icy blue? That the Allfather stands as a generator of the same by definition, and through some esoteric way is fundamentally kosmic in identity; that the forms in which the Mysteries are revealed suffused with that light, silhouetting the figure of the Wanderer striding through the icy Meon, across realms utterly inhuman in nature.
The Drighten stalks the frozen lands, moving through Ghostworlds, utterly alone as he leads his band of brothers on. Drottin of Draugr so the old tales whisper, Lord of those who are the walking dead, possessed of some strange vitality. Terrifying are they, called hel-blár – blue-black as death.
Aptrgangr – literally the “after-goers” in Old Norse, or “those who walk after death”. Where their Chief walks, so do they; each is bound by to the others by an advanced esoteric re-ordering of their faculties and flesh. Where one stands, so do they all, ranged about as an army of harriers, a wellspring of inexorable, implacable strength.
So it is that these Hyperborean sorcerers, warrior-poets of furious and merciless intensity, may walk ways which none who are merely human can even penetrate, their blood cold and gaze potent with what Beth refers to in Vodoun Gnosis as Esoteric Vision.
The gaze is fixed upon the flame, until such time as the eyes are forced to close by exhaustion or over exposure. Any visions or lights are to be allowed to arise, occur, and pass. They are by-products of the human desire for light, desperate echoes captured by the retina in the face of impending darkness.[...]After the eyes reach their limit, the practitioner, is to open their eyes again and attempt to view the periphery of their vision as opposed to anything else.
Again, any appearances should be allowed to rise and pass away as before, the gaze relaxed and taking in the peripheral vision.
Similarly, with the increased sensitivity, it becomes easier to notice one’s surroundings, since one is now practised in observing peripheral vision in a relaxed and comfortable way. By utilizing the whole visual field, one is is able to perceive events slightly ahead of time when compared to normal so -called tunnel vision.
Rather than focusing on the method of line and enclosure – encapsulating an objects as a method of resolving them- one begins to perceive the in-betweeness which is far more rapidly responsive to change than objects themselves.
This relaxed mindfulness allows one to perceive far more data than before, and with practice, one may develop a level of perception which is better suited to one who dwells in the spaces which are not delineated by walls and human architecture.
Such a practice enables one to say, observe a flock of birds in flight and garner information about the world, or to walk along the streets of a city and follow the currents of emotion rippling outward. It is the wide-angled gaze of a bird, a predator and hunter.
All things are said to speak, if one knows how but to listen.
- Extract from an unpublished manuscript of mine entitled The Book of The Ravens’ Head.
The fundamental disengagement from Spirit as away of existence necessitates a recognition that perception is limited and tautological. As Spirit contours and limits in order to maintain ease via short-cuts, so we become aware that the associations and connexions we use to model the world are not based on actual accuracy or any kind of righteous order.
Rather, we are in a sense, ultimately at the mercy of our senses. Descartes’ evil genius of a demon whom God keeps from deluding us by virtue of His divinity is suddenly revealed to be an ambivalent daimon – a demiourgos (from demos “common people” and ergos “work”.) which when latinized is rendered as demiurge!
Upon this realization that we are at the mercy of the demiurge, it is natural to feel a certain kinship with the ancient Gnostics of varying traditions. However, one must take a deep breath and reconsider this in the light of all that has gone before – the notion of escape is a product of Spirit, a denialism that is insidious in nature, since it renders the future possibility of escape as the thing to be achieved at all costs.
Yet, we have already touched upon how the products of the Spirit cast shadows which are pathways to the Soul, and this is true here also. The shadow cast by the urge to transcend is the urge to embrace, to involve and immerse, to plunge deeply into the unknown which hides behind the familiar.
The demiurge is no singular daimon. Rather it is the self-maintaining product of society, an almost endless feedback loop of Spirit which engenders a Nietzschean “Spirit of the Times” which in turn powers the status quo. The demiurge is thus born of the urge towards integrity and hence enforces limitation and order.
To be clear the relation between Spirit and Soul is equatable to the relation of Nous and Psyche.
How then might we be free of the restrictions of the demiurge, our quasi-benevolent dictator who has been elevated above us by the majority who seek stability and ease? How might we become seekers after Sophia, the kosmic wisdom, lighting our way with lamps forged of will?
He who is inhabited by Eros-Dionysos is a daemon whilst he yet remains a man. Such a being sees through the shadow-body of things into the flaming night of the images. He himself is destiny; he incarnates a Gorgonic dread. The streams of earth, the storms of heaven, and the starry vaults are all within him, and his power reaches beyond the orbit of Saturn – Klages
Or, in more familiar terms:
Like Dionysus and Woden – uncanny in their fury, masters of that same inspiration – the story-teller makes war on the static ennui of reality. Enlivening and breaking apart, rearranging and reconfiguring, we speak of strange lands and stranger ways, opening eyes and hearts to possibility and vital joy. – My COLD ALBION Biography
To thusly declare war is to arrogate to oneself the authority to do so, to partake of the daimonic and exercise the sovereign aristocratic blue-blood of the kosmos within, to unify Eros with Psyche.
