Sunday, 23 December 2012

The Death of the New Age

Consider this an obsidian knife, one which has been patiently napped out of the black volcanic glass and now has its final eccentric shape. The handle was formed in the sixties counterculture, a psychedelic mess once all the real hopes of change had been flaked away. All the turned on led by pied pipers away from confronting the war in Vietnam, the horrors of a petrochemical age, and into righteous self-obsession. There are no Black Panthers, Weather Underground, Malcolm X, it is a resolutely Caucasian and privileged tableaux of figures on the work that stands before us.

The youth revolution was lost. A subset followed human potential movement into weekend retreats and anodyne absolution of responsibility for the world. A substitution for change was given in dietary restrictions, yoga for abs, and chanting for world peace. The result? A counter revolution of wars on drugs, on terror, on people, on the planet, proceeding unchecked and gathering fateful pace.

Solstice 2012 should be pinioned with this obsidian knife. The new age has ended, huddling under stripy blankets with a chillum at dawn on the precincts of Tikhal, the steps of Chichen Itza. The children of Cortez, the Quetzacoatl who brought death to a continent, a world, now camp out in the picturesque ruins and make their final abasement a shambling ritual event.

Welcome to the new dawn, and no it has not brought the aliens, the jesus, the evolution, the rapture to save the helpless, the credulous, the menopausal, the adrift. The garrulous adorable rap of St McKenna of Soma has reached its omega point. This date must bring death to this delusion.

As a magician, this is my stated intent.  

But even with such sharp tools to hand, this will not be an easy corpse to flay. The prophets and tour guides of this credulous consumer cult will already have their platitudes ready.  They will not abandon a pyramid scheme of book signings, exotic holiday breaks and the endless raking of money and guilt out of their victims' pockets in return for vaguely ethnic clothing and vaguer ideas for their sense of loss and longing.

To understand the need for the knife we need to employ this term: Cognitive dissonance.  The phrase itself was invented to explain what happens when prophecy fails, leaving a landing site of believers, whether Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons, Cargo Cult or whoever, bereft of the promised miracle. The event is quickly recast with a new date, destination, or interpretation for them to cling to. Having failed, prophecy morphs and 2012 will be re-skinned to save the New Agers from having to face up to failure. Pinchbeck in the skin of Daniken in the skin of Sitchen in the skin of the next pretender. This is why we need to hold up this still smoking mirror, show them the knife.

Our own actions, as magicians and witches, must also confront this mirror and blade. In wider culture, this is how we are often seen. We too can be found engaging in the worst kind of self-absorption, a project of self-deification that is more pop psychology and atomised consumer narcissism than fierce path. The obsession with the perfection of the self is the shiny surface of our corrupt capitalist cult. It does not challenge power. Evolution does not occur through a passive sense of entitlement, or the acquisition of trinkets, or grades. It requires more radical work. Our hands need to get dirtier.   

We too can be guilty of cultural appropriation, personality cultism, pyramid schemes and empty promises. It is idiotic and insulting to make claims of special knowledge over other peoples' traditions.

In celebrating, no,  insisting on the death of the New Age on this pivotal date we can take stock rather than being part of another bahktun of empty platitudes and future promises. Let us understand that the New Age is spiritual froth, the scum on the surface of a toxic industrial culture. It is a warning sign, not a new life-form. Yes, there are well meaning people involved. Yes,  it is easy to parody the New Agers, but at the very least they know that something is very badly wrong. So too does our culture, shifting uneasily as the storm fronts smash into the coasts, the rivers burst, the crops fail. People will ask magicians to explain what is wrong, and our answers better make more sense than cheap talk about ‘an awakening,’ or suggestions to cultivate our own sense of power in the grip of growing powerlessness.  

So are we any different?

Where we differ from the New Age is that magic and witchcraft must be grounded in our relationship with the land, with community, with nature. Stating this has been ‘unfashionable’ for those who wish to exist in a bubble where the spirits that they talk with are not embedded in the physical world but are fragments of their psyches. This is not a position that our ancestors would recognise, we are part of a continuum, a continuum which is being raped and destroyed. This must be our focus.

The idea that personal work has no wider context or connection is a vain, alienated and ineffective way to approach magic and witchcraft. We have responsibilities, and it is time that we grew into them. Any other approach is as deluded as any crystal healing dolphinology, it just chooses a darker wardrobe and accessory set.   

To do this we are engaged in a grand project, namely the re-connection with the Western Tradition.  Not the theft of culture, the magpie imaginings, the post-modern anything goes. We have serious work to do, and that goes beyond the studying of our navel chakras. We need to understand ancestry, land, spirit as a living system which must be defended with tooth and claw. This vital sense of animism is what must animate us. Our proof must be our work, not our unfulfilled dreams, but in living mythically, in embodied action.

And as for the children of the Maize, there is this hope. Standing  in the same dawn as the New Agers. Throughout Chiapas the Zapatistas mark the date, anonymous, masked and brave. This is witchcraft, the example which we too must follow. If this is the New Age, then it will be one of turmoil, of blood, of revolutionary change. We must not make the same mistake again.

Happy New Year.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Exu and the Mandragora

Worth drawing attention to some new Scarlet Imprint book reviews. These concern Exu and Mandragora respectively. Both important and very different works given detailed peer reviews.

Exu and the Quimbanda of Night and Fire by Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold is getting a rapturous response. The hardback Caveira edition is in stock, the fine Mor edition will ship in the New Year and we have just made the paperback and digital Bibliotheque Rouge versions available.

An important book, which together with Pomba Gira and the Quimbanda of Mbumba Nzila provide the most detailed view of Quimbanda available in the English language.

Exu is reviewed here:

Mandragora is now making it onto University reading lists. This exonerates those of us who understand the power of poetry in ritual and magic.
Arguably one of our most beautiful books it is getting the kind of reviews online that make people reconsider the importance of the word.


 Mandragora is reviewed here:

A previous review here: