Sometimes it’s hard to keep our lamps lit. The flame flickers and snuffs, light falters. I’m writing this amidst a particularly violent stretch of days, even by the standards of this particularly violent nation in which I live. I used to say that in other countries people kill each other over their beliefs while in this one we kill each other over our lack of beliefs. These days it seems there are a million and one reasons that someone might think it’s a good day to snuff someone’s light- a true American pastime. As the U.S. eats itself from within I am more convinced than ever that 9/11 was a massive rite of black magic- a working both symbolic and literal; the felling of yankee hubris coupled with human sacrifice on a grand scale. And it worked. For all the manifold corruption and putrescence that existed in the USA before that day, it was still a turning point of sorts; that was when the country slipped over the edge into an outright frenzy of unfettered paranoia and self- cannibalism.
Still, there are moments of respite. There are times when we can, on a human scale, brew a small dose of positive action. Help someone over a bump. Right a small wrong. Patch a hole with luck and love. I was blessed this month to hear from a friend that my advice and actions have helped her with some tough decisions. It’s rare for someone to say that sort of thing to me and it felt good to hear. Sometimes we don’t know when an offhand comment or accidental circumstance might fan outward to bring positive change: just this week for instance, a family illness forced me to cancel my performance at a pro choice benefit. But the conceptual art I proposed in absentia ended up raising quite a bit of money for the cause- much more than my planned live piece would have. Intention and effect are mysterious.
This months ravings:
THE CHESTERVILLE “WITCH”
IN REVIEW: DAMON SMITH and JAAP BLONK, AUSTIN OSMAN SPARE
A BLESSING FOR ALL SPIRITS
Yours in the tumbling,
Jason Triefenbach, HFHR.
May 26 2022
The Chesterville “Witch”
In Chesterville IL, just steps from the headwaters of the Kaskaskia River, lies the unattributed grave of the so-called “Chesterville Witch,” circa early 1900s.
From Troy Taylor for Haunted Illinois:
“According to the stories, the grave belongs to a woman who once lived in Chesterville, although her name is no longer recalled. She was very liberal-minded and liked to challenge the Amish faith, speaking out against the treatment of women in the area. Thanks to this, she was branded ‘a witch’. She continued to disobey the elders of the church and was banished. As few ever questioned the decisions made by the church elders, rumors quickly spread through the community that she practiced witchcraft, was a servant of the devil and worse. Soon after, she disappeared.” (1)
Taylor continues that the young woman was soon found dead in a nearby field. Her death was ruled to be from natural causes and after a sideshow-like wake she was buried in the Chesterville Cemetery. Someone planted a tree over her grave- according to local legend this was to “trap her spirit forever.”
Yet another example of religious extremists perpetrating violence and erasure against women. The more things change the more they stay the same…
I visited the grave earlier this month. In addition to the tree, now grown to mammoth size, other plants and flowers have risen up around the small metal fence surrounding the gravesite. Offerings have been left- various silk flowers, coins, and ribbons strung through the bars. About 5 ft from the ground, the tree’s bark is scored all the way around- seemingly an attempt by some well- meaning but misguided visitor to kill the tree, thus releasing the spirit of “the witch” from her prison.
I too brought flowers and other gifts, circumambulating the grave and praying to the poor woman that her spirit rise with the tree into the sky and be carried by the wind to wherever she would most like to be. “May you go forth in power and find the peace denied you in life.”
As some of you know I have been working most of this year on a planetary spell kit dedicated to Jupiter. I’ve now finished a small batch of these and I want to offer them here first! The Jovian Abundance Kit comes with three components: a 2oz bottle of organic grapeseed oil infusion of lavender and cedar harvested from my own yard on auspicious dates (plus a pinch of nutmeg in the batch for extra activation!) and blessed with multiple prayers and offerings to Jupiter, a similarly consecrated candle, and an instructional zine that details an original ritual for the manifestation of your personal abundance as well as historical data and further suggestions. It’s available in my shop for $30.00 and if you order between now and May 31 I’m adding coupon code BYJOVE for 10% off, only available through this newsletter!
