anarchism, poetry, Revolution, Sonnet, Spain, Uncategorized, We The People, Writing

The Onyx and Litarge

We can not jeopardize our only charge

We resolve to fly the peasants banner

Damned for our belief and strident manner

We partisans prevail beyond the marge

 

The land inspires the onyx and litarge

Which will forever be the People’s streamer

Aragon shall be its own redeemer

With fate as its commitment to discharge

 

We warriors whose hearts beat in harmony

Unfurl the flag and watch the colors soar

Caballeros of truth and anarchy

Avenge the lamentations of the poor

Strive onward contra fascist tyranny

And banish their deceit forevermore

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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poetry

A Lark

Columnes_-_Gran_Mesquita_de_Kairuan

Hark! I am a Lark

A blessed spark

of inspiration on a dullard’s own

canvas

his eyes jacinths

his teeth

dancing dalliances with

unipeds

grinning three-eared coney

peace and violet and aquamarine fractals

Alhambra

the ides of Spain

Submission kef

in smoke of pleasure

a red paparchy

spilt like silk

onto Iberian plains

gadroon guilt saucers

and porcelain cups

from Cathay

passionate blue

dragons in common with the

gonfalon on the stone wall

Hail! I am a Nightingale

body ooidal

though still taking flight

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Uncategorized

The Wheel

Lydgate-siege-troy-wheel-fortune-detail

Being, propinquity to eternity

Mother and child embrace besides the remains

Banal hubris broke the quiet of history

Evil arrayed resplendent still profane

 

A millenium passes unregarded

A moment is felt as a tribulation

Eons are muddled and flocced

But Now is an endless abreaction

 

Tanks will always rumble ‘cross the Oder

Men will always fight for a putrescent ideal

The bodies of innocents will molder

With every callous spin of fortune’s wheel

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poetry

Eye

albumen-reflected

A Man in King’s court cries
Before the end times record shows
The unblemished eye
Whisper he “Oh I am not”
The eye spake “Aye thou art”
The King and his men laugh
“Spake the eye! Sentence carried! Spake the eye!”
And the eye doth blink and carries on seeing

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Christianity, Occult, Paganism, Witchcraft

The Dark Impulse

the-magic-circle-1886

As an atheist I find a simply astounding amount of bullshit in every single religion or spiritualist philosophy. There are times when it is impossible not to collapse into convulsive, flatulent laughter when reading the Bible or the Koran or anything Dinesh D’Souza writes or says at any given moment. On top of that many religious texts, stories, and images are stultifying and unbelievably uninspired. Just try to read this without lapsing into a coma:

Of Juda, Nahasson the son of Aminadab.

Of Issachar, Nathanael the son of Suar.

Of Zabulon, Eliab the son of Helon.

And of the sons of Joseph: of Ephraim, Elisama the son of Ammiud: of Manasses, Gamaliel the son of Phadassur.

And the son of Phadassur, Kevin Bacon, and the son of Kevin Bacon, Poppah and the son of Poppah, Yipchek and the son of Yipcheck, Curly Joe…

That bit of literary propathol is from the Old Testament book Numbers, as in it literally numbers everything like an autistic kid shut up in a room with pile of shiny rocks. I am sure after reading that you are amped to read the other 96 pages of this book. I have. It is not fun. I would suggest it’s use as an “enhanced interrogation technique” in CIA black sites in such lovely locals as Belarus. But I digress.

There are exceptions to this normally boring area of study and interest. This area is what I like to call the “dark impulse”: Paganism, witchcraft, Greek mythology and Satanism, the rejected manifestation of a more chaotic and naturalistic human striving for control over the world and and embrace of the things that we fear. Now don’t get me wrong, none of these philosophies are any less full of unmitigated horseshit then Christianity or Islam (and don’t get me started on the Mormonism…I would rather listen to the Insane Clown Posse on full blast for three days then read the book of Mormon) but there is at least a real area of fascination within these topic for me. The “dark” area of our human sectarian experience is only “dark” because of the blinding and monopolizing light of revealed monotheistic religion. Out with the old and in with the New Testament so to speak. What is being replaced by the “revealed word of the one real God” must be proclaimed to be intrinsically evil and dark. But that is no reason why we should ignore the fascinating aspects of these occult-ish whimsies.

