Somehow we did it. Despite being a coupla-fuck-ups we now legally own a house (c.1850) and two barns and some beautiful / productive Nordic forest. Blessed isolation (and manual labour)!
I've travelled a long way from my home-town, a place the locals affectionately call Oil City. A sunken walled-up island encased in the mud of the Thames Estuary. Today scarred by unemployment and class prejudice and the dying embers of petrochemical industry.
This is a town that writer―psychogeographer Iain Sinclair once described as “Draining East London's wound”, as it hungrily sucked up the underworld ooze of crime and retiring gangsters. A frequently flooded settlement dominated by a flat, treeless skyline of slowly moving container ships, monolithic oil silos and needle-like towers spewing flame. Monuments to industrial revolution. Altars at which we sacrifice our bodies to the North Sea Gods of Oil and Coast.
The modern black'ning Church (W.Blake).
If the landscapes of my past and present share common ground, it's surely buried in their histories of battle, invasion and bloodied Empire. Histories of guns and swords and cannons and great ships, their sails rejoicing in the flood of Death (W.Blake).
Now I'm rooted among the aged wood and stone of Sweden, close to one of the ancient shifting borders between this land and Denmark. A territory stained with the legacy of conflict and execution. Here I'm reminded of a reoccurring ghost sighting from my home-town:
“Many night fishermen have reported seeing a tall, burly Viking standing on the mudflats at The Point, on the far eastern side of the island. It is believed that he was left behind by his fleet and waited for his ship to return; only to drown in the rising tide.” (HAUNTED ESSEX, Carmel King)
“[A] Viking who stalks the saltings, a lonely relic of the Danes who invaded the Essex coast more than a thousand years ago. He must be a striking figure to encounter, standing six feet tall, with long moustaches and beard, wearing a leather jerkin and a winged helmet on his head, his long sword hanging from his belt.” (GHOSTS OF ESSEX, Betty Puttick)
And indeed a great battle was fought here around 893AD, when the Saxon army defeated a Viking incursion of some 200 ships. The burned structures of which were uncovered, alongside human remains, during the construction of the railway to London.
Accompanying this are the tales of The Wild Hunt riding over the local Hillsides and Downs, above the blasted ruins of the once powerful 13th Century castle that stood there. Now a crumbling knuckle of masonry supported by the steel frame of Heritage restoration. Clinging perilously to history, it's a ghostly remnant of a once imposing fortification. A visual artefact corrupting the rolling woodlands.
During a Summer long since faded into memory, I personally recorded the following story from a local woman I met walking among those castle ruins:
“She explained that she had once glimpsed the ghostly procession of The Wild Hunt, advancing across the Estuary and up over the marshes, leaving not a trace behind it. She told me The Hunt was at least thirty horses strong, with hounds accompanying and great birds in flight trailing behind, and that they rode so hard that they kicked up sparks of light across the sky. She could not tell me who rode at the head of The Hunt, for she had thrown herself almost immediately to the ground when she saw them coming! Diving down into the tall Spring grasses, where she remained until the last echoes of howling and trumpeting had passed!”
Though she could not name him, the leader of The Wild Hunt is traditionally understood to be Odin, and here in Sweden there exist many ancient tales of that old wanderer and seer. The following originates from a small parish not far from where I write this now:
“At the farm of Kraaktorp in Asa parish in Småland are the remains of a wall, where Odin's stable and manger are said to have stood. In this parish more than a hundred years ago, there was excavated a grave mound where Odin was said to be buried, and which, on that account, after the introduction of Christianity, was called Hell's-mound. There was then found a vault, on opening which a strange fire, like a flash of lightning, burst out, and a stone coffin and lamp were dug up there. Of a priest named Per Dagson, who lived at Trojenborg or Höns-hytte Skans, the story goes that he ploughed up a part of the rampart, by which a number of human bones were brought to light. When the rye sown there shot up, Odin came riding from the hills every night, so huge that he towered above all the farm-buildings, spear in hand, and kept watch outside the front entrance, preventing any one from going out or in the whole night. This happened every night until the rye was cut. The priest took indeed two crops off the field, but allowed it to fall back again, on account of the great trouble that Odin caused him.” (SCANDINAVIAN FOLK-LORE: ILLUSTRATIONS OF THE TRADITIONAL BELIEFS OF THE NORTHERN PEOPLES)
These are only some of the transmissions from the folklore spectrum that surge through my memory ― perhaps unconsciously influencing my movements. I like to imagine those transmissions as a kind of retro-causal surge. That those phosphorous spectres hanging over the Estuary, drenching its territories, somehow led me to settle here in Sweden.
The tale of the Viking longing to return home feels more like a strange premonition this way. My unwavering and uncanny fascination with these regions merely the memories of the future, seeping back into my present.
My past, and my present, were always haunted by my own future then. Linear time has been broken entirely apart. Perhaps an invocation of Deep Time was unintentionally performed. Just another shadowy ritual on the edges of a life.
Scratched into a notebook in 2017. Sitting on the low-tide foreshore of the River Thames, London, UK. A quick walk ― mudlark ― down on these banks and you realise the base of the Thames is a cluttered memory fabric of bones, skulls, pottery, pipes, coins, weapons and other unidentifiable spoils. All the mixed detritus of thousands of years of discarded settlement > war > collapse > Empire.
on the banks of the river women launch effigies wash hands in salt tide the sediment of settlement
relic clay ruin
men sift through bone silt memory crouched at bankside beneath bridges
we burrow through compression of time the legacy of Empire
civilisation fracture erosion
children of the ritual ceremonial bodies in perpetual sacrifice
We engage with the cairn as a living stone. Our interaction feeds us both. We approach the arrangement of stone as a natural mystic ― an antenna we use to connect to the slow knowledge of the land. Plugged into this earthy circuit cable of memory, we trust in its ability to show us the way. Allowing it to inscribe or impress something of itself onto our own psychic map of the landscape.
Vi bär en ny värld i våra hjärtan Ⓐ ⚑
Today's re-discovery from the archive! A cut-up produced for a show at Styx Gallery, London, back in 2016 (maybe). This came from a series of studies of Gnosticism and Hermetic ideas filtered through the divine madness of Philip K. Dick's EXEGESIS.
'truth nourished fire' | a gnostic mass
Truth – all parts of solar philosophy, known & Nourished – & borne through adaptation to Fire – that becomes Earth, the structure of
Truth – which attests a rising Spirit Nourished – above as below in wonderful Fire – illuminating dark chambers, where hidden
Truth – now ascending from Earth, gorged, Nourished – on language, writ tablet, & engulfed as Fire – which primal light confirms, inscribing
Truth – on Earth & thus in body, now Nourished – alone no longer by Sun nor Moon, nor Fire – which penetrates the skin of every
Truth – beneath which obscurity will retire, substance Nourished – enough that Wind will not subdue Fire – the blind witnessing of such
Truth – beholds entrance once separate, now Nourished – of solar work, as surely as Fire – reduces solar work to One