A friend who tested the kit had this to say:
In March of this year the US military received $61M in funding for projects in cislunar space (meaning that area of space between earth and the moon.) Is this budgetary drop in the bucket a harbinger of things to come? US Space Force is planning constructions on the moon’s surface as well as a “highway patrol” of sorts to protect commercial interests between Here and There. (2) Is this the dawn of a new age of interplanetary piracy? Uncle Sam seems to think so. Musk’s Starlink satellite grid is immanent. Space tourism and extraterrestrial mining are almost assuredly in our near future, and if humans are good at anything, it is finding new vistas to fuck up. What does this mean for stargazers, astolagists, and the rest of us?
Meanwhile in terrestrial airspace: noted corporate-fascist mercenary (and brother of disgraced Secretary of Education Betsy DeVoss) Erik Prince has been busy funding research into small-craft warfare by bankrolling a project to retrofit small-engine cropduster planes with advanced armor and missile tech. As reported in The Intercept April 11 2016, “In addition to surveillance and laser-targeting equipment, Airborne had outfitted the plane with bulletproof cockpit windows, an armored engine block, anti-explosive mesh for the fuel tank, and specialized wiring that could control rockets and bombs. The company also installed pods for mounting two high-powered 23 mm machine guns. By this point, the engineers and mechanics were concerned that they had broken several Austrian laws but were advised that everything would be fine as long as they all kept the secret.” (3)
Prince’s stated aims with this project were to supply counter-terrorism forces in Africa and the Middle East. But another of his more recent pet projects begs the question: is his far reaching shadow-state puppet show being deployed against US civilians as well? In February 2022 The New York Times reported that in 2018 Prince was recruited by his longtime friend (and former British spy) Richard Seddon to recruit high- rolling funders for Seddon’s newest operation, “to use undercover agents to infiltrate progressive groups, Democratic campaigns, and other opponents of President Donald J. Trump…” According to the Times, this group used spycraft, domestic espionage, and straw-man political donations to undermine both Democrats and those Republicans they deemed insufficiently conservative. Going further, “Mr. Seddon pitched a proposal to build a website where other so-called preppers could buy their own supplies and communicate with each other in the event of what he called a ‘Black Swan’ moment – a major terrorist attack, another pandemic or a civil war.” (4)
In light of continuing domestic unrest, social fracture, militarized police forces, breakdown of supply chains and energy infrastructure, rampant disinformation campaigns on a never-before-seen scale, and of course our radicalized court system (intertwined, in Clarence Thomas’ case and probably more, with actual masterminds of right wing insurrection), it is not far-fetched in the least to imagine Seddon’s accelerationist dreams coming true in the months and years ahead.
As I wrote in a previous newsletter, pray for rain. Pray for rain.
But beyond the valley of the platitudes, out past the perimeter of Thoughts and Prayers, what can we do? In his book The Blood of the Earth: An Essay On Magic and Peak Oil (2011, Scarlet Imprint), John Michael Greer concludes with three practical suggestions for possible futures: learn one thing, give up one thing, save one thing. (5) My copy of the book is at present boxed away at home on the west coast while I sit in a suburban cul de sac a few hours south of Chicago. Luckily, I found an earlier draft of Greer’s advice published in an article he wrote for resilience.org. (6) He is writing about the cataclysmic inevitability of our society running out of oil, but I think his advice is well taken by those preparing for any number of social upheavals. Here are my interpretations:
A) Learn a skill that isn’t useful in the end-times global bureaucracy of paperless transactions and speculative economics, but rather something that could be useful to you and your immediate circle, in the event that your grocery store runs out of food or your debit card stops obeying you: first aid skills, sewing, vegetable gardening, self- defense, etc. There are lots and lots of options. Do you know how to build a fire without charcoal fluid? Can you disinfect a wound or treat hypothermia? Make soap or candles? Keep plants from dying long enough that you can eat their produce and save the seeds? Mend holes in clothing rather than throwing them out and ordering new ones that you can trust will be delivered to your doorstep? If not, then Now is a great time to start picking up one or more of these skills.