For one paganism and witchcraft tropes are much more interestingly connected to nature and to animal and plant life. Potions, secret herbs, intoxicating odors. It is all fascinating and quite sexy. There is of course the intrinsic connection to the female that these philosophies have been associated with, rightfully or wrongfully, and this has a real pull for artist like myself who admire female sexuality and power. Jules Michelet, the Victorian era French Medievalist and iconoclast said that “woman contrives and dreams […] and has wings to soar into the infinitude of longing and imagination.” This of course is a stereotypical view of women, but I do believe it is a fair sight less destructive a notion then the idea that women brought about the downfall of all humanity by eating a piece of fruit. Besides, there is an allure and a charm to the idea of the mystic woman with her natural unbounded sensuality and connection with the material essence of magic and wonder. The cauldron, the colorful smoke and flame, the passionate and animalistic congress of man and women born from the ecstasy of basic desire. It is all quite thrilling.

Haxan

From Christianity we also get veiled and shameful allusions to the power of female sexuality, and these allusions are never positive nor are they in any way titillating or really interesting. Would you rather read about an octogenarian Sarah and her marital sex life with Abraham or would you be more interested in a spirited and unbounded orgy of men and women and goats prancing about stoned on cannabis and wormwood oil in a Basque field on the eve of Samhain? Yeah. Thought so.

While less related to magic and mysticism the Danse Macabre movement in art and letters is a good example of how human beings appealed to the dark and taboo aspects of reality to cope with the everyday horrors of life. The unparalleled death and destruction wrought by the Black Death in Europe led to a quite understandable fascination, even obsession with, death and fiendish imagery. King Death ruled over a realm of decay and rot while dancing corpses joined the living in a utopian landscape of ubiquitous suffering and universal acceptance of mortality. Boccacio exploited this theme in his Decameron and countless other poets and painters and illustrators were and still are inspired by death and the rictus grin. This goes to show that even a universally Christian society like that in the 1350’s Europe can and will appeal to the occult and to basic naturalistic tropes and ideas when confronted with a true carnival of existential horror like the bubonic plague.

danse-macabre

 

In the auspices of Satanism we find another treasure trove of fascinating visual tropes and a youthful and contrarian spirit that appeals to many who are tired of being told how, where, when, why and what to believe. Now the actual theology is just trumped up anarchism and hedonism, and there is nothing wrong with that at all, but it is just a bit unoriginal. But the imagery…in that realm Satanism truly has everyone else beat.

 

satanism

And there is a particular wit to the idea that the “dark mass” is merely the Latin Mass performed backwards…it’s like the medieval version of Monty Python! The wonderful silent Swedish film Häxan is filled with wonderful images of fiendishly enthusiastic peasants and paupers cavorting with Satan, his imps and the witches who create magic in his name. If you ever want to get a truly authentic idea of how people in the middle ages understood, feared, and obsessed over darkness and the occult this film is essential viewing. It is also quite hilarious at moments. I particularly like the dowdy old matrons dancing in the dark kissing Satan’s naked ass. Nothing like dark ages Swedish occult erotica to get you going on a Friday night.

 

Witchcraft through the Ages (1922 Sweden)  aka Haxan   Documentary

 

My personal favorite aspect of the dark impulse is ancient Greek Mythology. I have been fascinated by the Greek heroes and pantheon since I was a young child reading Roger Lancelyn Green’s retelling of the stories. Herakles and his labors was always a personal favorite of mine, but above all else was Hades and his dark abode. Tartarus the prison of the eternal titans, the torments of the Greek heroes such as Tantalus and his forever thirst and Sisyphus and his unending struggle with the rock. I agree with Camus that there is much inspiration to find in this and many other Greek stories, an essential humanism and pragmatism that is lacking in almost all other theologies. In particular I find in Dionysus the antithesis of modern religion and its emphasis on the spiritual and moral concerns. Dionysus’s followers were known for their euphoric, wine fueled, dance filled carousals meant to bring the limited human mind closer to a transcendent understanding of our connection to the eternal in nature. Yeah it is totally an excuse to get wasted and fuck in public places but hey as bullshit excuses go this one is rather creative.

bacchanalia-the-battle-of-love-1880

 

The dark impulse will always be with us as long as there are established moralizing theologies and institutions that have a stake in controlling the emotions, bodies and minds of human beings. We would all be better served if we allowed ourselves to delve deeper into these ancient modes of thought and their relevance to our own time and modes of thought. In a more aesthetic sense there is no greater muse than what is supposed to be beyond the pale and wrong. We will always be drawn to what we are told is no good and morally suspect. I am as much an atheist as any other but I have to admit that the heritage left to us by the occult and paganism is worth the wishy-washy foolishness of its pretensions. So I implore you to search for something within your own dark impulses to explore and exploit. You will never know what is out there until you look.

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Ancient History, art, Crossbow, Fiction, history, Medieval, Weapons

The Bowman Part I (A Short Story)

Gian stepped up to the wooden fence lodged in the pavement. He knelt and closed one eye, looking out over the expanse between him and the thatch bundle that was the base of his target nearly 2 meters away. The target consisted of a circle with facing out with a horizontal tower of cylinders stacked smaller upon bigger until it jutted out to a bulls-eye about 10 centimeters in diameter. He squints and he mentally fires hundreds of bolts toward that tiny bulls-eye. Some hit dead on, most miss the exposed edges on the other cylinders and even more miss the target altogether. Another man took his place next to him 5 yards down the range. He was using a much more efficient iron cranequin to pull his bow taught. Gian did not begrudge him this, but he rather liked the feel of the windlass. I made him feel connected to the power of this formidable piece of weaponry, and to its history as a weapon of tension and strength.

Gian believed that if you choose to use a tool of this precision and engineering you might as well make yourself as much part of the thing as possible. The more the weapon was thought of as an extension of yourself the more devastating the power of it was against your foe. A warrior does not kill with a weapon, he kills with his mind. The mind sees the target, the mind judges the wind and the light, the pitch of the field and the distance, the mind calls upon the arms to use the windlass to pull the bow taught, the orders the hands to hold the weapon steady and the mind calls upon all of its instinct and experience as it aims down the length and pulls the trigger.

Gian was the scion of an old family from a tiny but proud nation, San Marino. He, like every man who comes of age in his nation, was ready to take his place in the armed forces. He simply had to prove himself physically fit to join the Great Guard of the rock but he strove for a much more prestigious post. He wished to join the famed Crossbow Corps, the greatest assemblage of marksmen the world had yet born witness to. He longed to follow his father, his grandfather, and forebears going back over a century into this corps of esteemed heroes. Only the best hunters, arrow-smiths and archers even bothered to try out, and only 5 out of the 30 men who made the effort actually were accepted into the unit in the end. Gian’s pedigree in no way promised him a spot, but he did inherit his forebear’s skill with the bow.

The man next to Gian knelt before the fence and brought his weapon up to his right shoulder. He placed his bolt in place on the shaft of the weapon, which he had already primed with the aforementioned cranequin. He leveled the bow and took a deep breath before pulling the trigger. The weapon jerked almost imperceptibly to the left, and the bolt shot out and just barely grazed the upper left edge of the inner bulls-eye and lodged deep in the straw bundle support. In spite of himself Gian felt bad for his opponent. He had made the fatal mistake of exhaling while firing. Never exhale until the bolt is firmly stuck in the target. The very act of breathing sets off every mental calculation you make, and throws your aim off by that fatal centimeter that is the difference between dead center and missing completely.

The fact that his opponent did not seem to know this fact showed him to be a rank amateur at best with the weapon; probably someone who hunted with it on occasion but never practiced it as an art. That is what separated Jan from the rest. He was an artist with the crossbow. He had been practicing since the age of 8, and before that he had watched his father fix the bow and string it. He knew how to take apart and reassemble the weapon long before he knew how to shoot it at all. His father had long been commissioned by the Crossbow Corps to build and maintain their cache, and as an apprentice to his father Gian was often brought along to the arsenal. These trips made a huge impression on the young man.

As his father went about his business inspecting the bolts and restringing the bows Jan would wander about and look at the ancient weapons and marvel at their beauty and elegance. He would imagine himself as a soldier on the front line of some distant conflict, marching under the blue and white banner of his nation, and caparisoned in his colorful martial finery. Once during one if these boyish reveries he was snapped back to reality by the voice of his father calling him over. The old man had wanted to show Gian a new bit of technology that he was employing to improve the accuracy of the weapons. He pointed out a small nodule at the tip of the shaft and told his son that “this is where you will now place the head of the arrow Gian, and it will fly truer and straighter then it ever has. All of our bows will now have this innovation, and San Marino will have the most feared bowmen in    all of the world!” At the time Gian barely understood what his father was telling him, but now as he stood as a young man attempting to make some part of his childish dream a reality he recalled that day and smiled. That little bump at the end of the bow would keep most of the bolt from dragging against the stock of the crossbow, reducing drag and improving the flight of the bolt. It was as Gian’s grandfather used to say to him: “The sparrow does not fly with his belly scraping the earth. He sours upon the wind.” This coupled with his natural ability made Gian confident of victory. But confidence is not a currency he could trade for his space in the corps. Only action would do.

