Begin how you mean to go on,
Take up your weapon of choice,
Fill you heart with joy,
Summon all your powers,
And show the world what you’ve got.
The last time I was at the Last Tuesday Society it was to attend a night featuring tales of ghost trains and the music of Sarah Angliss. I got to play her theremin, which was enough of a thrill that I finally did have to get my own theremin. I also wrote down the phrase ‘luminiferous ether’ which led to my writing White Rabbit (in concert with a lot of other strange head explosions).
I had not visited the Viktor Wynd museum, however. Drawn by the occult theme of the week, I decided I really needed to see its ‘largest collection’ of Austin Osman Spare works on public display. The south London artist has long occupied that strange niche between occult and art, cultish devotion and imperious neglect, which makes it difficult to see more than isolated pieces at any one time (cf. the Language of Birds exhibit).
Crowded into the back room of the establishment are indeed several works by the artist which are difficult to get a good look at both due to the lighting and the profusion of other curiosities about (thus the poor pictures here). It would be great to have a proper exhibit that allowed better access, of course. Yet I’m grateful nonetheless for the opportunity to see these. Handily, they had copies of Phil Baker’s bio of the artist for sale so I picked one up.
The museum itself is a mad jumble of nigh-on Victorian gloom, down a vertigo-inducing spiral stair, full of beasts, freaks, monsters, dandies, dead things, a little occult & magic, and some pulps. The dandies include not only Stephen Tennant‘s ephemera but also Sebastian Horsley‘s red sequined Savile Row suit. There are lots of skulls and bones, fossilised things, an ‘alchemists toolkit’ and all manner of weird and interesting curiosities crammed into a very tiny couple of rooms. It’s all a bit overwhelming. You can’t possibly take it all in in just one visit. So if you’re in Hackney or need an excuse to be, you should drop by.
My introduction to Louhi, witch of the north in The Kalevala, appears at @FolkloreThursday today. Folk familiar with my work know that she appears in my stories in Dream Book which were inspired by Finnish mythology in both The Kalevala and The Kanteletar.
Some helpful links: The best translation of The Kalevala; the only English version I know of The Kanteletar; here’s me playing a kantele so you know what the traditional Finnish lap harp sounds like and here’s a fantastic classical piece inspired by Louhi from Tomi Räisänen.
Of course you can get my collection Dream Book thanks to Fox Spirit Books. Stories, poems and a play inspired by the Finnish mythology and music that fills my head. Oh, and ancient rock paintings, too!
Hang around Twitter and see all the fun: @FolkloreThursday is a great opportunity to learn and share.
It’s the inevitable ‘catch up after a conference’ hereabouts. MUCH to share, much to mull over, much to write of course, mad plans and ideas popping. And really, if you can get to it go to the exhibit. Here’s a photo teaser from the weekend that seems apropos.
It’s been quite surreal. From the time I woke up Monday morning and saw the news on Twitter, I’ve been surrounded by Bowie. Of course all my life I have been; I suppose that’s what hit so many folks hard. How can there not be Bowie? I’ve read a lot of heartfelt tributes, musical assessments and odd titbits. I was goggled by the Lazarus video, as were most people. I love that he saw Death coming, as someone said on Twitter (not sure I can find it, so many many tweets), and thought hmmm, I can use this.
But I’m not a confessional writer; I am always oblique. I can’t seem to help it. Metaphor is more truthful to me. So I wrote this piece that Jason was kind enough to publish at Pulp Metal Magazine, The State of the Church of Bowie in 2525. Futuristic, playful, referential but never reverential, I hope. I chuckled to think of a multicontinentination that stretched from the ‘coast of Colorado’ all the way to China in a sort of post-apocalyptic world, uniting East and West with the Atlantic at its heart (but never North and South of course). A religion that had weathered a Reformation or reconciliation of its own, yet threatened anew by apocalyptic sub-cults? Who’d believe that?
If you think it’s a stretch to imagine a church of this nature, you should see all the people I see around me who have found strength in those messages from Major Tom, Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane and the Goblin King, all the way up to the stark Black Star. Bowie may only have been a flawed and all-too-real human, but he managed to reach myriad hearts and minds by embodying that one thing we all have in common: that very often, we all feel completely alone.
Drop by Pulp Metal Magazine, read The State of the Church of Bowie in 2525. And then check out all the great stuff there.
I should be on my way across the Atlantic at present, but I have to be sure to say a happy birthday to a couple of legends today: Tony Hancock and Paul D. Brazill. They both make me laugh like a crazy person, so if you don’t know them already, you shouldn’t waste any time in making their acquaintance.
Now, blow out your candle!