B) Give up! All of us enjoy the privileges of a lifestyle that is propped up by easily available goods and services, reliant on global supply chains, child “labor”, and industrialized production technologies. Greer’s idea is that if you give some of these things up now, voluntarily, you’ll be better positioned for coming transformations as more and more of the things we take for granted become untenable. Many of our fellow citizens are already engaged in this: selling the car and biking to work, deleting social media, throwing out your television, etc. In my household we have been without a microwave oven for nearly twenty years, despite growing up in families where this was often the main method of cooking food. More recently, we have largely weaned ourselves away from eating out in restaurants. Food prepared at home is cheaper, more nutritious, and to be honest has started tasting better and better as we outgrow our emotional dependency on the high- salt, high- fat world of restaurant food. I’m not saying these particular examples are for everyone- there are lots of ways to disengage from the iron teet of Moloch! Look at your own life and give it a try.
C) Remember the end of Fahrenheit 451 where the protagonist falls in with a group of folks who have committed to memorizing the books that their society has outlawed? Save something of value to you that you fear could be lost in uncertain times: particular stories or songs, skills or talents, a form of spirituality or philosophy, etc. On resilience.org Greer writes, “Choosing what you will save is easier than it might seem. Sort through the cultural legacies that matter to you, then, until you can find something that satisfies two criteria: first, the idea that people in the future might have to do without it forever should be intolerable to you; second, you should be willing and able to do something significant to keep that from happening. What you do will depend on what you’re trying to save; the steps you’ll need to take to help keep amateur radio going will not be the same as those you’ll need to help preserve the Appalachian dulcimer and its distinctive music for the long term, and vice versa. Make your choice, and be ready to share what you’re doing with others who share your passion.”
Good advice, and perhaps presupposing a wider umbrella necessity: make friends. Get closer to your neighbors, your block, your community. Identify allies and start to form support groups. Enjoy life when you can, and learn how to preserve and protect what is dear to you while jettisoning what isn’t. These are small things, but building blocks nonetheless. When one world ends, another begins.
“Hugo Ball: Sechs Laut-und Klanggedichte, 1916” Jaap Blonk and Damon Smith
“Hugo Ball: six sound poems, 1916” Jaap Blonk, Bart van der Putten, and Pieter Mars
Avant garde bassist Damon Smith and I were on a bill together earlier this month and got to talking after the show. He gave me this double CD of recent treatments bringing new life to Dadaist Hugo Ball’s early 20th century absurdist sound poetry. There’s one disc of bass and vocal duets by Smith and Blonk, and another by Blonk, saxaphonist Bart van der Putten, and bassist Pieter Meurs. I will focus here on the former, though both sets are well worth repeated listening:
One of Ball’s most well-known pieces, “Gadji beri bimba”, is included here, along with 5 others as well as a prelude, interlude, and postlude. Throughout the album, gutteral intonations and yammering multisyllabic outbursts by Blonk intertwine with Smith’s minimalist bridgework. Moody tones and grinding slides evoke the groaning of a ship against it’s moorings, the spectral knocks of steam radiators in old buildings, and a cinematic foreboding that does well in framing Hugo Ball’s anti-war, Internationalist yearnings. (Liner notes by Dr. Melissa Venator touch on this, noting that Ball’s fervent resistance to WW1 included forging documents to help soldiers desert to neutral Switzerland.)