A few more men had sauntered up to the range, some holding 2 meter high pavise shields, other with incredibly ancient family heirloom weapons made entirely of wood and animal sinew. All were quick to load their weapons and take shots at the target. A few had rather good form, even fewer had excellent form. None so far were proving to be a master with the weapon. The Captain of the Corps arrived just as the last bowmen were stringing their weapons; Giovanni Lorenzo Pecora was a family friend and as good as an uncle to Gian. That being said, Gian was not foolish enough to think that his cordial relationship with the man would have any positive impact in his favor regarding his entrance into the corps. On the contrary, the Captain would surely scrutinize Gian with that much more vigor, and expect the best from him as the son of an acclaimed bowyer and former corpsman.

The Captain picked Gian out of the lineup and walked over to him, an enormous grin brightening his battle scared face. “Ah! Ah! Gian Bernardo Spada. Yet another one of you Spada boys trying out for the Corps, eh? Just yesterday you were running around naked as a plucked chicken in your father’s parlor. Now you are a strapping man with an eye towards being a hero, eh? Blessed Virgin how time flies.” Gian smiled and leaned his crossbow against the fence so he could turn and face his friend and hero. “Oh how that is so Captain. I only wish my father were alive to see his eldest son try to take his place in the family profession. Oh how he would weep with joy!”

The Captain slapped Gian on the back and bit his lower lip in a manly effort to hold back tears.

“Well…ahm…Yes. He was a good man your father, and his father before. In fact it was your Grandpapa that taught me everything I know about the art of archery and shooting. He was a genius was Bernardo Spada, and your father took after him. It remains to be seen if you exhibit that same acumen and greatness that seems to run with the proud blood in your family’s veins.” The Captain cleared his throat loudly and frowned seriously. “Oh! Enough of this womanish squawking! We must get this test underway! Good luck to you young Spada.” He clicked his heals and walked away towards the small viewing stand where the other members of the Corps sat evaluating the prospects. Gian saluted the spectators and turned back to make last minute adjustments to his bow. He wanted to make a real impression on this group of Sammarinese dignitaries.

Trumpets were sounded, and the blue and white banners of the Republic were unfurled. The small crowd stood and bowed their heads as the flag bearers marched in front of the stands with the national colors. With choreographed poise and dignity the Senior of the two Captains Regent stood up on a small dais set up facing the archers. We wore a blue and white cape and a medal bearing the likeness of the patron St. Agatha. He cleared his throat and went into his brief prepared remarks. “Assembled before us today are young men who wish to honor their Republic and themselves by joining the storied ranks of the Crossbow Corps of San Marino. I salute you all for making the attempt, and even if you are found wanting your efforts will not be seen in vain. You are the sons of the Republic, and there is no shame in failing in the pursuit of serving your nation.”

He paused to allow the crowd to applaud politely, and then moved on to the rules of the tournament. “Whether you realized it or not you have already been, and are still being, judged by the members of the Corps. They have been making notes as to your form, care of your weapon, and general fitness for duty along with sundry other things. You will not proceed to make your final attempt at impressing your betters: you each get one bolt, and one attempt at hitting the target. A misfire counts as a shot, and whomever hits closest to the bulls-eye wins the tourney and the prize of 15 pieces of gold. The captains will then make their picks, if any, for the corps. There will be no arguing with their decisions, just except their judgment like the men you are. Thank you my young fellow countrymen, and good luck to you.”

To be continued in Part II 

Note:

The work of Sir Ralph Payne-Gallwey in his book The Crossbow: Mediaeval and Modern

Military and Sporting- its Construction, History and Management with a Treatise on The Balista and Catapult of the Ancients (republished in 2007 by Skyhorse Publishing) has proved invaluable in the creation of this story.

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