In Norse myth, mankind is shaped by three beings, the sons of Borr. Odin and his two brothers take trees, driftwood in fact – sodden with the sea – and impart the faculties of humanity to the same. It is telling that the axis mundi of Norse shamanic sorcery is a tree containing many worlds and three wells. This tree is known as Yggdrasil, or ‘Steed of the Terrible One.’, that is to say Odin/Woden.
(Interestingly, one of the major temples of the Voudon Gnostic tradition was named Temple of the Two Yggdrasils – a fact not lost on this author.)
Since the human body is hence, in an esoteric sense, an axis mundi directly descended from two trees imbued with the fury and wisdom of the sons of Borr, it follows that by the laws of ancestry, the blood of mankind is possessed of a direct link to that daimonic triad, grandsons to Buri who emerged from the ice. Personal esoteric investigations have suggested a great many things about Buri, but these are not yet ready for public dissemination.
It is sufficient to note that within the context of Northern Sorcery, as with Gnostic Voudon, ancestry is paramount – the alignment of oneself with one’s ancestral dead is vital as is the reconfiguration of one’s esoteric anatomy to accept the ancient wisdoms and fuse them with one’s own personality.
When that furious blood is awakened, it becomes charged with power and many subtle changes begin to occur as the esoteric anatomy of the sorcerer is altered to become a suitable home for the daimonic reality of the axis mundi. As this begins, the fierce erotic link between the kosmos and the sorcerer calls forth and enlivens many slumbering aspects of the personality, rendering a pandaimonium within the mind of the sorcerer, mirroring the variety of life and entities found on the macrocosmic Yggdrasil. It is only through Soul-faring, that is to say, journeying through the ancestral roads laid down in one’s Soul, that the individual grasps his roots.
The dead have much to teach, and there are often mighty figures waiting by the side of the road as the sorcerer walks his way – and it must be understood that the traffic between living and dead is two way. Those no longer corporeal will seek to strengthen their kin and by doing so strengthen for themselves, for ancestral power is timeless. As the one waxes, so do they all – this is the heathen way, for there is no escape; no future, only past, present and the obligations arising from them.
Thus it is that Northern sorcery is fundamentally kin to Gnostic Voudon – the awareness that merciless inexorable forces exist outside of the world of man, and that to pass beyond the limitations laid upon us by archontic forces we must be equally daimonic and merciless in our actions. By furiously partaking of our blood and all that entails, maximizing our affect, far beyond the notions of simple ease and satisfaction, we become as hungry as wolves, as fierce as eagles, as sly as serpents and as cunning and foreboding figures as ravens.
For nine nights the Father of All hanged himself upon the axis mundi. sacrificed to himself, speared and starving, deliberately defying those forces that would limit his actions. This is an act of clear esoteric significance – a submission to and identification with the kosmos, infusing himself with it and, in doing so, becoming a transmitter of that gnosis without effort.
So it is with the Northern sorcerer – able to descend to the deepest places and the highest reaches.
For there is an esoteric secret here: that the body of the sorcerer becomes the horse of Ygg – not simply a vessel, but a fusion with that Terrible One. It is often said that a master horseman and his mount are one without division, though I leave it to the reader to ponder that fact.
As we’ve already said, there are those who stalk the Ghostworlds and still darker places, by virtue of that bond – but what has not been stated is the method by which one might travel that way. In fact, it is similar in nature to the crossing through the hidden gate between Yesod and Malkuth which may take the adept to the back of the Tree of Life and the so-called qlippothic realms.
Just as the Voltiguers travel where they will, so certain kinds of Northern sorcerer may choose to plunge into the lowest of the wells upon Yggdrasil, Hvergelmir or ‘Roaring Kettle.’ This writhing mass of chaotic water bubbles and roars in a most awful way as, surrounded by hissing serpents presided over by Nidhogg – the dragon-wyrm that gnaws ceaselessly on the roots of the tree – one is pulled under and dragged through subterranean rivers that chill the bone, battered and bruised and totally out of control, until one is at last ejected, and spat out into a realm of utmost existential dread.
Thereupon, one must recall one’s true furious nature and give up any pretence at humanity, drawing on the bondage of the noose which marks one as one of those belonging to the Hangatyr. If successful, one undergoes metamorphosis which unites the alien vitality of those particular mysteries with the flesh – enabling once again a movement beyond death.