Jaap Blonk is a self taught composer, poet and visual artist whose work since the 1970s stretches the possibilities of the human voice as well as analog and synthetic sound. (7)
Damon Smith’s improvisational bass playing issues forth from a background in the freer-form edges of SoCal punk. He has played with Fred Frith, Henry Kaiser, and Peter Brotzmann among many others, as well as collaborating with Werner Herzog on soundtracks to the films Grizzly Man and Encounters at the End of the World. (8)
Austin Osman Spare: Psychopathia Sexualis” March 19 -May 22 2022 at Iceberg Projects, Chicago IL – curated by Rebecca Fasman, Ryan M Pfeiffer, and Rebecca Walz.
Iceberg Projects sits on a small private property in Chicago’s Rogers Park Neighborhood and is accessed through a charming garden path. (9) The small space is exquisitely equipped and provided a wonderful context for this ultra-rare showing of works on paper by occult modernist Austin Osman Spare (Dec 30 1886- May 15 1956). The numerous drawings on display were prurient and beautiful- this was the very first time that an exhibition of Spare’s work has been mounted in North America, and seeing the show on the anniversary of the artist’s death felt especially meaningful. Spare’s unique system of magickal drawing presaged Surrealism, Chaos Magick, and the ubiquity of sigil-work throughout contemporary Western Occultism, influencing William Burroughs, Jhonn Balance, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and many others.
This particular series is based off psychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebing’s classic study of sexual pathology. In nearly every drawing a group of monstrous characters luxuriates in fantastical coitus. Couples, triads, foursomes and moresomes spill across the sheets in billowing arrangements of voluptuous horror. The artist’s technique of building up intricate, energetic detail out of initial whorls of automatic pencil work draws the viewer in close, closer, closer still… we are implicated in our voyeurism. Other than one or two instances, the subjects seem for the most part to be enjoying themselves. As debased and sometimes foul as the scenes are, there is a joyful nonchalance made quite evident, as if the figures of these fantastical arrangements can see us looking, and it doesn’t bother them in the slightest.
There’s something a bit innocent about this debauchery , like an Elfquest of the Qliphoth: Paradise upturned at the rear of the World Tree. Nipples, claws, horns, hooves- a cornucopic spillage of rolling and folded flesh. Bulbous distorted heads and torsos smirking and winking, plopping turds and flowing urine, winged cocks and stuffed holes. This body of work was executed before postmodernism took the frisson out of sex, before graduate MFA programs neutered the erotic. After all these years it is still sloppy, deranged, fun, and dangerous.
Presented in cooperation with the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University from whose collection the works come, this exhibition also coincided with the release of a new hardcover folio by the same name from boutique esoteric publishing house Fulgur Press. (10) Both the exhibition and the book are important milestones in reclaiming the full, lush legacy of one of the 20th Century’s most notorious creative talents.
A Blessing for All Spirits
Earth and Sky lock lips in an endless kiss. Birds fly from the nest or fall to earth as food for the ants. In the Abrahamic faiths their Messiah is buried and rises again- an echo perhaps of earlier agricultural myths from the Fertile Crescent and Beyond: Persephone, Osiris, Dumuzi…
On the shores of a windswept lake in the Heartland, I called to spirits of place, of time, of the Earth and Space; celestial and chthonic, of past present and future. Ghosts of given lives and rumors of those who will come after.
I’d prepared a gift to offer, and words to speak, and gestures to enact. Drawn by intuition and subtle guides I meandered to a hollow near the shore, only to find my chosen site to be completely trashed- the refuse of revelry: torn beer cans, cellophanes, bottles and lighters. Before my short rite I spent about 20 minutes cleaning the area; a discarded tank top became trash bag by knotting the bottom. I took off my shoes and waded into the muck to retrieve as many scraps of styro as I could. I knew then that this was why I’d come, why I’d chosen one path over another though both looked identical at the outset.
My labors finished, I raised my cup and spoke my words as the wind rose suddenly about me. The lapping waves and rushing branches joined in choral keening and an exhilaration crested from my chest. I apologized for my trespasses and those of my species, asked for strength and sensitivity; to be a force for good within the biosphere. And gave thanks to be honored with this small task of restitution.
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