This is but one of the unique and strange movements within the apparently perennial cultus of the Furious One – a movement wherein there is no distinction between life and death by virtue of utter in-betweeness. Another is the practice of keeping a Fetich so that the sorcerer does not always have to go personally. What follows is another extract from The Book of the Ravens’ Head:
As the primary fetish, the House of the Bone Wight should already have been anointed with the blood of the sorcerer. What follows is fundamentally unique to both Wight and practitioner, however, in the case of the author, the Bone Wight came in the form of a buck deer and its skull.
From personal notes:
‘I spent some time, an hour or so, locked in silent communication with the spirit of the deer, my eyes fixed on its brow and empty sockets in flickering candlelight. I saw a beast’s life, slow and easy as a querying intellect touched mine. It was as confused as I, for how is it otherwise to one who is not a man?
And after a time, the confusion seemed to pass, and we had established some form of rapport. I conveyed my desires to the spirit, that it would travel through the worlds seeking the Old Grey Wolf, with whom I would speak. In return I should feed it, and share more of the experiences of mankind, allowing it to know such things as are unique to the human species.
Upon mention of the Wolf, I perceived an almost ancestral memory which, while at first seemed to involve the experience of deer-as-hunted – an animal atavism – it triggered in me a primordial recall of human hunting practices, seemingly in some bygone and ancient time.’
Upon meditation, the understanding arose that the distinction of hunter and hunted is not clearly distinct. The hunted is a creature of flight or speed, while the hunter must act with speed in order to catch his food – the two must partake of each other for their roles to function. Hunters are often dressed in the hides of their prey, particularly if they are human; while any hunter, regardless of species, must learn the habits of his prey.
With this in mind, we recall the ancient art of the palaeolithic period – zoomorphic figures fused with human. So it is that the blood marking on the fetish – the deer skull in the case of the author – provides a method of that partaking.
Thus after developing a relation with the spirit, one is now inextricably bonded with it due to the blood shed, much as a hunter is truly bonded with their prey.
In ceremonial magic, there is a practice known as assuming a god-form. At first glance, what is now to be done is similar in nature. However, in this practice, it must be noted that the spirit does not overshadow or possess the sorcerer. Rather it is a fusion and wakening.
‘The skull grins. This is the final expression of mirth, the ultimate primate threat. The room is dark and the candle flickers. The last echoes of the hailing of the Dwellers in the House on the Borderlands die away
The breath moves easy, turning the inner into outer, the outer into inner. The gaze blurs and things shift at the edge of vision, the thumbs tracing the blood markings of the skull over and over.
Abruptly the knife is in hand, metal kissing brow, lips and throat. The blade gleams as it passes through flame, blackening with soot, muttering the spirit’s name as the stinging teeth cut and blood flows slick. The pain is sent as a savoury spice, a new kind of feeling to draw it closer as the hand daubs the skull’s design upon flesh, and it is cold, shockingly cold against the skin.
The iron stench, the bitter taste of cold spilt blood. Visions of butchery, steaming meat upon the snow, pale bone displayed as the mouth stretches to match the rictus grin. Skin and muscle, sinew and tendon; a sliding like melted wax and the eyes shrink inside sockets suddenly deep and dark.
Ice in the marrow as shuddering fits snap to painful spasm after spasm. Breath is steaming in the cold as the head grows hollow and heavy with it all. Antlers fuse and flow across the wall, shadows crawling and twitching as they writhe into each other.
The heart pounds, like hooves, like the stamping of the dance. I am no longer alone, for we dance together, in step. They surge around the flame, drawing me inward and spiralling down. Down, and down we go, moving through the forests and across the plains as night races behind us, vainly seeking the sun as the darkness envelops, cocoons us.
What skin there is is paper-thin, the luminous blue inside my bones blazing dully as frost on a moonless night. We breathe together and all of us – the flowing beastfolk, – sense the freezing mist. Its wind whistles through bone flutes, a chilling gust that would blacken and burn flesh if we possessed any left.
And on that wind is carried the sound of myriad voices, those long fallen, drawn to us by our movements in the lands of stillness. We are made of bone and ice and our gait is high, our footfalls rapid and light…
Back then, drawn down into the cave-darkness. The skull looks us in the eye, neither beast not man. Sharp teeth and smiling patience, full of recognition – of self awareness.’
Here we can see necromantic and blood practises fusing together to create a weaving which transcends division – the sorcerer and fetish have aligned and blended their fields, a spiritual conjugation which results in a beneficial entanglement enabling increased potency – a kind of sovereign zoomorphism which allows a new form of movement with all its attendant possibilities.
“If there were a cavern in the earth so deep that the sun could never reach it, and if it were possible for a child to be born in that cavern, do you know what that child would be?”
“Almost certainly blind,” I replied; “beyond which my imagination fails me.”
“Then I will inform you, Mr. Knox. It would be a demon.” - Sax Rohmer, Batwing.